My debut novel, In Stone, hit shelves this week. Good timing, as the last installment of the Twilight Saga arrives in theaters about three minutes later. It’s convenient because I imagine the minds of young adults (and some not so young adults) will be on all things supernatural. Any time “vampire” is said or read, brains fire with excitement because fans all over the world are desperate to learn what happens to Edward and company. Well, they probably already know. They just want to see it play out. I assume every person seeing that movie has read the book approximately seventy-seven times. Anyway, I hope this horror-fantasy mania will work in my favor because, in some respects, In Stone exists because of it.
When others learn that I have written a young adult fantasy novel, I can pretty much count down the seconds until I am either compared to Stephenie Meyer or asked for my feelings on her work. I’ve become decent at giving a diplomatic answer by saying, “I think Ms. Meyer has done an incredible service to the genre and to teen reading in general.” Bravo, Jeremy. Bravo. Then I typically follow with something like, “If you like her books, you’ll love In Stone. It’s is kind of the gay answer to Twilight…but with gargoyles.”
Sometimes I beat myself up about comparing my work to a mega-series, but the similarities are there. Twilight, In Stone, and several gigantic handfuls of other books are totally cut from the same cloth¾ they’re about young people from this world getting mixed up in the exciting and dangerous world of the fantastic. This magical exposure typically results in impossible love affairs, wars between kinds, and/or death. What fun! Yes, I’m being super general, but what’s awesome about this genre is reading how individual authors take these themes or ideas and make them unique.
Some are set in the perpetually green and glistening forests of Washington…others take place in Spanish Harlem.
A certain protagonist weds a vampire with a cool car…another can’t decide if he should trust a murderous stone monster.
One saga fills its supporting roles with Native American werewolves and Italian, scarlet-eyed child-demons…mine features a 106 year old chorus girl-turned-witch and a marble version of Cleopatra (totally normal).
Oh, and the famous one features a straight romance…this guy’s has a gay love affair.
Yeah. That’s the big difference. But readers are used to this, right? Books (and TV shows and films) have been ripping off the gay experience for quite a while. Or at least being all kinds of metaphorical with it. Edward fears touching Bella for fear of passing on a terrible fate…Sookie Stackhouse’s vampire friends fight for equal rights…Stefan has trouble coming out to Elena as a bloodsucker…Louis and Lestat talk about lusting for a kill like some buddies of mine talk about putting dees in bees. I mean, seriously. I can’t be the only one who sees these parallels. Or maybe I’m just reading everything through a giant queer lens.
When I decided to write a YA fantasy, I looked at the titles I enjoy and thought about gay teens and twenty-something reading them through that same pair of glasses. They get to see metaphors for their experiences in their favorite books, but never their true selves on the page. I wanted to write a novel that was familiar to them, yet totally different. Yes, In Stone has a good, old-fashioned love triangle…well, maybe more of a love quadrilateral. Sure, there are consequences for mortals playing with magic. And there may or may not be a vampire character arriving on the scene halfway trough the book. But unlike the fantasy creatures with stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, my characters are gee-aye-why: GAY. They’re out and proud and I’m very proud of my grotesque faerie tale.
I could go on, but I have to go online and buy advanced tickets to see Twilight today. If I don’t, it’s totally going to sell out.
I’ve never been more serious in my life. It will.