In a little less than two months (July 16, to be exact), the first book of my new YA series will finally be hitting the stands. In many ways, the wait for this one has seemed endless–when Replica comes out, it will be my first YA release in two years.
Replica will be my first published science fiction novel. It’s set in the relatively near future, and while there is a major science fiction element to it–the ability to create exact Replicas of human beings, down to memory and personality–at its heart it’s more like a political thriller/murder mystery. In the world of Replica, science may have advanced, but human society has taken some steps backward. Corporations have become hereditary monarchies, and society has once again become highly stratified. Arranged marriages are the norm for the aristocracy (known as Executives), and it is very rare for someone to be elevated past the class to which they were born.
The two concepts make for a rather unusual science fiction novel, but there is something else about it that–as far as I know–is unusual in today’s YA science fiction and fantasy market: one of my two protagonists, Nate Hayes, is gay. (My impression is that it is more common to have a gay protagonist in contemporary YA than in sf/f.)
I know some YA authors who have featured gay secondary characters, and I know they have met with some criticism for it. Sometimes, very nasty criticism. To tell you the honest truth, I took this step with a lot of trepidation, because if other authors get flack about gay secondary characters, I can only imagine how some people might react to a gay protagonist. And yet, I loved what the concept did to my storyline. (In the Executive class, homosexuality is unacceptable, so Nate is firmly in the closet. He has also been informally engaged to his best friend, Nadia, since they were both children. It makes for a wonderfully awkward marriage-of-convenience story.)
I am still nervous about how some people will react to the story. I think our society has come a long way toward acceptance, but it still has a long way to go, and those who oppose gay rights often do so with a great deal of anger. But there’s a general rule of thumb I follow when I’m writing: if I’m scared to write something for any reason, then I must write it. I am a prolific writer, and if I keep writing things that feel safe and easy, I know I will get bored and stop growing as a writer. I want to challenge myself–that’s part of the joy of writing for me–and the fact that something scares me is a sure sign that writing it will be a challenge.
I can confirm that writing the Replica trilogy (I’m at work on book 3 right now) has been quite the challenge–but it’s been a wonderful one. I love these characters, and I love this story. Enough to put it out there even though I know some people will be offended by it. I will probably get some angry emails and some ugly reviews. But you know, if someone is unable to accept Nate for what he is, then that person probably isn’t really in my audience anyway. And I refuse to let fear stop me from doing what is right for my story.
Sixteen-year-old Nadia Lake’s marriage has been arranged with the most powerful family in the Corporate States. She lives a life of privilege even if she has to put up with paparazzi tracking her every move, every detail of her private life tabloid fodder. But her future is assured, as long as she can maintain her flawless public image—no easy feat when your betrothed is a notorious playboy.
Nathaniel Hayes is the heir to the company that pioneered human replication: a technology that every state and every country in the world would kill to have. Except he’s more interested in sneaking around the seedy underbelly of the state formerly known as New York than he is in learning to run his future company or courting his bride-to-be. She’s not exactly his type…not that he can tell anyone that.
But then Nate turns up dead, and Nadia was the last person to see him alive.
When the new Nate wakes up in the replication tanks, he knows he must have died, but with a memory that only reaches to his last memory back-up, he doesn’t know what—or rather, who—killed him.
Together, Nadia and Nate must discover what really happened without revealing the secrets that those who run their world would kill to protect.
If you’d like to read the first chapter of Replica, click here.
If you know of any YA science fiction or fantasy that has a gay protagonist (not just a major character, but an actual protagonist), I’d love to hear about it. I know they’re out there, but the lists I’ve seen either haven’t broken it down by genre, or lump in protagonists with secondary characters.)