Like many authors, I have lots of book ideas in my head. One of the most difficult decisions I had early on was choosing which one to start first. That started The Great Debate (trademark pending). I even made spreadsheets with pros and cons of releasing each novel. OK I made that up, but I did think about it a lot.
Finally, I decided it was the right time for my LGBTQ novel. Things today are progressing, but there’s still a lot of hate and ignorance out there. So many teenagers are struggling with their sexuality and bullying. And I really wanted to give them something that attempts to be funny and poignant at the same time. I had to say “attempts” because it’s not up to me to decide if it succeeded. SEE! I’m a humble author! For reals! Hello? Is this thing on?
Anyway, since The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren was released, I’ve realized the decision to publish it first was absolutely, one million percent correct. So many wonderful things have happened as a result of the novel being LGBTQ. And I wanted to share a few! So let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?
I had the most fun LGBTQ book launch party ever!
When planning the book launch, I racked my brains on how to make it interesting yet relevant. I had some really, really bad ideas, like doing those stupid teamwork games where everyone sits on each other’s laps in a circle. Or conducting trust falls off the top rungs of ladders.
Finally, someone suggested that, because my book is set at a pray-away-the-gay school, why not take everyone there? Consequently, I made name tags for everyone that read, “My name is X and I’m a gay”. Then, I conducted the same orientation written for Sanctuary Preparatory Academy (the homophobic school in my novel). Sanctuary is WAY over-the-top with their homophobia. There are posters depicting the stereotypical signs of gays and lesbians. They even serve food like “Cleansing Corn” and “Healing Hamburgers”. With all this in mind, I made my own posters and handed out meal coupons listing some of the food. For a half hour, everyone knew what it was like to be told they were essentially evil.
The fun part was half of the attendees were straight. So I got to pull them into my world along with everyone else. And they took it so well. I even convinced a few of them to come out. OK that’s not true.
But, in the end, it was a really fun, memorable event.
I dominated a Barnes & Noble event (Mwahahaha!)
Early this summer, I was fortunate enough to attend a young adult book event at my local Barnes & Noble. I had no idea what to expect so, the day of the event, I showed up all nervous, toting my box of books. Why was I nervous? Well, although I’m proud of my novel, I did have this little worry in the back of my head about backlash. I started concocting worst-case scenarios about prejudiced people shaming my novel or throwing giant Shakespeare books at me.
When I arrived, I was put at a table with two other local authors who immediately put me at ease. They were both friendly and approachable. However, both of them were much more established than me, so I imagined giant lines forming in front of them while I filed my nails.
First of all, the event planners got us involved, making us compete in a spelling bee against the teenagers. It was really fun, except I was one of the first people out! You can laugh, but I was given a word from Harry Potter, like densaugeo or aparecium or broom. Who in their right mind knows how to spell those?
As embarrassing as it was – all the kids laughed and one even threw some Chocolate Frogs at me, screaming, “Spell this!” – being eliminated allowed me to chat with the teens. Their interest in my book was incredible! Virtually every teen there grabbed a copy and some talked with me about their own struggles. One teenager told me about her love of writing and interest in the LGBTQ community. She and I have since exchanged e-mails.
Although I’m kind of bragging, don’t think this is how all my events go. I had another event where I brought 20 books and left with 19. And the only reason one was gone is because I forced someone to take it for free so it at least looked like I’d sold something. See! Humble.
I got to speak with an LGBTQ school!
Late last year, a friend connected me with a man who’d founded Pride School Atlanta in Georgia. While their students are primarily LGBTQ, the school is for anyone who wants to learn in a safe, bully-free environment.
I ended up sending him copies of my book and we’ve since become friends. Last week, he invited me to be a guest speaker to his students. It was amazing! I was expecting to jump onto Skype and see two students interested in writing. Instead, I found a room full of students and teachers all asking me questions about writing, LGBTQ issues, Pokemon Go, and everything in between.
One of my favorite parts of the chat was when I held up my book. When the students saw the word ‘Gay’ in the title, they gasped and clapped. That really touched me. Young people everywhere are clamoring for fiction they can identify with. And being able to fill that gap just a little is so rewarding.
All in all, I’ll never forget their reactions, and the reactions of everyone I’ve spoken to about the novel. It made the decision to write a novel about a gay teen and a siren one of the best I’ve ever made.
About the Author
Cody Wagner loves to sing, mime (not really), and create. He writes about topics ranging from superpowers to literate trees (really). His award-winning debut novel, The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren, recently “came out”. See what he did there? He’s handing out cookie dough to everyone who grabs a copy. Check out his writing and see more of his wackiness at www.wagner-writer.com or find him on Twitter @cfjwagner, Goodreads at www.goodreads.com/wagner_writer, and Amazon at www.amazon.com/Cody-Wagner/e/B016NYGV40.