Writing a LGBT-friendly series by Stuart West

You know, I never set out to write a LGBT-friendly series. It just sorta’ accidentally happened. That’s a good thing, I think.TexWitchBoySeries

As a straight 53-year-old, bald, “pleasantly overweight (talk about painting a cactus pretty),” Kansas man, you’d think I’d be the last person to do so. My wife either needs new glasses or has really, really bad taste.

But I digress. When I first began the saga of Tex McKenna, I wanted to detail a series of funny, sad, dramatic murder mysteries (light on the supernatural, despite the title) that pulled on my high school miseries. The first book, Tex, the Witch Boy, deals with the topic of bullying, somewhat of an on-going theme throughout the series. I needed a cool police detective to help/hinder Tex. Detective Cowlings appeared. It didn’t take long for me to figure out he was gay. He practically told me he was, demanding his orientation. Plus it dovetailed beautifully with the bullying theme. I mean, an extremely astute, gay police detective in conservative, uptight suburban Kansas? He screamed to come to life.

In the second book, Tex and the Gangs of Suburbia, I thought it’d be daring to introduce a bisexual character. Even more daring (or so I thought), I plopped the character into the center of a “love triangle” involving my protagonist and his girlfriend. Again, the characters practically wrote themselves. Look at Margaret’s books, an inspiration. She deftly handles mixed gay, straight, bi, and different species romances, for crying out loud. Unsure of myself (my usual state-of-mind), I ran the potentially controversial storyline by my daughter who at the time was struggling through her own tenure on the battle-lines of high school.

She said, “Dad, nobody cares about that anymore.”

Huh. Cool. We’ve come a long way since my high school incarceration. Back in the day (and I won’t say when), I remember only one gay male in a student body of 1,500. That was it. And, man, did he take a verbal whipping (I don’t think he was ever physically bullied like I was, but I can’t swear to it). Anyway, I ran with my mixed sexually-oriented comedic farce. Tons of edgy fun.

The final book of the series, Tex and the God Squad, centers on the mysterious death of a closeted lesbian cheerleader. The villains, by the way, are “loosely” based upon the heinous Westboro Baptist Church. When I read about them, I knew I had to tackle them. Truly ugly. When I first envisioned the tale, I never set out for it to revolve around a lesbian death. It just sorta’ happened. The pieces of the puzzle came together, and since I was tackling the prickly topic of religion in Kansas, gay issues couldn’t be ignored. Oh, I also Elspeth 200x300introduce a gay Asian—possibly the most well-adjusted member of my increasingly sprawling cast—who returns in the spin-off, Elspeth, the Living Dead Girl.

My newest book, Godland (a dark adult suspense thriller, out September 16th), also Godland 200x300features a gay hero. Just seemed right. Take that (Im)Moral Majority! Doing my best to bring Kansas out of the dark ages.

I’d like to think I’m a liberal humanitarian bringing issues of the under-represented to light. I really would. A little of that’s true, maybe. These characters wrote themselves. And I tried not to cliché the crap outta’ them. But if I can help any bullied kid—gay or straight—with positive messages, well, it’s the best reward a writer could hope for.

Here’s an excerpt from Ted and the God Squad

Disappointed I couldn’t find a diary I spotted her computer on a desk. I powered it on, to be met with the password prompt. I typed Dwight and was shut out. I tried Pink to no avail. Looking around the room for clues, I unsuccessfully attempted several more passwords. Finally, out of desperation, I typed in Brittany. The reassuring musical cues brought the computer to life. Really, Brittany?
In the corner of the screen, a folder sat with the designation Brittany’s journal! Keep out!  Feeling somewhat like a ghoul preying upon the memories of the dead, I mentally apologized to Brittany and lamely reassured myself she’d allow me to read it.
I began with an entry from two months previously. Brittany’s writing consisted of happy, inconsequential malarkey, expounding upon how jealous she was of another girl’s hair or how nice a smile a boy had. Although she was still dating Dwight at the time, she pulled no punches in announcing his many faults, including stupidity, halitosis, and gross masculine hygiene. She wrote at great length about how being in YAC filled her with hope—a new purpose almost—a zest for life amongst her Christian friends.
Then something odd happened. Her entries became shorter, more urgent. The everyday vanity that filled prior entries was gone, replaced by a more introspective tone, very self-reflective. And seemingly self-loathing.
Brittany Gerlach developed feelings for a fellow cheerleader. A female cheerleader. At first she wrote of her extreme confusion. She didn’t understand these feelings, didn’t want these feelings. They frightened her. Soon, she grew to despise herself. She wrote how her new feelings weren’t natural—several of her later entries appeared to be addressed to God himself as she asked him why he’d made her this way, since He hated homosexuals. She felt abandoned, rejected, let down by God.  And I felt awful for Brittany. How terrible it must’ve been to go through this by herself, not letting anyone into her secret. And to have found such joy in the YAC group, only to have it snatched away from her…because she felt she wasn’t worthy of God’s love.
My heart pounded as I read her final entries.
I never should have told him, she wrote. He was the only one I trusted with my secret, and now I KNOW it’s him sending me the hateful letters, making the late night callsthreatening to tell the entire school about my secret. He can disguise his voice all he wants, but I know it’s him. And he keeps telling me the same awful thing! GOD HATES PEOPLE LIKE ME!
The day Brittany killed herself, she wrote, I can’t do it anymore. All because of something I can’t help. God doesn’t love me anymore. There’s nothing to live for.  And that awful, pain-filled sentence was the last thing Brittany Gerlach would ever write.
My stomach churned with misery. Poor Brittany. Now I was pissed. I was going to find out who sent her those letters. I was going to do it for her.
Check out Stuart’s author page on MuseItUp Publishing:
and Stuart’s blog:

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