I started writing Darkest Nights -Awakening in 2007. By this time Torchwood had already aired its first series with the second on due to air in April. If you do not know, Torchwood is a spin-off to the highly successful Sci-Fi Show Doctor Who. It was not the first attempt at creating a spin-off of the show but it was the first successful one. It was also an oddity because, while Who was a family show, Torchwood was for adults and tackled themes that Who couldn't. What was significant about the show was that it mostly featured a cast of gay/bisexual characters. It had featured two on-screen same-sex kisses by its third episode. While some of the characters would eventually slip into straight relationships, the show's lead character was classified as "pansexual" and "omnisexual" on occasions and had a gay relationship with one of his co-workers.
At the same time I had started watching Lifetime's Blood Ties, a vampire series based on the Blood Books by Tanya Huff. I then went and bought the books and, to my big surprise, found that the vampire character Henry was actually bisexual in the novels, something you never would have guessed with his onscreen incarnation. This got me thinking: why aren't there more gay characters in fiction? Well, to be more precise, why aren't there more non-stereotype gay characters in fiction? So often when we see gay characters they tend to be a stereotype. The gay guy will always be the sassy best friend to the female protagonist or the lesbian character will be butch and make fart jokes "just like one of the guys". Henry, however, was not stereotypical. His sexuality wasn't even made out to be that big of a deal. They don't even have a scene where he says "Oh I'm bisexual by the way". It's more glossed over when he starts drinking from Tony, a gay character who wasn't included in the TV adaption.
So I went into Darkest Nights -Awakening- with the mind set that the series would feature a diverse set of characters and that they wouldn't serve as "the token gay guy" or "the token lesbian". These characters would have depth. They would have full-time relationships that would be expanded upon. So often novels featuring LGBT characters will often deal with the storyline of "coming out" after finding themselves falling for their love interest. Now this isn't a bad storyline. It's one that I will get round to in one of the sequels but most of the stories end there. I'm writing an eight-part series so I have plenty of time to develop these characters and break conventions. I could introduce a gay vampire hunter in book 2 and make him one of the biggest badasses in the series if I wanted to.
So I created Lucy Beaumont and Dante Tybalt. Both of these characters were intended to be bisexual to follow the format Torchwood had laid out but I realised that it would then be too easy for both of them to slip into a heterosexual relationship. Dante, being a vampire, will always feed on both males and females. It's part of his survival instinct. He needs blood and he'll get it wherever he can, so naturally Lucy went from being bisexual to being a lesbian. Her best friend is Peter but they wouldn't spend their time checking girls out and making rude jokes. They act as normal friends and Lucy would be in a full time relationship- even though her status as a commitment-phobe would prevent her from admitting this, despite the constant reminders that she has been in a relationship for three months without seeing anyone else. 'So you share your streaming services? Yeah because that's not being in a committed relationship' Peter teases her at one point in the novel.
Why do I feel so strongly about this subject? Because it needs addressing. Now some will argue and say that it's all just about being "politically correct" or "forcing the gay agenda" on the public, as proven by some of the comments I saw when The Vampire Diaries announced it would feature two lesbian characters in the seventh season, but it's not. This is 2015. Gay marriage is now legal in Ireland and all of America! This isn't about being politically correct, its about portraying life. Homosexuality isn't going anywhere, no matter how many people cry out against it.
This isn't just about including homosexual characters. "Whitewashing" isn't a phrase I like to use, but it is a problem. The trailer for Pan sparked some conversations about the topic after it was revealed that Tiger Lily, the Native American Princess, would be played by Rooney Mara, a white actress. There might be a in-movie explanation on why this is (since it is in no way following the canon of J.M Barrie's original works) but from an outside perspective it is a blatant case of giving a non-white role to a white actor. Marvel recently tackled this by introducing Miles Morales, a half black-half latino character, as the new Ultimate Spider-Man. You can imagine how well that went down. I would like to stress that, although I was no happy about Peter being killed off and replaced, that it was not due to Miles' race. I would have been annoyed no matter how would have taken up the mantle, just like people were with Ben Reilly in the infamous Clone Saga. Some even used that argument for the backlash, but despite this there were a number of racist remarks about Miles and there really shouldn't have been. Accusations of "trying to be politically correct" were thrown about once again. It's funny how people like to throw that around nowadays. There was even more outrage when it was announced that Marvel was considering making Miles gay later down the line (this has yet to happen and was in a relationship with a girl called Katie).
So not only was I determined not to have a cast that would follow the "token" trend but I would also include multiple characters of different ethnicities throughout the series because that's what we need. We need stories that don't focus on just heterosexual white characters. We need stories that push boundaries.
To put it bluntly, we need diverse books.