As an author, two things have always mattered most to me: writing what I’m passionate about, and tackling somewhat controversial subjects. Often, these things blend together – my Helping Hands series dives into the hardships of addiction and child abuse; The Silent Sounds of Chaos and The Never touch upon the fringes of mental illness; Fragile Creatures focuses on animal conservation, while its sequel, Unbroken Brings, takes an unforgiving look at poaching.
This theme, per say, began in high school with my art “journey” (what our senior year projects were called for our final presentation). My pieces centered around social subjects – abortion, mental illness, addiction, religion, and so on. So, it was only natural that my books ended up taking this same turn. Of course, not all of them are like this. Some are lighter, while others are purposely written with specific social topics in mind, even if it’s not apparent on the surface.
My newest novel, though, is the one that may mean the most. And it’s for that reason I haven’t talked about it much, and certainly not in public. Partly because I needed to figure out the direction the book was going to take, and partly because I wasn’t ready to share until I’d done my part to ensure I was doing the best job possible.
So, what is it? I’m returning to YA with my new novel*, a coming-of-age story that centers around Gabriella, a transgender teenager embarking upon a journey of self-discovery. Throughout the book, Gabriella navigates a world of people who cast judgement, while learning to accept the person he was born to be.
Some of you may be thinking, why take on this subject? It’s a question I’ve asked myself often. Obviously, I am not part of the LGBTQ community, so I struggled with the question, do I even have the right to write about a transgender teen? I have no real qualifications, and the last thing I want to do is misrepresent and offend an entire community – which is why I haven’t spoken much about the book yet. I don’t want to be seen as simply trying to hop on the “current events” trend, because that’s not what the book is about. It’s about taking a stand and making a difference the best way I know how to do, and following through on a promise to help give trans teens a voice in Young Adult fiction.
I did a lot of research prior to starting this book. Part of that research included an interview with a transgender teenager, Luke**, whom the novel is partly based on and inspired by. Luke shared his story: the things people said, friends he both lost and gained, thoughts about his self-realization. After this interview I realized the path I wanted to take, that of a teen who is still discovering their path, trying to understand thoughts and emotions that aren’t normally talked about, and finding the right people to support this journey. Mixed in are lessons about life, reflections on what friend and family really mean, and the importance of staying true to oneself.
Will the book be controversial? Maybe. People may hate it because they don’t accept the topic or the path the book takes. And that’s okay. You can’t please everyone with every book you write. But my wish is that for every person who hates it, there will be two more who love and share it, so that hate will be overshadowed by hope. We could all use a little more hope these days.
I’m currently only a couple months out from finishing the book, and look forward to sharing it with you all.
*Title coming soon.
**Luke asked to be identified only by his first name, which I will do both here and in the acknowledgements of the novel.