Writers make a lot of choices. We make conscious decisions about if, when and how we integrate our own experiences into our characters. Throughout early drafts, I had a vision about the hero of my latest book. I knew her. Beta readers loved the character and hope she anchors a series. So did I. And yet, in the first version I deemed “done” and sent off to my agent, I wussed out. I made what I thought of as a minor change. I made my hero straight. Why? Because, as a pre-debut author, I wanted to appeal to the widest possible audience.
Huge mistake. I mean, I literally lost sleep over it. For months.
I’ve been a lifelong advocate for coming out. My parents made our home a safe space for my friends whose families weren’t as adept at unconditional love as my own had been when I came out to them at 15. They raised me to stand up for myself, stand up for my beliefs, and stand up for others.
When I was growing up, the words “gay” and “marriage” were never used in the same sentence. Mine is the generation that lost a stomach-churning number of lives to suicide, hate crimes, and AIDS. One of my friends lost her own child in a custody battle against her own mother who disapproved of my friend’s sexual orientation. It was against this subconscious backdrop that I made an unfortunate choice that betrayed the one value I’ve held dear all my life. To be true to myself.
Every editor my agent pitched requested the manuscript. I should have been happy. But I wasn’t. In fact, I was a little afraid of getting an offer. Because then I might have to write a second book about a character I didn’t really know.
I couldn’t take it anymore. A couple of weeks ago, I talked to my agent. I really wanted to edit the book to restore my hero to the original vision, a clever lesbian with a pregnant girlfriend and a couple of really big problems to solve. Paula loved it and told me to go for it. I wish for every writer to have a friend/confidante/champion like my own agent, by the way. Anyway, it took me less than a week to revise. Apparently, the original hero had been anxiously awaiting her rightful place back on the pages.
I made a better choice. Now I’m working on book two. I have notes and ideas for at least two more. And I’m sleeping like a baby.