Reading over my proof copy of Shades of Gay, I was amazed by how many sexually charged scenes there are in it. I don’t think the sex is unrealistic or too much for a novel aimed at high school students. However, it was strange reading passages like this:
When we got to his block, his dad’s car wasn’t in his driveway so we kissed for real before he dropped me off. For once he didn’t taste like cigarettes; his breath was sweet and fresh. I only let go of him because I had to catch mine. Mitch ran his fingers through my hair. I grabbed at his crotch, but he pushed me away.
This kind of passage isn’t ordinarily a big deal for me to read, even though it’s not something I’ve experienced myself. However, since I am Asexual, it surprises me that I could write any kind of scene involving physical attraction or sexual desire.
I wanted to write a blog about how I did it, but honestly I don’t know how I did it. I just got into character and was able to write how it felt to be him — a sexual being whose body is hungry for physical contact with another boy. I guess it was the way I’ve been trained to write. I learned from my mentor at USC to always ask, “If I were this character and I wanted X, what would I do?” So for me, it quite simply doesn’t matter that I’m Asexual and my character is not. If I haven’t experienced something myself, I just have to research it or imagine it. I’m not a guy — I’m gender-neutral — yet I can write from a male point of view. I don’t have a severely autistic sibling, yet I was able to write from the point of view of a six-year-old child who does in Winter’s Silence. Why should sexuality be any different than the other situations or characters I have imagined?
Anyway, I know some in the Asexual community are very excited about this book because the protagonist’s best friend, Emily, is Asexual. I hope no-one is disappointed with the sexuality in the book. I am writing a sequel from Emily’s point of view, in which she struggles with the question of whether there is any point to dating when most people are sexual. In Shades she more or less avoids dating altogether because “they all want one thing, and it’s the one thing I have no interest in.” Yet she longs for romance.
I’m excited about addressing Asexuality more fully in the sequel — and Transgender issues as well, which did not get much play in this book, other than in Hadassah’s afterword about her experiences — but in the mean time, I really enjoyed stretching my mind to attempt to get inside the head of a sexual character.