This interview is part of a series featuring diverse books. If you’ve written a science fiction/fantasy novel with LGBTQ+ characters & want to be featured please email email@example.com.
L. Taylor released her first full length novel, Epic, earlier this summer. It’s a unique fantasy story which uses some science fiction elements to push the boundaries of both genres, and it pushes even more boundaries by having multiple major LGBTQ+ characters. All in all, this novel is a lot of fun–and it’s the first in a duology.
But enough of that, L. Taylor can tell you much more about the book than I can:
- Can you tell us a bit about your novel, Epic?
It has been brought to my attention that “space teens fight monsters” is not a very professional description of the book, so I guess I’ll have to try something more formal.
Epic is my debut novel, and follows a group of teenagers as they help a queen possibly take over the universe. Anna Garcia and her friends are from Earth but end up on a planet called Eden, where they meet Queen Mayra, who convinces them to steal powerful objects from other planets. As the characters go through this journey, they see a lot of cool stuff but they almost die a lot. There’s always a downside, you know?
- What part of the story came to you first?
The first part of Epic I came up with was the concept of travelling through different worlds, though in the original idea, these were alternate realities rather than alien planets. I envisioned a story that took place throughout a group of dangerous but beautiful places, and then the rest of the story was built around this concept.
- How much planning did you do before starting the first draft of Epic?
I didn’t do much planning. I had a vague idea of the plot, characters, and settings, so I just started writing, letting the story go wherever it wanted. Over time, I changed the things I wrote and morphed the draft into a more clear vision of what I wanted it to be. That’s probably why it took me almost three years to complete the first draft!
- Epic has a rather large cast of characters. How did you make sure all the characters were distinct from each other?
My primary method in keeping the characters easily distinguishable from one another is to start off by giving each one a dominant trait. Sam’s trait is his humor, Mel’s trait is her carefree attitude. Then once I had those traits down, I developed their personalities around who I’d already established them as. With Sam, I expanded on him by making his humor a defense mechanism, with Mel I had the chance to turn her happy-go-luckiness into her way of dealing with certain things that happened to her in the past. I also like to make characters be opposites of each other if they’re going to interact a lot. Anna and Raven are the central love story of the novel, and while Anna tends to be cautious and logical, Raven is more impulsive. David is a sensitive, emotional person and Kat is the polar opposite, which makes their relationship a lot of fun to write. I think those two tricks are what makes the cast of characters so easy to tell apart.
- Some of your lead characters are LGBTQ+. Did you intentionally write them this way or did they just sort of end up this way?
I initially wrote Anna and Raven as LGBTQ+, but with James, Ben, and Sam, it just came out of nowhere. Ben and James’s characters, in the first draft, gravitated to each other and had a lot of chemistry and I thought “I like this dynamic too much, I want them to be a couple,” so I had to revise some stuff and work their relationship into the story. With Sam, I’m still not sure how it happened. I was just revising and then the realization hit me out of nowhere that he was asexual and aromantic. Nothing about the story or his characterization really changed, I just had to be sure to include that he’s not physically or romantically attracted to people.
- What advice would you give to a straight writer trying to include LGBTQ+ characters in their books?
I think the biggest advice I could give would be that the characters need to be characters first and LGBTQ+ second. While it’s important that they are LGBTQ+, don’t forget that they aren’t there to check off diversity boxes, you have to make them actual people. This means if you take away the fact that they’re LGBTQ+, you should still have a complete, well-rounded character left over. Give them as much attention and development as you do your cishet characters!
- What are some of your favourite diverse books?
See, this is where I lose all of my credibility. I haven’t read as much diverse literature as I would like to have read. A few months ago I read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (say that three times fast!) and it’s probably my favorite LGBTQ+ novel I’ve ever read. Some of my other favorite diverse books include the Mara Dyer trilogy, The Lunar Chronicles, and all of Marie Lu’s books. Every single one of them. I’ve also recently read Waking Up by Kasey Roper and I loved it, plus it’s the first book I’ve ever read that featured a prominent transgender character.
- How can we encourage the publishing industry to include more diverse voices?
Buying books about diverse characters and written by diverse authors is the only way the publishing industry is going to become more inclusive. The industry follows whatever is making money, and currently, it’s books written by cishet white people, about cishet white people, targeted toward cishet white people that get the majority of the recognition and sales. This industry is only going to change if readers change it to the point where the industry experts can see that the diverse lit is where the money is.
- If you could give an aspiring writer only one piece of advice what would it be?
Although many of us dream that our books will be loved and accepted by everyone, that’s not going to happen. Not everyone is going to love your book and there will be people who hate it with a passion. These are the people a lot of writers try for years to impress with their writing and it’s pointless to waste so much time and energy on people who don’t matter in the big picture. Instead of trying to win over the people who will not like your content, focus on writing for your target audience.
When I wrote Epic, I didn’t think “I hope the highest intellectuals of the world will give this book a boatload of acclaim.” I thought “there are young readers out there who want to read a story like this, so that’s who I’m writing this book for.” I don’t really care if straight white people hate my book because Epic isn’t for them. Epic is primarily for readers of color and LGBTQ+ readers. If another group loves your work, that’s wonderful and is preferable to them disliking it, but if they don’t enjoy the book, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is how you feel and how your target audience feels about what you’ve published.
- What are you working on now that readers can look forward to?
I’ve got a new book coming in just over a month! It’s called 93% Chance I Don’t Hate You, and is a collaborative new adult romance between myself and Amy H. Lynn. The book follows a young woman named Carter, who is preparing to take over her family’s journalism business, and a man named Ashton, an artist whom Carter does not have a high opinion of. Through a turn of events involving a dating app, the two end up on a blind date and throughout the course of the novel, they learn that perhaps they’ve been too prejudiced and don’t actually hate one another. 93% Chance I Don’t Hate You is a romantic dramedy and will be released on September 27th.
I’m also in the early stages of writing the sequel to Epic, a poetry collection, and a new adult retelling of the Hades and Persephone myth.
L. Taylor is the writer of the novel “Epic”, the first book of the Epic duology, as well as the paranormal thriller novella, “Hunted”. She is the co-author of the new adult romance “93% Chance I Don’t Hate You”, which will be hitting bookstores very soon. She dislikes talking about herself in third person, and when she’s not working hard at tormenting her characters, she can be found surfing the internet, petting dogs, and occasionally working on getting her Bachelor’s degree. She can be reached at leightaylorwrites.tumblr.com.