This interview is part of an informal series featuring novels with LGBTQ+ characters. If you’re an author whose book includes LGBTQ+ characters and you wish to be featured, please email email@example.com with a blurb & bio.
I’m thrilled to introduce today’s author, Taylor Brooke, whose young adult science fiction novel Omen Operation has an extremely interesting premise and several important openly LGBTQ+ characters, including a bisexual lead. Most YA books with LGBTQ+ characters have them discovering their sexuality for the first time or coming out and it’s really refreshing to see a book whose LGBTQ+ characters are already aware of and open about their sexuality.
Here’s the blurb:
After an epidemic spreads through the country, Brooklyn Harper’s high school years come to an abrupt end… Implanted in a rural camp, Brooklyn and her friends are cut off from their families and the outside world. Each day is filled with combat training to assure their safety against the crazed, belligerent, and deadly— those infected with a mysterious virus. As if the world couldn’t get any crazier, a letter ups the insanity… After being assured day after day that the world outside their little camp had been compromised, Brooklyn’s cabin-mate, Dawson Winters, finds a letter that turns everything they’d known upside down. There is a world outside the trees that surround their camp, and the virus they’d all come to fear seems non-existent. Determined to see it herself, Brooklyn plots with others to attempt an escape… On the outside, Brooklyn finds the world is as normal as ever. But when they are attacked in the city, they dispose of their attackers far more efficiently than any normal human. Is there more to Brooklyn and her friends than just being highly trained? Betrayal, love, death, and a powerful sense of camaraderie lead Brooklyn and her friends to fight for their life, their freedom, and most of all, each other.
1. Can you tell us a little about your novel, Omen Operation?
Omen Operation is a fast-paced, emotionally driven, urban science fiction novel about a group of young adults who are taken from their families due to the outbreak of a mysterious virus. As the story unfolds the reader learns about the virus, what it is, how it has affected the characters and their lives, and what it could mean for their futures.
2. What part of the story came to you first?
I actually had a dream (totally cliché, I know) about Camp Number Eleven. I saw it as this lush, green, beautiful place, meadows all around, mountain ranges in the distance, and a group of people that I deeply cared about surrounding me. I still to this day don’t know what character I was embodying in the dream itself, but I do know that Dawson (one of my characters) was the first person I saw. He was lighting a torch and rallying the other campers in this furious, terrified way, and I remember thinking “I have to go with him, no matter what. I’ll follow him anywhere.” I’m a lucid dreamer, and when I dream about something/somewhere in that much vivid detail, it’s almost guaranteed that I’ll revisit it, but to this day I’ve never again dreamed of Camp Eleven. It’s strange, but fitting. Once I dreamt it, I wrote it, and once it was written, it became real.
3. How much planning/research did you do before starting the novel?
I outlined my general idea and stored it away until I felt comfortable writing it. When I finally did come back to it, which was probably a year or so later, I started doing research on genome therapy, mutations, microbes, and gene-splicing. The hardest part of the process was making sure my fabricated science was believable to an extent. I wanted my readers to understand and respect the science behind Omen Operation.
4. Your characters have a wide variety of backgrounds and sexualities. What was the most challenging part of writing all of these characters authentically?
Challenging isn’t necessarily the word I would use. I wanted to be inclusive, and I wanted my writing to reflect reality. I have friends and family from all different walks of life, and I thought it was important to include those differences in the group I cast for The Isolation Series. I did research on different ethnic backgrounds, names, family traditions, and so on. Though I did do my own research, it was important for me to constantly look outside of my own white-bisexual-female box. I read a ton of articles, reached out to a few of my friends, and tried to give an authentic voice to characters that I couldn’t relate to in the best possible ways.
5. What advice would you give to a straight person trying to accurately write LGBTQ+ characters?
I could go on and on about this, but really it dwindles down to some vital questions. If you’re a straight author and you intend to include LGBTQ+ characters, ask yourself why. Why am I creating this character? What do I want for them? Do I know enough about them to give them the story they deserve? If you can’t give detailed, passionate, eloquent responses to those questions then don’t write about LGBTQ+ issues/characters. I’ve seen some lovely representation in the last few years from incredible authors and it warms my heart, but I’ve also seen some extremely offensive and downright unnecessary stories written from a perspective the author tried to embody but couldn’t quite pull off. Basically, LGBTQ+ characters are not there for shock value, because it’s politically correct to include them, or because you need a trope/cliché to propel your plot. LGBTQ+ characters are reflections of people – they are more than who they sleep with, how they die, and how they come out. Give them depth, strength, and complications.
6. What are some of your favourite diverse books?
Oh, wow, there are quite a few. I just finished Maggie Steifvater’s The Raven Cycle and I absolutely loved it. Madeline Miller’s A Song of Achilles is also wonderful and is probably my favorite book to date. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz is another incredible novel.
7. Omen Operation is the first book in a series. Did you start out planning a series or did you realize partway through the book that you had more story to tell?
I actually did plan it as a series. I always knew it would have a sequel, but I was unsure of it being a trilogy until I was offered a contract for publication. When my publisher asked me how many books I planned for The Isolation Series I thought about it and decided that 3 was a good number. It wasn’t that I realized I had more story to tell, it was that I didn’t think I could fit the whole story into one or two books. I have a large cast of characters and I wanted to play with their emotions, relationships, and their own individual battles. I had to expand the series from a duology to a trilogy in order to accomplish that.
8. How many books do you plan to write in the Isolation series?
It’ll be a trilogy.
9. If you could give an aspiring writer only one piece of advice, what would it be?
Don’t give up! Do your research, read a lot, take online classes, join a writing group, go out into a nature with a notebook and jot down thoughts, be active in your creative endeavors. Omen Operation was rejected over thirty times before I received two offers for publication. I know I listed a few things, which is much more than a single piece of advice, but it all ties into one monumental mindset: I am not giving up. Say it every single day and keep writing.
10. What are you working on RIGHT NOW that readers can look forward to?
Well, the second novel in The Isolation Series is going to be released on November first and right now I’m writing the last book which is pretty insane when I think about it, but I’m also in pre-publication steps for my first literary romance title. It’s an LGBTQ+ story about fate, the complexities of falling in love, the road to a happy ever after, and every bump along the way. I wanted to give people who are my age, in their early-mid twenties, a love story that they could relate to. I’m very proud of it and I hope I can get it into the hands of readers in the next year or so.
Taylor Brooke is the author of the science fiction trilogy, The Isolation Series. She lives in the Central Oregon with a lazy black cat, and spends her time hiking, scouting out the best food in town, and advocating for animal rights. When she’s not writing, she’s usually wandering around on another continent or tucked away with a good book.