Hi guys, we have Casey Lawrence stopping by today with her upcoming release Order In The Court, the sequel to Out of Order, we have a fantastic guest post and a great exclusive excerpt, so check out the post and enjoy! <3 ~Pixie~
Order in the Court
Corey Nguyen watched her three best friends fall victim to a killer, but it’s becoming clear her ordeal won’t end there. While trying to be a college student, have some kind of social life, and just be normal again, she learns the murderer is demanding a trial. He claims he’s innocent and was forced into confessing—which means Corey will have to testify to what she saw.
The idea of facing the killer in court worsens Corey’s anxiety and forces her to relive the horrifying events of that night. And just when she thinks things can’t get worse, she realizes her mother and the prosecuting attorney are probably more than friends. All Corey wants is to put the tragedy behind her, but it’s clear the end is not yet in sight.
Queering the Cast: Why it’s important to have multiple LGBT+ characters
In my first book, Out of Order, my protagonist experiences her first crush on a girl. Although the book is a murder mystery, a large component of the story is the flashbacks in which Corey learns how to navigate the world as a queer person in a world where the majority of the people she interacts with are straight. While the book is in no way about “coming out,” there is some focus on self-discovery, and on Corey feeling out of place; she’s bisexual in a culture that prioritizes heterosexuality, she’s Asian in a predominantly white town, and she doesn’t fit into the boxes of other people’s expectations. She has friends, but she doesn’t know how to talk to them about any of these feelings.
I think we’ve all read this story before: the one lonely queer person meets the only other queer person at their high school and falls in love. It’s a classic trope of gay YA. But it’s also a form of tokenism. By isolating our queer characters, we, the authors, are supporting the idea that queerness is isolating. That being gay is synonymous with being lonely. That for gay, lesbian, and bisexual people, our relationships with other queer people will only ever be the 1:1 ratio of a monogamous romantic relationship.
Frankly, that’s bullshit.
In real life, your soulmate is probably not going to be the first other queer person you meet. In real life, the majority of your friends might not be straight. In real life, you’re more likely to have “that one straight friend” than the token gay friend, because in real life, queer people flock together. Perpetuating the idea that members of the LGBT community are isolated can be harmful to young readers. Imagine being a queer thirteen-year-old and finally finding a book that stars somebody like you, only to realise that even in fiction, even in a fantasy, you are destined to be lonely and isolated, the “one gay friend.” Reading that kind of book probably wouldn’t inspire confidence in your sexuality. If that’s the only kind of book that’s available, there’s a problem.
With that in mind, my approach to writing Order in the Court became very different. My cast of characters multiplied and diversified. My fictional world grew wider and deeper. Still, I don’t feel satisfied. No matter how many LGBTQ+ characters I added, I felt like I should be doing more, that I could be doing more. But I think that’s okay. I’m certainly trying more to think about how my work will affect young queer readers, which is the most important thing.
Corey went through some really traumatic events in Out of Order, but in Order in the Court she gets to go to university, make new friends, and join a Pride group. Most murder mysteries end with the killer in handcuffs. But that’s not the end of Corey’s story. She’ll forever have the psychological scars of those events, but she has the right to move on, too. She gets to see what it’s like to not be alone. That’s what I hope readers take away from Order in the Court: life moves on. There’s a life after high school worth living. You won’t be alone forever.
My advice to writers breaking into the genre of queer YA lit is this: don’t be afraid to go all out!
I think one of the reasons the Isolated Queer Character is such a trope in fiction is because the writers of that fiction are afraid that our book(s) won’t make it into the mainstream if it doesn’t appeal to straight people and make them feel included. It is not unrealistic to have a predominantly gay cast of characters. So just GO FOR IT! Add as many gay characters as your book needs, and then add some more in the background for good measure. You are not alone, and your readers will thank you for showing them that they aren’t, either.
EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT FROM ORDER IN THE COURT:
“You might want to reconsider that one.”
My head snapped up, and I nearly brained myself on the corner of a leather-bound King James. Valerie Mason stood over me, the drawstring from her McMinn hoodie hanging from her mouth. “Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you.”
I shrugged, feeling more invaded than startled. My tiny little bubble of peace had been popped. “It’s okay,” I said, for lack of anything better. Awkward silence hung between us for a moment. Valerie pointed to the book in my hands.
“I’ve read that one. It’s a Dead Lesbian story.”
I turned over the paperback and reread the blurb. It didn’t say anything of the sort. The cover had two girls holding hands on it. On a beach. “A ‘Dead Lesbian’ story?” I asked, because that didn’t sound right.
Valerie nodded. “A lot of these books end in suicide or murder. Killing one half of a happy lesbian couple is practically cliché now. I’ve read most of these, and they’re all like that. No happy endings.” She ran her fingers along some of the spines at eye level. “I found that out the hard way. I figured, with your—” She paused and then made a little fake-cough sound at the back of her throat. “I figured you were looking for happy endings, maybe.”
“Yeah, I guess I am,” I said, shifting the promising-looking paperback into my “no” pile. Valerie sat down where she was standing, her legs folding gracefully beneath her.
“Let me look at what you’ve got,” she said, picking up my “maybe” pile. She held up the first one. “Double suicide.” The second. “Murder.” The third. “Corrective rape. Why would you even pick this one up?”
“It has a daisy on the cover,” I protested, flushing. I hadn’t read the description for that one, granted, but it had looked pretty on the shelf.
Valerie shook her head, looking bemused. She stood up abruptly and began pulling books from the shelf, ones I hadn’t gotten to yet. “These are probably the closest you’ll get to Happy Ever After.” She dropped four books into my lap. “Everything else suffers from Dead Lesbian Syndrome or is about whiny gay men.”
“That’s it? For the whole section?” The section was tiny to begin with, but that sounded ridiculous. “That’s not fair.”
Valerie shrugged one shoulder. “Most of these were written before the nineties. The only way to get lesbians past the censor was for them to have unhappy endings. Couldn’t go around ‘encouraging the queers,’ right?” Her finger quotes made the sentence all the more sarcastic, though her tone of voice would’ve been enough. “Newer stuff might be better, but it gets snapped up fast. I always check for new stuff when I’m here.”
I turned over the four books she had recommended. Only one of them even remotely looked like what I wanted, so I offered the other three back for her to re-shelve.
“Thanks,” I said, genuinely thankful that I hadn’t accidentally read one of the Dead Lesbian books. It would have been just the icing on the cake for me to fall in love with characters like me only for one of them to die. It would be art imitating life a little too much. I could only imagine the nightmares and panic attacks something like that might trigger.
“Don’t mention it. We got to stick together, look out for each other. It’s a rough world.”
I didn’t know whether she meant for people in Pride or people who went to a support group, but I nodded anyway. I didn’t know why she went to group; she hadn’t shared much at the meeting.
“Wow, this might seem like a dick move, but um… here.” Valerie thrust a scrap of paper at me, tucking it under the cover of the book I intended to buy. “That’s my number.”
Casey Lawrence is a 21-year-old Canadian university student completing an undergraduate degree in English Language and Literature. She is a published author of LGBT Young Adult fiction through Harmony Ink Press and has been actively involved in LGBT activism in her community since she co-founded a Gay-Straight Alliance in high school. Her first novel Out of Order is available through all major online book retailors and its sequel, Order in the Court is currently available for preorder.