I didn’t set out to write about a gay man.
My original concept for Hunters was about a woman who had a powerful magic, but who was forced by society to hide this power. Her brother was supposed to be a walk-on “red shirt” character – someone who would die tragically to motivate her character to change from accepting her lot to doing something about the brutal world she lived in.
It was my very talented group of alpha readers who realized early on (more than 2 years ago) that something was up with the brother. He’s a kick-ass assassin with a deep conscience he often can’t afford to indulge. He has a sense of loyalty to his sister that borders on pathological. He considers himself a monster, and there are times when he’s not mistaken about that despite his best intentions. He has eight children, and a big secret. He’s gay.
In Jaim’s world, sexual preference is just… preference. As much as someone might prefer blue-eyed blondes or gingers with freckles. And yet, for Jaim, his preference really does set him apart. His very unusual, militaristic family refuses to accept any change from the ideal, including sexual orientation, and they enforce this strict adherence to the normative by killing off anyone in the family who doesn’t meet the standard. In a society where gender identity and sexuality are completely without our present-day burdens, he is forced to hide his true nature, and the eventual discovery of his secret by his family lead to some pretty hideous consequences, both for him and for the people he loves.
Over the years and the revisions, my concept Hunters has changed significantly. The idea has matured, and so have the characters. Meulen is no longer a humble peasant woman (*snort*), and her brother is no longer a red shirt. Jaim become the focal point of both her story and his own. A lot of the reason for that is his sexual preference and how he responds to the pressures both within himself and from others, but he is not a token. He is not the stereotype of a gay man, nor a mascot for self-acceptance. He is tortured and repressed and generally speaking, a frigging mess. To me, at least, he is a whole person, and his sexuality is just one facet.
I’ve always believed that consenting adults deserve to be happy and to have someone who fulfills their needs, both emotionally and sexually, but I never set out to write about a gay man. The notion of tackling gender and sexuality issues never crossed my mind, until I stumbled over a character who just wouldn’t let go of my heart.