Alex Sanchez is the author of many young adult books featuring queer characters and relationships. His books have won many awards and he is regarded as one of the most popular and influential writers of fiction for gay youth. Some of his titles include The Rainbow Boys trilogy, The God Box, So Hard to Say, and Getting It. His latest novel, Bait, is in stores now. In celebration of Gay Pride Month, Alex was kind enough to sit down and answer a few of our questions. Here’s what he had to say…
What made you decide to write books about gay teens?
I didn’t set out to write Y.A. Lit. When I wrote my first novel, Rainbow Boys, I was simply writing the book I wished I’d had available to read when I was a teen—a book that would’ve told me, “It’s okay to be who you are.” Part of who I was then was a very normal teenage boy trying to sort out love, friendship, sex, and sexuality.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing with your life?
Prior to becoming a full-time author, I worked as a website manager, organizational development consultant, juvenile probation officer, family counselor, scuba instructor, college recruiter, movie projectionist, agent trainee, movie production assistant, theatre usher, stock clerk, and tour guide. Who knows what else I might be doing?
We’re featuring The Rainbow Boys trilogy on our site this month for Gay Pride Month. Where did the inspiration for those books come about?
A lot of the inspiration came from seeing young people nowadays who have the courage and opportunity to come out and be themselves in high school. When I was in high school, the term “coming out” didn’t even exist. The early 70’s was a time when gay people were practically invisible. I thought I was the only one in the world with my feelings. This was back in the dark ages—before Will & Grace.
Which character – Jason, Kyle, or Nelson – came to you first?
I began writing the book in 1993, so I don’t remember which character came first. I wanted to write a love story between two teenage boys—that’s where Jason and Kyle came from. And I wanted to write about the friendship between two boys—that’s where Kyle and Nelson’s story came from. The triangle between the three boys is what makes the story hang together.
Why did you decide to write this series through three different points of view, rather than just one character’s perspective?
I wanted to allow the reader to experience how three very different gay and bisexual teenage boys experience the world differently.
Do you have a favourite out of the three boys?
Each boy captures an aspect of myself—and of universal human drives. Jason struggles to love himself. Kyle wants to find someone to love. Nelson wants to find someone to love him.
Jason loses his college scholarship when he comes out. Do you think this kind of thing is still a common occurrence in modern America?
Unfortunately, homophobia is alive and pervasive in America. I recently received the following words in an email from a boy who came out at his school: “I ended up getting kicked off of like five activities. And I didn’t make the football, basketball, or baseball team even though I was captain in all three my junior year. And I wasn’t sure whether they’re allowed to do that. I mean, I’m not a bad athlete or anything.”
What do you have to say to teens that might be in Jason’s position?
Keep reaching out. Never close up. Never give up. Hang in there. You will get through this. You are a wonderful human being. Love, respect, and accept yourself for the beautiful soul you are.
While all three boys in The Rainbow Boys eventually come out, and are relatively happy with their decision to do so, not all teens are so lucky. What advice do you have for teens that might be struggling with coming out?
Coming out can be a very freeing thing. You no longer have to hide who you are, censor what your say, and watch what you do. Being honest and open enables you to feel confident about yourself and more able to form closer relationships with people. But because homophobia is so pervasive in our society, you never know how others will react. A big part of coming out is whether you’re prepared to deal with anti-gay reactions that may come from your being open. There is no rush to come out. TAKE YOUR TIME. The most important thing is that YOU love and accept yourself for who you are. Don’t do anything before you feel ready. It’s your life and your choice. Only you can decide if, how, with whom, and when to come out.
Where can questioning or gay teens find information that might help them through their self-discovery?
If you’re a teen and want to talk with someone, contact one of the organizations listed at my website, www.alexsanchez.com. And read all my books! They will help you.