by Adam Silvera
When my agent and I went on submission with More Happy Than Not, I expected editors to reject the book. I wasn’t wrong.
I’m not some pessimist who believed publishers would pass on my book simply because it was my book. This certainly isn’t the case for all the editors, but a couple of them—their names and houses to remain unnamed—didn’t think the character’s homosexuality was really the best move for this book and essentially wanted me to rewire my narrator’s heart.
In case you’re on the fence on why this really, really sucks, here’s my elevator pitch: 16-year-old Aaron Soto is considering a memory alteration procedure to forget he’s gay because being straight would prove less difficult in the South Bronx. If we strip away my character’s homosexuality, what’s left of Aaron’s story? We’ll be left with yet another amnesia book about a straight boy, that’s what. While I grew up on those novels, that’s not what I set out to write. It’s funny how those editors wanted to straighten out Aaron since it’s very reflective of what Aaron wants for himself within the book, and his insecurities were born because of outside pressures as such. We ultimately told those editors that Aaron stays gay and moved on.
Maybe I’m alone in this thought, but I understand I’m not writing books that are expected to become New York Times bestsellers because the life of a teenager confronting his sexuality just doesn’t have the same appeal to the masses as boy wizards and dragons do. This takes a lot of pressure off me as a writer, but that’s only because I’m on the other side of the gate with my book soon to be published. Before I got my book deal, there was definitely a temptation to write something more commercial (the dreaded C word of publishing). Writing about straight boy wizards and straight dragons would’ve been less stressful, I bet. (We’re to assume the dragons are straight, aren’t we? There’s no way in hell are people buying a book about gay dragons, nope, never, don’t even try it.)
If you’re like me with a story that was born from your own personal experiences, my big piece of advice to you is to never sellout your heart. There’s an alternate universe where Aaron Soto’s story was rewritten so he’s a straight boy due to Alternate Universe Adam’s impatience to be published or wanting a higher advance, and that makes me cringe like whoa. That alternate universe is especially hellish because this edition of More Happy Than Not that will be on shelves will be heartless, and Alternate Universe Adam won’t get a do-over to publish the story he first wanted to; once the book is on shelves, the book is on shelves.
I’m not promising happy endings in your journey to be published by simply being brave enough to write your story, but I am applauding you for battling through those doubts and temptations because we definitely need your voice added to the chorus. Rejections may be disheartening, but selling out is heartbreaking.
More Happy Than Not will be GayYA’s June Book of the Month! Preorder a copy now (and get it personalized!), or make sure to pick one up when it hits stores June 2nd!