Today on our Agent Spotlight series we have Brent Taylor from Triada US Literary Agency! Brent’s got some serious storytelling power all of his own in this interview!

1. Hello! Thank you for participating in our Agent Spotlight series! We’re excited to have you. Can you tell us how you got started agenting?

Hello! Thank you for doing this wonderful series and for having me. I started interning for literary agents in 2011 and spent about three years soaking up as much information about the industry as I could. In the summer of 2014, I joined Triada US as an intern and was hired as an assistant when the internship was over in the fall. Since then I’ve sold some books here and there was promoted to associate agent last fall.

2. We’re a site highlighting LGBTQIA+ YA (and increasingly, and excitingly, middle grade!). Can you tell us a recent LGBTQIA+ book you read and enjoyed?

How much time we do have for this interview? I could go on and on! There are so many amazing ones being published. I am a huge Robin Talley fan. I haven’t read her newest, AS I DESCENDED, but I absolutely loved LIES WE TELL OURSELVES. I really enjoyed Meredith Russo’s book IF I WAS YOUR GIRL. There’s so much about the teen experience Russo captures perfectly, but I particularly loved the nuances of the small southern town the book’s set it. (I grew up in Kentucky and have spent a lot of time in Tennessee.) And, finally, I haven’t read this one yet but I’m very excited to get my hands on Brie Spangler’s debut YA novel BEAST in October.

3. Do you currently represent any LGBTQIA+ YA or MG? Anything should we be putting on our radars?

I do! I cannot wait for the publication of PERFECT TEN by L. Philips, coming from Viking Children’s Books in June 2017, which is about a gay teen who does a love spell that goes awry. A few months after that in September Eric Bell’s debut middle grade novel ALAN COLE IS NOT A COWARD publishes from Katherine Tegen Books. It’s about a gay 12-year-old boy whose older brother discovers his secret crush and threatens to expose it to everyone—unless he agrees to participate in a game of nearly impossible tasks. These are books of my heart. I swell up with pride when I think about what they would have meant to me if I found them in the library when I was growing up gay.

I’m extremely excited for February 2018, when HarlequinTeen publishes my author Kaitlyn Sage Patterson’s debut YA fantasy THE DIMINISHED. It’s told in dual POV, and one of the POVs is a gay teen. Realistic fiction is definitely where my heart is, but Kaitlyn pulled off this gay teen’s character in such a rich way in such a rich world-unlike-our-own that I just had to have this book on my list. I’m really excited by the idea of someone picking this book up for its fantastic premise and then being delightfully surprised by the strong LGBTQIA+ characters and themes.

And if I could fit in just one more: this isn’t a book that I sold, it’s one that my boss did, but Blair Thornburgh’s YA novel WHO’S THAT GIRL (from HarperTeen in June!) has an absolutely stellar cast of LGBTQIA+ characters and the most charming voice you will ever encounter. I’m not exaggerating. This would have been one of my favorite books as a teen.

4. Why do you think it’s important for LGBTQIA+ youth to be represented in their literature?

Buckle up, because this is a long story. I remember being in the first grade and having “buddy readers”—fifth graders who would pair up with a first grader and read books to them for a portion of the day. I had the world’s biggest crush on my buddy reader. I can’t remember his name, but I know he had a smile that brought immediate butterflies to my stomach, and ohmygodareyoukidding—a cute guy READING BOOKS TO YOU ALL DAY? What a dream.

So, at recess and at home, I would daydream about us holding hands on a walk home and introducing him as my boyfriend to everyone. This wasn’t something I’d ever seen before—two guys being together in this way—so I was wracked with guilt. Are you supposed to think about your buddy reader like that? What does it mean if you’re a boy and want a boyfriend? These were the questions I asked myself all year.

In fourth and fifth grade the boys in my classes started calling me gay because I’d sit at the girls’ lunch table and instead of playing basketball at recess, I’d sit at the bottom of the rock-climbing wall and read J-14 Magazine. “Gay” was not a word in my vocabulary. It took me a while to figure out what it meant, and when I did, a wave of a million emotions rolled over me. Yes, yes, this is what I am. This makes sense. And then: No. This cannot be what I am. If this is what I am, then I better get used to lifelong bullying.

So, I was gay—I knew I was gay—but I couldn’t be gay. I buried this deep within my subconscious and just forgot about it and tried to move on. When boys weren’t accusing me of being gay in this hostile manner, then I’d get it from my girl friends (“Come on, Brent, you’re gay, right? You can tell us.”). I denied and denied and denied this until I actually started believing it.

Until middle school, when I fell in love with reading. For the first time in my life, I was reading books with gay people in them. Some of the first and most meaningful books were WHAT THEY ALWAYS TELL US by Martin Wilson and MARKED by P.C. and Kristin Cast. I can’t put into words how special this was for me. I saw these characters going through some of the same troubles as me, and some that were entirely their own—but what was special was seeing gay people doing things in the real world. I knew it was fiction, but when you’re immersed in a novel, it’s 100% real. For the first time, I was seeing that being gay was something you could be proud of.

Every child and teen deserves a moment as special as that. Realizing that what makes you different is something that you don’t have to keep secret—that you can own it, and be happy, and conquer the world. This is why I’m a literary agent. This is why I’m so proud to see PERFECT TEN and ALAN COLE IS NOT A COWARD and THE DIMINISHED go out into the world.

5. What trends in LGBTQIA+ YA are you seeing? What would you love to see in your inbox? And, if you’re open to queries, how can someone query you?

I’m seeing a good amount of stories about characters who aren’t “out” about their identity and this pleases me so much. As much as I adore books where the LGBTQIA+ characters are already comfortable with their identity and moving on with their lives, I think it’s so important to continue to publish books for the audiences that aren’t quite there yet. My list is robust with gay male characters, so I’d really love to more of the LBTQIA+. I’m open to queries and my submission guidelines are simple: send me your query letter and first ten pages pasted in the body of the message to brent [at] triadaus [dot] com, with “query” in the subject line.