This might sound strange, but all through the process of writing Caught Inside’,> I gave very little thought to my hero’s sexuality. At Seventeen, Luke is the kind of young man who takes most things in his stride and who isn’t generally prone to self-analysis. Looking back, I realise that I was far more interested in exploring his emotional journey than I was in putting a label on his feelings.
Over the past couple of weeks, however, two things have happened to give me pause: an invitation to submit my novel to the Bi Book Awards and a wonderful review by A.M. Leighbowitz in which she expresses some disappointment that I don’t actually come out and use the term bisexual. They prompted me to sit down and explore Luke’s sexuality in more depth, so here goes…
At the start of the novel, Luke has been seeing his girlfriend Zara for a couple of months and is all set to spend the summer with her at her family’s cottage on the Cornish coast. In fact, Zara is the latest in a regular string of girlfriends. That isn’t to say Luke is a Jack the Lad. It’s simply that, with his good looks and easy-going charm, He’s a natural magnet for girls.
Then, in Cornwall, everything changes. Luke meets Theo, who also happens to be Zara’s cousin and closest friend, and finds himself falling in love for the first time in his life. Normally so laid-back and sure of himself, he’s utterly unprepared for the tidal wave of emotion—the giddy euphoria mingled with a jealousy and insecurity he hadn’t known himself capable of.
So, what does this mean for Luke’s sexuality? Is he gay and has merely been dating girls because that’s what’s expected of him? It’s a question he asks himself more than once during the story. Yet, although Theo is the first person he’s lost his heart to, Luke has certainly been attracted to girls in the past. He isn’t in love with Zara, nor does he ever claim to be, but there’s no doubt he enjoys being with her, at least to begin with, and that he finds her physically desirable.
Could it be that he’s gay-for-Theo? Luke has never felt this way about anyone else before, and has naturally been drawn to girls up to now, so this description could apply to him…but for one thing. A couple of years earlier, he had a crush on one of his teammates on the school rugby team. It was a fleeting crush, lasting just long enough for Luke to discover the other boy’s bullying nature, and he was able to dismiss it as part of growing up. Still, the memory has stayed with him, a niggling doubt at the back of his mind.
So…yes, in light of the fact that Luke has been attracted to both genders, even if he has only ever fallen for a guy, bisexual is probably the most accurate term for him. In that case, should I have made him acknowledge this at some point in the course of the novel? There are some—particularly among the bi community, many of whom I know have felt marginalised by the gay-for-you plotline that’s currently so popular—who will believe I should have gone farther.
First, let me apologise to those who might feel aggrieved by Luke’s failure to fully embrace his sexuality. It was never my intention to diminish being bisexual as an identity or suggest that it’s in any way invalid. My sole concern when writing Caught Inside was to remain true to my hero. I don’t doubt that Luke would have one day owned his bisexuality, and knowing him, he’d have done so with pride. Yet, at seventeen, still coming to terms with loving Theo and what this means for his future, it just felt too soon.