Windsor author's debut novel brings LGBTQ representation to superhero tale


When A.E. Clarke sat down to write a novel, Grayscale, he knew he wanted it to be about superheroes, something he's loved for as long as he can remember.

He wanted it set in Toronto, where he was living at the time, and he wanted his lead character to be gay.

"I'm a gay man, so it was very, very important for me," said Clarke. "I know that any book that I ever write will always have some sort of LGBTQ character in it for sure."

Representation matters — sometimes LGBTQ characters are portrayed with a lack of depth, he said.

"I knew that I wanted to write a gay man who represented me," said Clarke. "He's not super stereotypical, and he is kind of an idiot sometimes, but he's human and him being gay isn't the entirety of his character, which is unfortunately the case with a lot of representation right now."

One of the subplots involves the main character Jesse's sister, Holly, finding out he's gay part way through the novel.

"I knew that I also didn't want it to be the entirety of Jesse's character arc, and so it was difficult riding that line and making sure that was still important while not being the only important thing about him," said Clarke.

He started writing the book about 10 years ago during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). In November, people can sign up to try to write at least 50,000 words of a novel before the month is over. He completed it on Dec. 6.

"I think literally the next day I started editing it," he said. "The first draft of a novel, especially during NaNoWriMo, is garbage."