Why is my heroine a drag queen zombie slayer?
“Why not just a chick?” a friend said the other day. “Why a drag queen? More people would read it if it were just a chick,” he asked, wondering why I had decided to condemn my second novel to commercial failure. It is a fair question and one that I asked myself when I started writing Bad Medicine: Slay it, Queen!
I’m not going to pretend that I came into the project with a political agenda. I am a pop-culture-obsessed, campy-humor-loving, horror aficionado who thought that the idea of drag queen wielding a machete and beheading zombies was the funniest thing in the world. Since I wasn’t able to find that book, I decided to write it.
I approached the project knowing I wanted camp, horror, and gore to be the driving forces behind it. The fact that the main character is a drag queen doesn’t make the book a joke; it makes it fun –huge difference. Classic horror concepts like survival, evil and primal fear, had to be clear and alive in the novel.
I wrote the first chapter before I had finished the book’s outline because I was full of ideas and so excited I couldn’t wait. And the first paragraph was born.
“Bad Medicine struggled to remove her heel from the man’s head. After a final yank, her foot broke free followed by a bone cracking noise. She had spent an entire year saving her tips to buy a pair of Jimmy Choo, and now they were covered in brains.”
As I worked in the outline, I realized that this book was giving me the opportunity to do so much more than just offering readers a good laugh and a good scare. Under the makeup and the good wig; behind Bad Medicine’s impossible eyelashes lives Allan Hendrix, a young gay man from the Midwest who found his strength and his power the first time he put on a pair of heels.
Bad Medicine then became a superhero tale. The more I wrote, the more I realized that this origin story had to be more than an excuse to talk about severed body parts and evening gowns –two of my favorite topics — this was an opportunity to discuss gender, homophobia, and discrimination within our community.
I know what you are thinking: (insert Kristin Chenoweth singing voice) “You’re having delusions of grandeur!” And maybe I am. But hear me out. (Fair warning. Publishers Weekly called my first novel “preachy” so the next paragraphs may confirm their critic).
There is a whole lot of smart people out there who think that silly and smart don’t mix. People who are quick to put you in a box. You are either the kind of person who shares a link about Angelina and Brad getting a divorce, or the kind of person who shares a link about Black Lives Matter. The concept of you being both –for them — is an oxymoron.
While I was working on Bad Medicine, I realized I couldn’t pass the opportunity to touch on serious issues because that is exactly what those “smart people” would want me to do. This novel is a reflection of who I am. I am an Angelina-loving, TV-connoisseur, James Franco-obsessed, queer activist that has spent the last ten years of his life dancing the line between silly and serious.
I wrote a book about a fierce boy whose armor is a dress and weapon of choice a machete and a six-inch pair of heels, and I stand by my choice.
Bad Medicine is not a chick because mainstreaming the character would take away the opportunity to comment on real issues affecting my community. Maybe one day I’ll write a book about a strong woman, and I’ll have the opportunity to talk about those issues; maybe that book will sell better. For now, I’ll stick to what I know, and God knows I know my way around a sickening queen.