Jane Austen, Cowboys, and Comics, a guest post by Rey Terciero
In high school, I really wanted to be a tough guy. Secretly, I wanted to be like the “ropers” I saw at my Texas high school—“ropers” being the self-chosen nickname for cowboys who spent their weekends tending horses and riding bulls at local rodeos. They had a swagger in their boots and a strut in their step that I desperately wanted to emulate. Mainly because I wasn’t a tough guy at all. Far from it actually. I was insecure, poor, half-Mexican, and in the closet.
Being insecure is pretty standard fare for some high schoolers. But being half-Mexican in Texas in the 90’s wasn’t exactly a cake walk either. I heard slurs and name-calling (like “beaner” and “burrito”) on a regular basis. Being poor didn’t help. I would have loved to spend my days at a ranch, tending to horses, but it wasn’t in the cards. And being gay? Well, that wasn’t even something I could joke about. Coming out was out of the question.
So I spent my free time, not at a ranch, but with my nose hidden in books. I read every book I was assigned in English class, as well as the books for extra credit. Then outside school I spent my nights reading horror novels and watching scary movies. And of course, I always made time to read my favorite comics: X-Men. These stories about heroes that fought to protect a world that hated and feared them resonated with me as a gay teen, because I always felt out of place, like I didn’t belong, even though I very much loved the world I lived in.
One day in English, the teacher assigned us to read a book by Jane Austen. I was totally freaked out. The last thing I wanted to be seen reading was a book that others considered effeminate. What if someone found me out as being queer? Then I discovered the lesser known of Austen’s works—a story called Northanger Abbey—very much her foray into the gothic. I thought, this I can read under the radar. So I picked it up from the library and took it home. I didn’t expect much. A few pages in, and I couldn’t put it down. I devoured it. I loved it. But as with all the books I read as a youth, there was something missing—a character that reminded me of me.
As I got older, I realized I wanted to write a book that would have called out to me when I was a teenager. It’s a common trait among writers—writing to their younger selves, and I was no different. The idea bubbled up practically overnight: the story of a young, gay, Hispanic teen (that’s me), who falls in love with a cowboy (that’s Texas), who may or may not be a killer (and that’s Jane Austen). And making it into a graphic novel? That was just the cherry on top.
Northranger is a coming-of-age story revolving around insecure Cade Muñoz, a young and naïve hero, who loses himself in horror movies to escape reality—until the summer he is forced to go work on a ranch where he meets his first real crush. This leads to him confronting the romantic feelings he’s been hiding from. Throughout the narrative, he discovers that he stands apart from others who crave wealth or fame, as really he only wishes to have happiness supported by social acceptance of his queerness.
So why cowboys? Let’s just say that I had plenty of crushes, and most of them wore cowboy hats. My neighbor and best friend was a roper, and he took me to see horses often enough that came to appreciate the smell of horse manure. My Texas upbringing may have been hard, but Texas is and forever will be home. As they say, you can take the boy out of Texas, but you can’t take Texas out of the boy.
And horror movies? Well, I’ve always loved the scary genre, probably because I’ve always seen a gay boy in place of the heroine… a lonely figure who wants love, but usually can’t have it because something terrifying is stalking her. For her, it’s a killer. For me, it was always the terror of coming out. And it was that parallel that became an important theme in Northranger.
As for my story being a graphic novel? Well, it had to be for the same reason I wanted to “remix” a classic novel written by a classic author. I wanted to make something new. I wanted to breathe new life into a story that I love, one that some young readers might have never heard of. I’m sincerely hoping that after reading Northranger, readers will want to go to their library and check out Northanger Abbey to compare the two, and understand that old stories still resonate today.
I never did become a cowboy, but I’d like to think that my experiences made me tougher. It’s been a hard road to accepting myself, but here I am—writing books about young gay Texans in the hope that my books reach other young gay Texans, and of course any reader out there that feels marginalized—whether they wear cowboy boots or not.
Meet the author
Rey Terciero, also known as Rex Ogle, was born and raised (mostly) in Texas. He’s written and edited hundreds of books and comics for children and young adults. He is a queer writer who has always been drawn to strong female protagonists, including Elizabeth Bennet, Princess Leia, Jean Grey, and Hermione Granger. Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy was his debut graphic novel.
About Northranger by Rey Terciero, Bre Indigo (Illustrator)
In this swoony and spooky teen summer romance graphic novel set on a Texas ranch, sixteen-year-old Cade Muñoz finds himself falling for the ranch owner’s mysterious and handsome son, only to discover that he may be harboring a dangerous secret.
Cade has always loved to escape into the world of a good horror movie. After all, horror movies are scary—but to Cade, a closeted queer Latino teen growing up in rural Texas—real life can be way scarier.
When Cade is sent to spend the summer working as a ranch hand to help earn extra money for his family, he is horrified. Cade hates everything about the ranch, from the early mornings to the mountains of horse poop he has to clean up. The only silver lining is the company of the two teens who live there—in particular, the ruggedly handsome and enigmatic Henry.
But as unexpected sparks begin to fly between Cade and Henry, things get…complicated. Henry is reluctant to share the details of his mother’s death, and Cade begins to wonder what else he might be hiding. Inspired by the gothic romance of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and perfect for fans of Heartstopper and Bloom comes a modern love story so romantic it’s scary.
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/06/2023
Age Range: 13 – 17 Years
Filed under: Guest Post
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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