Happy Wednesday! Today’s post comes from a piece I recently shared with my New York romance writers chapter and wanted to share with you all my ye old blog friends…
I once received what I considered one of the biggest compliments I could ever have about my writing. It came from a friend of mine who was a fairly new friend at the time but I had already felt that sister from another mother type of kinship. We chatted easily, finished each other’s sentences and had the same taste in love/ hate of certain “not so real housewives” thing going on. It didn’t matter that I am Black and Methodist from Harlem and that she is Jewish and from the Bronx. That is not our world. Our world in that moment was the chatter across the table in our little knit, stitch and yes, sometimes bitch group, surrounded by the other diverse friends we have from many different cultures and ethnicities.
Well, I had given this friend a small sample of my writing (something I rarely do, but she asked and I was weak and there was some wild, rare trust thing going on), a budding, buddy detective story with two best friends as the leads. In the story one main character is Caucasian and the other is African-American. They both flowed in and out of the story (along with some pretty hot guys) as my mind took me and that was that. My friend read the excerpt and her comment was, “I loved it. And what I really loved was that you had so many diverse characters but they were just real and not made up characters. Just women not Black women and then White women. You know women– like us.”
To me this was such a high compliment as a contemporary writer. You see I never want to make my characters caricatures. I want to portray women as real feeling people with heart, like the women I see and meet every day. Even the villains are real to me and not some superficial portrait of what past media history they should be.
I once had an agent (that I think I rightly parted ways with) give me the critique that my characters were too tame. I was asked to make my stories less diverse and to amp up the “Blackness”, whatever the heck that means (and I think I know what it meant to him) of the African American characters, so that when they were submitted to publishing houses, the houses would know where to put them and how to market them.
I, of course, saw red and then became incredibly sad and then I left that agent and kept on writing. My way. I had spent all my life living in the world I lived in, not compromising who I was, there was no way I was going to start now. That being said, many years and a few manuscripts later, I have found a publisher that has embraced my book with it’s truly multi-cultural cast and I could not be happier. Crimson Romance is not shelving THROUGH THE LENS in its multi-cultural section. No, it’s sitting right there with the rest of the contemporary romances as I feel it should. I’m happy to say they believe in the idea of story first and the color of the characters— and the writer for that matter —does not come into play. I hope that there will be a time when all publishers follow this route and more people can read the way we live, in a truly multi-cultural way.
All the best,
Note to self: Get back to that buddy book. It’s a good story!
Image from here