As a romance author few things give me more satisfaction than watching my characters come to life within the pages of my novels. I imagine Dr. Frankenstein felt much the same way when he attached nodes to his monstrous creation and waited for lightning to strike. Not the most romantic analogy but I’m just going to go with it lol.
But aside from the thrill of breathing literary life into my heroines and their love interests I also occupy the unique position of being an interracial romance writer. My leading ladies are always women of color, namely African-American and my heroes so far have all been Caucasian. Why is this unique? Interracial romance, though a vastly growing and popular market, is still very much a sub-category within the romance genre as a whole. Readers of all races are responding to romances with characters who are not white, with story arcs that represent a wide array of life circumstances and conflict points.
But interracial romance isn’t necessarily about broad differences. The same scenarios abound – second chance love, billionaire love, bad boy love even paranormal love – but the fact that the leads are not of the same race gives it a classification and appeal all its own.
I love this fact because although divide and conquer should be frowned upon in everyday life, it’s not the same kettle of fish when it comes to literature. Putting books into genres, categories and niches is good for readers and authors alike because it eliminates guesswork.
As much as authors would like everyone everywhere to enjoy their books the truth is that people have certain types of books they love more than others. I am up for just about anything as a reader but don’t expect me to happily curl up with an extreme horror novel anytime soon. So listing a romance as interracial gives readers a clue about what type of romance they are about to read and hopefully, gives those who would not ordinarily be aware of them a chance to try something new.
There are, however, differences in the writing process when it comes to how I tell my interracial stories. As a black woman, I feel a weightier sense of obligation to the women and the people I write about when I sit down at my computer to tell their stories. A lot of my author friends are white and when I ask them if they feel this way when they write their own romances they all, inevitably, say no and then ask me to explain what I mean.
I tell them that it boils down to ownership of the narrative, as an author.
For all of us this means making sure that the stories we tell are as well thought out and creatively entertaining as we can possibly make them. But for me. it involves so much more because I am writing about atypical heroines within the genre.
My leading ladies are black so I am constantly aware of how I present them to a society that may not always value their race as a positive part of their personhood. I am aware of my own directive to write my own truth, even as I create these fictitious characters. I can’t effectively write what I don’t feel strongly about so my stories have to come from the heart, despite the race of the characters.
My stories are not political or social statements. There’s not much passion in that so I don’t dwell on things that get in the way of a good, old-fashioned love story.
So that leaves me at an interesting cross-roads. I am a black woman writing romances with strong, beautiful black leading ladies and yet there are times when race is simply not a part of the larger narrative or story arc. What then, is the point? That’s the great part – there doesn’t have to be a point beyond telling a wonderful story that makes your heart race as two people find love together.
There is, however, a great deal of satisfaction as I go about this with characters who look and speak and feel the same way I do. It is empowering, it is liberating and hopefully it is inspiring. I want to be a small part of why the next generation of black girls don’t have to pick up a copy of a romance novel and pretend that the fair maiden described therein is actually brown or that her silken, golden tresses are actually dark and naturally curly.
It makes me proud to know that I am attracting new readers of all races who respond emotionally to my characters and the world I’ve placed them in – and I’ve done so in my own way within a genre that hasn’t traditionally emphasized my intrinsic value as an object of desire.
Yeah, that last part especially rocks.
So I leave you with a challenge to stretch your wings as a reader and venture into unchartered book territories within the genres you already love. Are you a cozy mystery fan? How about a cozy mystery where the main character is disabled? Do you live for military fiction? Why not start a series where the bad-ass is a woman? As readers, we are fortunate to live in a period in publishing history where it costs very little to discover great books. So take advantage of this opportunity and branch out a little – push the edges of your literary comfort zone and you just may discover what many of my readers have discovered…a book that transports you into another time and place is a treasure no matter where you find it.
Editor’s Note: Many thanks to Erin Lee Daniels from www.erinleedaniels.com for sharing this piece with us.
Erin Lee Daniels is the author of Blaque Beauty and the Billionaire, the first novella in the Blaque Beauty Contemporary Romance Collection. For more information visit www.erinleedaniels.com