Over the next few months as I finish edits on COWBOY LULLABY, THIS LOVE and re-releases for DESERT PROTECTOR and maybe AFRICAN CHOCOLATE – I will contemplate not writing any more. Let me be more specific – I will contemplate not writing romance any more and just focus on my blog.
I can see the question most of you are asking as you read this – What brought this on?
I will explain. As you all know I write interracial romance. I’ve always written interracial romance. The only book I wrote that is not IR was Broken Wings. My love of culture stemmed from being moved to Canada at an early age and discovered so many vibrant people around my city. They were always so colourful and full of life that I couldn’t just write stories featuring all blacks or all whites. There was no way, to dull these sparks of love and laughter I saw each time I ventured outside my doors, or bring myself to get on a train to the heart of Toronto, or Little Italy or Chinatown. I’ve tried but I soak up culture like a sponge. I know things about some cultures not even people my age from that culture know.
I learn bits and pieces of histories, languages, cuisine, music, art– but I digress.
If you know me, you know I strongly believe that love is love no matter if its between a man/woman, woman/woman or Male/male, trans or intercultural. I believe love has no race and no colour, it’s just love.
During my visit to my first convention in Ottawa in April I soaked in the people, the atmosphere but most importantly I was looking around. There were very view visibly minority characters on these massive banners strung all over the hotel and that broke my heart. But I wanted to write more and this convention opened my eyes and gave me a new found love of historical romances.
You see, when I started working, I could afford to buy my own books, so I would go to garage sales and flea markets and pick up these books about Lords and Ladies and Kings and Queens. Not one of them had characters who looked like me but I enjoyed them nontheless. As I got older, I began wondering why not? Why couldn’t there be a black lady who fell held over heels for the Duke of So-and-so? Why couldn’t this Duke be white and why couldn’t they live happily ever after?
Let me stop here to say this. I learned history. From schools in Jamaica to schools in Canada; from my father to books I’ve read on my own, to documentaries to websites and papers put up by professors from some of the top universities in the world.
I know more history than most people my age and I gain more insights on what life was like back in the days of yore every day. I’ve learned the history of media, the history of people, the history of the blues…
I learned about slavery and trade and international business. I learned about the Chinese history and Japanese History and Greek History as well as British History, American History and Canadian History. The life I’ve lived filled with curiosity and books, has taught me a lot. So this is in no way to say I did not know what to expect when I began digging into the Regency.
This is about my emotional journey and the effect this has on me as a writer and as a person who thinks our media and art forms should be inclusive of all races.
At the convention I began thinking about these questions more and more. You see, my sixteen year old niece is just like me. She reads everything. She is past the age of fairy tales and if you look closely there are no black princess or princes. Aside from Disney’s very shameful attempt with the Princess and the Pea. I wanted desperately to write something so she can see herself in within the pages of my books. But over the past few months of research, it’s become quite clear that characters of my race cannot be written in a historical romance unless we are slaves, discriminated against and there seem to be no happily ever afters to be had for little black girls.
Then to add insult to injury I am being told I cannot write a story unless it is alternative. I know these kind people did not mean to offend and I shouldn’t feel offended but my culture is not and “alternative”. I cannot write anything other than interracial for this story because that was how it formed in my head. To do otherwise would be to go against my muse and kill the story.
But I guess all that indecision and tears is what will stop me from being embroiled in a feud with a future cover artist (that is IF a publishing house takes the story to begin with) when the cover is to be made and I cannot see a black girl in one of those large, beautiful gowns, falling off her shoulders as she fall into her Duke’s chest. There is absolutely no stock photo for something like that.
All of this makes me truly wonder if I can be a part of world that sees my culture as slaves or “alternative”. Apparently we cannot truly exist within the pages of a fictional story unless we are being owned or if we pretend life was different. As black girls we have to read about other people’s happily ever afters. We cannot be bowstreet runners, pretending to be men as we ride the dangerous night, our swords glistening in the moonlight, a silk mask over half our faces, then falling for the one man who stops us in our tracks. We cannot be women with minds of their own who defy society and bath in the river alone without a chaperon and gets caught by the dashing prince who decides to do his duty as a gentleman and return us to our father’s place only to fall head over heels in love with us. We cannot be the blacksmith’s daughter who finds the wounded and handsome Duke, wounded by the roadside and is strong enough to get him on her horse, carry him back to her cabin by the river and nurse him back to health, all the while falling deeper and deeper in love.
You see, through my search, I’ve found a couple of interracial historical novels but they aren’t from the era I would like to set mine in.
This situation breaks my heart. As I finish up my re-edits and the rest of my stories on my Works in Progress list, I will have to decide if I can truly, in all honesty remain a romance author. Just the thought of making this decision hurts more than you will understand or even think possible. I’ve been reading romance novels ever since I was eight years old. They saved me from hours of boredom and mischief. I was born in a country that didn’t open many doors for dreams and these books gave me those. But now that I am older to truly see the world around me, these same books have broken my heart.