This is not a rant. It’s more like a convoluted explanation. Well, it’s not even that twisted. Just words. Not that anyone ever owes anyone else an explanation for anything, but when you care, you take the time to explain. And I care. About the twenty or so people who took the time to contact me and ask what happened to the other books in the South Beach series. I’d posted about landing a three-book deal, and then I wrote a novella as an intro to the series, and then…
Okay, here’s where it’s not a rant.
I write about the world around me. As I see it. As I want to see it. As I live it.
I also have very thin skin. So when the first, second… fifth email arrived, asking me to defend my character choice, I thought, “What in the world?” I mean, who does that? Who emails an author angry at that author for creating strong, entrepreneurial characters who believe in earning their lives and also get to fall in love? My women aren’t saved by men, but they are better with the guy in their lives.
Who doesn’t need a best friend they can’t keep their hands off of?
It’s a win-win for my girls and guys.
But that wasn’t why I was being attacked.
It was because my characters were white. Lacey, my cafe owner, was white. Billy, my country singer, was white. Even my secondary characters were white.
Um… yeah. Here’s the explanation, not because I owe one, but because I care: I write about the world around me. I wrote a romance novel based upon what I know. What I’ve observed. And even though I’m Asian, I was adopted and raised in white, Catholic New England, where the people I watched fall in love were white.
I’m sorry I didn’t know better.
I’m sorry I didn’t include at least one friend who looked like me. I’m sorry I caught on too late to the #diversitymatters and #ownvoices issues. I’m sorry I stopped writing after that, because I froze at the keyboard. I had all these stories to tell, and no way to tell them, when all the words in my head were set to repeat those emails questioning me as an author. Questioning why I wasn’t including more diverse characters. And the answer I found was that I didn’t think I was important enough to include in a novel. Someone like me didn’t have to be on the page, because I considered myself insignificant.
I’m over that. I do matter. I may never be the default, but I have significance. Value. And it shouldn’t just be characters who look like me and think like me in the pages of my books. It should be any marginalized character, if I can get it right. If I am a good enough writer to write it right. Well-written books about mermaids are not written by mermaids.
I have stories to tell, and I don’t want anyone else telling my stories, but first I had to learn my craft — I’m still learning my craft — to tell it well. If you don’t want to be part of the solution, please don’t criticize the problem. Diversity in publishing is critical, but not at the expense of quality. We all have different starting lines.
So… to the 20+ people who cared enough to contact me about the delay in books 2 and 3 in my South Beach series… I’m still here.
For all the false starts and setbacks, for every rejection and tsunami of doubt, I’m still here, clicking those keys. My laptop has changed. The playing field has changed. The venue has changed. But the stories in my heart, the ones I’m compelled to tell, they are still there.
And to the five of you who questioned my characters… Thank you! Thank you for reading my novels, finding the key pieces missing (me!), and holding me accountable. I’m humbled that you took your valuable time to read my books, and I want to write something that makes you forget what you should be doing because you’re reading something I wrote.
Five years ago a book I wrote was published, and people — strangers! — read it! Today is the five year anniversary of the first book in the South Beach series.
Reviewers (thank you soooo much for taking the time to read and review my book!!!!) had some fun stuff to say about Reforming the Cowboy:
“This was a great second chances style of romance. Not so much a second chance at love, which is partly true, but a second chance at making your life have its own happily ever after.”
“They have a real relationship, with quirks and an attraction that goes beyond simply physical.”
“Reforming the Cowboy is a sweet contemporary romance about second chances and finding love when you least expect it.”
“The attraction between them is intense. Even better they connect on a personal level.”
“I thought this novel was the perfect blend of sweet and sexy.”
Now I’m ready to return to book 2 in the series and revise until I’m satisfied that what I want to say is what’s being said.
But first, an evening to celebrate. I’ve professed my belief in the importance of comparing yourself to yourself, and five-years-ago me is liking how now-me has progressed. We all have different starting lines, but for me, it will always be about enjoying the journey.
I love to connect with readers and writers through social media! Please click here to visit me on Instagram: @thereisnobox.
Thanks for being here. Thanks for finding me.
…and if you’re interested and reading and reviewing Reforming the Cowboy, please find me somewhere (Twitter, Instagram, in the comments), and let me know.
I’m learning all this as well, Marisa. You’re not alone! I found K Tempest Bradford’s Writing the Other course to be super helpful in allowing me to not only write what I know and the world around me (which is mostly white) but also to write what I dream and the tap into who I am (not white) to make my worlds into richer places as well. Good luck on your writing journey!
Hi Melody! Thanks so much for the recommendation!!! I need to check this out!
Congratulations on the new home for your books (even if I’m late to the game)! I’m not sure the writing journey ever reaches an end, considering we as well as the world around us are in constant flux and change. I truly hope that the increasing diversity and wonderful widening in voices holds all the freedom it can and should bring. I wonder if it will.
Hope all is well with you! This journey is interesting and it’s taken me somewhere that I feel has only made me a better person. More observant. More open-minded about so many issues. Thanks so much for commenting!