Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Bollywood Confidentially: A Hard Look Back

Ever have one of those "If I only knew then what I know now" moments? Sometimes, it feels like my entire experience in romance publishing is that moment. More and more, I circle back to what was initially my great joy: my Bollywood Confidential novellas for Samhain Publishing. I was so proud to get these stories out there. And then so demoralized when they did poorly. But I learned a lot and if I could go back, there are so many things I would do differently. Here are just a few.

1. I would take the people off the covers. I mean, I LOVE these covers. They are stunning. Cover artist Angela Waters is a goddess. But POC on covers don't sell well -- particularly for authors of color. It's hard lesson to learn and a tough truth to swallow, but them's the breaks. Mainstream romance readers (by which I mean primarily white ones) take one look at these covers and go, "Oh, this isn't for me." Similar to why they won't hang a left at the African-American section at the bookstore. The sad-funny thing is, my books don't do well with Indian readers either!

Sometimes you just have to slap a piece of furniture and a puppy on a book to get folks to realize it is for them to read. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Depression Part Two: Electric Boogaloo

Editing to add/disclaim: This is probably a good reminder that you shouldn't angst and post. I want to assure people that I do manage my illness with daily medication and am doing better overall. This bit of navel-gazing and whinging is just another example of how depression narrows your world down to just you.

A fun (and by "fun" I mean "really not fun at all") part of living with depression involves low points when you least want them. For me, a terrible convergence of emotions happened during a particularly rough time in the romance industry's community relationship: when it turned out that Dear Author's Jane Litte was also author Jen Frederick and had been lying to her readership for years. Blame my hormones, blame my illness, but the same week the shit hit the fan, so did my paranoia. All of a sudden, I was convinced that my own community activism was poison, that what I frequently said as an advocate of diversity had made people hate me. I was DMing a fellow writer and friend frantically, worried that bestselling author and general badass Courtney Milan might be mad at me about something. What...? I have no clue. You laugh, but, dude, it's no fun. It's a guilt spiral you don't want to experience. And I made myself get off that Twitter account for a while and breathe. You know what? She might be mad at me. I say a lot of divisive, inflammatory shit. But do I need to be hyperventilating, crying, and taking Twitter breaks because of that...? Do I need to be that neurotic? No. Welcome to depression.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Spilling Tea, Choking on Silence and Perhaps Burning Bridges

I'm not a bestselling author. I'm not a degree-holding academic feminist who purports to validate the romance genre by reading it. I'm an author and reader of color who grew up with a certain amount of upper middle class and model minority privilege — none of which holds any weight in the publishing industry. Because, you see, like most of my fellow writers of color, I am invisible.

The past few weeks saw Stephanie Dray, a white author of historical fiction, "joking" about writing Thomas Jefferson-Sally Hemings BDSM romance. Women of color expressed hurt on Twitter, and those issues were later outlined more extensively in the blogosphere here and here. Dray made sure to seek absolution from well-known authors like Courtney Milan, Mary Robinette Kowal and Jenny Trout, and Beverly Jenkins lauded her for her apology. Ultimately the fracas became centered on Trout, Anne Rice and Jaid Black. Slavery and rape were forgotten. The black women hurt by the comments were forgotten. White authors with a bigger followings were having some feelings, so that took precedence.