So this month we’re celebrating diverse books and talking about how badly we need them with the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag.
Because Sam is a biracial heroine in BEYOND WHAT IS GIVEN, I’ve been asked a lot about my thoughts on adding diversity to the Flight & Glory series. I chatted a little bit about it at release, and I’ve found that six months past publishing Sam & Grayson’s story, I still feel the same…well, maybe I’m a little more passionate about the need for these books.
My first thought was, “of course I’m not adding diversity…Sam is in FULL MEASURES. She’s already in the series…” But then I stopped to realize that sure she was, but relegated to secondary character status, as are many diverse characters in New Adult. Was I scared to do it? When I paused and really thought about it, sure, there was a little trepidation. What if I turned readers off because I had an interracial relationship between the main characters? What if I stereotyped? What if I ignored it all together? What if I didn’t give Sam’s experience the depth it deserved?
But what if I didn’t write the love story these two deserved because I was so worried about how it would be dissected? Interpreted? Received?
So, I stopped worrying about what others thought and simply wrote the story.
One of my favorite paranormal authors is Christine Feehan. I remember vividly reading my first diverse heroine in one of her Carpathian novels, and before opening the jacket, I paused. Was I going to experience a disconnect with the heroine? Would I be able to relate, to really step into her shoes and feel with her?
I’m still mentally smacking myself for being an idiot all these years later. Of course I related. She was a woman, falling in love. The same as me. The same as Sam. What the hell would ethnicity have to do with that feeling? What could be more universal than love?
The thing about bringing Sam to the forefront as a main character, is that when I wrote EYES TURNED SKYWARD and Grayson entered the picture, I knew he needed a woman strong enough to dish his crap back at him, tender enough to heal his heart, and complicated enough to really experience her own character arc. And I didn’t have to go far. I knew instantly that I’d already written his match: Sam. Did it matter that she’s biracial? That he’s not? No. Not to me. She’s just Sam. He’s just Grayson. They are two people from vastly different backgrounds, coming together with palpable chemistry and a unique understanding of the other’s suffering. Ethnicity never played into that bond. He’s just a man, desperate to love this woman. She’s just a woman, trying to let herself be loved by this man. This is simply a love story, not a social commentary.
As for diversity in the genre, I think I can let my tweet from last year speak as my witness:
Yep. I’m the mother of a fabulous, gorgeous biracial daughter that we’ve been lucky enough to finally adopt after fostering her for two years. I can tell you that when she falls in love, it had better be with someone who deserves her. Someone who is strong, kind, loyal, determined, and ready to handle the sassy little package that she is. As a mom, that’s all I care about. As a writer, I hope I’m doing my part to make sure she has books she can read where she could easily match the physical descriptions of the heroine.
Of course… I hope she reads these books after she’s 18. And never tells me. Ever. Because some of these scenes? Phew. Hot. For now, we’ll just stick to the Itsy Bitsy Spider on her iPad, mmmkay?
Sam is actually my favorite heroine in the Flight & Glory series. She’s smart, strong-willed, confidently sexy, flawed, and so very real. As an author, that’s all I care about. Did I do my part for diverse books? I’m honestly not sure. I certainly have a diverse heroine, but I’m not arrogant enough to think that my choice of character has an impact. Sam is a tiny raindrop tossed into a vast ocean, but she’s my raindrop—my favorite.
We need to do better.
We need to give our girls heroines to look up to, ones they can relate to, picture themselves at.
We need to take a step back and see if we’re representing our readership.
In my upcoming Renegade series, Rachel will take center-stage in book number 2. She’s Korean-American, and again, while I didn’t set out to target diversity, she was simply the right fit for the character. That being said, she’s another rain drop in the ocean, and I can only hope that other authors will send their own raindrops, that we can make our characters diverse as the women who love them.
So high-five for diversity, and the authors stretching their wings to embrace it.