Monday, November 14, 2005

I was just thinking--something that happens when I can't sleep at night, LOL.

While I've never written an interracial story with a black heroine and white hero before, I have done an interracial book, OBSIDION: PEARL OF PASSION, in which the hero's Oriental and the heroine white. Of course... it is a futuristic, and the conflict in the story has little if anything to do with cultural differences. I've also written a whole contemporary series (BLACK GOLD) where two of the heroes and one of the heroines are Middle Eastern and their mates are caucasian (some gentile, some Jewish).

When you come down to it, all erotic romances are fantasies about a man (or men) and woman falling in lust, in love, and committing to each other for all time. The racial differences are THERE, but they don't constitute anything more than a descriptive tag and maybe an opportunity for some conflict based on WHO the characters are inside, which of course has been shaped by their upbringing.

I'm not black, Oriental, or Middle Eastern, but I believe I can create believable characters who are, from having observed people of all races and many cultures, in all sorts of situations over more years than I care to think about. I'd shy away from writing any character from the "hood," white, black or any other color, because I'm fortunate not to have experienced the conditions that shape people who've lived under disadvantaged urban conditions. It's one thing to have researched a lifestyle, another to try to put yourself into the head of someone whose take on various things you've never observed up close and personal.

I'm sure Darlene's parents would have been more aghast at her choice of a pro football player from the 'hood than they were with Travis (her late husband), who came from a wholesome rural, but poor and undereducated environment. I didn't make him an urban dude, though, because I had more knowledge (secondhand, admittedly) about the lifestyle of rural blacks in the South. They are upset when they meet Vlad, who's well-educated and well-spoken, only because he is NOT black. (Think the reverse of "Who's Coming To Dinner".)

Here's a question for you: Why is it that many people believe white authors can't write from the perspective of a black heroine, assuming that heroine's not too far afield from the author's own background, when no one seems to question that a black author can write from the head of a white hero?

4 comments:

Ms HerMajesty said...
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Ms HerMajesty said...
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Ann Jacobs said...

Wow, I guess I need to give a bit more backstory. Darlene's late husband (estranged before he was murdered, which is before the story begins) is anathema to her parents, who don't like the idea of their daughter being with any man who's more physical than academic. They're academic snobs, so to speak, much as a lot of people of all races are who've risen from obscurity based on their brainpower and who believe people's worth can more or less be measured by their academic contributions to society.

You won't see problems between the races in this story, other than what's intended to be a rather lighthearted scene in which the parents are shocked because he's WHITE. A scene precedes it where Vlad's mother (a widow) welcomes Darlene wholeheartedly, a reaction that is unremarkable for people raised in Europe, where there's much less emphasis placed on race. Neither Vlad nor Darlene thinks anything about race when they're falling for each other. It just happens he's white and she's black.

You may have hit on something: the lack of desire to read interracial stories with conflict between the races as a major element of the story. The only reason I've plotted the "Guess Who" scene into
this book is my publisher's rule that to be considered interracial, a story must have conflict based on the racial difference.

I'm hoping to do a good job with this story, and that you'll enjoy reading it-- after all, I do have thirty-some-odd other books I'd love for you to want to pick up and read, as well!

Ann Jacobs said...

I guess that was unfair of me to suggest a black author would have the same handicap writing a white hero as a white author would, writing a black heroine. Actually, I don't believe either should be a problem.

After all, I've never murdered anyone, but I could create a fictional murderer--I think. I've never slept with a vampire or an Arab sheikh or an alien from the future, but I've written about them. I wrote a Hispanic heroine, Middle Eastern heroes and heroine, and an Oriental hero. Come to think of it, I'm not a carbon copy of any of my heroines, and although I'd love to greet each of my heroes in my fantasies, I've never actually known one of them, either.

I've been rejected--enough times that if I wanted to, I could probably wallpaper a good-size room with the letters, LOL. I've been asked for major changes in many of my books, including being requested to completely change major plot threads throughout a 400 page manuscript. I understand the frustration an author must feel if she's asked to change a character's race to conform with some publisher's guideline.

I'm writing this story not because I think the interracial element will make it sell better, but because readers liked a minor character in another of my books and asked for her story. To be honest, if I'd planned to write a series based on Tip of the Iceberg at the time I was writing Darlene into it, I'd probably have made her white-- just as I'd have made Dan Newman, the hero in Dallas Heat (spinoff from Another Love), NOT an amputee, because I basically like to write what I know best since I'm not all that fond of research.

While I know a lot of middle-class black families, some very well, I never actually KNEW an amputee. Obviously the latter required a tremendous amount of research, including asking embarrassing questions of perfect strangers on the internet. Since doing that research, I've tried hard NOT to give my characters traits that would require me spending untold hours learning about those traits, LOL.

You know, I'd love it if you'd give this manuscript a read BEFORE I submit it to my editor, to see if I've made any really glaring mistakes in portraying Darlene or her parents. If you'd be interested in doing that, just drop me an email (ann@annjacobs.us) and let me know where I can sent the completed, unedited story, probably sometime next week.