Where Are The Black Men In Your Book?

I’ve been delaying commentary on this question/criticism for a while, but it’s time I address it. Each time I’ve been asked why there are no black men in Sleepy Willow, the reader has first said he or she LOVED the book but…where are the black men. So, I’m not sure if this is really criticism or just an observation. A somewhat inaccurate one. Nevertheless, I’ll try to answer the question thoroughly.

First–Punch is a black man. Remember him? The HUGE black man in my story? He looks something like bodybuilder Ulisses Williams, Jr. in my head:

Nice, huh?

But, I get it. Punch is not the main love interest for my heroine. That’s really the issue, isn’t it? The romance is between Willow, a black female vampire and Remi, who is…not black. So ladies and gentleman, what we have here is an interracial relationship, right? Willow’s maistre vampire, Maximilian, is…not black. That’s another one. Willow’s boss, Franco, is…not black. Another one. Willow’s nemesis, Agent Monroe, isn’t either. I could keep going down the list, but by now, if you haven’t read it, you’re beginning to understand that this is not an African-American novel. It is a multi-cultural one.

I’m going out on a limb here and guessing those who asked about the absence of black men within the story are wondering why 1) the lead female doesn’t have a black love interest since she’s black, and/or 2) why there aren’t more black men because…I am a black woman author. As in, why would a black woman author not have more black men in her books, like Terry McMillan or Sista Souljah or Zane.

It’s simple, really: it’s already been done a million times or more and I strive hard to make my books unique. I’m leaving the AA fiction to the women listed above and delving into more risque’ material. More controversial stuff. I’m adding several layers of wild and daring, not just one. I’m going beyond an older woman, younger man scenario (McMillan) and drugs and abortion (Souljah) and threesomes (Zane), though I applaud these women for writing books I’ve enjoyed immensely.

Secondly, I did everything I could to make each part of my book a surprise. When you find out Willow’s black–surprise. And when you find out everyone else’s race, religion, love interest, supernatural gift–surprise.

Willow + Punch = predictable. Predictable–> Boring.

I worked hard to keep my book UNPREDICTABLE. (Side note: I’m overjoyed that most of the reviewers respected this and posted non-spoiler reviews. Thanks!)

The Narcoleptic Vampire Series is not the only one featuring an interracial relationship, but you’ll be hard pressed to find more than a handful of paranormal romance/dark urban fantasy stories with a black female lead (first hurdle) who has a non-black romantic interest (nearly nonexistent). And that, my friends, is one of the reasons I wrote it that way.

But that’s not all.

Truth is–in order to answer this question entirely, I’d have to reveal more secrets of my creative writing process. And you know how much I hate doing that. *Being sarcastic, of course.* But seriously, you’d need to know where my ideas come from and how I develop my characters to understand how each one is written the way he or she is.

In this old post, I discussed how Remi’s character was inspired by Nir Lavi. In this old post, I discussed how Joe Manganiello inspired my character Dario. I get inspiration from random input and I run with it. Lots of times, it comes from watching a movie, developing a very short-lived crush on a character or actor, and allowing my imagination to run rampant.

If you’ve been paying attention to my blog, you know Tom Hardy has recently inspired a character or two. For sure. But I have to write my thoughts out now before I lose interest. There will be another flavor of the week really soon. Which means I’ll be inspired to write about different characters with different story lines. I’ll have to chuck the deuce to Tom and welcome my new inspiration.

More so than that, I have a nondiscriminatory policy. I like and dislike men equally. White, black, yellow, green. Doesn’t matter, as long as something stands out about him.

Hey, I just had an idea for a good green character. Wait a minute. I think Laurell K. Hamilton did that in in her Merry Gentry Fae series.

Anyway…

I have to write about whatever I feel most drawn to at the moment. Whatever is churning around in my brain and won’t let me rest until I’ve written about it…him or her–that’s how it works.

I’ve had crushes on Shemar Moore (until I met him in Atlanta while he was filming Diary of a Mad Black Woman. He was gorgeous and nice. I just lost interest after seeing him as a mere mortal), Vin Diesel (not sure he’s black, but he keeps popping up on black men lists), Tyson Beckford (gloriously chocolate), Taye Diggs (wowsie!), Morris Chestnut (I mean, did you SEE him in The Best Man?), Blair Underwood (holy moly), and Will Smith (when he’s not being silly). Just to name a few. But I can no longer write about a character based on them since I don’t feel passionately drawn to them at the moment.

Now you know the method to my madness.

I have a black man at home. A good-looking, athletic one. He’s agreed to pose for an upcoming promotion for Sleepy Willow part 2, by the way…but damn. I’m rambling today. My point is–I have a black man at home so I probably won’t develop a crush on many. Why? You got it–because that’s not different. A Brit with tats, an accent, and THOSE lips…that’s another story altogether. Yeah, I’m talking about Tom again.

Funny thing–other than Idris Elba, Denzel Washington, and Will Smith, you don’t see a lot of black men featured in sexy roles on the big screen much at all. I may have to go on a hunt and find one to base a character on, after all. Any suggestions?

I may have just wasted my time and yours trying to explain this because what you could have been asking was: “Dicey, I just love your book so much and love the characters and I’d like to see more men like Punch in your books because he’s totally hot and I love reading about black men and since you wrote one awesome black male character, I was hoping you’d write more.”

Okay. I’ll do my best. Let’s see how the mood/inspiration strikes me. πŸ™‚

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25 Comments

  1. Great article! I love that you are outside of the box. Keep doing YOUR thing. πŸ™‚

  2. Call me stupid, I thought the whole question has no bearing in PNR/UF since it has been multi-cultural forever (hell its been multi-species in most) . The possibility that the whole thing might elude me since I am melanin challenged has not escaped my grasp but I guess I keep hoping that the country will wake up one day and figure out we are supposed to be on the same side.

    • Interestingly enough, I’ve been one of the only folks in my circle of friends/family who have been reading sci-fi/fantasy for years. I think they just chalked it up to me being weird. LOL Now that I’ve started writing in the genre, some have said they’ll pass on reading it because it’s just not their thing. They’ve decided to read my other novel instead. Cool. BUT some have actually allowed my novel to be the first book in the genre that they’ve read! It makes me feel like a pioneer of sorts, even though I can’t take credit for establishing the genre. I have turned some readers on to it. They’ve even asked for recommendations while they await my sequel and I’ve given them a list of my fave PNR writers. I won’t win a Pulitzer anytime soon, but at least I can say I’ve introduced a few folks to PNR who may not ever have given it a chance. πŸ™‚ That being said, a lot of my readers probably had no idea what to expect. I guess I should keep that in mind.

      “I keep hoping that the country will wake up one day and figure out we are supposed to be on the same side.”–I agree.

  3. Great article and explanation though I’m sure one was not needed.

    • You telling me I spent a whole day on this post for nothing! πŸ˜€

  4. Wow, don’t people notice some odd things?? when I’m reading a book even watching a film or just living my life I never notice the colour of a persons skin, I don’t even think about it!………such is society today. I remember my daughter when starting school describing her new best friend to me, she told me about her pretty hair band and long legs but not once did she mention the the fact that she was dark skinned…….it is not something that defines a person………for me and mine anyway!!!! Is that because I’m white? maybe it is, or maybe finally the majority of people can accept a diverse society as the norm…….. I have an African sister-in-law and mixed race nephews and nieces and a niece who has a mixed race son with an Asian father so maybe that is why my me and my kids don’t give it a second thought…….well until it comes to cooking because my kids LOVE African food and I cant cook that!!! Only when its brought to my attention do I even think about it. people are people whatever their colour/religion/race/culture etc and the inclusion or exclusion of one or another from your book is a fact that the majority of people wouldn’t notice or take offence by………would they??

    BTW Toms Brit accent does nothing for me……..American is sexy is that ‘cos I’m English? lmao

    • “such is society today.” – never forget that there are people out there on both sides that make their money and hold their power by making sure we stay divided. I try to make sure I am not one of the lemmings.

      “psychobitch” – really? That was the handle you liked the most LOL

      • psychobitch………..nickname my darling daughters gave me…….5 cos i have 5 daughters……….enough to make anyone turn psycho sometimes lol

        I do think things are improving and I’m glad I live in todays world rather than 40 years ago when people were not so accepting……..hopefully in another 40 years EVERYBODY will be in the same ‘sane’ mindset!

      • “I try to make sure I am not one of the lemmings.”–Me too.

    • “psychobitch5”–what a cool name! πŸ™‚

      You mentioned a few things as possibles on why you don’t see the world through complexional, racial, religious, or cultural lenses, which I find very interesting: 1. Could be that you’re white so you’re in the majority, which could mean you haven’t had the experiences that make black people notice the color of their skin as much. 2. That society has changed a great deal and more people are able to accept diversity as the norm. 3. Your exposure to diversity includes a mixture, even within your own family, not just your circle of friends.

      We’ll probably never know which is the real answer, maybe it’s a combination of everything. Either way, I think it’s AWESOME that you view the world that way. And I wish it was more prevalent. We’ve come a long way, but have a long way to go yet.

      If Tom’s accent does nothing for you, you’re crazy. JUST KIDDING!!! Yeah, I’m sure it’s because you’re English. His accent would be nothing special to you. I’ve watched a few of his video interviews on Youtube, and my God–SEXY. It’s not just the accent but his voice. I could close my eyes and listen to him read the yellow pages. The voice is just…something special. Jeremy Irons too. LOVE listening to him.

      You may like Kris Holden Reid’s voice then. It’s an American accent, but still deep and sexy. Or Vin Diesel. That’s another HOT American voice.

      • Yet another reason why ending the draft was such a bad idea, it made you learn how to get along and work with everybody regardless of race, religion, etc. Now it is much easier to stay to ignorant to other cultures. I had 4 guys in my room for 2 years, 1 was black, 1 was a almost Church of Christ minister (finished his school and got drafted before he could get a job) and a mathematics geek with a degree from Sanford. We got along just fine (well sometimes out behavior bothered the minister type πŸ™‚ We all were part of a team. We learned to pull together.

        • The draft was ended??? Just kidding.

          I guess that did force people to mingle with others they wouldn’t normally do so. We could get that same thing in school and work and clubs and church…but people mostly stick within their own comfort zones, don’t they.

  5. Wow ……….maybe its because I’m white, maybe it’s because I have mixed raced nephews and nieces (African and Asian) maybe it’s just because a diverse society is the norm now, but I can honestly say I never gave a thought to the colour of any of your characters. I was neither shocked or surprised that Willow was black or that her love interest was white. they were what they were NORMAL!!!!

    BTW Toms Brit accent does nothing for me, being English I hear it everyday give me a sexy American drawl any day lmao

    • “I was neither shocked or surprised that Willow was black or that her love interest was white.”–Really? Man! I gotta step up my game and raise the ante. Maybe I do need to introduce some green characters. That’ll surprise you, right? πŸ™‚

  6. I appreciated that you had multiple races in your book. That added to the uniqueness and made it more realistic to today’s society. I’m in an interracial marriage myself (though neither of us are black) and enjoy seeing it in romance, regardless of which ethnicities are used. Keep doing what you’re doing, Dicey. I like it!

    • Thanks, Susan! You’re always so supportive. It really makes my day. πŸ™‚

  7. i didnt mean to post twice………i wrote my first post and it didnt show up so i thought id lost it lol……….i couldnt rememer what id written so wrote another derrr me!!!

    sorry you didn’t shock me………i didn’t realise it was intended to be a shock lol

    but i loved the book anyway

    • No problem. I figured as much. Since you added a little something different the 2nd go-round, I replied to both. Can’t ever have too many comments. πŸ™‚

  8. oh and I’m jane anne from FB!!! psychobitch is my twitter name……..the kids nicknamed me!!! the 5 is cos i have 5 kids lol

    i do think Patrick Stewart has a sexy voice and he’s english, its the timber not the accent tho!!!

    • Oh, JANE! I’m psycho with two, so I can only imagine. Patrick Stewart–yes. Add Morgan Freeman and James Earl Jones to the list too. I don’t necessarily think “sexy” when I hear them, but they have awesome narrator voices.

  9. Kudos, Dicey!

    I agree with the earlier comment about the fantasy/UF world being inherently multicultural and lending to the ability to explore interactions and relationships in different ways.

    Your stories are clearly tailored to be exciting, risque, and not a strict commentary on race or what it has to do with dating. I’m more interested in things like the power struggles Willow has to deal with, or how the traditional view of the “seductive vampire” is played out. Like you said, there are so many layers.

    • Alesha, you seen to have a mighty fine grasp on what I’m writing about!

  10. Nothing to add to the discussion, only to say “Thank you” for this post. xoxo

    • Thanks for dropping by, Ren! Your presence added to the discussion. πŸ™‚


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