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. 🙂

An Interview With Dicey.

EDITED ON NOVEMBER 28, 2011 (see below)

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This is an interview I did for ILoveVampireNovels.com in preparation for the release of their first anthology. I was thrilled to have the first five chapters of my debut novel Sleepy Willow’s Bonded Soul: The Narcoleptic Vampire series featured in their book, but I have yet to see this interview posted to their website, an author page, links to my book, or “tons of ‘Viral’ promotion opportunities so your new fans can help spread the word about your books!” as listed on their FOR AUTHORS page. Since it was completed over two months ago, I’m beginning to think it has fallen through the cracks and they have moved on to other things.

Nevertheless, I took the time to do it. So, I will make sure my fans have an opportunity to read it. Keep in mind it was submitted September 13, 2011, so some of the information is outdated now. 😦

1. When did you decide to become a writer?

In the middle of my eighth grade year when I was fifteen-years-old, my family and I moved to another city. It wasn’t that far away from our old place, but far enough that I had to change schools, neighbors, and friends. Well, not all my friends. Especially not Pam. We kept in touch. But this was pre-internet days so I spent a lot of time writing long—I mean, loooong—letters to her. It was my escape, my refuge, my way of remaining connected to someone safe…someone strong. In fact, I made it through my years of teenage angst due to writing those letters to Pam. From there I wrote songs and poems, but never shared them with anyone because it was just my way of coping. It was the foundation for me wanting to become a writer. Now that I’m an adult, I still purge my aggressions out on paper. Writing what I think and feel is my preferred outlet. Some people sing. Some dance. Some cry. Some take pills. I write.

2. How long have you been writing?

I wrote as a means of dealing with my emotions when I was a teenager. Then, I wrote academic papers throughout school. Next, I wrote on blogs, submitted essays for contests, and free-lanced small jobs. Within the last three years, I’ve devoted a significant amount of time to writing fiction books.

3. What types of books are you reading?

Paranormal romance. It’s an addiction. I don’t favor books that are just romance or just paranormal. I LOVE when there is a mixture of both. And I especially love it when there is a series. I will read every single one of them, one right after the other.

4. What was your favorite part of writing your book? The hardest part?

My favorite part of writing SLEEPY WILLOW’S BONDED SOUL is when my characters took over. I mean that, really. I was happily writing according to my outlined plot and characterizations, when suddenly my characters decided to do something different than what I’d planned. It happened a couple of times. In re-reading my story, those surprises were the best parts of the book.

The hardest part of writing my book was getting over what my parents, my pastors, and my super-religious-holier-than-thou friends would think of my graphic sex scenes and foul language. When I realized it shouldn’t matter what they think because this is what I like to read and write, it was a breeze. I’m sure to give people a warning message before they say they want to read my book though. Beware!

5. Tell us what it’s about.

Instead of regurgitating the synopsis, which can be found on my website (diceygrenorbooks.com), I will say, SLEEPY WILLOW’S BONDED SOUL is about Willow, a vampire who has narcolepsy and works at a fetish club where she specializes in necrophilia. She’s attracted to Remi, one of her fans who happens to have a personality disorder. Max, Willow’s maistre vampire, doesn’t play that Remi shit. And while Willow’s working through her relationship drama, VET, the vampire extermination agency, is after her ass. And they aren’t the only ones.

The book has lots of twists and turns, lots of supernatural beings and elements, and lots of suspense and action.

Visit my website, click on Books, and view the official synopsis.

6. What are you working on now?

Besides marketing/promoting SLEEPY WILLOW’S BONED SOUL, which will be released on Oct. 1, 2011 as an ebook and Dec. 1, 2011 on paperback? I’m writing the sequel. I’m also gearing up for the release of my other novel, SHAMEFUL, on Nov. 1, 2011.

7. What is your favorite part of being an author?

Telling the story in my head and having it appreciated.

8. What do you do in your free time?

You mean after my one-year-old son and four-year-old daughter are asleep? I read, write, and watch movies. I am a movie/book fanatic.

9. If you could give a piece of advice to your readers on anything,
what would it be?

Read my book if you are not easily offended. If you don’t like to read about sex, violence, or blood, share my book with someone you know who does. And you know of someone. If you read it and love it, tell the world!

10. If you could give advice to new writers, what would it be?

Finish your damn book. Edit the hell out of it. Edit it again. And then again. Keep at it until it is your absolute best work.

Interview Questions From Fans:

From Barbara Irving: if you could be any fictional character who would
you pick and why?

Bella. No, not from “Twilight”. From “Lover Awakened” by J.R. Ward. Why? Because Bella’s strong. Just look at what she had to go through, yet she survived. And she didn’t let those bad experiences dictate who she would become. When it was time to do some killing, she could do that too. She’s beautiful and confident and totally devoted to Zsadist who in turn, is totally devoted to her. As screwed up as Z is, she’s able to see past it to the loving man he is underneath. But she doesn’t take any mess from him or from her brother Rhev. She doesn’t let anyone force an agenda on her. She fights back and goes after what she wants. And she knows what she wants.

From Carrie Humphrey: When sitting down to write a novel, whether it be a vampire one or something different, what’s the first step you take?
Outline? Blurb out ideas? Just write and see where it takes you?

I spend a few weeks letting the ideas simmer around in my brain until they begin to swirl and boil over until I can take it no more. If I don’t sit down and write it down, I will forget something good. So I start writing, putting the ideas in to an outline. After I work on the outline a few weeks, I start putting the book together. Most of the time I begin writing the book by copying and pasting already written scenes from my outline. Once I’m in the story deep, the outline is just a guideline. The characters take over.

From Sarah Lynne Brenzott: How much Vampire reading had you done before you began as an author? Do you think the vampires that you got to know in literature aided you as developed both your plots and characters in your own writing?

I read series after series of vampire books before writing my own, so I’d be a lying ass if I said none of those stories aided in the development of my plots and characters. I’ve incorporated everything I loved about other vampire stories in to my own books and avoided the things I hated.

I love how Rice’s books are mostly told in first person and how the vampires are very sensual. Hamilton is queen at “revamping” her protagonist in order to keep the vampire hunter series going through twenty books. Ward’s alpha warriors are the sexiest bad boys ever and her fast-paced story-telling is amazing. I love that Harris introduces several supernatural elements and has a variety of species. I’m in awe of Kenyon’s historical tie-ins and I’m warmed by her emphasis on ever-lasting love. I love Meyer’s werewolf descriptions and the suspense she surprisingly maintains throughout her meaty-sized books.

So,  yes. This is where a lot of my inspiration comes from. But my book is uniquely me.

Rose E. Barrett: With all the “Vampire legends” and whatnot already out
there(i.e wooden stake, burn in the sun, immortal) how do you keep your characters original?

I give my characters new and improved weaknesses and strengths. There are some of the things we’ve come to expect about vampires, but how many have you read with narcolepsy? That’s just one example.

Debbie Wright: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Keep writing until you finish the book. I can’t begin to tell you of all the people I talk to that say they want to write a book but don’t know where to start or that they’ve started but stopped before they finished. That’s no good. If you haven’t started, start. If you haven’t finished, finish. Nothing to it but to do it.

If they happen to post this interview to their site along with the aforementioned promotions, I will update this blog to reflect those links.

To read another interview with Dicey, go to CJ Johnson’s blog.

#HardOutHereForAPimp

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THIS POST WAS EDITED ON NOVEMBER 28, 2011 TO INCLUDE THE LINK TO WHERE THE INTERVIEW HAS BEEN POSTED ON ILOVEVAMPIRENOVELS.COM.