We are so thrilled to have Maisey Yates here with us today to discuss biracial romance and her current release, “The Highest Price To Pay”, from Harlequin Presents. While biracial romance is a staple of some publishers, this is a big step for Harlequin and Maisey and I bonded over the discussion of our own biracial marriages and depicting characters with the added difference and difficulty of different races. I couldn’t resist asking her to stop by and talk to us about the whole experience.
I’m a fairly new author. I sold my first book in December of 2009 and since then I’ve sold ten books to the Harlequin Presents line.
Since we’re getting to know each other, I’m white, thought you might like to know (as if you couldn’t tell from the picture!). My husband is biracial. As a reader I’ve sort of felt starved for a representation of that relationship where the central conflict wasn’t focused on race.
Now, there is nothing wrong with books featuring interracial couples that do show it as a conflict. I have read those books, and I enjoy them. But that wasn’t the book that I wanted to write.
When I pitched the idea of a black Presents hero, one who would be with a white heroine, to my editor I wasn’t sure what response I would get. I was pleasantly surprised when I got the go ahead.
I didn’t want race to be the focus of the book, I already knew that when I started plotting the book. But it was fun the way skin became a focus.
My heroine, Ella, is badly scarred and Blaise is physical perfection, with smooth dark skin. Ella finds him physically intimidating because he is so beautiful and, as a result, seems out of her league since she feels damaged.
Blaise, on the other hand, has some pretty hefty sins in his past and believes that inside he’s far too destroyed to be with a woman like Ella. Ultimately, they have to reconcile their issues, her with her outer beauty, and his with who he is inside, so that they can be comfortable in their own skin.
I’ve had so many letters from people saying how much it means to them to see someone of African descent represented in the Presents line. Of course, there have been people who aren’t thrilled with it as well. I got an email telling me that a 117 member book club decided not to read my book when they saw the cover and discovered that it would have a black hero.
Being that this is 2011 and Sidney Poitier came to dinner way back in 1967, it doesn’t seem like these things should still need to be discussed, and it doesn’t seem like it should be controversial in any way. My marriage certainly doesn’t seem controversial to me. I still have to wash his socks at the end of the day. Feels normal to me!
But the positive response has far outweighed the negative, and I was able to write a book that means to world to me. A book that has two people with different skin colors, but who are ultimately just the same as any other couple in any other book. They have to overcome their own personal demons so they can be together. They are meant for each other and it’s not in spite of the fact that they’re not the same race.
Writers will never please everyone with a book, and if I’m going to upset people, I would rather it be because of something I’m passionate about. I think if, as a writer, you want to write multicultural couples you should.
Know that you’ll get a stupid email from a book club who *swears* they aren’t racist, but do it anyway. If it’s something you feel strongly about it will show through in your work, and you can really produce something brilliant.
I’m excited that Harlequin took this step with me and I hope it’s something we’ll see more in mainstream romance.
Honestly, in so many romance novels differences are a main focus anyway. He’s a duke and she’s a governess, he’s a playboy and she’s a virgin. He’s a sparkly vampire and she’s a high school student. Why should a difference in skin tone mean two people can’t be with each other? And why shouldn’t we be able to write about it?
RU crew, do you have favorite romances featuring biracial couples? Are you writing books where the couples are multi-racial or multi-cultural? Have you had to deal with the negative comments that Maisey wrote about? How did you handle it?
Join us on Wednesday when Sara Megibow returns with the second installment in her “Sara Megibow Sells Romance” column. With a title like, ‘You’re Fired!” you can’t afford to miss it.
Maisey lives with her supportive, wonderful, diaper-changing husband and three small children across the street from her parents, and the home she up in, in the wilds of southern Oregon.
She enjoys the contrast of living in a place where you might wake up to find a bear on your back porch and then head into the home office to write stories that take place in exotic urban locales. You can keep up with Maisey on her website.
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