Posted On August 8, 2011 by Print This Post

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner? – 2011 Style

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.

Hi all! Thank you so much for having me at Romance University.

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 was really pleased because not only did my editor love the book, I was given this fantastic cover and Mills and Boon made it their book of the month!

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.

***

Bio:

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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Discussion

45 Responses to “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner? – 2011 Style”

  1. Hi Maisey,

    Fancy meeting you here for dinner! I’m looking forward to reading THE HIGHEST PRICE TO PAY!

    And yes, you are. Very white! And very courageous to write a biracial romance!

    Posted by Nas | August 8, 2011, 2:16 am
    • Hello Nas! *waves*

      I’m almost transluscent. No use pretending otherwise! *g*

      With this book, I really felt like…how can I not write this? I had the hero in my head and my heart, and it would have been wrong not to tell his story. :)

      Posted by Maisey Yates | August 8, 2011, 10:32 am
  2. Hi Maisey,

    I am one of those fans who raved about this book and will keep on raving about it. It was an absolute joy to see the book on the shelf in my local bookshop in a quiet suburb.

    I am overjoyed that you ‘went there’ and even more overjoyed that Harlequin Mill & Boon ‘went there’ with you. It is way overdue. I hope to see more heroes and heroines of African descent in Presents/Modern and other mainstream romance lines.

    Shame that some people don’t like it but as you say, you can’t please everyone.

    This is 2011 and relationships come in all flavours and colours these day.

    So, well done!

    Cheers,
    Kiru

    Posted by Kiru Taye | August 8, 2011, 2:26 am
    • Kiru,

      I so appreciate your lovely words about the book. I hope to see more heroes and heroines of African (and other!) descent too. I hope someday, very soon, it’s not an issue in the way it can be now.

      And I so agree about relationships! Skin color should never stop love. :)

      Posted by Maisey Yates | August 8, 2011, 10:35 am
  3. Awesome job, Maisey! Best to arouse intense emotions in your readers than a “meh” response. And that means taking risks.

    Posted by Aimee Carson | August 8, 2011, 4:43 am
  4. Maisey, thanks for joining us at RU! I think Suzanne Brockmann does an amazing job with biracial romances. She mentions the difference between the H/H once or twice, and then she writes their story in a way you’d never know one is hispanic and the other white. It really doesn’t matter–not to Suz and not to me as a reader.

    I’m interested in the romance development. That’s it. Well, I do like things to get blown up and enjoy a bit of fisticuffs, but really that’s it.

    Thanks again, Maisey.

    Posted by TraceyDevlyn | August 8, 2011, 4:59 am
  5. Maisey – I’m so excited to have you here at RU! This is a topic near and dear to my heart.

    I’m writing an ms with a mixed race couple and while I don’t “plan” on what the racial background of my characters (they are what they are) I hope to write more.

    Do you see more biracial romances in your future?

    Posted by Robin Covington | August 8, 2011, 5:07 am
    • Robin,

      You know it’s near and dear mine as well! I wanted to see a man like my own real life hero on the cover of one of my books!

      I don’t really plan it as such either, but I definitely think there will be more mixed race couples and characters in my future. My hero of this book has a brother and I would love to write his story as well. From there…Oh, I have all sorts of ideas. :)

      Posted by Maisey Yates | August 8, 2011, 10:40 am
  6. Maisey,
    Can’t wait to read this one. Love the cover!

    Posted by Anne MacFarlane | August 8, 2011, 6:50 am
  7. Hi, Maisey and welcome to RU. As a reader, I want good conflict and interesting characters. Give me that and I’m a happy camper. The book club that refused to read your book missed out. That’s the way I see it! :)

    Thanks for hanging out with us today!

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | August 8, 2011, 6:56 am
  8. Hi Maisey,

    I love that you write biracial, but the fact that you wash his socks, now that I have a problem with!! (kidding)

    I think a biracial romance is a writer’s (and therefore a reader’s) dream– I mean forget the skin color, cultural differences, even the subtlest ones make for such fantastic conflict, it’s like manna from heaven.

    As for skin color, I write mostly Indian characters and traditionally color has been huge in the Indian culture. (being light skinned is still considered being ‘beautiful’ although that is changing) The hero of my current WIP is half Caucasian, but he’s been abandoned by his Caucasian mother and raised in India, so he hates that part of his heritage, so he’s kind of backwards.

    It’s amazing to me that we are still surprised that Harlequin embraced your idea, but selling ten books in two year– now that tells its own story!

    Good luck, and I’m going to go looking for Ella and Blaise today, they sound wonderful!

    Sonali

    Posted by Sonali Mayadev Thatte | August 8, 2011, 7:42 am
    • Sonali,

      I have a bigger problem with the socks myself! And you know? I agree. I’m sad it’s SO surprising that a publisher wanted to do this. But as it is, I’m proud that this book is on the shelf, with other mainstream romances.

      Love the sound of your Indian hero.

      And thank you re Blaise and Ella!

      Posted by Maisey Yates | August 8, 2011, 10:44 am
  9. Morning Maisey!

    Sorry about the book club, there’s always going to be somebody that’s like that, no matter what the year. Their loss!

    My question is what has been the reaction of the other Presents authors? Has this opened a new avenue of writing for some of them?

    Thanks for being here today!

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | August 8, 2011, 7:48 am
    • Carrie,

      Thank you! The other Presents authors were very excited, especially about the cover, and I think some of them do want to use the freedom in their work. For others, whether they do or not, I think it’s just nice to feel that an invisible barrier that was unspoken but there, isn’t anymore.

      I think that’s the biggest victory. :)

      Posted by Maisey Yates | August 8, 2011, 10:46 am
  10. WooHoo! Thanks for making the romance world a bit more colorful and interesting. So glad you wrote the book, and so glad Harlequin published it. Actually, I think they are pretty open to the idea since they are publishing my book also where the heroine is a black and white mix and the hero is a human and other mix :)

    Keep writing! And I’m adding THE HIGHEST PRICE TO PAY to my TBR pile. :)

    Posted by SpiceBites | August 8, 2011, 7:54 am
  11. Wow, shocking that in this day and age the colour of someone’s skin can still determine if a book club will host your novel.

    As a First Nations person, I write about aboriginal people mixing with whomever they’re attracted to, no matter what the skin colour. I didn’t realise this could be a problem. Thanks for blogging about it.

    Where I come from, interracial marriage has been going on since the 18th century without a blink of an eye.

    Posted by Mercy | August 8, 2011, 8:08 am
    • Mercy,

      Isn’t it something? I have to tell you, I was pretty shocked by that bit of mail! As was my editor!

      You write your stories, as you see them. It shouldn’t be a problem. Your books sound lovely and I wish you the best of luck with them!

      Posted by Maisey Yates | August 8, 2011, 10:49 am
  12. Maisey -

    We’re SO happy to have you at RU today!

    The cover M&B gave you is fabulous and that alone would sell me the book. As a reader, I want heroes and heroines who are strong to the outside world and allow their vulnerabilities to crack open in front of each other.

    It’s so interesting to me that anyone is sent into a spin by bi-racial romance. Umm…how many vampire/human, werewolf/human, alien/earthling romances have we seen? Talk about differences! (Then again, if aliens don’t wear socks and so there’s less laundry, I’m gonna go out and find myself one!)

    The first manuscript I started featured a Caucasian heroine and a Hispanic hero. Never really thought of it as bi-racial. I guess one reason I would be reticent to write a bi-racial romance is the same reason I don’t write about heroes and heroines from NYC: I just feel a little under qualified to do so.

    What do you find is your biggest challenge in writing bi-racial romance? Romance in general?

    Thanks again for being here at RU!
    Kelsey

    Posted by Kelsey Browning | August 8, 2011, 9:10 am
    • Kelsey,

      Completely agree. ;)

      As for challenges, it was definitely the conflict. Though, I do think I put added pressure on myself. (Get it right or you’ll lose this chance forever!! Not that I’m dramatic)

      Ultimately, it came down to what it should come down to: Blaise and Ella, their internal conflicts and struggles.

      As with every book I write…that was the tricky part!

      Posted by Maisey Yates | August 8, 2011, 10:51 am
  13. Hi Maisey – I LOVE your name! Congratulations on selling to Harlequin Presents.

    I’m awed by this statement:

    “I sold my first book in December of 2009 and since then I’ve sold ten books to the Harlequin Presents line.”

    Had you written some of these already? If not, how fast do you write? I’m impressed!

    Your book sounds fantastic – I just ordered it from Amazon UK!

    Posted by Becke Davis (Becke Martin) | August 8, 2011, 9:17 am
    • Thank you, Becke!

      I had written two of the books already, though both had to be rewritten. I’m pretty fast, and can write a 50K word MS, first draft, in 3-6wks. (Revisions can add an extra couple weeks!)

      Thanks for ordering HP2P! I hope you enjoy it!

      Posted by Maisey Yates | August 8, 2011, 10:53 am
  14. I’m so happy to hear that this is getting published! In this modern world, I would think there would be more interracial romances. So sad there are still people out there unwilling to accept this.

    Congratulations on your success! Can’t wait to read this one!

    Posted by Vicki Essex | August 8, 2011, 9:20 am
    • Agreed, Vicki. And it’s such a terrible loss for those people. Ignorance keeps you from getting to know some wonderful people. However, it can be helpful, because when it’s so obvious, it helps the rest of us avoid the morons. ;)

      Thank you so much!

      Posted by Maisey Yates | August 8, 2011, 10:54 am
  15. Hi Maisey,

    I have a multi rejected manuscript where the heroine is biracial. No one mentioned her skin tone, but now I wonder. Like Becke, your sale figure is to be envied. Congrats!

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | August 8, 2011, 9:23 am
  16. This is one of my favorite biracialromances:
    http://joshilynjackson.com/gods.html

    Posted by Becke Davis (Becke Martin) | August 8, 2011, 9:29 am
  17. Hi Maisy, thanks for this great blog. I’m also writing biracial with American Indians, with my first book debuting in December from Desire. Race does play a role in the plot because to me, it affects each character’s worldview in different ways. But you are absolutely correct that it’s just another obstacle for two lovers to overcome.

    Do you ever get any negative feedback on being a white woman writing a black point of view? I am a white chick writing American Indian POV, and I am a little worried that I will get blowback about messing something up or, even worse, embracing certain stereotypes (which I diligently strive to steer well clear of). I’m not too worried–J.K. Rowling did not have to be a teen-aged wizard to write great books–but I know that it’s a possibility.

    Thanks so much!
    Sarah

    Posted by Sarah M. Anderson | August 8, 2011, 11:27 am
    • Sarah, I think I feel a certain sense of security in that my black character is a man. I feel like it’s already a change enough to write male POV, so that he’s not the same race or culture as I am, didn’t really scare me. He was raised partly in Malawi and partly in France, with a French father and African mother so culturally he’s mixed as well.

      I write Sheikhs and princes and Greeks and Italians, and…whatever else! I think as writers we are always inhabiting characters that don’t necessarily reflect our background, but as long as we’re treating them with respect and, as you mentioned, never as stereotypes, I think it works!

      Posted by Maisey Yates | August 8, 2011, 11:48 am
  18. I do write biracial romance, although unlike you (Maisey), my preference is to make the race/culture/background a sticking point in the story. Not so much a problem to my main characters, but to the people around them. As a writer, I must admit that I love the inherent conflict in putting together two people from different cultures and backgrounds. The color of their skin is of secondary importance, really.

    Congratulations on your new release, and on all the other books. That’s quite a body of work in two years!

    Posted by Jenna Bennett | August 8, 2011, 11:52 am
  19. Love this. Glad it’s featured here, or I probably wouldn’t know about it.

    Mixed feelings on the race thing. So much of my life is not race-based. Yet, race comes up a lot, whether I like it or not. Sometimes it’s another person’s instigation, sometimes it’s my perception about my interactions with others. We’d all like to move past that, but we haven’t. Yet.

    So if I read a book where race never, ever comes up, it might feel a bit inauthentic to me. I look forward to reading this, though.

    Posted by PatriciaW | August 8, 2011, 11:53 am
    • Patricia,

      That’s true too. I think whenever I run into an instance where it DOES matter to someone, I’m still shocked. Whether I should be or not, I’m not sure!

      The reason I chose to approach this book like I did is that, in my marriage, especially as we were starting to date, it really wasn’t an issue. Over the years we’ve had some jerks make comments, my grandfather actually wouldn’t come to our wedding. But overall, it was never a drama between the two of us.

      Posted by Maisey Yates | August 8, 2011, 12:08 pm
  20. Hi Maisey, I love writing about biracial couples and I’ve done that in two of my novels: LOITERING SHADOWS & THE GARDENER’s ICE MAIDEN. I totally enjoyed writing about these characters. And readers have enjoyed them too.

    Posted by Stella Eromonsere-Ajanaku | August 8, 2011, 12:33 pm
  21. Hello Maisey!

    First of all, hats off to Harlequin for publishing biracial romances.

    I find it hard to believe that in 2011, there’s a book club out there who can’t handle a biracial romance. I’m surprised but sadly, not surprised. When my husband and I bought our house, we were told that covenant laws in our neighborhood were on the books until 1978. No people of color (that would be moi!) allowed unless they were household help!

    I haven’t read a lot of biracial romances, but as long as a story has strong characters and a believable plot, the ethnicity of any character doesn’t matter.

    Terrific post! Thanks so much for being with us today.

    Posted by jennifer tanner | August 8, 2011, 4:16 pm
  22. Also, I forgot to tell you that I love your “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” movie analogy! The first time I saw this movie was at a drive-in wearing footy pajamas. :) I’ve seen it at least ten times since then. It’s one of my favorites!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | August 8, 2011, 4:20 pm
  23. Hi Maisey!

    First, I’m already a great fan of your writing (love your Harlequin books) and am very excited to see you tackle biracial interracial romance. I can’t wait to read THE HIGHEST PRICE TO PAY.

    I’m writing a multicultural paranormal romance and am really heartened to hear about the support and encouragement you received from your publisher. I too believe that there are plenty of people who want to read about the romances that reflect their own lives.

    Congratulations!!

    Posted by Pamala Knight | August 8, 2011, 5:21 pm
  24. You said it, Maisey. I wonder why people get so upset about having a mixed couple on the cover of a book. It’s 2011! I have been reading Harlequin Presents books for over 20 years. I am a black woman and while I don’t expect every book to have black people in it, I’d like to see more of us represented in mainstream lines. Why? Because we fall in love. I am a huge proponent of interracial romance because people fall in love all the time, with other humans who don’t always have to be the same race. Let’s celebrate love, not artificial divides between people.

    Posted by Danielle | August 19, 2011, 4:36 pm

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