Sarah interviews Rebekah Weatherspoon about writing across multiple genres, starting out in fanfic, reader responses, working in television, and the challenges facing writers of color. We also talk about Rebekah’s latest books, including a May-December novella, and a trilogy about personal trainers in LA.
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This Episode's Music
Our music is provided by Sassy Outwater. This podcast features “Three Ships” by a UK duo called Deviations Project, which features producer Dave Williams and violinist Oliver Lewis – they have their own Wikipedia page. This song is from their Christmas album Adeste Fiddles.
This podcast is brought to you by InterMix, publisher of New York Times bestselling author Samantha Young’s ONE KING’S WAY, the new white-hot novella from the On Dublin Street series full of passion and drama.
When he’s not working at the club, Craig Lanaghan looks out for his mother and little sisters. So when it comes to women, all he wants is a good time. But once Rain Alexander walks into his life, there’s no denying that this woman could be worth much more than a one-night stand….
Rain’s lifelong regret is having left her sister Darcy alone years ago with a guardian who turned out to be abusive. So when Darcy’s boyfriend publicly humiliates her in a cruel way, Rain’s overprotective instincts kick in and she follows him to Club 39—where she meets a guy who just might be her perfect match.
The chemistry between Rain and Craig is explosive, but Rain is out for revenge, and refuses to be sidetracked by flirtation. As things between them heat up, she’ll have to make a heartbreaking choice between giving in to the man of her dreams or putting her sister’s happiness first….
Download it November 3rd!
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Dear Bitches, Smart Author Podcast, November 27, 2015
Sarah Wendell: Hello, and welcome to episode number 169 of the DBSA podcast. I’m Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, and with me today is Rebekah Weatherspoon. Rebekah and I have been talking online for a long time, but we finally met face to face at RWA this year, and I thought it might be nice to have a com-, a podcast conversation with her because she’s got a lot to say, and it’s really interesting. We talk about writing across multiple genres, starting out in fanfic, reader responses, what it’s like to work and television, and some of the challenges facing writers of color. We also talk a lot about Rebekah’s latest books, including a May-December novella and a trilogy about personal trainers in L.A., and she has a ton of recommendations, so beware, this one might be expensive.
This podcast is brought to you by InterMix, publisher of New York Times bestselling author Samantha Young’s, One King’s Way, the new white-hot novella from the On Dublin Street series full of passion and drama, on sale wherever eBooks are sold.
The podcast transcript this week was sponsored by Jenna Sutton, author of the Riley O’Brien & Company series, published by Berkley and available in print and eBook. The second novel in the series, Coming Apart at the Seams, is available for pre-order now and will be released on December 1st. In Coming Apart at the Seams, pro football player Nick Priest is trying to win a second chance with denim heiress Teagan O’Brian. You can read an excerpt at jennasutton.com or connect with Jenna at facebook.com/jennasuttonauthor or on Twitter @jsuttonauthor.
The music you’re listening to was provided by Sassy Outwater. I will have information at the end of the podcast as to who this is, although I bet you can guess.
And I will have links to all of the books that we are discussing and links to some of the websites that we mention as well, so you can check the show notes, or the podcast entry, at smartbitchestrashybooks.com.
And housekeeping! If you would like to sponsor the podcast or the podcast transcript, please get in touch with me: [email protected]. I would love to hear from you!
And now, without any further delay, on with the podcast.
Sarah: All right, so let’s start with you. Why don’t you tell us who you are and what you do?
Rebekah Weatherspoon: Oh, goodness.
Sarah: No, no, no pressure, you know.
Rebekah: This is – I’m sure you might have heard this before, but I think, like, the bio and, like, synopses are, like, the, the, like, worst part for authors. Like, we hate talking about ourselves – well, me, at least – and the synopsis for any book. Let’s see: I’m Rebekah. I write contemporary romance and a little bit of paranormal, both lesbian and bisexual and hetero, and I like to do a little adult and a little New Adult while I’m at it.
Sarah: Oh, no, no big deal. Yeah?
Sarah: I think the worst question to offer authors is, so what’s your book about?
Sarah: ‘Cause then you’re like, well, um, yeah. How many words do you want me to use? ‘Cause –
Rebekah: I know, right?
Sarah: – I could use, like, 90,000, because that’s how many I just used.
Rebekah: [Laughs] Oh, yeah, no, that’s the worst. Or I can just say, you know what? Let me just read the, the blurb on the back of the book for you.
Sarah: Yes, which is great, ‘cause you didn’t write it.
Rebekah: Exactly. Well –
Sarah: Unless your self-publishing it; then you did.
Sarah: When I had to write the cover copy for the novella I self-published, I didn’t actually write the cover copy until I was confronted with that tiny little box on the back end. Like, okay, enter the cover copy, and I was like, oh!
Rebekah: Oh, yeah.
Sarah: I need to write some of that.
Rebekah: Yeah, that’s the –
Rebekah: That’s preeeetty – I think one book I might have written the, the cover copy right, like, right when I finished the first draft, and I think that was only because someone had asked me a question about it.
Rebekah: I was like, oh, crap, I have to write, I, I should probably just, like, write this now. But yeah, usually that’s, like, the very, very, very last thing I do.
Sarah: Like, up, there’s a little box. I’ve got to enter something; might as well figure this out.
Rebekah: You’re like, oh, I have to, like, upload this to stores. Maybe I should write what it’s about.
Sarah: [Laughs] Here are some words. You will like them. So, are you all self-published, or do you have some books that are published through a publisher as well?
Rebekah: No, my lesbian/bisexual romances are published through Bold Strokes Books.
Sarah: Nice! Your most recent publication, was it the Fit trilogy?
Rebekah: I had a novella called So Sweet, came out last week actually.
Sarah: Here’s the easier version of the question.
Sarah: Do you want to talk about your newest novella, or do you want to talk about the trilogy? How many books of yours would you like to talk about?
Rebekah: Let’s start with all of them.
Sarah: I love this plan!
Rebekah: We can talk about So Sweet and Fit. We can talk about the Fit trilogy first, though. That’s, that’s totally fine.
Sarah: All right, so tell me about the Fit trilogy, ‘cause those are some covers.
Rebekah: Yeah, I, it’s actually –
Sarah: Like, whoa!
Rebekah: – it’s, it’s kind of funny, ‘cause today seems to be the day to be talking about Twilight again, so – [laughs] – well, no, I, I say that just because, like, I, I was birthed out of the, out of the Twilight fandom as well, so.
Sarah: You were! I didn’t know that!
Rebekah: Well, yeah. I was, I was –
Sarah: So you wrote fanfic about Twilight?
Rebekah: I did! I did! It was fun. I loved it. And that’s how I ended up writing –
Sarah: So many writers.
Rebekah: – my own stuff.
Sarah: So many writers came out of the Twilight fandom.
Rebekah: Yeah, yeah. Which is, I think is really cool, ‘cause I think a lot of us, you know, we were writing fanfiction, and then a lot of us, it gave us the romance bug –
Rebekah: – and we realized that we could, you know, take a crack at it, and it worked out, so.
Sarah: And one thing about fanfic is that you get that immediate feedback of –
Sarah: – you don’t suck. Please keep going.
Sarah: I will pay you to write more. Please don’t stop.
Rebekah: What was interesting about the feedback for me, ‘cause the last fanfiction I wrote, I actually wrote the whole thing in one go and then uploaded it chapter by chapter, because I didn’t want reader feedback? And so that actually helped me when I started writing my first book.
Sarah: That is interesting.
Rebekah: Yeah, I didn’t, I didn’t want reader feedback.
Sarah: Because, you know, fanfic reviewers and readers, they are not shy about telling you what they want to see next.
Rebekah: Oh, no, yeah.
Sarah: Next time you should write a scene about these two characters doing this!
Rebekah: It, it’s a group project, for sure.
Sarah: Oh, yeah.
Rebekah: It is, it is absolutely a group project. But it’s fun! I mean, that’s, to me, that’s the fun of it. ‘Cause you have so much participation, you end up making a lot of friends that way. I think that’s the, that’s the great part about it. But bringing that back to Fit –
Rebekah: My cover artist is also birthed out of the Twilight fandom, so I found her through other Twilight fanfiction people, and she is outstanding, and I could not – every single cover she’s given me has been amazing, so I can’t, I have no complaints whatsoever.
Sarah: Those covers…yeah.
Rebekah: [Laughs] They, they’re not bad.
Rebekah: They are not.
Sarah: Nope, nope.
Rebekah: And I’m totally fine bragging about them, ‘cause I didn’t make them, so!
Sarah: Isn’t that the best part?
Rebekah: It’s totally fine when I get to say, you know, my cover artist is The Bomb. And she, she knows that she’s great. Fantastic.
Sarah: So, tell us about the Fit trilogy and what led you to write it.
Rebekah: Sure! Oh, God. This time has gone by so fast. We’re already in 2015. So this was NaNoWriMo 2013? Shh-yeah. Yeah!
Rebekah: Why not? Let’s go with that.
Rebekah: I didn’t want to write a full-length novel in that month, but I wanted to write something. I’d never done NaNoWriMo before, and I was like, you know what, I’m going to try it, and I’m going to write something, and I set my word goals for the day, and that ended up being the first version of Fit. I’d wanted to submit it to a major publisher, which I did, and they didn’t want it, which is fine. These things happen. So I took it back, and while I was editing it, it kind of, the other characters kind of started filling themselves out, and I realized that I wanted to give Armando and Keira their own books, so it just kind of, it, it turned into its own thing.
Sarah: So when you were writing the trilogy, this is, this is personal trainers, right?
Sarah: Do you think that is a, a sort of a new trend or a new spin on, you know, the contemporary, sort of intense romance?
Rebekah: I am – I’m going to say this right now – probably the last person you should ask – [laughs] – about trends. I am –
Rebekah: Seriously, I firmly live on my own island of misfit toys. I’m the last to know. Everything – I either know stuff super, super early, like oddly early, like, I knew about NSYNC, like, eight months before “Tearin’ Up My Heart” hit the charts. Like, I was, like, way, way ahead of the curve with NSYNC –
Rebekah: – which was really weird, but I’m either, like, dumb early to stuff, or I’m so late that it’s laughable. So I, I’m the last person to ask about trends. I, I live in L.A. A lot of people I know are, like, just deeply involved with their personal trainers. Personal trainers are a thing. I have a few friends who are personal trainers, and I just thought, I don’t know, it, it felt almost like a little silly in a good way, but also, actually, one of my friends, she actually ended up getting involved with her trainer, and they’re married now, and they have a one-year-old.
Rebekah: Yeah. So this happens! This is not, you know, this isn’t 100% fantasy, if you know what I’m talking about. So, yeah, I just thought it, I thought it would just be, would be something fun to write about.
Sarah: Plus, you know, personal training and fitness is a very intimate thing.
Rebekah: It is. It’s a very intimate thing. And if you’re doing stuff like, even, like, Pilates training and stuff, a lot of times your trainer is touching you and, yeah, I mean, you’re letting them know a lot of things about your body and your life. Sometimes it’s emotional, so yeah, no, it’s very – and oftentimes, too, if you’re spending time with your trainer, depending on what your life is like, you know, you might be spending more time with your trainer than you’re spending with other people, so.
Sarah: Depending on how dedicated you are to whatever it is that you’re trying to accomplish, certainly.
Rebekah: Depending on how dedicated you are to your hot trainer, yeah.
Sarah: [Laughs] So tell me about the first book in the Fit trilogy.
Rebekah: Sure! The first book stars Violet. She is – it’s funny, a lot of, I’ve, there’s a couple questions about whether or not Violet was black, maybe ‘cause I’m black, but Violet is not black. Violet is Chinese; she was adopted by a white family in Connecticut.
Sarah: Wait, wait, wait, so you’re black, but you wrote characters that aren’t black?
Sarah: Is that allowed?
Rebekah: This happens. This – I’ve been told this happens.
Sarah: I’ve, I feel like there’s a tribunal that needs to be –
Rebekah: I know.
Sarah: I’m – okay, sure, all right.
Rebekah: I asked for special permission from the committee.
Sarah: [Laughs] I’m sorry.
Rebekah: Oh, no, it’s just interesting, ‘cause a lot of time, I’ve had a few people ask me, you know, is Violet black, and I was like, no, she’s definitely Chinese, and she says she’s Chinese in the book. So, yeah, she is a producer for a show on the Food Channel, and if you’ve ever worked in film and television production, there is lots of free food. Lots and lots and lots and lots. Lots of free food, lots of catering, lots of snacks, and if you’ve ever worked on a show for the Food Network or the Food Channel, there’s also more food. So she has found herself in a situation where she’s gained a few unwanted pounds and is looking for a way that is good for her to shed those pounds. Enter Grant Gibson, trainer extraordinaire, who is based not so loosely on Chris Hemsworth, because I have a Chris Hemsworth problem.
Sarah: Well, so do many, many people.
Rebekah: [Laughs] It’s a little bit of a problem; I’m coping with it. My sympathy goes to the others coping with it. We’re getting, we’re getting through life together with Chris as a part of our lives. And they meet, and Grant is a Dominant, and he kind of stupidly suggests to Violet that they should train but that she should also be his submissive, which does not go over so well, ‘cause I feel like in the real world, that would be a very awkward conversation, which it is, but they end up working out, and love ensues.
Sarah: Oh my! So did you work, used to work in television?
Rebekah: I did, yes.
Sarah: Can you talk about that a little bit, about what you did, or is that not something you can talk about?
Rebekah: Sure! I did all sorts of stuff. I did web series for Disney; I did, like, really weird low-budget movies, not-so-low-budget movies; and then I ended my career in television working on reality TV. So I did, actually the last show I did was a show for the Food Network.
Sarah: Oh, wow! So what were your roles on the shows? Were you in production or behind the scenes?
Rebekah: When I was doing movies, I was kind of bouncing all over the place. I knew a lot of people, so a lot of times people would just call me and be like, oh, like, I need a set dresser and I know you’re competent. Come and do this for me, or, you know, I need, I need just someone to do wardrobe errands for me. I was all over the place. I did –
Sarah: Well, there’s a lot of appreciation for someone who says, I need this done, and then somebody can say, I can do that!
Rebekah: Yeah. I mean, we did, my boyfriend and I were drivers on a German television show. Like, we’ve done a bunch of, I’ve done a bunch of stuff.
Sarah: L.A. sounds like a funky, funky place.
Rebekah: It is. It is, it’s where the magic happens.
Sarah: [Laughs] One of the things you said at RWA that I still think about is, I don’t write in the genre Black Lady.
Rebekah: [Laughs] Right, I do not. That is not, that is not a genre I write in. I write contemporary romance that features all sorts of different people.
Sarah: But because you are a black woman –
Sarah: – you are ascribed the genre –
Sarah: – Black Lady.
Rebekah: Yes. This is a –
Sarah: What is it, what does that mean? If someone’s like, what the hell are you talking about? What does that mean?
Rebekah: Well, I think what’s in-, what – one thing I’ve noticed which is interesting, again, is readers will ascribe the characteristics that are kind of like the ideals in their head. So, for example, you remember that whole Hunger Games kerfuffle when the movie came out and everyone was shocked that Rue was black, but she’s black in the book?
Sarah: ‘Cause she’s described that way –
Rebekah: She’s, yeah.
Sarah: – in the words.
Rebekah: Is comp-, she’s black in the book.
Sarah: And so is Katniss, I believe. Katniss is dark-skinned as well.
Rebekah: Yeah, Katniss is brown. She’s not white in the books either, so it’s interesting that people will interpret things kind of the way their brain wants to interpret things. So when, when you say – actually, what I’ve noticed, it’s not that people have issues with characters of color per se. I don’t think that’s the first hurdle. I think the first hurdle is authors of color have issues getting characters of color out there. ‘Cause I know a lot of authors of color, if they write white characters, it’s a little bit easier for the exposure to come, and then I know if white authors write characters of color, they have no problem selling that, which again, a perfect, is a perfect example with The Hunger Games, ‘cause Suzanne Collins is white, so it’s very interesting. I think sometimes people will see the author and then kind of mold their ideals and their, and their imagination will mold to like what the characters look like, what they’re doing in accordance to what the author looks like.
Sarah: Which is weird.
Rebekah: Very weird.
Sarah: And I don’t know – does that happen in other genres?
Rebekah: I think so. I, I, I, I’m willing to say, yeah.
Sarah: I don’t know, honestly, simply because I don’t pay that much attention to other genres, because I like the one that I’m in –
Sarah: – but – and I’m selfish that way – but one thing I do know is that for many years now there has been a sort of a, I want to call it the glamorous conflation of book and author? Like, the author has to represent the book –
Sarah: – with, with a certain sense of glamour, or has to represent the idea of romance, and that idea has changed, but I know, I found online from the early, early ‘80s or late ‘70s – I have to find the link – there was a Life magazine, a photo spread, and the photographer who had done all the photographs of all these famous romance authors had put that collection on her own personal website, and it was like, like, one, two doors away from Geocities. Like, it was black background with some purple text and then all these photos, but the photos were of authors wearing mink stoles and lying on satin sheets and, I mean –
Sarah: – just incredibly – they were glamour shots before glamour shots –
Sarah: – to represent the life as the romance author, and then you had Barbara Cartland, who did that same thing for her entire career. Her brand was to make it seem as if she was her own books, and then that gets parodied in film. I know Meryl Streep played a character that was based very loosely on Barbara Cartland, and even with, you know, the author photos for writers like Nora Roberts, you’ll have a very simple, elegant, contemporary image for her contemporaries, but her romantic suspense and some of the Eve and Roarke books, she’s on a bridge with a long, really awesome black leather trench coat and some boots, and the image of the author is connected to the marketing of the book.
Rebekah: Right, right.
Sarah: So when you have that as something that is kind of, it, it’s sort of baked in to the genre in a way?
Sarah: And you have a writer of color –
Sarah: – what do we do with a person who doesn’t fit this, like you said, this expectation and – I don’t want to say mold, ‘cause that sounds creepy – [laughs] – like you’re all popping out of a Play-Doh mold.
Rebekah: Yeah, I know.
Sarah: But you, you have this sort of expectation of the author being closely married to the book.
Sarah: So what do you do when the author is not closely married to the book, you know?
Rebekah: Right, of course.
Sarah: Like, what do you do when there’s no visual connection, which is, which is kind of how it should be, ‘cause the person and the book should be totally different, independent things.
Rebekah: Exactly! And it’s weird, it’s so funny, ‘cause, like, sometimes – and I know, like, authors don’t, you know, especially at big houses and stuff, they don’t, they have no control over their cover art.
Rebekah: And I have seen, I’ve had a bunch of authors who have covers with women on them that look exactly like the author, and they’re like, what? It’s, it’s weird. It’s very, it’s kind of, it’s a little bit subtle, but, like, not at all? That to me, that to me is strange. I wouldn’t want a book – I mean, I’m gorgeous, don’t get me wrong, but –
Rebekah: – I wouldn’t want – [laughs] – I wouldn’t want books with me on them, ‘cause I’m not writing about – I mean, yeah, sure, my characters have personality traits that are similar to me, and they’re, I, they’re stuff coming out of my brain, but I’m not writing about myself, and I don’t want, I don’t want readers to read about me twenty-eight times either. I want them to experience different people each time they pick up a book.
Sarah: Hence the job of writing fiction to create different humans –
Sarah: – to write about. I mean, I wouldn’t want to write about myself twenty-seven times either.
Rebekah: It’s definitely, yeah, it’s interesting that that, that, I’m not, I’m not sure if it’s like that in other genres. I’m not sure, but it, it is like that in romance.
Sarah: I mean, even, for example, Rebecca Brandewyne used to pose as the cover model. Like, she would get the cover art and then have a dress –
Sarah: – that looked exactly like the cover model –
Rebekah: Yes! Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Sarah: – and then her author photo would be the same, and you, you know, there was a period of time when every single romance author had the same glamour shot headshot?
Sarah: So, like, hair and then, like, resting their chin on their fist?
Rebekah: [Laughs] Right!
Sarah: Or, or putting their fingertips – just your fingertips, though – just your fingertips on the side of your jaw, which, the first thing I look at when, the first thing I think is, oh, my gosh! You’re going to break out! Don’t touch your face there! It’s where you get bad pimples!
Rebekah: That’s funny. Yeah, I don’t know. It’s, it’s interesting. I feel like in, I started Women of Color in Romance to try and level the playing field somewhat in mainstream romance, and I feel like – it’s interesting. I’ve learned a lot about romance and race relations in the last six months. [Laughs] I’ve learned, I’ve learned a lot, and I’m sure there are plenty of authors who came before me and this is nothing new, but I’ve definitely learned a lot about how readers perceive characters and author, how other authors perceive character in relationship to author. I mean, it’s very, it’s, it’s interesting. I mean, again, it’s, I – it’s bigger than romance, of course. This is, like, a global societal issue. This isn’t just, it’s not just romance that’s experiencing this, but it’s –
Sarah: You mean the racism that’s sort of baked in to everything?
Rebekah: Yeah! Yeah. Yeah.
Rebekah: A little bit. [Laughs] A little bit.
Sarah: That Easy Bake Oven has been running for a long time.
Rebekah: It has. And, and I think that’s also the tricky thing, is that a lot of people are having a hard time coming to terms with how long this has been going on. I remember, I saw this great interview with – oh, goodness. I’m, her face is in my, I’m, like, looking at her face.
Sarah: Oh, welcome to my brain.
Rebekah: Oh, God. This is going to drive me crazy. Alfre Woodard was giving an interview, and she was talking about how the United States has been a slave economy longer than it’s been anything else. So you have to, you have to understand that anti-, specifically anti-black racism has been a thing, like, it’s something that this country was built on. And then –
Sarah: You don’t say.
Rebekah: I know, right? So then you have, you have –
Sarah: But wait, wait, wait, wait! We have a black president! We’re post racial now!
Rebekah: He’s on his way out, so I don’t know if things, things went back.
Sarah: No, he cleaned it all up! We’re not racist anymore.
Rebekah: [Laughs] Well, yeah, I think that’s, it’s, it’s something that a lot of us have a hard time coming to grips with, because it’s a, it’s an ugly thing to deal with, and so you don’t – you don’t want to think that it’s a thing, first of all, and then you don’t want to think it’s a thing that taints the thing that you love.
Sarah: Or that you have perpetuated unknowingly.
Rebekah: Right. Romance writing is unique in the sense that we’re the one genre that kind of embraces what love means to the human existence.
Rebekah: I think even if you have books and literary fiction that, like, you know, are deep, intense love stories, however the book ends, we’re the only genre that actually embraces that and celebrates that. I was try-, someone was trying to tell me that romance was, like, silly, and I tried to explain to him that, like, you know, he loved Star Wars so much, and he loves The Lord of the Rings, and those are love stories too. They’re just about familial love, and so – when I told, put it that way, he was like, oh, yeah, you have a point.
Sarah: Well played!
Rebekah: Well, yeah. I mean, I think, I think almost every story is a love story. It just depends on where it goes – [laughs] – to be completely honest.
Sarah: I completely agree.
Rebekah: When you talk about the ugliness in the world, you don’t want it to take that thing that’s supposed to be about love. You know, you don’t want it to cast a cloud over it, so that’s the thing that’s tricky about, you know, dealing with some of these harder issues when talking about romance and the romance industry.
Sarah: I don’t want, obviously I don’t want race and color and cultural division to be the only thing I talk to you about, because, I mean, I, I am aware of your job representing all black people everywhere –
Rebekah: [Laughs] All day, every day.
Sarah: All day, every day, and at this moment you represent all the people of color in the whole universe. Like, even the worlds we haven’t discovered yet?
Sarah: Those too.
Rebekah: They, they nominated me.
Sarah: Yes; no pressure or anything.
Sarah: One thing I do want to ask: you mentioned, ‘cause you started romance, Women of Color in Romance. I was about to say romance of women of color, which is a totally different dating site. [Laughs]
Sarah: Women of Color in Romance, and you, you’ve learned a lot, about a lot of the things that affect authors of color. What are some of the things that you have learned that, you know, you wish could change in a hurry?
Rebekah: Well, I think one thing that’s important to remember is that publishing is a business, and it is a multi-billion dollar business. So when you start there and then you find authors who are having a hard time getting mainstream exposure because of their race or any factor, so I mean, if you’re talking about, we’ve been talking about diversity a lot, so you’re talking about someone’s race or sexuality, their gender representation, any disabilities they may have, any of those things, when those things affect their ability to make money off of their craft, then that, to me, is a problem, because those are issues that shouldn’t stop you from making money off of your craft. And again, I don’t think quality has anything to do with it. It’s not a quality issue. I think it’s a, it’s a level playing field issue. So to me, what, what I was seeing was that the playing field wasn’t level. Again, I don’t want to take responsibility for this. I am definitely not the first person to notice this; I’m not the first person to say something about it; I’m not the first person to do something about it; I’m just a person who has a voice in this. First and foremost, I’ve noticed that when you have conversations about women of color not writing romance as much – ‘cause that, that was, like, the first conversation I had a few years ago. There were a lot of conversations where it was like, women of color aren’t writing romance. It’s not that we’re not selling them; it’s that they’re not writing the books. So we now know that that’s not the case. That’s not the case at all, and I’ve been able to find hundreds of women who, women of color – and not just in the United States, all over the world, which has been, thank God for the internet, thank God for Twitter, ‘cause I’ve been able to find women who don’t live in the United States who are writing romance, which is great – and they’re writing, and they’re writing a lot. They’re writing a lot. I’m also noticing that a lot of women of color are actually doing quite well with self-publishing, and I, I think the thing that’s tricky is that I think a lot of people are perfectly happy in self-publishing, so I, I’m not trying to be an advocate that, like, everyone who’s self-publishing all of a sudden needs to get a big five contract. That’s not what I’m saying. I, I think that the larger mainstream publishers need to open the door and accept that women of color out here writing romance novels are writing good romance novels, and by not making it a level playing field and giving us the contracts and giving us the shelf space or the digital shelf space or whatever, you’re perpetuating the idea that, one, we aren’t writing; two, we’re not worth selling; and that this is something that the readers don’t want, which I don’t think is true.
Sarah: I have many, many problems with the way sales are counted in romance –
Sarah: – and it’s such a large problem that it’s not easy to fix. I mean, for example, even a royalty statement that I get is 60 to 90 to 120 days old?
Sarah: Or it’s a whole six months out of date. I can’t do anything with that data, and even then, not all retailers report consistently, and some report, some retailers don’t report at all –
Sarah: – so you have this incredible number that is ultimately meaningless because you don’t know how it was made.
Sarah: Which I find to be just ludicrous.
Sarah: Like, how is it that we can’t actually get accurate numbers that represent how much a thing has sold?
Sarah: Like, really? We can’t do that?
Rebekah: So you’re, if you’re, okay, so, for, it is, it’s this weird cart before the horse before the egg chicken thing. If you are not putting out, if you’re not putting out any books by women of color, you can’t be like, well, books by women of color don’t sell. Or if, in a sense like, I know, I think Kimani’s books are more expensive than some of Harlequin’s other titles, so if you’re pricing the books higher –
Sarah: You, you mentioned that at one of the sessions –
Rebekah: Yeah, yeah, Farrah brought that up. Farrah Rochon brought that up. So if you’re pricing your books higher, then you’re driving readers away as well. So, and I also, too, I’m also wondering, like, so we have, Nalini Singh, she has a book out today. Rock Redemption came out today, and people have been talking about Rock Redemption for months, and people love her books, and I don’t know, when people are doing the data, if people consider her to be a woman of color, because she’s successful. I know that sounds crazy, but Nalini and Sylvia Day are both women of color, and they are doing very well, so I wonder, again, when people are like, oh, I don’t know, books by women of color don’t sell, it’s like, are you sure? Are you positive? And that’s what I think is the problem: when people frame their mind’s definition of what a person is in correlation to their sales potential, in correlation to what they look like. So that’s, that’s where I think you run into a huge problem.
Sarah: Yes. And obviously, all of these problems are not easily solved.
Rebekah: They’re not. They’re not easily solved, but I think – yeah, I don’t know exactly what, I know in the sense what would drive sales. I think, I mean, again, word of mouth is a, is a big deal. I remember back when Twi-, actually, Twilight was coming to an end, and Stephenie Meyer recommended The Hunger Games, and everybody I knew who was reading Twilight ran out and bought The Hunger Games.
Rebekah: And that’s millions of sales right there. So I think, again, word of mouth – I mean, it’s interesting. Authors have an interesting relationship with each other that I think readers don’t know about, and it’s a great relationship. The thing I love about romance is that other romance authors are extremely willing to help other romance authors, and that’s amazing. Absolutely amazing. I mean, I know, I can, I can think of dozens of people off the top of my head if I had a question about anything, I could email them and they would say, oh, yeah! Just try this, blah blah! I mean, romance authors are so helpful to each other, it’s amazing.
Sarah: As a community, we could potentially help fix this situation.
Rebekah: Yes! And –
Sarah: What are some things – ? Oh, go, you go ahead, and then I want to know, what are some things we can do?
Rebekah: One thing I’ve noticed when people recommend books to each other, I notice, like, for – I’ll use myself as an example – I notice when people recommend my books, they mostly recommend my books when people are asking for something that’s very specific. So if people are asking for lesbian erotica, that’s when people recommend my books. If people are asking for lesbian paranormal, people will recommend my books. Now more so, if people are asking for BDSM stuff, people will recommend, like, Fit, and then some of my other lesbian stuff has BDSM elements, or if people ask for something written by a woman of color. Very rarely do my books pop up on, ‘scuse me, general romance lists.
Rebekah: And that happens a lot. I think a lot of women of color will tell you, or authors of color will tell you that if people are just having general romance conversations, our names don’t pop up. Which is another thing to me which trips me out when people talk about historical romance, and I’m waiting for someone to men-, mention Beverly Jenkins, and people don’t mention Beverly Jenkins. That happens a lot, and that, to me, is insane, ‘cause Beverly is awesome, she’s prolific, her books are amazing. She has a –
Sarah: I love her.
Rebekah: – she has a huge readership, and I also think, I mean, there are times, too, where her books will come out, I’ll, I’ll see that they don’t get the same promo as other historical romances, too. And that, to me, is crazy! Because she’s also, she’s, she’s on an island right now. Piper Huguley’s writing historical romance with her, not writing in the same exact time period, and Bev-, Beverly is doing her own thing, so I’m surprised that she’s not out there more, and I’m not saying this to downplay her success, because she’s, I mean, Beverly’s doing the damn thing. But I am often shocked when I see lists for promotional ads or, and her stuff’s not in there. It doesn’t make sense to me. I think, to me, it’s interesting, I think people will bring up authors of color when people want to know about authors of color. We’re not brought up in the same conversations. We’re not brought up – I mean, if you ask me, if people are like, what’s your favorite romance? I, I will probably give you a Beverly Jenkins book as a recommendation.
Sarah: I and my, my team, we were all fighting this morning over the digital ARC of her newest book.
Sarah: Like, we, we were, we were verbally yelling at each other about, we were, we were squabbling about who was going to get to read it first and review it, and – did you know about this book?
Rebekah: I, she posted the cover on her Facebook page, and I almost fainted. I was like, what?! Oh, I was so excited, so I’m really excited to read it, yes.
Sarah: Oh, my gosh, the, the, the description is, the cover is gorgeous –
Sarah: – but the description is amazing.
Rebekah: Oh, Beverly! [Laughs] So I think what, how authors could help each other is by not pigeonholing each other, and to, I mean, to say this, you know, point-blank, and I know I’m going to catch heat for this, ‘cause I catch heat for talking most of the time, but I would love it if some big name, and I’ll say it, white authors would, like, take a couple minutes to, like, read outside their usual circle of whatever, and not necessarily, like, an author that they’re friends with or just, just explore a little and say, oh, I tried this book by so-and-so, and I really liked it. Courtney Milan, she had recommended Treasure to people, one of my books, before I met her. She had picked it up, and she had read it, and she really liked it, and one morning I signed into Twitter, and everyone was retweeting my book! And that’s because Courtney has a big following, and people love her books, and they listen to her, and that, I mean, I think that’s the thing is, like, romance is so word-of-mouth, so it’s really important when people who actually have a platform, it, it really does matter when you talk about other people’s books. So when you never ever talk about authors of color, then that’s a problem. And I even notice this with lesbian romance. Like, I know a lot of people in mainstream will come to me for lesbian romance recommendations, ‘cause they know for sure that I read it, but they don’t know what, anybody else who does. I think authors can do a lot to help the industry, and I, it’s, I keep bringing up this chicken and the egg and the cart, but I think publishers have a lot of responsibility, ‘cause I think they would be very helpful if they took some of their existing authors and pushed them to the forefront, but I think authors can help each other a lot, quite a bit, and I think, I think that will change, and I’m thinking TV and – in the ‘90s there were a lot of black television shows, but now what’s great, we’re seeing a lot of Asian television shows on mainstream TV, a lot of South Asian actors are being incorporated, a lot of Latino actors are being incorporated into things, and I think that’s important. I mean, you have shows like Jane the Virgin that are doing very, very well.
Sarah: I love that show.
Rebekah: I love – that show’s amazing! Yeah –
Sarah: I love the way that Spanish is so integrated into the language of the show, because there are families that speak in multiple languages all the time.
Rebekah: Of course! Of course! And I think that’s, I think that’s really important because our country is – I mean, I’m, like, starting to hate this word a bit – our country is very diverse. The –
Sarah: I have been challenging myself to write about things and not use the word diverse.
Rebekah: Oh, it’s drive-, it’s like my – I can’t stand that word now.
Sarah: Because it doesn’t mean anything anymore.
Rebekah: It, yeah.
Sarah: Like, diverse is a shortcut for saying black people, which isn’t right, but that’s how some people take it, and I don’t like to be misunderstood. Yes.
Rebekah: Yeah. It’s, I think we have, our country is filled, filled with millions of different people, and it does us all a disservice to make shows and movies and books that only show one perspective. I mean, I’m interested to see what’s going to happen. When I was, when we went to RWA, I think what was tricky was that maybe, I don’t think mainstream publishers have an idea how many people are self-publishing? ‘Cause a lot of people are self-publishing. A lot. And I think what’s tricky for authors who want to work with a mainstream publisher is finding editors and people who want to work with someone and are aware of the fact that that person is, this is not their first time at the rodeo, ‘cause I met with some editors at RWA, and I got the first-timer treatment, which was interesting. I got the, I got the debut author treatment. And it’s –
Sarah: But you’re not a debut author.
Rebekah: Right. And some of the, some of the editors were shocked to find out that myself and a couple of the other women were not debut authors, so that’s another thing that’s an-, that’s another interesting aspect of it. But again, I’m speaking for authors who want to work with mainstream publishers, and there’s plenty of people who are self-publishing that are happy doing that, and that’s awesome, and I want them to, you know, mold their passions the way they want to do. That’s awesome. It’ll be interesting to see how things change in the next couple of years, ‘cause I, I don’t know what mainstream publishers are doing behind the scenes right now. I mean, there could be some, in some instances I’m sure there’re some places that are actively looking to diversify their catalogs, and I’m sure there’re some places who aren’t, but again, I don’t know what that’s going to look like two years from now.
Sarah: Well, I know that one of the things that, that, one of the things that I have noticed, especially in the last year or two, is that the number of people who connect online to discuss a problem that they’re having creates a conversation where more people say, oh, my God, I’m having that problem too.
Sarah: So just like when you’re facing a problem personally or, you know, with a, something that’s broken, you know that you’re not the only person who’s ever faced this problem before. It’s rare, and you know someone has written about it, and someone probably has an article, and if you’re really lucky, there’s a really badly done slideshow that’ll teach you how to fix that problem!
Sarah: This is, see, this is what, this is what the diversity in romance project needs: more slideshows! If you had more slideshows –
Rebekah: [Laughs] We need –
Sarah: – probably be fixed already.
Rebekah: – way more slideshows!
Sarah: You need more slideshows that take twenty-five minutes to load ‘cause they’ve got eight ads on them.
Rebekah: That is exactly –
Sarah: That’s how you get mainstream attention. [Laughs]
Rebekah: I need to strengthen my PowerPoint skills, clearly.
Sarah: Yeah, that’s exactly it. [Laughs] But because there are people who can say, oh, my gosh, I’m not the only person having this problem, there’re more people who can say, okay, I think I know how to, how to make this particular problem better, and that includes people who work in publishing. So I didn’t want to have you come on the podcast and just talk about diversity, which is a word we both don’t want to use.
Rebekah: This happens to me all the time. [Laughs]
Sarah: But see, I feel bad because, you know, I, it’s, it’s not like I actually think that you write in the genre Black Lady, but you have really intelligent things to say, and you, you are one of those people who is able to cogently and logically distill a massive problem into a few key points, and that’s a really important skill to have, so it’s really interesting to listen to your perspective, but I don’t want that to be the only thing you ever talk about, because that would be –
Rebekah: No, no. I, one, I’m totally fine talking about it. Two, I completely brought this upon myself by starting Women of Color in Romance and being really loud and vocal about it on Twitter, so I’m not that surprised people talk to me about it. Anyway, we can talk about something else, though. [Laughs]
Sarah: Okay, so one thing that I always ask is for recommendations. What are you reading that you have loved that you’re really excited about?
Rebekah: Okay. Okay. See, this is what happens when you come back from conference season, right?
Rebekah: Right, and you have, like, three books of your own that you have to write, which causes its own problem. So I always, I have, my to-read list is disgusting. Like, it’s –
Sarah: Yeah, so’s mine. I know that pain.
Rebekah: Ugh! My to-read list is so, so, so long right now. Let me tell you a little bit about some people I’ve been reading recently, though, when I sit down and force myself to read. Yvette Hines: she writes contemporary and paranormal. She has this shifter series. They’re, they’re bear shifters, and they all kind of take after different fairy tales. I’m going to bring up the first. I read all the books in, like, five minutes. I’m trying to re-find the first. Oh, I inhaled them.
Rebekah: Inhaled them. Bought the first one, was like, oh, there’s five! Let me read all of them in one sitting! Let me bring up the first title. Hold on one second.
Sarah: What did you like about the series? What did you like about this particular world that made you mainline all five books?
Rebekah: Well, what I thought was clever was that she does little spins on fairy tales. So the first book, the first book is called Bear’s Gold, and it’s kind of like a little spin on Goldilocks, which I thought was really cute. The, I’m a sucker for heroes with kids, so the hero has kids, and it’s just, it’s like a cute, there’s a, like, a perfect amount of angst in all the books, ‘cause everyone’s either, like, fighting their bear nature or, or they don’t know if they want to join the den. Like, it’s, it’s really –
Rebekah: I love books that are fun, and these books are fun. They’re very, very fun, and the sex in them is very, very hot.
Sarah: So, wait, they’re fun and funny and self-aware and –
Sarah: – cute and sexy.
Sarah: Shit! I’m going to have to add them to my list now.
Rebekah: And all the heroes are, like, hot! [Laughs]
Sarah: Oh, darn it, yeah, yeah.
Rebekah: All the heroes are, like, super hot. Like, okay, okay! Like – [laughs] – they’re, like, super, super, super hot. So there, the first book is Bear’s Gold.
Rebekah: That’s the first book. Yesterday or the day before, I finished Serving Pleasure by Alisha Rai, which I’m sure a couple people have recommended to you, ‘cause that book is The Bomb!
Sarah: Serving Pleasure is the one where there’re two brothers and the woman is a chef?
Rebekah: No, that’s the previous book. Serving Pleasure features –
Sarah: This is, that’s just –
Rebekah: That’s, that’s Devi’s book. The Serving Pleasure features Devi’s sister, Rana.
Sarah: Oh, okay! God, that’s just embarrassing.
Rebekah: That’s, that’s Glutton for Pleasure. This is me trying to remember books off the top of my head.
Sarah: Yeah, I’m not really good at this either, and I should never ask anyone else to do it. [Laughs]
Rebekah: I know, right? So, yeah, I read Serving Pleasure over the weekend, I finished it over the weekend, and I loved it! Really hot, super hot hero, super hot hero who’s an artist, and the heroine is a total sexpot, and she knows it, and I love it, ‘cause she celebrates her sexuality, and she celebrates her body, and it’s just fantastic. I wish more heroines did that in books.
Sarah: This is not a ménage like the, like –
Rebekah: No, but Glutton for Pleasure is a ménage.
Sarah: Right. That one I read.
Sarah: But Serving Pleasure I have not read. I’m going to have to add that to my list, too.
Sarah: So how, what did you like about it? The fact that the heroine sort of owned her own sexuality and her own sexual appetite?
Rebekah: Oh, she, and again, I’m a big fan of, I mean, I feel like, to me, like, life is depressing enough, so – [laughs] – I read stuff I really want to be, I want to be entertained. I want to laugh, and this, then, Serving Pleasure is really funny, too. That’ll be, most of my recommendations’ll probably be with, like, a, a thread of humor in them. I, I love books that make me laugh. Holley Trent has a book called Seeing Red that I also have read semi-recently that I loved. Hero is a nerd, but he’s, like, a hot, giant, redhead nerd? I like big dudes. Maybe that’s just a theme. I just like big dudes. I don’t know. Also a good layer of humor. The sex in it’s, like, really, really, really hot. It’s in her, it’s in a series. It’s in her Hearts and Minds series?
Sarah: Right. I just see that.
Rebekah: I read Calculated Exposure first, and the hero in Seeing Red is in Calculated Exposure, and I was really excited that he was getting his own book.
Sarah: Oh, bother. This is going to be expensive.
Rebekah: Ha-ha! [Laughs]
Sarah: When people ask you for lesbian romances, who do you recommend?
Rebekah: Okay, so, she’s going to laugh: Colette Moody. I try not to get on her nerves, but pretty much every time I talk to her, I’m like, so, when’s the next book coming out?
Rebekah: She, she, her books are amazing. I would just say pick one. If I was going to recommend one, the title’s really long, and I always, I always shorten it, and I’m going to give you the full title, ‘cause I don’t want people to not be able to find the book. The Sublime and Spirited Voyage of Original Sin.
Sarah: I just pulled that up and scrolled past it because I was convinced that I had accidentally stumbled onto a children’s book.
Rebekah: No. It’s lesbian pirates, and it’s amazing.
Sarah: I’m sorry, you said lesbian pirates, and, oh, my God! Really?!
Rebekah: I want someone to make a movie out of this book so bad. It’s so good. It’s so good.
Sarah: Oh, my goodness. How have I never heard of this until now?
Rebekah: I don’t know! But –
Sarah: Man, I am listening to a lot of the wrong channels, and I have expanded my channel listening substantially, and I’m really bummed that I missed this. Wow!
Rebekah: It’s such, it’s such a good book. Her books are also very funny. Parties in Congress is a contemporary romance about a staffer who falls in love with a politician. That’s really good too. Both by Colette Moody.
Sarah: Oh, my.
Rebekah: And that’s a contemporary. Colette’s on it. She’s, she’s really, ooh! She’s amazing. Her books are just fantastic, and she’s, like, a total geek, so she does a, she does a fair amount of research. If you’re following this presidential election, follow her on Twitter. She was tweeting the Republican debate; it was amazing. She is, Colette’s, like, a fantastic person. Smart, funny, just brilliant. Her books are fantastic.
Sarah: So The Sublime and Spirited Voyage of Original Sin is also very funny.
Rebekah: Yeah. As is a lot of – Parties in Congress is funnier. I, I would say Parties in Congress is a straight-up romantic comedy, but Original Sin has a good layer of humor in it, but it’s a really good, like, action-adventure story, too, and the sexy times are good. It’s a good book! It’s an overall fantastic book. I recommend that to anybody. My new book So Sweet is out now, and I want to – [laughs]
Sarah: Please tell me about this book!
Rebekah: Oh, I don’t want to talk about that book at all. Yeah, so I have a new book out called So Sweet. It’s a novella. There’ll be three again, as I did with the Fit trilogy, but this time all books will be about the same couple.
Rebekah: Yeah! And it’s funny ‘cause I wasn’t planning on writing this at all, but my cover artist, after we finished doing all of our goodies for RWA and RT, she and I were talking, and she actually asked me to write this book for her. She wanted a May-December romance, and then I kind of went wild with the whole sugar daddy aspect of it. So basically, the book is about a young lady who loses her job, and her roommate is also out of work, so they decide that they’re going to join a sugar daddy service to try and find some rich guys to help them pay their bills for the meantime? And Kayla, my leading lady, ends up finding love with an internet billionaire named Michael.
Rebekah: It’s, it’s a, it’s a light and fluffy one. I’m just going to say this up front: I know –
Sarah: Light and fluffy billionaire sugar daddy romance.
Rebekah: It is light and fluffy. I know some people like their angst. This is a low-angst one, so if you, if you like angst, just be warned that this is, this isn’t going to have you, you know, tearing at your shirt and crying. This is definitely a light, funny, fluffy story.
Sarah: Yayyy! I’m so pleased to hear that. I love a good light and fluffy. I’m, I am, we are preparing to sell our house and move –
Sarah: – to, to Maryland, and so my brain is so exhausted keeping track of all of the things that I have to do that at this point my, I, I can’t even read words. I need, like, pictures.
Sarah: They, I, I started reading manga and comics, and my brain is like, this is exactly what I needed, thank you, because I can’t do words right now. As I just, I –
Sarah: – every day seems like it’s five days long, ‘cause I’m doing so many things at the same time and so much is going on, and it’s all happening, like, right now. So I totally need light and fluffy. I need light and fluffy like you have no idea.
Rebekah: I’ve got it for you. I think that’s, I like writing light and fluffy. I think sometimes I need light and fluffy, so if I can inject more of it into the market, I’m happy to.
Sarah: And that is all for this week’s podcast. I want to thank Rebekah Weatherspoon for joining me to talk about her books and all of the things that she’s doing online.
This podcast was brought to you by InterMix, publisher of New York Times bestselling author Samantha Young’s One King’s Way, a new white-hot novella from the On Dublin Street series, full of passion and drama, on sale now.
The podcast transcript this week is sponsored by Jenna Sutton, author of the Riley O’Brien & Company series, published by Berkley, available in print and eBook. The second novel in the series, Coming Apart at the Seams, is available for pre-order now and will be released on December 1st. In Coming Apart at the Seams, pro football player Nick Priest is trying to win a second chance with denim heiress Teagan O’Brien. You can read an excerpt at jennasutton.com or connect with Jenna at facebook.com/jennasuttonauthor or on Twitter @jsuttonauthor.
The music you’re listening to was provided by Sassy Outwater. You can find her on Twitter @SassyOutwater. This is Deviations Project, this is Adeste Fiddles, and this track is called “Three Ships.” You can find their music on iTunes or Amazon or wherever your fine music is sold.
You have questions or suggestions, we have email. You can email us at [email protected]. If you have ideas of people we should interview or you have a question that you’d like us to answer, please do feel free to contact us.
But in the meantime, on behalf of Jane and Rebekah and myself, we wish you the very best of reading. Have a great weekend.
[happy holiday music]
Rebekah: Yes, have fun with the, the banging and the noise.
Sarah: Woohoo! It’s not the good kind of banging.
Sarah: I mean, I can’t really say that very loud, ‘cause I don’t want my contractor to hear, but it’s not the good kind of banging, I have to say. But then you could write – you could write contractor romances!
Rebekah: Well, you, you know, actually, well, actually, I will say this: we were talking about this the other day, and we think the, the blue collar hero might make his, make his comeback, so.
Sarah: Oh, absolutely, no question that you’re right about that.
Rebekah: We’ll see. I’m hoping. I’m hoping.
This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.
The podcast transcript this week was sponsored by Jenna Sutton, author of the Riley O’Brien & Company series, published by Berkley and available in print and e-book. The second novel in the series, Coming Apart at the Seams, is available for pre-order now and will be released on December 1st. In Coming Apart at the Seams, pro football player Nick Priest is trying to win a second chance with denim heiress Teagan O’Brien.
Love can take some time to break in…
Teagan O’Brien, heiress to the Riley O’Brien & Co. denim empire, is anything but a spoiled rich girl. She’s worked hard to secure her place in the family business and can hold her own, in and out of the office. Only one man has ever been able to get under her skin—sexy football star Nick Priest. Years ago they crossed the line from friends to lovers, but he left her heartbroken. Since then, she’s been determined to keep him at arm’s length—no matter how tempting he looks in his jeans…
Nick has fortune, fame, and looks that make most women hot and bothered. But he doesn’t have the woman he really wants. He knows he screwed up when he walked away from Teagan, and now that he has a second chance, he’ll do whatever it takes to win her over—no matter how tongue-tied he gets…