What toppings do you put on your pizza? Is pineapple a real pizza topping?
I was raised in a large family of four kids, so needless to say (but I’m going to anyway), the battle over pizza toppings remained a stable part of Friday night eating. My mother’s children had an expanse of tastes that made it necessary for her to have each of us take weekly turns to decide what would go on top of the tomato and cheesy goodness. When it was my turn, my brothers and sister groaned and complained to Ma that she was wasting a chance to have something new and different on pizza night.
Write about a metaphor you used in one of your books. What does it represent?
Metaphors can be a valuable literary device to integrate symbolism in their works that will activate readers’ imaginations and offer them a different way. By directly comparing two different things, authors can give qualities to the first thing through the use of the second. In this way, writers can “show” instead of “tell” important aspects of a story or character as well as convey an underlying message through the thematic use of a metaphor throughout the plot.
Hey, romance addicts. Another week, another thought-provoking blog hop post. Let’s take a look at what we have this week.
Do you write diverse characters? If so, how do you avoid cultural insensitivity?
It’s interesting that this week’s blog hop question asks about diversity in writing. I spent the weekend fielding questions on social media, from white authors about including diverse characters in their books. It’s also ironic that the blog hop posing the question is not very diverse. As far as I know, I am the only contributing blogger who is identifies as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color). No, Italians and the Irish do not count. Let’s not go there. Anyway, onto my answer.
Of course, I write diverse books. just look at my covers.
As an author who identifies with multiple marginalized social intersections, I write to purposefully highlight a range of backgrounds and experiences in my characters. I think diversity is a stable part of literary expression for many BIPOC authors and that the main group challenged to understand the importance of diversity—and how to integrate into their work—is white authors.
Attempts to expand diversity in literature seem to present as a challenge and threat for authors who need to develop a greater appreciation for diverse literature and resist the cultural messaging that centers on whiteness.
Do you have a favorite piece of literature? What is it and why is it your favorite?
Hey, romance addicts. I know it’s been a while since I’ve written a blog hop post, but I couldn’t get in front of the camera to do a video. So, I’m getting back to basics and doing what I do best, writing. Let’s do this!
I don’t have one favorite piece of literature. The literary world is far too expansive to settle on one text. However, some books that influenced and inspired me come to mind.
Hey, beautiful ones. I am excited to introduce the author, Ann Raina. Ann lives and works in Germany with cats and a horse. Riding and writing are her favorite hobbies. Her latest series, starting with Twisted Mind, turns around an FBI-agent, his demanding lover, and a bad case getting worse.
In all of her books, she combines romance, suspense, and humorous elements, for no thrilling story can stand without comic relief.
Talk about the setting of your book. Is it entirely imaginary or is it based on a real-life place?
I love writing stories that allow readers to tap into the fantasy and escapism that fiction provides. At the same time, I like to include points of reference from my environment. Similar to integrating real-life characters experience, my story plots also contain geographical references to position readers in characters’ environments, potentially essential to reinforce arches and allow them to relate.
Settings in the romance genre tend to be at economic and geographic extremes. At a Popular Cultural Association conference, romance scholar Jodi McAllister pointed out that romance plots frequently unfold between female protagonists and rich men in cities or small-town bearded hunks. She posed a question asking why people didn’t seem to fall in love in the suburbs. She made a great point. I spent my teens and early adult life reading about ridiculously wealthy men taking their love interests to bed. Not necessarily a bad thing, I enjoyed the escapism, but not everyone lives like that way, nor do they exist in tiny towns with one traffic light. I want my readers to see themselves in my stories.Continue reading “Writing Characters in Real Places and Spaces”→
What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
For people dedicated to the craft, writing is an impactful part of their lives and identities. I mentioned in another post, “I acquired and honed skills to interpret and craft words, using a range of prose (and a tiny bit of poetry) to harness the resilient power of language for liberation and resistance.”
Endeavors to generate words can be powerful and empowering, making writing a tool and art form requiring commitment.
Dedicated writers pick up their pens [or fire up their keyboards] to share their perspectives and stories. The better ones know that wordsmithing involves layers of composition, drafting, editing and revising—all of which require development. Only deluded writers think that their skillsets are fine and they don’t need to hone them.
How many hours a day do you write? How long on average does it take you to write a book?
When I saw this week’s Open Book Blog Hop prompt, I laughed because it coincides with some realities I have had to face while participating in NaNoWriMo this month. The month-long writing challenge is meant to get writers to sit themselves down and finish a set goal during November.
Although I signed up for NaNoWriMo years ago, I had not participated. Why? That’s for another blog post. This year, someone encouraged to consider using NaNoWriMo as a tool to complete book four in the Brothers in Law romance series. Brandon and Hawwah want their story out there, so I agreed. I am half-way through the challenge and only have a little over 4k of my 50k goal achieved. I have been writing but not just the manuscript.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Authors frequently discuss notions of originality and fulfilling reader expectations. I have read posts all over social media and on blogs, all with writers seeking to draft texts that pristine from anything else written under the sun and that will satisfy a mass of readers worthy of their artistry. Both are exercises in futility.
Defeatist? No. A powerful storyteller resolves to the realities that neither is their story completely untold nor will it enchant every pair of eyes (ears hearing, fingertips touching) gracing it. At the crux of any good story is the distinctive style and voice of the weaver of the tale, which is the primary way an author can create something that is theirs to share for people to connect with and respond.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
Ah, book reviews. They can send an author’s heart soaring or sink it like a stone into a deep abyss of despair. Because a writer is often intimately connected to their works, reviews can have a substantial impact on the creative process.
I have warned new authors to be mindful of the effects reviews have on them, particularly negative ones:
All authors get negative reviews. Reading is subjective. There will always be at least one reader who doesn’t like something about a book, and some will express it in reviews. A lot of new authors are simply not ready for people to express any level of dislike.
I never get writer’s block. I may say I do but not really. What I usually experience is more like a hurdle to clear and keep things moving. A basic definition of writer’s block is, “the condition of being unable to create a piece of written work because something in your mind prevents you from doing it.” Other definitions describe it as an inability to write—as if there a mystical wall keeping words stuck in the mind or a force imprisoning creativity. There are reasons why a writer can’t write, and it is not always psychological or due to “having something on your mind.”
Through years of academic, professional, teaching and coaching writing, I learned a few things about the ominous “writer’s block” and the external and internal factors that drive writers to fall back on what is ultimately an excuse, a justification, for a blank screen. Covering everything in one post is not possible. So, I will highlight some prevalent ones.
Naming characters can be an involved and frustrating part of the novel-writing process, but it is critical to provide ones that will pique readers’ interest and give them a chance to connect with the personalities making up a story’s plot. In this LWL episode, I talk about the undertaking of finding the most suitable names for my stories’ characters and a little bit of reader drama with one character’s name.
What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
I may (or may not—I admit to nothing) base a character on someone I respect or despise, so I will have to be salty and sweet with the response to this week’s OpenBook blog hop post. Let’s start with the people I like.
I’ve explained in a Black Glue Podcast interview how the Prophet Muhammad served as inspiration for the male characters featured in the Brothers in Law series.
I reflected on the Prophet (Muhammad’s) life and how he was as a husband … lover … someone out in the community and how he transitioned between those things. What he did when his women were mad at him, and what he did when his women were acting out. [The brothers in law] don’t act exactly like the Prophet, but there are characteristics each one of them has.
Simon is the one who keeps things at a level where it doesn’t get too bad. He doesn’t allow things to get to him as much. Marcus is the alpha, alpha. He’s the leader. He expects things to happen the way he needs for them to happen because he’s progressing the nation. Adam is that inner reflection.
What are the best two or three books you've read this year?
This was supposed to be an easy question but not so much for me. I read a ton of different things over the course of the year. In addition to reading novels, I am always looking for books that will help me improve my writing skills as an author and writer.
I also am constantly gathering titles to read and analyze with my colleagues at the Muslim Anti-racism Collaborative. I am a strong proponent for life-long learning inside and outside of one’s professional spheres. My collection of books that help me develop as an anti-racism trainer, instructor, managing editor, and self-published author grew quite a bit this year. A few of them gripped me, so it is difficult not to mention any of them.
Ego is an often vilified human characteristic. Regarding one’s self-image, confidence, and esteem, we all need some ego. Without a healthy ego, a person can become easily manipulated and hesitant to take the risks needed to put herself out there and achieve life’s goals. Self-published authors especially need that last one in spades.
Authors take big risks by releasing their work into a world that may be unkind. Writing something that readers may arbitrarily skewer for a plethora of substantial and tedious reasons is damn scary. I once had someone give my book a lower review because they thought I didn’t show how the main character was Muslim (the character wasn’t) and another because they didn’t like “all of the racism” in an interracial romance.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I spend a lot of time researching all kinds of things for various writing projects. I need to research curriculum development and pedagogical methods for my work with the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative. I just spent the past few days hitting Google for historical and cultural research while taking part in an anti-racism workshop.
My job teaching at the college and romance scholarship also requires time researching. Before leaving for Chicago, I looked for additional sources as I edited an essay about African American Muslim romance fiction (yes, it’s a thing) and how female protagonists are othered. It is interesting how Muslim authors use the other woman trope in love triangles.
Considering stories are products of writers imaginations, it is hard for anyone to say that they don’t put themselves in their stories. A good plot, messaging, and character personality requires deep reflection. A simpatico relationship with characters is also a must, so all authors become invested in the narrative at some level.
The challenges that present when writing a scene vary from one writing project to another. A manuscript can have multiple difficult scenes taxing authors, making time drag as the cursor flashes or notebook page sits untouched, leaving them all kinds of frustrated.