Black History Month! Black History Month! I’m really enjoying all these features. And I know I sound like a broken record, but it’s true. I actually met Reneé at RT a few years ago, and she is quite the character. However, this is her first time at ALBTALBS just like many of our other recent guests! 🙂
Why I Write What I Write by D. Reneé Bagby / Zenobia Renquist
One of the staple questions asked of authors who do blog interviews is why we write the genre we write. I love world building and fantastical creatures and seeing how far I can push the envelope. My imagination is my limitation and I can imagine quite a bit. Writing gives me the ability to realize almost all I see in my mind and give it voice.
Among those imaginings is seeing a black heroine getting into all the adventures and trouble and romantic entanglements as white heroines. Sure you see a ton of titles featuring black heroines now. When I was in high school, that wasn’t the case. I grew up in a military family. We lived on base most of the time, which meant living around multiple ethnicities. That’s what I was used to and that diversity is where I thrive.
I wanted that in my books and movies. I wanted to see a black heroine swept back in time the way I did with ERIS or have a black heroine taming a dangerous and virile vampire the way I did in the Caveat Emptor Series and CREAM or have a black heroine abducted by aliens like what I did in Pet’s Pleasure.
Not only did I want to see black heroines, I wanted black heroines I could identify with, heroines that were dating men outside their race — white, Latino, American Indian, Asian, etc. Lacking those options back then, I decided to write my own. Years passed. Smaller house publishers decided to take a chance and suddenly black heroines abound along with interracial romances as well. Obviously I’m not the only one who decided writing it was the only way to make it happen.
Even after bigger houses told authors there was no market for a black heroine and especially no market for interracial romances, we continued. We were the audience. If we wanted to read it, then surely other people would as well. We were right. Interracial Romance is one of those niche markets that gained recognition and readership and then submissions calls from those same publishers who had said it wouldn’t sell.
I search them out and look for them. I want to support them, to see how other authors handle the same subject. Does race overwhelm the plot or is the race of the main characters simply part of their description? I tend not to focus on race beyond the description in my stories unless it is pivotal to the plot. That said, I’m the first person in line when you show me a TV show or movie that features a black heroine in an interracial relationship. The movie could be crap but I want to see it because I’m the target audience and it’s not the norm.
When Uhura kissed Spock in the 2009 version of Star Trek, my opinion of the movie skyrocketed. When I saw Naomie Harris playing opposite Rain in Ninja Assassin, I didn’t care that the movie required suspension of disbelief with duct tape and crazy glue. When I saw James Spader headlining with Angela Bassett in Supernova, I couldn’t watch that movie enough. In fact, I want to watch it now just because I mentioned it.
The simple addition of a black heroine in an interracial relationship immediately catches my attention because I can identify with it — movies or books. It’s easier for me to imagine myself in the heroine’s role and thus add a deeper level of enjoyment to the story. Do I read black heroine interracial romances exclusively? No. Do I write only black heroine interracial stories? For the most part. I have a few stories, my Assistant’s Position Series for example, where I don’t specify the heroine’s race. In fact, I barely describe her at all but that’s because that particular series didn’t really call for it. As a general rule, it’s usually safe to assume the heroine is black if my name is on it whether I say it flat out or not.
Does it matter that my heroines are black? Probably not. Most readers put themselves in the heroine’s place, which means my heroine becomes whichever race they are. At least that’s what I do. It kind of falls short when the author describes the hero running his fingers through the heroine’s silky hair. Uhhh…yeah no. Nothing silky here. More like kinky ropes of locs (down to my waist for those who are curious). I don’t know how to write black, and if that means street fiction and Ebonics then I definitely don’t know how to do it. I grew up in the suburbs and went to an upper-middle class high school that boasted about being college preparatory.
I simply write what I know and put in some of my experiences. I’m lucky in that I’ve never run across a publisher telling me to write my characters blacker (whatever the hell that means) and I’ve never had a reader tell me my heroines weren’t black enough (I know exactly what that means because I had that thrown at me most of my life from middle school through high school).
I am an author of Fantasy and Paranormal Romances with interracial themes (and some Contemporary Erotica) who happens to be black. My ethnicity doesn’t define my writing. I like to believe my writing defines my writing. I want to be shelved in Romance, not the African American section (for the stores that still have it). In the words of Gabriel Iglesias in his Hot and Fluffy special, “I don’t know [what it’s like to be a Latino comedian]. I’m a comedian who happens to be Latino… The difference is my special will air on Comedy Central, not Telemundo.”
D. Reneé Bagby / Zenobia Renquist Bio: Whether as D. Reneé Bagby or Zenobia Renquist, Renee lives in her imagination. When not traveling through her fantasy worlds, she can be found in Hawaii living with her husband and two cats.
She is an Air Force brat turned Air Force wife, which means she’s accustomed to travel and does it whenever possible (though she isn’t a fan of flying). Her favorite pastime is torturing her characters on their way to happily-ever-after for the enjoyment of her readers.