Priscilla Oliveras: Latinx Love, Romance, and Familia

Priscilla Oliveras: Latinx Love, Romance, and Familia

Sometimes sharing the diversity of your truth can lead you to success in the publishing industry, a reality for Latina author Priscilla Oliveras. Early in her career, she embraced the industry’s grain instead of embracing the uniqueness of her heritage–something that would prompt a shift in her perspective and her writing. Learning the lesson from this experience helped her find her voice and develop stories that embody what’s unique and beautiful about the Puerto Rican influences in her world, her family, her life, and love. Writing what she knows, from the heart, helped her score a publishing deal with Kensington’s Zebra Shout imprint and find a devoted audience who love her sweet romances that highlight the complexities of love and family with splashes of Latinx culture intertwined. Priscilla joined Diverse Romance to share with our readers the lows, highs, and lessons of her writing journey.

Tell us about your journey to becoming a published author.

Goodness, I’ve been writing for over two decades. I started my first book when I was a married college student with a newborn and, due to a military move, I had to take a semester off of school. Over the years I’ve raised three daughters, earned several degrees and moved across the US and the Pacific Ocean. There were times when I barely got a word on the page…life’s responsibilities have a tendency to take priority. However, I’m a long-time member of Romance Writers of America (RWA), and I do believe that the friends, mentors, and contacts I’ve made along the way helped to keep stoking the fire within me to write, to get published, and to eventually hold my own book in my hands. The first few books I wrote were big learning opportunities for me as I made that jump from reader to writer. I’ll admit that those early books emulated the books I saw on the shelf. Meaning, not much diversity. But as I grew in my craft and started coming into my own as a writer, I realized the stories in my head, the ones I wanted to share, were a lot like the world I actually live in—filled with diversity, especially with a Latinx influence.

I think many diverse authors struggle with writing mainstream to fit in versus writing our truth to stand out. It sounds as if you’ve struck the right balance. What sparked the idea for this Matched to Perfection series?

HER PERFECT AFFAIR is the second book in the MATCHED TO PERFECTION series featuring my beloved Fernández sisters—Yazmine, Rosa and Lilí. All three sisters have their own unique personality, yet they share a love for their Puerto Rican heritage and a deep devotion to their familia. All of my books have a Latinx flavor along with family themes, mostly because those are important aspects in my life. They say write what you know. For me, I enjoy writing about and sharing with readers the aspects of my life that are important to me—my culture and my familia.

What five words would you say best describe the stories in this series?

Let’s see…complicated, touching, emotional, family-centered, feel-good

I love to hear which lines really strike a chord with the writer when developing a story. Share a few of your favorites. 

Sí, tonight Rosa Fernandez had finally decided to break away from the wallflowers and take a walk on the wild side.

A slow heartbeat later, she twisted her hand so they were palm to palm. Their fingers laced, the small sign of unity giving him a measure of hope.

She gazed up at him, her expression an interesting mix of confidence and vulnerability.

Gently, he caressed her silky hair, amazed by how drawn he was to her. How badly he wanted to protect her, care for her.

Dios mío, the very idea terrified her, which meant it was exactly the right thing.

Oh, my! Breaking away from the wallflowers. As a certified wallflower, I really want to find out what happens next.  Let’s shift gears for minute. Why don’t you tell us about your writing space and your daily routine.

Well, I teach at a local college Monday-Thursday this semester, so my big writing days are Friday-Sunday. But, I do have a daily word count on my teaching days, too. Especially when I’m on deadline.

As for my writing space, it changes from time to time, depending on my mood, the weather, how stressed I am about my word count, etc. At home, we have a small office where I can write, but I also move outside to our covered porch if the weather’s nice. I have a great travel standing desk that I can take anywhere. I love it because it makes dance breaks from writing a little easier. ☺ With my teaching schedule, I also write on campus before/after class, and I’ve been known to write in my car in between work and going into the gym for Zumba. Again, when you’re on deadline, you get your writing in wherever, whenever you can. It’s kinda like: Have laptop, will write all the time.

Whats one of your favorite reviews/comments youve ever received about your writing? Who did it come from and how did it impact you?

My publisher recently shared the first official review for HER PERFECT AFFAIR and I was immensely relieved and pleased that Publishers Weekly gave the book a Starred Review. I worked so hard on Rosa and Jeremy’s story. There was intense pressure—that I put on myself—to do a good job with the second in the series. I love Rosa. She’s the quiet, generous sister that hadn’t realized her own strength until it was tested. So I really wanted to be sure I gave her and Jeremy the best I had.

Publishers Weekly said: “Oliveras tops her excellent debut, His Perfect Partner, with this revelatory, realistic second romance set among the Puerto Rican community in contemporary Chicago… (her) integration of cultural and class differences, familial expectations, and career objectives into the couple’s romantic decision making immeasurably enriches a moving plot about good people making difficult choices.

That they saw how “good” Rosa and Jeremy are and how they struggled to do the right thing even when it was difficult, which I really wanted to show, really touched me. I guess, in the same way, I hope my characters and their stories touch my readers.

Publisher’s Weekly! That’s exciting. Inevitably in the midst of our successes, we struggle. What would you say is your biggest struggle as a writer? And how do you handle it?

Starting a new book. Ooh, that Imposter Syndrome can be brutal. I doubt myself, my abilities as a writer, and whether or not the previous books were flukes. Then, I can let myself get bogged down in research or getting to know my characters, anything but putting new words on the page.  What gets me out of it? Honestly, deadlines. And my desire to not disappoint someone (my agent or editor) by not meeting a set deadline. Those are real motivators–deadlines and my Catholic guilt. ☺

What was the low point of your career? And how did you handle it?

Unfortunately, this business comes with rejection. That’s the sad part of it. I was thiiiiiiiis close to selling a time or two over the years. Then an editor left the publisher or the revisions I made weren’t quite what they wanted. But, honestly, we all get bad news at one time or another. It’s how we respond that counts. Me? Well, first I eat chocolate and let myself whine for a bit…but after that, I try to see, is there a teachable moment in there somewhere? If not, I work (sometimes struggle) to put it behind me, remember a positive moment and focus on that as I keep on keeping on.

As all writers know, it’s the successes that get us through the rough spots. What would you say has been the high point of your career, so far?

I try to look at each step, each little or big success as a high point, celebrating each as they come. My Golden Heart finals; getting “The Call” from my agent; signing my first contract with Kensington; receiving the box of ARCs for my debut, HIS PERFECT PARTNER,;my first official signing with Kensington at RWA National in Orlando last year; my first release day,;being asked to write the Christmas novella; getting my first reader email; getting positive reviews…they’re all blessings I am extremely thankful for. Do I hope more come my way? Of course. But what I’ve been given thus far, and having family and friends to celebrate with…true blessings.

We really want to promote diverse authors and stories. Give us the name of a diverse author youve read that you would highly recommend to readers.

Oh gosh, there’s more than one—thankfully the list of diverse authors who are published continues to grow. We need more! It goes without saying that Beverly Jenkins is an icon many of us look up to and admire, so she’d have to take the top spot. After that, these fabulous authors come to mind, too: Sonali Dev, Mia Sosa, Alexis Daria, Sabrina Sol, Falguni Kothari…I’d recommend readers check out @WOCRomance and especially that they bookmark this site because it’s a place for diverse authors to be celebrated and embraced!

As we wind down in this interview, whats next on your writing journey?

I’m working on a short contemporary romance that’s part of a four-author series for Tule. The series, Paradise Key, features books by Shirley Jump, Kyra Jacobs, Susan Meier and me, with my book, Resort to Love, releasing third in the series, late-May.

Also, I’m super excited to share that books 2 & 3 in my MATCHED TO PERFECTION series will release this year–HER PERFECT AFFAIR on March 27 and THEIR PERFECT MELODY on November 27.

Plus, this holiday season, I’ll be introducing one of the Fernández sisters’ cousins, Julia, in a novella titled HOLIDAY HOME RUN that will be included in Fern Michael’s A SEASON TO CELEBRATE Christmas anthology.

My hope is to continue growing the Fernández family tree and create other Latinx families for readers to fall in love with.

I believe in paying it forward, especially with advice to writers who hope to achieve success. Whats your favorite book on the writing craft or your favorite piece of advice to writers?

The first book I recommend to any beginning author is Deb Dixon’s Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. It’s a great book for helping to create your characters. Another book that I’ve found extremely helpful is a text from my MFA program at Seton Hill University—Pamela Regis’s A Natural History of the Romance Novel. It does a wonderful job of breaking down the essential plot elements in a romance and takes you through different subgenres over the years, dissecting classics to show how the elements can be woven together to craft a Keeper Shelf novel. I actually give a presentation using Regis’s text and the romantic comedy “You’ve Got Mail.” ☺

To learn more about Priscilla, visit her online at:

Website: www.prisoliveras.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/prisoliveras

Facebook author/reader groups: https://www.facebook.com/groups/FictionFromTheHeart/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/4chicaschat/

Twitter: @prisoliveras

Instagram: prisoliveras

Amazon: amazon.com/author/prisoliveras

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/POliverasGoodreads

Check out Priscilla’s current and upcoming romance releases in the Contemporary section of this site.

Keith Thomas Walker:  A Man’s Take on Romance

Keith Thomas Walker: A Man’s Take on Romance

While romance fiction is widely loved and enjoyed by women authors and readers, fewer men have embraced the genre, some writing under pseudonyms to conceal their real identities and better appeal to female audiences. Keith Thomas Walker fought past his misperceptions about the genre and his fear of propagating stereotypical tropes to find his voice, write meaningful, relatable romance stories about diverse characters dealing with harsh realities–and eventually land his first book deal. Like other bestselling authors who have tackled multifaceted characters and subjects in romance sub-genres–Eric Jerome Dickey, E. Lynn Harris, Colin Channer, and J.J. Murray–Keith successfully launched his career after several fits and starts. Over time, he grew a steady following of devoted readers by delivering fresh perspectives on love and relationships and appealing to a desire for complex heroes and heroines embroiled in page-turning drama until they found some form of a happily ever after. Keith stopped by Diverse Romance to share his journey into the world of romance and some of the highs, lows, and lessons of his career.

Tell us about your journey to become a published author.

It’s been a long road.  I started off writing poetry and short stories in grade school.  When my teachers began to take interest in me and encourage my writing, I gave it my all as early as the fifth grade.  I continued through high school, winning nearly every short story or essay contest thrown at me, and I finally wrote my first novel when I got to college.  It got rejected by everyone!  Lol.  I actually got discouraged and gave up writing for nearly a decade.  But I started again with a romance novel.  That was Fixin’ Tyrone.  It got picked up immediately, published in 2009, and I’ve been publishing books ever since

How did you come to write in the romance genre, a genre driven by female readers and writers? Which romance sub-genres (suspense, urban, contemporary) do you prefer and why?

Initially I didn’t want to write romance novels.  When I first started writing, the idea of having a topless guy on the cover of one of my books was not appealing!  Lol.  I laugh because my first published novel has a topless guy on the cover.  When I wrote my first book (Fixin’ Tyrone), I wanted a love story, but I also wanted to broach topics that were important to me, such as a black man’s struggle with going to prison, avoiding the recidivism rate when he gets out and putting his life back together.  It was important to me that he reestablished a relationship with his children and avoid the pitfalls many freed inmates faced.  When I realized I could put all of these things in a romance novel, I was sold.
Tell us about your romance novels (One on One and/or The Realest Ever)?
One on One is one of my faves. It’s a bout a football player who was forced into early retirement due to an injury. After a couple of reckless years, during which he blew the little football money he had and lost his wife, Marquis falls back on coaching high school for income.  He wants to coach football, of course, but ends up with a girl’s basketball team. Hilarity ensues, and romance with one of the players’ parents follows. Marquis grows a lot during his first year teaching and learns that girls aren’t horrible athletes, as he believes in the beginning.
The Realest Ever is my best-selling novel. I take the formula of childhood friends exploring their feelings for each other as adults to a new level.  I think the thing that stands out the most with Donovan and Kyra’s relationship is his devotion to her since they were in grade school.  Kyra comes from a very bad home, and Donovan’s two-parent household is a refuge for her. The things Donovan does to try to save his friend are heart-wrenching.  By the time they get to high school, Donovan and Kyra realize there’s more to each other than friendship, but before they can act on it, an incident forces Kyra to move out of state, and they don’t speak for 15 years. When Kyra returns to Overbrook Meadows as an adult, her life is still in disarray, and of course Donovan is there to help her. Only now, there are no obstacles between the romance they avoided when they were younger.
You write a couple of series across multiple genres which isn’t an easy feat. Tell us about them.  

I have a few series.  In the Brick House series, I wanted a strong heroine.  Korah is the owner of a constructing and contracting company.  She’s the matriarch of her family.  I normally don’t write about “”rich”” characters, but I made an exception here.  Brick is the owner of a competing company called Brick House.  He’s strong, cocky and as determined as Korah.  Their chemistry is not immediate!

I also have the Finley High series.  These books are written for ages 12-18.  The first one, Prom Night at Finley High, deals with teenage pregnancy.  The second book, Fast Girls at Finley High, focuses on peer-pressure, drug use and other adolescent pitfalls.  The last one, Bullies at Finley High, is, as the title suggests, about bullies.  All of these books are timely and important reads.

My most recent series is Backslide.  Kole is gritty, streetwise and dangerous.  His  love interest, Dana, wants to steer him clear of his old lifestyle, but circumstances compel him to return.  Their chemistry is dynamic and fiery, right from the start.” Backslide 2 is my latest release.  As mentioned in the previous question, Kole is trying his best to go the straight and narrow, but when a good friend is murdered, he is drawn back in to a criminal organization he once headed.  When his enemies target the woman he loves, Kole becomes even more unhinged.  There is a lot of diversity in Backslide 2.  In this story, Kole’s group is mostly comprised of African Americans.  He seeks helps from a Hispanic gang and is shocked to discover his true enemy is a white power gang.  To avoid spoilers, I won’t go into any further details, but this is a great read, as is the first Backslide.

Give five words that best describe this book. What message do you hope readers get?

Compelling, intriguing, sexy, enlightening, action-packed

Give us one or two of your favorite lines from your current book.

“I ain’t never been of the Martin Luther King, let’s hold hands and sing kumbaya while they throw bricks at us, mind state.  When it came to stuff like that, I would’ve been rolling with Malcolm.”

Tell us about your writing space and your daily routine.

I take my writing space whenever and wherever I can. On a plane, at a restaurant, in the break room at work, at the dining table or in my bed.  I’m not particular.

Whats one of your favorite reviews/comments youve ever received about your writing (on this book or any other)? Who did it come from and how did it impact you?

In one of my reviews for the first Backslide, a reader described Kole as “the new Easy Rawlins.”  That was major, because Walter Mosley is one of my favorite authors, especially his Easy Rawlins series.  To have one of my characters compared to him is huge.  I think, possibly because of that review, I ramped up Kole’s mystery-solving in the second Backslide.

Whats your biggest struggle as a writer (or what was your worst critique)? And how do/did you handle it?

My biggest struggle is editing.  I don’t like to do it, would much rather spend my time writing new material.  I can write when I’m a little sleepy or even with a beer in hand, but when I edit, I must be fully awake and alert and without interruption.  And I REALLY don’t like it when my editor wants me to make major revisions.  But I always listen to her and the books come out much better.  There’s no easy way to handle my editing issues, other than getting plenty of sleep ahead of time and knocking it out without procrastinating.

What has been the high point of your career, so far?

I’ve won a lot of awards, all of which are high points, but getting the rights back for my first seven book is the HIGHEST point of my writing career.  I signed those contracts in 2009-2012.  Normally the rights would’ve reverted back to me when the books went out of print, but that didn’t happen.  It took a lot of hard work, patience and legal wrangling to get my rights back, but I finally got them a few months ago.  I’m ecstatic about that!

What was the low point of your career? And how did you handle it?

The low point would be the 5 and a half years I fought to get my book rights back.  Those were dark and depressing times.

Give us the name of a diverse author youve read that you would highly recommend to readers.

Beverly Jenkins

Whats next on your writing journey?

I’m going to write more!  I’m currently working on Threesome 2, and then I’m going to write Election Day for Decades of African American Romance.  And then I’ll get back to some of the books I recently received my rights back for.  I have to re-release them, which calls for more editing, revisions and formatting.  I normally don’t like that stuff, but I haven’t read these books in so long, I honestly don’t mind.

What’s your favorite book on the writing craft or your favorite piece of advice to writers?

My favorite piece of advice to writers is WRITE.  Every day, if possible.  No painter, drummer, ball player or whatever becomes great because they do it every now and then.  They do it relentlessly, probably since they were kids.  You have to write more to get better at it.  Reading a lot helps, too.

Catch Keith online at:

“http://www.keithwalkerbooks.com/

https://www.facebook.com/keith.t.walker?ref=name

https://www.instagram.com/keithwalkerbooks/

https://twitter.com/kwalkerbooks”

Check out Keith’s current and upcoming romance releases in the Contemporary and Urban Romance sections on this site!