Writers find their stories and characters in different ways. Lisa Y. Watson’s path to becoming an author began with a 80s TV show and a whisper from the universe urging her to attend a romance convention. That’s where she dared to accept an offer to co-write a book. Sixteen years and fifteen books later, she’s a national bestselling author who challenges herself to deliver love and romantic suspense stories that keep readers awake in the middle of the night and the pages turning. Lisa joined Diverse Romance today to detail her writing journey and share the experiences and lessons from which she’s learned along the way.
The saying “Fortune favors the bold” seems to reflect your writing journey. Tell us how you became a published author.
How I got started was by writing fan fiction for the popular 80’s TV show, Remington Steele. I loved the show, stumbled across fan fiction sites and was hooked. I started writing short stories based on the characters and developed quite an International following. While online, I came across the Romance SlamJam convention back in 2002. It was in Raleigh/Durham for a weekend. I lived in Aurora, Illinois. It was spur of the moment, and I had small children, but something was pressing me to go. So, my mom came up to help my husband watch the kids and I hopped a plane.
As an aspiring writer, attending the writer’s convention was the proverbial kid-in-the-candy-store experience. Here were all these big-named authors there, like Beverly Jenkins, Brenda Jackson, Donna Hill, Gwynne Forster, and the late Leslie Esdaile Banks (LA Banks). It was truly a wonderful experience getting to me them in such an intimate setting. And to see so many beautifully talented authors of color. Truly inspiring. I also [met] two ladies there that are now like sisters to me. One of them, Christian Romance author, Pat Simmons cornered me on her way out of a pitch to an editor. She literally walked up to me and said, “Lisa, wanna write a book with me?” I said, “Uh, yeah.” And the rest was history. We wrote the anthology, Love is Blind, with Essence Bestselling Author, Parry “Ebony Satin” Brown-Abraham and the rest is history. So, my advice to aspiring authors is to surround yourself with like-minded people, and don’t be afraid to attend writer’s groups, and conventions. It could change YOUR life forever. You walk in alone, I guarantee you’ll come out with at least one new friend and maybe even a book deal!
That’s some great advice—and a challenge for us introverted writers. Shifting gears a bit, tell us what sparked the idea for your new romantic suspense series.
The Love and Danger series I’m working on centers around characters that either meet, or re-connect under very intense, dangerous, circumstances. For the first book in the series coming out this summer, Dangerous Desires, the main characters parted ways, but find themselves orbiting each other again when one finds themselves in a life-or-death situation. It’s an IR (Interracial Romance) centered a sexy, smart, and no-nonsense scientist, and woman of color, Dr. Marena Benson, and her ex-boyfriend, and love of her life, gritty, gorgeous, and incredibly flawed, Colonel Coulter “Colt” McKendrick.
Your book Interview with Danger looks like a page-turner. What’s it about?
My latest novel, Interview with Danger, is a Romantic Suspense that centers on newly published author, Sasha Lambert. She writes a book entitled, The Passport Diaries. The book is loosely based on unforgettable people, and exotic locales she’s visited during her romance with with her Greek boyfriend, Milo Georgopoulos. Though she breaks up with him when his web of lies surrounding his marital state starts to crumble, he wants her back. There’s just one catch. She needs to ditch her tell-all book. And he’s not the only one whose feathers have been ruffled by Sasha’s new book. Her twin sister’s brother-in-law, Pierce Deveraux is also suffering blowback from her intriguing novel. In fact, he loses a few sports endorsements when he’s mistaken for one of the characters in her page-turner. Livid, Pierce hops a plane to London to confront Sasha about the damage she’s done to his livelihood. Neither one is prepared for the series of events that happen after their heated meeting takes place.
Woo! This has got me reaching for my one-click. What five words would say best describe Interview with Danger.
Hmm…Romantic. Dangerous. Turbulent. Chemistry. Blindsided.
One click indeed! Would you say there’s a prevalent theme or message?
One of the most important messages in this novel is a theme that I carry through all my novels. Family is everything. At the end of the day, they have your back no matter what. When one is in peril, a strong family-unit circles the wagons and watches your back. And also that love isn’t perfect. It’s flawed, messy, and doesn’t always show up when it’s convenient, and on your time schedule. When you least expect it…expect it.
How about sharing a couple of your favorite lines from the book to give readers a flavor for the characters?
“I just don’t understand,” she choked out. “Who would do something like this?”
Pierce shrugged while watching events unfold around them. “Apparently, someone else you’ve pissed off.”
“You hang on his every word, you can’t even say his name without smiling, and he looks at you like he’s a man starving to death and you’re butt naked wearing nothing but a pork chop and a bow.
Ha! Great quotes. If your latest book had a soundtrack, what would be the first three songs?
You Don’t Own Me (Lesley Gore), Loved Me Back To Life (Sia, song by Celine Dion), Moments in Love (Art of Noise). The last two were on my “Writing” playlist and I played them constantly while writing a few scenes.
Writing isn’t an easy task and it certainly doesn’t happen by magic. It’s one task that often leaves writers asking other writers, “How do you do it?” Share with us a few details about your writing space and routine.
My writing space is anywhere I’m at with my laptop. I’ve recently moved, so I’ve lost my designated office, but normally I’m on a couch with my laptop and two lap dogs, Brinkley and Lily by my side. Lily’s a puppy and hasn’t grasped the concept of not walking on, or licking mommy’s laptop, so when she gets going, she gets put in her kennel so I can work. Brinkley knows the deal and is very accommodating. I work full-time, from home, and I’m usually writing for work all day, so I eke out time where I can in the evenings to work on my novels, and social media. I’ve got note pads everywhere, so if inspiration strikes, I’m covered.
When deep in the thick of writing, pushing through our routines, readers often keep writers going in tough times. What’s a favorite comment you’ve received from your readers?
My favorite is when a reader tells me that they lost sleep because of a book of mine they were reader. I was a reader before I was a writer. So I’ve been there. Delaying eating, bathroom breaks, work, etc. because I was so wrapped up in the novel I was reading that I didn’t want to put it down. That to me speaks volumes. It is what makes me want to continue to do what I do. To write novels and try to get them out there to the readers that may benefit in some way from what I have to say.
On the flip side of that, what would you say is your worst critique? How did you handle it?
I recall being down about a harsh review I’d received for Love Contract from The Match Broker Series (Harlequin Kimani). The main character, Milan Dixon, is mixed race, Black and Hispanic), so she’s bilingual. Much later she finds out that her counterpart, Adrian Anderson is fluent in Spanish. So, some of their dialogue in the book is in Spanish, but if one spoke in Spanish, the other answered in English so the reader could still follow the conversation. Most loved it, but one woman gave a scathing review and said if she’d have known Spanish would be in the book, she wouldn’t have bought it.
The review really got me down until one reader sagely pointed out that my stories will never be everyone’s cup of tea. The story will touch those that it’s meant to touch. After that, I stopped staying up at night agonizing over a bad review. Some people get so caught up in the anonymity of the Internet, and the seduction of being able to say whatever you want, to whomever you want, however you want to say it. Some lose sight of the fact that their words matter. I always choose my words carefully when doing something like leaving an opinion, a review on someone else’s work. Why? Because there is a real person on the other end receiving it. A living, breathing person that has feelings, and emotions. Writing a book, an opinion, a poem, letter, or whatever it is, is a very personal experience. You are giving something of yourself that’s coming from your very soul. It’s not something that is done lightly. And though we are in fact choosing to give ourselves over to public scrutiny, we are compelled to do so by Divine inspiration, by our Muse or whatever a person feels drives them to be creative. There is always more than one way to say something to get your point across. A way that can voice your displeasure, without coming at someone full-throttle with the maximum amount of venom. I always recall the sage advice my mother, and grandmother used to say, “If you don’t have anything nice to say…don’t say anything.”
What was the low point of your career?
Getting caught up worrying if I was good enough to continue writing. As far as how I handled it, I allowed myself the time to wallow (with ice cream), asked myself, who am I to sit on my spiritual gifts? And then got back to work.
With the lows, come highs. What has been the high point of your career, so far?
The high point has been the continued support from readers, and by going to writer’s conventions, being able to meet people that wouldn’t normally cross my path. I’m one of the publicists for the RT Booklovers Convention. I’ve attended over 12 of them over the years, and it’s allowed me the ability to meet phenomenal people. Readers, authors, movie stars, television and soap opera stars, people who I’d have never met had I never gone to that first writer’s convention and set myself on this path. There is not one day that goes by that I am not thankful for, and humbled by, my God-given talent to touch people with my words.
At Diverse Romance, we believe that lifting up one diverse author helps uplift us all. Give us the name of a diverse author you’ve read that you would highly recommend to readers
LaVerne Thompson. She’s a phenomenal author that writes in several genres and is fearless when it comes to writing stories that engage readers.
What’s your favorite piece of advice to writers?
My advice to fellow writers: Don’t get caught up writing what you think readers will want to read. Write the stories that are in your gut, begging to be set free. When your heart isn’t in it, that comes through in your writing as if you’d used yellow highlighter on it. A very wise woman once told me, write as if no one is watching.
What is something your readers don’t know about you that you wish they would?
That I LOVE connecting with readers at events, and on Social Media, so if you want to reach out, don’t be afraid to do so.
You’ve certainly had a full career. What’s next on your writing journey?
Alexa King: The Guardian. It will be book one in my new Lady Doyen series. A Romantic Suspense series [that] will tap into the strength, power and purpose that as women all of us share.
How can we find you online?
Connect with me on Social Media: Facebook (NCLisaWatson), Twitter(@LisaYWatson), Goodreads (LisaYWatson), Pinterest (LisaYWatson), Instagram (LisaYWatson), and www.lisawatson.com
Thank you for joining us today! Please check out Lisa’s latest releases in contemporary romance and seasonal fiction.
Contemporary Romance Addicts!
Two words describe the reason you’ll fall in love with historical romance: Beverly Jenkins. Simply masterful. Whatever misperceptions you’ve got about historicals—they’ll vanish with one read.
I’d call Tempest, “How to get HAWT in the Old West.”
Woo! Romance and steam galore.
Set in post-Emancipation Paradise, Wyoming, we follow the mail-order marriage between the strong and sassy rifle-toting Regan Carmichael and cautious widower Dr. Colton Lee. Regan joins her ready-made family with a chilly reception and a fast bullet. Through drama, danger, and adventure the initial conflict evolves to deliver the happily ever after we crave.
For Elle Wright, finding love after loss is a driving theme, both in her new Wellsprings series novel, Touched by You and in her life. After discovering her passion for romance writing and landing her first publishing deal with Grand Central for the debut novel we now know as The Forbidden Man, the universe dealt Elle a devastating blow, one that threatened to derail a promising career. But she persisted through her life’s challenges and difficulties to not only finish the Scandal series but to begin two more. Elle took some time to sit down with Diverse Romance to reveal details on her writing and how a dream helped her work through her pain to once again embrace her passion.
Your journey to becoming a published author is a very relatable one. Why don’t you tell us about it?
As a child, I loved to make up stories. I played with Barbie dolls, and I would put my dolls through some serious changes. LOL Yet, I never thought I’d actually write a book. I’ve always loved television, so I wanted to write scripts for a soap opera.
I just sort of fell into writing novels. I started a journal in college, but I wasn’t writing about my life. My journal turned into a long, dramatic saga about a young black girl in college, navigating the world and her relationships. Soon, I would give daily updates on her life at dinner to my friends. Once I married and had my daughter, I was home with her and started putting all my journals together into a book (that will probably never see the light of day). I think that’s when I knew I could do it.
It was also during that time that my mother gave me my first romance novel, Indigo by Beverly Jenkins. I fell in love with the setting, the characters, everything. Indigo is still my favorite book today, and it changed my life. It inspired me.
A few years later, I had finished a novel I called “The Affair,” which would eventually become The Forbidden Man, but then I had a vivid dream about a group of assassins who hid in an elaborate bunker, five floors below ground. The dream was so real that I shared it with friends and family and they encouraged me to write the book. I did. I found a small, indie publisher that took it on and I published it under a different pen name (it is not available anymore). I didn’t know anything about publishing, other than what I’d researched online, so I took a gamble and signed up for the Romantic Times Convention in Chicago. My hope was the learn about promotion and marketing. I also figured I’d pitch The Affair. At that conference, I met Latoya Smith, who would later buy “The Affair” and my Edge of Scandal series for Grand Central’s Forever Romance. And the rest, as they say, is history.
I remember buying The Forbidden Man when it first hit the shelves in Target, and I couldn’t wait to read more from you. What’s on tap for your next release and what sparked the idea for your new Wellspring series?
Touched by You is the first book in my new Wellspring series. I love to set my novels in Michigan, and I tend to stick to the Southeast side of the state because that’s my home base.
After I finished Edge of Scandal, so many readers were asking why Caden (“Den”) didn’t get his own story, so I originally set out to write his redemption story. I knew that he wouldn’t find redemption where he was, and that I needed to get him away from everybody. He needed a fresh start.
An idea came to mind to create a fictional town with a mostly African American population. I knew I wanted the town to be small, but not too small. I also knew that I wanted the town to be the home to a large corporation. Wellspring Water Corporation was born. Parker Wells Sr. was the CEO of the company and basically controlled the town (and not in a good way). I liked the idea of building this town around the company and exploring the history between the families who founded the town. Since Parker Wells Sr. was the villain, I figured I’d start with his children. Although Caden didn’t make the final cut for this story, I hope the readers will enjoy Carter and Brooklyn’s story.
Sounds like a setting made for more romance and more scandal. You describe Touched by You with some powerful words — Intense, Emotional, Scandalous, HOT, romantic, and funny! Tell us more about the themes and characters.
Touched by You explores finding love after devastating loss. Carter Marshall’s house was set ablaze by a young white man simply because he lived in an upper middle class, mostly African American, neighborhood in Detroit. The beginning of the book opens with Carter Marshall, who has spent the past two years of his life seeking justice for the murder of his wife and daughter.
Carter needs a break from his life, and decides to take on a project with Wellspring Water. There he meets Brooklyn, who is dealing with her overbearing father’s manipulations. Brooklyn is unlike any woman he’s ever met, and she begins to melt the ice around his heart.
Brooklyn is the only daughter of Parker Wells Sr., and she has done her best to distance herself from Wellspring Water Corporation. She wants to help, not hurt people. However, her father has a business deal riding on an arranged marriage to a state senator’s son. When Brooklyn rebels, she pretty much loses everything.
Brooklyn and Carter meet by accident, and forge a tentative friendship that eventually turns to love.
It sounds as if there will be some sizzling chemistry between Brooklyn and Carter. What message do you hope readers get from this story?
For this book, I want readers to know that there is life after loss, that it is possible to love again, to be whole again.
Most writers can pinpoint some narrative or dialogue that cuts to the heart of a message or theme in their book. How about sharing one or two of your favorites?
Carter was so wrapped up in Brooklyn’s energy that he was rendered speechless when her mouth met his. A warmth shot through his body, right before it disappeared. Because she disappeared. And he couldn’t say if he was relieved or disappointed.
Brooklyn gripped Carter’s chin, forcing him to meet her gaze. “So forgive yourself. You didn’t cause the fire and you didn’t ignite the flames. You were a victim just like Krys and Chloe were. The only difference is you were the one that was left to pick up the pieces. Just like we have the right to choose our path, you have to choose to move forward. It’s not easy. But I have to believe it’s worth it, that life is worth the pain. Because on the other side of pain, is joy—even in the midst of sorrow.”
So, let’s switch gears a bit. To keep all of your publishers happy and stay on schedule, you’ve got to get words on the page. Tell us about your writing space and your daily routine.
My favorite place to write is in my bedroom. I usually just prop myself up on some pillows and write. Before I write, I queue up my playlist (every book has a soundtrack). And I also have to have the TV on mute in the background. Not sure why (LOL). I try to write every evening, but life sometimes happens.
What‘s one of your favorite reviews/comments you‘ve ever received about your writing? Who did it come from and how did it impact you?
One of my favorite reviews was the first one I received, from author J.D. Mason. “This gripping debut is packed with drama and a love triangle that will certainly tug at the old heartstrings. Ms. Wright’s entry into the world of romance is a memorable one that I’m sure readers will enjoy from the first page to the last.” WOW! I was on cloud nine after this because I am a huge fan and to know that she liked my book was awesome!
Along with those great reviews come challenges. What’s been your biggest struggle as a writer? And how do you handle it?
I think my biggest struggle changes with every book. LOL Right now, it’s finding the time. My daughter is a senior in high school, and it’s so hard to find the time to do everything I need to do for her, work a day job, and write. I have to force myself to sit down and focus.
The end of a challenge or struggle usually means progress. What’s been the high point of your career, so far?
Oh, there have been so many high points. Every day, I have to pinch myself. I feel so blessed to be on this journey. To be in the room with authors I’ve read and admired still makes me giddy with excitement.
But if I had to narrow it down to one, I would say my high point was the moment Ms. Beverly Jenkins contacted me about doing a signing with her in my hometown. She’s my favorite author, and I was absolutely ecstatic. That was years ago, but now I actually talk to her. LOL I have her phone number. And I’m still a fangirl!
The low points in our careers often serve as “come to Jesus” moments when we have to decide if we really want to be authors. What was the low point of your career? And how did you handle it?
My lowest point was absolutely the death of my mother. It was around that time that I was revising The Forbidden Man, getting it ready to submit to agents.
I couldn’t find the strength to keep going, even though I tried. It was the worst time of my life, because my mother had been so instrumental in my journey. She was my best friend. I had to allow myself time to grieve. Finally, she came to me in a dream and told me, “You have got to find a way to get through this.” God, therapy, a strong support system in my family, and time. I still struggle with it daily, but I know I have to keep going. For her, for my family, for myself.
Having lost my own mother at the beginning of my career, I think few understand how a death of that magnitude can take the air out of your lungs. I know your readers are glad you were able to overcome the dark space to write again. Shifting to a lighter topic, we always like to help introduce readers to diverse authors they perhaps haven’t read before. Give us the name of a diverse author you‘ve read that you would highly recommend to readers.
Of course, I’m going to say Beverly Jenkins. She’s my favorite author, and she’s phenomenal. But there are so many other authors that are doing their thing in this industry.
Beverly Jenkins, hands down, has been the most named author in Diverse Romance interviews. She is truly an inspiration. What‘s next on your writing journey?
Touched by You (Wellspring #1) will release on May 29, 2018. Wherever You Are (The Jacksons of Ann Arbor #2) will release on June 1, 2018.
I’m also working on another (or three) collaboration with the amazing authors, Sherelle Green, Sheryl Lister, and Angela Seals. We published a series called Once Upon a Bridesmaid back in September 2017, and we’re cooking up the follow up to that series with Once Upon a Baby for Summer 2018. So many amazing events [are] coming up that I can’t wait to reveal.
Basically, I’m all over the place. I’s tired, boss! (LOL) But I’m so grateful. This has been such a wild, crazy, emotional, fun ride. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, though.
I always think it’s great to pay forward your experience and best practices to aspiring writers. 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 something I heard. “Sit down and write the book.”
And a hearty Amen to that! Write and finish! What a great way to wrap up. Thank you for joining us, Elle! We hope you come back to visit for your next release.
You can find Elle Wright online at:
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ElleWritesBooks/
Please check out Elle’s latest releases in our African American Contemporary Romance section.
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.
What‘s one of your favorite reviews/comments you‘ve 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 you‘ve 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, what‘s 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. What‘s 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:
Facebook author/reader groups: https://www.facebook.com/groups/FictionFromTheHeart/
Check out Priscilla’s current and upcoming romance releases in the Contemporary section of this site.
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.
What‘s one of your favorite reviews/comments you‘ve 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.
What‘s 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 you‘ve read that you would highly recommend to readers.
What‘s 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:
Check out Keith’s current and upcoming romance releases in the Contemporary and Urban Romance sections on this site!