Bonne Anniversaire, Lavender!

So I just realized something this past Christmas – while I was busy doing all the crap you do for the holidays – that I’ve been writing romances under the name Lavender Parker for three years! Time flies when you’re having fun (and having crippling creative blocks, but I digress…)

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Although it’s a bit past the official three year marker, I decided to do a lil wrap-up of the past three years for myself and you, my poor starved readers. So without further ado, here’s some musings on my past writings and future writings as well:

Favorite Book (so far): The Burning One

This is difficult, but I think my favorite overall is still The Burning One. It’s my biggest flop, sales-wise, but I still love the unusual story. Especially near the end of the book, when the story shifts to South America and Cee and Indira really have it out at Indira’s farm in the middle of nowhere. It’s a strange, slightly controversial story but I’m happy I wrote it. To me, it’s one of the most interesting stories that I’ve written and explores the dark and shady areas of psychology and grief, as well as romance.

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It’s Deep, Fam

Recently a friend recommended to me that I check out Being Mary Jane, which is currently available on Netflix. For everyone who doesn’t know, Mary Jane normally airs on BET and it stars Gabrielle Union as a popular daytime host on an MSNBC-esque channel. The show follows her ups and downs in the dating world as well as in her career field. My friend texted me about it and it sounded up my alley and I had some free time, so I plopped down on my couch and decided to watch. At first, the show appeared to be similar to many romantic comedies – girl wants guy, guy shows up unexpectedly, girl is surprised and has a comedic freakout while she readies herself for guy. I was prepared to flick it off at the first sign of cliched or hackneyed writing because, let’s be real, I probably should’ve been writing my own novels and not watching TV anyway.

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As you can probably tell, I had some preconceived notions about the show. I thought it was going to be similar to Girlfriends which was created by the same producer. No offense to lovers of Girlfriends (including my boyfriend, who used to watch old reruns for shits), but I was never that into it (even though the theme song still gets stuck in my head randomly from time to time grrr) I also hadn’t heard much about Being Mary Jane in general. Everybody on Facebook or Twitter is always talking about Scandal or Empire but no one seems to be paying attention to this little show on BET. What a tragedy, though, because let me tell you – Being Mary Jane is great.

For starters, Mary Jane lives in Atlanta, Georgia in a ridiculously beautiful home. She dates ridiculously beautiful men and she herself is ridiculously beautiful (seriously, what kind of virgin-blood-infused youth elixir is Gabrielle taking? Gimme some!) So basically, it has a similar set-up to a lot of contemporary romance stories – MJ is a successful single woman who wants to settle down with the right man and have kids. And when I say ‘right man’ I mean educated, successful, and HOT. I could go on and on about the Hot Man Candy™ that is on this show but I won’t…

Yeah… pretty sure he knows he’s hot.

Mary Jane’s dating woes take up a good portion of the show and, as a romance writer, of course I’m interested in the way the writers tackle that subject. They do a great job, in my opinion. Mary Jane’s romantic entanglements feel fresh and are portrayed in funny and sometimes heartbreaking ways. Also, can I just mention that I LOVE that they portray female masturbation and female sexual appetite as a normal and regular thing? All the praises for that. However, what I really think stands out about Mary Jane as a show is the way she interacts with her colorful and dysfunctional family.

MJ has a well-known, once highly successful father, a manipulative mother with Lupus, an older brother who was once successful in his own right but now has drug problems, a younger brother in college who has a side job dealing weed, and – my favorite of all – a snarky nineteen year old niece who’s already the mother of one baby and is pregnant with another. Now, I’m not going to go into all the family drama or give away plot points but I love that the writers chose to give MJ such a rich and interesting family dynamic. The drama comes from the immediate situation – Mary Jane’s family is basically living off of her and she feels burdened and taken advantage of – but there’s so much more to it because the characters are extremely well fleshed-out and their relationships have a lot of layers. There’s no cliched or one-dimensional characters here. The writers have taken typical, cliched Black tropes – the drug addict, the unwed teen mother – and turned them into three-dimensional characters. They’re funny, flawed, hot messes who are all ultimately lovable and sympathetic characters.

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As a lot of you might know from my books, I have a ‘thing’ for writing families. I enjoy writing about family dynamics. Not only biological families, but also the families that we create for ourselves with friends and people who we meet in life and choose to love. I really appreciate that the creators of Mary Jane took the time and made it a priority to focus on her family. They could’ve chosen to focus mostly on her friendships or her relationships but I think the show is better for going in the direction that they did. It makes it richer and more well-rounded. It’s not only a show about an extremely successful woman with a lot of money, but it’s also about how the people who know her best react to her success and come to terms with it and, at times, take advantage of it.

Also, the show is just really funny, daring and sexy. Seriously. Watch it.

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Another show that I think does a great job of portraying another black family in a deeply layered and interesting way is Empire (although I’ll admit I’m not caught up on this latest season).  The show is wacky and over the top, but the family relationships (almost) always feel based in reality. Giving them the backstory of the Cookie’s jail sentence and their prior life in poverty was really smart, in my opinion. It adds a layer of desperation and the feel that, even though they’re extremely successful and rich now, they could easily backslide into poverty. Anyway, I’m late in talking about Empire, but the family dynamics were what kept me tuning in every week, as well as the good music.

And of course, Cookie is one of the best characters ever.

So there you have it. I hope you’ll all give Being Mary Jane a shot, if you haven’t already. I think I’ve gushed enough about it, so now I’ll give you some updates although there’s not much to report. I’ve been busy writing lately, but it’s slow going. No surprise there, eh?  2016 is gonna be all about playing catch-up with my series so expect me to be more active in the coming months. I’ll be updating about the third book in the House of Pain series, Beautiful Beatdown, soon. So if you haven’t read the second book, Spitfire Suckerpunch, you might want to get on that 🙂

 

(all images credited to owners)

Why Write Romance?

So I read this article yesterday on nymag.com. Historical novelist Eloisa James is interviewed and she has some great things to say about being a romance writer. That inspired me to write a little bit about why I choose to write romance.

First off, I’m a feminist.

Does that matter? Yes!

I decided to write romance novels because I like that romance novels are (for the most part) written for women, by women. Like rom-coms, melodramas, chick-lit, and soap operas, romance novels are often considered ‘not artistic’ or ‘less than’ because of this fact.  50 Shades of Grey and Twilight are just the latest punching bags in the long history of women’s lit and romance punching bags, but I think it’s unfair to make these two hugely successful outliers the ‘end all be all’ of romance. There are a TON of romance novels, with lots of different characters, storylines, and messages. As we true romance fanatics know, 50 Shades is not indicative of all romance, period. But since women are the ones buying and reading romance, I do think it’s important that there be some actual feminist thought contained behind all those bodice-ripping pages.

Straight up: I wrote Kiss of Ice because I was fed up with the types of heroines that were being written in romance. I was tired of the Bellas and Anastasia Steeles. There’s obviously something attractive about those types of weak heroines for a large portion of the population, but I am not one of those readers. I like a bitchy heroine, an active heroine, a difficult heroine, a smart heroine, a heroine that knows what she wants and goes for it. I like a heroine that’s not perfect and not sweet.  And I like a male hero who likes a difficult, smart, feisty, not-perfect heroine. I like the fight. I like the banter. I like the power shifts that happen. I like the clash of two people on an equal playing field.

That’s the important part: in the end, they’re equals. By the end of Kiss of Fire, Toni and O’Donovan are equals. Christophe and Annata are equals. One isn’t more powerful or any more ‘right’ in their relationship. One doesn’t dominate the other. There’s a shifting of power and a back and forth as they fall in love and they figure out how to be together, but in the end, the struggle makes it all worth it. That’s how I think relationships should be. I like when my heroes and heroines are a team. And, of course, I like the happily ever after of two people who are meant to be together. Who wouldn’t?

Not all my heroines are bitchy… but they are all complex and three-dimensional, because that’s how human beings are. Their lives are enriched by being in love, but the love doesn’t take over everything. They’re all successful and self-actualized in their own right. I like writing, and reading, about women like that. (P.S. I’m always looking for stories with heroines like that, so if you know any, comment below!)

Lastly, I decided to write romance because I couldn’t NOT write romance. Most of my writerly persuasions and inclinations lean toward romance. When I write scripts, I tend to keep the romance front and center as well, although I’ve written mostly action and horror scripts. I can’t help it! I love a good love story. By ‘good love story’, I mean a love story full of drama and stakes and real connection between two characters. When watching a movie or reading a book, I can’t stand when I’m supposed to believe that two characters are in love because I’m told that they’re in love. I want to see them fall in love. I want to see that moment when they realize that they can’t live without each other. I want to see that moment of heartbreak when they can’t be together even though they want to be. I love that shizz. I eat it up with a spoon!

Ahem.

Basically, I love the possibilities of the genre. I don’t fangirl everything that’s out there. Not gonna lie, I’m a harsh critic. But I live for that moment when I find a great book and a new author to stalk.

So why do I write romance? Because I love it!

To any other authors out there, why do you write romance?