We have another lovely visitor to the blog today, Elise Marion! Elise is an army wife and stay at home mother to three children, living in Texas. When she’s not writing, she’s singing or cooking; just my kind of person! I’ve reviewed one of her books at the end of this post, so please be sure to scroll right through.
I asked Elise 5 questions and her answers are heartfelt and genuine:
1. What does the term “Diverse Books” mean to you?
This is a really great question, because when we hear the term ‘diversity’ we automatically think of diversity in race/ethnicity, which is only part of what diversity really means. To me, diversity is about culture as well as race, different perspectives and lifestyles, sexual orientation, body type … I mean this list could go on. All of the things that make the people of this world uniquely ‘them’ is what diversity is all about to me.
2. How do you think we should encourage more diversity in the literary world?
I think it’s important to first recognize that diversity is lacking. This can be hard for some, because things have been a certain way for so long. But the outcry for representation for all is swelling and growing. Readers of color are no longer satisfied reading books starring mostly-white main characters with the occasional sassy black or Latino girl sidekick thrown in for ‘flavor’. Plus-size and curvy women are no longer satisfied reading romances in which the only girls finding love are leggy blondes with 20 inch waists. People of Asian and Native American cultures are sick of reading themselves in offensive stereotypes. In a nutshell, people are craving stories that give a more accurate depiction of what the world is to THEM, because for so long there’s only been one predominant perspective. So now that we know there’s a lack, a serious issue, it’s time for us all to do something about it. For publishers this means actively seeking diverse stories and authors. For authors this means providing that much-needed diversity, but without becoming stereotypical or just sprinkling their story with that ‘flavor’ I mentioned above, because that’s just counterproductive. For readers this means throwing their support behind the sorts of books that buck trends and stereotypes.
3. Are there any diverse characters (religious, ethnic, disabled) etc that you’d like to see more of in books?
I think there’s so much that needs to be done. Especially when it comes to stories of people with disabilities. I hardly ever come across these stories, and always appreciate reading the few I’ve found that manage to depict the disabled as strong, funny, smart … not someone to be pitied or coddled.
I think authors who are taking up this campaign for diversity have our ‘platform’. For me, personally, it’s all about empowering women in romance, and portraying women of every stripe. I grew up on romance and the heroines were always weak, simpering white women with tiny waists, long, flowing hair, and were just so sensual (yet unaware of their own sexuality until they met the hero), that the man in the story just couldn’t help themselves. I want more than that from romance. I want strong women. I want black, Asian, Latina and Hispanic women. I want women with curves, or women with no curves at all. I want imperfect women who own their sexuality and challenge the men in their lives (and I don’t just mean by resisting amorous advances up until the last second). And within creating these multi-dimensional women, I strive to incorporate diversity in other ways (religion, occupation and social status, hair and body type). I think if all authors find the ‘thing’ they can best contribute to diversity in literature, the landscape of bookstores would be so different than it is now. In a wonderful way.
4. Your Chained Trilogy novels have a varied cast of characters. How do you write people of different cultures in an authentic way?
Romance is my favorite genre, with Fantasy at a very close second. One problem I have always encountered as a reader of Fantasy is the serious lack of people of color. I mean, we can have talking animals, hobbits, elves, and Fae, but no black people? It irked me, because I know women of color who love fantasy as much as I do. We’re some serious nerds, and as much as we love fantasy, there has always been this gaping hole where the girl who looks like us should have been. So for me, the Chained Trilogy (which is Medieval fantasy romance) was my answer to that problem. The story is about two feuding clans, and how the son of one clan and the daughter of the other fall in love and together try to repair the rift between their families. I made the two clans very different from each other, but not just by making them racially different. I think slapping color on a character and calling it a day is a very lazy approach to diversity. So for me, that series became all about showing how different these people are culturally when it comes to their customs and beliefs, but also similar they are as human beings, families, lovers, brothers, wives, etc. Because that is a true representation of our world: people of different stripes with common ground that *should* be a uniting factor.
5. Please tell us some of your favourite diverse books and/or authors.
I’m a huge fan of Beverly Jenkins, who writes historical romance about people of color. Historical is my favorite subgenre of romance, and for so long those books were predominantly about white protagonists. When I discovered her, I was elated ! She was the first author of color I ever read in the historical romance genre. I also really enjoyed a book called The Mind’s Eye by KC Finn. The author is disabled, and so is the heroine of this story. It’s historical (set during WWII), and has a paranormal twist. I also really enjoyed the Crimson Footprints novels by Shewanda Pugh. Those are interracial romance between a biracial woman and Japanese man and deal a lot with racism between their families, stereotypes, and some pretty heavy issues.
There are so many more, but I think I’ve rambled on long enough! There are a lot of authors out there writing diverse stories!
Thank you so much, Elise!
If you’d like to know more about Elise and her books, her website is here: http://www.elisemarion.com
She’s also founded a business called Mosaic Stock, which aims to provide more diverse stock photos for authors to use on their book covers. You can find out more about that here: http://www.mosaicstockphotos.com
Since she was coming onto the blog as a guest, we took the opportunity of reviewing her book, The Guardians, available here:
Our review – When I downloaded this book I wasn’t aware that there were prequels so I haven’t read them. I don’t know if that has affected my view of the book, but if you’re already a fan of Elise Marion’s work, just bear that in mind.
The story focuses on a semi-traditional battle between good and evil. Demons have opened portals to earth from hell and it is the job of the Guardians and Angels to restore order. There are also hybrids, born of angels and demons having kids with humans.
There are two main characters – Jack and Addie. He’s a Guardìan; she’s a stripper and the chosen one. Addison was was a well developed character from a tough background, making the best of what she has to get a step up in life but she’s also emotionally quite damaged. Jack is less well developed, with a past that’s hinted at more than explored, but I think he features in the prequels, which may explain why his and Micah’s backgrounds aren’t clear.
Watching the relationship blossom between them, culminating in a steamy scene in a New York roof, was great. Although the attraction is instant, there’s a definite fear of loss in there which made it bittersweet.
The supporting characters, with the exception of Micah, are mostly non-entities. They come and go with little real bearing on the story.
I think probably my favourite part of the book was the descriptions of the cities. The story starts in New Orleans, moving on to New York and then on to Ethiopia. They’re really well written descriptively, especially New Orleans.
All in all, there’s a complex cast here and a lot of world building and rules to get your head around but it’s a worthwhile investment if you’re looking for a new series to enjoy.
The editing was pretty good. I can’t bring any errors to mind.
One note of warning is that this book does not have a happy ever after, or even a happy for now. That said, the ending is left wide open for picking up in the second book (cliffhanger!) so don’t let that put you off. Definitely recommended! We’ll certainly be reading more of Elise’s work.