Today we welcome author Xio Axelrod to the blog for an interview about diversity in books. Xio lives in Philadelphia and grew up in the music industry before her web serial, Starstruck, became a viral hit. I caught up with this lovely lady to ask a few questions:
1. What does the term “Diverse Books” mean to you?
As an author (and a musician), I’ve made diversity a part of my “brand”. Not because it’s trendy or topical, but because it is who I am and what I believe in. I write about the world I live in, and that world includes a panoramic view of cultures, races and orientations. When I pick up a novel, I want to be transported. Whether I’m introduced to a new land, a new neighbourhood, or a new way of looking at something, I love to have my mind expanded. There’s no better vehicle, outside of travel, than through the arts.
2. You grew up in the music industry and are still active in it. Do you feel that diverse artists face the same challenges in the music industry as they do in the literary industry, or is the literary industry unique in the challenges it presents?
Much to my dismay, I’ve found that things are essentially the same in both industries. As a rock/pop artist, I’ve had to fight my way into venues that assume – based on the colour of my skin – that I perform a style of music that their audience doesn’t want to hear, i.e. jazz or soul in a rock club. In publishing, I’ve run into the same thing. I’ve had agents, publishers, and even other writers, assume that I write a specific type of fiction just because of who I am. Some are shocked when I correct their assumption. Some are incredulous, and that’s not insulting at all.
3. You mention the FOXes on your website. Can you tell us a little bit about these lovely ladies and do you feel that you are a diverse group?
The FOXes, or Friends of Xio, are authors that I feature from time to time. I know a lot of authors, writing in many different genres. I want to expose my readers to writers that they may not have thought to read. The only theme is good books written by talented people. These ladies (and gentlemen) are from all walks of life.
4. You describe yourself as a “global citizen” and you’re certainly no stranger to setting books in other lands. Could you please explain your approach to this philosophy and tell us about how you create authentic characters from other cultures?
When I was a child, the only travel I did was through reading. Even now, I love it when a book sets me down in a land that I have never visited. Books like that make me want to hop on a plane. I travel a lot, both for business and for pleasure, and I have lived outside the U.S. (In a full tour year, I spend about two months in Europe.) The first time I set foot on foreign soil, my mind was blown. Blown! I realized that I was a proud American, yes, but also so much more than that. I was a citizen of the world, a world that is getting smaller every day. We’re all connected. My characters are born of that wanderlust and curiosity about other lands. If I can’t do the research in person, then I do a ton of research – everything from locations, to local foods, to slang terms – to create people as close to authentic as possible. It helps that I have friends all over the world.
5. Please share with us some of your favourite diverse authors and/or books.
The Maybe Series by Kim Golden, set in Scandinavia, is one of my absolute favourites. I’ve known Kim most of my life, but didn’t know her as a writer until two years ago. She’s so impressive. Other faves include Sugar Jamison (Ginger Jamison), Laura Kaye, L.A. Banks, Nana Malone and Robin Covington. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Thank you, Xio!! So nice to see a shout-out for Kim; we had her earlier in the month 🙂
Xio also sent us a copy of her novella, The Calum, to review!
The Calum is available here:
This is a short and sweet read (I read it over a lunch break) but don’t be fooled into thinking that means it’s not a well-developed story with complex characters, because it really is.
Lovie doesn’t want to spend Christmas in Scotland so her best friend can find a gorgeous highlander laird. She’d rather be sunning herself in the Caribbean. Things go from bad to worse when she suddenly finds herself as the third wheel on the bicycle when her friend does find a gorgeous highlander. Enter Duff, handsome, enigmatic and clearly hiding enough secrets to sink a flotilla.
Lovie is a fun and sassy character and I liked her very much. I liked Duff too, especially in the scenes with his grandmother. He’s kind of bitter and cynical on the surface, but you don’t have to scratch too deeply to find the real him underneath. I liked his back story too and it resonated strongly with me – small town gossip is the same the world over!!
It was really brave to send a book set in Inverness to someone that lives here, but I have to say that it was immaculately researched. Bar a handful of dialect and scenery misfires, the vast majority of it was spot on and that’s really impressive. I’ve actually been to those food and craft fairs at Eden Court (not just for tourists, thank you very much lol) and I could picture the exact stalls she was talking about!
The editing was great and the cover is pretty too.
I’d definitely recommend this as a light, sweet, slightly saucy book for a fun afternoon 🙂