We’re absolutely delighted to be welcoming MJ Kane to the blog today. MJ is an author and also on the staff at the Romance Novels in Color website, which we were introduced to by Delaney Diamond earlier in the month.
M.J. Kane stumbled into writing. An avid reader, this once stay-at-home mom never lost the overactive imagination of an only child. As an adult she made up stories, though never shared them, to keep herself entertained. It wasn’t until surviving a traumatic medical incident in 2006 that she found a reason to let the characters inhabiting her imagination free. Upon the suggestion of her husband, she commandeered his laptop and allowed the characters to take life. It was that, or look over her shoulder for men caring a purple strait jacket. And the rest, as they say, is history.
MJ Took the time to answer a few questions for us!
1. What does the term “Diverse books” mean to you?
When I hear the term, I think of books that break the norm. Diverse Books are not your grandmother’s Harlequin Romance novels with covers featuring bodice-ripped heroines and long-haired shirtless men clinging to each other on a wind-swept back drop. Heroines are no longer helpless and the men aren’t chest beating Alpha males to the rescue. Today’s female leads are strong, independent, career, and family driven. Men aren’t perfect, have flaws, and can still be lovable and sexy. Bodies aren’t perfect and neither are their lives. Stories now feature characters of various racial and mixed-race backgrounds; characters that reflect today’s society. The stories are different, too. They are Contemporary, Mystery, Sci-Fi, and Historical. It means that as an African-American, Indian, Asian, or Hispanic reader, I can find books about characters that look like me, sound like me, and have experiences like me.
2. You came to writing following a traumatic incident in your life and now you write books about how the decisions we make change the course of our lives. What do you think are the most important lessons about diversity that people can learn through reading your work?
My goal as a writer is to have people walk away having learned something about the people around them and open their eyes to how much we all have in common other than the blood that runs beneath our skin. I want my readers open their minds to what others are going through, and to realize that when it all comes down to it, we all want the same things. Happiness, love, and families. The color of our skin and what others have to say shouldn’t be what keeps us from finding those things. Our hearts should lead us to what makes us happy.
3. You write interracial romance. Do you think it’s important to have specific categories of romance or should we, as a society, be moving towards the term “romance” encompassing all categories, regardless of colour or sexuality?
I am so glad that you have asked this question, so forgive me as I rant! My dream is that books be cataloged by genre or categories and that the race of the author be left out of the mix. As an author who is African-American, one of my biggest pet peeves is that my books are automatically put in the African-American category. I write Contemporary Romance and Women’s Fiction. It’s a happy coincidence that my novels feature characters of diverse or bi-racial backgrounds that fall in love, giving me the tag of Interracial Romance. But even with Contemporary and Women’s Fiction in the description, it’s often found right after ‘African-American’….as if because of my race, my novels would only be read by or are written for African-Americans readers only. I am an author who writes stories that focus on the reality of romance for women and men with topics that affect us all. Period. No racial tag should be attached to it. The characters that I have written about are African-American, Bi-Racial (AA/W), Caucasian, and Hispanic. The third novel in my series, Lonely Heart, features a white heroine and a Hispanic hero. (Coincidently, that is the only story that I have published that was tagged as Contemporary Romance without the African-American tag on it! So I guess if I truly want to lose the tag of African-American, I need to not write about African-American people????) The story that I wrote that had a character dealing with cancer is not about how cancer affected a black woman. EVERY race is affected by the disease. Black people are not the only ones who have broken hearts, become single-parents, or have to deal with major career making
decisions. So why on earth are my stories not found in the general category of Contemporary Romance or straight up Women’s Fiction? Why does Romance, the most money making genre in the world of books, have to be broken down by race? I mean if that was the case, Nora Roberts’s novels should be found in the Caucasian Romance category! But you don’t see that anywhere! (Okay, rant over!!) Now I’ll be real: Books are categorized by the genre because everyone doesn’t want to read a Comedy, a Mystery, or Sci-Fi novel, which makes sense. Most readers want to be able to identify with the characters they read about so it makes sense for books to be classified by the details. But it would be great if authors were allowed to categorize their books by the way they want them to reach readers. If I could, I would categorize my stories as both Contemporary Romance and Women’s Fiction, period, without African-American or Interracial Romance listed at all.
4. You’re an editor at the Romance Novels in Color Blog. What prompted you to become active in the promotion of diverse books?
Shortly before the publication of my first novel, A Heart Not Easily Broken, I had the privilege of meeting one of the founding authors of the website, Delaney Diamond. She and the website helped to promote my book, which is a BW/WM romance. When she approached me with the opportunity to become a part of the website behind the scenes as the newsletter editor, I happily jumped on board! Readers are actively searching out novels that focus more about what their lives are like and who they fall in love with. Because IRR Romance is still new to many readers and are not easily found on book shelves or online, it is a privilege to be able to support authors who are breaking the stereotypical mold of what Romance writing is all about.
5. Please share with us some of your favourite diverse authors and/or books!
This is the hardest question to answer! When I started writing IRR, it wasn’t because I wanted to break into the genre or had really read books based on it. All I knew is that the BW that I had as a main character needed a love interest and I wanted something different. I was watching Fast and Furious 2 and Paul Walker’s handsome face and white boy swagger was on the screen. I’ve always loved those blue eyes of his and figured that my character could easily fall for someone like him. Since then, I’ve let my characters tell me who they fell for, not the genre. In truth, the first IR couple I read about was in one of my favorite Nora Roberts novels, Black Hills. After that came another IR couple in a series that I heard other authors talk about, Sam and Allyssa in Gone Too Far, by Suzanne Brockmann. Since then, I’ve read some great stories written by Chicki Brown and Delaney Diamond.
About The Butterfly Memoirs Series:
Butterflies symbolize change, evolution, the shedding of the old and bringing out the new. A memoir is a story, a narration told first hand, of someone’s personal experiences.
Like butterflies in the spring that disappear into cocoons and emerge, completely changed, my characters are no longer the same when their story ends.
The Butterfly Memoirs are stories told by the characters themselves. It is Women’s Fiction, Contemporary and Interracial Romance. Each story addresses the realistic trials every woman and man face in a relationship. My goal is to inspire hope, comfort, and encourage anyone who may be able to relate to these stories.
To read more about MJ and her work, you can find her at the following places: