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In this episode of The Turn On, Erica and Kenrya talk to romance giant Alyssa Cole about the state of literary romance, the importance of asking for help and why we shouldn't have to prove we are deserving of love to get Black books published.
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Kenrya: Come here, get off.
Kenrya: Our guest today is Alyssa Cole, pronouns she and her. Alyssa is an award-winning author of critically-acclaimed historical, contemporary, and sci-fi romance and thrillers. Her royal rom-com, “A Princess in Theory,” was one of The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2018. When she's not working, Alyssa can usually be found watching anime or wrangling her pets. Thank you so much for sitting down with us today, Alyssa.
Alyssa: Thanks for inviting me.
Erica: So, we just read your super-duper, mad official bio, but tell us, in your regular-ass words, what do you do?
Alyssa: I think my official title would be "island hermit." I write historical romance, sci-fi, contemporary, and I also have a thriller coming out next year that's a thriller with romantic elements.
Kenrya: How many books have you published since 2014?
Alyssa: I don't know.
Kenrya: I was trying to count and I kind of lost track, so I was thinking I would just ask.
Alyssa: After this year, I have three completed series. Off the Grid has three books, that's sci-fi. The Loyal League is historical Civil War fiction, and that has three books. Reluctant Royals is three books and two novellas. Then I also have, my first book is not in print anymore, I think, Eagle's Heart, which was a romantic suspense. Then I have a few novellas as well.
Kenrya: That's like at least 15.
Alyssa: Yeah, something around there.
Erica: Jesus Christ.
Kenrya: Right. That's inspiring, as someone who has written only five, I'm trying to get where you at.
Erica: Look, I'm just trying to journal every day.
Alyssa: I don't journal because-
Kenrya: It feels like work?
Kenrya: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Alyssa: Well, I always wanted to be a writer. I also wanted to be a comic book artist at some point when I was a kid, and now I've been trying to start drawing again, just because I used to really love it and I kind of stopped doing it because I figured, "Oh, if I'm never going to be good enough to do that," and then I started looking at when comic book artists post their drawings from when they were younger, and I was like, "Aw man, I should have…"
Kenrya: You're like, "I can do that."
Alyssa: "I should have kept trying." But also just because I enjoy it. I always wanted to be a writer. I also, at one point, wanted to be an Egyptologist, I think that's just, in ’90s, Egypt stuff was really big, hieroglyphs were really big.
Erica: So tell me you had the hieroglyphic necklace, with your name in hieroglyphs.
Alyssa: I had the hieroglyph stamp set, where you could stamp words-
Erica: I had that too. Book fair.
Kenrya: Yes, from the Scholastic Book Fair. I forgot about that.
Erica: So how did you settle on writing? You seem like you did have a varied career path past, how was writing what you settled on?
Alyssa: I always wanted to be a writer, but I didn't really know what being a writer was. My mom has this whole story that I've told before, it's a mom story, so I don't know if it's entirely true.
Kenrya: They like to embellish.
Alyssa: But basically that when I was a kid, when I was two, I would have my notebook that I needed to write in before bed, even though I didn't know how to write, I would draw pictures and have to tell my little stories. But I definitely remember starting to write when I was a kid, starting to write short stories. But, basically, I always liked writing and school. In grammar school and high school, I used to love doing the writing exercises and creative writing. In college, I majored in English, and I didn't know what I was going to do, I was just like, "Something will happen."
Alyssa: I did some creative writing, but it always seemed like something I would do at some point in the future, even though I had teachers that encouraged me and professors that encouraged me, they're like, "You should do something with this," and I was just like, "Yeah, maybe, one day." And then, at a certain point, I realized, "What am I waiting for?" It's actually because I started reading Literotica because I was looking for stories with Black women, and I found the Literotica site. And so I was reading stuff and I was kind of inspired, I was like, "These people are posting every week, they're really sticking to a schedule and getting their stories done." And so then I posted a few things on there, and then I, of course, stopped, I didn't finish the story. But then, eventually, I found out about National Novel Writing Month-
Alyssa: There were a few things that happened. I think, honestly, some of it is traceable to Twilight, too, in a weird way.
Kenrya: Yeah, because there was a huge fan-fic rush around that.
Alyssa: Yeah, and I didn't write fan-fic, I read some of it sometimes, but I wasn't even really big into it, but for some reason I felt like there was this thing in the air, like, "Romance, this is something accessible, people really can ..." I was reading about all the Twilight mania stuff and learning about fan-fic and stuff like that, and I was just like, "Okay, maybe I'll really give this a try this time."
Alyssa: So then I ended up doing National Novel Writing Month, using a couple of the chapters from the stuff I had started on Literotica, and then ended up finishing that, and that was the first book I had that eventually got published later, which was called Eagle's Heart and was about a Brooklyn teacher and an Albanian CIA agent. So then, after that, I joined my local RWA chapter, I don't want to get into RWA right now, but-
Kenrya: Oh, we'll talk about that.
Alyssa: But my local chapter. And then I started getting into more things. I had a friend who was a librarian, and I started going to events, there were starting to be more romance events, in Brooklyn at least, where I was living at the time, at Word Bookstore. So I started just seeing that this was a real thing I could do, romance specifically. I liked all kinds of books, but I think I always liked the happy ending and happily ever after, especially because, even when I was a kid, the stuff I would write could sometimes get very dark, so knowing that there's going to be a happily ever after no matter what, no matter how dark the story gets, like everything I write now isn't really like that, and I just like the good feeling you get when you finish reading a romance, so I gravitated toward that.
Alyssa: And then I met people, started doing anthologies, self-pub anthologies, with historical fiction featuring characters from marginalized backgrounds. And then, little by little, things just started to come together. My first series got picked up because I did a Twitter pitch, where you pitch the book, and it was like 140 characters back then, so that was how “Off the Grid” got picked up by Karina. I mean I was also getting rejected a lot at that point too-
Kenrya: That's the way.
Alyssa: I'm only mentioning the good parts that are happening, but my other stuff was getting rejected, and the things that eventually got published were getting rejected by everyone else. So one thing I always tell people is: you only need one person-
Kenrya: To say yes.
Alyssa: One person to believe in the book. And, for me, it always seemed like, even after I got an agent, everyone was like, "No. No, can't connect." But then, the last person, it only takes one person. Rejection sucks, but, at the end of the day, every editor is not the reader or the person for your book, so as long as you find one person eventually ... Then I just started writing more and more, and eventually I started writing full-time a couple of years ago.
Kenrya: Your books are really set everywhere, like from modern-day New York City, to Civil War-era Virginia, you have protagonists who spy, who create inclusive online communities, who discover that they're royalty. What pushes you to dip into so many different areas, and where do you draw your inspiration?
Alyssa: I don't know, I think I just get interested in different things and then I want to write about it. I get a lot of ... see something on the news. For example, Princess in Theory, part of it was because it was during the time when Nigerian spam mail was really in the news all the time and, even at my job, I was getting spam mail all the time, saying, "You could win this" or "You can get this money" or mail order brides and stuff like that. Most of it just starts as what-if, "What if this spam mail saying that you're betrothed to an African prince is actually real?" A Duke by Default was actually based on I saw an article about a modern-day swordsman in Attenborough who was looking for an apprentice, and I was like, "That would make a great romance," and I actually got to talk to him and interview him before I wrote “A Duke by Default.” So there is a real Sword Bae, I don't talk about him because I don't want anyone bothering him or I don't think he really is ready for all of Romancelandia-
Kenrya: The attention, right.
Alyssa: But maybe one day he'll want to step into the spotlight. But there are still modern-day sword makers in Attenborough. But it's basically just like what-if, I get random ideas in all different kinds of things, based on what I'm reading, what I'm watching, and then take it from there. Off the Grid was around the time when prepping started to get really popular because everyone was worried about the end of the world in 2012, which seems like so long ago. So, yeah, just taking things from the world around me and getting ideas about "But then what if two people fall in love?"
Kenrya: Right, in the middle of all of that.
Alyssa: Yeah, like the Civil War, but kissing, which was not easy to sell, people were-
Kenrya: I bet.
Erica: But going back to “Can't Escape Love,” what do you want readers to take away from it?
Alyssa: I think just the idea of following your dream, finding people who support you or who, in some way, help make you able to achieve your dream. I don't know if that sentence just made sense because I said it quite of brain-dead from being on deadline. Also, just the fact that, in all of my stories, and especially in The Reluctant Royal series, the fact that happily ever afters are for everyone. Any particular disability, neurodivergency, trauma, or anything that people might hold against you in the real world that we live in, unfortunately, is no impediment to stopping you from being worthy of love or deserving love, and love that isn't contingent on you suffering for it or not being able to just have a fluffy romantic comedy, happily ever after.
Kenrya: Yes. That's what’s up. And it kind of leads to our next question, this idea of making sure that everyone is included and able to see themselves. So, for those who don't know, there's a lot going on in the world of romance right now, when it comes to equity and real inclusion for writers of color, and you, my dear, have been instrumental in calling out racism in places like Romance Writes of America, RWA, that really seem hellbent on keeping Romancelandia white. My question for you is: what do you think needs to shift in this industry right now?
Alyssa: Right now, I think there definitely needs to be more people of color. That is changing a lot, I mean compared to a few years ago, but I still don't think we've reached a point of anywhere near where we need to be, especially compared to the demographics of the U.S. and also the world. I think there needs to be more queer romance, more lesbian romance, more bisexual romance. M/M is a whole separate category, it's not super represented in traditional publishing. Right now, I'm not talking about traditional publishing, which not everyone wants to be trad-pub, but, for me, I see it as a normalizing factor.
Kenrya: When folks can be traditionally published?
Alyssa: Yeah. The same way, for example, when you see a commercial with a gay couple or you see a commercial with a lesbian commercial, it's out there, showing the world that it's normal, because it is, and just also allowing people to feel included. And I don't even like the word "included" because included is that shitty-ass RWA cover, with the white woman-
Kenrya: Oh, helping the Black woman?
Alyssa: Pulling the Black woman up the mountain.
Kenrya: Did you see the remix that somebody did with her pushing her down when she fell and her shoe flew off? I died.
Alyssa: That was amazing. And this is the problem with talking about diversity/inclusion is that it makes white, straight people the baseline, and it's like why?
Kenrya: Right, why is that we should be aspiring to be in your club?
Alyssa: Yeah. For me, and like I said, I grew up in Jersey City, most of the people around me were not white, and so it's always ... I mean I'm American, so I understand racism and all that, and it's not even like that, with some kind of utopia without racism just because there weren't that many white people, but the idea that this is something strange or something that needs to be taken slowly, I don't know, it's just weird to me, I'm like, "This is what the world is like, why do we have to act like we need to only go ahead in small doses?" So, I think there needs to definitely be more queer people. Right now, one thing I've been thinking about a lot lately is I do not think there are any trans trad-pub romance authors. There's no reason for this.
Kenrya: Right. Especially people of color, because we've been looking for folks for the show.
Alyssa: I know there are people who are self-pubbing or who have been published by smaller presses. For me, at this point, I don't see any reason why there ... and sometimes people are like, "Well, did they submit? Do they submit their books?" Number one, yes; but even if they didn't, editors are fully capable and all the time go out and reach out to people and say, "Hey, I've read something from you, would you be interested in writing…"
Kenrya: Literally how it works.
Alyssa: "So-and-so kind of book?" So, for me right now, I don't see any excuse, and I think that needs to change amazingly as fast as possible. We literally just want people from all marginalized backgrounds who are romance writers, literally just want to write love stories with happily ever afters, and we can't do that without having to assert the fact that we are fucking human beings and worthy of love. A lot of the time I'm able to, I guess, just not deal with that because you can't really deal with that all of the time, but it's absurd, like why do we have to fight to write a story where someone falls in love?
Alyssa: I mean most racism, all racism, bigotry, when you really get on the face of it, is absurd, but for me particularly, the fact that you have to fight to write a story where ... Most people look down on romance in general, obviously we don't, but you can't even, just without any problem, write a story with two people who meet and fall in love and whatever happens in your particular romance, you have to become a freaking activist to write a love story, and it's ridiculous. With RWA, with everything going on in the world, RWA, I honestly don't know what the fuck they're doing.
Kenrya: They don't either, except for being racist.
Alyssa: It seems, to me, to be a backlash, it's just the microcosm of the United States of what's going on, and all over the world, to be honest, where there has been a period of growth of more diversity and people from different backgrounds, and then people being like, "You know what? No, fuck this. I would rather burn the whole shit down"-
Kenrya: "Than let you in."
Alyssa: For me, just thinking about how much money they've lost, how much money they've lost in the past two weeks-
Kenrya: Mm-hmm (affirmative), from people not renewing their memberships, yeah, canceling.
Alyssa: They canceled the RITAs, so they're going to have to refund all that money, everyone is pulling out of the nationals, and conferences are how most of these organizations make a good chunk of their money.
Kenrya: And folks are now refusing to speak, like we saw Beverly Jenkins is like, "Nah, son, not doing it."
Kenrya: They did this to themselves.
Alyssa: And it's getting all this press. But the main thing for me, at this point, I'm like, "Fuck them," but also they have all of this money, they have all of this infrastructure, and for me, that's the biggest thing, and especially given what I write, like with the historicals and some of the things I've been working on, the idea that things get built either by people from marginalized backgrounds, RWA was started by a Black woman, they get built by people from marginalized backgrounds or multicultural groups, and eventually the marginalized people get pushed out and then the white, straight people are left with all of the money, all of the infrastructure, The marginalized people have to start again and hope that it doesn't happen at the next organization, the next town, the next whatever.
Alyssa: For me, that was one of the things that really messed with my head because it's like this is just the cycle, and how do we get past this? I'm trying to stay optimistic. Because I was at the RWA conference this past summer, and I've gone to the last four or five and, for me, this was the one that really felt there were a lot of authors of color, there were a lot more queer authors, there were a lot more people who were deciding to give romance, RWA a chance and to see if they could be a part of this community, and it actually felt more like a community. I'm sure that things happened, but, overall, the sense was "We're moving forward."
Alyssa: For me, I was telling my friend, I was like, "There were enough Black women that I wasn't able to nod at every Black woman I saw." And there were all different kinds of people. The RITA ceremony was a celebration of the diversity, the people who built RWA, and I think that's probably what really set them off because that was at the end of July, and then this actually started in August because Courtney received the initial complaint in August. The situation happened, I guess, in August, around that time, but the fact that they actually pushed this complaint through, I feel like is not unrelated to the fact that it was just after the most diverse and inclusive conference that they'd ever had.
Kenrya: And just to give our listeners a little bit of context, that complaint was basically these two white women complained that Courtney was calling them out for their racism. I think the question that comes to mind right now is: it's clear that there need to be more Black women and other people of color writing in this genre, what advice do you have specifically for Black women who want to do what you do?
Alyssa: I would say the hardest thing is not getting dejected. Rejection sucks, it happens a lot, even when you're not Black and you don't have other marginalization stacked onto it, then you add those on and it gets even harder. So, I think sometimes you're going to want to give up. There have been times when people thought I was on top of the world and I was like, "Fuck this, I'm done with this." It's a hard business, and it's especially hard when, like I said, you feel like you always have to be kind of on your guard and defending your humanity to a certain extent. But I would say: write what you want to write. Keep pitching agents, keep pitching editors, talk to editors.
Alyssa: One thing I have noticed is that Black women are less likely to reach out ... I'm trying to think of how to say this. I've had random white women come up to me and ask me for favors, people I do not know, and they feel confident enough to walk up to me and be like, "I wrote this book," and that's fine, but I feel like we have been conditioned not to ask for things, not to ask for help, to assume that people won't help us because, sadly, on some level, it's true. But I think to just not be afraid for people to hear "no"; obviously, there's a line to be crossed where you could start being like, "Weird." But not to be afraid to, if you want to know something, ask someone; they might not tell you or they might not be able to tell you, but you can ask and find out. If you want to pitch someone ...
Alyssa: I think a lot of people who have been in the industry for a long time, at a certain point, were a bit traumatized because rejection sucks and people were getting mostly rejected by traditional publishing. So, I think it's hard to say, "Just keep trying," because that's not very helpful when you feel like crap and someone told you they can't relate to your character. In a way, it's kind of part of what you have to do. I was telling someone that, for me, I get rejected a lot, but I have a lot of those ideas, some of those ideas don't get rejected; the rest of them, eventually sometimes they pop up in other stories.
Alyssa: For example, “The AI Who Loved Me,” which was my Audible Original, it started out, part of it was a story about a hot robot guy, a project that didn't go anywhere. I also had a YA, I wrote a whole proposal and everything, a futuristic, dystopian thing, everyone was like, "No, this isn't working," so that didn't go anywhere. But then when I had to think of what I wanted to pitch for the Audible Original, it kind of had these pieces for something that didn't work alone, but when I mashed them together, ended up working really well together. So, even though when you work hard on something and it gets rejected, sometimes that's something that is going to be a stepping stone to something even better in the future, or a different kind of project, or maybe it's going to be useful to you in some other way.
Alyssa: But I think a lot of it is, I don't want to say "Don't be afraid" because it makes sense to be afraid of being hurt again and again, but maybe try to think about each pitch and each possible rejection as something that could lead to something in the future. For example, I work with my editor, Erika Tsang, at Avon, and she rejected the first book I sent her. She was like, "Maybe send me something in the future," and I was like, "She's probably just saying that, she's just saying that to be nice," but then I sent her something and it worked, she liked the next thing I sent her. So, also don't assume that one rejection means that that person doesn't want anything from you ever.
Alyssa: The same thing with my first agent, I had sent her something and she was like, "No, this doesn't work for me, send me something else," and then the next time I sent her something, it worked for her, it was something she thought she could sell. So, sometimes you're going to be rejected multiple times by the same person, which-
Kenrya: And just keep going until it works.
Erica: It's not a "No," it's just a "Not right now."
Alyssa: Which seems counterproductive because sometimes people say "Not right now," and they're lying, it's hard to figure out, but sometimes you just have to hope that they're not lying and see what happens, because sometimes they really are like, "Okay, I'm not going to be able to sell this." But it's hard when you are a Black romance writer or you are from another marginalized group because that's the same excuse that's used to keep us out or to say, "We're not going to be able to sell this."
Alyssa: In a way, publishing kind of is a gaslighting industry, where you have to just have faith in yourself, and that faith is not always going to be there, you're going to have low times, you're going to have days or weeks or months where you're like, "Why am I even doing this?" or "Why am I putting myself through this?"
Alyssa: But I think, in the end, keep trying is all that you can do, and don't be afraid to pitch your weird ideas. If you can, have critique partners, beta readers, people who you can build a community with who are at the same stage as you, and who you can relate to and also grow together. I would say read and see what's doing well, but that, honestly, is only part of it because you don't really want to write the same thing as what's doing well.
Erica: Yeah, you want to fill your own gap.
Alyssa: So read what you like, read what you like and see what that makes you want to write.
Erica: All right.
Kenrya: What's next for you?
Alyssa: Next, right now, next year, the spinoff series from Reluctant Royals, which is Runaway Royals, the first book is “How to Catch a Queen.” If you've read “A Prince on Paper,” the couple in that book, they make an appearance in that book, and it's a couple who are already married and who had an arranged marriage, but their marriage comes with a marriage trial, so they can ... It's hard to explain right now because of my brain leaking out of my ears, but basically it's a couple with an arranged marriage and she has trained for her entire life to be a queen, she really wants to be a queen, for her own personal reasons. This character, the heroine showed up at the end of “A Princess in Theory,” she was briefly there as the woman who his parents brought in to be his fiancé, when they didn't approve of Naledi. She's there literally for like a couple of pages, but I was like, "She kind of had a messed up cameo in that book," so I wanted to give her a happily ever after too.
Kenrya: Aw, I love that.
Erica: You're doing right by your characters.
Kenrya: Yeah. Does that come out in 2020 or does that come out in 2021?
Alyssa: In 2020.
Alyssa: And then I have a thriller coming out in September, which is a gentrification thriller, called “Erased,” and it's basically a woman who has recently moved back to her Brooklyn neighborhood, and her neighbors are all starting to move away, everything is changing, and she decides to make a walking tour. She does a walking tour and they only talk about the rich white people who lived there in the past, so she decides to make her own walking tour, and ends up getting an assistant, one of the new neighbors who has moved in, and they start to possibly discover a conspiracy behind the gentrification of the neighborhood.
Kenrya: This sounds like real life.
Alyssa: Honestly, when I was writing it, I was like, "None of this is really that crazy."
Kenrya: For folks who want to find you and to keep up with what you have going on next so that they can get those books, where can they find you?
Alyssa: You can find me on my website at AlyssaCole.com. I'm on Twitter and Instagram as @AlyssaColeLit, L-I-T. And I also am restarting my newsletter, and it's going to be based on Girls with Glasses, which is the website in “Can't Escape Love,” and the first one is launching on January 10th, and hopefully will be out about every two weeks.
Kenrya: That's dope. And folks can subscribe to that via your website?
Alyssa: Yes, once I add the link. Good reminder.
Kenrya: That is awesome. Well we're so glad you talked to us today, we are huge fans and have read several of your books, so we're really excited that we got to share one of your books on the show this season and that we got to talk to you, so thank you for that.
Alyssa: No, thank you for having me.
Kenrya: Well, that's it for this week's episode of The Turn On. Bye.
Erica: This episode was produced by us, Erica and Kenrya, and edited by B'Lystic. The theme song is from Brazy. We want to hear from y'all, send your book recommendations and all the burning sex and related questions you want us to answer to TheTurnOnPodcast@gmail.com. And please subscribe to this show on your favorite podcast app, follow us on Twitter, @TheTurnOnPod, and Instagram, @TheTurnOnPodcast, and find links to our books, transcripts, guest info, and other fun stuff at TheTurnOnPodcast.com. And, remember, The Turn On is now a part of the Frolic Podcast Network. You can find more shows you love at Frolic.Media/Podcast. Thanks for joining us, and we'll see you soon, holla.
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In this episode of The Turn On, Erica and Kenrya read from Alyssa Cole's "Can't Escape Love" and talk about asking for help and not making current partners pay for the sins of past partners.
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Kenrya: Come here. Get off.
Erica: Hello and welcome to this week's episode of The Turn On.
Kenrya: I love it.
Erica: Hey, y'all. Welcome back. This week we are reading "Can't Escape Love," which is a Reluctant Royals Novella by Alyssa Cole. This was published in 2019 and we're just going to jump in. Sit back, relax, get your wine, get your weed, get you whatever you need and enjoy.
Kenrya: "Can't Escape Love," (a Reluctant Royals Novella) by Alyssa Cole. "You know what I've been thinking about all week?" "Maybe the same thing I've been thinking about?" Her voice was husky and she was hot to the touch where their skin brushed. "If it's my head between your thighs, then yep, it's the same thing." "Oh, my God," she laughed and leaned back in her chair eyes wide, cheeks flushed.
Kenrya: She shook her head and then looked down at him like she was an evil queen and he was her minion. "You're absolutely right. I've been thinking about that a lot and I may or may not have touched myself while I did." She arched a brow in challenge. Gus leaned up and forward on his knees catching her lush mouth with his before she could say anything else. His cock was already so hard and he just wanted to taste her. She held him by the front of his shirt as their tongues clashed and he regretted having worn the button-up instead of a polo for casual Friday.
Kenrya: He needed her hands on his body, but he didn't want to take his hands off her. He readjusted himself as he moved closer to her spreading his legs so that her footrest didn't press into his shins. "Pull it open," he said against her lips. "Just rip it." She leaned her head back by just an inch, but too far for Gus' liking. "But I know how to sew buttons back on. Do it." Then he closed the distance between their lips again thrusting his tongue into her mouth and sliding his hands up her thighs so both of his thumbs pressed gently into the heat at her juncture.
Kenrya: She gasped a muffled curse into his mouth and tugged at his shirt hard. Buttons went flying as she laughed triumphantly and then her palms finally spread over his chest. He groaned as her index finger brushed his nipple and she did it again. He used both of his hands to spread her thighs and one of his thumbs found the nub of her clit through the thin cotton of her underwear. He pressed slowly until her lips lifted slightly from the seat, and then he began to rub, slow back and forth motions, varying pressure depended on how she gasped and moaned into his mouth. He moved his other hand up and down her thigh dragging the rough palm over her sensitive skin.
Kenrya: Reggie's mouth ripped away from his on a moan, but she held on to him. She tugged at the lapels of his shirt sometimes soft, sometimes hard as if directing him, and the hard tugs were growing more frequent. She made a sound that was something like a frustrated squeal and threw her head back. Gus hadn't thought he could get any harder, but his jeans were painfully tight at the groin. He rocked back onto his heels and looked up at her. "You're so sexy." Her response was to press her feet against the footrest of her chair and lever her hips forward so that her ass was along the edge of the seat. Her knees were spread, her dress hiked up exposing her black underwear.
Kenrya: "Gus." She was a woman used to getting what she wanted and he was a man who knew what to give her. He knelt forward again, his hands sliding up and around her thighs to hold her in place as he tugged her a bit closer to the edge of her seat. He stretched the fingers of his right hand out over her mound and then curled them pulling her underwear to the side to reveal neatly trimmed dark reddish-brown curls and a slick brownish-pink nub between her folds. He ran his thumb over her one more time and then he nestled his mouth over her and licked.
Kenrya: "Fuck." One of her hands went to his collar and the other grabbed an armrest of her chair. "Fuck, Gustav." Gus swirled his tongue over her, then sucked gently, then sucked not so gently loving the way she cried out his name wanting to give her more pleasure. His own desire had overtaken him so that all he could think of was the scent of her, the taste of her, how she bucked up against his face and how she would feel clamping around his cock. He groaned against her clit, and Reggie bucked so sharply that he reached out to press down on her stomach and hold her in place.
Kenrya: Her ab muscles convulsed under his palm as she ground against his face riding out her orgasm, and then she collapsed back breathing heavily. "Oh, my God." Her chest rose and fell and then she allowed her head forward to look down at him. Her glasses were askew and her smile was sated that we're definitely going to have to do that again, but now she gripped his shoulders and slipped her feet from the footrest to the floor, then levered herself to a standing position.
Kenrya: He didn't move as she stood over him bent at the waist. She took two shaky, but definitive steps around him to drop into a seated position on her bed. She shimmied out of the beautiful emerald green dress she wore and tossed it across the room onto the laundry pile, then sat with her arms behind her to support her weight and her chin raised. "Now, you join me on the bed." Her breasts were encased in some kind of crinkled lacy bra that reminded Gus of the wrapper around a cupcake. Taking off that wrapper was his favorite part. "I can do that."
Kenrya: He wiped his sleeve over his mouth before standing and shucking his shirt, jeans, and socks so that he only wear his tinted boxer briefs, then closed the space between them. His mouth connected with hers and she wrapped her arms around him, pulling his weight down onto her, she lay back on the bed. His elbows dug into the mattress on either side of her as he caught her weight, but his body pressed up along hers skin to skin.
Kenrya: He settled between her legs, the length of his cock notching against her slit and her moans when she circled her hips to rub against him. "Condoms?" he asked. "Bedside table." He leaned away from her to tug the drawer open accidentally pulling it out of the nightstand completely. He grabbed a condom from a pink organizational tray and dropped the drawer to the floor with a clatter. "Sorry," he said returning his mouth to hers. Her rough exhalations caressed his lips. "Put it on. I want you."
Kenrya: Her words magnified whatever the feeling was in his chest, and then she reached between them to stroke them first through the fabric of his boxers and then sliding her hand under the elastic waistband and grip his erection. She ran her loosely circled fingers up and down his shaft, her thumb caressing the sensitive spot under the head of his cock as she did so.
Kenrya: Her hips rocked up against him and the desire in her eyes sent an arc of pleasure through him so strong that he bit his lip against the desire to pump into her hand and ride it to completion. "I want you," she said again, her voice an insistent whisper. "Don't say that again for a while," he said hoarsely. "I can only withstand so much." He stood, shucked his boxers and carefully rolled on the condom. He crouched between her legs to kiss her thighs and slide off her underwear before crawling into the center of the bed beside her as she clambered back. "Wait." He unlatched the hook on the front of her bra with one hand revealing the perfect dark brown tipped mounds of her breasts.
Kenrya: He teased her with his thumb and forefinger and she groaned. "Gus, I'm trying not to be demanding, but I really need you to fuck me or I seriously might explode." He laughed rolling on top of her and settling between her legs again. "I like it when you're demanding." "Lucky you." When she kissed him, a soft, sweet contrast to her words, Gus groaned and thrust into her. He sucked in a breath at the almost overwhelming pleasure, the clamp of her inner walls around his cock, the way her eyes slammed shut and she cried out. "Fuck," he breathed. "You feel good. You smell good. You taste good. You ...," but Gus couldn't talk anymore.
Kenrya: He lost his words to the sensation running down his spine squeezing balls, squeezing his heart. He wouldn't tell her what he was feeling. He would show her. He thrust into her hard not minding the burn in his scalp as she tugged as his hair and the crescents of pleasure pain as she left in his shoulders as she gripped him. She threw one leg over his hip spreading herself wider taking him in deeper and holding him closer. Gus buried his face in her neck, the sweat from his breath and her temple pulling where their skin touched, their moans mingling in the air between the four posts of her bed. "Yes. Yes. Please."
Kenrya: That one word urged him to slide her other leg up around his waist and lean forward so that his thrust hit her at a new angle. Reggie didn't like asking for things. If she said please, he would make sure not to disappoint. He looked down into her wide brown eyes and saw the moment just before her climax hit her just before her body went taut and her pussy clamped him so tight that he couldn't hold back anymore. He tried to say her name as the pleasure walloped him from all sides, but he thought maybe he only emitted a series of grunts.
Kenrya: Heat and light and pure ectasy exploded in him and somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew what he'd seen in Reggie's eyes. It had turned the last piece of the Rubik's Cube in his chest amplifying his orgasm so that he had to clench his teeth against the force of it. He collapsed on top of her and then rolled them to their sides pulling her close so that he could feel her racing heartbeat against his just for a moment. She didn't pull away despite their sweatiness. "That was ..." Her leg twitched between his. "Damn, Gus." She kissed him on the ear, a quick peck because she seemed to jelly-boned and satiated to hold her head up for longer, and he felt like it signaled some new intimacy in their relationship.
Kenrya: He finally opened his eyes feeling that sunlight on his face sensation again. She was grinning at him, eyes bright, and oh, God, he would have to be very careful because that impulsive feeling welled up in him with purpose. It'd only been a week since they met in person and he had to take this slow, not get ahead of himself, not dive headlong like she was a newly unwrapped puzzle. "What?" She kissed him again. "You're staring." Slow. Gus opened his mouth and that feeling that been building in his chest jumped out without his permission. "I love you."
Kenrya: Her brows rose in the warm lazy light in her eyes was gone in a blink replaced by an alert weariness. "What?"
Erica: Welcome back. Kenrya, that was a lovely excerpt.
Kenrya: Was it?
Erica: Will you give us a synopsis of the story before we delve on in?
Kenrya: Is that the word you wanted?
Erica: Dive. You know I be making shit up. Is delve a word?
Kenrya: No, delve is a word. I think it's maybe past tense-
Erica: For chocolate?
Kenrya: ... of something. Chocolate?
Erica: I don't know. I think about like a cookie dunking into chocolate, but whatever. This is so random. Kenrya, give us a synopsis.
Kenrya: It's okay. You reminded me I need to order those Girl Scout cookies. Yeah, I forgot.
Kenrya: I need to order girl scout cookies.
Erica: Oh, yeah. Nope. I'm still dealing with Christmas cookies, so I have so many Christmas cookies.
Kenrya: It's reminding me of what I have left to go get into.
Erica: Oh, my God. I have so many Christmas cookies.
Kenrya: Because y'all had gingerbread and stuff, too.
Erica: Oh, I just threw those out.
Kenrya: Oh, gave us a lot.
Erica: Because yeah. No, get these out of my house.
Kenrya: Yeah, yeah. I dig it. Okay, so “Can't Escape Love” is part of the Reluctant Royals series that Alyssa Cole does, so in the main books, it's like people who find out that they're royalty or all these relationships and one of the people in each of those relationships is always some kind of royalty. In the novellas, it's usually somebody who is related to in some way and maybe they work for one of those people or it's their family or whatever.
Kenrya: In this particular story, we are following Reggie who runs a ... It's like a nerd culture site for women, and her whole thing is women won't be treated like shit like they are in the mainstream world and it's supposed to be really friendly for people of color and folks with disabilities to make them feel and be included in nerd culture, so comic books and movies-
Kenrya: Yes, but not necessarily just Black, but yeah. Reggie is Black. She lives in Queens.
Erica: New York!
Kenrya: Yes. You had it for like...
Erica: That's my New York accent. Where'd you go? Eat a pizza pie.
Kenrya: That was awful.
Kenrya: But at least you tried. I don't even try accents. I'm terrible. At the beginning of the book, Reggie has a problem. She's having trouble sleeping and her insomnia is making her make mistakes at work and is feeding her anxiety, so she has decided that the very best way for her to deal with her insomnia is to write to this man whose videos she used to listen to fall asleep.
Erica: See, now if I can't fall asleep, I masturbate.
Kenrya: Well, we all have our things.
Erica: That's how I know if I'm having insomnia is-
Kenrya: Because your masturbation count goes up?
Erica: Yeah. Geez. You've been tapping that button a lot. Okay.
Kenrya: Yes, so she reaches out.
Erica: Her's is more wholesome.
Kenrya: Yes, but it's also a little strange, right?
Erica: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kenrya: To ask somebody. She's like, "I'm sorry. I'm not trying to be creepy, but your voice helps me sleep. Can you make some recordings for me?" He's like, "Nah, I don't know how you going to use my voice. Don't trust you, but I'll talk to you on the phone," because secretly they both kind of like each other. When she was first listening to his voice, he was streaming. He had like a stream where he would do puzzles, so he is Gus. He is Vietnamese American. At the time, he was living in California, but we find out that he now lives very close to Reggie.
Erica: Dun, dun, dun.
Kenrya: Dun, dun, dun. He had this channel where he streamed and did puzzles. He's like-
Erica: She didn't care. She just needed the voice.
Kenrya: Well, she found it because she likes puzzles, too, but the voice kept her there, and she just thought he was interesting. She was the only person who ever watched his stream, so they got to be friends.
Erica: That makes me feel so much better about The Turn On.
Kenrya: She would be like-
Erica: Someone's going to find us.
Kenrya: Seriously. She would be chatting and putting things in the chat and he would answer her questions and tell stories, so it was just the two of them for months just doing this, so she was plotting out her business during this time when she was working while watching him and it gave him ideas of cool things to do. He's an architect by trade, but is branching out to some other stuff, so eventually they end up coming into the same space and falling in love.
Erica: Oh, wow.
Erica: And sexy hijinks ensue.
Kenrya: They do.
Erica: Dot, dot, dot.
Erica: Okay, so I will start with just Reggie is dope.
Kenrya: Yeah, she is.
Erica: She has a lot going on and she has so many balls that she's juggling, and she seems to make sure that everything is covered. I hate using the strong Black woman thing.
Kenrya: Yeah, but it's what she's-
Erica: Oh, because Reggie is ... I mean, it's clear from the text that Reggie's in a wheelchair.
Kenrya: Yes, Reggie has ataxia, which is basically it impedes her. It makes it difficult for her to control her motor ... Her motor skills are difficult. She's kind of jerky sometimes. It's safer and easier for her to move around in a wheelchair, although she can move with a walker, and sometimes she takes it to the park, but none of that has anything to do with the work that she does except for that she wants to make the space more inclusive for everybody and not be made to feel like she can't cosplay because she's in a chair, that kind of thing.
Erica: Yeah, so I brought that up because it's one of those things of the strong Black woman. You look at her and people ... Reading her story, people probably look at it like, "Oh, she's strong. You're doing everything in spite of," and it's like, "Girl."
Kenrya: Bitch, that ain't got nothing to do with that.
Erica: I got shit I need to do and I get it done, but yeah. She really has it all, all of her ducks in a row-
Kenrya: She does.
Erica: ... and everything covered.
Kenrya: Except she can't sleep.
Erica: Except she can't sleep, but I think that could ... This is me being a therapist. Do you think that her not being able to sleep is maybe kind of a ...
Kenrya: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Erica: You know how you try to keep everything under wraps, I mean keep everything under control, and then something leaks and that's-
Kenrya: Yeah, yeah.
Erica: ... the leak in the damn, her inability to sleep.
Kenrya: Yeah, I think it is. Well, she says that her insomnia feeds her anxiety, and then she also says at some point that she had been watching these videos that were helping with that were made for ADHD and that they were helping her, so I think she's just like all of us, has a lot of stuff going on and your brain finds ways to pop it up on you, right?
Erica: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kenrya: That has been my experience, especially my anxiety and my insomnia. My shit was so bad last year that my therapist threatened to put me on medication because I wasn't sleeping. She was like, "You're going to crash and fucking burning if you don't sleep," because it's just this vicious cycle where the insomnia makes the anxiety worse, the anxiety makes the insomnia worse, and then you're just up wide-eyed in the middle of the fucking night.
Erica: Yeah, yeah.
Kenrya: Yeah, it's terrible.
Erica: Reggie, well, I said that Reggie has a lot, has everything covered, and I think I see this a lot in Black women where we feel like we have to take care of everything. It all has to be done.
Erica: It all has to be done correctly and perfectly and right. Do you think Reggie feels that?
Kenrya: Is that?
Erica: Yeah. Is that woman.
Kenrya: She has. She talks about having a hard time delegating. She has people on her team, but she don't trust nobody to do it quite the way that she can do it.
Erica: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Why you so loud?
Erica: Well, you know what? I'm less of that person.
Kenrya: Yeah, you are.
Erica: I am like, "Girl, y'all do it. If it get done, it get done. Figure that shit out."
Kenrya: Really? Well, but that came with what? Therapy and time,
Erica: Lots of time and lots of therapy.
Kenrya: She goes to therapy.
Kenrya: She does do that, and you can see her progress over the course of the book, but I think that's absolutely one of the things that she's dealing with and it's one of the things that I could relate to. Yeah.
Erica: Girl, as being your partner on this project, this project called The Turn On, I so see it so much more now.
Erica: Yeah. Yeah.
Kenrya: But I trust you on ... I don't ever-
Erica: No. Oh, I'm not saying-
Kenrya: I'm never over your shoulder or anything like that.
Erica: No, no, no. I'm not saying in the sense of ... because I think we do do a really great job of this is your job-
Kenrya: We just trust each other to do-
Erica: ... this is my job, that kind of thing, but I feel like you definitely have it in you to be like, "We got to do more. We got to do more," because let me tell y'all. If this was a Erica-produced situation, there would've been some weeks where y'all would've just been waiting for an upload and I would've been like, "Y'all know we coming back." I'm like Jesus. He came back. I will, too.
Kenrya: It is definitely that perfectionism.
Erica: He didn't come back.
Kenrya: He rose. He rose.
Erica: He rose and he going to come back.
Erica: I know that, but oh, shit, that was bad. Anyway, yeah.
Kenrya: That was funny.
Erica: I see that in you, and-
Kenrya: Because to me, there's never a reason to not do what you say you're going to do.
Erica: A bitch motherfucking tied.
Kenrya: I know, but I ... No, but that's the perfectionism in me and that's something I'm working on.
Erica: I think that it's great that we both do this together, and we had this conversation towards the end of the year, and I was like, "Okay, I'm going to let you go on this one because there will be a week where we going to be like-"
Kenrya: I'm like, "Fuck it."
Erica: I'm going to be like, "No," and y'all going to hear Kenrya by herself, which won't happen-
Erica: ... because Kenrya will not half-ass produce anything, or we just going to have to take a break.
Kenrya: Hopefully by then we'll have enough episodes to carry us or we can take a break.
Erica: Yeah, and if not--
Kenrya: You don't care.
Erica: I don't give a shit. I do, but at the same time, I have really, really learned to prioritize-
Kenrya: You have healthy work boundaries.
Kenrya: You have healthy boundaries around work and I don't.
Erica: But I think it's part of it is ... We going to keep going. I think part of it is because you are a freelancer, so you really have to push.
Kenrya: Eat what you kill, yeah.
Erica: You kill what you eat.
Kenrya: Same thing.
Erica: Eat, kill, whatever. You got to bring that, the bacon, to the table.
Kenrya: Yeah, if I don't work, I don't get paid.
Erica: The veggie bacon. So I-
Kenrya: I've never had veggie bacon. Sounds disgusting.
Erica: It sounds disgusting. I literally felt chalk in my mouth when I said that. Yeah, so I think that that is it. We have very different situations which allow us to have very different attitudes towards it. However, this 9:00 to 5:00 mentality is going to affect you one way or the other.
Kenrya: I don't know.
Erica: Now, as I transition to my outside ... I have made it the a point to say that this is my last 9:00 to 5:00 and I will be doing some shit on my own in the near future.
Erica: Now, I'm definitely going to have to take a page, front page or two, from Killa's book, but right now until then, nah, dog. Y'all niggas going to get what the fuck y'all going to get when y'all going to get it, but yeah.
Kenrya: Meanwhile, Reggie is definitely a perfectionist and she struggles with that.
Erica: Which is one of the symptoms of what?
Erica: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Kenrya: Yes, ma'am.
Erica: Yeah, she's codependent as hell, and you see it in this scene because she says to Gus ... Well, no, Gus says like, "Look, I can feel that she doesn't want to meet me," and I think that ... Well, let's go back. Codependency, can you define it well?
Kenrya: Sure. Well, I can try. In general, it means meeting the needs of others without meeting your own needs and it can show up in a lot of different ways, and one of the ways that it shows up is being needless and want-less, so that is how it comes through with Reggie. She's needless. She don't need nobody to do nothing for her. She got everything motherfucking thing covered. Get out of my face, and that's how she treats Gus at times. God, I could absolutely see myself in her sometimes.
Erica: Alyssa, you wrote the hell out of this character.
Kenrya: For real for real, but I think I'm a lot better at it. I have been working at it, but there was a time when-
Erica: The part of the reason that you know you're better at it is because you're able to see it.
Kenrya: Because I can see it. Yeah, because if someone had told me that before, I wouldn't have even understood what they were talking about, but yeah. It definitely come. That's how I saw it coming through in her was the fact that she was "needless."
Erica: Yeah. Going back to this strong Black woman, I think that she is just leaning into being a strong Black woman, and this is what I do because I have to. This codependency thing, not only does it get in the way of good relationships, but it gets in the way of good sex.
Kenrya: It does because if you don't have boundaries, but you have walls, which is one of the ways that codependency shows up-
Erica: Yeah, and we like getting our walls torn down-
Kenrya: In all the ways.
Erica: ... but not like that.
Kenrya: Yes. If you've built, rather than having strong boundaries which you can adjust to the situation and the person, but you've built walls which are immovable then hard to get past-
Erica: Boundaries are like fences, whereas walls are walls.
Kenrya: They got a gate. Yeah, exactly. She got some walls and they spend the book knocking them shits down and all the way she can think of.
Erica: Knocking down them walls.
Erica: Yeah. I think it's really cool that Alyssa wrote this character like this and was able to demonstrate it in this character, because I identify with her so much. Yeah, it's like I can do it all. I don't need nobody's help. I'm a strong Black woman.
Kenrya: Yeah, and then I think for her, there's this other element and she talks about it. Reggie, she says that in her past ... Well, she says in her head, right, because she wouldn't tell anybody this.
Erica: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kenrya: But in her past relationships, she's been with men who have made her feel like she had to meet them like she couldn't do things, so part of her strong Black woman thing is a reaction to that like don't treat me like I can't fucking take care of myself. I've been taking care of myself. I'm not waiting for some man to come so that I can fall apart and now he can put me back to-fucking-gether. I'm good, but she said that she had men who wanted to coddle her or wanted to fix her or wanted to ... What was the other thing? Coddle her, fix her, or tell her how to run her life in general and her business and all of that shit, and she's like, "I don't need that shit."
Erica: Yeah, you overconfident. Now she's overcompensating.
Erica: You put on this I have it all together, everything is perfect, so you don't even have an opportunity to come in and say-
Kenrya: That's right.
Erica: ... you need to fix or do, because I think it's a fine line in relationships with being open to criticism and critique and help and having someone thinking that they can fix you.
Erica: Especially with me dating older men, yeah, I find it happens and I ...
Kenrya: How do you handle that?
Erica: Well, one, I'm better at picking older men now, because sometimes older men are like, "Let me tell you how to do everything," but now I'm better at just ... My picker is better, but yeah. That is always a source, a sense of a source of contention in relationships with me, because even to this day, and maybe this is the vestiges of the codependency ... Is that the right word?
Erica: I think it is. Y'all know I be making shit up. I didn't take the SAT, so I be using them words.
Kenrya: Y'all took the ACT?
Kenrya: Yeah, yeah.
Erica: Midwest. Midwest.
Kenrya: Yeah, see, I took both, but yeah.
Erica: No. Mm-mm (negative).
Kenrya: Most people in the Midwest take ACT.
Erica: I took the bare minimum. Oh, the school let me in with an ACT? Bet, cool. I think there's vestiges of the codependency still in me where I don't ... I'm always open to critique and criticism from my girlfriends.
Kenrya: Mm-hmm (affirmative), you are. Yeah, you're really good at taking it.
Erica: I am really good at taking it from my girlfriends. From a man, it takes a little bit more for me to get it.
Kenrya: Why do you think that is?
Erica: Because you a nigga and you in here trying to fix me and change me and tell me what the fuck to do. It's just that simple, and I wish it was better than that, and I find that with some guys, one is about how you say it. I was dating this guy and he was at my house and it was something about feeding a dog, and he was like, "Yeah, you feeding him too much," or something about how-
Kenrya: What'd that nigga just say? It's your dog. Fuck out of here.
Erica: That was my complete and exact response like, "Nigga, fuck you. This is my fat ass dog," but then I was thinking like-
Kenrya: Do I feed him?
Erica: This nigga fat than a motherfucker. Not only is he fat, but he eats good twice a day and he eats anything anybody else has.
Kenrya: Yes, he does.
Erica: It was one of them things where it was like, "You know what? Maybe he was right," and my response a lot of times when men tell me something, it's immediately like a ... like, "Nigga, don't tell me that," but then I have to take a step back and be like, "You know what? I heard you. I got it. Thank you for sharing," because I don't want to be one of them know-it-all chicks, which I do know everything.
Erica: But yeah, it's like a knee-jerk reaction like, "Nigga, this my life. I will come ..." because I do feel like the guys that I date, they bring more than just dick to the table. Now, they do bring dick, good dick-
Kenrya: First and foremost.
Erica: ... but they're smart and doing well in their own right in their own space, so I do think that there's value in bouncing things off of people and that kind of thing, but I guess for me, my girlfriends I look at like you love me. You care about me.
Kenrya: Yeah, they get more of the benefit of the doubt.
Erica: Yeah. We got one girlfriend, Detroit Princess.
Kenrya: Yep, I knew that's who you was about to say.
Erica: When I tell you this bitch is opinionated-
Kenrya: She is, but she always has really good insight.
Erica: Yes. If you don't know her or don't get her, you are just like, "This bitch got something to say about everything." However, she is like, next to Kenrya, one of the people that I bounce just about everything off of because she has such good insight, but if you don't know her or understand her, you can definitely get the like-
Kenrya: She argues about everything [crosstalk 00:32:56] or whatever, but yeah. No, it's just that she really does have opinions and really good ideas.
Erica: And great ways of things looking at things, coming outside of herself to look at things. She can say things to me unsolicited and I'd be like, "Okay, cool. I'm going to take that into ..." Whereas, a nigga could probably come say the same thing unsolicited and I'd be like, "Who the fuck you think you know? You don't know me. You ain't shit," but yeah. I think that's the codependency in me, so I need to get better at ...
Kenrya: Or it could just be that you don't trust niggas.
Erica: Yeah, but I don't want to not trust niggas. I just want to be better at-
Kenrya: Calibrating that?
Erica: Calibrating my trust ... Well, I don't even want to stay trust in niggas. Trust in niggas' advice, because I were ... I were? I were in relationships. I was in relationships with guys that turned me into somebody that I allowed to turn me into somebody.
Kenrya: Because their advice was self-serving.
Erica: Exactly. So yeah-
Kenrya: Narcissist nigga.
Erica: Narcissist niggas. You're telling me I'm feeding my dog and making him fat.
Kenrya: There ain't much. Right. It's not benefiting him any.
Erica: My doggy is fat.
Kenrya: That's okay. He's a cutie pie. This is something that I've been actively working on. You tell me this all time. Sometimes I am defensive when people tell me things, and sometimes I just sound defensive because my general way of being is like, "What?" I've been working to better reflect how I actually feel about things with the way that it comes out of my mouth.
Kenrya: Yeah, and literally working with my therapist, so for me, that means taking a deep breath before I respond, smiling, because I had issues with this. I was like, "I don't want to be fake." I'm trying to make a fake face or whatever, and she was like, "But you don't feel defensive or upset, do you?" I was like, "No." She was like, "Well, the fact that your face and your voice makes it come across that way is the fake thing, so match up the way that you come across-
Erica: That's a good one.
Kenrya: ... with the way that you actually feel."
Erica: Your therapist is good.
Kenrya: Ain't she, though? That was a really good way for me to think about it because trying to smile through it and make my voice a little softer and all of those things just felt like I was shrinking myself because I had been in situations where I had to shrink to get by.
Erica: Where you were shrinking yourself.
Kenrya: Exactly. I had been working hard to, one, not be defensive, and then two, to not come across as defensive when I really am not, because sometimes I think I just come across that way because my voice is like, "What? What you want?"
Erica: I think in your mind it does, but it's not.
Kenrya: What do you mean?
Erica: In your mind, it comes off as, "What? What you want?" but it never [crosstalk 00:36:01].
Kenrya: Well, no, I think ... I've been told.
Erica: Well, I'm your friend and not a nigga, so I will-
Kenrya: This is true, so maybe it's a different ... Yeah. Yeah, it's not that way to me. Well, I do it sometimes in therapy and she be like, "Girl, all right. Just take a breath," so you know.
Erica: All right, so we punish niggas for the sins of other niggas, current niggas for the sins of past niggas.
Kenrya: Which is difficult and it's something Reggie does.
Erica: Yes. Yes. What do you think it is about Gus that cracks that shell for her? Because you can tell even in that scene, she wants it, but she wants to give you just enough, but not ... She wants to give Gus just enough, but not all.
Kenrya: I think she appreciates that he's direct, and I think she appreciates the way that he thinks and the way that he lets her in on the way that he thinks. Gus has autism and like I was saying earlier, he does puzzles and he looks at the world as a puzzle. That's his way of processing things and emotions because he feels like otherwise he may not actually see what everybody else can see in terms of how people react to things emotionally.
Erica: He touches on that in this excerpt where he refers to her as a puzzle and-
Kenrya: When he hears her speak, he literally will make that a piece of the puzzle, think back on other things that she said, select the thing that he feel ... Yeah, but then he talks through it, so I think so ... First of all, there's no real such thing as a typical brain.
Erica: Information helps.
Erica: Information helps reduce anxiety.
Kenrya: yes, exactly.
Erica: Let me know what you thinking. That's a lot of times what women are fighting in relationships like-
Kenrya: Things [crosstalk 00:38:05].
Erica: ... what are you thinking? Tell me what's going on. Tell me what you're thinking.
Kenrya: The basis of emotional intelligence is so much of it just opening up your fucking mouth and saying what's going on in your head, and he has no problem doing that, which seems counterintuitive because he says that he's difficult with emotional stuff, but she says it to him. She was like, "From where I sit, you're really good."
Erica: He's better the most.
Kenrya: She's like, "I'm not trying to discount what you're saying about the way that your brain works, but do a great job of overcoming that, so to speak, in the way that you communicate."
Erica: That's like a superhero power.
Kenrya: Yes, and I think that that's what ultimately, because she doesn't have to guess and because she sees him being so open and honest and direct about the way he feels, it pushes her to access her own emotions and communicate them better. Yeah.
Erica: Fuck giving out puzzle classes.
Kenrya: Yeah, it don't hurt that their sex is really good.
Erica: Pussy class.
Kenrya: They enjoy each other, so yeah. His voice already had her open. She just didn't want to admit it. Have you ever been opened just from somebody's voice?
Erica: Maybe not from the voice, but I am simple, so it could. Let me think about this, because maybe not from the voice, but I'm simple, so it's like-
Kenrya: I was in middle school and high school when a lot of what I was doing was just talking on the phone anyway.
Erica: Oh, you know what? Yep. Yep.
Kenrya: You just remembered a specific instance.
Erica: Yep. Yeah. Even now, because these days we don't talk on the phone, especially me, because I am not a phone talker.
Kenrya: Except with me.
Erica: I know. It's so fucked up because I would sit on the phone with Kenrya for hours and be like, "Girl, this third toe of mine. These green panties I wore." That is literally verbatim... But generally I'm not a phone talker, especially with men because it's like we ain't the fucking third grade. If you want to see me, let's make time to be in one another's company, and then we'll be in each other's company and we get to do love, kiss on each other, all of that, but outside of that, no.
Erica: For me, phone conversations now are getting letters in the mail. It's like a great treat like, "Huh, I actually enjoy sitting on the phone with you," so yeah. I definitely could see myself being open just off some voice, some phone conversations, because again, I'm simple.
Kenrya: I don't think that makes you simple.
Erica: You know how they be like, "Just give us shiny shit and she'll follow it"? That's me like, "Oh."
Kenrya: A magpie.
Erica: Oh, yeah. Oh, okay, that's great. All right, we going to be here.
Kenrya: That's funny.
Erica: I'm definitely a magpie when it comes to stuff like that, but I'm also thinking like I have ... Something in my shango, my shungo, my spirit-
Erica: Something in my spirit is telling me that I've been open for a nigga over some simple shit like he's got great hands or a watch or something like that, because something about some nice hands on a man, some clean nice hands and well-manicured-
Kenrya: That does it for?
Erica: I just be thinking like, "This nigga fingering my pussy." Again, I'm simple.
Kenrya: I like nice teeth.
Erica: I love good teeth.
Erica: Yeah, I'm so into teeth. My teeth are big.
Kenrya: Are they?
Erica: They're big, so teeth are very important to me because they're just so ... My teeth are big, so I'm always into everybody's mouth.
Kenrya: I got little tiny gremlin teeth. I just like nice smiles.
Erica: You got little baby teeth.
Kenrya: They some little baby teeth.
Erica: My sister has baby teeth, too, but yeah. I do like good teeth and not like Instagram teeth because everybody got good teeth these days.
Kenrya: Like real teeth like your teeth, but yeah.
Erica: Yeah, I did Invisalign this summer and I actually really love my ... They closed my gap just a smidge too much, but whatever. We'll deal, but I really like good natural teeth. Give me a bit of scruff to them.
Kenrya: Little variance?
Erica: Little variance. Don't give me those Instagram teeth. Now, I'm telling y'all when we blow up and we get the money and some doctor from Miami wants to come and give us some teeth, I'm not going to take them. Now, I might force them on somebody else just because it's some free shit-
Kenrya: I'm not. I'm good.
Erica: ... but yeah.
Kenrya: They may be something on the timeline.
Erica: Yeah, you know? Just you know?
Kenrya: You're not counting anything out. I like a nice smile and nice skin, but just like dark.
Erica: I don't want to say it's a fetish. I love dark skin just like beautiful ... Dark-skinned women-
Kenrya: Oh, my God. It's everything.
Erica: I'll be like, "Put some oil on." You know what I think did it for me?
Erica: “Belly.” Oh, my God.
Erica: What is that chick's name, girl?
Kenrya: Tamara, ain't that her name?
Kenrya: Well, that's her name in the movie, yes.
Erica: Oh. Yeah, just like-
Kenrya: Baby oil with that blue light. Best part of the whole fucking movie.
Erica: The thing is I feel like women are beautiful. I feel like God was in His bag when He made-
Kenrya: When He made Black women.
Erica: He was like, "We made a Black one." He was like, "Throw some hips on that bitch or not."
Kenrya: Good either way.
Erica: I was talking to this guy because we were talking about doing a threesome, and he was like, "What kind of woman do you like?" I was like, "I like women that look like me." I like just a-
Kenrya: A Black ass woman.
Erica: First, logistics. I'm not against a weave. However, I want to be able to touch and feel and pull and all that, so I don't want to feel like...
Kenrya: Or her shit just need to be extra secure.
Erica: Because as a woman, I know the-
Kenrya: Anxiety of it?
Erica: ... the logistics in obtaining a weave, and so I be like ... I just like great skin. Oh. Dark skin, oh. We went somewhere and there was this dark-skinned. I literally followed her around like a puppy like, "Hey."
Erica: It wasn't like a sex club. It was like we were at a bar or something and I was just like, "Hey, girl. You want to be my friend? You just real pretty." Kenrya, I'm sorry, you are not a fetish.
Kenrya: I know. As I sit here with my gorgeous skin.
Erica: Yeah, I'm looking at her like, "Oh, she probably thinks I picked her as a best friend as a fetish." You are fucking gorgeous and I did not, and I don't have dreams about doing it to you.
Kenrya: That's good. Appreciate it.
Erica: Whatever. Our homeboy, Gus, scared the shit out of our homegirl, Reggie.
Erica: When he said, "I love you."
Kenrya: Oh. Oh. What are you doing, Erica?
Erica: Because he said it and it was just like ...
Kenrya: He said the light in her eyes changed.
Erica: It was like, "Wait, what? What the fuck?" We touched on this recently about saying I love you. It is well established that I will say that shit if I'm feeling it. It comes out like a fart like, "I love you," because to me, there's no like ... I do, so I'm going to tell you so you have that information. What about you, Kenrya?
Kenrya: As we've already established, that is more difficult for me.
Erica: Has it always been difficult?
Erica: Or it is more difficult now that you're more aware and a thinker and with someone that you do love and-
Kenrya: It's always been more difficult.
Erica: But is it more difficult with him? Was it more difficult? Did you feel like it was more higher stakes or-
Erica: ... it was more genuine or something like that?
Kenrya: It definitely felt like higher stakes because the love feels different, so you know? I finally I have said those words.
Erica: Da, da, da.
Kenrya: Yes, and it's just a different situation. If somebody were to ask me if I had ever been in love before, I would say yes, but I would also make the analogy of it's like if you only ever had soy, ice milk, something that-
Kenrya: ... you thought was ice cream. You know what I mean? All these years, you was eating it and it was fine. It was soy milk ice cream. It's the only thing you ever had. It's what you had in your family.
Erica: It's like when people go to France. Niggas drink wine here and then they go to France to drink wine and be like-
Kenrya: I don't like wine, but yes. Then one day you have full fat ... fucking the best ice cream anybody has ever had-
Erica: All the lactose-
Kenrya: ... with all the lactose-
Erica: ... to lock up your guts.
Kenrya: ... whole milk, all of that, and then you're like, "Oh, that's what love feels like."
Erica: It's like, "I only thought love was ROYGBIV, but now it is the whole Panettone wheel."
Kenrya: Pantone, yes.
Erica: I'm thinking of the bread.
Kenrya: No, isn't it-
Erica: Isn't there an Italian bread that's a Panettone?
Kenrya: I don't know.
Erica: Panna cotta. The big bread with all the ... Whatever. Anyway.
Kenrya: I thought panna cotta was more like a gushy-
Kenrya: ... like a dessert situation like a flan.
Erica: Hey, Siri, what's that Italian bread name?
Kenrya: That's not going to do it. She don't know.
Siri: Here's what I found.
Kenrya: What's that voice on your Siri?
Erica: I have a man because I need a man to be doing the labor for me.
Kenrya: I love it. Siri is disabled on my phone. I don't fuck with her.
Erica: I don't do the, “Hey Siri,” only because I know too many Sarahs and Sherrys and that kind of shit.
Kenrya: We talking about somebody and then they called them?
Erica: Panettone, P-A-N-E-T-T-O-N-E, Italian Christmas bread. My child don't do shit with his phone. Everything is through Siri.
Kenrya: Oh, wow.
Erica: I said, "Hey, kid." It's the holidays and weekends, so I'm like, "Hey, kid, you can stay up till midnight."
Kenrya: Oh, shit.
Erica: Set an alarm, because then he sleep later in the day. I'm like, "Hey, kid, set an alarm so you go to bed at midnight because my ass going to be asleep at 9:00."
Kenrya: Long asleep.
Erica: He's like, "Okay," and then he was like, "Hey, Siri, set an alarm."
Kenrya: Mine does the same thing.
Erica: Okay, so that was before they got it from one another.
Kenrya: I just have it on my phone as one of the things you can flip up so I can press it and be here real quick. I thought I was doing something, but she be like, "Yeah, hey, Siri. Set a timer for 30 minutes." Like if she's got 30 minutes of reading time that she has to do, she just tells Siri to set it for her. She don't touch it.
Kenrya: Must be cool.
Erica: They living lives that we couldn't, but-
Kenrya: Yeah, it's pretty cool.
Erica: Well, yeah. He's gotten better at it because I do like you got 30 minutes of reading time, so then he'll come and be like, "I've been reading for 30 minutes."
Kenrya: Did you not set a fucking timer?
Erica: Well, I can tell you that right now you need to start reading and 30 minutes from now, you know what? I'll give you five minute credit.
Kenrya: Set a motherfucking timer next time.
Erica: Then he be in there enjoying for like an hour. That's not my thing.
Erica: It's your responsibility to keep up with that joint.
Kenrya: That's right.
Erica: They living wild. Okay, we got all off.
Kenrya: We did. It's fine.
Erica: All off. We've established that it's difficult, but you're seeing full range of color.
Kenrya: Spectrum, yes. It's pretty cool.
Erica: Have you ever been surprised by someone telling you that they love you?
Kenrya: Yes. Well, kind of.
Erica: Story time, story time, story time.
Kenrya: It's a very short story. There was this dude who I was seeing years ago when I was seeing him. He was my boyfriend, and I got waxed for the first time, so it was sugaring. In hindsight, I don't do that shit no more.
Erica: Sugaring is very different. Sugaring is the equivalent of taking-
Kenrya: That shit hurt.
Erica: ... a ball of tape-
Kenrya: And just sticking it.
Erica: ... and just over and over.
Kenrya: I ain't know and that shit hurt like hell, but anyway, I got sugar. I think it was my birthday and I was going to introduce him to some newly shorn pussy. Go over there, we having sex, he sees it, he's super surprised. He says, "Oh, I fucking love you," and I was like ... On one hand, I'm like, "Does he actually love me and this is just when he said it, or does he just love the-"
Erica: The fact that I gave some fresh pussy?
Kenrya: Right, right. I wasn't quite sure, so then I said it ... Maybe a few weeks later, I said it back because I didn't say anything in that moment. I just kept fucking and it just was awkward, and yeah. I don't know what this means. I don't know what to do. Yeah, so that was surprising.
Erica: I'm trying to think if I had anyone tell me and it surprised me. No, I don't think so.
Kenrya: Have you always felt it already?
Erica: Yeah, and I mean how could you not love a bitch?
Kenrya: In that situation, I did love him, but again, it's hard for me to say it, so I hadn't said it anyway. Saying it first is not my bag.
Erica: I don't think I'm always the first one to say it, or you know what? I probably am, but I definitely don't say it with the expectation that-
Kenrya: Right, which makes all the difference.
Erica: ... I don't do it like, "I love you."
Kenrya: Right. I'm going to sit here and stare at you with crazy eyes until you say it back.
Erica: Yeah, so you tell me. Sorry, that's what I was doing, but y'all can't see.
Kenrya: Yes, I figured I'd narrate a little.
Erica: At one point, we'll put some cameras down here.
Kenrya: Well, we are definitely in our pajamas and this is how we prefer to record.
Erica: I can do the luchador mask. Yes, or something. I might have a mask like that.
Kenrya: But I don't want to put on any clothes.
Kenrya: I don't want to put on clothes.
Erica: I mean shit. We might get more views without them. Yeah, every time it's been said to me, I feel like it's on its way.
Kenrya: Yeah, it's not willy nilly like you're just handing it out.
Erica: Yeah, I don't just be slanging them out willy nilly, but at the same time, if I feel it, I'm going to tell you, and you probably have felt it because at some point, I've probably shown it in some respect. Again, this is Erica. You going to love all of this. I had somebody tell me, "I love you." I'm like, "About fucking time you realized that I was the best thing in your life."
Kenrya: Or like my kid when you tell them that something she did was cool, "I know."
Erica: I know.
Kenrya: I'm like, "All right. Keep that confidence."
Erica: Please do.
Kenrya: I like it.
Erica: Okay. Well, this wraps up this week's episode of The Turn On.
Kenrya: It does.
Erica: This is your host, Erica, and your host ...
Erica: Two hoes making it clap.
Kenrya: Making it clap.
Erica: This episode was produced by us, Erica and Kenrya, and edited by B'Lystic. The theme song is from Brazy. We want to hear from y'all. Send your book recommendations and all the burning sex and related questions you want us to answer to TheTurnOnPodcast@gmail.com, and please subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast app. Follow us on Twitter @TheTurnOnPod and Instagram @TheTurnOnPodcast, and find links to our books, transcripts, guest info, and other fun stuff at theturnonpodcast.com. Remember, The Turn On is now part of the Frolic Podcast Network. You can find more shows you'll love at Frolic.media/podcast. Thanks for joining us and we'll see you soon. Holla.
The Turn On
The Turn On is a podcast for Black people who want to get off. To open their minds. To learn. To be part of a community. To show that we love and fuck too, and it doesn't have to be political or scandalous or dirty. Unless we want it to be.