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In this episode of The Turn On, Erica and Kenrya talk to guest Tracy about finding love within your friend group, staying grounded on the hard days and the importance of sowing your royal oats.
The Turn On participates in affiliate programs, which provide a small commission when you purchase products via links on this site. This costs you nothing, but helps support the show. Click here for more information.
Erica: So Kenrya, guess what?
Erica: We have our first patron on Patreon!
Kenrya: Aw shit!
Erica: Look at that. Look at that. Look at that. And not only is this just the first patron, this is the first patron at the highest level.
Kenrya: What's that level? That's the... oh, We Go Together.
Erica: We Go Together.
Erica: I ain't getting rid of you, you ain't getting rid of me level.
Kenrya: I love it.
Erica: So shout out to our good friend of the show, always supportive, Stephanie.
Kenrya: Hey, thank you so much.
Erica: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This is kind of the equivalent of yo mama always supporting you. You know how they be like, "She sold four copies of her album."
Erica: Her mama, her brother, her sister, and herself.
Erica: But Stephanie, thank you for being amazing and supporting the show, as always.
Kenrya: Hopefully the first of many.
Erica: The first of many.
Kenrya: Y'all follow Stephanie's lead and head over to Patreon and support The Turn On.
Erica: Yes. If you want to hear your name on this show, please support us at the $15 a month level.
Kenrya: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Erica: And with that, let's get started with the show.
Kenrya: Come here. Get off.
Kenrya: Today, we're talking to Tracy, pronouns, she and her. Tracy is a 39-year-old cisgender heterosexual woman from the Midwest. Yes, ma'am.
Kenrya: She's a mother and program manager and she's here to talk about what happens when friends with benefits turns into forever ever.
Kenrya: Tracy is a pseudonym, so don't be trying to find her.
Tracy: Don't be looking for me.
Kenrya: Tracy, thanks so much for coming.
Tracy: Thank you for having me.
Erica: So last week we read an excerpt from the novella “Benefriends,” which features a couple that started out as friends, and then they morphed into lovers. What's your current relationship status?
Tracy: Married like a mug. Extra, extra permanent.
Kenrya: How long y'all been together?
Tracy: Since 2009.
Kenrya: That's a long ass time.
Tracy: It's a long, long time.
Kenrya: I ain't never been with nobody that long.
Tracy: Listen, I don't recommend it.
Erica: My barber maybe? Like, the fuck.
Kenrya: Shit, I don't even think I had any service providers for that long because I switched cities.
Tracy: I've been on-
Erica: Cell phone-
Tracy: A serial monogamous person.
Kenrya: Cell phone. Yeah, I was serial monogamous too. But the problem with my serial monogamy was that I just didn't want to be by myself, so there's that. That was only in hindsight, and I recognize that.
Tracy: And that's funny how that works, because now I'm like, "I just want to be by myself, want some time to myself."
Kenrya: There is that because you have how many children?
Tracy: Two children.
Kenrya: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, that's a real ass thing right there.
Tracy: Yeah, the struggle is real.
Kenrya: So as our listeners have probably ascertained, you're married to somebody who you were friends with before y'all got together. So tell us the story of how that happened.
Tracy: So what had happened was-
Erica: All good stories start like that.
Tracy: So lots of mutual friends ... so my friends all went to school with my husband from about third grade through 12th grade. So, I met those friends in college, so they were already friends beforehand. So I joined the friend group and immediately, once we all came together as friends, everybody immediately wanted to hook us up. But I was-
Kenrya: Why is that?
Tracy: They thought we some similarities with ethnicities and such, without sharing too much. But they thought that we would make a good match, just our personalities, very laid back. They just thought, immediately, y'all need to be together. However, I was busy sowing my royal oats at the time and was not interested-
Erica: As all women should-
Kenrya: Yes, royal oats. Listen, I fell asleep to “Coming to America” last night.
Tracy: Yes, I was on a serious mission. So this was like, I was about to move to New York, one of my dream cities that I always wanted to live in, and I already knew that I was about to be just hot in the streets. And so I was like, "No. We will be friends. We will keep it that way." And I was just also worried about the whole friendship circle, I was like, "I don't want to mess it up." I'm trying to sow my royal oats. I know I'm not right, right now. So we just remained friends, and we were those friends that were just always showing up for our friends when they got married or if they were having baby showers and parties. We were the two cool friends that show up and come with libations and hang out, so we kept it friends for many years.
Erica: So you kind of touched on this, where you said you were hesitant to mess up the friendship circle. In the book we read, the two characters, Shad and Aisha, they are similar to you, a part of a big group of friends and they were hesitant to start anything because they were like, "If shit goes down south then we fucking up the whole groove of the group." Obviously that was a concern. When did you overcome that and was just like, "Fuck it"?
Tracy: So after I sowed my royal oats and got burned out, I was literally in therapy-
Kenrya: These niggas-
Tracy: Listen, I was out done, okay? I was like, "Wow, everybody is just trash-"
Tracy: I am taking a break from dating from ... I'm just like, "I think I might just be single. I need to find myself." I had just started therapy, I was like, "Yes, this is such a good space to be in." I was weaning myself off all the penis, I was like, "I'm done."
Tracy: And then had been doing therapy for a couple of months and then went to one of those good friend's wedding in Mexico. And the things that I was interested in a year or two before, they just seemed so frivolous.
Tracy: And now, all of a sudden I was like, "Ooh, stability and non-triflingness-
Kenrya: These got jobs?
Tracy: ... and a strong circle of friends who I also like. Jobs, employee, traveling freely." All of these things looked extra sexy under the Mexican sun where we were for this wedding.
Tracy: So I was in a very different place and I was just like ... I placed a high value in that moment, I think, on ... and it's debatable with myself if it was too much of a value, but I really placed the high value on trust and having a relationship with somebody or just embarking on what could be with somebody who was already connected to a circle of people who I trust and who I know would look out for me and just not recommended-
Erica: They already did the vetting.
Tracy: They already did the vetting and I had already known this person. So I was like, "This is safe territory."
Erica: Okay, cool.
Kenrya: So besides the fact that I have never actually wanted to fuck any of my friends. I haven't. Look at Erica face though. She like, "I think I have."
Erica: I'm like ...
Tracy: But I find that-
Kenrya: Bitch, I know you fucked your friends.
Erica: You got a lot of friends.
Kenrya: I do and I ... Okay. I can think of two friends who I fucked and neither one of those situations was a good situation.
Kenrya: Yeah. In general, it's not a thing that I want to do. And also, in one of those, it was absolutely just a one-night stand, it was never going anywhere.
Kenrya: Another one of the reasons that I have rarely gotten involved with people who I counted as my friends is because I know way too much about them. Was that ever a consideration or a possible barrier when you were thinking about getting with your now husband?
Tracy: No, because he tricked me because ... he was always the quiet, kind of reserved homie in the group, so it's hard to describe, but I was like, "Oh, he's kind of like a little mystery, kind of hard to figure out-
Erica: Because that group is a lot of large personalities.
Tracy: A lot of large personality personalities. And this person, my husband's personality, was like completely like zero, just chill, all the time. So it kind of made me be like, "Oh, I kind of ... and I can be a lot sometimes. I'm much more chill now, but I'm on all the time. So for me, I was like, "Oh." I was trying to get to know him. I was like, "Who are you? Who are you?" It was interesting because I was learning a lot of stuff out that he hadn't shared with a lot of the friends in that circle, surprisingly, over a long time.
Erica: Okay. So how do you think having a foundation as friends positively impacts your marriage?
Tracy: I think ... I mean, I recognize not all friends with benefits have a circle that they ... I don't know. Everybody's like, "Oh, a friend is like a part of a larger friend group." Sometimes it's just your one friend. But for us, because we had that circle, I feel like we had a group of people kind of always rooting for us, which is helpful when you embark on marriage because you have so many moments where you're like, "Um, is this shit worth it? Like, I'm about to call it quits." Right?
Tracy: And so it's helpful to have some objective friends that'll just listen and that'll be like, "You know what, do what you need to do. I'm hearing you out and remember why y'all first got together" or-
Kenrya: Friends of your marriage. Right?
Kenrya: People who want you to succeed together.
Tracy: Want to see you ... exactly. So I think that's been amazing to have, and it's also been helpful for me to also remember when shit gets hard, where I'm like, "Remember? Remember how all this started when we was like all one big group of friends, just hanging out, we didn't have all these responsibilities?" So I think that's really the big piece for me, but to keep it real, a lot of it too is more so on just the disappointments of like, "Okay, we're in this large circle and we're friends and so forth," but then when things, aren't where you want them to be in the marriage, I think you kind of look at that friendship a lot harder, whereas like, "Okay, is this friendly?" Like, "Friends, remember? We go way, way, way back, like what's happening here?" So ...
Erica: So on the other side of the coin, do you think that there are ways that having this friendship as a foundation negatively impacts the marriage?
Tracy: I think sometimes I think so. And it could just be how everybody handles things differently. Right? So I can only speak from my experience, but for me, I think when shit gets hard, I pull on that friendship piece and try to think about, "Remember why this all started?" And sometimes I feel like that that's not necessarily focusing on the now, like on the right here, right now versus this history, right?
Tracy: Yeah. This nostalgic, kind of like what we used to be and who we were versus now who we are, two tired ass parents working in the middle of a pandemic in this tiny ass space looking at each other and it's hard. And so sometimes I think that piece, and then I do think about our friendship circle, right? And when I get frustrated around, "Am I going to be the one that's going to defect? Like ..."
Erica: [inaudible 00:11:32]
Tracy: My shit going to blow up first. But I think about those pieces where ... it skews the reality sometimes, or it's just extra shit. Where it's like, "You know what, Tracy, what is it that you feel right now? Like, what's happening right now?" And just shut all of that out.
Kenrya: Right. That actually leads to my next question, which is what have you found really works in your relationship to keep in touch with each other through the highs and the lows, both right now in the middle of a fucking pandemic and just in general? Because 10 years is a long ass time.
Tracy: Drugs, alcohol, no-
Kenrya: Yes ma'am.
Erica: Bitch. Let's keep it all the way for real, for real.
Tracy: Let's keep it real. Honestly, that every blue moon it's like, hey, quarterly, semiannually, let's put something on the books like vacations, just having time to connect and get away from this ... I mean the daily grind is so exhausting.
Tracy: Oddly enough, too, when I think about things that have happened over the years, I would say, also tragedies have kind of brought us together and kind of made us remember the reasons why we got together.
Erica: So what do you do to be in touch with yourself and your body in the midst of being a present partner and a present parent?
Tracy: All the things. Yoga at home now, meditation apps, reading positive affirmations. I follow all the Black therapists on Instagram. Anything that I can get that really just reminds me of my relationship with myself. I think being in a long-term marriage, one of the things that has really made very clear to me is yes, being friends helps and so forth, but the first relationship is with myself. And so I think for me, it's just keeping myself grounded and really just trusting my instincts more and just recognizing, some days I feel crappy, some days I feel great, and just kind of leaning into that without apologizing for it.
Erica: That's really dope.
Kenrya: Yeah. So, you mentioned earlier about how y'all work in the little space together. I'm wondering how the pandemic has impacted your dynamic when it comes to intimacy, both with your partner and with your children because there's a lot of different types of intimacy and I feel like being trapped got something to do with that.
Tracy: Yes, honey. It is completely throwing the vibes off because all day long it feels literally like I'm pulled in 25 different directions. So it takes me twice as long just to do one task that I would normally do at work in a shorter amount of time because I'm also getting somebody some food, getting somebody a snack, helping somebody wipe their butt and then coming back to do a video meeting, all the while ... and as being a mother, both of us, my husband and I can be sitting at the table, but both kids will constantly only come to me, and so it feels like I'm sitting on the other side of the table, like "This motherfucker get a full day of work?"
Erica: This nigga right here.
Tracy: No interruptions. I be sitting there like, "Come on girl." And that's when all my calm stuff got to come in because I be like, "thinking, thinking, thinking, thinking a lot of thoughts." So it just builds up a lot of resentment throughout the day, sometimes, because I feel like I'm taking on the brunt of the work. And so that's when the friendship stuff comes in, where I be like, "Again, this is not friendly. Like, what the fuck?" So having to have those conversations every so often as ... and then it just throws intimacy off. Like for me, my love language is like, help me clean up. Help me take care of the kids, just help ...
Kenrya: Be an equal partner.
Tracy: Be an equal partner. Help me not feel like a maid that's exhausted at the end of the day, and then I'm supposed to get sexy? And want to be intimate?
Kenrya: This don't make my pussy wet.
Erica: [inaudible 00:15:53] titties.
Tracy: This make me dry. Okay? I'm like, "You about to get this headscarf and turn to the side and good night."
Kenrya: And you earned it.
Tracy: You earned it. You worked so hard to earn that shit. Terrible. And then enter drugs and alcohol. Sike, no. No, but enter just me, honestly, just being like, "Okay, this cycle has to stop. What actions can I do to change this shit?" And then usually I will work on my mood, go exercise or some shit, and then I'll be horny and then life will be better for a short amount of time.
Kenrya: Exercise is underrated for that. When I finished working out, I feel strong. I feel great about myself and I want to fuck. Immediately.
Erica: No, for real. You have blood flowing to all your parts, not just your head and your limbs, but to all your parts.
Erica: So I think people fail to realize that getting that blood moving will get-
Kenrya: [inaudible 00:16:55].
Erica: [inaudible 00:16:56] moving.
Tracy: It sure is. I was like, "Whoa, okay, let me just get my workout on." But otherwise, I get into this depleted space where I'm just like, "I just don't have the energy for it." And it's just ... so I think, again, but normally once we get out of our world and this small last apartment, we also just on top of each other, right? And focusing on everything, how you chew, how you move, why you sit that there. "What are you doing?!" It becomes ridiculous, where I'm like, "We need to go visit some people. We need to get out." So just mixing it up, I find ... and just having something to work towards. Just having a goal together. We need that shit to lighten the mood and just kind of keep us moving forward. I know some couples do all kinds of shit and I'm like, "That's not us, but we need to start doing that."
Kenrya: You got to do what you can when you can.
Kenrya: It's not like there's not a whole bunch of shit going on in the world right now.
Erica: A whole bunch of shit.
Tracy: A lot. It's heavy.
Kenrya: Yeah. A lot of it, I think just comes into granting yourself grace.
Kenrya: When you're coming up against this stuff. So kudos to y'all.
Kenrya: My next question is what does a successful marriage look like to you?
Tracy: Successful marriage looks like therapy, like therapy together as a couple. It looks like travel, just doing things together, leisure stuff in addition to just taking care of all of the responsibilities equally. It looks like just mundane, same routine. A lot of relationship and marriage is literally just somebody being able to be in that space with you day in and day out without it feeling like it's a production and work and so forth, like just being ourselves. So consistency and connection.
Erica: So you got a lot of shit going on. So I know this question, if you're like, "Look, bitch, I wish."
Kenrya: Right, [inaudible 00:19:17].
Erica: Exactly. But is there anything that you're looking forward to reading? Do you have like a, to be read pile? I have one, it's really dusty, but ...
Tracy: I have ... I just finished a book for the first time in like a year, thanks to the pandemic. It's called “Pachinko” and it's a really great book about Koreans living in Japan. It's a historical family saga. And I learned a lot about Korean, Japanese relationship, history that I didn't know about. So that was a really great book. And then my next book, I have a pile sitting right over here. If you were here, you would see. I'm just getting into “Patsy” by Nicole Dennis-Benn. So that's on my list. I'm going to get through that one next. And I have “The Water Dancer” that I want to get into, and I need to finish “Thick.” So that's my ...
Erica: All right.
Kenrya: All right. Yeah, I haven't finished “Thick” either, actually. I'm somewhere in the middle.
Erica: Okay. So I have a few rapid-fire questions. I'm just going to give you an either or, and you're going to tell me your pick. Okay? Hot or cold?
Erica: Give or receive?
Tracy: Receive, selfish. Aries.
Kenrya: Yes, Aries.
Erica: Beach or mountain?
Tracy: Beach. Mountain is dangerous.
Erica: Now, I know you, so you cannot pick "Neither" for the next one. Dog or cat?
Tracy: Oh my gosh.
Kenrya: Ugh. Yeah, neither. Lord have mercy.
Tracy: You pissing me off with this because you know I don't like no animal hair.
Kenrya: Same. Hard same. Fuck, it's gross.
Tracy: But I'll pick dog.
Erica: Last one. Country or city?
Tracy: Woo. City.
Erica: Alrighty. Alrighty. Okay. So why would you do hot over cold?
Tracy: Because I'm getting old.
Erica: And them bones don't move like they used to.
Kenrya: Mm-mm (negative). They don't like that.
Tracy: I need hot liquids to keep everything ...
Erica: Keep everything moving.
Tracy: Keep everything moving and grooving.
Kenrya: Now, I leaned back on a heating pad all day yesterday because I got old lady back.
Tracy: Listen, it ...
Erica: How'd you throw out your old lady back?
Kenrya: Why you ask so many questions?
Erica: Because I know ... it's so simple. That I want to make ...
Kenrya: I was reaching over- No. I was reaching over to the side of my bed to get my motherfucking water bottle and went, "Ooh!"
Erica: She was like, "I think I threw my back out reaching for a bottle of water." I was like ...
Tracy: Getting wild over there. Water in the bed.
Erica: I know, because you got to sleep with some water next to the bed.
Kenrya: Listen, you know I can't-
Tracy: At all times.
Kenrya: Yeah, no, ever since I was pregnant, I cannot go to sleep without water next to my bed. It's impossible.
Tracy: Yeah. I'm sitting here sweating right now, drinking a hot ass cup of coffee, but-
Kenrya: It's hot.
Tracy: ... I felt like ... because hot. I felt like I needed to start my day with a warm beverage and then it helps everything be regular.
Erica: It's wild how the older you get, the more routines you have to have.
Tracy: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Erica: Like if I don't do X, Y, and Z in this particular way-
Erica: My morning's off. I have to have a glass of orange juice with my green wheat grass powder, Miralax and all my vitamins.
Tracy: You know you ain't invincible. When we was younger, we used to be like, "I don't need nothing, I'm a hold it." Remember? It's like, "I'm a hold it and not go to the bathroom in this public place." Now?
Erica: There's no shame whatsoever.
Tracy: Well, look ...
Kenrya: You know I will shit anywhere. So.
Tracy: Listen. I have joined that bandwagon very quickly. I'm routine, like, "Oh, it's time."
Kenrya: So I have to say this. This wraps up this week's episode of The Turn On. Thank you for joining us and we will see you back next week.
Tracy: [inaudible 00:23:47]. I feel like y'all need special effects.
Kenrya: This episode was produced by us, Kenrya and Erica and edited by B'Lystic. The theme music is from Brazy. Now you can support the turn on and get off. Subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast app, then drop us a five star review and you'll be entered to win something that's turning us on. Just post your review and email us a screenshot at TheTurnOnPodcast@gmail.com to enter. Our Patreon page is also live. Become a supporter today and you'll gain access to lots of goodies, including The Turn On Book Club and two for one raffle entries. And don't forget to send us your book recommendations and your sex and related questions, and follow us on Twitter @TheTurnOnPod and Instagram @TheTurnOnPodcast. You can find links to books, merch, transcripts, guest info and other fun stuff at TheTurnOnPodcast.com. Thanks so much for listening and we will see you soon. Bye.
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In this episode of The Turn On, Erica and Kenrya talk to author Fiona Zedde about her work, sexuality in ancient African societies and just how much time you really need with your soulmate.
The Turn On participates in affiliate programs, which provide a small commission when you purchase products via links on this site. This costs you nothing, but helps support the show. Click here for more information.
Kenrya: Come here. Get off.
Kenrya: Today, we're talking to Fiona Zedde, pronouns she and her. Jamaican-born Zedde is the author of more than 30 novels, including the Lambda Literary Awards finalist Bliss and Every Dark Desire. Her novel “Dangerous Pleasures” received a Publisher's Weekly star review and was a winner of an About.com Reader's Choice Award for best lesbian novel or memoir. Under the name Lindsay Evans, Fiona also writes novels of romance and recklessness for Harlequin and other publishers. She loves French pastries, English cars, Jamaican food, and she writes, a lot. Her latest novel, “A Lover's Mercy,” is available now. Hey Fiona. Thanks for joining us.
Fiona: Hey. Thank you for inviting me.
Erica: We just heard your fabulous bio. By the way. I love the pastries, cars, Jamaican food. We got to kick it one day, but we always like to ask, what did little Fiona wants to do when she grow up?
Fiona: Oh my gosh. How little?
Erica: Whatever first comes to mind.
Kenrya: As far back as you want to go.
Fiona: Interesting. The first thing I thought about was just to learn to write cursive, to be the first one in all of my friends to write cursive because-
Erica: That's a talent and a flex on them. I love it.
Fiona: Not a really big aspiration but just like I wanted to be first, and it was something so geeky like, "Oh yes, I want to join my letters."
Erica: Well, most kids these days can't write cursive. My son writes like a serial killer.
Kenrya: They don't teach them anymore unless they go to Montessori, so my kids started out learning how to write cursive before she learned block letters, but that's weird. They don't normally do that.
Fiona: That is interesting. I thought it was just sort of like a basic thing, but I know I'm behind in the times.
Erica: Not at all.
Kenrya: They use computers so much that they don't even literally teach them handwriting anymore.
Erica: They don't even teach... I had to teach my son proper spacing, like this is how you link so that it's not just... Yeah, it's bad, and I thought the teachers would at least say something to them, and they have not.
Fiona: All right then.
Erica: So yeah, you're winning for that cursive.
Fiona: Thank you. Yes, I was the first and I used it every chance that I got. Not very legible, but you know, they were all joined together.
Kenrya: It's details, details.
Erica: So what drives you to write?
Fiona: What drives me to write? I just have these stories in my head, or I'm wandering somewhere, as I would love to do today, and then a story occurs to me or I see a couple talking and I imagine what they're talking about or what they're fighting about or what they'll do after they leave the public space and that it's when I write the story. I feel like every time I go out into the world, a story comes to me and I have to write it down. If I finish, that's another question.
Kenrya: So how did you... I know you started out cursive was it.
Fiona: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kenrya: How did you get to the point where you decided that you were going to be a professional writer, like what's your origin story?
Fiona: Oh my God, that sounds so intense and so like superhero, right?
Kenrya: Because you're a superhero, duh.
Erica: You are a superhero.
Fiona: That's so nice, I love it. "My origin story." I always have been a big reader. Like my mom, when I was in the belly, she read to me, and so I think I came out just wanting to I read the stories for myself and to absorb these stories on my own, and once I was able to read them, then I wanted to write them, and joined with the whole obsession with learning how to write cursive, like once I learned how to read cursive letters, I wanted to actually like create a story from these letters, and so it just seemed like a natural progression. It's all my mother's fault, basically.
Kenrya: You can blame her. "Thanks mom."
Erica: You had a lot of really big career milestones. Which ones are you most proud of, and why?
Fiona: Oh my gosh. Career milestones. I think for me, the biggest thing was when I was able to get my book published. It was a quick transition from "Okay, I finished my book." I finished it to my satisfaction, I have an agent, and then it was really fast, but it took me a long time to actually finish something, and so it sort of validated for me, like if you just do your work and complete your work, you'll get rewarded by money and books being published. So for me, that was huge, and yeah, that just sort of started the whole train. That was like book number one, but it went on and on and on and so now, I should be writing my... I don't know what number it is, but I was working earlier today, but yeah, that was the biggest milestone for me, like huge.
Kenrya: That makes sense. So you just said that you were working earlier today. I'm curious about what your workdays look like right now. How do you structure your writing?
Fiona: I need more structure. Right now, because of everything happening in the world, I think my work schedule is just a mess. I get up and I do the news thing for way too long and then the day sort of like falls in line more or less, but when I'm on my game, work day perfectly arranged, typically I get up around between eight and nine and then have coffee, have some fruit, and then just start working by 10, 11, and then take a break after a couple of hours. Eat lunch, mess around, internet, and then after that, back to work. So it's like a boring schedule, but I also have my writing partner Sheree who lives in Florida. We call in by Skype every four days a week and then we write together, like literally write together. She's on Skype, I'm looking at her face and I'm writing, she's looking at my face. We push each other.
Kenrya: Is your writing partner Sheree Greer?
Fiona: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kenrya: Shut up. That's dope, we're having Sheree on the show later.
Fiona: How funny. Yes, she's so awesome, right?
Kenrya: Yes. Did not know that.
Erica: We are learning that-
Kenrya: It's a very small world.
Erica: It's a very small world.
Fiona: It's a very small world, yeah.
Erica: I love it though. We want big up Black fem writers, and yeah, we're finding that all the good ones roll in the pack, so I like this.
Fiona: Yeah, Sheree's awesome.
Kenrya: It's funny. I have a writing, I came up in magazines and I write nonfiction and I have my writing partner, so I'm like, "Oh, yay, somebody who you get to work with." Writing is such a solitary thing and I did it for decades without even considering the idea of what it would be like to do it with a partner until my partner was like "We should work on this thing together," and now it just makes everything better, like we write books together, we take on consulting, like we do everything and it just makes things better.
Fiona: It does.
Kenrya: It pushes you and it makes more fun when you're doing the hard shit.
Fiona: You don't realize how much you needed it. Yes. For me, I'm so easily distracted by everything, and so Sheree is like "Okay, bring it in, bring it in, you have to get things done. If you don't get anything done, I can't read anything of yours, so just make my life easier and just work," so it's, yeah. I worked for a long time by myself as well and so it's like a 180, it's amazing.
Erica: That's really cool. Power, strength in numbers.
Kenrya: Yes, when it's Black people involved.
Erica: I always bust out into a song but I'm not feeling particularly creative-
Kenrya: You're not inspired?
Erica: Give me a second. I am inspired, just can't come up with the song.
Fiona: Maybe later. There's always space for that.
Erica: Yes. So you were born in Jamaica.
Erica: You currently live in Spain?
Fiona: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Erica: So how do the places that you live, have lived influence your work?
Fiona: They do quite a bit. I love traveling, and I think more so the places I travel to inspire my work than places I live in because like once I left Jamaica, of course I lived there when I was 11, 12, 13, so I wasn't writing too much back then, but it was years later when I was accessing memories from back then that it just felt automatic and right and perfect to write about Jamaica, and so I almost like pull in a space into my creative life when I'm away from it. I probably have an Atlanta story sometime within the next year and a half, and who knows if I stay in Spain? I probably will. I might write something about staying here.
Kenrya: How long have you been in Spain?
Fiona: Not very long. Since January, full time. But I've been back and forth for two years.
Erica: All right. Yeah, that's not long. Your writing partner was in Spain for a while, right, Kenrya?
Kenrya: Yes. She lived in between Barcelona and she was in Lisbon, in Portugal, so it makes for interesting timing, as you know, like trying to match things up so that we can work at the same time, but she's back in the States right now.
Fiona: That's lucky. It's like what, six-hour time difference?
Kenrya: Yeah. But we'll see how long. She just had a baby and she's already itching to leave, like once there's a vaccine, she's like "I got to go. I got to get out of here."
Fiona: I understand that, yes. I understand that.
Kenrya: Yeah, I mean I'll be sad because it'll mean that my nephew won’t be here, but also I get it.
Fiona: Yeah, the world is so big and magnetic and interesting. It's impossible to like, I don't know, not hear that siren call and go out there. Even though I'm here in a really interesting and really rich place, I want to keep exploring, whether it's like the countryside or other countries. So it's hard to stay put, I get that.
Kenrya: As we said at the top of the show, we read an excerpt from “Rise of the Rain Queen” last week-
Erica: Which I loved.
Kenrya: Which you loved, and so did I, and thanks again for letting us share that scene on the show.
Fiona: Of course. Thanks for reaching out.
Kenrya: Yes. I think I'm going to butcher this. The book is set and the Tanganyika region?
Kenrya: Is that right?
Fiona: From what I... Tanganyika region, yeah.
Kenrya: Okay, great. I was trying.
Fiona: I'm open to like whatever because I'm not from, but yes, that's what I learned or someone taught me much up there, it's correct. Tanganyika region.
Kenrya: In 1414. I am curious as to why you chose that time and place to set your novel.
Fiona: Yes. I read this essay collection. I don't think you would call it an essay collection. I think it's only by a couple of people, but it's called “Boy-Wives and Female-Husbands,” and it talked about sexuality in ancient African societies, like all over the continent, and that book really just opened up my mind in all these ways and I think I was reading that book around the time that people were talking about how queerness came from white people, it came from Europe, it was nothing to do with different African societies. Even people in Jamaica were saying the same thing and they're like "Yeah, you get that disease from the white men, it has nothing to do with us," so it was... I don't even know how I found it but I was so happy to have found this book that talked about all these different ways that we loved each other that people are just not accepting of in a lot of different Black communities right now.
Fiona: Once I read it and absorbed it and sat with it, I was like, "Oh, I want to write about a couple or a village or a society that this is normal. This is normalized and this is passed down and this is just one aspect of loving, one aspect of being that is just part of the community," and that's where the book idea came from.
Erica: That's what we love so much about it. There's no stigmas attached, it's just a thing that's a part of life. So can you tell us a little bit more about your research process and creating that society?
Fiona: I don't even know if there was a process. I was just like "What if," and there were aspects, there were things that the book talked about that I said, "Oh yeah, that's perfect." The idea of female chiefs or women who chose their lives and if they chose to live as like not typically female, then they would get their own set of wives or whatever they did that it was about what you could afford to do and not about you can't do this because the chief doesn't do this or whatever, so yeah, I think it was an inspiration. There are certain things I took from it, but I wouldn't say there was actual like targeted research.
Kenrya: But there were some terms, like I saw, I looked up some of the terms and like saw that they were linked to like various cultures in different parts of Africa and whatnot, so that's research?
Fiona: Ok. Everyday I try to be organized and I fail.
Kenrya: Pushes your glasses up on your nose.
Fiona: It wasn't that like organized at all, just like "That's really cool. Oh my God. Wouldn't it be great if..." et cetera.
Erica: It came together beautifully.
Kenrya: Right? It felt like a fully fleshed out world, and I know that that's really hard to do, and you did it.
Fiona: Yeah. It came together really well. I just remember thinking about the society I wanted to create, but then the Rain Queen sort of like walked out of the mist on her own, and she was was who she was. It wasn't about "Okay, what if I do this, what if I do that?" It's like, "Oh, he or she does what she wants."
Kenrya: She just showed up fully realized.
Kenrya: Wow. So in the book, Ny works really hard to make herself into the person that she thinks Duni wants her to be in the first part of the book. Have you ever found yourself in a position where you reshaped yourself for a partner or a potential partner?
Fiona: I feel like that's a yes, but I'm trying to... I can't remember when.
Erica: Blocked it out.
Fiona: No, wait, I think I might have. Because it feels familiar, it resonates. Yeah. Oh yeah, I have. This woman, she's amazing, fantastic, and exciting and like one of those like once in a lifetime sort of people, and so I think there are certain elements of my being that I was like she wasn't really enamored of and so I tried to sort of like massage that away or make it smaller or something like that, so definitely I have. I don't think there's anything huge but eventually, it was just like "Ah, that's not me."
Kenrya: She wasn't for you.
Erica: It's hard keeping up that shit too long.
Fiona: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Definitely is.
Erica: One of the things that I really identify with was Ny's determination. She was like "Fuck it, you say I can't, I'm going to do it. This is a shitty situation, I got it." Which one of your characters do you resonate, do you identify with?
Fiona: Oh my gosh. I don't even know because I feel like in the moment, of course, she's occupying me, so I'm not sure if I could say that, like I saw myself in her place at all, because she was so many things that I am not. Whether it was just her kind of like balls to the wall like "I want this woman, I'm going to go after her, I don't care who was going to..." I would never do that. Like never. She's defying the gods, all these different things, and like that's just not me. I think in so many ways, like that story just... I was this tiny essence like watching it all unfurl, like I wasn't necessarily like any of the characters, if that makes any sense.
Erica: It makes a lot of sense.
Kenrya: Do you have any characters in any of your other books that feel closely aligned to you and your experience?
Fiona: Definitely Bliss, in my first book.
Kenrya: How so?
Fiona: It was like pseudo, very pseudo autobiographical. The main character, it was born in Jamaica, went to the US, had all these things happen to her, and then went back to Jamaica to sort of find herself. So even though it wasn't a mirror experience, I identified a lot with her, like with her feelings about family, her feelings about coming out, like all of that.
Erica: What's the name of your first book?
Kenrya: Now I want to know about your latest book, “A Lover's Mercy.” Can you tell us a bit about it?
Fiona: Yes. Oh my God, I'm going to have to go grab it because I'm like "What is it about?" “A Lover's Mercy.” I love this book and in a lot of ways, it was unexpected, because I had written the first one called “The Power of Mercy” and I thought it was done. I really enjoyed it and I thought it was done, but then the publisher said, "We'd love for you to do a sequel," and when I had done Mercy, I just thought I was it, there was nothing else to really expand upon. Her story had been told, she has her happily ever after, that's it.
Fiona: What I end up doing with “A Lover's Mercy” was to tell the story of her partner, her lover, her anti superhero partner who in “The Power of Mercy,” they were antagonists, they didn't get along at all, and she's also kind of an ass, and so she says a lot of times she's not a good person. She's effective. She does what needs to be done, she's not around to be liked, and so it was interesting diving into that kind of personality in order to write this book which is from a first person story, which I never write, so it was interesting in all kinds of ways.
Kenrya: Why did you opt to go with first person in this case?
Fiona: I have no idea.
Kenrya: Just came out that way?
Fiona: It came out that way. It might be because I've been reading a lot of first person stories that were really, really well done in the last couple of years, and for many, many years, I never liked to read first person stories and so I never wrote them, and so when I started reading these amazing first person stories, it's like "Oh, I want to try this."
Kenrya: Yes, challenge?
Fiona: It's really hard. It's really, really difficult.
Erica: So what are you reading now?
Fiona: What am I reading now? I feel like I keep on devouring books and then I forget about them as soon as I'm done. Right now I am reading this werewolf shifter collection. Not collection, like a series of novels by Patricia Briggs. There's one, the Mercy Thompson novels, I've read all of those. They're are like, I don't know, 13 of them or something like that, and then the other one is, I think it's called the Alpha Omega novels, and both sets have a native American character, which, which I find interesting in different ways, since from what I see, she's a white woman.
Kenrya: The writer is a white woman?
Fiona: Mm-hmm (affirmative). She has a great way... Her world is really, really amazing, and then there's one word that she always uses that really cracks me up and she always uses it in the same context. She uses "boiled" a lot.
Kenrya: So every time you see it, you're like "All right, boiled."
Fiona: Yeah. N.
Kenrya: "Her blood boiled."
Fiona: No, she always uses it like in... How does she just do it? In a movement, like "The mob boiled upstairs." It was really interesting and cool the first time, but then I noticed every single book, she uses that word and always in the same sense, like in a sense of movement, and usually, more than one person, like a group moving from place to place in a really agitated manner, so I was like, "Huh, that's her-"
Erica: It's when you noticed-
Fiona: That's her word.
Erica: It's like when you notice someone saying "Like" and then you're like... Okay, I get it.
Fiona: She usually use it I think only like once. Once in each book.
Kenrya: It's like she's like "Okay, I got to get it. Here's the moment in this book."
Fiona: Yeah, I guess so. This is so funny, and I read all her books like all in like one jump, so it was super obvious to me, like "Oh, here it is again. Ah, here it is again."
Erica: "When's the boiling scene?" Okay.
Fiona: Right. But yeah, they're fun. They're fun.
Erica: We will certainly share a link in all of that. Question. Why do you write-
Erica: Because we're here for questions. Why do you write under a pen name?
Fiona: Why under a pen name? I don't even know why I did it in the first place, because my first publisher editor was like "Why don't you use your real last name?" It's like it's so boring, it's Louis. I was like "It's so boring," and he said, "Well, if you use your real last name, you'll be in the middle of the bookshelf versus at the end of the bookshelf." I was like, "That's a really good idea. You should have said this like five years ago."
Kenrya: You're like "It's too late."
Fiona: Right. It's too too late, but yeah, it just sort of like seem the thing to do. I didn't even think about writing under my real name at all. It's like, "Whatever." I mean it might have stemmed from sort of like subconsciously, like not wanting this connection to my Jamaican family and being like "Okay," and I was out in my world, but then like family is so separate from everything, like my mom knows all about me and all this stuff, and then gradually over the years, people have known because my Facebook is super public, and so I never had said "Oh, I'm queer, whatever," but they know but I think that they think that it's a secret knowing.
Erica: "I'm the only one that knows."
Kenrya: "I ain't gon say nothing."
Erica: And then they look into her, and they're in a gym with a million other people like, "Oh, you too?"
Fiona: I think it might have been like it might stem from that at first, just like "Okay, let me just be not even downloaded," so I've disconnected from them and then after, I was like there was no point because there's a whole Wikipedia page that says everything.
Kenrya: So then with the Lindsay Evans books, do you use that name because your characters tend to be a bit different?
Fiona: That Lindsay Evans name is like my straight novels, all of my Harlequin novels.
Erica: I mean the characters being... Yeah.
Fiona: Yeah, it's a whole different genre. I do a lot of like dual point of view, straight romance kind of stuff with Lindsay Evans, and yeah, definitely different, and that was just to separate Fiona from Lindsay in terms of like audience because I think a lot of straight women would not read Fiona stuff.
Fiona: But even though my queer audience doesn't mind, it's not their favorite, but they're like, "I'll try one of them or whatever."
Kenrya: They see you. They know your good quality of your writing.
Fiona: [inaudible 00:27:42].
Erica: You're dope. As a straight woman, I got to the second part of “Rise of the Rain Queen”-
Kenrya: How are you straight, Erica?
Erica: Okay, I mean every time I say, this Kenrya checks me on it. I'm like more of a like 70-30, okay? So as a 70-30 straighter-
Fiona: Okay, 70-30.
Erica: Yeah, 70-30 straighter, I like your... The second part of the novel, once... I'm trying not to give that away-
Kenrya: You don't want to spoil.
Erica: But like once things happen, I'm like, "Yo, this is the best fucking world, like this is the best world to live in. Give me a ticket. Let me get here," so yeah. But also I'm 70-30, so maybe that's the 30 in me talking, I don't know.
Kenrya: I don't know. I mean-
Fiona: I'm happy you enjoyed that world.
Erica: Yes. It's fantastic.
Kenrya: I'm curious.
Fiona: I really enjoyed writing it. Yes, you were curious?
Kenrya: About what does... I ask this question a lot because I'm fascinated by the answers that Black people give. What does success look like to you?
Fiona: Oh gosh. For me, success is being happy, of course, and then not struggling. That's it, basically.
Erica: That's good. Nice.
Kenrya: Simple and pure. I love it.
Fiona: I don't want a lot.
Erica: Good. Well, happiness is a lot, right?
Fiona: It is, though, it is. When you have it and it's real and it's lasting, there's nothing like it.
Erica: It's so full. It's filling. Okay, so I like to ask, Kenrya is the serious one, she comes up with the serious questions. My contribution to this interview are the would you rather questions. So would you rather know your soulmate your entire life, but be unable to partner with them or meet your soulmate and be able to partner with them for only two years of your life?
Fiona: The second one.
Fiona: Yeah, the second one. Like I... Not that she was a soulmate or anything, but like I connected with an amazing woman for about two years, and when I tell you that it was like explosive and mind altering and like soul opening... It's over, but I wouldn't trade that experience for anything. I think that what I've experienced with her will more than likely never be duplicated, and because I had what I had with her, it's totally fine with me.
Erica: Okay. what about you, Kenrya?
Kenrya: Shit. I hadn't thought about my answer. I would rather be able to be with them for two years. I feel like that would be a blessing and a spot of joy that I would always be able to fall back on, and just because whatever other relationships I got into weren't necessarily with my soulmate, it wouldn't mean that they weren't beautiful and fulfilling and rich, but I would still have that memory like that. Not just in my mind but like that sense that you have in your body that people imprint on you, like I'd still be able to carry that with me, and I'd want that. What about you, E?
Erica: You all make it sound so beautiful. I'll go for the second just because I'm not trying to stare at you and want you for my entire life, no. Give me. Give me, give me, give me, if only for two years.
Fiona: That just sounds straight up painful though, right? It's like the most delicious, juicy pear in the world and it's just like right there, just beyond your reach, and you know how it would taste amazing, right? You know that it's for you, but it's also not meant for you, and you just...
Kenrya: I think you'd always have this what if hanging over you that would be a shadow over your other relationships too.
Erica: Nothing would satisfy you, yup.
Kenrya: Exactly. So I'd rather have it for two years for sure. That's a great question, E.
Fiona: It is a great question.
Erica: Thanks guys.
Kenrya: Fiona, you said that you were writing this morning. What are you working on? What's up next for you that you can tell us without spoiling anything?
Fiona: It's fine. I'm just trying to get, how do I describe this thing that's getting more complicated every day? The novel is called “The House of Agnes,” and it's about a woman, she runs an escort service, and someone appears in her life and tries to challenge her... Not ownership with the escort service but just to challenge who she is, challenge her life, and has to force her to rethink everything. That's super vague. It's like "What else?"
Kenrya: It's enough, it's a little taste.
Fiona: Yeah. I'm really fascinated by sex work and I think it's beautiful and necessary and I want sex workers to be... It is work and I want sex workers to be able to be insured and be protected. They're working, right? And sex workers have been around for forever, and so I wanted to write a story about that even though what I'm writing now isn't necessarily about that. It's about someone who, she's seen the bad side of sex work and wants to make it safer for some people or for those that she's able to make it safe for.
Erica: I think it's great that you're taking this as a topic to set your story in, because I think it helps normalize and make it more... When it's not the story about the ills of sex work, like just it's a profession, this thing she does, this is a part of her but it isn't all that she is. I'm assuming it's a female lead but if-
Fiona: Yeah, it's a clear story. Everyone's like-
Erica: I mean like I love that. I feel like that's what we try to do also with the stories that we pick here. We don't want to have a very special episode of the turn, it's just this is a part of life, this the shit that happens. I'm excited to read the next book.
Fiona: I'm excited to finish it. I mean it's definitely becoming different, but more different than I planned, so I just hope that it ends up being well done and that I'll finish on time so my editor won't kill me.
Kenrya: Yeah, they do threaten that. It'll be great, I'm sure.
Fiona: Yeah. Hope so.
Kenrya: When it's done, where will people be able to find it, and where can they find you online?
Fiona: When it's done, they can find it on my website which is fionazedde.com, F-I-O-N-A-Z-E-D-D-E.com, and it'll also be on my publisher's website, Ylva, Y-L-V-A publishing.com. I always get the last part wrong.
Kenrya: We'll be sure to list it.
Fiona: But yeah, it'll be there and it'll be at Kara's Books in Atlanta as well, so it will be around.
Kenrya: Awesome, and then on Twitter and on Instagram, you're @ FionaZedde?
Fiona: Yes. Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, everything, @FionaZedde. It's easier.
Kenrya: And then your other website for your straight work is LindsayEvansWrites.com?
Fiona: Yes, exactly.
Kenrya: Awesome. Okay, well, that is it for this week's episode of The Turn On. Fiona, thank you so much for joining us, and thank you all for listening.
Fiona: Thank you.
Kenrya: Take care.
Fiona: Thank you for inviting. Bye.
Erica: This episode was produced by us, Erica and Kenrya, and edited by B'Lystic. The theme song is from Brazy. First, please leave a review in your favorite podcast listening app. For real, we want to hear from you 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 in your favorite podcast app. Follow us on Twitter, @TheTurnOnPod and Instagram, @TheTurnOnPodcast, and find books, transcripts, guest info and other fun stuff at TheTurnOnPodcast.com. Bye.
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.