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In this episode of The Turn On, Erica and Kenrya talk to romance icon Beverly Jenkins about connecting with your life's work, the importance of mentoring and the state of Black literature.
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Kenrya: Come here, get off.
Kenrya: Our guest today is Beverly Jenkins, pronouns she and her. Ms. Jenkins is the nation's premier writer of African American historical romance fiction, and she specializes in 19th century African American life. She's the 2018 Michigan Library Association author of the year, a USA Today bestselling author, an NAACP Image Award nominee and the 2017 recipient of the Romance Writers of America's Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award. She has over 45 published novels and has been named to many best book of the year awards, including the NPR and the American Library Association lists. She speaks widely on romance, writing and African American history. Ms. Bev, thank you so much for joining us today.
Beverly: You're so welcome, thanks for having me. This is an honor.
Kenrya: For you? For us.
Erica: Every time you say that I'm like...
Erica: Ma'am, you have no... you do not understand how much we're freaking out about this. So, thank you, thank you, thank you.
Beverly: You're welcome, welcome, welcome.
Erica: Kenrya just read your amazing bio, and I just want to know, how did you end up here? Did you always want to be a writer when you were growing up?
Beverly: No, never ever.
Beverly: No, I just stumbled into this.
Erica: Oh, wow.
Beverly: All I ever wanted to do in life was work in a library. Or as we used to say on the east side, work in the lie-berry.
Kenrya: That was my very first job, was working in a library. It's an awesome place.
Beverly: It is. Avid reader, so I got a chance to work in a library when I was in college at Michigan State. In fact, my junior year, a full-time job opened up. Because I had been working as a student in various different departments and stuff. A full-time job opened up in circulation and I didn't even take my finals.
Beverly: I was like, "I'm out, I'm done." Yeah, school wasn't really important back then, no way.
Kenrya: There's a lot of things that's more important.
Beverly: Well, I was there in the early '70s, so we weren't doing anything but passing blunts and taking over buildings.
Kenrya: Not much has changed.
Beverly: So I'm hearing. So, I went to work full-time there and then I don't know, daughter born. Husband and I moved up north and then we moved back down this way, and I was working for Parke-Davis Pharmaceuticals, which was one of the big pharm companies. There was a woman who worked with me in the library, her name was Laverne. She had just gotten a sweet romance published, so we're celebrating her, right? I told her about this book that I was working on for myself because back then, romance was basically closed to writers of color.
Beverly: I was working on it just for me and she said, "Bring it in." I did, and she loved it and said, "You need to get this published." I'm like, "Where?" So, I tell her that this is her fault that I'm here where I am now, because she harassed me.
Erica: Thank you, thank you.
Beverly: Her and my momma, I'm going to tell you my momma's story in a minute. But she basically, I tell her she basically harassed me every day. "Have you found an agent? Did you..." Da da da da da da da. So, to make her shut up, and sometimes life gives you things that you hadn't planned on. And I cannot tell you to this day how I found the address for Vivian Stevens.
Beverly: Vivian was a huge editor in New York at the time. Well, right before then, she basically started American romance, especially for women of color. Because she was at Dell, which no longer exists. But she published Sandra Kitt, she published L.C. Washington, the ladies on whose shoulders I'm standing. And she had gotten out of publishing and she was doing agent stuff. I don't know how I found this woman, but I stumbled.
Kenrya: Nothing but God.
Beverly: Yeah, nothing but God.
Erica: Purpose, purpose.
Beverly: I sent her my little raggedy manuscript, right? And I swear she called me within six days at work.
Beverly: And said that she wanted to represent me. So, we're doing a happy dance in the library and all that, right? But it took us probably, I don't know, maybe two years to sell it. I got enough rejection letters to paper my house and both of your houses. Publishers were saying, "It's a great story, but..." And the but had to do with there was no box for it, because this was “Night Song.” It was my first historical. There was nothing, no box for a 19th century African American centered story that was not rooted in slavery.
Beverly: So, I have a story that is after the Civil War. A town on the plains in Kansas, founded by Black folks. New York and most publishing was like, "What? What?" And because I was doing what I wanted in life, which is working in the library, all these rejections didn't bother me. I mean, for somebody who probably was looking to get published, it probably would have devastated them. I didn't care, I was working in the library every day.
Beverly: I had my own gold in my purse. So, June 3rd, 1993, which was my late husband's birthday, I got the call.
Beverly: And then I found out I had to write a story.
Kenrya: You was like, "Oh, great."
Erica: "Now we have to do something with this."
Beverly: Right, right. I tell people I had several hundred pages of nothing but heat. Ellen Edwards, who was the editor at the time, the one who bought the book said, "Bev, the love scenes are great. We need a story." I was like, "I got to write a story? Okay, well..." So, for me, it didn't make much sense to have African American hero and heroine and paint that story against a majority background. I had been an avid, I don't know, reader of African American history all my life. Because I tell people my mother was Black before it was fashionable. So, I grew up with African American history in my home.
Beverly: So, I knew, and then having worked in the graduate library at Michigan State University that had a full set of The Journal of Negro History, because I would take armfuls out at lunchtime just to go through it. Not knowing I was preparing myself for what was going to come.
Erica: You were.
Beverly: 20 years later, right? The universe is a crazy place.
Kenrya: It's a beautiful place.
Beverly: So, I set it in Kansas after the Great Exodus of 1879, which was the first major migration of Black folks. We had the migration, the Great Migration of 1900, people were going north. Well, this was like 20 years before and people went west. They went to Kansas, they went to Iowa, they went to Nebraska, they went to Colorado. Some people went to California. So, I based my little town on Henry Adams, and Henry Adams was a real person, on the famous town Nicodemus, which was in the great Solomon Valley and on the great Solomon River in Kansas. So, that's the beginning of my journey. 25 years, what 26 years? I don't remember very well.
Kenrya: 26 years later.
Beverly: Yeah, I'm here talking to you all.
Beverly: So it's been an awesome journey, awesome journey.
Erica: So, what was the romance industry like as a Black woman telling Black stories?
Beverly: Very white, very white. But I had some people who reached out and showed me the ropes, and I'm very, very grateful to them. And then you had some people that was like, they didn't care. They didn't want me at the table, but that's been the struggle for 200 years.
Beverly: So, it wasn't like it was going to keep me from doing what I wanted to do. I used what those ladies and Vivian, she was very, very instrumental in taking my hand and leading me through the forest and giving me... she was like being with your grandmother. Giving you lessons on how to conduct yourself regardless of what they were doing in relationship to your fans, and how to carry yourself, and all of that. So, it was very white. But I started in 19... “Night Song” was published in 1994. We call that the “summer of Black love” because that was the same year that Arabesque published all of their contemporaries.
Beverly: With Donna Hill and Brenda and Gwynne Forester, and the late Francis Ray. So, they were doing a contemporary thing on their side and I was doing my little historicals.
Kenrya: That was a pivotal year.
Beverly: Yeah, here we are.
Kenrya: Which leads me to ask, how have things changed or not changed in those 26 years?
Beverly: Well, 26 years you have the rise of Indie, where the sisters and those of all identities said, "Well, fuck this. They don't want my story, we'll go independent." Romance is on the cutting edge of that.
Kenrya: That's true.
Beverly: We're on the cutting edge of indie, we're on the cutting edge of e-readers. I mean, we bring $1 billion to the table every year, so we're an industry to be reckoned with and Black women were right there at the beginning of that whole big Indie influx. As a result, really, really opened up romance to all people. So, now you got sisters writing paranormal, you got sisters writing IR. You got sisters writing in every new branch and old branch of the romance tree, which is fabulous because it's now starting to reflect the nation and the people who read it. Yeah, it was real white back then.
Erica: So, we said in your bio that you write in a lot of subgenres, but you primarily pen in historical romance fiction. So, what pushes you to explore the lives of Black folks in the period after the civil war?
Beverly: Because we get so much pain. I think the mainstream media thinks that that's the only lives that we had. Not only do they neglect the everyday struggles of just trying to be a person in America, they neglect the history and all of the contributions that we've made to America's quilt. Our pieces have been snatched out, cut out, burned, just like they've been for most of the people of color here in the country. It's a very, very bittersweet kind of a century, the 19th century. So, I like to set my stories there number one because we don't know the history. Number two, it reflects just how clever and smart and innovative and awesome we were as a race to take all the lemons that America has given us and make the sweetest lemonade we could find.
Kenrya: I love that. So, we read your book “Forbidden” on the show.
Kenrya: Thanks again for letting us do that.
Beverly: You're welcome.
Kenrya: There were just so many awesome details. When you mentioned the Baltimore-based Oblate Sisters of Providence, which is the first order of Black Catholic nuns in the United States. That kept sending me to Google because I kept learning things and wanting to deep dive into them.
Kenrya: I'm really interested in what your research process looks like as you create these books.
Beverly: I call it edutainment, entertainment and education. Our history is so rich that if you know where to look, you'll find stuff that just amazes you. So, my research process now is a lot more refined than it used to be when I started. Because when I started, I was working a regular job, I had a husband, I had two kids, didn't have a whole lot of money. I mean, my husband was making great money, but it wasn't like it was my money. Well, it was my money, but it wasn't my money.
Kenrya: Yeah, I know what you mean.
Beverly: I couldn't tell him, "I need to spend $150 this week on library books and research books." So, that first book, “Night Song,” I did the research at the Ypsilanti Public Library. Ypsilanti is the city right outside of Ann Arbor. They had a fabulous African American history collection, which was really interesting for such a small town. But over the years, now I've got so many books that I've got room for. I've got five stacks. I got one, two, three, four seven-foot bookcases in the office.
Beverly: There are one, two, three, four, five stacks of books that are about knee high that are in the hallway.
Beverly: Those aren't in the room.
Kenrya: That's impressive.
Beverly: I keep telling myself, "What are you going to use this for?" But I see this and I say, "I got to buy this, I got to buy this, I got to buy this." I tell the local library that when I do go to glory, they're going to get all of these books.
Beverly: And they can't circulate because folks stealing my stuff. You have to sit down and read it, but the history is so important. I think one of the joys of the history is that when you educate a woman, you educate a race.
Kenrya: Say that.
Beverly: So, sisters are educating. I'm on grandchildren right now. The women who started with me and their daughters, and the daughters of their daughters, and they're all learning that history. One of the ladies said her grandson did a Black history paper. I don't know what it was, I don't know if it was the Black and brown outlaws of the Indian territory, something like that. And the teacher wanted to know, "Where did you get this information?" He said, "Out of my grandmamma Ms. Bev's books."
Beverly: So, putting the bib list in the backs of the books, like you said for Google, you can learn more about each subject and you don't have to reinvent the wheel. You can just go to the list and look stuff up and teach yourself, and teach those around you.
Kenrya: Sounds fun.
Beverly: And no test on Friday, so it's cool.
Kenrya: That we like.
Erica: No pressure. In “Forbidden,” the leading lady Eddy, we love her.
Erica: She is self-possessed and just laser focused about her goals.
Erica: Even with circumstances that set her back. Why was it so important for you to have such a strong character be so strong in her purpose?
Beverly: All of my women are strong. If they were in a monster movie, they wouldn't be running and falling down. Eddy came out of... I was looking for something else. You run across stuff in history and you go, "What if?" I was reading the diaries from somebody, some brother that was going west. He said he saw this woman walking across the desert with a cookstove on her head, and that's all he said.
Beverly: He didn't know where she was going, but she was just walking. So, when I read that, I was really intrigued. Who was she? Where is she going? Why she got that cookstove on her head? So, since I didn't know, I created a story.
Beverly: Dorothy Sterling in her book "We Are Your Sisters: Black Women in the Nineteenth Century," which both of you should have in your libraries. That's your homework.
Kenrya: Thank you, we'll take it.
Beverly: She said Black women were given... Black women of the 19th century had three gifts. One, we worked. We had a commitment to community and we pushed the enveloped on race and gender. So, I try and give all of my leading ladies and sometimes the secondary women too at least one of those gifts. Some of them have all three, some of them only have one, some of them only have two. But I want them to be focused on who we are and who we were bringing us forward. Because without their shoulders for us to stand on, we wouldn't be here. So, those three gifts. Eddy has maybe all three.
Erica: Yeah, she does.
Beverly: Maybe all three, yeah.
Beverly: So, that's the simple short answer.
Kenrya: So, another thing that we talked about when we were discussing the book was that we love that you really provided a nuanced look at what might drive someone to pass. What made you want to tackle that topic?
Beverly: Part of it was the readers, who for the last 10 years have been asking me, "Where is Rhine Fontaine?"
Erica: Rhine Fontaine.
Beverly: Yeah, and I had no idea where Rhine Fontaine was. But when I ran across the archeological dig that's in the back, in the author's notes, and read about the Boston saloon. They found that hot sauce bottle, and stereotypes, whatever.
Kenrya: We were like, "Hey."
Beverly: Hot sauce bottle, we've evolved, right? So, the short chapter that he is in, "Through the Storm," let us know a little bit about his mindset. If you look at literature through the last 1500 years or whatever, the mulatto was always this tragic mulatto.
Beverly: They don't know who they want to be. Oh my God, the angst. Some of them wind up taking their own lives because they can't handle.
Kenrya: Being in two worlds, yeah.
Beverly: Some of us are different. I think we have a tendency to sort of put them all in one box, and we put them in that tragic mulatto box. But what if they had a different mindset? What if he wanted to pass in order to help his people?
Beverly: Which is what he did. But I always told the sisters, when Rhine disappeared. Like I said, I didn't know where he was for 10 years. I told him, I said, "When we find him, I'm going to give him the darkest woman I can find."
Beverly: So, brother man will have to make a choice, and he did.
Erica: And he did.
Beverly: Shit burned down at the end, but it was okay.
Beverly: And it was real interesting because at the end of that book, before Brussels was written, I had some people saying, "It never would have ended like that, him happy and all that." I said, "You ain't read the second book. The second book is out, it starts out with them being run out of town." People are like, "That's so..." Don't tell me how to write my books.
Kenrya: Don't tell me what I'm...
Kenrya: That's right.
Erica: I'm Beverly Jenkins, you are not.
Beverly: Right, say my name.
Kenrya: That's right.
Beverly: So, Rhine was a very interesting character. I'm hoping that if Sony decides to do whatever it's going to do, because they've optioned it for film, that we get a really, really good rendition and the sister who is the showrunner is fabulous.
Beverly: So, I think when the time comes, because stuff is optioned all the time.
Beverly: So, if it is made, we are in very good hands, in very good hands.
Erica: So excited about this.
Beverly: So am I.
Erica: We were going to ask, can you tell us a little bit about that process? About having the book optioned and...
Beverly: Well, it was optioned through the young ladies who owned The Ripped Bodice, Leah and Bea Koch out in... they were outside of L.A. For those who don't know, they had... well, now there's more than one. But when they started, they had the first bricks and mortar store that was strictly devoted to romance.
Kenrya: That's crazy.
Beverly: They are such dynamic women, young women. In some kind of way, they worked out a deal with Sony where they was able to push book their way. I don't know how that connection started because it wasn't none of my business. But one of the first books that they proposed was “Forbidden.” So, I'm very, very grateful to them. So, then I had no idea what the process was. My agent got someone to shepherd our side of the table forward and we got the showrunner. I'm not going to out her name because that ain't my business either. But she's very, very well known. She's run some pretty powerful shows that we have all watched, and not just all Black shows. She's got a wealth of talent and experience. So, we're just waiting to see what happens.
Kenrya: I'm doing some guessing.
Erica: I am excited. So, I don't know if you can say or if you're willing to share.
Erica: But do you have a dream casting for “Forbidden”?
Beverly: I would like to see Lupita as Eddy and Wentworth Miller as...
Beverly: Because he is a person of color.
Beverly: I think he'd be a perfect Rhine. That's all I've got so far, but when I have my book club meetings with my readers and we do books, that's always the last question of the night, is cast the movie. So, they've got all kinds of ideas and people, some people will be like, "Who is that? I don't know who that is." I'm two generations ahead of some of them, so...
Beverly: But those are my ideal, would be Lupita and Wentworth Miller. So, we'll see.
Erica: I totally see it. Let's make this happen.
Beverly: Yes, yes, yes. Yes, yes, yes.
Kenrya: I guess I should've asked this before we went down the movie rabbit hole, but what do you want people to take away from the book when they finish? Or even from the series, because for those of you who don't know, it's a series of three books.
Kenrya: That follows their story.
Beverly: I've been asked that question since the beginning of my career and I don't know. I want to educate and I want to entertain. So, if you are treated to both of those, then that's all I could ask. I'm also for people who are outside of the culture. If it gives you insight into our history, that's what I want you to take away. We are more than just slaves. So, I just want you to have a good time. I mean, I had a sister one time who told me that, "Ms. Bev, I love your books," she said, "Because at the end of it," she said, "I'm not singing, 'Nobody knows the trouble I've seen.'"
Beverly: Which I think is different. I think there's a spot for every kind of Black story. But so far, all we've been getting is pain and dysfunction and trauma and horror and abuse. Some of those have been outstanding pieces of work, but I want N.K. Jemisin's science fiction books.
Beverly: I want A.C. Arthur's shapeshifters. I want the full gamut because we write the full gamut. We shouldn't be just pigeonholed into one box to represent the African American experience in America. So, I'm just trying to do my part.
Kenrya: You are.
Erica: You are. What are you most proud of so far in your career?
Beverly: That I'm still writing and that I do whatever I can to try and make the path wider for those coming up behind me. To reach back and talk to these young women, and talking them off the roof when they're talking about they're going to quit because things aren't going the way they want it to go. Being proud when somebody names their kid after one of my characters.
Kenrya: Oh, wow.
Beverly: Yeah, there's a lot of Chases running around these days. They're 25 years old now, but they're still running around.
Beverly: Just the fact that, trying to be a good person. I think I'm proud of that. I'm too old for drama, so I just try and keep things even and on course for the young girls coming up behind me.
Kenrya: So, speaking of winding the path and all the folks that you've mentored, what advice do you have for Black women who want to get started writing in this genre?
Beverly: Quit talking about it and write the damn book.
Beverly: When I first started, it took me... like I said, I wouldn't write for publication. So, I worked on "Night Song" for maybe 10 years. It's B.C., before children, right?
Erica: Girl, that's a whole other life.
Beverly: It is, but now I'm A.C. They done moved out and grown and gone. When I talked about it, I got four sisters, four sisters and two brothers. I'm the oldest, and I would talk about the book and my sister is like, "What happened? What's going on with the book?" Everywhere I went, the book.
Kenrya: Slightly shady.
Beverly: Just slightly. Yeah, just a little bit. So, I tell young writers to quit talking about writing and write the book. No matter what it is, there's an audience for it because we read everything. Publishers are just figuring out that oh, they don't just read Black books.
Beverly: I'm like, really? I got to call you all out at a luncheon about this?
Kenrya: Listen, you've been calling folks out left and right. We are quite enjoying it.
Erica: Yes, yes, yes, yes.
Beverly: For 20 years, I was like a prophet in the wilderness just yelling into the wind. But I think they're starting to listen. I mean, we still got a long ass way to go.
Beverly: But at least they're like, "Oh, Ms. Bev, you're right." Duh, yeah. But things are changing slowly. But I think we made more change in the last... but then we had the RWA mess. That took us back a bit, but we won't talk about that. But leading up to the dumpster fire, we made some changes. We made some changes, saw some breakthroughs. So, I'm just sitting back to see what's going to happen next. Really all I can control is what I write.
Beverly: I can call folks out, I can help folks out. I can do what I can, but basically the only thing I can really control is what I write, so I try and stay focused on that also.
Erica: Well, you made it clear that you are an avid reader, an avid book collector. But what are you reading now that has your attention?
Beverly: I'm not supposed to be reading anything because I'm supposed to be finishing this damn book.
Kenrya: That's the perpetual struggle.
Beverly: Girl, the struggle is real. I just finished book two. No, no, no, I just finished G.A. Aiken's "The Blacksmith Queen." Oh my God.
Beverly: Yes, it's got... at the center of the story, and I'm not going to give you no spoilers.
Beverly: But at the center of the story is a woman who is a blacksmith. She is from a long line of female blacksmiths and it's a quest, and it's fantasy. These woman kick ass. It would make a great Netflix movie, oh my God.
Kenrya: Or a series.
Beverly: And it's written by Shelly Laurenston, who is a woman of color. I read book two yesterday. I read this book coming home on the plane Sunday, coming from Boston. While I was in Boston, because that's the only time I get to read now.
Beverly: It makes me just crazy. So, I got a Kindle that should probably go to Weight Watchers because it's got so many books on it. I mean, I open it and it just starts cussing on me. I also finished book two in... I read a lot of fantasy. Jessie Mihalik's queen series, "The Queen's Gambit." This is set in space.
Beverly: It's one of those former mercenary, and she's also a queen. She is bad ass, oh my God. So, yeah, I read a little bit of everything. I'm waiting to start N.K. Jemisin's book about New York City.
Kenrya: That's going to be exciting.
Beverly: I haven't gotten a chance to check that out yet. Yeah, so I got lots of stuff in my TBR and all that, so we'll see.
Kenrya: Thanks for sharing that with us.
Beverly: You're welcome.
Kenrya: Hopefully folks got some good recommendations that they can pick up.
Beverly: Oh, you've got to read “The Blacksmith Queen.”
Kenrya: I am going to read that.
Beverly: It's funny. Very, very, very strong women. Lots of gore, lots of swordplay, lots of heads being chopped off by women.
Beverly: It'd be a great movie, great movie.
Kenrya: So, then the question is, what's next for you? What can we look forward to reading from you?
Beverly: Well, life has been sort of kicking my ass lately, so we had to push back the historical.
Kenrya: I saw that.
Beverly: I know, and I'm so sorry.
Kenrya: It was so sweet that you apologized to all of us.
Beverly: I know, but I do that because...
Erica: You do what you want. We're just happy to get what you throw at us.
Beverly: Well, you got some readers and some writers have posted this on Twitter. People say, "You had to push the book back, I'm not reading any more of your books," blah blah blah. I'm like, "We're human. We got issues, we got family. I got a 91-year-old mother-in-law." I owe you the truth because you guys pay my mortgage.
Kenrya: That's real.
Beverly: You guys bought my car, so... I'm always very cognizant of my role in my readers' lives and their role in my life. So, the apology was just part of what I do and who I am. So, “Spring Rain,” no, “Wild Rain,” I can never get the title right, will be next spring.
Beverly: So, I've got to finish it. I'm going to work on that. Now that the virus is going to be canceling everything from here to the end of April. And then I have book 11 to do for the "Blessing" series.
Beverly: Because we're going to have another one. Book 10 just dropped last Tuesday, so hopefully I might get a chance to maybe catch my breath. I cleaned out my freezer today. I had a little bit of time.
Kenrya: How so? Were you able... see, for those of you who don't follow Ms. Bev on Twitter, you missing out. I saw you post, you were like, "I need to nap now." I'm like, "I hope she can still talk to us."
Beverly: Yeah, I had planned on it because my life has just... I've been on a hamster wheel for six years. I finally got a break. I hit the wall and I had to tell my editor, "Mm-mm (negative), no more."
Kenrya: Good for you.
Beverly: "I need to take a break." So, I was in Boston last week, hoping I didn't catch the virus. We won't know for another two weeks. So, today was just sort of I got my groceries delivered because I don't leave my house. I got my groceries delivered and said, "Okay, I'm going to cook today. It's going to be good. I'm going to do these smoked turkey legs and some collards and some black-eyed peas. I've got these sweet potatoes sitting here in the cupboard."
Kenrya: You're a good cook.
Beverly: I open the freezer and it's like, okay, you've been ignoring this for the last six months. What had happened was, I had a carton of ice cream that had caramel snaking through it. It had been in there so long that the carton tipped over. The caramel oozed out over everything in the freezer. So, for the last three months, four months, all I've been doing is throwing stuff in the freezer and closing the door. So, when I got the groceries today and I had to put one of them big old turkey legs in the freezer, there was no room. So, I was like, okay. It was like being a character in that old racist book “The Tar-Baby,” because everything got touched.
Erica: It became.
Beverly: I was stuck.
Beverly: I ran the catfish in the freezer under hot water and stuff. So, anyway, after I got done I was like...
Kenrya: You was too tired to cook.
Beverly: Ain't no cooking.
Kenrya: Ain't no cooking.
Beverly: No cooking, it's a nap. So, I'll cook tomorrow.
Kenrya: I'm glad you took time for yourself.
Beverly: Well, we as women sometimes don't do that. We're so busy taking care of everybody else, and sometimes being in denial about not really having the strength and the mental ability to just sit your ass down. Sometimes your body will say, "It's time to sit your ass down."
Kenrya: It sure will, yeah.
Beverly: So, I have taken off a week now. I'm going to start back to work tomorrow, try and get this book done. My poor editor.
Kenrya: She'll live.
Beverly: I told her I'm going to start buying her wigs because I know she's bald from pulling her hair out with me. She's so fabulous and so patient, and she's a great editor. So, I'm going to try and get this to her as quickly as possible because the next "Blessings" book is due in a few months from now. So, it's a never ending story, but I love what I do.
Kenrya: That's a blessing.
Erica: We love what you do, so thank you.
Beverly: Sitting in my pajamas, I've been here all day, so I've got to leave my house. Anyway...
Kenrya: No, that's the life.
Beverly: It is.
Kenrya: So, where can people find what you do? Your website is BeverlyJenkins.net?
Beverly: Mm-hmm (affirmative), and we've had issues for a week, but it's up now and running. We are updating it. It's on wherever books are sold online, bricks and mortars, Audible, brail.
Kenrya: Yes, we love accessibility.
Beverly: Whatever mode of vehicle or device you want.
Kenrya: It's there.
Beverly: My books are there, yeah. And that's an honor too.
Kenrya: Yeah, it is.
Beverly: It is.
Kenrya: And you're on Twitter @AuthorMsBev and on Facebook at Author Beverly Jenkins?
Beverly: Yeah, we have... I think I have four Facebook pages.
Beverly: I have one that's... I don't have any personal pages. All of my pages are fan run and based. I have what's supposed to be the personal page, but you can only have 5,000 people. I have that page, I have the Author Beverly Jenkins page. That's the brand page, then I have a spoilers page where... because they read the book so fast and then they want to talk about it the next day.
Beverly: There's people haven't even gotten the book.
Erica: You all go over there and play.
Beverly: Yeah, go over there and play. I gave them a separate room for them to do that, and then we have a page that one of the fans created called The Fans of Beverly Jenkins. That's an open page. I mean, you can just ask to join that. The spoiler page, you have to have an invite because we can't have crazy up in the room.
Erica: Let's protect our space.
Beverly: I had a woman in there who was like, "Well, you all can't talk about the book because everybody hasn't read it." We're like, "Honey."
Kenrya: You're in the wrong place.
Beverly: Did you see the sign on the door? It says spoilers. She ran out, so...
Kenrya: Good, she was wildin’.
Beverly: Reading is fundamental.
Kenrya: It is, you'd think she would know that.
Beverly: I know.
Kenrya: Well, thank you so much for joining us.
Beverly: You are so welcome. I'd love to come back whenever you want me.
Kenrya: Oh, don't tell us that.
Erica: Don't tell us. Well, you know what Ms. Bev? You say that and you going to be at home one day, and we going to show up like, "We're going to do this in person."
Beverly: That's okay.
Kenrya: We heard you had some smoked turkey legs and some collard greens.
Beverly: I know, I have some collard greens and a clean freezer.
Beverly: So, it'll be pie too, you'll get pie.
Kenrya: All right. Listen, this is going to happen.
Erica: Promise us.
Kenrya: We appreciate you.
Beverly: She's looking at me like... yeah, I'm a scratch baker, hun.
Kenrya: Me too.
Beverly: Are you?
Kenrya: I literally baked a cake before I went to the studio.
Erica: Wait, today? Oh, see?
Kenrya: Yeah, but it's for... I'm giving it away. I'll bake you a cake tomorrow but you can't eat... we'll figure it out. I've got to figure out some new recipes for you.
Erica: I don't care.
Kenrya: She's now gluten free, and so now she can't eat anything I make.
Beverly: You're gluten free? Oh no, give me...
Erica: Look, it is only because I'm facing some health challenges that I even care.
Beverly: Well, you deal with your health challenges because we want you here.
Kenrya: Exactly. I'm going to find some recipes of some things that I can bake for you.
Erica: We'll discuss this offline because I'm ready to cuss her out right now. I'm so upset.
Beverly: Play nice, mama says play nice.
Kenrya: Yes, please tell her.
Beverly: Thank you so much for having me. Have me back.
Erica: We will.
Kenrya: We will.
Beverly: Like I said, I don't get to talk to women of color very often, so I had fun.
Kenrya: It's been a pleasure.
Erica: Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Kenrya: And thanks to everyone who is listening. That's it for this week's episode of The Turn On. See you next time.
Beverly: All right.
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 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 this show on your favorite podcast app, follow us on Twitter at TheTurnOnPod, and Instagram at TheTurnOnPodcast. Find links to our books, transcripts, guest info, and other fun stuff at TheTurnOnPodcast.com. Remember, The Turn On is now a 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.
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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.
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.