Hey everyone! For the last day of my Diversity Month, we’re featuring Lisa Brown Roberts and her diverse novels. Hope you enjoy the post!
About the Book
Playing the Player
Released September 14th
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Trina Clemons needed the money. Why else would she—the most organized, prepared student in school—spend the summer as a nanny and partner with the biggest slacker ever? Now she’s ready to tackle nannyhood with her big binder of research and schedules. Just don’t ask her about the secret job of “fixing” the bad habits of a certain high school player…
Slade Edmunds prefers easy hook-ups, and Trina is definitely not his type. She’s all structure and rules, while Slade wants to just have fun. Fortunately, Trina has no idea about the bet Slade made with his best friend that he can totally get her to unwind by the end of summer…
Then the weirdest thing happens. There’s chemistry. A lot of it.
But nothing gets between a boy and a girl like a big, fat secret…
About the Author
Like many story spinners, I started writing at a very young age. I’ll always be grateful to my second-grade teacher, Ms. Kathy Scott, who kept a shoebox of writing ideas on a bookshelf in her classroom. Eventually I graduated from her idea shoebox to my own ideas, though my second-grade novella about a family of coffee cups living under the sea raises serious doubts about my plotting skills.
I still haven’t recovered from the teenage trauma of nearly tweezing off my eyebrows and having to pencil them in for an entire school year – just one of a million memories that inspires me to write and read YA books.
The wacky and wonderful Wild Writers critique group patiently tolerates my suggestions to add kissing and romantic angst to all their manuscripts (even the picture books). Their collective brilliance amazes and inspires me, and pushes me to be a better writer.
My almost forever home is Colorado, though I occasionally pine for the days when I lived within walking distance of the Pacific Ocean. My house is full of books, boys and four-legged prima donnas, all of which keep me laughing.
Writing Diversely: A Guest Post by Lisa Brown Roberts
Thank you to Shelly and Octavia for inviting me to contribute to their blog. This post took many drafts, because I didn’t want to get it “wrong,” yet it’s this fear of “getting it wrong” that, I believe, holds back many white, straight writers from embracing diversity in their books.
I would never define myself as a writer leading the charge in the diverse books movement, but I am intentional about my characters and the worlds I create. I want to write books that reflect the world as it is, reflecting racial and sexual diversity as a normal part of life, doing my best to avoid clichés, stereotypes, and unintentional micro-aggressions. I’m aware of my privilege, but probably not nearly as much as I should be. I pour my heart and soul into all my books. For some readers, it may not be enough, for some, it’s considered “too much.”
In my first book, HOW (NOT) TO FALL IN LOVE, Lucas, the hero/love interest is Latino. When I started writing that book many years ago, he showed up fully formed in my imagination, the way all of my characters do. I knew he was Mexican-American in the same way I knew his mom abandoned the family when his sister was two years old, in the same way I knew he loved fixing things and wanted to be an engineer, and adored his sister, and watched basketball with his dad, and was smart, loyal, and sexy…and the perfect guy for Darcy, the heroine of the story.
Truthfully, I never considered marketing the book as a diverse book, because the primary focus of the book is Darcy’s journey and personal growth as her family life turns upside down. The romance is an important part of the story, and my focus as a writer was on developing a sweet, friends-to-lovers romance that readers were invested in, rather than drawing attention to the fact that it happens to be an interracial romance, because frankly, why should that be unusual or worthy of comment? In my own life, I’m surrounded by people in loving, interracial relationships. For me it’s life as usual, and that’s what I wanted to portray.
The same was true when I wrote PLAYING THE PLAYER, with the character of Desi, who is the heroine’s best friend and is African-American. In my mind, Trina and Desi’s school world is vibrantly diverse, just like my son’s real-life school. I wanted to show the normality of that world, where interracial friendships and romances are no big deal. I love how readers have responded to the strong friendship between Desi and Trina. As with the romance in HOW (NOT) TO FALL IN LOVE, I concentrated on portraying the depth and quality of Desi and Trina’s friendship– honest, loyal, full of laughter and the ability to call bullshit when needed.
I was very intentional about portraying a committed gay romance (that of Alex and Tim) in PLAYING THE PLAYER. The book is primarily about Slade and Trina’s romance, but Alex plays a critical role. Alex is Slade’s best friend, and has been since kindergarten. They’ve grown up together and are fiercely loyal to each other. It’s very much a bromance, and gay Alex has no problem calling straight Slade out on being a player. Alex is the romantic, the committed one, the guy who coaches Slade on seeing beyond the surface, on forgiveness, and on ridiculous romantic gestures of true love. I wanted to portray a happy and committed gay teen romance, as well as a strong straight/gay friendship, so I did- I hope successfully.
Do I worry about doing things “wrong”? Yes. Do I have beta readers read my stories? Yes, but I would never expect one beta reader to represent an entire race or sexual orientation, just as my characters don’t. It’s important to me to get as much feedback as I can from trusted readers and critique partners, but at some point I have to move forward and put the story into the world, or at least into the hands of my editor.
Writers build worlds, whether futuristic or contemporary, and we have to trust the process, letting our stories and characters take flight. Once books are released into the world they take on lives of their own, with readers bringing their own experiences to each story.
I hope that all sorts of readers see themselves in my stories, in ways that go beyond skin color and sexual orientation, in ways that resonate deeply with what it is to be human, to be a best friend, and to fall in love.
What did you think of this post? Let’s discuss in the comments!