Hope this week has started off well for you. I’m trying to get back into my hardcore 4 am writing routine after being on a two-week hiatus. Today was my first day back at it, and it was a struggle. Not as bad as it could’ve been but still rough. I’m functioning at 80% (hey the flu will knock you down), but it’s about time I return to normalcy and stick to my Monday blogging schedule.
This week, I have the pleasure of featuring a marvelous lady I met last fall at the Baltimore Book Festival. We were on a few panels together! Mia is a gem, and you all should get to know a little bit about her.
Take it away Miaaaaaaaaa!
I always find author interviews kind of boring. We only get to see one side of an author, the polite side. If you had an evil doppelganger, what detail would they enjoy revealing about you to the public that people would find surprising and possibly questionable?
Ooh, I like your style, Harper. *takes a deep breath* As kids, my older brother and I each had a parakeet, and they lived together in a cage. One day, I came home from school and found my parakeet at the bottom of the cage, and it was dead. My brother’s parakeet had an evil grin on his face (maybe I imagined that grin, but this happened a long time ago, and the details are fuzzy). So when my brother wasn’t looking, I raised all the windows in our New York apartment as high as they would go and opened the cage, hoping my brother’s parakeet would fly out. It did.
Bear in mind that I’m not proud of what I did and that I was around seven at the time. Still, this was definitely not one of my finest moments.
What’s your favorite romance novel?
No. Just no. I can’t answer this. I have favorites, okay? And this question stresses me out. *grumbles for a bit* Oh, wait. You really want to know? I’ll share a few: Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me; Brenda Jackson’s True Love; and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. More on the latter in a minute.
If you were a cake, what kind of cake would you be?
A triple chocolate mousse cake: It has layers and hues, a great structure, and it’s super soft on the inside. But I’d never describe myself as “moist,” even in cake form; that word makes me shudder every time I hear it.
What classic book would you love to have reviewed when it was first published?
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Romance readers and writers talk about the book and its movie adaptations all the time, but Austen apparently only received three reviews of this classic romance during her lifetime. I would have loved to have been on her street team.
What are your greatest strengths?
Hmmm, this is hard. I’d say my dependability is one; if I commit to doing something, I will do it unless I’m physically or mentally not able to. My optimism is another. There might be a dumpster fire burning several feet away from me, but I eventually manage to focus on the positives. Finally, I’d say my ability to zone people out when I’m writing. It’s a strength born of necessity, trust me.
I’ve come to learn that I judge people based purely on their response to this question. In your opinion, what’s the best breakfast main course: Waffles, Pancakes, or French Toast?
Buttermilk waffles—with a juicy on the inside, crispy on the outside piece of fried chicken on top.
WHYISNOONEEVERTEAMPANCAKES?! *cries* One day someone will say pancakes. One daaaaay! *shakes fist*
What could you give an hour-long presentation on with absolutely no preparation?
Oh, that’s easy: How to procrastinate when you’re on deadline. The presentation would include a PowerPoint slideshow on (1) using Google to search for wholly irrelevant information; (2) binge-watching televisions shows from the comfort of your couch; and (3) reorganizing your closets, pantry, and dresser drawers for no apparent reason.
What are your most-gifted or most recommended books?
What’s the worst advice you’ve seen or heard given to writers?
“Write every day.” It’s a great goal, but it doesn’t work for everyone. Sometimes writers need to step away from their WIPs to do them justice; other times, they’re simply incapable of writing for reasons that are none of our business. There’s only one rule I follow without deviation: If it’s a romance, it must end with an HEA or an HFN.
How do you relax and decompress?
Relaxation for me usually involves a quiet spot (read: no kids asking questions) and a book. There’s nothing like setting aside the minutiae of the day and getting lost in a fictional setting. When events in the world threaten to overwhelm me (as they often have recently), I retreat inside the pages of a romance novel.
Ever tried BDSM? If not, would you?
No, but I do enjoy being in control, so maybe I should …
Mia Sosa is an award-winning contemporary romance writer and 2015 Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® Finalist. Her books have received praise and recognition from Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, Library Journal, The Washington Post, Book Riot, Bustle, and more.
A former First Amendment and media lawyer, Mia practiced for more than a decade before trading her suits for loungewear (okay, okay, they’re sweatpants). Now she strives to write fun and flirty stories about imperfect characters finding their perfect match.
Mia lives in Maryland with her husband, their two daughters, and an adorable puppy that finally sleeps through the night. For more information about Mia and her books, visit www.miasosa.com.
I was supposed to get you all a blog post on Monday. I was also supposed to update you on what’s going on with me writing-wise, but if you’ve been paying attention to Romancelandia lately, it seems as if everything is on fire. I know we’ll get through it all, so there’s no sense in rehashing anything on this post. Oh, another reason I’ve been slow getting things done? I had surgery last week, and then this week I got sick. YAYME. I AMWINNINGATTHEAWFULTHINGSHAPPENINGOLYMPICS.
Anyway, LaQuette’s spotlight should have gone up a lot sooner since I interviewed her last month, but deadlines kept me from getting the video uploaded in time. But today, you get a twofer! A release day spotlight + an author interview all rolled into one.
Enjoy getting to know a little about LaQuette! Oh, the video is about 28 minutes long so grab a snack and settle in. Also, I clearly talk a lot with my hands. WTF?!
Dr. Mandisa Avery is a Brooklyn chemist who’s lost sight of her life outside the dreams her late mother left her to fulfill. With too many late nights spent in her office working, she’s burned out and desperate for a change.
Slade Hamilton is a Texas businessman who adores ranch life. He’d love nothing more than to spend his days tilling his land. However, his inherent need to protect his family legacy from his hateful father keeps him and his future tied to a desk at Logan Industries.
When a lucrative business opportunity forces their paths to cross, Mandisa and Slade must each make a decision: risk it all on undeniable attraction, or hedge their bets to save their hearts and their respective businesses from ruin.
Will they fold, or will they risk it all on a wicked wager?
This novel is a fun and sexy, 80,000-word, erotic romance. It features a hot cowboy from Texas who meets his smart, fiery competition in the form of a concrete princess from Brooklyn. Place your bets on who’s going to win this wicked wager.
Excerpt from Wicked Wager:
As soon as he clicked the door shut behind him and turned around, removing his hat, Slade pulled Mandisa into his arms. Her warm curves tickling his skin in the most delicious way brought a moan to his lips. Even fully clothed she felt like heaven against him.
He reached down to kiss her, and she leaned back. “Can I use your restroom to freshen up?” He nodded and pointed her in the direction of the bathroom. In her absence, he removed his jacket and boots. He padded over to the bed and took a seat. He reached for the top button of his shirt ready to loosen it. A small creak in the air stopped his moving fingers and pulled his attention to the bathroom door.
“Please, allow me,” she crooned. Her voice alone was enough to make his semi grow to full mast. But when he looked up and saw her standing there with her stiletto boots on and a matching demi bra and panty set, he couldn’t breathe.
“I don’t think that was exactly the reaction I was looking for.” She stepped slowly, taking entirely too long to get within his grasp, in his opinion. When she finally arrived, he had to lick his lips in delight.
He wanted to jump right into the feast, but decided to savor the bounty before him. He took a moment, inhaled deeply, and looked up to meet her gaze.
“Darlin’, you do know I’d have been happy spending the night with you, good food, and conversation. Are you sure you want to do this with me?”
She raised a skeptical eyebrow and slowly smiled at him. “Is this you being a gentleman, Slade, or are you just trying to earn brownie points by being a nice guy?”
“Would you believe a little of both?”
She nodded, then took a moment to lean beyond him, grabbing the purse she’d dropped on his bed before she’d gone to the bathroom. She opened it and pulled out a string of foil condom packets, holding them up for him to see.
“Does this show you how serious I am about spending the night with you?”
He groaned and pulled her closer to him, resting his head on her breasts. “God, woman, where have you been all my life?”
She chuckled as she wove firm fingers through his hair and lightly scraped his scalp with her fingernails. “I don’t know if I should be impressed or concerned about your use of religious outcries while I’m trying to have sex with you.”
“Trust me, in the Bible belt, we take the name of the Lord seriously. As a good Texas boy, I’m only calling on God for two reasons: because I need Him, or because I want to thank Him.”
“Which reason are you calling Him now?”
He lifted his hand, securing it at her nape, threading his fingers into the thick loose curls that framed her face and shoulders. “Both.”
He pulled her down on top of him, loving the feel of her body’s weight against his chest. He slid sure hands down her back, letting them glide down the curve of her ass until his fingers rested on the backs of her thighs. He pulled her up until her legs straddled his hips, loving the feel the heat of her cunt supplied as she seated herself gently on his cock.
He slid his hands down her thighs and moved on to her calves, smiling when he encountered the leather leg of her boots.
“You have no idea how much Texans love boots,” he whispered against her mouth.
“The boots are really doing it for you, huh?”
“You in the boots is really doing it for me. Keep ’em on.”
Activate your one-click finger and grab Wicked Wager at the following eBook retailers!
LaQuette is an erotic, multicultural romance author of M/F and M/M love stories. Her writing style brings intellect to the drama. She often crafts emotionally epic, fantastical tales that are deeply pigmented by reality’s paintbrush. Her novels are filled with a unique mixture of savvy, sarcastic, brazen, and unapologetically sexy characters who are confident in their right to appear on the page.
This bestselling Erotic Romance Author is the 2016 Author of the Year Golden Apple Award Winner, 2016 Write Touch Award Winner for Best Contemporary Mid-length Novel, 2016 Swirl Awards 1st Place Winner in Romantic Suspense, and 2016 Aspen Gold Award Finalist in Erotic Romance. LaQuette—a native of Brooklyn, New York—spends her time catering to her three distinct personalities: Wife, Mother, and Educator.
At the age of sixteen, LaQuette read her first romance novel and realized the genre was missing something: people that looked and lived like her. As a result, her characters and settings are always designed to provide positive representations of people of color and various marginalized communities.
If you haven’t caught wind of the whole Santino Hassell saga yet, I’m sure you will soon enough. Twitter and Facebook will get you up to speed.
But, where do we go from here?
M/M Romance as a subgenre has had its fair share of hot mess catfish stories. Many of them took place before my time as a reader and author. I’d heard about them because a convincing catfish story never dies. I think this is different, on a variety of levels. It’s more than just a team pretending to be a single entity. It’s more than marital status. It’s about claiming an identity(ies): bisexual, immigrant, etc. It’s about hurting people emotionally. It’s about manipulating the narrative to suit your needs. It’s about shaming victims. It’s about fostering an environment where cyberbullying is seen as an acceptable option when you’re under scrutiny.
But of course, we may never get the entire truth because “Santino” might never admit culpability or how far back the untruths go. And I will use “he” because that’s how I knew this person. I believed I fostered a friendship with a single dad who was a bisexual man. The emotional manipulation on his part has been an ongoing thing, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. I’m sure I’ll land on a few “DONOTEVERBUY” lists after this, but it’s quite all right. I am fully secure with speaking my truth. To those who say they “only care about the books and not the drama,” YOU are part of the problem. This is not simply “drama,” this is tainting an entire subgenre. It’s promoting misogyny and toxic masculinity. It’s about causing readers to lose faith in authors.
Romance authors create worlds. We create escapes. We make people feel good. We save the world with happily ever afters and happy for nows. We make the awful disappear for a bit with our words.
I cried. I cried when the stories about Santino finally started to sink in. As a reader I was hurt, as an author, I was devastated.
We never want to believe the people we like/love are capable of doing horrible things.
The folks who have stepped up to take down problematic people in Hollywood, in YA, in the music industry DONOTTAKETHISLIGHTLY. It’s not like these people woke up one morning and said, “Let’s ruin some careers!” They were hurt, wronged, taken advantage of, and they fought back. The women and men involved in this situation are no different. They broke their silence and spoke up.
The thing that stings most about this debacle is how difficult Santino has made it for WoC and PoC to make significant headway in queer Romance. I remember a discussion I had with him recently. I said, “I can write the same material as you, talk about the Bronx (which I have) and the other lesser known and grungy parts of NYC, and although I may not write as well as you, I will never have the same audience. White people are okay reading about people of color in a digestible form. A cis white man writing about gay/bi men who are Latino, gender non-conforming, asexual, biracial, is A-okay. A black woman, a Latinx person, an Asian person writing about the same topics will never have the same traction as you. We will never get the same coverage.” He admitted I was right and said reading my words made him sad.
Santino opened the door for queer Romance to break into mainstream Romance within the last two years. And as an aside, say his wife (a Latina) was indeed the person writing the books, HOWFREAKINGCOOLWOULDITHAVEBEENTOKNOW A WOCIS A DOMINATINGFORCEINGAYROMANCE? She had the talent and the platform and could have used it to her advantage. A great opportunity was missed.
But, he did his part to help amplify my voice. Some people are aware of who I am only because of my friendship with Santino Hassell. I didn’t friend him to get noticed. I’m not the starfucker type. I didn’t friend him to gain clout. I befriended him because I adored his words. I found him to be incredibly talented. But, it’s what I do. I forge close friendships with authors whose work I enjoy. And I will scream just how much I love said work from the rooftops, but now, I’ve had to face the fact that the friendship I thought existed didn’t. The person I thought I knew, isn’t real. The person(s) behind the persona hurt a lot of people and caused some deep, deep, deep pain. I feel betrayed. I feel let down. But this is not about me. It’s not about my feelings and my hurt. It’s about the people who have been relentless for over a year and felt like they were shouting into the void. This will always be about those women and men who were taken advantage of. The victims of this emotional turmoil are the folks who deserve our attention.
The knee-jerk reaction to automatically defend someone who you believe is being doxxed because of what *they* said without further investigation is so, so, so worrisome. His former agent said in a now-deleted tweet something to the effect of readers, “…aren’t owed anything other than books…” Santino’s accusers were asking for clarification regarding things SANTINOHIMSELFSAID. Not anything new. Just what was presented to the public by HIM. How hard is that to do? It doesn’t involve being invasive. It doesn’t involve revealing any more personal details. It only involves clarification regarding previous statements, and that did not happen. Instead, they were attacked, blocked, and slandered.
There were inconsistencies in correspondence between Santino and myself, but even without those things, I would not have inserted myself into any conversation defending him. Not because “he’s a cool guy,” or “I met him at a few cons,” or some other justification. My reason for being slow to react is that he was ALWAYS kind to me. ALWAYS. Our interactions were nothing but pleasant (shit talking aside). I have no vendetta against this person. No ill will. No excitement to see his demise. Santino has always been helpful anytime I needed him. But even so, I did, and do, not think he is beyond reproach. No one is infallible.
We never want to believe the people we like/love are capable of doing bad things.
As I stated above, where do we go from here?
The majority of Romance writers are women. And as women, we owe it to ourselves to do better. Authors of M/M Romance who are women, we owe it to ourselves not to fetishize gay/bi men in the stories we craft. Gay/bi men aren’t caricatures. We can do so much for this subgenre if only we worked a little harder.
As Romance writers, don’t champion a cause if you aren’t truly willing to do the work. If your words are just lip service, don’t speak.
Want to see more diversity/inclusion in Romancelandia? Include it in your stories. It won’t always be representation in #ownvoices form because publishers are lagging behind, but it’s something. And something is far better than nothing.
Don’t fall back on excuses about not wanting to get it wrong. Make some friends. The Internet is at your fingertips. Join local writing groups. Get to know PoC as more than props and stereotypes. Read books written for, by, and about PoC. Read books for, by, and about queer people. Read books with Muslim protagonists that aren’t full of incendiary language. Get to know people who differ from YOU. No matter the size of your platform, signal boost marginalized voices. Do. The. Work. And be authentic about it, please. Please.
Want to destroy stereotypes about Romance readers? Diversify what you read in the genre. Switch subgenres to keep up with what’s out there. You also don’t always have to read traditionally pubbed authors. There are tons of indie authors waiting for a space on your Kindle.
Call out problematic behavior on and off the page. As the MTA says, “If you see something, say something.” WEALLTALK. Bloggers, authors, Goodreads users, talk to each other and yet no one wanted to come forward in this situation for fear of reprisal. That scares me. We couldn’t have an honest talk about what was going on because people were being blacklisted, blocked, threatened, etc. We have to learn to listen. Listen to readers. Listen to other authors. Listen in general. We can’t have tunnel vision because someone is a friend.
Overall, be more critical with your observations.
I think Romancelandia will recover from this, but personally, I have an entirely new outlook. I still want to see the best in people, but I’m also waiting for the other shoe to drop because it very well could be possible that my next fave author is problematic as hell, too.