Hello! When Leah talked about wanting authors and bloggers to appear on their blog, I jumped at the chance to guest post and spend some time with their readers today. I immediately circled a few topics I’m passionate about and could easily talk about, but ultimately, I knew there were two that I wanted to speak on and tie together.
I have a confession: I didn’t always feel confident enough to write characters like me. Throughout the last five-six years, I’ve slowly begun to embrace various aspects of the pieces of me and found a lot of peace in doing so. Today, I identify as biromantic demisexual, as a demigirl, and I live with both depression and anxiety. My marginalizations are often things the world doesn’t think kindly of, but every label, every bit of understanding has helped me love myself more—struggles (with mental health for example) and all. It’s a relief to think of labels like demisexual and demigirl and queer and hold fast to them and say this is me.
But, when I started writing, I mostly wrote straight white characters. It’s what I’d read and it’s what I knew and it’s all I thought I “could” write. But as my reading diversified and I began to seek out OwnVoices books and began to stretch my own wings, challenging my internal biases and misconceptions, I found the confidence to step out of my comfort zone in so many ways.
I read books by authors of color and queer authors and books by authors who intersected at various marginalizations. I saw authors writing their stories, their truths, being brave and opening their hearts to the pages of what they were creating. And I wanted that too.
So, I made a promise to myself. I promised myself that I’d write my truths, that I’d spin stories with characters who looked like me (fat), had grown up like me (poverty with big dreams,) battled mental illness like the warriors they were, loved who they loved and how they loved.
My characters aren’t based on me, but I take pride in sharing those truths. I also love supporting authors who feel safe and able to do the same. Today, I wanted to recommend some great diverse romances to y’all!
ANY OTHER LOVE by Elizabeth Barone follows Char and Amarie. Char is a chef-in-the-making and Amarie has a chronic illness she needs answers for. A road trip to New York City that benefits them both also awakens feelings that complicate everything about their lives and their newfound passion when their paths split. They’re torn between their wants and their needs, and watching them fall and struggle to find a balance and a HEA was heart-warming. Barone is the kind of writer who makes you care so much about her characters that you just can’t help but cheer for them and want them to find the happiness they deserve.
OVER AND OVER AGAIN by Cole McCade/Xen is just. *swoon* First of all, let’s talk about the writing style, which is absolutely gorgeous. OVER AND OVER AGAIN is Luca and Imre’s story, a dual point of view slow, slow burn romance about two people defying the odds. Luca has loved Imre for as long as he can remember, but proving to the older man that he’s ready for a relationship—and knocking down Imre’s walls—is another story. Also! Imre is demisexual, which was really amazing to read about, as I was just realizing that about myself when I read their story.
Lissa Reed’s entire Sucre Coeur series, following a group of friends (with a beautiful found family dynamic) who own and work in a Seattle bakery, is amazing. But the second book, CERTAINLY, POSSIBLY, YOU took my breath away. Sarita and Mari were just everything. I totally identified with Sarita’s difficulty in feeling like her life was headed somewhere, and Mari’s bisexuality was so well written. Their relationship was sweet and swoon-worthy and I loved it so much. Lissa Reed writes about characters you either want to hug or be best friends with—often, both of those things at once. I’m super excited for anything else she writes.
CHORD, oh my. Listen, y’all. CHORD was absolutely, ridiculously adorable. Chase and Cordelia made me laugh and smile and happy cry more than once. Watching them find one another—and themselves—was just awesome. I also appreciated the anxiety representation and the way Chelsea wrote two characters I related to in different ways. CHORD was the escape from reality I needed and it had a definite dose of sweetness to go along with it. Plus, I loved that it was set in college and could have been read as New Adult, or post-high school YA at moments.