Monthly Archives: July 2015

Why it Matters that You Tell Your Story

Why it MattersA little while back I participated in a discussion around diversity in Science Fiction Romance  on the SFR Brigade group on Facebook.

The originator of the post had some thoughts around a post on The Galaxy Express  and had opened it up to discussion.

My impressions were that some people felt that there was criticism in the post and  that it was undeserved. While others mentioned diverse character they were using in their books.

It’s a discussion that has popped up before in various venues, and it seems with current events being what they are, the conversation is increasing.

Discussion about diversity in publishing is good and should continue. For too long these things have only been discussed usually among POC, and not made mainstream.

As a black woman, I write POC heroines because they aren’t represented in any major way in science fiction and fantasy. My first memories of seeing a black woman in a sci-fi setting was on classic Star Trek.

Back in the day, it was extremely unlikely to see black people on TV at all. In fact, the ones I remember seeing on TV could’ve been counted on the fingers of one hand: Nichelle Nichols, Diahann Carroll (“Julia”) are the ones who immediately come to mind. Two.*

Perhaps there were more during that time period, seeing how I vaguely remember Greg Morris in Mission Impossible, and Eartha Kitt as Catwoman in the Batman TV series (when the role wasn’t played by Julie Newmar or Lee Meriwether) but I’d be hard pressed to call any other names during that period.

*Update: after a bit more research I discovered that Cicely Tyson also had a regular role on the TV show, East Side, West Side from 1963-64.  H/T to commenter Clara54 who mentioned the  contributions of the incomparable, Pam Grier. Though Pam has also been on TV, her career kicked off in movies during the rise of the Blaxploitation era, in 1968-70.

Zero sum game

Fast forward to the present where we seem to be rehashing so many racially-tinged issuess that many people thought were resolved. Race/class/sexuality–it’s all churning above the surface now, helped along in no small part by the internet (via social media and blogging where voices can be heard across the globe).

My desire to write about POC as the lead characters comes from my own formative years where they didn’t exist. Or if they did, they were stereotypes. Relegated to the sidelines and bound by centuries old definitions.

In all the sci-fi I read as a young person, where were the POC voices? Hell, where were the female voices? They made spotty guest appearances usually typecast as “angry” or “inept” or “sex partner.” Background noise to fill in the scenery that was set in gear by the white male protagonists.

Blame it on Star Trek with the inclusion of various races and non-humanoids, but I had different expectations for what I wanted to see in a universe far, far away. It’s no secret that I identified with Uhura and with Spock, whose own struggles as a half human/Vulcan were often brought to painful life in the classic episodes. uhura

Luckily for the character, Spock was allowed self-actualization in the subsequent movies, where he started out as a coldly logical Vulcan and experienced an ultimate acceptance of his humanity by the time ST VI ended the classic cannon.

(The reboot revived it on a different timeline, and thankfully didn’t lose the flavor, though there are differing opinions on the casting choices for Khan in the second movie.)

A lot of what inspired this post was something I read last week written by  much younger reader. She described her first encounter with writer Octavia Butler. My first encounter with Butler is also a touchstone of mine, and I was drawn to her as a kindred (for Butler fans – no pun intended) spirit.

That all these years later this reader could connect in the same way I did shows how one voice can make an impact that reverberates long after that voice is stilled. Maybe when Octavia Butler started writing, she never knew how others would perceive her stories. How we would be moved to write stories of our own.

She (a black female sci-fi writer) showed me that it could be done. And when I read her books, I felt like I could feel her voice in my heart. She was telling my story in addition to telling a human story.

Because you see, that’s really what it comes down to. Human stories across the centuries, the civilizations, the cultures. It’s not a zero-sum game where if I tell my story, yours is discarded. As a POC I’ve felt that way for most of my life. Where were my stories? Where were my heroes/heroines?

Old Tropes

My story involves more than what is depicted in popular culture. Slickly packaged using the same old tired tropes. Checking off the same old boxes to ensure that  no reader/viewer is jolted out of their comfort zone. Or erased completely. Negated and rendered mute.

My story is timeless. As is yours. It is a shared human story, and can’t be told through just one POV.

So, I don’t write about POC characters because I want to reduce other stories or eliminate them. I don’t see it as a profit and loss sheet, where I’m going through the numbers, sliding beads across an abacus, deciding what has value and what does not.

Tell Your Story

My story is valuable, as is yours and all the writers writing across the world. We are telling the world’s story, in our own words, through our experiences. My story does not diminish yours. And your story does not reduce mine.

Tell your stories. Don’t wait for someone else to decide what they should be or how they should be defined. You own them. Tell them. Tell them now.

Family Pride: Love and Challenges – Romance Novels in Color Giveaway

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00020]Stop by the Romance Novels in Color website to enter my Family Pride: Love and Challenges giveaway.

Leave a comment and answer the question: “what is your favorite type of shifter?” to be entered to win a signed autographed copy of Family Pride: Love and Challenges and a .mobi copy.

The giveaway ends at midnight eastern, July 31st.

Romance Novels in Color: http://wp.me/p3bTOu-20I

The Viking’s Witch – An Inside Look (Part 2)

Viking Czech_200by Kelli A. Wilkins

Hi everyone,

To celebrate the foreign release of my Medallion Press novel, The Viking’s Witch, I’m sharing an “inside look” at the making of the book. In my last blog, I talked about how the book came about, the research involved, and the violence that takes place in the story. Now I’ll offer some insight into the origins and development of the characters, as well as Odaria’s magic “witch” powers.

The Viking’s Witch is a traditional historical romance with paranormal elements set in Scotland in 803 A.D. The main character, Odaria, is what they called a witch back then—nowadays we’d call her a psychic and a healer. Here’s the plot summary:

The Viking’s Witch
About to be burned at the stake by her fellow villagers, Odaria does what any betrayed witch facing certain death would do. She calls down a curse. Within seconds, rampaging Norsemen raid the village, capturing everyone except her.

But her reprieve is short-lived, and Odaria lands in the clutches of the Norse leader Rothgar. Can she remain true to herself and fight her growing attraction to this domineering man, or will she fall under his influence?

After Rothgar witnesses Odaria’s powers firsthand, he strikes a bargain with her. The raven-haired beauty will use her magical abilities to help him with his quest in exchange for safe passage off the isle. But can this cunning woman be trusted, or is she using him to exact vengeance on her village?

Together they must fight bloodthirsty villagers, battle a mutinous band of Norsemen, find a missing Norse ship, and learn to trust each other…before time is up.

Interviewers have asked me how I can create such interesting and diverse characters for all of my books. They want to know where Rothgar and Odaria came from. Well, there’s no real way to answer that other than, I just made them up. (Chris Hemsworth from Thor is pretty much is what I envisioned Rothgar to look like—even though I wrote the book long before the movie came out.)

When I create my heroes and heroines I always give them “baggage” and flaws along with lots of problems to overcome. This way, they can grow and change over the course of the book. Odaria is a strong-willed “witch” who is tired of being abused and ridiculed by the people in her village. She swears she doesn’t need anyone’s help to get by. Rothgar was once a powerful warrior, but a personal tragedy has softened him and left him broken and unwilling to love anyone again.

When they meet up, they each play off the others’ weaknesses. Odaria has no qualms about standing up to Rothgar and arguing with him, and he respects her willful and fearless behavior. Eventually they realize that they need (and want) to be with each other forever.

I also like to introduce secondary characters and subplots into my books to flesh out the story. I’m often asked about the secondary Norse character, Nordskog. He’s not the type of “hero” one would typically find in a romance, but he serves an important role in the story. Where did he come from? Well…

I used to work with a woman whose last name was Nordskog and I told her that one day I’d use her name in a book, so I did! Nordskog is a violent, vicious berserkr and has a history with Rothgar dating from Rothgar’s old fighting days. Nordskog’s hatred of Karnik draws him closer to Rothgar’s side as the story develops. After Odaria helps heal his leg, Nordskog develops a fondness for her, as well. He’s an impulsive brute, but he’s not stupid. He knows that Rothgar is wealthy and will reward him for his services and loyalty.

But if readers thought Nordskog was bad, the antagonist, Brennan, is even worse.

Brennan has been described by one reviewer as “a perfectly evil villain” which was exactly my intention. I wanted to portray him as an arrogant, self-righteous SOB – but not have his character be too over the top. Brennan is a lying, murdering, religious zealot and that makes him dangerous to Odaria and the other villagers.

Most of the terrible things he’s done happen off page and we learn about them through Odaria. Each time I wrote a scene for, or about, Brennan, I made him a little more unstable and psychotic, so by the end of the book readers see that he needs to learn his lesson and pay for what he’s done.

Odaria’s “magic” is the catalyst that sets the story in motion and helps bring about Brennan’s demise. When the story opens, Odaria is about to be burned alive for being a witch. She calls down a spell and curses the villagers while unknowingly invoking a Viking raid. (Or so it seems…)

Odaria use her “powers” for self-preservation and to get revenge on the people who hurt her. Rothgar doesn’t believe in her “magic” and thinks she’s merely pretending to be a witch to frighten people. But after a highly-charged interaction with Brennan, Rothgar gets a taste of what Odaria could really do if she set her mind to it.

I loved showing readers (and Rothgar) Odaria’s powers of clairvoyance, telekinesis, and psychometry. The scenes that included the “magic” elements were a lot of fun to write. I’ve always been interested in psychic phenomena and other “New Age” subjects, so it was easy for me to incorporate what I know into Odaria’s character.

I hope you enjoyed Part Two of this “Inside Look” at The Viking’s Witch. I’m happy to say that readers and reviewers fell in love with the characters and the book has received dozens of excellent reviews. (And it also won a Gold IPPY Award for best romance ebook!)

The Viking’s Witch is available exclusively as an ebook from
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Vikings-Witch-ebook/dp/B008R5185G/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1375813873&sr=1-1&keywords=Kelli+A.+Wilkins
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-vikings-witch-kelli-wilkins/1112359676?ean=9781605421698&itm=1&usri=kelli+wilkins

Happy Reading,
Kelli

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 95 short stories, 19 romance novels, and 5 non-fiction books.

Her newest book, You Can Write—Really! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Fiction was released in February 2015. This fun and informative non-fiction guide is based on her 15 years of experience as a writer, and is available exclusively on Amazon.

Kelli published three romances in 2014: Dangerous Indenture (a spicy historical/mystery), Wilderness Bride (a tender historical/Western/adventure), and A Secret Match (a gay contemporary set in the world of professional wrestling). Her romances span many genres and heat levels and yet she’s also been known to scare readers with a horror story. In 2014, her horror fiction appeared in Moon Shadows, Wrapped in White, and Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine.

Kelli posts on her Facebook author page https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKelliWilkins and Twitter www.Twitter.com/@KWilkinsauthor. She also writes a weekly blog: http://kelliwilkinsauthor.blogspot.com/. Visit her website, www.KelliWilkins.com to learn more about all of her writings, read excerpts, reviews, and more. Readers can sign up for her newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/HVQqb.

CATCH UP WITH KELLI
Here are a few links to find Kelli & her writings on the web
Website: www.KelliWilkins.com
Blog: http://kelliwilkinsauthor.blogspot.com/
Newsletter sign-up: http://eepurl.com/HVQqb
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKelliWilkins
Twitter: www.Twitter.com/@KWilkinsauthor
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Kelli-A.Wilkins/e/B001JSAB24/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1
Amber Quill Press Author page: http://www.amberquill.com/store/m/149-Kelli-A-Wilkins.aspx
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1123678.Kelli_A_Wilkins
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/KWilkinsAuthor/