I LOVE the book/publishing community

…Because yesterday and today, an awesome, AWESOME thing happened. Nearly everyone I follow on Twitter was tweeting. With the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag.

Streams of tweets with reasons for why diverse books are needed, with characters of every race, gender and orientation. Situations that defy the stereotypes.

I’ve never been very much a person to stand on a chair and shout for a cause. Growing up, I knew that my race was different from others, and for the most part, I was fine with it. Of course, I didn’t see too much representation of Asian characters in novels (other than the heavily stereotyped), but it was okay–I still found strength and an identity in myself.

Until I wrote TeaNovel.

Up until that point, I had been writing fantasy novels. And…though it wasn’t at the front of my mind, all my characters were mostly white. Well, some weren’t. But I still wrote in a strictly English-based world.

TeaNovel is something close to my heart. It wasn’t that way at first. I was…scared to love TeaNovel. Scared to write it. Even more scared to talk about it.

Why?

Because it is a novel that isn’t set in an English-based world. Because it touches on another culture that, in my opinion, isn’t represented enough in YA literature. Because it has characters that are of another race.

You know what my dad said about it?

“It’s not very marketable, is it? A novel with a culture based on imperial China? They won’t connect with your characters.”

My dad did not mean that in a malicious way whatsoever. In fact, he’s quite supportive of me and my writing. But I know–my dad probably hasn’t read an english book about characters in Asian cultures.

But the way he said it–so matter of fact–it made me a little sad.

And for a while, I believed him. And I worried. I worried that no one would connect with a novel I loved because it was set in a different culture.

But.

I realize now that people love to read about different things. They love to touch on the exotic, the foreign, especially if it’s portrayed beautifully.

And guess what?

The manuscript I originally thought wouldn’t appeal to anyone? It’s actually gotten a few requests from agents, and people have marveled over the world I’ve portrayed. It makes me proud. Proud of my novel and its wonderful culture. Proud of how hard I worked on it, and proud of the world and different characters that I wrote about.

This is amazing, people.

Authors and writers, go on. Write about places you’ve never seen, but have fallen in love with. Characters who are different than you are that touch your heart. Because for once, the book and publishing community come together as one, and from both sides, they advocate: “WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS.”

โค

6 Comments

  1. I am writing a novel set in alternate universe imperial China with magic. I am saying this because when I first set out to write this story, it was still a story about a girl coming into her own power — but it was set in medieval Europe. I had a moment one day of \”why am I writing this set in generic fantasy land?!\” and changed it so it made more sense. Later on that year I was told at a convention that nobody would be interested in something set in China, that no one was interested in my culture, my mythology, my people. They're wrong. They're definitely wrong. I'd love to know more about TeaNovel.

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  2. Guy Gavriel Kay is one of my favourite authors of what I would call 'historical fantasy', in that his maps are clearly based off real-world locations (Spain, France, the ancient Byzantine Empire), and reading your post I immediately thought of one of my favourites of his: Under Heaven, a fantasy novel which is based on the Tang dynasty of ancient imperial China, and the An Shi rebellion.I don't know much about ancient China, but I completely adored the novel, and it made me want to know more about the era that Kay was basing his novel on.There is also the novel Stormdancer, by Jay Kristoff – I haven't read it, but I believe it's set in a non-westernised fantasy setting.I'm just telling you this because there *are* books out there that break the mould. Nothing is impossible, books written with love and passion WILL be loved in return by passionate agents, editors and readers, and #WeNeedDiverseBooks just goes to show that people care about this issue! I'm proud that you're proud of what you're writing. And I'm beyond thrilled that you're getting requests for fulls on TeaNovel. ๐Ÿ˜€ Rabid football fan right here, ready to cheer you on!

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  3. Rosanna–thank you so, so, so much. Seriously–you have been one of my biggest football fans and I just am so glad that we met! (and clicked!) I think I'm going to go try some of Guy Gavriel Kay's things–while mine is not quite a historical fantasy (not historical in any sense, and not quite fantastical enough), it sounds incredibly intriguing!I love how #WeNeedDiverseBooks is trending, but a part of me wishes it had come sooner–back to when I was doubting myself about TeaNovel's culture and whether it would appeal to anyone. Still, no time like the present!Please do send me an update on Swordslave! You sound like you're having so much fun revising it!

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  4. Thank you, Ekaterine! (love the name, by the way!) I totally understand where you're coming from–some fantasy plots and characters just can't work in westernized lands. It makes me very, very sad/frustrated that someone told you that something set in China wasn't interesting, and it's a doubt/fear that I've dealt with myself. But never fear–I will tell you that as long as the story and writing are good, agents and editors *will* be interested–especially now that there is a special interest taken in diverse books. Keep writing the novel! It sounds amazing and I hope to see it on shelves someday!

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  5. Aww me too! ๐Ÿ™‚ I'll continue to cheer you on from my side of the pond. I really wish I could just hop over to NYC for the 2014 Writer's Digest Conference. How awesome that you're going! You'll have a brilliant time!Re: Swordslave, I sure will! ๐Ÿ˜€ There are some trials and tribulations – this week has been severely unproductive because I've been so tired in the evenings after work. But I have the weekend coming up!You don't have to be a history aficionado to enjoy GGK, and really, the actual fantastical content in his books is minimal at best. I'd say that it flavours the plot and setting, rather than informing them directly. Sailing to Sarantium is possibly my favourite of his, but Under Heaven is an absolute stunner of a book and comes pretty equal. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  6. To be honest, I'm moving toward self-publishing at this time, but thank you for your encouragement! I'm a control freak and I hate waiting, so. I also look forward to seeing yours someday. I'm sure you'll let us know when we can pick up a copy, yes? ๐Ÿ™‚ I'm volunteering here for any beta reading you might need at any point. ๐Ÿ˜›

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