Author, Narrator, Activist
What made you want to become a writer?
My father says he remembers me telling him when I was seven years old that I wanted to either own a bookstore or be a writer when I grew up. I don’t remember this, but I’ve wanted to be an author as long as I can remember. Basically, I just like talking a lot and telling stories that other people will remember. What other career offers me that opportunity?
Romance isn’t only one genre I write in. I also write sci-fi and non-fiction. But I think romance is my favorite because it chronicles the relationship from the moment two individuals meet. Each romance is a journey of passion, love, friendship, tribulations, and ups and downs. Ultimately, romance is a symbol of hope in all of our lives that everything will turn out right.
What has been the most difficult thing about being a published author who writes African-American Romance?
When I was shopping around my first historical romance (PHARAOH’S DESIRE), a small press publisher told me I had to list it as fantasy. They told me no one would want read an AA historical romance about an Egyptian Pharaoh who falls in love with his Nubian captive. Also, I was told the heroine on my cover was too dark. Hmm…I wondered what the heck those folks thought Nubians looked like? At any rate, I made the heroine even darker and I ended up self-publishing the book, which I’ve never regretted.
What do you enjoy most about being a published author?
Getting paid for making up stuff. Once again, what career allows you to do that? Well, except for politics-but then you have to deal with the ethical backlash!
Describe a typical writing day for Chanta.
Sadly, I’m all over the place. I work a day job, so I try to write in the evening, from 8 pm - 10 pm. Thank goodness my hubby likes to cook or else I would never eat. I usually write all day on Saturday and Sunday from 8:30 am to 6 pm. Then, afterward, I watch TV and indulge in some guilty pleasure like Power or The Walking Dead.
Pantser or plotter?
My characters are very pushy and demanding. They jump on off the page at inopportune times and tell me what they want the world to know. So, I start off plotting with a general outline of 10-20 chapters (depending on what I’m writing). I include the beginning, climax, and end. I’m horrible at endings, so I often end up with something totally different. Then, for the meat of the book, I let the characters lead me and I just write their story.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?
Spending time traveling with my hubby, adding to my 600+ comic book collection, and painting abstract art.
I know that you are, like me, passionate about the lack of diversity. What are you views on the lack of diversity in the publishing industry in particular the romance genre? What can we, authors and readers, do?
It’s a sad state of affairs. As I mentioned before, authors of color (AOC) struggle with everything from whether to put black people on their covers (so as not to alienate white readers) to how to handled biased publishers. There are some publishers who have a history of excluding AOC, and they are not apologetic about it. We know this discrimination exists. We need only look at the sales numbers, sales ranks, and number of titles by AOC on the USA Today and NYT Bestseller lists. Curiously, the highest selling books in Young Adult (YA) literature are written by AOC. So, we know the audience is there, ravenous for books by diverse author and about diverse characters.
What AOC need to realize is that green is the only color that matters to publishers. They’ll be happy to push books that feature diverse characters, as long as those books are making money. Sadly, we’ve got to bust our butts to increase those sales long before publishers (and many times agents) will even take a chance on us. White authors don’t face the same obstacles. So, the best thing we can do is write an outstanding book and promote the hell out of it. We have to enlist the help of other white authors. This means cross-promoting with them, networking, and raising our voices to make them aware of inequities. We also have to encourage white authors to include diverse characters in their books. My books feature black, white, Hispanic, Asian, and Indian characters. The world is a melting pot and my readers want to see that reflected in my books.
ABOUT THE BOOKS
While FIRST LOVE SECOND CHANCE is your first book for Garden Avenue Press, it’s not your first published book. Tell us a bit about the move to this new publisher. How does working with them publisher differ?
I’ve written over 20 books. Delaney Diamond is a good friend of mine. We met years ago through social media. I’ve watched how she handles herself with style and grace. I also like how she embraces diversity for all authors of color and LGBT authors. We go way back, from when I owned Colorful Covers, a stock photography site featuring people of color, and she owned Romance Novels in Color (a review site for books featuring characters of color). When she approached me about working with GAP, I had concerns at first, because I’ve been burned by publishers before. But she really knows her stuff and I trust her judgment. More importantly, I think she has her finger on the pulse of publishing and what readers want. Plus, she loved the concept for FIRST LOVE SECOND CHANCE. So, here we are!
Tell us a bit about FIRST LOVE SECOND CHANCE.
It’s the story of a cocky professional football player who gets mugged by a teenage runaway. He wants to adopt the kid, but social services won’t let him unless he can provide a stable family environment. In other words, the bachelor needs a wife! So, he turns to his ex-wife for help. The book is filled with humor, heartbreak, passion, and redemption. One of my favorite scenes is where the hero lands in jail for something he’s not guilty of. It’s a serious scene, but I managed to capture the humor of many of the characters he’s locked up with in the holding cell. I think readers will enjoy this second-chance love story.
One of the first things I noticed about FIRST LOVE SECOND CHANCE is the use of first person narration which is usually used in literary fiction and rarely in romance. I’d love to know why you made that choice?
As I said, I write in other genres too, where this point-of-view is more common. Kristan Higgins and Shayla Colt influenced me to do this in romance. I’ve always loved first person. I think it puts the reader deeper into the mind of the character. Higgins and Colt are masters at this technique. I’m hoping my readers will be as enthralled by my characters as I was by these two ladies’ characters. I like this POV so much that I’ve decided to write all of my books from this viewpoint. I think it gives the reader a richer reading experience.
If you had to choose a book from your back list to introduce readers to your work, which book would it be and why.
Great question. For historical romance, I’d choose RISE OF A QUEEN. It’s gritty and scandalous. Set in 1061 AD Ghana, the heroine has been described as an ancient mafia queen. She’s a power-hungry bitch, but once you read her story, you see why she has to be that way. For contemporary romance, I’d recommend BLUEPRINT FOR LOVE. It’s book 2 in my Love Under Construction series. Talk about diversity! It’s got a black female business owner, an Italian ex-con beta hero, and a character who’s deaf. Vic Romano is one of my favorite characters. I think readers will really enjoy this book.
ABOUT THE FANS
What advice would you give an aspiring author?
Never take no for an answer. Always pay for a quality editor. Write what you like and the rest will fall into place.
What’s next for Chanta Rand?
I have some ideas for a sequel to FIRST LOVE SECOND CHANCE. Depending on how well it does, Delaney and I may partner for the second book. I’m also working on a sci-fantasy series about a bounty hunter in outer space. Look for it around Feb 2018, right in time for the new Black Panther movie.
Do you have any upcoming events/conferences you want to share with readers?
How can readers reach you?
None for the remainder of this year. I’m hoping to attend the Reading Warriors Retreat (Building Readers Around Books) conference next year, as well as LaSheera Lee’s Lights! Camera Action event.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>