Ep 184: “Under His Protection” with LaQuette
The guys open the show with a discussion of the Netflix original Unicorn Store.
Jeff reviews Bad to the Bone by Nicki Bennett. Will reviews LaQuette’s Under His Protection.
Jeff & Will interview LaQuette about Under His Protection. They find out about the story’s inspiration and how it ties into LaQuette’s other series. LaQuette also shares details on her upcoming Harlem Heat series, what got her started writing romance and details about what she does as the president for New York City’s Romance Writers of America chapter.
Complete shownotes for episode 184 are at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
Book Reviews from this week:
Bad to the Bone by Nicki Bennett. Reviewed by Jeff Bad to the Bone turned out to be one of those perfect Dreamspun Desires for me. I’m a sucker for second chance romance combined with friends to lovers and this one adds in a bit from the redeemed bad boy trope as well. It all combined to give me exactly the read that I needed.
The story kicks off on the eve of a high school reunion taking place in a small Oklahoma town. Alex Morrison has been back in town for several years, taking over his family’s hardware store when his parents needed him to. One afternoon, while working with his sister at the store, they witness a motorcyclist pulled over and it’s soon revealed that the man is Alex’s high school bestie, Ricky Lee Jennings. Alex hasn’t heard from Ricky Lee since he was expelled and sent away to reform school. Alex regretted he didn’t defend Ricky Lee and prevent the expulsion, but he was scared he’d lose his football scholarship if he did. Sparks fly at the reunion when Ricky Lee shows up without a ticket and Alex gets him in as his guest. What unfolds over the coming weeks is the rekindling of far more than a friendship.
Nicki does so much with this rather simple set up. Both characters complexity made me love this book so much. Alex is someone I wanted to wrap up in a comforting hug. He does so much for the community that he lives in between serving on the library board, working for Habitat for Humanity, helping out with the high school reunion committee, and anything else he can do to help his fellow citizens. Yet, all he can see in himself is failure from a lost college football career because of an injury, a failed marriage, and even coming back to manage his family business is something he considers a fail because he gave up his dreams of being an environmental lobbyist. Of course, what he’s done is made the decisions that are right in the moment but he can’t see that. Ricky Lee, on the other hand, subverts every stereotype the town has for him. It’s awesome to watch as people who believe they know exactly who he is after ten years begin to see who he has become. He’s far from the young man who was abused by his alcoholic father and just wanted to survive high school.
As both relive their high school times and share what they are doing now, Ricky Lee and Alex are drawn back together. Alex, however, is sure this can’t be more than a fling. He’s scared of revealing himself as bisexual to the town and there’s no way Ricky Lee will move back to Oklahoma since he’s got a life in Portland.
The wooing that Ricky Lee does with Alex is outstanding. I love a good date and their weekend trip to Oklahoma City is all that. They stay at a boutique hotel, go to art museums and the botanical gardens and eat delicious food. The sizzling sex made the date all the hotter. It showed Alex in vivid detail what life could be like in if he decides to make a go of it with Ricky Lee.
The other depth that Nikki weaves into this book is the town Alex lives in. In particular, I liked the local pastor, who is nothing like what you might expect a southern pastor to be. He turns out to be one of Alex’s biggest supporters in being true to himself. We also see Alex’s work with the library, which is a central subplot for the story since Alex and Ricky Lee’s high school nemesis, Odell, who wants to expand his car dealership by buying the land the library sits on. The goings-on with Odell took some wonderful turns that I couldn’t have predicted and I might’ve cheered just a little when everything was revealed and [spoiler alert] Odell gets his. It’s a great ending for a high school bully.
There’s a tremendous cast of supporting characters too. Alex’s sister Alana and his best friend, local police officer Samantha, a.k.a. Sam, both nudge Alex in the right direction. Ricky Lee comes to town with Crae, who he introduces as his friend and assistant although many initially think they are in a relationship. I actually wish Crae had had more screen time in the book as they were a fascinating character. Crae and Sam develop a friendship that might be more and I’d love to see a book that explores that. There are also some townsfolk who have interesting reveals to Alex along the way that were incredibly sweet.
And if audio is your thing, certainly pick this one up. Colin Darcy is a new-to-me-narrator and boy did he make me swoon with his voice for Ricky Lee–deep, rumbly sexiness.
If you’re looking for a great category romance with some very tropey goodness, I highly recommend Nicki Bennett’s Bad to the Bone.
Under His Protection by LaQuette. Reviewed by Will.
This book literally starts with a bang when one of our main characters, assistant DA Camden, is nearly blown up by a car bomb. In order to keep him safe, he’s put in protective police custody.
Unfortunately, the man watching over him is the memorable one night stand he walked away from five years ago, a guy named Elisha. Sequestered away in Elisha’s Westchester house, our two heroes must come to grips with the attraction that still, after all this time, is still there.
As things start to become more romantic, the situation becomes even more complicated when Elisha’s family shows up for a weekend visit. They assume that the two of them are a couple and Cam and Elijah play along since it’s too dangerous to explain why Cam is hiding out at Elijah’s house.
Over the course of the weekend Cam can’t help but fall for Elisha and his wonderfully crazy family.
You might think things get a little too close for comfort with are two heroes and the family all in one house. Elisha actually has a very small apartment in his attached garage. They escape there every once in a while, for some truly superduper scorching sex. The chemistry between these characters is very real and very palatable.
As the weekend winds down, there’s an unfortunate kidnapping attempt by this crazy religious group and Cam sacrifices himself in order to save Elisha’s mom.
Camden ends up in hospital and, unfortunately, his father arrives on the scene. Camden’s life has essentially been controlled by his father, who’s had his son’s life planned out from my birth to death. It’s essentially how Cam has lived his entire life.
The expectations of his father are actually part of the reason why he walked away from Elisha five years ago. Having a sexy one night fling and living a life with an average guy like Elisha just wasn’t in the plan.
After experiencing the possibility of loving a man like Elisha and realizing the wonderful possibilities of a fun and fulfilling family life, he tries to stand up to his father.
Cam’s father puts a stop to everything, setting up some genuinely insurmountable roadblocks to our hero’s happiness.
But Cam and Elisha are not only charismatic and sexy, but also really super smart. With the help of Elisha’s police chief friend, Cam concocts a way to outwit his father and get out from under his thumb, so he Elisha can live happily ever after.
I don’t know if I can adequately find the correct words, or enough adjectives to tell you how much I loved Cam and Elisha’s story. It’s just really damn good. One of my favorites of 2019 so far!
I hope it’s obvious that I really enjoyed Under His Protection by LaQuette and I highly recommend that everyone give it a read.
Interview Transcript – LaQuetteWill: We are so pleased to welcome LaQuette to the show. Welcome.
LaQuette: Thank you.
Will: So I just spent several minutes praising and telling the entire world how much I loved “Under His Protection.” Now, you’ve been writing for a while now, and I freely admit this is the very first book of yours that I have read, and I went absolutely bonkers for it. I love it to pieces.
LaQuette: Oh, thank you.
Will: Can you give us sort of an idea of where the concept for “Under His Protection” came from?
LaQuette: Well, I was encouraged by Kate McMurray to submit a “Dreamspun Desires” concept. And I kind of read the submission guideline, and I really didn’t think that the category section was for me, because I’m long-winded in my writing and there’s this, you know, 50,000-word count, and I didn’t know that I could meet that and make the story make sense. But I just felt like, you know, there’s a lot of angst in my writing and a lot of heavy topics sometimes. And I didn’t… You know, category can be light and, you know, it doesn’t have so much angst to it, so I wasn’t sure if it was actually the right fit for me. But she encouraged me to do it anyway. So I thought, “Well, if I’m gonna do it, it has to be, like, LaQuette style. It can’t be, you know, the traditional map of a category. I’ve gotta throw, you know, everything but the kitchen sink in it.”
And I had this sort of, like, this Prince and Pauper sort of situation in my head, but in Brooklyn. And it worked out really well in my head anyway. I really enjoy the idea of Camden coming from this really, really posh existence, and then clashing with Elijah and his very loud and boisterous family. And, I think, putting those two people together and those two, you know, with their backgrounds and differences in their backgrounds and the differences in their, you know, perspectives in life, it really…it just made for a richer experience for me, as a writer.
Will: I utterly fell in love with Camden and Elijah. I think they’re two incredibly…they are exceptional heroes, and they’re part of what makes this book really sing. But as I mentioned in my review just a few minutes ago, part of what, I think, what makes the story compelling and even more enjoyable is the sort of supporting cast that helps them along in their journey towards saying, “I love you.” Elijah’s family is amazing, every single one of them. But I was particularly struck by one of Elijah’s co-workers, the police chief, who is his best friend, along with, you know, being a colleague. And what I was struck by is that at the beginning of the book, the character seemed, you know, pretty, you know, straightforward, it was a secondary character, and she was there to kind of like, you know, get the story moving along. But as we read further and get to know Camden and Elijah more and more, she becomes a much more integral part of the story. And in fact, she’s pretty vital to the solution that Cam comes up towards the end. And I was really surprised to read in an interviewer just, I think, this last week it appeared online. I learned that one of the reasons that this secondary character is so well-drawn is because she’s actually already had her own book.
LaQuette: She’s had three books, actually.
Will: Can you tell us real quickly, for our listeners, can you tell us about the origin of this particular character and why you thought she would be such a good fit for Camden and Elijah’s story?
LaQuette: Captain Heart Searlington is a character from my “Queens of Kings” series, which is all heroine-centered. And she is this…you know, her name is Heart for a reason, because she has a huge heart, even though she really carries it under this gruff exterior. She’s a badass, she’s all about getting work done. And if you ever get the chance to read her books, you know, she’s really out there hands-on in the street. And I felt like Elijah would need someone like that, professionally and personally, to kind of…to get him to the place where he could admit his flaws. Someone that’s not… You know, he’s a very…he’s a large man, he’s aggressive, you know, he carries a gun, so he could be a little bit intimidating for the average person. But for her, she’s not afraid to tell him like it is to his face.
And, you know, when you have that kind of a personality where people might not tell your truth because they find you imposing, having someone who will speak the truth to you, regardless of whatever the situation is, can be vital to you, you know, making the right choices in life. And I felt like having her there would give him that balance, because he needed some really cold truths told to him, for him to get his head together and do what he needed to do.
Jeff: Was it always your intention to have the character crossover or did that just kind of manifest itself?
LaQuette: Well, the precinct that they work at is sort of anytime I have a police situation, those cops show up in a book somewhere. So one, because, you know, the world is already created, so it’s kind of easy for me to draw from that precinct, but it’s also because my readers absolutely adore this woman. And so they’re always asking for her, and this was an opportunity for her to show up and say, “Hi.” And not in a way that overshadows, you know, the main story, which is Camden and Elijah, but just enough to make readers go, “Oh, my God. She’s here.”
Jeff: It’s always good to get those universe crossovers and little Easter eggs like that, for sure.
LaQuette: It’s true. It’s very true.
Will: Yeah. Now, “Under His Protection” is not your first M/M romance.
LaQuette: No, it is not.
Will: There’s also “Love’s Changes,” which I believe came out in 2016?
Will: And I wanted to ask you, what drew you to writing in this specific subgenre? I mean, along with all of your other books that are more traditional male/female romances?
LaQuette: Well, one, I wholeheartedly believe that everyone deserves a happy ending. And when I wrote the “Queens of King” series, I always knew that Heart’s cousin, because the characters, the protagonists in “Love’s Changes” are Bryan, who is one of Heart’s lieutenants, you met him, actually, in “Under His Protection,” and her cousin, Justice. And so they get to have their own story. You get to see them a little bit in the “Queens of King” series, but they’re more background. We know that they were having a hard time and they were broken up for some reason, but we don’t know why. So they get, you know, readers… Which really surprised me because I didn’t really believe that there was a lot of crossover between male-female readers and male-male readers. But people really asked me for a story for those two. Like, “When are we gonna get Justice and Bryan’s story? We wanna know what happens to them and how they get back together.” And so I that story was actually born out of the fact that readers requested it, and so I gave it to them.
Jeff: That’s very cool. You know, it’s always nice to see as the M/F readers catch the male-male pairing to then want to know more.
LaQuette: Yes, it was really a trip for me. I did not believe that they would want it at all. But it was very touching to write their story. I was very happy with how the story turned out. I was very happy with the fact that they get their happily ever after. And it’s not…it’s connected to the “Queens of Kings” series, but it’s not really part of it. So the story kind of takes place outside of everything that’s going on in that particular story.
Jeff: Do you envision more, I guess, “Dreamspun Desires” books that happened in the universe you’ve created with everything that’s going on so far?
LaQuette: I really didn’t, but I’ve been getting a lot of mail recently about this book. And, you know, people wanting to know what happens after this. They wanna see how Camden’s family kind of blends with Elijah’s family and how that’s going to work. I’m like, “Dude, I’m not there. Like, I have so many other projects. I can’t right now. But we’ll come back to that maybe.”
Jeff: Just based on your review, I don’t see how those families mesh.
Will: Two different worlds. Most definitely, yeah.
LaQuette: They really are.
Jeff: Now, one of the things that I’m super excited about, having recently read about, is your new contract with Dreamspinner for “Harlem Heat.”
LaQuette: Yes, “Harlem Heat,” so when stuff makes me mad, it also makes me really productive. So I was really kind of getting tired of hearing the “not historically accurate moniker” criticism given to African-American romance, especially historical African-American romance. And it just bothered me because it’s not that those happily-ever-afters weren’t possible. It’s just people aren’t really aware of the completed history. So a lot of thing…you know, a lot of people who think they know about African-American history, the only thing they know is slavery and Jim Crow, and that’s it. And, you know, black people have been downtrodden since we were brought to this country. But that’s not exactly the truth because even in all of the horror, there were still moments of triumph. And we didn’t just, you know, survive, we thrived. We’re still here, the proof that we’re still here, you know, the proof that we had happiness at some point is that we’re still here.
So I decided I wanted to write about a time that was where to be black and to be gay wasn’t something that you had to hide from the world. It wasn’t something you had to…you had your own pocket of community. There was a celebration of it. And I wanted to speak to that. I wanted people to know that these two intersections of life existed with happy endings.
Jeff: And this series, in particular, is gonna go to such an interesting time period in the U.S. when all of the Harlem Renaissance was happening.
LaQuette: Yeah, so it’s based on three actual people who lived during the Harlem Renaissance. So it’s based on Bumpy Johnson, who was the godfather of Harlem for 30 years. It’s based on Langston Hughes, who was a great contributor to the Harlem Renaissance as a poet and writer. And it’s also based on Cab Calloway, who was sort of one of the most notable faces in jazz and jazz music and jazz performance at the Cotton Club. So we’re gonna see… we won’t be using their names, but those characters will be based off of those actual people.
Will: Yeah, because it was…I think it was like mere moments after I finished reading “Under His Protection.” I read about this Harlem Renaissance series that you were doing, and I like lost my mind. I was like, totally doing a happy dance. This is going to be so amazing. I know this is still far in the future. But when do you think we can expect this series?
LaQuette: I don’t know. And that’s the God’s honest truth. I’m actually currently writing, finishing up the series for Sourcebooks. And so “Harlem Heat” doesn’t…I don’t think I’m projected to start it until like the end of the year. So I don’t know exactly when it’s going to be ready. But I mean, you know, ready for the world anyway. But I think I can talk to someone about getting you a beta read…a copy for beta reading if you’d like.
Jeff: Please do. Yes.
Will: That would be amazing.
Jeff: I imagine the research for that got to be a lot of fun to look at that period in history and figure out what parts you wanna take and use.
LaQuette: It is. I mean, I was very fortunate when I was in college. When I did my undergrad in creative writing. I was very fortunate to have a professor who thought outside of the box, and he taught a class on Harlem Renaissance. That was amazing. I mean, it was so rich and filled with culture. And you know, not just the usual things that we see in mainstream history but, you know, getting really down to the nitty-gritty of it. And you know, showing you to…I’m sure that when you when you guys, as gay men, look at the history of the LGBT community, and you get to see it unfold, there’s such a moment of connection there. And it’s the same thing for black people when we’re getting to experience our history because we don’t often get to see it through mainstream lens.
And so to see it and to see the information dispensed in a way that’s positive and celebratory and uplifting, it changes your whole perception of yourself, of who you are and where you came from. And so I’m delighted to be able to dig back into that. I have Piper Huguley, who is a history professor at Spelman College. I believe it’s Spelman. And she’s also a romance writer, and she’s brilliant. So she helps me with a great deal with telling me what books I need to read for this period, and where I need to look for information. But it’s so much fun. It really is so much fun.
Jeff: That’s amazing. Let’s talk origin story for a minute. How did you get started writing romance? What led you down this path?
LaQuette: I didn’t see me on the page. I started reading romance when I was about 16 years old. Way too young to be reading some of the stuff I was reading, but you know, hey. And by the time I was about 18, I probably went through every “Harlequin Presents” that my local library had. And every romance novel I read, it was never about a girl that looked like me, never about places where I lived. So it kind of pulled me out of the romance reading for a while because it was nice to read about those stories, but there was just something missing for me after a while. And I probably, at the time, didn’t recognize that I was internalizing that these stories were basically saying, “Romance isn’t for you. You don’t look like this. You don’t fit this mold, so romance isn’t for you.” And I kind of just pulled away from it. And I think after I finished my undergrad, I just wanted to relax and have some fun and I kind of got back into it. And at the time, I discovered black romance was a thing. And I discovered people like Rochelle Alers, and Brenda Jackson, and Zane. And I’m like, “Wow.” Like, it became exciting again. It was refreshing. It was new and yet still very familiar because I could see myself in all of the antics that were going in these stories. I could see myself in those characters. And so I decided I wanted to do that. I wanted to create those spaces, create more stories like that so people could have those connections in reality, you know, reactions when they opened up a book and saw themselves.
Jeff: Now that you are writing, what do you think the trademarks of your books are?
LaQuette: I do sex and snark really well. Like, I do sarcasm really well because that’s my language. It really is my language, and sex, yeah, that’s so if you’re gonna pick up a LaQuette book, you’re going to get lots of sex and lots of sarcasm.
Jeff: Did she meet those two in your book?
Will: Oh, yeah. Just before we started this interview, we were talking about the possibilities of an audiobook for “Under His Protection.” And whatever narrator lands this job is going to, number one, have the time of their life, because Camden and Elijah are very…the banter is very smart and very witty. But also, as you say, the sex scenes are…I’m not even sure what the correct adjective is. It’s smoking hot. Yeah, you’re gonna need a nice cool beverage after you listen to those scenes, for sure.
LaQuette: I don’t know that I could listen to that. I don’t know that I could. It would be so weird for me. I don’t know. I mean, I know I wrote the words, but to hear them aloud, I don’t know that I could do that.
Will: Exactly. Yeah.
Jeff: Yeah, I know, you know, many authors can’t listen to their own audio books.
LaQuette: Especially those parts. Like I said, I do sex. Amy Lane told me, she was like, “You write sex in such a beautiful concrete way. Like, I just wanna have all the facts when I read your books.” I’m like, “Amy, that is the sweetest and weirdest thing that anyone has ever said to me, and I love you for it.”
Jeff: That almost should be a blurb on the book cover or something.
Will: Yeah. Yeah, definitely.
Jeff: Is there anything you’re reading right now that you wanna shout out to people as like a book to grab?
LaQuette: Oh, I’m reading a few books. So I just finished Adriana Herrera’s…the third book in this “Dreamer” series, and I can’t remember the title because it’s not actually out yet. I beta read for her, and it is fantastic. I mean, book one is great and I love it. It was so real to me that literally, I had to drive like two to three miles from my house just to go get Dominican food, because I was so hungry after reading book one.
Will: Exactly. Yes. Yeah.
LaQuette: And book three does the same thing. There’s lots of cultural food. And it’s part of the tapestry of how these two people connect and share their backgrounds, their experiences, their worldviews. And not to mention, she’s so good at writing books that are socially conscious without making you feel like you’re being talked down to or preached at, and I love her for that, for being… I don’t know that I could do that the way she does it. She’s so talented.
And I’m also reading…I’m halfway through…I stumble with her name because I know her as Blue Sapphire, but she’s now writing as Royal Blue for Dreamspinner, “Kyle’s Reveal.”
Will: Yeah, I’ve heard of this book, yeah.
LaQuette: And I’m halfway through it. And, you know, she’s fire, like, she writes hot books. So I’m really excited. I can’t wait to get to the end of this book.
Will: What was the name of that book again?
LaQuette: “Kyle’s Reveal.”
Will: Okay. And that’s the…please remind me, is the basketball book, is that correct?
Will: Okay, yes.
LaQuette: I mean, it’s kind of dark because the protagonists have like a really dark traumatic history. But it’s definitely deep and I’m loving it. So I’m really, really, really interested in getting to the end to see if I could just get a minute to stop writing and finish it, I’d be great.
Jeff: It’s such a hard thing balancing.
LaQuette: It is.
Jeff: “I wanna to finish this book.” Then it’s like, “I don’t wanna read it too fast.”
Jeff: Finding that balance.
LaQuette: It’s true.
Jeff: Are there tropes or genres that you wanna tackle that you just haven’t yet in your own writing?
LaQuette: I don’t know that there are any tropes, because I kind of…I throw a lot of different tropes in my books. Like, “Under His Protection” has second chance romance, it also has proximity, it also has sort of kind of enemies to lovers the way Elijah and Camden started out in the book. And it could sort of kind of be considered like a workplace romance being that they’re both involved in different sides of law enforcement. But I don’t know. I mean, I’ve done secret baby before and I love that. That was really fun. And I’ve done…the only thing I haven’t done is like May-December romances. So I think maybe that might be something I’d might want to try.
Jeff: Cool. I would read that. I love a good May-December. Absolutely.
So beyond the writing, which obviously takes up a lot of time, you also are the president of RWANYC. So the New York City chapter of Romance Writers of America. Tell folks what that entails and what actually led you to running for office.
LaQuette: I didn’t wanna run. I had no intention of running because I have a lot of stuff to do. And it takes time away from the things that I’m contracted to do. But one of the things that’s very important in romance that’s happening right now is the fact that romance can be a very whitewashed world, meaning the protagonists that we see, the authors that get the most opportunities are white authors and white characters. And so if you’re not white… and straight characters. If you’re not writing that, it’s difficult to get into the door, it’s difficult to find the same resources, the same backing. It’s almost impossible to get contracts.
And so I ran for president of RWANYC because I wanted, in some way, to help change that landscape, to do some of the work necessary with publishers to try to change that. And it’s a heavy task, it’s a heavy burden, especially when we get, you know, over the last couple of weeks, we are still reeling from the RITA Awards, which is basically like the Grammys for romance. And every year, it’s the same thing. It’s a very, very white landscape, and very few authors of color are made finalist. No black woman has ever won a RITA in the 30 years that this award has been established. And people do a lot of mental acrobatics to justify why that is. So “Oh, maybe the writing is just not that good. Maybe that’s why we’ve never had a black RITA award winner. Maybe black authors are not entering.”
You know, these are also questions that are ridiculous, because statistically, it’s just impossible that no black woman would ever have won in 30 years. It’s just impossible. And the reason it is, is because the judging pool, there’s a bias there in terms of black women and black characters, not just black authors, but black characters. Because you cannot know who the author is, but you cannot…well, I don’t write characters who are racially ambiguous. I’m proud of my blackness and my characters are as well. And so I don’t try to hide that or trick people into reading my books, or make it so difficult for people to recognize who a person is or what their background is because I feel like that is an important thing.
In real life, we don’t really get to not know who people are by looking at them. So I don’t do it in my books. And because of that, it’s very difficult when you know, going into this, “I’m gonna submit this book, and it’s not going to final,” not because it’s a poorly written book, not because I didn’t do everything I could to make this book as good as it could be, but simply because my characters, especially my heroines are black. And that is just something that the judging pool cannot handle as of yet.
So my work as president is a lot of, you know, being the champion for this cause and taking on this battle because it’s not just about me succeeding, it’s about any black author who was writing black characters having the ability to write and be supported by the industry. And if I can make any sort of headway in that and if I can help anyone along the way, I’ll feel like I’ve done something positive with my life.
Will: With books like yours, and with Adriana Herrera, who you mentioned not too long ago, do you think it’s really just a matter of representation that can help build awareness for diversity in romance or is there something else that readers, specifically, should be doing or asking for?
LaQuette: Well, specifically, yeah. I mean, readers have a lot of power. So if you’re asking publishers, you know, “Why don’t we have more diverse romance? Why don’t we have romance where…you know, that shows basically the colors of the rainbow and all those brilliant facets of intersectionality in life, like, why don’t we have that?” Because your buying dollars is what demands, what makes the demand. Because publishers will say, “We don’t sell that. We don’t contract black books because they don’t sell.”
One of the things we discussed at Dreamspinner was the cover. That was an intentional choice. I was very clear with them when we sat down and talked about this project that Elijah needed to be on the cover. I would not subscribe to the ideology that a black man on the cover can’t sell. And there are…I mean, we’ve seen in our writing community that some publishing houses have actually made this statement. I don’t subscribe to that. So we talked about it. And then we talked about the fact that readership sometimes can have a bias. And sometimes they won’t engage with the book if they feel like the person is the wrong color or wrong background. And I said, “I understand that, but we’re still gonna work…you know, to work with me, this is how we’re gonna work.”
And they were in agreement. I didn’t have to convince them. I went in prepared to battle. And it was like, “Listen, I really need this guy to be black and I really need him to look like this.” And they were like, “We agree. We agree.” So we need more of that in the industry. And it starts with readers. It also starts with the gatekeepers. People reaching out and specifically looking for these things. It also, people who are gatekeepers also need to check themselves. So when you’re reading a book and you’re saying, “I can’t connect to it. I didn’t relate to it.” Why aren’t you relating to it? Is it that it’s a poorly written book?
I’ve gotten rejection letters that literally said, “This is a really well-written book, but I didn’t relate to the character, so I’m not gonna buy it.” That doesn’t really make a lot of sense, right? So what was it that you didn’t relate to? If you could see that it was a really well-written book, I mean, if it’s that good, why not work with me in terms of editing to kind of get things right, you know, to where it would be something that you feel is that you could sell. But a lot of publishing houses out there don’t have that mentality. And it’s this sort of…it’s insidious. It’s not something, you know, you can actually like, look and see. Some people don’t even notice it. They just think, “Oh, I don’t read those kinds of books because I don’t like them.” And it’s not that they don’t like them, it’s that they’ve not actually giving them the opportunity to be great.
Jeff: So that is, obviously, great words for the readers. Kind of spinning it back to your RWA role, you’re in such a diverse chapter there because you’re in NYC.
Jeff: How are the authors in that particular region banding together to like help RWA move past the issues?
LaQuette: Oh, well, a lot of my recent successes, because, you know, allies, colleagues like Kate McMurray and Tere Michaels, are like, “Listen, you’re fabulous, and we want you to meet people who will also think you’re fabulous. So come here.” And that’s part of the beauty of RWA, and that’s why I fight so hard for diversity and inclusion within RWA, because my success, as I said, my recent success has all been attached to people pushing me in different directions to say, “This is where you need to be. This is the person you need to meet.” And if you’re not a part of the organization, you can’t make those connections. And networking connections will get you further than anything you know, right? So when we cut off authors of color from that source, from the resources, from the networking connections, and the opportunities that are presented to people who are part of the organization, what we’re doing is we’re disconnecting them from publishing. And we’re forcing them to be indie. And this is not an indie versus trad conversation. This is… some people cannot be anything other than indie, because trad will not give them the opportunity. They’ve been completely marginalized. And so that should not be.
People should be able to publish however they choose to, whether they up to be an indie author or whether they decide that the trad route is for them, because, you know, different strokes for different folks. It is different, you know, depending on what your lifestyle is like. I have crazy children and I have to juggle being a mom, a writer, and everything else and try to keep sane. Being an indie author is a lot of work. It’s a lot of effort on your end to make a book successful. I don’t have that kind of time in my life, or that kind of energy, honestly. So being a trad author is a much better avenue for me and my situation. And if that is the only way that I can publish, but publishing will not give me the opportunities, then it’s, you know, I’m losing out. And that’s the purpose of RWA to sort of bridge those gaps. But I don’t think we’re exactly where we need to be yet. So we’re still working on it.
Will: Yeah, definitely.
Jeff: We very much appreciate your efforts towards that, for sure.
Will: Now, the Romance Writers of America National Conference is going to be in NYC this summer.
Will: And I expect you’re going to be there.
LaQuette: Oh, yeah. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Will: Yeah, we’re actually making a trip for the first time this year as well.
Will: So hopefully we will… I know it’s gonna be crazy busy. But hopefully, we’re gonna get a chance to say hi in person.
LaQuette: It is. Absolutely.
Jeff: For sure. Now, we talked about “Harlem Heat.” You mentioned a couple other things. What is on your docket for the rest of this year for releases?
LaQuette: I don’t think I have any other releases this year because I’m writing. So I’ve been very blessed in that I have landed these two major contracts with Sourcebooks and with Dreamspinner, both for series. So I’m halfway through Source’s books. And I need to start on Dreamspinner’s toward the end of the year. So there won’t be any more releases from me. I mean, if I get a moment where I’m, you know, feeling really creative, I might try to get a novella together. But I’m not making any promises.
Jeff: All right, so we’ll look for a lot more in 2020, for sure.
LaQuette: Yeah, 2020 is definitely…the first book for Source comes out in 2020. I don’t have a release date yet. I have delivery dates for Dreamspinner, but I don’t have release dates yet. So I’m thinking probably sometime toward the end of 2020, possibly, or maybe the beginning of 2021.
Jeff: All right. Well, when “Harlem Heat” comes out, you definitely have an invitation to come back and talk, for sure.
LaQuette: Oh, yay. Thank you.
Jeff: Now what’s the best way for everybody to keep up with you online?
LaQuette: Oh, so you can find me on Facebook at, you know, my Facebook page, LaQuettetheAuthor. You can find me on Twitter @LaQuetteWrites, or you can find me on Instagram at la_quette, or you can email me at email@example.com, or you can go to my website laquette.com.
Jeff: She’s well branded, and everything is the same.
Will: Most definitely. Well, LaQuette, it was a genuine honor to have you on the show today.
LaQuette: Oh, thank you.
Will: We’re so glad that you could take some time out of your extremely busy schedule that you can come talk to us.
LaQuette: Thank you for having me. I mean, I was so excited and a little bit nervous also, to come on and talk to you guys because I’ve seen the show before. And I’m like, “Yay, I get to go hang out with them. I feel special.”
Will: Well, it is a genuine pleasure. We’re so glad that you came.
LaQuette: Thank you so very much for having me.