I’d like to extend a warm welcome to Harper Miller who graciously accepted my invitation to be my VERY FIRST GUEST on Back Porch Reader. Thank you Harper for dropping by!
Crossing Over and Controversy
Katie asked me if I’d be willing to write about my experience switching genres and I was more than happy to oblige. I’ve been reading Back Porch Reader since the beginning! I think I stumbled upon the blog about a month or two into Katie’s endeavor. I was thrilled to come across a reader who pretty much had the same taste in M/M romance as me who also wrote the best reviews. Mildly snarky, hilarious, and very straightforward. I’ve enjoyed her style, and I’ve also enjoyed forging a friendship with her. Of course, I practically jumped out of my skin at the opportunity to document my experience.
You should know I started writing on a whim. I’m not an author who had this grand dream of penning remarkable stories because it’s what my soul craved. I got into this writing gig purely by accident. Sure, I wrote silly stories as a teenager that never went anywhere but haven’t we all at some point? I always considered myself to be an avid reader. I had no idea the indie book world existed until I did a search on Amazon for Interracial Romances. I did it out of curiosity not expecting Amazon to have anything other than the usual gamut of Harlequin-type romances featuring a blonde heroine with silky alabaster skin being ravaged by a Fabio type hero on the cover. I’d recently parted ways with the guy I was dating, so I was in the mood to “believe in love” again hence my search, but I was hoping that someone wrote something that wasn’t the standard mainstream romance.
Imagine my surprise when Amazon recommended a slew of books featuring black heroines on the cover! Tutti freaking fruitti!!! I was elated. I scoured the blurbs and ended up purchasing a few different stories. Next, I discovered the power of Facebook reader groups where indie authors books were recommended by other readers and a whole new world was unveiled. My one-click finger was on fire! I continued to read Interracial/Multicultural Romances. Heck, for all of 2013 I think that’s all I read. But then I noticed the genre started to become saturated with not so good stories. The authors that penned these tales wanted customer’s money, but the quality just wasn’t what it used to be compared when I first started reading the genre. Authors that were once my faves were churning out repetitive storylines with tons of grammatical errors much to my dismay. I was frustrated and grumpy. My reader high was slowly dissolving.
As part of an exercise in one of the Facebook groups I had joined, I participated in a writing challenge. On a whim, I created a story that would later end up becoming the prologue of my very first novel. Never thought about publishing it, and I never had an interest in being an author, but one day out of the blue I thought maybe I should release it since I hadn’t seen anything like my story within the Interracial/Multicultural market. That was three months before my release date. If you haven’t noticed, I fly by the seat of my pants. If I have an idea, I might mull it over for all of ten minutes before deciding to go balls to the wall.
I had no intention of penning other tales after my first book, but I did have at least four storylines in mind, you know, just in case (everyone should have a backup plan). After publishing, the ideas started flowing like you wouldn’t believe. At that point, I developed a clear vision of the type of writer I wanted to become. I had so many stories I wanted to tell, and I knew that they wouldn’t all fit into some cute cookie cutter mold.
Building a fan base is an exercise in perseverance. Recruiting readers who love what you do is difficult but once you have them, you obviously want to keep them. You hope that whatever books you write; your readers will be traveling alongside you throughout your journey. I knew some of my visions might be a bit far out for some readers but still, I do what I do. I had a decent following who read my first novel and the first two books in a new series. I was riding the wave!
I had an idea to include a threesome in the third book in my Kinky Connect Chronicles series, Entwined. That caused some controversy because I chose to focus on an M/F/F dynamic as opposed to the more popular M/M/F threesome dynamic. This was my first time straying outside of my genre. Up until that point I had only written about M/F couples. With Entwined, I knew I’d lose some readers because everything isn’t for everyone. It’s perfectly okay to bypass story that isn’t speaking to you, but then I received quite the rude awakening.
Readers who previously stated they loved my books and were fans of threesome books flat out told me, “I’m going to bypass your story Harper because of the lesbian sex.” Hmm. Based on those interactions, I wrote a blog post that sparked a discussion about reader preferences vs. blatant discrimination. When is a preference no longer a preference but a form of prejudice? Oy, that didn’t go over so well. Some readers felt that I was attacking them and took my post very personally when I was speaking regarding dialogue I witnessed in reader groups and what was mentioned to me in discussions. I spoke in general terms without calling anyone out specifically but still the outrage came. Do I have any regrets about voicing my thoughts? Not in the least. I think productive discourse is good to have. People rarely if ever acknowledge their prejudices unless they’re phrased in a way that gets them to think a bit outside of their norm.
I might have gained some readers because of my thoughts on the issue; I may have lost some readers, but I will never stop discussing relevant topics in the book world nor will I write stories that fit an acceptable mold just to move units. Everyone deserves love, and everyone deserves an HEA, which is why I decided to pen a gay romance. If I thought I pissed some people off with Entwined, Complexity was going to take it to an entirely different level.
On my very first day of promotional efforts, a reader shared my promo for Complexity. One of her friends commented on the photo, “Who wants to see two faggots?” *insert dramatic pause accompanied by deep breaths* You guys have no idea how furious I was, BUT you always have to put your best foot forward even in the face of hate. I calmly but firmly addressed the commenter and let him know that:
1. His comments were unacceptable
2. Don’t spew your hatred on my promo post
Let me tell you; it’s hard being a diplomatic author some days. I had people unfriend me. I had people say they’d never read anything I wrote again all because I decided to write about two men finding love. Odd huh? I decided to let my creativity flow and expand my writing horizons and that was the response I received. For the most part, people were okay with me writing about a black woman and a white man finding love, a biracial woman, and a Japanese man finding love BUT two men finding love was over the top? We want interracial couples to be accepted in all forms but not an interracial/multicultural gay couple? Hmm.
The crazy thing is the homophobic rant on my promo post happened two days before the Pulse shooting in Orlando. Some people who were offended by me writing about men finding love were now sending condolences to the victims and their families. Come again now? *blink blink* Facebook will make you loathe everything in life. Between questionable remarks from my own family members and the hypocrisy in my feed, I had to log off for and disconnect for a bit. A time out was long overdue.
Fiction is fiction. As writers, we base fictional aspects on reality. But there was nothing fictional about what occurred at Pulse nightclub. A man hell bent on hatred sought to destroy as many people as possible only because he didn’t agree with the way they chose to live their lives. I thought after promoting Interracial/Multicultural stories promoting a Gay Romance would be a piece of cake. Boy, was I wrong. Some hard lessons were learned. The biggest one? Prejudices run deep. Crossing romance subgenres has been an eye-opening experience for me. Has it changed anything I intend to do as a writer? No. Has it forced me to become more creative with my marketing tactics? Heck yes.
Overall, I realize that no matter what I write, there will be an audience for it. There’s an audience for everything. I think the takeaway message for anyone reading this post should be; your favorite author won’t always write things you love. That’s a given. Writers cannot please everyone but if an author you adore is promoting characters who are their authentic selves and the story delivers a happily ever after or a happy for now, isn’t that what romance is about? At the heart of it all, isn’t love what saves the day regardless of sexual orientation?
Love is Love is Love…
About the Author:
Harper Miller is a thirty-something native New Yorker. She’s traveled the world and lived in a variety of places but always finds her way back to the Big Apple.
A lackluster love life leaves time to explore new interests, for Harper it is writing. The Sweetest Taboo: An Unconventional Romance is her debut novel. In her mind the perfect Alpha male possesses intellect, humor, and a kinky streak that rivals the size of California.
When she isn’t writing, Harper utilizes her graduate degree in the field of medical research. She enjoys fitness-related activities, drinking copious amounts of wine, and going on bad dates.
Kinky Connect Chronicles:
GR | Amazon | ARe | BN | kobo
GR | Amazon | ARe | BN | kobo
GR | Amazon | ARe | BN | kobo *Pre-order*
Note: Above, Harper mentioned a guest post on another blog. Here’s the link to her post on Musings of a Romance Junkie.