UPDATE: After my initial offer, a few other authors have offered critiques.
Alisha Rai, contemporary erotic romance author, is offering to critique for anyone with an Indian hero. She may not write historicals, but she knows about bringing the hotness.
Tea Cooper, historical and contemporary romance author, is offering to critique anyone writing an Australian hero.
Sonali Dev, author of the upcoming A Bollywood Affair, has offered to critique for anyone writing an Indian hero or actually any POC (person of color).
Kaia Danielle is offering to critique for anyone with an African American hero. She gives the caveat that she can’t guarantee she’ll get the critique back on time, but I’d certainly take her up on the offer for an extra set of eyes.
So given my busy schedule, I’m rarely moved to blog these days, but I guess I couldn’t stay away from this one.
This Monday, Harlequin Mills & Boon announced the details of their Historical Hero writing contest. First, yay! I love historicals. I love historical heroes for their honor and chivalry and manners and general sexiness and all. I’ve blogged about Asian heroes before and how they don’t get portrayed as the hotties they deserve to be.
But I was taken aback by the description the M&B site.
“Heroes wanted: British gentlemen and lords preferred and we’ll consider a few of you warrior savages from those other countries and time periods.”
Of course, when I tweeted an eyebrow-raised comment about that, the editors replied back in the gist of “Oh no! Those are just our guidelines. We’ll take any sort of hot hero you have. Really!”
“Heroes wanted: British gentlemen and lords preferred. Everyone else, we’ll take your application too because we have to.”
Obviously anyone reading these “guidelines” don’t know about these exceptions and know exactly what M&B is looking for. Which is fine.
But really. Can we just do better? Please? British gentlemen and noble warriors?
Harlequin and Mills and Boon gave me my start in publishing. They’ve been very supportive of my books. And I do believe that if you’re writing in a niche genre, publishing with a name like HMB can really boost your career and your visibility. Plus Harlequin Historical really does have some of the more diverse and varied historical storylines out there – even if you don’t count the Tang Dynasty!
I want aspiring authors to consider this contest. I really do — I think the M&B editorial I’ve received is absolutely stellar.
But I really believe no one there saw any problem with these categories when they came up with them. They just plainly do not see a problem. Do most aspiring authors and readers see no issue as well? Someone who has always wanted to write a historical romance will read these guidelines and look at the covers of everything out there and just never think there could be anything more.
It’s not that people won’t read a non-English hero. It’s that they simply do not exist.
But I’m a teacher and not a fighter, so rather than stay mad, I followed up my first snarky tweet with an offer:
If you have a historical romance with an Asian hero you want to enter in this contest — I don’t care which culture he’s from or if he’s mixed race or if the setting is in good ol’ England — I will critique your pages for you.
Author Alisha Rai has also offered to critique anyone who’s interested in submitting with an Indian hero. I think if other authors would like to offer to critique, that would be awesome. And I don’t think you have to be an author of color or writing characters of color, or even writing what you’re willing to critique. I think a bunch of settings like the American West, Ancient Rome, France and…pretty much everywhere but England, Scottish Highlanders and Vikings are pretty much edged out by the job description.
I’ve already read a lovely entry set in the Ming Dynasty that sounds right up my alley as a reader. I learned something really cool about Chinese history that I didn’t know much about. And the hero…he’s niiiiice. Very, very nice. I feel better about the universe already.
(P.S. Teachers are fighters. Some of the scrappiest fighters I know.)