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.
Okay, I get it. Regency dukes sell. Most of your entries are going to be Regencies. Most of what you buy are Regencies. But seriously, this read to me like this:
“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.)
Jun 12, 2014 @ 08:34:05
Hi Jeannie, I have to admit that I didn’t at first think of racial diversity in terms of the limitations of the competition. Considering my current experiments in historical fiction are a Victorian era Australian commoner and a Georgian libertine (a lover, not a warrior and possibly not so much of the loving either) I was more concerned about whether my stories were eligible. Certainly the guidelines asked for a very limited range of the most popular heroes and I wasn’t the only one thinking I couldn’t enter until I enquired and was told they would take any heroes. I’m sure some people wouldn’t have been as aggressive in asking and will not enter as a result. As it is I’m not quite sure where I should put my Georgian.
Angelina (Barbin) Jameson
Jun 12, 2014 @ 11:14:29
Although I don’t have an Asian or Indian hero, I wanted to say I think you and Alisha are fantastic ladies for offering critiques for an author who does have an Asian or Indian hero. I’m not acquainted with Alisha’s work but I will now go and check it out. I love when an author is so very generous to others. 🙂
Jun 12, 2014 @ 12:31:26
Thank you for blogging about this Jeannie. We went to the same fine institution and we both have multiple degrees, so it’s clear that we both can read. I read this just as you did. And immediately took it to mean that this contest was one where I “Need not apply” with my Black heroes. Got it, M&B.
I’ll believe you when you say that they don’t see the issue with the way they’ve set up this contest, because you have a high level of credibility just by speaking out. You and Aisha are also very generous and have set a high standard for pre-pubs like me. Thank you so very much for your blog post. 🙂
Jun 13, 2014 @ 13:46:17
I see it hasn’t changed in 20 years. I used to be a rabid romance reader–Silhouette, Harlequin, Avon, etc. 1987-2000 were my big years of glomming all sorts of romances, all subgenres. And I even went to some conventions. Acquriring editors always said that those heroes–minority heroes–did not sell. WEren’t interested. Later there were dedicated lines for Latino and Black, but in the major lines (Desire, Temptation, Romance, Special Edition) for series and longer standalones, no. White. European (mostly British, but hey Vikings and Norman-French, etc were okay).
Clearly, we have a readership with some unrecognized racism. If a Latino, Black, Asian man cannot be seen as a love interest (unless he’s some hot Indian guy madly in love with the white school teacher on the Reservation or Latin rancher in the Southwest madly in love with the white runaway bride) then there’s racism.
How come we Latinas, Asians, Blacks can read white heroes and heroines and enjoy the tales and emotions, but the large block of white readership won’t buy the minority heroes. Are the editor full of it, or are they noticing the truth: white readers want white heroes.
Well, I hope lots of folks submit ethnic-varied heroes. It’s time for the romance reading readership to grow the eff up i the 21st century. What? Have they even seen any J-Dramas, K-Dramas–those guys are smoking.
And don’t even get me started on the yummy brothers in Bollywood flicks or on our television screens with the dark skin and fetching faces.
We really need to rainbow-global up romance.
Jun 13, 2014 @ 18:06:57
Sorry that comments took a while to appear. Apparently my spam filter is on overdrive!
I do hope that the editors see some great entries with a diverse selection of heroes. They’re readers too and every bit of representation has a chance of broadening one mind, right? It’s not about winning. In the words of Pink, you gotta get up and try, try, try…