Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Reflecting the world we live in — Diversity in romance writing

Thoughts by Anthony Ehlers...

At RosaCon16, we wrapped up the weekend with a panel discussion on Diversity in Romance, with panelists Fiona Khan, Elaine Pillay, and myself, Anthony Ehlers. The session, moderated by Rebecca Crowley, was to be a brutally honest analysis of this often overlooked issue in the romance genre.

In the US, for example, we see a growing market and readership, one that reflects a multicultural demographic. Gay marriage and equality has also brought a new focus on same-sex relationships.  In India, we see a massively growing readership, and Fiona gave the popular Shiva Trilogy by Amish Tripathi as just one example.

Here in South Africa, our democracy has brought about an exciting melting pot of race, culture, and is seen by many as a cosmopolitan and international setting by many. We have an opportunity as South Africans, and those that have made South Africa their home, to write our unique and fascinating love stories – whether they’re historical, contemporary, or futuristic.

So where are the stories – and authors – that showcase this diversity?

There are barriers to crossing the diversity divide, from a lack of empowering writers and fostering new talent to not enough platforms for emerging writers. Often cost is a barrier to entry – as emerging or new markets don’t have the same income as established demographics.

However, editors, agents, and publishers are waking up to the need for a more diverse romance genre. It has become a commercial imperative to change the way they look at love stories in a rapidly changing world – otherwise their books won’t keep pace with their readership. Readers want to see themselves reflected in the stories they read – whether it’s a reflection of race, sexuality, culture or even just a setting they know as home.
As writers who are passionate about writing love stories, we must look beyond the entrenched archetypes of the past and find ways to show the world we live in right now – and reflect the diversity we see in our communities, our families, the workplace, and our friends.  Be aware and open to the possibilities of characters and stories that shake up the status quo and rattle our complacency. Write about what excites us, yes, but also what challenges us.

Here are some useful links to other sites on diversity

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