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Sunday, August 28, 2005

Just ruminating...

Is there a market for interracial romance? I certainly hope so. As a matter of fact, I'm banking on it.

Until recently, books featuring IR couples were scarce. A reader was lucky to happen upon one b/c they weren't marketed as IR, but rather were hidden beneath other labels. Then about ten years ago, a particular book came out that changed all of that. The Color of Love by Sandra Kitt was a genuinely extraordinary find at the time: an intelligent story featuring a non-stereotypical couple who happened to be a black woman and white man. And even more of a pleasant surprise, the storyline wasn't cutesy and didn't bang the jungle fever drums. Plus, the love scenes didn't wimp out nor were they gratuitous.

Unfortunately, the novel wasn't diligently marketed. Fortunately, it did reach a hungry audience whose word of mouth kicked it up a few notches until it has now become something of a genre classic. The novel's success paved the road for other books, and so we have a few more titles to choose from. But, unfortunately, just a few.

There are over a million IR couples in the US, and you'd figure half of them are women. (Note that I have not looked up statistics, so I may be undercutting the figure). Even so, that's a possible market of half a million; not a number to sneeze at. This market is underserved just as the Af-Am market was nearly twenty years ago b/f Terry McMillan proved the myopia of the book execs.

But even that half a million doesn't take into account the full, possible market out there: millions of women who love a good story and who don't care about the skin color of the couple. I initially thought that if I wrote an IR love story, it might only appeal to those in such a relationship. It didn't really occur to me that a more mainstream audience would actually pick up a book with a black woman being romanced by a white man.

And then I discovered Suzanne Brockmann and that myth went to hell where it belonged. The rabid popularity of Alyssa Locke and Sam Starrett validated a nagging suspicion I had held but was never entirely sure of: that women will read a book if it is well written, if the romance is hot, and if the participants are people the audience can relate to.

My nagging suspicion started back in 1998 when I began watching Poltergeist: the Legacy. A show focusing on an international secret society that investigated the paranormal, it featured a group in San Francisco who was constantly beset by and trying to stave off evil. The show was good in itself, but there was something that was even more interesting; the chemistry between one of the members named Alexandra Moreau (played by the lovely Robbi Chong, sister of Rae Dawn Chong) and the Precept Derek Rayne (played by the equally handsome Derek de Lint).

Whenever I would go on the message boards or read the fanfic, there was always the underlying theme of romance between these two (although it was only hinted at in the actual show). And interestingly enough, the romance was being championed by non-black women, which initially I thought was odd. But then I had to backpedal and wonder why I considered it odd. Here were two attractive, intelligent characters who had chemistry (although in my own fanfic, I paired Alex with the ever-so fine Nick Boyle, played by Martin Cummins - my first foray into romance writing). Why wouldn't the audience want them to be together just b/c the woman was black and the man was white?

From that point on, I realized that there is a market for a good IR romance simply b/c there is always an audience for good romance period.

So, there lies my hope because I love writing this sub-genre and hope that I will find the readers to prove my point.

Sharon Cullars Coffee Talk at 8/28/2005 09:57:00 AM Permanent Link     | | Home


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