Matchmaking Black Writers Find an Audience for Black Romance Novels

By Deborah Bradley Dallas Morning News | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), October 11, 1994 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Matchmaking Black Writers Find an Audience for Black Romance Novels

Deborah Bradley Dallas Morning News, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

"Her hand lifted again just as the heavily carved door opened. Her jaw slackened. Standing in front of her was the brawniest man she had ever seen. He had a rugged, dark brown face. Winged brows arched over piercing black eyes edged with thick lashes. A neatly trimmed mustache defined an uncompromising mouth." - "Forever Yours," by Francis Ray

EVER SINCE the romance industry first seduced America's pulp fiction readers in the 1950s, the dashing heroes and bosomy heroines have mostly been white.

Now the strong-willed ebony beauty has taken the spotlight as black writers like Francis Ray move into the pages of passion, adventure and happy endings.

Ray is a nurse practitioner in a Dallas school district and a Texas Woman's University graduate. Tired of waiting for someone else to write the black romance, she decided to pen her own.

"This is important to me because I like writing about the positive aspects of African-American life," she says. "I want to be sure there are things that I and others would be proud to read. We have some fine black men, but the ones who aren't so fine, who don't have respect for life and people, get the attention."

Ray is part of a growing movement that has publishing houses signing a record number of black romance writers, causing many in the industry to deem the summer of 1994 "the birth of the African-American romance novel." In the last year, more than 30 black authors have concluded contracts with large and small publishing houses, compared with only a handful in 1980.

"This marks the first time that African-American women have been able to write and read something completely frivolous," says Vivian Stephens, a longtime editor in the romance business and the black woman whom The New York Times credits with inventing the ethnic romance.

"Traditionally, black novels have been victimization books about `the struggle,' " adds Beverly Jenkins, a black romance writer and librarian from Belleville, Mich. "It's important to show that black women fall in love, go to college, have careers - not all are teen-age moms living on welfare."

Only a smattering of black romance novels have hit the market since June 1980, when the first one was published: "Candlelight's Entwined Destinies," written by Rosalind Welles and edited by Stephens.

There have been black writers such as Sandra Kitt, author of "Adam and Eva" and "Rights of Spring," who have found success using both black and white lead characters.

"The editors had no problem with me being black, but I found resistance to black characters," says Kitt. "When I first started writing, I didn't know there was a problem with the race of the characters. I just wrote them how I saw them. Sometimes that was white, and sometimes that was black."

Kitt says she found it more difficult to sell the books with black characters. While all of her works have been published, she is the exception, not the rule.

For Ray, who at age 49 has been writing for more than a decade, it took nine years to sell her first book, "Fallen Angel," which was put on bookstore shelves in 1992 by Odyssey Books, a black romance publishing company in Silver Spring, Md.

But now Ray is on a roll. Last month, Pinnacle Books published her second book, "Forever Yours." This steamy tale is set in Texas and concerns a sexy entrepreneur who, trying to hold onto her chain of lingerie stores, agrees to marry a handsome and rich rancher for one year.

And her third, fourth and fifth books have release dates: "Sarah's Miracle" in December 1994, "Undeniable" in April 1995 and her Victorian novel, "The Bargain," in March 1996.

Industry insiders say black romances are being taken more seriously since the national crossover success of recent works of fiction by black writers. Terry McMillan's "Waiting to Exhale" and Walter Mosely's mysteries featuring Easy Rawlins proved it could be done, says Ellen Edwards, an editor at Avon.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Matchmaking Black Writers Find an Audience for Black Romance Novels


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?