Who is your favorite romance movie character?
“R” from Warm Bodies, a 2013 Zombie apocalypse movie. (Remember, I am a YA author, I like YA movies too) Truthfully, my “favorite character” changes every few years, I am fickle and always on the lookout for something new. For now that is R. I loved the way the teen boy zombie embodied so many typical teen angsts, especially his inability to talk to girls (or anyone else). He may not be able to talk much, know his real name, or even understand the word love, but he comes to life for the girl. He gets that his number one priority is keeping her safe (and not eating her). A guy willing to give up everything to protect the girl he loves…how do you get more romantic than that?
What inspired you to write multicultural literature?
I am old enough to remember watching TV and seeing no one like myself except the occasional maid. Now we have Scandal. Yeah!! I see using different locations, ethnicities, races, religions, etc. as adding layers to my storytelling and a chance to give my readers something more and different. Just like clothing, one size does not fit all.
Since I write for the Young Adult audience, I spend a lot of time with librarians and teachers. I have spoken at library and teacher’s conferences about books and especially diversity in books. The terminology I hear from teachers is Mirrors and Windows. Mirrors so a reader can see him/herself, and windows to see what else it out there. As one teacher told me, “I want my readers to find pleasure, as well as comfort, company, information, inspiration and empowerment.”
I have been told by other authors to write “universal” and not mention race or cultural aspects. But every child of color knows (really everyone knows) that those universal characters are white. If they were Black or Hispanic, Muslim, gay, handicapped, etc, that would be mentioned. So I mention it. In Being God my main character was half-catholic, half-Jewish and all Black Malik Kaplan. With Minority of One I have black and white main characters, and various gay, lesbian and bi-sexual kids of color. This gives me a lot to research, and so much more to play with. I want every teen to see themselves somewhere in my stories, especially those who might never have seen someone like themselves before.
I hear a lot of white writers say they are afraid they will end up creating stereotypes. That’s why I am doing a workshop for authors who want to create diverse characters without falling into that trap.