Dialect in Dialogue: Guest Post with Open Ink Perspectives

A couple of months ago I had the honor of being asked to write a guest post for Open Ink’s Perspectives blog. It was published a few days ago, and I wanted to take the opportunity to share it with my readers who may not have seen me tweet about it! Meant to engender conversation with both readers and writers, I hope y’all will enjoy and share your thoughts. Many thanks to Open Ink for hosting me!


When I was writing my third novel, Idlewild, I spent a lot of time pondering (agonizing) over speech patterns in dialogue for my characters. This story takes place in downtown Detroit; in it we have Tyler, a young, genderqueer black man coming out of college and into adulthood who grew up in the city. We also have Asher, a sort-of middle aged (I am struggling to reconcile 33 as middle aged, if only so I can avoid being called so myself, ha!) Jewish man from the suburbs who has become stuck in the wake of his partner’s death. Idlewild was a beast to write; in part because good, complex romance involves complex people navigating the world, and writing that is hard. Additionally, this particular book touches on many difficult to navigate threads: race, class, gentrification and grief being the most prominent.

Idlewild also features a third character: Malik. Malik is Tyler’s boyfriend at the start of the story (no worries, no cheating). When Idlewild came out, I was not expecting people to fall for Malik. I was definitely not expecting requests to write him a story! I think many authors can speak to the fear we harbor that readers might hate a character we love. Having readers fall in love with a character who might be divisive was lovely.

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Buy Links:

INTERLUDE, AMAZON , BARNES & NOBLE , SMASHWORDS, KOBO ,BOOK DEPOSITORY, INDIEBOUND 

 

Detroit Inspiration

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As Idlewild’s release date nears (December 1st!), I want to begin introducing you to the characters and themes of the book. It might sound silly to some of you, but from the start, the city of Detroit has been a main character in the concept. detroit-image

Idlewild is the most slippery book I’ve ever written, in the sense that it resisted being what I imagined it would be. I generally think of myself as a vessel through which stories pass. What I mean is, that while I create characters and atmosphere, I am always ready and open to let the story and characters tell me who they are and what they want to do. Often, they disagree with what I’d planned.

My initial concept for this book was drawn from two inspirations: the city of Detroit and a Sam Smith song. While Detroit stayed throughout, my understanding of the city and what I’d wanted to write about it changed dramatically. As for Sam Smith, that got left in the dust (initially Tyler’s boyfriend was a serial cheater; this didn’t work at all for the character who ended up being Tyler’s boyfriend).

The first time I described what I wanted to write to a friend of mine, her response pointed out a huge flaw in my thinking. I’d wanted to write about Detroit’s downtown revival, and I’d never considered the complexities of gentrification. Later, I did a research project for my Masters that focused on land based rhetorics in Detroit. This is when I realized I needed to do a lot more research and examine the rhetorics of the city from various points of view.

I wanted to write a love letter to Detroit, and in the end, did. But love is complicated, and Detroit’s story is incredibly complex. Her history is often painful and misunderstood. One cannot ignore the economic and racial tensions of the city now, nor her reputation. detroit-image-2

Every time I hear Detroit called the Murder Capital of the country, my heart breaks. First, because the statistics that led to that headline were contextualized in a particular way and are from years ago. Second because this isn’t the Detroit so many of us know and believe in. These rhetorics influence people to give up. The divide between the Metro Detroit suburbs and the city are rooted far back in history. Many people mark the change in this city’s history to the Riots of 1967. The history of racism, of violence, of redlining housing policies and so many other things date back farther. One must go into the Detroit’s role in FDR’s Arsenal of Democracy during World War II. We must go back to Jim Crow, and the many families who came north thinking that they would find jobs and homes and better lives, only to find that promises would go unfulfilled. We must go back to the founding of Detroit all the way in 1701 and trace a long, layered history.

The history of this city isn’t something I could sum in this blog without it going very long. Although so much of this history doesn’t make it explicitly in this book, it informs so much of what happens and how the characters feel and interact. One of the challenges of writing deeply complex characters (as I do consider Detroit to be a character in this book) in a romance novel was balancing writing a character driven love story with the deep history of a city around it. This sort of book didn’t lend to heavy handed history lessons, because that wasn’t the focus. But it was there. It is there. detroit-image-3

I am so happy that my concept of Detroit as a character in this book changed so dramatically. I hope that I managed to balance story with history; I hope that I manage to capture her spirit kindly and honestly. I hope that those interested in learning more about Detroit take advantage of the list of books I’ve provided. There are many ways one could write about this city, because she wears many histories and faces. This book is my love letter to Detroit.

There are a lot of aspects of this story that needed addressing, careful balance, an open mind and a willingness to hear when I was getting it wrong. I was so lucky to work with the sensitivity readers I did, and to have so many friends share their experiences with me in the writing of Idlewild. There is room to tell many stories about this city and her people. I hope you enjoy this particular one.

 

Kirkus Review

This week I received just a lovely review from Kirkus (ahhh!!).

“Sierra has created a very natural and psychologically astute portrayal of a romantic relationship, by turns funny, delightful, & painful…A lovely, finely wrought romance that reminds us that to truly love another, we must know our own hearts.” 

For the full review, head on over here.

This book was hella hard to write, so this is just lovely validation, and I hope enticing for you all 😀

Idlewild is now available to pre-order from the IP Web Store and other online book retailers. Pre-order the print edition direct from IP and get the multi-format eBook free using the discount code IDLEWILD. Both print and eBook must be in your shopping cart for the code to be valid.

Furthermore, I am running a contest: email me proof of purchase (judemsierra@gmail.com) and you’ll get a personalized postcard from me, and will be entered to win a signed copy of Idlewild when it comes out (December 1st).

Updates and book recommendations!

Yesterday on Facebook, I admitted that I suck at multiple platforms (is that what we’d call them?). For some reason, I’m great at obsessing over my twitter feed, at posting on Facebook groups (but now my own feed?) and catching up on things on Goodreads (though note to self: DON’T READ REVIEWS. Lol).

Not much has gone on here that’s terrible exciting (related to my writing life). I went on the most beautiful beach vacation up in Caseville, Michigan with my family. Seriously.

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That is, no joke, an unfiltered picture I took from the deck of the cottage we were staying in. That was a lovely vacation– beach, sun (we’ll ignore the slight sun poisoning I got), sleep and BOOKS. I read so much great stuff! Zane Riley’s With or Without You which I reviewed here. It’s a follow up to Go Your Own Way from last year. It’s a series I so highly recommend. I re-read Avon Gale’s Power Play, and because I’m the luckiest girl alive, got to read an early copy of her upcoming book, Empty Net (which is currently available for Pre-order!! And it’s on sale right now). Y’all, this book is SPECIAL. This is by far the best thing I’ve read from Avon, and she’s an incredibly talented writer.

I also went on an L.A. Witt tear, and read two of hers: Ex Equals and For the Living, which I enjoyed quite a bit. And because I am OBSESSED, I re-read Fast Connection by Santino Hassell and Megan Erickson. I love this series, and my love for Dominic Costigan cannot be contained. Finally, I rounded out a week of great reading with Garret Leigh’s What Remains. LORD, I cannot. Please read it. And when you fall in love, go read Becca Burton’s Something Like a Love Song.

Otherwise, on the writing front, I’ve been outlining a new project I am very excited to write. It’ll probably take a while, with grad school coming up, and my first semester teaching at a college level starting. But I’m feeling very inspired, which is good news 😀 If you see me tweeting about #ProjectKeys, that’s it. Who knows what hints might get dropped?

Finally, in exciting news, the release date for Idlewild has been moved to December 1st! You might be wondering wny moving it back is exciting — first because that means I have extra time to really work on making this book as great as it can be. Also, December 1st is my birthday.

Okay, written down those seem like selfish reasons, LOL. Anyway, keep an eye out for stuff related to Idlewild in the coming months!

Finally, I am pondering putting together a book giveaway of some sort… must ponder. But if you’ve been wanting a paper copy of one of my books, stay tuned for more info!

~*~

Both Hush andWhat it Takes are available for purchase now at:  Interlude Press Web Store
AmazonAll RomanceBarnes & NobleBook Depository, Apple iBookstore, Smashwords, and Independent Bookstores

Where *is* Waldo though?

On twitter, duh.

And thus opens my first blog post this the dawn of time. Brilliant, aren’t I?

Seriously though, I am a tweetaholic. It’s just so easy to tweet about the meaningless drivel of my life, particularly since I’ve hardly been on my actual computer since the semester ended. Plus, for Mother’s Day I got a kindle of my own, which is a lovely treat but I am fail at typing on a regular keyboard without typos, you cannot even imagine how often I embarrass myself with the typos I miss when typing on that thing.

I am getting back into the swing of things in a tentative sort of way. I’m doing a lot of caring for my mother, who is going through cancer treatment, which means I’m away a bit.

But on the happier end of things, Idlewild is going to be in everyone’s hot little hands in October. I am excited to share it with you, and Detroit, and Tyler and Asher, who are lovely and complicated men. Of course I’m full of the nerves that come with people reading my stuff, but thankfully I have months and months to worry and fret until it happens.

Welp, That was helpful 😉

I’m also excited to report that I’ve officially made a playlist for the story idea that’s been kicking around and hollering to be written. With life as it is (we’re moving soon, my mother, getting ready to release a book and all the edits that go into that), who knows how it’ll take shape or at what rate. But generally when something gets a playlist, that means shit’s gotten real. This probably excites me more than you all, but I’m used to writing at a faster pace and more consistently, and I had been bone dry in the inspiration department for a good month and a half (yes, when I see that written it seems slightly ridiculous to worry about, but like I said, I am always working on something). I really want to write this one, even if it’s slow, so feel free to poke me from time to time. I’ll have to give this project a secret name so that y’all have poke me efficiently. I’ll get back to you on that.

For now, I’ll just say that my playlist has gotten to Sia’s song, Alive. Punch in the gut, that song. Particularly when you know Sia’s story, and particularly since I connect with it on a personal level in my experiences. And (ahem) perhaps because I have a character with a sort of similar story to tell. BUT DON’T FRET. There’s happy stuff in there!! Lots of happy songs and feelings!!

Alright, I am off to consult with a student and to continue reading this AMAZING story written by my super talented friend, Pene Henson, who consequently just received a STARRED REVIEW in Publishers Weekly for her upcoming novel, Into the Blue. Surfers! Friends to lovers! Seriously, I cannot recommend this book more (consequently, the story I am reading is her next work, which is lovely).

 

Coming in October of 2016, Idlewild

IDLEWILD COVER

In a last ditch effort to bring the downtown Detroit gastro pub he started with his late husband back to life, Asher Schenck fires everyone and hires a completely new staff. Among them is Tyler Heyward, a 23-year-old recent college graduate in need of funds to pay for med school. As their relationship shifts from business to friendship, Tyler falls for Asher and finds himself caught between the things he thought he wanted and the things he hasn’t allowed himself to dream about. Working together, they get to know each other’s dreams.

Idlewild is a story about love and healing set in the backdrop of Detroit’s revival.

I am so excited to share this amazing cover C.B. Messner designed, and my story with you guys. I am so constantly floored by the quality of the book covers Interlude Press gives my books, and once again, standing ovation. This one captures the book so beautifully.