HomeReviewsInterviewsStoreABlogsOn Writing

Gwyneth’s latest book, Sweet Sensation

When did you first get published?

My first novel was published in March of 2006.

What genre do you write in?

I write contemporary romance, erotic romance and paranormal erotic romance.

What race/colour are the majority of your characters?

The majority of my characters are Black.

How is your work marketed?

My work is marketed as African American fiction and African American romance.

Where are your books generally shelved?

It depends on the chain. In most Borders stores, they are usually in the African American section. In Barnes and Noble there usually isn’t an African American section, so my books are usually in romance.

I’ve seen my books with other Black books sectioned off together in Walmart. If the store has an African America section, chances are that’s where you’ll find any books by Black authors. If it doesn’t, then the books will be shelved in appropriate genres.

Where would you prefer your books to be shelved?

Unless stores do away with the African American section all together, I would prefer that my books were shelved in both the African American section and the romance section. The fact is that some readers do enjoy being able to go to the African American section and get their books.

As a writer who wants people to buy her books, if that section is going to be there with other books on the shelves for black readers, then I want my book in front of those book buyers. Ideally, I’d like to do away with the section all together.

Have you been subjected to direct/indirect racism from editors, publishers etc in your publishing career?

No I haven’t. So far I have worked with mostly Black editors. The one White editor that I worked with on my last novel was not racist in anyway that I could tell.

How do you feel about Oprah Winfrey’s book club- Do you think she could do more to promote AA authors?

I think Oprah promotes what she likes. And she can do that because it’s her show and her book club. She’s done a lot for women’s fiction in general, for middlebrow literature in general, and for promoting literacy in the US.

She does promote some Black writers. She even options the rights for what she likes and brings the work to the little and big screen. She does a lot. Honestly, I’d love it if Oprah promoted more romance in general. But hey, it’s her show. She doesn’t go for the happily-ever-after. It’s her show she can promote what she likes. 🙂

Do you believe that publishers are more ambivalent when it comes to marketing AA books?

I don’t know that this is something that it is really possible to gauge. There are some star black authors for example who may seem like they are being marketed to a great extent to little old new author me.

But when that same superstar author looks at the way they are being marketed in comparison with a white author in their genre who is at the same level or above they may see things differently. I would love to see someone do a study or market analysis on this however. I think we’d be shocked by what we’d find.

Which groups would you say bought the majority of your books?

Black women probably bought the majority of my books. These are the women who e-mail me, who write me etc.

What do you think needs to change in order for more white people to read African American books?

People need to become more open-minded and try the books. It’s really not rocket science. I majored in English as an undergraduate and all throughout graduate school.

The white people in my African American literature classes read black books. When Oprah picks a book by a Black author millions of white people read black books. Many white women have read African American and Caribbean literary fiction.

I think that there are still some stigmas that make it a little slow going in the romance community when it comes to this kind of open-mindedness. And those stigmas go all the way back to The Birth of A Nation unfortunately.

Have you ever been snubbed by white readers/white authors during a signing?

Yes, I have. This has happened to me more times in the year that I have been a published author than seems real.

Have you ever been overlooked by an editor in favour of a white author?

No, I haven’t that I know of. Most of the other authors that write for the imprints and lines I write for are Black.

Have you ever been asked to tone down, or increase the ethnicity within your books?

No, I haven’t.

Are you familiar with Millennia Black’s lawsuit against Penguin? If so, what do you think her chances of winning are?

I am somewhat familiar with it in that I know what anyone else who frequents the web knows about it. I’m not sure that I can predict her chances of winning based on the information I have on the case.

I’m hopeful that she will prevail if the publisher did what she says they did. However, not being privy to all the facts of the case, I’d hesitate to even say that. I just don’t have enough facts to make a judgment.

How do you think her victory will affect the way AA authors are treated within the industry?

I think it would have an impact for sure. Perhaps not an impact as large and significant as Brown vs Board of Education. But maybe it will have just enough of an impact to make publishers think twice about telling authors what races they can and can not write about. It’s hard to predict the future.

What are your thoughts on niche marketing? What do you think the limitations are if any?

I think the best way to describe niche marketing is as a double-edged sword. There are pluses and minus. As far as I can tell, it hurts black romance authors because it means they have a much smaller audience to draw from.

Think of the readers who won’t read romance in general and then think of the percentage of those readers in Black communities. If Black books are only being marketing to the niche and a large part of that niche has a disdain for romance, then the Black romance writer is out of luck.

On the other hand like most romance readers, black women romance readers are loyal to the genre and they will buy the books and support their authors. I guess what I mean to say is that it is more complicated than black and white, no pun intended.

Have you been personally involved in trying to bring about changes within the publishing industry, with regards to how African American authors are treated? If so can you tell me about your efforts?

I haven’t held any rallies or anything like that. I have blogged about it a little on Blogging in Black. I have worked to start a Black writer organization with some other writer called the International Black Writers Association.

This group is all about authors banding together, finding solutions and being positive resources for one another. I’m also still a fairly new author, only one year with published books on the shelves. What I’m interested in seeing is a viable solution and strategy. And I’m willing to work with other to come up with one.

Do you think this will still be a controversial subject in five years time, or do you think major changes would have been made by then?

Anyone who is hopeful and optimistic can only hope that things will get better in five years. But given the way much of the country seems to be regressing when it comes to race, racism and issues of oppression, it is hard to maintain that optimism.

The fact is, there are far more telling signals that race is still a major issue in this country. The tell signs are the way young black men are still beaten and murdered by cops. The growing HIV/AIDS rates that are wiping out communities of color.

We don’t necessarily have to only look at publishing to see that systemic racism is still alive and well. And when we really look at these it becomes a little hard to just look at the racism in the publishing industry and really get as up in arms, especially when lives are being lost.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

Your welcome. Thanks for taking the time to do the survey and I hope that something positive comes out of it.

If you want to know more about Gwyneth and her books, you can find her website here.

Coming up next, Millenia Black.


  • Devon
    March 19
    3:35 pm

    I think you make a really interesting point about white people not having any issue with reading AA or Caribbean literature, but not being interested in genre literature.

    Then again, most of the folks I know who consider themselves well- and widely-read wouldn’t touch a romance with a ten foot pole.

    To AA writers, how do you feel about having a subsection within a genre section? In most of the bookstores I checked out, after the “Literature” section there were a couple of shelves of LitCrit type stuff, then the AA section begins. So even though there is a mishmash of genres and fic/nonfic, you’re being considered “literature”. But what if AA books were given shelves within say, romance, where the AA readership could find them, but they would also be more readily looked at by other romance readers?

    On the one hand, it seems like a decent compromise, but it also seems to me that it could get a little out of hand as they might then attempt to subcategorize everyone.


  • Karen Scott
    March 19
    9:11 pm

    But what if AA books were given shelves within say, romance, where the AA readership could find them, but they would also be more readily looked at by other romance readers?

    Devon, I don’t see why AA romance can’t be shelved in both, the romance section, and the AA section. Surely this would solve the current problem?

    In my local Borders, LKH is stored in two places, Horror, and general fiction.


  • Sara Dennis
    March 20
    12:05 am

    The International Black Writers Association sounds interesting. Is there more information about it online somewhere?


  • Camilla
    March 20
    12:30 am

    I’ve discovered a number of new-to-me authors through Karen’s tackling of this topic, but I can say that I am sick of it. I can say that the heart of the matter always seems to get lost when the word “racism” is injected into the topic. Obviously there’s a major disconnect between readers, writers, booksellers, and publishers, as well as between everyone involved in this discussion.

    Bottom line from what I see: the industry views black authors as a separate entity from authors of other races.They have their own imprints, their own editors and specific literary agents (most agents tend to list “African-American” if they rep “AA” fiction & non-fiction), further confirming the understanding that black authors are not considered to be on the same page as non-black authors. And that “ain’t right.”

    At this point, the way the discussions on this topic tend to go makes this topic futile. Feelings always get hurt, names get called, fingers get pointed, etc etc and everyone ends up ignoring what can be done in the meantime: read the damn books.

    I just realized that saying: “I don’t know what the books are about” or “I don’t hear any buzz” is a cop-out when Romantic Times reviews black-authored romance every month and there are tons of unknown non-black authors who don’t get buzz either and people somehow find their books. See a blurb that looks interesting? Check out the author’s website the way you do when it’s an unknown author whose RT blurb doesn’t say “African-American”. Can’t find a website? Chances are, you can find something on the publisher’s website(Kensington is good with this).

    Excuse me when I say this, but if people have issues with doing this when they’re willing to do this for non-black authors, that’s some serious prejudice right there.


  • Monica Jackson
    March 20
    1:40 am

    Gwyneth is way cool. You guys should check out her books.

    The site for IBWA is blackwritersassociation.org

    It’s a brand new baby organization and I need to make it clear on the site it’s not just for BLACK writers, but for writers who publish or aspire to publish within the black commercial fiction niche.

    It’s not that we all approve of it, but it’s what we have to deal with and we need to be cohesive as the other genre authors.


  • rozlips
    March 20
    1:52 am

    Excellent point Camilla. RT does regularly review black authors. I think most of the publishers send ARCs to them. I linked their review of my book on my website.


  • Barbara B.
    March 20
    11:25 am

    Are Gwyneth’s books in bookstores or do they have to be special ordered? Are they avaiable as ebooks?

    Karen, thanks for shedding some light on this incredibly difficult issue. As you can see, we in America are not yet ready to have civil and productive discourse on issues that have anything to do with race. Maybe a hundred years from now…


  • Jane
    March 20
    5:28 pm

    Devon, I don’t see why AA romance can’t be shelved in both, the romance section, and the AA section. Surely this would solve the current problem?

    I think cross shelving is too onerous, seriously. for LKH it makes sense because she sells really well. Maybe you see it for Terry McMillan and Eric Jerome Dickey but for the average writer, cross shelving is too much of a hassle for booksellers. You would have to show booksellers that the extra effort would translate into $$ plus, you are talking about one book taking up two shelf spaces and thereby decreasing the number of books overall.


  • Shelly
    March 21
    3:06 am

    I’m a bookseller and I partially agree with Jane. It is a pain to cross-shelve and I don’t think it even works well for well known authors like LKH. If the patron doesn’t know to look in both places, then the store could very well have what they want, but just not where they are looking.

    I personally believe that if you write romance you should be in romance, period. If someone is looking for a certain type of story like “black romance” then they will typically know who those publishers are and can identify them by the logo on the spine. Same goes with erotica, etc.

    Cross shelving isn’t a good answer for most patrons and it certainly sucks for people having to shelve them. You have to keep in mind that smaller stores will only carry possibly one copy of a title. So where would you put it?

    Just MHO.


  • Kate R
    March 21
    12:44 pm

    I wonder, does the attitude of the woman on the cover of Sweet Sensation reflect the heroine?

    I’m trying to figure out what she’s telling us. Something like “See, I told you I was right and you were wrong. I am the sexiest thing EVER.”


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment