Monday, May 7, 2012

Better Off Rebekah for Steamy Vampire & Lesbian Romance

So excited to have on the blog today one of my new favorite authors, Rebekah Weatherspoon.  Although neither vampires nor lesbian romance is really my "thing," I read her debut book - and loved it. Loved, loved loved. My review is included here.

(Full disclosure: Rebekah is one of my LARA-RWA sisters. And a really nice person; otherwise she wouldn't have patiently put up with all my nosy questions.)

Rebekah.  Any nicknames - Bekah, Reebie, Becky?
Yes, I have nicknames. I'll leave it at that. :)

Vampire Sorority Sisters.  I may be wrong, but I’m guessing you have this subgenre all to yourself...? Tell us how it came about.
Ha, at the moment yes. Although I have heard about a webseries that has a sorority girls that are also vampires. The sorority girls in my series feed vampires. The idea came to me when I was driving home one day. At first I thought it was really silly, but then I didn't want to look back in five years and think "Man I should have written that story." So I wrote it. :)

You like to play with names - Ginger the ginger, Cleopatra Jones the African American girl, Barb with the oversized breasts (even if she is Asian)... Is this one of the things that gives you a giggle as you write, or...?
I only have one rule for names: nothing I would name my kids. I have a list of boy and girl names reserved for unborn children. As long as the names aren't on that list, they're fair game. Ginger was just Ginger from the beginning. She popped into my head with that name, there was no changing it. Cleo as a character is based on the comic book badass Misty Knight. I couldn't not name her Cleo Jones. And Barb is named after a friend. A few of my characters are named after people I know.  And I do know a few Asian women with large breasts. :)

(Bev here: I do know that Asian women come in all shapes and sizes - all lovely. It's just that when I hear Barb +  abundant breasts, my head jumps straight to blonde, unnaturally shaped Barbie as made by Mattel.)

Your lead character is redheaded, 18, a reluctant sorority sister, something of a brainaic, and a lesbian. Are you now, or have you ever been, any of the above?
I was very eager to join a sorority, which I did, with mixed results, but I wouldn't trade in the experience for anything. I'm not a lesbian, but I am pansexual. I don't think of myself as a brainiac, but I did have a sorority sister tell me I was a know-it-all. We were arguing at the time. In college I was very serious about my grades. I had a small group of friends and we studied together during our free time. Saturday afternoons, we'd turn on Lifetime movies and study for hours. We all did rather well.

The ‘rents.  Granted, every parent should be bursting with pride over having their son or daughter be A Published Author, but... was it difficult telling your parents you were writing lesbian paranormal erotica?  Do they tell all their friends and their cashier at the grocery store to buy your book, or is it a little awkward among some of their circle, or yours?
My parents are the coolest people in the world. I came out to my dad before I published my first short story. I just didn't want him to be blindsided. He didn't care at all, he just wanted to know if I was planning on dumping my boyfriend. I wasn't. My mom is just proud of me in general. She tells everyone about my books. EVERYONE!

You’ve got 6-7 books planned for this series.  Are these girls unusually slow at getting through school, or by the end will we be focused on mostly new characters?
Ginger will NEVER graduate. I kid. Each book will feature a different couple. Characters will pop up again. Ginger is all up in Blacker Than Blue, but the book is set three years in the future. The girls in general will graduate and move on and then new fresh blood will move into the Alpha Beta Omega House.  

Better Off Red
Blacker Than Blue
Please tell me the next book is not Mellow Yellow.  Can you share what some of the next titles might be, or is it Sooper Sekrit?
I just figured out the title for the next book a few days ago. For right now it's Soul To Keep. Or Soul To Take. We'll see what happens when I actually sit down to write it. One of those will be it though.

Confession time. I’ve always been straighter than straight, and yet... reading Better Off Red, I was totally feeling the girl-girl love. *fans self* Are you hearing this comment a lot?
I'd posted same sex fanfiction a few years ago and most of my feedback was from straight women who suddenly found themselves not feeling so straight. I got a lot of emails. Most of the feedback I'd gotten on Better Off Red has been from women who enjoy the company of other women, but all of my straight friends have said they appreciate the steamy factor. A lot. I think people hear "gay" or "lesbian" and the automatically think its something they aren't supposed to be into, but sex turns people on in surprising ways and everyone can relate to love. You can find things to be arousing and not want to act them out in your real life. If that wasn't the case, I'd be a very active porn star.

Book-readings and signings - it’s one thing to be bold on the page, it’s another thing to read it aloud in public.  What was the hardest thing about it so far - and the most surprisingly joyful?
I think I'm more comfortable with the readings now. It only took four attempts. Once I start I'm usually okay and I don't freak out when I have to "pussy" and my publisher is standing ten feet away from me. The hardest part for me was just shaking the nerves in the beginning. My stage fright goes right to my feet and my legs start to shake. That's no fun. The best part is hearing from readers. It's really great when someone tells you that they love your story and your characters. It's an amazing feeling. 

What was the most challenging thing you found about writing a second book in the same world, with many of the same characters?
The second book was a breeze. Benny takes on the second story and she's been well developed in my head for almost two years. I have more of her back story in my head than anyone else. I'm talking her mom's back story. Her grandma's back story. And now that her book is done, I can safely say I could write at least 3 more books about her. Writing outside of the series was hard. 

Tell us a little about The Fling, which I haven't yet read. Why do we want to buy this - is it a novel, or novella?
The Fling almost killed me. Paranormal and Fantasy come really easy to me. Contemporary romance with boring, normal people is hard. My characters aren't boring, though. They are awesome. The Fling is a full length, erotic romance about two women living in Los Angeles. Their relationship started off with a one night stand, but develops into something more. I have to work humor into more stories so there's a good bit for the giggles. I also like to write about families, so you get to know Oksana's family. I fell in love with them along the way.  

Let me get into race for a moment, which you beautifully addressed on Day 632 on your own Let us see, shall we... blog. Christine Leo also wrote a piece for the LARA Confidential about the characters depicted on romance book covers: again, primarily Caucasian. The default in romance at this time seems to be white: white writers, white characters, even though Americans (and others) live in an increasingly mixed race society. Then there was the whole BS about The Hunger Games movie, where some people actually voiced disappointment about the beautiful black actress playing the black character, Rue, because they assumed she was a little white girl.

Does it make you feel like an outsider, or more like a vanguard with the opportunity to introduce fresher characters and outlooks?   Do you feel a sense that you have to represent writers of color, in a way that the average (white) romance writer, who might write primarily about cowboys and ropes, say, is not expected to do?
I write what I want to read. I'm black with friends from all different backgrounds so I like to write about diverse characters with a variety of friends. It's an opportunity to do something different, but I didn't set out with any sort of agenda in that respect. I do feel like the odd one out in some situations, but that's been my life story. I'm an odd duck to begin with, I just surround myself with people who don't mind my flavor of duckiness.

As a woman of color, I've always been black and that's how I've always faced the world. By that I mean, I'm black no matter what I do. If I hide my face I'm a writer. The moment someone finds out what I look like I'm a black writer. I'm working for Rebekah and I am happy to support other authors of color, but I am most interested in supporting authors who write well and respect me as a person.  But I know if I do something crazy it will reflect poorly on people of color. That's just how it is.

Lastly though, I think people of color are omitted from a lot of mainstream outlets, but what people don't realize is that our lives are still full. We're having a great time even if you're ignoring us, but it's hard to have a full conversation on any subject if you are ignoring a piece of your audience.

What question have you not been asked, yet, that you've been dying to answer - and what's your answer?
Ooh that's a tough one.  If you could be anything, what would you be? Answer: Back up dancer for Janet Jackson circa 1990. Or a Sex Ed Teacher.

Rebekah, you would've ROCKED Janet's videos. And I would've loved to have had YOU as my Sex Ed Teacher.

After years of meddling in her friends’ love lives, Rebekah turned to writing romance as a means to surviving a stressful professional life. She has worked in various positions from library assistant, meter maid, middle school teacher, B movie production assistant, reality show crew chauffeur, D movie producer, and her most fulfilling job to date, lube and harness specialist at an erotic boutique in West Hollywood.

Her interests include Wonder Woman collectibles, cookies, James Taylor, quality hip-hop, football, American muscle cars, large breed dogs, and the ocean. When she's not working, writing, reading, or sleeping, she is watching Ken Burns documentaries and cartoons or taking dance classes. If given the chance, she will cheat at UNO. She was raised in Southern New Hampshire and now lives in Southern California with an individual who is much more tech savvy than she ever will be. Better Off Red is her first novel.

Thank you, Rebekah, for this interview. I look forward to watching your career take off - and reading your next books.

Got more questions for Rebekah? Please comment, below.
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