Diversity in Books: Why It’s Important and Why I Write It

#weneeddiversebooks

I’ve published two full-length novels and both of them contain people of colour as either the main character or the love interest(s).

cover eod 2014In The Edge of Darkness, my protagonist Max(ine) is Filipino.

I consciously made the decision to write her as non-white building on my father’s experience of being the son of immigrants to Australia, and because Australia’s always had a high level of Asian immigrants.

Why the Phillipines? The answer can be as shallow as ‘I once knew a beautiful man from there’. Despite my family’s strong connection to Japan, I wanted Max to represent a less popular section of Asia, one you don’t see very often in popular literature..

Max is also named after the main character from Dark Angel, played by Jessica Alba, who’s mixed race.

In Storm of Blood, my protagonist Tina is white (as are the majority of Australians, where the book is set), but her boyfriend Tengu is Chinese (from Hong Kong) and the other boy who plays a role in her love life, Lachlan, is descended from Pacific Islanders.

Storm of Blood final coverTengu appeared in the last short story from the Storm Front collection. I was looking for a lesser-known demon for Tina to turn to for help when I stumbled upon the tengu Chinese shapeshifting demon in my research. I took a lot of creative licensing in Tengu’s kind of shapeshifting and it’s really got nothing to do with the original Chinese demon I first discovered. Buddhism says that the tengu demon were originally disruptive and dangerous, but over time their image changed to one of protection, which is how book Tengu is with Tina.

And the reason I made Lachlan a Pacific Islander is because the inspiration for his looks is an actor called Michaal Copon who’s just really good-looking. He was in the cheerleading movie Bring it On: In It to Win It along with Cassandra Scerbo (of Sharknado fame), who inspired my look for Chelsea. One look at that pair in that film and I knew that was what I wanted in my book.

As a side note – I did consider making the villain character gay, but I couldn’t bring myself to possible represent that community in a bad light. Some of the characters in my novels are gay, but if there’s no way for me to make that explicit, you’ll never know who. My philosophy is that that’s pretty much how it works in the real world, too.

I feel that all-white casts in books can be generic and boring, and I always get excited when I read books by Malinda Lo who always includes diversity not only in race but in sexuality, too. But I figure, Malinda (who’s an excellent writer) includes diversity because she’s hyper-aware of it, being a minority herself. I’m not a minority, but it sure is nice when a straight, white, cis female can include diversity in her books as well.

My biggest reason for writing diversity in my books is very simple: why shouldn’t I?

The book I’m working on at the moment is a young adult bisexual love story about a mixed-race girl.

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