The FountainPenDiva, Old school geek chick and lover of teddy bears

How important is showcasing diverse characters to you as an author?

Kyoko M. Oh, you have no IDEA how much it matters to me. Strap in, my dear, this might be a long answer.

Ever since I was a little girl, I've never had trouble identifying with fictional women as long as they were written well. I've mentioned before how my all-time favorite Disney girls (girls, mind you, not just the princesses) are Meg, Pocahontas, Esmeralda, Rapunzel, and Kida. I grew up with a strong background of incredibly awesome ladies in fiction, everyone from Leeloo Dallas (MULTIPASS!) to Pippi Longstocking to Max Gibson. I love girls and I love reading about them and watching them on the silver screen or on television.

But, as I hit my twenties, I started noticing that most of my favorite TV shows, books, and movies were stories where most, if not all of the cast members, were white. Again, it's not a problem, but it did make me realize that black women don't really have a "role model" or an example of a kick ass fictional lady you think of as soon as you think about black women. The closest I can think of would be Storm or Zoe Washburne. Not to say there aren't millions of awesome black female characters out there, but almost none of them are in the public consciousness. That's how The Black Parade series came about.

I found myself wanting a story with a black female protagonist in an urban fantasy setting, but not the one you'd typically read. The market is flooded with these girls who are all chic and trendy, have fancy jobs that pay them absurdly well, and are drop-dead gorgeous with super-special-awesome powers coming out of their ears. I'm really tired of that girl. You know the one. She's everywhere, and so I wanted to create something I'd always wanted to read but hadn't seen just yet.

I wanted someone cranky and down to earth. I wanted someone who wasn't good with men and wasn't a sex symbol or temptress. I wanted someone who was a woman of color, but not your typical sassy stereotype. And I wanted her to rub elbows with the fantasy world around her and be able to keep up with her supporting characters as well as the villains.

Diverse characters make me happy inside. I'm not one of those authors who only reads something that I can identify with from a cultural stance. I read all kinds of stuff and while I'm discovering whole new worlds, I still feel sad that black women don't have the same famous awesome characters as those of other races. And so I hope that someday my series takes off and people realize that not all black women are frickin' housewives or ghetto hoodrats or stereotypes that show up in Tyler Perry movies/sitcoms. There is so much more to us, and so much more to women of color in general, that can be offered to the world. We need to show up in every medium so that people will realize that we're important and interesting and awesome and flawed, same as everyone else. We have our own voice and it's begging to be heard.

Lastly, I also think that it's important to write a diverse character in a setting where her race takes a backseat. I mentioned recently that Jordan is a Seer who happens to be black, not a black Seer. Some people automatically assume that a black character surrounded by white characters or characters of a different race will have unique problems, but I don't think that always has to be the case. Sure, it can come up in spots, but sometimes people rely too heavily on it to create a sense of drama, and sometimes it can prevent growing your audience. I think folks just need to get out of their own comfort zones sometimes and realize that you can relate to any character regardless of culture or race if they are well-written. Hell, I am in love with Harry Dresden for that exact reason. Here we have a 6'8'', gangly white guy who is a wizard, is totally awkward around women, and lives in Chicago with all manner of supernatural beasties. And guess what? I totally get him. I understand him and relate to him in several ways (especially about being a total snarky nerd with a depressingly small list of romantic partners). That's what I think is the end goal. I think we should strive to create so many stories with diverse characters that people realize it's not a limitation, it's an invitation.

...sorry for the word vomit. This is just an important issue to me and I hope to someday turn the tide for the better with my work.

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