Ok, I’m having a major fangirl moment here. Y’all do not understand. I read a book called Red Sun last year, and I was so moved, that I went and bought up this woman’s entire library-at least what was published at the time (but, yes, I do own every, single book, and will buy them all as they are published.) If you have not read a book by Raven St. Pierre, then stop reading this. Click this link. Buy at least one story, then come back and read all about this lovely, young woman.
MIRJ: The first question I ask all authors who write IR romance is why do you write IR romance?
RSP: I actually kind of fell into the IR romance sub-genre, but have since found a home there. My original goal was to write romance. Period. In fact, when I started making some of my leading men non-AA, I didn’t realize IR romance was its own entity outside of AA romance. In my mind, it was all one grouping of novels simply because they all featured African-American female leads. For me, I’d get a story idea that grabbed hold of me and the races of the men varied from one story to the next. Maybe because I don’t see color as a factor when it comes to falling for someone, I chose not to put my heroines in a box either. Whatever traits and characteristics came to mind when the heroes presented themselves in my imagination, that’s how I wrote them. As I’ve found my niche with IR readers, I’ve mostly (but not solely) been focusing my efforts on works that feature interracial couples.
MIRJ: Do you write full-time?
RSP: Yes, writing is my full-time gig, which has been a dream of mine since first drafting a short story at the age of seven. I remember sitting in class, staring at the thin stack of papers, thinking, “This is what I want to do for the rest of my life”. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Human Resources and I’m a business owner, but writing is my main focus right now. I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing. Thankfully, my husband loves that I’m able to be home living out my dream, so his support has been priceless. And Oh-My-Gosh he’s so patient haha. When I have an idea, I obsess over it. He lets me slip into my story world without complaining about how much of my time it takes up. We’ve learned to compromise. He just likes it when I stick close by instead of closing myself off while I work, so I sit beside him on the couch or in bed with my laptop while he’s watching guy stuff 🙂 This way I’m close enough to talk to and we’re both happy.
MIRJ: Describe your writing process. Do you come up with a concept or plot, outline, research, write, then edit, or is it more of a stream of consciousness where you just let the ideas and thoughts flow and you edit as you go along?
RSP: When an idea hits me, I immediately open up a Word document and make a bullet-point list of whatever comes to me just so I can get it all out of my system before I forget anything. Before I start to work on the actual manuscript, I usually create an outline. That keeps me from painting myself in a corner where plot is concerned. OH! And of course there’s inspiration pics. I used to just get photos from Google and save them on my computer. Pinterest changed all that, though haha. I’m addicted to pinning!! Now every book I’ve written (as well as those still being completed) has its own storyboard. I share them sometimes to give readers a glimpse into how I see the characters and their surroundings. It’s fun 🙂
MIRJ: Do you self-publish or are you affiliated with a publishing company?
RSP: I self-pub. I have a lot of respect for those who decide to go with a publishing company, but it simply isn’t for everyone. There are pros and cons to both. For me, there’s a certain level of freedom you’re able to retain by self-pubbing, but there’s the downside of all marketing efforts being the responsibility of the author. Things like that take away from actual writing time and can create an imbalance between the business aspect and the passion one has for writing if you let it, but it’s necessary. I remembered when I dropped my first book last November (wow this year went by fast), I went through a period of not being able to write. Like… at all. I felt naked. I’d gotten so used to being in a bubble where it was just me and the few people I chose to let in when it came to my work, then all of a sudden it was me and thousands of people inside my bubble and they all had the mic, ready to give their opinions. There’s an analogy I often use when people ask me what it’s like having my work out on public display. I tell them the feeling is kind of like going to bed with a guy; he’s completely silent during the entire act, leaving you to wonder how it was for him. That’s the only way I can put it where people understand the anxiety of publishing and then watching reviews. Okay… maybe that wasn’t the ONLY way I could’ve put it, but it drives my point home lol. Yeah… naked is the best word I can use.
Musing: Congrats on your 1-year anniversary! You have a lot to be proud of in your first year of professional writing.
MIRJ: Red Sun was my first read ever by Raven St. Pierre. Where did the inspiration for that story come from because it’s rare that we see BW/N(ative)M pairings in contemporary romance.
RSP: Ah, Jolon and Elan… loved both of those guys so much 🙂
There’s kind of a funny story behind the inspiration for this one. I have a cousin who also writes IR romance (not published yet), but she called one day and simply said, “Hey! You should write a book about a Native American guy!” That was it. No direction. Nothing. I remember getting off the phone that night, sitting at my computer, and I didn’t stop until I had an outline that was about five pages long. Maybe more. The idea had developed a life of its own just that easily. The story latched on to me and I didn’t stop until it was finished. You’re right, though; those pairings aren’t seen often. I think that’s why, when she suggested it, the idea took off so quickly. The visual of the two brothers, Jolon and Elan, came next – these attractive, brawny men with polar opposite personalities, both vying for the affection of one woman, Solei.
MIRJ: Did you expect the Free Falling series to be as popular and well-received as it is? And have we truly seen the last of Samantha and AJ?
RSP: If you knew how haphazardly I released Gravity you’d laugh at me. The actual construction and editing of the story took some time, but I had no clue what I was doing when it came to self-publishing or marketing (still trying to grasp the marketing aspect, to be quite honest). I basically decided one night that I was going to go for it, and then the next day the book dropped lol. It was November 6th and I remember thinking how cool it’d be if I sold 20 copies that first month, not realizing I’d do that in a matter of hours. This was part of the reason I had a bit of performance anxiety when I first published. I didn’t break any records or anything, but I exceeded my own expectations by a landslide. That was enough to freak me out.
I do things differently, take chances in my writing that makes every release day stressful for one reason or another, but I’m so grateful most people understood what I was trying to accomplish with that series. So often I hear people mistaking the series for YA, when it’s anything but that. In fact, a LOT of my reviews for Gravity start out with “I don’t usually read YA, but…” I set out to tell Sam and AJ’s whole story, not just a piece of it. I wanted their intense connection to be felt, not just read about and summarized. That works most of the time in stories, but not for what I wanted people to feel when they picked up the series.
Writing this one the way I did, with the couple starting out as teenagers, was a risk. I realize I alienated some readers (those who felt the MCs were too young for their taste), but it makes it all worthwhile when I get reviews from people who admit that they took a chance reading Free Falling and were glad they had. As far as whether you’ve seen the last of Sam and AJ, I’m still undecided. I don’t usually give a straight answer to this question, but I will now. I’ve been tossing around the idea of giving them a novella (about 100 pages I’m thinking) just to give a glimpse into their lives beyond “Exposed”, but I’ll only go through with it if I move forward with plans to give Angel her own book. Don’t hold me to it, but I’m thinking on that real hard lol.
Musing: Pleaaaaaaaaaaase give us that novella. I do not think you understand how many times I go back and re-read Exposed. I beg of you…And I admittedly thought this was a YA series, but the story literally evolves into something so wonderful, and so heartfelt, and so personal…man, I just got my life…
MIRJ: Your IR books don’t feature BW/WM pairings which seems to be the most popular of the BW/non-black male coupling. Was this an unintentional coincidence or did you consciously decide to write about black women and men of other races (non-white?)
RSP: You know, I was talking to someone about this recently. It’s not entirely intentional, but I definitely like to mix it up. Adam, the hero from “Only Love” (co-authored with Victoria H. Smith), is a white guy. I also have a release planned for April-ish, featuring a hero of Italian decent named Lucca. My lineup of leading men for upcoming books (2015 and beyond) is all over the place – Samoan, Thai, African-American, Puerto Rican, British, Chaldean, and Native-American. Clearly, I don’t discriminate lol.
Musing: We concur. We love men. Skin color is not of importance when we have so many other important criteria (teehee).
MIRJ: We know that you also write AA romance as well. Do you find one genre easier to write than the other, or is a man is a man is a man…
RSP: Nope 🙂 A man is a man, is a man, is a man. All day. There are attractive men of EVERY race, so why not write about them all? My husband jokes that he doesn’t know what my type is because I’m all over the place with who I find attractive. And that’s true. Men are beautiful. Period.
MIRJ: Who are some of your favorite authors that you like to read (does not have to be IR)?
RSP: At the risk of sounding cliché, my all-time fave author is… wait for it… Stephanie Meyer. Yup. She’s the reason I first tried my hand at writing a full-length novel (Gravity). I finished the Twilight series and was so emotional it was embarrassing. There was just this feeling that resonated with me for a long time afterward. I found myself trying to find something else to read that gave me that same high, so to speak, and I couldn’t find what I was looking for. There needed to be this balance of great storytelling and heavy-hitting emotion. I found a lot of great storytelling, but that was it. One day when I got tired of searching, I went for it – I wrote my own book. The angst and “feels” of Sam and AJ’s story was the end result. I’m definitely NOT putting myself on Stephanie Meyer status (‘cause she’s awesome), but she was the inspiration behind the Free Falling series and the whole “I need you as much as I want you” vibe I was going for.
It sucks, but I find myself not having time to read much of anything these days with my writing schedule, but when I do manage it I’m playing catch-up on IR books by the women/authors I’ve come to know and love through social media. Seriously. That’s all real – the love and support among those of us who are open to giving and receiving it. I try to support them by purchasing their work even if I know I won’t get around to reading for a while. Oh! I’m also known to reach for something by Nicholas Sparks, Zane, or ANY ZOMBIE BOOK I CAN GET MY HANDS ON.
MIRJ: What new works can we expect from Raven St. Pierre in the coming months and beyond?
RSP: Well, of course you know about the collaboration with Victoria H. Smith, “ONLY LOVE”. That one will be released on November 18th, but is available now for preorder on Amazon. So excited for everyone to read Adam and Aubrey’s story!! We touched on some real issues with this one, all without straying away from the love story being told. I believe readers will appreciate the layers and multi-dimensional structure of the book.
Another book that’s extremely close to my heart (which is why I’ve been obsessing over the rewrite) is “AGAIN FOR THE FIRST TIME”. I was honestly planning to release this one shortly after concluding the Free Falling series, but felt like it needed more of my love and attention lol. The tentative release date is now April 14th, 2015, but I may do something with it sooner than that. I’m notoriously impatient and I can’t wait for you all to get to know Lucca and Lissette.
Of course there’s a sequel to Red Sun in the works. Part two will be for the brother who didn’t get the girl. He was so much fun to write (and so sexy lol), it just seemed criminal to let his story end because he didn’t win Solei’s heart. I plan on rectifying the situation soon. I hope to have this one ready to release as a fun, summer read!
Musing: If you need a muse for Elan, hollaaaa!
Thank you so much Raven! We appreciate your time and for giving us the inside scoop on what’s coming in 2015. If you haven’t read a Raven St. Pierre story, I’m sorry…But it’s never too late. You definitely want to check her out, and while you’re at it, connect with her on social media. She’s awesome!