When I participated in the Soul Expressions tour last month I had a chance to catch up with some of the romance authors who started this journey about the time that I did. In celebration of the ground-breaking work they did for the African-American romance genre, I asked a few of them to participate in what I’m calling, Romance Pioneer Week. I asked each of them three questions and I’ll be sharing their responses over the next week or so. It looks like about five will participate. Note these are traditional romance authors, not Christian romance authors.
Next up, Francis Ray.
Francis Ray is a native Texan and lives in Dallas. A graduate of Texas Woman’s University, she is a School Nurse Practitioner with the Dallas Independent School District. Ms. Ray’s titles consistently make bestseller’s lists such as Blackboard and Essence Magazine.. INCOGNITO, her sixth title, was the first made-for-TV movie for BET. She has written thirty-one titles to date. Awards include Romantic Times Career Achievement, EMMA, The Golden Pen, and The Atlantic Choice.
How long have you been published and what’s your key to longevity in the publishing business?
My first book, FALLEN ANGEL, was published in 1992 by Odyssey Books. If there is a key, I think it is writing consistently and writing what you love. Publishing can go through phases of what’s hot. If a writer isn’t careful he or she will try to follow the trend instead of their heart. But a trend can also become a staple of publishing. A writer thought of something “different” and the reader embraced it. And that brings me to what I believe is THE most important factor in longevity, loyal readers who love your work and aren’t shy about letting others know.
A lot of your books are series or are connected in some way. Tell us a little about the series you’ve written and why you write them.
I honestly didn’t start out to write a series. Readers wanted to know about Matt Taggart when he appeared in FOREVER YOURS. His story became ONLY HERS. Daniel Falcon took off his hat in ONLY HERS and set women’s hearts aflutter and thus HEART OF THE FALCON was written. Daniel’s sister tried to break up his wedding and therefore had to find her own happiness in BREAK EVERY RULE. Dominique and Daniel’s cousin, Luke Grayson, was noticeably displeases at her wedding. It was then, and only then, that I decided to do a series, The Graysons of New Mexico about a match-making mother marrying off all of her children from the oldest, Luke, to the youngest.
Reader response was fantastic. They wanted to know what happened to the other characters they’d met in the five books – UNTIL THERE WAS YOU, YOU AND NO OTHER, DREAMING OF YOU, IRRESISTIBLE YOU, ONLY YOU – in the Grayson series. Since I wasn’t ready to leave the series, Grayson Friends Series is the result. Book One, THE WAY YOU LOVE ME, is scheduled for release August 26, 2008. Six more books are planned. Book Two is NOBODY BUT YOU which is slated for release April 2009.
What do you envision for yourself and the romance industry over the next five to ten years?
I truly hope there is more diversity in the buying habits of readers. A good book is a good book regardless of the hue of the character’s skin or language. I don’t know what will be in vogue, but I do believe romance in its traditional form will always find a place in reader’s heart and on their bookshelf.