I’m so pleased to be able to welcome to Teatime today a writer close to my heart. Not only is Kianna Alexander a chapter mate from Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, but she actually managed to spend two 7-hour long trips holed up in a car with me without throwing me off a bridge. So, I’d say she’s a pretty special girl, wouldn’t you? (Amy Pfaff, who had to share a room with me for four days at the same RWA conference, is nodding profusely).
You may know of Kianna from her various indie historical romances, or from her paranormal romances written under the pen name Alexandra Kane. At RWA, Kianna was featured in a book signing along with bestselling, groundbreaking authors Beverly Jenkins and Brenda Jackson. Kianna is a rising star in African American romance and her voice spans multiple genres with equal success.
Today, Kianna is here to talk about her newest release, Freedom’s Embrace, which was published by Ellora’s Cave on August 1.
Yes, there was a definite change in approach because my self-pubbed historical romances are both sweet. My EC book is NOT- there are some steamy love scenes in it. Also, I had to tweak things a bit to fit the house style, which is very detailed. I wanted to do a bit of both- the sweet and the sexy, so I can satisfy a wider audience of readers.
You once described this book to me as a hard sell—what set this book apart from other historical romances out there? Are there certain elements in it that may have been deemed “too risky” for mass consumption?
I really believe the reason so many houses (6) passed on Freedom’s Embrace is because the heroine is a runaway slave. Slavery is a touchy topic, one that some people would rather not acknowledge at all. Still, it was a part of American history, and I didn’t want to shy away from it to make someone else feel more comfortable. I told the story of my heart. Don’t get me wrong, the story is not focused on slavery, but being a runaway is part of who Naomi is. Being a slave didn’t stop people from falling in love- ever heard of “jumping the broom?”
Aside from that, the time period is a bit different from what’s currently on the market. There are a lot of Regency and Scottish historicals out there (no offense to the authors as I love pretty much all romance genres), so there was probably some uncertainty about whether an Antebellum historical romance would sell. Well, I know at least a few have sold, so , question answered.
Tell us a little about the historical setting surrounding Freedom’s Embrace. What drew you particularly to this time period?
I have always been fascinated with the 19th century in America, particularly the time leading up to, during, and directly after the Civil War. There was so much happening in this country, so much struggle and strife for people of all backgrounds. I think what draws me to the period is the idea that we as Americans can go through rough, tumultuous times like that, and still survive. We’re not perfect as a nation, but got through it, and we’re still moving forward. I believe one day, we’ll get there- all of us.
I have read the blurb for Freedom’s Embrace more times than I can count, and what really makes me excited to read it is the characters. Can you tell me a little about your hero and heroine?
Naomi is a runaway slave, whose memories of life outside of captivity are very dim. She and her mother were taken from the African coast when she was very young. She’s learned to walk a fine line- doing her best to accept her place in life on the surface, all while wondering if there is any way she could ever escape to a better life. When the opportunity arises, she takes it.
Jonathan, on the other hand, has led a pampered life. He’s octoroon, or one-eight black, because is mother is quadroon (1/4 black) and his father is a wealthy Frenchman. He is not without darkness in his past, though, as his father abandoned him and his mother at a young age, because of their heritage. He has always been taken care of financially, but also harbors a lot of inner conflict about accepting his African roots.
One of the things that first made me adore you—as a writer and as a person—is that you talk about the things people have deemed too “unsightly” to discuss. Do you have any advice for other writers out there dealing with difficult subject matter?
Don’t shy away from something you feel passionate about. We are writers- our words capture the many facets of the time we live in. So what if we make someone a bit uncomfortable by making them face a dark truth. Sweeping things under the rug has never led to anything good. Don’t be tasteless, hateful, or disrespectful, but don’t hold your tongue, either. Sometimes through discomfort comes growth. Consider the joint pain a young person feels as they go through puberty. Their body is stretching to accommodate their growth as they journey toward adulthood. We must stretch our minds as well, and talk about “unsightly” things, in the hopes that they never happen again.
I so, so agree with this advice. Is Freedom’s Embrace a stand-alone, or the first book in a series set in the antebellum era?
I think I’m allowed to say that it’s part of a series of three books, set in this era. (Smile) The series will be called “Graham’s Goddesses.” All the details are still being ironed out, but I’ll be sure to let the lovelies at TeaTime know any major developments in that arena.
That sounds awesome! I can’t wait for the rest. What’s next on your schedule?
I’m planning to finish out my Roses of Ridgeway sweet historical trilogy with the third book, Loving the Lawman. I can’t nail down the release date just yet but it’s looking like September. Again, I’ll keep you posted. I’m also trying to work in some erotic shorts; with my schedule being as hectic as it is, we’ll just have to see.
I know you live a crazy busy life. When you’re not writing, what are your favorite things to do?
Sleep. No, just kidding- I rarely get more than 7 hours a night. In my very limited free time, I enjoy watching videos on YouTube (mostly comedy and tutorials on natural hairstyles and makeup). I also read, both on Kindle and good old fashioned paper, buy copious amounts of nail polish, and play survival horror video games (ie Resident Evil and Silent Hill). Oh, and I also love Rizzoli and Isles, Tia&Tamera, and random anime series my husband and I watch on Netflix. Right now, we’re watching Burst Angel.
Yes, I do have a giveaway for your awesome readers! Everyone who tweets about this post (be sure to TAG ME, @AuthorAlexandra, in the tweet), will be entered to win a free autographed PRINT copy of Kissing the Captain!
Kianna Alexander can be found at http://authorkiannaalexander.com. Here’s her official bio:
I’ve always loved the written word. For as long as I can remember, I read as much as I could, as often as I could. Cereal boxes, newspapers, product packaging. Ebony, Essence, and Jet Magazine. Billboards. I loved it all. I read the entire Fear Street series, as well as the Sweet Valley Books, from Twins and Friends through Sweet Valley High. Each week I’d bring 15 or 20 books home from the library, and read them all before the due date.
Now, my mother owned a pristine, barely touched collection of Harlequin romance novels, and I was not to touch them under any circumstances. Well, as a teenager, you know what that meant. I read some of them, and got my first introduction to romance.
When I was sixteen, I picked up my stepmother’s copy of Night Song, by Beverly Jenkins. The cover showed an obviously historical image of a black couple, against a beautiful backdrop, locked in a passionate embrace. With my love of history, I had to crack this book. What I read inside literally blew my mind. I was exposed to a wonderful, touching love story involving people who looked like me! What a thrill. To this day Night Song remains my favorite book, and I credit it with planting the seed of desire to write romance. I didn’t get serious until many years later, but that’s where it all began.