Indian-American writer, Sonali Dev has layered her warm romcom style, accomplished heroines and Indian culture into two of Jane Austen’s most famous novels with marvelous results.
I’m currently ploughing through Sherry Thomas’ Lady Sherlock series. It’s a revelation. Beautifully written, clever as all hell and presents a richly drawn 19th century England full of people from all over the British empire.
On a bright April day last year, I managed to grab a quick lunch with Sareeta Domingo. She’d whittled an hour out of her fiercely busy schedule to chat with me. To be safe, we ate at the Pret a Manger off London Bridge, a short walk from the Harlequin Mills & Boon office where she works as an editor.
When we spoke on that April day, Domingo was a published author with a romance novel (The Nearness of You) and an erotic novella (The Confessional Diaries of a Girl in Town) under her belt. In the months since that interview she has released Love, Secret Santa, a sweet Christmas romance for teens, cued up Love on the Main Stage – a summer romance for teens – for release this month, she has a July novel coming as part of Jacaranda’s 20 for 2020 campaign called, If I Don’t Have You, and she’s worked with a clutch of remarkable writers (including Dorothy Koomson, Daniellé Dash and Sara Jafari) on a new anthology celebrating women of colour in love called, Who’s Loving You (due out in Feb 2021). All this alongside the full-time, full-on day job.
That’s a lot, right?
Yet there’s more. If you attend a Black publishing event in London (pre-pandemic of course), you’re guaranteed to catch sight of her. Book launches, panel discussions, bookclub events – she shows up and supports fellow creatives, indie publishers and anyone working to make UK publishing more inclusive. She’s also started doing a weekly ‘book of the week’ segment on Morning Mari (@marinx666) on @worldwidefm.
Where does she find the time? How does she juggle it all? We’ll come back to that.
On June 6, 2020, Leatrice “Elle” McKinney, (aka L.L. McKinney, author of A Blade So Black) kicked off a Twitter conversation about publishing advances. Using the hashtag #PublishingPaidMe she asked white authors to share the advances they’d been paid for books so Black authors could get a sense of how their own advances compared. Very quickly a huge disparity between the size of payments became obvious.
What have you been reading to get through the madness of recent weeks?
I spent my Christmas on a train travelling from Canada’s east coast to the west. When I wasn’t gazing out of the huge plate glass windows at mountains, frozen lakes and endless prairie land, I was reading Mansa Musa and the Empire of Mali by P. James Oliver.
What an eye opener! Here’s your 60 second guide to the medieval ruler:
- Kankan Musa was the 10th Mansa of the Mali empire
- Mansa is a Sudanese word for ‘emperor’
- His control of Africa’s salt and gold mines at a time when the commodities were hugely valuable made him the richest person in history
- Ruled from 1312-1337
- Turned the University of Sankore in Timbuktu into a fully staffed learning institution with the largest collection of books in Africa since the Library of Alexandria (246 BC).
- Built the Djinguereber Mosque in Timbuktu (from pounded earth, straw and wood. It has stood for over 700 years)
- Undertook an incredible 4,000km pilgrimage from West Africa to Mecca and back
Amazingly, while I was reading and travelling, Twitter began talking about Mansa Musa. Apparently Black Panther director, Ryan Coogler and actor Michael B Jordan are planning to make a film about the African ruler. The chatter began on Twitter (where debate is an Olympic sport) so opinion was soon divided. Some people argued that Mansa Musa was unworthy of a film because he owned slaves.
He did. Thousands of them.
Yet, I’d still pitch my tent in the ‘Yes, tell his story’ camp.
His life was epic. The same way we don’t question whether to make films about Churchill, Gandhi, Columbus or JFK – all of whom have problematic legacies. I don’t believe we should restrict ourselves to telling stories only about African figures we deem uncontroversial.
I’ll go further. I think a film would be too small a canvas to capture the adventures and numerous achievements of Mansa Musa. I’d prefer a five-season, streamed TV series a la The Crown. It would reek of money. Lavish sets, far flung locations, teams of costume designers, baked mud palaces, piles of gold everywhere…
If, however, I were restricted to an eight-part series, this is how it would break down.
It’s 2020 people! Time to get rid of all the books that have been clogging up your ‘must read’ pile and replace them with shiny new ones. Yes, that is exactly how reading should work. Here are 20 books by Black authors coming out this year. Go forth, read and spread the good news.
(Click the book jackets to buy or pre-order)
Ella sees things. Things that have not happened yet. After her brother is locked up on racially motivated charges, she has to decide whether to use her special abilities knowing she could start a revolution that could burn her city down.
Del joins a purity ring club to get closer to his childhood crush. He doesn’t expect to learn more about himself and have to reflect on questions about what girls want from boys and what it means to respect them. This important story of masculinity is something everyone can learn from.
Carolina Santos is DC’s hottest wedding planner. It feels like bitter irony when she is left at the alter on her own wedding day. She sucks up the pain, soldiers on and feels like life is rewarding her fortitude when an incredible business opportunity comes her way. Until she discovers that seizing the opportunity means teaming up with the man who encouraged her fiancé to jilt her, a man she hates with the fire of 10 suns, the worst best man in the world.
When Christmas is so close you can smell the turkey but you still have a stack of gifts to buy, you know what makes a great present? (Brace yourself, this may come as a shock but I’m going to say it anyway).
A book and some colourful socks, a book and a box of chocolates, a book and a gift card, a book and – you get the idea, right?
The right book tells your loved one you care. They’ll never know that you scanned this list, bought 5 books for 5 people in 15 minutes, wrapped them all in record time – since nothing wraps easier than a book- and Tra la la! Christmas joy. It’s the gift the blesses the giver and the receiver. You’re welcome. Now go forth and share the Christmas spirit.
Korede’s gorgeous younger sister Ayoola has a nasty habit of killing her boyfriends once she grows tired of them. Covering up her sister’s crimes is bad enough, but life gets a lot more terrifying when Ayoola takes a liking to Korede’s love interest.
“I love the deal. I LOVE the deal. I mean to be an agent you have to love the deal. I love sending out a book and getting those emails 24 hours later saying ‘I loved it! Don’t let someone else buy it.”
It’s a sunny Tuesday morning and I’m chatting with literary agent Nelle Andrew in a coffee shop in Bloomsbury. We are opposite the offices of Peters, Fraser and Dunlop where she works as a primary agent, a ‘hunter-gatherer’ as she puts it, searching out and representing the UK’s brightest writing talent. Read More