Writing Happily Ever Afters for Black Queer Characters

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by Jayce Ellis, author of Jeremiah

Jeremiah came to me in the spring of 2017, while my then-fiancé and I were doing God-knows-what to prepare for our summer wedding. Something I didn’t care about, like place settings and linens. But I was preoccupied, because one of my bridesmaids had asked what I was getting him as a wedding present, and…what? It hadn’t even crossed my mind (in my defense, we were together for over a decade before we got married—long past the gift-giving stage). Anyway, we’re discussing some mundane thing, and it comes to me. I’m going to write him a love letter. In novel form, because I got  a lot to say. And that will be my present. Jeremiah is the first part of that letter.

The decision marked a literary turning point for me. I’m fairly new to fiction writing, having just started in 2015. And, if we’re keeping it a buck, I first wrote for money, and the landscape was bleak. LGBT+ romance was its own little niche and African-American romance was another niche, because reasons. Writing from my heart, writing for joy and love and to put stories into the world that moved me, meant writing Black  queer characters getting their HEAs. Where do you shelve that? LGBT+ literature? African-American interest? Somewhere under a stack with the other unshelveables?

What I’m writing isn’t new, because tons of authors have been writing Black love for decades before I popped up, and more writing LGBT+ fiction, but there’s no such thing as too much, especially when it’s #ownvoices. And I am as passionate about that as I am about romance and writing in general. There’s a long history of romance with diverse characters where the diversity is like a splotchy coat of paint slapped on the wall, and the rest of the story is Decorator’s White (an actual paint color, not my natural snark shining through). Readers have claimed stories written by people who share the marginalizations of the characters are hard-to-read and unrelatable. And those readers have often included editors and publishers, who are used to seeing a certain type of story, and push those to the exclusion of others. It’s a vicious, head-banging cycle, and I’m grateful to those who paved the way for me to be comfortable writing this series today.

That monologue out of the way, back to the story! Jeremiah is a kind of grumpy guy who doesn’t like change and wants to do his job and go home. Basically, my husband, except for the grump part. Hubby’s way more gregarious, like Jeremiah’s boy Chucky. And Collin, bless his heart, is a hot mess with a ton of insecurities who covers them in glittery lipgloss and short shorts. Huh, this might be a closer representation of me and my spouse than I’d planned. Both of them are on this edge of a sea change, and that can end well or really poorly, and getting there was part of the joy of writing it. Reading back through it and seeing little bits of my husband come through in Jeremiah and, on occasion, Collin, remembering where a certain line or phrase came from, was an absolute blast.

As I set about drafting, I was clear on one thing, about Jeremiah and any books that follow. Race informs who these characters are, how they perceive the world, how they maneuver in it. Because that’s reality, and why it’s so important to have diverse viewpoints and diverse authors writing them. But race isn’t an issue in the stories. It’s not a bone of contention with Collin’s friends or family that Jeremiah is Black, and no eyebrows are raised because Collin is white. I didn’t want to write issue stories. There’s absolutely a place for them, in romance and any other genre. But it was important to me to give an outlet for the same fluffy (or not, depending on your angst tolerance) stories that are the norm for allocishet white couples, and even in a lot of cis LGBT+ romance. There’s no overcoming the racial divide, because these guys have enough to deal with just being themselves.

I’m super proud of how Jeremiah came together, of the relationship between the main characters and their friends and family. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I loved writing it!

About Jeremiah:

Jeremiah by Jayce EllisJeremiah Stewart’s sexuality is no one’s business. Not that he’s hiding it. When—if—he finds the right one, he’ll absolutely introduce him to Mom. But a late-night brush with a sexy stranger in too much lip gloss has him rethinking nearly everything…

To Collin Galloway, direction is a four-letter word. Sure, he hates his job, he hates living with his parents and he really hates watching everyone move on without him. But he doesn’t know what he wants to do, long-term, and he won’t figure it out by thirsting over Jeremiah, the superhot, superintense paramedic who is suddenly everywhere Collin looks.

When Jeremiah’s faced with losing all he’s worked so hard to build, he reluctantly accepts Collin’s help. They’re both determined to stay professional…which works about as well as either would imagine. But Collin only does closets with clothes, and Jeremiah has to decide if he’s finally found the one worth bringing home to Mom.

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