XOXO After Dark recently had the pleasure of chatting with beloved and bestselling romance author Beverly Jenkins to talk about her love of Western romances, her experiences with issues with diversity in the publishing world, and more! Her latest novel, FORBIDDEN, is now available from HarperCollins Publishers!

How did you first begin writing romance?

I sort of stumbled into this. I was writing a romance for myself because back then the market was basically closed to women of color. A work friend who’d recently become published took a look at my story and hounded me about finding a publisher. In 1994, after enough rejections to fill a football stadium it was published as Night Song, my first historical romance from Avon books.

You write in many genres, but your new book FORBIDDEN, like many of your most popular titles, is a historical western. What about that period appeals to you as an author?

I love the 19th century because it was so bittersweet for African Americans. It held both triumph and tragedy, giving depth to stories written within the timeframe.

Why do you think the western has such enduring appeal for romance readers?

I think we all enjoy the sweep of westerns – the hunky rancher, lawman or outlaw – the open land when men were men and women gave them fits. It was also a time of hope and promise. Unless you were Native American.

Many have observed that both the popular romance genre and the publishing industry in general have had issues with diversity, whether in the makeup of its authors and editors, the whitewashing of covers, or the restriction of certain books to “multicultural” sections in the bookstore. What is your experience with these issues; do you feel that you must grapple with them? What changes have you seen over the course of your own, impressively long career?

When I first began my career in 1994, the numbers of women of color writing successfully was miniscule. Now there are hundreds and readers can facilitate more diversity by buying their books. If you enjoy contemporary try Debra Mello, Iris Bolling or Sheryl Lister to name a few. If paranormal is your thing you can’t go wrong with AC Arthur or Seressia Glass. Also, if bookstores would place these romance writers in the romance section it would help their careers. Having their titles shelved elsewhere negatively impacts their discoverability and translates into lower sales.

Is there a subgenre or period of romance that you’re still longing to write in, but haven’t yet?

I would love to write something paranormal – but who has the time?!

In our podcast (the XOXO After Darkcast), we always end by asking our guests some playful “True Confessions” questions, so I’ve picked a few to finish with:

  1. What’s your favorite snack for a road trip?
  2. What word would you ban from the English language?
  3. What’s your favorite romantic movie?

Favorite road trip snack: Snickers

Banned word: Kardashian

Favorite Romance Movie: (two)- Pretty Woman and A Lion in Winter