Minority Report with Marta Acosta (4/7)

When I started reading Fantasy, I started with Tamora Pierce, Madeline L’Engle, Mercedes Lackey and Jane Yolen. I didn’t  think of the characters of those books as any different from me, except that they were in way more fantastic situations. But as I grew into an adult, I started to notice that there was a pointed different between me and the characters I was reading about.

Almost none of them looked like me.

I wasn’t sure if that mattered until slowly I realized I’d like to see more diversity (and admittedly, more of me) in what I was reading. So, I wrote it. And sought it out in new authors. A very wonderful list of authors can be found here. It’s so comprehensive, I’ve barely scratched the surface.

But the point is that all of this thinking has been circling around in my head for years, and I’m sure I’m not the only reader who likes a little diversity in her literature. So, when author Cecy Robson got into contact with me and we started to discuss the lack of minority/mixed race in Fantasy, I knew it was something I wanted to further explore. And what better way to find out what other people think than by asking them?

So, I asked a few authors if they’d be willing to share their thoughts and they said yes! Which is how the “Minority Report” was born.

* * *

Initially, I posted the Minosrity Report of each author in entirety. But it struck me recently that if we shared one question a week, it would be easier for everyone to really think about both the question and the answer.

So, this week starting with Marta Acosta’s wonderful answers, we’ll be exploring one question a week.

More about Marta

So here’s the scoop. I’m from the San Francisco Bay Area and I can never seem to get away from here for long despite my continual fear of earthquakes. Yes, that’s all I got out of the geology classes I took at Stanford. That and a nifty rock pick. If you haven’t gone to the desert and smashed things with a rock pick, you don’t know what you’re missing.

I went to Stanford and received degrees in English & American Lit and Creative Writing, which qualified me to do very little except read books. That was my goal all along, but no one pays you to do that. I studied in England and missed the sun. I worked in non-profits and the theatre and missed getting paychecks.

I live with the fabulous spouse and the force-of-nature spawn and our insane rescued dogs. A friend who recently visited said, “They arebaddogs.” I prefer to delude myself that they are morally complex.

I’ve won some awards for my writing, but I get a real thrill when a fan sends me an email, or readers say they like the nonsense on my blog. My priorities have always been skewed.

I also write romantic comedy under the name Grace Coopersmith. Why Grace Coopersmith? Because Grace Coopersmith is always elegant and tasteful, and she never leaves her clothes in a pile on a chair or sings to her dogs. Despite Grace’s annoying superiority, she is hilarious and always shows up with a good bottle of wine.

Marta’s Contact Info

Thanks again to Marta for taking the time to answer such difficult questions. I know it’s hard to address questions with such complex and wide reaching answers. Now, for question two:

4. How do you decide what race your characters will be? Does it just come to you or do you purposefully choose certain races?

Both! When I wrote the first book in my Casa Dracula series, I very much wanted to create a Latina character who didn’t fit the stereotypes, yet had the qualities we see in real life Latinas. She bright, inquisitive, sexy, funny, and affectionate. She’s a nut and writes crazy political horror stories with zombies. I found it annoying when I’d get the automatic “spicy” description of Milagro, but even my publisher was pushing clichés like “spicy” and “sassy.” They never understood the implications.

Other times, the racial identity seems natural for the character. I purposefully made Jane Williams, the protagonist in Dark Companion, a mixed race person of unknown background. I see a lot of mixed race girls around and they could be anything or lots of things. Jane is described as having brownish skin, wavy brown hair and brown eyes. I assume she’s at least half African-American, and we know her mother was part Hispanic; it’s interesting to me that only two reviewers out of more than a hundred have mentioned her race.

It would seem to me that in the case of the implications of words such as “spicy” for Latinas or “sassy” for black women, even when explained, some people do not believe that it can have a negative impact by reinforcing all sorts of wonky ideas that lump people together.

And I think it’s neat that you chose these characters’ particular race based off of the fact that you wanted to share the story of someone who was realistically Latina, or because there are a lot of mixed race girls out there and they have stories, too. I also think it’s awesome when authors/writers put so much thought into their writing. The story doesn’t just come to you. You actively think about and write it in a way that can say so much on top of having a kick ass story. Like your work. :)

Thank you again, Marta.

* * *

We’ll visit question five and part five next Tuesday! Read the first three parts of this series of fiction and minority Q & As here.

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