Last week I did an interview for a couple publications that will be coming out around the time We Hope for Better Things comes out to help spread the word about it. One of the questions the writer asked me is one I expect I will get a lot as people begin to encounter the book:
What did you, a white woman, do to ensure your black characters were authentic?
In answer to that question, I talked about my minor in US History in college and my year of extensive research into the black experience in America before I put pen to paper.
After that, I told her about Nancy, Mary, Debra, and Booker.
At various stages of the writing and revising of the manuscript that would become We Hope for Better Things, I asked black friends and writers to read and critique it, looking specifically for issues with black speech and characterization. Looking for anything that didn’t feel authentic to them, or that smacked of misinformation or stereotype.
Waiting for their critiques was sometimes nerve-wracking, especially since some of them were personal friends, not just other writers.
Today I’m with Nancy Johnson (who is now my critique partner) over on Writer Unboxed talking about how we’ve worked with each other to bring out the best in our writing, specifically how we’ve approached questions of race in our writing.
If you’re a writer who wants to populate your stories with a diverse cast of characters but you’re worried about getting something wrong or unintentionally offending someone, come join the conversation!
If you’re a reader who wonders how writers do what they do, come read about it!