[EotS #63] Some Hope (and Red)

Hello all. I have some very exciting Hope and Red news, but first, like so many others, I wanted to take a moment to talk about race.

There is so much going on in the world right now. You don’t need me to tell you. And I won’t belabor it too much here, but to be clear, I support Black Lives Matter, and if you’ve read any of my books, my anti-racist views should be obvious.

When I wrote Misfit, I admit that I did not set out specifically to write a book with a person of color as the protagonist. It simply made sense to me that if Jael Thompson’s mother was an ancient Sumerian goddess, then Jael must be at least partly Sumerian, i.e. of Middle Eastern descent. From there I merely asked myself what challenges a young biracial woman might face in a predominately white Seattle suburb. It seemed an obvious question to ask, since I have two biracial siblings and know something of their experiences.

But in the decade since that book’s publication, I have been humbled and deeply moved by the number of young women of color who continue to reach out to me to express their love and appreciation for Jael (and also to ask if there will be a sequel, but that’s a different topic…). It is vitally important for young people to see themselves depicted in a positive light in stories. It is a way to nurture their visions of themselves and their dreams of the future.

Yet it’s not enough to merely have white authors including nonwhite characters in their books. A lot has changed since Misfit was published in 2011, with the We Need Diverse Books and OwnVoices movements. It is clear that industry has favored white authors for too long and to course correct for that error, we need to actively pursue and celebrate authors of color who can write from their own point of view not only about race, but more broadly about how the world looks to them. This will add new textures and nuances that have not been present before and inevitably improve the literary landscape as a whole. I strongly believe that reading builds empathy, and empathy is what can ultimately connect people.

If you’re not sure where to begin, I’ve recommended black writers and other writers of color in previous newsletters, and I will continue to do so. Count on it! In the mean time, why not start with an author who was a huge inspiration for me when I was just getting started: Nalo Hopkinson. I had the pleasure of meeting her a couple years back at the Baltimore Book Festival. They say never meet your heroes, but my experience has been about a 50% success rate, and she is one of the good ones.

Hope and Red, the Podcast

It’s been a while since I talked about Hope and Red, but I have some exciting news. Years ago, I recorded the audiobook for my swashbuckling kung fu pirate romance novel. As some of you know, once upon a time before the Age of Smartphones, I was an actor. During that time I learned that I don’t care for the business or lifestyle of being an actor, but I’m still fond of the art itself. So I enjoy recording my own audiobooks quite a bit. In fact, when the Man Made Boy audiobook came out, Publisher’s Weekly named it Best Fiction Book Read by Author for 2013. Pretty cool, huh? Even cooler perhaps was that the winner of Best Nonfiction Book Read by Author that year was Maya Angelou. So my name was literally right next to one of the most celebrated American poets of all time. How about that!

Now, I’m only really saying all this to convince you that my audiobooks don’t suck. They are, however, like most audiobooks, pretty darn expensive.

Or rather, they were expensive. But no longer! Because now you will be able to enjoy Hope and Red as a free, serialized podcast!

When the pandemic first hit, my publisher was brainstorming various ways to do more marketing online. My editor remembered a tentative request that I’d made some time ago for permission to have a portion of my work made into a serialized podcast, and they decided to go with it. They’ve taken the audiobook and cut it into two chapter episodes (so you get a Hope chapter and a Red chapter with each episode). Right now there’s only a short trailer, but starting July 3rd they will begin releasing a new episode each week.

Beyond the initial writing and recording of the audiobook, I haven’t had a lot of direct involvement with the project. But they did let me title each episode and write it a “Netflix-esque” description. I generally don’t like writing summaries, but it was surprisingly enjoyable… Can I post them here? They haven't been officially released yet, but surely I can do that for my own newsletter, right? So here are the first four episode descriptions:

Episode 1: Murder and Abduction

Captain Toa’s trade route is jeopardized when he discovers that all but one of the inhabitants on the island of Bleak Hope have been massacred by imperial biomancers. Meanwhile, the infamous criminal Sadie the Goat lets down her guard and pays the price.

Episode 2: Warriors and Pirates

Hope learns the true nature of the strange order of monks who have adopted her. Red proves to Sadie that he’s worthy of joining her pirate crew.

Episode 3: Vows and Dreams

Hope begins her warrior training and learns of the legendary sword, the Song of Sorrows. Sadie and Red expand their pirating venture, with unexpected results.

Episode 4: Flight and Fancy

After eight years, Hope’s secret training as a Vinchen warrior is discovered. Red is well on his way to making good on his dream to become the greatest thief in New Laven, but he hadn’t anticipated the interference of a dark-eyed beauty called Nettles.

So fun! Yet so vague in order to avoid spoilers! Just like Netflix, right? I wonder if they’re hiring…

Anyway, please share with others. They can follow this link or just search for “Hope and Red” in their podcasting app of choice. Who doesn’t love a podcast after all? I often listen to them while cleaning the house, and it is such a delight to think that someone out there might be imagining Sadie the Goat and Deadface Drem whilst cleaning their toilet. And if you enjoy the podcast, please consider rating and commenting so that my publisher is encouraged to do more stuff like this.

Talk soon,
_j