Don't get me wrong, I love white boys in love with each other, in space or anywhere else. But maybe I've become too attached to them. I don't want them to become a "comfort zone" I'm reluctant to move out of, and that's especially a danger because I come from a completely white background and, until I moved to Washington, DC (and even here at times, to be honest), I move in predominantly white surroundings. Writing diverse characters is something I have to consciously choose to do.
For that reason, Thornless Rose is my first book to feature an interracial romance, although, in hindsight, it's part of an inevitable progression. A Spell of Passion or Fear featured several secondary characters of color, though not the main romantic pairing. I've written stories accepted for a number of anthologies forthcoming from Circlet Press which feature interracial couples, and "Sojourn Home" in Storm Moon's Carved in Flesh anthology is about an interracial couple in a diverse future—much like Thornless Rose. And much like I expect the future will actually be.
Which raises a question: in a future where diversity is the norm, would an interracial relationship be considered noteworthy or even noticeable? In a world republic where absolute equality has been achieved, perhaps even a colorblind society (although it's worth questioning whether "colorblindness"is actually a goal to be sought), would such a relationship be any different from a relationship between people of different heights or hair colors? In Thornless Rose, Verithe Jerrith and Tyrel Uvieras have unique cultural backgrounds, not least because they come from separate planets. But the contrasts that affect them most are Verithe's somewhat irreverent sense of humor, vs Tyrel's more sober, or somber, approach; and the way Tyrel heeds his gut feeling about the eerie atmosphere of the planet they're sent to while Verithe tries to remain skeptical. I've debated at times even considering them an interracial romance, worried that would put too much emphasis on what is such a small portion of their relationship. But the fact is, at this point in time, in this universe at least, readers and writers do and should pay attention to the interracial elements of a story.
And, as I admitted above, for all Verithe and Tyrel might not think of their relationship as interracial, it's certainly something I try to be thoughtful about. I'm one of those writers who characters "come to", an image in a flicker of inspiration. For a long time, the character images I got tended to be decidedly pale. While developing those images into people I could write about, I tried to look deeper. I haven't felt a lot of patience for fellow writers who say they could never write LGBTQ characters because they never get ideas for them (Really, all your characters just turn out to be straight? How convenient that must be for you. *rolls eyes*), so it's only right that I hold my creative process to the same scrutiny. Judging from the stories I've written the past year, since I started pushing myself—a fact for which I owe a lot to communities on LiveJournal and Tumblr that discuss representation in the media—it seems you can notice a lot more diversity among your characters once you know to look for it.
The need for thoughtfulness also goes to avoid unpleasant stereotypes, which I have certainly tried to do. The one time Tyrel and Verithe actually discuss racial differences is when they observe that Veri, with his exotic pale looks (okay, I haven't entirely shaken off my thing for attractive white boys, nor do I really want to 100% of the time), bears an unfortunate resemblance to the barbaric raiders pursuing them. I knew I didn't want to follow the tradition in speculative fiction reaching to Tolkien and further, with swarthy invading hordes defended against by the noble Nordic heroes. Although, while avoiding spoilers, I will say I couldn't resist making the villain and hero distinction much less clear-cut than it appears at first. Isn't that as accurate a vision of the future as any?
Speaking of the future, I know I will be writing more IRL romance from now on. For one thing, I have sequel ideas for Thornless Rose to develop. And also, I hope, more interracial couples where neither one is white. Given the diversity of the world as it is, as it will be, and as it might be, it would be unrealistic to do otherwise.
Thornless Rose – by T.C. Mill – Now Available from Storm Moon Press for just $3.99 (ebook)!
Tyrel and Verithe discover a mutual attraction, though Tyrel also thinks Verithe perhaps too lighthearted given their dire mission and certainly too gentle—like a thornless rose—to survive long in a dangerous world without protection. Tyrel tries to provide that protection, but the two men are captured in what is just the beginning of their descent into barbarity and treachery. They will be called upon to make unbelievable sacrifices and confront the "curse" of Corrina that brings out people's darkest desires, endangering sanity and soul. Even their feelings for each other might not give them the strength to endure.