Representation matters. Seeing yourself and identifying with characters in media of all flavors is important. This is a really important topic and I could probably write volumes on how representation has intersected with my life and those of my loved ones, and academics break it down on a larger scale. But today I’m going to focus on one small aspect of how my life and quest for representation has played out in my writing—interracial couples.
I’m a white woman married to an Indian-American man. As someone in an interracial marriage, I want to see couples like mine hooking up in romances. As a writer, I can make that happen. Capturing the Moment is my sixth story with an interracial couple, five of which feature a character who is Indian-American.
As a white woman, my representations of non-white characters are always going to be flawed. Despite being part of my husband’s family for a decade, a mother to two multiracial children, and a friend of persons of color, I have no live experience to inform my writing. I need to be very careful in my choices when writing non-white characters.
When writing Arjun, my male lead in Capturing the Moment, I made a deliberate choice to make him Indian-American. The experience of being Indian-American is very different than that of a person growing up in India (which is not to imply that there is a monolithic experience of growing up in India). Friends and family members have a wide variety of experience as to whether or not they speak any of the twenty-three official languages of India, eat Indian food, watch Bollywood films, like Indian clothes, and so forth. Arjun has an Indian first name and an Americanized nickname. He speak Punjabi. He has strong ties to his family, which is very important culturally. That said, by virtue of growing up in the US he has the same cultural touchstones as Meg, myself, my husband and friends, and so forth. In other words, I had more wiggle room to create an authentic character.
My beta reading team also includes several Indian Americans, and my primary beta reader is my husband. Whether on this story or others, they have helped me improve with each piece. A beta sent me an article (http://writingwithcolor.tumblr.com/post/95955707903/skin-writing-with-color-has-received-several) discussing why using food words like “chocolate-colored eyes” can be seen as offensive, and I have tried to ensure that I no longer do that (or fix it in edits). I once had a character speak in Hindi, and it was just awkward. In retrospect, a friend was right, and I was doing it to make them seem more “Indian.” They aren’t afraid to call me out and educate me, and I don’t give them white tears over it, although I have to sometimes make difficult choices because they have different opinions (for example, my husband has no issue with the food allegories, but I still chose to omit them). I even asked a friend to look over this blog post!
I was more nervous about writing Darany, the Cambodian tuk tuk driver, than I was about writing RJ. I erred on the side of Darany having stronger English skills than my drivers in Cambodia. Using dialects can reinforce racial stereotypes, even if that isn’t the intent of the author. I kept him in the background, in part, because he isn’t central to the story—I wasn’t writing a triad, and, in part, because one long weekend in Cambodia means I have no understanding of his culture beyond what my conversations with my drivers taught me. Not including him would be inauthentic as well—writing a story in a setting without including anyone from that culture, as well as ignoring that tuk tuks are the means of transportation for tourists.
That said, reading my stories isn’t a substitute for reading the work of actual authors of color. If you want to read truly authentic Indian American characters, I highly recommend the Serving Pleasure series by Alisha Rai. (http://alisharai.net/) Other authors of color I recommend are Beverly Jenkins (http://beverlyjenkins.net/), K. A. Smith (https://authorka.wordpress.com/), Cathy Yardley (http://cathyyardley.com/about-2), Rebekah Weatherspoon (http://www.rebekahweatherspoon.com/blog/), Milly Taiden (http://millytaiden.com/), and K.M. Jackson (http://www.kmjackson.com/). You can also check out #weneeddiverseromance on Twitter (https://twitter.com/hashtag/weneeddiverseromance)
Exclusive Excerpt (set in Preah Khan, the temple pictured above)
It was a ten-minute walk down a jungle lane to the entrance of Preah Khan. The only sound was birdsong and the whisper of wind in the leaves overhead. If there hadn’t been scaffolding on the exterior walls, it would be easy to imagine they were the first to rediscover the temple.
“I feel like Indiana Jones,” RJ said.
“I know what you mean.” Meg smiled. “Although, I wouldn’t trust you with a whip. Instead of the Holy Grail, you’d discover the nearest emergency room.” She pulled a guidebook out of the backpack he was carrying and opened to the appropriate page. “Luckily, I have a map. It looks like a big complex. If we follow the central path from this entrance, it’s a straight shot through. We can explore a little on either side and not lose the path.”
RJ blocked her view of the guidebook with his hand. “Don’t be so practical. What does Impulsive Tattoo Meg think?”
“Impulsive Tattoo Meg doesn’t want to spend the day lost, either.” She put the book away.
“Ground Rule Number Four, Arjun. My game plan is law,” she said smugly.
“Given that Rule Number One has been tossed out the window, doesn’t that make it Rule Number Three?” He gave her a light smack on the butt, then stepped out of her reach. Meg had been known to retaliate.
She shook her head in amusement and lifted her camera. She aimed at him instead of the temple and pressed the shutter release.
“What was that for?” he asked, surprised.
“I want to remember you like this, here,” she said, reviewing the picture.
“When do I get to take a picture of you?” Not that he hadn’t been sneaking pictures all morning.
“What’s stopping you?”
He ran a finger along the neckline of her T-shirt. “You’re wearing too many clothes.”
Her eyes widened. “That’s not going to happen. No nude photos of me can be the new Rule Number One.”
You never forget your first love…
Meg and RJ were passionately in love. But that was six years and a broken engagement ago.
Meg has only one day in Siem Reap, Cambodia, before she must leave for her sister’s wedding in Bali. She fulfills her dream of taking a photograph of the sun rising behind Angkor Wat, one of the oldest temples in the world. But her joy is short-lived when she turns around to see RJ standing behind her.
RJ threw himself into work after Meg ended their relationship. He’s built a successful business, but it’s a hollow victory. He’s come to Siem Reap to win back the woman he’s never stopped loving. But first he has to convince her to spend the day with him.
Meg is as physically attracted to RJ as she ever was. Maybe the secret to finally getting over him is a one day only, no strings attached fling.
Can RJ win Meg back, or will she love him and leave him?
Capturing the Moment is now available everywhere!
- Amazon kindle http://www.amazon.com/Capturing-Moment-Sexy-Delilah-Night-ebook/dp/B01D1LT2VM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1458900787&sr=8-1&keywords=9781786510204
- iBooks https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/capturing-the-moment/id1093426579?mt=11
- Google Books https://books.google.com.sg/books?id=eZC_CwAAQBAJ&pg=PT4&lpg=PT4&dq=capturing+the+moment+delilah+night&source=bl&ots=RXN8VpLCtY&sig=ShhNkhSpQsV2ohKfuae68ffkyn4&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=capturing%20the%20moment%20delilah%20night&f=false
- Kobo https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/capturing-the-moment
- Nook http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/capturing-the-moment-delilah-night/1123563542?ean=9781786510204
- Totally Bound (https://www.totallybound.com/book/capturing-the-moment)
About the Author
After 30 years of snowy New England winters, Delilah Night moved to steamy southeast Asia. While she doesn’t miss shovelling snow, she does miss shopping for bargains at Target.
In 2014, Delilah visited Cambodia for the first time and fell in love with Siem Reap. Many of her misadventures from that vacation (including the one with the monkey) made their way into this story.
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