Here’s What Happened

I dreamed up a series set in Savannah, Georgia. I didn’t want to set my stories there and leave it at that. I wanted to immerse my readers in Savannah’s culture and charm.

I did a significant amount of research on the city and discovered the demographics are roughly 50% Black and 50% White. I have seen White authors be accused of white washing in their books, and I didn’t want to do that.

As I was brainstorming the series, I developed a character who was a strong, Black, Christian businesswoman. The series hinged around her business, so I decided to write a prequel novella, called Blind Fate, with her as the main character. (The novella later developed into a full-length novel.)

I had a hard time starting the story. I knew I was stepping outside of my comfort zone by writing a Black POV character. I studied Black caricatures in entertainment and was careful to avoid those. I thought about whether I wanted to include AAVE. (I decided not to based on the advice of a Black woman, who said if you can’t do it right, don’t do it.)

To calm my fears, I came down to this: we are all people. Black, White, Asian, Indian, etc. I decided to write Blind Fate from this angle, leaning into human universals, i.e., experiences and emotions that we all confront throughout our lives.

At the same time, I wanted to thoughtfully highlight my character’s Blackness by subtly weaving in specific parts of her personality and life that were shaped by being a Black woman in America.

I paired her with a Black lead because it felt natural. Her love interest grew up in Chicago in a rich White neighborhood; therefore, his experience as a Black man in America contrasted somewhat with hers.

One could argue that I was not qualified to write Blind Fate. I take that as a fair criticism. However, I can say I wrote it with love for my characters and an appreciation for their hardships and experiences. 95,000 words later, I was satisfied that I done my best, and that, while my story would not appeal to all, it would appeal to some.

Regrettably, when I began advertising the book on TikTok, I made some mistakes. As I result, I went viral on TikTok, and not in a good way.

First, I marketed to the wrong hashtag. I did not do my due diligence beforehand, and that is very much my fault. After the TikTok storm blew over, I researched Black romances on Amazon, realizing this was the audience I had targeted on TikTok.

An hour-long perusal of the books showed me my glaring error. First, they were all spicy, some very much so and as soon as the first chapter. Second, they included slang and dialect that I could never hope to mimic and would never dare try.

As an experiment, I googled African American sweet romance. From what I could tell, it’s not a thing. Nevertheless, it’s what I wrote. My cover was for a sweet romance audience so there was a huge discrepancy between what I had written and what Black romance readers expect.

The following isn’t an excuse. It’s just a reality. I’m a one woman show. I write, proof, edit, and finalize my own books. I produce my books on a shoestring budget because taking care of my family financially is more important to me than paying large sums of money to publish my books.

I did not hire a sensitivity reader because I was uncomfortable tagging my Black friends for that purpose. In hindsight, I know I could have gone on Fiverr and hired a sensitivity reader for a reasonable price, but I only realized this after I pressed publish.

That being said, a troublesome sentence made it into my book. I highlighted it in a TikTok video and was rightfully called out. I apologized multiple times and the next day I removed the sentence and uploaded a new ebook and print copy to Amazon. Five physical copies made it into the world prior to my edit.

I recently gave up talking about anything controversial online. When my TikTok video blew up, however, I forgot my own advice and tried to seek common ground, or at least, mutual understanding. This was interpreted as arguing which I accept as a valid criticism. In hindsight, I should have deleted the troublesome TikTok and called it a day.

I realize now that TikTok isn’t conducive to meaningful discussions. The character limit on comments only allows you to scratch the surface of your point. To complete your thought, you have to start a new comment. The comments aren’t displayed in order, so it becomes confusing.

I think this is by design. I think TikTok knows they are creating an environment where words can easily be taken out of context and misconstrued. This helps videos go viral.

Anyway, my point is, I’m not up for a fight. The battle is far too big for me. I can write a new book quickly. I’m not going to defend any of my books to the death. I’d rather just move on.

In one of Becca Syme’s videos she says sometimes the market doesn’t want your book. I received this message loud and clear. The market did not want Blind Fate, so I unpublished it. As a White author, I was told to stay in my lane, and I have no problems doing that.

I also drastically trimmed my social media presence. This was a personal choice to protect my own privacy. When the internet goes from feeling like a safe place to a dangerous mob in the span of a few hours, trust me, you start seriously rethinking your social media habits.

What I found most troubling was the number of people who wanted to destroy my reputation for writing Blind Fate without having read it, to the extent that they hopped onto my other social media platforms to troll me.

I have less than zero influence on the current zeitgeist. I’m no one. Why would someone take the time to screenshot my comments and post them on Twitter or elsewhere to try to destroy me? I like to think people have better things to do like walking their dog, taking a hot bath, or hugging their family. Turns out, some people don’t.

People’s eagerness to take my comments out of context and drag me through the mud for likes, views, and follows made me realize our society has a collective mental health problem. Trolling and canceling people we have never met is unacceptable behavior.

I hope people begin to realize the damage they are inflicting on others via social media and try to be more kind to each other. The idealist in me wants to believe it’s possible. The realist in me sees a bleak future.