Author Interviews with Chelsea Lockhart and Kai Leakes
For today’s Black History Month featured post, we have Chelsea Lockhart and Kai Leakes talking about their novels Keeping Promises and Love, Trust, and Pleasure. We chat about writing Black love, rebelling against publishing norms, and Black romance writers.
Keeping Promises isn’t available for preorder yet, but Love, Trust, and Pleasure is available for purchase, and we’ve included the link below:
Hi! Thank you for being here today, Chelsea. Your book, Keeping Promises is about childhood friends that fell in love when they were young, and five years later, still have feelings for each other. It’s such a cute premise. Are there any works that inspired it? Books or movies?
Thank you! I wouldn’t say anything super specific inspired it – it was probably a conglomerate of things I consumed growing up paired with my own experiences. But I lived for things like Love and Basketball, Kim Possible, and Boy Meets World where the characters ended up with their best friends from childhood despite everything they went through. I just thought it was the best thing and as I got older, I ate up a lot of manga with similar premises.
How long have you been a writer and what made you decide to be one?
I would say I’ve always been a writer. Even in the second grade when we got to free write, I would remix the stories of the three little monkeys jumping on the bed. But the conscious decision to be one came twice in my life – once when I was about thirteen and started sharing my writing online and realized I could do the thing! – and then once again when I was twenty-three and realized that working for other people was bad for both them and me. So, I went all in on what I really wanted to do – create stories.
What made you pursue indie publishing?
Would you believe me if I said rebelliousness? *Cue laughter*
I have always been the type of person who bucks at authority and people telling me what I can and cannot do (hence why working for other people was so terrible for me), so the idea of getting in line to try to gain access to a very gatekept industry just put me off. So, I decided to put my book out myself.
I learned so much along the way, I thought there was no use keeping the information to myself. There were other people in my place who wanted to create books that the traditional publishing industry probably wouldn’t look twice at just because of who was submitting it – and I’m not on board with the idea of crushing someone dream and dismissing their hard work because they don’t look like the type of author who normally gets traditionally published.
What are some challenges you’ve faced with indie publishing you weren’t expecting?
Marketing. Creating a book is relatively easy, but convincing other people to depart with their hard-earned money for said book is a much more daunting task. A big part of it is that writing is an art form – but unlike drawing or music, is not something you can force on someone. They have to choose to spend time with it and trying to persuade people to depart with their time and their coins takes luck, experience, and a unique set of skills that isn’t always easy to come by.
Very true! Which character do you relate to the most in your book?
Probably Michelle, Kamry’s other best friend growing up. She’s very mild mannered, easily annoyed and just wanted to be friends with Kamry. She’s the friend you call when you need to rob a bank or hide a body. I’ve never done either of those (I’m too cute to go to jail!), but I was always that friend too.
Your book is all about Black love, which is so beautiful and needed. What was your favorite part of writing Black love?
That’s an interesting question because I’ve never experienced anything other than Black love in my own life, so I never even considered writing anything other than two Black leads. But I guess my favorite part about it is that it’s messy. I feel like so often, media portrays Black love as something that can only be rock solid – otherwise, the other person isn’t about anything.
I loved writing Kamry’s up and down history with Jason. They had to grow and figure out themselves and each other, and even when they meet again it’s not clear cut. But that doesn’t mean they’re terrible people, just sometimes they’re terrible to each other. You know?
Who are some of your favorite Black authors?
Beverly Jenkins, because my mom always kept her books in the house, and she was really the first Black romance I ever read.
Justina Ireland, because her book Dread Nation was the book that reminded me how much I love stories and that I couldn’t be done creating yet.
Kristina Forest, because I love that she writes Black love among teenagers and they just fall in love with all the pain and trauma. Her books are so fluffy, and I will buy anything she writes.
Nicole Falls, Rilzy Adams, D. L. White and Katrina Jackson – because I will never get tired of Black people falling in love.
Alexis Henderson because I eat up her storytelling and still can’t get The Year of the Witching out of my mind.
LaKase Cousino because she’s so talented and I the world is going to love Across the Broken Tide.
What was the most difficult part of writing Keeping Promises?
Trying to keep the story what I wanted it to be. It’s a novella, so it moves pretty quick, and some of the feedback I got was that there needed to be more. But it’s meant to be nostalgic and we don’t often remember all the gritty details of our childhood – just the things that were defining moments to us.
I wanted people to be happy, so not caving to every piece of feedback I got was hard. And also writing in a sex scene that’s not explicit, because that’s just not my thing. My mom reads my books, you know? My stance on it is this – if you’re grown enough to want the scene, you’re grown enough to know what they doing! Lol.
If you could give advice to yourself as a novice, what would it be?
Write down all your ideas. You’re going to want them later, even if the skill you have now isn’t up to par with the kind of story you want to write. It will be one day.
Also, make writing a priority. Don’t let it be an afterthought. Trust me when I say you’ll graduate without doing every lick of homework you ever got – teachers barely check it anyway!
Where can readers find you?
There are a few places. I’m mostly on Twitter and Instagram with different handles: my personal is @CLockhartWrite; the business is @WrittenNMelanin; and the Melanin Library is @Melanin_Library.
There’s also the websites: WrittenInMelanin.com & MelaninLibrary.com
Hi! Thank you for being here today, Kai. Your books, Love Trust, & Pleasure, as well as the sequel due to come out this year, Love, Lies, & Pleasure, feature spicy love triangles, wealthy CEOs, and workplace romances. What inspired these books?
Hello! Thank you to Glittering Fox Reads for having me. Both books belong to a series: The Brothers of Kemet, that came from an anthology I participated in as a way to try my hand in the erotic/steamy romance genre (I come from a Speculative Fiction, mainly Dark Fantasy/pararomance background).
Both Love, Trust, & Pleasure, and Love, Lies, & Pleasure were one short story that was suggested to be expanded upon. It was a struggle that gave me an extensive amount of material to form two separate novels. I wrote both stories years ago and reworked Kwame and Karma’s background over and over. Their story was initially meant to be an eye into how the salacious BOK foundation was started and introduce you to the current CEO and head of the foundation.
How long have you been a writer, and what made you decide to be one?
I’ve been essentially coming up with tiny stories for my friends and cousins since I was a child. I didn’t become a professional writer until 2012 with the publishing of my dark fantasy/horror/pararomance adventure Sin Eaters: Devotion Book Series. My path to writing came about because growing up my favorite genres had nothing but people who didn’t look like me. I was tired of mentally race-swapping characters as I read. That eventually led me to saying, ‘hey, I can write these stories’, so I did. I wrote Sin Eaters while transitioning out of college while looking for work and a new city to live. It was also written during a time of dealing with depression because of that transition.
What made you pursue self-publishing?
I’m what they call a hybrid published author, because my first series is with a traditional publisher. I ended up stepping into indie (self) publishing once my series ended and I was struggling finding publishing houses. My agent suggested going the self-pub route because I could manage my property better as well, so I tested the waters with the Sin Eaters-related novella, Rebel Guardians and several other short stories. And I went on to continue with self-publishing.
What are some challenges you’ve faced with self-publishing you weren’t expecting?
Four major challenges for me are marketing, funding, affording a proper editing team and maintaining my market readers while finding new readers. I wasn’t expecting how difficult the process of it would be. I had my minor challenges with a few of what I mentioned but it became prominent once I had to handle everything on my own. It’s not the fun side to behind the scenes of self-publishing.
What was your favorite part of writing Love, Trust, and Pleasure?
Oh, wow, well, my favorite part of writing LTP was getting into the mind of Mr. Kwame Hughes and introducing his best friends and cousin. Those brothas were A LOT I tell you. It was fun sharing bits of them while Kwame seduced the heck out of Karma. The main thing I had fun with was forming this couple and showing the sparks of their attraction and eventual Black Love HEA. Outside of that, these two stressed me out, mainly the mess thrown at Karma. My beta readers were and still are stressed out by Karma and her choices, but that was something I enjoyed as well.
I was able to write about a young woman who did not have her life together. Her dating choices and loyalty were a MESS, as well as her perspective around it. That was fun and the feedback I get around her is funny. Her situation is lightly based on reality and trust me, as I wrote, I was annoyed as well.
Are there any Black romance authors that inspire your work?
My major influences with contemporary Black romance are the icons, Terry McMillan, Eric Jerome Dickey, Zane, as well as Brenda Hampton, Donna Hill, Francis Ray, and Brenda Jackson.
My reading preference is fantasy and historical romances as escapism. So, you know I have to share her, the icon Ms. Beverly Jenkins, hands down have me wanting to study with her to test historical Black romance.
Because I am a fantasy lover, my icon, and all-time griot is the late great, L.A. Banks. She and Tananarive Due are part of my spiritual writing counsel. L.A. Banks was a speculative fiction author who also wrote romance. Her path is one I aim to keep going, because I also write in multiple genres with my base in speculative romance.
What was the most difficult part of writing this series?
Whew, when I tell you, it was the massive material I gained with the story that was difficult for me and my nervousness in hoping my story engaged readers with memorable points. I am a write by the seat of her pants style, so Kwame and Karma’s story has three different versions because I was learning at the time how to write more passionate, and erotic. I ended up with a fusion of light erotic and messy romance.
Do you have any other projects in the works you can tell us about?
I do, outside of part two to Karma and Kwame’s story that was released on February 9th, I’m working my way around to my first [romance] that is fantasy, and dark fantasy. I have a short story that was featured in Slay: Stories of the Vampire Noire, that I have been asked to expand upon and make into a standalone Black vampire story. I plan to do that. I’m also working to pull together a few of my horror and dark fantasy short stories into my own collection. Then there is the second novella to the Sin Eaters series, Rebel Guardians: Gargoyles almost finished. I’m also debating about working on the second novella to my Steamfunk Adventure (light NA fantasy/ romance) Oni’s Tears. I have a lot on my desk to sort out for sure.
Let me not forget, there is a new BOK brother that will be introducing himself next year in the Brothers of Kemet series. He is mine and beta readers favorite out of the crew. I can’t wait to share his world as well.
Amazing! If you could give advice to yourself as a novice, what would it be?
I’d tell myself to RUN! The stories in your mind will not stop and the process in getting them down in print will always be an ardent challenge. However, sharing the stories is what makes writing a joy. So, come back, take your time, don’t rush the process or let others rush your process and write. Black stories matter, Black women writers’ matter, so our voices are needed because we didn’t have it in abundance as a child, teen, new adult, or even now as an older millennial.
Where can readers find you?
Interested writers can find me at my interactive website: www.kaileakes.com
Or on social media platforms: Facebook and Twitter.