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  • Writer's pictureElnora Gunter

You Can't Spell Unique without a "You": Farrah Rochon

A few weeks ago, my mom and I were having brunch. A former librarian, she is one of the few people in my family and friend circle who I can talk with about reading and books. I was gushing about Brit Bennett as I had just read The Vanishing Half and The Mothers back-to-back and was still in a major state of awe over such AMAZING books.

Me: "Yeah, her writing is everything. It just sings to you--you know what? The way she writes reminds me of Toni Morrison."

Mom (nods and sips cranberry mimosa): "Yeah, it does have that ever read Song of Solomon? ELNORAAAAAAAA when I tell you I almost flung that book against the wall!"(smacks table)

Me (lifts my cup to the bachelorette group sneaking looks at us from he next table over): "I haven't read that one, yet."

Mom: "When I first read it, I was confused. I was like is this damn thing sci-fi, horror, historical? Is she talking about the bible book of Solomon? I was like wait, this is happening, now this is happening, and why does this read like some kind of song? And you know what, once I finished it, I sat back and said Damn, this book is brilliant. "

Toni Morrison. Neil Gaiman. Tiffany D. Jackson. Holly Black. Pick up any one of their books and you know who wrote it. As you settle into the pages, satisfaction settles over you like a heated blanket on a cold winter night--yep, that voice, that twist, the plot each one has that certain marker that makes their stories their stories. So how do you figure that out for yourself? How do you find your voice? The thing that makes your writing uniquely YOU. The thing that keeps your readers coming back?

Read on to find out USA Today Bestselling author Farrah Rochon's thoughts!

1. Welp, the first question is the one I’m sure you’ve answered many times but everyone loves to know. Please tell us all about your writing journey.

My journey is a long one, but I’ll give you the condensed version. <grin> Like many authors, I’ve been writing stories since I was a kid. After college and graduated school, I decided to get serious about my passion. Back when I first started, indie publishing wasn’t as viable an option as it is now, so I went the traditional route, seeking out an agent and eventually publishing with Dorchester Publishing in New York. I eventually moved to Harlequin Kimani Romance, became a hybrid author, then a strictly indie author, and now I’m back with a traditional publisher.

2. The Romance genre is a vast and thriving publishing landscape with many options for sharing stories. While its indie and self-published sector have blown up in the decade, some may ask why romance authors pursue traditional publication when the other options can prove just as lucrative or satisfying. Would you share your reasons for seeking publication of your romance books in the traditional publishing space? What are things romance authors should keep in mind when deciding how they want to share their stories?

As I mentioned when discussing my writing journey, I’ve been both traditionally and indie published. Personally, it all comes down to which fits best with where I am in my life and career. I switched to indie publishing when I realized that I could do just as well on my own. Thankfully, my audience followed me and I maintained a very nice indie career.

However, as the market became more saturated, it became harder for me to grow my audience. I looked at traditional publishing and saw that they were beginning to offer better contracts to authors of color (though not nearly as much as they can and should) just as I’d come up with an idea that fit the romcom books that were being published in trade-size paperback. The timing and series idea made it so that it was the best time in my career to return to traditional. That may not be the case for other authors, but that’s the beauty of this age of publishing. Options are boundless.

3. Characters, tension, and chemistry. The foundation for any romance or romance heavy book. Your novels are often praised for how they establish the main characters as individuals before bringing them together as a couple. Why do you feel this is important for your novels?

I try to write characters in the most authentic way possible. It’s very important to me to show that my heroines, in particular, are well-rounded and don’t necessarily need another person in order to be happy. The hero compliments them but doesn't complete them.

4. What tips would you give to writers regarding romance tropes, creating sexual tension, romantic conflict, and the such that keeps a reader turning the pages? How do you balance romance with plot and character development?

My best advice is not to color too far outside of the lines. Your writing voice should be unique to you, and you should do what you can to make your book stand out. However, people read certain tropes because they provide a sense of comfort and familiarity. They are expecting to find a certain kind of story. It’s the same reason many read romance. Doing something bold like not ending in a “happily ever after/happy for now” or saying a story fits in a beloved trope, and then turning it on its head mid-book, may not be the best route for you as an author.

5. Your books also feature Black couples. Was this something that you’ve always done? Have you ever experienced any pushback on this?

I have two books out of the 40 or so that I’ve written that feature biracial heroes (one is Honduran/Black and the other is Korean/Black), but other than those two all my books have featured Black heroes and heroines and I’ve never gotten pushback. The old adage “write what you know” fits here. I come from a family with grandparents, aunts and uncles, and my own parents with marriages that lasted decades. Black love is what I know.

6. A little birdie told me that you have a Princess Tiana story set to come to shelves this fall (ALMOST THERE-SPETMEBER 2022)! How exciting! What is it like writing within a pre-existing universe? What sport of research or methods did you have to do? Does it feel different writing a book from an idea that isn’t your own?

Writing Almost There: A Twisted Tale has been a dream. I know The Princess and The Frog so well that the most difficult thing about it was making sure my twist veered far enough away from the original story since that is the hallmark of the Twisted Tales series. It required tons of fun research about New Orleans in the 1920s. And even though the concept wasn’t entirely my own, once I was given the twist for the story (Tiana makes a deal with the Shadow Man), Disney gave me lots of leeway to make the story my own. I am so proud of it and cannot wait for folks to read it.

7. Do you know when you’re at risk of burnout? What’s your form of self-care?

I’ve experienced burnout more than once. Both as a writer and while in college. These days I try to quash it before allowing my schedule to overwhelm me. Reading and listening to audiobooks, crocheting, and just taking time out to relax are my forms of self-care.

Ok, now it’s time for the ‘fun’ questions!

8. Which Saints game Taylor and Jamar (THE DATING PLAYBOOK) attend?

Saints vs. Falcons.

Followed by an intimate dinner at?

New Orleans Creole Cookery in the French Quarter.

9. Unpopular book or writing opinion?

Umm…probably my answer to question four, lol.

10. Your dream .book launch would be…

a.) Your publisher booking The Creole Queen with brunch cruise, inviting your agent, editor, family, and closest friends

Definitely A! Although B does have some appeal. So does C. Can’t I have all three?

b.) A halftime shout-out during the Saints vs. Buccaneers game (hehe I live in LA but like T Brady) with your books displayed on the jumbotron followed by the cheerleaders throwing copies out to the crowd

c.) Randazzo’s making a custom king cake filling for your book’s characters and a limited edition king cake named “Queen Farrah”.

USA Today Bestselling author Farrah Rochon hails from a small town just west of New Orleans. She has garnered much acclaim for her popular Holmes Brothers and New York Sabers series, and more recently The Boyfriend Project and The Dating Playbook, which was named one of the best books of 2021 by NPR and Kirkus Reviews. When she is not writing in her favorite coffee shop, Farrah spends most of her time reading, cooking, traveling the world, visiting Walt Disney World, and catching her favorite Broadway shows.

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