Today I have author Zoe Allison here discussing diversity in writing.
Second Chance at First Love
Eva Mathers is a successful woman, except for when it comes to matters of the heart. When she returns home to Yorkshire as a pending divorcee, she realises her childhood friend and first love Damon Evans is also newly single. It’s a pity he’s never noticed her romantically and had no idea that she was in love with him at school. But at least they can support each other as friends again.
Damon is attempting to adjust to life sharing the kids with his ex. His reconnection with Eva is strong, but she was always too good for him and made her indifference clear after they drifted apart during their younger years. In any case, she still seems to be hung up on her charismatic ex-husband. Eva is hiding things from Damon, secrets from her past. He wants to be there for her, so why can’t she let him in?
Eva is dealing with trauma, but she won’t confide in her loved ones. Can Damon help her break down her walls before it’s too late and they miss their second chance at first love?
My main character Eva in Second Chance at First Love is mixed race—half-White and half-Pakistani. I too am mixed race and from the same background as Eva and like many others have found myself feeling underrepresented not only in literature, but in the arts in general.
Growing up in the nineteen eighties, it felt to me as if there were fewer mixed-race people around than there are today. It could perhaps be the case that there were fewer mixed-race families in society thirty to forty years ago. However, I also believe that nowadays, mixed race families are being portrayed more commonly in everyday life such as in TV programming and movies or even in advertising, and this creates the perception that there are more of us around, even though we have been present in society for a long time. This increase in our portrayal is something that I have consciously noted and find to be an immensely positive development.
Quite soon after I began writing I made a conscious decision that I wanted a diverse selection of characters in my stories and I felt the need for at least one of my main characters to be mixed race. I think all of us want to see ourselves represented in the books that we read and own voices is a positive way to achieve this. It is uplifting for me to witness publishers actively seeking out these author’s voices.
I think another issue with diversity in writing is trying to get away from the idea that when it is present, it has to represented as a source of conflict. Racially diverse characters shouldn’t only be introduced in a novel in the context of there being a story line revolving around racism and discrimination. They should be represented in the same way as any other character, present in their own right and involved in their own story arcs as a reflection of the diverse world that we live in.
Of course, increasing diversity in the arts applies across all marginalised groups, not just those based on race or ethnicity. I think that own voices authors from those bodies should have the lead in representing their main characters too. But I also believe that those of us who aren’t part of those marginalised groups have a responsibility to create a background mix of characters that aren’t only from majority categories. Because our everyday world is filled with a variety of human beings from all walks of life and our books should reflect that, too.
Zoe lives in Scotland with her husband and two children. A medic by day, she started writing in her spare time as a means to counter burn out and found that this was a balm for the soul.
She is a fan of the romantic genre and its ‘happy ever after’ ethos. A sharp contrast to what she can, at times, see in her day job. Zoe is keen for the female lead in romantic fiction to disabuse stereotypes and walk on an equal footing with her male counterparts. She prefers male leads who do not display signs of toxic masculinity and believes that positive masculinity is much more attractive to women and healthier for men.