Sandra Kitt is an African-American author of contemporary romance novels. Her works have frequently made it to Essence magazine’s “Black Board” bestseller lists.
When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I decided at the age of 6 that I wanted to be an artist. My teachers had informed my parents that I was very talented and they should encourage me, which they did. I was enrolled in Saturday art classes at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan when I was eleven. I became very serious about wanting to be an artist after that and attended an elite special high school in New York City for art and music students. I have an BFA in art, and an MFA in printmaking and illustration.
You have over thirty novels as well as numerous short stories published. What does your writing process look like? How has that process changed from releasing your first book to now?
My process, from the start, has been to address thoughts and questions about relationships; how men and women first come together, how they dance around each other or their immediate attraction and how they bring those first impressions into building a real relationship. The uncertainty and conflicts that arise and how the relationship might change each of them as people is what interests me. I want to explore how they grow and learn about themselves. Relationships require work, and that’s where I think commitment really begins. It’s not easy, but I like to write about how the couple works through the hard stuff to get to that place where the payoff is, when they know he or she is the one. Emotional growth is the basis of every story I’ve written, no matter the setting or overall theme.
Can you talk a little about what you’ve learned or struggles you’ve had to overcome while being in the romance industry since the early eighties?
got into the industry very quickly. It was so magical that I felt very confident that I would be well received, that my stories were appreciated and seen as being a different but strong voice for women’s fiction and romance. In hindsight, I noticed that, while I was being published, some of my difficulties appeared to be race based. Generally, I didn’t have much trouble selling my stories but a) I was never offered a contract unless the book was completely finished; I was never told that I only had to submit a proposal and maybe sample chapters; b) editors and publishers wanted none of my stories where the main characters were African American. (NOTE: Adam and Eve was the first Black romance by an African American writer published by Harlequin. My editor at the publishing house was also African American and trying to provide a pathway for Black writers to get published. Years later, I was told that when the executive office of Harlequin, in Toronto, found out about the contract for Adam and Eve, they wanted to rescind it. That didn’t happen and the story was successfully published in the US and later in Italy!) c) Early in the nineties, Harlequin requested that I contribute a story for a Thanksgiving anthology and specifically asked that I make the main characters interracial!!! This was the first interracial story written and published for the romance market: Love is Thanks Enough in Friends, Families, Lovers.
d) I finally came to realize that I was not advancing in the industry, and that editors/publishers were comfortable publishing me as simply a romance author. I believed I was writing complex Women’s Fiction with a strongly incorporated love story. The stories were never just about a romance but the editors didn’t seem to get that. Decades ago, a major agent in the industry mentioned that I might have remained at one level of publishing because no one ever quite knew what to do with my voice and stories.
Being African American seemed to confuse publishers and editors. It was definitely suggested that they didn’t know or could not relate to someone who was Black. This seemed to be borne out in how I was handled. I wasn’t given opportunities to break out of the romance genre, and professionals, for the most part, didn’t seem to understand how my writing was different in order to try and cultivate it.
In your writing career, how do you define success? How do you measure it, and what does it mean to you?
I define success first, in my very long history of writing and publishing. I recognize that I have a different voice. I think differently, as I once told my agent but I always have seemed to be able to find an audience who appreciate what I do. That’s success. I sense that I may have a place of respect in the industry, and certainly in the minds of many readers, because of what I’ve managed to accomplish. That’s success. I sometimes get postings on social media where readers admit they’ve read all of my books. That’s success. When I’m invited to participate in book events, signings, panels, or even to moderate a panel, I feel that I have successfully remained relevant. That’s success. I don’t follow trends, or feed into what readers tell me they want to read. I write my stories, and I’ve remained 100% true to that. To me, that’s the ultimate sign of success. I can still come up with fresh and different stories that I don’t read anywhere else. I think I do hold a unique place in the industry, the genre history. That’s success and I’m proud of that.
Read more of our interview with Sandra Kitt in the April Issue of Blush Magazine, here.
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