We read the book Femme Tales – a reworking of three classic fairy tales featuring Black same sex couples – for our first Feminist Erotica book club. Following the discussion, we interviewed the author, Anne Shade, about her book. We dug into why the positive representation of masculine queer folks and Black queer love is so important. We also talked about representing butch/femme couplings in non-stereotypical ways, chosen family, lesbian friendships, and more. This episode was recorded during a live stream on Facebook.
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Voiceover Goddess: Welcome to Feminist Erotica, a podcast from Rebellious Magazine for Women. Join Jera, Karen and Princess for stimulating interviews that explore feminist representations of desire, as well as short and sweet erotic snippets read by the authors themselves. This episode is sponsored by Just the Tip, Rebellious Magazine’s inclusive sex and relationship advice column, where you’ll find interviews with sexuality researchers and educators as well as compassionate responses to anonymous questions. Check it out Rebelliousmagazine.com/just-the-tip.
Jera: We chose this for our first book club, Anne Shade’s book Femme Tales, which is a feminist fairy tale retelling of three fairytales featuring same-sex couplings. So everybody in the book club loved it, which-
Anne: I’m glad. Thank you.
Jera: We’re really excited to talk to you and I will hand it over to Karen and Princess and be watching Facebook.
Anne: All right. Thank you.
Karen: Thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it. It’s very exciting for us to be able to talk to an author. I mean, frankly, that’s secretly why we started the podcast. Really, that’s just why, is that we get to just reach out to authors and be like, ‘No, no, we’re not just creepy people who read you. We have a podcast!’
Anne: Well, I’m flattered you asked me on, and read my book. Thank you, thank you.
Karen: Princess, do you want to say anything before I start the first question?
Princess: I just want to say that I really enjoyed reading the book.
Anne: Thank you.
Princess: Part of the reason why I wanted to read was because my name is Princess, and I was like, ‘Uh, we absolutely need to start our first book club with a fairytale same-sex black coupling thing. Like what? Like, that’s a no-brainer. So, it was very selfish of me to make sure that you were here with us and we are excited to talk to you and talk about the stories because I clearly need to find an Ebony and a Chase and a Cass to be friends with, so that they can open a restaurant and serve brunch. That’s what I’m really excited about.
Anne: There you go. In Harlem.
Princess: In Harlem!
Karen: In fact, that was one of the quotes that I wrote down from the book club was ‘I want to go to Chase’s restaurant.’ Like, that is something that people absolutely walked away with. Like, no. We need to make that happen.
Princess: I’m just saying if you know, a chef who can open a restaurant and make some bomb sweet potato fries, there is a branding franchising opportunity waiting for you.
Anne: Hey, I’m putting it out there. Anybody out there that knows anybody that wants to connect, I’m here.
Karen: So many layers of opportunities here. So I guess our first question is how did you decide to do this this way? And someone else in the book club said that, you know, obviously there are a lot of fairytale retellings in romance and erotica romance, but not this way. And I think what she said was, it seems so obvious. Like, why have we not done this before? So I guess that’s the first question. How did you decide to do it?
Anne: Well, that’s one reason because no one has done it before that I’ve read. And they are my three favorite fairy tales. I wanted to put them in the light that represented not only me, but people I know. Beautiful, strong black women in the community. And I wanted to do it in a way where, in most fairy tales, the princess always seemed so meek and, you know, and no. That wasn’t happening in my fairytale in my mind. Princesses were not meek. They were, they were strong and I wanted to do that. And that’s why I did it.
Karen: Princess, do you have anything to say about that?
Princess. You know I have things to say about that. Absolutely! That’s part of the reason why I was really here for a lot, all of the stories in the book and why our book club readers were also, enjoyed the stories was that the princess characters, they all had backbone. They all stood up for themselves and had autonomy and said what it is they needed and wanted. That really resonated with our readers and with me in particular.
Anne: That was important to me to show that. That she didn’t, even though they don’t have a prince per se, they have a princess, I didn’t want anyone having to save anybody. And actually with Ebony, she was saved by the princess. So.
Karen: We’re going to jump around, bear with us. One of the things that struck me, I think one of the things that we all really enjoyed and that the other folks in the book club really enjoyed. Wha-, how did you put it, Princess? It’s like Marvel-
Princess: It’s like the multiverse.
Karen: Yes. Thank you.
Princess: Yeah. Like the black queer multiverse. You put all of them together.
Anne: Right! I tried. Yeah. I tried to give a little bit of everybody so that whoever read it could see themselves in the characters.
Karen: And we loved that they were linked, right?
Princess: Also being able to call back. And being able to call back to characters across stories, and also to see a little bit of how they interacted with each other outside of the context of their relationships was really something that I think resonated.
Anne: Yeah. That was, that was my favorite part of doing it. When I started it, I was going to make them just extremely different pieces, but then I thought about it and I said, ‘Well, the ball had to wrap it all up. So, you know, the ball and the final, but then how would I do that if they were all three different people? Or three different stories?’ So I had to connect them some way and the best way to do that was through the characters and through three friendships and how they support each other through whatever they were going through with their relationships.
Karen: So what was, kind of what was your writing process? Like if you can describe that, like deciding on these, you know, loving these fairytales and deciding on them and deciding, ‘I don’t see this anywhere, I’m just going to create it.’ How did that, what was the writing process like for that?
Anne: It was doing a lot of research on the actual fairy tales, the original fairy tales. Making sure that I tried to stay as somewhat true to the story as possible, you know, so that when you read it, you still saw the fairy tale within the story. The only one I wanted to stay away from with that, because the original story for Sleeping Beauty is not that she’s kissed awake. So I don’t know if anyone knows that, but Sleeping Beauty was not, you know, lovingly kissed awake. So she was, I won’t even go into it, but look up the original story for Sleeping Beauty.
Karen: It was not the Disney version of it? No?
Anne: Nooooo, so far from it. So I just wanted to make sure that I try to stick within the parameters of the storyline that you still recognize the fairytales within it. And then once I did that, then I started to kind of recreate, I had to recreate the characters, and you know, who would represent Beast best? And who else, but a hardcore rapper, you know. Someone who’s been through some stuff and who has turned into a cold hard and you know, doesn’t seem like she feels anything but deep down, she’s a mush. Who would best represent that? And that’s, that’s how, once I got Ebony in, everyone else just started falling into place. That was the hardest one, was trying to make sure I found the perfect beast.
Karen: Without it falling into stereotypes or without, you know, there’s so many, right? The angry black woman. How do you, how do you have this character who’s relatable? And-
Anne: Exactly, and her sister gives her her soft side and her, you know, Mama Ellis gives her her soft side. So we know that there’s a soft side to the Beast, just like within Beauty and the Beast, the characters – the tea cups and the pot, you know, Mrs. Potts – all of them gave the Beast his soft side. So I needed to have characters in that story that you didn’t have that stereotypical, mad, stud black woman.
Princess: I think it really came across that, in reading it and now thinking back, I’m like, yeah, Ebony really did feel like the anchor to the rest of the story and being able to lead into where the rest of the stories went into. Like, that was very intentional.
Anne: And yeah, and that’s why once I had her, the rest of everything fell into place.
Princess: Was it challenging to incorporate pieces of original source material or did that come a little bit easier once you had Ebony down?
Anne: It came a little easier. Same thing with Stiletto. I try to stay away from the original story where Cinderella was so meek and she was picked, she was just pretty much just beat up on. I didn’t want that. And, you know, I had to make sure that Faith was not that type of person. She had to be strong, but I still stuck with a story where she had the evil stepfather and step-sisters. So it wasn’t hard. Once I got the main characters down, weaving in the story wasn’t as hard as it, you would think it would be.
Karen: I was just thinking actually, I’m giving myself away that Stiletto was my favorite, and you know I also enjoyed that the kind of the fairy godmother character in that story is this beautiful black man. Like, I feel like her lawyer really plays that role for her. I love that.
Anne: You caught that! Not a lot of people have mentioned that.
Karen: Oh, no, I just thought of it right now. Literally just-
Anne: That was my intention though. I never said anything. Whenever I do these talks, I never mention it, but I want to see if anyone ever catches it. So, even though you just caught it, I love that you caught it.
Princess: What made you decide to center masculine characters as those, as like the foundation with Ebony and everyone else? Because I think for me, probably the most surprising thing that came across was, I was expecting with Femme Tales to see all feminine characters and women in the book. So what made you make the choice to make kind of the anchoring of the books masculine women?
Anne: Because masculine lesbians are not featured as being romantic and soft and loving. In a lot of stories that I read, they’re featured as being hard and thugs and, you know, and I know too many, I played football. So 90% of my team were lesbian women. And I’ll say 75% of them were masculine lesbian women. And they were humorous. They were loving. They were, I mean, they were not what this stereotypical idea of a masculine lesbian is. And there are three different types of masculine lesbians because Ebony is the heart. You know, she is the serious stud. And then you have Chase, who’s kind of androgynous, you know. In today she would probably be a they, rather than she. And with Chaz, um, *chuckle* I’m forgetting all my characters. With Cass, she was a kind of a mix between the two. So it was, I thought it was a good mix to also give them, you know, I just wanted to show them in a good light. I wanted to show beautiful masculine, lesbian women.
Karen: So did you play football in New York or in Chicago?
Anne: New York.
Karen: Okay. So you didn’t play, did you play against the Force? So we had a-
Anne: No. No, I know what you’re talking about. I know the Chicago Force. We played mostly on, in this area. The only time we would’ve played the Force is if we would’ve ever made it to the playoffs or to our Super Bowl finale. I only played for two years, so I was already retired by the time they actually made it to, you know, our Super Bowl, but I loved it either way.
Karen: It was so, I mean, the Force, they don’t play anymore, but it was so much fun. And I’m like, looking to make sure my partner’s outside. I had crushes on so many Force players. Oh my goodness. Yeah, she’s still outside.
Karen: Princess, your question.
Princess: Professional. That really means a lot. That means a lot, you saying how it was important to you to show the vastness of masculine women because, yeah a lot of the representation we get is so very stereotypical, so very hard-lined. And that’s just not who we are as people. So that’s what really, I was like, where? It’s my people! Cause this is it. Like, Oh my God, this is exactly how, how they were so willing to create this romance for the women that they were in love with, which is very endearing and something that I really connected with in each of the story. Can you talk a little bit about the dynamic, the kind of Butch-Femme dynamic that you decided to put in each story?
Anne: I wouldn’t say it’s a stereotypical Butch-Femme dynamic because, especially with Ebony and Belinda, because Belinda becomes more aggressive as the story goes along. And Ebony’s kind of like, you know, backing up a little bit. But I thought it was important to put that because like I said, that relationship, that type of relationship in our community and lesbian community is not shown in a good light most times. It’s either abusive. It’s heartbreaking. It’s the ‘masculine lesbian getting heartbroken by the bisexual/bicurious femme.’ So there’s so much negativity that when I decided to write these stories and any story that follows it, I’m always gonna represent lesbian love, especially lesbian black love, in a positive light because it’s important for me to not only see it, but to represent it to represent myself and my community. As a bisexual black woman, it’s hard because you have that, ‘Oh, she just wants her cake and eat it too.’ And they’re represented so badly as well. So I’m trying to make sure every character I write, everyone I write about is able to be relatable to everyone within the community in some way, shape or form.
Karen: I obviously appreciate that so much. You know, one of the other things that we talked about that we really liked was that you, also by linking the characters together – I’m being attacked by my cat, I’m sorry – by linking the characters together across the stories, you not only have, you not only show these folks in their romantic relationships and with their families, but you show these friendships. Like you, by linking the characters, I don’t know if you can talk a little bit about, is that important? Is the representation of lesbian relationships outside of our romantic relationships important?
Anne: Definitely, definitely. Because we are a tight community, and friendships are something that kind of builds our characters. Also build how we interact with each other. I think it’s important that it’s someone that understands you. So having a friend within, you know, that’s like you kind of makes life a little easier. But also when it’s not so easy, it helps make life livable. And friendships, especially close friendships, like what the three characters share, is important, I think within the black female community period. You know, sisterhood is essential to the soul. So it is essential to show that as well in a light that is supportive and wonderful and loving.
Jera: It was a really good mix of biological and chosen family along with that. And it seems like a lot of times that the idea of what family is versus what friendship is, especially in queer communities.
Anne: Well, and in queer communities, there’s a lot of people who don’t have that biological family supporting them. So their queer friends are their family. So it’s important to have that, and show that in a way that’s loving and wonderful.
Princess: Along that same way, I think one of the things that I really appreciated in the book was, even as it represented our community very closely, there wasn’t an either or. Like a lot of times in reality, we have to choose between chosen family or real family where here, those relationships weren’t fractured, and a lot of times they were supportive of the characters. Can you talk about your decision to, you know, have strong familial backstories for each of the characters where their family was present and also centering the friendships between the characters?
Anne: Yes. In my family, we have several queer people in my family, and we are all supportive and loving of each other. And I thought that it was important, because there are a lot of stories where the family is fractured, where there’s no support, where the character is struggling with their identity and with themselves. I’m actually working on a story now about a character that is going through all that, but I wanted, because the stories were fairy tales and loving, I wanted to make sure that the families were also loving and supportive as well. In Beauty and the Beast, her father loved her, and was going to sacrifice himself for her. Instead of sending her to the Beast, he was going to stay. And that showed that love. And she loved him enough to sacrifice herself to stay with the beast. With Cinderella, there was a loving relationship with her and her father. In Stilettos, Faith adored her mother, her mother adored her, and they had that loving relationship and her mother accepted her no matter what. And with Beast, Belinda’s father, same thing, loving father and, you know, just want it to be there for her. And Ebony had her sister. Her mom, unfortunately there was that fracture there with her mom, but then that fracture actually made her into the beast that she was. So that was important to also show. I mean, if she had the perfect, loving family, it wouldn’t be realistic to show her being so cold.
Karen: And thank you for that. Cause I do feel like, because we don’t see ourselves represented, I feel like the small number of representations we do have, people just think like, ‘Oh. Oh, you’re a black lesbian. That means your mother hates you.’ You know what I mean? Like, ‘That means your family is,’ you know what I mean? Super religious and tried to exorcise you and it’s just like, ‘No, my mother got her super conservative church to be reconciling.’ You know, like, so I really appreciate you bringing all that in. And another theme that I want to talk about that Princess already teased me about, is this theme of “the busy lady.” Like the super busy person who’s too busy for love. I don’t have time for that, I have my career, I have my restaurant, I have whatever. So I don’t know if you, I feel like that resonates with a lot of us. I don’t know if you can talk about how you decided to have that?
Anne: Because black women have to be super black women. We have to be able to take care of the home, take care of the family, take care of work. Be able to, you know, have friends and really, and it’s, it’s realistic. It’s in our community. It’s why a lot of black men are saying, ‘Oh, you’re just an angry black woman,’ but they don’t realize, we’re not angry. We’re tired! You know, we’re stressed! We need a break just like you do, you know? I mean, Cass had to get kidnapped to go on vacation! That’s how bad life is for her. So it’s important that, you know, once again I tried to make it realistic and try to make it so people could equate to that. You know, you’re too busy for love, whether you’re gay, straight or whatever. You just, as a woman with everything we have on our plates, love is like, what, what? Where? You know, that’s way back there. We’ll deal with that later.
Jera: Karen, you asked that just so you could be affirmed, right?
Karen: I did. A thousand percent. That is what this whole podcast project is about. And yes. And also who? Jera, was it you who said, ‘If anybody wants to kidnap me on vacation, you just go ahead.’ Like, just, I’ll give you, here’s the keys to my apartment. Here are the clothes you should pack for me, I mean that-, also, if you want to talk about a fairy tale scenario? Having people in your life sends you to Turks and Caicos, and you don’t even know where you’re going? Yes, please.
Jera: A lot of people that we were talking to in the book club wanted to know if there’s going to be more? Like more fairy tales or also more continuation of the same group of characters?
Anne: No, not with that same group of characters. I did write a somewhat, well, it’s supposed to be a short story but it ended up turning into a novella for an anthology that my publishing company is working on. It’s for BIPOC queer writers and it’s based on a mermaid. So it was kind of a Little Mermaid twist. So that will be coming out around January. And it’s a short, short-ish story. But other than that, my next book is going to be historical that takes place during the Harlem Renaissance. So you know, I may go back to a romance, I mean to a fairytale, I’m not sure. Originally, Beast was supposed to be a full novel, and the other characters kind of came to me and said, ‘Hey! No, we want to be included.’ You know? So, I don’t know yet. I can’t see a full novel on a fairytale. That’s just cause fairy tales aren’t really full novels. So I would probably have to do something like that where I did a trilogy and connected them somehow. But I haven’t, you know, thought about that yet.
Princess: Just going to put this out here. If you want to do, like, more fairytales that figure out, I think, and 10-year-old Princess also thinks that an Aladdin sequel would be amazing. I don’t know how you would do it. I don’t know-
Anne: I’d have to think about that one.
Princess: -if a genie would come into play. If you wanted, you know, a big cat? Raja, Jafar, there’s just a lot of ways to take it. And I feel like people would love to see two black women, Jasmine and Aladdin. That’s all I’m going to say. If you’re already doing Little Mermaid, maybe there’s like an oasis type thing. And then they’re in like Agrabah. I don’t know.
Anne: The Little Mermaid one was basically, was actually based on African folklore about mermaids. So I mean, I could, I mean, genies are also within that African folklore. So maybe? I’ll think about it. I will definitely, you know, I’d have to say Princess’ idea.
Princess: Reach out to me, you know, I’m here to help. We can brainstorm. We can put some things on a wall. We can figure it out, I’m just saying, it’d be, you know, there are people. This is what the people want. The book club is like, they need more stories, and however we can help serve the readership is what we’re here.
Anne: Whatever I can do, I will do my best to do it.
Karen: Please. Can you please? This is the fourth time in two days we’ve heard about Aladdin. I really, please? Can you please? Can we commission something? I don’t know how we make this happen for 10-year-old Princess, but I feel like there’s some inner child work that’s happening here.
Princess: The world is ending Karen.
Karen: Hey, there’s no judgment. There’s no judgment.
Jera: Princess, you might have to write it for yourself too. You know, part of the podcast somehow.
Anne: Well, see, you’ve got my mind working. It’s an intriguing idea.
Princess: It’s just the seed. You just drop the seed in the soil, you know water it a little bit.
Anne: Let it germinate for a while because there’s two other plants growing at the moment. So I gotta get these all, you know, harvested and then we’ll be good to go.
Karen: So one of the things that I will admit that I do a lot when I’m reading stories like this is, I try to imagine what the movie would be like. I don’t know if anybody else has this issue, but I don’t-.,So have you cast, I mean, I have a very specific idea of who’s playing who in each of these stories. I don’t know if you want to tip your hand at all and talk about like,
Anne: Well, first of all, when I write my stories and people, my family says that just means you’re a little crazy, but I dream my stories. I don’t, they don’t, you know, I don’t just start writing and come up with something. My characters come to me in dreams and they tell me their story and what they want me to put on paper. And I never know, once I start a story, I don’t know when, how it’s going to end. So if I’m working on something and someone says, ‘Well, how are you going to end it?’ I don’t know. It’s whatever the characters tell me. For instance, like one story I’m working on, it was originally started out as a semi-autobiographical and the character said, ‘No, this is about me. Whatever happened to you, we’ll kind of, you know, steer somewhat in that direction, but no.’ And it’s gone off in a whole different tangent, but for this story, I definitely, definitely. I would love to see this on Netflix as three little series or something. And the only, only one I’ve casted was Beast, and Tessa Thompson as Belinda and Lena Waithe as Beast.
Princess: Of course Lena’s Beast.
Anne: Yes. Yes.
Princess: Yeah, she’s Beast.
Anne: Yes. That’s, that’s the only one I’ve casted in my head right now.
Karen: I approve. Yes. Thank you. And, you know, I will say – y’all are going to judge me, but that’s fine – so Twilight came to Stephanie Meyer in a dream. She dreamt that, if you’ve read or seen Twilight, there’s that meadow, the whole thing where they go to the meadow and Edward’s shining and whatever? That, she dreamt that and she built the whole series around that one dream she had. So I’d be like, that’s common.
Anne: Could be, could be. My character sort of, I know of one book, my characters were, I was sitting on a, and it might’ve been Beast, I was sitting on a brownstone stairs, like probably up in Harlem or Brooklyn or something, and Beast sat down next to me and started telling me her story. So, you know, could be. If it’s common then I don’t feel so weird.
Princess: So one thing that we have been exploring this season in our episodes with each author that we’ve talked to is categorizing erotic feminist. What makes erotica feminist? What things in stories, you know, what boxes do you need to check to necessarily name a story or a book as erotic feminist? And as we were talking about the book, I think a lot of the readers in the book club were kind of leaning more towards romance, but I’m wondering how would you categorize Femme Tales? And then do you consider it feminist, and how so? Or have you thought about that?
Anne: When I submitted Femme Tales, I submitted as a romance. The publisher thought it was more erotic romance, and I guess, because I’m more explicit with my love scenes than just a general romance book would be. And I hadn’t really thought about it being feminist until I had your guys’ invitation. And then I said, well, I guess it would be because I turned classic fairy tales with weak women, flipped on its head and gave it strong female characters. And I guess in a way that would be considered feminist because the characters are not weak and submissive. They’re strong women who speak their mind, who live the life they choose to live, and who live the way they want to live. And I guess if that makes someone a feminist, then I guess that’s a feminist erotic romance.
Karen: And that absolutely goes along with our definition. We’ve been asking people this whole season, we have a Google form we ask people to fill out, we ask them during interviews. And I think all of that absolutely goes along with what other people say. And, you know, Rachel, I always smush her name together, but Rachel was saying, you know, the question really you’re asking is what is feminist sex? And that just sends you down a whole other rabbit hole. And I’m excited about this project because I feel like we get to explore all of these different things and obviously talk about creators with them, too. Who do you read and who are you inspired by?
Anne: Let’s see, I originally started reading Beverly Jenkins. She’s my original inspiration because I hadn’t seen black romances until I started reading her. And Sherlynn(sp) Clark was one of my first lesbian romances that I read. Well, one of my first positive lesbian romances that I read. And I’m discovering some new authors. There’s Kaylynn, I forgot her name. [Editor’s note: it’s Kaylynn Bayron!] She wrote Cinderella is Dead. You have to read that. You have to read that. Cinderella is Dead. It’s based on, once again, a fairy tale. But there’s a, you know, nice turnaround. And then also I just picked up Candice Iloh, who actually wrote – I haven’t started reading it, I’m supposed to start reading it this weekend – but she actually wrote her entire novel in verse and it’s, I think it would fit along within your category of feminist fiction. So, but those are the people I’m reading and who, you know, kind of inspired me.
Princess: What’s the publishing journey been like for you?
Anne: It’s been tough. Previously, I used to write het romances, heterosexual romances, and I got turned down left and right because it would always be, ‘Oh, great story, but not what we’re looking for right now.’ I don’t know if it was because they were black characters cause everything I’ve ever written has been African-American characters. Self publishing, that empties your pockets pretty quickly. So the self-publishing didn’t quite work out. And then I submitted to Bold Stroke Books a year ago. It took me a year to submit because I was already feeling like, you know, ‘No one’s gonna want to read my stuff. And who would want to read it?’ Cause I can’t get anybody to, you know, publish it. So when they sent me the letter and told me they were interested in, and published the book, I was like, yes! So the publishing the past year has been wonderful. I feel good writing. I’m inspired to write more. I’m trying to keep up a quota of at least putting out two books a year. That’s probably big, a high number, but I’ve got a lot of backlog of stories because I waited so long. But you know, I’m happy right now.
Karen: And what has the reception been to your book? Have you done other book club chats? Like how have you, how has it been interacting with readers?
Anne: I haven’t, this is the first book club chat I’ve done. But I have done a lot of virtual conferences and events, which honestly, that’s the only good thing about the pandemic is that all the events that I’ve done virtually, I wouldn’t have been able to fly to. You know, virtually I’ve been to South Africa, Australia, the UK, so I’ve been worldwide. And the book has gotten great feedback. People seem to love it. I hate saying that cause I feel like I’m bragging. But it’s, it’s done-
Princess: Absolutely brag. Absolutely brag. That’s what the segment is for.
Anne: Well, it has really surprised me how quickly this has been picked up, and not just with the African-American community, but non-black folks have been reading this. Men have been reading this. Women have been reading this. Straight folks have been, so I’m like, ‘Wow. I never thought I would be able to reach so many people with three stories.’ You know, it amazes me and it humbles me. And especially, you know, I’m 53 years old and you know, I feel like I’m starting, just starting my life again, so.
Princess: Ma’am. We have been sitting here talking about your book, acting like we like each other, and then you’re going to sit up and lie and talk to us about 53 years old.
Anne: I’m 53 years old, with two grown children.
Karen: I mean, I echo that, yes. And I will say, I hope that inspires people that you don’t have to, you know, no offense to all of you out there, but if I hear the word millennial, one more time. In my life. Y’all are not the only people who exist in the world. You’re not the only people buying things. You’re not the only people doing things. So I’m gratified that you are on this journey and that you’re not one of them.
Anne: It’s never, I feel like it’s never too late. You are never too old. It’s never too late to start over. To start something new. To live your dream. I had wanted to play football since I was five years old and didn’t start playing until I was 42. So, you know, it’s never too late to live your dream. So you know, if you’re out there and you’re just like, ‘Oh, well it’s too late. I don’t have a story. I have a story in me, but I don’t think anybody’s going to want to read it.’ You don’t know that unless you go out there and you write it. Write it, give it to your friends, see what they say. If your friends like it, someone else is going to like it too. So don’t, don’t let age stop you. Don’t let, you know, your situation stop you. Your environment, the pandemic. Especially now, this, I do a lot of writing right now. So, you know, I just hope that someone out there can see me and be like, ‘Okay, you know, what. If she can do it then, so can I.’
Jera: Well, and I think that that’s common, especially of women writers that have had to raise kids. There’s, I guess, there’s a tradition of that, of starting late because of the caretaking role. You know, and there’s something problematic about that tradition, but also beautiful about being a part of it, I guess.
Anne: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, and I started writing when my daughter was a teenager and my son was about two or three. But I didn’t really write a lot until he was older in school. And you know, she was pretty much in high school. But, you know, I didn’t come into my own until this. So, you know, you’re right. You’re so focused on family and home life and taking care of your kid and taking care of your family, that something like that, which seems like an afterthought and selfish to do, because it’s something you enjoy. It’s a passion of yours and, you know, ‘Well, but my kids need this and, you know, my spouse needs that.’ And so it’s difficult to make the decision to take that step. So, and unfortunately, like you said, a lot of women are waiting til later. But there are a lot of millennials coming out now. And I know you didn’t want to hear that. I know you didn’t want to hear that. But Gen Z and Millennials, a lot of them are starting to really decide that, okay. Maybe, maybe our story is worth telling. So I think this younger generation is inspiring a lot more people to tell stories.
Karen: Yeah. And I, again, I’m a little embarrassed to quote, I mean, I appreciate her. Elizabeth Gilbert, I feel like, is maybe the one I’m getting this from. This idea that it’s actually more selfish to not share this, that the universe is trying to co-create with you. And it’s more selfish to not put that out into the world because yes, you’re inspiring people. You’re making people so happy and you know, I feel like that’s also important.
Anne: I just want to make people happy. That’s why there’s always happy endings. I never have anything end on an unhappy ending. That’s just, no, we have enough of that in life.
Jera: Small plug, Rebellious Magazine, my column is hosting a talk about menopause and women, perimenopause, not just-
Anne: I put it on my calendar.
Jera: Oh, nice. Thank you.
Anne: I already put it on my calendar because I’ve hit that stage. You see me going like this?
Karen: Oh my God. Okay. Can we, can we pause, are you doing anything for the, because I’m having it too. I don’t like it.
Anne: Sorry, Jera.
Jera: No, you needed that moment. Folks around that age are having a life experience that doesn’t get talked about a lot. And then the other portion of that is this concept of the crone, of this later age in people’s lives where so, to me, a beautiful idea of the crone is that like teaching the people that come before you the things that you don’t know about. I’m struggling here because of the gender issues around it. But I really like this idea that you get to a stage in life and you become a teacher, but you only can become a teacher if you’re vocal about your experience, you know. Does that resonate at all, about that imperative to speak about desire and relationships with things that like-
Anne: Definitely. Yeah, definitely. I think it’s important that we talk to, especially at my age, I try and with my, especially with my son and daughter. My daughter’s 33, and you know, she’s still, you know, trying to find herself. She’s still, you know, out there living her life and living her best life. Fortunately I’m not a grandmother yet. I look forward to it, but I’m not a grandmother yet. But I try and pass down what I can to her so that she can be a secure and strong black woman. It’s difficult because my mom’s generation didn’t talk about that stuff. If you listen to Michelle Obama, she’s got a podcast where she talks about that. How a lot of our, you know, the mothers in our generation, you didn’t talk about any of that stuff. You know, you didn’t talk about the monthly flows. You didn’t talk about what to expect, you know, with menopause or what to expect when, you know. It’s difficult to be able to pass that along to your children if you weren’t talked about it with, and a lot of it I had to learn as I went along. And so I made sure to start at an early age with my daughter. She was eight when we first started having the talk and we would renew that talk every year. But also as she got older, I talked to her about passion. I talked to her about love. I talked to her about sex and the importance of, you know, feeling comfortable in your body and feeling comfortable in telling your partner what they want, what she wants. So it’s definitely important to be in, you know, I’m proud to be 53, I’m proud to be aging. I’ll proudly say I’m a crone, and I’m trying to pass my little nugget of wisdoms down to whomever I can. My nieces, my children, daughters of friends, you know, things like that. But it is important.
Karen: Also, I mean, one of the things that I feel like I appreciate so much about Jera’s column, which is called Just the Tip by the way, sex and relationship advice. One of the things I appreciate so much is this notion of adult sex ed. That you’re absolutely right. That none of us are really, other than your daughter who I hope appreciates how lucky she is, none of us are really having these conversations in an age appropriate way from adults. We’re learning these things from other ridiculous, just asking children. So I feel like I really appreciate that notion that again, it’s never too late to learn any of these things. And yeah.
Anne: Our life is, you never stopped learning. As long as you age, you are going to learn something. So whether it’s you going for your education, whether you’re going for a degree, whether you’re, you know, life lessons, you’re always learning. There’s always a lesson to be learned from an experience in your life. If you’re heartbroken, learn from it. If you get sick, you know, and you survive it, learn from it. You lose your job, learn from it. You get a new job. So there’s always something going on in your life that is going to teach you something. And I take everything that happens in my life as a moment to learn and to grow.
Jera: What did you learn from writing this book?
Anne: I learned, strangely enough, self-acceptance while I was writing this book because it took two years to finish it. And the book started from, kind of rose out of ashes of heartbreak. So, you know, with heartbreak came, ‘I need something positive’. So the book came, you know, the stories came about. And that’s one reason why Beast is – don’t tell the other characters – why Beast is my favorite, you know. Ebony is my favorite because she’s been through it. And, you know, I hadn’t, going through the heartbreak that she went through. It was a different kind of heartbreak, but still it was heartbreak. And she rose from the ashes and she became the story. So I learned about myself. I learned self-acceptance. I learned how beautiful and wonderful I am as a black queer woman and that there is nothing wrong with me and who I am. So that’s the biggest lesson that I learned.
Karen: And I really feel like that comes through in the stories. I feel like that, you know, all of the characters and all of their journeys, I feel like you can feel that. I mean, I’m sorry to hear you went through that, but I also feel like you can-
Anne: It’s a lesson!
Karen: Right? That is one reason it resonates so much with so many of us is that you can really feel that journey in there.
Anne: Thank you.
Princess: Where can people find more of your work?
Anne: Right now, the only book out is Femme Tales. I have another one coming out, like I said, Masquerade, which is coming, that’s the 1920s Harlem Renaissance romance. And that’s coming out February. I have a short story coming out in LesFic Eclectic, which I believe is also, everything’s coming out around winter. And that’s coming out, but that’ll be in the UK, but there’ll be, I’ll be sure to spread word about that cause it’ll be eBooks only and the money goes to charity. And then I have, I worked on the project, like I said, for Bold Stroke Books. It’s called In Our Words. And it’s a Black Indigenous people of color short story, queer short stories and works. And I got to pick the stories. I got to read stories from other writers and help pick the stories for the book, and also add my own. So I have a story coming in there. But that’s it for now. And then I’m working on something, hopefully there’ll be out next fall.
Karen: That’s wonderful. And of course the screenplay for Netflix for the series.
Anne: Yes. I just have to find a screenplay writer. I actually slid into Lena Waithe’s DM and offered to send her the book just so she could, I didn’t want, I don’t want her to do anything else, but just read it. She never answered me back.
Karen: Can you send it to her? Princess, this one’s notorious for like, I mean, I don’t know if you want to describe some of your interactions with people you admire. No?
Anne: If you have some advice, just email me. You have my email, email me.
Karen: Just send it. Like, find her publicist and just send it.
Anne: And that’s what I was thinking of doing, because I would love for her. I mean, if she wants to play Ebony, that’s fine. If she wants to make the move to, you know, produce it, direct it, that’s fine.
Karen: We’re putting it out there. We’re putting it out there.
Anne: Yes. But I would definitely, I would definitely, definitely love to see that on the screen. Those stories, because actually I had planned on doing it for my, when I had my book premiered, I had actors that were playing the parts. So we did, instead of doing a reading, I was actually gonna do little mini shows. But then literally, the day of my book premiere, COVID-19. Everything shut down. I had to cancel the day of. That was March 13. The day of.
Karen: Nooo. Wait, okay, now you could do a virtual table read. The table reads, that’s the whole, that’s the new thing.
Anne: That’s what I’m going to probably do is the table read.
Karen: Oh, and the last. Okay, the last thing on your to-do list, just because we’re those people, 10-year-old Princess’ Aladdin story. That’s the last-
Princess: Aladdin, African mythology, Little Mermaid multi-verse together.
Anne: I’ll figure something out. Send me your email, Princess.
Princess: Ain’t said nothing but a word.
Anne: If I need something as a beta reader, I want you to be ready.
Princess: We have nothing but time. Nothing but time. I am here.
Jera: Well, this has been lovely. Thank you so much again for joining us.
Karen: Thank you.
Anne: Thank you for having me and for reading my book and I’m, I’m so happy to hear everyone enjoyed it.
Jera: Yeah. Yeah. All right. Thank you all. Have a good rest of your Friday evening.
Karen: Anne thank you so much. It’s so good to meet you.
Princess: Thank you so much, Anne.
Anne: Thank you.
Voiceover Goddess: Feminist Erotica is a podcast from Rebellious Magazine for Women hosted by Jera Brown, Princess McDowell, and Karen Hawkins. If you have an idea for a future episode or want to share your thoughts, we’d love to hear from you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Instagram @FeministEroticaPodcast, on Facebook at Feminist Erotica, and on Twitter @FeministErotic. And make sure you subscribe to us wherever you devour podcasts.
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