Roses & Rainbows: Romance Novelist Anne Shade Shares Her Truth

Updated April 28

Anne Shade loves sharing stories about women who love women featuring strong, beautiful BIPOC characters. The suburban West Orange, NJ author has published seven novels, Femme Tales, queered retellings of three classic fairytales and short-listed for a 2021 Lambda Literary Award; Masquerade, a roaring 20s romance; Love and Lotus Blossoms, a coming of age and coming out story listed as a Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2021; Her Heart’s Desire, a coming out romance; Securing Ava, a romantic intrigue; Three Wishes, a paranormal/fantasy romance and Leather, Lace, and Locs, a sexy contemporary romance. Anne has also collaborated with Editor Victoria Villasenor for the Bold Strokes Books anthologies, In Our Words: Queer Stories from Black, Indigenous, and People of Color and My Secret Valentine with authors Julie Cannon and Erin Dutton.

Leather, Lace, and Locs, is her latest book. It follows three friends, each on their own path, as they discover that love could lead to happily ever after.

PrideIndex recently interviewed Anne about her writing process, her secret crush on Janet Jackson, and what she’d like readers to retain from her work.

PrideIndex (PI): Thank you for this afternoon’s conversation. It is my pleasure to speak with Anne Shade. Let’s start by telling us more about yourself, your journey, and where it’s brought you thus far.

Anne Shade (AS): I have been writing for a very long time; I was self-published until I was picked up by a publisher in 2019 at fifty-something years old. [Laughs] I published my first book without paying for it. My current book, Leather, Lace, and Locs is my eighth book.

PI: Let’s talk about that journey from self-publishing to being published by one of the publishing houses.

AS: Self-publishing was tough; you must pay for everything and promote yourself. You have to do everything. Like back in the day when folks used to sell their CDs out of the trunk of their car. Same thing. You have to attend book conferences, festivals, and other promotional events on your own dime. You’re carting your stuff around, boxes of your books, and you must order and pay for those. It just became tedious, as well as expensive. I decided I couldn’t do it anymore. I gave up, especially after being laid off from my job. Finances were iffy. There was no way I could continue self-publishing with no paycheck when I couldn’t even pay my bills. Getting a publisher has been great. There’s still some self-promoting that I have to do, but only a little. Most of it I do via social media. I have social media stuff everywhere. I’m constantly attending conferences and virtual events. I pimp myself very well. [Laughs] But it’s not costing me what it did previously trying to do it as a self-publisher. I can travel and go places where I previously had to keep it local because of all my other expenses and trying to self-publish. It’s been a dream; my publisher is awesome. I love Bold Strokes Books. I am not sure where I’d be without them.

PI: Let’s talk about your writing process and how you develop ideas. What is your process from the concept to the page?

AS: There are different ways my ideas come to me. They used to come to me via dreams. I would sometimes dream of my characters. Now, they just come all willy-nilly when they want to. I’ll sometimes see a story or hear someone talking out loud. I’ll start thinking, and characters will start popping into my head. I’ll even see things online; those images will give me ideas. Even just visiting a place, I can start to picture a story and the characters there. There’s no method to it, it just comes to me. I just have to put it to paper. If I don’t put it to paper, I’ll lose it. That is why I’ve been so prolific in my writing these past four years. There’s only one process for me to figure out how to get from here to there other than sitting down and writing it. I’ll start with a good flow, but sometimes life gets in the way. I may hit a wall and have to take a minute, step away, and then return to it. It’s an ongoing process. I’m always trying to write and think of stories.

My phone is handy. I’ll use the little notes app on my phone for a quick outline. I work from home a few days a week at my day job. I have my personal computer and work computer here. So, if something comes to me, I just turn around, type it up quickly, and then return to work.

PI: Do you consider yourself to be a romantic?

AS: Yes, I have always been I wrote my first little romance novel when I was 10. It was about Randy Jackson and me from the Jackson Five. I really wanted it to be about Janet and me, but I didn’t want anyone to find it.

PI: Oh, wow. So, it was coded. You pretended to write about Randy. So, if somebody found it, it wouldn’t be an issue.

AS: It was also immensely grown up, considering I was ten. I mean, there was no intimacy in it. But there was romance, there was kissing. There was everything that a romance should have in it. We bought a house together. We had a whole life together. I had never written a romance before. But I knew what I thought and wanted, so I just wrote it down on paper.

It was twenty-four chapters and twenty-four pages. Each chapter was a page. I was ten, I didn’t know anything.

PI: Who are some of your influences?

AS: My biggest is Beverly Jenkins; she is awesome. She writes contemporary and historical romances in the hetero genre. She was actually a mentor of mine for a little while.

Fiona Zedde. I aspire to reach her level of authorship. When I came out, there wasn’t much sapphic fiction or women-loving women fiction. Just like with my little twenty-four-page story, I didn’t want to be caught reading anything like that. Although I didn’t read much, what I did read, I didn’t like. That is why I started writing it. Much of what I read was tragic. There were no happily ever after for anyone. Despite all the angst in the stories, there’s always a happily ever after in my stories. There aren’t many people I’ve read that I liked enough to say they helped mold me.

PI: Let’s discuss your current book. When will it be released, and where will you promote it?

AS: It is out now. It had its early release as of April 1 and general release as of April 9. You can pick it up directly from my publisher, Bold Strokes Books. You can find it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and anywhere you can get a book. I have a very busy schedule coming up. On April 13, I was in Jersey City, New Jersey, at the Desire Summit. It was a very sexy Summit. I will be in New York at the Rainbow Book Fair on April 24. The following weekend, April 26-28, I will be in Delaware at the Rehoboth Women’s Fest. May 30-June 2, I’ll be in Provincetown at Womxn of Color Weekend. After that, I will be at Lavender Con June 29-30 in Wahington, D.C., and then at the Golden Crown Literary Society Conference the week of July 10-14 in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. Then I have something, maybe October.

PI: How do you set your schedule, or is that now determined by your publisher?

AS: Now it’s twofold. If I find events I’d like to attend or someone asks me to participate in an event, I set my schedule and let the publisher know, and the marketing department helps boost and promote it. The publisher also has information on events they’d like their authors to attend. It’s a team effort.

PI: How does writing a romance novel differ from writing regular fiction?

AS: Well, I’ve never written regular fiction. I’ve always written romance. I don’t know the difference, other than romance has a sure way to go about it. It depends on the author. You can have a romance where the couple is already together, and it’s all about their relationship. It may start with the wedding and then go into the relationship. You can have romance beginning with the first meeting and then going through building the relationship. Romance could have no sex in it, or it could have sex in it. So, it varies. It depends on the author, and there is a formula for it. But I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head what that formula is. I just write the way I write in the formula that I write in. Different authors have different ways of going about how they write as well.

PI: I believe I read that you have children, yet you are a queer woman who actually writes romance novels, which I assume would be all about queer characters.

AS: Yes. I have a daughter and a son. I was married. I consider myself bisexual. I wasn’t open about it until I was in my forties. Just ten years ago or so. All my characters are Queer women of color. I don’t write anything other than Queer women of color. They can be bisexual, they can be lesbian, or they can be whatever in that queer spectrum. The current book is about three best friends. One character is bisexual one characters while two of the characters are very much gay. One character is entering a throuple relationship that she’s never experienced before.

PI: Do you ever bring some real-life experiences into your romance writing? Have you ever been called on by your partner or mate?

AS: I have, but my partner or mate never read my books, and that was by choice. I didn’t hide it or hold it back. I didn’t say don’t ever read anything I write. I was published while I was still with him. He was very much aware of what I was doing. He even boasted and talked about me with friends. He said, “my wife is a published author, and she writes this.” No one in my life, including my siblings, has read my books. My mother doesn’t even read my books. Not many people who know me can really call me out on anything because they haven’t read them.

PI: What is one thing you want your readers to retain from your writings?

AS: I want them to see themselves in the characters. I write realistic characters that have realistic life experiences. Just because there is always a happily ever after doesn’t mean the stories are fantasy and could never happen. Although I have written some fantasy novels. I want them to see the characters and be like, that character reminds me of me, and if they can have their happily ever after, maybe I can too. I want them to feel that even though a character weathered some troubles and traumas and came out on the other side. If that character can survive it and have a happy ending, then I can, too.

PI: Somewhere on the horizon, can you see your books being developed for BET Her, Hallmark TV, The Movie Channel, Netflix, or Amazon?

AS: I am trying; believe me. I’ve tried to find someone to turn my books into a screenplay. Haven’t been successful at finding anyone consistent. People say, “Oh, yes, I’ll do it.” Then, it just falls to the wayside. If I could find someone to translate the books into a screenplay format so that I can pitch it, or even if I could just give my book to someone like Ava DuVernay or Lena Waithe and have them look at it, read it and say, “Okay, I can see this because I actually see people.” I can even see the celebrities I want to play the characters from in my books. I would like to have a Netflix or Amazon Prime movie.

PI: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

AS: Don’t give up. Don’t let the letters of rejection deter you. If you submit, continue to submit, and even if you’re getting rejection letters, especially in the queer community, because those aren’t necessarily mainstream, continue to submit. Gay romances have become popular recently because it’s now a fad to publish gay romances. But keep going if you start seeing the letters or the people are turning you away. Keep going. There are publishers out there that will publish you. My publisher publishes everyone and everything within the queer community. Some publishers set their limit to only lesbian or sapphic fiction. Then, some publishers are doing all genres. Just keep writing. Even if it’s just for a half hour, an hour, or three hours, take the time to sit down and write. Find a quiet place, or if you must go to the local Starbucks and put some headphones on, just do that because your house is crazy. Write what you love, and don’t let anyone tell you not to. Don’t let anyone stop you.

MEET ANNE SHADE

Anne Shade is a featured panelist in Artists in the Afternoon 4: Writing For Our Lives. The event will be held on Saturday, August 31, at 250 Williams Street Northwest Atlanta, GA 30303, from 1 PM to 5 PM. Join us for an afternoon highlighting written and spoken word, music, art, and more. This event is free, RSVP here.