Like many women in their forties, one of my first introductions to Asian men on the big screen was quite unfortunate and according to NPR, racially offensive. I’m talking about none other than the 80s classic John Huges coming of age film, Sixteen Candles. I was 15 years old when it was released in 1984 and had no clue whatsoever about the controversy it generated. I laughed with my friends as Long Duk Dong played into every negative stereotype that Universal Pictures could throw into one movie. Not being Asian American myself, I wouldn’t understand the pain it would cause for decades. I could have never imagined back then, that at age 43, I would write an erotic romance titled Tasting Fire and the main love interest would be a Tibetan shape-shifter by the name of Kai Tenzin.
When I first decided to write a paranormal romance with a shape-shifter that could turn into a snow leopard, I had no idea where the idea would lead. After researching the cultures of the Himalayas, where the exotic cat evolved, I realized if I was going to do justice to the story, my hero would have to be from that culture. I tried to recall any books that I had read that had a romantic hero that was Asian. I had read Amy Tan’s bestseller The Joy Luck Club many years ago, but I didn’t feel the men in the book and the movie for that matter were really featured in a positive light. Other than that, I couldn’t remember a single one. I began to research Asian American imagery in the media and the results were disheartening, I began to worry. Like any author, I needed the next six to eight months that I would need to spend researching, writing, editing and now promoting the book, to make me a living. Yet, I felt an obligation to tell this story the way it deserved to be told.
I read several articles on-line, each with their own theories as to why Asian American men were overlooked, and in the opinion of some, desexualized by Hollywood. After thinking long and hard about the movies I had seen and collected, I began to agree with them. I also watched many You Tube videos made regarding the subject. It was quite an eyeopener for me. Some were made by young Asian American men trying to help others to find the courage to fight the stereotypes they felt hindered them socially, and try to date outside of their own ethnicity. It was enormously enlightening for me as a Caucasian woman who had never really given the issue much thought before this project. Sure, I had several Russell Wong movies in my collection and more than a few Keanu Reeves films as well, but what about Asian American men who didn’t have a physique like a Hollywood star, not to mention both actors are actually hapa, meaning they have one parent who is Asian and one who is Caucasian. The only other Asian actors I recalled seeing during childhood and then adulthood had been Jack Soo as Mr. Yokomoto in the Disney film, Return to Witch Mountain. I was 9 when it came out and too young to even think about how he was portrayed. I also had seen a few Jackie Chan movies, while entertaining, again a stereotype of a martial artist was all I came away with. I began to realize I had an opportunity to help (granted, in a very small way) right a wrong that had been perpetuated in the American media since its inception.
I began to further research Asian American actors and actresses on-line and realized some progress had been made, but not nearly enough. I was delighted to find that Daniel Dae Kim had been setting hearts palpitating on Lost for six years. The incredibly sexy Yul Kwan also Korean American, was featured on the reality show Survivor. (After watching his interviews on You Tube, I felt not a little regret, that I don’t watch reality T.V. more often.) I have also watched videos of a young Hawaiian singer by the name of Bruno Mars, sing his way into the hearts of millions of young girls. I’m sure there are more in demographic circles much younger than myself that I am unaware of as well, so forgive me if I miss some.
I then turned my attention to the written page and discovered to my delight and relief the wonderful works of Jade Lee and Anne Stuart. So, in March of this year, I didn’t give in to my fear of failure and began to write a story about a sexy, Tibetan, alpha male, shape-shifter as my main love interest. I paired him with a beautiful blond biologist. As the book was only released less than three weeks ago (as of this writing) the fear is still there. I wrestle with it every time I log in to Kindle Direct Sales to view my reports. I knew one of two things could happen. The first was that having a non-Caucasian hero would turn readers off and the book would fail. The second was that if the story was good enough, it wouldn’t matter to my readers and the book would succeed.
I am writing this post tonight, shortly (within the hour, actually) after reading my very first review on Amazon.com. By the way, I don’t know the reviewer, nor am I related to her. I am happy to say that she didn’t mention Kai’s ethnicity at all. The story stood on its own merits.
The question remains, however, will the average romance reader want to read an erotic paranormal story about a sexy, Tibetan shape shifter? Only time will tell, but I am quite proud of Tasting Fire, and of not giving in to the fear of failure and that is an accomplishment all on its own.
Many thanks to Silken Sheets and Seductions for allowing me the opportunity to share my experience of writing Tasting Fire with you today.
Shape-shifters have always walked the earth. Shrouded in myth and folklore, hiding in the shadows, watching and waiting. Advances in modern science are now about to reveal them to the world. Kai Tenzin is the self appointed leader of the Pari people. He and his kind evolved from the most reclusive predators on earth, the Asian Snow Leopard. They live and hunt in the most fearsome and rugged terrain known to man, the Himalayas. As a young man, Kai left his small village where the mountain touches the heavens, determined to do anything to protect his people. When he is forced to enlist the aid of the beautiful American scientist Dr. Rae Hales, the last thing he expects to find is a woman who will ensnare his heart and endanger them all. Their action-packed adventure will take them around the world to discover the truth behind the legends and reveal the future of humanity.
Buy Tasting Fire: Amazon