Hi everyone! It’s time for another session of Getting to know… Today’s author is GL Thomas–Guinevere is the G. Libertad is the L. Seems fitting to go by G.L. Tomas as twin coauthors with a mission. They’re mostly known by their platform, Twinja Book Reviews, a review blog that supports and promotes diversity in young adult and speculative fiction titles, but with time, they hope to cross genres successfully with their romance debut Same Page.
So great to have you both here! Let’s get down to business: tell us a little about yourselves.
Well this one is wacky because even though we go by one pen name, we’re actually two people! Our pen name is G.L. Tomas and the G.L. is short for Guinevere and Libertad. We’re a twin writing duo who have always had a penchant for diversity in books, no matter the genre and we even have two book blogs dedicated to them, one for romance, the other for speculative fiction and YA.
Originally my sister and I are from Miami, Florida born of Cuban parents but we currently live in New Haven, Connecticut just steps from the Yale University campus.
All our lives we’ve always been interested in culture. Being that we are Afro-Latina, our racial identities have always come into question, so it always made us wonder about other people’s cultures growing up. Languages, food, dance, customs have always been things that have interested us about other people’s culture so I guess that’s more or less what inspired us to write books that center on people of different backgrounds other than the average American experience.
We are kindred spirits. I’ve also always been interested in different cultures and grew up within walking distance of an ivy league university (University of Pennsylvania). When did you first know you both wanted to be authors?
Wow. This is simple. When I went on my quest to find a romance book that featured an Afro-Latina as the lead character and couldn’t find one. We figured, we might as well write our own. Now we plan on releasing three more books with Afro-Latina heroines this year.
I love it! I’ve got Same Page queued up on my Kindle, so I’ll be posting a review very soon. Are you working on a new book now? Can you give us a sneak peek of the plot?
Omg, we set our sights high this year. Our goal was to release 11 titles this year alone. All ranging in age categories(YA, NA, Adult)and genres(speculative fiction, contemporary and romance) but yes we are working on four books right now,lol. I know, I know we’re nuts but we hope to have all 4 out by the end of August. We’ll give you a jist of our faves.
Book 1: But I’m not A Robot – It’s an interracial light hearted romance centered on an Oklahoma Native living in NYC with just two issues, he’s Mormon and he’s a virgin. This book has been sitting in our heads for a while and we’re finally bringing it to life. We’ve always wanted to make a male virgin because virginity has always seemed to be a personal choice for only women, so we’re always trying to do something different to stand out from the crowd of already amazing books!
Book 2: The Unforgettables– This one’s a YA contemporary romance centered around two teens who love geeky things and try to balance feelings for each other and friendship. This one is a love child we’ve had for nearly ten years in our heads and yay! It features a Haitian American heroine and a Hapa(Half Japanese/half Welsh) hero who’s also a Buddhist, something I’ve never seen in a mainstream book before, which is also how my sister and I identify religion wise.
Both books sound great, so I will be keeping an eye out for them. What is your favorite part of being a writer?
This one never gets old. When people tell us how naturally we weave culture into stories. Another is when we get emails telling us how amazing it was that we created a black girl who was better than Katniss in a YA fantasy(not my words,lol). It’s always been our dream to make stories for black women of all ages and words like that always drive us to write the next book!
I love it! And, readers, in case you’re wondering which book we’re talking about it’s the Mark of Noba. So tell me, what do you think is the hardest part of being a writer? It’s not always easy, so how do you deal with it?
G: I can’t speak for Libertad, but culture tends to be the most difficult. I love showcasing Black women from a plethora of cultures. But that makes them harder to market. When the only market for books for Black women is African-American, what do you do when the couple in question happens to be a British-Ghanaian woman paired with an Afro-Puerto Rican?
The Black experience in the West is often limited to just African-American. I agree, that experience is the dominant one. Black folk who are Nigerian, or Cuban, Jamaican, Afro-Canadian, we often assimilate to the dominant Black culture in the West. There’s often no way around this. I love writing all Black women. Of all walks of life. But it’s often hard to market stories like these.
I have no way of combating it outside of hoping people who read our stories open their mind to an experience different from theirs. I’m always going to write Black women from all over the world. From different cultures, of different walks of life, and different experiences. Black unity is important to me. We’re often only separated by language/culture. I want so bad to be ok with the fact that my experience as a Black woman is different than a German-born Black woman, or a Canadian-born Black woman. So I hope people are open to it too.
What are you reading now?
I’m reading an audiobook called Black Rainbow by J.J. McAvoy and another audiobook in the Percy Jackson series. My sister and I are really obsessed with audiobooks right now! They’re so fun to listen to!
I keep trying to get into audiobooks, but it’ just never worked for me. Maybe I should give it a shot again. So tell me: which of your characters is your favorite?
G: My personal favorite so far has been a YA character we created named Sai Liber-Tetraphirmaportacheeq from The Mark of Noba. It was our debut novel, and as much as I regret using her as a guinea pig, people’s response to her encouraged my passion for difficult female main characters.
Women always have to be pleasant. Virginal. Easy to like. Tetra was my biggest fear, and she turned out to be the star of our series. The female characters who’ve followed her can be likeable in some ways, but they make questionable decisions that make readers disconnect with them. If we hadn’t used Tetra as our guinea pig, we would’ve never had the courage to make heroines like that.
What’s your take on authors and social media? Is it vital to us?
Yes and no. I think we’re beyond the days of loving authors without knowing anything about them, but at the same time, you want to know you’re investing your money in someone who cares about most of the things you do. Twitter is the most time-consuming, but I think most authors should be on Twitter. Some of my favorite authors I’ve met on Twitter, and the opportunity to connect with them within minutes. I do however think there needs to be a balance of how much time an author uses on social media.
That balance is really important. I think there are days when I spend more time connecting with readers on social media than actually writing. I always have to limit myself.
Which authors would you recommend to people looking for someone new to read?
G: I have quite a few authors that push the typical envelope of the traditional romance reader. While I don’t connect to every single thing she writes, I feel as though Harper Miller is one of the few writers in Romance that goes beyond the typical boy meets girl story. As a QWoC I often feel as though there are a ton of writers who don’t take into account women aren’t always just attracted to men. That’s ok, but it’s disheartening. Rebekah Weatherspoon is also an author who’s not only queer friendly, but non-binary/gender non-conforming friendly. I understand the need to embrace femininity among Black women, but a lot of us feel pressure to, based on the way we’ve been viewed as women as a whole.
I want women of color, particularly Black women to know there are writers who take us in mind too. As far as story telling, I don’t think it’s proper not to suggest who’s blog we’re on–Kim Golden.
There’s the traditional way to put together in a story, and then there’s how people actually meet. I wish the single boy meets single girl always worked in real life, but life has an interesting way of putting two people together. Sometimes you find who’s right for you while you’re in a serious relationship. Sometimes you even realize monogamy doesn’t work for you. Maybe Baby features a heroine who wants children, but is in a relationship with someone who doesn’t want more than what he already has, so she’s forced to seek different things, despite thinking she’s happy. In the end, she ends up with someone she’s more equipped to be with, but if she hadn’t sought that out herself, she would’ve been stuck with the wrong person for the rest of her life.
I don’t do recreational drugs, but I appreciate when writers aren’t afraid to push that envelope, because in real life, people smoke weed, they smoke, even do drugs harder than marijuana. Some people are troubled. Some people don’t deal with things by just pushing them away for another day. Life is complicated. Relationships are complicated. Things are complicated.
Thanks so much for the Maybe Baby shout out. It’s my personal favourite of everything I’ve written. A lot of people didn’t respond so well to the infidelity storyline. Which brings me to the next topic, taboos.Are there any subjects that are taboo for you when it comes to reading or writing?
Well this is somewhat of a tough question. First of all, my sister and I don’t find any topics “taboo.” But there are trends and topics we aren’t necessarily interested in writing just yet. The “surprise pregnancy/baby” trope. This is more or less a personal decision as my sister and I are much younger writers than our peers so motherhood isn’t something we ever think to include because it’s not something many of our characters desire. We’re branching out in “Adult” romances later in the year but our niche so far has been New Adult so we’re really attracted to what one would consider a “young love” story. Sometimes it feels awkward to put that in the equation.
Another is full on Erotica. For now, we’re sticking to steamy and sweet romances, but it’s still early in our careers as writers, so never say never!
So true! 🙂 While we’re on the subject of “taboo topics”, what do you think about fiction addressing topical social issues like racism, social inequality, etc when they open a book. What’s your take on this? Some readers say get turned off by books that take on these issues and that they read to escape, not to be reminded of the problems in the world around them.
Honestly this is the writer’s decision if they wish to include these topics. We personally like to address them. Because our releases so far are more in the NA classification, these things matter to readers who identify as “Millennials.”
My sister and I are Millennials so social issues like sexism, misogyny, misogynoir, privilege, class and racism are things we talk about every single day. The only books I read to escape are pure fantasies like Harry Potter or anything by Octavia Butler. When it comes to romance though I think it’s great when authors take the time out to address such issues because it rings true for me. But this again is a personal issue and we totally get why some writers just like to make it about the romance or story.
We really try to make our non-black, cisgender characters the allies we’d like to see in real life, so for us, it doesn’t seem natural not to add issues that are important to us. Because we believe you can fall in love and learn something at the same time, if that makes sense, lol.
What was the best piece of writing advice you ever received?
I’d definitely say it’s been your cover is your calling card. Cover must convey genre, tone and emotion. That it’s not supposed to tell “the story”. Only the blurb does that. Covers is always something I’ve never known a thing about, but my sister and I are going through all these changes and learning more about what sells and what doesn’t.
I am so with you there. I think a lot of writers don’t understand just how important the cover is. They try to do too much with it.
That’s it for this week! Thanks so much to Guinevere and Libertad for joining us today. I really enjoyed getting to know them better, and I hope you did too! 😀
Have a great weekend!