Good morning and happy hump day! 😉 We’ve made it halfway to the weekend – and to sweeten it up a bit we have a special guest on the blog today!
Please give a warm welcome to the lovely Brooklyn Wallace! She told us a bit about the new release Sugar & Ice, what inspired her to write the story and what influenced the story and the characters.
Sugar & Ice is the third book in the multi-author series Rose & Thorns featuring awesome women loving other women!
One ice queen, one sweetheart, one last chance at happily ever after.
Gwendolyn Crawford is Superwoman personified. She runs her ex’s senatorial campaign while battling gossip rags, sleazy opponents, and her self-righteous former father-in-law. She does the job well, and as far as she’s concerned, that’s all she needs. Besides, there’s no time for romance. Not even when a pair of bright eyes catch hers at the highly exclusive Rose club.
Jacklyn Dunn is stuck in a rut. After a devastating stress fracture ended her WNBA career, she’s mostly been dodging her agent and binging TV. Then she meets Gwen and starts to wonder if there’s more to life than wishes and regrets.
There’s no denying the sparks between them. Jackie thrills in melting Gwen’s ice queen heart, and Gwen is instantly hooked on Jackie’s sweetness. But romance isn’t easy for two women in the spotlight. Stress, tabloids, and their own fears threaten to shake the foundation of their budding relationship. After years of building up walls, the two must open themselves up to love—and to getting hurt—to find what truly makes them happy.
Like most of my story ideas, I came up for the plot of Sugar & Ice while marathoning the Angela Bassett parts of “Waiting to Exhale.” In the movie, she plays a character named Bernadine who becomes enraged after the husband she put her life on hold for cheats on her. The most iconic scene involves her setting his car on fire and walking away in a catwalk of rage.
I love that scene, and I will always be grateful for Bernadine’s involvement in my lesbian awakening. However, Bernadine is just one in a long line of a historically harmful trope of black women called the Sapphire, or the ‘Strong/Angry Black Woman.’ Cookie from “Empire,” Pam from “Martin,” and almost every black contestant from any reality TV show ever. The Sapphire is angry, ‘sassy,’ and therefore difficult to love. She’s never soft, never vulnerable, and your cis white gay friend proudly identifies with her—albeit misguidedly.
Despite the ill-intentions and misogynoir inherent in her stereotype, I love the Sapphire. Black women can be strong and we deserve to be angry, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be romanced. That’s where my protagonist Gwendolyn “Gwen” Crawford comes from. She has Resting Bitch Face, she’s competent at her job, mansplainers tremble in her presence. She’s also a huge dork and is very protective and loving to those she chooses to let in. She is complex and not easily categorized. If she is a Sapphire, there are flecks of red and gold inside of her.
My inspiration for Gwen was part-Bernadine, part Jen Barkley of “Parks and Recreation.” As someone who has always had a morbid fascination with politics and a not-so-secret love of strong-willed, dismissive women, I inevitably fell in love with Kathryn Hahn’s effortlessly confident Punch-Clock Villain. My research for the life and duties of a campaign manager was split between Google and the Knope vs Newport arc of “Parks.”
Across all the well-known black female archetypes—the Sapphire, the Jezebel, the Mammy—you’ll never find a sensitive, shy black woman. Non-BW look at us as strong-willed pillars, which is fine, but that means we hardly ever have the opportunity to be open and vulnerable, let alone mentally ill. That’s where my other protagonist Jacklyn “Jackie” Dunn comes from. Her past has made her reclusive and anxious, but she’s re-learning how to like and respect herself again. She’s a former WNBA futch who’s almost impossible to categorize since she’s still crafting her own identity after losing everything.
Jackie doesn’t have point-of-reference characters like Gwen (though if you read her description and can’t help but think of Ambers Closet, well, that’s your right), so she’s mostly written from my own personal experience. That borderline agoraphobic depression she battles with throughout the story is ripped from my own life. I also love basketball (go Spurs!) and have sunk countless hours into finding working streams so I can watch WNBA games (go Wings!). When I was approached about writing a story for the Rose & Thorns collection I went through a lot of ideas before I decided on a plot, but I always knew I wanted to include a WNBA player, mostly for self-indulgent reasons.
But there is the added element of both characters being women from traditionally male-dominated areas. Women in politics face an elevated form of gatekeeping and horrific misogyny from colleagues and constituents alike. WNBA players are paid dirt in comparison to their male counterparts in the NBA, and the women face misogynistic and homophobic ridicule in the dark dredges of the internet. I wanted to make Sugar & Ice a warm, hopeful story, but it was impossible to write about these women and sugarcoat (badum-tss) the darker realities of their chosen professions.
Ultimately Sugar & Ice is a simple story of two very different women in varying degrees of the public eye falling in love. There’s state politics, the WNBA, “Grey’s Anatomy” binge-watching, and a concerning amount of coffee. This is a love letter to black women because we gotta do that for ourselves, too.
Other books in the series:
Brooklyn Wallace is a romance-writing millennial from the great state of Texas. She daylights as a Teen Librarian and moonlights as sad TV gremlin who dabbles in pop culture and fan studies.
Brooklyn writes tropey, opposites-attract romances about people who are difficult to love, with generous dashes of angst, humor, and ’80s references for flavor. Voted “North Texas’ Least Relatable Socially Anxious Lesbian,” her interests include anime/manga, TV/film, fan studies, Broadway, and podcasts.
Genre: Contemporary Orientation: Lesbian Pairing: F/F Self Published Tag: Celebrity / Famous Person Tag: Guest Post Tag: Own-Voices Tag: Part of a series Tag: PoC Tag: Politics Tag: Sports Brooklyn Wallace Rose & Thorns Sugar & Ice