Romance, tragedy, a simply sweet love story, shame and scandal in the family, bacchanal, commess and sex at its best have been depicted in thousands of romance novels for generations. And thanks to a new group of local authors like Roslyn Carrington, Ariti Jankie, Narisha Khan and Nathalie Taghaboni there are modern additions to the Caribbean romance genre.
Romance novel readers can find a good read in books like Taghaboni’s Tales From Ice-box Land and her latest, Across From Lapeyrouse—a book she describes as “commess, mas and sizzling sex.” Then there are Carrington’s many love stories which also include themes such as family, redemption and self-discovery. But does the public patronise the work of these local writers? According to Metropolitan Book Supplies who has long supported the work of local writers, they do. In an interview with the T&T Guardian, a representative said they continue to carry the books because people actually buy them. However, Ishmael M Khan and Sons does exactly the opposite as not much material in the category is available. Others like Mohammed’s Book Store and RIK say they once carried such books by local authors but they no longer do, because not enough material is available.
Local writers’ challenge
Is it easy for local writers to get their material out on the international market or even accepted locally? US-based Taghaboni says it isn’t. She described it as “difficult and frustrating.” “Not only is it difficult in getting the mainstream publishing world to acknowledge Caribbean writers, but they are also faced with dismissal by Caribbean publishers unless the work sounds and feels mainstream,” she said. Taghaboni, who now runs her own publishing company, said some on the international scene still believe that Caribbean writers are not literate. “To add insult to injury, I recently had one T&T bookseller tell me that ‘Trinidadians don’t read and when they do, they prefer foreign fiction’. “Publishing a book is very costly especially if the book is going to be of the highest quality. Unless T&T booksellers become serious about the work of local writers, the difficulty will remain,” said Taghaboni.
Carrington was also fortunate to have not experienced the challenges many local writers face. This is down to her agent who is based in the United States. "Everything fell into place for me. My agent ... has one of the most sought-after agencies in the US and continues to manage and represent my US affairs." Carrington said a local writer would probably have to do that all on their own which can be challenging. "I think the Internet has opened up the world to local writers, as we no longer have to do like the Selvons and Lovelaces and travel to be published. "The challenges now are probably more due to the shrinking market and the large publishing conglomerates dictating what is published and by whom, but e-publishing has changed that and has put the power back into the hands of the self-published author," she added. Director of Paria Publishing, Dominic Besson agrees that it might be a bit more difficult for a self-publisher because of the costs incurred but depends largely on the type of publication.
"In publishing material you have to consider the details like print quality, design layout, illustrations, colour etc," said Besson.
He added, cost of production usually offsets the cost of quantity, that is if you print 100 hundred books the cost of production will be more than the cost of those actual 100 books. He said offset printing is very costly locally and as a result, can often deter writers, especially young and upcoming ones. He advised that before going to a publishing company, the author should do the research on the process of publishing so that they can come prepared.