Rakuten Kobo in conversation with romance author Nana Malone...

Nana Malone is the bestselling author of sexy, feel-good, action-packed romance novels.

The Spy in 3B

In May, she published The Spy in 3B with Kobo Originals. Kobo spoke with her about writing with audiobooks in mind and finding the right covers for her books.

Rakuten Kobo: What are you reading now?

Nana Malone: I partnered with Lyric Audiobooks to do Audio in Color where we created a grant program to help writers of color do their first audiobook. And so I’m reading through submissions for that to see what’s going to work well in audio.

RK: Have you found that turning your own books into audiobooks has influenced how you write?

NM: I realized a while ago that I’m basically writing television. My editors are always asking for more emotion, more description, more on the page. But my strong suit has always been banter, as if the characters are on screen. So I’m always ready for audio.

I think it’s important for a writer to evolve, but you’ve also got to understand yourself better so you can sink into who you are. I’ve tried to write straight rom-coms, but I just always need a bad guy – someone has to get their comeuppance. So that rom-com with an action twist is really where I like to play, and that’s The Spy in 3B.

RK: Many authors are driven to write because of the stories they want to read. But you went a step further into how those stories are presented to readers before they're read – by posing as a model. How did that come about?

NM: When I started publishing in 2010, I knew I wanted to write books about brown women just living their happy Black lives – and it wasn’t a huge deal that they were deserving of happily-ever-afters. I took that on as a mission. Because when I started there was a lot of chick-lit with not a speck of brown to be seen; even in my favourite chick-lit books, there aren’t even secondary characters of colour.

Only when I started self-publishing and taking responsibility for my own covers, that’s when I understood the pickings were slim.

In the stock photos there are some mixed-race girls available, but I knew my books and I knew my heroines were dark-skinned. But also, these are books about royalty, so she’s also going to need to be in a ball gown, jewels, a crown. And then to add a male model to that mix – I couldn’t find anything.

But I knew a photographer whose work I’d bought for other covers, Wander Aguiar, and for 10 years he’d been saying, “You’re beautiful. I want to shoot you.” And I didn’t know what that even meant as a writer – I was content to just write my books. But I was in my Year of Yes, and thanks to Shonda Rhimes this was just another crazy thing I was going to do.

RK: If suddenly there were many stock images featuring Black models you could use for your covers, would you hang up the ballgown?

NM: I don’t think we’re going to see that plethora of options in my modelling lifetime. Having done it before made it easier to say yes. My only concern now is whether my face on another cover would be too much.

This interview is adapted from a post on Kobo.com