||Interview with Louise Snead
As always, welcome to my site. My plans are to bring you more interviews with people in all
areas of the writing business. Being on the committee for Romance Slam Jam has brought me
in contact with a lot of people that I didn’t know well, some I didn’t know at All. Deatri King-Bey
went to Louise Snead to ask her to be one of the sponsors for Romance Slam Jam. www.
romanceslamjamconference.org Louise owns a review magazine, Affaire de Coeur and has a
passion for featuring writers of colors as well as all writers regardless of genre or color.
Generally I sway awry from anything that will cause a debate. That’s not the reason for my site.
But in this instance color plays an important roles. Deatri asked me to write an article on
Louise and Affaire de Coeur the new issue of The Romance Slam Jam newsletter (which is up
Anyway, back to what I was saying. I only learned that Affaire de Coeur was owned by an
African American a little less than a year ago. I started asking around and found that many of
the AA authors were also unaware of this fact.
I don’t know how many of you reading know that in the past few years we’ve lost many
independent African American book stores. I wasn’t aware of that until April of 2004. It was
while attending Romance Slam Jam in New York. Evenly Palfrey gave a speech and in her
speech she told of the plight of the bookstores. I don’t know how much it helped or if it helped
at all but I used that information and incorporated it into my Oct release, Many Shades of Gray.
Yeah, I know, shameless plug. (smile) Now back to the matter at hand. Affaire de Coeur
needs our help as does any publication. This is something that we can all do to help. And I
ado mean ALL. Affaire de Coeur reviews the work of all writers so ALL writers should come out
en masse to help her.
Writers of colors, we can not afford to let Affaire de Coeur struggle without helping out.
Subscriptions are a powerful things, same as taking out an ad. I’m not asking anyone to give
away money, just to support someone who has been supporting you for years and has every
intentions to continue supporting you. What you get for the subscription price is more than
worth the money.
Dyanne: Louise, it’s nice to be interviewing you. I’m extremely glad to have an opportunity to
say something about a magazine that does such a great job reviewing books. You’ve been
around for a very long time but I’m going to ask you to answer the questions as though no one
has ever heard of you. In other words we’re going to introduce you and Affaire de Coeur to
the many readers and writers out there of every hue and every genre.
Dyanne: Louise, give us a little background on you.
Louise: I’m basically a country girl though I’m from a small city in the South, Charleston, West
Virginia. I am old enough to have had my life shaped by Brown vs. Kansas, though that
decision came before I started school. I went to Paul Lawrence Dunbar elementary school,
which had to be closed as unfit when we integrated. I graduated from Stonewall Jackson High
School (That used to tick me off every day to go to a school by that name, especially with a
school song of “The South’s Gonna Rise Again.”) I went to Wayne State University in Detroit,
where I got B.S. and MS and where I met my husband). We moved out here to California in
I have four children. I did have five but my oldest son Douglas was killed in 1992. I have two
daughters, the oldest is an attorney; the youngest is a free-spirited linguist. I have two sons,
the oldest is graduating from UCLA this month and the youngest just started San Diego State
University this fall. They’re both athletes.
Dyanne: How did you come to be involved with Affaire de Coeur?
Louise: I started as a reviewer. I am an avid reader and I used to drop in on my local book
store at least once a week to feed by addiction. Barbara Keenan, then owner of Affaire de
Coeur and proprietor of a book store, and I would get into discussions about the books. I
always felt they were overrated. She challenged to me become a reviewer. And I did.
Dyanne: You’re the sole owner of the magazine. Tell us a bit about that please.
Louise: Barbara and I worked together for several years as partners. Then she was involved
in a car accident that left her unable to hold her head down for long periods of time and with a
great deal of pain. (You must remember that we preceded desk top publishing, and
everything was literally cut and paste and type—with scissors and razors and the like—and
she couldn’t do it any more. So, she turned it over to me; that was in 1994, and I’ve done it
Dyanne: I’ve learned that in the industry there is a lot of professional jealousy when there
shouldn’t be. There’s room for everyone in this business. I’m not that familiar with how things
are in the magazine end of things. Have you personally encountered any of this?
Louise: I tend to agree with you. I actually encourage people to buy and advertise with my
competitor because, though we share common ground, I think we serve a difference audience
and we have a different style. I’ve been told that this is not reciprocated. In fact, my
advertising director, Bonny Kirby, was attacked at a recent conference (verbally) by our
biggest competitor simply because she was there. Bonny is not only a neophyte, but she’s a
professional and she handled it well.
Dyanne: As an African American author I can’t help but notice when at large conferences like
RWA and Romantic Times the African American authors are practically snubbed by the African
American readers. Have you ever attended any of these conferences and if so what were your
Louise: I’ve have never attended a Romantic Times conference. I have attended many RWA
conferences. I have never felt welcomed by RWA; the last conference I went to was in Reno,
and I brought several thousand magazines to give away in the two Goody Rooms. Lani
(Lanelle Roberts, also African-American) and I were followed around and watched very
carefully as we looked at the other goodies (which were free, by the way). It was much like
being in a department store where people expect you to steal and follow you. We ultimately
walked out and went home, missing the touch maligned fiasco of the awards ceremony that
I don’t see that many African Americans at the conferences. I don’t think we feel welcomed. I
don’t feel African American books are welcomed. I do believe as long as there is a market for
them, they will be published, but I don’t see the commitment by the publishers to see them
flourish. I don’t see them promoted or advertised like non African American books. I love
Walter Moseley’s books, but I have yet to see an ad for one of his books on TV as I do with
James Patterson. Have you ever seen a Tananrive Due book advertised on the Sci-Fi
channel? I don’t get Star’s romance channel, but I’d be interested to know if Gwynne Forster
or Francis Ray or Beverly Jenkins is advertised on it.
Dyanne: As an African American business owner what do you think the problem is and what
do you think that you and the African American writers/readers can do to bridge this divide?
Louise: The problem? I don’t think there is a singular problem. I think there are many
problems. I think the problems rest with perception, devaluation, and complacency.
If you poll the average romance reader, they don’t read African American romance. Why?
Romance readers indulge passionately in this genre because they want escape and fantasy.
They want to believe there is a partner out there for everyone They want to fantasize about
who this person is. If you can have a heroine with all her foibles be loved by the end of the
book, then there is hope for the reader. Many readers accept and love romance with
vampires, werewolves, ghosts, witches, faeries, elves, and the like and cannot accept a hero
and heroine of color.
For whatever reason, the hero/heroine of color as too different from their own experience
which is ridiculous. Is it the language, the description or because of their preconceived notion
about who African Americans are and how they relate to each other. Stereotyping has not
helped us. And I’m not sure the urban books do either (I know I’m going to hear about this, but
that’s another whole subject.)
By devaluation, I mean the notion that African American books are simply not as good, as well
written, as non African American books. As a result, I don’t think the editing is the same. I
believe there is probably a mental shrug with an unspoken phrase, “that’s good enough…”
Authors need to stop being complacent, do their homework and take some responsibility for
their own success. When the publisher doesn’t promote them, they need to promote
themselves. Competition is stiff. No one is going to know who you are because you pass out
500 book marks. With 10 zillion web sites, why would anyone stop and actively look for
yours? Promotion is the biggest part of the success. Do as many book signings as you can.
Volunteer to do one at your local library. Attend relevant conferences—those that are not just
interested in getting your money, but those who can help you network and promote. Take out
advertising with the knowledge that the first three ads aren’t going to sell your book but that
next one will. When a reader sees an author’s name over and over, they are motivated to look
that author up.
Dyanne: Growing up in the fifties I was introduced to The Dick and Jane series. So I’ve never
thought of reading as having any color connected to it. I’ve been learning recently that that’s
not the same for all readers. I’ve noticed that your reviews do not follow racial lines. Do you
think that the writing community knows that the magazine is owned by an African American
woman? Do you think it would make a difference to them?
Louise: The way we group our book reviews is designed with a two-fold intent: (1) To make it
easy to find a book review and (2) To help the author sell it. I’m not sure we do it right.
Moreover, there are some books we don’t know how to classify (i.e. a paranormal set it 1860.
Is that a historical or paranormal?) But I think doing them by racial lines feeds into the
delineation that already exists. A romantic suspense is a romantic suspense that may have a
hero and heroine of color. I would be interested in hearing from your folks. Should there be a
separate section designated for the African American reads?
I’ve never tried to hide the fact that I’m African American, but I have to say Barbara was a lot
more visible that I (I’m going to remedy that), and people may have assumed that I wasn’t. I
have had some very interesting reactions when they did find out…from cancellation of ads to
reviewers quitting. I have not enjoyed the support of the majority of the African-American
authors, but I would like to think it’s because they don’t know about me
Dyanne: Louise, can you please tell the readers how you acquire the books that you
review? Do all publishers freely send you copies? I would think that they would?
Louise: Some of the publishers send them in. Some don’t even though we have asked for
them. Authors may and should send their galleys in if their publishers don’t.
Dyanne: Do you think that writers know that they can send their books to you to be
Louise: We have actually solicited books for review because I realize some of these authors
need all the avenues they can get. Dera, our head reviewer for African American books, has
posted on her many boards that we welcome their books. Our only criteria is that they send
them 3-4 months prior to pub date so we have time to get them reviewed.
Dyanne: What are the benefits for writers to have their work reviewed? Do you think after
being in the business for a book or two that getting bad reviews which all writers receive might
prevent them from sending in their books? Should they allow this to influence their behavior
and their careers?
Louise: Exposure that’s free. Sometimes a publisher won’t send out early galleys because
they know the book isn’t good. Why is the author getting bad reviews? Subjectivity is the
monster that usually governs reviews. However, we have specific, criteria that we use to
evaluate a book—characterization, plotting, originality, description, presentation (including
grammar.) If a book has fallen down on one or more of these, it’s not going to get a
favorable review. I think it’s time for self examination by the author. All of these are fixable. Is
the author willing to take the time and make the effort to do so?
Dyanne: There are many things that have had an economic effect on the loss of Black
businesses. In 2004 at Romance Slam Jam Evenly Palfrey was talking about the loss of the
independent Black book stores. Her speech was what made me write the book, Many Shades
of Gray. A good part of the book was about that though I don’t think many centered on it. We’
ve had several magazines related to the African American community. Many have gone under,
hard copy as well as internet. As an African American writer and reader I’m concerned that we
do not lose any more of our power base. Do you have any ideas on the subject?
Louise: It’s a real concern because I have been paying out of my own pocket for several
years for Affaire de Coeur, and I can’t continue to do so. We need advertising; we need
subscriptions, we need you to ask your local book stores and library to order us (either
through Ingram or directly)
Dyanne: Louise, how does it feel to be on the other end of this interview? LOL.
Louise: This interview reaffirmed what I already knew. I talk too much. This has been
Dyanne: Is your magazine in hard copy? Can you please give the information where
writers/readers can subscribe? While you’re at it can you tell the writers how to purchase ad
space and the cost if you don’t mind?
Louise: We are in hard copy. You can either subscribe on line at www.affairedecoeur.
com/subscription.html. Or you can send a subscription order to 3976 Oak Hill Road, Oakland,
CA 94605. For those mentioning this newsletter, we will give you a discounted subscription.
Ad rates vary, depending on the size ad. I have a new discount web rate sheet that has not
been posted yet (We have a new web master), and it offers huge discounts on all sizes. You
need to contact me directly for this, though. Our advertising director does not have this yet.
Dyanne: If there’s anything I didn’t ask you or anyone you’d like to mention please go ahead
and do so.
Louise: I’d love to send free copies to conferences, not just Slam Jam. So just contact me if
you’re giving a conference and need copies for your goody bags. I also like to come to
conferences. If you need me for a panel or workshop, I’ll try.
Dyanne: Louise, this has been so much fun. Thank you. I can’t wait to meet you face to face
at Romance Slam Jam in Chicago in April 08. One last thing, please give your contact
information. Again thank you and Happy Holidays.
Louise: Thanks for inviting me. Happy Holidays to all of you, too.
3976 Oak Hill Road
Oakland, CA 94605
Happy Holidays to all of you out there from the entire Davis family.