I am so excited to welcome to the site today Katrina Jackson, author of some of the hottest queer books on shelves right now and master of polyam romance (among other things)! If you’re not already familiar with her work, do yourself a favor and keep reading; your TBR is about to explode. And if you are, keep reading anyway, because she’s brilliant and talented and only just getting started!
You are such a prolific author, I’m barely sure where to begin, but let’s start with the series that first put you on my radar, which is Welcome to Sea Port. What do you think makes small towns such a perfect setting for romance, and what about Sea Port is particularly special to you and your characters?
I think the thing people like about small town romances are the communities around the protagonists; people who are as invested in the central romance as the readers, the quirky characters and a small cozy world that feels like an idealistic throwback to when everyone knew too much about their neighbors.
I’m not from a small town, so I’ve never related to the idea of “coming home” but I have lots of family members who came from or still live in small Southern towns and that’s what I wanted to create in Sea Port, especially a small town full of Black southerners. I wanted Sea Port to feel like a place where the characters could recreate themselves – a storyline people often reserve for big cities.
I love the way you rattle a bit the image of what makes a small town romance, kicking the series off with a steamy book about a throuple. For you is that more playing with the unexpected, or writing what you think should be more expected in life?
It’s a little bit of both. There’s a perception that small towns are racially homogeneous – usually white – and conservative. The former isn’t true at all and that conservatism isn’t monolithic either, so I wanted to play with that. I wanted to create a small town that was diverse (and with a diverse history), even though it’s primarily Black, and over time I wanted to illustrate how conservative ideas don’t play out along the fault lines we might expect.
I wasn’t planning a series when I wrote From Scratch, but when I had the idea for Mary I knew she was the kind of character who’d move to a small town and see it as an opportunity to have all the things she’d denied herself in her previous life. So when she meets two men she’s attracted to – men she never would have met elsewhere – she didn’t want to limit herself and neither do they. And while there’s a bit of a bump around their relationship in that book, what I’m trying to tease out over the series is that the pushback isn’t actually because they’re in a polyamorous relationship, it’s because they’re new in town.
Who’s your favorite character in the whole Sea Port gang and why?
Knox, hands down. There are some characters coming in future books that I love a lot, but Knox is the character who reminds me of people I love; people with really tragic backgrounds who’ve refused to let that define their futures. He’s charming and funny and sincere and just wants to love and be loved. And in the triad between Knox, Mary and Santos, Knox is the person the other two would fight anyone to protect because he’s so strong and also so soft. I feel the same about him.
Of course, we must discuss the The Spies Who Loved Her series, which is just unbearably fun and hottttttt. It also structurally operates in a cool fashion, with books taking on different couples and then returning to them later, and sometimes being set simultaneously. Can you give us a little rundown on the queer relationships in that series and how you manage to balance so much action with, uh, so much action?
This series started as a fever dream (literally) during a hot summer day and sometimes I still feel like that when I sit down to write in that world. And I think the tangled web of their relationships illustrates that!
Most of the characters in the series are queer. In Pink Slip, Monica and Lane are a married couple of spies, both bisexual and polyamorous. They’re in love with their bi personal assistant, Kierra. Kierra’s best friend and roommate Maya is also bi and she ends up in a relationship with Kenny, another spy and straight (Private Eye and His Only Valentine). Kenny’s best friend Chante is a pansexual hacker and in love with Asif, who’s also pansexual and a spy (Under Covers, forthcoming). Chante’s childhood best friend is another hacker, Caleb, and he’ll eventually end up with a somber DEA agent, Lamont – both gay – who’s Kenny’s former partner (Bang & Burn and Brush Contact, forthcoming). In New Year, New We, Monica, Lane and Kierra have a steamy foursome with a bi spy named Carlisle, whose spy partner is the male main character in the last book of the series and his HEA will be with a queer Black trans woman.
Just a whole bunch of queer people (of color) saving the world!
I don’t know that I always balance the action with the action as well as I’d like, but the web of relationships is my real focus. I love over the top spy movies like the James Bond movies and Mr. & Mrs. Smith, where everything seems ridiculous, fast paced and fun and that’s the kind of vibe I’m going for in all the books, but with way more sex. In each book I try to set up a story that gives the characters ample time to tease each other (and whoever’s lucky enough to be nearby) sexually, but with a hint of danger.
You’ve also got the Erotic Accommodations series, which includes your newest queer release, Neighborly, and really takes the work you do with established relationships mixing it up to the next level. Obviously there’s no one right way to be polyam, but do you see different responses from readers to the different ways you depict it? Do you have a particular grouping that clicks with you the most when writing?
I do see different responses for different relationships, but I don’t know what to make of those responses or expectations. I think a lot of people like From Scratch because Knox and Santos are also sexually involved, which I imagine is related to the popularity of m/m romances. And I think because of that story or those expectations, people expected Calvin and Stephen to have sex in Neighborly, but the story I was telling was always centered on Tasha and Heaven.
I think in mixed gender polyam romances different sets of readers want different things: some want everyone to have sex, some want a heroine centered story (reverse h*rem) and some want to make sure the “swords cross.” No story can appease everyone, so I try not to bother. What I want to do is create realistic relationships that are complex and simple at the same time. Polyamorous relationships might seem more complicated because there are more people involved, but in Neighborly there’s so little conflict because the female main characters have supportive straight male partners who just want them to be happy. Stephen and Tasha have also been in an open relationship for years, so their role is really to help usher Calvin and Heaven into this new phase of their partnership. None of this has to be that complicated if everyone is open and honest, and most of my characters thus far are. (Although I do have plans for future books, where characters have to work toward that openness, which is realistic as well.)
There’s no particular grouping that clicks with me right now, I’ll read anything, but in 2018/2019 it seemed hard to find wlw in polyam romances, especially woc, and I wanted to see more of that. That very personal desire gave me the ideas for Pink Slip and Private Eye.
Obviously it’s a very rocky time right now in Romance publishing, but it’s also obviously been a rocky path for Romance authors of color. What do you wish more people understood about what it’s like to be a Black woman writing Romance about queer people of color?
I wish so much. I wish people wouldn’t erase qpoc when writing about queer romance, characters and authors. I wish there were more romances with qpoc in relationships with one another. I wish queer white authors would get queer people of color to sensitivity read their books because our experiences are not the same as queer white people. I also wish people understood that qpoc aren’t a monolith either. I wish there were more romances with qpoc in platonic community with one another instead of being siloed in primarily white spaces. I wish people would check their racist biases when writing communities of color in queer romances. I wish it was easier for me to read queer romances without worrying the story might harm me or someone in my community.
I get a lot of requests for polyamorous romance, but I rarely see more than a handful of new titles per year. What are some titles you recommend?
I always have more books on my tbr than I know what to do with but these are some I’ve read, have been waiting for the right mood to read, or am eagerly awaiting.
- Kit Rocha, Beyond Jealousy
- Xan West, Their Troublesome Crush
- Ash Dylan, Ariana and Isha
- Savannah Frierson, Be Mine
- Elia Winters, the entire Comes in Threes series
- Brooke Winters, Bound to the Monarchs
- Chace Verity, Dithered Hearts
- Lucy Eden, Between the Lions (forthcoming)
What’s your earliest memory of LGBTQIAP+ representation in media, for better or for worse?
I have vivid emotional memories of watching Armistead Maupin’s Tales of a City on PBS as a kid. I’m also from Northern California, so it felt personal to me then and still does. I also loved The Color Purple. Even though it was years before I understood that Alice Walker is a lesbian and that much of the queerness had been edited out of the story for the movie adaptation, even as a kid I understood Shug and Celie’s relationship for what it was and it made me feel seen.
What’s up next for you?
This year I’m working on finishing the Love At Last trilogy. The second book is One More Valentine (a divorced couple reunited, straight m/f) and Just Another Pride, a love story between childhood acquaintances, two qmoc, who meet again by chance and fall in love.
I’m also working on the next books in the Welcome to Sea Port (Back for More, straight m/f) and The Spies Who Loved Her series (Under Covers, pan m/pan f).
Cannot wait! You can find all of Katrina’s books here, so go grab yourself a treat or three!
Katrina is a college professor by day who writes romances by weekend when her cats allow. She writes high heat, diverse and mostly queer erotic romances and erotica. She also likes sleep, salt-and-pepper beards, and sunshine.
I’m super active on twitter. Follow me: @katrinajax