My name’s Talia, and my vice is romance.
Reading it, writing it, fantasising about it; I’ll take my pleasure in any form, over and over again.
So it’s probably not surprising that I publish stories about Black British women finding their perfect partners. My heroines are a diverse bunch with unique personalities, backgrounds, and life paths, but they all have one thing in common: by the time their stories end, they are utterly adored by absolutely delicious men.
My most recent release is a Christmas special titled Merry Inkmas. (Bad puns are my other vice, you see. I have the heart of a romance writer and the soul of a dad.) Merry Inkmas is the story of a wannabe Disney princess who doesn’t want or need a prince, and a bad boy tattoo artist with more demons than Beauty’s Beast. There is coffee, tinsel, and sex. All the necessities!
Let’s Get To Know Talia Hibbert
Q: What are the top five books that have influenced your career?
A: This question is both very easy and very hard!
I think all writers are bookworms, first and foremost. I certainly am, and always have been.
Even as a young reader, I was fascinated by character and relationships. Though I read all kinds of books, my favourites were about families, friendships…and, as I grew older, romantic relationships. Eventually, I came across my first romance novel in the local library. I was hooked.
That novel was Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn. Through the thousands of romance novels I’ve read since (at least ten of which were also by Julia Quinn) that first book has stayed with me.
I was already writing stories at that point in my adolescence, but I never managed to finish any. None of them ever felt right; none of them ever captured me. Only after reading Romancing Mister Bridgerton did I think: ‘This is it. This is what I want to do.’ It introduced me to the genre that is now–quite literally–my life.
But, even though I saw myself in Julia’s very human and very humorous heroines, something was always missing. As a black woman, loving odes to porcelain cheeks or silken hair were nice and all… but they had nothing to do with me.
My grandmother gave me a book that, to her, explored the exclusion of women of colour in literature. That book was Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. The author is not a woman of colour, and the heroine’s racial ambiguity is key to the plot–is she white, as she seems, or is she simply ‘passing’? The book is far from a romance, but it illuminates the way that race and gender intersect when it comes to literary representation. Especially in the light of romantic themes like those found in Jane Eyre, which Wide Sargasso Sea is written in response to. This book made me reconsider something I’d unknowingly internalised: that the only romantic heroines were white heroines.
Because of Wide Sargasso Sea, I made the conscious decision to search for stories where women like me were shown love. And I found them.
There are three authors whose own careers provided me with amazing books to read and with the inspiration and courage to begin my own career: Alyssa Cole, Alisha Rai, and Rebekah Weatherspoon.
Alyssa Cole’s dystopian romance Radio Silence, starring an African-American heroine and a Korean-American hero, changed everything for me. Here was a story starring multiple people of colour, with a black heroine. It was everything I never knew I needed. Previously, I had worried that no-one would want to read the stories in my head, because who ever heard of a black romance heroine, after all?
Now, I’d heard of one. I’d loved her. And everyone else did too.
Next, I read Rebekah Weatherspoon’s So Sweet. Again, I was stunned. Here was an amazing story that contained everything I love about romance: a fantasy, a dreamy hero, a heroine being swept off her feet. It was all there, all perfect. But this heroine looked like me; her friends spoke like mine; her story acknowledged my existence. And it was, as the name suggests, so damn sweet. I didn’t have to wait for gritty dramas about abuse or slavery to feel represented; I could read a fun, fluffy romance novel about a girl who looked like me having the time of her life. Representation is one thing; So Sweet was all about dimension.
Finally, I read Alisha Rai’s Glutton for Pleasure. All of the romance books I love involve red-hot sex scenes, but Alisha’s unapologetic, lustful indulgence grabbed me and wouldn’t let go! Alisha’s beautiful writing and well-formed characters weren’t sullied or ruined by her detailed sex-scenes. In fact, for me, they were enhanced.
These are the five books that chart my journey from an avid reader to a romance writer. These are the books that inspire me to create real characters with real problems; to write red-hot sex alongside deeper messages; to maintain the light-hearted charm that makes romance so satisfying alongside the deeper messages that our genre wonderfully allows. I’m grateful to every one of them.
Q: If you could go back in time before you published your first book, what advice would you give yourself about publishing?
A: The first book I ever published was an absolute mess. It was an erotic short that I wrote in one sitting and published after a quick once-over. I made the cover by myself, despite possessing ZERO artistic capabilities. I had no idea what I was doing. And I’ve never been prouder of anything in my life.
Publishing that first book broke a barrier for me. All of a sudden, the dreams I’d had for so long seemed closer to becoming a reality. I’ve since re-written that first book, and swapped out my awful cover attempt for something more professional… but the memories remain!
What advice would I give to myself? Well, number one: never publish anything that isn’t finished! And ‘finished’ doesn’t mean writing ‘The End’. ‘Finished’ means polished and professional. Readers want and deserve a product that is as close to perfect as humanly possible. There’s nothing worse than a good story riddled with typos and presented unattractively.
Another piece of advice I’d share–and arguably the most important–is to trust myself. I hit ‘publish’ on that first ebook so fast because, if I’d given myself a minute to think, I never would’ve taken the plunge. My story would’ve ended up like so many others I’d written; tossed aside on a cloud of self-doubt. But, a few books down the line, I’ve realised that there’s nothing wrong with my authorial vision. When I trust it I end up with something to be really proud of.
Essentially, it all boils down to this:
Dear Past Talia,
You aren’t terrible. In fact, when you get your arse into gear, you’re alright. And you can give women like you something they deserve, but don’t always get: a happy ending. And another. And another.
Q: Pick a super-power and tell us what you’d do with it.
A: I’m kind of a comic book geek, so I think about this question A LOT! I used to read so much X-Men as a kid, and I’d want to be a different mutant every week. As an adult, though, I come to this question with a more practical mind. I am mature, experienced, and understand the great responsibility and sacrifice that possessing a superpower entails.
So obviously, I’d be a Jedi. (It’s totally a super-power. Too late. No take-backs.)
About Merry Inkmas by Talia Hibbert
“There’s a beast inside of me. I keep it caged. You drive it wild.”
Cash Evans has come a long way since his troubled childhood, but all the wealth he’s earned as a tattoo artist can’t fix the hole in his heart. He knows that the sweet barista who haunts his dreams is off-limits… But life doesn’t always go to plan.
”There isn’t a man on earth who could ruin me.”
Bailey Cooper is determined to learn from her mother’s mistakes. She’s seen how cruel love can be, and she’s not about to sacrifice her self-respect for a relationship. But when a bad boy with a heart of gold comes to her rescue, she finds herself wondering if this beast might just be her Prince Charming.
Will these two lost souls find a happy ending under the tree this Christmas?
Or is their love doomed to wither with the mistletoe?
Cash tightened the last copper bolt before he set down his tools and leaned against the kitchenette’s narrow counter. The knowledge that Bailey was undressing behind those bloody screens like some kind of Victorian lady sent a spark of heat to his gut that was even more intense in the frigid cold of her little flat.
But the sight of her shadowy outline moving behind those screens was too fucking much.
He watched in strained silence as she undressed, despite the voice in his head telling him that he was crossing a line—that she certainly hadn’t intended him to stand here and enjoy an impromptu show. But when the shadow that was Bailey began to peel her jeans off of her lush, rounded hips—when the silhouette of her thighs jiggled as she bent over—he lost the ability to control himself. Jesus, fuck.
Cash let his head fall back against the tiled wall. All his adult life, he’d been wary of desire. Of need. Of the addiction that one person could develop for another. And he’d thought that he danced with danger every time he took a woman to bed, because his need for touch was so strong, and because he worshipped each body so thoroughly.
He’d been wrong. He’d been so, so wrong. Cash had never been in danger of truly needing a woman.
Not until now.
He risked another glimpse at the screen and caught her in profile. Her hair must be hanging in front of her face, because he couldn’t make out her features. But her body… He saw that well enough. Her tits were sweet little upturned mounds, barely there. He bet her nipples were stiff with cold. God, he’d warm her up—if he thought she’d let him. If he thought it was safe. If he thought a girl like her would accept the little he could give.
Her belly was soft and rounded, her waist thick. Her thighs were thicker, deliciously so. She bent over to do something—pull on some sort of clothing—and plump curve of her arse almost tore a groan from his throat.
Cash closed his eyes. He had to, or he’d end up rubbing his hard dick through his jeans, and then he really would’ve gone too far.
But the darkness of his own mind offered no escape.
He strode forward and pushed the screen aside, finding her naked and gasping. His name crossed her lips, but he barely heard it—he was reaching for her, pulling her into him, his hands travelling over her shivering flesh like a tornado. First, he sank his fingers into the softness of her hips, her arse, revelling in their abundance; then he slid his palms up her ribs, cupped her little tits, brought each sweet nipple to his mouth in turn—what colour would they be? His mind rushed to fill in the gaps—they were dark, so dark, like ink. He licked and sucked until she wept, until she clawed at him and begged for him and bloomed beneath his touch. And then he lay her down on the bed and plunged his aching cock into her slick heat, his body covering hers, her pussy pulling him deeper. But he looked into her lovely eyes and realised he hadn’t even taken off her glasses—
Her voice jolted him out of the fantasy.
My favorite quote from Merry Inkmas is:
“‘Tortured artist’ is code for ‘attractive arsehole’.” -Bailey Cooper, my heroine.