Let me preface this post by saying that I LOVE me some Vanessa Riley! I also aspire to be as gracious and as kind as she is when I grow up. I am honored that she agreed to grace me with an interview.
Vanessa is a gentle soul with one of the purest, sincerest spirits. The author of the Advertisements for Love series, she’s also a formidable force in these literary streets, continually challenging the historical representation of people of color to insure that our stories are told boldly and accurately. I consider it a blessing to be able to call her a friend.
Vanessa Riley writes Regency and Historical Romances of dazzling multi-culture communities with powerful persons of color. Vanessa writes for historical romance readers who admire and acquire books that showcase women who find joy in sweeping kisses and strong sisterhoods. Even in the darkness, she promises to give you laughs and to show you how light always prevails and how love always, always wins.
Vanessa holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering and a master’s in industrial engineering and engineering management from Stanford University. She also earned BS and MS in mechanical engineering from Penn State University. She has been a radio anchorwoman and church announcer. She is a member of Romance Writers of America and President-Elect of The Beau Monde, a specialty RWA Chapter. She is also a member of Georgia Romance Writers, NINC, and Historical Novel Society. She is on the Board of Directors of Christian Book Lovers Retreat where readers escape for a weekend of fun, faith and connection to the author community.
Vanessa juggles mothering a teen, cooking for her military-man husband, and speaking at women's and STEM events. She’s known for her love of romantic gestures, hidden histories, and humorous delivery of poignant truths. You can catch her writing from the comfort of her southern porch with a cup of Earl Grey tea.
Vanessa loves to write at night and research during the day. Her weekends are reserved for reading.
It is a joy to welcome her to my AUTHOR ROOMS segment. So, let’s get right to it!
What is the first book that ever made you cry, Vanessa?
That is a hard one to remember, but I think the first was The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The whole wrongful death scenario, the questioning of one’s worth and not figuring it out until it’s too late—that made me choke up. That was a struggle growing up in a broken home, finding one’s worth.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Historical paintings. I can spend hours looking at the images and imagining their stories. I always think that there are hidden messages contained in the images.
How do you get past writer's block?
Reading a good book or watching “empty” TV shows where I don’t have to think too much truly helps. I also love shows that teach me something. I’m awed by American Pickers. Please come to my house and pay me hundreds of dollars for my junk!
If you could tell your younger writing self-anything, what would it be?
I would tell me to own my stories and my style of telling them. How author A does it is fine for Author A. My storytelling has to be true to me.
The fastest way to claim your place in the world is to be true to one’s self. There’s so much pressure trying to get you to conform, or to retell old stories or to write novels which wouldn’t be authentic for me to tell. I would tell me to value me.
What does literary success look like to you?
Success for me is drawing a core group of readers who love history or emotional women-centered tales. I think success is bravely building an authentic platform to tell stories that burn in your heart and soul.
What is it about your writing space that motivates your writing?
I love writing on my porch or deck. Both have great views of trees. Both are quiet with the right amount of sun. I can see my writing screen but not have to shade my eyes. They both have lovely tables to place a teapot and cup or a coffee mug. I need tea and Starbucks to write. I feel an inner peace writing in those spaces.
Up next for Vanessa is her book A DUKE, THE LADY, and A BABY. It’s the first book in her Rogue and Remarkable Women series.
Created by a shrewed countess, The Widow's Grace is a secret society with a mission: to help ill-treated widows regain their status, their families, and even find true love again--or perhaps for the first time...
When headstrong West Indian heiress Patience Jordan questioned her English husband's mysterious suicide, she lost everything: her newborn son, Lionel, her fortune--and her freedom. Falsely imprisoned, she risks her life to be near her child--until The Widow's Grace gets her hired as her son's nanny. But working for his unsuspecting new guardian, Busick Strathmore, Duke of Repington, has perils of its own. Especially when Patience discovers his military strictness belies an ex-rake of unswerving honor--and unexpected passion...
A wounded military hero, Busick is determined to resolve his dead cousin's dangerous financial dealings for Lionel's sake. But his investigation is a minor skirmish compared to dealing with the forthright, courageous, and alluring Patience. Somehow, she's breaking his rules, and sweeping past his defenses. Soon, between formidable enemies and obstacles, they form a fragile trust--but will it be enough to save the future they long to date together.
Recently, HarperCollins announced the acquisition of Vanessa’s book, ISLAND QUEEN for their William Morrow imprint to be released in the summer of 2021. ISLAND QUEEN is a historical fiction novel based on the compelling life of Dorothy “Doll” Kirwan Thomas who rose from slavery to become the wealthiest woman landowner in the early 1800’s Caribbean. A mistress to royalty, the future King William IV of England, Dorothy advocated for women's rights and successfully appealed the unfair taxation of free persons of color on the Island of Demerara. I love that Vanessa's future writings will shine a bright spotlight on stories the history books have frequently excluded.