Small Town Secrets by Katrina Jackson just came out, and it is one of my favorite f/f romances ever! I love the long term pining, the foodie elements, the small town setting, the way Black characters and families are centered, the family secrets arc, and the smoking hot sex scenes, which include a strap-on scene that I’m particularly grateful for, as they are all too rare in f/f romance. I am thrilled to share an interview with Katrina, about her wonderfully swoony and steamy Sea Port romance!
A Bit About Katrina
Katrina is a college professor by day who writes romances by…weekend. She’s a cat mom of two obsessed with London, Idris Elba as John Luther, true crime everything and red wine. She mostly likes to waste time on twitter.
An Interview with Katrina
How would you describe yourself to a new reader just discovering your work?
I’m a romance author who loves Black women, true crime and naps. I write erotic romance stories that are a bit emotional and sometimes sorta funny. I’m also a socially awkward turtle and talking (typing?) about myself actually makes me uncomfortable.
What authors or books have you been reading lately that you would highly recommend?
I ration Beverly Jenkins historicals for times when life feels really rough. So she’s a constant in my romance reading life. I adore Rebekah Weatherspoon and Rafe really sent me. It was such a gentle book, and so was the character. I needed that.
What sparked Small Town Secrets for you? What made you want to write this particular story?
I wanted Bria to have a story the minute she popped up in From Scratch, but honestly I was wasting time on twitter when I saw Rebekah Weatherspoon say she wanted to read a romance with a secret baby trope. This kind of story was probably not what she meant, but when I read her tweet a lightbulb went off in my head that Bria and Willie were sisters. The web of relationships between Bria, Sully and Willie made the tension in this book work for me.
I loved how important family is in the story, particularly for Bria, both her blood family and chosen family. What led you to write a romance that centers family in this way?
My own life. I’m not particularly close to my blood family at the moment, but even when I was younger and felt like an outsider at home, my friends were everything. We were all running away from something at home and the world we created together was critical for our survival. Everyone isn’t lucky enough to have healthy family relationships but even when they do, being surrounded by people they’ve chosen is still necessary. There’s never too much love in my opinion. I also knew that I wanted to write a romance about a Black lesbian who is enveloped in love. I wanted to see that. I needed to see that.
One of my favorite things about your Sea Port series is that the town itself is as much a character as the MCs. How do you create stories where setting is a character? How much of Sea Port’s backstory do you know before you start writing?
The town has always been a character to me. But with this book I wanted to push that forward, especially because in each of the books the town is a momentary foil for the relationships. But I knew absolutely nothing about Sea Port when I started writing From Scratch, besides a vivid mental picture of what it looks like. Every book puts a few more bricks into place for me.
I love that you center Black queer women falling for each other in Small Town Secrets. It’s such a swoony romance arc, too, with all this this delicious anticipation and intensity from the long term crush, and these secrets that might keep them apart, and the gorgeous chemistry between them. Tell me about how you build pacing into a story like this.
Pacing is actually the hardest thing for me to do. I’m an impatient person and I want to fast-forward through sad things and get to the best bits as soon as possible. But the other two stories were lust at first sight and this time I wanted to start with Bria and Sully having been longing for one another. I imagined that, in the background of the previous two books, they were stealing glances at one another and daydreaming about kissing each other and that literally made me smile one day. So even though we don’t see as much of that here, knowing that it existed made everything that happened with them that much sweeter to me.
This is a high heat romance, like all of your Sea Port books, and I really enjoy that aspect of your work in this book and in your romances across the board. How do you balance heat and heart when writing an erotic romance like this?
I spend a lot of time thinking about what kind of sex my characters would have. Each relationship is different and the way they have sex should become one part of their dynamic while foregrounding their unique connection. Because Bria and Sully had been longing for one another, I wanted their sex to be gentle, unhurried and loving with lots of eye contact (actually I love eye contact, so everyone gets as much of that as possible), because they’d been waiting for so long. Why rush it now? But as a contrast, Kierra, Monica and Lane are all libido. Their jobs are dangerous and they waited three years for each other. Why would they deny themselves anything? I don’t know if I always balance heat and heart on the page as well as I’d like, but I try to make the characters’ sexual expressions just another facet of their personalities and the relationships I’m trying to build.
One of the things I adore about your Sea Port series is that it’s mixed orientation, with m/m/f, m/f, and f/f books so far. It’s rare to find mixed orientation romance series, particularly ones that include f/f. What made you want to write a mixed orientation series? What is your vision for the series, going forward?
This, more than anything, is the best compliment! (I teared up a little bit.)
The quick answer is why wouldn’t I make this a mixed orientation series!?
The longer, but still edited answer: I won’t lie and say that I spent any time wondering if this was a good idea commercially. These were the stories that spoke to me. It wasn’t until after I started The Spies Who Loved Her and realized I was planning another mixed orientation series that I realized that this mattered to me more than I guessed. I’m not sure if there’s a logical reason why a lot of romance series don’t tend to be mixed orientation, but since I want to create worlds that look like the one I live in, as a queer Black woman, with friends of varying sexual orientations and genders in many different kinds of relationships, it wouldn’t make sense to segregate the stories.
I want to write diverse romances and that can’t just mean tweaking one or two things; I have to create diverse worlds for the characters to live in. I have so much room to grow in terms of getting the diverse representation I want, but step one for me: if the world is diverse then everyone should be on this journey toward love together.
There are also consequences to not writing mixed orientation series that I don’t know if authors or publishers consider. If it’s an all m/f series, even with background queer rep, by not giving queer characters HEAs, we can unintentionally send the message that queer love doesn’t matter in this world. Or that straight people don’t care about the love lives of their queer loved ones. Or that queer and straight people aren’t in loving communities with one another.
It was so important to me that Lorraine is invested in Mary’s relationship with Knox and Santos and that those three have been rooting for Bria and Sully. All of these stories are really about social networks and friend groups and my friend groups are mixed in orientation. Why wouldn’t I make this a mixed orientation series!?
I love that you wrote an f/f secret baby romance! I adore secret baby romances as a trope, and it’s so rare to find queer ones. What made you decide to include this trope?
This book is very much a throwback to sick days at home watching daytime soap operas!
What’s next on the horizon for you?
A lot, I think. I’m working on a Welcome to Sea Port holiday novella called Her Christmas Cookie and then a bunch of stories in The Spies Who Loved Her series including book 2, Private Eye, a spy novella prequel for a m/m romance later on, and a New Year’s story for the polyamorous triad from book 1. So I’m doing maybe a little too much all at once!
More About Small Town Secrets
Nothing happens in Sea Port! Everything is closed by 10pm, there hasn’t been a bar in the town since before Prohibition and the wi-fi is so slow it seems like it’s buffering into this century. Small town living is not exciting. Except when the baker, the fire chief and the new chief of police are living on the edge of town together (!) and the librarian and her contractor love have been almost spotted all over town with a lot of smeared lipstick. The Sea Port gossip mill has been very busy. So busy that no one has noticed that Lisa Sullivan, the coffee shop proprietor, is in love with the baker’s apprentice, Bria Stone, and the mayor has been acting just a bit strange lately. This next installment of the Sea Port soap opera has bagels, a speakeasy, and a decades old secret that is finally coming to light while Bria and Sully take their first tentative steps toward love.
Welcome to Sea Port is a series of novellas about a small town no one can find on a map, unexpected love, sizzling sex and the occasional baked good (or two or three).
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