Herrera launches a new series with Here to Stay (Carina, Sept.), an interracial, enemies-to-lovers romance between the head of a charitable foundation and the consultant who may eliminate her job.
How did you come up with the idea for this new series?
I like to write about found family and I like the idea of transplants, people who are all new in a new place. In Here to Stay, the friend group calls themselves the “Gotham Exiles Club.” It’s a group of New Yorkers who have recently moved to Dallas, Tex., and all start getting together for happy hour. I’m from the Dominican Republic originally, but I left when I was 23 to come to New York City for grad school. And from there I got married, my partner and I moved to Ethiopia, then to Honduras, then to Upstate New York. So I’ve had the experience of going to a new place and the friends that I’ve met there becoming family. This is my love letter to that type of community.
Here to Stay touches on some heavy topics, including racism and abuse. How do you balance that with the romance?
In my day job, I’m a trauma therapist. I work specifically with populations of color and immigrant communities. And in my own lived experience, I’m an immigrant and, despite some of the things that have happened in my life, I live in joy. I have a life that’s complete; I have a life that’s well-rounded. And I think one of the disservices of shying away from the realities of the lives of people of color in fiction is that we don’t get a whole person. I think there are a lot of books that show one side—pain but not joy, or only joy and not pain—and that leaves us with characters that are not fully formed.
Tell me about how you approached the sex scenes.
It’s really important to me to set up the power dynamics in the relationship from the beginning and for there to be agency on both sides. That’s something that I start building from the moment the characters meet. Even their backstories have some bearing on whether there’s consent there and whether there’s emotional equity. I write women of color, Afro-Latina women. There’s a history in fiction and media of hypersexualized women of color, especially when they have partners who are white men. The dynamics are historically complicated and racist. So I really try to think about pleasure, and to decolonize and liberate my characters from a lot of that baggage, so that what is present on the page is two people who see each other as equals, who understand their positions in the world, and who come to each other because they make perfect sense together. I think what makes something sexy is creating a dynamic in a relationship where people feel as free as possible in those moments of intimacy to ask for what they want—and get it—without any inhibitions.