Change of Heart was going to be my entrance into the world of African-American romance. It was going to be my statement piece. Look world, this is a Jackie Chanel romance! You’ll never find another one quite like it!
I think that’s why it’s so long. I was trying to cram as much story as I could based on the plot that I’d conceived. There’s a lot of drama, a lot of growth and character development in Change of Heart. No pun intended but I put my heart into Change of Heart.
Asia, Jay, Corey, and Anthony were the first characters that I created completely from scratch. Before writing Change of Heart, I wrote half a novel called Hoop Dreams. The main characters were based off me, my best friend, and our high school celeb crushes. There wasn’t a lot of thought into those characters.
The next big thing I wrote was a screenplay called family first. It was about a drug dealing family and the characters were based off of my favorite rappers at the time. Therefore, when I got the idea for Change of Heart, I hadn’t created a character from scratch before. At the time, I was really into Eric Jerome Dickey books. I’d already made up my mind that I was going to be the black Jackie Collins but EJD’s style heavily influenced mine since I hadn’t given my own writing style much thought at the time. I loved how he told a story from different characters’ POVs. It was Chante and Stephan from Cheaters that I definitely honed in on and decided that I was going to write Change of Heart like that.
Basically, Change of Heart is three love stories rolled into one book. Asia and Anthony have that rocky first love situation that I saw many of my friends experience in high school. It’s an intense, young love that teenagers and young adults feel when they haven’t matured enough to figure out that sometimes love just isn’t enough. There has to be trust and communication or the relationship will fail.
Asia and Corey’s story is all about the time in your life when you start to grow and trust your feelings. It’s that time when you know what love is, when you’re starting to learn how to love someone other than yourself, and learning how to be someone’s significant other. The one thing that I wanted to translate with Asia and Corey’s relationship was that their love was true love and unforgettable but mainly, their love was blinding. They shared a love that would never go away. Everyone has that one love that no matter what happens or how long it’s been since you’ve been apart, that love never leaves you.
Change of Heart is also the first time I wrote about my favorite romantic theme…friends to lovers. When I first started writing, most of my friends were male so it wasn’t so farfetched to write about a male/female friendship that at its core is true friendship. There’s always the question about whether guys and girls can be friends without one wanting to be with the other romantically. In my experience, the answer is yes. When I created Jay, I wanted him to be the best friend that Asia needed. I wanted their relationship to be purely platonic.
I don’t know where or when things went left.
However, as I started writing, a romance between the two of them seemed to proceed organically. It didn’t feel forced. It felt right and that’s when I knew that Change of Heart wasn’t about Asia and Anthony or Asia and Corey. It was about Asia and Jay so I had to figure out how to take the novel where it wanted to go.
I will say that I was torn because I wanted so badly for this to be a love story between Asia and Corey and not a love triangle but in the end, the plot developed in such a way that I had to accept what was happening and keep going.
Since I’m not a fan of spoilers, I’ll just say that Corey’s situation had to happen for many different reasons. It had to bring disorder and disruption to Asia’s seemingly perfect life. It had to remove the blinders she had when it came to Corey. There needed to be a catalyst that caused Asia to realize that she wasn’t untouchable and that life, no matter how great it is, can change at the blink of an eye. Asia needed a wakeup call and there needed to be an opening for the Asia and Jay story to begin.
Believe me when I say that Corey’s situation almost put me off from writing. I still can’t read it because he is one of my favorite characters. However, writing that made me a better writer in the sense that I learned how to trust my instincts and write what needed to be written rather than what I wanted to write.
Change of Heart is a stand-alone novel. In a world of series and sequels, I knew I was taking a chance with readers by only writing one book with characters that they could fall in love with. I’ve never been a big series reader so I was used to loving characters and never hearing from them again.
American Star by Jackie Collins is one of my favorite books of all time. Nick and Lauren are my favorite couple. However, when that book ended, the only thing I could do was re-read it because Jackie Collins wasn’t a series writer at the time. I don’t even consider the Santangelo books a series because you don’t have to read them in any particular order or read them all to enjoy Lucky and her crew.
Therefore, when I began to plot out Change of Heart, I wrote a complete story with no intention of writing a sequel. I was shocked and a little taken aback when readers began to complain and demand a sequel, especially when the same readers who were demanding a sequel were the same ones who would email me saying they loved the book but Asia got on their nerves.
That was a blow. No writer wants to hear that about any of their characters. However, as I read through the reviews, I started to get the sense that the main character, whom I loved so much, wasn’t as loved as the male characters in the book and the book was about her! Therefore, I couldn’t understand why they wanted a sequel. Why read more about a character you don’t like? That definitely put me off from writing a sequel to Change of Heart even more. The other reason that there’s no sequel to Change of Heart is because the story is complete. As with any book, there are unanswered questions but to me, the joy of reading a good romance comes in creating your own “what happens next” after the ending.
After Teacake died in Their Eyes were Watching God, we don’t know if Janie ever fell in love again. We don’t even know what happens to Edward and Bella after Breaking Dawn ends. It’s the not knowing and unanswered questions that brought along the idea of fanfiction and it’s one of the reasons that I love to read so much. A good book has an ending that leaves the future in the readers’ hands and that’s what I intended with Change of Heart and every book I’ve written since then.
What Comes Next:
I had every intention of continuing Anthony’s storyline in a separate book and honestly, I still do. I think Anthony has a great history and overall, he’s a good character, just in a bad situation. I left his story open in Change of Heart to lead into his own book. However, I’m nervous because I don’t want anyone to think that Back In One Piece is a Change of Heart sequel because it’s not. It’s an entirely different story with a different plot and all new characters.
If books are my babies, Change of Heart is my first-born. It’s special. No matter its flaws, it’s a book that I am very proud of and I believe it serves its purpose as my introduction into the literary world. At its heart, it’s a true romance, a real life romance. Recently, I read it again for the first time in years and I’m still happy with how it turned out.
Change of Heart is available. Grab a copy today!