Entertainment: TV’s growth is a boon for ‘diverse voices’ among novelists

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Growing up an avid reader, Kwana Jackson knew where to look for romance novels with Black characters: Segregated in the “African American interest” section where only determined shoppers would find them.

When Jackson became a published author she saw other ways in which writers of color were obscured, potentially affecting both book sales and the odds their work would catch the entertainment industry’s attention.

“That’s why, after 10 novels, I was surprised and thrilled when my agent came to me and said, ‘We’ve had interest in ‘Real Men Knit,’” Jackson said of her 2020 novel about four brothers in New York’s Harlem, optioned by a production company for a potential TV series.

What she calls a dream come true is a pragmatic reflection of the unprecedented number of TV outlets in need of shows and growing pressure for inclusive fare — a one-two punch creating opportunities for overlooked writers and ignored perspectives.

“There’s a huge appetite for diverse voices and for almost forgotten voices,” said Steve Fisher, head of intellectual property and a partner at the APA talent agency.

While the entertainment industry was born hungry for adaptations — a 1908 version of “The Count of Monte Cristo” is early proof — today’s beneficiaries include writers of color, those in the LGBTQ community and women.

When Jason Bateman’s film and TV production company sought the rights to APA client Tess Sharpe’s novel “The Girls I’ve Been,” Fisher met with executive Tracey Nyberg, who explained the company’s keen interest: Sharpe represents both a female and LGBTQ point of view “and we want to be part of the vanguard of new voices out there,” Fisher recalled Nyberg saying.