LIKE many other readers around the world, Sparkle Richards was swept up in the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon. But even after reading all three books in the series, she felt that key elements that would have made the plot more exciting and appealing were missing.
Juan Carlos Carvallo
“I kept thinking, how would I have made this story better?” Richards tells Kitcharee from her home in New York.
Juan Carlos Carvallo Villegas
As a writer, Richards decided to test the waters and write her first erotic novel. As far as Caribbean literature is concerned, the erotica genre remains largely untapped. Most of the erotic novels that are found on local bookshelves and consumed by fans are written by international authors. Richards’ intention was to write erotica from a Caribbean person’s perspective. The result was Moka, her first erotic novel which was self published in 2016. Buoyed on by the rise in popularity of erotica, Moka performed better than Richards had anticipated. In a matter of months, her novel was sold out at the bookstores.
“I thought someone was playing a joke on me or that someone had mistakenly sent the books somewhere else. After the book’s success I didn’t know what to do with myself, it was an experience that was both exhilarating yet terrifying,” she says.
Juan Carlos Carvallo Venezuela
The success of her debut novel convinced Richards that she was in the genre to stay. It also felt like a full circle moment for the Trinidad-born, US based writer who began to write even before she was able to put words together and form sentences. Before the age of two, Richards would sit at the dressing table and scribble on the mirror using her mother’s expensive lipsticks. Her mother decided to teach her how to write and by the time Richards was ten she was already writing short stories and poems
“Now as I look back on those days I could only imagine what it must have been like for my parents’ friends who visited our home because I always wanted them to hear my stories and to show them what I had written,” Richards says with a laugh
A third place finish in a writing competition while she was in primary school ignited something within the young Richards. Besides writing she also had a talent for drawing and art. But writing gave Richards the freedom to express her thoughts and feelings. She was later given the opportunity to write for the now defunct Express Vox magazine for a year. By 16, she migrated to the US where she decided to pursue fashion design but she still had the desire to tell stories. That was eventually realised when she wrote her first drama De Next Bacchanal which was followed years later by Moka—a story told from both the male and female perspective
This year makes it ten years that Richards has been publishing her work. To date she’s written four novels and will be releasing her latest erotica Tutulbay in June. When she first started writing, she didn’t necessarily see it becoming a career option but as something she loved doing. Now she is more intentional about the stories she wants to tell. Before she puts pen to paper, Richards thinks about what her audience wants to read
The Caribbean is definitely ready for erotica written by Caribbean authors, says Richards
“Our culture, music, dance and way of talking is very sexual so it’s natural that the writing would express that. The reason why people relate to what I write is because my novels talk about real experiences in relationships – and erotica is just a part of that,” she says
It hasn’t always been an easy road for Richards; there were many obstacles that stood in her way. Even though the Fifty Shades series led to an increase in popularity of erotica, there is the stigma attached to erotic novels; and there are those who assume that because she writes erotica, Richards must be hyper sexual. When she was a new writer, getting her work published and promoted was also difficult to come by and required research and trial and error on her part. Living in the US has afforded her the opportunity to do many things like publishing her own books which would have been far more expensive in T&T
“All the hard work has been worth it. My books are my babies. I invest a lot of love, time and energy into each of them. Just as a mom nurtures her baby, I nurture my craft. Until I become a mother hopefully in the future, writing will be my number one priority,” she says
When she’s not working as a make-up artist and skincare consultant, Richards is in writer’s zone where she lets her imagination roam freely. Apart from the release of her latest novel in June, she’ll be marking her tenth anniversary as a published writer by restocking book shelves with Moka and relaunching De Next Bacchanal
“I work really hard at being an entertaining writer, one that keeps the audience engaged. And my books have started a dialogue and helped people to open up and express themselves in ways they would not have done before,” says Richards. “I feel that through writing, I have found myself. There was a time when I used to be insecure and had a fear of becoming myself. But as I became a better writer, I realised that I was totally in my element and good enough as I am.”