Melodi Roberts: Unscripted, Inside-Out

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Underestimated is the first word that comes to mind when I hear the name Melodi Roberts.

This author, editor, and creative genius stormed the literary scene with works: If You Don't Tell, and the "cherry-popping" tales, Untapped, just to name a few. Roberts unforgiving approach to express Black sensuality is a mere art-form -- you won't find blatant, glorified pornography in the confines of her work.

Melodi Roberts talent goes far beyond than words. She has quiet confidence -- a silent roar in the literary world as a mega-collaborator. Think of her as a big-time record producer arranging the best of the best to create platinum success. Indeed, she does not need to shout from rooftops to know she is gifted -- she just is. And once you read her literary gems -- whether you are a fan of eroticism or not -- that "untapped" emotion will sure to come out.


Imani: Melodi, I'm so honored you have accepted the invitation to join me in the Pink Lounge -- welcome. First off, let me ask the question I ask all of my guests: What makes Melodi Roberts the woman who she is today?

Melodi: Imani, thanks for having me. I would have to say the woman I am, or am becoming is ongoing. My life’s passions, personal and professional goal setting and overall curiosities help shape me and drive what I choose to do. My loved ones' ongoing support and encouragement are my fuel. And as I learn more, I grow more and continue to be a work in progress. And that’s absolutely fine with me.

Imani: You are a woman bearing many talents: graphic artist, businesswoman, editor, and of course, author. Tell us when you realized writing was your calling? 

Melodi: Well, actually I read sooooo much as a child and teenager, I was writing suspense stories in middle and high school for my friends. Then as I got older, I realized that I had so many interests—creative interests and so many of those passions drove me to get better at them and then help others get better at what they loved. Sometimes, I feel as though I take on too many projects. But I truly enjoy doing all of it.

Imani: You have an unapologetic approach of expressing sensuality. It had resonated through your brand since I have known you, and still to this day, you carry that honesty. So, tell us: where did the inspiration to write such artistry, because that's what erotica is—poetry in motion—come from?

Melodi: As far as the actual writing of erotica and ‘romantica’, I didn’t see or hadn’t read about the type of experiences I wanted to get lost in. And even worse, many of the stories I did find interesting, didn’t have black main characters. I mean, I grew up in the 90’s—I was surrounded by loving black families who were thriving and whose affection on TV was very genuine and public. Then towards the end of the first decade in 2000s...we slowly started fading away from mainstream where we were most visible to each other.

When DV and I started Naughty Ink Press, it was from the simple passion of telling more complete, more diverse and complex stories—that mirrored life. Especially the parts that people didn’t want to openly talk about. We wanted to “be about” what we “talked about”. We wanted to help shatter the myth of erotic being glorified pornography.

 Imani: You have collaborated with the best in the industry: Brittani Williams, Keith Williams, India Norfleet, and the aforementioned, DV Hent, to name a few. What was it like to work with these talented authors? And do you have plans for another collaboration?

Melodi: I absolutely LOOOVE collaborations! And if we could pay authors in real dollars in addition to the exposure, then I think I would have a ton of projects in the works! But seriously, as a writer/editor, I feel like the type of collections are endless and the challenge is to get my writers to THINK a few layers deeper about what I am asking of them in my collections. I try to pick themes and topics that scratch deeper than the surface. I try to take you back to College Creative Writing 101, lol. So when authors can honestly say, “Hey! This was different for me!” or “This really challenged me!” That makes me really happy.

I always have ideas for new anthologies that I want to put out.  Having “Little Black Book” ongoing and “Mood Ring” (which I feel is a challenging submission) still in the works, my goal is to get those projects done first. I’m still taking submissions. ;)

Imani: You're still taking submissions for "Mood Ring", huh? I think I know someone still owes you a submission (clearing throat). But on a serious note, explain why do you think the submissions for this project are challenging?

Melodi: I feel that they are challenging because typically when authors are asked to come up with some hot sex scenes, the biggest worry has to actually do what/how they scene will unfold, and that's fine. With Mood Ring, I'm asking the authors to create the scene with the mood indicated or implied in the color they've chosen. And in my mind, I kind of have stories that have authors who can really tie the meaning/mood of their color into the final product. For example, Green is typically greed, or earthy. Red is passion or anger....  With this anthology I'm asking the author to be subtle and/or creative with how the sex/erotic scene unfolds based on the color/mood. So essentially, the writer's goal is to wrap the essence of the sexual interactions in the Mood Color they chose. 

Imani: Besides the sex, of course, what makes a great erotic story?

Melodi: I would say creating chemistry between the main characters. Being smart about how you describe your surroundings and of course: Realistic dialogue! I cringe at some of the ‘erotica’ I read where it reads like a—you guessed it—glorified corny porno. As a reader, I want to be seduced by the words on the page, not bombarded with vulgarities masked as erotica. I mean how sexy is eye contact between two forbidden lovers? Undressing them in the dark? As a writer, how sexy can you make that appear to your audience? Foreplay is soooo important in erotica and giving depth to your characters will honestly make or break anything you write in this genre, in my opinion.  I mean, “What’s my motivation?”

As a reader, I want to be seduced by the words on the page, not bombarded with vulgarities masked as erotica. I mean how sexy is eye contact between two forbidden lovers? Undressing them in the dark? As a writer, how sexy can you make that appear to your audience? Foreplay is soooo important in erotica and giving depth to your characters will honestly make or break anything you write in this genre, in my opinion.  I mean, “What’s my motivation?”

Imani: Exactly! Now, let me ask you this, and it may seem to be an awkward question since the subject is erotica: Does a long, drawn out sex scene slows the storyline or makes it better?
  
 Melodi: In all honesty, this really depends on the author's set up. If you've got a couple/group that have been cat and mousing and tip toeing around sexin' each other AND you've managed to pull the reader into the lives or conflict in the set-up then a longer, graphic encounter would be very satisfying.  But if this is a steam room hook up at the gym--the sex scene could be short and sweet and still very satisfying.  If your sex scenes slow down your story for the reader, it's because they are too similar in nature, there is no variety in the set up or the plot just doesn't hold the reader and they aren't invested in having sex with your characters, lol.

Imani: There are some who assume erotica equates hard core pornography. Explain to the readers who aren't familiar with genre the types of erotic stories that are out there.

Melodi: Well, talking strictly my opinion, I feel that erotica or erotic elements can stand alone or be infused into other genres as well. Using D.V. Hent’s work as an example, his first novel, “If You Don’t Tell” was more like relationship drama with the heavy focus on graphic sex scenes. But those characters had depth and life, so their purpose was not to make them just have sex with each other. The graphic scenes were built up and the conflict was of a sexual nature. But many of our readers were invested in the outcomes. They really cared about our Simone, Laela and Quinton. That was what we were trying to achieve.

In Valentine—the dial was turned up and many of her life’s situations and ambitions even, were of a sexual nature. Her scenes were graphic, but she was given a very strong voice. She had a story that could have easily survived the omission of the any graphic sex in that novel. DV did an excellent job of balancing out her strengths and flaws, and once again, his readers absolutely loved her! Hot sex scenes were a bonus!

In Untapped, I wanted to create a collection that dealt with not just fucking, but actually adding a theme that could be identified in each story and it was different for each author. I had so much fun editing those stories and putting them together. I wanted to make sure our readers had a large variety of “cherry popping” in those stories, and I think we accomplished that.

Imani: Let's change the subject a bit and discuss further about black sexuality. Since you are a passionate social commenter like me, what is your opinion of how the media (news, movies, or magazines) hyper-sexualize the black woman?

Melodi: Honestly, I feel that it puts us in a no-win situation. We aren’t hypersexualized to our collective benefit—if that makes sense. We aren’t presented in ways that make us deserving of love, revered, sexy, classy and worthy of commitment. I feel that we are put into a box that may focus on one or two positive traits (like strength/perseverance). The rest is presented as a direct contrast to mainstream (read European) standards and frames us essentially as a: Mammy, Jezebel, Angry Black Woman, Over emotional and broken, or impossible to co-exist with because ‘we don’t need a man’.  Oh, and I forgot Welfare Queen.

I guess that is why I want so much to change that image of an unlovable black woman in my work and the work I put together.

We aren’t presented in ways that make us deserving of love, revered, sexy, classy and worthy of commitment. I feel that we are put into a box that may focus on one or two positive traits (like strength/perseverance)


Imani: Since we're talking about sex, let's talk about HIV in the black community. It's a fact the number of affected cases have risen to a staggering 47 percent in 2011, according to The Family AIDS research. So what are your thoughts as to why the numbers keep rising? Is it poor education or outreach in the community? Or, people aren't taking the virus seriously?

Melodi: Great question.  I feel that it is really a collection of those things. I also do agree that the frontrunner of these is lack of education. Modern medicine has really taken the sting out of the fear of contracting HIV because sooo many people are living long, productive lives with it. Very few cases are truly brought to the forefront regarding full blown AIDS as a modern epidemic. The healthcare community must remain diligent in educating the young and old about the real life changing dangers of HIV.

Imani: Okay -- let's switch gears and go off-topic to talk about an issue that affects every citizen in this country, especially people of color. Now the tragedies that have filled the news and social media of unarmed men have seemed to becoming an unfortunate new normal. With these images of police brutality inundating our screens, has created a deeper mistrust. In your opinion, how can law enforcement rebuild trust in an already tense situation?

Melodi: Whew…that’s a very layered question. I feel so many different ways about this one. Honestly, I feel that “law enforcement” has become a culture of fear cultivation and population control (of emotions.) This culture of individuals who call themselves officers of the law—who make individual choices to commit these atrocities have never really had the full, unfettered trust of Black folks as a whole. I don’t feel that that relationship between us and them was ever healthy or thriving. I mean, if the first officers were slave patrolmen—our jobs as citizens is to know as much of our rights as possible and cross cultural and racial barriers to call these crooked establishments on their shit.  I’m sorry if I’m rambling…I find it so hard to find a rationale solution to something so irrational and even inhumane. I just feel like I’m too old to have to tell my kids about how NOT to arouse the attention of cops for fear that THEY may assault YOU.

Imani: I've been wanting to ask this for a while, and now I have you in The Lounge I have to get this out since mega-producer and music artist, Pharrell injected it in our lingo: What the heck is a "new black"?

Melodi: Complete Bullshit. Nonsensical, sambo, sell-out, tap dance for massa, grade A bullshit. For years I felt like he was a breath of fresh air—so creative and willing to take chances in music production and then he “crossed over” and went nuts…just like Kanye. But I digress…

Imani: Now on a relaxed note: If you were to plan a dinner party and have extended the guest list with three legendary figures (living or not), who would they be and what one question you would ask them?

Melodi: Whitney Houston: Have you ever written a song and can you please sing it? ( I love Whitney and knew just about every song she sang. This is out of pure curiosity.)

Michael Jackson: What/Who is/was really behind all the craziness in the music industry? ( I believe Michael knew way more than he was every allowed to share alive.)

Stevie Wonder: Where do you get the endless creativity and motivation to write timeless songs?

Imani: What future projects do you have in store?

Melodi: Well, for right now, the future is the present. My goal is to increase the amount of digital ebook shorts we have available and continue to work with authors for exposure and FUN! And to encourage DV to get on them sequels to Valentine and If You Don’t Tell, lol.

Imani: Finally, describe in one word Melodi Roberts' work?

Melodi: Inside-out.

Imani: As we conclude the interview, tell the readers where they can purchase your other work, as well as finding you on the web?

Melodi: On the web, we are at www.naughtyinkpress.com
Our 3 books are on Amazon:  If You Don’t Tell, Valentine and Untapped: A Collection of Erotic Firsts

Thanks so much for having me, Imani. This was truly a pleasure and I really enjoyed our interview.

Imani: Likewise, Mel! Come back to The Lounge anytime!  














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