The authors and married couple Nicola and David Yoon describe themselves as “romantic goobers”. So much so that after meeting in college, they quickly became friends, striking up conversations about art, poetry, literature, and yes, even their love of romantic comedies and novels. There was a caveat to these rom-coms: they were all “exclusively white.”
“These movies are so important to us and they mean so much to us, and yet not a single one featured someone who looked like us,” said David Yoon, a Korean American author. The Hollywood Reporter. “We’re like, isn’t it weird? It’s almost like they don’t believe we fall in love, but obviously we fall in love. I mean, we fell in love with one of the other.
After the couple, now married for almost 20 years, became published authors – Jamaican American writer Nicola released bestsellers that became feature films The sun is also a star and Absolutely everything and David behind another bestseller frankly in love – their journey led them to search for a way to broaden the narrative horizons within the romance genre and deliver stories that readers can actually see themselves in, as they wanted to see themselves as well.
“It wasn’t until Nicki got published and then I got published and especially when Nicki took big risks to The sun is also a star“, David says of the adaptation starring Yara Shahidi and Charles Melton. “The main romantic tracks are two children who looked like us. One was Jamaican American, the other Korean American. It ended up being adapted and then all of a sudden you have these people on screen and we’re like, ‘OK, this is really important.’ This validating impact of seeing people who look like you on screen is simply undeniable.
He also explains, “It’s only recently that a lot of [books], especially contemporary YA romance, had all white people on the covers. Suddenly, over the past few years, it’s suddenly okay to put black girls and boys on covers that have never been okay before. The fact that things are changing for the better, you say to yourself: ‘We have to do this’. Now is the time to cast the imprint. “
The authors launched Joy Revolution in 2020, with a commitment to publishing young adult romance novels featuring people of color written by people of color. The intent of the imprint is in the name itself, with the authors dedicated to bringing stories that spark joy and provide a safe space for readers while revolutionizing a media landscape where people of color have often been erased in as main characters.
David and Nicola note that stories featuring characters of color often emphasize “struggle or trauma” or that the characters exist to “teach predominantly white audiences about racism.” While these stories are important, otherwise they would be “forgotten and that awareness would be lost”, both reiterate that “there is a whole other side to our existence besides the trauma”.
“We don’t wake up thinking, ‘Oh, I’m black’ or ‘I’m Asian,'” David explains. “Depicting people of color as human beings and living all things normal is quietly groundbreaking…When you’re exposed to this experience that the media so misses, then it’s groundbreaking.”
“You don’t wake up thinking about wrestling. I wake up thinking, ‘David, please bring me some coffee. I love you so much,” adds Nicola. “A writer’s job is to tell the truth and the truth is that we are human.”
Joy Revolution is ready to introduce that truth through love stories, with its first list release in the spring of 2023 which will feature young adult novels by bestselling authors Talia Hibbert and Amalie Howard.
Very suspicious and unfairly cute by Hibbert (on sale Jan. 3, 2023) centers on an eccentric content creator and athlete testing their abilities to survive both in the great outdoors and each other. “It’s sarcastic and it’s dry and it’s hilarious,” they poke fun at the book, remembering that they both laughed while reading it. The novel is Hibbert’s first young adult romance and offers moments of joking and swooning while raising awareness of mental health through its characters. “I’ve been a fan of Talia for a long time,” says Nicola. “I read it all. We asked her to write for us and she said “yes”, shockingly!”
Meanwhile, Howard’s historical romance queen bee (on sale April 4, 2023), described as a “Bridgerton meets the count of Monte Cristotells the story of a teenager who seeks revenge on her former best friend who stabbed him in the back. However, things may not go as planned after he catches the attention of a familiar handsome Marquis.
“It was a first draft and I just tore it up,” David recalls, also noting that the book has “a strong element of Indian culture” that exists as a backdrop.
“We’re like proud parents,” Nicola says of the upcoming titles. “We’re so proud of our authors and we’re just going to sit back and let the world experience their books now.”
The Joy Revolution team has acquired worldwide rights to Very suspicious and unfairly cute by Courtney Miller-Callihan at Handspun Literary, and worldwide rights for queen bee by Thao Le at the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. Both books are available for Pre-order now.
“Love is transformative and transcendent and the books have to know that. It’s one of the things we’re really looking for,” Nicola says of the books they want to publish under their brand.
Other upcoming titles include You bet your heart by Danielle Parker, described as “a heartfelt story between childhood best friends, academic rivals and lovers”; house party, edited by justin a. reynolds, a novel set at a holiday party; Fisherman’s Island by Angela Montoya, a fantasy novel centered on the romance between a witch and a pirate; and Caught up in a bad falsehood by Elle Gonzalez Rose, a “contemporary queer fake-dating contemporary rom-com following two feuding families”.
Bria Ragin, managing editor, Joy Revolution/Delacorte Press, acquires and edits the list in partnership with the Yoons, overseen by Wendy Loggia, vp/senior executive editor, Delacorte Press. Jodi Reamer, Writers House LLC, represents the Yoons.
“Talia and Amalie are fantastic storytellers and genuine people whose values and interests align perfectly with Joy Revolution’s mission,” says Ragin. “Their beautifully written novels have really set the tone for this new imprint, and I couldn’t be happier with Joy Revolution’s strong start to the roster.”
In addition to taking care of their imprint, author production banner Yooniverse Media has signed an agreement with Anonymous Content for original film and television content created and curated by authors. The authors admit that they hope to have the chance to adapt books published under their brand: “We really hope that will be done. We are just beginning to discover this world. Hollywood is so different from publishing.
While working on their printing and production banner, David and Nicola will also continue to write their own novels. Nicola is writing her first adult novel, while David recently published City of Orange. David’s YA Novel frankly in love is also adapted by Paramount Players and Alloy Entertainment. Despite a heavy slate, the two marvel at being able to help make a difference for readers through these stories.
“People talk about doing the work [and] try to change the world a bit,” says Nicola. “So this is our way of trying to change the world a little bit because I think these stories make a huge difference and not just for people of color who will read them, [but] to anyone who reads them. Stories are universal; no matter who stars them.