In Conversation: Taylor-Dior Rumble
Being listed as #Merky Books’ first ever RomCom isn’t a small feat, but Taylor-Dior Rumble has always had Merky in her sights. Launched by Stormzy in 2018, #Merky Books is an imprint of Penguin Random House UK, one of the top publishing houses in the UK. It’s desire; to publish books that will ‘own - and - change the mainstream’. “Twenty Nineteen was a big year, that was the first time I ever made a vision board. I always knew from the beginning that I wanted to tell this very Black British story with a very Black British publisher. I just felt like it was the perfect match.” And it appears to have been so. Rumble’s book is set in South London and true to her word is very Black British. It tells the story of Tia, a journalist and her shock when she realises that the man she was hedging her bets with romantically returns from a work trip with a girlfriend. Tia’s situation(ship) is something you’ve experienced either directly or indirectly. It’s something social media can't seem to get enough of unpacking and Rumble takes us through the motions as Tia uncovers her own desires both in relationships and her career aspirations. In the workplace Tia is lifted up by the Black women in her life, this is something which Rumble relates to in her own life. Before jumping into writing Rumble worked for the BBC as a journalist, covering entertainment news and culture stories. It was there she met her mentor, Brenda and fostered strong female relationships, which are reflected in her novel in the characterisation of Gbemi; Tia’s main work friend. “So with Yvonne, [Tia’s mentor] she was directly inspired by a mentor that I have, Brenda Emmanus. Growing up, Brenda was one of the first Black women I saw like prominently on TV, during prime time. She was just and still is just so elegant and gracious.” Yvonne embodies ‘elegant and gracious’. Throughout ‘The Situationship’ we’re introduced to a range of characters who rally around Tia during moments of need, “my Black women friends.. they got me through a lot of crappy days.” Rumble tells me fondly and it’s the same for Tia both inside and outside of the workplace despite those who might attempt to steer her off course. I’d first read an extract of 'The Situationship' after being handed a booklet at #Merky Book Literature Festival. I devoured it on the train home and reached out to the Penguin publicity team soon thereafter. I’m hearing it again months later at a debut authors party held by Bad Form Review, (if you don’t know get to know, quickly). Rumble reads the opening pages of her book confidently and yet you can hear the anticipation in her voice as she gets to the climax. She leaves the room on a cliff’s edge. What would you do in Tia’s situation? Having abandoned the apps for well over a year now. Rumble wanted to ensure her novel touched on the intricacies of dating in your youth. Protagonist Tia throws herself into dating apps, something which ends the similarities between Tia’s world and Rumble’s own, she tells me she’s not used any apps in well over a year. On the topic of London’s dating scene, “It's a damn mess. I feel like because of the book’s presented, people assume I'm this dating expert or whatever. And it's like babes, I'm just as confused as the next person.” Rumble draws on fears experienced by many in the dating world and lays them all out in the form of Tia and her quest to create meaningful romantic connections. It’s real and honest. Tia struggles with her worth and not wanting to feel ‘mugged off’, but at the end of it all Rumble is optimistic. Regarding her own love life, “I'm a romance writer, so I have to be hopeful. My whole thing right now is I'm just gonna live my best life, have fun and go on my journey towards the kind of life I want to live. And if the right person comes along and wants to jog by my side towards those goals, then great. We can we can do that jog together.” She throws the question back at me and I tell her about the last failed attempt at my own situationship. She’s quick to impart advice and we muse on dating in your 20s for a little longer. On who’d play Tia if ‘The Situationship’ became a tv show or film. “I don’t want to sound like an arsehole,” She cringes, “but I’d really like to play Tia…I do identify as an actor and it's something that I've always loved doing.” Rumble explains how she’d been a part of the National Youth Theatre’s Summer Programme in 2019, how it reigned a passion she thought she’d left in school. “I've never felt that kind of euphoria before,” she exclaims. Throughout this entire conversation Rumble’s been euphoric and impassioned about her debut. She tells me before we wrap our conversation that she’d always known how her debut was going to end and her reasonings behind it all inspired by TV shows like Sex And The City and Insecure (she’s Team Nathan, if you wanted to know) along with a desire to make something her younger sister can read “once she’s old enough”. As for that ending, you’ll have to pick up a copy of ‘The Situationship’ to find out if Tia gets a HEA. ‘The Situationship’ is on sale now, where all good books are sold.
Being listed as #Merky Books’ first ever RomCom isn’t a small feat, but Taylor-Dior Rumble has always had Merky in her sights.