by Jennifer Coates
This month we feature award winning author Brenda Jackson.
Fast Facts about one of our Favorite Authors:
Name: Brenda Jackson
Pen Name? “No. I want to give myself credit for all of my hard work.”
Occupation: Manager at State Farm for 30 years. Her company is very supportive of her work, and is sending her to the Bayou Classic in Louisiana this year for a mass book signing.
Dream Job:To retire with her husband.
Residence: Jacksonville, Fl (born and raised)
Most romantic song ever sang: “There are so many….,” she says. A few of Brenda’s favorites are: When Something is Wrong with my Baby, Something is Wrong with Me by Sam and Dave and Smokey Robinson’s The Tracks of My Tears. Though these are her romantic favorites, Brenda also mentioned that Ashford and Simpson’s eighties hit Solid as a Rock holds special meaning for she and her husband. After over 20 years together, they consider it the song that epitomizes their relationship.
...And now it is my pleasure to Introduce Ms. Brenda Jackson
Award winning author, Brenda Jackson recalls that she enjoyed writing short stories in high school, but didn’t really take the exercise seriously, “Writing was something I took for granted,” she says. Brenda began writing again as an adult, at a very stressful time in her career. “I had to do a lot of studying, and I had to find something for pleasure…a friend told me to read a romance novel.” At first Brenda found little appeal in the idea. She’d read Harlequins as a young woman and had not been impressed by the experience.
Giving romance a chance
Despite her reservations, Jackson did pick up a book, and despite her initial misgivings discovered that not only were the books relaxing, but that she liked them. “I enjoyed Sandra Brown and Jayne Ann Krentz.” Her enjoyment, however, was not absolute. Though the novels did serve their original purpose, Jackson found herself dissatisfied with the lack of cultural and ethnic diversity among the characters. Displeased, Jackson began to complain to her husband about the novels’ deficiencies. “I thought, ‘I could do this,’” she recalls telling her husband on several occasions. Though confident in her ability, Jackson did not start writing right away. In fact, as Jackson tells it, it wasn’t her, but her husband that proved to be the catalyst for this great writer, “He challenged me to stop complaining, and to do something about it,” she remembers. Jackson’s husband was determined to help Brenda realize her goal. To move the process along, he registered her for a Romance conference and sent her to it so that she could explore the possibility of writing in a supportive environment. “My husband didn’t burst my bubble but encouraged me,” she says proudly. The conference proved just what Brenda needed to jumpstart her writing a career. In addition to meeting then unpublished authors, Francis Ray and Rochelle Alers, Jackson was inspired to write.
The Journey Begins
In the coming years, Jackson would publish the first of three books, about the Madaris Brothers. “I wanted the brothers’ story told,” she says. The Madaris stories were important for Jackson, for they provided her the opportunity to introduce African-American women to African-American men that were not only professional, but appreciative and respectful of women. “I write my books about strong men. My hero is bigger than life.”
Where does she find those men?
Jackson cites her husband as her greatest source of inspiration for her heroes. “I look at my husband as a very strong African-American male. He is supportive and centers his life around his family.” In fact, it is Jackson’s husband who is the main reason that she has chosen to write romance novels. “When I think of my life, I think of it as a romance.”
And oh, is it romantic.
Jackson and her husband have known each other since kindergarten and have been dating since age 14. As teenagers, they fell in love quickly, and at 15, confirmed their love with a “steady ring,” a very sentimental symbol of their love, which she had to hide from her parents until the age of sixteen. “I had to pay my brother hush money,” she says fondly, as she adds that she still wears the ring to this day. Continuing on about her husband, Jackson says, “I knew I was going to marry him.” And marry him she did, at age nineteen right before she left for college. They never looked back, and have been happily married for over twenty years. Their devotion and love for each other has gained attention from coast to coast. In February 1997, McCall’s, published a story on Brenda and Gerald’s enchanted tale. About her marriage, Jackson very proudly says, “My husband and I have a very close relationship.”
Fairy Tales do Come True
An important theme that Jackson would like to highlight about this book is her portrayal of a stable, confident, and respectful male hero. As with all of the Madaris men, Colonel Sinclair is not only family oriented, but also very respectful of Nettie as he pursues her. It is this characteristic that Jackson would like African-American women to take away from this novel, “I want [my readers] to have an appreciation and acknowledgement for a strong and loving man.” Such an appreciation is easy to take away, particularly when the man is so memorable.
In addition to SURRENDER, Jenkins will also release her first female fiction novel, A FAMILY REUNION this year. Her inspiration for the book was, you guessed it, her own family reunion. “I went to my first family reunion in 20 or 30 years in 1999,” says Jackson of her new novel. Jackson recalls that a lot had happened in the 20 years that had passed. In talking with her family, Jackson says that she not only discovered family secrets and became privy to ‘grown folks’ business that she never knew about growing up, but she gained a deep appreciation for the extraordinary contributions and experiences of her older and younger family members. “I wanted that type of story for my first women’s fiction novel...[reunions] are important for our history and our culture.”
Like many family gatherings, the plot of “Family Reunion” centers around the complexities between and within the lives of a large African-American family. Focused on four cousins who have not seen each other in several years, this novel deals with many of the issues, such as betrayal and adultery, that most families only whisper about. Writing a novel with these realistic themes was a welcome change for Jackson, “[There is] a bigger story to tell [in fiction writing] that has a satisfying ending as opposed to a happy ending. There is more realism…Romance does not allow that leverage…In romance novels a man can do a lot of things, but he can not commit adultery.” Jackson hopes that in this novel readers will see and appreciate a more realistic side to her writing, one that includes romance and passion, but also highlights the importance of family. “[In the novel] Young people find out that blood is thicker than water. No man is an island…when they needed family, family was there.” Jackson’s trek into the world of women’s fiction will not end with this novel, her next women’s fiction title, PERFECT TIMING is due in May 2002, and a third TIES THAT BIND is due in October 2002.
What about Romance?
I panicked too, but don’t worry, Jackson has not abandoned romance, she has merely expanded her horizons. Expect to see new titles, such as THE BEST MAN in July 2002. In the meantime, she is very excited about her latest titles due out this year. To quote her, “…get your glass of lemonade or ice tea when you read it because-just like my other books, it is definitely HOT!!!!!" How can a girl refuse? Read about all of Brenda’s titles, new and old, at her website, www.brendajackson.net. On the site you will also find all of her contact information.
1st August 2001