Monday, April 30, 2012

Interview: Jacqueline Luckett, part le second!

By Julie

Photo by Ashley Summer
Readers, I hope you were able to read "part le first" of our interview with Jacqueline Luckett on Friday. Click here if you'd like to jump over there and catch up. (Nod your head "yes" and click here!) Jackie told us about her inspiration for her most recent novel, Passing Love, about getting started in publishing a little later in life, and about the writing themes she returns to again and again.

Unintentionally or ironically (Big Timing?), several of my questions and Jackie's answers centered around what so many writers experience, whether they're fledgling writers just getting started on the manuscript they've put off for years, under contract with a publisher for their debut novel (pick me!!!!), or working on their second, third, fourth, fifth … and so on, novels! We seem to have a little tiny struggle with FEAR and SELF-DOUBT. Agh, it's a cranky animal. Then, as I was reading a transcript of the Twitter Black Lit Chat (#blacklitchat) from February 26, where Jackie was the guest author, I did a double take when I saw the first question and Jackie's answer.

Question (from Bernadette Davis): @Jackieluckett, would you start by giving us a six-word bio for Nicole, the protagonist in Passing Love? #blacklitchat  
Answer (from Jackie): Seeking a life free of fear. #blacklitchat
Seriously? I'm choosing to believe something bigger than I am worked this out. Let's move on with the rest of the interview, and you'll see what I mean.

Something I deal with as a debut author—more than I probably even care to admit—is fear and self-doubt. You can worry about so many things as a writer: how your books will sell; how they will be accepted by the media, by readers, by … ; whether everyone will wonder what the heck you were thinking when you decided to write the book. Have you experienced this, too? How did you deal with these emotions? Any advice for newly minted authors you wish someone had given you?

I wore (wear) fear and self-doubt on my sleeves for both novels—while I was writing them, as well as after my publisher accepted them. The questions you pose are the same ones that nagged and me then and now. I’m certain that many authors fret in the same way. Maybe it’s the equivalent of stage fright, except that it lasts for a longer time and recurs with every page that we write.

It’s easier to say, “just let go” than it is to do it—let go of all of the anxiety, all of the expectations and frustrations. I have friends who’ve told me that The Universe has already decided the outcome for my novels, so there’s nothing more for me to do. I’m not sure if I buy that explanation, but if the Universe has big things in mind for me, I’m all for it.

I try to be positive and confident. Admittedly, I’m not always successful. It helps to talk to other writers with positive spirits and outlooks (no gripe sessions!). Mostly, I think worry is a part of the writing process. The key is to shed the worry and the questions quickly.

I think everyone has days when they have to “talk themselves down from the roof.” When I was working on my first novel, I wish that someone had told me (and maybe friends did, but I ignored them) to focus on the writing not the fear, the self-doubt, or hoped-for success (in whatever way that meant). 

Some years ago, I watched a famous composer being interviewed about his success. He said that every time he sat at his piano he told himself to write the best song that he could. He repeated the thought every day, something like, “Today I’m going to write the best song I know how.”

I’ve adopted the gist of that mantra. Now when I sit down to write I tell myself, “Today, I’m going to write the best pages I know how.” I don’t expand from pages to chapters or an entire book. I keep it simple: Write the best page I can. Really, that’s all that I can control—the quality (on all levels) of my work. It keeps me focused.

Also, I offer this: Make good contacts, ask questions, network, know the publishing business, don’t expect your publisher to devote all their marketing dollars, time and efforts to your project, be willing to work beyond what the publisher does (blog, social media, contact book clubs, perhaps an outside publicist) and keep writing.

I recently read this letter from Ernest Hemingway to F. Scott Fitzgerald. Seems that F. Scott was having some trepidations. My point? It happens to the best.

That's really good, Jackie. Thank you. Readers, we have a challenge for you at the end of the post regarding your own fear and self-doubt. Now, let's go a different direction for a minute. As I mentioned in "part le first," Carleen Brice recently introduced me to your books. She'd read my manuscript and thought I'd enjoy Passing Love due to its similar structure and some similar themes. I did, if that isn't obvious. Carleen, who lives in my hometown (Denver) and writes lovely books herself, has a huge heart for connecting diverse audiences of readers and writers. She started a blog nearly four years ago, White Readers Meet Black Authors, where she posts interviews, reviews, and guest posts about books written by African-American authors. I've been introduced to several authors there I might have missed otherwise. Often, books by African-American authors are arranged in a separate section of the bookstore, similar to how books by Christian authors are shelved separately. My own debut novel features one white point-of-view and one black point-of-view, yet I'll be shelved in general fiction, not African-American fiction. There are plenty of debates about whether that's "right" or "wrong," with a full spectrum of answers. (Personally, I'd love to just go to the "fiction" section and find what I want filed alphabetically by author, regardless of "category!") I would love to hear your thoughts on reaching diverse audiences as an author.

I don’t recall who said or wrote that there are only about 40 plots and that every book is a reiteration of one of those plots. I don’t know if that’s true, but what I do know is that there are different ways to approach a story. How many stories are there with plots like this: Boy meets girl, they fall in love, they fall out of love, part, reunite and live happily ever after? Oh, maybe there’s war or disaster or cultural clashes and family feuds, but the stories are the same. Place and character change stories. They’re influenced by the author’s expertise and experience.

The broader question is what it will take for the publishing world to accept and promote good writing universally—regardless of the writer’s ethnicity?

It’s up to each of us to effect a change. Buy and read books written by African-American authors without basing the decision on the writer’s ethnicity. Afraid to buy? Libraries exist so that we can read fearlessly and without a large financial commitment. If readers, and I include myself, truly love reading, we have to be open and not discriminate because of an author’s gender, race or even sexual preference. Those who love reading should read widely and take risks with books that challenge and offer different viewpoints and perspectives. That’s the joy of reading a story that’s different from our own lives. Or, the joy of reading a story with characters different from ourselves, but with feelings, dilemmas, obstacles, and joys we can relate to. 

Readers should expand their personal libraries. Look first for an appealing story, not the race of the person who wrote the book. When that happens, publishers won't put books into categories that limit exposure. By sticking to basic selection criteria—well-written book, holds our interest, takes us to another world or experience—then the author’s ethnicity shouldn’t matter. I challenge readers to buy books that allow them to take new journeys, meet new people and explore a variety of approaches to life and all the problems it can present. Look for stories that capture your attention and allow you to explore traditions, family values, the role of women, love, whatever.

Passing Love is the kind of story, both in tone and style, I so frequently love to read. I highly recommend it to our readers here at What Women Write as many of our readers enjoy this type of novel, too. Can you recommend any additional African-American authors you consider to write in a similar vein, along with any specific titles? 

Well, of course, my first suggestion is Searching for Tina Turner. :) 
(Note from Julie: info at the bottom of this post!) 

Here are a few others:
A Gathering of Waters by Bernice McFadden
Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi Durrow
32 Candles by Ernessa Carter
Tumbling by Diane McKinney Whetstone
Taste of Salt by Martha Southgate
Wading Home by Rosalyn Story
Caucasia, Where Did You Sleep Last Night? by Danzy Senna
Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer
The Street by Ann Petry
Valerie Wesley Wilson—A series of detective novels with a woman protagonist
Kiss the Sky by Farai Chideya
Uptown byVirginia DeBerry and Donna Grant
Children of the Waters by Carleen Brice

I find that I don’t have the chance to read as much as I used to. I fear hearing another author’s voice in my head. Some other authors whose works I’ve read over the past year include Edwidge Dandicat, Julia Alvarez, Junot Diaz, Walter Mosley, Isabel Allende, and Toni Morrison.

This is a great list. I already read and loved The Taste of Salt and Children of the Waters and loved both, and The Girl Who Fell from the Sky and Silver Sparrow have been on my reading wish list for some time, just waiting for my finger to click "purchase" on my Nook! Thank you for all the great recommendations. We'll end this fun and informative two-part interview with "question le last." What are you working on now? Is there anything exciting going on that you’re just dying to tell someone about? Tell us, please!

I’m doing a lot of thinking about the novel I want to write next. I’ve always said that I want my protagonists to be women in their 50s, because I want those women to be valued, revered and still considered to be at the top of their game. But, there’s a male character whose story is nagging me, and I’m a bit perplexed as to whether or not I should follow him.

I wrote a one-act play in 2011. It still needs work. I have an idea for another play and I’ll probably start work on that later this year.

My mother turns 90 this fall and I’m looking forward to planning a splashy celebration for her. That’s about the most exciting tidbit I can offer. 

Oh, please tell your mother Happy Birthday from What Women Write! That's exciting! 
Jackie, thank you so much for taking the time to visit with us on the blog. We wish you lots of great success with your novels, already published and future! 

And now, readers, we have a challenge for you from Jackie.

Please post a six-word comment about how YOU are overcoming fear and self-doubt!

(Feel free to post any other comments, too! We always welcome your comments on the blog!)

Here's a little more about Jackie's novels. 

Passing Love
Nicole-Marie Handy has loved all things French since she was a child. After the death of her best friend, determined to get out of her rut, she goes to Paris, leaving behind a marriage proposal. While there, Nicole chances upon an old photo of her father-lovingly inscribed, in his hand, to a woman Nicole has never heard of. What starts as a vacation quickly becomes an investigation into his relationship to this mystery woman. Moving back and forth in time between the sparkling Paris of today and the jazz-fueled city filled with expatriates in the 1950s, Passing Love is the story of two women dealing with lost love, secrets, and betrayal...and how the City of Light may hold all of the answers.

Searching for Tina Turner
Lena Harrison Spencer is in her mid-fifties, and the time has come for her to face the hard truths of what it means to have it all and still find oneself unfulfilled. When Lena determines that what she needs is the strength to change directions, Tina Turner becomes the icon from whose story she derives strength, even as everyone else tells her she's crazy for giving up her cashmere cocoon.  

"The reader will wish she were the best friend who joins Lena in search of Tina Turner!"— Ellen Sussman, author of French Lessons

For more information, and to read Jackie's blog, please visit


  1. What a great interview! Jacqueline, thank you for sharing your "mature" wisdom. As an as-yet published, over-fifty writer, I am heartened by your story.

    I'm a big fan of dual time line narratives and Passing Love sounds divine. I can't wait to read it.

    How I'm working to overcome fear and self-doubt: Heed advice from those who've succeeded!

  2. How do I overcome fear and doubt: Write the best book I can.

    Great interview, Julie. Jacqueline, Passing Love sounds wonderful. I've added it to my wish list.

  3. My 6-word credo: Write for the privilege it is.

  4. When in doubt, write it anyway.

  5. Anonymous01 May, 2012

    Great interview!

    Six word advice on dealing with fear: Eat mashed potatoes blanketed in gravy!

    Kellie Coates Gilbert

  6. Thanks for reading and for the comments, ladies! And these are great six-word goals! Kellie, I cracked up when I saw yours. :) Hope you'll all check out Jackie's book when you get a chance!


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