In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing
victim author and they choose their own interview by choosing which questions, and how many questions, they want to answer! Jacqueline Luckett’s Passing Love tells the story of a daughter’s investigation into her father secret life after she finds a photgrapg inscribed to another woman. Here is what Jacqueline had to say about reading, writing, and being her family’s resident storyteller.
Would you give us a bit of introduction and let my readers know who you are, how you got started writing, and what kind of books you like to write?
As a teenager, I was the official babysitter and storyteller for my younger cousins. I loved a good story (still do) and submitted stories and poems to the local newspaper. Somewhere along the way I turned from storyteller to avid reader. Like many women, I was sidelined by career, family, and life. Around 1999, I started writing on a dare, from myself, to take a class, Exploring Your Creative Potential, after years of wondering whether or not I had the talent and the guts to write. After that first class, I wrote short stories and very bad poetry (and had so much fun for every minute of it). I took more classes and workshops. Originally, I’d planned to write a short story collection loosely based on several stories my mother told me about her life in the South. When the idea for a novel about a woman inspired by Tina Turner to make changes in her life wouldn’t leave me, I had to follow the energy of that story.
I write books with universal appeal—both in story and character. I love to read and I’ll follow a story with characters that make me think or look at the world differently than normally I do. That’s what I’ve tried to accomplish. In both of my novels, Passing Love and Searching for Tina Turner, the main character could be you, your best friend, the lady in line next to you at the video store, or the mother of your child’s classmate. I write about women, of a “certain age, “ who’ve had failures and successes and learned from them or not. I want women of all ages to know that it’s never too late to make changes and conquer the unknown. The stories I tell are ultimately about the victory of overcoming fear.
I am often struck by the different ways writers respond to the process of writing a book. Linus’s Blanket refers to my use of reading and other activities as a means of escape and comfort, can you share with us any routines, food or recipes, or favorite books or rituals that help you thorough the writing process?
I love the idea of reading as a ‘means of escape and comfort.’ I feel exactly the same way.
Writing is hard work. Plain and simple. I can find a hundred excuses to procrastinate—answer emails, research an idea, clean my house or get the mail. I have a couple of ways to keep myself on track—to comfort and prepare myself for the blank page that I eventually have to face.
Each morning I treat myself to a nice cup of something hot—latte, chai tea, or ginger tea—that I can make at home. I prefer writing in a warm room where makes me feel cozy. If I’m stuck, and can’t decide how to begin once I settle down in front of my computer, I’ll read for inspiration. I read short poems and get caught up in the images and the rhythm. Or I may read from an author/teacher like Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones) and freewrite for five minutes to get my juices going. Once I start writing, I don’t have any rituals or comforts that keep me going—finding the story and running with it is the best escape there is.
I recently reread a couple of old notebooks from writing classes. It was surprising to discover some of the themes that surfaced in Passing Love. So, I guess you could say that it was time for this story to be told.
In Passing Love, two women both go to Paris believing that the City of Light will change their lives. One woman, Nicole, is trying to escape what she believes is her ordinary life. The second woman, Ruby, refuses to be tied down to an ordinary life.
As I wrote Ruby and Nicole’s stories, it struck me how often many of us take for granted the simple things in life. Writing both women’s stories didn’t change me. But, both stories made me appreciate my life for both the ordinary and the adventure it presents me with.
What are you reading now? What are some of your favorite books and authors? Has writing your own book changed the way that you read?
I’ve just started The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna. With the first thirty pages under my belt, I can tell that this is going to be the slow, lingering kind of story that I love to read. I’m also reading a couple of books on writing at the same time: Bird by Bird and The Art of Subtext.
As far as the authors I enjoy, I’m really all over the map. My bookshelves are filled with books that I’ve read or haven’t been able to get to yet. Like many readers I make my decisions based on mood—so, it’s nice to be able to choose from my ever-growing collection.
I love Toni Morrison, her stories are straightforward and her writing is complex. I love books that challenge me. I finished If Sons, Then Heirs by Lorene Cary, Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones, is a favorite. I keep telling everyone about Those Across the River, by Christopher Buehlman—scary and poetic.
I definitely read differently now. I read for the sheer joy of losing myself in a good story, but I also take note of how a story is put together and what keeps me reading. My pace is slower. I’ll mark up a story to understand how an author crafts her work. I pay attention to how plots evolve and characters develop. Any one who wants to write must read.
Are you able to read when you’re writing and if so what books inspire you when you’re working your own book(s)?
For the most part, I can’t read when I’m working on a story, because I don’t want to be influenced by another writer’s voice or style. Because I love to read so much, I focus on non-fiction when I’m writing because those books rely on fact and have a different rhythm for me.
I read poetry—Ruth Forman, Mary Oliver, and many others. Sometimes, I go to my bookshelf and selct a poetry book by a poet that I’ve heard about but not had the chance to read yet. I read for image and rhythm. I don’t spend a lot of time on the poem because I prefer to be inspired by the work rather than fall into an analysis of it.
Do you ever look back at your early work? How do you feel your writing style or approach to writing has evolved since you first began?
I’ve reread a few of my early short stories. I’m amazed that I had the guts to send them out. My descriptions are good and the stories make sense, but they go on and on. I recall sending one of my stories to a writer who’d promised to give me feedback. He said that I had a lot to learn about plot.
I want to rework the collection of stories that once had me so excited. At first I thought that taking them on again meant a lot of revision, but now I understand that they’ll all require rewriting. That’s a good thing because it means I’ve learned a few things since then.
As a published author, what’s been the biggest surprise about life after the publication of your first book?
In my teens I watched a lot of old black and white movies about writers in New York. This scenario still sticks in my mind and excites me as much as it did back then: editor and writer facing each other across a messy desktop haggling over edits. The experience seemed wonderful. Years later, I expected, wanted, my publishing experience to be like that.
Well, the world has changed and very few authors ever meet their editors face to face. I’ve been lucky to have the support of my editor and my publisher, but it’s still on me—until my books become more in demand—to do my part to help promote the book.
For previously unpublished authors—and that’s what I called myself when my first novel came out—there may be limited support from your publisher. The biggest surprise for me was the amount of work I’ve had to do to stir up and keep up interest in both of my books. That included hiring an outside publicist, setting up readings on my own, and contacting bookclubs and book bloggers.
Who was your favorite character to write, and why did you have an affinity for that character in particular?
In Passing Love, even though I didn’t like Ruby, I loved writing her story. In writing about this woman who wanted to be free, I felt free. She was a woman who did whatever it took to get what she wanted. She forced me to really get inside of her character to write her.
Many a time, while writing her story, I’d find my self shaking my head wondering what was on that woman’s mind. I enjoyed writing her because she forced me not to be judgemental.
As I write the answers to your questions, I’m sitting at a writer’s residency program. This residency will give me the chance to sit, without distraction and focus on my next project—the story of a married woman who destroys her good life by having an affair. The story takes place in the 1950s. Simple plot line, but oh, so complicated.
Thanks so much, Nicole, for the chance to share my thoughts with you and your readers. I hope they’ll find Passing Love as intriguing a story as I did and make time to take an armchair visit to the lovely city of Paris.
Giveaway: One reader with a US or Canadian mailing address (no PO boxes, please), has the opportunity to win a copy of Jacqueline Luckett’s Passing Love. For entry, fill out this form by end of day, 11:59 p.m, June 30th, and you’ll be entered for your chance to win.
About: Jacqueline Luckett is an avid reader and lover of books, an excellent cook, aspiring photographer, and world traveler. She lives in Northern California and, though she loves all of the friends there, she takes frequent breaks to fly off to foreign destinations.
SEARCHING FOR TINA TURNER (2010, Grand Central Publishing) is her first novel. Her second novel, PASSING LOVE was released in January 2012.
For more on Jacqueline Luckett and Passing Love please check out her page at TLC Book Tours.