Meet Writer Kwana Jackson

Kwana Jackson is an “ex-fahionista” turned writer. This former fashion designer shifted from creating clothing to creating characters and their stories.

A pop culture fan, Kwana lives in Westchester in the suburbs of New York City. She’s the wife of her personal hero, Willie, and the proud mother of fifteen-year-old twins (a son and daughter.) Kwana loves to knit and has “a strange obsession” with reality TV. She shares my love of handbags and gives a “Le Sigh” for those from Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs or Hermes.

Kwana's blog partner, Jack

Kwana's blog buddy, Jack

I met Kwana when she visited my blog and left a comment. I checked hers out and was intrigued. I love her title: Kwana Blogs . . . about writing, life, and knitting it all together. Her fun voice and “life is good” outlook are evident in her posts. Readers of her blog get to meet Jack, an adorable Yorkshire terrier, and find out what he’s up to in Kwana’s cleverly written updates.

Kwana is a member of Romance Writers of America® and the RWA® New York City chapter. She’s also a founding member of the online ChickLit chapter, ChickLit Writers of the World. Being modest, she didn’t want me to tell you she designed the ChickLit chapter’s logo, but it’s so clever I just had to. (Sorry, Kwana. 🙂 )

Join me as we learn more about this happening writer.

Kwana Jackson

Kwana Jackson

•Kwana, what led you to leave the glitz and glamour of the fashion scene for the quiet and solitary life of a writer?

First thanks so much for having me, Keli. I’m so honored to be here today.

Now, quiet? Solitary? I don’t think so. Many times it feels like since I’ve given up my life in fashion I’m busier than ever before. The cliché of a mom being the hardest job in the world is so true. Managing a house, 2 kids, 1 husband and a wild dog sometimes leaves little time for quiet. LOL.

What led me to take the step and leave was my children. I had been working in fashion for years, and I truly loved many parts of it. The creativity and the beauty of fashion still takes my breath away. I loved the sketching, color and development part of it. But the long hours and being in places like Turkey on New Years away from my babies left little to be desired.

One day I was faced with losing my sitter and needed reduced hours in order to pick my twins up from day care in time. My request was a no go. So, I made the very tough decision (one that I has been wrestling with for a long time) to leave my demanding job to do more flexible freelance work in order to spend more time with my children. The freelance work did not come as expected, and I tried my hand at many odd creative projects, mosaics (really?), baby blankets (very cute), denim accessories (sigh).

Then one day—don’t ask me how—I remembered my dream of always wanting to write a book. I don’t remember how I came up with the first sentence, but one day I just began typing a story, fueled by my love of Bridget Jones, about a girl very much like me who worked in the not-so-glamorous world of fashion.

•What led you to the romance genre?

I’ve had a love of romance books and popular fiction for a long as I can remember. In elementary school we had a small library with an old copy of Little Women with the most wonderful illustrations. The book was one you could not check out but only read there during library time. I think I went back to that book and sat on the floor every week for a year reading it over and over for the tiny breathy romantic moments. Don’t get me started on Little House, the Almanzo years!

As a teen, I went through a Danielle Steele phase and then a glitzy Jackie Collins time. From my Nana, I also found a love of Historicals: Catherine Coulter, Johanna Lindsey. Just give me a happy ever after, and I was happy too. Later I lost my mind and finally made the plunge to write after reading Bridget Jones’s Diary.

•You write Contemporary Women’s Fiction, aka ChickLit, as well as Young Adult. What drew you to these sub-genres? How many manuscripts have you completed? What are you working on now?

Like I said above, I kind of lost my mind after reading Bridget Jones. After reading that book, I felt such a connection to the character and more so to the voice Helen Fielding used. I felt like writing that type of book was something I could do, so I thought I’d give it a try since it was something I had always dreamed of but was kind of intimidated by up until that point.

The jump into Young Adult came from having young adults of my own. My first YA idea came straight from my dear daughter’s mouth on a trip to Savannah when she talked about how she wanted to be born in “olden days.” When I mentioned to her that she would have been a slave, she rolled her eyes and said no way.

That’s how the book Diva Slave came to be. I never planned on writing it, but a good friend of mine (Marley!) actually pitched it for me to an agent after I told her the funny premise of a Diva that falls back in time. I had to write it after that. So far, I’ve written 3 Adult and 2 YA books.

•We all enter the writing world with different skills and experiences. One of your teachers stands out. Would you tell us about him and some of the most memorable things he taught you?

I had Frank McCourt as an English Teacher. I consider myself very fortunate to be a native New Yorker, and Mr. McCourt taught Irish literature at the old Stuyvesant High School in NY. His class saved me from the torture of chemistry and gave me a much needed escape. He had quite a rock star following even back then. His class was an elective that you had to get picked for.

We talked classic short stories, which I loved right away for their lyrical quality. And he would often spend time weaving in stores about his life in Ireland. When I read Angela’s Ashes it was like reading a story I had heard many times before from an old friend! I was not surprised at all over him winning the Pulitzer Prize.

Mr. McCourt also talked with us about writers and the writer’s life, making it funny, tragic and slightly romantic—so much so, that I now picture myself as I was then, traveling on the train to and from school, but always with that little dream nagging me to be a writer. Creating something one day that others may enjoy and admire.

•I read on your blog that you attended the NJ Romance Writers Put Your Heart in Book Conference in October 2008. While there, you attended a workshop conducted by Jessica Anderson and J.R. Ward that you said “rocked my world.” What did you learn, and how has the knowledge affected your writing?

I did attend the NJRW conference, and the World Building workshop with Jessica Anderson and J.R. Ward was so fun and entertaining. I did have an A-ha moment when an audience member asked the question of the two of them: “What was the hardest thing that you had to get over?” Now, I often find it tough to get out of my own way, so I was surprised to hear J.R. Ward say she used to be a Pantser and she had to learn to be a Plotter. Made me feel like there was hope for me yet.

•So, like me, you’re a pantser who’s a wanna-be plotter. How do you approach a story? Do you dive right in or work from an outline? What do you find easiest to write? Beginning? Endings? Fight scenes? First kisses?

I’m still trying to find the perfect way. I’m sure I’ll be doing that on the 20th book too. I usually have the general story in my head, at least the beginning and end. The middle is always fuzzy.

On the book I’m working on now, I have the sample pages and general synopsis done. I’m reading The Anatomy of Story by John Truby, and I’m really trying hard to plot my wip more carefully. I want to get all the motivations figured out so I know where I’m going and not get that fuzzy middle thing going. In the past, I’d just write. Part of me wants to just do that right now, but I’m forcing myself to be particularly slow and intentional. Hey, it works for J.R.

To go back to your question, I find beginnings the easiest to write once I actually start writing them. Grin. But it’s the first word that is the hardest.

•We writers are encouraged to read in our genre, and you do just that. Who are some of your favorite authors? What is it about their stories that appeals to you? And what do learn from your reading that you can apply to your stories?

I don’t always read in my genre. Right now and forever I’m historical crazy. My reading list last year and this year is full of Elizabeth Hoyt and Lisa Kleypas. I love them for the escapism of it—the fact that it is so far removed from my life that I can totally get away.

I do read contemporary fiction, too. Some that I really enjoyed lately have been from Lisa Kleypas, Marian Keyes. And last year I lost my mind over Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Lost it!

As for YA. I love my friends. People like, Wendy Toliver. I just picked up her most recent book, Miss Match, and the DD and I will be fighting over it. Also Marley Gibson’s Sorority Series. We enjoyed it so much and are looking forward to her Ghost Huntress books. We also both read Twilight and loved that it was all about the romance there.

I learned I need to get a little bit better and a bit more careful and detailed in my own writing with every book I read. Good or bad, there is usually a lesson.

• Since you were a fashion designer at one point, here’s a fun question especially for you. If you could pick any book you’ve read—or written—to be turned into a movie and could design the costumes for it, which would it be? Let’s make your experience even more fun. Imagine you’re also casting the show. Which actors would you choose to wear your clever creations?

Oh, what a tough question. I’d love to choose a historical because it would be so much fun. All that fabric, just yummy. So, I pick The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt. Now who to cast? I’ll mix it up and be interesting and sexy. Thandie Newton as Anna Wren and Gerard Butler as Edward de Raaf.

I know you said one, but a close second is Eat, Pray, Love for all those location shoots. Lots of potential there with color and mood. And I’d put Gabrielle Union as the lead there. She’s in my mind for a character right now.

It’s been great having you as my guest, Kwana. And now, in closing, is there a final comment you’d like to make or a question you’d like to ask?

I love your last question, Keli. So, my question to your readers is the same. What book would they like to design the costumes for, and who would they cast as the lead characters?

Thanks again for having me. I really am so honored. It is tough to hang in there and keep writing in the face of silence and possible rejections. But we have to keep putting one word after another and believing in our dreams. As many wise writers have said, “No writing is wasted writing.”

Leave a Comment for Your Chance to Win!

Kwana has donated a $10 Barnes & Nobles gift card. She’ll choose one winner from those who leave her a comment on 2/23 or 24 (and include an email address when prompted, which I don’t share).

Kwana held the drawing on 2/25.

Patricia from PVE Designs drew the name.

Patricia from PVE Designs drew the name.

And the winner is  . . .   Congrats, Hope!

And the winner is . . . Congrats, Hope! Photos by Kwana, who held the drawing at a meeting of her knitting club.

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You Could Win a First Sale Scrapbook!

If you’d like to have a chance at winning a First Sale Scrapbook created by your blog hostess, Keli Gwyn, leave a comment on any post between now and February 28. Make sure to include your name and email address when prompted if you want to be entered in the drawing. (Your information will not be shared.) Click red link above to see samples of covers and pages.

On March 1, I will choose one person who will have her choice of five covers on an 8×8 inch, twenty-page scrapbook in which s/he can document that long-awaited first sale. The pages will cover various milestones including The Call, signing the contract, receiving the first advance payment and holding your “firstborn” in your hands.

(No scrapbooking skills required. You just add your photos and journaling.)

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About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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47 Responses to Meet Writer Kwana Jackson

  1. Anne Barton says:

    Hi Kwana — I enjoyed your interview. Your enthusiasm for writing is contagious! 🙂

    We have a couple things in common . . . Elizabeth Hoyt and Lisa Kleypas are two of my favorite authors *and* I love reality TV. Will you be watching the Bachelor tonight? 🙂

    As for your costume question, I’d like to design them for “Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict.” Much as I’d like to cast *myself* as Courtney Stone, I’m a tad old for the part, so Anne Hathaway could play the modern day woman who wakes up in the body of a regency miss.

    Good luck with your writing, Kwana, and thanks for the great interview, Keli!

  2. Tivi Jones says:

    Great interview Kwana!

    I didn’t know you founded ChickLit Writers! I have that site bookmarked on my computer.

  3. Phyllis W. says:

    Fantastic, interview!

  4. Phyllis W. says:

    Whoops! Hit submit too fast!

    Kwana, I’m already a huge fan of your blog. Looking forward to you getting ‘the call’ so I can become a huge fan of your books!

  5. Kwana says:

    Thanks so much, N. I’ll be sure to remember it.

    Anne thanks for your kind words. Yep, as I type The Bachelor is on. Tonight is tough with 24 on. the DVR is working hard. Love your casting.

    Tivi, I had a small part in the founding of Chicklit writings along with some wonderful women. I’m so glad you have them bookmarked. It’s a great group.

    Oh, Phyllis thanks so much. I’m such a fan of yours. You’ve made me smile.

  6. Lisbeth Eng says:

    Kwana,
    What a great interview! Your love for writing (and reading) shines through. And it’s so cool that Frank McCourt was your teacher!
    Thanks for sharing your experiences.
    Lis

  7. Yikes! Awesome interview!!! I can’t believe you had Frank McCourt as a teacher. I started Angela’s Ashes but temporarily had to stop so I wouldn’t be sobbing all day long. LOL What a beautifully written book, though.
    As for your diva slave story, oh my gosh! Hilarious. I would totally read that, and I don’t read YA. That time period was so dark, and so sad, I’m interested in seeing how you can bring humor to it. Anyways, brilliant idea. 🙂
    Cool interview. I think I’ve seen you before around the blogosphere. Can’t wait to check out your blog. 🙂
    As for your question, I’m hopelessly without style and have trouble matching. I don’t dream about designing anything either. LOL But cool question. Anyone who is creative that way is pretty blessed, I think.

    Great interview Keli. 🙂

  8. I’m a huge fan of Kwana and her fabulous blog and the family! We’re pop culture sisters. Great interview–glad to see K in the spotlight!

  9. Kwana says:

    Thanks so much Lisbeth!

    Jessica, yes Angela’s Ashes was a good sob fest. I’m so glad you like the Diva Slave idea. Hopefully one day it will get out there.

    Melissa you are a sweetheart. I love that we’re pop culture sisters.

  10. pve design says:

    wow, kwana, do you feel the love! just think of the line as it snakes out the door, at your book signing. is your pen ready?
    may this year be your best!

  11. Annette says:

    Great interview, Kwana! LOL I get the whole Almanzo thing. One of these days I’ll make it to Malone to see the original Farmer Boy house.

    Diva Slave — love that premise! Very high concept, which is what they want these days. Will definitely keep an eye out for it. 🙂

    Finally, I can’t believe Frank McCourt was your teacher. How cool is that? We’ve read all his books, plus all of Malachy McCourt’s too.

  12. Debra says:

    Kwana~ How wonderful is this interview? I feel like I actually know you now. You deserve all good things and I feel them coming your way. Congratulations~

  13. Walt Mussell says:

    I can appreciate the desire to spend more time at home with kids. We moved so I could take a different job and my wife could be a stay-at-home Mom, a position she loves with a passion.

  14. Kwana, I apologize I didn’t see this yesterday or I would have slightly nudged my way to the front.

    This is a beautiful interview, filled with so much compassion. I learned so much about you and didn’t realize the depth of your writing.

    My dear friend I wish nothing but the best for you and may this be the year. Continue reaching for the stars, their your to touch!

    If you make it to the Chicago area I’ll be there in line waiting for you!

    Many blessings….
    xoxo

  15. Kwana says:

    Thanks so much for checking in today, Patricia.

    Annette thanks for getting me and my Almanzo stage!

    Debra so nice of you to stop by. Thanks for your kind words.

    Walt, thanks so much. You and your wife understand.

    Joyce thanks for stopping by and for your kind words. I hope to be on book tour in Chicago and to meet you one day!

  16. Camila says:

    I love Kwana. She is just so warm and inviting and totally took me in when I was new to the blog world. I loved reading more about her.

    Great interview.

  17. Kwana says:

    Thanks so much Camila. I really appreciate you stopping by.

    Thanks again to Keli for having me. I really enjoyed my time being here. I will draw a name for the gift card and Keli will announce the winner soon!

    You all are fabulous!

  18. D D Scott says:

    Hi there, Kwana!!!

    It’s D. D. Scott – one of your fellow chick lit gals.

    Terrific guest blog. Fabulous fun to read, and I enjoyed living vicariously thru your fashionista world!!!

    And what a great question, so here it goes…for me, ROMCOM books like Susan Elizabeth Phillips would make beyond terrific films and the costumes would be quirky, outrageous fun just like her characters!!!

    Can’t wait to see your books in print and on both small and big screens!!!

    Sexy, Sassy, Smart Wishes — D. D. Scott
    http://www.DDScott.com

  19. Kwana says:

    Thanks so much D.D. and Susan Elizabeth Phillips is a great choice!

  20. Keli Gwyn says:

    Kwana, it’s been great having you as my guest. I loved reading all the wonderful things your visitors had to say about you.

    Thanks to everyone who stopped by to leave a comment for Kwana. She held the drawing today, and the winner she chose is Hope. Congrats, Hope. Kwana will be in touch with you.

  21. Hope says:

    Oh my gosh, I am totally flabbergasted and truly honored. I rarely win anything, so this is a special thrill. Thanks so much, Kwana, and again major congrats on the great interview. You have quite the fan base, and I’m definitely included.

  22. JOHN DAVIS JR. says:

    HAY CUZIN LUV UR WORK!! IMMA PUMP U DOWN HERE IN PHILLY KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!! LUV U!!

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