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.
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, 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.
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.)