*Ladies, try if you will, to wrap your collective brains around this.
At age 13 you meet “the boy of your dreams.” At age 19, you marry him. At age 60, you are still married to him!
While this may sound like a fairy tale, it is the true life story of one of our great American romance writers. I’d say she is one writer we single ladies need to listen to, wouldn’t you agree?
Now celebrating the milestone of her 100th original work, romance author Brenda Jackson releases “A Madaris Bride For Christmas” (Harlequin Kimani Arabesque Press); one of her many series’ books now in its 3rd generation of the Madaris family saga that millions of readers have come to know and love, since Jackson first introduced them in “Tonight and Forever” in 1994.
I caught up with Brenda, who resides in Florida, over the phone to talk about this milestone, her brand, what motivates her to tell love stories, and so much more.
“It took 18 years but I am just so happy to be celebrating this milestone,” she says in acknowledgement of her work. When I surmise that a person who is able to do this must walk around with story ideas in her head all the time, she doesn’t deny it.
“Basically, what you say is true. I know the lay out of the story because I know the characters I want to write about even before I write them.” Jackson says her iPhone recorder really comes in handy when those thoughts surface overnight.
“My guy will say something and I’ll wake up, and say it just like he said it (into the recorder) and go back to sleep,” she muses.
Interesting to hear her say, I’ll say it ‘just like he said it.’
“Yes, just like my person in my mind would say it. If he’s talking to a girl, his girlfriend, or whoever, then I say the conversation and I act it out, then I go back to sleep. And you would be surprised that four minutes of dialogue can come out to like 10 pages.”
Brenda Jackson is a romantic and she makes no excuses for it!
“At 13 I met this guy…and 13 year olds noticing boys for the first time; but I just knew…if there was such a thing as a ‘soul mate’…we started dating at 14. I know a lot of mothers don’t like to hear this; at 15 he gave me a 2-heart ‘going steady’ ring. I still wear my going steady ring. I wear it proudly,” says the woman who has been married to husband Gerald Jackson for the past 41-years. Brenda says six years passed before the two of them decided to have kids.
“I know the good times of a marriage. I know the bad times of a marriage,” she claims after I give her a virtual bow-down. “I know when you have to compromise…when you have to get together and support each other,” she continues.
The Jacksons have been through it and have survived where many others have not. Instead of growing apart after Brenda suffered two miscarriages, it brought them closer together.
Although her books are for entertainment purposes only, and she writes about the ‘happily ever after’ fantasy, Brenda affirms, “there is truth to some of that. You can find your soul mate.”
In Jackson’s books, don’t look for her true-life story in the plot, but she does admit you may find it in the action or outcomes.
“When I think of how I want my hero to treat my heroine, that’s how Mr. Jackson treats me; with dignity and honor and respect. And I think men should be treating their women that way – love them. Put them on a pedestal.”
Jackson says that while a lot of her female fans write her saying ‘I want a Madaris man,’ or ‘I want a Westmoreland man,’ because they know how to treat a woman right; women are not the only ones corresponding with this New York Times bestselling novelist.
“I have men write me and say, ‘I want to know what I’m doing wrong. I want to read your books to see how I should be treating a woman.'”
Jackson chooses an interesting writing pattern. Her books are not plot-driven, instead, they’re character driven. This makes it more intriguing perhaps, to the readers who enjoy her series books that focus on family sagas about the Montgomery’s, the Bannisters, the Westmoreland’s and the Madaris clan.
“I have all of these family members and most of my members that I write about are guys because I like to get inside men’s heads,” she offers. And check this out! “Romance books are the only books that can take the most fierce animal on the planet, man, and have a woman bring him to his knees.”
But the reason why Jackson says she enjoys this is because her men characters think they will never fall in love; they are players, but she helps them find their soul mate.
In “A Madaris Bride for Christmas,” her latest work, she focuses on one of her most unforgettable Madaris heroes yet – Lee Madaris. This brother is not letting anyone control his destiny to find the woman he wants to marry. But one by one, the Madaris men have surrendered to the matchmaking schemes of the family matriarch, Felicia Laverne Madaris. Lee is determined to bring a bride of his own choosing to the family’s holiday gathering–if only his hotel’s gorgeous new chef will agree to a marriage of convenience.
Jackson writes contemporary multicultural novels; and cranks out 6 to 8 novels a year! In 2010 alone she published 10 new books, and 8 books in the previous year. The woman is a writing machine!
And now director Debbie Allen has come a callin’. She wants to develop one of Jacksons books, A Silken Thread, for the big screen. And Jackson has approved this (a fete accompli for sure, as she had vowed not to let anyone else have the rights to her work due to a lesson learned on her first go ’round.)
“BET made…my fourth book into a movie and they strayed away, it was a beautiful story, One Special Moment, and that book won a lot of awards… And even though it is a romance novel a lot of churches were using that book to show women, because the girl, Kobe, remained a virgin until marriage. But the hero, the movie star, was telling her all the reasons that she should let him make love to her before marriage,” she explains. “At the end I told them [BET], ‘I know you’re going to have to take artistic liberties, (realizing the book and movie are never quite the same), but certain things we are going to have to keep,'” she explained to the filmmakers. She also told them she didn’t want any profanity in it. Cut to the chase, did they listen?
“They honored some of the things,” she continues, “but not all. It was a movie where the girl got pregnant before she was married…My readers protested…They were so upset.”
Jackson says readers are particularly sensitive to her Madaris books, and she promised them that any of her future books made into movies would be done by her (Ms. Allen must’ve had a pretty good rap).
“They went online, we didn’t sell them in stores. But they were moving so fast it got the attention of Warner Bros. and I was selling my DVD’s for $25 and they were saying, ‘who is this woman selling DVDs for $25 when you can get “Avatar” for $19.99?'”
Jackson says they … offerend her the opportunity to broaden her audience by putting the DVDs in the stores. So now, the movie is in Target, Walmart and other retailers. And even Netflix jumped onboard earlier this year. Jackson said the movie was made for a little less than half a million dollars. They recouped their investment in full.
Brenda loves and respects her fans; and she says she wishes she could get out and see them more; but it is not from lack of trying. To stay connected with them she holds online contests, and for her 10-year-anniversity Jackson said, “let’s go on a cruise.”
400 people showed up! And now she cruises with her fans every two years.
“We went to Alaska this year,” she says, and their next trip will be to Bermuda!
They plan a big rollout for the momentous 100th book celebration.
“November 14th [will be] the kickoff of…100 across the country celebrations; book parties being organized in homes and book stores…around the country.”
The information will be on her website beginning November 7 on how you can organize and have your own 100th book celebration party.
“And I hope people will go out and get [the book]. I’m making history. I’ll be the first African American of any genre to write a hundred books. Not poems, I’m sure James Weldon Johnson wrote a hundred poems; I’m talking about novels and books.”
You heard her people! Let’s support this incredible author and major history maker. To learn more about the romance novels of Brenda Jackson head over to her official website by clicking here…now!
“A Madaris Bride for Christmas” comes to stores in November 2013.
DeBorah B. Pryor is a Los Angeles-based journalist, adjunct instructor at UCLA Extension, and author of the seminar “Public Speaking for the Private Person” available on CD here.