How to Write a Romance Novel:<br />
A Black Harlequin Author Speaks

Romance novelist Brenda Jackson and her most recent Harlequin titles. Steamy!

It wasn't in the plans, but as the saying goes, fate doesn't ask. For Brenda Jackson, fate told her what she would do for the rest of her life: write wildly popular romance novels. Her writing career began as a mere hobby, but would soon make her a notable in literary history. What Jackson has accomplished, most professional writers could only dream—she is one of the first African American to write and publish 50, then nearly 100 books.

Modest, humble and still so very focused on her craft, Jackson shares her purposeful journey to becoming a romance novel icon, and gives up the goods on the ending of A Brother's Honor, her 99th book with the storied publishing company, Harlequin MIRA.

EBONY.com: As many avid readers may know, Harlequin is synonymous with romance. As an author, how did you get your start writing for the famed publishing company?

Brenda Jackson: You’re right. It is synonymous with romance and they’ve been around for years. I remember seeing some of my aunts reading Harlequin. Once I began writing, I knew that in order to introduce myself to the world of romance, Harlequin would be the place to do it. But of course, like anything else, I got rejected with my first book. But that only made me more determined than ever to be a Harlequin author. I knew that to be accepted into the Harlequin world meant that you had arrived. So I was very happy when I was able to sign on— and it’s been a good family. They reach millions of people and have a huge readership. But with that readership comes expectations; they have to know that you’re going to write a good romance story.

EBONY.com: How has your personal romantic experience influenced any of your books?

BJ: Well, I met my husband when I was 14. He gave me a “going steady ring” when I was 15 and I still proudly wear my ring today. I’m 60, so you can imagine how long I’ve had this ring! Then we got married when I was 19 and we had our first child when I was 26, so I believe in the happily ever after and I can’t help but believe in it. And I try to tell people that it does not mean you’re not going to have bad days. But the bad days make you stronger and have a full outlook on relationships. He is my best friend, and I like to write those stories on relationships about two people who may be given a problem, but they are going to work it out and if you visit these characters 20 years from now, you’ll see that they weathered the storm and they’re still together.

You forget about everything around you, and you concentrate on the world you’ve created.

EBONY.com: Does the story line of A Brother’s Honor follow the romance genre you are so notable in?

BJ: A Brothers Honor is just one of those types of love stories where I introduce a whole new family. I put a few challenges in this book that a lot of people can relate to, because a lot of people don’t buy into the “happily ever after” sort of relationship. So instead of that type of ending, A Brother’s Honor (on sale wherever books are sold) is what I call a “satisfied ending”. It shows how two people have to really struggle to make their love work. I enjoyed writing that story.

EBONY.com: Oh my gosh! Youre love story is so amazing! No wonder you have such an in depth imagination for romance novels.

BJ: [Laughs] I grew up writing romance stories, and I think A Brothers Honor is going to be special. I took three brothers and I gave them three totally different personalities, because that’s how it is. I have three sons, and people say, “They’re different as day and night,” but it’s the core within them that makes them all the same. That’s what I’m trying to bring out in the Grangers. I’m exploring all of that, and I’m having a wonderful time doing it with this novel.

EBONY.com: Do you feel like the books that we read as women affect our outlook on love and life?

BJ: They do a lot of times. I try to remind people that the books are for entertainment purposes only. But there’s nothing wrong with dreaming; fantasizing. A dose of fantasy is good for a person. I always tell people, ”You always have reality.” I don’t know why, but for some reason, romance novels always get the brunt of jokes about fantasy, when it’s no different than Stephen King writing about a person coming from the dead. No one thinks that’s strange, because people know that’s not real. I don’t understand why people think that when women read romance novels, they don’t know the difference between fantasy and reality, just as someone does when