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

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

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reading horror.

Women do, but what they seek in romance novels is an escape and sometimes what they’d actually want in their lives as well. We’re dealing with so many things. I know women who write me and let me know that the characters that I put in my book, such as a man that appreciates a woman, are the type of men they’ve they want. They don’t sell themselves short and that sometimes comes from reading a romance novel. And there’s nothing wrong with that. For us to be able to put some time in our schedule where we can pick up a book or Kindle and read about a woman who may have some of the same trials and tribulations as we have in regard to love is amazing. It’s not taking away from your reality, but just adding to it. Sometimes, it gives you a greater appreciation for being a woman.

EBONY.com: There are so many books out there targeting women that talk about what were doing wrong, what we need to do, what we shouldnt do, etc. How do you feel about this?

BJ: I have a problem with that. I have been to book signings, and I’ve had Black women pass by my table and say they don't read romance novels because they're not real. What is wrong with reading a book about true love and commitment? I would rather read a book where two people are committed to each other in their love than reading a book that glorifies a man who has two or three women, and tells you how he’s messing around on all of them, and how he’s successfully on top of his game. I think people put romance novels down for the wrong reasons. A lot of times, I’ll say, “Read this one. Try it. You may like it.” And some of them will write me back and say, “I really enjoyed it, because it was a love story.”

EBONY.com: A Brother's Honor is your 99th book. That's incredible. Did you ever foresee being this successful?

BJ: When I was traveling and working for State Farm, I started reading romance novels, and I found out, “Wow, this is a nice escape from my hectic real world.” After reading one book, I remember that I didn’t like the way it ended, and I said, “Let me see if I can write a book like this, but change the ending.” When I finished it, I shared it with an old classmate of mine, and she said, “Brenda, this is your calling. This is a good story. You should try to get it printed.” She printed it up for me, and that’s really how it got started. From there, I had written 50 books while I was still working full-time at State Farm in management. I’d go home and write a book and that was my relaxation after a long day at work. I didn’t see it as a second job, I saw it, and I still do, as a way to relax. You cut out the real world. You forget about everything around you, and you concentrate on the world you’ve created. That was the escape for me. And to know that people enjoyed reading it, it just escalated me to keep doing it.

After 50 or 60 books, I was up for a huge promotion at State Farm and I didn’t get it. It was a big letdown. But, a friend ended up telling me, “Brenda. That wasn’t your job. If it were, you really would have gotten it. Maybe you should focus on the gift that God has given you as a writer." Ironically after that, Harlequin made me an offer that I couldn’t refuse. They made me an offer and more money than I thought I could ever make in my lifetime writing, and all I had to do was to come home and write books for them full-time.  Not every Black author is given this opportunity.

EBONY.com: Do you have a bigger dream for any of your novels?

BJ: I’ve had two made into movies. BET made one, “One Special Month”, and I made the other one. But, I told myself the next time anyone makes a movie based on one of my books, that I would do it myself. My next movie is going to be “Silken Thread." I’ve approved the script and given it my blessing, and I will work as a consultant on set.

EBONY.com: Its so inspiring to me that youre so full of life, and youre still in love with what you do after decades of working. It's very instructional that you never gave up on your true passion and dream.

BJ: You know, none of what I did was easy. Working a full-time job and writing books was not easy, but I