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January 27, 2010


Posted by webmaster
In Jacqueline Luckett's debut novel, Searching for Tina Turner, Lena Spencer lives a life of luxury. But all is not as it seems. Her husband is emotionally distant, her son has a drug habit and her daughter is disgusted by her mother's overbearing behavior. Money, Lena realizes, can't solve her problems, and when her husband gives her an ultimatum she chooses a different path.

In today's guest post, Jacqueline shares some insights into Lena and her story, the writing process, how she hopes Lena will inspire readers...and why she wakes up in the middle of the night worrying about her characters.

I read for pleasure, for diversion, escape and the beauty of the words. For as much as I read, and for as much as everyone who knows me knows I love to read, I've never been invited to join a book club (and I don't know why I never started one). If I were in a book club, sitting face-to-face with an author whose book I just completed, I think I'd be most curious about process and characters.

For me, putting stories together combines writing, reading and watching. Everything and everyone around me inspires. I eavesdrop (politely inconspicuous) on conversations and watch strangers --- their body language, hand movements, how they walk or wait. I keep a list of books. Each time I finish reading one, I write a one-sentence summary. The summary forces me to be concise and to think about story, characters, style and approach. It takes longer to read these days because I'm studying accomplished authors. I read and reread phrases, sentences and paragraphs, dissecting each one to understand how the author captured ideas, emotions and descriptions. For writers, it's as important to read, as it is to write. My list helps me keep track of what I've read, and I'm studying craft.

Before starting my novel, I pulled books from my shelves and read first sentences. I wrote a few (no, many) of my own that I didn't like. My intention was not to copy, but to understand where and how to start --- with a person, in the middle of action, with a thought or an event. Stories start in all of those places and more, but reading those sentences encouraged me to think of my character and the best way to tell her story.

There are authors who speak of being inhabited by their characters. Mine worry me. They're pesky. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and wonder what they're going to do next, or I worry because they're taking a path different from what I would have chosen for them. Or I worry because they're stuck, or I'm stuck.

I've been asked if I'm the heroine of my novel. No. But I love this quote, almost an explanation, from James Baldwin's 1955 Notes of a Native Son:

"One writes out of one thing only --- one's own experience. Everything depends on how relentlessly one forces from the experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give. This is the only real concern of the artist, to recreate out of the disorder of life that order which is art."

My divorce was an emotional nightmare. I share bits of those feelings with Lena, the main character of Searching for Tina Turner. Lena is part imagination and part inspiration; a fusion of women I met who were going through the pain and confusion of divorce, the release that accompanies it and the steps they took to reach the other side.

I love characters that live on after a story ends and wonder about them as I would a long lost friend. I'm hoping Lena Harrison Spencer will be a character who sticks with readers for a while and who inspires readers to be unafraid of new beginnings. I'm excited, and a bit intimidated, by the prospect of an intimate face-to-face with my readers. If there are disagreements with my story, characters' choices or personalities, I hope the differences of opinion will spark an entertaining and reflective exchange, not for what I could have written differently, but about choices and consequences.

---Jacqueline Luckett