Beverly Jenkins is the recipient of the 2018 Michigan Author Award by the Michigan Library Association, the 2017 Romance Writers of America Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as the 2016 Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for historical romance. She has been nominated for the NAACP Image Award in Literature, was featured in both the documentary Love Between the Covers and on CBS Sunday Morning. Since the publication of Night Song in 1994, she has been leading the charge for inclusive romance, and has been a constant darling of reviewers, fans, and her peers alike, garnering accolades for her work from the likes of The Wall Street Journal, People Magazine, and NPR. If you would like to be notified when Beverly Jenkins has new releases, events, and other news, sign up for her newsletter at www.beverlyjenkins.net
1) First, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me! When did you know that writing is what you were called to do? What is it about being a writer that you love the most?
In the fourth grade I was the editor of my elementary school newspaper, and dabbled in writing short stories and poems into my teen years. I had no dreams of being a writer though. All my dreams were tied to working in a library. What I love most about writing though is being able to create the stories I want to read.
2) Can you tell us a little about your book(s) and where our readers can find out more about them and you?
I have over 40 books in print. I primarily write historical romance, told through an African-American gaze. I’ve also written contemporary romantic suspense, young adult, and women’s fiction.
3) Where do you draw your inspiration from for the stories that you manage to weave together and the characters that you create?
I draw my inspiration for my historical novels from Black history. Some of it is not well known such as the 19th century Black female doctors, the small towns founded by Black folks in Kansas and Nebraska, and the Black lawmen of Indian Territory.
4) Do you have a schedule for when you write? Do you outline your novels? How long does it generally take you to finish a novel? What projects are you currently working on?
I usually write at night. I don’t outline very much. I’m what is known as a pantser. I write by the seat of my pants and usually have no concrete plan for how the story will turn out. I’m guided by the characters and my settings.
5) What’s the first book you ever read that really moved you emotionally? Who is your favorite author to read? What book are you currently reading?
I don’t know what book initially moved me, but I think I’ve been influenced by every book I’ve read. I write romance but my favorite genres are sci-fi and fantasy. One of the best books I’ve read recently is the Broken Earth Trilogy by Black sci-fi novelist NK Jemisin.
6) What has been your most significant achievement as a writer thus far? Where do you see yourself within your career in the next five years?
My most significant achievement is being the 2017 recipient of the Romance Writers of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award. My first book was published in 1994. In five years, I hope to be still writing.
7) How have you dealt with rejection within your writing career? What are your thoughts about how the publishing industry is drastically changing in terms of traditional and self-publishing?
Rejection is a nature of the beast, but I’ve never let it stop me from creating. I think self-publishing has given many authors a platform for stories traditional publishing undervalued, and has made traditional publisher reevaluate their business models.
8) So many writers say that they hate reading their own work. Do you ever enjoy reading your own work back to yourself?
I enjoy rereading my work, but only after some time has passed. If I read it right after it’s published I sometimes nit-pick over my word choices and or the story’s structure. If there’s distance between publication and my reading it, I can enjoy it as a reader.
9) Do you believe that there is ever a point in life where it’s too late for an aspiring writer to become successful in this industry? Do you feel a late start would hinder their chances?
You are never too old to seek publication. My first book Night Song wasn’t published until I was forty-three years old. And having some life experience often makes for better writing – especially character development.
10) I feel like writing is a remarkable tool to help people not only express themselves, but also to cope emotionally and mentally. I know for me I write to be and feel more authentic. What unique quality is there about you, about your art, that you feel represents your authenticity? How does writing help you to be more empowered in your purpose?
My mission is to spread the word on the rich expansive history of African Americans in this country. I want to empower people and show we were more than just slaves.