Brenda Jackson’s 75th book, Hidden Pleasures, will be released by Kimani Romance, an imprint at Kimani Press, Harlequin’s African-American romance publishing division. That’s 75 books in 15 years, 10 of them being released across various Kimani lines in 2010 alone. Romance novelist Jackson, 57, plans to celebrate by, well, writing more. And reaching out to her readers; she is justly famous for taking very good care of them. Through monthly book giveaways featured in her electronic newsletter (www.brendajackson.net/page/brendas-newsletter), they will get to enjoy her anniversaries along with her.
“I write family sagas,” Jackson says. “And I know my stories. They are already written in my head. I just have to get them down on paper.” Jackson’s fans can’t get enough of what is in her head: complex relationships, love, drama, and sex.
Hidden Pleasures takes readers to Phoenix, Ariz., the home of the six Steele brothers, all successful, all playing the field, waiting to meet their one true love. “Each member of the Steeles is different,” Jackson says. “I wanted to show how African-American men bond. When I think of the Steeles, I think of togetherness.”
Jackson has six family series going. The Steele Family series has eight books. The Jeffries Family series (Spontaneous) has four, while the Montgomerys have three, and the Bennetts/Masters Family series has six. Her two most popular series, the Madaris Family and the Westmoreland Family each have 17 books. Last month, Kimani Arabesque released Sensual Confessions, a long-awaited title featuring the Madaris family, who debuted in her first novel. In this latest entry, womanizing Blade Madaris meets his ultimate challenge, a woman who doesn’t easily succumb. “It’s going to be a very popular book,” Jackson says, “to see the mighty Blade fall.” From Jackson’s lips to God’s ears: Sensual Confessions has hit the New York Times Paperback Best Sellers Mass Market fiction list.
When she was a little girl, Jackson’s mother would read to her happy-ending stories like “Cinderella” and “Snow White.” Jackson also fell in love with movies featuring the young romance of teenage characters Gidget and Moondoggie. “I grew up thinking that this was how love was supposed to be,” she admits. “Boy meets girl, they fall in love. Yeah, they will have issues along the way, but they are together forever after.”
Happily, Jackson’s own love life mimics a fairy tale. She met her husband, Gerald Jackson, when she was 14. At 16 he gave her a “going steady ring,” which she still wears today. They married when she was 19, have been together ever since, and have raised two sons.
In junior high, Jackson wrote stories over the weekend, black versions of Gidget—to read to her classmates on Monday mornings. After being scolded by the principal when students were caught reading her work in class, Jackson put the stories aside.
Her job after high school at State Farm Insurance required her to take extensive tests, and studying made her turn back to her writing as an outlet. This time, it was her co-workers who read her stories, and they encouraged her to try to get them published. In the early ’80s, she submitted her work to publishers, many of whom told her that they weren’t accepting ethnic characters. She didn’t land her first book with a publisher until nearly a decade later, when in 1995 Kensington published Tonight and Forever.
Today, the bestselling author admits that her writing schedule is “crazy.” Two years ago, when she was still working in management at State Farm, where she spent more than 35 years, her writing time was neatly carved out. Every morning, she rose at 3 a.m. and wrote until it was time to go to work. Then she’d come home and write after work. She never missed a deadline. That was when she was only writing four or five books a year.
“It wasn’t really a dream of mine to write full-time,” Jackson says. In 2008, however, she signed a deal she couldn’t refuse—an exclusive five-year contract with Kimani—that allowed her to retire and write full-time.
Now, she says, “My goal is just writing, and I love it.” Kimani Press loves her new lifestyle, too. In 2011, Kimani plans to release eight new Jackson novels and two reprints.
Felicia Pride is the author of The Message: 100 Life Lessons from Hip Hop’s Greatest Songs.