Monday 20 February 2017

Author Interview: Kathleen M. Jacobs



Kathleen M. Jacobs’s work has appeared in regional and national publications. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Humanistic Studies, and has taught English and Creative Writing on the high school and college levels.
Kathleen divides her time between the Appalachian region and New York City. Honeysuckle Holiday is her first young adult novel. She encourages readers to connect with her on her website, and on Facebook and Twitter.

In your own words, please tell us about your book:

Honeysuckle Holiday tells the coming-of-age story of twelve-year-old Lucy Moore, growing up in Memphis in the 1960s against the racial tensions of that era.  After discovering her father’s uncharacteristic involvement with the KKK, Lucy’s mother moves the family from a life of privilege to one of near marginality.  With the help of a black woman she hires to help her with the children, the family is brought full circle, shedding their unknowing racism and embracing the need to re-evaluate their thoughts on race.  As Lucy struggles to hold on to the trappings of childhood and its innocence, she learns to peel back the layers of human frailty (her own included) painful piece by painful piece.

Have you always known you wanted to be a writer?

I very much like a quote by William Carlos Williams:  “I think all writing is a disease.  You can’t stop it.”  I have always walked around with a piece of paper and a pencil.  Writing always helped me make sense of things that were difficult for me to understand, to process, to come to terms with, which I never could achieve by any other means. Writing is the way I make sense of the world around me.  I’ve tried to not write, but I can’t do it.  And I can’t begin to imagine not doing it – ever.

Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote?

What I recall specifically is a story that my younger sister penned, “Joey the Grape,” when she was probably seven years old.  I was completely taken with it, and it was actually that story that prompted me to write a story of my own that very much centered around a racial chant that my great aunt taught me when I was just about the same age as my sister was when she wrote “Joey the Grape.”  That chant became the core of Honeysuckle Holiday.  It never left me.  It still resonates with me all these years later.  Memory is a powerful tool for a writer.

Where do your story ideas come from? 

I think, for a great number of writers, ideas percolate over time, and the ones that get planted and grow in our spirits for longer than we ever imagined become fodder for future stories, or at least they become seeds that when planted grow into stories that present universal themes; for, as writers, we hope to engage the reader and take them on a journey that they’ll not only remember, but perhaps bring about a certain degree of transformation.

What do you think makes a good story?

Incorporating the five senses into every story is certainly a good starting point.  And being able to connect with our readers is then a gift.  If we can engage the reader in those bright gems of visibility, let them hear the nuances of language, let them somehow engage in the flavors of the story and its characters, then we will – hopefully – be able to bring them a renewed sense of hope in humanity.  It’s a tall bill, but when you think of the greatest stories told, it is also possible.

What kinds of things do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Read, read, and read some more; and then, talk about what I’ve read and what might come from it in terms of my own work.  Picking up on conversations around me, while a bit challenging at times, brings insight, laughter, and possibilities.  It’s also tremendous fun!

Who would you say has been a major influence in your life?

Kind, patient, passionate, encouraging teachers of English and literature have been my core influences as far as writing is concerned.  When I was a student at WVU my freshman year, my English 101 professor (and I wish I could recall his name) wrote a comment on an essay I had written:  “Once again, your jovial style saves the day.”  I’ve never forgotten it.  And when I taught creative writing to seniors at Charleston Catholic High School, I sent a letter to Harper Lee, asking her for advice to share with my students.  One sentence from her reply was enough for all of us, and still is:  “Don’t fall in love with what you write to the extent that you cannot edit it.”

What types of books do you like to read?

My appetite for reading is insatiable.  For a very long time, I was happily buried in a mound of fiction – both classics and contemporary.  Southern writers:  Faulkner, O’Connor, Welty, McCullers, Hurston, Capote (and I could go on and on) have always held me in their tight grip.  Poetry and non-fiction grab me at unexpected moments, most often when I am introspective.  But, I think, it’s the world of YA fiction and MG works that now have such a strong hold on me, and I find myself completely at their mercy.  And children’s work is gaining in momentum.

What would readers be surprised to know about you?

Holding numerous positions in education, business, banking, and the legal field – while at the time, I wasn’t aware – would enable me to write about a wide variety of issues, eventually working these experiences into my writing.  And yet, as I recall those myriad positions, I chuckle just a bit because I can recall writing stories as I ate my lunch and even using those microcassettes a time or two after I transcribed a legal document, recording the sound of my voice and a story idea. 

How can readers connect with you?

Social media  . . . again, I find myself chuckling just a bit, because after the release of Honeysuckle Holiday, my publisher, Jan-Carol Publishing practically insisted that I “get with it,” and I did.  Working with an IT genius, we created an inviting and beautiful (we think) website:  You can also find me on Twitter @KathleenMJacobs.  And Kathleen M. Jacobs can also be found on Facebook.

What are you currently working on?

Final edits are in progress right now on my first Middle Grade novel, which is scheduled for release in the spring.  It is a mystery, filled with the promise of hope, healing, and a young boy who must make the choice between good and evil.

What advice would you give aspiring authors?

Once again, I must yield to the advice from Harper Lee when she wrote in her reply, “Write.  Simply write.”

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