Brenda Jackson has published more than 100 novels and novellas and has more than 3 million books in print!
Her professional writing career began in 1994 when she signed on with Kensington Arabesque. Her first book, Tonight and Forever, became a huge success, introducing the Madaris Family. Since then, she has introduced the Bennetts, the Westmorelands, the Montgomerys, the Masters, the Savoys, the Steeles and the Grangers, just to name a few.
She has received numerous awards and made many trail-blazing accomplishments by being the first African-American author to have a book published under the Harlequin/Silhouette Desire line of books and the first African-American romance author to make USA Today’s Bestseller’s List and the New York Times Bestseller’s List for the series romance genre.
She was a 2012 NAACP Image Award Nominee and has received numerous awards for her support of African-American sororities Delta Sigma Theta, the AKA and the Zeta Phi Beta. She is a strong believer in the power of education established the Josiephine Streater Threatt Scholarship Foundation at Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens, Florida in honor of her grandmother. Over $150,000 has been donated to this Foundation to provide scholarships to students wanting a college education.
Brenda has received a Romance Writers of America’s (RWA) Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award, one of the highest literary awards an author can receive in the romance genre. She has received the Mary McLeod Bethune Community Service Award from the Jacksonville Alumnae Chapter of Bethune Cookman University, the Pioneer Award in Writing from Romantic Times Magazine and was recognized by the mayor and the city of Jacksonville as being a Trailblazer in the literary field.
In 2015, she was awarded the Humanitarian Award from Florida Memorial University and her book A Lover’s Vow, was selected by Essence Magazine as one of the best books for 2015.
In 2010, she collaborated with her son’s production company, Five Alive Films, to turn one of her books, Truly Everlasting, into a feature film.
Brenda was born in Jacksonville, Florida, went to William M. Raines High School and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Jacksonville University. She married her high school sweetheart and has two sons. As if being a prolific writer wasn’t enough – Brenda also worked in management for a major insurance company for 37 years before retiring to write full-time.
You have more than 10 MILLION books in print and you’re a New York Times and a USA Today bestselling author, and you only fairly recently retired from a professional career as well… What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
For me my greatest accomplishment is being married 42 years to my husband. I believe all my other milestones and trailblazing achievements are a result of having such a supportive spouse who believed and encouraged me to follow my dreams. Gerald passed away two years ago of cancer and as I reflect how strong and loving our relationship was, I know that the reason I can write so strong about love and romance is because of him.
You have broken so many records for African-Americans in the publishing world! How did you break into the industry?
It wasn’t easy because at the time the concept of “Black Love” wasn’t readily accepted or embraced by major publishers. Kensington Publishing took a chance and started a line of romance novels features African-American heroes and heroines called Arabesque. I truly believed they were even shocked by how well the books were received and how they broke sales records.
You are also incredibly prolific, with more than 100 novels and novellas published – how do you consistently create new characters and stories?
My books are character driven versus plot driven. That means I get to know my characters before establishing a plot or situation to place them in. And I love writing about family, so the majority of my books the characters are connected to a family such as the Madarises, Westmorelands, Steeles, Bennetts, etc. I get to know the family as well. For me that make writing the stories easier and the plot I create for them flows quickly through my mind while I write. And I love introducing new family members and their friends to my readers.
Which is your favorite character you’ve created and what about them speaks to you?
I think my favorite character is the first hero I created which is Justin Madaris from my first book Tonight and Forever. A lot of Justin reminds me of my husband since I wrote about a man I would want every woman to love and admire. And since Justin was my very first hero, he will always hold a special place in my heart.
You also give quite a bit back to your community, what began your desire to help those around you? What charities have you chosen to work with and why?
Both my sons got degrees from Ivy League universities. My oldest from Columbia University and my youngest from Cornell. Whenever they needed anything all they had to do was pick up a phone and call home. My husband and I were there for them. I often wondered how it would be for a student who didn’t have the luxury of calling home when they needed something. Who didn’t have parents they could depend on? Or how it would be if they wanted to go to college and couldn’t. That’s why I started my scholarship foundations. I have 3 in my name and one in my grandmother’s name to honor her memory. I’ve established the Brenda Jackson Leadership Scholarship; the Brenda Jackson Literary Scholarship and the Brenda Jackson Empowerment Scholarship. All three are awarded to high school college bound seniors in the Jacksonville area. The Josephine S. Threatt Scholarship is a full scholarship at Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens, Florida. The reason I chose Florida Memorial is that it’s a private Baptist college that my grandmother help support many years ago when it was founded in Jacksonville and the campus was in St. Augustine.
You have a chance to travel the country and meet new women all the time… what kind of woman most inspires you?
Women who try to make a difference in someone lives. Women who are successful and have no problem reaching back and sharing that success or inspiring others to be as successful.
If you could give a piece of advice to someone who is struggling to start their dream career, as a writer or in any other industry, what would it be?
One of my favorite quotes is – If you don’t build your dreams, someone will hire you to build theirs. My advice is to follow your dream and never give up. Build your own dreams and believe in yourself. You will never be successful if you don’t encounter failure. But don’t let failing be the end result. Keep trying and believe in yourself. Believe that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to doing. Then work hard to do it. If you can perceive it then you can achieve it!