January 13, 2017
Interview – Chandra Sparks Splond for her blog
with Ann Jeffries
Black Pearls Magazine Interview
with Ann Jeffries
Black Pearls Magazine Interview on June 24, 2014 with Ann Jeffries, author of Southern Exposures, Another Point of View, Northern Exposures, An Unguarded Moment and Touch Me In the Morning in the Family Reunion—Wisdom of the Ancestors Series
BPM: What motivated you to sit down and actually start writing this book?
Ann: Boredom. I had hundreds of cable television channels to choose from and plenty of books in my library, yet I was still bored. So I picked up a pad and paper and Southern Exposures was born. I enjoyed the writing so much that several books followed.
BPM: Does your upbringing or life experiences inspire your writing?
Ann: Yes, to a certain extent it does. My ancestors were born and raised in a small country town in Sumter County, South Carolina. As a child, while my parents worked in Washington, DC, my maternal grandmother would take me to South Carolina during the summer to visit with our rather large family there. I would listen to the stories that they told about their youth in the south that were so different from my northern experiences and the stories that they remembered from their parents and grandparents. Some of that history is reflected in the personalities of my characters. It’s like the old souls showing up and reminding me of what I recall from my childhood coupled with my adult life experiences.
One such life experience was listening to former Congresswoman Barbara Jordon deliver the “Who Speaks For The Common Good” keynote address at the National Democratic Convention. Her words to me were even more riveting than Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. I encourage readers to listen to her blueprint for a better society.
BPM: Do you write full-time? Do you write every day? Do you have a special time to write?
Ann: Yes, I write full-time, every day and most days, all day. If the story is flowing for me, I do not stop until all of the voices that show up are captured on the printed page.
BPM: Do you ever let the book stew – leave it for months and then come back to it?
Ann: Always. I complete my manuscripts and then put them aside and work on another part of the series. Then I go back and re-read my stories to insure that the theme of the series is still on course. It may be months before I get back to a story that I’ve completed.
BPM: Where do your book ideas come from? Are your books plot driven or character driven? Why?
Ann: I have short and long term plans for my books and each character that walks into my story can bring a new idea or twist to the story that I ultimately want to tell from different perspectives in this series. There are currently twenty-six books in the series in various stages of completion. Some of the manuscripts are plot driven while others are character driven.
BPM: Introduce us to your current work. What separates this story from the millions of other books on the shelves? Is this book available in digital forms like Nook and Kindle?
Ann: Southern Exposures is the introduction to the Alexander family of Goodwill, Summer County, South Carolina. Dr. Bernard Alexander, an educator, and his wife of thirty-plus years, Sylvia Benson Alexander, a nurse, are successfully raising five young adults. Kenneth and Benjamin Alexander are brothers and best friends, but as different as night and day. Kenneth, the older, the cool, calm, and collected is a highly trained electronics engineer and businessman, and President of his San Francisco-based computer hardware, software and telecommunications company. Captain Benjamin Staton Alexander is the dashing, young US Air Force jet fighter pilot, stationed in San Diego. Yet they came to the same conclusion: They were both falling in love with the same woman—the beautiful and alluring JeNelle Towson, a businesswoman who owns INSIGHTS, a Santa Barbara emporium.
Next in the family line is Vivian Lynn Alexander, a Georgetown Law School student who comes to the conclusion that she could no longer be in a relationship with her college sweetheart and be a successful lawyer. She becomes friends with former basketball icon Chuck Montgomery; an interracial relationship ensues until she meets Chuck’s best friend, Derrick “Dunk and Jam” Jackson, who was an even more celebrated basketball star. Both medical doctors now, Chuck and Derrick find that they have no protection from falling hard for the former basketball Olympic Gold Medalist turned law school student.
Two more Alexander offspring, Gregory, a high school student, and Aretha, a young genius, are a part of the story, but have their own novels later in the series. We watch as the Alexander offspring grow and move out into a society so very different from the principles that their parents and ancestors laid out for them. They encounter people along the way who challenge them on so many levels. Life is hard, but these characters continue to work for what former Congresswoman Barbara Jordon called “The Common Good.”
I believe that it’s for my readers to say what they believe separates these stories from the mass market literature available on the shelves. For certain my stories have triumphs and trials, love and hate, humor and horror, suspense and mystery, and plots and pleasures to serve the taste of most adult readers. Of Southern Exposures, author Jessica Tilles wrote: “Ann Jeffries definitely has a skill for storytelling. There is vitality and high drama in Southern Exposures. The author did an excellent job with honing in and focusing on the three main, important characters of which the drama surrounds. I fell in love with the Alexanders.” Attorney Brenda Irons LeCesne wrote: “Loved the way Ann described the activities. I felt as though I was there witnessing everything. The book is very warm and the characters have to face challenges each in a different way. Loved the focus on loving family.” Karen R Thomas, President of Creative Minds Book Group wrote: “I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I think that Ann’s ability to create emotion is a true talent. She did a great job creating suspense. The characters stories seemed most authentic and entertaining. Language and dialogue overall is a strong area for Ann.” I could not have described Southern Exposures better than these three readers.
Yes, Southern Exposures is available on Amazon’s Kindle and in paperback format. All of the novels are also available at Barnes and Noble and Nook. If the books are not available on book shelves asked the book seller to order it through my distributor, Ingram Spark.
BPM: Give us an insight into your main characters. What makes each one so special?
Ann: I believe the answer above provides some insight into the characters and what makes them special.
BPM: Can you outline some areas where your characters dealt with issues that are in current affairs?
Ann: Vivian, although a busy law school student, volunteers time at a family homeless shelter where she meets a destitute Peruvian woman, Signora Anna Menendez-Gaza and her two young children, Angelique and Miguel. She helps Anna’s family by bringing them to live in Benny’s (her brother) huge brownstone, where she rents rooms to other law school students. All of her housemates pool their resources to help this family find out what happened to Anna’s husband who has mysteriously disappeared. Homelessness is a fact of astronomical proportions in current society. It is often rare to see the extent of human kindness up close and personal as we do in this aspect of the story.
In another part of the story, Kenneth and Benjamin learn that JeNelle has been the victim of spousal abuse during her former marriage. Again, a current day issue that has yet to be solved. Kenneth and Benjamin both address this situation in an effort to help JeNelle work through her issues.
BPM: What topics are primarily discussed? Did you learn anything personal from writing your book?
Ann: With Vivian and the other law school students, the current political climate runs the gamut. One of the housemates, William “Bill” Chandler is a former male prostitute and high-priced, high fashion model, who comes from a dysfunctional family in the heart of Little Italy in New York City. Bill’s backstory is fertile ground for an airing of issues related to sexuality.
Another housemate and law school student, Alan Lightfoot, is a full-blooded Navajo Native American and former US Marine who’s fighting to preserve his heritage and his ancestral home. There is quite a scandal that is uncovered about the powers-that-be who continue to mistreat Native Americans and the reasons for it.
I learned that I love to write from going through this process and that even the research that goes into the details is a lot of fun.
BPM: What would you like for readers to take away from your writing? How do you go about reaching new readers?
Ann: There are a lot of “take aways” from my novels; however, perhaps the most poignant is Amanda Wheeler’s words in her book Arms of the Magnolia. She wrote: “I have this love-hate relationship with the South. Some of my best and worst experiences took place there. I believe that African Americans who have never had southern exposure have a limited prospective on racism. They think it’s all about jobs, but it’s not only about jobs. It’s about land, ownership and self-sufficiency. Our story might be different, if we had gotten our forty acres and a mule. People who can grow their own food and live independent of salaries are the ones who will survive. Everything else is fleeting . . .”
If I say something that is relevant to my audience, I trust that they will remember it and pass it on. Word of mouth may be a low-tech means of reaching a small audience, but some of the great authors started that way. However, regardless of whether I ever reach the New York Times best sellers’ list or have my series optioned for a movie or television show, I will have thoroughly enjoyed this process.
BPM: What defines success for you, as a published author? What are your ambitions for your writing career? What would you like to accomplish after the book is released?
Ann: Success for me has already been achieved. I have three books on the market with twenty-three to go . . . so far. I also have a mystery series that I’m actively working on. There are three books currently in that series. In early 2015, I want to start releasing The Jenna Baker Mystery series.
BPM: Where do you find your daily inspiration or muse?
Ann: I certainly don’t want to freak anyone out or bring my sanity into question, but my characters just show up and beg to have their stories told. Sometimes I ignore them until I have the right vehicle to showcase their stories. Other times I create them because they are the right fit for what I want to say. Men who can cook and women with a strong sense of who they are, are often my inspirations. Couple that with the incredible personalities that I read about in magazines, like Black Enterprise and/or Essence, and I never go wanting for inspiration or muses.
BPM: Were there any challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing this story to life?
Ann: My biggest challenges were keeping my characters in line and trying to manage the extraordinary number of people and personalities involved in the backstories and arcs. Each novel in the Family Reunion—Wisdom of the Ancestors series sets the stage for the next to follow and then the next. Although each book is a stand-alone story, characters do reappear in other story lines.
BPM: What are your expectations for this series of books?
Ann: My expectations for the series are not grand. Once I identify where I’m going, getting there may be the easiest part. I may take some detours along the route, but ultimately I want to share something that I enjoy reading with my family, friends and fans.
BPM: What are your goals as a writer? Do you set out to educate or inspire? Entertain? Illuminate a particular subject?
Ann: I have simple goals as a writer: Tell a good, entertaining story that people will enjoy; never put a story to bed with regrets; and leave my audience demanding more.
BPM: What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing?
Ann: Self-publishing allow the writer to use all of the creative tools in the tool box without debilitating interference or influence. I do not seek to appeal to everyone’s taste. However, in my view, the best gauge of an author’s work product comes from the audience reviews whether they are good, bad or indifferent.
BPM: Are there any areas of your writing career that you wish you could go back and change? Any regrets?
Ann: Yes. I regret not taking the advice of my family and friends much sooner. They encouraged me to publish my stories long before I actually made the effort.
BPM: Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
Ann: Thank you for providing this forum to address your audience. It’s been a teachable moment for me.
BPM: A Legacy is something that is handed down from one period of time to another. Finish this sentence – “My writing offers the following legacy to future readers and authors…”
Ann: “My writing offers the following legacy to future readers and authors that you, too, have a voice that should be heard in the literary arena.”
BPM: How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Ann: I welcome readers to follow my efforts and submit comments through my publishing house, New View Literature. (see www.newviewliterature.com), Twitter @newviewlit, and on Facebook @ Ann Jeffries.