Interview with Jacqueline Grant

Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I don't think this was the first story I ever read, but it is one that stayed with me. It was called Bettina's Secret and I read it way back in the early 1970s when I was in Catholic boarding school in Jamaica. Each month we could pick books to order from a book club and I chose Bettina's Secret. There was something about the quietness of that story and the discoveries Bettina made that fed my passion for reading.
How do you approach cover design?
I am not a designer and I like it that way. I am told my covers are distinctly me. I look for an image that I connect with and I build the cover layout, background theme and colors around this image. At some point I might use a fancier process but, honestly, I love the simplicity of Gunga Peas Books' covers.
What do you read for pleasure?
I love Caribbean and Latin American novels. Anything by Isabelle Allende works for me. I also read a lot of history books because there are always snippets that stay with me for future stories I want to write.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I use a Kindle and I read it on my iPad.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up on the Caribbean island of Jamaica. My family lived on a sugar plantation and my sister and I went to Catholic boarding school. When we were home for the summers I would roam all over the plantation making up stories about the old buildings and factories I saw. I am passionate, just crazy passionate, about Jamaica and the Caribbean and the wider world of Latin America. I went back to college to get my Ph.D. because I wanted to write about my heritage with authority. Being Jamaican and being a historian of the Caribbean and Latin America governs most of my writing. I am excited to share my heritage and I do this through my stories.
When did you first start writing?
In boarding school we used to have to go to study hall after supper (or before - hard to remember now) and instead of doing homework some of my friends and I would write stories in a notebook. I would write a page and then pass it to the next girl and she would write a page and so on. We would try to end our pages at an impossible place to see if the next girl could keep the story going. I might have been 11 or 12.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Right now I am working on a story called The Handmaiden. It is for readers about 12-16 years-old. It is based on the Biblical character of Hagar. She was an Egyptian slave to Sarah the wife of Abraham. Sarah and Abraham are the stars of the Biblical story but I have always identified with Hagar. I just wondered what the story would have looked like from her perspective so I decided to let her speak. I am just loving the process of writing The Handmaiden. It is very different from the stories I have written before.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Some of the books I have written grew out of my family's experiences. I wanted to get those stories directly to the young people who I thought would really connect with them and publishing them myself seemed the best way to make that happen. I have three books published with a traditional publisher and I just felt very disconnected from the process. It seemed as though once I turned over the manuscript I relinquished all say over how the book would be presented. Through my characters I try to tell children and young people that they are special. In Tamika's Hair I address that issue of having kinky hair in a world where straight silky hair is valued. I wrote this because my daughter was teased about her hair in elementary school and I wanted her to see how awesome our kinky hair is.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I love the process from idea to final edit. I love having an idea and plotting out the general story. I love seeing the story change as I write it. I love having a rough draft (and I do mean rough) and letting it sit to "percolate" for a while and I love that freshness of coming back to it after not having read it for a while. The tightening and honing that comes from editing is also something I totally enjoy. When I am not writing I am thinking about writing and counting the minutes until I can. I have published 16 e-books and I am in the process of publishing the longer titles as paperbacks.
What do your fans mean to you?
The best part of owning my own publishing company is the direct contact I have with fans. I love doing school visits where the kids have read the book and have some insightful questions for me. I love being able to connect with them and hear how they were impacted by something I wrote.
What are you working on next?
I have a nonfiction series - very short works - that each deal with a Caribbean topic. The Not-So-Sweet History of Caribbean Sugar talks about the rise of sugar and slavery in the Caribbean and Dancing on the Day of the Kings is about an African celebration of Epiphany in 19th-century Cuba. I have started the research for a third in this series and this one will be about the Haitian Revolution.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
My kids. They are teenagers now and watching them become adults is inspiring. And my students. I teach 11th and 12th grade and every day they teach me something new.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I love to sew. I am excited that summer is around the corner because I plan to make lots of fun summer dresses.
Published 2014-09-15.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

My Name is Noel
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 18,140. Language: English. Published: September 18, 2011. Category: Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction
My Name is Noel is a middle-grade fictional story written from 12-year-old Noel’s point of view and describes an immigrant boy’s struggle to fit in to his new Miami school. Young people reading this story will see how overcoming their own prejudices can lead to real friendships.
Inga the Viking Girl
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 10,960. Language: English. Published: August 22, 2011. Category: Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction
Inga the Viking Girl is an early reader historical fiction chapter book. It includes two stories about Inga Svensdotter who lives in Greenland. The first story entitled Inga Goes A-Viking tells of her adventure as she stows away on a Viking ship. In the second story, Inga Plans a wedding, she tries to help her sister get out of marrying the worst boy in the fjord.
Kiesha's Kwanzaa
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 6,480. Language: English. Published: August 20, 2011. Category: Fiction » Children’s books » Holidays
Kiesha doesn't understand what is happening to her family. Papa hides behind the newspaper at dinner time, her brother Derrick is always grumpy and gets into trouble all the time. And Mama seems unhappy. Thank goodness for her precious library books. When she discovers a family celebration called Kwanzaa, Kiesha thinks she has found a way to help her family, but is it too late?
The Not-So-Sweet History of Caribbean Sugar
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 3,250. Language: English. Published: August 9, 2011. Category: Nonfiction » Children's Books » History
This nonfiction, middle grade level children's book is the second book in the Caribbean Reference Shelf series published by Gunga Peas Books. From the very beginning the history of Caribbean sugar and the history of Caribbean slavery were linked. This title tells the story of how the sugar cane industry developed during the colonial period.
Dancing on the Day of the Kings
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 2,600. Language: English. Published: June 6, 2011. Category: Nonfiction » Children's Books » History
Dancing on the Day of the Kings is part of a series called the Caribbean Reference Shelf. In this edition readers will learn about how people of color who lived in Havana, Cuba in the 1800s celebrated the Catholic feast of the Epiphany.
The Story Teller
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 1,450. Language: English. Published: May 30, 2011. Category: Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction
When the sun rises in the sky it does so at the bidding of the Story Teller, but when the Story Teller’s words begin to fail so does the ascent of the sun. Without the stories the island people will not survive.
Grandma Joyce, It's Me! ... And Other Stories About Grandparents
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 3,190. Language: English. Published: May 27, 2011. Category: Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction
This is a collection of three short stories about grandparents for early readers (7-8 year olds). The first is called Grandma Joyce, It's Me!, the second is called Papa's Bees, and the last story is called Grapes with Gramps.
The Dreamtoucher's Tale
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 1,540. Language: English. Published: May 13, 2011. Category: Fiction » Children’s books » Fairy tales & fables
Every fairy boy and girl knows of the Dreamtoucher. But is she more than just a fairytale? When Petal finds herself unable to dream her dreams into the world she decides to find out if the Dreamtoucher is real, and if she will help her.
Nanny and the Boiling Pot
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 1,590. Language: English. Published: April 29, 2011. Category: Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction
Nanny was an escaped slave living in the mountains of Jamaica. For many years these mountain dwellers, called Maroons, protected themselves against being captured by the British soldiers. They were cunning and brave and Nanny was the most cunning and brave of them all.
Abigail's Summer: A Story About Gettysburg
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 13,370. Language: English. Published: April 29, 2011. Category: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Historical
This 12,000-word middle grade (10 to 12 year olds) historical fiction tells the story of Abigail’s experience during the battle of Gettysburg. Abigail is right in the thick of the action and not only experiences war first-hand, she also experiences her first love.
I am Bakhita: The Lucky One
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 2,550. Language: English. Published: April 28, 2011. Category: Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction
“I cannot remember much about my village in Africa, but I remember the day I left it.” So begins this story entitled I am Bakhita: The Lucky One. This story is based on the true experiences of Saint Josephine Bakhita who was canonized by Pope John Paul II in the year 2000. My fictionalized version is told from Bakhita’s point of view.
My Trelawney: Tonia's Story
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 23,280. Language: English. Published: April 27, 2011. Category: Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction
It is 17th-century Jamaica and Tonia is a slave girl growing up on a sugar plantation. Determined to win her freedom and also her mother's, she comes up with a daring plan to sail away with Henry Morgan's band of pirates. Will she earn enough booty to buy her freedom? Will she even make it back to Jamaica?
Prince Gerald's Very Big Responsibilities ... And Other Tall Tales
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 6,910. Language: English. Published: April 27, 2011. Category: Fiction » Children’s books » Fairy tales & fables
Prince Gerald's Very Big Responsibilities ... And Other Tall Tales is a collection of five short stories for middle-grade readers (8-10 year-olds.) The collection includes Prince Gerald's Very Big Responsibilities, Big Brother Solomon: A Scribe and a Half, Dragons Don't Wear Pink, Dr. Del and Nurse Buttercup, and The Dreamtoucher's Tale. Each story is filled with fun and silliness.
Tamika's Hair
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 1,090. Language: English. Published: April 26, 2011. Category: Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction
Tamika lives in an island paradise where the sun warms her face and the ocean waves tickle her toes. She should be very happy, but she is not, and it is all because of her hair.