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. Categories: 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: $3.99 USD. Words: 10,940. Language: English. Published: August 22, 2011. Categories: 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: 6,470. Language: English. Published: August 20, 2011. Categories: 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 Story Teller
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 2,100. Language: English. Published: May 30, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction
When the sun rises in the sky it does so at the bidding of the Story Teller. All my people gather around to hear the ancient tales and welcome the life-giving sun. But when the Story Teller begins to weaken and her words falter our people see that the sun also begins to weaken and falter and we are afraid.
Big Brother Solomon: A Scribe and a Half
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 1,320. Language: English. Published: May 28, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction
Big Brother Solomon longs to be a scribe, but he worries that his large size is not well suited for the delicate work of copying manuscripts. Will he have to spend the rest of his life chopping wood at the monastery?
Grandma Joyce, It's Me! ... And Other Stories About Grandparents
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 3,170. Language: English. Published: May 27, 2011. Categories: 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.
Dr. Del and Nurse Buttercup
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 1,540. Language: English. Published: May 12, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction
Nurse Buttercup was Dr. Del’s most trusted assistant. Not only did she help him take care of his patients, she also made sure his office ran smoothly. But Nurse Buttercup was very grumpy and that was not a good thing for Dr. Del. He needed to find a way to make her smile.
Uh, Oh, I've Gotta Go
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 880. Language: English. Published: April 29, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction
Kevin is so excited about starting school, but when he has an accident on his first day everything changes. No matter what Kevin can't bring himself to ask the teacher to let him go to the bathroom. He thinks everyone is looking at him. Will Kevin find his courage or will he be the laughing stock of kindergarten?
Nica's Cuckoo Clock
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 660. Language: English. Published: April 29, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction
Nica hates to go to bed because there is too much to do. She decides to use a noisy cuckoo clock to help her stay awake but her plan does not work the way she thought it would.
One Week in E Street
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 1,720. Language: English. Published: April 29, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction
When Talia travels with Mami to visit her abuelo in Cuba, everything looks different and she doesn't feel so at home. But by the end of her visit Talia learns that there are fun sights and sounds on E street (calle E) that soon make her feel right at home.
Abigail's Summer: A Story About Gettysburg
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 13,370. Language: English. Published: April 29, 2011. Categories: 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.
My Trelawney: Tonia's Story
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 23,280. Language: English. Published: April 27, 2011. Categories: 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
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 1,630. Language: English. Published: April 27, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Fairy tales & fables
In Prince Gerald's Very Big Responsibilities, Prince Gerald is being groomed to become the ruler of the Realm of Long Pond. Each day he meets with his tutors and accompanies his father as he conducts his royal duties. But the Prince has a secret; he doesn't want to be the ruler of the Realm of Long Pond. How can he follow his dream when he has such very big responsibilities?
Dragons Don't Wear Pink
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 1,160. Language: English. Published: April 26, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction
Formation training is an important event for a seven-year-old dragon and Petulia thinks it calls for a special outfit. When she shows up for training in a shiny pink dress her sister Una is disgusted and is sure the instructor will be too.