Historical fiction fans, if you haven’t read Angela Jackson-Brown yet, you are seriously missing out. Lucky for you, the author of When Stars Rain Down has a new book coming out. The Light Always Breaks will be available tomorrow, July 5!
Angela Jackson-Brown was kind enough to answer my interview questions. Here’s our conversation:
What inspired you to write The Light Always Breaks?
Angela Jackson-Brown: I have been thinking about the characters, Eva and Courtland since I was in my twenties. Now I am 54 and I just recently felt ready to tell their story. I read Nella Larsen’s book, Passing and I read about Mildred and Richard Loving’s court case in the 1960s to make interracial love and marriage legal, and I realized I wanted to write about that storyline in the 1940s in the same city where they finally received justice from the Supreme Court. Sadly, this story resonates with all that is going on now in time. I wonder, if that court case would have come across the docket now, if the Supreme Court would even consider it. As much as times have changed, so much remains the same, and sadly, so much has gotten worse. As a historical fiction writer, I want to write books that entertain and educate so we don’t continue to make the same mistakes over and over.
Which character was the easiest to write? The hardest?
Angela Jackson-Brown: I don’t know if “easiest” or “hardest” is the right terminology. I would say both Eva and Courtland were challenging because they are so different from me. Eva is a light-skinned Black woman with a certain amount of wealth and privilege that I have never known, and Courtland is a rich, white male from an affluent southern family. I have never created a character so different from me as Courtland, but in the case of Eva and Courtland, I enjoyed the process of pushing myself creatively.
Each character is incredibly well developed. Do you have a personal favorite?
Angela Jackson-Brown: I really enjoyed researching and writing about the historical character, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. I knew of him but I didn’t know how complex of an individual he was. He was a larger than life individual and I hope I came close to doing his character justice. Love him or hate him, those who knew Representative Powell aka Reverend Powell, knew him to be a drum major for justice even if he had to use unorthodox methods to achieve his goals.
Would you mind sharing a little bit about your writing process?
Angela Jackson-Brown: I am a very organized writer who plans everything. When I am under deadline, I tend to write up to eight hours per day. When it is during the semester and I am back teaching, I usually write first thing in the morning for two or three hours, and maybe another hour in the evening if my husband is busy working on projects of his own.
What are your comfort reads?
Angela Jackson-Brown: I frequently revisit books from my youth that inspired me to what to become a writer like The Color Purple by Alice Walker or I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. I am also drawn to southern fiction like To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee or A Lesson Before Dying or The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest J. Gaines. I also love YA fantasy and it is a great escape for me when I want to get out of the historical worlds I occupy so much. My favorite authors right now are Kalynn Bayron and Tomi Adeyemi.
What draws you to write historical fiction?
Angela Jackson-Brown: From the time when I was a little girl, I loved stories that began with, “Once upon a time…” I knew if a story started that way, I was in for a richly told story that had lots of history that was different than the world I lived in. It didn’t matter to me if the story was set a 1000 years in the past of 50. I just always liked a good historical fiction story. My favorite books growing up wereThe Little House on the Prairie books. I loved the idea of living on a prairie and the storylines seemed believable but also relatable for me, a young Black girl from rural Alabama. I was probably more like Mary than Laura, but I loved them both and I loved the details the author shared about her childhood.
Which time period has been your favorite to research and write about?
Angela Jackson-Brown: I truly love every time period I have focused on so far. Right now I am researching the time period o 1840 – 1900 in rural Georgia and Savannah. I love finding out details I never knew, another thing that draws me to historical fiction.
Can you share what are you working on now/next?
Angela Jackson-Brown: I am putting the finishing touches on my novel that will debut next year sometime. It is written from the POV of the daughter of my main character in When Stars Rain Down. It is set in 1962, and my character is involved with the Civil Rights Movement. It has been a joy writing about that time period and learning things about the Movement that weren’t written about or discussed in the history books.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Angela Jackson-Brown: I would say, focus on the craft. If you have a good product, and you have the tenacity to push through even when it seems like no one is interested in your work, at some point, you will find a home for your work.
Where can my readers find you online?
I’d just like to thank the author for having this conversation with me. It is such a gift to get this behind the scenes glimpse, and I’m grateful for the time and effort that authors put into not only writing these amazing stories that whisk us away, but also talking to reviewers and bloggers like me.
You can purchase Angela Jackson-Brown’s books from Bookshop.org here. Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org. I will earn a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you click through and make a purchase.