‘Opinionated Afternoon'

Brenda Jackson, a contemporary romance novelist, speaks to an audience at a talk organized by the Opinionated Ladies Book Club at the Alachua County Library Headquarters in Gainesville. Jackson's multicultural stories have reached the New York Times and USA Today bestsellers lists.

BRAD McCLENNY/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 2:30 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 2:30 p.m.

Best-selling romance author Brenda Jackson gave an inspiring presentation and shared obstacles and successes in her literary journey to becoming a renown and prolific award-winning author.

Jackson was the featured author at "An Opinionated Afternoon," the 5th anniversary celebration of the Opinionated Ladies Book Club, which was attended by more than 100, mostly women, and held Saturday at the Alachua County Library Headquarters in downtown Gainesville. A large group from the Prominent Women of Color Book Club in Jacksonville also were in attendance at the event, sponsored by the Opinionated Ladies Book Club and the Friends of the Alachua County Library.

Jackson said book clubs are very important for African-American authors to get their books out to the public. "I started reading books to break the monotony of my job," Jackson said. "My passion and drive for writing stories is as hot now as it was then."

Jackson, who is releasing her 99th book, "Courting Justice" in May, has 3 million books in print. She is the first African-American author to have a book published under the Harlequin/Silhouette Desire line and the first African-American author to make both the bestsellers lists of the USA Today and The New York Times in the romance series genre.

Jackson lives in Jacksonville with her husband of 39 years, Gerald Jackson. They have two sons, Gerald Jr., 35, whose production company, Five Alive Films, produced her book, "Truly Everlasting," into film, and Brandon, 32, a U.S. foreign service diplomat stationed in South Africa.

Charmaine Henry, a member of the Opinionated Ladies Book Club, presided over the event and Cynthia Moore Chestnut, president and founder of the Opinionated Ladies Book Club, delivered the greetings and introduced book club members.

Carrie Parker-Warren, a member of the Opinionated Ladies Book Club, shared the history of the book club, which was established in 2007 at the home of Chestnut.

In her introduction, Ora White, a member of the Opinionated Ladies Book Club, said Brenda Jackson is a literary gem who began reading romance novels to reduce stress.

Brenda Jackson said her books are character-driven, not plot-driven, and are about families. To aspiring authors, she said not to let rejection letters and criticism discourage them. She said she received 20 rejection letters, some from her current publisher, Harlequin/Silhouette Desire.

"If you have passion for writing, don't give it up," said Jackson. "I didn't get published right away, but I kept writing. I believed in my story and took comments constructively."

When told her writing was not grammatically correct, Brenda Jackson said her response was to work on her grammar. She attended author workshops, specifically ones by romance authors Nora Roberts and Sandra Brown, to get the tools she needed to be successful. Brenda Jackson said getting published now is easier because you can self-publish on e-books.

"I love happy endings," said Jackson. "I want my heroine and her hero to work things out at the end."

Gainesville resident Adrianne Edderly said her passion for reading started with "Surrender" by Brenda Jackson.

"I wasn't into reading," Edderly said. "I developed a passion for reading because of that book. Now I read everything, and I'm more open to new ideas."

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