Inspiration is a funny thing. It can come to us like a lightning bolt, through the lyrics of a song, or in the fog of a dream. Ask writers where their stories come from and you’ll get a myriad of answers. In that vein I created the WHAT (What the Hell Are you Thinking?) interview. Always including in the WHAT is one random question to really dig down into the interviewees mind, and probably supply some illumination into my own as well.
Tiffany D. Jackson, whose debut ALLEGEDLY drops today from Katherine Tegen Books. Tiffany is a TV professional by day, novelist by night, awkward black girl 24/7. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Film from Howard University and her Master of Arts in Media Studies from The New School University.
Ideas for our books can come from just about anywhere, and sometimes even we can’t pinpoint exactly how or why. Did you have a specific origin point for your book?
First time insomnia worked in my favor! LOL! I was up late one night, cruising the internet when I came across this story on People.com of a nine-year-old girl charged with murder. I was blown away and couldn’t stop thinking, “What if she didn’t do it?”
Once the original concept existed, how did you build a plot around it?
Thanks to Hurricane Sandy, I had a week off from work and wrote the entire first draft of the novel in a week! There were huge plot holes and missing back story but the story just poured out of me. I then stepped back to strategically do research and start conceptualizing how to add in the excerpts.
Have you ever had the plot firmly in place, only to find it changing as the story moved from your mind to paper?
Of course! The original ending of ALLEGEDLY was completely different in my head. By the fourth or fifth review of my draft, with plot holes plugged and backstory layered in, I had a sudden epiphany in the shower one morning that turned the entire book upside down.
Do story ideas come to you often, or is fresh material hard to come by?
I have about approximately five books in my head right now. Sometimes I start thinking of dialog for the next book before the one before it is done. I rely heavily on my “Notes” app when inspiration strikes at random, so I don’t forget scenes dancing through my skull and am constantly telling characters to wait their turn when they start talking. I’m officially the crazy dog lady on my block.
How do you choose which story to write next, if you’ve got more than one percolating?
Whatever story has the most notes in my phone that’s the story I go with.
I recently got stitches in my arm and was taking mental notes the entire time about how I felt before, during, and after the process of being badly injured. Do you have any major life events that you chronicled mentally to mine for possible writing purposes later?
I remember every moment of my Grandmother dying. I remember the feeling when I got the call that she was about to pass, the anxiety of trying to get to her hospice, the look on her face as she struggled, the way the room smelled, the color of her blanket as I laid beside her, the sounds of her last breath, the voices around me telling her it was ok to let go, then the unimaginable agony when she finally did. When I write hard, gut wrenching scenes of pain, I always pull from that.
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