Kamichi Jackson shares her writing habits and about her book, K My Name is Kendra.
If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be?
It would have to be Kendra! I identify with her so much. I manage my depression well now as an adult, but when I was younger, I suffered in silence. My parents didn’t understand it. Other adults in my life didn’t understand it. And back then, going to a doctor to talk about what was happening in my mind was taboo. It was painful and lonely, and to me as a teen and young adult, it didn’t seem that anyone really wanted to put their own preconceived notions aside long enough to explore what was happening to me.
The book opens up with Kendra and her parents in a parent-counselor conference. Kendra makes an attempt at explaining the meaning behind a worrisome poem that she wrote for class, but with her parents there in the room, nothing is accomplished and she’s left feeling more frustrated than ever. If Kendra and I ever got to hang out together, I would spend the time encouraging her to talk to that counselor or another trusted adult on her own without her parents. I would tell her to make sure someone hears her!
What character in your book are you least likely to get along with and why?
Uncle CJ. The way he takes advantage of Kendra and manipulates her into a friendship/relationship that makes her so emotionally dependent on him is cruel and insidious. There is not a single redeeming quality about that man and I hated writing every word related to him.
Tell us about your book cover and how it came about
I love this question! I wanted a book cover that would depict a girl who is tough and guarded…but also a bit vulnerable. I looked through hundreds of stock photos. And when I saw this particular photo that is now the front cover, I knew right away that it was my Kendra. She looks tough, she looks guarded. The gray brick wall she’s sitting against adds a bit of hardness to the photo. And yet there’s her pink shirt—you start to see the softer side of her because of that pink.
What really nailed it for me, though, was the flower. That pink color, again, shows a softness in the midst of hardness. As relates to Kendra, it shows the softer, more vulnerable side of her. And the fact that the flower is a bit wilted and falling apart—that’s what is happening with Kendra right now. She is wilting emotionally. Her world is falling apart around her. Yet there’s hope. In the same way that those few petals are hanging on to that flower, Kendra is hanging on to whatever hope there is left in her life.
One side comment:
I really want people to understand that even though the model on the front cover is African-American, her story is unfortunately a universal one that happens every single day to girls and boys of various ethnic backgrounds and social statuses. I encourage people to look past the color of her skin.
How do you choose the names of your characters?
Sometimes I’ll hear a name and then jot it down or put it in my phone because I think it’ll make a good name for a character someday. Other times, I’ll save lists of names (like a random list of graduates or award honorees published in a newspaper) and then mix a first and last name from those lists. And then sometimes, it seems the character is just screaming his or her name out to me, and I simply have to go with it because it seems fitting. Every now and then that will happen to a character I’ve already named. In order for that character to come alive and tell me their story, I simply make the change and keep it moving.
What book do you wish you could have written?
I honestly can’t think of one! But I will say this—even though I’ve never read a word of Harry Potter, I wish I could write something that would have people looking so forward to my next work. Or that would have children and reluctant readers eager to read my books no matter how long. Or that would allow me to inspire others with my personal story of being at my lowest and then rising to the top of my game. That’s the effect I wish I could have.
If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?
It’s hard to think in terms of Hollywood because I think some of the best/better films are independent projects that happen outside of Hollywood.
So I actually think the film adaptation of K My Name Is Kendra would be cast with lesser known actors. And Kendra, I think, would be played by a complete unknown. A high school girl with no formal training but who naturally possesses major acting chops. Kendra would be the role that gets her noticed.
Do you use beta readers if so, why or why not?
Not officially, though I may have a bookworm friend or two read my work just for feedback. I don’t like to have too many people read my work because I find that too many opinions cloud my writing.
I will say, however, that with K My Name Is Kendra I happened to have had some of the best beta readers in the world! My book was part of the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition, and as it went through the competition week after week, it was read by several different readers—Amazon calls them Vine Voices—and their feedback and reviews were invaluable. I didn’t change much of the story because the book resonated with all of the reviewers and I was happy with what I had written. But I did change a mannerism or two of Kendra’s that a couple of the readers found annoying. I was okay with letting those go!
What is your writing Achilles heel?
Some people are able to write no matter what is going on around them. As for me—when my depression gets the best of me or there is drama in my life that I can’t manage—my literary senses shut down and I stop writing. I wish I had it in me to push through and write in spite of the madness. I’m working on that.
How do you get over writer’s block?
I’m a firm believer that even if I can’t actually write story, there are still notes to be made. Sometimes I’ll jot down ideas about my character, their personality, their friendships and relationships, their jobs, their style, their interactions with others, et cetera. Half a conversation may pop into my mind, so I’ll write down random snippets of dialog. And eventually, those notes inspire me to begin writing story again.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
My virtual book tour arranged by Enchanted Book Promotions! Because of the tour, my book has been exposed to far more blogs, readers and reviewers than I could ever reach on my own. And I’m pretty sure this tour was also responsible for my book being noticed by a group of librarians who are now considering K My Name Is Kendra for a special booklist and potentially a book award nomination that has very special meaning to me.
About K My Name is Kendra
Author: Kamichi Jackson
Genre: Young Adult
Fifteen-year-old Kendra James’ life begins to spiral out of control with the return of her long-lost runaway sister Meisha, and the visit of a young celebrity uncle with questionable intentions. Things take a particular turn for the worse when that uncle exploits Kendra’s loneliness and untreated depression and makes a move on her that sends her world into a tailspin from which she’s not sure she’ll ever recover. Will she survive this tragedy…or will she hit rock-bottom before anyone even notices?
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About Kamichi Jackson
In addition to K My Name Is Kendra, Kamichi Jackson is the author of an eBook entitled Where Present Meets Past (originally available as part of the now-defunct Amazon Shorts Program), the middle reader book You’re Too Much, Reggie Brown, a forthcoming adult novel entitled The Brownstone, two unproduced screenplays, and several short stories. KJ has made numerous appearances in support of her work, among them the Baltimore Book Festival. When not writing, Kamichi is likely off somewhere singing karaoke. The South Norwalk, Connecticut native currently resides in Northern Virginia with family.