Jacqueline E. Luckett is my special guest today. She is the author of Searching for Tina Turner and Passing Love, an engrossing tale about a woman who fulfills her lifelong dream of visiting Paris and while there, learns about her life.
All of her life, Nicole-Marie Handy has loved the French language and anything having to do with France. As her best friend is dying, she extracts Nicole’s promise to break free at last from the confines of her life and visit Paris. In a quaint little shop, Nicole finds an old photograph of her father — inscribed not to Nicole’s mother, but to a woman Nicole has never heard of, setting in motion a quest to learn who the woman is and how the photograph ended up for sale. The story alternates between Nicole’s present-day search for answers and the 1950s when Paris was filled with jazz and Americans looking to fulfill their own dreams, exploring Lost love, secrets, and betrayals. Will the knowledge Nicole obtains in Paris change her life?
As Close As a Person Can Get to God
I walk onto a stage and into a cone of light. Musicians are behind me. Perhaps a full orchestra. I can only hear, not see them. The music plays, softly at first. I listen, waiting for my cue. I start to sing. My voice is strong and steady. It’s like fine chocolate and good wine. I hear my voice reverberating off the walls and the finely-tuned sound system. I belt out one song, and one song only. The audience goes wild.
And then . . . I wake up wishing I could sing and make an audience scream for more like Streisand or Tina Turner or Beyonce. No such luck.
Music has been a part of my life ever since I can remember. My mother had, what I now understand, a great and very eclectic music collection. It was in my home that I learned about Jimmy Smith’s organ, Sarah Vaughn’s silky voice, Johnny Mathis’ dreamy crooning, and Bach’s Violin Concertos.
There’s a link in my family connecting three generations of music lovers, specifically, with the saxophone. My mother loves saxophone music. I love saxophone music and my son plays the saxophone. Who’s to say if or how that admiration passed from one of us to another, but it exists.
I think of saxophone music as sultry and provocative. I resisted my attraction to the instrument for a long time, because I was exposed to jazz that I’ll amateurishly label atonal. The kind that a musician played, beating the rhythm out in frenetic notes, his fingers blasting up and down the keypad. The kind where the head of every listener in a jazz club bobbed up and down as if the music was a minister’s Sunday morning sermon (and sometimes it was). I just didn’t get it.
The good news is that now I do.
It’s not just the saxophone that inspires me. Music appears in both of my novels.
In Searching for Tina Turner, Lena, the main character is inspired by Tina Turner to make changes in her life. She listens to Tina’s music (after Ike) in search of the lessons hidden in the lyrics and rhythm and in the beat that takes her mind off of the difficult decision she has to make. Tina’s lyrics help Lena to understand that she is not alone in losing her dream and that there is a good future ahead for her.
I confess that I loaded my iPod with Tina Turner music to find a beat that would translate to my writing. When Lena hopped around her living room, I danced around mine seeking that feeling of joy that would help me to move Lena forward in her journey.
I knew that someday I had to get back to the saxophone. That was when Arnett came alive. In Passing Love, Ruby Mae Garrett falls for a good-looking, Louisiana sax player. who eventually takes her to Paris. Ruby’s friend warns her, ” . . . a saxophone played right is as close as a person can get to God.” I heard Arnett playing in my head that kind of music “caught between blues and jazz and a style of music with no name.”
His music overtook me and sealed Ruby’s fate.
My iPod is filled with all kinds of songs — from Brazil and Cuba, jazz (lots of Coltrane), classical, blues, easy listening, opera, and more. As I sit here writing, I realize how much I depend on music. It penetrates (and stimulates) the emotions I’m trying to inject into my story and my characters.
And then there are the times that I try to fulfill my dream, and I pretend to be on stage, the music booming behind me. I sing my heart out knowing good and well that I am (and will always be) my own, and only, audience.
That done, I return to my computer, and write.
As a teenager, author Jacqueline E. Luckett enjoyed telling stories to her younger cousins and they still describe her as a master storyteller. Throughout her teenage years, she kept diaries, wrote poetry and had stories published in a local newspaper, but when she reached adulthood, Jacqueline put writing aside and joined the corporate world.
She dared herself to take a creative writing class in 1999 and her love of writing was reignited. Simultaneously, she discovered the Voices of Our Nations (VONA) writing workshops and participated over the next four years with Christina Garcia, Danzy Senna, Junot Diaz, Ruth Forman and Terry McMillan. VONA offered a safe environment for a new writer eager to learn. Five years later, Jacqueline formed the Finish Party (featured in O Magazine, October 2007) along with seven other women writers–of–color whom she considers her mentors, advisers, friends, and the toughest but most loving audience of readers.
Jacqueline is an avid reader and lover of books, excellent cook, and aspiring photographer. She lives in Northern California, but travels frequently.
Her first novel, Searching for Tina Turner, but published in 2008. She followed it up earlier this year with Passing Love.
Thank you, Jacqueline!
Click here to read my review of Passing Love.