Since bursting onto the literary scene in 1997, Jacquelin Thomas has become a mainstay in the publishing industry. Hope for Women recently sat down with the prolific author. Hope for Women: Why did you decide to pursue a career in writing? Jacquelin Thomas: I did not really pursue writing. It was my gift. It called out to me. I’ve been writing since I was in the third grade. Writing has always been my passion and when I tried to walk away from it a few years ago, I was pulled back in by my love of the written word. I also consider my writing a gift from God, and it is my ministry.
Hope: Tell me about your journey from simply writing to becoming a published author. Thomas: Mrs. Appling, my third grade teacher, nurtured this seed of writing in me. I loved to read and I read everything from romance to encyclopedias. Because I was painfully shy, writing became an outlet for me. I wrote my first book, which remains unpublished, after my first boyfriend broke my heart. I killed him in a book, and I have to admit that it felt so good. It was then that I began to write stories that dealt with real life issues. Those manuscripts remained in a box until I was pregnant with my third child. When I was placed on bed rest, I realized that my love for writing would never go away. It was then that I wrote Hidden Blessings and sold it nine months later to Kensington book publishers for their Arabesque imprint. Hope: What is the best part of being an author? Thomas: For me, the best part is writing books that readers enjoy and love. Hope: What is your least favorite part? Thomas: Well, actually, I do not like labels. I want to be known as a good writer—not an African-American writer. I am a writer who is published in women’s fiction, romance, young adult and Christian fiction. My books may have African-American characters, but can be enjoyed by everyone. Robert Jordon is one of my favorite authors, and I love his characters. I read across the board because I love a good read. I only wish everyone was more open to books written by African-American authors. It is still a challenge to build that crossover audience. Hope: Why did you make the decision to focus more on Christian fiction than romance? Thomas: My personal relationship with God. I knew when I wrote my first book, Hidden Blessings, that I was called to write books for God. I refused because I wanted to be popular. I wanted to sell books. I felt I wasn’t worthy, that I didn’t know the Bible well enough. God wasn’t hearing any of it. He convicted my heart with each romance until I could no longer ignore His call. To be clear, it wasn’t that I felt writing romance novels are wrong. It was just that God called me to do something else. You can only ignore the calling on your heart for so long. Hope: Tell me about your new venture with Brown Girls Books. Thomas: I have a new imprint under the Brown Girls Books banner: Jacquelin Thomas Presents. I am very excited about this venture because I get to work with new voices and fan favorites. I really love working with new writers and finding that diamond in the rough. My imprint is more of a mentorship because I work closely with each new author to bring out the best in their projects. The first two books (Paradise Dreams by J. Hale Turner and Plan It! The Complete Resource Guide for Authors, Book Clubs and Literary Event Planners by Sharon Lucas) will be out in October, and I’m super excited. Hope: If readers are interested in submitting to your imprint, what do they need to do? Thomas: They need to go to the BGB website, www.browngirlsbooks.com, and read the submission guidelines. This is very important as I do not accept books with profanity and/or graphic sex scenes. Books published under this imprint can be classified as “clean reads.” Hope: How do you balance being a wife, mother and career woman? Thomas: I tend to work Monday through Friday, reserving my weekends for family. There are times when the two overlap, but I work hard to keep this at a minimum. My youngest is a junior in college, so it’s basically just me and my husband. I am also in grad school finishing up my MBA program, so being organized is key. Time management is a strength for me and is vital to keeping my life balanced. Hope: What advice do you have for aspiring authors? Thomas: Write. Don’t just talk about—do it! Read books on the craft of writing and before submitting to any publisher, make sure you have read the submission guidelines. It’s pointless to send your book out and it is not what a publisher or agent is looking for. This is frustrating for the writer and disheartening to get a rejection letter. Hope: What’s next for Jacquelin Thomas? Thomas: My book Jezebel’s Daughter came out in June, and I’m currently working on the third and final book in the series, Jezebel’s Revenge. This book will come out early 2016. I also have a book coming out with Harlequin next year.
Hope: Is there anything else you would like to add? Thomas: I just want to say thanks to the readers who have stood by me for almost 20 years. I’ve published 50 plus titles, and I am just so grateful for the support of readers, book clubs, booksellers and churches. There’s more to come!