Jacinta Howard has to be one of the ambassadors of romance literature. The way she makes you feel while reading her work is astonishing . She took a minute to chat with Hopeful Heatbreakers and answer a few questions so our readers could get to know her a little better. Keep scrolling to see what she had to say.
1. What started you on your path to writing?
Reading. I was an avid reader from the time I was about six, and I know my love of reading initially spawned my interest in writing. My mom used to say I had "selective hearing" because when I was reading, you literally could not get my attention. My "selective hearing" was also useful for tuning my younger brothers out. Anyway, in the first grade, I also had a really awesome teacher– Mrs. Peterson. As first graders, she had us writing books, which she typed up and made hardback "covers" for... I still have them and passed them on to my daughter. I think creating "books" at that young age (one of which even ended up in the library in my rural town) definitely let me know that writing was something real that I spend my life doing.
2. What did you find most useful in learning to write? What was least useful or most destructive?
When I was in college, I had a really tough journalism teacher. I had him for several classes but I remember in news writing, he made us buy a copy of The New York Times and bring it to class every Friday—if we didn't, we had major points deducted from our grade. At the time, it was the best of the best in terms of newspapers, and the idea was that he wanted us reading it regularly, so that we were able to recognize and identify good reporting and writing. I think that's something I carry with me to this day—not the NY Times but that concept. How are you a good writer who never, ever reads? How do you learn and hone your craft? I just... don't get that. That's like a musician who never listens to music. Like, sure, you can have innate talent— I definitely believe that writing is a talent—but think of how much more skilled you would be if you studied. Anyway, I found that useful. The most destructive idea I had to unlearn about writing is that people's blanket "writing tips" will apply to your personal writing life. People are different and people approach writing in different ways. Maybe you don't write everyday—I don't. That's okay. Maybe you don't wait until you're finished until you edit–I definitely do not do that. I edit as I go—and that too is okay. Learn yourself and what kind of writer you are, and go from there.
3. Are your characters based on real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
My characters are imaginary but of course, they often have traits of people that I know or have known... like a composite sketch or something.
4. What keeps you motivated during creative slumps?
Red wine. Kidding. Reading keeps me motivated. But mostly, I think it's just the never-ending desire I have to create. I'm always doing something, even if it isn't writing fiction... that desire never goes away. I've learned to not push it in terms of fiction writing when I'm not feeling creative though- I'd rather wait a bit and write something I like than to force it, write some garbage and end up even more frustrated because I have to trash what I wrote.
Also, I'm motivated when I feel like my work means something to people. I was featured at this event a few months ago, and one of the women who attended told me that she's read Blind Expectations countless times and it's like her book bible or something of the sort. That's so dope to me because I try to write stories and characters that stick. I want you to actually remember my stories weeks, months, years later. When people tell me they related to a character especially, that really means a lot because I came up feeling basically invisible in fiction- even in black romance. And I try to make folks feel "seen" when they're reading my stuff- the way I'd like to be seen, feel me? So yeah, when people say that they relate to my characters, or situations I present, it makes me super happy and very motivated, because I think, to some degree, I sometimes write about a side of black life and relationships not often seen in black romance. I'm also motivated when I feel like I'm doing something that isn't being done. So for example, when I published my first two books in 2014–Better Than Okay and Happiness In Jersey, I just didn't see a lot of black characters centered in new adult romance. It was super dry if you were looking for that. Now, there is a lot of black new adult romance, which is really cool and needed. So yeah, this went on for a long time. Basically, I'm motivated when I feel like I'm contributing something that people have been missing, I guess.