For the tour of Jacqueline E. Luckett's debut novel, Searching For Tina Turner, she took the time to answer some questions.
What inspired you to write Searching for Tina Turner?
Around 1999, I started taking writing classes and workshops. At the time, I focused on short stories, thinking they would be easier to write than a 350-page novel (they’re just as difficult). As my confidence grew, I started a novel of linked stories. I wrote in my spare moments, between taking care of my home and my family.
In 2003, my spouse of twenty years and I divorced. Coincidentally, I knew four or five women going through divorces at the same time. More than the breadth of the emotional pain, our efforts to move forward with our lives inspired me. Yet, I wondered how women coped with life after a long-term marriage and what came next. That led me to write the novel.
Why did you select Tina Turner as the one Lena draws inspiration from?
Tina Turner is a wonderful, vital woman and a role model in so many ways. I have great respect for her, and I hope she regards the title as a tribute to her triumphs and accomplishments.
Truthfully, I don’t remember now if her movie, a TV interview, or reports of her first U.S. platinum album in eleven years (“All the Best”) triggered the idea of Tina Turner as role model—but the depth of what she had done, impressed me. In her forties, Tina Turner left her marriage with only her name, her talent and the conviction that she could make it on her own. I became obsessed with the idea of her strength and how it might inspire a character, without the abuse, but on the verge of change. Initially, I wanted to explore surviving divorce, but with each new draft, universal themes surfaced: reinvention, new beginnings, and the challenge of remaining true to self.
What’s your favorite Tina Turner song?
Once I started writing Searching for Tina Turner, I downloaded, bought, and borrowed every Tina Turner CD I could find. I listened to songs over and over again, and studied the lyrics in search of the songs that would inspire Lena. I watched DVDs of Tina Turner’s concerts, to get a feel for how she moved, smiled and spoke. I wanted those characteristics in my head while I wrote. I focused on the songs without Ike, because it’s that part of her life that motivates Lena.
“Private Dancer” is one of my favorite songs. Tina Turner starts off downtempo, telling a story and building a picture. She toys with the listener moving fast then slow, teasing like the private dancer she’s singing about. It’s sexy and great for dancing around the house.
What was your favorite book as a child?
More than any one book, the experience of weekly library visits—stacks of books in my arms, the smell of paper mingled with dust and stale air, shelves of books filled from floor to ceiling, white Dewey Decimal numbers burned into the spines—were my favorite pastime. I read a lot of Beverly Cleary and any book that allowed me to escape into another world. I had a wonderful childhood, but, like many young girls, I was looking for more. I loved fairytales and Dr. Seuss as a young teen, locking myself in the bathroom during family barbecues to read and hide from my younger cousins. None of those books affected my writing, but they nourished my love of a good story.
What book (your own or someone else’s) has had the most impact on your life?
I read a variety of books: mysteries, crime novels, best sellers, literary fiction, non-fiction and obscure works, as well.
For as cliché as it sounds, Toni Morrison’s Beloved had the most impact on me, certainly as a reader. Before reading that book, I focused on speed—how many pages could I read in a day, on break at the office, on the bus ride home or walking down the street. Anyone who’s read Beloved, or any Toni Morrison novel, knows that if speed is the objective, you miss out on a whole lot. Consequently, I read it twice (only one of a handful of books that I’ve read more than once) amazed not only at how much I’d missed the first time around, but how complex and beautiful the story was and the importance of each word.
What comes next for you? Are you working on another book?
More books! I recently submitted the manuscript for my second novel to my editor. Passing Love is the story of two women who believe that the city of Paris will fulfill their dreams of a different life. The story takes place in present day Paris and Paris in the early ‘50s. Once I get my editor’s notes, I’ll start my revisions. I’m also finishing a proposal with a friend for a non-fiction book about how women can make sure they remain joyful and authentic whether they marry or divorce, which we’ll submit to my agent soon.