A native New Yorker, Kwana Jackson, who also writes as K.M. Jackson Jackson spent her formative years on the ‘A’ train where she had two dreams: 1) to be a fashion designer and 2) to be a writer. After spending over 10 years designing women’s sportswear for various fashion houses this self-proclaimed former fashionista, took the leap of faith and decided to pursue her other dream of being a writer.
Now a USA Today Bestseller Kwana’s self-published novel, Bounce won the Golden Leaf for best novel with strong romance elements from the New Jersey chapter of Romance Writers of America. She was also named Author of the Year by the New York Chapter of Romance Writers of America and has been tapped by Oprah Magazine, ShondaLand, and NPR for their Best Romance lists.
In this post, Kwana discusses writing her new romance novel, Knot Again, the process of shopping around the series to find the right home, and more!
Name: Kwana Jackson
Literary agent: Sara Megibow
Book title: Knot Again
Release date: July 26, 2022
Previous titles: Real Men Knit; How To Marry Keanu Reeves In 90 Days under my pseudonym K.M. Jackson
Elevator pitch for the book: Harlem firefighter, Lucas Strong feels like he can only find any peace and quiet at the local laundromat, where every day is rinse and repeat—until a fateful run-in with his high school crush.
What prompted you to write this book?
Knot Again is book two in the Real Men Knit series, which is a series about four foster, turned adoptive brothers, all from different backgrounds and ethnicities who are dealing with the sudden death of their adoptive mother, Mama Joy who owned a knitting shop in Harlem.
As a native New Yorker, born and raised in Harlem, setting this series in this rich neighborhood that is near and dear to my heart and introducing the Harlem I love to my readers in this way has been a total joy. I could not wait to get to book two and writing Lucas’s, our heart of gold, firefighter brother’s story.
How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?
I knew I wanted to write about men who knit somewhere back in 2009 or 2010 when the Ryan Gosling “Hey Girl” memes were popular. There was also a lot of buzz about his knitting in the media and I was getting more into knitting too.
I remember writing down “men who knit” on a scrap of paper in order to not forget the idea, but I quickly lost the paper for many years, though thankfully the idea stayed with me. Then, years and three books later when I was winding down my Unconventional Brides series and still knitting the “men who knit” idea popped back in my head again.
When I pitched it to my then-agent, he loved it and let me know he was a knitter too. That got me going. I came up with a proposal and from there my agent shopped it where it was rejected by many a house who liked the story idea but didn’t quite connect with my vision of men running the shop.
So, I ended up writing other books and shelving it until a good friend of mine the incredible author, Kristan Higgins asked me what I was working on next and I talked with her about Real Men Knit. She suggested I give it another try with Berkley and thankfully (ever thankful to Kristan) that is where it found its home. So, in the end I’d say this particular book took about a good 12 or so years from idea to publication. Give or take a few years.
Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?
Having written and published this book during the pandemic, there were many new things that popped up both personally and professionally on all sides of the process, which I think had everyone in publishing learning lessons and evolving. We were suddenly all looking at new ways of doing business with unexpected obstacles, such as supply chain issues, remote working, and fewer opportunities for in-person meet-ups.
But with all of this, there have been great online innovations when it comes to meeting readers and new opportunities for authors to spread the word about their work, which had been terrific.
Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?
There are always surprises with each book I write, but with Knot Again I found I had to learn more patience with my process and with myself. Writing stories of love and joy, though a dream job, is not always easy but at times highly emotional. Add to that trying to keep the lightness and joy during a pretty scary time in global history and it can be both mentally and physically draining.
Knot Again, though a romance with a HEA deals with issues of grief and trauma which were at times hard to delve into and write with a light hand when personally while looking at the outside world, my heart was heavy. But like many writers, especially in my genre, I reminded myself why I love the genre and I hope our readers do too, and what they need from it, the uplift, hope and escape which is what I hope they ultimately get from Knot Again.
What do you hope readers will get out of your book?
I love this and it goes back to the end of the last question, when writing Knot Again I had a Post-It that I placed on my window that says “Love takes courage.” I hope that readers get a warm feeling, enjoyment, and at the end a bit of hope and courage from this story. Things still feel very unsure right now, but the beauty of reading romance is the wonderful escape to a place, though full of drama and uncertainty, you know it will all work out somehow.
If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?
If you have an idea that you’re passionate about and you can’t let it go, then don’t. Believe in it, continue to work, and improve in it, but don’t let a few rejections count you or your idea out. Some works find the right home seemingly overnight and others take a lot longer than that to find a home or the readers that connect with your vision.