Ann Jeffries is a native of Washington, D. C. She is an only child who enjoyed the benefits of a private school education at Allen in Asheville, NC, and a public education at the University of Maryland. She began writing fiction for her own amusement. She is currently writing novels in her Family Reunion: The Wisdom of the Ancestors series.
Ann is the recipient of many awards for leadership and public service. A speaker at colleges, universities, conferences and conventions, she has extensively traveled the North American continent, Asia and Europe. Among other things, she is an entrepreneur, an avid viewer of public television and a voracious reader of fiction.
Ms. Jeffries’ pride and joy are her family, particularly her Fabulous Four grands. She lives in Maryland and South Carolina. Website address: http://www.newviewliterature.com; Facebook @Ann Jeffries; and Twitter @newviewlit
BPM: What motivated you to sit down and actually start writing this book?
Ann: Boredom. I had hundreds of cable television channels to choose from and plenty of books in my library, yet I was still bored. So I picked up a pen and paper and Southern Exposures was born. I enjoyed the writing so much that several books followed.
BPM: Does your upbringing or life experiences inspire your writing?
Ann: Yes, to a certain extent it does. My ancestors were born and raised in a small country town in Sumter County, South Carolina. As a child, while my parents worked, my maternal grandmother would take me to South Carolina during the summer to visit with our rather large family there. I would listen to the stories that they told about their youth in the south that were so different from my northern experiences and the stories that they remembered from their parents and grandparents. Some of that history is reflected in the personalities of my characters. It’s like the old souls showing up and reminding me of what I recall from my childhood coupled with my adult life experiences.
One such life experience was listening to former Congresswoman Barbara Jordon deliver the “Who Speaks For The Common Good” keynote address at the National Democratic Convention. Her words to me were even more riveting than Dr. King’s I Have A Dream speech. I encourage readers to listen to her blueprint for a better society.
BPM: Do you write full-time? Do you write every day? Do you have a special time to write?
Ann: Yes, I write full-time, every day and most days, all day. If the story is flowing for me, I do not stop until all of the voices that show up are captured on the printed page.
BPM: Do you ever let the book stew – leave it for months and then come back to it?
Ann: Always. I complete my manuscripts and then put them aside and work on another part of the series. Then I go back and re-read my stories to insure that the theme of the series is still on course. It may be months before I get back to a story that I’ve completed.
BPM: Where do your book ideas come from? Are your books plot driven or character driven?
Ann: I have short and long term plans for my books and each character that walks into my story can bring a new idea or twist to the story that I ultimately want to tell from different perspectives in this series. There are currently twenty-six books in the series in various stages of completion. Some of the manuscripts are plot driven while others are character driven.
BPM: Introduce us to your current work. What separates this story from the millions of other books on the shelves? Is this book available in digital forms like Nook and Kindle?
Ann: Yes, Southern Exposures is available on Amazon’s Kindle and in paperback format.
Southern Exposures is the introduction to the Alexander family of Goodwill, Summer County, South Carolina. Dr. Bernard Alexander, an educator, and his wife of thirty-plus years, Sylvia Benson Alexander, a nurse, are successfully raising five young adults. Kenneth and Benjamin Alexander are brothers and best friends, but as different as night and day. Kenneth, the older, the cool, calm, and collected is a highly trained electronics engineer and businessman, President of his San Francisco-based computer hardware, software and telecommunications company. Captain Benjamin Staton Alexander is the dashing, young US Air Force jet fighter pilot, stationed in San Diego. Yet they came to the same conclusion: They were both falling in love with the same woman—the beautiful and alluring JeNelle Towson, a businesswoman who owns INSIGHTS, a Santa Barbara emporium.
Next in the family line is Vivian Lynn Alexander, a Georgetown Law School student who comes to the conclusion that she could no longer be in a relationship with her college sweetheart and be a successful lawyer. She becomes friends with former basketball icon Chuck Montgomery; an interracial relationship ensues until she meets Chuck’s best friend, Derrick “Dunk and Jam” Jackson, who was an even more celebrated basketball star. Both medical doctors now, Chuck and Derrick find that they have no protection from falling hard for the former basketball Olympic Gold Medalist turned law school student.
Two more Alexander offspring, Gregory, a high school student, and Aretha, a young genius, are a part of the story, but have their own novels later in the series. We watch as the Alexander offspring grow and move out into a society so very different from the principles that their parents and ancestors laid out for them. They encounter people along the way who challenge them on so many levels. Life is hard, but these characters continue to work for what former Congresswoman Barbara Jordon called “The Common Good.”
I believe that it’s for my readers to say what they believe separates these stories from the mass market literature available on the shelves. For certain my stories have triumphs and trials, love and hate, humor and horror, suspense and mystery, and plots and pleasures to serve the taste of most adult readers. Of Southern Exposures, author Jessica Tilles wrote: “Ann Jeffries definitely has a skill for storytelling. There is vitality and high drama in Southern Exposures. The author did an excellent job with honing in and focusing on the three main, important characters of which the drama surrounds. I fell in love with the Alexanders.” Attorney Brenda Irons LeCesne wrote: “Loved the way Ann described the activities. I felt as though I was there witnessing everything.
BPM: Give us an insight into your main characters. What makes each one so special?
Ann: Kenneth James Alexander has a strong, but unassuming personality who believes in the theory that he is his brothers’ and sisters’ keeper. He’s an electronics genius, astute businessman and a bit of a nerd who is oblivious to the attention his good looks and fine physique accord him. He sets the high, moral standards as an example for his siblings to follow and is willing to sacrifice his own needs and desires for his family’s happiness.
Benjamin “Benny” Staton Alexander has always wanted to fly jets and rejects opportunities that he had to play professional basketball in order to pursue his dream of one day piloting missions to outer space. He is a brilliant pilot who gives new meaning to the term “Benny and the jets” and rises through the ranks of the Air Force effortlessly. Still, unlike his older brother, he takes time to maintain an active social life. He is just a dedicated to his family as Kenneth, but he loves his life as a bachelor and does not deny himself the creature comforts that his single lifestyle affords him.
Vivian Lynn Alexander has been a bright, energetic and dynamic leader since her early childhood when her parents read great speeches to her as bedtime stories. One such speech was the Barbara Jordon’s “Who Speaks For The Common Good” speech that set the framework for Vivian’s decision to become a lawyer. She was the first to volunteer to champion causes for which she feels a great deal of passion and doesn’t suffer fools lightly. Like her older brothers she is athletic and was picked to be on an Olympic basketball team that won the gold.
BPM: Can you outline some areas where your characters dealt with issues that are in current affairs?
Ann: Vivian, although a busy law school student, volunteers time at a family homeless shelter where she meets a destitute Peruvian woman, Signora Anna Menendez-Gaza and her two young children, Angelique and Miguel. She helps Anna’s family by bringing them to live in, Benny’s, (her brother’s) huge brownstone, where she rents rooms to other law school students. All of her housemates pool their resources to help this family find out what happened to Anna’s husband who has mysteriously disappeared.
Homelessness is a fact of astronomical proportions in current society. It is often rare to see the extent of human kindness up close and personal as we do in this aspect of the story.
BPM: What topics are primarily discussed? Did you learn anything personal from writing your book?
Ann: With Vivian and the other law school students, the current political climate runs the gamut. One of the housemates, William “Bill” Chandler is a former male prostitute and high-priced, high fashion model, who comes from a dysfunctional family in the heart of Little Italy in New York City. Bill’s backstory is fertile ground for an airing of issues related to sexuality.
Another housemate and law school student, Alan Lightfoot, is a full-blooded Navajo Native American and former US Marine who is fighting to preserve his heritage and his ancestral home. There is quite a scandal that is uncovered about the powers-that-be who continue to mistreat Native Americans and the reasons for it.
I learned that I love to write from going through this process and that even the research that goes into the details is a lot of fun.
BPM: What would you like for readers to take away from your writing? How do you go about reaching new readers?
Ann: There are a lot of “take aways” from my novels; however, perhaps the most poignant is Amanda Wheeler’s words in her book Arms of the Magnolia. She wrote: “I have this love-hate relationship with the South. Some of my best and worst experiences took place there. I believe that African Americans who have never had southern exposure have a limited prospective on racism. They think it’s all about jobs, but it’s not only about jobs. It’s about land, ownership and self-sufficiency. Our story might be different, if we had gotten our forty acres and a mule. People who can grow their own food and live independent of salaries are the ones who will survive. Everything else is fleeting . . .”
If I say something that is relevant to my audience, I trust that they will remember it and pass it on. Word of mouth may be a low-tech means of reaching a small audience, but some of the great authors started that way. However, regardless of whether I ever reach the New York Times best sellers’ list or have my series optioned for a movie or television show, I will have thoroughly enjoyed this process.
BPM: What defines success for you, as a published author? What are your ambitions for your writing career? What would you like to accomplish after the book is released?
Ann: Success for me has already been achieved. I have three books on the market with twenty-three to go . . . so far. I also have a mystery series that I’m actively working on. There are three books currently in that series. In early 2015, I want to start releasing The Jenna Baker Mystery series.
BPM: Where do you find your daily inspiration or muse?
Ann: I certainly don’t want to freak anyone out or bring my sanity into question, but my characters just show up and beg to have their stories told. Sometimes I ignore them until I have the right vehicle to showcase their stories. Other times I create them because they are the right fit for what I want to say. Men who can cook and women with a strong sense of who they are, are often my inspirations. Couple that with the incredible personalities that I read about in magazines, like Black Enterprise and/or Essence, and I never go wanting for inspiration or muses.
BPM: Were there any challenges in bringing this story to life?
Ann: My biggest challenges were keeping my characters in line and trying to manage the extraordinary number of people and personalities involved in the backstories and arcs. Each novel in the Family Reunion—Wisdom of the Ancestors series sets the stage for the next to follow and then the next. Although each book is a stand-alone story, characters do reappear in other story lines.
BPM: What are your expectations for this series of books?
Ann: My expectations for the series are not grand. Once I identify where I’m going, getting there may be the easiest part. I may take some detours along the route, but ultimately I want to share something that I enjoy reading with my family, friends and fans.
BPM: What are your goals as a writer? Do you set out to educate or inspire? Entertain? Illuminate a particular subject?
Ann: I have simple goals as a writer: Tell a good, entertaining story that people will enjoy; never put a story to bed with regrets; and leave my audience demanding more.
BPM: What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing?
Ann: Self-publishing allow the writer to use all of the creative tools in the tool box without debilitating interference or influence. I do not seek to appeal to everyone’s taste. However, in my view, the best gauge of an author’s work product comes from the audience reviews whether they are good, bad or indifferent.
BPM: Are there any areas of your writing career that you wish you could go back and change?
Ann: Yes. I regret not taking the advice of my family and friends much sooner. They encouraged me to publish my stories long before I actually made the effort.
BPM: Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
Ann: Thank you for providing this forum to address your audience. It’s been a teachable moment for me.
BPM: Finish this sentence – “My writing offers the following legacy to future readers and authors…”
Ann: “My writing offers the following legacy to future readers and authors that you, too, have a voice that should be heard in the literary arena.”
BPM: How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Ann: I welcome readers to follow my efforts and submit comments through my publishing house, New View Literature (see, http://www.newviewliterature.com), Twitter @newviewlit, and on Facebook @ Ann Jeffries.
Books in the Family Reunion — In The Wisdom of the Ancestors series:
Southern Exposures: Family Reunion
Touch Me In The Morning
An Unguarded Moment