Day 29 Beverly Jenkins – Still Celebrating Romance

Beverly JenkinsCelebrating My Own Long-Lasting Romance

Celebrating romance is a no brainer for me – one, I’m a romance writer and two, for 32 years I was married to the man all my heroes are based upon. We met at Michigan State University in the early seventies. I was nineteen, he was twenty one and we were both poor as church mice. How could I not love a man who rode a bike from his apartment on the other side of campus to come and see me? The year was 1971 and we were friends at first, then sealed the deal verbally on April 15th. Yes, tax day. We got married legally eight or nine years later but to this day I can’t tell you the actual date. We always considered April 15th our anniversary and that’s the day we celebrated.

Mainstream society would have us believe that black men are the lowest of the low – undependable, shiftless, thugs. Thank god for romance where we writers get to accentuate and embrace the black men society doesn’t talk about – the ones who love their wives, spoil their daughters, raise their sons to be strong and viable members of society, pay their taxes, look out for their elderly parents and work as everything from corporate executives to school teachers, to small business owners and everything in between.

He and I had ten awesome years together B.C. – before children. We’d sometimes play hooky from work, jump in our little blue VW Beetle and drive across the state to spend the day on the beaches in Holland and Grand Haven. In the spring and fall, we’d take along our kites. In the winter, we’d take our hats, coats, gloves and coffee. There is something very romantic and stimulating about walking the snow covered beach in the winter, drinking coffee, feeling that iciness on your face and then running back to the car before you’re turned into an icicle. We’d then go back to the hotel room and find scandalous ways to warm up in front of the fireplace.

He was the first big supporter of my work. When I told him I wanted to write a book, he didn’t laugh or express doubts. He replied, “Baby, what do you need?” He hated when I was on lockdown for deadline though because that meant I couldn’t come out and play. Each night when I’d finally crawl into bed he’d ask, like a little kid, “Are you done yet?” If my answer was no, he’d sigh, kiss my cheek and whisper, “Hurry up.”

And when I finally finished he brought home flowers. Every time.

Cancer took him from me and my children on November 30, 2003. Losing a love like that is something you never get over, but you get through it because memories of the romance remain. Memories of him being able to heat me up with just a look from across a room. Memories of the love we made and the jokes we shared. I have a picture in my office of us at a formal dinner. He’s wearing a tux and I’m in a classy and quite expensive dress. Each time I see it, I smile. He had my panties in his pocket. My name is Beverly Jenkins, and yes, I celebrate romance. Still.

Questions for the Author

1.) Describe the most daring, adventurous or inspiring thing you ever did. 

It took me a while to answer this question because I never thought about my life in terms of adventure before, but looking back I decided that the most daring, adventurous and inspiring thing has to be leaving my insular world on the east side of Detroit and heading northwest to attend Michigan HeartofGold 1State University. The year was 1969 and I was eighteen years old. Leaving home and living in the dorm on campus was breathtaking. I could make my own decisions, I made friends who are still in my life forty plus years later, I could come and go as I pleased, and I met the love of my life.

I’d always been an avid reader. Growing up I’d read everything from Arna Bontemps to Shakespeare to Zane Grey, but being an English major showed me just how much I hadn’t read: Milton, Alexander Pope, Ishmael Reed, Alice Walker, Frank Herbert. I formed my political consciousness at MSU via Angela Davis, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, and Jimi Hendrix. Those were amazing times. And then it got better. Rather than take my finals during Junior year, I opted for a full time job at the MSU graduate library. Life was complete. The only thing I’d ever wanted in life was to work in a library. I worked there for six years never knowing that the books I was around daily would play an important role in the life of the historical romance writer I’d no idea I would become.

2.) Tell us about your journey to becoming a writer. (How did you decide to get started? Did you always know or was there a specific moment when you knew?)

I never planned or wanted to be a writer. Librarian? Yes. Writer? No. Books were my life. In the early 90s I was working in the library at Parke-Davis Pharmaceuticals. A colleague of mine, LaVerne had just published a sweet romance with Avalon. In my spare time I was working on a romance about a Buffalo Soldier and an Oberlin educated school teacher. Back then publishing was operating under the myth that Black women didn’t read nor could we write, so I was writing this romance for me – not for publication.

LaVerne took a look at my manuscript and strongly encouraged me to get it published. Where??? ( I read everything in those days including romance, and was a big fan of Kathleen Woodiwiss, Rosemary Rogers, Johanna Lindsey and Linda Lael Miller – I still have my copy of Banner O’Brien somewhere in this house btw.) I knew the name Vivian Stephens and that she’d been a big time romance editor at Dell and was the founder of RWA. She was no longer in publishing but was an agent. I contacted her. She contacted me less than a week later, and in 1993 when Ellen Edwards the executive editor of Avon books said yes to my manuscript, the journey to becoming a published author began.

3 – Tell us about The (or A) Book That Changed Your Life. (Why?)

The book that changed my life was my first published book – Night Song. I am who am because of it. Think the Dr. Seuss book – Oh the Places You’ll Go. When you throw in: And The People You’ll Meet – you have my life. All due to a 3.99 paperback book that is still in print today. Life is truly amazing.

Beverly is generously giving away five copies of Destiny’s Surrender to U.S. readers (apologies to international friends). Entry form below.


 

Kerrytown Bookfest 2008Beverly Jenkins is the nation’s premier writer of African American historical romance fiction and specializes in 19th century African American life. She has over thirty published novels to date.

She has received numerous awards, including: five Waldenbooks/Borders Group Best Sellers Awards; two Career Achievement Awards and a Pioneer Award from Romantic Times Magazine; a Golden Pen Award from the Black Writer’s Guild, and in 1999 was named one of the Top Fifty Favorite African-American writers of the 20th Century by AABLC, the nation’s largest on-line African-American book club.

She has also been featured in many national publications, including the Wall Street Journal, People Magazine, Dallas Morning News and Vibe Magazine. She has lectured and given talks at such prestigious universities as Oberlin University, the University of Illinois, and Princeton. She speaks widely on both romance and 19th century African-American history and was the 2014 featured speaker for the W.W. Law Lecture Series sponsored by the Savannah Black Heritage Festival.

Buy Beverly’s Books:

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