Jacqueline J. Holness is a seasoned and sassy journalist with more than 20 years of professional experience. Currently a correspondent for Courthouse News Service, her articles have also appeared in UPSCALE, Christianity Today and Atlanta Tribune magazines as well The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Atlanta Business Chronicle newspapers. Additionally, she was a columnist for The Lookout magazine and a contributor to Urbanfaith.com. Finally and faithfully, she blogs at afterthealtarcall.com. A proud Jamerican, Jacqueline reps metro Atlanta as her home where she lives with her handsome husband.
How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)
Tell us about your manuscript to published author journey.
Writing Destination Wedding was my response to the real ABC News Nightline report that I saw in December 2009, 10 years ago. While that statistic was startling enough by its lonesome, Linsey Davis, the reporter for the segment, interviewed successful, single, black women living in Atlanta to illustrate this point. As a successful, single, black woman living in metro Atlanta at the time, to say I was insulted by this report was an understatement.
However, as insulted and defeated as I felt at the time, thankfully, a blessing from God was right around the corner. My husband and I went on our first date in February 2010, Valentine’s Day weekend to be exact. And although it seemed that my days as a single woman were coming to a close at a very fast pace, I could not forget the 42 %. At the time, I was fiend for self-help books, particularly those that focused on relationships. And as a writer, I considered writing a self-help book for the 42 %. I felt that all of the lessons that I had learned over the 10 years it took for me to prepare myself for my husband could be compiled in a wonderful self-help relationship book.
But then, four women, Jarena, Senalda, Mimi and Whitney, my main characters, began showing up in my imagination. And then I started thinking about how I felt about self-help relationship books at the time. By the time I started dating my husband, I had sworn off self-help relationship books because I was sick of reading them without getting results. And at the same time, I felt I had something valuable to share. What was the solution? A novel in which I folded in many of the lessons that I learned about purposeful dating, choosing the wrong men, being the right person and self-love, the most valuable love of all aside from the adoration we express for God… A fun read with lessons folded in.
How did it feel to see your manuscript in print?
It’s been nothing short of awesome! This has been ten years in the making so to actually have the finished product (after years of just being words in a MS Word document) in my hands will go down as one of the greatest joys of my life!
What did you learn while writing this book?
That writing a novel is hard! As a journalist, I had no experience whatsoever in writing fiction. I started writing in 2013, and I wasn’t finished until 2017! I had to learn characterization, plotting, showing not telling, etc. It was hard, but worth it in the end.
What did you hope to accomplish with this book?
I want single black women to know that if you want to fall in love and get married to the man that God has for you (because I know that all single black women don’t want to be married), it can be done despite negative statistics swirling around them and even internal barriers to that impede the process. I also want Destination Wedding to be a fun, hilarious and wild ride of a book. I think I am accomplishing both of those goals based on the feedback I have received so far.
What was your greatest roadblock in publishing your first book and how did you overcome it?
Getting the story just right! Again, it took me from 2013 to 2017. I just had to keep taking the steps to get to my goal: a polished manuscript that made me proud that I had written it. For some, it may be a short journey to that goal but for me, it took time. I had to have patience with myself and the process.
What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?
I think I knew this before I started, but now, I really know. There are no shortcuts to getting a polished manuscript. Now, I do believe as I become more skilled at writing novels, writing a polished manuscript will happen more quickly. But it takes time to acquire skills. Having a story that you LOVE is the greatest achievement of the whole publication process. That is second. And third, I can always trust God’s timing.
What advice would you offer to someone whose first book is about to be released?
Plan way in advance for marketing and promotion.
What do you do to interact with your readers?
I have a blog After the Altar Call that I started in 2008. I’m also active on Facebook and Twitter. Additionally, I’m working to meet readers in person through various events. My interactions are evolving.
What would you like readers to take away from your book?
Again, I hate to be redundant, but I will say what I said before: I want single black women to know that if you want to fall in love and get married to the man that God has for you (because I know that all single black women don’t want to be married), it can be done despite negative statistics swirling around them and even internal barriers to that impede the process. I also want Destination Wedding to be a fun, hilarious and wild ride of a book.
Which character did you have the most fun writing about?
That’s a hard question to answer. Let me explain why. So these are my four main characters:
Bossy bank executive Senalda breaks down men from business to bed no holds barred.
Hip hop PR guru Jarena praises the Lord and pursues married men with equal persistence.
Famous and infamous radio personality Mimi fights with her fans and for the love of her on-and-off-again boyfriend.
Their “happily married” best friend Whitney, a bougie lawyer in a troubled marriage, is a project consultant for project Destination Wedding.
I love all four because they are so dynamic. I love Senalda because she has my bossy tendencies. I love Jarena because she loves the Lord like I do. I love Mimi because she’s wild and crazy, and I have a wild and crazy side as quiet as kept. And I also love Whitney because I have been told I have bougie tendencies from time to time. I LOVED writing about all four of them.
What do you believe makes your stories stand out?
Novels that have complex characters in addition to fast-paced plots stand out to me, and that is what I was aiming for in Destination Wedding.
What three literary events would you recommend a writer in your genre attend?
That’s hard to say because it depends on where you live and the kind of resources that you have at your disposal. As I live in metro Atlanta, I have attended the Atlanta Writers Conferences many times, and there is always a great selection of publishing industry professionals there. I love to attend the AJC Decatur Book Festival every September because it attracts so many authors. And then I have attended the Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference twice, and both times I met people who helped me to advance in my writing career.
Who was the first author you ever met?
I’ve met so many at this point, I cannot remember the first BUT the most memorable one to date has been when I met Candace Bushnell! And the fact that Candace Bushnell, whose Sex and the City column led to the creation of the wildly successful HBO series of the same name, actually endorsed Destination Wedding is the cherry on top of this Destination Wedding experience!
What’s the most interesting change in your life as a result of being a published author?
I’m not sure yet. It hasn’t been long enough to note any significant changes other than the feeling proud of myself for finally realizing my dream of becoming a novelist.
What has surprised you most about being a published author?
I guess the fact that life goes on. Maybe if I become a world-famous published author some day, things will be different. I LOVE being a published author but there are other things in my life that I’m equally excited about as well.
What about writing do you wish non writers would understand?
Writing is not just writing a sentence because anyone can and does do that. But being a writer as a profession involves studying the craft of writing a sentence which is a much more intricate process.
Can you give us one do and one don't for those aspiring to be an author?
Do persist. Do not give up if writing is your dream.
When you're not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Spend time with my hubby, family and friends; reading, traveling and dancing/working out.
Oprah always asks, what do you know for sure?
Anything that is to be done well takes time.
Any last words for our readers?
Successful best friends in Atlanta, the black Mecca, believe they are thriving. But when an ABC News Nightline report reveals that 42% of black women have never been married and features black women in Atlanta specifically, the friends resolve to defy the sad statistic and marry in a year: project Destination Wedding is born. Only love is not an experiment easily confined to a timetable.
Three successful best friends in Atlanta believe they are thriving in the Black Mecca. Bossy bank executive Senalda breaks down men from business to bed no holds barred. Hip hop PR guru Jarena praises the Lord and pursues married men with equal persistence. Famous and infamous radio personality Mimi fights with her fans and for the love of her on-and-off-again boyfriend.
But when an ABC News Nightline report, "Single, Black, Female -- and Plenty of Company," asks why can't a successful black woman find a man? The friends are suddenly hyper-aware of their inclusion in the sad statistic: 42% of black women who have never been married. Like the women in the report, they are career-driven, beautiful black women living in Atlanta who have everything -- but a mate. They resolve to defy the statistic by marrying in a year and have it all by tackling their goal as a project with a vision board, monthly meetings, and more. Project Destination Wedding is born. A “happily married” best friend Whitney is a project consultant.
But as the deadline ticks closer, the women wonder if they can withstand another year of looking for love in the media-proclaimed no-man's land of Atlanta. Senalda wrests a marriage proposal from the male version of herself, but the proposal comes simultaneously with a devastating secret. Jarena unleashes hell when her call to ministry coincides with dating her married college sweetheart. Mimi faces losing her career and jail time chasing her boyfriend and marries another man in the process. Whitney’s power couple profile plummets when her husband, a pornography addict, announces he would rather pursue photography than be an MD.
Inspired by an actual Nightline report, Destination Wedding charts four women’s journeys as they discover that love is not an experiment easily confined to a timetable.
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