Litro #147: Space – Author Q & A: Naomi Jackson
Litro: How long did it take you to write The Star Side of Bird Hill?
Jackson: It took me 4 years to write. I spent some of my writing time in Barbados, where my mother is from and where part of the novel is set. That gave me the opportunity to really understand the texture of the place, overhear conversations, listening to the accent.
Litro: Your novel is also set partly in your native Brooklyn. How do you feel about the ongoing gentrification happening all over Brooklyn? How has it affected you, your family and your community?
Jackson: I live just five blocks from where I was raised. The neighbourhood has seen a lot of really big changes, especially over the past ten years and it both excites and concerns me, depending on the day you ask me. It’s exciting to have a wider range of restaurants and coffee shops but this has long been an immigrant neighbourhood where people could find affordable housing, save up to be able to buy property. As the neighbourhood shifts, prices go up and it will no longer be a gateway for families like mine.
Litro: What is your earliest childhood memory?
Jackson: I have a vibrant memory of being in Barbados with my grandmother, on the beach. It was the first time I’d gone underwater. I was about 5 or 6 years old.
Litro: What makes you happy?
Jackson: Spending time with my two nephews and one niece, who are aged one, three, and five, makes me very happy indeed.
Litro: When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?
Jackson: I have always been writing stories and threatening my family that I’d write stories about them [laughs]. But I didn’t always see it as a viable career choice. Maybe it’s not! Then, 12 years ago, I started to take it really seriously doing lots of writing workshops. In 2011, I quit my job to study fiction at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. I haven’t had a regular full time job ever since then.
Litro: What are you reading at the moment?
Jackson: I just read a novel called Saint Mazie by Jami Attenberg. It’s excellent.
Litro: What advice would you give to a first-time writer?
Jackson: Stay the course. So many writers want instant gratification but if that’s what you want, this is the wrong business for you. Nothing worth having as a writer comes easy. You also need to have an appetite for solitude and you need to be persistent.
Litro: What is your favourite book of all time?
Jackson: Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid
Litro: What is the most important thing life has taught you?
Jackson: To develop an abiding sense of patience. Everything good happens in its own time.
Litro: What’s next for you?
Jackson: I’m working on a new novel called Behind God’s Back. It’s set in Barbados and Brooklyn and is about a family who move to America in the 1930s.