This week, I’d like to introduce you all to Nailah (Jasemine)!
Are you an indie author or a traditionally published author?
I was signed to a publisher but went independent two years ago, and it’s been the best decision I’ve ever made. Mostly because I love the creative freedom and having the opportunity to be hands-on, whereas under a traditional publishing company, some publishers tend to try to “change” who you are as a writer, coerce you to write in a style that isn’t authentic and true to your own, and pressure you to complete a story on deadline.
Tell me a little about your writing journey, thus far.
My writing journey has been challenging yet totally worth it. I’ve literally wrote my way into multiple jobs where my work has spoken for me. I started out as a journalist for a local black-owned newspaper company in Houston, where I reside. Under their company, I won multiple writing awards that gave me the boost to pursue writing fiction. While I still write books, I do work in higher education at a community college part-time. I was hired as the lead writer for their student life and financial aid blogs off the strength of the hiring manager having read some of my past work at the newspaper company. It’s safe to say, this “write life” is for me.
Do you write under a pseudonym? If so explain why.
Yes. My pen-name is Nailah. It means “successful” in Egyptian. It’s perfect because I wanted to have a name with meaning and that paralleled with my literary journey. Not to mention, I used to believe I had to hide behind a pen-name and protect my identity because I write racy, steamy, erotic tales and also work in higher education. I didn’t want to get that shameful call to the bosses office and questioned. LOL. However, I’ve since revealed to my co-workers and others at my job what I do by night and they’ve been supportive and accepting. Most have even indulged in some of my tales and enjoyed them.
What genre do you write and why?
I write romance and erotica. I write within this genre because I have a passion for talking sex, dating, and relationships and helping women embrace their sensuality, femininity, and own their sexy. These are things I used to struggle with as a black woman who loves sex and openly talks about it (I used to run a Sex, dating, and relationship column). Can I get candid here? I used to believe sex had to be this sanctimonious act. That you had to be in a committed marriage to do it. However, as I blossomed, I began to question why women got shamed for their sensuality by both women and men, but it was socially acceptable for men to have multiple women in rotation. Honestly, Ibelieve that the way in which women view their sexuality is very problematic these days. We’ve created a conflict between those who abstain and those who indulge. There’s no middle ground. But, at the end of the day, we’re all birthed from the handy-dandy vagina. So why shame it and side-eye and bash what women decide to do with their bodies? A woman’s sexuality is valid. We shouldn’t take away from her by calling her dehumanizing slurs such as hoe, slut, whore, or any other derogatory term. And anyone who does condemn are prudes and should more than likely mind the business that pays them.
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on part two of Nookie for the New Year, as well as part two of an upcoming release titled Wholeheartedlythat I’ll be publishing in February. I’m really excited about this story because it’s a full-blown romance I began to write during Hurricane Harvey, which was a tropical storm that changed my life drastically. The two lovers involved love each other deeply but battle with whether they are meant to be together due to outside sources interfering. Wholeheartedly is probably the best love story I’ve ever written in my entire literary career.
What inspired you to write your books?
I’ve always been a reader. I’ve been reading since fourth grade and knew right away I wanted to work with books. Before becoming an author, I wanted to read for a living and become a publisher or a literary agent. It wasn’t until I was deep in my undergrad studying English and journalism that I realized I had a storytelling gift. More than one professor praised my work in class—often even asked permission to use my assignments as templates for their future classes. One day, I was read an amazing book but the ending flopped. It was like the author rushed through the process just to get the book done, and I remember telling myself, “I could’ve wrote a better ending then that!” Of course, it took me a few days before I pulled out my computer and write… but since, I haven’t been able to stop telling stories.
What are your top 5 favorite books?
I have more than five favorites, but the first five that came to mind are diverse and in no particular order:
Allison Hobbs’ Secret of the Silk. She’s the first author that introduced me to the world of erotica and taught me that just because it’s erotic fiction, doesn’t mean the storyline is all about sex. Sex is a factor, yes, but these stories have amazing, thought-provoking plots.
Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale
Toni Morrison’s Sula
Omar Tyree’s Flyy Girl
What does literary success look like to you?
I’ve always admired how Terry McMillan could write these black AF stories and sign these million dollar deals with traditional publishing houses—as well as have nearly all of her books adapted into film without folks criticizing her for writing stories about black people. Her stories are being read by all people. This, to me, is what literary success looks like. Writing the stories you want, gaining a wide range of readers from different backgrounds, and getting paid $$$ for it.
How many hours a day do you write? What is your writing routine?
I write mostly at night when everything around me is quiet. It’s also the time when I feel the most creative. I typically don’t write by the hour, but by the word count. I make word count goals and don’t go to bed until I’ve achieved them.
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it be and why?
This is a good question that I’ve never thought about before. After careful thought, and based on what I’ve expressed was “a literary success”, the only thing that makes sense to say here is the Bible. LOL! Why? Because it’s a book that all people from different backgrounds read. It’s a book that has been adapted into many films. And it’s a book that will never go out of style. These are all things I would like to achieve as an author.
What advice would you like to give to aspiring authors?
I’ma keep it real simple with these three things:
- Write what you want and don’t allow anyone else to attempt to change your authentic self.
- Stay in your lane! Don’t ever compare yourself to others. It’s the quickest way to fall hard and lose sight of self.
- Trust the process.
Fun Fact: If I wasn’t an author, I’d probably be a therapist (which is high key a dream of mine) or a spiritual healer. I’m that chick who’s into crystals, burns Palo Santo, and uses herbs for natural remedies. I’ve also always been the girlfriend-girl, the friend all the friends go to for advice and a listening ear. My intuition is my superpower. I’m highly claircognizant, and whatever advice I give or speak, my friends hang on to my words like a toddler with their favorite blanket at night, and they always come back to tell me my advice helped them.
Stay connected with me!
Follow me on Instagram/Twitter @nailah_writes or Facebook at Jasemine Knowles.
You can check out Jasemine’s book here.