Taylor-Made by Sherryle Kiser Jackson A young couple is forced to face their past through the mirror of marriage.
Pamela “Pill” Jones was raised in poverty by her older sister and always craved “the good life.” Today she’s a successful hairstylist, but she and her husband Corey’s income doesn’t cover all the material goods she buys, and they soon find themselves struggling to climb out of deep debt. As Corey bears the brunt of their money problems, Pill just keeps spending. Now Corey’s feeling strained and he can’t deal.
Corey is also trying to figure out who he is, but all he sees in front of them are issues, with no end in sight. He asks Pill to join him for Marriage Maintenance classes and hopes with a little faith they can get their marriage back on track. But will Pill get on board—even if it means “going without” again?
When materialistic Pill’s husband asks her to join him for Marriage Maintenance classes, he hopes they can get their marriage back on track. But will Pill get on board—even if it means “going without” again?
In Her Own Words! Sherryle Kiser Jackson-Author and 2010 Faith and Fiction Retreat Panelist
I am a child of God seeking to edify the world. I have been blessed to be a wife and mother of two (one girl, one boy). I strive to be a fresh voice in Christian fiction. My style reflects a honest commentary on my life with Christ. Soon and Very Soon is my debut novel and I am proud to say is a Black Christian Book Distributer's Best Seller. I have followed that with The Manual, Soon After and Taylor Made.
I invite you to experience my too real to be preachy, Biblically based, out-the-Christian-box fiction. I have also branded myself as a book club’s best friend, making sure to be accessible to book clubs either in person or by phone conferencing during my 2011-2012 book tour schedule.
I had to come to terms with my main character, Pamela “Pill” Jones Taylor from my 2011 release, Taylor- Made. The book was already on the production calendar. At that point I should have been well on my way to scripting her life. My narrative was slow-going because of Pill. That’s her nickname-whether bitter or sweet, she’s good for ya, she’d say. I had to admit, I created her, but I did not know her.
In her husband’s words she’s a petite package of chocolate perfection. The diva type, headstrong hairdresser, she’s nonchalant to the point of rudeness. Stylish, secretive, cynical, snide, you’ve met the type.
I like to think I have characterization down. I get involved in my characters lives. Sometimes I am a parent that nurtures. Other times I am in the bushes stalking them. More than anything, I am a slave at their mercy. I like it that way, an O short of looney. They speak to me and I write it all down eventually. I do everything but assign them a social security number.
This time there was a hold out in my program- Pill. I mean I knew her, but I don’t know her. It’s like she lives on my street, but I haven’t had her over. We’re associates, but not friends. I know her husband(my other main character, Corey), but I haven’t met the misses. This chick was illusive.
I would write a chapter, or more like a fraction of the chapter, and hit a bump in the road. I’d re-read, which is usually as much a part of writing as adding to the word count. But, I was doing this incessantly. I was going to the beginning, page one, paragraph one. Instead of laying a trail, I was trying to find a trail, a pattern of behavior, waiting for this Queen Diva to speak. Why, why, why, why why? She was not dishing.
I have been a part of a biweekly writer’s group for over 10 years now that started at the former Sister Space and Books in DC. Every time I’d bring a chapter for critique they’d ask about Pill. Why does she do the things she does? Why is she a certain way toward her husband? Is she devious or delusional?
Although I had a hard time answering all of their inquiries; that last one got me though. Is she a protagonist or antagonist? I’m thinking, c’mon now, that’s basic character motivation, or back story-the dibs. That’s the basic foundation of the house that is my story line, the framework, the pipes and wiring. This was my chance to play God, or more like the 3rd person omniscient narrator. I was supposed to know more than the characters. Pill was punking me, making me look dumb in front of my fellow writers. So, I did like any sell-respecting author would do. I asked her outside.
On one of my many writing hiatuses, I remembered a writing exercise from one of my craft books, Soul Between the Lines: Freeing Your Creative Spirit Through Writing by Dorothy Randall Gray and Luisah Teish (Paperback - Mar. 1998) I had not seen the book in eons and knew it must be in my garage somewhere, but I was desperate to get past this impasse. I remembered you invite your character to the proverbial hot seat or therapist chair, if you will, and ask them very nicely, “ Pill, what is it that you have to say?” and then you listen and take notes. Sounds looney, I know like I bought a vowel for that last O.
It was worth a try. I had my earrings out, but maybe I didn’t need to fight her after all. I had tried this exercise before some ten years ago when I was writing Soon and Very Soon. It worked then. Why not now?
So I got quiet. I visualized the diva. I asked the question and doggone it if she didn’t start to speak. She told me I didn’t need to know all her business. She didn’t think the other characters needed to know either. She was covering up her flaws and secrets with a flashy wardrobe and a nasty attitude. It was all smoke and mirrors for what was really going on inside.
I think the key to tapping into this character was returning to the pen and pad to record these responses rather than the keyboard. It was almost as if she (or the inner me) felt threatened to perform or felt the need to hide in the midst of the narrative. The fresh lined paper gave her permission to be less polished, This is far from a sketch, but a ramble of consciousness. She was free to repeat herself as much as she wanted to. She could tell her truth. You not only take down details, but you discover nuances. I heard the cadence and intonation of her voice. I could sense the touchy subjects that she’d rather avoid like those of her mother and growing up poor. I could re-direct her with another question before she began to clam up or at least until I could figure out her hang ups. She showed her true colors. It was a safe space for her and I honored that.
This was indeed therapy. Now, I can go back to my story, already in progress, and carry a little bit of her with me each time. I shade in the picture I began to draw because I have a full palette. Pill is more than someone I merely recognize. She is someone I know. We’re not BFFs but we’re not in figurative fisticuffs anymore either.
Sherryle Kiser Jackson, Author
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