Never Too Late, An Interview with Lisa Harrison Jackson
By Carin Chea
In Hebrew, the name "Lisa" means "oath of God" or "God's satisfaction," and what better steward of that name than Lisa Harrison Jackson. A successful, author, playwright, director, and writing coach, Ms. Jackson derives her creativity and brilliance from a source that never runs dry: her relationship with God.
Even on the most daunting of days, this prolific writer remains forever inspired, and why not? It's not like God takes any days off.
It was my absolute pleasure and an honor to be in Ms. Jackson's presence. Her warmth and vibrancy are all-encompassing and disarming. It is without a doubt that whomever comes in contact with this talented author will be blessed many times over.
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
Oh yes. Pretty much since my childhood. I've been writing consistently since about the 4th grade. It all kicked off when my teacher gave us a creative writing assignment, and we had to write, illustrate, and bind it with wallpaper. There was something about that process that really clicked with me. I haven't stopped since.
How did your journey as a romance novelist begin?
A friend of mine and I had challenged one another when the B.E.T. network launched their romance novels. We said, "Let's write something and see what happens." We both submitted the first 3 chapters, a query, and synopsis.
My friend heard back from them first. In the meantime, I moved to Atlanta, and I didn't realize that B.E.T. had requested a full manuscript until 6 months later when my mail was forwarded to me.
At the time, I was working a job I didn't love. I knew it wasn't in my scope of being. I ended up leaving the job and working full time on the manuscript. I knew the essence of love, but I didn't want to leave it in the realm of romance.
I wanted to include the true essence of love, which is Christ. So, I pulled the book, thanked them [B.E.T.], and I self-published the book. When I finished, I sent a copy to Harlequin and to Penguin. The editor of Harlequin ended up emailing me and giving me an offer.
Tell me about your latest book, Gifted: Handle With Care.
I think of my parents as being my original gatekeepers. The gatekeeper does not always have to be a parent. But, they are people who believe in you and what you're doing. It could be a friend, a teacher.
It is someone who sees what you were created to be. They want to be there to help you see it through. That's why I feel it's so important to talk about that, especially with parents who are raising children who have clear cut gift that need to be nurtured.
Growing up in Omaha, Nebraska, which is a conservative, work-oriented town, writing a book is considered a vanity. My parents didn't allow other people to say things to discourage me from my dreams. I found out later that my aunt (who grew up in rural Mississippi) wrote a story and it got published in a newspaper.
But, growing up in rural Mississippi, my aunt had to work on the farm at the time. My dad really supported me. My mom used to encourage me to write. They used to actually give me things to write. I remember my Dad in the kitchen saying, "Spell this word" or "Write your brothers and sisters' names and their birthdays." I saw that they believed in me.
My husband is also one of my gatekeepers. He kept me protected and shielded me from those individuals who saw the gift I had and would try and take advantage of it.
How did you transition from romantic literature to this genre of writing?
It was birthed out of my own personal experiences with challenges in my career. In 2012, I made the decision to go in hard. I was working another job with the government, and I was not satisfied. It was not who I was created to be. I said, "Lord, I'm going to go all in." I left the job, started writing, wrote plays.
I met a gentleman who came to one of my plays in Atlanta. He was launching a television network and he wanted to offer me and my husband producer jobs. We were going full steam ahead, and then he told us that his investment fell through and he wasn't able to launch.
I thanked him, and I kept my car going. I had a lot of people behind me who had dreams, to be actors, to be a part of this. I had compassion for not only my dreams, but for their dreams and passions. It was about us realizing our dreams collectively.
Then, I met another gentleman who had Charter-Spectrum backing him up. But, then again, he lost track of his vision and got off course, and it went downhill. I felt like, "God what is going on?" All those questions kept swirling in my head. I thought, "Lord, I have strong parents who believed in me from when I was a child."
If I didn't have that support, or my husband who supported me with his words, how could I do this? How could someone face this level of disappointment?
That's when it all came into place. The Bible says, in Proverbs 18:16, "A man's gift makes room for him and brings him before the great." When someone is gifted, you have to support that gift. You have to preserve it. I thought, "Wouldn't it be nice to write this book for people who don't have the support that I have, and how to protect that support?" The time was right.
The world is changing. The economy is changing. Working a job for 30 years and retiring is not an option now. So, how are you able to tap into your gifts and make it come alive?
What overarching message do you want your readers to come away with after reading Gifted?
God whispers to our spirits "You will be", and we are created for specific purposes. But, then other people come and take it away.
Keep in mind that we are created for a reason, a purpose. When we don't tap into that reason, we're basically moving further away from our purpose. Happiness, fulfillment - all those things are waiting for us if we move into that direction. I want people to know that it's not too late.
Even if you're 30 years into your career, it's never too late. Turn that bus around and go the other way! As long as we can talk and breathe, we can turn our lives around.
What do you consider your biggest inspiration as a writer?
My first inspiration is God. Sometimes when I write, I write about things that are very pressing for me. I feel such a deep sense of compassion about it. I might receive the words to write a play or a book. I feel: "Let me do it because someone might need it."
My friends, my family, even strangers are inspirations. I might observe something and notice: "That doesn't feel right." I want to put a voice to something I see. I was at the store one time, and the girl was ringing me up seemed really agitated.
Some people might say to the girl, "Why are you being so rude?" because a lot of people think people in customer service exist solely to serve us.
But, I said, "Are you okay?" She broke down crying. She just needed that moment for someone to connect with her and help her get through that moment. When we are sensitive to the Holy Spirit, we know when we should enter into people's lives.
My parents are also my inspiration. I lost both of my parents in 2017. It was a rough year. This book was paying homage to them because of what they did for me. Do I have it all together? No. Do I have it 100%? No. But, I have enough to help others who may not have what I have.
You are also a coach, teacher, playwright, and director. How did those careers come about?
When I was in Georgia, I taught for a couple years. I taught middle school and high school. Then, I went back to school to teach college because I could see that a lot of these kids in high school were not prepared to go to college. College is a weaning ground, so I wanted to help them there.
The playwriting came about when I wrote my first book and I gave it to my pastors as a gift. My pastors said, "Write this as a play." So, I studied theatre, how to write scripts, how to format a play or production, and just fell in love with the process because of the immediate feedback that you get when you put on a play and people say "that really touched me."
Book coaching is me helping other people write their books. I have a lot of people approach me asking me to write their books. But, I always say, "No one can write it like you do."
Do you think you might one day write and direct for film or television?
I did create two TV sitcoms and I am still trying to shop them. One is called Managing the Malcolms and it's about a family trying to make and break it into the music business. I wrote that around 2012 when shows like The Voice and American Idol were in their prime, and every-day people really wanted to explore music in that way.
I wanted a show that would show young people how a family working together (not alone) could realize their dreams, instead of them looking like an overnight success like they do on television. TV shows point "A" and goes all the way to "J", and they don't show the in-between. I think it's important to show the in-between. If you don't want the ramen noodles or the PB&J's, then maybe you're not ready. If you can't take the bad with the good, then you may not be ready to go in this direction. Maybe you have some soul searching to do first.
Wally Knows Best is the second sitcom, and it's about a senior citizen whose wife passed and he is ready to move into a senior community. But then his adult daughter moves back home (because of divorce and whatnot), and he discovers that being there for his children and grandchildren are important. He finds that his voice was still relevant. It's a generational family sitcom.
I have written a couple of screenplays that I hope to make come to life. One is based on my play Hell Is Not A Gameshow. It's about how life is not a game. Hell is a metaphor used to show people how, every day, we sometimes make very bad decisions that can lead into directions that we don't want to go into.
It touches on making that right decision at a moment's notice. It's a game show within a game show where contestants look into other people's lives and see what type of decisions they make. That was one of my most requested plays. Everyone wanted to be a part of that project because it brought people together.
Do you have any projects in the pipeline?
I'm working on an excerpt from Hell Is Not A Gameshow, called Vengeance, and that's something I'll be doing here in the fall in Omaha.
Book 2 of The Gifted series is in the works, and that'll come out later this year.
If they were to produce a movie based on your life, who would play you? What would the title of this biopic be?
Somebody like Viola Davis or Alfre Woodard. They're not typecast actors. They're very good at playing the quirky and the dramatic. I'm very quirky. I'm a not drama queen, but sometimes when I get in that zone, I need someone to be able to get in that zone and represent me. I think they would capture me well.
The title would be It's A Destiny-Filled Life, and I pulled that from one of the plays I wrote. I'm always thinking of my purpose and destiny.
Being an incredibly gifted individual herself, Lisa Harrison Jackson has used her own life experiences, the ups and the downs, to create a divine guide book. Whether you are a parent, friend, family member, Gifted provides the tools you need to create an inspired life for yourself and those around you, and to always remember it is never too late to follow your calling.
To keep up to date on Ms. Jackson's latest and upcoming projects, you can visit her website at LisaHarrisonJackson.webs.com.
Her latest book, Gifted: Handle With Care, can be found at Amazon.com.
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