Thursday, September 10, 2015

3L Publishing Featured Author: Norma Jennings, Passenger from Greece

Why did you write Passenger from Greece?

In a Huffington Post article, I once read about the rising tide of drug cartels in developed countries that use certain Caribbean islands as conduits for the movement of illegal drugs into the United States. The article cited Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic as primary targets, with the Dominican Republic being responsible for 6% of illegal drugs coming to the U.S. My home is Jamaica, and I'm a former flight attendant, so I began to think about how I could bring this international and social dilemma into the spotlight, and also draw readers in with a captivating story.

Your cover is gorgeous. What made you select that image to be illustrated?

I'd been awe-struck by the beauty of the Greek countryside, and there are shocking facts about the tenacity of the Greek drug cartel, so I decided to use Greece as the developed country in my storyline. My main character, Olivia Reid, is portrayed as an international flight attendant from Jamaica. While deciding what to do about my book cover, I reached out to my friend, Dr. Talib Aleem, whose passion for classic photography can be compared with my passion for writing (despite our demanding careers). He informed me that he was on his way to Santorini to take photos for his collection, and would allow me to choose from shots taken there. He returned with the stunning photo I chose as Passenger from Greece's gorgeous cover.

What is your favorite part of the book?

My favorite part of the book is chapter 17, where the two main characters, a Greek and a Jamaican, finally become lovers after weeks of delicious fantasies about each other. In this chapter, I was able to write about beauty, innocence, love, lust, and turmoil, all rolled into one.

Who is your favorite character?

Olivia, the main character, is my favorite. Her innocence, integrity, self-centered behaviors, and foolish spontaneous decisions leave readers shaking their heads while questioning the emotions that make them love, as well as dislike her.

This book was your second. How was writing your sophomore book compared to Daughter of the Caribbean?

While writing Passenger from Greece, I was much more aware of the likes and dislikes of American and international audiences, and how successful novels are configured to capture and hold the audience. My first novel, Daughter of the Caribbean, came from my heart and soul. With Passenger from Greece, I put heart, soul and the wisdom of a more seasoned writer into the work, and I reveled in writing some sizzling erotic moments. Then I sent the manuscript to a reputable critique professional, who gladly landed a few blows to my ego. So I stepped back, recovered my resolve, did the rewrites, and just kept going. After all, writing is my passion.

You tend to write about family and relationships. Why do you focus on those topics?

Family and relationships are the fuel that shape our characters and drive us to make decisions, whether wise or foolish. Having been born and raised in the Caribbean, certain standards dictated that you should love your family unconditionally, show strength under fire, trust until you're given reasons not to, be thankful for what you have because there is so much hunger in the world, and never let anyone see you sweat.

What is the strangest thing you've ever done you're willing to reveal to the world?

Marrying a dentist despite a powerful fear of the dentist's chair. It must have been the fact that my ex could put needles to your gum, and you didn't even feel a prick. We're no longer married, but he's the best dentist I've ever had. Where did my fear come from? In the islands, dentists would visit our elementary schools annually. They would strap you into a chair; have you bite down on a cotton ball soaked in nova cane, then pull your tooth if you had a cavity. After the first such experience, I would hide in the bushes of my grandmother's Twickenham until the dentist had left the premises.

Who is your favorite author and why?

British writer Daphne DuMaurier is my favorite author. She had a remarkable way of describing sceneries and behaviors so succinctly, you were right there with her on the page enjoying, hating, or being terrified by the journey.

Would you rather eat on patio or inside at a restaurant?

For me, there's no experience better than having a meal on the patio of my condo on the hillside of Ocho Rios, Jamaica, while watching the cruise ships dock on the turquoise Caribbean Sea, as tropical birds sing melodies in the trees of the limestone forest behind me. I use this condo as my writing studio and get-away, and it is available for rental to tourists and other writers or artists.
If you compared yourself to a great hero in life or fiction, who would it be?

My father is my greatest hero. He was exotic, adventurous, kind, flawed, intelligent, beautiful, and he loved unconditionally. It's always an honor for me to be told 'you're just like your father.'

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