From romance reader to best-selling author

Brenda Jackson adds movie producer to her list of accomplishments

 

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

Conclusion of a two-part story

 

Truly Everlasting is a film based on Brenda Jackson’s best-selling 1998 novel. It went straight to DVD and became available in stores May 15.

The story revolves around Trask and Felecia, who have hated each other since childhood but are drawn together when Felecia’s son wishes for a father to spend Christmas with since his father is dead. Trask heard about the request from one of Felecia’s relatives; he volunteers to be a dad for his longtime rival’s son. Soon Trask and Felecia’s fighting turns to love.

Brenda Jackson financed and her son wrote and directed the movie Truly Everlasting, based on one of her novels.

Starring Kenny Rogers as Trask and Mikki Mabra as Felecia, and featuring an original soundtrack by BraMaDa Productions, the film cost six figures to make, which Jackson entirely financed. It was written and directed by her son, Gerald Jackson, Jr., who has his own film company and is a graduate of Columbia University and Florida State Film School.

“I love you to death, but I am the businesswoman,” Gerald’s mother told him. “Therefore, I will be on set and I will run this as I would run a business, because you are not losing any of my money.”

Brenda Jackson also asked her readers what “must scenes” from her best-selling book should also be in the movie. “There were 10 scenes that got everybody’s response, and I gave them to my son and said, ‘You work it.’” These consensus scenes included Trask and Felecia’s childhood bickering, and Felecia’s surprise visit to his apartment.

During a recent phone interview with the MSR, Brenda Jackson talked about making Truly Everlasting. The author pointed out that readers can take her book “and follow along with the movie.”

This, however, wasn’t the case in 2002 when another of Jackson’s books was made into a movie for BET. The network founder, Robert Johnson, previously had bought the rights to 10 of her books. But instead of staying true to her regular storyline, “He wanted to…bring it down to the hip-hop group,” and produced a movie that “wasn’t about the book,” she added. “They changed the script so that what I saw was not what I approved.”

Both she and her loyal readers were extremely disappointed with the result. So when Johnson later dissolved his publishing company, Jackson reacquired the rights to her books. “I decided that the next time a movie was made from a Brenda Jackson book,” she would have total control.

DVD cover courtesy of www.trulyeverlasting.com

Some may think that Truly Everlasting is loosely based on Jackson’s own life, especially since she has been married to her high school sweetheart Gerald for nearly 40 years: “We’ve known each other all our lives — my husband and I went to kindergarten together, but we always got along.”

Instead, Jackson says the story mainly came from her grief counseling sessions that she attended after the death of her youngest sister. “I am the oldest of six kids. She was born when I was in the eighth grade. When she died of breast cancer [at age 28], it devastated me,” recalls Brenda. “My sister always said that I should put more humor in my books — I wrote pretty serious love stories.”

Her grief counselor then suggested that Jackson write a short story in her sister’s honor, “That was therapy in a way,” she believes.

The character Felecia was introduced in an earlier novel as “a sidekick” for one of her cousins, and she and Trask were “annoying” to each other, says Jackson. However, when her readers inquired about the two, she decided to create a storyline in which the two characters so hated each other that they once threw “baby bottles at each other,” joked the author.

Being executive producer of Truly Everlasting “was a very wonderful challenge for me, and I was just blessed that things fell into place,” said Jackson. “I will be making another movie, but I don’t know when or which book.”

Jackson has been featured in numerous publications including Jet, Sister2Sister and Cosmopolitan. She was the first Black romance writer to make USA Today’s and the New York Times’ best seller lists, and has her own publishing company, Madaris Publishing.

The top-selling Black romance author of all time, who has sold over three million copies, will turn 60 next year and shows no signs of slowing down. Every two years she hosts “a Madaris family cruise” for 200 readers or so who wear custom-made T-shirts while on board.

“It is a family of dedicated readers who all enjoy reading about the Madaris family,” concludes Jackson of the fictional Black family about which she has penned almost 20 books. The next week-long cruise will be in 2013 in Alaska.

 

For more info on the film, visit www.trulyeverlasting.com or www.brendajackson.net.

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.