This May, we’re excited to welcome our latest Guest Editor, the amazing Kwana Jackson. The author of Real Men Knit, a novel about love, family and a quaint knitting store, Jackson is sharing with us a behind-the-scenes look at her book and filling us in on the reads she loves all month long.
What was the inspiration behind Real Men Knit?
“First, thanks so much for having me here on She Reads. It’s wonderful to virtually meet everyone!
“Like most writers, I can get inspiration from just about anywhere. You never know when it’s going to hit you, so I like to stay on inspiration alert. Looking back, the idea for Real Men Knit came around the time the Ryan Gosling ‘Hey Girl’ Memes were blowing up. Like many, I found them cute and funny. I looked further and read the GQ article which sparked the memes where Ryan said he was a knitter and learned to knit while on the set of Lars and the Real Girl. After my deal for Real Men Knit went through in 2018, I found a page from a pile of papers from a 2014 diary stack I had. On the page were three quickly jotted down ideas. Two never came to fruition, one I still kind of like and the last said, “Guys knitting story.””
Writing about sisters always seem like the obvious choice when it comes to creating fictional families. Was there a reason why you chose to write about three brothers instead?
I have written about sisters before in my Sugar Lake series under my K.M. Jackson pen name and I love that dynamic, but I felt strongly with Real Men Knit that I wanted the book’s focus to be on the family dynamic of the brothers and their relationships. I also felt strongly about putting them in what has been considered by some to be a traditionally female-centered environment of a knitting shop. I thought the twist would be something fun to explore for both myself and the readers. Also, I’m the oldest and only sister, having grown up with three brothers. I remember on Christmases enjoying my brother’s racing sets just as much as my Barbie playsets, not to mention I was the only one who could successfully assemble the racing sets and get them to work.
When it came time for me to come up with a new series idea to pitch, I looked to my inspiration bulletin board and there I had a photo of Ryan Gosling, reminding me of the ‘Hey Girl’ memes and the knitting idea that had been rolling around in my head. When I thought on the idea deeper I knew I wanted a cast of diverse men for the story, but I wanted them all connected. Then I remembered the movie Four Brothers, which I’d always loved, and thought what if they were all brothers adopted by the same mother and she owns the yarn shop? And that was it, The Strong Brothers were born.
What drew you to writing a women’s fiction novel?
It’s funny because though Real Men Knit is categorized as a romance, and rightly so, there is a strong women’s fiction element to it which I think is in just about all of my work. That may come from the fact that most of my stories are either set in or around the New York area or use characters from New York and deal with current cultural issues as well as women’s fiction issues like family relationships, loss and healing.
I don’t particularly go into a story categorizing it, but just write the story I want to tell and where it fits, it fits. I just hope my readers find me.