J. Keith Stewart

J. Keith Stewart
Promise Me

Interviewed by: Lauretta Pierce
November 21, 2002

1. How did you come about the title Promise Me?

Initially I threw around a number of titles for my sophomore effort and the title Promise Me wasn't on the list. I was riding down the road (on travel) thinking about Marie Johnson and John Langston Stone's situation (two of my primary characters) and decided to throw in a Luther Vandross CD. At the end of the CD was Luther's song, Promise Me, which was fitting for their situation; for the entire book actually. That's been the title since that day. And remains one of my favorite songs.

2. How long did it take you to write Promise Me?

Promise Me is a legal saga with a series of grave and humorous storylines that stretched me as a writer; I had to practically become an attorney to write the book. It took much longer to write the second book than it did my first book, which only took six months to write; one year and a few months to edit and publish. With Promise Me, I was relocating from Atlanta, GA to Washington, DC where I took off some time to adjust and to get a feel of the city. Promise Me was a labor of love and came to fruition a little short of two years.

3. How did you come about the plot surrounding Donna, John and Marie?

You might recall that all three returned from my first novel Episodes. I knew I wanted to bring them back for a second round, so I placed more emphasis on their story line near the conclusion of Episodes. As for their inception, I wanted something fresh, different and a situation that has not been written about much. Marie misjudged her husband, realized he was a good man--too late I might add--and did what she thought it would take to get him back. When that didn't work, she grew desperate and eradicated herself from the equation, leaving John to go on with his life. Without her!

4. How did you come about the office incident surrounding Robin, Donna and Miami?

That must have been funny to you as it certainly was funny to me. For some odd reason, in the work place, people tend to think that the rest room is a meeting place for private conversations. And the few situations that I've witnessed, it's always been the case that the parties involved never seemed to check all of the stalls before turning the restroom into the chat room. I couldn't resist. I had to throw that in the book.

5. How did you come about Knowledge's character?

Initially, Knowledge was only going to be in one chapter; I really didn't see much need for him after that. During the time that I was finishing Promise Me, I started to give some thought to my third book Killing Me Softly and the stories that I wanted to tell. I then realized I needed Knowledge and started to develop his character such to the point that I would be able to develop him into a main character in my third book. And boy, is he out of control this time around!

6. How did you come about the situation between Aunt Betty and her twin sister?

I knew of a similar situation where a woman discovered that her husband had been cheating on her. Instead of a divorce, she decided to stay with him as a reminder of his infidelity. Much like Betty Jean, this woman never forgave her husband and held on to those memories of that day. The more I got into her story, the more the theme developed. That theme is "forgiveness" and how important it is to do such.

7. How did you come about Kami and Dusty characters?

I had some help with Dusty. At the time, I had a friend that was studying to become a Paralegal...I think! Yeah, a paralegal, and at the time I was working at the Law Center. Between the two of us, we mapped out Dusty's character; her life. During that time, my friend started to deal with some relationship issues and I decided to let Dusty's relationship encounter some of the same obstacles. And by the way, the name Dusty is actually my friends "terms of endearment" from the former relationship that is now an 8 or 9 year relationship of the past.

8. Are you currently working on another novel?

Killing Me Softly is my third novel, which is scheduled to be released at the beginning of 2003 if I can break this writers block that I'm currently experiencing. I've been working on Chapter 13 since September; we're now approaching the end of November!

9. Will there be a sequel to Promise Me?

Killing Me Softly is not a sequel to Promise Me. I have all new characters with new issues with unbelievable solutions. I'm very fond of a few of my characters from Promise Me: John and Marie of course, Remi and Knowledge. I've already committed to writing my fourth book which won't be a sequel either and entertained stepping away from writing for a while to pursue other interests. That being the case, I'm sure enough time will have passed for me to write another book and delve back into the lives of my favorite people some ten years later.

10. What message would you like readers to receive from reading Promise Me?

All of my characters reached a pivotal point in their lives where they had to make life changing decisions that would affect who they would be for the remainder of their lives. And they weren't the best short term decisions. It is my hope that the reader will leave the book with the knowledge that in life, you have to set the order...your own order. And that you don't have to be in a situation, a relationship or on a job that you don't want to be in or on. Learn how and when to step away. And most of all and most importantly, to learn to forgive. That's a key ingredient to life. Some of my characters learned that the hard way!

Literary World, thank you so very much for all of your support where both my novels are concerned.