Nathasha Brooks-Harris

Nathasha Brooks-Harris

Interviewed by: Lauretta Pierce
October 29, 2002

1. Who is Nathasha Brooks-Harris?

Nathasha Brooks-Harris is a woman who feels blessed in many ways. She has so many wonderful things that some take for granted such as: her health, her parents, a roof over her head and a reasonably decent job. She has also begun her dream of becoming a published author. To this end, she likes to teach others about writing and the road to publication.

2. What inspired you to write the novel Panache?

I was inspired to write Panache in a strange way. I was flying from New York City to Houston, Texas and encountered very bad turbulence when we flew over a spontaneous cyclone. That did something to my ears, so when I got to the hotel, a doctor who attended the event I was covering, advised me not to fly because doing so would burst my eardrum. I tried to book an Amtrak seat, but it only left Houston on Tuesdays and I had to leave on Sunday! My only option was a two-day ride on Greyhound.

As I was riding, I thought about the tall, handsome and hospitable men sporting Western hats that I had met in Texas. I imagined a special place—a jewelry emporium-- that only the rich could go to shop for everything but it had to be by invitation only. Then, my mind began to fill in the blanks and the foundation of Panache was in my head when I reached New York.

As I put together my pre-writing notebook, I filled in the blanks and fleshed it all out. I knew that it had to be set in Texas because my characters did everything larger than life.

3. How did you come about the title for Panache?

I came about the title, Panache, because I wanted a word that would convey the concepts of elegance, élan and glamour. The jewelry emporium had to be elegant and stylish, as did the characters. I looked up every word that described those qualities and none of them would do. When I found panache, I knew I’d hit paydirt.

4. How long have you been writing?

I have been writing since I was a little girl and old enough to craft stories and compositions. One of earliest memories was waiting for the cardboard from my mother’s stockings so I could “write” my stories and illustrate them with crudely drawn pictures.

5. How did you come about Alexandra’s character?

I did a seven-page character dossier for Alexandra and when I was done fitting all the pieces together, Alexandra Walker was born. I didn’t have a clear-cut idea of what I wanted her to be. All I knew is that I wanted her to be a strong woman who would complement Chase.

6. How did you come about Chase’s character?

Chase came more clearly to me than the other characters. The finest and the sexiest man I had ever met was Norm Nixon (the ex-L.A. Laker and Debbie Allen’s foine husband). Well, he hosted a group of us when LL Cool J was doing press interviews in support of one of his CDs and his then-starring role in the sit-com, In The House. LL was delayed because his schedule ran behind for some reason. So we sat in his suite and Norm treated us all to dinner while we waited. That gave me time to study Norm (his walk, his gait, his speech, his style of dress, etc.) as well as to think that if Debbie gets rid of him, he’d be fair game! LOL. Anyway, by the time I left the interview, I had the perfect role model for Chase. I mixed that up with the traits of Texan men. I put all of that together and I had a perfect Chase Thomas.

7. How did you come about Spurgeon’s character?

For Spurgeon’s character, I thought about the way I imagined someone sleazy, slimy and greasy would look. Then, I filled in his psychological profile and sociological profile using a book that helps writers to build characters using the proper psychological traits. That helped me to fill in the blanks and create a believable villain.

8. Why did you choose to have Alexandra consider robbery in order to help Justin receive a kidney?

Robbery chose itself as the crime that Alexandra would commit to help Justin. That’s because publishers are reluctant to publish a book with characters who are criminals. They want heroines not to have anything bad, like crime, in their background. Crimes make heroines unattractive and unbelievable to readers and publishers. The only way around that is if a minor crime is committed and can be justified. The readers must sympathize and empathize with the heroine. That is exactly what happens in Panache when Alexandra steals in order to get Justin the kidney he needs. Most readers realize there is no greater love than a mother’s love for her child and any good mother will do anything to ensure her child’s health and well being.

9. How did you come about Briana’s and Candace’s characters?

Every good story must have good, well-rounded, three dimensional characters. I needed a best friend for Alexandra because she had no one to talk to and work her problems out with, so I gave her Briana.

Candace began as a mother who did the best she could for Alexandra, but couldn’t give her what she really needed. She ended up being a source of comic relief. I believe that every story needs a bit of levity for balance.

Both characters came about to support the hero and heroine in some way and become minor characters.

10. How did you come about Mrs. Kingsley’s character?

Mrs. Kingsley came about because I needed a “wise sage” type of character who would confirm Alexandra’s growing feelings for Chase. Mrs. K was like that nosey, know-it-all aunt everyone has. She dispensed wisdom and unsolicited advice, but she was always on point with her wisdom and observations.

11. How long did it take you to write Panache?

It took me five l-o-n-g years to write Panache. That was because I went through a lot of life events and stopped writing after each one. But I grieved or went through those things, had a pity party if I needed one and got back to writing.

12. What type of atmosphere do you require to write?

I need either a quiet atmosphere to write in or music playing in the background. Usually, the type of music I listen to depends on what I’m writing. For example, if I’m writing a love scene, I listen to ballads. If I’m writing a fight scene, I’ll listen to gangsta rap. I write well to music, but the television distracts me because I become interested in the program and start watching it instead of music.

13. How did you come about the plot surrounding Elijah?

I knew that I wanted Alexandra to be a jewel thief but as I said earlier, she couldn’t be a criminal if I expected to sell the book. So I had to give her a reason to steal. I toned her down from a jewel thief to a mother who commits a one-time crime under duress so she could save her son. Her crime is foreshadowed when she tries to steal the pendant set and cannot. Then, I had to figure out the one thing that would force her to steal and why. That’s when the idea for Justin’s needing a kidney transplant came about.

14. How did you come about Mr. And Mrs. Thomas’ characters?

Chase, the hero, is a strong Alpha Male, so I knew that he needed equally strong parents. I needed him to have a typical Texan father to whom he was close as well as a no-nonsense mother. I figured out the traits that each of them should have, then I began crafting them and Mr. and Mrs. Thomas were born. My dad is from Texas so I had a good model on which to base Mr. Thomas.

15. What message would you like readers to receive from reading Panache?

I would like readers to come away with two messages. The first is that trust is paramount to the survival of a relationship and the other is that a loving mother would do anything—good or bad—to protect her child from hurt, harm or danger.

On a final note, I would like to thank The Literary World for interviewing me and letting my voice be heard on your website. I cannot thank you enough for selecting me! I’ve truly enjoyed the experience.