Christmas with Jacqueline E. Luckett

Intimate Conversation with Jacqueline E. Luckett
Searching for Tina Turner

After leaving the corporate world, Jacqueline Luckett took a creative writing class on a dare—from herself. During that time she began writing short stories and poetry and, since then, has never looked back. The Bay Area native loves living in Oakland, but travels frequently to nurture her passion for photography and cooking. Her first novel, Searching for Tina Turner, released in January 2010, was chosen by Essence Magazine as its January 2010 Book Selection. Her second novel, Passing Love, is scheduled for publication in October 2011.

» What are you most thankful for today?
I am blessed. This journey to writing and publication has been a dream come true. I’m thankful for my friends, old and new, who’ve offered their support with book parties, signings and the right words at the right minute. I’m so grateful that my mother, at age 88, is still with me and full of energy and good spirit—not to mention her constant supply of chocolate chip cookies and peanut brittle. I’m thankful for having rediscovered my passion.

» Tell us about your fondest holiday moment or event. Do you have Holiday rituals that absolutely, positively must be followed?
My sister and I took ballet lessons when we were young. Neither one of us liked the formal structure of ballet; I think we were more interested in Saturday morning cartoons than dance lessons. Although I can't quite remember how old we were at the time (under 12, for sure), I do recall one special Christmas recital.

We learned a very simple dance choreographed to the music of Johnny Mathis’ “Winter Wonderland”—“sleighbells rings, are you listening?” –an easy step, step, glide. We wore shimmering, short skirts that made us look like professional ice skaters and beige tights that made our skinny legs took big above our white ballet slippers. In the Bay Area, Berkeley, where I grew up, it only snows on the rarest of occasions, but for that recital we wore fuzzy earmuffs and matching hand muffs, white like the sumptuous ermine they were supposed to imitate.

We kept our costumes and for many Christmases afterwards we turned that dance into our ritual. Christmas Eve, we put Johnny Mathis’s Christmas album on the Hi-Fi and nearly wore out the groove on song number one. We danced to the tune over and over again, carefully executing our steps on the small stage that was our living room floor, as if that would urge Santa Claus to tumble down our chimney earlier, or make the clock spin faster to midnight and Christmas and all the joys of that morning. I don’t know how many Christmas Eves we spent dancing to “Winter Wonderland.” I only know we truly believed that without that song and dance, Christmas would never be the same.

» Do you have a favorite holiday menu, story or song?
Share with us.
Next to Thanksgiving, Christmas is my favorite time of the year to cook. I love those holidays because of the focus, among other things, on food—eating it, preparing it, talking about it; sampling, testing, putting dishes together. I experiment with cooking during the holidays more than any other time of the year. I have dozens of cookbooks. About two weeks beforehand, I pull several from the shelf, pile them on my table, and the search begins.

I look for unusual recipes for appetizers, salads, entrĂ©e dishes and desserts. For years, I baked all sorts of cookies at Christmas—nut balls covered with confectioner’s sugar, cranberry chocolate chip, and snickerdoodles. I taste while cooking, but I rarely test the recipes in advance—I suppose that since I make my selections from tried and true favorite cookbooks, there’s no need to. These are a couple of cookbooks from my collection that have great recipes: Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen, The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook (Lukins and Rosso), and LaBelle Cuisine (Patti LaBelle).

The preparations are almost a ritual for me. Typically, I create a menu with many more dishes than I intend to cook. I let the menu sit for a day or so and then come back to it and balance the meal with light and heavy dishes and veggies and sweets.

Many of my friends spend the holidays with family or take trips out of town and we don’t have the chance to spend holiday time together. For the last couple of years, I’ve prepared a meal the Sunday before Thanksgiving complete with dishes that bring back memories. Last year, I decided that there was enough time for turkey, so I cooked a pre-Thanksgiving dinner without that big bird: tossed salad of mixed greens, broccoli casserole, brined and roasted whole chicken, pork roast stuffed with peppers and onions, mac and cheese, a yam soufflĂ© covered with mini-marshmallows, cornbread dressing with homemade cranberry chutney, and bread pudding for dessert. Yes, I overdid it, but the leftovers were fantastic! Happy eating!

» Tell us about your latest book. What are two main events taking place in the book?
Searching for Tina Turner is the story of Lena Harrison Spencer, a woman on the verge of change. Lena confronts the hard truths of what it means to have it all and still find oneself unfulfilled. She determines that what she needs is the strength to say no to all that is extraneous in her life, and Tina Turner becomes the icon from whose story she derives strength, even as everyone else tells her she’s crazy for giving up her cashmere cocoon.

Lena takes both an emotional and physical journey in the novel, and without giving away too much, readers who’ve always wanted to go to the South of France and Paris will enjoy the descriptions (and the action) in the last half of the story.

Review for Searching for Tina Turner by Jacqueline Luckett
“A fierce, beautiful tour de force . . . a heroine for the ages . . . Luckett is a writer to watch and admire.”
--ZZ Packer

» Have you ever considered what kind of legacy you want to leave future generations? What do you want to be remembered for?
This is a great, thought-provoking question and one that I’ll continue to ponder. Writing, finishing, and having my novel published have made their marks on my bucket list. I don’t suppose I’m too different from many writers who want to make a positive impact on the world.

My novel speaks to reinvention, inner strength and finding one’s passion. It’s my hope that my characters and stories provide inspiration and spark my readers to think about their own lives and ponder the possibilities for change at any age. Midlife characters are the focus of my novels; I look forward to dispelling the myths of being “over the hill.” I want “baby boomers” to have strong, sexy, and determined characters that they can relate to.

» How may our readers contact you online and pick up your latest work?
Searching for Tina Turner is available online, electronically, and at chain and independent bookstores everywhere. If you don’t see it, bookstores can order it for you. I’d love for readers to become Facebook fans, follow me on Twitter or email me.

Follow me on Twitter: @jackieluckett at;  Website:;   Finish Party:;  FB Fanpage:


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