When their foster-turned-adoptive mother suddenly dies, four brothers struggle to keep open the doors of her beloved Harlem knitting shop in Real Men Knit. We spoke with author Kwana Jackson about the inspiration for the novel, indie booksellers as cheerleaders for books, and more.
Please tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write this book and how this story took shape for you.
Years ago, I remember being really into all the ‘Hey Girl’ Ryan Gosling knitting memes because I’m a knitter but also because Ryan Gosling (hah)! I got it into my head that I wanted to do a story with a male knitter. Cut to a few years later and the idea was still poking at me. I knew I wanted a story that focused on men who knit, and I wanted them to be diverse. I also knew I wanted to set this series in my hometown of Harlem—something I was excited to do. The great thing was when I pitched it to my agent, who is male, he was all for it and got the concept immediately because he’s a knitter, too. It was wonderful to have a champion right at the start.
In two sentences or less, what’s something that might surprise Libro.fm listeners about your audiobook?
I think what most listeners will find surprising about Real Men Knit is the small-town community feeling they get even though it’s set in New York City.
Have you listened to your own audiobook? If so, what struck you about the narration?
I’ve only listened to the first couple of chapters of Real Men Knit, and that’s true for all of my books. Terrible to say, but the reason is I’m highly critical of my own work and whenever I re-read it or hear to it back, I always find things I’d like to change, but at that point it’s too late.
I will say, that what I did listen to, I enjoyed tremendously and marveled over the narration of Keylor Leigh which has gotten lovely reviews. She made my words sound amazing! I kept thinking, “Who wrote that?” I found it better to stop while I was ahead and click off before I got the ‘I-should-have-written-it-this-way-instead’ feeling.
Are you an audiobook listener? If so, what are some of your favorite audiobooks?
Though I don’t listen to my own books, I do listen to other authors. One of my favorites to listen to on audio is Kristan Higgins. Her stories are incredible, and she always has the best narrators. I recently listened to Always the Last To Know and was so moved. Also, you can knit while listening to an audiobook so double-win!
What have independent bookstores and/or booksellers meant to you personally and professionally?
I love independent bookstores and booksellers. When they are behind you, they can be your greatest cheerleaders, introducing your work to customers who wouldn’t have been exposed to you before. This is especially important with new authors. I find that with independent booksellers, the customers have a more trusted and personal connection with their seller.
In New York, I’ve had great experiences at events with WORD in Brooklyn. I have also had some unforgettable online experiences during quarantine with independent booksellers and their patrons doing panels and talks with: Love’s Sweet Arrow in Chicago, Fountain Books in Virginia and Book People in Texas. I am so grateful for these connections that I wouldn’t have been able to have without the outreach of these sellers.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Header photo by Katana Photography