Interview with B. Lance Jenkins, Author of A New Requiem
15 Jul 2019
What can you tell us about your new release, A New Requiem?
A New Requiem is the story of a gay community chorus director and teacher who is wrongly accused of murdering a 17-year old boy and son of a promiment family in a fictional North Carolina town known as Freeden, and how the small, radically-fundamental town mounts against him simply because he is gay and largely different from the town’s populous. It’s a work of literary fiction with elements of a crime and drama thriller that calls for empathy and understanding toward things different than what we are used to. Having lived in the South my entire life, I see the relevance of this message nearly everyday, but it’s not just a message to be heard in the rural South. I think we can all take a hard look at the way we treat others different than us, and that’s the message behind A New Requiem. It’s quite pertinent in a time like the one we live in today.
What or who inspired you to become an author?
My high school teachers and college professors. Family. Friends. But no one inspired this story more than my friend, Dwight Berry. The book is dedicated to him; he was my former vocal mentor, colleague, and friend, and is the model for the character Dwight Kerry in A New Requiem. The real-life Dwight never experienced any of the major events in the novel, but he was the only person in my life that a character in the book mimics identically. He was gay, and in many ways inspired the message in the novel of empathy and understanding. He is the reason I was inspired to write this story. So far as becoming an author, I just love to tell stories. Anytime I’ve ever read a book or watched a movie, I’ve imagined my own stories and ideas coming to life in some format. In large part, I’ve always been this way…if I want something to come to fruition, I work to make it happen, regardless of whether or not it’s going to be easy. The story behind A New Requiem was and still is important to me, and when I first developed the concept, I knew it was the perfect fit for my longtime dream of writing a novel. And so, the two became one, and with a lot of support and encouragement from family and friends along the way, my career as an author was born.
What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?
George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984 always stood out to me. They are both works of literary fiction with deep meaning, and in many ways that is what I try to accomplish in my own writing. No other novel, though, touches me quite like To Kill a Mockingbird. Its themes are still very pertinent today. Other than those, I’m typically a fan of the classics like The Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye. Call me old school, I’m fine with it.
Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?
J.K. Rowling. She has done what few others have done with the Harry Potter series and beyond. We may not typically write in the same genre, but I love her often-criticized long sentences and adverbs. Editors may not like those elements of writing, but she does it her own way and doesn’t care. I love that about her!
What’s your favorite thing about writing?
It is one of the most therapeutic things I do. If you love to write…make time for it. It’s rejuvenating and can make you better in all facets of life. I think that’s applicable to anything you are passionate about. Do more of what is good for you and makes you happy, and you’ll see the effects. And you’ll be pleased.
What is a typical day like for you?
A New Requiem is my debut novel, so I do not write full-time and typically only write at night. I actually manage an insurance agency day-to-day and own a media firm that, among other things, operates a local radio station in the NC Triad region. Days are typically crazy and busy, but I’m thankful to get to read and write at night. It usually wraps up a crazy day with an opportunity to unwind and partake in my passion. Isn’t that how we all want to end our busy days…peacefully, in our own way?
What scene in A New Requiem was your favorite to write?
My favorite part to write was Chapter 3 when Ben Bailey, the main character, and Dwight Kerry have their first dialogue in the novel and ultimately go and enjoy dinner at David’s Restaurant after the Requiem concert. It’s a moment the two share laughs, sadness, anxiety, and good Southern food and wine. It’s the last normal moment, really, for the both of them before Dwight’s arrest. You get to see Dwight in all his glory, and he deserves it, because before he is partially broken down by the corrupt justice system that wrongly accuses and oppresses him, he is a lively, flamboyant, and eccentric character. And it’s on full display in Chapter 3. Aside from that, perhaps the most meaningful chapter to write was Chapter 8. It is, perhaps, the most gut-wrenching, disturbing part of the entire book. I can recall two times I cried while writing this novel…once at the end of writing, just for the sheer joy of being done, but the other time was at the end of Chapter 8 when we learn about the death of the 17-year old boy named Braxton Jones whose murder lies essentially at the center of the largest themes of the novel. I finished typing, stood up, and walked around my office in tears. I cried for several reasons: one, that it was as disturbing as it was, but most notably because I realized that I wasn’t just putting down words to complete a dream of writing a novel anymore — it was more than that. This chapter was something that was supposed to hit the reader hard, something that was supposed to make us all really rethink our preconceived ideas in life and the consequences of possessing harsh, hateful beliefs and feelings toward others. Something that meant something…that’s when I realized that this book wasn’t just a suspenseful crime thriller anymore. It was a story that could mean something, a story that was pertinent, and something that could very well stand the test of time.
Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?
Doing your best is up to you. It is a daily choice. I wrote A New Requiem over a seven-month period (May-December 2018) after a long days of work, exercise, and dinner. I usually started writing around 9:00pm every night and went into the early morning hours everyday. It’s that choice that made my debut novel a possibility. Anyone can do what they want if they make the choice to do it. It’s that simple.
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