Author, digital animator, fantasy writer
“All my life, I’ve gravitated to fantasy stories. Stories I felt I could be a part of and completely immerse myself in…in my imagination.” – J McManus
Jacquitta A. McManus, a little girl from Kentucky and author of two fantasy adventure children’s books, Labyrinth’s Door: Anyia, "Dream of a Warrior" and Talee and the Fallen Object, was always drawn to fantasy stories. It was a way for her to immerse herself into exciting adventures in faraway lands that she otherwise wouldn’t experience. As she got older she would find that immersing herself into those fantasy stories, as a little girl, was just the beginning of a journey that would lead her to writing her own fantasy adventure children’s books.
How did you come up with the concept for Labyrinth’s Door?
JM: It started off as a children’s magazine that I had planned to publish quarterly. It was to feature fantasy adventure stories and artwork from various authors and illustrators. When that didn’t materialize that idea transformed into a MagBook, the merging of a magazine and book concept. From that concept developed the Labyrinth’s Door MagBook. Anyia, “Dream of a Warrior” is the first story in the series I plan to publish.
How important is it for you to create fantasy/adventure stories with characters who resemble people of African ancestry and why?
JM: Very important. As someone who loves the fantasy adventure genre, it can be frustrating to read because there is hardly any representation in it for an African American audience. I’m writing what I would love to have read growing up, would love to have experienced through film. Hopefully it will transcend colour but also bring in an African American readership that feels that this genre is not for them. It’s a great genre and has so much to offer.
Did your minor in African American studies influence the look of the drawings in Labyrinth’s Door?
JM: It might have in some ways because I took a study-abroad course for my minor in African American studies which had a profound influence on me, but my look and style I think came from my Digital Animation degree and Art minor as well as my work as a graphic designer. I have a considerable amount of background in the visual art medium.
The illustrations in Labyrinth’s Door are amazing, what they depict looks strikingly real. Was this your intention in order to capture the story in its full essence?
JM: Yes, I think that the world should come to life in both words and illustrations which is something I focused on during the process of creating Anyia and her world as well as other stories I’m working on. Illustrations for me are a big part of my storytelling. Every story comes to me first as a visual in my imagination. I see it…I hear it.
Your passion is in animation and directing films. Why write stories, especially fantasy/adventure stories?
JM: I remember years ago when The Little Mermaid came out on VHS—yes, we are talking years ago—and I was visiting my aunt for the weekend. While she was cooking she played The Little Mermaid for me. From the time she pressed play until the credits rolled I was completed immersed into the story. Up until that point I had never experienced being completely immersed in a story. And years later I have realized that experience is something I have always wanted to create. So my passion for animation and directing is infused with storytelling. For me all three go together. I just found the passion for animation and directing first.
Is there a place you often go to in order to write without any distractions?
JM: I think one of the reasons why I always create secret places for my characters is because I wish I had my own secret place to run off to. But right now my secret place is my bed and couch. And they are full of distractions.
Any future plans to publish a romance, fiction, non-fiction book of some kind? Or do you prefer to stick with your current genre; children books/science fiction?
JM: I’ve been working on a YA romance fantasy for a couple of years now, off and on. I have a couple of ideas for adult books. But I think my niche is really going to be children's fantasy adventures and maybe some science fiction adventures. I love world building and no other genre affords that luxury as the fantasy adventure /science fiction market does.
Would you say that writing gives you pleasure? Please explain.
JM: Storytelling gives me pleasure. Creating the visual worlds is the fun part of what I do. Writing is a challenge. I wish I had the ability to project what’s in my head into print. That would be amazing. But unfortunately I have to write it and that for me is a challenge. The good thing is that I love to research so now one of my jobs is to research on how to put my stories into print. In a non-direct way writing will influence how I will direct my future animated film. It’s defiantly making me a better storyteller.
What are you reading right now?
JM: I’m currently jumping between a variety of books like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine—Avatar by S.D. Perry, The Search for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi and Avatar: The Last Airbender—The Art of the Animated Series by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko.