Meet the Creator of The Boy Next Door
My name is Mandisa M. Parnell and I not only love to write but I am a glutton for great books and stories as well. I was born and raised in the beautiful island paradise of Jamaica where I still reside.
My mother (an avid reader herself) started reading to me while I was still in the womb and I guess the scientific theory that a foetus can actually hear what goes on outside its mother’s body is true because I practically came out reading. By the age of 5, I was hiding away in corners reading copies of her Mills n Boon, Silhouette and Harlequin romance novels, always with my faithful Oxford Dictionary by my side. Mommy encouraged and fed this habit; she made it her point of duty to ensure that I had a constant supply of books. All the classic fairy tales, a large collection of Enid Blyton, Sweet Valley Twins, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Judy Blume even comics – my favourites being The X-Men, Archie & Friends, Justice League,Batman and Spiderman. And I used to enjoy Saturday trips to the Tom Redcam Library. I also had a voracious appetite for newspapers and magazines and one of the things I enjoyed immensely was reading articles aloud for my mother, my sister, my friends, neighbours and just about anyone who would listen.
So, it’s no surprise that these same books inspired me to create stories of my own which led me to start writing at the age of 8. In the beginning, my stories were heavily influenced by not only those that I read but also by television programs that I watched (I was and still am a HUGE television fan) and so those tales I penned at that tender age straight up to my teenage years were not set in my own Caribbean locale but in the great big U.S. of A. I created a series called “The Harmony Times” which was set in an imaginary town in New York and so, of course, my teenage cast was American. These stories were written by hand (in pen ink inside notebooks) and illustrated by me (in an effort to utilize my artistic skills as well) and became volumes that I shared with my schoolmates at first, Hope Valley Experimental School and later, Ardenne High as well as family members and friends. They became hits as the readers craved more (some even supplied plots that served as the foundation for many more to come). This was how The Boy Next Door began.
I was encouraged during those times to try to get my writings published but I did not feel that I was ready. Years later, I decided that it was time to make that move. I had continued to pen new stories but as I aged my outlook had changed. I realized that I needed to write about what I KNOW. And what I knew was JAMAICA: the place where I live, the people that I love, the language that we speak. I also noticed that there were no Jamaican ROMANCE stories for TEENS out there; a young, Jamaican adult who loves to read a good romance story could not walk into Sangster’s or Kingston Bookshop and take a novel that featured characters that lived in the communities that they live in, or walked the streets that they do, or studied at a school like theirs, or spoke the same patois that they speak or dress in the clothes that they dress in off the shelves. There were no stories on the shelves in local bookstores that featured Jamaican teenagers like themselves struggling to deal with young love. Stories abound, yes, many Caribbean Literature books which tell tales of youngsters from poor backgrounds triumphing against the odds and adventures about children getting into one pickle after another but there were no LOVE STORIES.
And so I decided that this would be my mission: writing Jamaican Young Adult Romance.
So, the fire was refueled and began burning brighter than ever before. I decided to pick up some of my “old” books and give them a new lease on life. As fate would have it, the first story I chose to remake was The Boy Next Door.
When The Boy Next Door was born in 1997, the lead characters were African American teens Noelle Goodison, Ryan Reece, Trisha Lee and a gorgeous Native American girl named Danielle Hawk. Today The Boy Next Door would be unrecognizable to my high school friends who read it back then. I have relocated my characters to my beautiful island home, Jamaica with a predominantly Jamaican cast. Noelle Goodison remains as fiery as ever and Trisha Lee is still an adorable, little half-Chinese munchkin. However, Danielle Hawk has been reincarnated as a lovely Rastafarian named Danielle Assamba and Ryan Reece is now an American expatriate whose family has moved from Miami, Florida to St. Andrew, Jamaica where his world collides with Miss Goodison’s.
My inspiration for writing The Boy Next Door came from my own relationship with friends who migrated and also from the very first crush I myself ever had. Majority of the story however is imaginary; maybe this was me getting carried away as a young writer and living vicariously through my characters.
As a writer, I try to pen new material every day. I have several novels and short stories that I am constantly working on. Spoiler Alert: The sequel for The Boy Next Door will be my next publication, God willing and I continue to toil over it. My characters speak to me and tell me what they want me to write, what they want me to share with the world and I wait faithfully as they do so in their own time and at their own pace.
I still continue to read on a daily basis. I am influenced by such greats as Dr. Kei Miller (The Last Warner Woman being one of my all-time favourites), Trevor Rhone, C. Everard Palmer, Jean DaCosta, Jamaica Kincaid, Colin Channer, Terri McMillan, Toni Morrison, the phenomenal Maya Angelou (some of the scenes from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings seem to be forever branded in my memory bank), Bebe Moore Campbell, J.K. Rowling (for giving birth to some of the most beloved fictional characters the world has ever seen) and Mr. Eric Jerome Dickey – my literary idol (the man who cured me of Mills-n-Boon-itis).
I wish to take this opportunity to share with you some of my extra-curricular writings. These can be found on my blog.
I am currently a member of the Customer Service Department at Kingston's Norman Manley International Airport and in my spare time I provide freelance editing and proofreading services to fellow writers seeking to polish their manuscripts before sending them out to prospective agents and publishing houses.
Thank you for visiting my webpage. I do hope you will be motivated to purchase a copy of The Boy Next Door: A Jamaican Teenage Love Story – a novel that is not only for teens but for anyone who enjoys a good romance and wants to have a peek into my world.
Mandisa M. Parnell