Behind the Book: Brookstone University

One of the first locations introduced in The Diamond Collection is the fictional Brookstone University. Located in East Brookstone, New York, the school is one of the primary settings in Diamonds in the Rough. Carmen, Tiara, Monifah, and Rakim are all attendees although none of them will graduate with degrees from the school for various reasons.

Kinard Hall

The university is heavily modeled after my alma mater, Winthrop University (Rock Hill, SC). This is only natural since I wrote the first two books while in attendance (I attended Winthrop from August of 2003 to December of 2007). There are only two differences between the two. The first difference is that one school is fictional and the other is not. The second difference is that Winthrop is located in a small city while Brookstone University is located in a large city. In terms of the structure of Brookstone University, I did not describe the buildings or the campus. If I had of, the buildings would’ve been very similar to those on Winthrop’s campus. For example, Gardner Hall (which is mentioned at the very beginning of the novel- it is the place where Carmen meets Tiara before they head to the diner) represents Kinard Hall. There is also a nameless auditorium where Carmen meets Tiara to discuss the possibility of her being intimate with Jay. This building could very well be Byrnes Auditorium.

The French Toy Poodle, official mascot of Sigma Gamma Rho

As for similarities, both universities have the presence of Greek Life. This part of the story came from the fact that I joined Sigma Gamma Rho in 2005 and wanted to incorporate Greekdom into my novel. In the book, Carmen’s mother, Patricia Davenport, is a member of Delta Sigma Theta and Rakim is looking to pledge the fictional Theta Beta Psi Fraternity.

When the book first came out in 2010, I got the question of why Carmen’s mother was a Delta. Well, the honest answer is that I felt that if she was a Sigma Gamma Rho, it would be expected. I decided to go against the grain and make her a Delta. I also knew that if I ever wanted to create conflict between Carmen and her mother, one of the causes could be that Carmen became an honorary woman of Sigma against her mother’s wishes. This would only contribute to the strife that will already have formed between the two.

Next, the decision to create a fictional brotherhood for Rakim came during the editing process of Diamonds in the Rough. Originally, Rakim was pledging Omega Psi Phi. There is also a scene in the book where Carmen goes to Rakim’s house, sees his line brothers there, and they discuss brief details of his pledge process. I didn’t want to attribute hazing, an illegal activity, to any organization that was a part of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) so I decided to create a fictional organization. By using Theta Beta Psi, the image of NPHC and Omega Psi Phi remained protected.

Since I am on the subject of Greek Life, I thought it would be only fair to disclose that the original version of The Ace of Diamonds focused on Carmen’s daughter, Kristian, pledging a fictional sorority, Lambda Pi Omega. Whether or not, I will keep this same story, but introduce it with new characters and as a book that is not part of the Diamond Collection is up in the air. For right now, it shall remain in my vault of unfinished works.

Something else you want to know about Brookstone University? Leave a comment!

Behind The Book: Carmen Denise Davenport

The best place to start when discussing Carmen is with her name. Let me first say that there is no significance or meaning behind her middle name (Denise) or her last name (Davenport). Those names were just chosen randomly when I started writing the first book. For her first name, I chose the name “Carmen,” after watching Carmen Jones, a 1954 adaptation of the play Carmen, which starred Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte. I fell in love with the way the name sounded and wanted to use it in a novel. Thus, the character of Carmen was born. 

Then, in 2001, another adaptation of the play came along that showcased one of the traits that I wanted Carmen to have. That trait was ambition and the movie was Carmen: A Hip-Hopera, which starred Beyonce Knowles and Mekhi Phifer. In the movie, Beyonce plays Carmen Brown an aspiring actress whose aspirations to make it to the top are so great that she doesn’t care who she hurts along the way. Sound sort of familiar?

While I definitely did not want to make a spin-off of Carmen: A Hip Hopera, I did want to take the trait of ambition and illustrate it in my novel. I showed this in the journey that Carmen takes to save Flame, the clothing boutique she inherits from her mother. If you’ve read the book, Diamonds in the Rough, then you know that Carmen does a few things that will make anybody question her morals and values. My goal was to create shock value by first showing her as a virginal, well-to-do college student who evolves into a woman who is somewhat of a femme fatale. The ultimate good girl gone bad. The good part about all of this is that Carmen is able to work through all of her obstacles and still come out on top.

It is this position of power that brings me to my next discussion. It may seem that every man wants or desires her, but it is not because of Carmen’s looks. Yes, she is attractive, which almost every main female character of a novel is, but it is Carmen’s wealth and power that attracts her to men. It is often said that a man will run from a financially independent woman, but if you are on the same level as her than there is no need to run. You are attracted to her status because her status is equal to yours. Besides, most of the men who are running after Carmen are on the same financial level as her. (Some of you may argue that Kane wasn’t, but you have to remember that Carmen was not rich or successful when they first met. She was a struggling store owner whose parents had moved to Dallas, Texas, leaving her to fend for herself.)

Speaking of attraction, I would like to share the visual I see when I think of Carmen. I see a woman who has a curvaceous shape, stands about 5’6, with dark brown eyes that matches a dark mocha skin tone. Her hair is relaxed and hangs just past her shoulders. I think the model depicted on the front cover of Diamonds in the Rough is a good representation of what I see. Even the model on Diamonds are Forever is a good match.

What do you see when you think of Carmen? Feel free to share

For those of you who haven’t read the books, check them out, and concoct your own visual masterpiece!

Tidbits about Carmen

-At the beginning of Diamonds in the Rough, Carmen is 21.

-At the beginning of Diamonds are Forever, Carmen is 39.

-Her favorite wine is Alice White Chardonnay

-One of her favorite foods to eat is honey barbecue ribs which is served at the fictional Old Town Bistro

-Her ethnic makeup consists of African-American, Bahamian, and… (This will be revealed in a future novel!)

-At the conclusion of Diamonds are Forever, Carmen is mother to 6 children!

-Carmen is an only child (currently)

Something else you want to know? Leave a comment!