the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other authors

Say hello to Just One Look by Joanne Kukanza Easley

on June 24, 2021

I am delighted to introduce fellow Black Rose Writing author Joanne Kukanza Easley for an interview. She is an active supporter of women writers and I was pleased to be able to return the favour with an early review of her engaging second novel Just One Look. I was so fascinated by the characters and setting in this novel, I invited Joanne for an interview. She kindly agreed. As today is the release date of Just One Look, we also have the launch to celebrate. Congratulations, Joanne!

About Just One Look

In 1965 Chicago, thirteen-year-old Dani Marek declares she’s in love, and you best believe it. This is no crush, and for six blissful years she fills her hope chest with linens, dinnerware, and dreams of an idyllic future with John. When he is killed in action in Viet Nam, Dani’s world shatters. She launches a one-woman vendetta against the men she seeks out in Rush Street’s singles bars. Her goal: break as many hearts as she can. Dani’s ill-conceived vengeance leads her to a loveless marriage that ends in tragedy. At twenty-four, she’s left a widow with a baby, a small fortune, and a ghost-make that two.

Set in the turbulent Sixties and Seventies, Just One Look explores one woman’s tumultuous journey through grief, denial, and letting go.

Q&A

Just One Look is your second novel, can you tell us about your debut, Sweet Jane?

Sweet Jane tells the story of a young woman who thinks she has overcome her past by putting it in a box. When her estranged mother dies, she returns home to confront the people and events of her past that made her the woman she is. The story unfolds in alternating chapters of past and present, that juxtapose parallel stories of struggle and growth.

The dialogue in Just One Look is so effective and includes humour. How do you create authentic voices for your characters?

I love crafting dialogue and work at hard at nuances of word choice to make my characters distinct. Listening to how people talk is important. I also have a clear mental image of my characters and know their backstory—because I wrote it.

You capture young love effectively. Which books do you admire that also have a yearning love at their centre?

The two classics that come to mind are Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. But I rely on my own experience and memories when I write about love.

Paige, Dani’s younger sister, is a great character and always a foil for Dani’s romantic relationships. Was this always your intention?

Yes, I wanted the contrast between the characters. Not only do the sisters not look alike, they have very different personalities. Dani is jealous of Paige as a teen but grows to appreciate her.

I love the product placement in your novel, for example, the different colognes that you name. How do you choose these items?

I chose them by the era. When I was a teen, the boys drenched themselves in Jade East. And I drenched myself in Yardley’s Oh! De London. 

Just One Look is set in the Chicago neighbourhood where you grew up. How important is the setting to your writing?

Just One Look pays homage to the place I grew up and helped form my character. (I’ve assured my childhood friends this a work of fiction.) In each book, the setting is an integral part of the story, almost like a character. 

John’s family heritage is from Hungary shown through the food and traditions. How did you research this?

Researching on the internet is my main method; although, as a child, I had a neighbor who baked Hungarian pastries.

With your second novel now published, what are your future writing plans?

I am working on my third novel I’ll Be Seeing You. It’s the story of Lauren Eaton, Sweet Jane’s AA sponsor, who was always secretive about her past. Jane appears in the novel too. The story spans the years from 1940-1986, requires a lot of research, and takes the reader from a Texas cattle ranch to Manhattan, then back to Texas.

About Joanne Kukanza Easley

Joanne Kukanza Easley’s multi-award-winning debut novel, Sweet Jane, was released in March 2020. The novel was named the winner in adult fiction in the 2020 Texas Author project. A retired registered nurse with experience in both the cold, clinical operating room, and the emotionally fraught world of psychiatric hospitals, she lives and writes on a small ranch in the Texas Hill Country. Just One Look, her second novel, will be released on June 24, 2021. Her current project I’ll Be Seeing You features characters from Sweet Jane.

Gail’s review of Just One Look

Set against the backdrop of war in Vietnam, teenage Dani falls in love with John, a new boy from Tennessee. His Hungarian family settle into multicultural Chicago, the city where Just One Look is set. Dani’s commitment to her first love contrasts with the turbulent love life of Paige, her younger sister and the marriage break up of her parents. The narrative is punctuated by national and world events, including conscription. John joins the 101st Airborne but never returns leaving Dani to steel herself for a future without him. Bereft, this young woman navigates family responsibilities, educational and employment challenges, unexpected events and much more to come out the other side ready for a proper new relationship. This character-driven novel is filled with wonderful period, cultural and culinary details that enliven the story. Read this book and experience the tumultuous emotions of a young woman. 

Purchase links for Just One Look

Amazon US, Barnes & Noble, Amazon UK

Find Joanne on social media

Website, Facebook, Twitter


2 responses to “Say hello to Just One Look by Joanne Kukanza Easley

  1. joanneeasley says:

    Thanks for the lovely writeup! I’m looking forward to the release of your novel This Much Huxley Knows.

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