Nikesha Williams is a busy woman. She is a television producer for local news station Action News Jax, a mother to a little boy, and now an accomplished author with not one, but two novels under her belt. Her latest book, entitled The Appeal of Ebony Jones is a much-anticipated follow up to 2017’s Four Women. Jacksonville is the setting for both dramas, which follow the story of four African American women as they navigate crime, scandal, race relations, and the justice system.
Williams was inspired to write Four Women after covering the murder of Jordan Davis on the news programs she produces. The Black Lives Matter initiative was in its infancy, and it got Williams thinking about the role of black women in society. While brainstorming Four Women, she thought deeply about the immortal words of Zora Neale Hurston in her classic, Their Eyes Were Watching God, that a black woman “is the mule of the world.” Williams wanted to examine whether that statement still rung true. The title was borrowed from a Nina Simone song of the same name, and the four main characters are modeled after the women mentioned in Simone’s lyrics. It tells the story of women in abusive relationships with powerful men, and what lengths they will take to save themselves.
Four Women was released on Thanksgiving of 2017, and by January 2018 Williams was already beginning the sequel. “I never intended to write a sequel to Four Women. I intentionally left it on a cliffhanger,” Williams confessed. “Over the course of a couple months, more than one friend in the literary world said to me ‘If your readers ask you to make a sequel, you start writing a sequel’, so I got to work.” Although the first novel took Williams a few years to complete, The Appeal of Ebony Jones took her just over two months. “I started writing on January 7th,” she says with audible pride, ”and finished on March 12th.”
The Appeal of Ebony Jones picks up exactly where Four Women left off, giving fans a seamless story of exactly what fate holds for the title character. It examines how the justice system treats women who are themselves victims, specifically women of color. It also examines female friendships, and how adversity can play a role in those relationships. Although Williams is originally from Chicago, the Florida transplant takes pride in the fact that her stories are deeply rooted deeply in Jacksonville, with settings and characters based on her experiences in Northeast Florida.
Williams hosted a book release party over the weekend at the Riverside arts and culture collective The Yellow House, where she celebrated with fans and members of the arts community, and happily signed copies of the book. When asked if this positive fanfare might spark a full series, Williams slyly replies, “Well, I don’t know about a whole series, but I can’t say that I don’t already have some stories in my mind for some character spin-offs.”