A literary journalist and publicist since 2003, Dee Stewart's writings have appeared in Precious Times, Romantic Times, Spirit Led Woman Magazines and on The Master's Artist Blog. She is also the owner of DeeGospel PR (www.deegospelpr.com,) Christian entertainment PR boutique located in Atlanta, GA. Visit her Christian Fiction Blog, which turned 6 years old in July at http://christianfiction.blogspot.com. Her debut novel "A Good Excuse to Be Bad (Kensington/Dafina) releases Summer 2011. Talk to her in real-time on Twitter at @deegospel.
The Soul of a Good Man
Kendra Norman Bellamy is an Essence Magazine best-selling author of sixteen Christian fiction novels. She is also the owner and publisher of KNB Publications. Her latest novel, Upon This Rock, releases March 2011 through Urban Christian Books. This is Part 2 in the series Thrilling the Romantic Soul.
What did you not know about writing suspense that you know now?
I gained an increased level of respect for those who write suspense once I embarked on penning the four installments of The Shelton Heights Series. And I think it was doubly tricky because I wasn’t just writing suspenseful stories, but ones that were Christ centered as well. Writing this series was quite enjoyable, but it was also quite challenging. To try to keep a reader guessing throughout an entire 250 to 300-page novel is no small feat.
One thing I wasn’t fully aware of was that the writer is required (by suspense writing guidelines) to give clues to “whodunit” throughout the book. Suspense writers can’t blindside readers with the truth of the mystery. The readers must be given a fair chance at solving the mystery on their own. The challenge for the writer is to give valid hints, but to give them in a way that readers won’t actually figure out who did it, what was done, and why it was done before the writer is ready for them to know. If the reader figures it out to early, it basically ruins everything.
Rocky’s story seems like a universal story for many young men in this country. Why did you choose to write his story?
Not only is it universal, it’s also unfortunate. Prisons are crowded with men just like Rocky; men who, it seems, were born to fail. Like Rocky, many of today’s black men in prison were once little boys who should have had dreams and ambitions. They had the wherewithal to grow up to be another President Barack Obama, but instead of rising above the trials of life, they fell prey. I wrote this story with the desire that it will give hope to the hopeless. All of that defines Rocky, and he pays a high price for his mistakes. But errors, regardless of how big they may be, don’t have to kill a man’s spirit. He can still persevere, but first he has to be convinced that he’s God’s child just like everyone else, and he has to trust “the great I AM” to show him his true worth.
What is the spiritual takeaway of this novel?
There is a familiar proclamation that says: “I must be somebody, because God don’t make no junk.” As cliché as the saying, and as grammatically incorrect as the sentence is, it adequately embodies the essence of Upon This Rock’s spiritual takeaway. In the end, it doesn’t matter what our fellow man thinks about us. He has no heaven or hell in which to put us, and in most cases his opinion carries only as much weight as we allow. If we stop caring about the views of others and let God be our evaluator, we’ll find that those whom man appraise as worthless, God measures as His cream of the crop.
Do you think Christian women should give men like Rocky a second chance. Why?
If a man has made monumental mistakes in his life, but despite the overwhelming odds, he somehow humbled himself before the throne of the Almighty and has since proven himself to be a changed man, why on earth would she not give him a chance? Christian women weren’t always Christian women, and I think we have a tendency to forget that. As humans, we rate sins and deem some worse than others, but God doesn’t do that.
It’s important that we (Christian women) remember that before we came to God, we made mistakes as well. Our sins may not have gotten us shot or sentenced us to a life behind prison walls, but if some of us were honest, we’d admit that they could have if we had been caught in our wrong. It’s only by God’s grace
that many escaped what could have been, so I think it’s important that we realize that we are no better than the Rockys of the world. If we believe that others should give us a chance, then we should believe that Rocky should be extended the same grace.
What advice would you give to writers who want to write inspired fiction?
Be prayerful and know without doubt that writing is what they desire to do and that they are doing it for the right reasons. Those two things alone will carry them a long way. There is a distinct difference in wanting to write inspired fiction and being charged by God to write it. One allows options; the other, outside of blatant disobedience, doesn’t. As I stated before, this is ministry for me, and I would not even consider penning, producing, publishing, or promoting anything that did not reflect Christ. I’m sold out (and souled out) to this purpose that God has assigned for my life. Money, recognition, power, popularity… none of it fazes me. While I pray daily that my message reaches the masses, I don’t care if I’m not the “IT girl” or a part of the “in crowd,” and that’s not necessarily the general testimony for writers as a whole. I dare say that most strive for the wealth and fame, and they want it to happen overnight.
On a regular basis, I speak to aspiring writers who have been misinformed that this career is one that leads to quick fortune, and then when they step onto the literary stage, they find out that there are quite a number of “acts” and “scenes” to get through before the curtain calls come. And even then, it can sometimes take a while to see the benefits of financial gain. I think it’s important that writers of inspirational fiction, as well as other genres, prepare themselves for a journey. Pace yourself and pack some bottled water, a change of clothing, an extra pair of shoes, and maybe even a first aid kit in case the impact of some of those unforeseen pitfalls cause bleeding. This endeavor is a marathon, not a sprint.
What’s next for you?
I’m so excited about what God is doing in my career. He is clearly expanding my pulpit to a new level. In 2002, when I first began the mission of publishing my debut novel, my husband told me that he believed God had a testimony that would be exclusively mine. He said my journey would be unlike any other. I’ve found that to be true. In corporate America, I earned twice the money and didn’t work half as hard as I do now, but I’m happier and feel more fulfilled as I walk in my purpose. My motivational ministry has increased by leaps and bounds since the release of I Shall Not Die (October 2010), my first nonfiction book, so I’ve been doing quite a bit of traveling and public speaking. Seeing God use my testimony to spiritually empower and recharge others is sometimes overwhelming.
Many days I’ve found myself in tears as I hear/read the feedback from those who have been touched by way of what has now become The I.S.L.A.N.D. Movement (acronym for I Shall Live And Not Die). Of course Cruisin’ for Christ IV is set to launch this September, so I’m working toward finalizing the details of that, and I’m currently in the middle of completing another fiction manuscript, When Solomon Sings, and it is the sequel to Song of Solomon, which released last July. That book is set to unveil February 2012. Other things are on the horizon as well, but I won’t reveal the details of those right now. It will all become public knowledge in God’s own time.
Visit Kendra at her website: http://www.kendranormanbellamy.com/