Dee Stewart

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 (,) Christian entertainment PR boutique located in Atlanta, GA. Visit her Christian Fiction Blog, which turned 6 years old in July at Her debut novel "A Good Excuse to Be Bad (Kensington/Dafina) releases Summer 2011. Talk to her in real-time on Twitter at @deegospel.

Multicultural Fiction

Searching for Daylight: Part I

Sharon FosterSharon Ewell Foster is a critically acclaimed, award-winning author, speaker, and teacher. She is the author of Passing by Samaria, the first successful work of Christian fiction by an African American author, and six other works of fiction. Her works regularly receive starred book reviews—which is a rarity among writers—and has won a Christy Award, the Gold Pen Award, Best of Borders, and several reviewers’ choice awards.

Releasing this month is Foster’s highly anticipated new novel, The Resurrection of Nat Turner, Part 1: The Witnesses (Simon & Schuster), a story how Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, aims to clarify the accepted history of Nat Turner’s prosecution. Turner, the Ethiopian turned American slave, is a well-read patriot in slaves’ eyes, but an ornery slave who needs to be put in his place in his mistress’s eyes.

Foster chats with Christian Fiction Online Magazine about this controversial novel, her questions to God about her writer’s journey, and how her readers were her saving grace.

Why is your publication date for The Witness important in American history?

This is a significant year for the historical figure Nat Turner, who led a slave revolt in 1831 and was hanged for it. This year commemorates the 180 anniversary of the Virginia uprising, his trial, and his death.

Turner remains a cult figure—some see him as villain while others see him as hero. In my research, I became convinced that most of what we’ve been taught about Nat Turner isn’t true. Political spin wasn’t invented in 2011, it was happening back then.

As the nation begins to commemorate the 150 anniversary of the Civil War, Nat Turner is part of that discussion. As the two events intersect—Turner’s 180 and the Civil War’s 150—it’s important to have a frank conversation about what really happened.

Why is Nat Turner’s story important to Christians?

Nat Turner’s story is truly an American story about the struggle for liberty. The history of America is intertwined with Christianity.

Nat Turner, by all accounts, was a faithful Christian. In fact, his detractors labeled him a fanatic. But prior to the revolt, he was known as a Christian who didn’t drink or steal, and he traveled all over the Tidewater area of Virginia preaching the Word. He could read and write at a time when most of the population of Virginia was illiterate. He was a family man.

Nat Turner was a Christian slave. His owners were Christians. But there was a void between them.

In some ways, this is a story about brotherly love, or the lack thereof. It is 2011, but that void still exists between many white and black Christians today. The Lord’s last prayer was that we would be one. That prayer resounds in my heart and spirit. I pray that the Lord will use this book to draw us closer, to help us have frank, loving conversation.

Why did you choose his story?

I think the story chose me.

I was going through a rough time, one struggle after another. My back kinked up. I didn’t have health insurance, so I was paying out much money trying to get relief. Some book projects I’d been working on suddenly dried up. I was penniless. My Christy Award and Golden Pen Award sat on the shelf looking at me like “What we gone do, now?”

I received an eviction notice. I started praying hard! I asked God if He was trying to tell me He didn’t want me to write anymore. I wanted Him to tell me, because I could get a job at the post office! My beautiful daughter came to my rescue and took me in.

I prayed and cried for months. Suddenly, I got this fixation on The Confessions of Nat Turner, the Pulitzer Prize−winning novel by William Styron. I started having resurrection dreams. (In the

book, it’s Harriet Beecher Stowe who has the dreams, but it was really me.) The dreams creeped me out.

I started researching.

About a year later, I was talking to a guy I met at a conference. He asked me what would be my next writing project. It just popped out of my mouth. “I’m going to write a book about Nat Turner.” It startled me. The guy got so excited.

The Resurrection of Nate TurnerI wrote a book proposal, all the while thinking, “No one is going to give me a contract to write a book about Nat Turner.” And all the while, I’m praying, “God, just let me know if You don’t want me to write anymore.”

To my surprise, several houses bid on it. Dave Lambert with Howard/Simon and Schuster acquired the book. Nat Turner had a home, and I began the process of writing the story. I got the confirmation that I needed.

And the funny thing is when I was most discouraged, I got so much e-mail from readers—men, women, whites, blacks, Poles, Hispanics, gays—all of them telling me to write, they needed me to write. It was miraculous and encouraging—a light shining in the darkness that surrounded me. When I couldn’t see, that light was a path for my feet. I am so grateful to God for readers like that.

Why do are you the best person to write this story?

When I was a freshman in college, I had a professor, Dr. Edie Adams Welch, who told me that many of our stories (historical) needed to be told, and that I wrote well enough to tell them. Her words have been calling to me for thirty years.

I have a great love of history. I worked at the Pentagon and part of my job was researching and analyzing documents and transcripts. I am a dogged, intrepid, and patient researcher. I won’t give up until I find the truth; I’m always searching for daylight. That’s what it took to uncover the truth of the story.

I found the transcripts from Nat Turner’s and other related trials. The truth of the story is really in the trial transcripts. I researched them, analyzed them, and read them again. If I read them once, I read them a hundred times. When I couldn’t figure it out, I prayed.

The other benefit I have in interpreting Nat Turner’s story is that I am a Christian. In his The Confessions of Nat Turner, William Styron said he didn’t want to use Nat Turner’s Christianity in interpreting his actions. Styron had the right to make that creative choice, but it makes no sense to me. It’s like trying to interpret a French person’s actions without applying what you know about the language and the culture. My faith was of great benefit to me in “reading” Nat Turner.

Finally, I think my cultural heritage as an African American and a great-grandchild of slaves helps. Many of the people who have written about Nat Turner are white.

I’ll be in Tyler, Texas, on August 6. If you’d like me to speak or interview, e-mail me at, or hit me on Facebook at Sharon Ewell Foster (I’ll be starting a fan page soon).

And join us next month for the conclusion of this fascinating interview with Sharon Ewell Foster.