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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Conversations Book Club chats with Bestselling author Kendra Norman-Bellamy

Bestselling author Kendra Norman-Bellamy has done more than just added her voice to the growing list of Christian Fiction authors: She has redefined the very term. Combining her way with words and real-life situations that all of us can relate to, it is no wonder she has been entertaining readers for years now.

As 2007 ends, she is only beginning---providing opportunities for other authors and finding new and innovative to meet her fans.

In November 2007, she will visit Mississippi as part of the "FAMILY AFFAIR" event with her daughter, Bestselling author Brittney Holmes. Kendra talks with us about her life, career and what her literary journey has taught her.

Kendra, thank you for taking out the time to talk with Conversations. Before we get into your book IN GREENE PASTURES, do you ever just sit back and marvel at the career that you have had in the literary industry?
Thanks for the interview opportunity, Cyrus. I’m always grateful for every opportunity I get to share my testimony with the world. Do I marvel? Yes! Not so much at my career itself, but at the reality that God chose me to carry out this mission. I’m very humbled by every accolade, recognition and award that I and my books have received. To God be the glory!

What about your family? Do they look at you now and say that they knew this was in you even as a child?
They don’t really verbalize that sentiments; but for certain, my father saw it in me when I was growing up in the country all those years ago. I wrote plays, poetry and skits on a regular basis and I recall him telling me on more than one occasion that God had given me a gift for writing and that I should use it. But of course, as with most children, what my dad said went straight over my head. I knew I had a love for writing, but I had no idea that a “writer” was actually what I was.

You are signed with Carl Weber’s Urban Books imprint with Kensington. How did you all meet and was that your first publisher?
No, Urban wasn’t my first publisher. Only my latest title (In Greene Pastures) was published through it. Urban also re-released a book that I’d self-published a couple of years ago. Carl and I officially met back in 2003, I believe. He was releasing a new book at the time and I went to the celebratory event just to support him. I never anticipated that I’d one day be writing for his imprint. He called me in 2006 and asked if I’d be the lead/flagship author of his new Christian imprint (Urban Christian) and I agreed. That’s how our working relationship was birthed. My first publishing deal came through BET Books (New Spirit imprint). BET Books was later bought out by Harlequin, so now the New Spirit imprint belongs to Harlequin as well. I also write for Moody Publishers (Lift Every Voice imprint). So, Urban is my third publisher. I am actively writing for all three publishers simultaneously.

I don’t know if you are too modest to admit it, but you really changed the landscape for African American Inspirational stories when you hit the market. How does that change your attitude when working on a project?
WOW! Now, that’s an enormous compliment! I’ve never looked at myself as being one who had that profound of an influence on the AA Christian fiction market, but it is indeed the type of legacy that I long to leave. All I know is that when I sit down to write a book, I am extremely prayerful and I want my pen (which is really my fingers on the computer keyboard) to be directed by the Holy Spirit. My desire is to have every one of my books find someone where they are and motivate, encourage, or inspire them on some level. I want to share good storytelling, good entertainment and the Good News of Jesus Christ, all at the same time.

IN GREENE PASTURES was chosen by the Subway Conversations Book Club as its book of the month for November. The story really resonated with me on so many levels. What prompted you to write it?
First, let me thank the Subway Conversations Book Club for choosing it. I have a secret appreciation for mysteries, and only a few people know about that. Admittedly, I am a “scary cat” when it comes to horror stories or any type book or movie that is gory or gruesome in nature. But I love the suspense that comes with good mysteries like the storylines in old television shows like Matlock, Colombo, and Murder She Wrote. I wanted to write a Christian based novel that had some of that same flavor. I wanted to write a bona fide whodunit wherein the main characters just happened to be Christians; and that’s how the idea of In Greene Pastures was born. And of course, I am a hopeless romantic, so there was no way I was going to write a book – even a mystery – that didn’t involve a budding romance in the middle of all of the drama and suspense.

The black press has been affected by readership issues over the years for many reasons. When it comes to your story, why did you decide to include it in the book?
The written word is very powerful – always has been, and always will be. From The Holy Bible to gossip magazines on the check-out aisle in the grocery stores – what is put in writing can heal or kill. The fictitious Atlanta Weekly Chronicles was a good example of just how influential and commanding a simple newspaper feature can become when people are personally and emotionally invested in the base of the storyline.

At the end of the day what do you hope to accomplish through your work?
There are a lot of things that readers share with me about my writing that I find rewarding. I’ve had some to tell me that my stories renewed their faith in the positive black male. Others have said that the novels I write have renewed their faith in love and marriage. But the greatest compliment I have ever received came through a letter that I received from a female inmate who wrote me to tell me that one of my books renewed her faith in God. She was brought back to our non-fiction God by reading one of my fictional novels. If that’s not a testament of how powerful the written word is! To tell the truth, if my work doesn’t accomplish anything else, that one woman’s statement of restoration was enough.

Do you feel any pressure to write stories that cross-over different age groups in order to stay fresh?
I believe originality and creativity keeps a writer fresh, not necessarily migrating or crossing over from one genre to another or from one age market to another. When I first began writing, I vowed to write nothing that my daughters (who at the time were 9 and 12) could not be exposed to. I never want to be ashamed for my children, my parents, or anyone else to read what I’ve put on paper. I don’t want to be one of those authors, who at a book signing, has to look at an adolescent child and say, “No, honey, you’re not old enough to read this,” or to a mature adult, say, “Ma’am, some of this story might offend you, so maybe you shouldn’t read it.” That being said, I don’t consider myself a writer for any specific age group. There’s no pressure on me to cross over because I think that just about any age reader can be introduced to my books and can walk away satisfied and not at all slighted.

Kendra, some might not realize that writing has become a family affair for you. How has it been having your daughter be a part of the growing literary community?
I think fewer things are more gratifying to a parent than to have their child desire to follow in their footsteps…especially, when the footsteps are leading to something positive. Brittney was fifteen when she wrote her book, sixteen when she got her book deal, and is a published award-winning author at seventeen. To have her realize her purpose at such an impressionable age is wonderful. I’m very proud of her and it means a lot that she would take her God-given talent and give it back to Him by writing books that honor the Lord while offering messages of hope to teens and young adults.

What advice do you give to aspiring writers who feel as though they have a story to tell but might be intimidated by the number of authors on the market?
As a part of my writing ministry, I travel the globe, teaching writer’s workshops to aspiring writers. This is a tough industry to break into successfully and I’m not ashamed to tell people that it takes a lot of prayer, patience and perseverance. A lot of discouragement can come when trying to make it in the literary world. The market is saturated and the competition is fierce. It is easy to feel the need to throw in the towel and give up, but those three components have been a source of strength for me throughout my journey. A hopeful writer will have to put on a layer of tough skin and press forwarding, knowing that this is their destiny. It’s not easy, but few things worth having are.

You will be making your first trip to Mississippi soon. What are you most looking forward to during your stay?
Meeting the reading community! I get excited when I go into new territory and get the opportunity to come face-to-face with readers of my work that I’ve not met before. I welcome the opportunity to shake their hands, embrace them, talk to them, take photos…show them how much I appreciate their support. I hope the readers of Mississippi come out in droves!

Thank you again for taking a few moments with us. How can our readers find out more about you and your upcoming projects?
You’re quite welcome. The pleasure was all mine. They can find me and my updated calendar of events online at www.knb-publications.com or they can join my network of friends on MySpace at www.myspace.com/kendranormanbellamy.

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