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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Bestselling author Shelia E. Lipsey: Conversations "Author of the Year 2008"

(Click here to see television interview with Bestselling authors Shelia E. Lipsey & Daphine Glenn Robinson.)

It should come as no surprise that the title of "Author of the Year" should be attached to Bestselling author Shelia E. Lipsey. She owned 2007 with the release of two novels --- INTO EACH LIFE and SINSATIABLE--- and became a regular in events throughout the United States in 2007. Conversations Book Club had chosen both of her titles for their various groups to read and discuss before we were even introduced to her---and after meeting, our relationship was cemented forever.

Shelia Lipsey has managed to use her God-gven ability to not only entertain but remind us that no matter what goes on in our lives, we have only to remember that through it all God loves us. During one of her two official trips to Mississippi (NOTE: She also attended the 1-year anniversary we celebrated on November 15, 2007), she told us that she writes "perfect stories about imperfect people," and to us that is what makes her characters so real.

We are pleased to introduce to some and reintroduce to others Conversations Book Club's "Author of the Year 2008", Ms. Shelia E. Lipsey.

Shelia, thank you for doing this interview with Conversations. Why don't we begin by telling our readers a little about who Shelia Lipsey is? Let’s see. These questions are really tough, Cyrus. Shelia E. Lipsey is a unique individual, designed and perfected by God, my creator. I am a mother, the youngest of four girls, a grandmother of three (plus so many more by love), a writer, a Christian, a lover of reality shows and a family person.

With the obstacles that you have overcome in your life, has your success surprised even you?
Not really. While I do consider myself somewhat successful, I believe I still have much to do before the personal goals I have established for myself come into fruition. Until then, I don’t have time to see myself as others might see me. I mean, there are so many writers today and it’s hard to grab hold to a piece of the literary world pie.

Before your career with Urban Books you had self-published your first titles. Why didn't you wait until being picked up by a major publisher to get your work out?
I tried and tried to get my first inspirational title picked up by a major publisher. I received wonderfully crafted rejection letters. For a minute, I would be crushed until I decided that enough was enough. I had to move forward. I couldn’t be left behind or pushed aside. So began to research the self-publishing industry. I became an expert in the field of self-publishing and I did for myself what no one else would do for me.

With self-publishing you are not only the author but in charge of everything else. When you were picked up by Urban Books, did you think you could relax your work ethics?
Noooo, of course not! Quite the contrary. I knew that I had to step up my game. This industry is tough and competitive. I know that I have been given a gift by God to touch people in a positive way with the stories I weave. That is why I had to make sure that I was utilizing everything that God has given me into my writing. I write continually. I always try to keep a book in the works. Whenever they come calling (Urban Books), I want to be prepared. For me, there is nothing worse than slacking and not doing one’s best. I don’t want to be labeled as such and I definitely don’t want to ever be caught without something on the burner.

How did it come about that you ended up with Urban Books? I can only say that it was by the grace of God. I had recently completed my first title, Into Each Life, which I had no idea would be published by Urban Books. However, a huge door opened for me when I submitted the manuscript, Into Each Life, to Urban Books after hearing that they were about to start a new imprint, Urban Christian. Needless to say, the rest is history. I was contacted a few months after submitting Into Each Life and offered a two book deal by none other than my boss, and a NY Times Bestselling author himself, Mr. Carl Weber.

Were you at all worried about the other titles that Urban Books publishes affecting those coming under its Christian branch?
Yes and no. I don’t think worried is the term I would use. Concerned? Yes. Only because of the ridicule that some people have when they hear the word, Urban.” They immediately think of drugs, sex, murder and abuse. So when I heard Urban Christian, the name of the imprint made me smile because I was one of the first authors to sign with Urban Christian. The other part of me was somewhat concerned because I didn’t exactly know how I would be accepted by ‘Christians’ when I said, ‘Urban Christian.’

For many, what is considered Christian Fiction is relative. What is it to you?
Christian fiction is redemption, acceptance, forgiveness, reality, love, hate, good, bad, pretty and ugly. It’s what we are all made up of – imperfect people, with faults, weakness and blemished – yet, we have an opportunity as long as we are living to make things right, to make things better, to do better, to become better and to be forgiven. Not always by Man but always by God.

Let's fast forward to when your first title, INTO EACH LIFE, was published. Did you have any expectations of its success?
Yes and I still do. It is my first book through a traditional publisher. I wanted and still want for it to blow up! While it enjoys a successful readership and has penetrated many people’s lives in such a wonderful, inspiring way, it is yet my desire for it to continue to find its way in the hands of people all over the world.

What inspired the story?
Life. Life inspired the story. My life, your life, the lives of those who read it. The lives of those who haven’t read it. A piece of everyone’s life is tucked inside the pages of Into Each Life. I say this because, into each of our lives, there is something we are faced with. There are obstacles and situations that come into our lives that try our very spirits and shake us to the core. Such is life. It is a journey, a road that is not straight. It is a mountain that has no peak. So life inspired the story.

For those that may not be aware, you battle the effects of polio. How has that impacted the strategy you have in place to promote yourself?
Impacted the strategy? Wow, you’re not making this easy for me are you! Having polio has been, and will probably always be, challenging for me. It has proven to be my friend and my foe. On one hand, when people meet me in person and realize that I am physically challenged, I have found that having polio somehow and some way, draws people to me and to the words that I write.

Polio can be the outward symbol for those who struggle inwardly with the skeletons hidden away in their closets. I use polio as a back drop to many of the things I write because there is not a day that has passed since I contracted polio at the age of two that I don’t have to fight to keep on keeping on. Every time my disability tries to slow me down, it makes me more determined to do my thing even more. The negative side of the equation is that there are days when I don’t want to fight and I don’t want to think about promoting and strategizing. There are times when I want to give in and let someone else have the job of trying to reach millions of people through their writing.

Nevertheless, here I am. I am who I am. I am a writer who happens to have polio. I am not a victim, at least not anymore. I am a winner and therefore my strategy to promote myself is found in my favorite bible verse. Jeremiah 29:11 states, ‘I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you, not to harm you. To give you hope and a future.’ There you have it. My strategy.

What about the motivation behind SINSATIABLE?
Again, like Into Each Life, Sinsatiable was motivated by the events of people’s lives. You see, Cyrus, there are two words found in Sinsatiable. First, let’s take the word insatiable. Insatiable is an undeniable yearn, craving, hunger for more and more and more. For some reason, no matter what form it comes in, you can’t get enough of it. For some people it’s food, for others it might be sex, money, drinking, drugs, women, men, even your job. It can be anything that controls you and makes you want more of it. More is not always better. Sin is much like that too. Sin starts out looking good, feeling good, tasting good, sounding good, and smelling good. It’s enticing and inviting. But yet, in the end it is wicked, evil and deceptive. Thus was born the word, Sinsatiable. The ‘can’t get enough of kind of sin.’ The story is weaved around this premise.

One of the places you visited in 2007 was Mississippi. In fact, you visited the state officially twice. Can you tell us about your experiences during those trips?
I’ve done quite a bit of traveling since I signed with Urban Books. Everywhere I have traveled, people have been good to me. Visiting Mississippi was no different. Well, I really do have to make one change in that statement. Mississippi was different. It was different because I made lasting friendships and met one of a kind people who etched pieces of unconditional love on my heart. Not to mention that I was given the royal author treatment. There were many places I had an opportunity to visit. I learned through Conversations Book Club just how much Into Each Life was enjoyed by the members as well as Sinsatiable. My book signings were enjoyable and fun. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve visited any where else that has treated me with such high regard. The ability to be up close and personal with people who read my novels was a wonderful feeling. I left Mississippi feeling tremendously blessed.

Conversations chose you as our Author of the Year for 2008 because of the way you have been able to not only entertain with a good book but inspire as well. My question to you is how much is acceptance like that to you?
It is an honor to me. I don’t know if you are aware of this or not, but I am also an inspirational speaker. My life’s passion is to touch people by the stories I write and the words I speak. I am who I am. I can’t do everything but that which I can do; I want to do my best. I especially want people to remember, or describe, me as someone who look past people’s weaknesses and one who looks past other people’s mistakes and mess-ups and instead looks beyond that. My desire it to be one who inspires, who has compassion and exudes kindness and love. So to answer your question, I am sincerely humbled by this title, but I am truly thankful that God has shined on me in Mississippi.

In the same vein, there is a lot of pressure on authors to be bestsellers and award-winners. Does any of that matter to you when a book is released?
Sometimes it does. Like I said, somehow bestseller and award winner is often associated with how good of a writer one is. I don’t agree with that assumption, but nonetheless, it is true. As for me, I won’t deny that one of my goals is to become a New York Times Bestselling Author of Christian fiction. It is a desire of my heart. But will it make me or break me if I don’t receive the accolades, the awards, the bestseller titles – no it won’t. I am determined to keep on doing what I have been called to do. God will handle the rest.

2008 is promising to be a great one for books, and you in particular. Tell us about your 2008 release.
I am excited, excited, excited. My next release is October 1, 2008. The title is ‘My Son’s Wife.’ It is an amazing book. I won’t tell anything more about it. I’ll just let the readers marinade on the title – My Son’s Wife.

Thank you so much for your time, Shelia. How can readers find out more about you online? My website is www.shelialipsey.com. I also have a My Space page. It is www.myspace.com/shelialipsey. They can also reach me through email at shelialipsey@yahoo.com.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
I encourage aspiring authors to pursue the desires of their hearts. Do their best; learn everything they can about the craft of writing. If writing is their passion, they should never give up. Lastly, never sit on their knowledge. Share with others the things they learn about the literary world. Be willing to lend a helping hand to someone else who’s traveling along the same road.

We wish you continued success, Shelia. Happy New Year. Thank you so much for everything.
I’m still trying to digest this Author of 2008 title. What a way to start the New Year! May God Bless You, Cyrus and Conversations Book Club. Oh, and congratulations to Conversations for spreading your wings to Louisiana and Alabama.

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