I'm happy to introduce you to Christy Award Finalist, Angela Benson. This interview is part of a blog tour. You'll find a schedule of the other stops on the tour at the bottom of the interview. Feel free to visit all of them to get a larger perspective of Angela and her talent.
My life experience shows up in every book I write. It’s there in the characters’ emotions, not necessarily their actions. I make an effort though to make sure that my characters aren’t me. They have their own identity. While I understand their motivation for doing and saying the things they do, those actions and thoughts are theirs, not mine. As a new author, I often asked the question: What would I do or say in this situation? Now I ask the question: What would this character do or say?
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
My mom called it crazy, but I guess it’ll fit as quirky. I’d say the quirkiest decision I ever made was deciding to quit my day job after seeing my first book in bookstores. I waited until three years later after I had five book on the shelves and contracts with two publishers before I did it, but I did quit my day job and much too early. I say it was too early because as soon I quit, I changed genres, to writing Christian fiction. My last romance was published in 1997. My first Christian romance was published in 2000. That’s a long-time for a self-supporting writing to be without a book and a new advance. The good news is that now I have a day job I love and a fulfilling writing career.
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
Ms. Milazo’s sixth grade writing class. We wrote short stories each week and read them aloud to the class. My classmates loved my stories and always clapped after I finished reading them, which made me feel really good about myself and what I’d written. The story that made me the all-time class favorite was, “My Interview with the Jackson Five.” This was a pretty special story for me, since I had a very strong crush on Jermaine Jackson at the time. That was more than 30 years ago.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I read widely, but if you’ll look across my bookshelf what you’ll see most is women’s fiction, stories centered around women living life to the fullest, or trying to. I make an effort to read new authors. My last read was Guilty of Love, Pat Simmons’ debut Christian romance. It was a great read and I look forward to more work from her.
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
I’ve written five romances, two Christian romances, one romance novella, and a nonfiction writing book. The Amen Sisters is my first mainstream Christian novel. My first Christian romance, Awakening Mercy (Tyndale House Publishers, 2000) was a finalist for both the RITA Award for Excellence in Romance Fiction and the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction. The second, Abiding Hope (Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), won the EMMA Award for Excellence in Inspirational Fiction.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I think sanity is over-rated. Honestly, I don’t have an answer for this question. I do think the key to living a happy and contented life is having the ability to recognize what’s most important at any given time. When I was younger, everything seemed equally important so I felt the tug to do more, be more, get more. As I’ve grown older, it’s become easier for me to sort through the noise to get to what’s important.
Very wise counsel. How do you choose your characters’ names?
There is no method to my madness when it comes to character names. For example, the twin sisters in The Amen Sisters initially had the surname Thompson. Their surname changed to Amen after my publisher came up with the great title.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Staying published for more than a decade. Building a readership takes time and planning. While some writers "pop" with their first or second book, most writers build their readership slowly one book at a time. I’m in the later category, still building a readership.
I know what you mean. If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
Turtle. Slow but sure.
What is your favorite food?
My mom’s macaroni and cheese.
Mmmm, sounds yummy. What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Writing romance fiction with African-American characters before those stories gained the interest of mainstream publishers. Fortunately, I finished my first book around the time that Kensington Books began Pinnacle Arabesque, their line of romances featuring African-American characters. My first five books found a home there. Since then, African-American romance has joined the mainstream. In 1997, I published two romances with Silhouette Special Education, followed by two Christian romances with Tyndale House in 2000 and 2001. The Amen Sisters (2005/2007) was published through a joint publishing venture between Walk Worthy Press and Warner Books (now Grand Central Publishing). My next book, Up Pops the Devil, will be published by HarperCollins in September 2008.
What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
Keep writing. I have a stack of revision letters from publishing houses and agents. Every time I’d get a rejection, I’d sent out another proposal or query letter. Remember, “the race doesn’t go to the swiftest, but to him who endures to the end.”
The Amen Sisters is a story of recovery from an abusive church situation. The main character, Francine Amen, left her home and her family to follow a ministry that she believed was doing the work of God, only to find that the pastor and the church had secrets that would lead to the death of one of her closest friends. In her recovery, Francine has to return home and mend fences with her sister, Dawn (who’s now married to Francine’s ex-fiancé), the church family she left behind, and the family of her dead friend. Francine finds the world she left behind in a bit of turmoil and she can’t help but blame herself for some of the problems. As she tries to make things right in the present, she finds she must first make peace with what happened in the past.
While the story deals with the sensational topic of sexual predators in the church, I didn't want to write a story that focused on the bad acts of some preacher. I wanted to write a story that honored those who were, and are, preyed upon. So The Amen Sisters does not take the reader into the bad acts of pastors and ministry leaders; it shows the far-reaching impact of those acts on the parishioners who sit in the pews and the struggle those parishioners face as to recover from the blow.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
You can reach my blog and website on the web at www.angelabenson.com and www.theamensisters.com
I also have pages at MySpace (www.myspace.com/angelabenson), Shelfari (www.shelfari.com/angelabenson) and Shoutlife (www.shoutlife.com/angelabenson)
Angela, thank you for spending this time with us.
Readers, you'll want to visit all the sites on the blog tour.Dec 3 http://www.j-kaye-book-blog.blogspot.com
Dec 4 http://www.thewriterslife.blogspot.com
Dec 5 http://www.rebecca2007.wordpress.com
Dec 6 http://www.ceceliadowdy.blogspot.com
Dec 7 http://www.girlswriteout.blogspot.com/
Dec 10 http://leicesterreviewofbooks.wordpress.com/
Dec 11 http://www.edgyinspirationalauthor.blogspot.com
Dec 12 http://storycrafters.blogspot.com/
Dec 13 http://buzzthebook.blogspot.com
Dec 14 http://www.fallenangelreviews.com/August2005/Michelle-TheAmenSisters.htm
Dec 17 http://www.apooo.org/AuthorsLounge/limelight.cfm and http://www.myspace.com/apoooconnections
Dec 18 http://www.inspiredauthor.com
Dec 19 http://youdontknowjack.blogsavy.com/
Dec 20 http://lenanelsondooley.blogspot.com
Dec 21 http://www.inspiredauthor.com/v3/current-events-and-your-book-promotion-0
Dec 26 http://thebookconnectionccm.blogspot.com
Dec 28 http://abookbloggersdiary.blogspot.com/
Dec 31 Giveaway Day
Jan 8 http://www.blogtalkradio.com/sydneymolare
Jan 9 http://www.ambermiller.com/index.html
You can see that there is a Giveaway day on the blog tour. In addition to whatever they're giving away at that time, we'll also give away a free copy of Angela's book on this blog. Be sure and leave a comment for a chance to win that book.
If you don't want to miss any of the interviews or giveaways on this blog, sign up for FeedBlitz in the right hand column under my profile.