Angela Benson was first published in 1994. To date she
has published ten novels, one novella, and a nonfiction writing
book. A national bestselling author who penned romance novels,
Angela made a career move to write Christian fiction with the
publication of Awakening Mercy in 2000, the first book
in her Genesis House series published with Tyndale House Publishers.
Abiding Hope, the second book in the series, was published
in 2001. BET Books (now Harlequin's Kimani Press/New Spirit)
released both these books in mass market editions in 2003 and
2004, respectively. Angela's first hardcover title, The Amen
Sisters, was released by Walk Worthy Press in 2005. In November
2007, The Amen Sisters was released as trade paperback.
Angela's eleventh novel, Up Pops the Devil, will be published
by HarperCollins in September 2008.
Vanessa Davis Griggs: The first time I saw Angela Benson
in person, she made me laugh and I knew right then and there
that I liked her. I saw her again November 10, 2007, at The Imani
Book Club's Evening with Authors event in Montgomery, Alabama,
and we laughed some more. Welcome Angela! I'm so happy to be
able to have this chat with you. Tell us a little about yourself.
Angela Benson: Thank you, Vanessa. We did have a great
time at the Imani event, didn't we? It's always good to get together
with authors on the same journey. You know much of my writing
journey so I'll tell you a little about my Alabama history. I
recently returned to my Alabama roots last year when I took a
job as an Associate Professor of Educational Technology at the
University of Alabama. I can't tell you how good it feels to
be back home. I've lived in Illinois, New Jersey, Georgia, Florida,
Texas, and Colorado, and I can truly say that there's no place
like home. I was born in Lee County, attended Opelika City Schools
through junior high, and graduated from LaFayette High in Chambers
County so my roots here are deep. I'm a Southern girl to the
bone, always have been and always will be.
Griggs: What would you say is the difference between
Inspirational fiction and Christian fiction? How do you define
Benson: When I was a kid and my grandmother wanted
me for something, she'd call, "Mae Lue, Annie Ruth, Goosie,
gal" and I'd answer though none of those were my name. Mae
Lue was my mom, Annie Ruth and Goosie were my aunts, and I was
gal, I guess. I never asked Big Momma, as I called my grandmother,
why she didn't use my name, I merely answered when she called
because I knew she was talking to me.
I feel a similar way about these terms. They all mean the
same or they can all be different, depending on who's using them.
I tend to answer to all of them. Call me a Christian fiction
author, that's fine. An inspirational fiction author? That's
fine, too. I also like the term, faith fiction author. I think
it makes it clear that the stories I write strongly feature the
personal faith of the characters.
In the publishing world, Christian fiction is populated with
Christian characters who are challenged to live their Christian
faith in the midst of life's challenges. Inspirational fiction
is more general. These are inspiring stories, but they don't
necessarily have to be Christian.
Griggs: You admit having an unusual background for
a writer. You majored in mathematics at Spelman College and Industrial
Engineering at Georgia Tech, worked fifteen years as an engineer
in the telecommunications industry, hold two Masters degrees,
not in liberal arts, but in operations research and human resources,
and your most recent degree is a doctorate in instructional technology
from the University of Georgia. First off, congratulations on
these great accomplishments! So with all of this why do you write
Benson: I can best answer that in a story. In 1992,
I was a research engineer at BellSouth in Atlanta. My job was
planning new telephone services. I used to tell people that it
was the best job in the world-if you had to work for a living.
And it was true. It was a wonderful job. But sometime around
1990 I began to go through what I affectionately call an early
mid-life crisis. I began to question my job and the role it played
in my life. Was my job something I did or was it an extension
of who I was as an individual? The unsettling and unsatisfying
answer was that my job was something I did that was completely
separate from whom I was as a person. On some level this separation
could be considered a good thing, but my reasoning was that if
I was going to spend at least one-third of every day of my life
working at something, I should work at something that was an
extension of who I was as a person. A lofty goal, I admit, but
that goal set me off on a quest to find a vocation that would
fulfill my financial needs as well as my personal need for self-expression.
The journey took me down several paths and I made a lot of
false starts. I finally hit the mother lode in 1992 when I attended
a Readers and Writers Convention sponsored by Romantic Times
Attending that conference changed my life. Sounds dramatic, I
know, but it's true. Writing workshops given by published authors
were a part of the convention agenda. One of the workshops that
I attended was conducted by three multi-published romance writers.
I don't remember the topic or anything specific that the authors
said, but I do remember that as they talked, a single thought
formed in my mind: This is it. They don't look any smarter
than I am. If they can write a book, so can I.
And so began my writing career. I went back home, joined a
local writer's group and began my first novel. That novel, Bands
of Gold, which I started in early 1992, was completed
in early 1993, sold to Pinnacle Books in late 1993 and arrived
in bookstores in late 1994.
Griggs: You have quite an impressive collection of
books published. Please tell us about your most recent release
The Amen Sisters.
Benson: 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, she 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 that she must first make peace
with what happened in the past.
Griggs: Why did you change from writing romance fiction
to Christian fiction?
Benson: I wanted to write stories in which my characters
had a faith life because I think that's the reality of the lives
we live each day. Faith, church and religion have long played
a pivotal role in the American family and in the African-American
community particularly. Writing stories void of those elements
is writing stories that are not truly reflective of our lives.
Griggs: When you write a book, what is your "intent"
for that work (feel free to be specific if different intents
Benson: I want people to be encouraged, to know that
there is hope for whatever situation they're in, and to know
that God cares about them. A lot of times we feel alone in our
problems. I want my stories to show people that they are not
alone and there is help available to them if they'll only reach
out for it.
Griggs: When you reflect back over your life, what
are some of the things you're most proud of? What do you hope
to accomplish that you haven't as yet?
Benson: This is a hard one. I'm proud that I'm a fighter.
I don't give up. I may not get what I want every time, but it
won't be for lack of trying. I think it goes back to my belief
that God cares for me. I get a certain confidence in knowing
that I'm never alone.
Griggs: You're now living in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. We're
glad to have you in the great state of Alabama. What prompted
Benson: It was time to come home. I've worked for years
looking for the next job or the better job. This time I just
wanted to come home. Maybe it's getting older and wanting to
be near family that motivated me.
Griggs: Oprah has--as one of her magazine columns--a
section where she talks about what she knows for sure. What do
you know for sure?
Benson: I know for sure that God loves me, cares for
me and wants only my best. I also know for sure that He feels
that way about all of us.
Griggs: Tell us about your upcoming novel, Up Pops
Benson: Up Pops the Devil will be published
by HarperCollins in September 2008. It's the story of Preacher
Winters and the four women who complicate his re-entry into society
as a law-abiding Christian man after being incarcerated for two
years for drug trafficking. It's a fun book that demonstrates
how individual decisions have community effects. The devil even
makes an appearance.
Angela, you are truly a blessing. A joy exudes from your
spirit that gives great honor to our Father in Heaven. I know
the best for you is yet to come. We look forward to more blessed
work from you!
To visit Angela's Web site, go to: www.TheAmenSisters.com
- Copyright © 2008 Vanessa Davis Griggs All rights reserved
- Interview by: Vanessa Davis Griggs, Author of: Promises
Beyond Jordan, Wings of Grace, Blessed Trinity and
May 2008, Strongholds (Web site: www.VanessaDavisGriggs.com)
- For permission to use
this interview, contact Vanessa Davis Griggs at Vanessa@VanessaDavisGriggs.com