Please, join us for Celebrity Guest Authors Month!
Author: Kendra Norman (Formerly Kendra Norman-Bellamy)
CH: I am so blessed to present to you today, our Celebrity Guest Author, Kendra Norman. She is the national bestselling author of numerous faith-based titles. She is best known for her fiction writing, but is also the author of nonfiction spiritual empowerment books. Kendra is also a motivational speaker and a licensed minister.
CH: Kendra, thank you for joining us and welcome. You began your literary career in 2002 and since then, you have won numerous awards and you have received multi-book deals. Can you tell us a little about your literary journey?
KN: I believe God designed my journey to be uniquely mine. I began writing, not because I aspired to be an author, but because I found the craft to be refreshingly therapeutic. The idea to publish came in 2001 after I’d written the manuscript titled For Love & Grace, but I actually began writing a number of years earlier. For Love & Grace became my debut novel when I self-published it in 2002, after getting a number of rejection letters from mainstream publishers. It was in circulation in its self-published version for just shy of a year when the publishers of the now defunct, BET Books, called me and asked for not only the opportunity to re-release my novel on a national level, but they also asked that I make it a 3-book BET series. (Ironically enough, BET was also one of the many companies who had already rejected that same manuscript.) Less than a month later, one of the acquisition editors at Moody Publishers called and offered a contract for a separate manuscript that I’d sent them a few months earlier; a manuscript that they’d originally rejected, as well. Each of these companies agreed to non-exclusive contracts which allowed me to write for both. Eventually, I was writing for three mainstream publishers, simultaneously. My literary journey has come with its highs and lows, but I consider myself to be very blessed to have been ordained for such an assignment as this. The awards and recognitions are awesome, but they don’t compare to the joy that comes along with receiving emails and letters from readers that share the details of how much they have been blessed by the works God has inspired me to create.
CH: Can you explain how it works when you write a book with a co-author, such as Hank Stewart?
KN: There is no set in stone answer for the dynamics that come along with working with a co-author. Every writer’s experience may be different. I’ve heard horror stories from some of my fellow authors regarding their experiences, but it was easy to work with Hank on the two projects on which we collaborated. We already had an established relationship in the industry having worked on several community and literary events together. Hank is a nationally recognized poet. He’d written a few poems that he decided deserved to be brought to life in full fictional stories, and he contacted me for help. The poems he’d selected were romantic in nature. I combined the romance with a faith-based drama-filled storyline and the end results were amazing. Readers loved those two books. I had a lot of fun working with Hank. Basically, I did all of the writing, but he and I would talk regularly during the process, and I would feed off his adrenalin. He was like a big kid in a candy store! He was so excited about the projects without even seeing them, and I thrived off his enthusiasm. When we spoke, he would give me ideas to incorporate in the storylines. Both Three Fifty-Seven A.M. and The Morning After were written by me, but they were based on poems that Hank created.
CH: Since you are a licensed minister and most of your books are faith-based titles, are they an extension of your ministry?
KN: Absolutely. When I stand in a pulpit and minister to crowds of listeners, it is my most earnest prayer that God will use my lips to say something that will uplift their spirits, encourage their hearts, and change their lives. When I sit down to write a book, the process is the same. I’m very prayerful, and I desire that God uses my hands to write something that will not only entertain, but also bless the hearts of the readers.
CH: What was your favorite book to write?
KN: I can’t tell you how difficult of a question that is to answer. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing all of my books. I don’t necessarily have one that I enjoyed writing most. I will admit, though, that I have characters that I enjoyed creating more than others. I think that the characters in the Grace Series (For Love & Grace, Because of Grace, and More Than Grace) are the ones I most enjoyed creating and living with as I wrote the books that they’re in. (Gosh . . . I hope that doesn’t make the characters in my other fictional novels jealous.)
CH: What is different and exciting that you bring to your readers through your Christian writing?
KN: It’s no secret that in books largely geared toward the African-American community, very few are found wherein the male character is depicted as a genuinely good, decent, and strong role model. This was especially true when I first began writing. Because of that, people pegged me as a different kind of writer. First, I was a female whose fictional books were written from the male perspective (meaning the main lead character was a man). And secondly, the men in my books were good upstanding men who loved God and tried to do right by their families. They weren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but as flawed as they may have been, they were men whose motives and actions were pure. I found that readers enjoyed that change of pace. It was refreshing for them to see the community (especially its men) shown in a more positive light. When men read the books, they told me that they felt emancipated. When women read the books, they told me that they felt like there was hope, after all.
CH: How did you start writing?
KN: My love for writing began as a ten-year-old, fifth grader. It was at that age that I began writing poems. Poetry was my specialty all through my teen years and even as a very young adult. I didn’t begin creating manuscripts until 1999, and even then, I wasn’t writing to publish. I’d endured the heartbreaking loss of my first husband a few years before, and had gone into a state of depression because of my refusal to properly grieve that loss. I discovered that writing dramatic fictional stories about love and redemption brought me a sense of joy, peace, and healing. I wrote for quite some time before I ever had a thought or desire to publish anything.
Title: The Path From Pain to Purpose
Synopsis: Purpose is a destination, which means before reaching it, we must first travel. And along the way, we discover that the road to getting there can come with many unforeseen trials.
Before we can carry out our God-ordained purpose, He must first prepare us. We have to be molded and equipped for our life’s assignments, and that process is often accompanied by pain.
The phase that takes place between our spiritual transformation and our final destination can be so agonizing that we want nothing more than to give up and detour onto what appears to be an easier path. I know. I’ve been there more than once. But what my experiences taught me first hand is that we only come to the full realization of PURPOSE when we endure.
Walk through the pages of this book with me as I share my incredible true-to-life testimony of the earth-shattering challenges that I triumphed on the path to finding my divine purpose. In candid transparency, I share my experiences of betrayal, embarrassment, heartbreak, and by the grace of God…my amazing triumph!
All things work together for the good of them that love the LORD and are called according to His purpose!
CH: Do you have plans for a new book?
KN: Well, my latest one, The Path From Pain to Purpose, was just released in September. Right now it’s available in electronic download format only (for e-Readers such as Kindle and Nook) and can be ordered on Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites. I’m working toward having some limited print copies available later this fall. Because it’s my 20th book and I consider that a landmark accomplishment, it will only be released in print in limited edition collector’s copies. Print copies can be pre-ordered through my website. Only those who pre-order are guaranteed a print copy because I won’t be doing any reprints once the original print run is sold out. Early next year, I will begin working on another fictional novel. I know the title, and I have much of the storyline already in mind, but readers will have to wait awhile, before I divulge any of the details.
CH: When you are coming up with a new idea for a book, do you look at the market for trends? Or do you just write your own story?
KN: No; I never look at what’s trendy at the time of my writing. I never piggyback my storyline on headline news, celebrity gossip, or what was seen on a popular talk show. Nor, do I look to see what books are the hottest selling ones and try to come up with a story that addresses that same issue in hopes that it’ll result in high book sales for me. I’m not saying anything is wrong with doing those things. The industry may even applaud them as smart ways to market. But that’s just not the way it works for me.
CH: Where do you get your inspiration and ideas from when you write?
KN: My story ideas are drawn from everyday life, but they are inspired by the Holy Spirit, and I’m not ashamed to say that. I’m a very prayerful writer. I literally ask God to feed me ideas that He wants me to write about. I do that because I want whatever I write to be a blessing to the reader, and only God knows what the readers need to be exposed to in order for that to happen. Generally, He’ll allow me to see or hear something that will spark an idea for a storyline. Sometimes, it even comes by way of dreams. I love my unique creative process.
CH: Was it hard creating believable situations and issues or did you take them from real life?
KN: None of my fictional novels are based on real life experiences. However, some of the characters in those books have been inspired by real life people. But even though none of the situations I write are replicas of my real life, none of them were hard to create either. In the world we live in, very little that happens is a shock anymore. Things that used to be unimaginable when I was a child are virtually normal in today’s society. It’s a sad truth; but it’s the truth nevertheless. It’s not that much of a challenge for an author to create a believable situation for a fictional book without basing it on the happenings in their real life.
CH: Of all the books you’ve written, do you have a favorite book?
KN: At this point in my career, I’m primarily known as a Christian fiction writer, but personally, my favorite books are my nonfiction/ministry titles. Of the twenty books that I’ve published over the last twelve years, only two of them are nonfiction, but those two—I Shall Not Die (released 2010) and The Path From Pain to Purpose (Released 2014)— have brought me the greatest sense of accomplishment and joy. That makes them my favorites. Because of how personal they are and the unmasked messages of life and hope that they offer the readers, my nonfiction titles are the ones that are nearest and dearest to my heart.
CH: You are a national bestselling author. Can you explain how you felt the first time?
KN: No, actually I can’t. It really was a very indescribable feeling when I first got the news of my national bestseller status. My third title, Crossing Jhordan’s River, was the first to reach that pinnacle. One would think that after attaining that status the first time, every subsequent time would feel more and more routine. For me, that hasn’t been the case. Eight of my titles have been named national bestsellers and several of those titles reached that status on multiple occasions. Still, every time it happens the feeling is just as euphoric as the ones before it. It never gets old. I’m just so thankful.
CH: Do you find anything challenging while writing your books?
KN: The only real challenges that I’ve faced are the ones that have come with writing, while also working a full time corporate America job. For me, that was a monumental challenge. It doesn’t make it impossible, but it does make it much harder. Based on how mentally or physically draining a writer’s “day job” is, it can be next to impossible to write at any time except on off days. And even then, it can be difficult; especially, if they have families or other obligations. Thankfully, I write full-time now and have done so for the majority of my career. I’ve worked an outside job for less than five of the twelve years that I’ve been a published author. Being able to write full-time really frees up the focus and creativity that’s needed in order to do it well. It’s a blessing that should never be taken for granted.
CH: Do you read in the same genre that you write?
KN: Yes; pretty much. If I’m not indulging in Christian fiction, then I’m reading faith-based nonfiction or some other type book that’s motivational or inspirational in nature. I like to read material that inspires and encourages me.
CH: Is there a certain routine you implement when writing? If so, what is it?
KN: I have a morning devotional time prior to jumping in to my writing, but that’s about it. That includes prayer, scripture reading, and a quiet, meditational time with the Lord. He’s going to be in the driver’s seat once I get started, so when I sit at my desk, I need to be sure that we’re in the same car, so to speak. Other than that, I don’t have any routines. I don’t do character sketches or chapter outlines like many other writers do. Nothing’s wrong with doing those at all; it’s just not a personal practice of mine.
CH: Your daughter Brittany Holmes is also an accomplished writer. Did you have any influence on her becoming a writer or did she just follow in your footsteps on her own?
KN: She credits me as her biggest influence, but it was due to what she saw in me, not what I said to her. I never approached her and encouraged her to pursue the craft. As a matter of fact, Brittney was writing even before I knew she was writing. She had completely finished her first full length manuscript before I had a clue that she even knew how to write a manuscript. I was clued in on her extraordinary talent by a close cousin of mine. She’d given him the manuscript to read, and he called me one day and told me about it. I was actually floored. And once I read it, I was floored again. She’s a very gifted writer, and just as it is with me, her writing is like second nature. Her first manuscript, Living Consequences, became her debut novel. She was offered a contract by the first major publisher that we ever shopped the manuscript to. She reached national bestseller’s status much earlier in her career than I did. I’m very proud of her achievements, so far. She’s five books in now, and I know she has more successes to come.
CH: Where can my readers find your website?
KN: My official web address is www.RoyaltyWriter.net
CH: Where are your books sold?
KN: The less frustrating place to find my books is online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. They can be found in major bookstores as well, but the African-American sections of most bookstores are not as generously stocked as other sections, so the titles aren’t as readily available. Often times, readers have to go to the front register and have the store order the books that they want. Because of that, I typically direct people to Amazon and Barnes & Noble online.
CH: Do you have any suggestions for aspiring writers?
KN: Yes, to any aspiring writers, I like to encourage you to press forward to reach all of the goals that you have set for yourself. Life is too short to have regrets. Press forward. Invest in your career, respect the craft, and enjoy every moment of your journey!
CH: Any closing remarks?
KN: To any of my loyal readers, I’d just like to say thank you for your priceless support. I couldn’t do what I do if you weren’t doing what you do. Your support is never taken for granted. I appreciate you more than words can say. To any future readers of my works, let me say thank you in advance for venturing out and allowing space for my books on your bookshelf (whether that bookshelf is physical or electronic). It’s my prayer that you will read something that will have you coming back for more.
Cheryl, I want to thank you for the opportunity to be featured in your online blog. I appreciate your generosity and I count myself blessed that you thought enough of me to make the request.
CH: Kendra, you are quite welcome and thank you for sharing your writing experience and your book with my readers.
Note: Photos are compliments of Kendra Norman and the Internet.
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