Sharon Ewell Foster is a double-RITA finalist and the author of seven multicultural novels. Her first, Passing by Samaria, won the Christy Award for best first novel. Her latest, Abraham’s Well, a historical novel that earned her her third starred review, won the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Inspirational Fiction. The former Pentagon staffer is a beloved speaker on topics from history to reconciliation to purpose to virtue to education, she is a favorite of reading groups, also teaches writing workshops, and has just inked a three book deal with Simon and Schuster.
You can find out more about Sharon and her books at www.sharonewellfoster.com
Here's Part 1 of our interview:
LLH: You've been writing for quite a while. You've got quite a few titles in the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA). What is your biggest achievement as a writer in the CBA?
SEF: First, Linda, thanks for this opportunity. So many wonderful things have happened to me since I began writing, so it's difficult to pinpoint one or two. But if I have to choose two things:
a. My first book, Passing by Samaria, won the Christy Award for Best First Novel and was also a RITA Award (Romance Writers of America) double-finalist, as well as a Golden Pen Award Finalist (Black Writers Alliance) and CBA bestseller. That was really wonderful for a first book ... or for any book for that matter.
b. My second book, Ain't No River, appeared on the CBA bestsellers list and the Essence bestsellers lists simultaneously, which says that one can write in a way that honors God while appealing to the masses. Ain't No River also won the Golden Pen Award and was a Christy Award finalist.
LLH: Writing is a business. Capturing your audience is key to the success of an author. Do you feel pressured to write to a certain audience? Are there things you are told not to write about?
SEF: See, I disagree with the premise. Writing is not a business, it is an art. The marketing, promotion, distribution, and sale of writing is business. But writing itself is art. As artists, we get in trouble when we forget that truth. I began writing to serve God, it's a form of worship for me. It is to this day. God is the source of my creativity, not man. He's my lead, it's His word and spirit that I follow, though sometimes I've had to be pretty assertive about it.
My job is to tell the best stories that I can, to pour as much love, creativity, insight, wisdom, and truth as I can into each piece that I write. I'm the vessel into which the Lord breathes and pours the stories that I'm supposed to tell, just as you are the vessel into which He pours your stories. I'm responsible for delivering the truth and the love. It is a sacred communion, like the communication between a pastor and the Lord. I believe that as writers we have to be careful about that and about not giving or forsaking the truth God gives to us just for money or simply so that we can be published.
The word of God prevails; if I stay connected to the vine, my writing will bear fruit. I know this doesn't jibe with a lot of advice that others might give, but it is what I know to be true. We only touch people, heal people, deliver people, or give them hope and joy when we stay connected to what God says. Our promotion comes from God. It's the spirit of the Lord which draws faithful readers. My writing, the marketing, the publicity, the distribution, all of those are seeds. We are responsible for doing all we can to plant good seeds in good ground. But the increase and the promotion come from God Almighty's hand.
LLH: Do you ever feel like you must write about people of color? How does your audience respond when you don't?
SEF: Funny, I just finished a series of articles on this topic for Romantic Times Magazine (Jan and Feb editions). I've never considered myself a writer who only wrote for or about people of a particular complexion. So, I write about all kinds of people. We live in a world full of color. It would seem odd to people if I only wrote about the color blue, or only painted with the color blue. My books are multicultural, my audience is multicultural. No reader has ever expressed a problem with it. I think it's sometimes challenging for some publishers because they've been a monochromatic mode for so long. In fact, I had a publisher that didn't want a story I was writing about Mary and Martha, because it wasn't "ethnic". Really, that was just blindness, you know--even historical blindness.
But most people are used to living in a world with people of all complexions. My readers embrace it. It's natural.
That's it for now. Visit tomorrow for the rest of Sharon's interview.