Angela Benson’s numerous novels include the Christy Award-nominated Awakening Mercy, the Essence-bestselling The Amen Sisters, and Up Pops The Devil. She’s also the author of nonfiction writing book, Telling the Tale: The African-American Fiction Writer’s Guide. She is currently an associate professor at the University of Alabama.
Ella: Tell us about your passion for writing. What drives you?
I don’t know if I’d use the word passion to describe my writing. I write because I have something to say that I believe will encourage and motivate readers while at the same time entertaining them. My passion is for encouraging. Writing is an avenue for doing it.
Ella: A Legacy is something that is handed down from one period of time to another period of time. Finish this sentence- My writing offers the following legacy to future readers…
My writing offers the following legacy to future readers… a source of encouragement, motivation and entertainment.
Ella: Where are you from? How did you start your writing journey?
I’m an Alabama native. I started writing when I was in fifth grade. At the time, I had no idea that writing was a career option. I just wrote for my class. It wasn’t until twenty years later that I began to explore writing as a career. I was fortunate in that I sold the first book I wrote. I started writing it in 1992, sold it in 1993 and it was published in 1994.Ella: Please introduce us to your new book, Sins of the Father.
Sins of the Father (ISBN: 9780061468520)- Successful media mogul Abraham Martin has great wealth, an elegant wife, Saralyn, and a rebellious son, Isaac. He also has a secret: a second family that no one knows about. Now, after thirty years—driven by the urging of his long dormant conscience—Abraham is determined to do the right thing by finally bringing his illegitimate children into the light…and into the family fold. Sins of the Father is a powerful story of a house bitterly divided—a rich, multilayered family saga of betrayal and redemption, rage and compassion, faith, forgiveness, and ultimately, of love.
Ella: Who are your two main characters and what do you like most about them?
The three adults who drive Sins of the Father were wonderful characters to write. Abraham Martin, the father who is trying to make amends, is likeable because he really does want to do the right thing. His wife, Saralyn, is likeable because her plight and her pain are so realistic. Leah, his old mistress, tugs at your heart as she deals regret for her past decisions and the impact they’ve had on her children.
Ella: What makes your book stand out and would entice a reader pick it up?
Sins of the Father takes a biblical story and asks a different question about it than the one asked in the Bible. That question shows the relevancy of the story today. Even President Obama has addressed the problem of absentee fathers. In Sins of the Father, we see an absentee father trying to make amends with the adult children he abandoned when they were babies, and finding it very difficult. We also see how his choices, past and current, affect both of his families.
Ella: Ultimately, what do you want readers to gain from your book?
I want to confirm for readers that making amends for past bad acts is always the right thing to do. Even though you may not be forgiven or received with open arms, you still have to try. More specifically, I hope that the lines of communication between some absentee fathers and their children may open and develop.
Ella: What is the most surprising thing you have learned in creating books?
I gain as much writing the stories as readers do when reading them. There’s a lesson for me in each story.
Ella: What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer? Being able to endure fifteen years in this business. My career is not one I’d recommend other writers follow. Since my first book was published in 1994, I’ve written twelve novels in four different genres for five different publishers with contracts negotiated by three different agents. While many the of writers who started writing with me have achieved more writing success, there are many who are no longer being published. I consider myself blessed to still be in the business and writing the books I want to write.
Ella: What advice would you give a new writer?
Finish at least one manuscript. It’s important for new writers to know that they can finish a book. It might not be the best book in the world, but you will have proved to yourself that you can tell a story from beginning to end. That knowledge will make finishing the second book much easier. As you write more books, you’ll find that you develop a rhythm to your writing. You’ll begin to notice how long your chapters are, how many scenes are usually in a chapter, how long it takes you to write a scene or chapter, etc. This knowledge will prove invaluable once you start writing to deadline.
Make time to read at least one book a month. Most writers start as avid readers. Once readers start to write, they sometimes find their lives so busy that reading is neglected. Don’t let that happen to you. Don’t lose your love and appreciation of good stories. In addition to hours of pleasure, reading will keep you up to date on the market.
Rejoice in the success of other writers. Every time a new writer sells a book, a struggling writer should be encouraged. That sale is proof that publishers are still buying new writers. Take time to congratulate that writer and be sure to purchase the book when it hits the shelves. Don’t give up. Don’t give up. Don’t give up.
Ella: Name 3 things that it takes to make a successful author, in your opinion?
A love of reading, a healthy respect for the craft of writing, and a willing to accept constructive criticism.
Ella: What can we expect from you in the future?
My contract with Avon/HarperCollins is up with Sins of the Father. I recently submitted a proposal to them for my next book. I hope to have some good news in the next few weeks. In the meantime, I have a novella in the upcoming Millions of Blessings anthology being published by Dafina in March 2010. Marilynn Griffith and Tia McCollors, two wonderful people and great authors, have novellas in it as well.
Ella: Share with us your latest news, awards or upcoming book releases.
The Sins of the Father Blog Tour continues through Friday, September 4, 2009. I invite each of you to join us. You can find the schedule on my blog at http://www.angelabensonblog.com/