Today, I have award-winning and national bestselling author Sheila Bell in the interview chair. She’s here to talk about her latest release The Truth About Sistah Brianna. Don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.
1. What are you passionate about these days?
Sheila: I’m passionate about animal rights, about saving the lives of animals, and continuing my vegan journey of ten plus years. This is my tiny contribution to saving them and saving our lives at the same time.
2. What do you do to unwind and relax?
Sheila: To unwind and relax I like kicking back, getting up in my bed, and surfing channels for the next best reality show! I watch a little Netflix, do a little reading and of course spend precious time with my grandkids. With the isolation due to COVID-19, of course I have to talk to them via Facetime or Duo. I miss them.
3. When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Sheila: I believe I considered myself a writer before I even wrote a book. I wrote poems and as time passed I realized I had a story to tell. Now 25 books later, here I am!
4. Do you have a favourite movie?
Sheila: My favorite movies are The Other Sister, City of Angels, You’ve Got Mail, Love and Basketball, Best Man and Best Man Holiday.
5. Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
Sheila: I can see every last one of my novels turned into film whether it be in the form of a movie on the big screen, a TV series or a Netflix movie. They all are great stories that I believe viewers would enjoy.
6. What inspired you to write The Truth About Sistah Brianna?
Sheila: This latest book release is part of standalone books I call “Shorts by Shelia.” These books are meant to be quick, entertaining, reads for readers on the go. I have other Shorts by Shelia stories such as “Forever Ain’t Enough” and “Cross Road”. I plan to release more of these Shorts by Shelia later this year.
7. What can we expect from you in the future?
Sheila: I’m working on more books that I call “Shorts by Shelia.” These are smaller books fewer than 125 pages that are meant to give readers a short, entertaining read while they’re sitting in a doctor’s appointment, standing in a long line, or just taking a lunch break.
8. Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?
Sheila: I would say my characters hijack the story. For me, this is a good thing. It pulls me totally outside of ME and allows my characters free rein to act, do, and speak as they so choose. I don’t like holding the reins because it might restrict what the characters have to say and it would put more of ME into the story when it’s not about me. I’m just the messenger.
9. How long have you been writing?
Sheila: I have been writing since I was a preteen. I wrote poetry, speeches, loved writing essays and now that has evolved into me being a published author.
10. What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?
Sheila: I do most of my research during writing. I research whatever I need to research to enhance the story and make my book as realistic and believable as possible.
11. Do you see writing as a career?
Sheila: Yes, writing is already my lifelong career–and editing.
12. What do you think about the current publishing market?
Sheila: I think the current publishing market is oversaturated with authors or those who say they’re authors but put out less than tasteful, high-quality work. As an editor, I know the importance of a well-edited story. It saddens me that so many people believe in slapping words on paper, putting a cover on it, and publishing it. On the other hand, the publishing market has given an open forum to any and everyone who has a story to share. No more pleading, begging, praying and hoping for that big publishing contract.
13. Do you read yourself, and if so, what is your favourite genre?
Sheila: I read but not as much as I’d like to. As an editor, I read a lot of manuscripts so hardly ever do I read for pleasure anymore. My time is so busy with editing and writing, making it more difficult. I like nonfiction, suspense and general fiction.
14. Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?
Sheila: I usually write one book at a time. I put my all into that one book before moving to the next. It works better that way for me.
15. Pen or type writer or computer?
Sheila: Definitely typewriter/computer. I can’t see myself writing in longhand.
16. Do you have any advice you would give new authors?
Sheila: I cannot emphasize enough to new authors: Please take your time to produce a quality story that has been professionally EDITED.
Title: The Truth About Sista Brianna
Author: Shelia Bell
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Blurb: Smart, sassy, and single middle school teacher, Brianna Madison, hides behind the mask of her disability. Bound by a wheelchair and held hostage by her emotions, Brianna’s self-esteem is shot, and her belief in love is non-existent. Will she ever stop running from herself and from love? Is love the cure-all or will her web of lies and secrets destroy any chance Brianna has to heal from her past and claim what the future has for her?
History teacher Trey Hollister’s first year at Augustine Prep is already off to a good start when he enters the prestigious halls of the private academy. Handsome, and newly divorced, Trey is not looking for a relationship. Fresh memories of how painful heartbreak can be keeps him grounded. Things change quickly when he sets eyes on his co-worker, Brianna. But Brianna’s tough shell is almost more than he cares to handle. Will he keep pursuing Brianna or give in to the growing demands of an ex-wife who wants him back.
“Healing doesn’t mean the damage never existed; it means the damage no longer controls our lives.” —Unknown
A booming sound jarred Brianna abruptly from her sleep. She tried to ignore it, but instead she tossed and turned as the storm’s intensity increased. Her weather alert going off on her phone made her even more frightened. Storms caused her much distress and reminded her of when she was a little girl in Haiti. There were so many times she found no shelter from the fierceness of the storms and torrential rains. Then there were the earthquakes in Haiti that destroyed the very ground beneath her.
She shivered in the bed, but not from being cold because it was nice and warm inside. She looked around the perimeter of her bedroom and grew frightened as the thunderstorm raged outside.
She pulled the bed covers up around her neck, hugged herself, and began to quote one of her favorite passages of scripture. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
Another booming round of thunder resounded just as she finished reciting the scripture. Brianna jumped. The alert went off on her phone again as rain pounded against the windows and lightning lit up her room.
Moments later, she heard the blaring sound of the tornado siren and her heart beat against her chest like someone trying to get inside.
She picked up her phone, swiped the alert with her finger to the right to silence it. Then without thinking, she called Trey. Closing her eyes, she reasoned with herself to calm down when his phone went to his voicemail. What was she thinking anyway? Why would she call him, especially at this time of morning? “Thank you, God, for not letting that call go through. All I need is you. All I need is you,” she repeated as she laid the phone down next to her.
The storm didn’t ease up until just before daylight. Yet, even when the thunder and lightning stopped, the rain continued to come down in sheets.
She had very little sleep but thank God it was Saturday and she didn’t have to get up and go to work. Instead, she got up, made a cup of coffee and a bowl of grits, something her mother used to prepare when she and Aspen were small. Her mother would make them toast and grits with lots of butter and hunks of melting sharp cheddar cheese. It was delicious. Now just about every weekend, Brianna made the same thing. Some people liked sugar on their grits. She didn’t. She liked the saltiness of the grits mixed with the sweetness of the butter. It was one of the few good memories she had of her mother.
Sitting at the four seat breakfast table, she quietly ate, still somewhat apprehensive and on edge from the rain that started up again and was coming down harder. Rounds of thunder returned and lightning flashed. Even the sun remained hidden and daylight looked more like dusk. She sipped on her coffee while she tried to take her mind off what was going on outside by removing her phone from the side pocket of her pajama top and placing it onto the table. Slowly, she scrolled through the news and then visited her social media sites. She could always rely on a video or two or some crazy meme to get her mind off unpleasant thoughts. This morning was no different. She laughed when she saw a hilarious meme of one of the television celebrities.
Her phone rang while she scrolled.
“Hi, Daddy,” she answered with a smile when she saw it was him. She loved her father with all of her heart. He had never remarried since their mother walked out on them, but he was seeing a woman from his church named Danielle who he adored.
Brianna liked Danielle. She made her father happy, something Brianna desperately wanted for him.
Her father was still a relatively young man in her eyes, not yet sixty years old. She prayed he would find someone special to love him. Hopefully, he had found that in Danielle.
“Hi, sweetpea. Are you okay out there?”
“You know me so well, but I’m good. I’m sitting here eating grits and toast and drinking coffee. I just wish it would stop, that’s all.”
“Were you able to sleep through it?”
“Not really. But I’ll be fine.”
Tell you, what, why don’t I come there and stay with you until it settles down?”
“No, Daddy, I don’t want you to drive all the way from Covington with it storming like it is outside. I’m going to finish eating and then put my earbuds in and watch Netflix or listen to an audiobook. That way I won’t hear a thing.”
“You know I worry about you, sweetpea.”
“I know, but please don’t worry about me, Daddy. I’m fine. How are you? How was the deacons and elders retreat? Did you enjoy it?”
“Yes, it was awesome. I made it back around eight o’clock last night, before the storm moved in. I meant to call you but, well, Danielle and I had dinner and then the hour grew late.”
She could hear his light laughter on the phone. It made her feel good to know he was finally letting go of his past and moving toward having a happy future with someone else.
“We sought the Lord in prayer and we learned a lot about the roles and responsibilities of deacons and elders. There was plenty of good food, lots of fun, and great fellowship with deacons and elders from several other churches in attendance. I’d say there were a little over a hundred of us.”
“Wow, that was a good turnout. I’m glad you had a good time.”
They exchanged conversation for at least fifteen minutes, which helped take Brianna’s mind off what was going on outside. She would have kept talking but Danielle buzzed in, and her father told her he would call and check on her later.
“Remember, if you want me to drive down there, just let me know and I’ll hop in my truck and be on my way.”
“I know you will, but I’m good, for real. I love you, Daddy. Tell Miss Danielle, I said hi.”
“I will. Bye, sweetpea.”
Brianna finished eating, went into the living room, got her earbuds, and put her phone on Pandora. After an hour or so, she pressed RECLINE on her chair, closed her eyes, and allowed the music to soothe her.
Thoughts of her past brought unexpected sadness came over her. The darkness brought on by the storm was the perfect complement to the darkness that raged inside her soul. Tears appeared without warning. Her chest rose and fell in perfect sync with each tear that fell.
Sometimes she didn’t like herself. This was one of those times—when she was all alone, hurting mentally, and angry with herself for not being able to let go of her past. No matter how many times she’d been told or heard God makes no mistakes and All things work out for good, it was days like today when every last one of those words fell on deaf ears.
Shelia E. Bell (formerly Shelia E. Lipsey) is an award-winning, national bestselling author with 20+ books published in Christian fiction, women’s fiction, nonfiction, and young adult genres. Her books have garnered numerous awards and accolades, including 2017 Christian Literary Readers’ Choice Award, 2015 Rosa Parks Award, 2014 Christian Literary Award, AAMBC Nate Holmes Honorary Award, Kindle Award, OOSA Book of the Year, numerous SORMAG awards and more.
Shelia began her publishing career in 1999. Since then, she has set the literary industry ablaze with her dynamic, true to life stories that she calls “perfect stories about imperfect people like you…and me.”
Shelia is passionate about helping others and encourages and promotes people to ‘live their dreams now.’ In 2012, she founded a non profit organization “Black Writers And Book Clubs (BWABC) Literacy Association” with a mission to promote literacy one community at a time. Shelia is also a well-respected freelance book editor.
A much sought after inspirational speaker, Shelia travels near and far sharing her inspirational messages of how to overcome the adversities of life. Having had polio since the age of two, she accepts no excuses and is determined not to let her physical imperfections keep her from her life’s purposes.
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