Shelia Lipsey is the author of Into Each Life (Jan. 2007) and SinSatiable (Aug. 2007). Both novels are part of Kensington's "Urban Christian" imprint.
Ms. Lipsey is someone I've never actually met in person. I think I first encountered her name via my visits to Blogging In Black. Upon discovering her ties to my hometown (Memphis) and her involvement in a church my parents have long attended (Cummings Street Missionary Baptist), I contacted her by email. She not only reponded, but was nice enough to provide me with her replies to the following Q & A.
1) What exactly is Urban Christian? In my opinion, Urban Christian is the kind of story-telling that doesn't dress up the sins of our people. . . Urban Chrisitian stays true to the word of God, but we tell about the real people, the real things that happen in their lives. We tell how God can bring the ugliness, most vile problem and situation in a person's life and turn it around.
2) Describe your approach to writing. Do you start with a character? An event? A situation? My approach to writing is quite simple. God gives me a title, I enter it into the mounting titles he's already given me and I save them . . . God places on my mind which one he wants me to write about. I have no idea what the story will be about, how it will end, who the characters are, basically nothing whatsoever about what I'm going to write. But I've learned not to worry . . . because when my hands touch the keyboard, the Holy Spirit begins to flow and the thought, situations, plots and characters come to life. I scream, shout, sing and sometimes faint when I find out the things they do (for real).
3) Do you maintain a writing schedule? Lately, I have to admit that I have been trying to maintain a writing schedule. But it really doesn't work well for me because I spend more time editing, proofing, typesetting and assisting other potential clients . . .which is why I always try to stay one book ahead of my publisher. For instance, when I signed a second contract with Urban Books, I had already finished the book that is required for the first book in the new book deal.
4) Are there any books on the craft of writing that you've found particularly useful? Books on punctuation, grammar usage and sentence structure are excellent books to keep in your library.
5) Do you have an agent? No, I don't have an agent. I followed the submission guidelines of the publisher which is always important and necessary to do. In a few months my phone rang and bingo, bango, I was offered a two book deal. Look at God!
6) List some of your favorite writers. Carl Weber, J. California Cooper, Lacricia A. Peters, Vanessa Davis Griggs, Jacquelin Thomas, Victoria Murray, Tiffiny Warren and Alisha Yvonne. Also, I can't leave out my fellow outstanding writers and friends in Christ: The Urban Christian Authors are out of this world! I'm humbled to be part of this God-inspired imprint.
7) Which writers (living or dead) have had the biggest impact on how you write? I must honestly say I believe I have developed my own style, my own voice given to me by God All Mighty. Therefore, it is like no others and I thank God for that.
8) What do you regard as your biggest mistake, thus far, as it pertains to writing? Not starting early enough. I wish I had started in my early teens or twenties.
9) Why do you write? God placed the desire in my heart and deep within my spirit. After He saw that I didn't have sense enough to realize my gift, he orchestrated events in my life that weren't so pleasant, but they did the job and awoke me to my true gift.
10) What's been most effective for you publicity-wise? I'd like to know the answer to that myself. All I can say is that I use bookmarks, flyers, posters. I contact stores, people I know, churches, family and friends to help promote my books. I also take advantage of my publisher who helps arrange various events. And I do online advertising through places like Sormag, Mosaic and AALBC and I tell everyone I run across that I've written a book.
11) What are some of the mistakes new authors are apt to make when it comes to marketing and publicity? Not realizing the importance of it. Sometimes they're (so busy) glorifying the fact that they're an author, they don't understand now the real job starts, which is getting someone to buy your book.
12) Is there anything in particular you'd like to share about yourself or your work? I'd like to beg, please, pretty please with sugar on top, ask you and anyone else out there to purchase copies of Into Each Life and Sinsatiable. They are sold nationwide, even at Wal-mart. Now if you can't find it at Wal-mart, you can go online at Amazon.com, Walmart.com, Target.com, the Borders Stores, Waldenbooks, African American bookstores . . . In essence, there is no excuse for you, your buddies, friends, ex-friends . . . and anyone you pass on the street not to have at least ten or twelve copies of Into Each Life and Sinsatiable in their hands.
For more information about Shelia Lipsey and her novels visit her website at http://www.shelialipsey.com/