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Interview With Kendra Norman-Bellamy

Kendra, you've accomplished so much since starting your career in 2002. What drives you forward as an author?
I believe that if a person has a genuine love for what they do, it makes it less problematic even in those challenging or overwhelming times. Song of Solomon officially releases July 1st, and it will be my 16th published work. The demands of writing for multiple publishers keep me incredibly busy. I've never worked harder on any job than I do as a full-time author, but this is the most fulfilling trade I have ever had. I've had other professions that paid more money, but I've never had one that was more rewarding than being an author. I'm driven by the passion I have for what I do and the knowledge that it's not just a career, but a calling, a purpose, and a ministry.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
Just the manner in which God graced me with multiple national publishing contracts carries great significance. I'd self published my first manuscript in 2002 and had been desperately trying to find a mainstream publisher for my second work. I enjoyed the self-publishing experience, but really wanted to have the backing of a traditional publisher. One day, I was sitting at my workspace at the corporate America job that I had at the time, and my telephone rang. It was a national Christian publisher who was offering to produce my second work. I was ecstatic. It was the answer to my prayer...or so I thought. She desired to publish the work, but before she would commit to doing so, I had to commit to making major changes to the characters' personalities and the storyline – changes that would have totally altered the message of the manuscript – a message that God had clearly given me. I had no other publishing prospects, so it was more than difficult to turn down her contractual offer. But I knew that if I accepted it under her conditions, I would have, in essence, been disobeying God. I thought her offer was an answer to prayer, but it was actually a test of faith and patience. When I took a stand and walked away from that one door, God opened two other doors by way of BET Books (who ultimately sold their book imprints to Harlequin) and Moody Publishers. He literally showed me that just as is stated in scripture, He was able to do exceeding abundantly above all that I asked or thought. I have no doubt that if I had crumbled under the pressure and compromised the gospel for the sake of gaining the initial contract, I would have disqualified myself from receiving the unmatched favor that God has given me over the years.

What's your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
In the beginning it was quite a bit more challenging than it is now. When I first began novel writing, my daughters were much younger. Today they are 17 and 20, but they were 10 and 13 when I started this journey. At those younger ages, children are not nearly as self-sufficient. Also take into consideration that I was still working a full-time job in corporate America, so between wife-hood, motherhood, and my work schedule, the time I could devote solely to the craft was quite abbreviated. The greatest challenge was simply finding the quality time to write. I found myself functioning off of only three or four hours of sleep a night in order to keep up. In past years, I found myself having to print a daily "To Do" list to make sure I stayed on track. Sometimes I still have to do that on days and weeks when it feels like I have more duties than the hours in the day will allow.

In Song of Solomon, a young mother clings to the memory of her deceased husband, much to the detriment of the man who is falling in love with her. As someone who went through the experience of losing a spouse, how hard was it to separate you from the heroine?
Actually, I didn't try to separate myself from her. There is a little piece of me in the heroines of each of my books. Some of their likes, their dislikes, their habits, their pet peeves - something about them is generally a reflection of me. Normally it is a minor personality trait that few readers, if any, would detect. Shaylynn, the heroine from Song of Solomon is more of me than any character I've ever created. My story is not her story, but we can definitely relate to each other's experiences. Many people who have never lost someone as dear to them as a spouse/soul mate, have no idea what that pain is like. Despite popular belief, time does not heal all wounds. There are some wounds that time only makes easier to deal with. When a person suffers that kind of loss, whether it is a spouse, a child, a sibling, a parent, or anyone else that they have a deep love for, there is absolutely no one who should expect to take that person's place. All they can do is carve out their own place in that person's life and heart, and they have to recognize that, or they risk the chance of not ever winning that person over on any level.

How does your faith and spiritual life affect your storytelling?
I never detach myself from my faith; therefore it affects every aspect of my life, including my writing. I have a saying: "It's all about ministry." Those aren't just empty words; I mean them. I don't ever want to do anything that does not reflect Christ, and I never want to operate outside of His will. I pray every morning before I sit in front of my computer to begin writing. During my specialized time with Him, I ask the Lord to be in charge of my thoughts as I prepare to work on my manuscript. In the midst of the entertainment, the drama, the romance, the intrigue...I want God to be glorified, and I want those who read the story to be edified. None of my novels are preachy, and they are read and enjoyed by both Christians and non-Christians. That's the awesomeness of it all. God has allowed me to reach the masses without ever compromising my spiritual beliefs.

According to your Facebook page, you started journaling when you faced the heart-wrenching loss of your first husband. Do you still journal?
Writing has been such a form of therapy for me over the years that I don't think I'll ever completely stop journaling. Admittedly though, I don't journal as often as I used to, and this age of technology has altered the manner in which I do it. Most of my journaling now is done in the form of blogs. I have two of them and use them to post my thoughts on a regular basis. However, in those periodic times when I have thoughts and musings that I wish to keep private, I will still pull out my hardcover journal and fill those pages.

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career?
I've won numerous industry awards, hit the national bestsellers list on several occasions, appeared on network television, seen my face and name on highway billboards, traveled the world, shared the stage with some awesome celebrities...the list of "great moments" goes on and on, and God gets the glory for every acknowledgement and every achievement. But in all that I have experienced, the greatest for me was the very first time that I received a letter from a reader who told me that she was brought back to Christ after reading one of my novels. That moment was priceless. All of the other experiences brought me happiness, but that one brought me joy. The others validated my writing as good work, but that one validated it as God's work. It was humbling, and it validated the ministry aspect of what I've been called to do.

Finish this sentence... After 20 years as a successful author, I want to be known as:a woman who continuously gives back to God the gift He gave to me.

Any parting words?
I just want to thank all of the readers who have supported my writing ministry over the years. Without them, it would be much more difficult to carry out my divine assignment. Also I invite everyone to not only check out my novels, but also to visit the Cruisin' For Christ ( website and consider taking part in that unique at-sea experience. Additionally, they can visit and get more info about my upcoming nonfiction release and the partnering ministry. I love to hear from readers, so please feel free to visit my author website and sign my guest book or send an email.

Thanks for sharing with us, Kendra!

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