INTERVIEW | Angela Benson

Angela, describe yourself for our visitors.

I’m an author with a full-time job as a university professor. I enjoy reading, writing and traveling.  My most memorable trip was a recent visit to South Africa where I toured Robben Island, the place where Nelson Mandela and other South African freedom fighters were imprisoned. 

Now released, many of those men serve as tour guides at Robben Island, telling their story as part of the Robben Island story. I was in tears by the time the tour ended, because of the atrocity of apartheid but more because of the faith of the men who had been imprisoned. To a man, none of the tour guides wanted vengence or held hatred toward their captors.  They all wanted to live peaceably with those who’d wrongfully imprisoned them and work together to build a more just South Africa. Listening to them speak, I heard forgiveness in action. I was awed.

How do you find time to connect with God?

I’ve learned to walk with God throughout the day.  I do it by listening for Him in every situation I encounter and with every person I meet.  We learn God’s voice by listening for it and obeying it when we hear it; that’s what I try to do. I admit there are times when I wish His voice were not so clear and other times when I wish it were much, much clearer. 

Who are your favorite authors? Favorite books?

That’s a hard one with too many options so I’ll stick with a one: Sharon Ewell Foster’s Passing by Samaria. I consider it required reading.  I’ll also add Jezebel by Jacquelin Thomas, which I consider a keeper. 

Tell us about your journey to publication.

Though I began writing fiction in Miss Milizo’s fifth grade English class, my first book was not published until 1994, more than twenty-five years later. Kensington Books published Bands of Gold in 1994, during the launch year of Arabesque Books, their ground-breaking line of romances featuring African-Ameircan heroes and heroines. In total, I published five romance novels and one romance novella with Arabeseque during the 1994-1997 timeframe..  The first two I sold without an agent and the last three with an agent.  I also published two novels with Silhouette Books in 1997, which were agented. 

My first Christian fiction titles were Christian romances sold my a second agent. Awakening Mercy (Tyndale House Publishers) hit bookshelves in 2000. It was a finalist for both the RITA Award for Excellence in Romance Fiction and the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction. Abiding Hope (Tyndale), winner of the EMMA Award for Excellence in Inspirational Fiction, followed in 2001. My third Christian fiction title, The Amen Sisters (Walk Worthy Press, 2005), was sold without an agent.  The Amen Sisters was an Essence bestseller and won the EMMA Award for Excellence in Inspirational Romance. My current book, Up Pops the Devil (HarperCollins, August 2008), and an untitled book to be published in 2009, were sold by my third agent.  As you can see, I’ve been around the business quite a while and worked with quite a few agents and publishers.

Tell us about your current book?

Up Pops the Devil is about the challenges a person faces when he or she becomes a Christian and the people they love best don’t. It’s a story of sin, temptation, and redemption involving a reformed ex-con and the four women in his life. Wilford "Preacher" Winters served two years in jail and re-enters society determined to live up to his jailhouse conversion and be a law-abiding citizen. But his life on the outside is complicated by the women waiting for him upon his release.

His live-in girlfriend, Tanya, the mother of his two sons, likes the high life his criminal past bought and doesn’t want to settle for less. His sister, Loretta, the silent partner in his illegal activities, kept everything going while he was incarcerated, and she’ll do anything to get him back at the helm. His former girlfriend Serena, now married to one of his best friends, harbors a secret that could shatter all their lives. And then there’s Natalie, a new but precious acquaintance, whose faith in him is shaken when his past sins come back to haunt him. During the course of the story, Preacher and the four women face an assortment of escalating trials and confrontations because of their competing and conflicting plans for Preacher’s future.

How did you come up with ideas for this book?

The hero in Up Pops the Devil is a reformed drug dealer. I wanted to write his story because the drug culture is closer to many of us than we want to admit. There may be whispers at family reunions about Cousin Bob with his new car and fine house but no job. Or gossip at the Neighborhood Watch meetings about Homeowner Tom and the 24-hour stream of traffic to his house. I wanted to take the drug war that we see on television being waged on somebody else’s street and plunk it down in a regular neighborhood, my neighborhood, your neighborhood. But Up Pops the Devil is not about the ins-and-outs of the drug culture, rather it’s about one man’s attempt to leave that culture behind and embark on a new path.

List your three most recent books.

The Amen Sisters – Walk Worthy Press, 2005 hardcover / Hatchette Book Group, 2007 trade paperback

Abiding Hope – Tyndale, 2000 trade paperback / Kimani Press, 2002 mass market paperback

Awakening Mercy – Tyndale, 2001 trade paperback / Kimani Press, 2003 mass market paperback

What’s next for you?

I’m working on my second novel for HarperCollins which should be out in August or September of 2009.  It takes place on a college campus and deals with the ways in which women manipulate men to get what they want when being honest hasn’t worked or isn’t easy. 

Where can visitors find you online?

My online home is http://www.angelabenson.com where readers can find out more about me and my books.  I frequently offer book giveaways on my blog so I encourage readers to drop by often and participate.