INTERVIEW | Zaria Garrison

Zaria, describe yourself for our visitors.

I’m an author and magazine co-owner. I love to write, it keeps me sane. When things are getting to me I love to escape into the literary world either by reading or writing. Sometimes I do a little bit of both. I also love to sing, and I’m very active with my church choir and praise team. Lastly, I’m a single Mom of a teenaged son, who is also an aspiring author. He’s been published in a few Christian magazines.

How do you find time to connect with God?

I admit it’s difficult. My schedule is full with working a full time job, and trying to be a full time writer and single parent. I feel that God is always with me, whether I’m at work or driving along in traffic. He’s especially there when I’m writing, feeding me the words. I’m not sure if I find the time, or he finds me and makes me make the time, but I feel the connection. I also do a daily devotion, although it varies what time of day I squeeze it in. If I am unable to attend weekly church services, I make it a point to catch a televised sermon. I’m also always playing gospel music, listening for the message that God wants to lay on my heart.

Do you have a favorite bible verse and or quote you wish to share?

Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”

I love this verse because it reminds me that whatever I have to do, no matter how busy I may get, with Christ, all things are possible. I can’t do all things alone, but with Christ, I will find the strength I need to do it. It’s also something that I teach my son. I tell him that anything is attainable, as long as he has Christ with him.

Who are your favorite authors? Favorite books?

I have so many favorites. Victoria Christopher Murry, Virginia Deberry/Donna Grant, Carl Weber, Kendra Norman-Bellamy are the short list. There are many others. I’ve loved to read since I learned to read, so my favorite authors and books often change as I change. Growing up I was a big fan of the Little House on the Praise series of books. Then as a young woman I was fascinated by Terry McMillan, and later Zane. Then I discovered Octavia Butler and Walter Mosley. I’ve also enjoyed Shannon Holmes and a lot of the street fiction authors. As I change so does my literary taste. Each of these authors has a book that I call my favorite. My book shelf is obese, so I really can’t pinpoint just a few.

Tell us about your journey to publication

I am one of those blessed writers who do not have a stack of rejection letters. My first novel “Baring it all” was accepted by the first publisher I sent it to. It got great reviews and won awards. It didn’t make any best seller lists, but it gave me the confidence to keep writing. I also gained valuable experience in the business. After Baring it all, I was chosen to be featured in a street lit anthology being presented by Shannon Holmes. I submitted two days before the deadline and was chosen.

When God moved my writing to Christian fiction, there was apprehension as I felt the need to seek out a new publisher as well. However, I was accepted by the second publisher I queried. I do not have an agent, and I was blessed to find Urban Christian which at that time was accepting un-agented writers. I feel that it was nothing but God. I know many writers struggle and query for years and years, so I feel truly blessed to be on this journey.

Since signing with Urban, I’ve continued to research and study the craft of writing, and marketing.

Tell us about your current book.

Prodigal is a dramatic modern take on the Biblical story of the Prodigal son. It involves twin sisters Phoebe Cox and Phylicia Morgan, who are complete opposites in almost every way, except they fell in love with the same man. This man, Gary Morgan, is a minister and the husband of one of the twins. It’s a story about betrayal, forgiveness, secrets, lies, and how with God we can overcome any of these situations.

When you begin reading this book, you may think that because you know the story of The Prodigal Son, the book will be predictable, but it takes the reader on an exciting ride with plenty of twists, turns, drama and surprises that you would never expect.

How did you come up with ideas for this book?

God gave me a story about siblings and in some ways it mirrors the relationship I have with my own sister. We are not twins, but we are very close in age, and our relationship has been difficult since child-hood. There were times when we were really close and other times that we didn’t talk at all. With God’s help and forgiveness, we’ve found our way back to each other, and to God.

Also whenever I write, I find things that are familiar and tweak them. For example, there is a scene in the book where a group of teen-aged boys are playing basketball in someone’s driveway. When I was growing up my brothers always had a yard full of friends playing basketball. There was always some teen-aged drama going on around the games. So I felt that was a scene people would be familiar with.

Another element of my writing is that most of my characters have a real-life counterpart. It’s rare that people recognize themselves, but I try to use elements of real people. I feel that makes them seem more real to the reader.

What influence you to write this book?

God led me to take a familiar Biblical story and bring it into modern times. So often we read the Bible and think “well that was then, this is now” but God never changes. Many of the same situations are happening today and God is still speaking to us. We just have to be open and listening.

Did you have a favorite character(s)? Who and why?

My favorite character in this book is actually one of the minor characters “Lil G”. He is the son of Phylicia and Gary Morgan. He is my favorite because I feel he’s a teen-ager that younger readers can relate to. He’s not a thug, but he’s not a nerd either. He’s a good kid who surprisingly has a profound influence on his parents and how they handle situations. I believe we sometimes learn from our kids, if we allow them the opportunity to lead us.

My second favorite character is Phoebe “the bad twin”. I enjoyed her style and her zest for life, as well as her vulnerability.

What’s next for you?

My 2nd novel with Urban Christian “Losing It!” is due in stores October 2010. I’m busy completing and editing it. I’m also co-owner of EKG Literary Magazine. It’s an online magazine geared towards the literary community. We celebrated our first anniversary in July, and it’s been an awesome year that including a nomination for magazine of the year. I will continue writing for the magazine and helping promote and uplift others in the writing community.

Where can visitors find you online?

They can find me at my website or the magazine website