The weather outside has become treacherous. Sidewalks and streets are slick with falling ice. But after a long day, including a television appearance and a lengthy book signing, author Kimberla Lawson Roby still sits down with me for a chat.
Q: You’re 15 novels into your career. Did you ever think you would have this much success and how has it changed your life?
A: No. I really didn’t. I was just really happy to have the first book published. And so once that happened, I think you want to go on and write one book after another. Did I think it was going to be fifteen in fifteen years? Never, ever. So it’s just been a really wonderful blessing and a wonderful journey.
Q: Do you remember how you felt when you first signed with powerhouse literary agent, Elaine Koster?
A: Oh my gosh. Completely. When I found Elaine, I actually already had an agent. She was a wonderful woman, but also was a little on the younger side and kinda new to the game. So, I just felt like I needed someone who was more of a veteran in the industry. And so I was kinda following her (Elaine) in Publishers Weekly, kept seeing articles on her ‘cause she had just started her agency. And then I was reading how she had once been president of Dutton. She had resigned from that position. She had also done so many other things in the industry. And I thought, gosh, this is somebody who knows both sides of the table. And so I contacted her. She contacted me right back that afternoon. I sent her all the material that she requested. A few days later she called me saying that she wanted to represent me and it was the best thing that ever happened to me in my publishing career. Sadly, though, she passed away last August and I miss her tremendously.
Q: “Love, Honor, and Betray,” your 15th novel and #8 in The Reverend Curtis Black Series. How many more do you think there will be?
A: Well, you know what. I used to say I’m not gonna write anymore. Then I said well, yes I am gonna continue the series. Once I said to my husband, “How much more can Curtis do?” And he always says, “Well Victor Newman (The Young and the Restless) has been alive and well for a long time.” So I just want it to continue. And now I’m actually focusing on his adult daughter as well. I’ll eventually [focus] on his son, now that he’s older. And there’s quite a bit more to tell about Curtis and Charlotte as a couple even.
Q: With the recent public falls from grace of Evangelicals from many faiths, was it important that Reverend Curtis Black maintain his spiritual integrity in this novel?
A: Very, very important. Once upon a time Curtis was there: He had fallen and he was caught in a scandal and there was so much trouble going on in his life. And he was just committing one sin after another. So now, seeing so much in the headlines and as you said so many powerful ministers falling from grace, I want him to really stand for what he needs to stand for. I want him to be that true man of God.
Q: Since the advent of Facebook and other forms of social media, there have been many reports of ruined marriages where husbands and wives reconnect with old flames. In “Love, Honor, and Betray” Charlotte runs into similar issues. As a married woman how do you think couples, and your characters, can avoid this pitfall?
A: Well, you know, I think a big part of it is that, first of all, you have to have love. You have to have very strong love. You have to have trust. You have to have lots of communication. And I always say you have to really make sure that you are the reason that person laughs every single day. You have to keep it going. Keep it alive. Your spouse needs to be your best friend.
Q: Preacher’s Kids (“PK’s”) can be some of the worst-behaving, most rebellious children. In “Love, Honor, and Betray” preacher’s kid, Matthew, is well-behaved and his parents wreak havoc. A kind of role reversal. Was that deliberate? Did you want to dispel the “PK” stereotype?
A: I did. That’s why you never see him do the things that his parents do. If anything he can call them out, usually, on some of the terrible things that they’ve done. But I want him to remain the good young man that he is.
Q: I purchased my copy of “Love, Honor, and Betray” from a national bookseller and found it on a table with other bestselling African-American writers. A table is great real estate in a bookstore. But it was near the back where I almost didn’t find it. A reader mentioned this evening that your books had to be “special ordered” in her town. Am I reading too much into this? Are books by major African-American writers hard to find, even in major book chains?
Read Roby’s answer in part two of our interview. Plus, I’ll get her thoughts about the relationship between writers of color and major publishing houses. We’ll talk about her own publishing company, Lenox Press, and whether she plans to take on new writers. Also, I’ll get updates on a recent movie deal for one of her books. Roby tells us about her writing routine and gives advice for new writers trying to break into the tough publishing industry. All that in part two.
Kevin Don Porter is the author of OVER THE EDGE and MISSING—two mysteries available at Amazon.com, and other fine retailers. He is also a Writer/Contributor for CBSLocal. For updates on his work, friend him on Facebook and Goodreads, and follow him on Pinterest and Twitter: @kevindonporter. Visit his website at www.kevindonporter.com.