“Everything happens for a reason”: interview with Bernice McFadden

How does one summarize what was supposed to be interview but changed to what I call a “friendly chat?” This is what happened with my time with Bernice. Thank God we were both on EST. The 10-15 minute interview magically turned into a one-hour plus time between what seemed to be to me however, some great dialogue between friends. Bernice called me promptly at 9:15AM, our scheduled time. I began the talk by letting her know that I would not be recording the conversation because I trusted I would hang on to every word she spoke. Let me back up for a moment and let you know I had previously sent Bernice some interview questions which I had also answered so she would get to know me a little bit before the interview and would feel more relaxed. This paid off because we were off to a great start, in my humble opinion!
Chris September 18, 2012 6 Comments Interview The Writing Life


“Everything Happens for A Reason”: an interview with author Bernice McFadden by  Sherry L. Moore-Williamson

Sherry: I have to be honest, I have yet to read one of your novels however, sooo many people rave about them. Knowing this, what book should I read first?

Author Bernice McFadden is as real as they come, as our own Sherry Moore-Williamson found out first-hand. (photo by Eric Payne)

Bernice:  I believe in always starting at the beginning. I would read “Sugar” first.

S: That’s funny you suggest “Sugar.”  I read and heard that it was one of Alicia Key’s favorite books and she had mentioned it in an interview now on Youtube.

B: Yes, a girlfriend told me about the interview and what Alicia said. I didn’t even know.

S: I also listened to Academy Award-nominated actress Alfre Woodard, who is one of my faves, read an excerpt from Glorious, another novel you wrote. She commented on why she too loved this book.  “It’s so full that I immediately wanted to pick it back up and rifle through the pages again… They are historical people…who seem alive and real to you….”

B: I received a lot of literary awards for “Glorious.”

S: And “Glorious” was mentioned in O Magazine, May of 2011.  What affects did that have?

B: Well, it was good for publicity since it was compared to “The Help,” which was out at the same time. It took “Sugar” about nine years to finally get published by a commercial publisher.  It was a good ride until I got dropped after my sixth novel. I was told I was a “done as a writer.”

S: Wow! How did that feel and how did you feel when the rejection letters came for “Sugar?”

B: “Sugar” received 74 rejections—

S: —before it was finally picked up?

B: You gotta stay true to who you are and what you write. My new publisher allows this freedom. I learn from every experience I have had. I keep it positive.

We started talking about many other things.  To wrap up our chat, I wanted to talk about the mechanics of how she writes, what inspires her, and her Macon connection.

Sherry: Where do you write and when are you inspired to write?

Bernice: I used to write at night and in my home office. What I have found is I don’t write in the summer.  The days are longer and I want to get out and do things. When the days are shorter, I hibernate.  This time gives birth. You know, you get full and have to release.  The best time for inspiration is when I’m experiencing emotional turmoil.  Stories aren’t told, they unfold.

S: Nicely put. What is your feeling on self-publishing vs. commercial publishing?

B: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket! There are also smaller publishing companies out there. Not just self-publishing or commercial.  They are smaller publishers who are more positive and want you to stay true to your genre of writing. They don’t want you to be something you’re not.

S: Okay, we gotta end this.  It was only supposed to be a 10 minute interview. Two more questions: What is your biggest pet peeve?

B: Tardiness! It drives me crazy!

S: I’m a Screenwriter therefore I have to ask if you envision one or more of your books made into movies? And which one first?

B: Sugar is optioned as a feature and Glorious would make a good mini-series but I was told, “nobody would watch it. It wouldn’t have an audience.”

S: From what I hear about the theme of the novel and not being biased, there are some successful mini-series already made similar to it which had huge audiences.

B: Uh-huh.

S: Middle Georgia residents may or may not know about your ties to Macon. What or who is it? And have you ever visited?

B: My great-great grandfather was the founder and preacher at First Baptist Church of Macon; and yes, I have visited Macon before and have relatives who live there now.

Of course, we did not end the call there but for the sake of space and not wanting to reveal too much about Ms. McFadden, which she will share when she’s here, I will stop now. Her Historical fiction novels “breathe life back into memory” and might I add breathe life back in to history.

When she comes to the conference please, take the time to get to know her.  She is as “real,” encouraging and inspiring as anyone I have ever spoken.  This successful author has not let her 13-plus, published works cause her to forget who she is and her novels continue to reveal her ancestry and ethnic history with a touch of embellishment. One of her last comments was:

“ I like me and I have no regrets because I know everything happens for a reason.”

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  1. cmhild@bellsouth.net Sep 18, 2012

    Can’t believe you published this interview, even onlline.
    An interviewer must at least read the book, or I am not impressed.

    I am embarrassed that McFadden had to respond to comments about what celebrities said about her book.

    Other posts have been helpful.

    • Chris Sep 18, 2012

      While I appreciate your opinion, I have read Bernice’s work and love it, and Sherry is currently reading her now. We’re all introduced to authors in a number of ways and for Sherry, this was it. She was interested in Bernice’s story and wanted to interview her. I didn’t see a problem with that. As for the questions, I can only assume Bernice enjoyed the conversation because they spoke for an hour or so. – Chris H.

  2. Kathy Shattuck Sep 18, 2012

    I actually don’t mind these perspectives from an interview, as it was open and honest, with Sherry admitting to not having read Bernice McFadden’s novels. Many haven’t read her novels, and there is no shame in that. But if you haven’t read them, I’ll give my advice: Do so!

    Grant you, this isn’t the most complete interview I’ve ever read, but it sounds like it was mutually enjoyed, and indicates more to come at the conference… this was a tease, as it were. I can’t see why a reader of this interview should feel embarrassed in any way, for anyone.

    All the best,
    K S

  3. Brandee Sep 18, 2012

    Thank you for posting this interview. I’ve been on the fence about attending the Crossroads Writers Conference (it will be my first) out of nervousness.
    Knowing that there will be good, down-to-earth individuals like Ms. McFadden there puts me very much at ease.

  4. Sherry Oct 04, 2012

    I welcome all comments to my “chat” with Ms. Fadden. As a soon-to-be published author, and screenwriter, positive and not so positive comments afford me the opportunity to acquire a thicker skin to the negative press and comments which will be made. Bernice and I talked about this, her mantra, “every thing happens for a reason…” therefore holds true here. I do not believe Ms. McFadden was embarassed by the time spent on the interview or appauled I had not read her work, yet. Spending more than an hour “chatting” with her and being a sponge proves this!

  5. Monica Oct 05, 2012

    I love Ms. McFadden! I started reading her novels around 2000 when I started teaching. I started with “Sugar” then I had to read “The Warmest December”. These experiences came in handy because I had a student who was “lost” in life and heading down the wrong road. I noticed that she loved to read and she reminded me of Sugar so I gave her the book and told her to read it. She absolutely loved it and started making a drastic improvement in her attitude and grades. I believe she finally felt like she was not the only one going through what she was going through and that somebody understood. This student began writing herself. I bought her a journal and she filled it up with all types of poems and stories and gave it to me her senior year before graduation. I still have it. Since then I’ve read “This Bitter Earth”, “Glorious”, and “Nowhere is a Place”. “Gathering of Waters” is on the list for the holidays.
    It is so amazing what a book can do to change people’s lives forever. I will always be a fan of Ms. McFadden because the genuine sincerity is a breath of fresh air.


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