“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?
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.
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.”