Wednesday, June 20, 2012

FEATURED AUTHOR: Maxine Billings

Maxine Billings is a native of Villa Rica, GA. She now lives in Temple, GA with her husband Tony and their daughter Natasha and son Stefan. She also works full-time as a Program Assistant for the Department of Juvenile Justice.

She has enjoyed reading and writing as far back as she can remember. During her summer vacations from school, she participated in the reading programs at the local library and spent most of her time reading. She also likes to write poetry She loves to read and write wholesome stories that inspire people in positive ways and give them hope. When she isn’t writing, she loves spending time in spiritual activities and with her family. She also likes to dance, listen to Jazz and R & B, and do container gardening.

How did you start out your writing career?

When my author cousin Jacquelin Thomas became a published author in the 1990s, I was inspired by her work and wrote my first story in 1999. After receiving rejections from a couple of publishing companies, I wrote another story. By the time I had finished it, BET Books had come out with an inspiration imprint called New Spirit. I sent them a query letter regarding my new story. They were interested. I submitted my manuscript, and a year later, I got the call from them that they wanted to publish it.

What did you learn while writing this book?

I learned how to loosen up more with my characters so that I can develop them to an even greater degree. In my previous novels, I was very strict and rigid with regard to developing my characters. Coming from a Christian background, my goal is to write entertaining stories that are wholesome yet depict real-life issues. The more I write, the more I learn how to write about these issues in ways that I hope readers can read them with a clear conscience.

What did you hope to accomplish with this book?

My goal was to write a story dealing with just a few of the challenges our young ones face today (for example: being part of a stepfamily, being the only teenage daughter of a widower, how to deal with the opposite sex, the meaning of true friendship, and how young ones can develop friendship with God).

What came first with this story, the characters or the plot? Why?

The characters came first. I actually took the characters from the very first story I ever wrote, which had been rejected by a couple of publishing companies, and wrote a totally different story using the same characters. I loved the characters so much that many years later, I decided to put them in my first young adult novel and rewrote the entire story.

What has surprised you most about becoming a published author?

I’ve been most surprised by all of the work that is involved just in the process of getting from point A to point B; in other words, getting my stories from manuscripts to books. Before I became a published author, I never realized all the work that goes into publishing a book. When I saw the books on the shelves in the book stores, I assumed that the way they were in book form was the way they originally started. I did not realize how much editing was involved.

What aspect of writing do you love the best, and which do you hate the most?

The part I love the most is writing fictional stories with real-life issues about family and relationships. How we, as imperfect humans, interact with one another (especially when under stress) is so fascinating to me. I like putting my characters onto the theater stage of my readers’ minds. I like having my characters perform for their audience (the readers).

What I hate the most is when I get writer’s block. When my writing juices are really flowing and my mind suddenly goes blank as to what to write next, it is so frustrating when I have to stop.

What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?

I wish I’d known how to develop a close, personal relationship with God when I was younger. I wish I’d known that I don’t have to be a perfectionist in order to succeed in life. It also would have been nice to know that when I got older, I would have a whole new outlook on life.

Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be a writer?

If you enjoy writing, do it for yourself, if for no one else. No matter how many rejections you get, don’t give up.

What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?

I wish non-writers would try to understand that writing is like everything else we learn to do in life. I like to compare it with a baby learning to crawl, walk, and talk. All don’t learn at the same pace, but most usually learn. Well, it’s the same way with writing. Writing is art. Some people learn to master the art quickly and soar with little or no difficulty. Others, however, may struggle at a slower place, but eventually they improve in their craft.

Tell us something few know about you?

I don’t care much for change. Being a writer has helped me to come out of my comfort zone a lot, but I still like doing some things old-school.

When you're not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?

I love to read, of course. I also love to dance, listen to music (R & B and Jazz), and do container gardening. My family and I enjoy vacationing in the Smoky Mountains.

What do you do to interact with your readers?

I love corresponding with my readers via e-mails, letters, blogs, and occasional book signings.

Our theme for this month is INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS. Have you ever considered self publishing your work? Why or Why not?. If you are a independent publishers, can you offer some tips for taking this journey.

My first five novels were published by a publishing company. I am currently a self-publisher of my work. While there are some disadvantages, I like being self-published because I have the freedom to write when I want to and what I want to. I’ve even learned to design and create my own book covers which I really enjoy doing.

In April, 2010, my first self-published novel, IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH, was released through CreateSpace which is a print-on-demand company and a member of the Amazon group of companies.

I am currently self-publishing eBooks through Amazon which I enjoy doing as well. Being a self-publisher has helped me to also learn how to promote my own work. As I already mentioned, there are some disadvantages to being self-published. However, since I love writing so much, I really do appreciate the companies that are in the business of helping writers get their work published.

Who was the first author you ever met?

Several years ago when my cousin Jacquelin and some other authors were in Atlanta for a book event, one of my sisters, a friend, and I met Jacquelin at the hotel where they were staying. We ate dinner with her and some of the other authors. We met several of them, but one that really sticks out in my mind was Angela Benson. At the time, I had read a couple of her books and really enjoyed them. When I met her, I got a chance to talk with her about my passion for writing. When I asked what advice she could offer me, she told me to just write what’s in my heart. To this day, that’s what I continue to do—write what’s in my heart.

Oprah always asks, what do you know for sure?

One thing I know for sure is that whatever talents and abilities we have are blessings from God, and I intend to continue using my gift of writing to create stories that bring Him honor, praise, and glory.

Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?

My next book is DESPERATE HEARTS which is the sequel to my short story ONE OF A KIND. Bradford has fallen in love with Paula and has finally decided to share his feelings with her. But when he goes to tell her, he finds her and their friend Phillip kissing. Bradford learns that the couple has been secretly dating. The next day, Phillip and Paula get engaged. Now Bradford is faced with another dilemma—not only is his friend dating the woman he loves, but he’s also going to marry her. But because he sees how much they love each other, he vows to say nothing. However, as the couple plans their wedding, he wrestles with feelings of regret. But before Paula and Phillip are able to walk down the aisle, tragedy strikes! Now Bradford is confronted with an even worse dilemma than the one he originally faced. How can he be with the woman he loves when his heart is condemning him?

How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)

My mailing address is: P. O. Box 307, Temple, GA 30179. E-mail: Website:

About to turn sweet sixteen, Kiara Murdock is at a time in her life when she desperately needs her mother and craves the understanding that only a mother can give. Her father Terrence still treats her like she's six years old, and she can't wait to get older so she can make her own decisions. But in the meantime, she has to abide by his rules--or does she?

In the midst of living her double-life, her father is taking his relationship with his lady friend way too seriously, which only makes Kiara feel more threatened. She vows that no other woman will take her mother's place in her life or in her heart. In the process, her once-close relationship with her father starts to crumble. But when she is hit with another traumatic blow, she will finally understand that the love of a father can be just as strong as the love of a mother.

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