ReShonda Tate Billingsley Talks Books, Love and ‘A Little Bit of Karma’
The best-selling author of ‘Let the Church Say Amen’ tells ‘Sisters’ about her latest juicy novel — and shares real-life musings on romance at 50-plus. Enter for a chance to win the new book!
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“I didn’t want to look up and be 80 going, ‘I wish I had.’ I would love for my tombstone to say, ‘She lived.’ And part of living is stepping out and following your dreams.” — ReShonda Tate Billingsley
“Part of living is stepping out and following your dreams.” So says ReShonda Tate Billingsley, best-selling author, as her latest title hits the market on September 29. She’s truly followed her own dreams, as her latest romantic thriller, A Little Bit of Karma (Simon & Schuster), is her 52nd book.
Billingsley, also known for writing I Know I’ve Been Changed and best seller-turned-movie Let the Church Say Amen, now shares the layered story of a star couple on the brink of divorce. Because, as the author notes, even though things on the surface can fool us, “all that glitters isn’t gold.”
In A Little Bit of Karma, Billingsley spins the tale of the Lovejoys, a couple with a popular radio call-in show and a spate of best-selling books on how to have a healthy relationship. But there’s one secret hiccup: Shannon Lovejoy has wanted nothing to do with her husband, Jay, since she learned about his infidelity.
And if that isn’t enough — trust us, it isn’t — the plot thickens as this couple is obligated to go on a speaking retreat. Together. While they’re away, Jay’s mistress shows up, and they get into a public argument before the mistress turns up … dead. Good grief. The book then follows this couple down a path of twists and turns as we get to figure out what happened to the woman — and what will happen to the Lovejoys.
“This couple was really going through some things,” Billingsley says of her characters. “But I also wanted to tell the strength of how a tragedy or a tragic situation can bring you together.”
But before you hop into the book, learn a bit about the author in this interview (edited for length), because Billingsley, who also works as a journalist in Houston, has twists and turns to share in her own life. Then visit this sweepstakes page (between September 29, 2020 at 10 a.m. Eastern through October 01, 2020 at 10 a.m. Eastern) to enter to win a free copy of A Little Bit of Karma.
What inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve always loved making up stories. But my mother [was] old school. She felt like I couldn’t make a living as a writer, as an author. So I majored in broadcast journalism. When I graduated, I was working for the National Enquirer. Along the way, I got back to TV. And then finally decided to just stop talking about writing a book and write a book.
How old were you when you wrote it?
That was 21 years ago. So, 30.
Why did you feel that was the right time?
I didn’t want to look up and be 80 going, “I wish I had.” I would love for my tombstone to say, “She lived.” And part of living is stepping out and following your dreams. So I came up with a plan to make my dreams happen. It’s never too late to start a new chapter of your life.
Love that. Was the process of getting published difficult?
I got so many rejection letters. So I decided to self-publish. And then I set out to find a way to spread the word. The book did really well. It got the attention of an agent who picked me up and got me a deal with Simon & Schuster. And here I am now. My 52nd book is about to come out.
Do you realize how amazing that is?
It’s always surreal. I feel blessed and grateful. But imagine if I had taken those initial rejections and let that be indicative of my work.
Any advice for dealing with rejection, especially for things that are important to us?
What happens a lot is we let one “no” redetermine our destiny. Instead of, “All you need is a ‘yes’.” And so if you have to go through a hundred no’s to get to that one yes, all you need is the one yes. If you want to start a new business, if you want to write a book, whatever your passion, your dream, you have to believe in it enough when no one else does. And if you can’t go in through the front door, then you have to find another way in.
Switching gears. How do you tell authentic stories? And how does your identity as a Black woman figure in?
I believe that’s one of the reasons why I have longevity in this business, because I write authentic real characters. And in the real world, they don’t always do great things. In the real world, they make mistakes. In the real world, they’re flawed. One of the things you’ll see with all of my characters is they’re flawed in some way or another, because all of us are. One of the biggest things, I get [is] people that are like, “OK. I love that your character goes to church, but I also love that she was in the club Saturday night because that was me.”
Would you say anything about writing about sexuality, and faith and religion, and how they intersect? In the real world, those things can be challenging for people as well.
For Let the Church Say Amen, that was one of the most controversial parts, because people didn’t want to deal with a pastor having a gay son. And one of the most rewarding things that I’ve ever gotten was a family saying that my book helped them in dealing with their own son or daughter who has come out of the closet. That's the one I get all the time. So I am a believer that love is love. And we all sin in some way or another. You’ll see that permeated in a lot of my writing.
Finally, you’re known for writing about romance. Is there anything you’d share about that for yourself?
Yeah. Again, going back to things being an illusion, I was going through a very, very hard divorce when my 50th [book] came out. And people would always write about how great my life was. And I’m just like, “You people have no idea.” Luckily, we’re in a good place. We’re coparenting now. I’ve talked about starting over and second chances. Because a lot of times, when we hit a point, like if you find yourself divorcing after 20-something years, you’re like, “What do I do now?” And so the answer to my what-do-I-do-now question was live.
So I have reinvented myself in terms of just loving getting back into an exercise program, starting over and really feeling good about myself. And yes, I have found love again online. A lot of people are like, “Online dating?” But, yeah. That’ll be a whole other book because the journey to him was enough to write a book.
And that’s the end of our chat. We’ll stay tuned for that novel. Until then, remember to enter our sweepstakes to win Billingsley’s new book, A Little Bit of Karma. And enjoy!