WP: Word Praize family, please welcome Cecelia Dowdy, author of FIRST MATES (Love Inspired, February 2005).
CD: Thanks, Marilynn. Glad to be here.
WP: Take a moment please and tell us about your path to publication. Your first break was the PROMISES TO KEEP anthology from Crossings with Aisha Ford. What happened from then to now?
CD:Basically, I just continued writing, submitting novels to various Christian publishing houses. I didn't get another acceptance until I submitted First Mates to Steeple Hill Love Inspired. I originally submitted the story for their then-newly-developed women's fiction line. However, Krista Stroever called me, making an offer to publish it in their Love Inspired line instead. I had to cut quite a few pages, since it was a longer book aimed for the women's fiction line. I'm very pleased with the finished product, though. During all this time, I got engaged and married!
WP: Now that's romance for you! Has finding your own romance changed your writing schedule at all? Or your writing itself?
CD:I don't think my writing has changed very much, but my writing schedule has changed a lot! With a husband, I don't spend as much time writing as I used to.
WP: I'll bet! Well, the African American Christian Market is growing by leaps and bounds. What trends are you seeing among readers in the AACM? Do have any plans for future anthologies or single title stories?
CD: I think the AA Christian fiction market was basically untapped. The Christian fiction market, to the extent that we know it today, is still what I consider fairly new. When I first started writing, back in the mid-nineties, Christian fiction was out there, but I don't think publishers were printing as many books as they do now. I believe the AA Christian fiction market is growing because the Christian fiction market is growing, if that makes sense.
Back in the early nineties, there were not even a lot of AA fiction books out there. But when Terry McMillian's Waiting to Exhale came out, publishers took note and realized that Hey, Black people read books, too! So publishers began acquiring more AA authors and Kensington launched the Arabesque line around that time, I believe.
I feel the same type of thing is happening in the Christian fiction market. Since the AACM is taking off, publishers are realizing that a large segment of these readers are African-American and they need books to satisfy these hungry readers! That's why Moody has their Lift Ev'ry Voice imprint, plus we have Walk Worthy Press, BET New Spirit and Steeple Hill has even acquired some AA authors. (Like me!)
I've noticed from a conference I attended last year, that a lot of Black women have formed reading groups and book clubs, selecting Christian novels to discuss at their meetings. They seem to have a lot of fun doing this and it just shows how popular the AA Christian genre has grown.
To answer your second question, I don't have any current plans for any more anthologies, but I'm always open to the idea! Also, I'm now working on another novel which I plan to submit to Steeple Hill.
WP: Your latest release centers around a couple on a cruise. Tell us a little about Rainy and Winston and how you came to write their story.
CD: Rainy is basically a heart-broken young woman who takes a Caribbean cruise to heal. She's a little too judgmental, which causes a huge rift in her relationship with Winston. Winston is a recovering alcoholic who has recently accepted Christ. He still struggles with his addiction, still learning to lean on Christ instead of a bottle of booze when he feels depressed. I guess I chose to write their story because I have some friends and relatives who struggle with alcoholism and I wanted to portray a realistic way to deal with addiction. I set the story on a cruise ship because I've been on three cruises in my life and I had a fabulous time!
WP: How fun! The theme for this book seems to be overcoming the pain of the past and learning to love again. Did you choose this theme or did it emerge during the writing? How has your faith helped you to take risks in your own life?
CD: It just emerged during the writing. Sometimes, before I begin a story, I think it'll be told one way, but then the story comes out to be totally different that what I expected!
My own faith has increased a lot since I've started writing Christian fiction, if you can believe that! When I feel doubtful, or troubled about a certain situation, I've just learned that I need to trust in Jesus, and everything will turn out fine! I try my best to listen to God's voice, and try to follow what I feel He's telling me to do!
WP: No wonder you've been so successful. Thank you so much for sharing with us today. I hope everyone will stop by your website. FIRST MATES is available at Wal Mart, KMart and many other booksellers.