Victoria Christopher Murray & ReShonda Tate Billingsley, who refer to themselves as “writing twins,” have written several novels together such Sinners & Saints, Friends & Foes and Fortune & Fame: A Novel, and the two also co-founded Brown Girls Publishing in 2014. However, apart from their joint ventures, ReShonda Tate Billingsley & Victoria Christopher Murray maintain separate careers as novelists. Still, without intending to do so, Victoria Christopher Murray’s latest novel Stand Your Ground: A Novel which debuts TODAY, and ReShonda Tate Billingley’s latest novel Mama’s Boy, which debuts a week from today on July 7, explore topics that dominate today’s headlines. Read the descriptions of each book below as well as my interview with the “writing twins” and Brown Girls Publishing founders.
From the #1 Essence bestselling and award-winning author Victoria Christopher Murray comes Stand Your Ground, a new novel about two women who are faced with the same tragedy.
A black teenage boy is dead. A white man shot him. Was he standing his ground or was it murder?
Janice Johnson is living every black mother’s nightmare. Her seventeen-year-old son was murdered and the shooter has not been arrested. Can the D.A. and the police be trusted to investigate and do the right thing? Should Janice take advantage of the public outcry and join her husband alongside the angry protestors who are out for revenge?
Meredith Spencer is married to the man accused of the killing and she sees her husband and the situation with far more clarity than anyone realizes. What she knows could blow the case wide open, but what will that mean for her life and that of her son? Will she have the courage to come forward in time so that justice can be done?
#1 national bestselling and award-winning author Victoria Christopher Murray’s Stand Your Ground is a pulse-pounding meditation on race, motherhood, marriage, and vigilante justice that will have readers spellbound until its shocking end.
When her son is in trouble, a heartbroken mother finds the courage and faith to save him, in ReShonda Tate Billingsley’s powerful family drama—a novel as timely as today’s headlines.
The breaking TV news rocks Jasper, Texas, to the core: a white police officer is fatally shot in a scuffle with three black youths—and a cellphone video captures Jamal Jones, the sixteen-year-old son of esteemed Reverend Elton Jones, escalating the tragic encounter. Now, as the national spotlight shines on a town already rife with racial tension, Jamal is a murder suspect on the run. And all of Jasper—even the Reverend’s congregation—rushes to judge the boy they thought they knew.
But Gloria Jones knows her son best, and she races to find Jamal before the law does—to the outrage of her workaholic husband. Once she finds him, she has to decide whether to turn him in or help him run. With ruthless prosecutor and Houston mayoral candidate Kay Christensen hungering to put another young thug behind bars, Gloria will face her biggest battle yet. And when long-hidden secrets and shocking lies come to light, throwing Jamal’s case and his destiny into a tailspin, all Gloria can do is pray that the truth—and a mother’s unconditional love—will be enough to redeem the mistakes of the past and ultimately, save her son.
1. I’m sure that the deaths of several black males such as Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and more at the hands of police officers and or self-imposed authority figures inspired you to write your respective novels “Stand Your Ground” and “Mama’s Boy,” but please share what specific case(s) or news story(ies) inspired you to pen your novels?
Victoria: I was actually watching the Michael Dunn trial, the first one, and when the verdict came back and it was announced that it was a mistrial — the jurors couldn’t decide on guilt or innocence — my social media timelines blew up. But people didn’t understand the law, and I saw this as an opportunity to entertain and teach.
ReShonda: There was no case in particular. As a longtime member of the media, we would get the ‘you can’t film us’ from law enforcement. And we knew our rights. The rise in people recording just got me to thinking of how many people don’t know their rights. So that was the nugget that started this story brewing. From there, I threw in the dynamic of ‘what would you do if your son had committed a crime’ and doing the right thing meant turning him over to a racist police department.
2. How long did it take you to write these novels, and what emotions did you experience as you wrote your novels?
Victoria: It took me a year, and as any writer experiences, you go through the same emotions as the characters.
Reshonda: It took me about five months to REWRITE my novel. I say rewrite because I firmly believe good novels aren’t written, they’re rewritten. It was an emotional roller coaster because I’d like to think I would always do the right thing, but as a mother, and under extenuating circumstances, I found myself seriously questioning that.
3. What do you hope readers will learn and or experience through reading these novels?
Victoria: I really hope readers will come to understand not only the SYG law, but how dangerous this legal license to kill is for our community. Stand Your Ground only seems to work when our boys are the ones on the ground. We must fight against this.
ReShonda: I want readers to think about how they would react. I also hope to educate people while entertaining them.
4.Victoria and ReShonda, the both of you refer to each other as writing twins! In fact, you have written three novels together such as “Sinners & Saints,” “Friends & Foes,” “Fortune & Fame” and the upcoming “A Blessing and a Curse” to be released in 2016. When did you discover that the both of you had written separate novels about similar themes, and what did you think about that?
Victoria: We read each other’s books so, we knew we wrote about issues in the church. I didn’t think anything about that fact — lots of authors write about similar themes.
ReShonda: It’s amazing. We talk about everything, but we had no idea how similar our stories were in terms of dealing with topical issues, until we began reading each other’s completed manuscripts. Honestly, I even asked my editor about waiting on my book, but it was already done and in the production process. But I realized that while we both deal with serious issues, we use our own unique storytelling styles, so that makes the books uniquely different.
5. Brown Girls Publishing has been in existence for just over a year now. What accomplishment has your company achieved that you are most proud of to date?
Victoria: The fact that we are still standing is an accomplishment to me. It is much more difficult than we anticipated. I am proud of the fact that we’ve given new authors who would’ve never been published a chance for exposure.
ReShonda: Wow, there are so many things I’m proud of, so it’s hard to narrow it down to one thing. I’m thrilled with our author roster, the new imprints, and especially the Brown Girls Kids/Brown Girls Teens division because that is giving us the opportunity to begin building the voices of tomorrow.
6. Why did you start two new imprints, Brown Girls Faith and Jacquelin Thomas Presents, and what do you hope to do accomplish with these imprints?
Victoria: The imprints give us an opportunity to publish more authors and give better attention with Jacquelin Thomas and Rhonda McKnight joining our team.
ReShonda: We had to close down our submissions process because of the sheer volume of submissions, and there were so many good manuscripts that we weren’t getting to. Jacquelin Thomas and Rhonda McKnight are two consummate professionals who we thought we be good additions to our tear. Our hope is to further expand the Brown Girls brand and bring readers a wider array of quality books.
7. Victoria, I know that you are a political junkie. Now that our sorority sister, the newly elected Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the first black woman to be Attorney General of the United States, is in place, what do hope you she will accomplish during her tenure? Congratulations ReShonda! I’ve learned that TV One recently announced that it will adapt two of your novels “The Devil Is A Lie” and “The Secret She Kept” into original movies to be released in 2016! How did this happen?
Victoria: Wow. I don’t know how to answer that. I don’t know what she has in her plate. She’s not a policy maker in the Obama Administration, so there aren’t any policy issues. I just hope she continues the work of Eric Holder with voter rights and police brutality cases. And I wish her the best.
ReShonda: Well, my movie, Let the Church Say Amen (which will air on BET on Aug. 30), based on my sophomore novel, has been in the works a long time. And I’m blessed to have been on Hollywood’s radar. So TV One actually reached out to me because they are serious about revving up their original programming. I am honored that they chose two of my titles.
Thank you ReShonda & Victoria for your time!