ReShonda Tate Billingsley discovered her love for writing long before her first book was ever written. Growing up in Houston, she wrote poetry often and was known for her active imagination. Her imagination first brought her more trouble than good when it came down to how her mom interpreted those poems. Little did Billingsley know, the imagination her mom once called “lying,” would later turn her into an award-winning, best-selling writer.
Before becoming a writer, Billingsley had a plan to make broadcast journalism her main hustle. After earning her degree from the University of Texas, she first worked as the paparazzi for the National Enquirer. Hated it, and later ended up working 20 years as a television news reporter. Yet, writing never stopped being at the forefront of her life.
“For seven years the books were my side hustle. But then my side hustle overpowered my main hustle. [I] wrote my first book in 2000 and after getting rejected, I decided to self-publish. Then got picked up by Simon & Schuster, and here I am 46 books later,” Billingsley said.
Two of her best-selling novels, Let the Church Say Amen and The Secret She Kept were later turned into movies and ReShonda soon became a household name. She reminisced about making a cameo in her first film and working with producers, T.D. Jakes and Queen Latifah, and director Regina King.
“I thought I was a better actor than I really was. Regina had to work with me a little bit. But I actually got to make cameos in both of my movies, and I have more in the works,” she said.
Seeking Sarah, one of her newest works, is published by Brown Girls Books and Simon & Schuster and tells the story of a mother who doesn’t want the responsibility of being a mother and leaves. Later she comes back into her family’s life, but is resented by her daughter after she learns her mother wasn’t dead and was living in Atlanta.
Billingsley admits she enjoys writing about unexpected scenarios in her novels. In this situation, mothers are expected to take care of their family. She set up a reality showing the exact opposite.
“People assume I write Christian fiction, but I’m a Christian who writes fiction. I say that because I write reality. The crackheads I know don’t say “pass the pipe, gosh darn it”; they are gonna curse you out. That being said, you are going to get reality in the stuff I write. I’m not going to preach to anybody, I write about the sinners and the saints,” she said
Seeking Sarah will be released Aug. 15.
Billingsley will be featured at the 10th National Conference of African American Librarians Aug. 11–13 in Atlanta.