Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Young Adult Fiction Author, Brittney Holmes

We begin our Teen Fiction Month Series with Christian Fiction Author, Brittney Holmes.

Brittney Holmes is a recent graduate from Redan High School in Stone Mountain, Georgia, where her outstanding GPA earned her the title of Salutatorian of her senior class. For her outstanding academic and extracurricular status, she was recognized in Who’s Who Among High School Students. A gifted journalist, Brittney is a youth contributing writer for Global Woman magazine. Published through Urban Books (Urban Christian imprint), her debut novel, Living Consequences gained recognition from the African American Literary Awards Show where she received the 2007 Open Book Award for Best Young Adult Fiction of the Year. Her second novel, Testing Relationships, was released in June 2008.
Welcome Brittney!

Tell us about your two novels Living Consequences and Testing Relationships.

“Living Consequences” surrounds the lives of several teens who go through various issues concerning sexual intimacy and have to learn to deal with them by relying on their faith in Jesus Christ. The novel focuses on Nevaeh Madison who has been dating Ronald McAfee for three years. They have a great relationship until Ronald request that they take things to a more physical level. Nevaeh must now decide to stay committed to the vow she made to God to remain pure until marriage or if she is willing to give up all of her morals and values in order to please the guy she loves. Other problems arise when Nevaeh’s best friend, Shimone Johnson, finds out she’s pregnant, and their worst enemy, Sierra Monroe, is worried that her promiscuous lifestyle has finally caught up with her. They all have to learn not to rely on their own ways, but the way of God, in order to get through these challenges.

“Testing Relationships” is the sequel to “Living Consequences” and deals with the same characters and their families as their relationships with one another are put to greater tests than they could ever imagine. This story focuses on Shimone Johnson as she tries to raise their three-year-old child, attend school, and salvage her fading relationship with her boyfriend, Marques Anderson. But when Marques finds himself in a compromising situation with another woman, it may be too late to avoid losing the best thing that has ever happened to him—his family. Their relationship is not the only one that must survive hardships. Nicole McAfee’s family is falling apart and her life seems to be headed in the same direction, and when she can’t rely on her best friend, Imani Madison, to be there for her, she finds other ways to deal with her problems. While Sierra Monroe is living a good life with the hopes of making it a wonderful life by marrying the man she loves, her best friend, LaToya Thomas is trying to maintain a relationship bound for destruction. All of these characters must try to be strong for one another and learn to allow God to handle the outcome of all of their situations.

Tell us about your writing journey and the road to publication? What’s it like to be a published author?

It’s always funny to answer this question because most people find it hard to believe that I never had any intentions of becoming a published author. When I first began to write “Living Consequences” it was meant to be a personal journal for my eyes only, but the story took an unexpected turn and blossomed into a novel that would influence many young people. When I realized that I had actually written a book, I allowed my cousin to read it; he, in turn, gave it to my mother to read. My mother, Kendra Norman-Bellamy, thought it was worth publishing and began to shop it around to different publishing houses without telling any of them that I was her daughter. Soon, she received news that Urban Books’ newest imprint, Urban Christian, wanted to offer me a two-book deal. She revealed the news to me in front of an audience during one of her book release celebrations. From there, my career as a writer took off.

I love being an author! It’s nothing like getting paid for doing something you love and are truly passionate about. It’s such a blessing because I get to travel around the country, participating in panel discussions, interviews, and book signings simply because I took a life-long hobby and decided to make a career out of it. Being able to use my gift to share the word of God and inspirational messages with others my age also makes this a dream career because teens may not listen to their parents, teachers, or other adults, however, they will listen to someone their age. And I appreciate being able to speak with different groups of readers about how the decisions they make today will impact their future.

What do you hope readers will take away after finishing one of your books?

The one message I hope readers will take away from all of my books is that no matter what they may be going through, God is always with them. Regardless of their backgrounds, their pasts, or their individual beliefs, God is with them, bringing them through whatever it is that may be holding them back from fulfilling the plan He has for their lives.

You’ve just graduated high school with high honors and salutatorian of your class, you’re involved in various high school and community activities as well. How do you juggle it all? What’s your writing schedule like?

I was involved in a lot of extracurricular activities—National Honor Society, Beta Club, P.I.L.O.T. Program, Ladies of Redan, and the Blue Thunder Marching Band/Silver Essence Auxiliary were just the organizations I took part in at school. These, along with the community organizations I was a member of, took up a lot of my time, but I learned to balance it out with school work and writing by prioritizing. I tried to make sure that I put my school work before the extracurricular activities. Sometimes I would take my homework with me to any meetings I had to attend. Once I finished studying, I would spend any extra time writing. Most times, I wouldn’t finish my school work until midnight or later and I’d end up on my laptop, trying to get out my ideas for a story until two or three o’clock in the morning. So most nights I’d only get a few hours of sleep, but it was something I had to settle for if I wanted to continue to be a part of all the activities I was in and keep up with my school work.

Tell me about a rewarding experience you had since being published?

Although I desired to be an award-winning author and that dream came true when I won the Best Young Adult Literature Award from the African American Literary Show Awards in 2007, I believe my greatest award is receiving emails from my readers. My most memorable email came from a young lady who told me that she had been going through some of the same dilemmas that were presented “Living Consequences.” She had no idea how to handle her situation, but when she read my book, she figured out that she needed to let God take control. She also informed me that my book changed her life. She was a Christian, but hadn’t been living her life as such. Reading my book allowed her to find her way back to God. We’ve been emailing each other for since August 2007 and she has allowed me to advise her in certain situations. She has grown so much since we first connected and it blesses me to know that I’ve had such an impact on her life.

I’ve noticed the teen fiction section in my local Barnes and Nobles has tripled. In your opinion, is the market saturated or is there still room for growth?

I don’t think the teen fiction market is saturated because I strongly believe teens need as much help as they can get in dealing with life’s issues. Every teen is different and will learn a different lesson from each book they read. Every teen is not going to pick up a Christian novel, even if it is geared toward their age bracket. Nor will every teen choose to read a more urban teen novel. They will gravitate toward whatever piece of literature they can connect with, so having so many teen fiction novels adds variety to the market and gives authors a better opportunity to reach out to those who are in need of a inspirational message inside of a great story.

Who are some of your favorite young adult fiction authors?

My favorite young adult fiction authors are definitely Victoria Christopher Murray, Stephanie Perry Moore, ReShonda Tate Billingsley, and Sharon Draper.

What advice do you have for a young person who wants to be an author?

Anytime someone asks me that question, I always reply with the old Nike slogan: Just Do It! I use that phrase because I honestly believe it’s that simple. Usually when people want something they do whatever they need to do to get it. Why should the desire to be an author be any different? So to any young person who wants to be an author, stay focused and set goals for yourself, have people in your life who support your dream and are willing to help you achieve it, and make sure you’re willing to do what it takes to make the dream a reality—which means work. If you are truly determined, you have no other option but to be successful.

You’ve got a big year ahead of you. You’ll be a freshman in college. Do you plan to continue writing novels? If yes, what’s next for your fans?

I do plan to continue writing in college, though, not as much as I was in high school. The only downside to getting into college and related activities is that I may not get to travel as much to promote my novels. However, my readers can expect my third novel to be released in the next year or so. It is entitled “Grace and Mercy” and it delves into the life of a young lady who dates guys based on what they can give her and eventually finds herself trapped in an abusive relationship. It is my prayer that this book touches a lot of teens who have been in similar situations.
In addition to reading and writing novels, Brittney has also authored several pomes addressing the subjects of Christianity, peer pressure, and social issues. In her free time she enjoys reading, writing, singing, dancing, listening to music, shopping, and spending time with her family and friends. In the fall of 2008, Brittney will enroll as a full-time student at the University of Georgia in Athens, where she plans to major in Mass Communications with a focus in Journalism. Brittney currently resides in Stone Mountain, Georgia with her parents, Jonathan Bellamy and Kendra Norman-Bellamy and her younger sister, Crystal.
Her books Living Consequences and Testing Relationships are available at Barnes and Nobles, Borders, Amazon.com and where ever books are sold. Her online homes are http://www.brittneyholmes.com/ and www.myspace.com/authorbrittneyholmes
Thanks so much for stopping by Brittney!

7 comments:

Kennisha Hill said...

What an encouragement to young adult writers! Her books sound awesome- I certainly will support her and get them as gifts for the teens I know.

Thanks for posting this Rhonda!

Kennisha Hill said...

Also,


I am currently wrapping up my first novel manuscript and was thinking about sending it off to them. However, today I found that as of June 1st, they are only accepting manuscripts from agented writers. Do you know of a few Literary Agents I can query. I would love to be a part of the Urban Christian family.

Thanks!

Blessings,
Kennisha

kennishahill@yahoo.com

Veronica Johnson said...

I'm so proud of Brittney and I hope she continues to inspire more young people, and older people like me! :)

Keep up the good work Rhonda! I'm proud of you too!

Veronica

Patricia W. said...

Many congratulations Brittany on your success! What a blessing to find something you love and to taste success at such an early age. Study hard and keep doing what you're doing.

Patricia W. said...

Kennisha,

I'd recommend calling the company to confirm what you heard, as their website suggests the opposite. They still provide submission guidelines for unagented work.

Rhonda McKnight said...

Urban updated their site a few weeks ago, but we authors knew in advance of that, that they are only taking agented submissions as of June 1.

Kennisha Hill said...

Thanks. Are there any other "Urban" publishing houses out there?

Blessings,
Kennisha