Tell us about that.

Keysha and I would spend hours in the story worlds I dreamed up. I think those stories protected us from the very harsh ghetto life that surrounded us. Those stories gave us hope and courage, and helped us to realize we could find love. True love. We ended up finding that True Love together when we responded to the same altar call.

You want to write books for broken people – people with messy lives who aren’t sure how to hold it all together, but who hold onto Jesus. Can you elaborate on that?

So many of us are wearing masks of competence, but are shattered in a billion pieces inside. We’re afraid to let anybody know we’re a pile of shards. I wanted my characters to have real-world struggles. I wanted them to think bad thoughts, harbor unforgiveness, and want to have sex if even if they weren’t married. I wanted my characters to struggle with those issues because God knows I struggled with them. But even in my messiness I found grace. Jesus helped me with the sin I struggled with. I wanted to write a book sinners could relate to, and say, hey, maybe I can get some grace, too.

"Murder" is a unique book. It’s mystery, romance, and women’s fiction all rolled into one. It starts off sassy and light and ends up going deep. Was that intentional?

I didn’t mean to go so deep in the end, but Bell’s story, so much like my own, forced me to. She had to confront her own darkness as well as “the bad guys.” But isn’t that life? Aren’t we always forced to confront our darkness? We are always being pruned so we can blossom on the vine.

I know many novels have bits of the author’s life hidden within them. Is this true with "Murder"?

The novel deals with religious abuse. I lived with a man who was very much like a cult leader, only he couldn’t find any other disciples besides me. He was incredibly cruel and hurt me in every way you can hurt a person: physically, emotionally, spiritually, sexually. He wouldn’t let me even speak the name of Jesus. We shopped at a health food store that had a Christian bookstore attached. When he’d drop me off to get groceries, I’d sneak into that bookstore and trace Jesus’ name on the book jackets. When the Waco, TX tragedy happened with David Koresh, this man actually said to me, “That guy is just like me.” And he was! It was pure grace that I got away from him without being in a body bag.

You call yourself the Ragamuffin Diva, an “unsteady disciple whose life can be messy” yet who is “made in the image and likeness of God and embracing grace.” How has your concept of God changed from when you were a young girl and afraid to write fiction?

I know God to be far more loving than before. His love pretty much blows out my mind. All of us are made in the image and likeness of God. Embracing grace is allowing God to devastate our fear of Him by allowing Him to love us. We do fear God. That’s probably the number one reason we avoid Him. Now that I’m beginning to understand His love, there isn’t much I’m afraid of – well, I am afraid of things, but now I take those things to God without hesitation.

You and I have had some interesting discussions about race. You once told me that you didn’t think you would ever publish in the CBA because of color.

Take a look around CBA. There aren’t too many people of color. A handful of black women. Most black writers are publishing Christian Fiction in the ABA [American Booksellers Association], with much success. CBA is more segregated than Sunday morning, which has been said to be the most segregated hours in America. White folks go their way, black folks go our way, and not too often do we meet.