Intimate Conversation with Colette (Ford) Harrell
Colette (Ford) Harrell the author of the debut novel The Devil Made Me Do It is passionate about the written word. Holding a master’s degree, she is a director of human services. Her creation and implementation of a health and energy medical program stands as a best practices model. As a motivational speaker, she specializes in customer and human service workshops on state and national levels. She is co-founder of COJACK Productions, a Christian entertainment company. As an active member of her church, Kingdom Christian Center, she serves in several ministries.
Colette is a wife, mother, author, poet, songwriter, and playwright. Her novel is a delectable read, where romance, suspense, humor, and the supernatural all come together to entertain, educate, and inspire. A Detroit native, she currently resides in Ohio, writing with humor and compassion to engage and minister to the human heart. Her motto is: whatever you do, do it “for love alone.”
BPM: What drove you to sit down and actually start writing this book?
When I was sixteen years old, I had chicken pox. Now, I’m not sure if you know, but the older you are when you get chicken pox, the worse you look. I defined UGLY. I wouldn’t even let my best friend see me. But, I was bored. A shoot-me-now,-’cause-this-ain’t-getting-any-better-type of boredom. Every day my friend would phone and tell me what happened at school, and I would share what happened on the soaps. After two days of watching that paint dry, we decided to write our own soap opera—only nobody was singing. I mean nobody . . . but it opened the door to a dream.
From then on, I knew that someday I would write a book. I started writing The Devil Made Me Do It when I saw a writer’s contest on the Internet. You needed one hundred pages of a story. I wrote the pages to see if I could do it, and I was superamped to find out I was one of the winners of the contest. It encouraged me to continue writing and to finish the book.
The story of The Devil Made Me Do It resounded in my spirit because I always wondered what would happen if the heavens (or hell) rolled back and we could see what was happening in the supernatural. There birthed my trilogy, the Heaven over Hell series.
BPM: Does your upbringing or life experiences inspire your writing?
Absolutely. I’m this down-home chick with a Southern twang from the hood of southwest Detroit. I was raised in a two-parent household with four siblings. My parents were all about reading versus television consumption. I think we were the last household in the neighborhood to purchase a color television. What we did have were books, magazines, and newspapers. I was still in elementary school when I walked to the River Rouge Library (a good mile away) to borrow books. Many times I walked alone. But at that age, reading was my passion, and it still is.
For me, a good book is like good gossip—you just have to share it. In sharing, I began to want to tell my own story, my own way. As a result, I have always loved to tell a good story—I promise there weren’t any lies—sometimes making it up as I went.
Growing up in Detroit, I found myself in some tight spots, just by the nature of being in the vicinity of something “going down.” It’s a wonder I never woke up dead. When that happened, I would call on my praying mother, begging her to pray just one more prayer. Eventually, those times taught me how much God must love my hardheaded, tryna-get-it-right foolish self. Now, there are always two sides to every coin. And some of the spots I was graced (Mama was praying hard!) to wiggle out of were pretty tight—persuading me fully that the devil must hate me. I know I really hate him and his modus operandi. Hence, my story, The Devil Made Me Do It, and how I decided to tell it.
BPM: Where do your book ideas come from?
My book ideas evolve from my conversations with others. My friends and I tend to have these deep conversations that result in my getting this animated lightbulb over my head. Its bright glow and halo effect asks the question: “What if?” My stories answer those questions.
BPM: Are your books plot-driven or character-driven? Why?
Wow . . . I think a little of both. I start out with the light shining over my head, and I take that idea and begin writing without thought, and then a plot unfolds and the characters in the plot begin to take shape and demand to tell their story. I let them have their way. And, there are times when even I’m surprised at the choices they make. In The Devil Made Me Do It, Briggs’s and Esther’s journey totally amazed me. Even though each book in the Heaven over Hell trilogy stands alone, the next two books will continue their saga.
BPM: Introduce us to your current work. What genre do you consider your book?
I consider the book Christian fiction with an edge. I say that because, yes, my characters are Christian (well, most of them), but they aren’t perfect, and they don’t part the Red Sea or walk on water (although I do believe that miracles and wonders still occur). My characters sometimes make poor choices, and they have to face the consequences of those choices.
My main character, Esther, as a child, believed she was special. I once heard someone say that African American parents tend to tell their children not to think more of themselves than they should. They went on to explain that this schematic stemmed from slavery, when thinking too much of yourself could get you killed. As years passed, we reinforced these beliefs with negative thought patterns that belittled rather than built up. We’ve all heard: “You think you’re so cute” . . . “Stop getting a big head” . . . “Stop acting like you all of that!” And, these utterances of wisdom were from family members!
I wanted to explore what happens when the devil comes for your sense of self at a young age, and he didn’t just stumble on to you; he’s on assignment. The scripture pertaining to the devil wanting to kill, steal, and destroy you is not only speaking of a physical act, but it is also mental and emotional in origin.
The book’s glimpse into the supernatural provides a twist that is “cover-your-eyes scary,” and in the next chapter “slap the table, fun and humorous.” Esther Wiley is one of three childhood friends who are joined at the hip from kindergarten to college. In college, Esther meets Briggs Stokes, and they fall in love. But, life throws all the friends a shocking curve ball that causes a ripple effect that lasts for years.
BPM: Give us some insight into your main characters. What makes each one so special?
Esther dares to believe, even from a young age, that she is special. As African Americans, we are so conditioned not to speak well of ourselves less we be called prideful. Sometimes we become so conditioned to not think ourselves wonderful that we end up with self-esteem issues. Esther dared to believe and to act on that belief.
Briggs is a son of privilege, but it’s that same privilege that makes him come to believe that in his truest self he is invisible. It’s not just about his inherited money, but about who he really is. He struggles with the question: How do you grow up around God’s anointed superstar and still be seen for yourself?
The devil uses both of these issues to destroy the destiny God has for each of them. When they allow the spirit of lack to decide their futures, both lose. Identity theft was committed long before the computer age. My pastor has always taught that if you fail to know the purpose of a thing, you are destined to abuse it.
This first book in the trilogy shows the hidden agenda of those who should be for you and how making the right decision when you come to spiritual forks in your road will decide your destiny. And, for the record, it doesn’t end on a cliff-hanger. LOL.