Intimate Conversation with Tracey Michae'l Lewis
Tracey Michae'l Lewis is a writer and educator based out of the metro Philadelphia area. She is the author of six books including The Gospel According to Sasha Renee, Interruption: The Gospel According to Crystal Justine (both part of the "Gospel of Grace Women" trilogy) and The Unlikely Remnant. Tracey has written for numerous publications (regional, national, and online) including Circuit Rider, Philadelphia Weekly, and Denene Millner's MyBrownBaby.com. She's also a professor of writing at Community College of Philadelphia and Philadelphia University
BPM: What drove you to sit down and actually start writing this book?
TML: The primary driver was the fact that this is the third book in the read-in-any-order “Gospel of Grace Women” series and so many readers who loved Sasha (The Gospel According to Sasha Renee) and C.J. (Interruption: The Gospel According to Crystal Justine) wanted me to get it done. Like yesterday. LOL! I’d been playing around with Vivian’s character for a couple of years but the story seemed to come together in my head during the latter part of 2013.
BPM: Does your upbringing or life experiences inspire your writing?
TML: I don’t think that writers can escape their own life experiences influencing their work. Even if it’s the smallest detail, it happens. So yes, I think my experiences definitely inspired this story. Just like Vivian, I was once young and dumb and in love. LOL! My experience with relationships certainly don’t mirror hers exactly but I think that the concept of being willing to sacrifice what I know to be right and true for the love of a man—well, yeah, I’ve been there.
BPM: Where do your book ideas come from? Are your books plot driven or character driven?
TML: Oh my work is definitely character-driven! I get great joy from trying to figure out a character’s motivations, feelings, reasonings, etc. Sure, they do have to get from point A to point B in the story but what’s most interesting to me are the whys and hows of that journey. My book ideas usually begin with a character. That character has usually been hanging around my brain for a while or he or she is a composite of someone I’ve been observing. Either way, that’s where it starts. It’s like I have to ask the character, “So what’s up with you? What are you doing here?” And then, the story is born.
BPM: Introduce us to your current work. What genre do you consider your book?
TML: This book, like the rest, is definitely inspirational fiction. Vivian Grace is the matriarch of the women in this family. She’s Sasha’s mother and Crystal Justine’s grandmother. She also represents the genesis of some of the generational stuff that comes up in all three books. This particular story is set in the early 70s. Vivian becomes a member of the Chicago chapter of the Black Panthers and falls in love with one of its charismatic leaders. That relationship is filled with drama and ultimately Vivian has to decide whether or not she is strong enough to move on with her life without Reggie, her man. That really is the big question of the book: will she allow her past to define her future and the future of her unborn child?
BPM: Give us an insight into your main character. What makes her so special?
TML: We all know Vivian. We’ve either been her or have been around her. Even if we don’t want to admit it. LOL! We’ve all had that friend who we wanted to just shake and say, “Why are you letting him do this to you?! Don’t you know how much you’re worth, how much you’re loved?!” And that’s the thing with Vivian. The reader will be rooting for her—even when she let’s them down again and again. You want her to win. You want her to “get it.” And she does. Just in a way that most people will not expect.
BPM: What topics are primarily discussed? Did you learn anything personal from writing your book?
TML: Topic such as domestic abuse, self-esteem, race, and sisterhood all come up in this story. But at its core, this book is really about forgiveness. How do you forgive someone who’s hurt you over and over again? How do you let go of the pain of your past (childhood)? What do you really believe about love and God and faith? These themes have shown up quite a bit in my own life so to have the opportunity to explore them in this story, feels like an extreme privilege.