Intimate Conversation with Victoria Christopher Murray
With over one million books in print, Victoria Christopher Murray is one of the country’s top African American contemporary authors. Victoria always knew she would become an author, even as she was taking an unlikely path to that destination. A native of Queens, Victoria first left New York to attend Hampton University where she majored in Communication Disorders. After graduating, Victoria attended New York University where she received her MBA.
Victoria spent ten years in Corporate America before she tested her entrepreneurial spirit. She opened a Financial Services Agency for Aegon, USA where she managed the number one division for nine consecutive years. However, Victoria never lost the dream to write and when the “bug” hit her again in 1997, she answered the call.
Victoria originally self published her first novel, Temptation and in 2000, Time Warner published that novel. Temptation made numerous best sellers list and remained on the Essence bestsellers list for nine consecutive months. In 2001, Victoria received her first NAACP Image Award nomination for Temptation.
Since Temptation, Victoria has written over twenty other adult novels, including: JOY, Grown Folks Business, The Ex Files, The Deal, the Dance and the Devil, Never Say Never and the popular Jasmine Cox Larson Bush series.
Victoria has received numerous awards including the Golden Pen Award for Best Inspirational Fiction and the Phyllis Wheatley Trailblazer Award for being a pioneer in African American Fiction. Since 2007, Victoria has won seven African American Literary Awards for best novel, best Christian fiction and Author of the Year – Female. Her 2014 NAACP Image Award nomination for Never Say Never was her third Image Award nomination.
Several of Victoria's novels have been optioned to become movies, including The Deal, the Dance and the Devil and the Ex Files series.
Victoria splits her time between Los Angeles and Washington D.C. In Los Angeles, she attends Bible Enrichment Fellowship International Church under the spiritual tutelage of Dr. Beverly “BAM” Crawford. She is also a very proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
BPM: How did you get to be where you are in your life today? Who or what motivated you?
I would have to say my parents had the greatest impact on my life. Not only did they have me believing that I was THE Queen Victoria (I was seven when I discovered that I wasn't), but they made me believe that I could be and do anything. My parents have been my greatest supporters, my biggest fans and I've always wanted to do well and be well to make them proud. My father passed away and my mother is now in her eighties...and I still want to be the kind, generous, giving person that they raised me to be. I want to follow the examples that they set. I still want to make my parents proud and that drives me every day.
BPM: Who does your body of literary work speak to? Do you consider authors as role models?
Even though I've been considered a Christian fiction writer for a long time, I don't feel like that's who my writing speaks to alone. I write to speak to women who can see themselves in some of the situations that are plots in my novels. I want people to enjoy my books, and even receive a message. Now, I don't write with messages in mind. Truly, I think that God meets the readers on the pages — of not only my books, but any book. And readers always receive the message they're supposed to.
As far as being a role model, I think established authors are role models for up and coming authors and I take that responsibility seriously. I believe that not only am I responsible for telling entertaining stories, but I must help others who have the same dream. I have to.
BPM: What inspired you to sit down and actually start writing this book? Why now?
The idea for this book came to me over a year and a half ago, when the first verdict in the Michael Dunn trial came down. During the first trial, Michael Dunn (who shot into the car killing Jordan Davis) the jury couldn't come back with a decision. It was a mistrial and so many people were angry with the jurors. But I had read the transcript and the judge's instructions to the jury during the George Zimmerman trial and I knew that if anyone used the Stand Your Ground defense as part of their self-defense, that was going to be a hard case to prove. But most people didn't know that, most people didn't understand the law. Heck, most people didn't know that Stand Your Ground was in dozens of states besides Florida.
So, I believed that I had a platform to not only entertain, but to educate and hope that the education would get us to stand our ground and do something about this legal license to kill. This law must be repealed in every state.
BPM: What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I've always felt a little challenged about the types of books that I've written. Yes, I try my best to tell entertaining stories, and yes, I work very, very hard on the craft so that with each book readers can see my growth (readers deserve that.) But to be honest, I've never felt that I've used this gift to do anything important. I've always wanted to write important books, books that make a difference, books that matter. I think Stand Your Ground is the first time I've accomplished this. And for me, that made writing this book enjoyable.
BPM: Where do you book ideas come from?
Even though I "think" I get my ideas from things that happen in the news or around me, I honestly believe that all of my ideas have come from God. This writing is a gift that He's given to me...a gift that He's given to me completely. So I have the gift of writing well, I have the discipline to do it, and He's even given me the stories.
BPM: Are you books plot-driven or character-driven?
My novels are more character driven than plot driven which can be an issue in this market. Readers love drama, drama, drama. (And I'm a reader who loves drama, so I can say that!) Character driven novels move slower because the story unfolds in the character's time. But, I love being a character driven novelist. I love spending time with my characters (that's why it takes me longer to write a book.) I love developing characters that stay with the readers long after the story is over.
BPM: Could you tell us something about your most recent work? Available on Kindle and Nook?
I'm going to sum up my most recent work in just a few words: A black teenage boy is dead. A white man shot him. Was he standing his ground? Or was it murder?
And yes, Stand Your Ground is available, on Kindle, Nook, iTunes...everything. It's available in Barnes and Noble, Walmart and Target. There will even be an audio version with the actress Suzzanne Douglass reading the novel.
BPM: Give us some insight into your main characters. What makes each so special?
I wrote Stand Your Ground from two points of views: the first from the mother of the victim and the second from the wife of the shooter. I loved telling these two stories because there was such contrast — one black, one white...which tells the whole story in a situation like this. Janice Johnson is a mother who adores her only child, her son who she knew was special from when she carried him in her womb. And now she finds herself in the middle of a nightmare. Meredith Spencer is living a life of privilege, though her world is not all that it seems to be. And she has a secret; she knows something that could send her husband to prison for the rest of his life.
BPM: Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured in your book? If so, discuss them.
That's an interesting question. If there is any idea in Stand Your Ground that you don't see often, it's the anger that is brewing in the African American community with all of the murders that have come to light. We feel frustrated, and sometimes helpless. Those emotions play an important part in Stand Your Ground and were the driving forces that led to the shocking end of the book.
BPM: How does your book relate to your present situation or journey?
I don't think this book has anything to do with my present situation alone. Stand Your Ground tells the collective story of all of our frustrations. The stories keep repeating themselves in the news: unarmed black teen murdered by a white man/a white cop/a black cop. It plays over and over. And I wonder what are these stories doing to the psyche of us as men, women, mothers, fathers...and especially, what happens when our young black boys see these stories over and over? That's what I wanted to write about.
BPM: Did you learn anything personal from writing this book?
I learned everything that I could about the Stand Your Ground law so that I could pass it on to my readers.
BPM: Can you share any stories about people you met while researching this book?
It's interesting that you ask that because for the first time, I received a lot of help from men when writing this book. I wanted to put the real emotions of black men on paper. I could imagine how this would affect a mother, but what are fathers thinking/feeling? So, I met a high-powered attorney in Philly who really helped me. And then a young entrepreneur, who actually owns a wine company; he really helped me with the ending of the book. So I'm a novelist who primarily writes for women, but this time, I needed the men to make it happen!
BPM: What projects are you working on at the present?
There are a few projects I'm working on — my 2016 novel...the working title is Madam Vice President about a black woman on the presidential ticket...as a Republican. And, I keep thinking about writing The Autobiography of Mae Frances, the story of one of my beloved characters — this is a story that readers continue to ask me to write.
Connect with Victoria Christopher Murray
Join the Movement: #standyourgroundthenovel
Twitter: @VictoriaECM, https://twitter.com/victoriaecm
Purchase Stand Your Ground by Victoria Christopher Murray
Contemporary Women Fiction >African American Christian Fiction