Victoria Christopher Murray Lands NAACP Image Award Nomination Amid New Publishing Landscape
It was her signature style – the ability to lace each plot line with a spiritual thread that resonated with readers who could relate to her flawed, but real, characters – that quickly landed her an agent once she decided to go mainstream.
“About two days after self-publishing, I realized I was not interested in that part of the business,” she explained. “’Self’ is the biggest four-letter word in the English language. So after you write, you have to publish it, promote it, market it, and everything else. And it took away a lot of the time from me to actually write.”
After selling about 9,000 copies on her own in a sixth-month span – impressive, to say the least, in the pre-Amazon and social media era of the day – Murray sent Temptation to four agents whom she discovered by reading the acknowledgements of published authors. She eventually signed with Denise Stinson, who was representing TD Jakes and Iyanla Vanzant at the time. Stinson was immediately intrigued by Murray’s mix of faith and fiction.
“There are no books out here like this,” Murray remembers her saying. “This is a book that glorifies God but is filled with drama. We’re about to make a lot of money.”
Today Murray is widely considered the godmother of African-American Christian fiction, a thriving genre that has introduced readers to the likes of Kimberla Lawson Roby and ReShonda Tate Billingsley.
And she is still writing, too. Murray’s latest, Destiny’s Divas, was published in June. The 2013 Image Award-nominated book tells the story of an all-female contemporary gospel group who can’t seem to live the righteous life they so fervently testify about on stage. This February she will release Friends and Foes, co-written by Billingsley. In it, the authors bring together their most memorable characters: Billingsley’s Rachel Jackson Adams and Murray’s Jasmine Larson Bush – two first ladies with enough past scandals to give their respective husbands five
years worth of sermon inspiration.
Murray also ghostwrites for celebrity clients and coaches and edits aspiring writers. As much as she loves the craft, diversifying her revenue streams is most certainly a necessary practice these days, as fewer sales equal smaller advances. Still, she recognizes that she has been able to sustain herself as a full-time writer for over a decade, and she’s appreciative that people and organizations like the NAACP are still paying attention.
“You pour everything you have into [writing], and sometimes it feels like a thankless career,” said Murray. “I am honored, and I am grateful for where I am.”