Nigeria Lockley possesses two Master’s degrees from the City College of New York, one in English Secondary Education, which she utilizes as an educator with the New York City Department of Education. Her second Master’s degree is in Creative Writing. Born at Dawn is Nigeria’s first published novel. Nigeria serves as the Vice President of Bridges Family Services, a not-for-profit organization that assists student parents interested in pursuing a degree in higher education. She is also the deaconess and clerk for her spiritual home King of Kings and Lord of Lords Church of God. Nigeria is a New York native who resides in Harlem with her husband and two daughters.
The Situation Room with Michelle Cuttino caught up with Nigeria Lockley to discuss her debut novel, Christian Fiction, and what else we can expect from her in the future.
Michelle: Tell us a little about yourself.
Nigeria: I am a mother of two, I’m an educator, my favorite color is blue, and I reside in Harlem.
Michelle: You serve as the Vice President of Bridges Family Services. Give us some background on the organization.
Nigeria: Bridges Family Services is a non-profit organization designed to provide support for student parents, whether they are teens headed to college straight from high school, or adults who have decided to pursue some form of higher education. We offer individual or group counseling services, and a one thousand dollar scholarship as well.
Michelle: Your debut novel is titled Born at Dawn Is the book based on real-life events, or is it a complete work of fiction?
Nigeria: I would say that the circumstances of this family, the Barclays, are real and it was inspired by the life of James Brown. So, while the characters are fictional people the way they behave, the situations they are faced with, and the way in which they respond are real.
Michelle: Please tell us what the book is about.
Nigeria: Born at Dawn chronicles what happens to the Barclay family when their matriarch decides she cannot wait on God for deliverance, and she abandons her home, her hope, her husband, and two young sons. Cynthia departs with a plan to create a new life for herself, and eventually reunite with her sons, but as time passes and she becomes acquainted with another side of life that includes a relationship that does not involve bodily harm, she finds it difficult to return. That is until a turn of events requires her to reconcile her past with her present, and find out whether or not God is able to restore all that she has broken.
Michelle: What do you want readers to walk away with once they’ve read Born At Dawn? Is there a message within its pages that you want readers to grasp?
Nigeria: Initially, Born at Dawn’s message for me was about waiting on God, and making sure that each decision we make is ordained by Him and not executed in our own haste or lack of understanding. Since writing and releasing the book, I have found out that this book is about walking in God’s truth, this book is about recognizing the impact the choices we make for our lives impact those around us.
Michelle: In your own words, what is the definition of “Christian Fiction?”
Nigeria: “Christian Fiction” for me is stories that speak of God’s love, redemption, and forgiveness. Through those stories the ministry of Christ is evident—the ministry of reconciliation, whereby men are reconciled with God and with each other with Jesus as the mediator.
Michelle: Is it easy to create faith-based stories?
Nigeria: As long as you allow the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, to dictate what you write and your faith to speak in the story then it’s easy. It only becomes a struggle when I try to impose my own will or agenda on the story, which interferes with God getting all of His glory.
Michelle: Many people stray from Christian Fiction for fear that the book is too “preachy.” If this doesn’t ring true for Born at Dawn, how did you get your message across in a non-imposing way?
Nigeria: First off, everyone who avoids Christian Fiction to escape the preaching should put that argument to rest and actually give Christian Fiction a chance. In many Christian Fiction novels, novellas, and short stories you will find imperfect characters that are struggling with their faith or may not have any faith in the Lord at all. I think that many readers who avoid Christian Fiction will find a character that is like them or like someone that they know. Secondly, when I write I don’t even consider who will feel like they are being preached to, just like in church when you’re striving to walk in God’s way the words of the preacher feel soothing like lotion on dry skin, and when we’re off-track every word he says feel like wool rubbing against our dry skin. God’s word comes to convict us, and even though I’m writing fiction I still operate with the intent that I want to be used by God. I don’t limit how many times His name is called or how many scriptures are quoted. No change can take place when there is no conviction, and my words are not powerful enough to convict anyone’s heart on their own. Only He can and He can’t do it if I leave Him out because I want to please people.
Michelle: How did you get interested in writing and how long have you been at it?
Nigeria: After learning how to read at the age of four, I became interested in writing. I promised my sister who taught me how to read that I would write a book for her one day. Born at Dawn is my first novel, but I’ve been writing ever since I discovered the power and meaning that could be locked onto a page and transmitted into someone’s heart through writing.
Michelle: What books have influenced your life most?
Nigeria: I don’t know if there are books that have influenced my life as much as there are writers who have. My secular influences include June Jordan (my favorite poet), Ntozake Shange, and Mari Evans to name a few. The authors in my genre that have influenced me include, Michelle Stimpson and E.N. Joy.
Michelle: Is there anything you find particularly challenging when it comes to writing?
Nigeria: Writing is the easy part for me. Finding the time and the space to do it might be difficult, but the words come once I’m ready. Revising and editing the book is the part that makes me cringe and wish I could hire someone else to take care of that portion of the process for me.
Michelle: Did you learn anything from writing the book? If so, would you care to share it with us?
Nigeria: I learned to trust God. Of course, you would think that being a Christian trusting God is what I do already, but I had to believe that what I heard God tell would come true and forge on despite the fact that it didn’t always look like that was going to come true.
Michelle: What else are you working on? What can we look forward to in the future from Nigeria Lockley?
Nigeria: I’m currently working on a novella, Tempted to Touch, that I hope to release in March/April 2015. In Tempted to Touch, the protagonist Kira Seagram has a major fight with her flesh when she is reunited with her ex-boyfriend, Quincy McAdams after ten years. This reunion and his offer to help her cut a demo would be welcomed if she wasn’t married and her husband wasn’t trying to get her to sing the lead vocals for his choir. My next full length novel, Seasoned with Grace, is scheduled to be released July 28, 2015. In Seasoned with Grace, after being placed on probation for assault, supermodel Grace King is sentenced to community service in a church where she is forced to deal with her demons if she wants to remain in the business.
Michelle: Born at Dawn is published by Urban Books. How did you become an author on their roster?
Nigeria: In 2012, I attended the Faith and Fiction Retreat, where I participated in a pitch session, in which I was able to pitch my novel to Urban Christian, a division of Urban Books, and by God’s grace I was contacted about a month after that retreat that they were interested in seeing the whole manuscript. In 2013, I signed my contract with Urban, and all I can say is that the Lord blessed me and the work of my hands, and I secured a contract on my first attempt.
Michelle: At the end of the day, when your last book is written and the idea well runs dry, what do you want to be remembered for?
Nigeria: I want to be remembered for staying true to the Lord and His calling and making bold choices.
Michelle: Please tell our listeners how they can contact and/or follow you.
Nigeria: I’m all over the place. If you want to keep up with the writing and everything in between definitely visit my website: www.nigerialockley.com. I’m also on Facebook: www.facebook.com/authornigerialockley. When you just want some snatches of what I have to say or a glimpse into my world catch up with me on Instagram and Twitter: @NewNigeria.
Thirty-four year old Cynthia Barclay knows that marriage is supposed to be for better or for worse. Unfortunately, for the last ten years of her marriage Cynthia has experienced the worst that marriage has to offer at the hands of her abusive husband Marvin Barclay. With the hope of saving herself and her family she turns to the Lord. Expecting to see God manifest himself greatly in her life sooner than later Cynthia is not content just waiting. She wants out.
Abandoning her hope, her husband, and her two young sons, Cynthia boards a bus from New York City to Richmond, Virginia. She begins a new life armed with six thousand dollars on a prepaid credit card, a sketchy plan for success, and a promise to return for her sons. That is until she meets Cheo, a photojournalist with enough connections to take her where she wants to be and forget where she came from.
After six years in Richmond, Cynthia’s dark past resurfaces. At the risk of losing it all—her past and her present—Cynthia returns home to right her wrongs. Has Cynthia chosen the right time to return home, or is it too late for God to restore everything she has broken?