A rare signed copy of Phyllis Wheatley’s 1773 book, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, owned by Dr. Marion Lane, author of The Elevator Group children’s book, Patriots of African…
As a novelist, I have created many remarkable female characters who have given my novels heart, soul, excitement, suspense, sass, heartache, and every other emotion imaginable. These women come to me as voices in my head, tugging at my heart, upsetting my stomach, begging for their stories to be told. They helped me build “my empire”, as I affectionately call my independent publishing company, The Elevator Group.
They make people laugh, cry, scratch their heads, and wonder what happens to them after the book is finished. I have to give these characters a shout out because in the process of writing the novels, they become as real to me as flesh and blood women. I tell people that, like a good work of fiction, these characters are not real but they are true.
So, here is my homage to them:
First, Vera. The woman who started it all. The lead female character in my first novel, Chasing the 400. Many people said to me, “so Sheilah, you’re Vera!” Of course I said “why couldn’t I be Phyllis?” (who was a little more low-key), but ok, I’ll take it. Vera was unabashedly chasing her dreams and making them come true. I know that without her, I would not be the award-winning, bestselling author that I became. Without her, there would be no Elevator Group Publishing.
Then there’s Caroline, whose story of divorce and renewal in journal entries is my second novel, Land Mines. Her story, told as therapeutic fiction, sold 1000 copies even before its publication date based on a recommended review in the Library Journal. And, her story has helped thousands of women who I still hear from today saying “thank you” as they navigate the land mines of separation, divorce, and dating again, looking for a life roadmap that avoids the landmines.
And now, in my third novel, Becoming Valley Forge, there’s a whole new crop of women leads. In honor of my mother’s family–the Roberts of Darby, PA–just about all of the characters are named after her brothers or cousins, and Roberts is the last name of one of the lead families in the book. (There’s also the Welburns and the Weldons in honor of my Dad’s side).
So, there’s the Roberts girls–Teenie, the mother, and her daughter Betsey, who help the family patriarch, the leader of a local patriot spy ring; Connie, the family outcast who runs a brothel that services many British officers during their occupation of Philadelphia; and Rochelle, whose husband runs the local Paoli Tavern.
And the slave women–Ruth, waiting for her fiancé James to earn enough money to buy her freedom as he did his, and Ernestine, who meets James and other patriot soldiers while she works in the kitchen at the Valley Forge headquarters of General George Washington, her owner. Then there are a few women who traveled to Valley Forge with the Oneida Indians, Polly and Sora.
So, I thank all of these women who came to me, begging me to tell their stories and the stories of thousands of women very much like them. I never know when a character will show up and not calm down until I start writing, but I welcome them, and I certainly thank them for trusting me to be their voices.
And, I would be remiss without thanking The Elevator Group lady who is the symbol of The Elevator Group. She’s the elevator group operator who peaks out from the doors of the elevator on our company logo asking our company slogan: Going up? She has given life to my dreams, to our brand, to our goals as a media empire, to our purpose, which is: The Elevator Group is dedicated to helping people rise above and lead an abundant life by developing books, broadcast media and motion pictures with meaning.
Through The Elevator Group, I’ve given life to some remarkable women in books. You can check out and order all of them at my author page on Amazon.com. I look forward to moving on to my next goal of giving life to these remarkable women in motion pictures and broadcast media–coming soon to a movie theatre and television near you!
(Special Women’s History Month shout out to my cousin and the Elevator Group’s design diva, Stephanie Vance Patience, who visually represents all that these characters are and that The Elevator Group is through our book covers, logos and promotional materials.)