Novelist ReShonda Tate Billingsley, whose second book has been made into a yet-to-be-released movie by Queen Latifah, made the trip from Houston to Buffalo for the first time, only because a local book club kept nudging her about it on Facebook.
“I don’t know a soul up here,” said Billingsley on Saturday afternoon, after speaking to a crowd of about 15 at the Frank E. Merriweather Jr. Library. “It’s not something that would have been on my radar had it not been for these dedicated readers.”
Members of the Girl Fridayz book club – so named for their last Friday of the month meetings – were pleased with their success, lining up for photos, buying books and getting copies in their collection autographed.
“Sign my guest book,” Billingsley urged. “You all don’t want to miss my on-screen debut.”
Billingsley, a former TV reporter, published her first book in 2000, quit her job to write full-time in 2007 and has authored 28 books, including a series for young adults, in the last 13 years.
“I utilize every spare moment,” she said before elaborating on how she got her start. “I would do my facts by day and lose myself in fiction at night.”
Her second book, “Let the Church Say Amen,” was made into a movie by Latifah’s production company and directed by actress Regina King, who plays a detective in the Southland series. In the story of a preacher who neglects his family while building up a super-church, Billingsley has six lines in her role as deaconess. She said the film, intended for television broadcast on BET, may first come out in theaters this fall.
“I so can’t wait for the movie,” said Chevonne Frasier, a book club member who brought her 16-year-old daughter and 10 books for Billingsley to sign.
Meeting the statuesque author with sparkling hoop earrings was as exciting as it was to meet a rap star. Frasier held out her right hand. She didn’t want to wash it. Her arm had goose bumps.
“This hand. She shook this hand,” said Frasier, who took the day off from her job as merchandising coordinator at the Christmas Tree Shop. “I literally took a picture of my hand. ... I’m going to post it on Facebook.”
Frasier discovered Billingsley’s books at the library when she was diagnosed with cancer. At the time, she’d been looking for an African-American author. She liked how Billingsley’s stories had messages – about the importance of family and looking after friends.
“I fell in love with reading again,” she said. “Thirteen years cancer free and still reading.”