Friday, June 6, 2014

Spotlight on Debut Author: Shelba Shelton Nivens

Today we’re introducing an author to you who understands the concept of perseverance. Shelba Nivens, author of The Mistaken Heiress which released April 1, 2014.

Shelba, tell us about your journey to publication.

I’ve always loved words—the way A,B,Cs are used to make words; the way words that sound alike make rhymes; the way words make stories.…  But it wasn’t until second grade that the writing “bug” bit me.

“I want you to write a play pretending you are some object,” Our teacher Mrs. Lucas told the class
I thought about  reading in our science book that liquid expands when it freezes, and I remembered hearing my city-aunt talk about a “milk man” delivering milk to her door in glass bottles. Putting these two intriguing bits of information together, I pretended I was a glass bottle full of milk left on a porch, on a cold wintery morning, where I froze, burst and ran all over the place. 

When my play was chosen for the class to act out, I knew I was going to be a writer some day.

Throughout my school years, I wrote stories, plays, song lyrics, poems, edited the school newspaper, and dreamed of one day settling down in the country with a wonderful country boy to raise kids and write books—like Jo March in Little Women and Jo’s Boys.

My books, like Jo’s, would be good, clean stories about families, and men and women God brought together to love each other forever.

My “wonderful country boy” and I were married a few months after I finished high school.  He joined the army to get his obligation to Uncle Sam behind him, and I went to work for the Birmingham News. I was writing paychecks for writers instead of writing for the paper. But I thought, If I get my foot in the door I’ll go to school at night, study journalism and move over to Editorial.

Before I could implement my plan, Ken was sent to Japan for two years and I learned I was pregnant.  While Ken was away, my writing consisted mostly of a letter every night—and occasional love poems. After he came home, we rented an apartment in the city for a year then bought a mobile home and moved to the country, where Ken and I became youth leaders in the church where he grew up.

We loved working with the young people. But writing things for youth programs stirred up that old writing bug and I began to sense God speaking to me about a writing ministry.

“But, Lord, I already have a ministry to people I can see,” I argued. “If I just sit home and write how do I know anybody will ever even see it?”

When I became ill and put to bed where I was no longer able to work with the youth, I stopped arguing.  If God wanted me to write, I didn’t have to know if anybody read it. God would do with it whatever He wanted to do.  So, after I was able, I kept a pad and pen under my pillow and wrote all hours of the day and night. When I was allowed to be up, I borrowed an old mechanical typewriter, typed up things I wrote in bed and sent them to editors whose names I found in magazines.

Right away, my work began appearing in family and religious periodicals, and for several years I free-lanced regularly for these.  I also worked for several years as a writer/photographer for our county newspaper, and am a community columnist today.  Although I no longer worked regularly with the youth after my illness, I was asked to write a play for them—which started almost forty years as leaders of a church drama ministry for Ken and me.

Meanwhile, I also worked on novels.  A lot of editors had good things to say about them, but nobody accepted them for publication—until last summer.

Now, at the age of 76, my first romance novel has just been published,

What kept you writing after all this time, never giving up on your dream?

Encouragement from editors and readers, but most of all the assurance from God that this is what He wanted me to do. And that old writing “bug” that would not leave me alone.

Please tell us something about Kate, your heroine in The Mistaken Heiress.

I think Kate’s greatest pain came from the mistaken idea that her grandfather did not love her as much as she thought he did. She thought he had broken his problem to her, and that her family did not treat her right.  I used the land because the land, and passing on family land from generation to generation is so important to Southerners.

Would you like to share what you're working on now, Shelba?

I have a series of historical romances with early settlers to the Alabama area that I want to finish up. And I’m working on a contemporary inspirational romance set at the beach on the Florida Panhandle where we enjoy spending time.

Thank you for taking the time to encourage us with your story of
perseverance and your passion for writing. You are truly an inspiration!

Thank you for allowing me to talk about my favorite subject besides my grandchildren.


  1. She is the epitome of what I tell every writer I know. Perseverance!

  2. Kathy, what a delightful interview! Shelba, how I wish we can meet--you're such an inspiration to me. May you both be blessed.

  3. You're my inspiration, Shelba. A great interview, Kathy.

  4. Great interview, Kathy! Shelba, you are proof that perseverance and heeding God's call pays off. What an inspiration you are to the rest of us. Congratulations on your novel. I look forward to reading it!

  5. Thank you, Elaine, Janet and Kate! The praise really should go to Shelba. She gave
    me wonderful material to work with! Thank you, Shelba, for your inspiration and
    encouragement to us all!

  6. What a wonderful interview and the book looks like a fun read. I have just downloaded it on my Kindle. As another senior citizen I applaud Sheila.

    Ann Ellison

    1. Thank you, Ann! So glad you enjoyed the interview. Thank you
      for taking the time to leave a comment.