Shelia Stovall is the director of a small-town library in southern Kentucky. The only hobby she loves more than reading uplifting stories of hope is writing them. 

She is a country girl, who relishes eating a bologna sandwich at a country store just as much as savoring an elegant meal in a posh restaurant. But she doesn’t hesitate to travel to Africa—again and again—on missionary trips. Shelia says she’s ‘the worst missionary ever, but God,’ Who never gives up on us, ‘continues to send her to the ends of the earth as He attempts to mold her into something useful.’

Shelia and her husband, Michael, live on a farm. Spending time with family, especially her grandchildren, is her all-time favorite thing. 

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What sparked your writing journey and how does your faith play into your work?

While participating in Priscilla Shirer’s Bible study Jonah, our facilitator asked us to meditate on the question, “What does God want you to do that you don’t want to do?” I thought I don’t have to think about this because I just signed up to go on a short-term mission trip to Africa. 

As I sat in the quiet room, I felt God asking me to write a book about an abandoned girl and forgiveness. I could picture a young girl hiding in the library, and I also envisioned Emma’s yellow Victorian. The thought of writing a book terrified me, and I didn’t record anything in my workbook, fearing someone would see my answer. That was over ten years ago. Since then, I’ve attended countless conferences, joined American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and studied many books to learn the craft of writing.

Has God ever sent an unexpected “detour” in your life that turned out to be the better path?

In 2005, I was the Director of Training for one of the largest employee-owned companies in the nation. One morning, I met with my boss, the CEO, and learned he’d decided to out-source training. I received a generous exit package and an excellent reference, but I was heartbroken. I’d recently buried both parents; all three of my siblings were dealing with significant health concerns, so I can relate to Jonah.  

I decided it was time for a career change. I loved books, so I applied for an entry-level position at a bookstore but didn’t get it because I was over-qualified. Then, I saw a small advertisement for a library director in a neighboring community. I know God was at work because the library board of trustees hired me even though I didn’t have all the qualifications. The state of Kentucky gave me five years to earn the education requirements. Today, I’m a certified professional librarian, and it’s the perfect career for me. I’m thankful God removed me from the boardroom to the public library system.

Let’s talk about your debut novel, Every Window Filled with Light (Elk Lake Publishing, March 2021). Please tell us about it!

Emma Baker, a librarian, is a young childless widow who believes her dream to build a family is impossible. It’s been two years since a student brutally stabbed Emma’s schoolteacher husband to death when she meets Luke Davis, and the attraction is instant. Then Emma learns he’s a pastor counseling the boy who killed her husband, and Emma’s temper gets in the way. 

Emma finds twelve-year-old Harley hiding in the library. The girl claims she’s been abandoned by her mother, and Emma becomes Harley’s foster parent. Then, a young mother is left homeless after an apartment fire, and Emma takes her in too. One person and one prayer at a time, Emma’s heart begins to heal. 

Every Window Filled with Light deals with difficult contemporary issues. Still, it’s balanced by the humorous, quirky small-town Weldon characters who scheme to throw Emma and Luke together. 

The theme of Every Window Filled with Light is that God can take tragedy and turn it into His good. You might wonder how a student killing a teacher could be turned to good?  You’ll just have to read the book to discover the answer.

While reading about Emma’s struggles, I hope the reader gains an understanding that unforgiveness keeps us captive to the enemy. 

A few fun questions…

When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?

Rich dark coffee paired with homemade turtle brownies is my favorite special treat. The melded flavors of coffee, caramel, and chocolate relax me.  Something else that helps me when the words aren’t flowing is a long walk on my farm with the dogs. It’s amazing how many times God untangles my storylines when I spend time enjoying nature. 

In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?

When I started my professional career, I was the little girl trying to walk in high heels, or maybe a better description might be the country girl trying to make it in the city. My English boss often commented on my southern accent and country vocabulary. Today, I recognize his attempts to polish my professional image, but at the time, it hurt my feelings. As I matured, I developed confidence and acceptance of who I am. Still, it can be intimidating to meet a favorite author.

I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your dogs. 

I have three fur babies. Lucy is a miniature schnauzer, and she’s almost thirteen years old and blind. Still, most days, Lucy joins our other dogs on daily farm rambles and me. 

Bertie is a small, white, mixed-breed dog, and we have no idea of his pedigree. He showed in our yard one cold winter day, half-starved and flea-infested. I was supposed to take him to the shelter, but instead, I turned into our veterinarian’s parking lot. Even though I left a lost-dog flyer with his picture at the animal shelter, no one claimed him. That was ten years ago, and Bertie is the most loyal and loving pet of my lifetime. I believe he knows I rescued him, and he often rescues me. He can sense when I’m stressed, and he’ll crawl up in my lap. Stroking his soft fur relieves my anxiety. I’m so thankful no one ever claimed him because Bertie has claimed my heart.

Bamboo is my family’s fourth black Labrador. She’s enormous compared to my other two dogs, but she came to us as a puppy, and I think she believes she’s the same size as the other dogs. She’ll try to cuddle in my lap just like Bertie, but of course, that’s not possible. She is a beautiful dog with a lovely temperament. Even though she’s the largest of our three dogs, she is definitely the baby. 

Taking daily walks with my dogs around the farm or to the creek is one of my favorite things to do. I hope the Lord will continue to bless me with good health and beloved dogs for company. 

Thank you, Shelia! It’s great to have you as a guest at Divine Detour.

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For more information about Shelia, visit her website or follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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