Shirley Gould is the middle daughter of a middle-class family, who was born in Center, Texas and reared in the middle of America. Her debut Christian novel, The Sahar of Zanzibar, released in 2021, and its sequel, Escape from Timbuktu, released last month.
For thirty years, in the midst of an extensive background in ministry, she wrote persuasive nonfiction. She is an international speaker, an African missionary, and the founder and ongoing fund-raiser for an orphanage in Kenya.
Shirley lives in Tennessee and enjoys its ‘beautiful scenery, southern cooking, watermelon, and sweet tea.’ When she’s not writing or speaking, she can often be found painting, traveling, or spoiling her seven grandchildren.
What started you on your writing journey?
My 12th grade English teacher encouraged me to be a writer. She said I had a way with words. But life got busy and writing non-fiction in our ministry assignments was the extent of my writing endeavors. I’ve always enjoyed reading Christian Fiction. In 2011, my husband became very sick. He had encephalitis of the brain. I couldn’t make noise for eleven months or he would have anxiety attacks, ambulance rides, and hospital stays. It was a difficult time for us both. It was during these months I began to write stories in spiral notebooks.
After the Lord healed my husband, he wanted to do something for me for being his caregiver during his debilitating illness. He sent me to a writer’s conference in St. Louis, Missouri. I began to study the craft and now I’m a published author years later.
Just as all good novels include a plot twist, the Author and Creator of our lives often writes in a twist that ultimately blesses us more than our original plan. Have you ever experienced such a “Divine Detour”?
Absolutely. After being in pastoral ministry for twenty years, the Lord sent us to Africa. We had not planned to be missionaries, though we loved missions. At the age of forty, we had to learn to speak Swahili and began ministry among the fifty-two tribes of Kenya ten thousand miles away from home. Everything was harder. Driving on the wrong side of the road with the steering wheel on the opposite side of the vehicle was a fiasco. I had many gorgeous bird of paradise flowers in my flower beds but I also had cobras in my yard. Every day was a plot twist. It was rare to have the electricity, phone, and internet all working on the same day. But the good outweighed the bad. The salvations, miracles, churches planted, and orphans placed in the orphanage I built…made every inconvenience worth it.
Now I’m using our experiences and adventures as fodder for my novels. I use personal stories in the manuscript to enhance the prose—taking my readers to Africa with me as they read my books.
Let’s talk about Escape from Timbuktu (July 2023, Scrivenings Press LLC). Please tell us about it.
Escape From Timbuktu, my second novel in The African Skies Series was released on July 25. It is about a double agent on assignment who poses as an interpreter for a photojournalist seeking a story but terrorists have them running for their lives…entangling their hearts as they escape from Timbuktu.
The back cover blurb…
Elliana Bendale can’t believe her first assignment as a photojournalist is in…well, Timbuktu.
Yes, it sounds remote, but it’s an enchanting ancient city in West Africa and if she does this right, this project could open the door to a world of exotic assignments. And even better—her translator is a ruggedly handsome Frenchman. What could be more exciting?
Beau de La Croix is not who he says he is. But posing as an interpreter is how he’ll gather intel about the presence of ISIS threatening Timbuktu. No one needs to know that he’s a double agent—especially not Ellie.
Unfortunately, the number one enemy in the world has figured it out, and suddenly Ellie’s photojournalist adventure includes dodging bullets, traveling down a crocodile-infested river, and generally running for their lives.
What has Beau gotten her into? And if they live, can she say goodbye to the man who’s kept her safe? Or is his life as a double agent too much excitement for one small-town girl?
And when Beau’s worst fears come true, what will he do to save the feisty reporter he can’t seem to shake?
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?
I am an avid fan of small Cokes in glass bottles. They remind me of my childhood. When I put them with a bowl of popcorn…or a milk chocolate candy bar with almonds, then I’m ready to write again.
Parables are an integral part of both the Old and New Testaments. Is there a Bible story, parable, or passage that has been particularly important to you and/or describes your personal journey of faith?
In every chapter of my life Proverbs 3:5-6 has been the verse I’ve stood on.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths.
I’ve always tried to figure things out myself…to fix things…but through messing things up over and over doing it on my own…I constantly remind myself of these words found in Proverbs.
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?
I am the strong, female lead. I’m a Type A personality. My call to the ministry has required that I be bold, brave, and ready to serve.
Thank you, Shirley. It’s nice to have you as a guest at Divine Detour.
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To purchase Escape from Timbuktu and other books by Shirley, go to—