Introducing the captivating new book, “The Stranger He Knew,” by acclaimed author Debbie Stokes. Hailing from the vibrant city of Baltimore, Maryland, Stokes brings a unique perspective to her writing, drawing inspiration from her surroundings and experiences. As a former contributing writer for FEMI magazine, she has honed her storytelling skills, captivating readers with her words. Additionally, Stokes served as the former CEO of 3 Women Voices, an empowering platform that showcased extraordinary stories of resilience. With “The Stranger He Knew,” Stokes invites us into a world filled with mystery, suspense, and unexpected twists, promising readers an exhilarating journey they won’t soon forget. Stokes delves deep into the human psyche, unraveling secrets and exploring the complexities of relationships. With her keen sense of observation and knack for crafting relatable characters, Stokes effortlessly transports readers into a world where nothing is as it seems. Get ready to be captivated by the talent and brilliance of this remarkable author as she once again showcases her storytelling prowess.

This is your first book, congratulations! There is a saying that states, “There’s no time like the present”, why did you choose to put this book out now?

 To be honest with you, first, I realized that I was getting older, and my dream of becoming a published author was slowing dwindling away. So, I did not want to leave this earth without making my dream come true. Secondly, I came to the conclusion that I had to choose me over everything else…the blog I started, the magazine I wrote articles for, and every other project I was a part of. For so long in my life, my priority was not doing what I wanted to do for me, but rather what others needed me to do for them. After a while, that drained me emotional and inwardly, and I soon realized I had a void within me that was yearning to be filled. For that reason, I made the decision to prioritize myself. And so, I did. Lastly, I knew if I didn’t step out on faith and conquer my fear of going public as an author that I would always regret that I didn’t go for it. And after countless times of motivating other people with those exact words (to go for it), I had no choice but to step out on faith and do it for myself. And so here I am… I finally took a chance on me. 

Walk us through the process of writing your book. How long did it take you from start to finish and what was the defining moment when you realized you were done?

The original idea of the book actually came from a dream in 2018. It was so vivid that it woke me out of my sleep, and I wrote the idea down, then went back to sleep. When I awaken for the morning, I couldn’t let the story go. I felt compelled to keep writing a little each day until I had about a half of a chapter. Then, as usual, I got distracted by life issues and put it aside. But one day, I came across an ad for a writing program, which stated if you join, you will have a completed book in 90 days, and the cost was only $100. The incentive for me was that it was cheap and if I completed the book by the end of that time, I would get my $100 back. In my mind, that was just what I needed. It was confirmation to pick the story back up and get serious about finishing it. After joining the program, they kept us accountable to meeting timelines based on our goals. We were also placed in groups and had to read and critique each other’s writing throughout the whole process, which helped each of us to become better at writing. Finally, the end of the program came, and I felt good because I had a completed manuscript, just like they promised. It was originally a Christian fiction. And one of the best parts was that I received my $100 back. 

Then life issues crept in again, and the manuscript was put to the side again. It wasn’t until 2020, when I finally went back to it. And when I did, it was crying for more action. So, I did a total revamp, and now it’s a thriller. I knew I was done when the story felt whole, satisfying, and it had no more loose ends. And, when the messages I wanted to deliver were clear.

How has your own life and experiences impacted the development of “The Stranger He Knew”?

 I would say growing up in an urban city, I have seen many people who have had street-life experiences that have altered the course of their lives. I’ve seen people on drugs, homelessness, fighting, and a host of other things often associated with inner-city living. But thank God, I’ve never experienced any of those things personally. I was able to keep my distance from the negative influences. However, I have lost quite a few neighborhood friends to drugs, jail, and death. Their fate sealed my passion to stay clear of trouble. While writing this story, I used what I saw in the streets as a guide to some of the things that happened in my story. In fact, realistically, we can look all around us and see what’s happening in the world. The things I’ve seen growing up and the things that have happened all around me helped me to write a more relatable story. 

Years ago, you were the CEO of the women’s empowerment blog called, ‘3 Women Voices.” During the time when you worked on featured stories for your platform, did you ever see yourself becoming an accomplished author?

Truthfully, being an author has always been a part of my dream since I was a young child. Writing in many formats have been my passion. I’ve written a screenplay, a stage play, song lyrics, short stories, and poems. So, I believe the idea of being an author has fueled every kind of writing I’ve ever done. When I wrote for my blog, in my mind, it was a segue to being an author. It helped to build my communication skills, improve my editing skills, increase my interviewing skills, and indirectly gave me experiences through other people’s stories. For that, I’m grateful. As I gained those experiences, I feel like the blog has impacted women’s lives in many ways. So, I’m glad I was able to contribute inspiring articles and empowering interviews that could add value to women’s lives. That was key and the ultimate goal for me. 

 What message can you give people about staying steadfast and not giving up on what’s important to them?

Take it from someone who almost let fear stop me from pursuing my dream, you must not quit. 

I think we are put on this earth to figure out who we are and what we want in life, while at the same time, to learn to be of service to others in some way. With that in mind, the moment you find out what’s important to you, and the things you enjoy doing and that feeds you emotional, spiritually, physically, and psychologically, it is up to you to go full-speed ahead with doing it. I think some of the biggest problems so many of us face is we get in our own way, and we often listen to naysayers or negative voices who distract us from our journeys. Also, like in my case, I let fear win, which made me put my dream on hold. And another thing we do is make excuses for why we don’t go after our goals and dreams. So, we often spend our time not accomplishing anything we have a passion to do. What I believe is, If you can master being true to yourself, develop a course of action to reach your goals, respect and honor your intentions to accomplish your dreams, put in the work to do what’s necessary for however long it takes to get what you want, and to not stop until you get to the finish line. You will have no problem with obtaining the things that are important to you in your life. So, by all means, stay committed and intentional until you win. You owe it to yourself to not give up on you or your dream.

Your book is about a man named David Wellington. As a successful man who has everything, he suddenly finds himself fired from his prestigious job. Subsequently, he runs into a lot of drama thereafter, along with other plot thickening twists and turns. This could very well be a real-life occurrence. What advice would you give to those who lose everything and think that their lives are over?

In life, test will come for all of us. No man is above struggles. But it’s not the things that happen to us that determine our fate, but rather, how we respond to them. And then, how we use the pain we endure as a springboard to turn it into purpose. Don’t get me wrong, painful experiences can devastate and disrupt the very core of who we are, but even with that, God gave us the inner tools to be an overcomer. And it’s up to us how we choose to let our inner strength, prayer, our mindset, and clarity prevail. Yes, you’ve been hurt. Yes, you’ve lost your job. Yes, you’ve lost your house. Yes, your relationship broke up. Yes, abuse has traumatized you. But you are still here and how you started out does not have to be your roadblock, your excuse, your jail cell, or how you end up. Open yourself up to forgiveness so you can move on with your life. Then, take small steps towards your new beginnings. Nothing is over until you throw in the towel, so don’t. Use those experiences as fire and a stepping stone to propel you forward. So, what you’ve lost everything that matters to you; it’s not the end of the world or your story. Change your perspective about how you look at it. Think about all the people who have less and use that as motivation to keep going. Remember this, your strength and value is not in the stuff but rather within you. Don’t get it twisted, you are the star, and you are amazing, not because of what you had but because of who you are. As long as you understand your value, you can always get the stuff back; just never lose yourself, hope, your ability to keep moving forward, or your belief in possibilities. You got this; don’t you dare quit!

 What would you like people to know about you that they might not be aware of?

That when I make the motivational and inspirational videos I post on my social media pages to inspire and motivate others, they actually inspire me and feed my soul too. Coming from being an extremely shy person growing up to being able to talk to others in my videos have raised my level of confidence to an unbelievable level. I’m not where I want to be with speaking to the public but thank God I’m not where I used to be. Inch by inch, it’s a cinch though, right. So, as you can see, as I motivate people, I motivate myself too. Doing Lives on social media and public speaking are my next mountains to climb. Yikes, I’m scared but I’m coming! Lol

 How can people reach out and connect with you?

All my social media links, website, email address, and to BUY my book, “The Stranger He Knew” can be accessed by going to my linktree here:

Which quote or life practice has helped you stay focused on your personal goals?

I’ve learned that people are fickle and disappointment is real. So, the quote I’ve lived by for so long has been, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.” That quote has helped me to stay focused on any goal I’ve set out to accomplish. I think it’s important to not let distractions disrupt your path… something I struggled with for a while, but then overcame. And you have to be willing to do it for you and to do it alone. For instance, I’m at that stage right now where I was waiting for help from others to get me through my fear. Then, I realized it’s nobody’s job to do it for me, to help me, or to make sure I do it. It’s totally up to me to do it for myself. Once I understood that, I was able to move forward and stay focused with writing my book. And I’m so glad I did.

Photo Credits: Debbie Stokes