Juli Cragg Hilliard

A Romantic, Spiritual Journey

The idea for a book about the lives, romance and Christian faith of married actors Courtney B. Vance and Angela Bassett came up at a gumbo party at the apartment of jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, who lives in their New York City building.

Vance told RBL he had been chatting with some of the other men there for a couple of hours. Then, "This guy said to me, 'You know, you and your wife should write a book.'" The guy was literary agent Manie Barron. The book, "Friends: A Love Story" ó- co-written with Hilary Beard ó- will be published Feb. 14 by Kimani Press as one of Harlequin's first big ventures into inspirational nonfiction.

"We don't really know how to write a book; we're not writers, so the thought never really crossed our minds," Vance said. Barron set them up with Beard, and Bassett and Vance spoke with her together and separately over the next year.

As the book was written, the actors, who had undergone in-vitro treatments and two miscarriages after their 1997 marriage, became parents of twins through a surrogate mother. Son Josiah Slater and daughter Bronwyn Golden were born Jan. 27. 2006.

"Friends" also charts Vance and Bassett's spiritual journeys. Vance said, "Christ is the center of our lives. Angela was raised in the church. I was raised in the church, but my parents moved away from it." And so had he. Vance recommitted and was baptized when he was cast as the minister wed to Whitney Houston's character in the 1996 film The Preacher's Wife.

After Vance married Bassett, he said, some of his favorite advice came from his personal trainer, who also happened to be a marriage counselor with a Ph.D. in psychology. "Men are not born learning to be a husband. You have to watch and learn. You have to talk," Vance said.

While celebrity biographies are plentiful, said Mavis Allen, Kimani associate senior editor, it's unusual for a high-profile couple to detail their relationship in a book. "The other side is I don't think we necessarily see stories about Christian couples of color in a romantic relationship, and then a family relationship," Allen said.

Vance and Bassett come from unpretentious backgrounds, met at the Yale School of Drama, and moved in the same circle for years before love bloomed. Vance said he and Bassett tried to be open about their lives, mistakes and all. "We just hope people can see our walk and our journey, and take the good and let the bad go, and go on with their lives."

Selected Works

Sarasota Herald-Tribune May 6, 2008
Religion BookLine April 9, 2008
Publishers Weekly Oct. 15, 2007
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Religion BookLine, May 2, 2007
Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Feb. 16, 2007
Religion BookLine, Dec. 13, 2006
Manatee magazine, Winter 2006
Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Sept. 14, 2006
Style magazine, Sept. 10, 2006
Religion BookLine, Aug. 30, 2006
Manatee magazine, Aug. 7, 2006
Manatee magazine, Aug. 7, 2006
Manatee magazine, Aug. 7, 2006
Religion BookLine, July 19, 2006
Sarasota Herald-Tribune, June 15, 2006
Religion BookLine, June 7, 2006
Publishers Weekly, May 22, 2006
Manatee magazine, April 24, 2006
Sarasota Herald-Tribune, April 22, 2006
PW Religion Bookline, March 29, 2006
Publishers Weekly, March 27, 2006
PW Religion BookLine, March 22, 2006
Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Feb. 3, 2006
Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Dec. 9, 2005
Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Dec. 9, 2005
Publishers Weekly, Aug. 29, 2005
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PW Religion Bookline, Aug. 3, 2005
Gulfcoast Healthy Living, July 2005
Publishers Weekly, July 25, 2005
Sarasota Herald-Tribune, July 22, 2005
Publishers Weekly, May 23, 2005
Publishers Weekly May 23, 2005
Gulfcoast Healthy Living, May 2005
Publishers Weekly March 28, 2005
Publishers Weekly Nov. 15, 2004
Publishers Weekly, Aug. 23, 2004
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Publishers Weekly, March 24, 2003
Publishers Weekly, Oct. 10, 2003
Publishers Weekly, February 10, 2003
Religion News Service, Nov. 25, 2002
Religion News Service, March 27, 2002
Religion News Service, Jan. 3, 2002