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An Interview by Shannon Taylor Vannatter with Shirley Gould

This makes me so happy! I shared this story on Facebook several months ago, but now the book is releasing.

This is long, but it’s a great story. Several years ago, I signed up to do paid critiques at the American Christian Writer’s Conference. For the low fee of $35, I critiqued 3 chapters for unpublished writers, which is a steal getting advice from a published author. Years before I’d had my manuscripts critiqued by Margaret Daly and Deborah Raney at the same conference. Their advice was priceless and I wanted to return the favor.

I’m not a morning person. The conference set me up to start at 9 am. That meant I had to get up at 7:30 in order to be presentable and lucid. Presentable I was, not so much on the lucid part. Luckily, there was a coffee bar in the hotel. I got ready with 15 minutes to spare, planning to go get my nectar of life in a steaming mug, only to find a LOOOONNNNGGGGG line. Afraid I’d be late, I gave up getting coffee and went to my appointment.

My first crituiqee was Shirley Gould. The first thing I noticed was her awesome hair. I’m an ex-hairdresser. The next thing I noticed was her sweet smile and spirit. And I already knew she could write since she’d e-mailed her chapters in advance. I was impressed and went over the things I’d marked to help her. I misspoke a few times and apologized because I didn’t get my coffee. She asked me what my favorite coffee was. I told her and she told me hers.

We finished her critique and I told her how much I enjoyed the chapters, that with a few fixes, I felt

like they were publish-ready. She thanked me and went on her way. I went on to my next critiquee.

About the time we were wrapping up, Shirley came back. With my COFFEE!!! And a mug she bought for me. I thanked her profusely and credit her with my lucidity for the rest of my critiques that year.

The next year, she sought me out to give me another mug. I honestly can’t remember if St. Louis or Dallas came first, but I cherish those mugs and regularly fill them up first thing in the morning.

I’ve run into Shirley a couple of times since then in different cities at ACFW. Imagine my surprise and delight when last year, I served as an Acquisitions Editor for Scrivenings Press at a smaller online conference, only to see Shirley had signed up for a zoom chat with me.

We caught up, she pitched her book, and I told her to send it. I was excited to read it and relieved it was really good. Then I passed it on to my friend Linda Fulkerson, owner of Scrivenings. And now Escape from Timbuktu is releasing this month. Yay Shirley!!!!!

Excerpt from Escape from Timbuktu by Shirley Gould:

Ellie wished for air-conditioning as sweat rolled down her back in the Bamako Airport baggage claim area.

Her blonde hair, western attire, and fair skin set her apart from the mass of curious dark-skinned passengers. Ceiling fans stirred the heat, humidity, and odors making it hard to breathe. Spotting her American Tourister piece between a spray-painted metal suitcase and a dilapidated box tied with twine, she moved closer to the luggage belt to grab it before it disappeared in this throng of people. She couldn’t lose it, her research for this project was inside.

Squeezing through two sweaty men, Ellie attempted to retrieve her shiny blue suitcase but a hulk of a man with earbuds in his ears and a phone in his hand barged through the crowd to grab his duffle bag.

“Sir, yes, Sir. My plane landed late. I’ll be there before the Embassy closes. I’m moving as fast as I can.” Engrossed in his loud phone conversation competing with the noise of the crowd, the swoon-worthy Frenchman reached for his bag.

His physique caught Ellie’s attention. He looked to be about thirty, with dark brown hair and steely grey eyes, the build of a man who spent time in a gym, and a French accent that would make a teenager drool.

When he grabbed his duffle, Ellie’s carry-on toppled. She reached for it, colliding with the Frenchman. He glanced at her, paused, nodded his head, and gave a hint of a smile. With a small salute, he righted the piece, and trudged forward, his combat boot smashing her toes as he rushed past her.

Air whooshed from her lungs as she slapped her hand over her mouth, smothering a scream. He. Broke. My. Toe! With tear-filled eyes, she sat on her carry-on. Searing heat pierced her foot. While in excruciating agony, her suitcase traveled around the large block-walled warehouse-style building. On its fourth trip around, she managed to stand and pull it off the belt.

She limped to the customs desk, gave the officer her passport and VISA, and waited as the steady throb worsened. Seeing the handsome toe-breaker detained in a glass-walled office for further screening by the officials, Ellie smiled. The officer unloaded his duffle bag and was inspecting every pocket. Ha! The elephant in the room had met his match.

Stepping out of the baggage claim building, Ellie was greeted by a group of drivers holding signs with names on them. Glad to see a line of cabs filling the area with exhaust, she made her way to the curb, motioned for one, and reached for her luggage. While her back was turned, the cab door slammed. She spun around. The hunky Frenchman had stolen her cab.

“You’re kidding me!” She stomped her foot and gritted her teeth as sharp throbs screamed a reminder of her wound. “Hey, that’s my taxi!”

But it was too late.


“Good evening, Monsieur. May I show you to a table? Are you dining alone?” The restaurant manager wore a three-piece suit—out of style long ago but prestigious attire in Mali.

Beau gave a slight bow, a respectful greeting to the man. “I’m meeting an American for a dinner meeting. Has L.E. Bendale arrived?”

“Follow me.” He walked to a table overlooking the outdoor pool.

“Thank you, Monsieur. I’ll start with a cold bottle of water.” Beau shook his napkin out of its fancy fold and put it across his lap.

“I will send it right away.” He bowed slightly.

The waiter poured his water into a goblet. Over the rim of his glass, he saw a tall blonde heading to his table. The blonde from the airport.

Stopping, she shook her head and limped to the table. “Really? Wow! What are the chances?” She put her plate on the table.

“So, I’m assuming you’re the interpreter who will accompany me to Timbuktu.” She slung her linen napkin across her lap and met his gaze.

“Yes, I’m Beau de La Croix, at your service.” He smiled. “Is something wrong? What happened to your foot?”

“I think we’ve already met. Today at the airport you plowed through the perspiring crowd to retrieve your duffle bag before stepping back on my foot, breaking two of my toes. Then—you stole my taxi and left me on the sidewalk…


“Please forgive me.” Beau waited.

“I’m sorry for overreacting. You didn’t mean to hurt me. I know that. So—.” She paused.

“Go visit the buffet and we’ll start over.” She took another drink of Coke hoping it would stop the sizzle between them. He was one fine-looking man. Go figure.

“I have to say you’re not what I expected as an interpreter.”

“What were you expecting?” Beau watched her.

“Shorter, bald on top with a greasy comb-over, thick glasses, and a potbelly.” She laughed.

“I’m sorry to disappoint.” He hid a smile as he cut into his meat. “I may not be who you expected, but despite our rough beginning, I can get you to Timbuktu, help you capture your story, and get you back safely. I’m good at what I do.” One side of his lip hitched in a smile.

“So you do this interpreter gig a lot?” She took her last bite of potatoes.

“No, there aren’t many beautiful blondes needing my language skills, but I work freelance, usually on security assignments. I’m familiar with the territory…and I’m all you’ve got.”

She smirked. “Then, I guess you’ll have to do.”

Question for Readers: Have you ever been to a foreign country? Why did you go? If not, what foreign country would you like to visit and why?

About the book – Escape from Timbuktu:

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 enables him to gather intel about the terrorists threatening Timbuktu. No one needs to know 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 literally running for her life.

What has Beau gotten her into? And if they survive, can she say goodbye to her hunky hero? Or is his life as a double agent too much excitement for a feisty Texas girl?

When Beau’s worst fears come true, what will he do to save the feisty reporter he can’t seem to shake?

About Shirley: Shirley Gould is an inspirational speaker, an African missionary, and the author of The

Sahar of Zanzibar. Her second novel, Escape From Timbuktu, releases on July 25, 2023. She’s the founder of Kenya’s Kids Home for Street Children, an orphanage in Kenya. Shirley has written nonfiction for thirty years and is presently writing Christian fiction novels, especially contemporary romantic suspense. She lives in the Nashville, Tennessee area.


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