Rolonda Watts has been a media staple and news guru for decades. From her informative broadcasts to her tell-it-like-it-is talk talk show, Ms. Rolonda has always had her finger on the pulse of owning who you are. Now she’s back with an exciting new project.

Rolonda Watts presents a scintillating new book named Destiny Lingers, the story of Destiny, an investigative reporter who finds a red hair on her husband’s pillow case. Problem? Destiny’s hair is NOT red. Spoiler alert – it doesn’t go well! Destiny is eventually drawn to a new beau, raising issues with love, class and interracial relationships.

Rolonda, you have so many talents, as a newscaster, talk show host,  actress, and now author. What did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be Walter Cronkite and would read the TV Guide, mimicking his deep voice with my own. I also really wanted to be an actress. I even thought about being a doctor one time, until I had to dissect a cow’s eye in high school biology class and almost puked. But the one consistent thing I’ve always wanted to be since childhood is a writer.

Thankfully, we are living in a time where we can express all of our gifts. Congrats on the new book! Please tell us about “Destiny Lingers.”

You are absolutely right! There has never been a better time than now to express all of our God-given gifts and talents. For so many years, women, in particular, were told to stay in their lane – don’t venture out of the box – but today – I say “go for it all!” Your talents are your gifts from God – how you use them is your gift back to Him. It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to become an author. I know the tremendous power of storytelling, as I have done so much of it in other areas, such as journalism, acting, movie producing, and even stand up comedy, but my goal was to write a powerful and moving story in a book – in this case, my romance novel, Destiny Lingers, which will also be a screenplay.

That’s exciting. This is such a great read. Are you Destiny?
Ha! So many readers are asking if I’m Destiny! I will tell you this – while Destiny Lingers is a romance novel, it’s also a new form of literature called “creative non-fiction.” So, much of the story is based on true facts, but I’m allowed to let my imagination take the story to another level – and I do! While Destiny and I share some of the same emotions and desires, I’m not Destiny.

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So what inspired this unique story?

I was inspired to tell my story after surviving a horrific hurricane that slammed into Topsail Island on my birthday, July 12, 1996. Being a daring news reporter, I offered to cover Hurricane Bertha from my beach house porch overlooking the raging sea for Inside Edition. Ha! That didn’t work! By the time the news crew got to the island, it was too dangerous for them to cross the bridge and too dangerous for me to leave the island, so I ended up being among a handful of “stubborn stragglers” stuck on the island. For three days after the storm I had police escort to the Red Cross station to get food, I met a very handsome police chief with whom I shared memories of our little battered island. We had so many similar memories, I wondered why we had never met before and then it suddenly dawned on both of us – that it was because of segregation. My mind started wandering – imagining what would happen if two kids who loved each other, but were forbidden to be with each other because of Jim Crow, had a second chance at their first love. Time moves on … but destiny lingers … What if the laws that kept them apart could never separate their love? I wanted to tell a love story born out of a segregated south. Many of the segregation stories in the book are my own, as I am among the last generation to have lived and survived in a segregated South.

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That’s beautiful. Your family is very well known and has a powerful history. Please share with us how your family’s story is woven with civil rights and racial integration.
In 1949, in the heat of the Jim Crow era, my grandparents, Dr. Maurice Love Watts and Garnelle Smith Watts, a Raleigh dentist and school teacher, were among ten courageous black families who founded Ocean City – the first black beachfront resort community in North Carolina. Establishing this black community on Topsail Island was a huge step in integration and was met with much opposition. But blacks, and even some white families, stood together and fought for their civil rights to have that community for their children, grandchildren, and America’s future. My parents dated on that beach, I have diapers washed away from that shore. I spent my summers there, owned my own home, and still enjoy my special Topsail Island to this day. I wanted to capture that sacred history in my novel.

Wonderful. People forget that at the time when Barack Obama’s parents got together, it was illegal for them to do so. This was not so long ago historically. What are the thoughts you hear around interracial relationships today?
Well, it’s seems pretty much accepted today – at least on the surface. We have more than half of young folks under 26 dating cross-culturally and they have no idea that it was in my lifetime – not that long ago – that interracial anything was taboo. You could be swinging from a tree for who you chose to love. Destiny Lingers has opened up some great dialogue between the generations, maybe helping some folks understand their parents better!

When we spoke previously, you advised black women to open up our dating parameters. Tell us more!

Absolutely! We are the last ones to date outside our race and maybe that’s why so many of us are still single. I encourage black women to open your heart and horizons more. Think globally! Our men are already enjoying cross-cultural dating in epic numbers. We either get with the program — or stay at home alone — again tonight! Look – It’s like shopping – If the boutique you are used to has run out of inventory — go to the department store where there’s a huge variety of delicious tems!

Yes, indeed. You famously dated R&B singer Al B. Sure. I am embarrassed to ask, but the Essence women want to know. Spill all the relationship tea, please, Ms. Rolonda!

I love Al B. to this day and I know he loves me back, but we have both moved on with our lives. We met at a music function in New York in the early 90s. I was leaving the news and heading into the talk show world. He was already a big singing star and had a huge crush on me. Al B. showered me with expensive gifts, gigantic bouquets of flowers, proposed to me on New Year’s Eve, and says I influenced a lyric or two in that Secret Garden of his! But Al B. and I most cherish our deep and undying friendship which we maintain to this day.

Lovely! What do you want Essence readers to know?

I want Essence readers to know that they too have a dynamic life story to tell. Whether fiction or non-fiction, tell your story. I encourage writers to dust off those pages they stuffed in a box and get busy writing again. Trust yourself and your story. I will tell you what Dr. Maya Angelou told me before she endorsed my book – “Don’t die with your story still in you.” You never know who’s waiting for your story to help them heal.