Editor’s Note: Eat Cake. Be Brave. is the kind of book that captures your attention and refuses to let go. Written by a woman who is intimately relatable, incredibly hilarious and at times introspective to the point that you wonder if you ARE Melissa Radke, this book will stick to your insides like cake. You will laugh, you will cry and you will be hooked to the raw power that is Melissa’s uniquely funny voice. Her brilliant storytelling makes Eat Cake. Be Brave. into a gut-wrenchingly beautiful and hilarious debut you are sure to enjoy. We had the opportunity to catch up with her recently and ask her some questions about her debut book. Check out her answers below.
Everyone who has read your book so far has called it intimately relatable. You reach people on a genuine level. Why do you think that is?
I don’t know. That’s a stupid question, move on to the next one. NO! I’m kidding! But see? I talk to people like I’m their sister or their best friend or their crazy aunt. I don’t filter a lot of what I say and I think that feels relatable to people, especially women. No one likes the unfiltered person who slices people with their words and abrasiveness, but we all want that friend who says what we’re thinking and puts words to our thoughts. And I think I do that for them. I also think I look like them – and dress like them – and holler at my kids like them, so they get me.
Your Southern roots are a big part of who you are – from your sweet Texan twang to your Tennessee detour to your small town charm. Do you feel like the gentility and hospitality of the South has played a big role in shaping you and your book? Why or why not?
Oh, yes. And I’m proud of that. But it took me a while to say that and mean it and to appreciate where I’m from. When I first started writing, I felt like I needed to be so different, so much more enlightened and fancy. But I couldn’t! I tried, believe me, I tried. But how do I write in a way that is not true to who I am? I spent too many years living my life that way and it got me nowhere. So. I decided to tell the stories I grew up hearing, write the way I talk and not cry over spilt (sweet) tea.
Some people have said things to you that have left wounds many people wouldn’t have come back from. How do you, as an adult, move past these things? What has freed you from your past hurts?
I like that you used the word “adult” because it needs to be said that when you are young, you can’t see the forest for the trees. I used to beat myself up that it took me so long to heal, ya know, so long to grow and change and move on. But then I decided to give myself a break. I was young, I was a dreamer, I was naïve and tender and a lot of people did not treat me with care. That’s on them – that’s not on me. But when we become an adult, when we gain perspective, well, the onus is on us to learn, to heal, to grow. We can’t stay victims forever and I decided I wouldn’t. Now as far as what has “freed” me? Well, if you know me then you know my faith has done all the heavy lifting for me, but I recognize that isn’t true for everyone. What I believe may not be what they believe, that’s okay. They can do the heavy lifting, the work, the hard work – or as I call it in my book – the heart work. But it must be done!
In Eat Cake. Be Brave. you address some very tough issues, including self-worth and personal empowerment. Do you have any advice for how to develop these things in yourself or cultivate them in others?
I think not enough people know what God has said about them. We know what our parents have said, or our ex-husband, we know what the mean girls in school said or our mean step-parent, but we don’t know what the one who created us has said. I did some investigating and found that for every lie someone said about me – He said the exact opposite. I started there, but that of course was only step 1. Step 2 was believing those things about me. And that’s the hard part. My husband can tell me I’m beautiful all day, but if I don’t believe it then what good does it do me? I guess you could say I started believing my own press. Ha! I surrounded myself with people who built me up, who didn’t want anything from me – but to be with me. I decided to spend more time with people who made me feel better about myself after I left them, than with people who made me feel worse. There you go, steps 1, 2 and 3.
You’ve had a very diverse career, including singer, public speaker, Worship Pastor, secret shopper, vlogger, podcaster and now author. How have your different jobs lent themselves to the voice of your book?
Secret shopper?? That is hilarious! Who told you that? It’s supposed to be a secret! But you know, there is one thing that all those jobs have in common and it’s this: OTHER PEOPLE. Even being a secret shopper for Cinnabon (#bestgigever). Meeting people, talking to people, listening to people, learning from people, walking away from people have all been a part of my story…my book. People hurt me. People also helped to heal me. Without others my story would be a lonely one; yours would be, too. We need other people. We need them for the lessons they teach us and the guidance they give us…and that’s coming from someone who wrote a chapter entitled “People Who Might Want to Think Twice Before Asking Me for Money.” LOL!
We love hearing about different writers’ processes of writing. Do you have any rituals or anything in particular that you did while writing this?
Mercy, no! I am a mom of two kids. I wrote this book while I waited in the school pick up line or at the pool. I wrote after everyone went to bed and before everyone got up. I wrote while serving my community, my church and trying to figure out KETO! So, if anyone ever tells you they lit incense and candles and sat by a rippling brook, they’re full of crap. You write when a thought comes to you and you write when you can’t put two sentences together. You write because you have a story to tell – and a story that matters. You write because someone in the world needs to hear what you have to say. So, I wrote for that one person. I didn’t write for the masses, I wrote for the one. I figured if I wrote for her, and I wrote as best as I could to encourage her to live a life of bravery in the face of fear and worth in the face of defeat, then God and editors would take care of the rest. So, imagine your one person. Give them a name. What do they look like? What are they going through? What makes them cry or laugh? And on days when you’re tired…write for them.
Can you tell us what’s next for Melissa Radke?
Well, she’s going to bust her butt trying to sell this book, I can tell you that. I will also continue to try and deliver a relevant weekly podcast like I do every week on “Ordinary People. Ordinary Things,” which you can find on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts. Then, you want to hear something crazy? My family and I will begin filming for a new reality series coming to your television soon. We signed with a major network a little while ago and we start that process very soon. It is going to be awesome! We’ve already filmed a couple of different times for them and each time I think we cannot get any more redneck, we constantly surprise ourselves! Trust me, if you think my words are funny…you should see my parenting!
Melissa Radke is a public speaker, author, vlogger, podcaster and entertainer. Her online videos have reached over 59 million people on her Facebook page alone. Radke hails from East Texas, but she spent over 15 years of her life in Nashville, TN, pursuing her dream of singing and performing. Melissa has always been destined for the stage, so for the last several years she has traveled all over the United States bringing laughter and encouragement to civic organizations, hospitals, schools, corporate events, churches and women gatherings. Eat Cake. Be Brave. is her debut novel, and you can find her on Twitter @msmelissaradke, on Instagram @msmelissaradke and, most famously, on Facebook. You can find Eat Cake. Be Brave. available on July 17th at Half Price Books Flagship in Dallas and online at HPB.com You can also Melissa Radke in person on Tuesday, July 17, at 7 p.m. at your Flagship HPB in Dallas.