ITK Q&A: Shannon Bream on her hit biblical books, fearing snakes and craving the ‘world’s perfect food’
The headlines out of Washington may be filled with bad news, but for Fox News’s Shannon Bream, it’s her work with the good book that has her climbing the sales charts.
The “Fox News Sunday” anchor, who joined the network in 2007, is marking a major milestone, selling more than 1 million copies of her biblical “Speak” series. And she recently notched another New York Times bestseller with the release of “The Love Stories of the Bible Speak.”
“I’m telling stories that are in the Bible and lifting them out and sharing them. So these stories are already written and just getting a chance to relate them to modern-day situations, to my own life, to the life of other women that I’ve heard from — it really comes together,” Bream, who comes from a Protestant background, says.
“My faith is the most critical part of my life,” the lawyer-turned-journalist and the network’s chief legal correspondent tells ITK. “So it felt like a blessing and a gift to just sort of be the vessel for these messages and these stories that are in the Bible of these amazing women.”
The demands of her day job don’t leave 52-year-old Bream with too much down time, which sounds just fine with her.
“My husband [Sheldon Bream] will tell you, I’m either 100-miles-an-hour or I’m asleep. There’s really not a lot of in-between.”
That also doesn’t leave much time or patience for anything — or anyone — in Bream’s way.
“If I’m on the on the sidewalk, I call it ‘SWS: slow walker syndrome.’ I just have an inordinate need to get where I’m going and to get things accomplished all the time,” she says with a laugh.
So SWS-afflicted pedestrians on escalators and moving walkways, beware: “If you’re not standing to the right, I’m going to very, very politely say, ‘Hey, do you mind if I pass you on the left?’”
“Slowing down — which I probably need to do more of — is kind of like a tough thing for me to do,” acknowledges Bream.
We wanted to know more about this on-the-go scribe, a chocoholic and self-described “frustrated barista,” so we asked her to answer these questions.
Grew up in: Florida — all over the place. I was born in central Florida. I spent most of my childhood in South Florida, and then my family migrated up to the panhandle, where much of them remain today.
My parents divorced when I was very young, and so that just created a lot of instability for my mom and I as she was a young mom, 24 when she had me, with this young baby and freshly divorced, and I think that caused us to bounce around some. And we ended up a lot of my childhood growing up in South Florida with my grandparents — which was such an amazing gift to be in the same household with them, and to be super close to them and have that kind of cocoon and network — but that was a lot of the kind of the moving around of my childhood.
We moved to Tallahassee when I was in eighth grade, and I thought my life was over because all of my childhood friends and middle school friends — it was just such a hard time to move.
But my parents had great opportunities. They are some of our other family had moved there to Tallahassee and so that became the next stop and that’s where my family really put down roots and they’ve been there a long time.
College attended: Liberty University and Florida State University College of Law.
What did you want to be when you’re a kid? I was very dramatic. I think probably a Broadway actress.
When I was a little kid, we did not have much. It was a very humble upbringing, but at one point, my stepdad was in leadership of this professional group, and they paid for us to go to New York for the convention. And so I got to go see “Annie” on Broadway. And I spent the next few years just driving my family crazy.
I grew up playing the piano. I do a little composing. But that songbook, I was at the piano belting out “Tomorrow” and all the other songs, to the dogs howling, the whole thing. And I’m not Broadway actress material.
Favorite hobby: I am a voracious reader. I do so much of it for work, so I don’t really count that. But when I get a really great fiction book or something fun, or even a deeper book that I’ve been looking forward to reading, I constantly have a pile going. I’ve now realized that, unless I’m living to 200, I’m not ever going to catch up. But it doesn’t mean I’m not going to try.
Favorite TV show: This is going to sound terrible, but I really don’t watch TV. I just don’t really feel like I have time. Although I will say I have recently gotten sucked into “American Idol.” I have not watched it for 20 years, and for some reason, on one Sunday night, we had a little downtime when we’re flipping by and I got sucked into a couple of the stories.
And so now I’m fully invested in “American Idol.” That’s probably the only thing I watch.
Most and least favorite thing about D.C.: I think there are a lot of really smart people here. You can have very deep conversations. I love digging into policy and research. And I think a lot of that goes to my legal background. But I think you’re going to have conversations here with people who are all over the place on any issue. If you have an open mind, I think it’s a wonderful place to have really deep, interesting, stimulating conversations. There’s always a lot to learn.
Least favorite is probably the commuting, not gonna lie. It’s not as bad as a lot of other cities. I mean, I’ve lived in New York. There’s just something about D.C. commutes that makes us practice our patience.
Bucket list item I have yet to complete: I haven’t been to Australia — definitely want to get to Australia at some point.
I think it’s one of those places that you feel like you can’t go for a weekend, obviously. I don’t know where I will have two weeks off in my life. It’ll eventually happen. But I feel like you need that time that we can really give it the full treatment that it needs.
I have a fear of: Snakes. It’s irrational. I mean, they can be on paper. They can be on a TV screen. The snake doesn’t actually have to be in real life. Just the thought of it.
I used to have some very vivid dreams about snakes, and then somebody told me that to have dreams about snakes is good luck. So I’ve just tried to embrace that part of it, but I have been up close and personal with a couple of snakes and it is not something I’d like to repeat.
So even just seeing a picture of a snake on Facebook is triggering? Yes! My brother-in-law sent a text to our family text group of a giant anaconda or python that was on the street in Florida, the Everglades probably where they have a real problem with this. I grew up there. I’m very familiar with it, with the alligators, all of the reptiles. But this thing was the size of a goat. And I thought I never need to get involved with something like that.
My home state has many wonderful things going for it, but the giant reptiles is not one of them.
Biggest accomplishment: One of my favorite things has been being married 27 years. Like everybody, we got married young, so we grew up together. And we’ve been through some really deep, dark places that both of us have had enormous struggles, and we’ve had all the growing pains that you have in a marriage.
I always say if you’ve been married five minutes, like you need a counselor on speed-dial. It’s real work, but my husband and I recently had a conversation about a really rough patch that we had and feeling like we wanted to throw in the towel, and being so glad on this side of it where we’re that much stronger, we’re that much closer.
We’re best friends. It feels like in this day and age, that’s an accomplishment. So we’ll always be working at it, but I’m just so grateful for what we’ve done in working through some of the rough patches.
Most embarrassing moment: Oh, that’s hard to narrow down. Gosh, I’ve done and said some embarrassing things.
Early on when I just joined Fox, I’d been working in local news here in D.C. and I know a lot about Capitol Hill, but it didn’t know all the players. They sent me over to get a very quick interview with somebody on the Senate side, and I will just say this, at the time there were two senators with very similar names: [former Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).]
I got them mixed up in the interview and it wasn’t until after I left this very kind senator’s office that the photog with me said, “You know, you were saying X name, but it really was Y name.” And the senator never corrected me. That was super embarrassing, but luckily I didn’t know it until I was gone from her office.
Pets? Biscuit is our 4-year-old lab. We got her from this group that advertised that they breed calm labs. But I just gotta tell you, that doesn’t exist, and we should demand our money back. Although she’s so darn cute, we’re willing to put up with it.
My guilty pleasure is: It’s probably chocolate, if I’m being honest. There’s always a lot of it around. I try not to keep it at home because my husband doesn’t eat any chocolates so then it’s just there to be consumed by me. But I keep candy and things in my office so when people come by, they can have a snack, a little treat in their day. But the trick is me not having the snacks.
Chocolate is just that constant struggle, but I like all of it. The darker the better, the saltier the better. And I’m willing to try the weird flavors that are out there now to where it’s got jalapenos in it or other things — you know all food groups can be delivered through the platform of chocolate.
Favorite food: Chocolate chip cookies, and I usually either just eat the dough or don’t cook them all the way. I think a very doughy chocolate chip cookie done right is the world’s perfect food.
Least favorite food: Asparagus. It is very often served in restaurants as a side dish, and I’ve always tried to go around, like, “Can I substitute the side?” I will actively do what it takes to get around asparagus.
My dream interview is: I say this and I’m not being facetious, but really Jesus, because I’ve got a lot of questions. I think a lot of people do, whether they’re religious or not, they have questions about suffering in the world, and why things happen, how things happen. And that’s what I think the word faith is about, like you have to trust that God is working a bigger plan. But I’ve definitely got some questions.
Something few people know about me: I am a frustrated barista. I have a whole setup at home with all kinds of different espresso, and coffees, and flavors, and syrups and sauces. So I’m always sort of forcing my creations onto people. If you come to my house, and people are like, “Oh, I don’t drink coffee.” And I’m like, “Oh, I do decaf. Oh, I do lattes.” I have anything and everything you can possibly be interested or not interested in. I’m probably still going to whip something up for you.
Best advice given: Do not take no for an answer, because you’re going to hear it no matter what field you’re in, what dream you have, whether it’s personal, whether it’s professional — you’re going to hear no.
I have never talked to somebody who got to their dream job, or their dream family situation or whatever it was that they were looking for, without having some bumps in the road. I think the more that we tell young people they’re going to be there, it’s OK, move on to the next thing — just don’t take no for an answer.
You have to find the one person who gets you, or gets your dream, and that will be your one yes. And that’s all you need.
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