Tyler Perry’s life story is truly remarkable, and now he hopes to inspire others with it in his new book Higher Is Waiting. Perry has authored 19 feature films, 20 stage plays, nine TV shows, and a book that reached number-one on the New York Times bestsellers’ list. As an actor, he often portrays multiple characters in the same production including, of course, the recurring and infamously incorrigible Madea. Always forward thinking, Perry impressively built the vast Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta where he pursues his prolific creative ventures; this includes his latest movie Boo! A Madea Halloween 2 to be released just before Halloween.

But his success as an adult stands in stark contrast to the hardship he experienced in his childhood. Growing up in New Orleans, Perry endured an abusive father, sexual abuse, brutality, and much fear. With this kind of trauma right from the start, his success story is all the more spectacular. And now, anybody who’s curious as to how he pulled off such a stunning feat can find out reading Higher Is Waiting: A Conversation with Tyler Perry which is due out in November. It’s being called a “spiritual guidebook, a collection of teachings culled from the experiences of a lifetime, meant to inspire readers to climb higher in their own lives and pull themselves up to a better, more fulfilling place.”

Growing up in the Bible Belt, Perry is very open about his faith, and the book reflects this. He writes how faith sustained him through hardship, grounded him when things were going well, and has enriched his life in innumerable ways throughout. He brings to light distinct memories of the people who taught him lifelong lessons about forgiveness and integrity. His mother, Maxine as well as his aunt are among those who taught him about devotion and perseverance. Perry says Madea is “… exactly the PG version of my mother and my aunt, and I love having the opportunity to pay homage to them.”

Perry’s creative journey started while watching The Oprah Winfrey Show on which he heard about the therapeutic benefits of writing about your life experiences. With this advice, he started writing a series of letters to himself often documenting personal experiences as well as the words and actions of the people with whom he grew up. Indeed, he says he has “trunks of experiences” that he refers to now in his work. A friend who came across the letters said it would make for a great play. In turn, Tyler set a goal of writing a play. With no money to spare, he would sneak into theaters during intermission so he could watch the second act of various plays. And this was how he learned to write for theater. He sold used cars and worked as a bill collector to save enough money to fund his own show, a musical about dysfunctional families called I Know I’ve Been Changed. At 22 years of age, Perry financed the play with his life savings of $12,000. It failed to make money and was met with limited enthusiasm.

His struggle to be a playwright continued unrewarded for five years. During that time, Perry slept in the tight quarters of his small car, and his mom encouraged him to abandon his dream and find a regular job. But Perry persevered as he felt certain this was what he was supposed to be doing with his life. He kept putting on new theatrical productions and eventually developed a devoted following in Atlanta. When he found himself performing about 350 shows per year, he realized creating films would probably be more practical. He went to Hollywood but was flatly rejected. He returned to Atlanta and with ticket sales soaring, he was able to raise $5.5 million to fund his first film, Diary of a Mad Black Woman which went on to gross over $50 million.

With success came the realization that he needed to have his own studio to pursue his creative endeavors. So, he took his profits and created a 30-acre studio in Atlanta where he could be in charge and not be at the mercy of Hollywood. He says he was able to make “tremendous deals” because people underestimated him. Now he spends his time writing, producing, directing, and acting–and his net worth in 2017 is estimated to be $600 million.

With his book, he hopes to motivate people by serving as an example that obstacles can in fact be overcome, and he reminds people not to accept rejection. He’s living proof that a person with so much despair can prevail.

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