*A sneak peak of Terry McMillan’s new novel “Getting to Happy,” a sequel to her million-selling “Waiting to Exhale,” will appear in the next four issues of Essence magazine, beginning with the June edition.

McMillan’s “Waiting to Exhale,” published in 1992, tells of the personal and professional conflicts of four women living in Phoenix.

The author said she had no intention of writing a sequel to “Exhale” until she spoke at a church in Oakland, Calif., around a year ago. A resident of the Bay area, the author was still getting over her nasty, public feud with ex-husband Jonathan Plummer and read a poem about her experience.

“So these women responded big time to this poem, and there was this aura, women crying and all kinds of stuff. When it was time to sign books, there were women I had gone to college with, women who had been ex-professors, financial aid counselors. I spoke to them and realized how many of them had never been married, how many were divorced, how many never had children,” she says.

“I wanted to be able to dramatize that in some way. I didn’t want to tell just one woman’s story. And that’s when it dawned on me that I had four women I might be able to turn to. I got the paperback off the shelf and looked over it and said, `You know, they were the perfect candidates.'”

The author’s relationship with Essence dates back to the 1970s, when she was a college student and won an Essence writing contest.

“They’re like family,” she says, “and Essence readers have been a large part of my audience.”