Author Interview (+ Giveaway): Jerusha Agen

Y’all, I’m super excited to share our first author interview on Diversity Between the Pages. Today, author Jerusha Agen has stopped by to talk about her novel, This Redeemer. Let’s get started!


About the Book

ThisRedeemerNot all prisons have bars.

Charlotte Davis should know—she’s lived in one for years. She can handle getting slapped around by her boyfriend, Tommy, and even being forced to do things she would never choose, but when Tommy turns on her 10-year-old daughter, Charlotte must try to escape. With nowhere else to turn, Charlotte runs to the stranger her dying mother believed would help her.

Looking only for shelter or cash, Charlotte finds a family she longs to call her own and a gentle man she could learn to love. But if Tommy catches up with Charlotte, these strangers could discover the truth about her. Will they send her back to Tommy? Or can a Father’s love set her free?

Purchase at: Amazon, B&N, CBD


About the Author

jerusha-agenJerusha Agen imagines danger around every corner, but knows God is there, too. So naturally, she writes romantic suspense infused with the hope of salvation in Jesus Christ. With a B.A. in English and a background in screenwriting, Jerusha is the author of The Sisters Redeemed Series. Jerusha writes about fighting against fear in our everyday lives at The Fear Warrior Blog. Visit Jerusha at Website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.


Interview

Toni: This Redeemer deals with a difficult subject matter of abuse. How did you decide to write a book about it?

Jerusha: Domestic abuse has long been a topic close to my heart. While I was still in college, writing short stories for creative writing classes, God laid this issue on my heart and I explored abuse and its ramifications in a series of pieces about a family imprisoned by abuse.  Whenever possible, I continue to write about this topic in an effort to raise awareness concerning the divisiveness of domestic abuse and the reasons behind why it happens.

I was blessed to have a beautiful, near-idyllic childhood with no abuse of any kind. I think that because of my childhood, I’m deeply impacted by the tragedy of domestic abuse—how it destroys what should be the place of safety and love in people’s lives.

Most often, I’ve written about domestic abuse from the perspective of its most vulnerable victims—children. But in This Redeemer, I wanted to write about a woman, a mother, who is trapped in the prison of domestic abuse.

When volunteering at a domestic abuse shelter, I was struck by how crucial the woman’s role is in the cycle of abuse. Often, she’s in a position to protect children and herself or to end her children’s abuse (whether she’s the abuser or knows the person who is). But just as often, there are a myriad of reasons why she cannot break free from the cycle or free her children. In so many cases, the redemption of Jesus Christ is the only way she can truly be set free.

Toni: I love the saving power of Jesus! It truly does set us free. Now, one of your characters is African American. Why did you decide to write the character that way?

Jerusha: I’m a very visual thinker and writer, so when I imagine a new character for a story, my first thought of that person is always accompanied by an image of what he or she looks like. I can modify this initial image if I need to, but usually I stick with my original picture of the person.

In the case of Gabe, the hero of This Redeemer, my immediate imagined image of him showed him to be African American. Gabe actually appears first in a supporting role in This Shadow, Book Two in the Sisters Redeemed Series. In that book, he blossomed into a character I loved so much that I just knew he had to be the hero of the next installment.

I wouldn’t intentionally write a character into any of my stories to be a sort of “representative” of an ethnicity. Gabe, like people of various ethnicities who appear in my stories, came out of a realistic vision of the fictional world, which is intended to be an accurate representation of the real world we live in. Diversity should be natural in our stories, since diversity is a natural part of our world!

The fact that Gabe is African American, though, did add some enriching complexities to the story of This Redeemer. Charlotte, the heroine, was raised in an impoverished and abusive home in which her mother taught her little of truth or value. Among the baggage that Charlotte carries with her is prejudice and mistrust of police officers and African Americans. But, guess what, Gabe is both!

Gabe, however, is not without his own prejudices. As a recently jaded police officer, he’s developed a cynical and judgmental view of criminals. He doesn’t think that his attitude will affect his relationship with Charlotte, until he discovers the secret she’s been hiding from him.

I just loved writing this story of a romance that seems impossible at first, but through the changing love and grace of Jesus, becomes not only possible, but extraordinary.

Toni: Considering the events of today, I’m beyond intrigued that Gabe is African American and a police officer. I can’t wait to read this story! Did you find it hard to write an African American character given your own ethnic background?

Jerusha: No, not at all! Writing an African American character is no different to me than writing about any other character of any ethnic background. At the risk of sounding naïve, I’ll admit that I don’t actually like the term “race” to describe people, nor am I fond of dividing people according to ethnicities. The Bible tells us that we are all one race—the human race. We are one people, all created in the image of God. So people of different ethnic backgrounds are all part of the same race and people that I am, and that gives me a significant common ground from which to create a character.

I believe that too much emphasis is put on differences between ethnicities, as if those differences are insurmountable or enough to keep groups of people separated from each other. Such a perspective only creates divisions and prejudices in our society, rather than bringing people together.

That said, I recognize that there are cultural and environmental factors which accompany ethnicities. So, as with all of my characters who have a different personal history than myself, I had to draw on research, knowledge, and imagination to write a realistic character.

Toni: Society does like their labels. I’m glad you’re embracing diversity in your fiction, but not letting it separate us. As a Christian writer, how has your faith integrated into your writing?

Jerusha: My faith and identity as a Christian inspires and pervades every aspect of my writing. I write because of God, for God, and through His enabling. For me, there’s no purpose in spending my time writing stories unless I am doing so for His glory.

That foundation translates into a deep presence of Christianity in all my stories. As a writer of contemporary romantic suspense, realism is always a primary goal, so I write about realistic people in the real world where God actively works.

My stories focus on the core journey of the main characters, which necessarily is always spiritual at its root. That focus enables me to realistically infuse my stories with the message of the Gospel and other aspects of Christianity that bring redemption and hope to those in dark places.

Toni: *sigh* God is awesome! What is the message you hope readers will take away after reading This Redeemer?

Jerusha: I hope and pray that anyone who is caught in a sinful cycle—whether it be abuse, addiction, or any other type—will walk away from reading this story with the conviction and reminder that there is hope. You CAN end that cycle, you CAN be free, but not on your own strength, which has probably failed you many times before.

You can have freedom through the forgiveness and power of Jesus Christ, who paid the penalty for everything you’ve done wrong and offers you the gift of eternal life and forgiveness through Him. If you repent of your sins and ask God to forgive you and come into your life, He will change you, breaking you free from whatever prison holds your soul captive.

For readers who are not caught in such a cycle and are already believers in Christ, I pray that This Redeemer will give them a greater empathy and understanding for people caught in domestic abuse. I also hope that such readers will gain a conviction of areas in which they are harboring hidden prejudices.

Toni: Empathy is so important! Praying for the reader who picks up your novel. May God reign in their heart. How about some easier questions?

Whew! Thanks for the break—you’re a tough interviewer! 🙂

Toni: lol, but what an interesting topic! But these next few will be easier, promise. What is your favorite fruit?

Jerusha: My favorite fruit…hmm. That’s actually tough to pick! I guess I’d have to say strawberries, but pineapple is a very close second.

Toni: Both are great! Favorite drink?

Jerusha: Water! Love it, as long as it’s not the bottled variety that includes additives “for flavor.” Ruins the flavor every time! Can you tell I’m a bit of water snob? 🙂

 Toni: I’m the complete opposite! 😉 Favorite meal?

Jerusha: If we’re talking something special, then probably our traditional Thanksgiving dinner, because it includes so many of my favorite dishes. But if you mean more of an everyday choice, it’s hard to beat a classic, fabulous peanut butter and jelly sandwich. (Strawberry jelly, of course!)

Toni: Of course! Last but not least, what’s next in your writing journey?

Jerusha: When you find out, let me know! 😉 Seriously, I’m in a period of waiting on God at the moment (and praying a lot) to see what is next in my writing career. In the meantime, I’m working on a romantic suspense novel that I hope will be the first in a series of books about five siblings who live in the Chicago area. It’s a story about fear and the power of God to bring hope when all hope seems gone.

Toni: You have our prayers! Thank you so much for stopping by and talking with us. Readers, Jerusha is offering a Kindle or print copy. You can enter the Rafflecopter giveaway by answering the question: Why do you read Christian fiction?


Giveaway

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Interview conducted by Toni Shiloh

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32 thoughts on “Author Interview (+ Giveaway): Jerusha Agen

    1. Thank you, Linda, for buying the book! I hope you enjoy it! I’m going to check out the Fighting Human Trafficking site you mentioned and your book, as those are issues that are also close to my heart.

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  1. I love this! Both the diversity and the treatment of domestic violence. Since I’ve also written a book that deals with domestic violence (as well as books about “sensitive” or controversial subjects) this is near to my heart. I love that Christian fiction, and especially Indie authors, are dealing with more and more real issues–that not everything is “pablum.” 🙂 I do have a question, though. Jerusha said she did not have trouble writing about an African-American cop. As a Caucasian, I am worried I would not be able to write “authentically” about other races. What do you think?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Linda, as a writer, I think we all fear being “authentic” no matter what race the character is. Whether it’s because we don’t live where they do, do what they do, etc. I would get beta readers from your character’s ethnicity if you want to make sure it is authentic. Hope these tips help!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Thanks for your thoughtful comment and good question, Linda! Toni was spot-on with her answer. Any character who is different than the author (and hopefully we’re all writing about people who aren’t carbon-copies of ourselves!) can be a challenge to capture authentically. That’s where it’s important to know and study people who are different than ourselves (and that includes people of our own ethnicity). The “race” doesn’t make as big of a difference as some people claim–the important part is who that character is as a person, which will be much more similar to our human experience than you might think. You wouldn’t want to learn supposed Asian “traits,” for example, and then stereotype the character because you’re focusing on things that are NOT going to be true of every person with Asian descent. It’s best to focus on the character as an individual (of any ethnicity), first and foremost. That said, there are some differences, such as hair types in different ethnicities or what it’s like to experience racial prejudice, that you might not be aware of. So it’s important to do research as you would for any book (the Internet has a lot of info on these types of questions) and be diverse in your own acquaintances. If in doubt along the way, have some friends of that ethnicity read your story to check for errors, as Toni suggested. Hope that helps!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. So right, Linda B! That’s a large part of why I enjoy reading Christian fiction, too! The redemption and Gospel message in the stories is what makes them so great.

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  2. I like to read Christian fiction because it transports me to another time, place, or realm where individuals are grappling with their faith. Even though the work is fiction, it still reminds me of the fact and helps me appreciate that God can move in any fashion He wants- He is not bound by time, geographic location, nor by circumstance.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Amen, Quanny! (Love your name, btw!) What a great reminder and a wonderful thing to look for as you’re reading. Our God is truly mighty to save in any circumstance!

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  3. Thank you so much, Toni, for having me as your guest today! So fun chatting with you in this meaningful interview! Thanks for challenging me to go deep. 🙂 I’m so excited to see how God uses this new blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that is so true! There’s definitely a reason that Jesus Himself used stories as a way to teach His followers and the Bible is packed with true stories. Stories are powerful, especially when told for God’s glory!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I read Christian fiction for the hope that is generated in the stories. I love when scripture is used or when authors have God “speak” to their characters (usually italicized!) It is just a reminder that God does speak to His children if we just listen. It is good to see how God is at work in lives as they go thru struggles–such a good reminder for readers that He is there and He cares. Keep on writing, ladies!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, we so need more hope in our world, Anne. I agree it’s so encouraging to see how God works in the lives of characters and be reminded that He’s at work in our lives, as well! Thank you for the encouragement, Anne!

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  5. The main reason I read Christian fiction is because I want to keep my mind and heart clean. Christian books don’t contain a lot of profanity or graphic sexual content. The violence isn’t as graphic, either.
    I also read Christian books because even though they are works of fiction, they can still help increase your faith and understanding of God.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I so agree, Connie! It’s important to keep ourselves clean from the evil in this world, and I love that Christian fiction provides a way to still have entertainment and great stories without the sinful content. You’re right, God uses fiction in powerful ways, when it’s told for His glory! Jesus Himself told fictional stories in the parables that were meant to increase our faith and understanding of God. Thanks for your insightful comment!

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  6. Fantastic interview, Toni! – and Jerusha, of course! I read Christian fiction for the same reason others have said above – it is infused with the hope we have in Christ, and it doesn’t have the language/explicit content that is all too easy to stumble across in general fiction.

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    1. Thank you, Fiction Aficionado! Toni does a great interview, doesn’t she? 🙂 Amen to your reason for reading Christian fiction. Thank you for reading and promoting Christian fiction on your blog!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. i like to read Christian fiction because it’s nice to read without being subjected to issues that I’m not comfortable reading about! I want to read and enjoy the story!

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