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
Not 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?
About the Author
Jerusha 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.
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?
Interview conducted by Toni Shiloh