Open Discussion: Reading in Color

letstalkI have had many conversations with my fellow believers about diversity in Christian fiction. I try to be open and honest in my conversations, but more than that, I make sure to listen.

I feel that changes in Christian fiction regarding diversity will originate with readers. I believe that once we the readers make our voice heard the industry will hear and respond. However, as I talk to Christian fiction readers, I am constantly trying to accesses what are the prevailing thoughts about diversity in Christian fiction.

In my listening, I found that reader’s responses fell into two camps. Of course, every person didn’t fall perfectly into one or the other. But for the most part, the response fell in or near two mindsets.

The first I call color-blind readers. Great writing and intriguing characters are enough to move them to by, but they might not buy because there are diverse characters in it. That alone is enough to motivate them to support diverse authors even if it wasn’t their initial intention.

The second are every nation, every tribe readers. They seek out books that feature diverse characters. Those characters are their driving motivation. These readers are most likely to note when diversity is missing from a novel.

Both camps have legitimate reasons why they approach diversity in Christian fiction the way they do. Which are you and why? Share your comments below.

Author Interview: Ronie Kendig

In today’s interview, I’m talking to Ronie Kendig, author of 15 novels and six novellas. Her rapid-fire fiction keeps her readers turning pages.


About the Book: 

51-1sjmtk9lDon your tactical gear and enter the world of black ops and espionage within the pages of Ronie Kendig’s thriller Firethorn. Former Marine Griffin “Legend” Riddell, a fugitive from injustice, finds it difficult to trust anyone. Covert operative Kazi Faron, the woman sent to free him, has a dangerous secret that may jeopardize her life, mission, and the only man she respects. As Griffin and Kazi race around the globe to save Nightshade, the danger mounts. Will they find the culprit sabotaging their black ops team? Can their newfound feelings and trust survive when Griffin and Kazi face truth and terror?

Purchase: Amazon, B&N, CBD


778896_560430620636255_619789673_o

Bio: Ronie Kendig is an award-winning, bestselling author of a dozen novels. She grew up an Army brat. Now, she and her husband, an Army veteran, have an adventurous life in Northern Virginia with their children and a retired military working dog, VVolt N629. Ronie’s degree in Psychology has helped her pen novels of intense, raw characters.

Follow at: Website, Facebook, Twitter


Terri: It’s so great to have you here today. I fell in love your writing from the first book I read but Firethorn, the fourth book in your Discarded Heroes series, is extra special for me. How did you decide to write not only an ethnic character but an interracial couple, also?

Ronie: The development of Marine hero Griffin “Firethorn” Riddell wasn’t borne out of a conscious decision to “inject” ethnicity into my series but rather at the outset, I simply “saw” the team built up of diversity, which I feel is indicative our military itself. When I first encountered Griffin and dug deep into the research to know his story, I knew the only woman who’d both command respect and demand attention from him would be his complete opposite—so, where’s he’s large (6’4” and 250 lbs), she is petite (5’5”). Where he is content to sit back and let people figure things out, she was confrontational. Where he is African American, she was a very Caucasian with white-blond hair and fair skin.

Terri: Did you worry about pushback from your readers?

Ronie: In all honesty, *I* didn’t expect pushback because I didn’t think like that. However, when some involved wth the publication of my book suggested I should change Griffins ethnicity, I was both taken aback and angered, because to me, Griffin was who he was. It was his essence. I had even been told to be prepared to ‘get slaughtered’ for being a white female writing a black male.

Terri: There has been a significant amount of talk about sensitivity readers in the publishing world right now. You employed used sensitivity readers for this book. Why was it important for you to get their perspective?

Ronie: These new terms are interesting to me. When I wrote Firethorn almost seven or eight years ago, I approached his ethnicity with as much research fervor as I do with any other ethnicity or profession. Honestly, I simply wanted to get it right and show respect/honor to those within that culture that I was writing about. But because some in my publishing world had concerns, I was especially keen on getting it right with Griffin’s ethnicity. I had several long conversations with author and friend Michelle Stimpson, as well as with yourself, Terri, regarding writing an African American character. And quite honestly, you both educated me on things that I simply had never thought about—as happens with most “experts” I’ve spoken to. Writing is as much about learning as it is about entertainment to me.

Terri: Your books often take your characters into other cultures and locations around the world. How do you show these cultures without leaning towards stereotypes?

There are many ways to gain that information and accurately portray those cultures. A few include: digging around travel sites; reading pieces/articles/blogs by those who live there; talking with those who’ve been there. It’s the nuances—the smells, the colloquialisms, the foods, etc., that bring a culture alive in a novel. And quite honestly, if something is stereotypical of a culture/character, I work to make that “element” NOT a part of the character or turn it on its head. I think the biggest thing is to apply the same level of respect and intention/determination toward ethnicity as we do to professions within our books.

I think we need to write “unafraid,” because when you aren’t THAT person or haven’t worked THAT profession, you’re going to get something wrong. For example, I’d written something for a character from another country one time, based on direct input from someone from said country. Yet, another person from said country chastised me for not doing my research and said it was wrong. *shrug* But you have to be willing to make mistakes, learn and grow, both as a person and as a writer.

Terri: Coffee or Tea?

Ronie: Yes. Seriously, it depends on the day or maybe even the diet I’m on. LOL I love love a good cup of herbal tea, but I also savor having a caramel macchiato.

Terri: What is your go-to writing snack?

Ronie: The Krakken—apple sliced with peanut butter.

Terri: What’s next for Ronie Kendig?

I’ve been asking the Lord that myself. Ha. I’m currently about to delve into book 3 of The Tox Files, but after that? I’m exploring options that will continue writing paramilitary suspense as I’ve loved doing and have developed in my brand, Rapid-Fire Fiction.

Thank you so much for joining us today. I look forward to whatever God leads you to next.

Author Interview: Vivian Kay

Today, we welcome Vivian Kay, author of Secret Places. Vivian is a Nigerian, a Yoruba woman, who blends her faith and culture into her novels.

_________________________________________

About the book:

secret-places-coverAfter many years of happiness, Moni Badmus’s marriage is falling apart. Unwilling to lose her only child, a self-proclaimed daddy’s girl, to her husband in a custody settlement she goes along with his suggestion of an unconventional marriage intervention. Will Moni’s fear of losing what she holds dear take her to dark places she never imagined she would go?

Sam Badmus has lost his thirst for the things of God. For a while, his extramarital activities seemed to be a cure for his unsatisfying home life. But soon his risky behavior exacts a steep price and Sam has to turn to the God he left behind to save his family and maybe even his life.

Debo Ajala and his wife Adele are living the golden life or so it seems. Debo is a respected church deacon and Adele, a mother to their four adorable sons. Their lives couldn’t be better, that is until Adele’s feelings for another member of their church surface. Adele’s confession unleashes a series of events that Debo never expected. He escapes his troubled life by accepting a pastoral position in a city on the other side of Canada, but soon his twisted past catches up with him.

In this emotionally charged tale of sacrifice, temptation, and redemption, two couples learn sin has consequences and there is no place they can hide from the presence of God.

Purchase at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iTunes.

_______________________________________

About the Author:

vivian-kay-filaVivian Kay is a Christian fiction author whose faith stories are woven around the themes of human imperfection, redemption and transformation. When she’s not wr
iting or daydreaming about writing, you’ll find her playing simultaneous games of online Scrabble or snuggling up with a good book. Kay’s debut novel, Secret Places, was first published by Brown Girls Books (USA) in November 2015. A wife and mother, Kay lives in a quiet corner of Canada’s banana belt. She can be reached via her website www.viviankay.com. She can also be reached at:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VivianKayAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/VivianKayAuthor
Instagram: https://instagram.com/viviankayauthor/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/VivianKayAuthor

__________________________________________

Interview:

Terri: We have seen a rise in African, particularly Nigerian, authors. What are the benefits and disadvantages of this spotlight?

Vivian: I think the spotlight has brought a lot of positives. There are millions of people in the world who’ve never been to Africa or have African friends. Since we share of ourselves in the stories we write, it’s a great way of inviting people into our part of the world. They get to understand that Africa is a huge continent, that even though our realities may be different from theirs, we share similar dreams and hopes. While there may be disadvantages, I can’t think of one.

Terri: I agree. I am excited to see so many have accepted the invitation to visit different cultures and races through the pages of a book, through stories. Storytelling is essential to so many cultures of the world.  Why do you believe that storytelling is so important?

Vivian: Storytelling is important to me because it’s how I process the happenings in my world. As a reader, I enjoy being entertained. I hope readers feel the same way about my stories.

Terri: Speaking of a story, Secret Places, your latest full length novel, has an interesting storyline, Christian swingers. It is a topic most wouldn’t expect from a Christian author. How did you get the idea for Secret Places?

Vivian: The main idea for Secret Places was sparked by a conversation at a friend’s home. Up to that moment, I didn’t know there were Christian swingers. The other ideas came as I became acquainted with my characters and the things important to them. I believe my ability to write is a gift from God. I could not have written the book without Him.

Terri: I applaud you for tackling such a hard subject but that is something God has gifted you to do in your writing and in your professional life. Most authors have a day job. What is yours and how does it impact your writing?

Vivian: I’m a therapist in children’s mental health. Self-awareness and empathy are important counseling skills. In my writing, they impact the way I interact with my characters and explore the issues important to them. My therapist and social work worldview also shape the types of stories I want to tell.

Terri: Your counseling skills show through in your writing and brings a richness to your writing. After they’ve devoured Secret Places, where can readers find more of your writing?

Vivian: In January 2017, I had published a novelette titled Knit Together. It’s available on Kindle, Kobo, Nook and in the Apple Store. There’s a paper edition.

Terri: Thank you so much for joining us today. I pray God continues to use you to hearts through your work as a writer and a therapist.

 

Review: Virtuous Ruby by Piper Huguley

 

517x0kfa6rlBlurb:

After fifteen months of hiding from the shame of bearing an illegitimate child, two words drive Ruby Bledsoe to face the good citizens of Winslow, Georgia. Never again. She vows to speak out against injustice. For her sisters. For her parents. For her infant son, Solomon.

When she comes to help an injured mill worker, she bristles when a tall, handsome man claiming to be a doctor brushes her aside. Despite his arrogance, Ruby senses he’s someone like her, whose light skin doesn’t quite hide who he is.

Up north, Dr. Adam Morson easily kept his mixed race a secret. Now that he’s in Georgia, summoned by his white father, he can feel restrictions closing in around him.

Something powerful draws him to the beauty whose activist spirit is as fiery as her name. And soon, Adam wants nothing more than to take Ruby and her child far from Georgia’s toxic prejudice. But Ruby must choose between seeking her own happiness and staying to fight for the soul of her hometown.

Review:

This book is rich in history, imagery and heart. The first in the Migrations of the Heart series, Huguley tells the story of Ruby and Adam, both leading difficult lives in Winslow, Georgia. The book takes a unique look at an oft-told tale: segregation in the south. It is a delight to read a different perspective of that time in Black history.

Ruby’s strong spirit has the reader rooting for her from the early pages. And Ruby proves she is worth rooting for. Her love for her family and her son drive her, but so does justice. Although her ideas about civil rights make her seem like a woman out of her time, that doesn’t stop her. She still champions the rights of others all while living with a deep hurt.

Huguley does a great job of showing two worlds in one character: Dr. Adam Morson. He could pass for white, but his entrance into that community is tentative. The author deftly shows the tension in his identity and the tension he creates. His choice to live as a white man and attend school was a difficult one, but his noble reasons adds another thread of richness to this story.

One of the highlights of the books is the realistic progression of Adam and Ruby’s romantic relationship. Huguley gives their love story the perfect amount of conflict and admiration but she doesn’t make it easy for them to reach their happily ever after. This makes the romance even sweeter.

If you are looking for a fresh, engaging historical fiction book featuring diverse characters, this is a must read.


Book review by Terri J. Haynes