Author Interview: Jana Kelley


Today, I’m chatting with Jana Kelley, author of two novels (with a third releasing in September) and two devotional books. I had the privilege of interviewing Jana earlier this year for the release of her second novel, Door to Freedom.


About the Book

door to freedom“It’s rough and it’s smooth. It’s dark and it’s light. It’s a masterpiece. It’s us. Here in Sudan. We are scared of it and drawn to it. There is an open door, and there is much opposition.”

In the dusty, Islamic country of Sudan, Mia, who is raising her family in a Muslim country, has learned to boldly share her faith. Rania, the daughter of a wealthy Sudanese Arab, seeks to find the reason for her sister’s sudden disappearance. Mia holds some of the answers, but both women quickly discover they must each walk through their own doors to freedom—the freedom that only comes when you trust God’s sovereignty more than man-made security.

Part of New Hope® Publishers’ line of contemporary missional fiction, Door to Freedom, the sequel to Side by Side, opens the reader’s eyes to modern-day persecution and the life of Muslims in Sudan. Based on real-life events, Door to Freedom also reveals some of the struggles that Christians face when living under Islamic law. The reader will be inspired to pray for those who are persecuted for their faith as well as for the salvation of the persecutors.

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About the Author

jana kelleyJana Kelley is a Texan who hardly ever lives in Texas. Raised in Southeast Asia, Jana developed a love for cross-cultural living early in life. Her love for writing came soon after. Jana returned to Texas to attend East Texas Baptist University. She and her husband married a month after she graduated and by their second anniversary, they were living in a remote African town. After thirteen years living in Africa and the Middle East, Jana, her husband, and their three boys, moved to Southeast Asia where they currently live. Jana has authored two novels and two devotional books. You can learn more about Jana at www.JanaKelley.com.

You can also connect with Jana on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.


Carrie: Hi Jana! Welcome to the blog! Let’s start out with a ‘fast four’ 🙂

Apples or oranges?

Jana: Apples, they are less messy than oranges. They do require more work, though, since I have to cut them up. I don’t like to eat them whole…too messy. I’m sensing a theme here. I guess I don’t like messy fruits. I like the taste of apples better too. But that being said, I live in Malaysia and February is Chinese New Year month, so I have an entire box of honey mandarins sitting in my fridge: a favorite CNY delicacy.

Carrie: Yumm… honey mandarins sound intriguing!

Winter or Summer?

Jana: Since I live in the tropics, I like Winter better because that usually means rainy season which usually means a little bit more pleasant weather. When I visit my home state, Texas, I like summer better because I don’t like to be cold.

Carrie: But don’t you miss the snow just a little??

Dogs or Cats?

Jana: Hmmmm, probably cats, but I have a dog. I guess both. But really, cats. I like that they sort of take care of  themselves. On the other hand, I love the welcome that I get from my dog every time I come home. She greets me at the door with lots of tail wagging, like she’s been waiting for this moment all day. So sweet!

Carrie: My dog Zuzu has decided to ignore everything you just said about cats and focus instead on the delightful things you said about your own dog 😉

Finally…. coffee or tea?

Jana: Coffee in the morning. Most definitely coffee…in the morning. But later, I’ll drink tea all day long if I have a good book or someone to chat with. I like hot drinks because they force me to sit down and relax and drink slowly. Deep breaths. Enjoy!

Carrie: I sense you like diplomatic answers 😉 LOL

I like to say that reading is my superpower. If YOU had a superpower, what would it be?

Jana: I’d have the ability to speed read (and still retain the information). I am a book junkie and I love to collect books of all kinds; but I have a hard time getting them all read. I’d like to be able to read books as fast as I can buy them.

Carrie: Oh that would be lovely. I would also then like the ability to review books as fast as I read them!

Who is your favorite book character from childhood?

Jana: My favorite book character from childhood is Betsy from the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace. I loved reading about the friendship of Betsy and Tacy and Tib. I remember reading them at a time when my family lived in a small town in Indonesia, Southeast Asia. I only had two friends in that town and they were from a very different culture than me. But after reading one of the Betsy books, I appreciated that at least I did have those two friends (just like Betsy) and I started being more proactive about reaching out to them. So Betsy, a fiction character from Minnesota in the early 1900s reached out to me, a little American girl in Southeast Asia, and gave me the courage to reach out to my Indonesian friends. That’s why I like Betsy. And now that I wrote this little tribute, I’m going to go to the library to check those books out!

Carrie: I love this!! How sweet!!

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever Googled while researching a book?

Jana: Second to the times that writing drives me to search the Scriptures and study what the Lord says about various topics is my interest in Google research. What would we do without Google? Write boring, one-dimensional books I guess. I have researched birding in Sudan, WW2 internment camps for women, and how to tell one’s fortune using coffee grounds.  Perhaps the weirdest Google search I did was on chemicals that can be dropped from the sky that cause apathy. Did you know there is such a thing? Me either. But there is. Thanks Google.

Carrie: I feel like i should now run that NBC jingle for those “The More You Know” spots they ran all the time in the 80s and 90s. Do they still do those? I never watch TV anymore. To the Google!! lol.

Describe your main characters and tell me who you would cast in their roles if Hollywood wanted to produce Door to Freedom as a movie!

Jana: Mia-A blonde-headed young wife and mother who teeters between joy and angst. I think Candace Cameron-Bure would be the perfect actress to be Mia. She is spunky but genuine and, as a person, seems like she would be able to play a convincing version of Mia!

Rania-A beautiful young Sudanese Arab artist who is shy but determined. I think China Anne McClain would make a great Rania.

Carrie: I love both of these actresses! Great choices!

What surprised you about Door to Freedom or your characters as you wrote their story?

Jana: Rania’s resilience in the face of difficult situations surprised me the most. In the beginning, Rania is quite shy and compliant. She grows in personal strength as the story unfolds.

The other surprising character is Jamal. Things don’t turn out the way a reader might think they should. This came as a surprise to me too as I wrote his character.

Carrie: I’m a little worried about Jamal now…

What do you most want readers to take away from Door to Freedom?

Jana: I would like readers to come away with a better (perhaps more loving?) understanding of Muslims and of the universal need for Jesus.

Carrie: Yes. Amen.

What’s coming up next for you?

Jana: As DOOR TO FREEDOM releases, I’ll be busy editing the third book of the series. I’m excited about how this sequel will wrap up the stories that began in the first book SIDE BY SIDE. I have also dug up old letters and journals from a time in my life when my husband and I lived in a little country in East Africa. I’m hoping to use the memories and information to write a devotional series and perhaps plan the backdrop for a new series. I guess we’ll see what happens!


This interview originally appeared on ReadingIsMySuperPower.

What about you? My heart’s cry is to see more Muslims represented as people, as our neighbors, not just terrorists, in Christian fiction. What is a people group you would like to better represented in Christian fiction?

Book Review: Finding Love by Toni Shiloh

About the Book

FindingLoveDelaney Jones has finally started to pick up the pieces of her shattered life after the death of her husband, Parker.

Just as life enters a new normal, in walks Army soldier, Luke Robinson.

Just when she makes the decision to trust him, life deals her a heavy blow.

Sergeant First Class Luke Robinson can’t get over his part in the death of Delaney’s husband. In hopes to assuage his guilt, he offers to lend a hand.

Only, he never counted on the feelings she evokes with just a smile. Will his secrets widen the gulf or will he finally find absolution?

Series: Maple Run #2
Publisher: Celebrate Lit
Release Date:
June 28, 2017
Pages: 197

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My Thoughts

I’ve been eagerly waiting for a return to Maple Run ever since I read Buying Love. (Some of that may have been cravings by proxy for the delicious food, too. Don’t judge.) And Finding Love definitely was worth the wait! I’m also pleased to report that I did not want to purse whomp Delaney’s momma as much as I did in Buying Love. 😉 

The characters in Finding Love are diverse and layered with Delaney and Luke each bringing emotional baggage to the table. After the death of Delaney’s husband Parker, her life for all intents and purposes stopped too. So did Luke’s. Delaney, because she doesn’t know how to go on without Parker. Luke, because he feels responsible for Parker’s death.

The meeting of their hearts results in a swoonworthy romance, yes, but also some soul-searching that all of us can apply to our own lives too. Delaney is scared to fall in love with Luke, a soldier still on active duty, “because if it ended up with her receiving another set of widow’s benefits, she would be crushed.” She – and Luke both – must wrestle with this truth (and its application):

“God was the keeper of her heart, keeper of her entire being. She needed to let God hold her heart.”

Bottom Line: This second visit to the quaint community of Maple Run is even better than the first! Mouthwatering food, a swoon-inducing hero (complete with dimples and military uniform), adorable/hilarious children, and a compelling heroine (complete with a great family and a yummy restaurant) – just one of those elements would be reason enough to love Finding Love. All of them together, plus a tender story of second chances and trusting God? Yes please!

I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion. This review first appeared on Reading Is My SuperPower.

About the Author

tonishilohToni Shiloh is a wife, mom, and Christian fiction writer. Once she understood the powerful saving grace thanks to the love of Christ, she was moved to honor her Savior. She writes to bring Him glory and to learn more about His goodness.

She spends her days hanging out with her husband and their two boys. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the president of the ACFW Virginia Chapter.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | PINTEREST


Review by Carrie Schmidt

Book Review: A River Too Deep by Sydney Tooman Betts

About the Book

a river too deepIn the spring of 1817, Alcy Callen and her father visit a step-uncle they have long presumed dead; but instead of enjoying a loving reunion, they are plunged into treachery and deceit. Nothing is as they expected and little is what it seems. Even the man who helps her escape is not the reliable suitor he appears.

Alcy is caught between gratitude and fear, unable to avoid her rescuer’s attentions or understand the responses they stir. Neither can she tell what sort of man he is or what he intends to do with her in the strange place they are going. Will he keep her for himself or will he sell her to the highest bidder?

Of one person only is she certain, but will he come for her before it is too late?

GOODREADS | AMAZON

My Thoughts

Long before I had the chance to read it, I’d already heard so many great things about A River Too Deep by Sydney Tooman Betts. So when the opportunity first arose to review it, I jumped at the chance to finally read this much-talked-about book for myself.  I can now safely say that I see what all the fuss was about.

A River Too Deep is almost an allegory of our relationship with God, though it stops just short of fully falling into that category.  Certain characters and plot points beautifully illustrate the concept of God as our Adopted Father, of Jesus as our Bridegroom. The history, the setting, the characters, the romance brought to mind Laura Frantz or Lori Benton but with a voice unique to this author.

In the first quarter of the book, I did think that some of the events/reactions felt a bit unrealistic. For example, after unexpectedly losing someone very close to her and then suffering some additional trauma of her own, Alcy didn’t have nearly the emotional reaction that I would have had, were I in her shoes. Maybe I’m just a wimp lol (entirely possible) but some of this first part fell flat like that to me.

On the other hand, the last three quarters of the book is stunning in its emotion, its richness, its characters. Alcy’s transformation into Eyes-Like-Water is poignant and bittersweet but “right”, highlighted by the power of the Creator and His Book to change lives. There was so much spiritual truth woven through these pages, not just what is blatantly expressed but subtle nuances that make it all the sweeter.

And Preying Eagle? What can I say except SWOON! My goodness. The intensity of his watchful stares, the tenderness of his care for Alcy, the depth of his feelings. All of these add to the layers of his already-complex character and make him one unforgettable hero.

“I was sorry I had judged him a savage without knowing anything about his character.”

The diversity between cultures in this novel is thought-provoking as well as inspiring. To coexist peacefully in her new situation, Alcy must come to terms with her own prejudices and assumptions. As do the people who have taken her in. Wrestling with a fresh awareness of what causes people to dehumanize one another – “If we label a whole group savage, we feel justified fulfilling our manifest destiny at their cost.” – Alcy’s eyes are also opened to the bias of her own religious traditions and thus a deeper understanding of her Creator.

“How much of what we call Christian is our own tradition, unrelated to Scripture or morality?”

A River Too Deep is rich with history and steady tones of faith, and while romance certainly plays a role in the story it is more of a subplot than the focus. Vivid and diverse characters gallop through the chapters, stealing your heart and carving out a permanent residence. They grapple with issues which are still exceedingly relevant for today’s world and do so with poignancy and grace. “…they were not the people of my flesh but had become the people of my heart.” Oh, that more people today would open their hearts and minds to the same transformation.

I received the opportunity to read and review this book through the author. The opinions expressed are my own. This review first appeared, at least in part, on Reading Is My SuperPower.

About the Author

sydney tooman bettsSydney Tooman Betts and her protagonist-husband currently reside in the Shenandoah Valley near the extensive cavern system that inspired the setting for several early chapters of her second book.

While single, Ms. Betts (B.S. Bible/Missiology, M.Ed) was involved in a variety of cross-cultural adventures in North and Central America. After marrying, she and her husband lived in Europe and the Middle East where he served in various mission-support capacities. Her teaching experiences span preschool to guest lecturing at the graduate level and serving as the Sunday School Superintendent, Children’s Church Director, or Women’s Ministries facilitator in several evangelical denominations.

Before penning her first novel, A River too Deep, she ghost-wrote several stories for an adult literacy program.

FACEBOOK

People of the Book series

a river too deep light bird's song straight flies the arrow

One of my favorite quotes from the book is “…they were not the people of my flesh but had become the people of my heart.” Who comes to mind in your own life, the people of YOUR heart, when you read these words?

Review by Carrie

 

Color of Danger by Alexa Verde

About the Book

Color of Danger by Alexa Verde
Secrets of Rios Azules #1
Genre: Romantic Suspense

color of dangerFormer runaway Mari Del Lobo works hard to save her struggling restaurant and to trust people again. Dallas surgeon Dr. Luke Goodman turns her world upside down with terrifying news. A recent murder has her late brother’s – aka the Smiling Killer – signature and MO. When attacks on her escalate, Mari fights her growing attraction to the good doctor as fiercely as she fights for her life. To rescue herself and those she loves, will she be able to stop the murderer before he strikes again?

Luke couldn’t save his fiancée from the Smiling Killer, but he’ll do anything to prevent more murders, even ask help from the serial killer’s sister. Finding a kindred tortured soul and the perpetrator’s next target in Mari, Luke is determined to protect the stubborn ex-rebel. But Mari would rather face danger than risk the safety of the man she comes to love.

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My Thoughts

Life in the sleepy small town of Rios Azules in South Texas was not so calm and monotonous after all.

Color of Danger is packed with suspense! It starts off with some pretty high-stakes tension and doesn’t let up for very long throughout the course of the novel.  There’s not a lot of action necessarily, but the suspense is set up more psychologically. As a reader I got to the point where I almost didn’t trust anyone and about the time I thought I had it figured out, the author threw me another curve. This not only kept the pace of the novel steady, it also kept me engaged throughout.

Mari is the kind of character that makes you smile – spunky, feisty, determined. She loves fiercely and refuses to let anyone put her into a certain mold or expectation. Luke is the yummy doctor who thinks he’s part-cop, but I’m not complaining because his protective instincts made him even yummier. A cast of secondary and tertiary characters add more layers to the multi-cultural relationship between Mari and Luke. Part of that diverse blend is Mari’s childhood group of friends who are featured in the prequel novella and subsequent books in the series as well.

If you want a nail-biter of a suspense novel with plenty of twists and turns, then you’ve come to the right place! While it’s true that some of the characters’ motives and reactions didn’t ring true for me and others fell flat, the romance is sweet and endearing and the friendships are inspiring. I also really enjoyed watching Mari journey closer to Jesus – her progress was very sweet and without pretense. Again, the suspense held my attention nicely and kept me guessing through most of the novel. If you’re a fan of the TV show Criminal Minds, you need to add Color of Danger to your TBR list!

I VOLUNTARILY REVIEWED A COMPLIMENTARY COPY OF THIS BOOK WHICH I RECEIVED FROM THE PUBLISHER. ALL VIEWS EXPRESSED ARE ONLY MY HONEST OPINION.
THIS REVIEW ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON READING IS MY SUPERPOWER

About the Author

alexa-verde-253x300Alexa Verde writes sweet, wholesome books about faith, love, and murder. She penned her first literary masterpiece, a rhymed poem, at the ripe age of eight, and since has had 200 short stories, articles, and poems published in the five languages that she speaks. She has bachelor’s degrees in English and Spanish, a master’s in Russian, and enjoys writing about characters with diverse cultures. She can claim her 15 seconds of Amazon fame with her books climbing to the #1 spot in Hispanic American and #3 in Christian Mystery & Suspense. She’s worn the hats of reporter, teacher, translator, model (even one day counts!), caretaker, and secretary, but thinks that the writer’s hat suits her the best. After traveling the world and living in both hemispheres, she calls a small town in south Texas home. The latter is an inspiration for the fictional setting of her popular series Secrets of Rios Azules. For giveaways (for example, Russian souvenirs), news, and recipes, please sign up for her newsletter at www.alexaverde.com.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER


Review by Carrie

Buying Love by Toni Shiloh

buyingloveWill money ruin everything?

Nina Warrenton is ready for the next step in her life plan—marriage, but no one has proposed. Taking matters into her hand, she places an ad in the newspaper hoping to entice a willing stranger. But when she begins to fall for the small-town chef, she realizes how much she wants him to love her and not her money.

Dwight Williams needs fast cash to save the family restaurant. When he sees Nina’s monetary offer for a husband, he goes for it. He’s determined to save the legacy his dad left him, but can he let it go to prove his love for her?

Can Nina and Dwight find true love, once money has entered the equation?

GOODREADS | AMAZON


My Thoughts

“She didn’t want to ruin a family. Just belong to one.”

I have one word to start out with – Dwight. Another word – yummy. And I’m not JUST talking about the delicious mouth-watering recipes he cooks up at his family’s restaurant The Maple Pit. Dwight himself is quite the swoonworthy hero. Not just because he looks like Laz Alonso but because he’s a man of solid character and a kind heart.

Dwight’s mama and I had a few words during the course of this novel though! She was in danger of a purse whomping a time or two, I must say. Good thing SHE doesn’t know how close she came or I might be the one in danger 😉

Nina is a great character! A little bit sassy, a little bit sweet – I enjoyed getting to know her as the story progressed. Her background is not as idyllic as Dwight’s, far from it in fact, but her relationship with Dwight is made all the more poignant because of these differences. While she may be rich monetarily, she’s all alone in the world – no friends, no family, no legacy. On the other hand, Dwight may have some financial difficulties in his business but he’s the rich one where it matters. This disparity between them – on both sides – gives depth to what could otherwise be a typical marriage-of-convenience tale.

Not that I have anything against a typical marriage-of-convenience tale. I happen to love them as a matter of fact. But this added dimension gives some meat (I’m clearly still thinking about that maple fried chicken…) to the story and to their relationship.

The theme of adoption and belonging in Buying Love really touched me. Such a beautiful picture of God’s love for us, and our relationship with Him. And y’all know I don’t like pausing my story for a “sermon”… well, in Buying Love there’s an actual sermon!! Lol! But, in this case, it fits pretty naturally with the course of the story and is a turning point emotionally for Nina so I’ll allow it 😉

“All these years she had wanted desperately to be adopted, it turned out she was adopted the moment she became God’s.”

Buying Love is a great start to a new series! The supporting characters set the stage nicely for future books, and I’m looking forward to more from Maple Run and Toni Shiloh. Dwight and Nina’s romance is sweet and even though it’s somewhat of a slow burn buildup it’s got plenty of sizzle and spark! This would be a wonderful choice for book clubs with many possible discussion threads throughout.

I VOLUNTARILY REVIEWED A COMPLIMENTARY COPY OF THIS BOOK WHICH I RECEIVED FROM THE PUBLISHER. ALL VIEWS EXPRESSED ARE ONLY MY HONEST OPINION.
THIS REVIEW ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON READING IS MY SUPERPOWER

About the Author

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Toni Shiloh is a wife, mom, and Christian fiction writer. Before pursuing her dream as a writer, Toni served in the United States Air Force. It was there she met her husband. After countless moves, they ended up in Virginia, where they are raising their two boys.

When she’s not typing in imagination land, Toni enjoys reading, playing video games, making jewelry, and spending time with her family. Toni is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) as well as the ACFW Virginia Chapter.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | PINTEREST

What is something you’ve wanted desperately for years but finally found in God?


Review by Carrie Schmidt

Author Interview: Grace Ibitamuno Obienu

I originally ran this interview with Grace Ibitamuno Obienu a couple of weeks ago on my own review blog, but I went back and talked with her some more about her characters in preparation for posting the interview here on Diversity Between The Pages.


About the Author:

Grace Ibitamuno Obienu has been a storyteller all her life, completing her first novel at the age of twelve, which thankfully went unpublished. She has worked as a technical writer in Biotechnology but has recently embarked on a journey toward dual doctoral degrees in Medicine and Public Health. With roots in Nigeria, she calls Central New Jersey home, where she lives with her husband and son.

You can connect with Grace on Facebook.


About the Book:

Burdened by the shame of her past and by the pain in her body, hope for a better tomorrow is a heavy chain to wear for Lola, a nineteen-year-old survivor of years of trafficking and exploitation.

Jaisen, a police officer, is drawn to Lola, both for the fire in her eyes and the hesitation in her step.

For Deja, Jaisen’s cousin, marriage to her fiancé is the greatest prize—a prize for which she would forsake all else.

As the story unfolds, vivid flashbacks of lurid moments past, lurking former owners, long buried secrets, and the search for a murderer threaten each of their quests, testing their mettle and their faith.

Could hope possibly flourish in the face of such painful obstacles? Is love truly a worthy pursuit, or a consolation prize for unwitting fools?

Not Yet Beautiful, a debut novel set in the Northeast corridor, is grippingly raw in its portrayal of love, loss, and restoration.

Purchase at: Amazon, B&N


Carrie: Hi Grace! Welcome to the blog! Thank you so much for chatting with me!

Grace: Thanks for having me. It’s great to chat with you!

Carrie: Let’s start with a ‘fast four’. Apples or oranges?

Grace: Oranges for on the go. Apples if I have time. I really don’t like the feel of apple skin against my teeth so I have to peel them before I can eat them. And oranges are so refreshing.

Carrie: Winter or Summer?

Grace: Winter… but only because it is closer to Fall temperature-wise. I like cooler weather, running in the 50s and 60s… cool enough for a light jacket and boots kind of weather.

Carrie: Dogs or Cats?

Grace: Haha, I’d unfortunately have to say neither at the risk of offending all the wonderful cat and dog people. But I hear pets are great, so who knows maybe one day…

Carrie: Coffee or Tea?

Grace: Coffee if I need the caffeine. Tea if it feels like a put-my-feet-up-I-have-time-to-relax kind of day. So coffee 🙂

Carrie: On my blog I like to say that reading is my superpower. If YOU had a superpower, what would it be?

Grace: I like to think that is the power of imagination. I always have stories running around in my head.

Carrie: That’s an awesome superpower for a writer to have! When you walk into a bookstore, where do you head first?

Grace: The Inspirational Romance aisle. I like to see what’s new in the genre. Or the section with books on leadership.

Carrie: Inspy romance is the first place I go too! Do you have any strange writing habits/quirks?

Grace: I like to outline my stories in as much detail as possible both before I begin and as I write. Usually before bed is my time to imagine scenes in my story down to the details of the dialogue. So, as I lie in bed waiting to fall asleep, I imagine scenes in my story, complete with dialogue, visualizing the characters moving, talking, walking, whatever the case may be. I have even been known to hug myself when my characters do :-). Night after night, I can work on the same scene till it feels perfect then I either add it to my outline or flesh out the one I have with details I gathered from my bed time brainstorming 🙂

Carrie: Oh gosh! I think remembering these scenes is another superpower you have! I would forget by the time i woke up lol 🙂

Not Yet Beautiful addresses the issue of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Describe your main characters for us and – without giving spoilers, of course – explain how they’ve been touched by human trafficking.

Grace: There are three main characters – Lola, Jaisen and Deja. Lola is a survivor of sex trafficking trying to find her way, searching for hope and love in the midst of the pain of her past wounds. Jaisen is a police officer and Lola’s love interest. Equal parts fervent, equal parts impulsive, he pursues Lola passionately, drawn by her. Deja, Jaisen’s cousin, befriends Lola, though her vision is clouded by her own troubled relationship with her fiancé.

Carrie: These three main characters – Lola, Deja, and Jaisen – are all of Nigerian descent. How did your own heritage influence your development of these characters?

Grace: As a Nigerian American who lived in Nigeria for 10 years, I drew on my own experience in creating these characters – their mannerisms, the things that mattered to them (for Deja, feeling the pressure from her mother to marry for instance), the native food, the colloquial Pidgin English used in one scene. The name “Lola” is native to one of the many Nigerian languages in fact. It means “wealth.”

Carrie: They all sound like very powerful and intriguing characters!  I think a lot of us don’t realize how prevalent human trafficking is, even in our own cities. What inspired you to write Not Yet Beautiful?

Grace: I was at a Writer’s Conference a few years ago sharing about how badly I wanted to write a novel and how I wanted it to be about something compelling when I got to talking with a faculty member. She brought up the topic of human trafficking. Inspired, I started my research when I returned home and it wasn’t long before I grew infuriated with the heinousness of the crime as well as the fact that it happens under our noses. So, I chose to write about it, looking at the group of people forced into the trade and held by debt bondage. However, I wanted the story to be hopeful and to focus on the aftermath of the experience, looking at the recovery process from trauma. I wanted to attempt to humanize the choices – good, bad or otherwise – people (in this case my characters) make in trying to confront or overcome painful pasts, while still highlighting the God factor, the work He does in us when we ask.

Carrie: The process of recovery is so inspiring, from the accounts I’ve read. And God is THE ultimate Rescuer, isn’t He? What do you most want readers to take away from Not Yet Beautiful?

Grace: I tried to cover a lot of grounds – looking at trauma and recovering from trauma, how hardships affect what we believe in or think we believe, how they force us to look inward and examine ourselves. And where we end up when all is said and done, whether that be where we thought we would or not. And perchance if it is, if that be for reasons we ordinarily would have thought would lead us there. I tried to look at people as consummate, influenced by our own psychology, our social lives, our faith, our fears and hopes and mostly by our dreams. But still imperfect because none of us are.

I’m really glad you asked this question as it gives me a chance to reflect. I hope everyone takes something from the book about the power of hope and love, something that makes their lives a little richer.

Carrie: Grace, thank you so much for taking time to talk with me twice! LOL. What’s coming up next for you?

Grace: I have a lot of things in the works, though they are all mostly in my head at this point. The first order of the day is the sequel to Not Yet Beautiful – spotlighting Deja’s story a little more and continuing Jaisen and Lola’s journey.

Carrie: We will be praying for you as you continue to breathe your heritage and God’s grace into their stories!


Interview conducted by Carrie Schmidt