Author Interview: Alena Pitts with Wynter Pitts

Happy Monday, diverse reader friends!

Today I’m super excited to introduce you to Alena Pitts and her mother Wynter! If you’ve seen the popular Christian movie “War Room” you may recognize Alena. She played Danielle who is the daughter of Elizabeth Jordan. Priscilla Shirer played Alena’s mom in this movie but today you get a special treat because you get to “meet” Alena’s real-life mom Wynter!

Alena wrote the book Hello Stars based on her experience from her professional acting debut in the movie War Room. Wynter contributed to the story but her daughter Alena really “drove” the writing of this book. According to Alena’s PR agent, Alena “developed the story concept for the series, the characters, and wrote the content. Wynter’s role was to help guide her, as Wynter is also a writer, a published author, and a magazine editor.”

Alena, now 13-years-old, started writing stories when she was age 11. Wynter has supported and guided Alena through all of her creative pursuits, especially involving the written word. According to their PR agent, Alena and Wynter are “an incredible team” and “the entire Pitts family is wonderful!”

After that introduction, I think you’re ready to “meet” Alena and Wynter, right? 🙂

Enjoy the interview!

~*~

About the book: 

 Lena Daniels never thought she’d get the chance star in a movie. Headstrong and determined, she has her life planned out to the minute. But when her best friends, Savannah and Emma, tell her about an audition, she knows there’s nothing else in the world she’d rather do. And now that she’s gotten her wish, Lena finds that being in the spotlight is harder than it sounds. She got everything she never wanted! Her face turns up everywhere she goes, and everything in her life is flipped upside down. Lena wonders if this is a dream come true or a horrible nightmare. Even a visit from her best friends during filming turns into a disaster.

With her little sisters—Ansley, Ashton, and Amber—and her mischievous pup, Austin, constantly at her side, Lena must face the challenges of everyday life while chasing her dreams of being a model and actress on the big screen. Lena tackles tough choices, learns the value of perseverance, and keeps her hopes high. She knows her faith and family will keep her feet on the ground and her eyes on the stars.

This Faithgirlz series entitled Lena in the Spotlight, written by Alena Pitts, star of War Room and tween blogger of For Girls Like You, and co-written with her mother, editor and author, Wynter Pitts, is a reflection of Alena’s own life experiences as she reaches for the stars and keeps her faith in balance.

Book purchase links: Amazon, B&N, CBD

~*~

Interview with Alena and Wynter Pitts about the book, Hello Stars:

Alexis: You’re such a good writer! I love your creative descriptions like this one from your book on page 20: “Mom looked at me as if she was trying to see inside my brain.” Have you always had this desire to be an author? Tell me how this book went from an idea to reality.

Alena: No, I didn’t actually have a desire to write a book! My mom has always said I was a great writer and after reading something I’d written for school she randomly said, “Alena we should write a book together!” We decided to pray about it. About a month or so later we got an email from Zondervan asking if we wanted to meet with them about writing a series together! It really just showed how God always hears our prayers!

Alexis: In this book, Lena is star struck when she gets the opportunity of a lifetime. What was it like when you got the call to play Priscilla’s daughter Danielle in the movie War Room? What thoughts went through your head? How did the news make you feel?

Alena: My real life reaction was pretty much exactly the same. I was star-struck and overwhelmed! There was a big part of me that was grateful to God that He allowed me the opportunity to act in a movie, but the other small part of me was, “What have I gotten myself into?!”

Alexis: Why does Lena address her journal entries to “Hello, Stars”?

Alena: Lena addresses her journal entries to “Hello Stars” because she sort of is just talking to the air because no one is reading it but she slowly realizes she is talking to God.

Alexis: How much of Lena’s fictional storyline is actually yours from what you experienced in being selected to play Danielle in the movie War Room? Describe how you and Lena are alike and different.

Alena: A lot of the storyline is based off my life but to make the book a little more fun and goofy we added some fiction. Lena and I are very similar. We both like to be in control but are learning to allow God to be in control of our lives.

Alexis: At such young age, you’ve experienced several once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that some people only dream of. Through it all, how have you learned to trust God and follow His plans for your life?

Alena: I’ve learned that God’s plans for my life are so much better than my own plans. I love to be in control but I’ve had to learn how to give God control.

Alexis: Do you ever feel like God is being silent? If so, share the story of what you went through and how He broke the silence.

Alena: I’ve never felt like God is silent but I know that when He’s not showing us or allowing everything we want to happen, He’s working everything out. We just don’t know it because we’re human.

Alexis: How has your faith in God grown since your big role in the movie War Room? How did it help you write this book?

Alena: My prayer life has excelled greatly. Before the movie, I thought prayer was for older people only! I didn’t think I had anything to pray about but after the movie, I realized I did, and I started to pray. I learned that God listens.

Alexis: Do you want to be a normal kid? Or are you ready for more adventures as an actress and author? Share what you can about what’s next for your career and education.

Alena: I don’t really have a solid plan for my career. I love hanging out with my friends and playing sports but am ready for new adventures. I have a passion for singing and hope to pursue that in the near future.

~*~

Questions for Wynter:

Alexis: What was your role in the writing of this book? How much did you write and how much did Alena write?

Wynter: Alena created the storyline and drove the plot. She would send me a few thousand words at a time, full of her ideas and stories. She knew the adventure and experiences she wanted Lena Daniels to have as well as the lessons she wanted her to line throughout the series. I helped with the flow of the chapters and worked to help increase the word count!

Alexis: The cover of your book is beautiful! I love how it features a young Black female with natural hair that looks flawless and she has a true to life skin color! As you may know, sometimes authors of color struggle with getting proper representation for characters of color on the cover of their books. Sometimes the models or pictures chosen are featured with unkempt hair or an unattractive look. Did you and your daughter have a say on how your book’s cover looked? Are you happy with it? Who was your cover designer?

Wynter: Yes, we love the cover! We wanted little girls to look at the cover and see themselves and Faithgirlz did an amazing job of capturing that. It is a true representation of Alena’s heart and Lena Daniels’ personality.

Alexis: What race are Savannah and Emma who play Lena’s best friends in this story? What are your thoughts on the need for diversity in Christian fiction?

Wynter: Emma is White and Savannah is biracial. We wanted the story to reflect Alena’s real life and she has a pretty diverse group of friends. I think it’s important for all girls to see themselves in the stories they read…seeing first that they are God’s girl and second, He made them unique on purpose.

Alexis: Are you and Alena close like the characters in this story? Describe your Mother-daughter bond.

Wynter: Yes we are extremely close. My goal is for Alena to know that we (her father and I) are her biggest fans, but not simply because of her outward successes. We are fully invested in her spiritual growth and character development. This means we have to be willing to spend time with, know her and support her as she grows and explores all that God has for her and who He created for her to be. As a mom, I think it is such a gift to watch our children walk out their paths. I tell Alena and her sisters often that I love having a front row seat in their lives!

Alexis: What is it like raising a superstar?

Wynter: Oh my! I never consider her a superstar! She is very much like any other 13-year-old, meaning she has to be reminded to clean her room and asked to turn down her music! I am very proud of Alena and all that she has accomplished but my heart is for her to remain humble and grateful that God has blessed her with awesome opportunities to show His love.

Alexis: What role do faith and family play in keeping you and your daughter grounded in reality while chasing your dreams?

Wynter: Our faith is our foundation and our family is our priority. Who we are at home is what matters and we pray that the details of our lives would always point others to the love of God.

Alexis: What message are you hoping that this book will give young girls with big dreams?

Wynter: That anything is possible! Literally anything! But their first priority is to get to know God and be willing to say yes and follow His plans for them!

~*~

A Question for Alena and Wynter

Alexis: Jeremiah 29:11 is one of several Bible verses that are quoted in this book. This one is what I consider to be “my life verse” because God led my Mom to it when I went through a traumatic time as a teenager and she shared that verse with me. Ever since then, we’ve seen it everywhere! Why do you, Alena like that verse and what do you, Wynter, think of this verse in relation to all God is doing in your daughter’s life?

Alena: I like this verse because it is a reminder that God does have a plan even when we don’t see it!

Wynter: It is very clear to me that all that has happened in Alena’s life is bigger and beyond anything, I could have ever dreamed up as her mother! Surely she is God’s and she is living out His plan.

Alexis: Thank you, Alena and Wynter, for taking the time to answer my questions! Do you have any closing comments?

Alena: I’d love for you to follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook at @alenapitts to follow my journey! I am ready for whatever adventure God sends! You can also check out my website at alenapitts.com

~*~

About the Author:

 Alena Pitts is a young actress and model from Dallas, Texas.  As the oldest of four girls, Alena first cut her teeth in acting through making home videos and dramas with her sisters, using their entire home as their recording studio.  She has a natural love for all things creative which falls right in line with her gifts and talents. The Kendrick Brothers’ War Room marks Alena’s professional acting debut. With only school theater on her young resume, Alena jumped at a chance to audition for the role of Danielle Jordan. In addition to school and acting, Alena models and is a frequent contributor for the magazine For Girls Like You.

Follow Alena: Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Instagram

~*~

Contributor Bio: 

 Wynter Pitts is the founder of For Girls Like You Magazine and the author of For Girls Like You: A Devotional for Tweens and You’re God’s Girl. The mother of four girls, Wynter’s mission is to empower and equip girls to walk boldly into becoming who God has created them to be and to provide parents with the resources and support needed to raise strong Christ followers. In addition to publishing the quarterly magazine, Wynter is a frequent blogger, a contributor for LifeWay’s ParentLife Magazine, and a public speaker. She is also the niece of Dr. Tony Evans. Wynter, her husband Jonathan, and four daughters (ages 6-11), reside in Dallas, Texas.

~*~ Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring ~*~

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Book Review: Hello Stars (Faithgirlz / Lena in the Spotlight)

Book title: Hello Stars

Author: Alena Pitts

Contributor: Wynter Pitts

Illustrator: Annabelle Métayer

Number of Pages: 176

 Book blurb: Lena Daniels never thought she’d get the chance star in a movie. Headstrong and determined, she has her life planned out to the minute. But when her best friends, Savannah and Emma, tell her about an audition, she knows there’s nothing else in the world she’d rather do. And now that she’s gotten her wish, Lena finds that being in the spotlight is harder than it sounds. She got everything she never wanted! Her face turns up everywhere she goes, and everything in her life is flipped upside down. Lena wonders if this is a dream come true or a horrible nightmare. Even a visit from her best friends during filming turns into a disaster.

With her little sisters—Ansley, Ashton, and Amber—and her mischievous pup, Austin, constantly at her side, Lena must face the challenges of everyday life while chasing her dreams of being a model and actress on the big screen. Lena tackles tough choices, learns the value of perseverance, and keeps her hopes high. She knows her faith and family will keep her feet on the ground and her eyes on the stars.

This Faithgirlz series entitled Lena in the Spotlight, written by Alena Pitts, star of War Room and tween blogger of For Girls Like You, and co-written with her mother, editor and author, Wynter Pitts, is a reflection of Alena’s own life experiences as she reaches for the stars and keeps her faith in balance.

Book purchase links: Amazon, B&N, CBD

~*~
My Thoughts:

Hello Stars is a children’s book written by Alena Pitts.

Alena is an author, actress, model and contributor to the magazine, For Girls Like You.

Hello Stars features Lena Daniels who the reader can infer is based on Alena and her real-life experience as a movie star, except the characters in this story have been changed. In real-life, Alena played Danielle, the daughter of Priscilla Shirer’s character Elizabeth Jordan in the movie War Room. In the story Hello Stars, Lena gets to meet her favorite celebrity. She goes through an audition process and is chosen to star in a movie with Mallory Winston.

Lena’s best friends Savannah and Emma play a role in helping her become a movie star because they were the ones who told Lena about the audition. The friendship between Lena and her best friends is sweet, solid and heartwarming. The bond that Lena shares with her parents, sisters and pet dog is also very encouraging. This fictional family is portrayed as happy, healthy and helpful. It’s very refreshing to read.

This story is not without challenges. Lena works hard on making her dreams come true. But when Lena starts working on the movie, she realizes that being in the spotlight is more difficult than she dreamed. She doesn’t like seeing her face on advertisements and being in the public eye. This is where Lena’s faith plays a strong role. She writes letters to God in her journal. She prays, and she relies on her parents to help her navigate fame. Through it all, Lena learns how to persevere, make good decisions, and trust God.

Alena’s real-life Mom Wynter Pitts contributed to the writing of this book. Just like Mrs. Daniels (fictional Lena’s Mom), Wynter plays a crucial role in keeping her daughter Alena grounded in reality and soaring high with her faith in God as her dreams come true.

My favorite character in this story was Lena because of her sweet personality, strong work ethic, drive to succeed and her heart for helping people. The characters in this book, though fictional, felt real. The storyline was a bit predictable but did have its surprises with plot twists that keep the reader guessing at times. My favorite part of this book was watching Lena’s dreams to star in a movie with her favorite celebrity come true. It’s my favorite part because it reignited my hope that my own creative career dreams—though I am much older—can come true if it’s God’s will for me.

There are no heartbreaking scenes in this book that will make the reader cry. But there are highs and lows that Lena experiences in the journey to her dreams, causing her faith walk with God to be tested. The author writes these scenes with believability, skill and perfect prose. The way she details Lena’s journey endears her character to the reader’s heart. Readers may find themselves rooting for Lena from the start of the story and caring about what happens—or does not happen—to her throughout this book.

There is a very tense scene in this story that involves a moment where Lena disappoints the entire film crew and something Mallory says crushes her spirit. But to find out the details on this, you’ll have to read the book!

This book didn’t make me laugh or cry but it did make me smile quite often. I loved reading this story! There honestly is not anything about Hello Stars that I did not like. I was pleasantly surprised that this story did not have any cliffhangers. As a reader, I enjoyed journeying through this story with Lena, her family and friends. The characters are relatable and the dialogue is lively. The author’s writing style is sweet and engaging.

Overall, Hello Stars is a wonderful story filled with captivating characters, a creative premise, hope, faith, love, and a heroine’s journey that will encourage you as the reader to dream again.

I’d recommend this book to younger readers ages 8 to 12. But I’d also tell teenagers and young adults to read this book because the heroine’s journey to her dreams is relatable with a lesson that’s universal. This book is unique and in a class of its own though the theme is slightly reminiscent of Natalie Grant’s book, Miracle in Music City (Faithgirlz/Glimmer Girls), which is also a Faithgirlz book series.

Hello Stars is worth every bit of a five-star rating!

~*~

Author Bio: 

 Alena Pitts is a young actress and model from Dallas, Texas. As the oldest of four girls, Alena first cut her teeth in acting through making home videos and dramas with her sisters, using their entire home as their recording studio. She has a natural love for all things creative which falls right in line with her gifts and talents. The Kendrick Brothers’ War Room marks Alena’s professional acting debut. With only school theater on her young resume, Alena jumped at a chance to audition for the role of Danielle Jordan. In addition to school and acting, Alena models and is a frequent contributor for the magazine For Girls Like You.

Connect with Alena: Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Instagram

~*~

Contributor Bio: 

 Wynter Pitts is the founder of For Girls Like You Magazine and the author of For Girls Like You: A Devotional for Tweens and You’re God’s Girl. The mother of four girls, Wynter’s mission is to empower and equip girls to walk boldly into becoming who God has created them to be and to provide parents with the resources and support needed to raise strong Christ followers. In addition to publishing the quarterly magazine, Wynter is a frequent blogger, a contributor for LifeWay’s ParentLife Magazine, and a public speaker. She is also the niece of Dr. Tony Evans. Wynter, her husband Jonathan, and four daughters (ages 6-11), reside in Dallas, Texas.

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Book Spotlight: Dreams That Won’t Let Go

Happy Wednesday, Reader Friends!

Thanks for stopping by Diversity Between the Pages.

Today, we’re featuring Dreams That Won’t Let Go by Stacy Hawkins Adams. It’s the third novel in her Jubilant Soul Series.

Enjoy!

~*~

About the book:

 Indigo Burns is excited. Her wedding preparations to the man of her dreams are under way, her career as a photographer is a success, and her family seems to be doing better than ever–all except her brother Reuben who nobody has seen in years.

But that’s about to change, because Reuben has decided to move back home to Jubilant, Texas. But Reuben’s hope to find healing with his sisters doesn’t seem to be working. Soon enough their lives intersect in dramatic, sometimes painful, and ultimately healing ways.

This insightful novel by an Essence bestselling author will pull in women readers from the urban market and beyond.

Book purchase links: Amazon ~ B&N ~ CBD

~*~

Author Bio: Stacy Hawkins Adams is an award-winning author, journalist, and writing mentor whose fiction and nonfiction enlightens readers while helping them find confidence in their own stories.

She has penned nine faith-based novels and one devotional book.

She also serves as a parenting columnist for a Virginia-based newspaper and blogs for the Huffington Post on social justice issues.

Stacy lives in Virginia with her family.

Learn more about her at www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com.

~*~

Follow Stacy: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

Book Spotlight: Hello Stars (Faithgirlz / Lena in the Spotlight) by Alena Pitts

Happy Wednesday, Reader Friends!

Thanks for stopping by Diversity Between the Pages.

Today, we’re bringing you a book spotlight featuring a movie star! Alena Pitts is a multi-talented young girl who is an actress, model, magazine contributor, and author. She wrote a fictional book called Hello Stars focusing on a character named Lena, and today we’re sharing the story with you.

Enjoy!

~*~

About the book:

 Lena Daniels never thought she’d get the chance star in a movie. Headstrong and determined, she has her life planned out to the minute. But when her best friends, Savannah and Emma, tell her about an audition, she knows there’s nothing else in the world she’d rather do. And now that she’s gotten her wish, Lena finds that being in the spotlight is harder than it sounds. She got everything she never wanted! Her face turns up everywhere she goes, and everything in her life is flipped upside down. Lena wonders if this is a dream come true or a horrible nightmare. Even a visit from her best friends during filming turns into a disaster.

With her little sisters—Ansley, Ashton, and Amber—and her mischievous pup, Austin, constantly at her side, Lena must face the challenges of everyday life while chasing her dreams of being a model and actress on the big screen. Lena tackles tough choices, learns the value of perseverance, and keeps her hopes high. She knows her faith and family will keep her feet on the ground and her eyes on the stars.

This Faithgirlz series entitled Lena in the Spotlight, written by Alena Pitts, star of War Room and tween blogger of For Girls Like You, and co-written with her mother, editor and author, Wynter Pitts, is a reflection of Alena’s own life experiences as she reaches for the stars and keeps her faith in balance.

Book purchase links: Amazon, B&N, CBD

~*~

About the Author:

Alena Pitts is a young actress and model from Dallas, Texas. As the oldest of four girls, Alena first cut her teeth in acting through making home videos and dramas with her sisters, using their entire home as their recording studio. She has a natural love for all things creative which falls right in line with her gifts and talents. The Kendrick Brothers’ War Room marks Alena’s professional acting debut. With only school theater on her young resume, Alena jumped at a chance to audition for the role of Danielle Jordan. In addition to school and acting, Alena models and is a frequent contributor for the magazine For Girls Like You.

Follow Alena: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

Author Interview: Vanessa Riley

Today, we’re featuring Vanessa Riley.

She’s the author of Regency-era novels with gorgeous book covers, captivating characters, and intriguing storylines!

Vanessa visits with us today to talk about her story, Unmasked Heart.

About the book: 
Shy, nearsighted caregiver, Gaia Telfair always wondered why her father treated her a little differently than her siblings. She never guessed she couldn’t claim his love because of a family secret, her illicit birth. With everything she knows to be true evaporating before her spectacles, can the mulatto passing for white survive being exposed and shunned by the powerful duke who has taken an interest in her?

Ex-warrior, William St. Landon, the Duke of Cheshire, will do anything to protect his mute daughter from his late wife’s scandals. With a blackmailer at large, hiding in a small village near the cliffs of Devonshire seems the best option, particularly since he can gain help from the talented Miss Telfair, who has the ability to help children learn to speak. If only he could do a better job at shielding his heart from the young lady whose honest hazel eyes see through his jests as her tender lips challenge his desire to remain a single man.

Unmasked Heart is the first Challenge of the Soul Regency Romance novel.

Purchase the book: Amazon, BAM!B&N

Author bio: Vanessa Riley worked as an engineer before allowing her passion for historical romance to shine. A Regency era (early 1800s) and Jane Austen enthusiast, she brings the flavor of diverse peoples to her stories. Since she was seventeen, Vanessa has won awards for her writing and is currently working on two series. She lives in Atlanta with her military man hubby and precocious child. You can catch her writing from the comfort of her southern porch with a cup of Earl Grey tea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Interview: 

Alexis: Unmasked Heart is the first book in your Challenge of the Soul Regency series. Tell us about it. How did you create the concept for this story?

Vanessa: Unmasked Heart is a story in which I kept pushing the envelope. I didn’t want to tell a normal tale. Every novel in the series will focus on a challenge of faith from someone who has been rocked to his/her core by life circumstances. The hero or heroine or both must answer, “Who am I in Christ?” Am I conqueror, a temple, no longer a slave, an heir?

When we meet Gaia, we see she is a nice young woman from a modest family. She’s the kind sister and the caregiver in her family. She is doing good things and takes primary care of her stepbrother. Gaia is a believer and her faith is evident from the beginning. When she is alone, she prays to God, mentioning all her frustrations. At first, these problems seem to be nothing more than what a young woman of the 1800s would face.

Yet, what would make Gaia challenge everything that she knows including her bedrock of faith? It wasn’t enough to have her requited in love. It wasn’t enough to have her doubt her father’s love. What if she doubted who she was? That is where her story begins. Who am I in Christ? Am I who He says I am or the lies I’ve grown up believing?

Alexis: What are Gaia’s greatest hopes and deepest fears? Why?

Vanessa: Like all of us, Gaia wants to be loved. She has spent her life in want of it. She wants deep and abiding, love-all-of-me love. Fear of never possessing it or not being brave enough to say she deserves it, this is Gaia’s problem. If she can overcome the fear of asking and failing, she will never have everything God wants her to have. How can she be all that God wants her to be if she does not have the strength to try?

Alexis: Gaia grew up believing that her natural tan is a result of her mother’s Spanish ancestry. But then she learns the truth. How does her father’s confession rock her world?

Vanessa: The day Gaia learns that her mother had an affair and that Gaia is the product of a liaison with an African man, her world is turned upside down. She is ashamed of her mother’s sins. She knows little of the African race. In her isolated village away from London, she may have not seen that many. She has heard the jokes about that race being slow-witted or happy slaves. She must come to terms with who she is as a biracial woman. She has to accept that the past does not matter. It is who she in in Christ, how she makes her life a willing sacrifice to Him—that is what matters. My hope is all who read Unmasked Heart, will sense her heartache of learning the truth and the weight of her dilemma. Some will never value her humanity because of the sins of the past, but she must come to understand that Gaia is not defined by it. Her present counts more. She is wonderfully made molded in the image of the Creator.

Alexis: A mulatto “passing” for White was an act that is not limited to the Regency era but still happens in modern times. What is your definition of a mulatto?

Vanessa: A mulatto is a person of mix ancestry with typically one white parent and one black parent. Gaia is a mulatto. A Blackamoor is a person of darker colored skin. Had she been darker skinned, unable to pass for White, she could have also been labeled as a Blackamoor.

Alexis: William St. Landon, the Duke of Cheshire, is the hero of your story. Describe his looks, mannerisms, and heart.

Vanessa: William is a handsome, older hero. He’s in his mid-thirties, which was older for the shorter Regency life spans. William is a military man. Rigor and discipline are his norms. It’s what he is used to, but now he finds himself widowed and raising a daughter who is mute. Can you imagine if you are accustomed to shouting commands to your men who do as they are told but you can’t command this little girl? She won’t say “Yes, Sir” and do his bidding. He is frustrated and desperate. So, when he meets Gaia and finds out that she is a caregiver who has taught her mentally disabled brother to speak, he has hope. He must meet Gaia and find a way to convince her to help.

Alexis: What is it about Gaia that draws William to her, making him reconsider his desire to remain single?

Vanessa: William is a widower, but his marriage was difficult. His wife married him for his title and his wealth. He meets Gaia who doesn’t care about either. In a truly Darcy-kind-of-way, he’s taken by her because she’s not running after him or fawning all over him. In fact, she believes herself in love with someone else. He feels he can be himself around her without worrying about her trying to attach herself to him. The problem with spending more time with Gaia is that he sees her heart, begins to covet it then wants it for himself.

Gaia is love with her neighbor, Elliot. Unfortunately, he has begun to court her sister, Julia. Gaia is heartbroken to see her sister’s treachery for who else would know of her love for Elliot better than the sister she with which she was close? Gaia’s happily-ever-after won’t come until she is able to repair relationships with her family and learning to live without bitterness if her efforts fail. Not everyone will be able to accept who you are, but you must love yourself enough to not crumble. Gaia should accept the challenge to love herself more than sorrow, more than loss. If God loves us so much that He sacrificed his only Son for our sakes, why can’t we love ourselves beyond our own failures or the poor labels given to us by those who are not working for our good?

If Gaia and William, can both learn to love to love in the light, beyond the shadows of the past, they will earn their happily-ever-after.

Alexis: What were the challenges of writing this book?

Vanessa: There wasn’t a challenge per se. The problem lies more in the attitudes one confronts during and after publication, centering on the lie that this story could never happen. Dido Belle, the mulatto niece raised by Lord Mansfield is not known by many but there is a lovely movie called Belle if one needs cliff notes to this history. One may not care to know that Jane Austen wrote about a mulatto heiress in Sandition (1817). One probably doesn’t know of the scandal of Prince William, the brother of the Regent who was caught in an affair with a mulatto woman from Jamaica (1778).

I was on a panel and a very, very popular bestselling author, tried to make a joke about it being “impossible to put African Americans in her Regency novels because it was England.” She thought it was cute to indicate, “that you people have no seat at the table.”

She forgot about the American-born slave women brought to London post the Revolutionary War, technically African-Americans. She forgot about the free Blackamoor and mulatto women present in London at the time Pride and Prejudice was written. Bless her heart. She did have her hands full marginalizing other populations in her books as her answer to the growing call to add diversity to her stories.

Alexis: What would you like to see change in CBA when it comes to authors of color who write about characters of color and how that impacts their journey to publication?

Vanessa: I would love for there to be more opportunity, but opportunity is only part of the battle. The systemic marketing issues are huge. Stories centered on characters of color are often packaged as exotic like it’s the same as an alien futuristic novel. Other marketing tactics are to put a house on the cover as if the reader should be tricked into buying the book. Or lastly, the guilt-ridden complex which equates to buy this book of color because it’s Black History Month, etc. as if the story would not make a good read in March. The CBA is not alone in this struggle, but it seems that with the data available about buying patterns and habits, newer fresher ways to market diverse books should also exist.

Alexis: You’ve said that ABA wants your historical romance stories that feature characters of color but CBA does not. What did they say was the reason? How do you feel about that? Explain.

Vanessa: I can’t speak for the ABA (American Booksellers Association) or CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) but ABA seems to be more successful in getting different types of books to the market. They take more risks, which paid off with more unexpected hits.

With the ABA or CBA, you still face challenges in marketing diverse stories. If the sales numbers are not there, you’ve now doomed the slots for your future books and or books like yours. Yes, this is the extra weight of every diverse narrative that is traditionally published. Can you stand the rain?

I have an umbrella, and I decided to go with a publisher who has had success in publishing different books to a wider market and has the distribution to land New York Times bestsellers. For my 2018 releases, I am being published by Entangled in their single title historical select imprint. I am very happy for the opportunity to tell my story to a broader audience.

Alexis: What advice do you have for authors of color who want to share their stories but are afraid to write what they know?

Vanessa: Tell the story you are given. Don’t chase the market for it always moving. Write what is on your heart. When I gave up trying to fit my square peg Regency tales into a round market that didn’t necessarily think a market for diverse Regencies existed, I found my lane, my audience. I am ever grateful for my traditionally published CBA debut and every one of my independently published titles that have found homes around the world on readers’ shelves or Kindles.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Vanessa!

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Connect with Vanessa:

Website – www.vanessariley.com

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/VanessaRileyAuthor

www.facebook.com/ChristianRegency

Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/VanessaRiley

Pinterest – http://pinterest.com/regencymaid

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/govanessariley

Purchase Vanessa’s book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00WDR6C7S

Sign up for Vanessa’s newsletter: http://christianregency.com/subscribe.html

Author Interview: Stacy Hawkins Adams, featuring “Worth a Thousand Words”

Please extend a warm welcome to a familiar face here on our blog!

Journalist Stacy Hawkins Adams returns to answer my questions about book number two in her Jubilant Soul Series, Worth a Thousand Words.

Enjoy!

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About the book:

 Life has always gone Indigo Burns’s way. She’s smart, pretty, and talented, and she knows exactly what she wants. A photography internship at her hometown’s local newspaper is the next step in her well-laid plans for her future. But her long-term goals are put to the test when her boyfriend Brian proposes–two years before he’s supposed to and in front of all the guests at her college graduation party. Too concerned about his feelings to say no, she heartily agrees, but inside she’s cringing.

Indigo knows in her heart that she’s not prepared to sacrifice her dreams to become Brian’s wife–not before she has achieved any of them. Will she find the answers among family and friends in Jubilant, Texas? Or will the picture-perfect life she dreams of be left behind?

Purchase the book: Amazon ~ B&N ~ CBD

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Author Bio: Stacy Hawkins Adams is an award-winning author, journalist, and writing mentor whose fiction and nonfiction enlightens readers while helping them find confidence in their own stories.

She has penned nine faith-based novels and one devotional book.

She also serves as a parenting columnist for a Virginia-based newspaper and blogs for the Huffington Post on social justice issues.

Stacy lives in Virginia with her family.

Learn more about her at www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com.

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Interview with Stacy Hawkins Adams about her book, Worth a Thousand Words:

Alexis: What was the inspiration behind the title of this book?

Stacy: Worth a Thousand Words is a metaphor for how the truth is worth a thousand words. The main characters in this novel had to choose between living their lives to please others or finding the courage to stand in their own truths.

Alexis: Indigo is a very artsy, unique name for a heroine. How did you imagine her name? What is she like? Describe her personality, passion, career goals and dreams of her heart.

Stacy: I’m always on the hunt for intriguing character names – whether I find them in articles or overhear them in conversations. I don’t quite recall how I discovered this particular name, but when I heard it, I fell in love, and when it was time to create a young character who was vibrant and arts-oriented (via her photography), this name seemed perfect.

Indigo is a recent college grad beloved by her family, including her favorite older cousin Rachelle, who is the main character in The Someday List, the first novel in my Jubilant Soul series. She is eager to launch a career as a photographer and see the world, so she is caught off guard when her handsome boyfriend – who her parents consider to be “a good catch” – proposes at her graduation party before she even has a chance to experience independence. While she says yes to the proposal to save face, her heart is screaming something else, and she must decide which path to take.

Alexis: Why would her boyfriend Brian’s proposal interfere with her carefully constructed life plans?

Stacy: In part because she is so young that her plans simply include being excited about the possibilities life could offer. By choosing to follow Brian in following his dream, she might always wonder if she had compromised her own. And truthfully, Indigo has to decide whether the love she feels for Brian is truly deep enough to spend the rest of her life with him, or just convenient and pleasing to her parents.

Alexis: Does Indigo love Brian? It looks like her heart didn’t want to say “yes”.

Stacy: As I mentioned above, she does, but even she is not sure if it’s an enduring, God-ordained love. They make a picture-perfect couple, but beyond the surface, are they really compatible, and meant to help each other flourish in their purpose and dreams? The fact that Indigo seems less than thrilled by the proposal and the impending wedding plans makes her wonder.

Alexis: Why does Indigo fear marriage and settling down with Brian?

Stacy: Because she’s so young. There’s so much to learn about herself and life and her purpose. She doesn’t know how to articulate this, but what she’s feeling is the question of “Is there something more?” And the fact that she’s asking herself this in various ways is her clue that there probably is something more, or at least something different, for her.

Alexis: What were the challenges unique to writing this story?

Stacy: This was a fun book to write because it allowed me to explore the inner thoughts, hopes, and fears of two young adult characters (in their early 20s), at a pivotal time in their lives. The only challenge was trying to tell the story without giving away Brian’s struggles too early and also those of a few other characters. I also sought to write about the issues they were facing in a balanced way so that readers could decide for themselves whose side to take.

Alexis: What were the most rewarding parts of writing this novel?

Stacy: Showing the humanity of all of the characters, even when they made choices that I knew readers might question or find frustrating. My goal was to show their motivation for their choices so that when readers put down the book and considered the choices of people around them, they might begin to extend a little more grace.

Alexis: As a real-life journalist, was it easy for you to write the scenes where Indigo takes pictures with her professional camera? Why or why not?

Stacy: Yes – having worked in newsrooms with great professional photographers was a bonus. I was able to pull from those experiences to make Indigo’s summer job realistic.

Alexis: As an author of color, do you feel like you need to write about characters that look like you and share your experiences? Or do you write stories about characters that are not of color too? Explain.

Stacy: I write about the humanity of all characters because, at the end of the day, we all care about the same things and about people we love. We all want to be safe, happy, loved and fulfilled, and we all can grow from a personal relationship with God. With that in mind, it’s a pleasure to write about characters of color who reflect this, because this is who I am, and many people I know. At the same time, I’ve heard from readers of all backgrounds that they’ve found my stories relatable, and that they were surprised once they started reading how they sometimes forgot that the characters “happened” to be African American.

I don’t take those comments to mean that there’s anything wrong with having characters who are people of color; instead, I believe what they’re saying is that the stories were relevant to them, no matter what the characters looked like. And yes – I often include characters in my books who are not African American, because we live in a multi-cultural world, and this helps the book feel more true-to-life.

I also try to show that true friendship, grace, love, and caring can be more powerful than any surface or cultural differences; we just have to open our hearts and eyes to this and truly see the other person.

Alexis: What do you want your readers to remember most about this story?

Stacy: I want readers to remember that trusting the truths in your heart is the best path to take, in every aspect of your life.

Each of the primary characters in this novel experienced a peace beyond understanding when they embraced this reality and stood tall in who they felt called to be and in what they felt led to do. This doesn’t mean it was always easy or that the path was always clear; but because they were honoring what they felt was right, they knew they would be okay. They trusted that God’s hand on their lives was the best roadmap to follow to their joy.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Stacy! Would you like to share closing thoughts?

Stacy: Thanks for the opportunity to share with your readers about my novel Worth a Thousand Words. I loved writing this book and I hope they will find it inspiring, eye-opening and thought-provoking. I’d love to receive feedback on my social media pages. In the meantime, I wish everyone reading this all my best.

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Connect with Stacy:

Website – www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com

Twitter – www.twitter.com/shadams

Facebook – www.facebook.com/stacyinspires

Book Review: Unmasked Heart

Book title: Unmasked Heart

Author: Vanessa Riley

Number of pages: 412

Book blurb: Shy, nearsighted caregiver, Gaia Telfair always wondered why her father treated her a little differently than her siblings, but she never guessed she couldn’t claim his love because of a family secret, her illicit birth. With everything she knows to be true evaporating before her spectacles, can the mulatto passing for white survive being exposed and shunned by the powerful duke who has taken an interest in her?Ex-warrior, William St. Landon, the Duke of Cheshire, will do anything to protect his mute daughter from his late wife’s scandals. With a blackmailer at large, hiding in a small village near the cliffs of Devonshire seems the best option, particularly since he can gain help from the talented Miss Telfair, who has the ability to help children learn to speak.

Ex-warrior, William St. Landon, the Duke of Cheshire, will do anything to protect his mute daughter from his late wife’s scandals. With a blackmailer at large, hiding in a small village near the cliffs of Devonshire seems the best option, particularly since he can gain help from the talented Miss Telfair, who has the ability to help children learn to speak.

If only he could do a better job at shielding his heart from the young lady, whose honest hazel eyes see through his jests as her tender lips challenge his desire to remain a single man. Unmasked Heart is the first Challenge of the Soul Regency novel.

Book purchase links: AmazonBAM!B&N

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My Thoughts:

Sadness, sweetness and true beauty were poetically woven throughout this story with the perfect title for its content.

The story is called Unmasked Heart and the author Vanessa Riley is a true authority on all things regency romance. She skillfully and flawlessly paints vivid pictures in every scene featuring characters of color.

The heroine Gaia Telfair is what people back then (and now) would call a “mulatto” which means that she is a mix of White and Black blood/heritage/lineage. Due to her mixed blood, her skin is a bit darker than her White family members and she’s very self-conscious about it. She even stays out of the sun for a month prior to a fancy masquerade ball so that she appears paler and closer to the skin color that was accepted by society at that time which was a milky white complexion.

Gaia’s father spun the story about her skin color from her birth to be socially acceptable. He said that she had Spanish ancestry and for a while, that lie worked…until Gaia discovered the truth.

The author knows how to peel back the layers in this story like a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef would expertly peel back the layers of an onion. Every layer reveals something new about the hero and heroine of this story. It’s so well done and intriguing that the reader will keep turning the page until they reach the end. The reader’s journey through this book is an experience of a myriad of emotions as the plot twists and the tension builds.

Highlights from this book include the scene where William St. Landon, the Duke of Cheshire, advises Gaia that she give her love interest “something to chase” because “every man wants to win love and know that it’s his alone.” It ups the ante on the love triangle that’s happening in this story. It’s the classic case of the heroine wants the object of her affection but he does not want her (at first) and meanwhile, the true hero (William) wants the heroine. The difference, however, is that William is a hero worth his weight in gold who makes Elliot (Gaia’s love interest/first hero of choice) pale in comparison.

Another highlight in this book was when Gaia confesses her feelings to a man that she thinks is Elliot. But his face is hidden behind a mask because they’re attending a masquerade ball. It was compelling to hear Gaia pour out her “unmasked heart” to “Elliot” only to find out that it is not he. The reaction of the man who is not Elliot was swoon-worthy.

A sad part of this story was the fact that Gaia believed the Black side of her heritage prevented the only father that she knew from loving her as one of his biological daughters. Even sadder was the scene where Gaia learned the circumstances of her conception and the tragic results of the affair that her mother had with Gaia’s biological father. Worse yet is her belief that her Blackness will prevent the man she loves from loving her back.

However, the reader may be surprised by Gaia’s unique marriage proposal. It was a scene that made me laugh out loud. The interaction between Gaia and her suitor was heartwarming.

One of the most clever lines in this story was when a Black man named Albert talks about his mixed-race niece whose hair like Gaia’s which he describes as “feathers in the fog”. It was a very clever way for this author to reveal that Albert knew that Gaia was part Black and it rings true even in the year 2017 when quite often a Black person in America can easily point out another Black person no matter what percentage of Black blood they have just by details that most people who are not Black may miss.

It made me sad that a character advised Gaia to not tell William that she is Black because it would “ruin everything”. But that’s a reality that Black women of mixed heritage still sometimes face in 2017 which is centuries after the era this book was written to reflect.

Most powerful was the point in this story where Gaia realizes that it doesn’t matter how her biological father’s background or status in society ranked. What matters is that she’s a Child of the King (GOD) so God made her somebody and she deserves happiness.

I loved reading this story! The author’s storytelling style is historically accurate, enthralling, and smooth. The storyline is strong and so well told that it was hard to take a break from reading it.

Unmasked Heart is worth every bit of a 5-star rating!

*The book reviewer (Alexis A. Goring) received a complimentary copy of Unmasked Heart from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Author: Vanessa Riley worked as an engineer before allowing her passion for historical romance to shine. A Regency era (early 1800s) and Jane Austen enthusiast, she brings the flavor of diverse peoples to her stories. Since she was seventeen, Vanessa has won awards for her writing and is currently working on two series. She lives in Atlanta with her military man hubby and precocious child. You can catch her writing from the comfort of her southern porch with a cup of Earl Grey tea.

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