Interview with Terri J. Haynes

Happy Monday, Diverse Reader Friends!

Today I’m interviewing one of our co-contributors, Terri J. Haynes. We’re talking about her novel, Love Simplified. Let’s get started!


About the Book

The Blurb: Tempest Day is an expert on helping others find love through her Connection Parties matchmaking service and the methods outlined in her bestselling book, Love Simplified. She’s one step away from becoming a celebrity matchmaker, the pinnacle of her career dreams.

But when a seemingly simple interview on the nation’s most popular daytime television show takes an ugly turn, Tempest is forced to admit a secret she’s carried for years: She’s never been in love. The fallout is immediate and severe. So severe that the only way to fix the damage is to use her own methods on a reality TV show.

Tempest soon discovers that love is anything but simple. The show and its cranky but handsome associate producer, Lance Moretti, challenges all that Tempest thought she knew about relationships, even her relationship with God. What starts as a desperate attempt to repair her reputation turns into Tempest’s biggest love connection ever.

Links: Amazon, Goodreads


Interview

Toni: Thank you so much for joining me today. I absolutely adore the blurb for Love Simplified. Where did the idea come from?

Terri: Watching late night TV, something I rarely do. I was watching a reality TV show about a self-help guru helping others with their relationships. As I watched, I started to wonder what would happen if the guru had the same problem as the people she’s supposed to help. I imagined someone who could say all the right things but didn’t actually do them. I was fascinated by that irony.

Toni: That’s what interested me in the blurb! Tempest is African American but Lance is Italian. Was it hard to write a story with an interracial relationship?

Terri: Not really because my marriage is cross-cultural. My husband is originally from Barbados. I know what it’s like to fall for someone who was raised in a different culture. Even more than that, I know what it’s like to bridge the gap between cultures. Interracial relationship was a small jump in my imagination.

Toni: Love it when life’s experiences help us in our writing. Here at Diversity, we hope to bring more diverse Christian fiction to the readers. Our world is diverse, so are books should be as well. But I wonder, do you think too much emphasis is placed on ethnic backgrounds?

Terri: Actually, I don’t think there is enough emphasis on ethic backgrounds. One of the key pieces of good fiction is characters, their background, how they were shaped and their fears. A truly moving story can’t be told without considering someone’s ethnic background. If we take away the emphasis on ethnic backgrounds, we will have the same stories told by the same characters.

Toni: Yes! I completely agree. How about some easy questions? What are you currently reading?

Terri: Yeah…I read 3-5 books at a time! I’m reading a book to write a review and I’m a sensitivity reader for another. I’m really excited about that one. In my devotional time, I’m reading Unlimiting God by Richard Blackaby. I’m also reading The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. I just finished Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly and A Shattered Tree by Charles Todd. I’m about to start In This Grave Hour by Jacqueline Winspear.

Toni: Wow! That’s a lot of reading! Skittles or M&Ms?

Terri: Both depending on my mood.

Toni: I hear ya! Rain or sunshine?

Terri: Sunshine. Rain and bad weather often triggers migraines so I sometimes dread rain.

Toni: Boo. I love a great rainstorm, but having your health react is no fun. Flip flops or sandals?

Terri: Either. I love shoes so I’m take pumps, boots and espadrilles, too.

Toni: Lol. Summer or Winter?

Terri: Winter! I love blizzards and have been known to swoon when the forecasters call for thundersnow. Every time there is a heavy snow that shuts the DC metro down for a few days, I watch the whole Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Toni: Blech! You lost me with that one. I lost my mind during the last blizzard in DC metro area. No more! Last but not least, how can readers help support you in your writing journey?

Terri: Pray. Pray and pray hard. I am facing some hard circumstances with it comes to my writing. First, I have many manuscripts in many differ genres. I read broadly so my ideas are all over the place. I don’t quite know if I want to brand myself or write whatever I want. Second, traditionally published diverse Christian fiction has been slow to materialize. Although there is a lot of talk about diversity, I’m not sure I see in fruit of that yet (but I do have hope). Third, Love Simplified is self-published, so I have that option and do plan to self-publish more. It is hard to decide what direction to take, but God knows where I need to go next. He’ll open the door and I trust Him to do just that.

Toni: You have our prayers! Blessings to you! Readers, do you have any questions for Terri?


Interview conducted by Toni Shiloh


About the Author

Terri J. Haynes, a native Baltimorean, is a homeschool mom, writer, prolific knitter, freelance graphic artist and former Army wife (left the Army, not the husband). She loves to read, so much that when she was in elementary school, she masterminded a plan to be locked in a public library armed with only a flashlight to read all the books and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. As she grew, her love for writing grew as she tried her hand at poetry, articles, speeches and fiction. She is storyteller at heart. Her passion is to draw readers in the story world she has created and to bring laughter and joy to their lives.

Terri is a 2010 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis contest finalist, and a 2012 semi-finalist. She is also a 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Quarterfinalist. Her publishing credits include Cup of Comfort for Military Families, Crosswalk.com, the Secret Place Devotional, Vista Devotional, Urbanfaith.com and Publisher’s Weekly.

Terri holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology, a Master’s degree in Theological Studies and a certificate in creative writing and graphic design, meeting the minimal requirements of being a geek. She and her husband pastor a church where she serves as executive pastor and worship leader.

Terri lives in Maryland with her three wonderful children and her husband, who often beg her not to kill of their favorite characters.

Follow: Website, Facebook, Twitter

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.

GOODREADS | AMAZON | B&N


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?

Author Interview: Jacqueline Freeman Wheelock

Happy Monday, Diverse Reader friends!

Today I’m sharing an interview with Jacqueline freeman Wheelock. She’s stopped by to talk about her upcoming release, In Pursuit of an Emerald. Let’s get started!


About the Book

The Blurb: “All ex-slave Violette McMillan ever wanted was to see her troubled daughter Emerald grow up to be a better person than Violette has been, so when Benjamin Catlett, an old acquaintance, asks her to become his bookkeeper in 1869, in a business that is sinking due to southern backlash during the Reconstruction era, she agrees. But when his arrogance surfaces, their goals collide, and Violette wonders if she might be forced to renege at the expense of her daughter’s future education.

Benjamin Catlett is plagued by his past as a free man of color whose African American father was a slaveholder. Renouncing his father’s way of life, he moves to Natchez hoping to quietly atone. But his new hire, Violette McMillan, and her flirtatious teenage daughter, Emerald, test the limits of his good intentions one time too many, offending his straight-laced upbringing and tempting him to fire Violette.

Will the Lord who tugs at the heart of both Benjamin and Violette prevail in solidifying their efforts to tolerate each other and finally affirm the love already blossoming in their hearts?”

Links: Amazon, Goodreads


Interview

Toni: Thank you for joining me today on Diversity Between the Pages. Tell us, what inspired you to write In Pursuit of an Emerald?

Jacqueline: I love wandering in and out of the antebellum homes of Natchez, Mississippi, and as an African American, it is impossible for me not to wonder what the lives of the house slaves of those home were like. What were their hopes? Their latent dreams? Their flaws? Their squabbles among themselves? Those were the questions that pricked my curiosity about Violette, the main character in In Pursuit of an Emerald, as she emerged significantly in my debut novel, A Most Precious Gift. Subsequently, those questions about Violette are pursued and answered in In Pursuit of an Emerald.

Unlike A Most Precious Gift, its sequel, Emerald, is set several years after the Civil War, but I think the idea of Violette, the “bad girl” in A Most Precious Gift, having her own story was always embedded in my subconscious. Although she was villainous in MPG, there were sympathetic reasons for her schemes, and since God is in the business of turning villains into Christ-followers, I never totally gave up on her. I think I always needed to try to vindicate her.

Toni: I love when a character can be redeemed. What made you decide to visit the Reconstruction era?

Jacqueline: For many African Americans of the mid-to-late 19th century, the huge sigh of relief after the war turned into a gasp of horror as certain embittered members of the Confederacy set out to revoke the rights of ex-slaves through terrorism and unconscionable legislation. I thought it might be interesting to pursue a character who—recent freedom and its attendant perils notwithstanding—could never truly accept her liberation based on the assumption that her past sins preempted her right to emancipation.

Toni: Wow! I couldn’t imagine thinking like that. What kind of research did you have to do, to ensure the novel was authentic?

Jacqueline: Due to research for A Most Precious Gift, much of the Emerald, as relates to setting, was already in place. But as the story evolved, I had to augment what I knew about blacks who owned slaves during the antebellum period, and I had to refresh my knowledge of the origins and spread of the Ku Klux Klan, as well as the opportunists (carpetbaggers) collapsing upon the South after the war.

Toni: What message do you hope your readers will leave with after reading In Pursuit of an Emerald?

Jacqueline: Violette’s guilt centers on the lie she is living insofar as her daughter Emerald is concerned, a lie which has resulted in producing a troubled adolescent. I want to leave an impression of the importance of godly parenting with its attendant call for rules, love, and truth as the ultimate foundation for daily living. I also, via the hero, try to restate the depth of harm slaveholding inflicts not only on the slave but the slaveholder as well, no matter his or her color. Finally, though Violette thinks her goal is to gain the respect of Emerald, it is the priceless jewel of self-worth, so often lacking in the slave mentality, that she is searching for. This inner search for one’s value is what I hope to emphasize—a jewel which slave descendants still pursue today.

Toni: Yes! The jewl of self-worth is priceless. As you may know, there has been recent talk about adding diversity to the reading culture. How do you think In Pursuit of an Emerald will impact this discussion?

Jacqueline: Too often, I believe, people think of slaves as slavery itself, that is, a collapsing of all its victims into one abused body. Hopefully, the book underscores not only the general and collective struggle of ex-slaves during the Reconstruction era but the predicaments which they as individual people with individual problems incurred, including the so-called free man of color who often found himself enslaved to one degree or another.

Toni: Oh, this sounds like it’ll be an excellent read! How about some personal questions? What is the first book that made you cry?

Jacqueline: That’s a hard one, but I think it was The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Growing up is an unavoidable experience, and unto this day, I recall the pain of the child in that book as he struggled toward the realities of life in his coming of age.

Toni: Coming of age books can often be tear jerkers. Who are your three must-read authors, and why do you read their works?

Jacqueline: Another hard one, but I’m going to narrow it to Christian fiction writers I’ve read during the last decade. I have thoroughly enjoyed Ginny Dye, especially her Bregdan Chronicles that dare to tackle the racial history of America with both gentleness and truth. Also, I am a fan of Laura Frantz and B. J. Hoff. All three ladies have forever impressed me with their talent for weaving history into a riveting fictional narrative that stirs the heart and makes one want to do something worthwhile.

Toni: I’ve read Laura Frantz. Her writing is poetic. Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Jacqueline: Both. In the back of my mind, I am always writing, and when I get a chance to put what I’m thinking about on paper, it is nothing short of exhilarating. But after several hours, I start to feel exhausted. Depleted. Brain-busted! At that point, no matter that I would like to continue, I must stop and do something “other than”—usually read someone else’s fiction.

Toni: Reading is my go to as well. And last, do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Jacqueline: Love what you write. Believe in its message, and make sure it indeed has a message no matter how lighthearted or poignant. For whatever period of time readers gives to your book, that’s time gone from them forever. I feel they are owed some takeaway.

Toni: Beautifully stated. Readers, do you have any questions for Ms. Wheelock?


About the Author

Jacqueline Freeman Wheelock is a multi-published author whose works range from short stories to a memoir of growing up during and after integration. Wheelock has been a member of several writers and critique groups and is currently a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, an organization which has afforded her valuable instruction and opportunity toward publication. An avid reader and former high school and college English teacher, her first novel, A Most Precious Gift, debuted in 2014 via Mantle Rock Publishers. The sequel, In Pursuit of an Emerald, debuts in August of 2017. Jacqueline and her husband Donald reside in Madison, Mississippi and have two adult children and two beloved granddaughters.

Follow: Website, Facebook, Twitter


Interview conducted by Toni Shiloh

 

Author Interview with Dina Sleiman

Hey there, Diverse Reader Friends!

Hope you had an awesome weekend! Today, I’m sharing an interview I did with the awesome, Dina (D. L.) Sleiman. We’re discussing her novel, Dance from Deep Within. I can’t wait to share! Let’s get started.


About the Book

The Blurb: “Despite her conservative Muslim heritage, Layla Al-Rai longs for a chance to earn her degree in engineering and perhaps even…dare she dream…to choose her own husband. But young women from her background rarely enjoy such freedoms. When she finally talks her parents into letting her attend college, she is drawn to fellow twenty-something students, Allie and Rain, over a class project.

Allie, the blonde ballerina, faces her own struggles as she deals with an ex-fiancé and a church she had hoped to leave behind. Rain, the bi-racial hippie chick, longs for something to believe in, but her questioning could cost her the love of her life.

When Layla’s childhood sweetheart reenters her world, it seems her dreams might become real. Until everything falls apart. When she meets truth face to face, will she find the courage to accept it even if it requires the ultimate sacrifice?”

Links: Amazon, Goodreads


Interview

Toni: Thank you so much for joining us to talk about Dance from Deep Within. When I saw your novel in the WhiteFire Publishing Scavenger hunt, I was bouncing in my seat. I LOVE discovering diverse Christian fiction and your book seems to have it in spades. How did you even come up with this story idea?

Dina: My husband is from Lebanon, and I’ve been there several times. I always wanted to tell the story of a Muslim woman. But at the end of the day…like most of my books…the idea just sort of popped into my head, and I had to get it down on paper.

Toni: That is so awesome! As you stated above, Layla Al-Rai is Muslim. Wow, just wow. I can’t decide if I want to ask you about her religion or heritage…hmm, how about both? Is she American by birth or an immigrant? How does her religion factor into the novel?

Dina: Layla was raised in the states in a moderate Muslim family, originally from Lebanon. She’s the type of Muslim girl who wears the headscarf and modest clothing, but still manages to stay in the height of fashion. I modeled her after a stylish young Muslim woman I saw wearing a red mini-dress over a long sleeved black turtle neck and leggings once in Lebanon. Her religion and heritage, and even the difference between the two, play a huge part in her story. There are aspects of it she loves, and aspects of it that really bother her. I talked to a lot of former Muslims and even had one critique the book to make sure I got Layla right.

Toni: Yay! So happy you could talk to former Muslims. I’m sure it helped add authenticity. So Rain is biracial! Eek! Seriously, you gave us a melting pot in one novel! Was it difficult to write Rain’s background? Did it feel too far removed from your own? (Why can’t I stick to just one question, lol?)

Dina: I know, this book covers a lot! I modeled Rain after a few zany characters I loved from television: Freddie Brooks from the old A Different World series, and Dharma from Dharma and Greg, even though Dharma was white. Rain is the typical flower child of aging hippies, and that’s what stands out most about her. I think her bi-racial heritage really captures the post-modern spirit and new age type beliefs I was aiming for. Rain pretty much wrote herself, and she’s hysterical. I felt like since she had both black and white in her background, I had more flexibility in how she might think and feel. And African-American readers have really enjoyed her.

Toni: I loved Freddie in A Different World! Rain sounds like an amazing character. But she’s not the last one. The last young lady featured in your novel is Allie, a ballerina. I see church is her struggle. How did you create her character?

Dina: Allie is a lot like me, so she was fairly easy to write in some ways, but I also had to be careful how I presented her for a Christian audience. She loves God, but has a lot of hurts and hang ups due to her uber-conservative religious upbringing. She’s a ballerina by training, but she actually prefers contemporary dance and heavy metal music. She’s a free spirit at heart. Not a great fit for her traditional family and church. I needed to portray her woundedness in a sympathetic manner that wouldn’t alienate the reader. It took some work to hit just the right note.

Toni: *Sigh* Wounded people tug at my heart strings. *Adding to library hold list* Was there a particular theme you were shooting for, or did it all just fall into place?

Dina: I started the writing process with the main characters and their early conversations. I focused on what would happen when these three diverse cultures collided. As I like to say, “A Muslim, a hippie, and a Christian walk into a coffee shop…” But the theme of discovering who you really are and what you really believe and living from deep within emerged early in the process.

Toni: Love the line! How do you think our cultural perceptions are skewed? Do you find most people hang on to stereotypes or are willing to meet a person on their own merits?

Dina: Wow, that’s a loaded question. I mean, everyone enters a new situation with their own baggage and history. Our past experiences are a natural part of how we understand the world and make meaning out of it. I think a lot of people have a hard time seeing past their preconceptions, but all three of these girls were pretty special in that area. It did take them a while to adjust to one another and to learn to understand one another, but they were all open and curious and willing to learn. By the end, they became more than friends; they were sisters.

Toni: Hope you didn’t feel put on the spot. Love your answer! It’s always important to be “willing to learn.” How about some easier questions? Chocolate or candy?

Dina: Ha! I like fruity candy better most days.

Toni: They do have their place. 🙂 Favorite season?

Dina: Summer. I love summertime activities like the beach and swimming, and I like the laid back, lazy feel of summer.

Toni: Yes! Take me to a beach. Favorite soda?

Dina: Fresca, actually. Is that weird?

Toni: Lol, no. It’s actually good. I can’t remember the last time i had one or saw them. Is it a regional thing? I don’t think Virginia has them. Anyway, I digress. 🙂 Last but not least, what message do you want readers to receive after reading Dance from Deep Within?

Dina: This book is really a journey of discovery that you take along with the characters. Amidst the drama, romance, and humor, I hope that readers are challenged to develop a deeper level of intimacy with Christ and that they will desire to live from deep within like Layla, Rain, and Allie.

I’d like to also mention that this is the first book in the series, and book 2 will be releasing in November. It will add to the already diverse cast Fatima, who comes from a radical Saudi Arabian Muslim family, and integrate more African-American characters as well.

Toni: Hooray for more books! Hopefully, you’ll come back and visit with us. 🙂


About the Author

Award-winning author, Dina Sleiman, writes stories of passion and grace. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. Her debut novel, Dance of the Dandelion with Whitefire Publishing, won an Honorable Mention in the 2012 Selah Awards, and her cross-over YA novel, Dauntless, won the 2016 Carol Award in its genre from the American Christian Fiction Writers. Also look for her books, Love in Three-Quarter Time, Dance from Deep Within, and the rest of her Valiant Hearts series with Bethany House Publishers including Chivalrous and Courageous. Dina serves on the editorial board for WhiteFire as well, and during the day she utilizes her writing talent with the humanitarian organization Operation Blessing International. Join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace.

Follow: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest


Interview conducted by Toni Shiloh

 

Author Interview: Stacy Hawkins Adams, featuring “Dreams That Won’t Let Go”

Good Morning and Happy Monday, reader friends!

Journalist Stacy Hawkins Adams returns to the blog today to answer my questions about book number three in her Jubilant Soul Series, Dreams That Won’t Let Go.

Enjoy her interview!

~*~

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.

Purchase the book: Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ 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.

~*~

Interview with Stacy Hawkins Adams about her book, Dreams That Won’t Let Go:

Alexis: Why did you title this book “Dreams That Won’t Let Go”?

Stacy: I chose this title because in their own ways, each of the featured characters was striving to achieve a dream that wouldn’t give his or her spirit rest. Until they resolved the issues related to their goal or dream, they would remain unsettled or unfulfilled.

Alexis: In this book, the reader reconnects with Indigo Burns whose passion for photography in Worth A Thousand Words (Jubilant Soul Book 2) has turned into a successful career and now she’s ready to get married. Describe her journey to her dreams. What were the highlights and struggles?

Stacy: I don’t want to give away the plot of the story by sharing too much with readers, but I’ll say that in this book, Indigo has matured into a lovely young woman who now has to deal with some of life’s twists and turns in a mature way. She finds herself in a gender-reversed version of the Prodigal Son story when her long-lost brother returns home, and she begins to resent the attention showered on him. Part of her journey to her dreams is wrestling with how to give others space to also experience theirs, without feeling like her needs are being overlooked or disregarded. It’s a matter of learning to look and love beyond yourself.

Alexis: Indigo is getting married! Who is her future spouse, how did she meet him, and how did she know he was “The One”?

Stacy: Sharing this news will give away the ending of the previous book in the series, Worth a Thousand Words! So as an author, I’ll remain somewhat coy with my response, okay? Lol. Let’s simply say that as Indigo began to figure out who she was and what she truly wanted in life, she also was able to recognize true love and what it could look like for her. The person she is marrying is also confident in himself and his purpose, and certain that Indigo is the woman meant to walk life’s journey with him.

Alexis: Indigo has not seen her brother Rueben in years. Why?

Stacy: Reuben moved away years ago to attend college and take a job on the West Coast – far from their Texas hometown – and the family never understood why he rarely came home. All of a sudden, however, he shows up with a wife and a child, ready to re-insert himself back into family life. They are so excited to have him home that they don’t ask too many questions. Before the book is over, however, readers will learn why he has returned, and why his journey back has everything to do with the dreams in his heart and mind.

Alexis: How do drama, pain, and healing play a role in this story?

Stacy: In the effort to pursue the dreams in their hearts and also love their family, Indigo, Reuben, and other members of their family deal with the everyday twists and turns that come with being in relationship with other people. They have to learn how to fall down, get back up, deal with anger, decide to forgive, and ultimately how to love and support one another no matter what.

Alexis: What were the challenges and rewards of writing this book?

Stacy: The challenge as a writer is always finding the discipline to sit in the chair and write! Lol. There are always dishes in the sink, laundry to be folded, places to be and things to do. So there’s that challenge of making yourself focus on the blank screen or the blank page right in front of you to create something out of nothing. The rewards have included finishing a book that I hope will both entertain and transform readers, and also hearing from those who have read the novel about how it spoke to them in a meaningful way regarding issues they personally were wrestling with or trying to maneuver. That always makes the hard work worthwhile.

Alexis: What do you want readers to remember most about this book? Why?

Stacy: What I want readers to remember most is that we have to honor the dreams in our hearts, especially when we believe or know that God has placed them there. I also want readers to learn, as the Burns family discovers in this book, that you don’t always have to fully understand another person’s dream to support them in that dream. Sometimes all you have to do is love them, and trust that as you love them unconditionally, God will take care of the rest.

Alexis: How did your personal faith in God affect how you wrote this story?

Stacy: My personal faith infuses every aspect of my life, so in terms of how it affected this story (and every story I write), it just became a natural extension of the characters and plot, regardless of whether God is referenced. There are characters in the book who are entrenched in their faith and others who struggle with understanding how God can allow bad things to happen to good people. This is real life, and in capturing these issues in my fiction, I hope I’m helping dissect the questions and the answers that readers may be wrestling with in their daily lives.

Alexis: Would you say that this book is targeted to women in the urban market or that this book has a universal message? Explain.

Stacy: I write about issues and people who are just people; and while most of my “people” happen to be African American, the challenges, joys, fears and hopes that fill their lives are the same that many women from all walks of life encounter and embrace. So my target audience is women readers who want to be encouraged, inspired and uplifted; and by reading a book that features women of color, it’s also an opportunity for women of color to see themselves reflected in the pages of fiction or for Caucasian and other women to learn more about their “sisters” of another culture.

Alexis: What advice do you have for authors of all races who want to write for the urban market but may not be sure how to start?

Stacy: I wouldn’t say that my books have been targeted to an “urban” market. That is a specific genre versus writing African American fiction. My readers tend to be African American, but I also have many, many readers beyond this readership group. So my advice for writers as a whole is to write the book that is in your heart. Create characters that reflect who you are, but also the world around you. Very few of us live in a monolithic society, where there’s only one culture or color. Incorporate the broader world into your fiction, so that readers either see themselves or learn about what they may be missing by not getting to know people beyond their current boundaries.

Alexis: Briefly share your journey to becoming a published author.

Stacy: I began my writing career as a newspaper reporter and columnist, and one of the opportunities in that arena opened the door for me to meet an acquisitions editor for Baker Publishing Group. As destiny would have it, Baker was looking for an opportunity to publish some African American fiction, and I had a manuscript I had been working on for about three years almost ready to go. I polished it and got it in the best shape possible, and Baker’s Revell Books imprint published that first book, Speak To My Heart, in 2004.

Alexis: Will there be another book in your Jubilant Soul Series? Or is this the end?

Stacy: I don’t think I’ll write another full-fledged novel in the Jubilant Soul series, but a short story that updates readers on the characters’ lives is always a possibility. Stay tuned!

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

Stacy: Thanks for the opportunity to share details with your readers about my sixth book, Alexis. It’s always an honor to talk about my characters and the messages each book offers. I’d like to thank your readers for their interest in my work and invite them to visit me on my website, www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com, or to connect with me on my Facebook and Twitter pages. I love hearing from readers. And to the aspiring writers reading this, my advice is to write what’s in your heart; seek out the best editors or critical readers to give you honest feedback; revise, revise, revise and make your story the best it can be, because someone somewhere needs to read what you have to share with the world. Godspeed and God bless.

~*~

Connect with Stacy:

Website – www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com

Twitter – www.twitter.com/shadams

Facebook – www.facebook.com/stacyinspires

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

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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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Author Interview: Melissa Wardwell

Happy Monday, diverse reader friends!

I’m so excited to share an interview with Melissa Wardwell. She’s stopped by to talk about her story, Hope Beyond Savannah, one of the two novelettes in A Spring of Weddings. When I read her story, I knew it was perfect for our blog. Let’s get started!


About the Book

Hope Beyond Savannah Blurb: Lily Allman and Nikotemo (Nik) Lagatuo were the poster children for the term “opposites attract.” He was an evangelist and CEO for a non-profit from Samoa who grew up in a large loving family. She was a blond bombshell with a funky style and no family to call her own. Two of the most unlikely people meet in the most unlikely of places, but God had a plan when He brought them together. They never let their differences deter them from the love they had for each other, but when Nik’s mother comes to the States for the wedding, the idea of wedded bliss is shaken. Can prejudices be over looked, insecurities overcome, and hope for a better future be restored so that these two can have all that was promised?

Links: Amazon, Goodreads


Interview

Toni: Welcome, Melissa! I’m so excited to talk about your latest release, Hope Beyond Savannah, one of the two stories in A Spring of Weddings. I was so excited that your book deals with an interracial relationship between a Caucasian and a Samoan! How did you decide to make Nik a Samoan?

Melissa: Honestly, I wish I could say it was some kind of brilliant creativity but really it was while I was doing an image search of bi-racial men. I kept coming across images of Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) and Jason Mamoa (Aqua Man), both of them are of Samoan heritage. In fact, Mr. Johnson won the award for become the muse for my “Nik” but I tell you what, I might use Mr. Mamoa later 😉

Toni: I’m still in shock that Jason Mamoa is going to be Aquaman. Did you find that writing a Samoan character had many traps to stereotype Nik’s character? And if so, how did you navigate the writing waters?

Melissa: I probably gave in a bit to those stereotypes. All you have to do is look the two guys mentioned above to see it. During my research though I found that they were kind and jovial people. I did my best to show that part of the culture. At the same time, I wrote Nik like any other man in active service for God should behave. I’m not sure it matters where your from when you head the Call. If you are living your life as a man (or woman) of God should, the tone of your skin shouldn’t effect that.

Toni: Yes! I love how the body of Christ has differences but our love for God unites us. You had so many interesting facts about the Samoan culture. How did you research all the information to make it so authentic?

Melissa: I spent a whole day absorbing all I could on the people, customs and language. If I was writing a full length novel, it probably would have been more in depth. Someone shared with me a translator online that spoke the word for you, not just typed out the translation. It was so beautiful. Google became a friend of mine this time around for sure as I researched wedding attire (they wear tree bark native to the island – yeah, not including that) and other traditions. I was surprised to find that even though their ancient history is riddled with gods and lore, their main religion is Christianity.

I also had to do research on the Maori people to get an accurate portrayal of the hakka. Look it up on YouTube. It is powerful and mesmerizing.

Toni: I’ll do that! Did you find it difficult to write Nik’s character considering your ethnic background?

Melissa: Oh heavens, yes. I was worried that things I wrote or stated would cause an offense with some one. I am from an area that has not seen any one of a different color or ethnicity for decades (our area has a past of not being very friendly with folks of African origin). It has only been in the last five or so years that you see more diversity on our streets. I wish I could say that the transition has been easy, but there are always going to be individuals who make poor choices – no matter what your skin color is.

Having friends who are different than I am and taking care of their little boy almost daily is what inspired me to try something different than the run of the mill Christian Fiction. I have always looked over color lines. I struggle to see why we should be treating people differently based on the color of their skin. That might be naïve of me, but I believe that is how God sees us. We all look different on the outside, but we were all made by the same Creator. We all have similar struggles. We all are just trying to make it in this crazy world.

Toni: I’m glad you took a step to write something different. It was beautifully done. How about some fun fact questions?
New Year’s or Valentine’s Day?

Melissa: New Year’s Because my hubby is always home for that holiday and our kids are old enough that they go in other directions and we can spend it together.

Toni: That’s awesome! Reading or Writing?

Melissa: Oh, that’s not fair. Depends on the mood. Right now, I am reading when I would rather be writing.

Toni: lol, that was a hard question. I think w (writers) all waffle between the two. Heels or Flats?

Melissa: There was a time when I would have said heels. Now it is leather riding boots or flats.

Toni: Flats all the way! Pineapples or Oranges?

Melissa: Both – together!

Toni: Yum! And of course, readers want to know, what’s next in the book world for you? Will you dive into diverse characters again?

Melissa: I am currently working on another novella in my Brides of Promise series and the next novel in my Promises from Above series. I would like to touch on this again but it might be a while. I may even be compelled to expand on Nik and Lily’s story. I know there was a lot that left some of my readers wanting to know more. (I did it on purpose) Really, it all depends on what story lines God gives me. I am open to it though.

Toni: Praying you many blessings on your writing endeavors! Readers, do you have any questions for Melissa?


About the Author

Melissa resides in a small mid-Michigan farm community with her husband, three children, two cats, and three dogs. Besides writing, she enjoys reading, taking photos, and motorcycle rides with her husband.  Her hope is that each story touches your heart, gives you hope, or just gives you a moment away from the chaos of life.

Follow: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon


Interview conducted by Toni Shiloh