Interview with Traci Wooden-Carlisle

Happy Memorial Day to our US readers! I hope you’re enjoying the long weekend – and what better way than chatting about books?!?

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Traci Wooden-Carlisle about (of course) books and, specifically, her suspense novel – Missing Destiny.

About the Book

missing destinyShe spends Friday nights with charts and graphs. His best friend is a dog named Sebastian.

All she’s ever wanted was peace and to feel she belonged. All he ever wanted was to disappear.

She’s a city girl hiding in a small town. He’s back home hiding from his past.

If life were perfect, they could be each other’s missing destiny.

When a mysterious man becomes a threat to her health Dr. Shauna Nathan, a workaholic scientist, is about to lose control over her emotions and her life. Her family steps in to protect her even if it means disrupting her otherwise predictable and orderly existence by bribing her with a chance to spend time with her old college roommate and surround herself with her one true passion — horses.

She heads to a ranch in Chandler County to hide from her stalker. Instead, she might find there healing she looks for — and love she doesn’t.

Horse therapist Zach moved to New York, had a successful career in finance, a beautiful wife, and daughter one day and the next it was all gone. He came back to Chandler County to come to terms with his loss and find a modicum of peace as a ranch hand- turned therapist at Murphy’s Equestrian Therapy Center. He has lost everyone he loved. Would he risk his heart again for Shauna?

Though the ruthless killer on Shauna’s trail will stop at nothing to destroy her, will Zach and Shauna escape danger and find happiness in each other’s arms and their missing destiny?

GOODREADS | AMAZON | B&N


Hi Traci! Thanks so much for chatting with us today! Let’s start with a question ‘just for fun’! Ocean or mountains?

Traci: This should be easy, but I’m torn. I was born and raised near the ocean in Southern California and went to college between the mountains and the ocean. I can receive peace from both but if I want to retreat for more than a day it will be the mountains.

Carrie: I’m the same way – both bring me such peace, but when i have to choose it’s going to be the mountains!

Other than the Bible, what are five of your most cherished books?

Traci: I will probably always go back to Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen for its language, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman for its wisdom, The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell due to nostalgia, Archer’s Voice by Mia Sheridan for its ability to make me cry buckets, and Black Presence in the Bible by Walter Author McCray which opened my eyes to my some of my ancestor’s accomplishments.

Carrie: Oh! Excellent choices & I love the variety!

If I asked your characters to describe YOU as an author, what would they say?

Traci: I love it when she writes because she listens well to what we’re saying and feeling, but sometimes she leaves us for weeks in the same position or situation and that gets frustrating. One good thing is she doesn’t erase and rewrite our scenes over and over but sometimes it does take her a moment to find just the right word or expression to describe how we are feeling.

Carrie: Don’t leave your characters hanging, Traci! haha! 😉 

Shauna and Zach are both hiding out in Chandler County for various reasons. What inspired you to incorporate this element into both of their characters?

Traci: I have been surrounded by quiet and strong men all my life. They can express themselves when they want and are affectionate. I love sharing those traits with my male characters. From the beginning I saw Zach as a recluse. He brooded but was still able to take comfort in nature. From that thought I worked backward to uncover the cause for his behavior. My inspiration for Shauna came from my niece who was going through college at the time. She was struggling with the transition from grade school to college life. Books weren’t the issue. Finding her passion was. My character, Shauna, had the chance to get reacquainted with herself and what she loved by getting lost in a town that expected nothing from her.

Carrie: Oooo I suspect Zach might become one of my new book boyfriends 😀 And Shauna – how many of us have been in the same position, right? Trying to find what we’ve been created for, our passion. I can’t wait to meet them both 🙂

What is one of your favorite quotes from the book & why do you love it?

Traci: I will preface this answer by letting you know that the conversation following this quote is one of my favorites because it uncovers so much about both Zach and Shauna and it makes my heart sigh. “And right there, as she looked into those warm, gold-speckled, brown eyes, every single emotion hovering at the edge of reason jumped off.”

Carrie: Oh i love that!!

Why is it important to you to write ethnically diverse characters?

Traci: I love to read and as a reader I enjoy many different genres. My favorite is romance and its subgenres. I love reading romances books with ethnically diverse characters because I enjoy reading about different cultures, including my own, and the influence those cultures have on the characters’ reaction to different situations and their feelings for each other.

Carrie: Those differences just add so many great layers and dimensions to the story, don’t they? 

How can we as readers of Christian fiction better support diverse authors and diverse stories?

Traci: We as readers can support diverse authors and diverse stories by introducing them to networking groups that would like to exchange ways to expand their readership. Buying and sharing is important but you can’t buy and share something you don’t know exists.

Carrie: That is so true and a great reminder for us!


About Traci Wooden-Carlisle

traci wooden carlisleTraci Wooden-Carlisle began writing poetry and short stories as soon as she was able to form words on paper. She used that as a way to creating worlds, as well as, to communicate with God. A native of Los Angeles, California, she grew up attending United Methodist Church under the leadership of a pastor whose heart was for youth. Once she finished college at she found herself at a loss. She felt caught in the transition between childhood and adulthood. She surrounded herself with saints and volunteered her services as a graphic artist. Through the early-morning prayer, all night Friday prayer and 3-day shut-ins she started on her journey toward her most desired gift, an intimate relationship with God.

Today, Mrs. Wooden-Carlisle lives in San Diego with her husband, David Carlisle. She teaches fitness classes, runs a jewelry and craft business, and is currently writing her third book in her Christian-fiction series, Promises to Zion.

CONNECT WITH TRACIwebsite | Facebook | Twitter


**Giveaway**

Have a comment or question for Traci? She’s giving away a print copy of Missing Destiny and a bookmark. (US only, International winner will receive a $6 Amazon gift card instead) One winner will be randomly selected from everyone who comments on this post by Friday June 1, 2018.

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Interview with Stacy Hawkins Adams about her book “Finding Home”

Happy Monday, reader friends!

Let’s welcome Stacy Hawkins Adams to the blog again!

Today, she’s here to talk about her story Finding Home.


About the Book:

What happens when you’re so desperate for things to go your way, that anything goes? Jessica Wilson Arnold is a superstar professional speaker whose husband and friends fret about the strain of her ambitions, while she hungers for more.

When a medical crisis and some poor decisions bring her fast-track success to a screeching halt, Jessica is forced to admit that her life isn’t as perfectly packaged as advertised. Her quest to restore her health and prioritize what matters most leads her to a crossroad.

Will she revive her faith and learn to love herself and others more deeply, or cling to a path that threatens disaster? Jessica’s desperate choices and gripping fear will take readers on a literary ride that’s both shocking and familiar, mostly leaving them rooting for her to win big – with family, faith and finding her way.

Purchase the book: Amazon ~ B&N ~ BAM!


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, author of Finding Home:

Alexis: Why did you call this book “Finding Home” and what is its involvement with “Winds of Change”?

Stacy: Finding Home is the third book in the Winds of Change series, and since the first two books contained the word “home” (to convey each main character’s search to better understand herself) I wanted to continue that theme with this final book in the series. It also characterizes the reconnection between the main character  (Jessica Wilson Arnold) and her two estranged sisters, who are featured in Book 1 and Book 2 in the series. Each book in the series is written as a stand-alone title, meaning it does not need to be read in any particular order. Even so, it was important to show how the main character in Finding Home (Jessica) grew from one level of maturity and self-confidence to another by book’s end.

Alexis: Tell me about your story’s heroine Jessica Wilson Arnold. What drives her? What are her dreams for both her career and personal life? What is her worst weakness? Explain.

Stacy: I don’t want to give away too much and spoil it for readers, because these questions are at the very heart of the book’s plot. Jessica has portrayed herself a certain way to the world. However, as she begins to make decisions that aren’t the wisest or the most loving, her ploy for fame and success by any means necessary surface in stunning ways.

Alexis: How did Jessica become a “superstar professional speaker”? Give insight into her journey.

Stacy: Jessica attended one of the top universities in the nation and used that as leverage to craft a career that would bring her attention, accolades and success like her family had never before experienced. She is the baby of the family, but she is also its rockstar. As her story unfolds, however, readers will learn that her drive is actually borne from a source of deep pain. Everything is not always as it seems.

Alexis: Why do Jessica’s husband and friends “fret about the strain of her ambitions”?

Stacy: They see how driven she is and how hard she works, and they worry that it may cost her what matters most – a loving, meaningful life offstage, when the speaker spotlights are dim. Her husband, who is eager to start a family, feels especially concerned about this.

Alexis: Who is Jessica’s husband? What is his name and how does he help her? Is there anything that he does to deter her from her heart’s desire? Why does he adore his wife?

Stacy: Jessica’s husband Keith is patient and loving and does his best to support her career ambitions even as he seeks to excel in his own pursuits. He’s even patient with her when he wants to start a family, giving her time to accomplish her goals even though it means what he longs for must wait. However, he is also realistic about her need to balance work and life, and he sees that she struggles in this area. Jessica knows her husband loves her unconditionally and would do anything to support her; but when she faces a personal challenge that she can’t control, she’s certain this issue will cause him to demand that she slow down – a step she’s just not ready to take.

Alexis: Is Jessica a workaholic? Why or why not?

Stacy: Jessica is not necessarily a workaholic; she takes time off work and enjoys hanging out with her friends and husband. But she is definitely driven to succeed at all costs. So while she is not working around the clock, per se, she makes strategic decisions (right and wrong) to propel herself to another level of success.

Alexis: Describe the crisis that brings Jessica’s fast-paced lifestyle to a halt. What impact does that have on her career-oriented mind and dream-filled heart?

Stacy: Without giving away too much to readers, I’ll share that she is diagnosed with a chronic health condition that affects her energy and mobility. She is crushed, yet determined to push through. She believes she is too close to seeing her dreams come true to change course for any reason.

Alexis: Would you like to see more characters of color like Jessica in Christian fiction? Why or why not?

Stacy: I hope readers are lured to this book because of the compelling storyline and its twists and turns, without getting hung up on Jessica’s ethnicity and race. She just “happens” to be a successful African American woman with close friends from other backgrounds. Since this is not a social justice story, but instead a novel about one woman’s journey to recognizing and accepting her flaws so that she can self-correct and become a better person, this is a story that any woman can relate to, even if the choices Jessica makes feel foreign to some women readers at the beginning. By book’s end, readers from all backgrounds will appreciate the emotional journey Jessica takes.

Alexis: What steps does Jessica take to restore her health and reconnect with the people that matter most?

Stacy: I don’t want to give away a significant part of her journey before readers have a chance to discover it in the pages of the book. However, I’ll share that by the middle of the novel, she receives a wake-up call that helps her snap out of her selfishness long enough to realize that she needs to do things differently if she wants to enjoy lasting love and develop self-respect.

Alexis: Why does Jessica’s faith need a revival?

Stacy: Like many Christians, she has found herself going through the motions rather than making intentional efforts to connect with God. Additionally, her history as a PK (preacher’s kid) impacted her view of the church and of God, and she has to overcome some childhood experiences to give God another chance to fill her heart and soul.

Alexis: When you first created Jessica’s character and started the rough draft of writing your story, was she someone you could root for or not? Explain.

Stacy: When I wrote the first half of the book I did not like Jessica. Her thought process and her decisions seemed foolish and farfetched to me, even as I crafted them. However, several young women who are millennials that I spoke with about the plot I was crafting encouraged me to keep going because due to the thriving industry of reality TV, many women would view Jessica’s actions as plausible, they insisted. Based on their advice, I moved forward with the plot and with describing Jessica’s schemes, yet I did not care for her! By the time I wrote the second half of the book and explained a little more of her background to readers, I felt compassion for her.

Alexis: Would you say that Jessica is a “strong Black woman”? Why or why not?

Stacy: I seek to avoid stereotypes with my writing and with the characters I create. I write about women who are dealing with issues to which all women can relate, and about women who have unique personalities based on their particular backgrounds; so no- I would not give her this label.

Alexis: Who is Jessica’s closest friend and what role do they play in this story?

Stacy: Jessica has several close women friends and they serve as her “armor bearers” in a sense when she is at her lowest point. Even when she doesn’t respond, they continue to offer her their love and support, as only true friends can.

Alexis: As the author, what was your greatest challenge in writing this story?

Stacy:  My greatest challenge in writing this story was to write a plot that seemed so farfetched from women I know and interact with; however, as I indicated in my previous response, my twenty-something readers encouraged me to push forward, because they said Jessica’s choices reflect what some women would actually do in moments of desperation. I hope this story will change their minds!

Alexis: What message do you want your readers to remember most about Finding Home?

Stacy: I would like readers to put down this book with a greater understanding of the importance of truth, integrity, faith, and hope. I hope they’ll be able to relate the struggles Jessica faces to their own Goliaths and know that instead of trying to figure everything out on their own, they, too, can trust God to grant grace and make their paths straight, if they will just stand still and give Him the space and opportunity to work things out for their good.

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

Stacy: Thank you so much for featuring me and my novel Finding Home, Alexis! I’d simply like to thank your readers (in advance) for taking time to read this novel and for sharing their thoughts in online reviews if they are inclined. I hope that even if Jessica’s choices don’t resonate with them, they’ll keep reading to see how she grows over the course of the book and winds up a better, stronger, more faithful version of herself. In case they’re interested, here’s a link to an excerpt from the book: http://www.stacyhawkinsadams.com/finding-home—excerpt.html

Thanks again, and blessings!

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor


Connect with Stacy:

Website – www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com

Twitter – www.twitter.com/shadams

Facebook – www.facebook.com/stacyinspires

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

YouTube – https://bit.ly/2H1A7Kv

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Interview with Marshalee Patterson

The first two people to comment on this blog post will get a free ebook version of The Path of the Chosen Warriors.

Marshalee, I am so excited to interview you today. I’ve really enjoyed what you’ve been doing with your blogPlease tell me a little about yourself and what made you start this awesome blog.

Well, I am a Christian author from Jamaica who has always loved reading since I could walk. I didn’t grow up with a television so books were a way to discover new things and new places for me. I grew up in a large family, which still surrounds me- was kind of a tomboy at one point too. I love learning about different cultures and got fascinated with the Spanish culture to the point where I can now dance salsa, merengue and cha-cha, very well. The language, however, has been my challenge- but I promised myself I will learn it. In regards to what made me start the blog, actually, it was some of the marketing tutorials I had been reading, which recommended I start one to build an audience. Most tell you to share whatever your good at, I wasn’t sure what that was for me, so I thought it was a great way to teach life lessons to readers through my books by using different characters and how they dealt with it. I find it also a great way to minister Christ beyond my books.

I’ve been reading your latest book, The Path of the Chosen Warriors, and really enjoy it. Can you tell us what inspired the story and what you hope readers will get from it?

That story idea came to me through a dream after I started learning how to pray spiritual warfare prayers. I wanted to grow more in that area so I don’t have to call my pastor to do for me when we are all called to be soldiers in God’s army. Since I began to pray and do a lot of midnight prayers, God has revealed to me so many things the devil had been doing against me and family. With those prayers, I saw how strong my spirit man became in fighting against the enemy in the spirit when I went to bed at night and dreamed. I realised that the Lord wanted me to get readers aware of how real the spiritual realm is and that what we see in dreams are important and also to show them how to pray and get deliverance. What I want readers to get is knowledge and to understand how to help themselves in similar situations as the characters. To be aware that the spiritual realm is more real than the one we see every day. Every prayer I used are real ones based on scriptures as I have been learning.

What surprised you when you wrote the book?

What surprised me was how God has been transforming me to be a better Christian by the way I saw the characters live. Joshua’s character got me realising the importance of starting my mornings with God, something I didn’t think was very important if I was already praying every day. Ruth made me desire to have more of God’s love in me so that I wouldn’t look upon the vilest of sinners through the eyes of the flesh and allow them to miss salvation if I was whom God wanted to use to reach out to that person. And then there’s Hannah who builds my faith level and also challenged my heart to stand in prayer for those who hurt you.

The Path of the Chosen Warriors is a Christian romantic thriller. Is that a genre you enjoy reading?

I haven’t read many in that genre, but I grew up loving mystery books and movies. I do enjoy thrillers though.

How does your Jamaican culture influence your writing?

My culture as a Jamaican hasn’t really influenced my writing so much except for the fact that I try to make one of my main characters a Jamaican, to represent and identify with my heritage. But I have included a dish we eat here in my first book and some places of interest to someone who would be interested in visiting.

How does your faith influence your writing?

My faith is the backbone of my writing, although the books entertain, they are first and foremost to minister to readers about God and their relationship with him. God has opened my eyes to see that even though I write fiction, it is the platform given to me to glorify him and help readers find healing, deliverance and salvation through the characters. I write as if I am someone who seeks God and this is the only place I would find him, as someone who wouldn’t go to a church because I would feel judged or rejected, as someone who needed to learn how to pray and how to do so through the word, and as someone who needed to learn how to stand and have faith in God while He works through our situations. I have learnt that I will be held accountable just as a pastor will be if not give the readers what God puts in me and study his word to be effective in doing so.

What are some of your favorite diverse Christian reads?

I have read Discovery of Hope by T.I Lowe, Waiting for Rachael by Kimberly Rae Jordon, Not by Sight by Kay Lyons Stockham and Street Preacher by Aaron Davis, which was a really good read too.

What else have your written? And what’s next?

I have another book out called Predestined Love; it’s an inspirational romance and another called A Shattered Life Restored that is now being edited. I also have two books to follow after A Shattered Life restored and I’ve already done the covers for them.

Finally, a fun question! 🙂 If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

First I must say, I love classic literature above all and I don’t know if I could pick just one of those books but if I had to, it would probably be Les Miserables. There is just so much to learn from that one book; from watching a man hardened by the governmental system getting transformed into a helpful and forgiving person from the act of kindness of an old priest. The lengths he went through to help a woman’s child trapped in the care of a greedy family and in return found love through that child when he himself didn’t have anyone to offer him any. It makes you want to cry in some parts, full of forgiveness to those who wronged you over and over and you see the Spirit of God at work.

Thank you, Marshalee. I’m really enjoying getting to know you!
Here is a little more information about Marshalee’s latest book, The Path of the Chosen Warriors, available now on Amazon.

 

A story of spiritual warfare: the perpetual fight of good over evil in a paranormal setting with demonic forces attempting to overcome the Christians in the community. This story draws you in and holds your attention as you want to know what the final outcome will be. Who will triumph? Will the evil forces of Abaddon defeat the Christians? Will Ruth and Joshua escape from Sodom Shadows and return to their home in Shiloh City? Suspense, action, intrigue and romance, in this story, which takes the reader to the realm where the struggle for supremacy takes place.”

Staring into the eyes of the man she loved, Ruth knew coming home was where she would make her fondest memories with her beloved Joshua. She was looking forward to their journey together as man and wife. All their plans were interrupted when they were caught up in a terrible storm, and their boat crashed in an unknown area. Although they were lost, it seemed as if destiny had brought them to this unfamiliar territory, and until they discovered what it was and fulfilled it, their future together would be put on hold.

Excerpt from The Path of the Chosen Warriors:

Abbadon was quick and Brad’s eyes widened when he felt Abbadon’s hand on his throat. Abbadon gritted his teeth and glared at him. Brad kicked his feet when he felt his body lifting off the ground. He tugged against the hand of the High Priest while gasping for air. With a loud growl Abbadon flung him into the direction of the crowd.

Abaddon walked towards the crowd with his grip firmly around Ruth’s neck. They stepped back, as the sight of him was nothing they had ever seen before. Even though they saw the blackness in his eyes and felt the evil within him, they remembered the God who had just saved them and they held their faith. Joshua and Brad joined with them.

“Abaddon, we are not afraid of you. Our God told us that we have power over all rulers of darkness and spiritual wickedness in the high places. Therefore, we command you to release her and be consumed by fire in the name of Jesus,” they shouted at him.

Marshalee author pic

Marshalee Patterson was born in Kingston, Jamaica. She has loved reading since she could walk. Growing up without a television sparked in her a love for reading and the world of imagination. Some of her favourite novels were written by Charles Dickens, Jane Eyre and Victor Hugo, as she found she liked the true to life stories that we all can relate to. She wrote her first novella-Predestined Love after travelling to Italy and wanted to write a romance novel about it, only she didn’t know that God had plans for her and that story, when he change the direction of what she originally had in mind.

It was then that she knew she was called to write stories to uplift and inspire readers, showing them how to find God in their struggles and the faith to trust Him through it. She is a lover of nature and the tranquillity of it. She finds the outdoors refreshing and peaceful. Marshalee loves Spanish ballads and dances salsa very well.

Connect with Marshalee

Website: https://inspiringchristian.wixsite.com/marshaleepatterson

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2nZqXa4

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2GgF1Cw

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authormarshaleepatterson/

Blog: https://sharingthechristinme.blogspot.com/

Interview with Pat Simmons, author of “My Rock: Tabitha”

Happy Monday, reader friends!

Let’s welcome Pat Simmons to the blog again. Last week, we shone the spotlight on her book My Rock: Tabitha. Today, you get to read my interview with Pat about her book!

Pat shared great insight into her story and her life as an author, in this interview.

Enjoy!


Author Interview with Pat Simmons about her book My Rock: Tabitha

Alexis: This book focuses on three sisters living in different cities. Why did you choose to tell their stories?

Pat: God told me to write it. “Someone needs to hear from Me,” He said. I obeyed to bring awareness to the sacrifices of caregivers who are struggling in plain sight.

Alexis: What were the challenges in merging three storylines?

Pat: I focused on Tabitha’s story while setting up Kym and Rachel’s. No two caregivers’ situations are the same, so I will highlight different scenarios in the other stories. Our society has an increasing number children, teenagers, and young adults with special needs who will need care for the rest of their lives as well as elderly loved ones.

Alexis: Would you say that this book is Contemporary Romance, Women’s Fiction or something else? Please explain its genre and category.

Pat: I write Christian romance about contemporary themes and universal issues that are important to women. There are differences among inspirational, sweet, and Christian romances. Christ’s whispers and the Scriptures are integral parts of my romantic storylines, so I classify myself as Christian romance writer. Inspirational romance may focus on positive and uplifting thoughts without Christ being the center.

Alexis: Why did you write this book with a focus on caregivers?

Pat: Besides God inspiring me? I like to tackle real issues in my books. I always want my readers closing the book knowing something they didn’t know in the beginning.

Alexis: How did you select the three cities for each of your main characters? Give us insight into the research that went into writing this story.

Pat: It was random choices that I felt I could get help from a friend or reader to assist me with the cities’ backdrop. I have a news background, so I approached the topic as a reporter. I interviewed caregivers and organizations’ spokespersons, attended meetings, and did online research. I also made sure I had a clear understanding of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Alexis: Why is your character Tabitha from St. Louis struggling to find a balance?

Pat: Her situation can be typical of a caregiver. The demands of her new job were overwhelming. After work, she had no respite at home, because she focused on Aunt Tweet’s needs.

Alexis: In what ways does a potential romantic relationship rock Tabitha’s world?

Pat: When it comes to romance, a person wants to give their all to invest in a relationship. Tabitha felt the timing wasn’t right. She knew there could be no spontaneity like going to a movie at the last minute. Aunt Tweet’s well-being had to take priority over everything Tabitha wanted to do. Marcus proved her wrong. He convinced her that they were in it together.

Alexis: Why is Tabitha beyond overwhelmed with being a caregiver?

Pat: Despite her textbook knowledge of medical terms and conditions, she wasn’t prepared for an 89-year-old’s contrary behavior to mimic that of a helpless child. The person can appear self-sufficient, but little by little, their mind begins to slip away. She is taking care of her great-aunt Priscilla “Tweet” Brownlee who doesn’t have any children of her own.

Alexis: Who is Marcus Whittington and what role does he play in this story?

Pat: The story begins with a neighbor whose surveillance video captured a woman sitting on her porch a few times in the morning. When he learns that the elderly woman wanders from home, Marcus accuses Tabitha of endangerment and threatens to call the authorities on her. He’s clueless to Tabitha’s frustration as she tries to keep track of her aunt’s every movements 24/7.

Alexis: What is it about the elderly that brings out a soft side in Marcus?

Pat: He had endearing memories of his grandparents. Marcus begins to see the Aunt Tweet on the outside isn’t the same one on the inside. Recognizing Tabitha’s frustration and helplessness, coupled with his growing attraction, gives Marcus reasons why he can’t walk away.

Alexis: Why does “every caregiver need a caregiver” in this story and in real-life?

Pat: As many caregivers focus their attention on the loved one’s needs, they don’t take care of themselves. That scenario happened to my next-door neighbor. She cared for her husband for years while she still worked. We didn’t know she was very sick until after she died barely nine months later after her husband had passed. My message to caregivers is to take care of yourself. People on the outside should not assume caregivers have it under control. They need compassion, help, and respite, especially if they are caring for two or more generations, such as grandchildren and an aging mother.

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

Pat: Being a first-time caregiver is a learning experience no different than a husband or wife becoming parents for the first time. You don’t know what to expect, you have to infuse patience with love.

Alexis: Do you only write about African American or Black characters? Why or why not?

Pat: My main characters are always Black because I’m Black or African American. Minorities like to see themselves portrayed in movies and sitcoms on television. Reading about people of color is just as appealing, especially in storylines that reflect the Black community. For me, it’s an honor to write about Black love when society has denied it exists from slavery to the White House. The big publishers, even some Christian publishers, don’t believe a character with brown skin and curly hair is attractive as a hero or heroine.

Alexis: Would you like to see more African American (AA) people on the covers and characters of color inside the stories of CBA books? Why or why not?

Pat: YES without a second thought. Christians are not one race as Candace, Queen of Ethiopia, is mentioned in the Bible. Native Indians, Mexicans, African Americans, and other’s stories are just as important. Unfortunately, stereotypes and racism have kept many great AA authors out of the publishing industry. One national bestselling author was offered a contract in the 90s, if she changed her characters from black to white.

Alexis: What did you enjoy the most about writing “My Rock”?

Pat: Two things: Showing Tabitha’s mindset that she considered it a privilege to take care of Aunt Tweet and despite the frustration, she did it with love and respect; and inspiring readers that there is no obstacle too great for love to find them.

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

Pat: Thank you for sharing your readers with me. I hope “My Rock” is an eye-opener and readers will recognize we all are each other’s caregivers. I think former First Lady, Mrs. Rosalyn Carter said it best: “There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.”

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor


About the Book:

Three sisters living in three different cities (Baltimore, St. Louis, and Nashville) make a pact to share responsibilities for their aging relative after authorities find Aunt Tweet across state lines. Her destination had been a neighborhood grocery store. The siblings soon learn the definition of caregiver includes a cup full of patience, a slight sense of humor, and when to cry out for help. Women juggle between career and family all the time, but Tabitha Knicely (St. Louis) is struggling to find a balance. Romance is the last thing she’s trying to add to her list. The Aunt Tweet she knew all her life is not the same one who is residing in her home when she accepts the role as a caregiver for six months.

Overwhelmed can’t begin to describe her emotions. Marcus Whittington is an opinionated, successful business owner, but he has a soft side when it comes to the elderly. They remind him of good memories of his grandparents. When Aunt Tweet is the mystery woman who stakes out his porch, he becomes concerned that she is not being taken care of properly. He sheds his misconceptions about what Tabitha isn’t doing right when he discovers that every caregiver needs a caregiver. Marcus knows in order to win Tabitha’s heart; he has to charm Aunt Tweet’s too.

Book Purchase Link: Amazon


About the Author:

Pat Simmons is celebrating ten years as a published author with more than thirty titles. She is a self-proclaimed genealogy sleuth who is passionate about researching her ancestors and then casting them in starring roles in her novels, in the hope of tracking down any distant relatives who might happen to pick up her books. She has been a genealogy enthusiast since her great-grandmother, Minerva Brown Wade, died at the age of ninety-seven in 1988.

Pat describes the evidence of the gift of the Holy Ghost as an amazing, unforgettable, life-altering experience. She believes God is the Author who advances the stories she writes.

Pat holds a B.S. in mass communications from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. She has worked in various positions in radio, television, and print media for more than twenty years. Currently, she oversees the media publicity for the annual RT Booklovers Conventions.She is the multi-published author of dozens of Christian titles, including the #1 Amazon best seller in God’s Word category.

She is the multi-published author of dozens of Christian titles, including the #1 Amazon best seller in God’s Word category A Christian Christmas. Her award-winning titles include Talk to Me, ranked #14 of Top Books in 2008 that Changed Lives by Black Pearls Magazine.She is a three-time recipient of the Romance Slam Jam Emma Rodgers Award for Best Inspirational Romance for Still Guilty (2010), Crowning Glory (2011), and The Confession(2016). Her titles consistently hit the top ten ranking in the BCNN1/BCBC National Bestsellers List, two books in the Carmen Sisters series hit #1 and #2.

In addition to researching her roots and sewing, she has been a featured speaker and workshop presenter at various venues across the country.

Pat has converted her sofa-strapped sports fanatic husband into an amateur travel agent, untrained bodyguard, GPS-guided chauffeur, and administrative assistant who is constantly on probation. They have a son and a daughter.

Readers may learn more about Pat by contacting her at authorpatsimmons@gmail.com.

Visit Pat’s website, http://www.patsimmons.net, to get to know her better.

Follow Pat on Twitter.

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Interview with Regina Jennings, author of Sixty Acres and a Bride

Happy Monday, reader friends!

Join us in welcoming Regina Jennings to our blog today!

She’s here to talk about her debut book, Sixty Acres and a Bride.


About the Author:

 Regina Jennings is the winner of the National Reader’s Choice Award, a two-time Golden Quill finalist and a finalist for the Oklahoma Book of the Year Award. A graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University with a degree in English and a minor in history, Regina has worked at the Mustang News and at First Baptist Church of Mustang, along with time at the Oklahoma National Stockyards and various livestock shows. She lives outside of Oklahoma City with her husband and four children when not traveling the world.

Connect with Regina on Facebook and visit her official website.


About the Book: 

She’s Finally Found a Place to Call Home . . . How Far Will She Go to Save It?



With nothing to their names, young widow Rosa Garner and her mother-in-law return to their Texas family ranch. Only now the county is demanding back taxes and the women have just three months to pay.

Though facing eviction, Rosa falls in love with the countryside and the wonderful extended family who want only her best. They welcome her vivacious spirit and try to help her navigate puzzling American customs. She can’t help but stand out, though, and her beauty captures attention. Where some offer help with dangerous strings attached, only one man seems honorable. But when Weston Garner, still grieving his own lost love, is unprepared to give his heart, Rosa must decide to what lengths she will go to save her future.

Buy Regina’s book on Amazon.


Interview with Regina Jennings about her book, Sixty Acres and a Bride:

Why did you call this book “Sixty Acres and a Bride”? Explain the significance.

Marketing is always a factor when choosing titles, and using the word “Bride” is very popular with romance readers. That was one consideration, but primarily we took our cue from the biblical story of Ruth (which was the inspiration for the story) and played off the fact that when Boaz went to the city elders about buying the property from his kinsman, the fact that a widow came with the property was significant. Many historical novels involve saving or acquiring a farm, but rarely is there a wife attached to the deed. That made the title more enticing.

What is the main conflict in your story?

After the Civil War, Louise and her family had escaped from Reconstruction Texas to start anew in Mexico. Their time there was a disaster. After the death of her son and husband, Louise and her daughter-in-law Rosa come back to Texas to reclaim their ranch that had been leased, only to find that heavy back-taxes are due and it was on the verge of foreclosure. Louise and Rosa must beat impossible odds to pay the taxes.

Let’s talk about your story’s heroine, Rosa Garner. What does she look like? What is her personality type? What’s her motivation in this story?

Rosa is a hard-working, energetic woman. Because of her status as a newcomer and her unfamiliarity with the customs, she feels that she has to repress her usual enthusiasm, but sometimes the mask slips and reveals her vivaciousness. She is a beautiful Nahua woman, without Spanish blood. She is very dainty and the people in Texas tend to think that she’s younger than she is.

Rosa loves her mother-in-law, who is emotionally fragile, and is determined to protect Louise from the harsh realities of life. Louise was the outsider in Mexico, and Rosa has kept the role as protector even though they are back in Louise’s homeland.

Would you say that your fictional story is a spin on the real Bible story of Ruth, Naomi and Boaz? Why or why not?

Absolutely. This story began when I was asked to write a Christmas play with the theme of Redeemer. I had to compose a few skits that showed redemption and I knew immediately that I wanted to do the Ruth and Boaz story. Because of the Bethlehem Christmas scene, we already had the biblical times costumes in one drama, so I wanted to do something different for the Ruth story. A wealthy farmer? A woman with her foreign daughter-in-law who are going to lose their land? This sounded very much like a story straight from the old west. After the play, I decided to expand the plot to a full-length novel.

What I really wanted to accomplish with this story was to use the much-loved character of Ruth to explore how hard it is to come to a new place as an immigrant and to highlight some of the comical cross-cultural misunderstandings that happen with anyone who travels internationally. Also, I wanted to give us a fresh look at the story of Ruth. How did the women of the town feel about a foreigner taking the most eligible bachelor? What did they say about how the marriage came about? (Going to his bed in the middle of the night could not have been that common.) There’s a lot of drama built into the story and it made an excellent framework for a historical romance set in the 19th century.’

Describe the countryside that Rosa fell in love with and explain why you chose it for the setting of this story.

The story setup—a family fleeing lawless Texas for Mexico and then returning to find the taxes had risen on the farm during Reconstruction—has a solid historical footing behind it. Taxes were raised on the Southern states such as Texas to punish the rebellious and to help pay for the war. This fit nicely with what I was trying to accomplish with the plot. I live in Oklahoma, so the western culture is very familiar to me, but since Oklahoma was Indian Territory at the time, the story wouldn’t work here, so Texas it had to be.

Why are American customs “puzzling” to Rosa? What is she used to? Describe her home country and compare how it’s different from America.

The Victorian Era in America was marked by un-naturalism for women. Women wore whale-boned corsets and padded layers of clothes to disguise and manipulate their figures. Pregnancy was never mentioned in polite society and allusions to common body parts like “legs” were avoided. While women in 19th century Mexico weren’t given equal rights either, women from rural areas did live less restrictive lives. Natural body functions weren’t considered shocking and they had more freedom. Rosa had not been schooled to hide her emotions and opinions like other young ladies of society, and that leads to embarrassment and conflict for her.

Who is Weston Garner and what role does he play in this story?

Weston portrays the biblical idea of a kinship redeemer. Reconstruction Texas was a rough place and as the patriarch of his family, Weston is the leader and protector of several family units. He feels responsible for everyone. When Louise (the widow of his uncle) arrives, he immediately takes responsibility for her. While Weston had never met Rosa before, she’s family by marriage and he always takes care of family.

How does Weston’s relationship with Rosa affect the storyline?

Weston’s main motivator is duty. Since the death of his wife he has lost his joy, but he never fails in his obligations to his family. In Rosa, he meets someone who is just as driven by duty as he is. The fact that she is also a part of his extended family, means that she falls under his care. Weston is immediately attracted to her but isn’t interested in love. When circumstances force him to choose between protecting his family or protecting his heart, he does what chivalry requires, even though he knows it’s going to cost him.

As a White author, did you find it challenging to write about characters of color? Why or why not?

Rosa is different from my other heroines because of her culture and the experieces she’s lived through, but I found the variety invigorating. In this case, the writing was made easier by 15 years of relationships I’ve cultivated in Mexico and I was able to have this character do things and say things my typical 19th century white heroine wouldn’t be able to do or say. That much was really fun. Still, it’s always intimidating to put yourself in unfamiliar shoes. As with all characters, you just try to create a well-rounded character while being influenced by research and your knowledge of the human condition.

Would you like to see more White authors write stories for CBA featuring main characters of color? Why or why not?

One of my favorite tropes to read and write is the ‘fish out of water’ trope. What happens when cultures clash? You can’t have that when everyone in the cast of characters has the same background and understanding of the world. So yes, I’d love to see more diverse heroes and heroines in CBA fiction by authors of every color, but I feel the impetus is on readers to support those efforts.

What do you want readers to remember most about Sixty Acres and a Bride?

Mostly, that it was a good story that made them laugh and sigh. Secondly, I hope reading Sixty Acres and a Bride will make readers more empathetic to people who are new to a culture.

Thanks for the interview, Regina! Would you like to share closing thoughts?

Thanks so much for letting me visit here at Diversity Between the Pages. I enjoyed getting to visit about my debut novel.

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor

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Interview with Susan Valles about her book “Zimrah, Dream Singer”

Happy Monday, reader friends!

Let’s welcome Susan Valles to our blog! She’s a talented writer and musician. Today, she’s here to talk about her novel “Zimrah, Dream Singer.” Susan has a heart for God and a love for people. Her faith in God informs her writing too.

I hope that you will enjoy her author interview!


About the Author:

 For the past fourteen years, Susan Valles has been using her gifts to lead others into the presence of God through worship. Touched by this presence in a profound way at the age of ten, Susan developed a deep hunger to help others experience the love of God and the majesty of His presence. Writing, singing, playing the guitar and songwriting became extensions of this hunger, an outlet for the passion Holy Spirit stirs inside her to bring the lost and hurting into the healing embrace of the loving Father.

Susan is married and the mother of four children. She currently lives in the beautiful state of North Carolina.

Connect with Susan on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.


Interview with Susan Valles about her book Zimrah, Dream Singer:

What inspired you to write this book?

Zimrah, Dream Singer was divinely inspired! I woke up one morning with a picture in my mind. I saw the Father, sitting on an easy chair by a window with a scroll in his hands. He was reading the scroll and singing into existence what was written there. (Like the picture portrayed in Psalm 139:16) I grabbed my laptop and wrote down what I saw. What I wrote is now the prologue of the book.

How did you decide on the title? What is its significance?

The title of my first draft was actually Scroll of Remembrance. My editor had me keep giving her options until I came up with Zimrah, Dream Singer. We both liked it much better. Zimrah is the name of my main character. She sings songs she hears in her dreams, so Zimrah, Dream Singer fit the book very well. Funny story, I was recently talking to some Jewish friends, and they told me in passing that the director of music in their synagogue is called Zimrah Mary. Mary is her first name and Zimrah is the Hebrew word for her function! I did not know that the minister of music is called Zimrah at the time when I decided on the book title. That’s the fun of walking with God! There is always more to be discovered.

Would you say that this is Biblical fiction? Why or why not?

It is Biblical fiction in the sense that the events and timelines are true to the Bible and historical records. For example, Zimrah grows up in a city of Refuge, in the house of a Hebrew man from the tribe of Asher. She learns to read and write from the Hebrew scrolls. In this first book though, there are no characters from the Bible mentioned. My characters are completely fictional. Although, Dream Singer definitely sets the stage for the second two books where my character does meet a few significant Biblical personalities.

Who was your favorite character to write in this book? Why?

I have to say, my favorite character to write was Theophilus, a Roman soldier who is Zimrah’s love interest. I didn’t do this consciously – much of what I write is unconscious. I realize things later – but he is very much like my husband. He is patient, funny, kind, and good at breaking stereotypical norms. Theophilus sees things in Zimrah that she can’t see in herself. She would not be who she becomes without his influence in her life.

Give us a glimpse into the research that you did for this story. Did you go on a research trip to the Middle East? What kind of resources did you use?

The research I did came mostly from the Bible. Zimrah is a slave in a Hebrew house, so Jewish history comes into play a great deal in the story. I also studied historical maps, rivers, and mountains. I wanted to know what Zimrah saw when she looked out of her windows. What was life like at that time? What did they eat? What was the furniture like? All these little things were fascinating to me. I did a lot of research online, read way too many articles on archeological discoveries. It was fun though. For this first book, I didn’t get to go on a research trip, but for book two, (which is currently in the editing process) I did! I took a trip to Israel this past February 2018. It was amazing seeing the places I’d written about and researched come to life!

Why did you choose Israel as the setting for this story?

Again, I don’t know if I consciously thought about it. The story kind of emerged as I was writing. You could say Israel chose me. I think as Bible reading believers in Jesus, we all have a secret love affair with Israel. The Holy Land is in our DNA. It is part of all of our origin stories.

Talk about your story’s heroine Zimrah. What does she look like? What does her name mean? What is her primary motivation in this story? Explain.

My college English professor always said to write what you know. Zimrah is such a representation of me, of my life experiences and journey with God. She is tall, brown-skinned with curly hair and grey eyes. She looks very different from the people in her city (no one knows who her people are or where she comes from) and they treat her pretty badly. Her motivation and greatest longing is just to be loved. Zimrah is one of the Hebrew words for praise, more specifically, “to play upon an instrument in praise”. She learns just how significant her name is the destiny she was born for.

How does being an orphan affect Zimrah’s worldview and persona?

Not knowing who she is or where she comes from definitely affects what Zimrah thinks about herself. She sees the world as a frightening place where she is not accepted and can’t imagine anyone loving her or seeing her for more than a slave. She is alone and wears that persona as a badge, afraid to let anyone into her heart.

Why did you as the author decide to make Zimrah a slave?

I did not realize it’s how I felt until I wrote this book. Like Zimrah, I was a slave to my fears, my past, and my false opinion of myself. Freedom came only after learning the truth of who I was, from the One who made me. Zimrah being a slave is a representation of the bondage that comes when we believe the Tormentor’s lies.

What role does faith in God play with your characters in this story?

Faith is everything. My character’s faith or lack of faith shapes their reality and their destiny. I believe one of the miracles of this story, and our lives, is the journey of faith. Some of my characters in Dream Singer are angels, so that was an exciting aspect of faith to explore as well.

As a woman of faith, how does your belief in God affect your storytelling?

I love how telling a story can change the way we think. Everyone has a backstory. There is a reason we become who we are, good or bad. The human story is that, history…His-story. As a woman of faith, my greatest joy is being able to tell a story that has the potential to change my reader’s life. I believe that God gave me this story (which is really my testimony), that can be like that answer in the dark, that comes when all other hope is gone.

What was the most difficult part of writing this book? Why?

It was probably how long it is. I am a songwriter and had never written anything as long as a novel before. I didn’t even tell anyone that I was writing it until I was almost done because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to finish. It took a lot of prayers like, “Lord, this is Your story. You started this! You have to help me finish it!” I was also homeschooling two of my four children at the same time, so that made finding time to write a challenge. (God gave me like, supernatural sleep! I would stay up all night, sleep an hour or two and feel completely rested!)

What was the most rewarding aspect of telling Zimrah’s story? Why?

It was very rewarding being able to incorporate songs into the story. Music has been such a huge part of my language with God. When the story touches my readers, and they can sing the same songs that God used to speak to Zimrah, and Zimrah used to speak to God, it’s beyond joy for me.

The cover of your book shows Zimrah as a woman of color. What is her heritage?

Zimrah’s heritage is a bit of a mystery in this first book. She doesn’t know what she is. In a time when not many traveled very far, no one can tell her what people group her features resemble. She is a woman of color, and I could tell you what she is, but it would be a spoiler for book two!

Would you like to see more books featuring women of color who lived in Bible times, published by CBA? Why or why not?

Absolutely! I think because of our western culture, in the media and in paintings for generations, we have a mental picture of what people in the Bible looked like. The truth is, there was much more diversity than we have been led to believe, across gender and racial lines. Exploring culture in a broader view encourages us to see that God has created us with great purpose. We all have a role to play in history, past, present, and future. CBA’s have an important voice in every genre.

How does your own worldview as a woman of color affect your character creation and writing career as an author?

Like Zimrah, I was raised far away from people who looked like me. I didn’t seem to fit people’s boxes. This comes out in my writing. The longing to fit in and belong somewhere, I felt this very acutely in my younger years. I think it’s a common human desire and struggle. Most people feel different in some way or another, so I think my characters are relatable. As a woman of color, I know what it feels like to be ignored or overlooked. But my characters overcome the boxes their society has for them and discover the calling of the great Author. I hope in my career, and in my life, I can do the same.

Thanks for the interview, Susan! Do you have any closing thoughts?

Thank you for interviewing me! Writing this book was a turning point for me. I feel like it helped me have a greater understanding of who I am and what my purpose is. My prayer would be that it does the same for others as well. No matter what our past is like, like Zimrah, we have a loving Father who has an amazing future for us. There is so much joy in the journey of figuring out who He is and what adventures He has in store for us!

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor


About the book:

In the land of ancient Israel, in the days just before the miracles of Jesus the Christ began, there lived an orphan girl named Zimrah. A foreigner and a slave with no knowledge of who she is or where she came from, except that she was rescued barely alive and only a week old from a caravan of slavers, Zimrah has many demons to overcome. Living among people that despise her for being different, she finds shelter in the last Jewish house in a City of Refuge, only to find that her master has demons of his own. She learns that these dark spirits who have tormented her all her life can not only be battled, but can be defeated when she begins to heed the gentle Voice that speaks to her in her dreams.

Her obedience to the Voice leads her not only to freedom from the fear that stalks her in the night, but to the arms of a loving father who has been there all along. Following the Voice, Zimrah finds a lyre and the songs that have been hidden for her in her dreams. Singing these dream songs – an inheritance passed on through the bloodline of which she does not yet know- will determine the path to her heart’s desires, her future, and her destiny. Assisted by Rebecca and Garbar, the Warrior Angels that guard and protect her, and the love of a Roman officer who she must learn to trust, Zimrah discovers that her life has much more significance than she could have ever imagined. Her obedience and courage will shake the heavens and stir the hearts of all who touch Zimrah, Dream Singer.

Buy Susan’s book on Amazon

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Author Interview: C. D. Gill

Happy Monday!

Thanks for stopping by Diversity Between the Pages. Today, we’re bringing you an interview with the author of On Wings of an Avalanche. It released last week. Have you had an opportunity to read it or at least put it on your TBR pile? Meet C.D. Gill and show some love in the comments!


About the Author

The Blurb: “A struggling charity hospital, visa troubles, and an arrest at gunpoint leave Dr. Madison Cote at the mercy of the corrupt Malian police. Rescue comes at a price when a warlord demands that she traffic drugs in exchange for her freedom and his protection. When the French embassy enlists her to relay intelligence on the warlord, Dr. Cote’s trapped as a civilian double agent, facing an immediate death sentence if she’s caught.

Royal Air Force recruit Chip Chapman needs to prove to himself that he can be more than his abusive father. A week before basic training, an avalanche replaces his dreams of heroism with raw survivalism. Taken captive for his piloting skills, Chip plans to escape until he uncovers war crimes no human could ignore.

Both pressed into servitude, Dr. Cote and Chip forge a desperate alliance. But with lives in the balance, their allegiances and honor will be the least of the sacrifices required to topple a warlord.”

Links: Amazon, AppleBooks, Kobo, Goodreads


Interview

Toni: Welcome, C.D.! Since I’m so excited to talk about your book, I’ll just jump right in with the questions. What made you decide to pick Mali as a setting for On Wings of an Avalanche?

C.D: I chose Mali, because of the drug trafficking problem, and the proximity to Europe. It has a unique feature of being Muslim in the north closer to the desert and “Christian” in the south. So I was able to separate the crimes from religion mostly.

Toni: Have you ever been to Africa? If so, can you tell us a little about your experience there?

C.D: Yes! I went to Zambia in 2015! The travel was really long coming from the US, but my husband and I had the privilege of seeing life “in the bush” in Zambia. Pretty quickly outside of Lusaka, the roads turned to dirt with huge holes. The journey which would have taken 8 hours with paved roads took two 12-hr days to get to our destination. We stayed near locals, visited local schools, the missionary hospital, the hydro project which provides electricity to the area, and the markets. It was so bizarre to see so many people in the bush with cell phones yet they still lacked things like running water, toilets, refrigeration, etc. I was so glad we went with people who knew the area, because we would have had no idea where to stop for food or fuel. Those things aren’t easily available outside the city because people don’t have the money to pay a day’s wage for “fast food” nor do they all have vehicles that need fuel.

Toni: That sounds amazing. I still would love to visit the continent. What kind of research did you have to do for this novel?

C.D: All kinds! I went in depth into Mali’s culture, landscape, political structure, medical rules, and transportation. I researched the Olympics in 2008, bugs, aviation, birth rates, medicine, language, gift-giving, the drug trade, child soldiers, food, license plates, roads—you name it. I looked into it. And it was lots of fun!

Toni: You make it sound fun. 🙂 Did you find it difficult to portray the African culture considering your own ethnic background?

C.D: It was super important to me that I not misrepresent Africa as a whole or even present it as something “lesser than.” For example, one warlord doesn’t mean that the country is full of them, just like one gang story doesn’t mean the US is only gangs. Africa isn’t lesser than. It’s just different. I didn’t want people to read this book and think that “West is best.” In Zambia, healthcare is given to the citizens, as is the land. They expect things for free from the government. In the US, being given things goes against the ideal of work hard and earn what you want. So yes, it was difficult, because there are things I wanted to include in the story but refrained because the understanding of the full culture was difficult to fit into one story.

Toni: Makes perfect sense. I’m glad you took care with your portrayal. What is the one thing you wanted to portray for the different cultures?

C.D: That forgiveness is a concept understood around the world. Evil is always with us in many shapes, but it’s how we deal with evil and change for the better that shapes our identities.

Toni: Amen! What would you choose for a life verse for the hero/heroine?

C.D: For Chip, John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it fear.”

Toni: I love that verse!

C.D: For Madison, Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.”

Toni: That’s another good one! Last but not least, what can readers do to support your writing journey?

C.D: Recommending the book to friends and leaving a review so others can find the book! Of course, I would love personal notes on how the story landed with each person.

Toni: Readers, do you have any questions or comments for C.D.?


About the Author

C.D. Gill caught the travel bug as a young girl. Now she integrates other cultures and faraway places into her fiction. Equally as important is her desire to lend a voice to those around world without one. Her favorite adventure buddy is her British pilot husband who doesn’t know how to sit still and whose stories have added fuel to her wild imagination.

Follow: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Newsletter

Author Interview with Brandi Boddie featuring “Dear One” (book)

Happy Monday, reader friends!

Let’s welcome Brandi Boddie to our blog today! She’s a returning guest. Today, Brandi is here to answer questions about her book “Dear One”. It’s the perfect read for Valentine’s Day!  She’s also going to share some of the race-related roadblocks she’s faced as an author of color writing about characters of color.

Enjoy your time with Brandi!


Interview with Brandi Boddie, author of Dear One (book):

Alexis: What inspired you to write a story about “Steel Town America during the midst of WWII” and call your story “Dear One”?

Brandi: Thanks for having me as a guest again, Alexis. During WWII, the “steel towns” were cities that were known for their high production of steel. This metal was highly needed to craft planes, tanks, and ammunition for the troops overseas. The more notable steel towns of the day were Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Birmingham, Alabama, and Trenton, New Jersey. The story is called “Dear One” because it’s part of a multi-author collection called Valentine Matchmakers. Each story is titled after a saying on those classic candy hearts. The company that manufactured the candy started putting “Dear One” on the hearts during the 1940s.

Alexis: Why did you choose Youngstown, Ohio as the setting for your story?

Brandi: I was born in Youngstown, Ohio. During the 1910s-70s, the city had numerous steel mills. During WWII, they were used to furnish vehicles and weapons. Many of my male relatives worked in these mills before going off to fight in the war or to college in the latter half of the century. I wanted to pay tribute to the hard-working people of the city and my family by recognizing part of Youngstown’s legacy.

Alexis: Describe the Valley Bulletin, the town’s most prominent African American newspaper. How many years did it take for it to rise up in the ranks?

Brandi: The Valley Bulletin is a fictional African American newspaper based on the real-life examples of black journalism during that time. Since African Americans didn’t often find work with white newspaper companies, they formed their own. The papers featured news of the day as told from an African American perspective, as well as entertainment, gossip and advice columns. This tradition continues today in major cities.

Alexis: How did your story’s heroine Molly Clayton become a “ladies columnist” for the Valley Bulletin?

Brandi: Molly took a few secretary and writing courses after high school, which enabled her to find employment with the Valley Bulletin. She loves to give practical advice on war rationing to ladies in her weekly column.

Alexis: Why are Molly’s parents struggling and in what ways does she help them?

Brandi: Molly’s father lost his job in the steel mill due to a work-related injury. She tries to help him find work by bringing home the classifieds in the Valley Bulletin. She helps her mother with the share of the household duties .

Alexis: Describe Molly’s passion for swing dancing. How and when did she start?

Brandi: Swing dancing, or Lindy Hop, was one of the big pastimes during the 30s and 40s. While money was tight, it didn’t cost much to attend a dance. Molly began dancing during high school and goes regularly to these social events in her spare time.

Alexis: What’s the significance of the “Valentine’s Day dance” that Molly is invited to by a friend?

Brandi: The Valentine’s Day dance has a romantic theme of music and dining. Molly has been working hard at the newspaper office lately, and a friend suggests she deserves a little time to enjoy herself.

Alexis: Let’s talk about your story’s hero, Stephen Keller. Describe his looks, personality and taste in music. What’s his motivation in this story?

Brandi: Stephen is tall and handsome with dark hair, hazel eyes, and tan skin. He has an outgoing personality and is an avid fan of jazz music. He’s a hard worker and talented talker, not to mention dancer. But he always feels the need to prove himself.

Alexis: Why did you make Stephen a jazz magazine editor?

Brandi: Stephen has relatives who are jazz musicians. This lively, soulful music is in his blood.

Alexis: What draws Molly to Stephen? Is there anything that makes her not like him later on in the story?

Brandi: Molly is drawn to Stephen’s charisma, both on the dancefloor and in his conversation. He’s passionate about music and making advances for people of color. He’s suave, and there’s a cultured element to his behavior and way of dress. However, there’s also an unspoken element that she can’t put her finger on.

Alexis: How does Stephen’s “painful secret” affect his relationship with Molly?

Brandi: It goes back to his need to always prove himself. He’s trying to escape from the memories of his past, as well as something he can’t change about himself. This leads Molly to see another side of his personality, one that’s sad and bitter.

Alexis: What were the challenges of writing this story? What were the rewards?

Brandi: While there are many WWII romances to read, few of them feature people of color. We know for a fact that black and brown American soldiers helped win the war. We also know that their families, friends, and love interests worried about them. Just like white women, black women did their part to send care packages and letters. They anticipated their husbands and boyfriends coming home. I wanted to tell such a story. It’s been amazing to write about a young black couple falling in love against the backdrop of a war that ended up changing the scope of how we view religious, ethnic, and moral grounds.

Alexis: As a woman of color, what are the challenges you’ve experienced in trying to publish your books about people of color with traditional CBA publishing houses?

Brandi: I’ve had books get canceled because they featured people of color. In earlier stages of query, I’ve had editors ask me the race of my characters before they even knew the plot. I think this is because, historically, people of color haven’t had an easy time in this country. Historical fiction has to deal with that reality or it can become very disingenuous. It’s my belief that certain settings and subject matter make publishing houses want to proceed with caution. However, the human race can’t heal and POC are not being served if their experiences are sugarcoated, glossed over, or not given a voice at all.

Alexis: Would you like to see more love stories featuring heroines of color, successfully published and marketed by CBA? Why or why not?

Brandi: I certainly would, but it has to reflect POC experiences and their unique journeys of faith. God doesn’t lead us all down the same path. I’d also like to see more heroines of color being featured in genres such as mystery and science fiction.

Alexis: If you could advise the marketing and sales departments in traditional CBA publishing houses on how to market books about people of color, what would you say?

Brandi: Be proactive about it. Survey readers of existing romance novels that feature POC. Ask them why they enjoyed the book and what they would like to see in the future. Also, bring authors of color to your conventions and conferences to be guest speakers. Have several panels on diversity (with POC as the panelists) to start the conversation.

As for in-store and online marketing, don’t be afraid to have covers featuring POC. I’ve seen too many books that featured ethnic characters, but had flowers or a vague landscape for the cover. Why can’t we see cover models for the characters?

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Brandi! Do you have any closing thoughts?

Brandi: Thanks for inviting me again, Alexis. I enjoy reading your blog features. Thanks for sharing diverse stories with your readers.

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor.


About the Author:

 Brandi Boddie writes historical and contemporary romance. She resides in Texas where she loves spending time with her husband and dogs, a cocker spaniel and a schnauzer who both aspire to be food critics. She holds a juris doctorate from Howard University School of Law and a B.A. in political science from Youngstown State University. She has worked for the Office of the Attorney General in Washington D.C. and traveled extensively across the country as a military wife. When she isn’t writing, Brandi enjoys fencing and swing dancing.

Visit her website www.brandiboddie.com for news and updates.

Follow Brandi on Twitter


About the Book:

Love in Steel Town America during the midst of WWII

Youngstown, Ohio 1944

Molly Clayton works as a ladies columnist for the Valley Bulletin, the town’s most prominent African American newspaper. Between writing, aiding the war effort, and helping her struggling parents pay the bills, she doesn’t have time for her favorite pastime of swing dancing.

When a friend gives her tickets to a Valentine’s Day dance for her birthday, Molly can’t wait to attend. She meets Stephen Keller, a handsome jazz magazine editor. She’s attracted to him, but a painful secret lurks beneath the surface of Stephen’s easy charm that makes him defensive to others and suspicious of her faith.

Things take a turn for the worse when a vicious rumor threatens to destroy both her career and her blossoming courtship. Will she gain the courage to confront the rumor and speak her heart to Stephen before it’s too late?

Interview with Brandi Boddie, author of “The Preacher’s Wife”

Happy Monday, reader friends!

Let’s welcome Brandi Boddie to our blog today! We did a book spotlight on her story “The Preacher’s Wife” last week. Today, Brandi is here to answer questions about her book and share her insights as an author of color in the publishing industry.

Enjoy your time with Brandi!


About the Author: 

 Brandi Boddie writes historical and contemporary romance. She resides in Texas where she loves spending time with her husband and dogs, a cocker spaniel and a schnauzer who both aspire to be food critics. She holds a juris doctorate from Howard University School of Law and a B.A. in political science from Youngstown State University. She has worked for the Office of the Attorney General in Washington D.C. and traveled extensively across the country as a military wife. When she isn’t writing, Brandi enjoys fencing and swing dancing.

Visit her website www.brandiboddie.com for news and updates.

Follow Brandi on Twitter


About the Book:

 Can this small-town girl trade her tarnished past for a respectable life?

During the hot, windy summer of 1870 in the burgeoning prairie town of Assurance, Kansas, Marissa Pierce is fed up with her abusive boss. She longs to start a new life and is growing weary of convincing townsfolk that she is most certainly not a prostitute.

Civil War veteran and preacher Rowe Winford arrives in town intent on leaving the tragic memories of his deceased family behind. Although Rowe has no plans to fall in love anytime soon, the plans of God rarely match those of man.

Faced with adversity and rejection from the town and Rowe’s family, can Marissa overcome her past, renew her faith, and experience the life of love that God has planned for her?


Interview with Brandi Boddie about her book, The Preacher’s Wife:

Alexis: Why do you call this book “The Preacher’s Wife”?

Brandi: Actually, the original title was called “Garters For Lace”. There’s a line in the story that provides more detail about it. My publisher decided to give the novel a new title, which also is very fitting to the story.

Alexis: Let’s talk about your story’s heroine Marissa Pierce. What’s she like? Describe her personality, looks, and motivation.

Brandi: Marissa is a young woman in her twenties. I describe her as tall, with long black hair and brown eyes. She’s attractive. Today we might describe her as biracial or multiethnic because she is Native American and Caucasian. Although Marissa was born in the 19th century, some aspects of her personality resemble today’s modern woman. She’s very resilient and independent. She’s a survivor of sexual and physical abuse. Although there are things in her past that are very discouraging, she strives to move forward in life with the help of God and caring friends.

Alexis: What’s Marissa’s backstory? Why do people think she’s a prostitute?

Brandi: Marissa had a difficult childhood and early adult life. Circumstances have forced her to work in a saloon as a dancehall girl. In the frontier days, ladies could earn money by dancing with saloon patrons and serving drinks. Not all of these women were prostitutes, but saloons and their employees were often considered disreputable at this time by the public. Marissa has to battle this perception.

Alexis: Let’s talk about your story’s hero Rowe Winford. What is he like? Describe his personality, looks and motivation.

Brandi: Rowe is a kind, strong man who journeys west from Virginia after losing his wife and unborn child. He’s always wanted to be a minister, a profession that his tobacco farming family disapproves of. He desires to make a new start. Rowe is over six feet tall, has blue eyes and dark brown hair.

Alexis: What tragic memories is Rowe trying to escape?

Brandi: Rowe is saddened by the loss of his young wife and unborn child. He also is depressed by his family’s rejection of him.

Alexis: How do God’s plans for Rowe contradict Rowe’s plans for his life?

Brandi: As the town’s new preacher, Rowe wants to do everything right to impress the people and show his competence as a spiritual leader. He doesn’t anticipate meeting and being attracted to Marissa, a woman who many consider beneath his station.

Alexis: What brings Marissa and Rowe together? Is there anything that threatens to tear them apart? Explain.

Brandi: A chance meeting at the saloon and a later encounter firmly place the two in each other’s lives. Rowe doesn’t count on the backlash from the town or Marissa’s abusive employer, the saloon owner Jason Garth.

Alexis: In what ways to Marissa and Rowe work to overcome adversity?

Brandi: Marissa works to escape the saloon and abusive people in her life. Part of that involves seeking new employment, but not everyone in the town wants to be associated with a former saloon girl. Rowe soon learns that his can-do spirit and eagerness to prove himself must be met with action. Being a preacher involves more than Sunday sermons. He learns he has to truly serve others, even those society rejects.

Alexis: What role does faith in God play in Marissa and Rowe’s lives?

Brandi: They learn to recognize God’s voice and accept where He leads them. Marissa, due to her mistreatment by the morally upstanding people of the town, has formed the wrong impression of God. Rowe wonders how God could allow him to lose his family.

Alexis: Marissa is Native American. Why did you give her this heritage and how does it affect her story?

Brandi: Although Hollywood would have us think differently, the historic frontier west actually was made up of diverse peoples. Roughly 40 percent of cowboys were black and Latino. Among white settlers, there were often low populations of women, especially when towns were first being established. It wasn’t unheard of for white men to have children with Native American women or take them as wives. This is partly how Marissa has Choctaw in her ancestry.

Alexis: What’s Rowe’s ethnicity? What role does his racial makeup play in this story?

Brandi: Rowe is Caucasian. As a white man in a mostly white small frontier town, there are certain expectations of him. Will he fulfill them, or will he go against the grain?

Alexis: How do your own experiences as a woman of color affect your storytelling?

Brandi: I’ve always loved to read, but I didn’t see too many women/girls of color as the main characters in stories. This left me feeling like people who looked like me didn’t matter and that our stories weren’t worth telling. If I did find stories featuring POC, they were often relegated to their own little hidden corner of the bookstore or given the general label of Urban Fiction. I have nothing against urban fiction if that’s the actual story setting. However, I’ve seen too many books mischaracterized and given that broad label simply because the protagonists are people of color.

Even now, as a fan of romance novels, it can be discouraging to rarely see black women on the covers. The underlying message is that we are not worthy of love or romantic pursuit. I write stories to help change this by uplifting and representing women of color. We are from all walks of life. We have different experiences. And we have always been here.

Alexis: What changes would you like to see in CBA this New Year 2018 when it comes to authors who write books featuring people of color?

Brandi: I strongly hope we will see more stories featuring POC, written by POC. If we want this, there has to be action behind our words. We can’t just talk about what we’d like to see. We need to be proactive by promoting and encouraging authors. Buy books by POC. Tweet, follow on social media, and don’t be afraid to write to CBA traditional publishers and agents. Let them know there is a demand for diverse stories. Support the indie author movement, because that’s where we’re going to see the impact of diversity in storytelling first.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Brandi. You’ve shared such great thoughts! We look forward to your return in February to talk about another one of your books! God bless you.

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor.

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Interview with Belle Calhoune about her book “Reunited at Christmas”

About the book:

 A Season to Remember 

Two years after the avalanche everyone thought had claimed her life, Ruby Prescott returns to the remote Alaskan town of Love. And no one is more ecstatic than her husband, Liam, and their young son. Even if amnesia has robbed Ruby of her memories, she’s soon woven back into the fabric of their lives. As they celebrate the holiday season, Ruby is falling head over heels for the man she’s told was the love of her life. But she can’t escape the feeling that there’s something Liam is keeping a secret. Will the return of her memories tear them apart for good—or will this be a Christmas she’ll never forget?

Book purchase link: Amazon

~*~

Interview with Belle Calhoune, author of Reunited at Christmas:

Alexis: The setting for your story, Reunited at Christmas, is an Alaskan town called “Love”. How sweet! It’s a very unique name for a town. What makes it special? Paint a picture of it with words.

Belle: Love is a quaint Alaskan town that is very special due to the charming townsfolk and its remote location. Love is only accessible via ferry boat and seaplane. The town has an imbalance of males to females, so the premise of the series is that the town mayor, Jasper Prescott, starts a program called Operation Love that brings single females who are looking for love to the lovelorn town called Love. There is lots of love in this town along with warm-hearted folks who live their life with faith.

Alexis: Ruby Prescott is the heroine of your story. What is she like? Describe her looks, personality and heart.

Belle: Ruby is a beautiful woman with tawny colored skin, long black hair and warm brown eyes. She is African American. She is very brave. In the story she is suffering from amnesia, so when she returns to Love it is on a wing and a prayer. She’s forced into situations where she is completely lost, so she really has pluck and grit. She’s very honest and loving. She has a very big heart and she tends to think of others before she thinks of herself.

Alexis: How was Ruby’s life before the avalanche that almost claimed her life and how is it different now that she survived?

Belle: Prior to the avalanche she was working as a member of a search and rescue team which required a lot of courage and mental fortitude. She was happily married to Liam and raising a small child, Aidan. Although she and Liam were very much in love, he was very concerned about her career and the inherent dangers, so that was an issue standing between them. Overall, she was happy but conflicted about her career.

Alexis: Liam Prescott is the hero of this story. What is he like? Describe his looks, personality and tell us what defines his outlook on life.

Belle: Liam is very handsome. He’s tall with dark brown hair and brown eyes. He is probably the quietest Prescott. He’s a doctor who cares deeply about the world around him and his patients. He looks at life as an opportunity to care for others and show compassion and love. It takes a lot to anger or upset him. He’s a loving husband and devoted father.

Alexis: Ruby and Liam have a son. Tell us about him. How old is he? Who does he look like the most, his Mom or Dad? What is his favorite hobby?

Belle: Their son is named Aidan. He’s a really cool kid. He’s five years old. He looks like a sweet combination with dark hair and light brown skin. He’s biracial and beautiful. His favorite hobby is sledding. He loves the Alaskan outdoors and spending time in nature. He also loves pizza.

Alexis: How did Liam and his son react when Ruby’s avalanche accident happened?

Belle: They were both devastated by her death. Liam had to hold it together so he could raise Aidan as a single father, but he was really messed up emotionally by losing Ruby, the love of his life. One of the beautiful aspects of this story is how Liam and Aidan had to band together in the absence of Ruby so that their little family didn’t fall apart at the seams.

Alexis: Why does Ruby have amnesia? What are her husband and son doing to help her regain her memory?

Belle: Because of the fall she sustained during the avalanche, Ruby suffered a head trauma. She does have spurts and flashes of memory, which lead her back to her hometown of Love. Through the course of the story we see that Ruby begins to remember things. The hope is that she will get back most of her memories, although it is quite possible some things will be forever lost to her. I think Liam and Aidan’s role is to be quietly supportive. Their very presence helps Ruby remember her past.

Alexis: The cover models for your book are beautiful! What race are Ruby and her husband? Why did you choose to write about an interracial romance?

Belle: Yes, they really are gorgeous. Ruby is African American. Liam is Caucasian. Aidan is both. I wanted to write about an interracial couple because that reflects my reality. I myself am biracial and it is something very natural for me to see in my environment. My ancestry is diverse. I am African, Irish and have many other European ties. I think it is realistic in this day and age to show a loving, devoted couple who are interracial.

Alexis: Did you experience any roadblocks to getting your interracial romance story published by a traditional Christian (CBA) publisher? Why or why not?

Belle: Not at all. I presented the character and the story and my editor, Emily Rodmell and Harlequin Love Inspired embraced it. We never discussed race and it was never raised in the story. It was not relevant to their love story in any way, shape or form.

Alexis: Would you like to see more interracial romance stories published by CBA? Why or why not?

Belle: Absolutely. First, I would like to see more diverse characters in CBA. So far, they are really behind the curve in representing people of color in their books. In 2017 this shouldn’t be happening. We need to reflect the world we inhabit, especially as Christians.

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

Belle: It was challenging to write an amnesiac because I had to reconcile her new personality with her old personality. In essence, Ruby was born after the head injury. She’s the same person, but different. So I had to remind myself of that fact. Also, I had to portray amnesia in a realistic manner. I didn’t want to have Ruby suddenly remember everything. I think flashes of memory are more realistic. And also, I had to show that she may never regain those memories because that is what happens with real life individuals who suffer from amnesia.

Alexis: If you could spend this Christmas with The Prescott Family, what would you all do? Why?

Belle: If I could spend Christmas with the Prescott Family I would ask them to take me sledding with them on the mountain. It would be so much fun to sled in Alaska and share fun times with this incredible family. I would also love to meet Mayor Jasper Prescott because he is the center of this quaint town and quite a character. He would definitely make me laugh out loud.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Belle! God bless you and Merry Christmas!

Belle: Thanks for having me on your blog. Merry Christmas to you as well. Blessings!

~*~

About the Author:

 Belle Calhoune grew up in a small town in Massachusetts as one of five children. Although her mother was a doctor and her father a biologist, Belle never gravitated toward science. Growing up across the street from a public library was a huge influence on her life and fueled her love of romance novels. Belle is the author of nine Harlequin Love Inspired novels with a tenth hitting the shelves in March of 2018. She has Indie published the popular and best-selling inspirational romance series, Seven Brides, Seven Brothers. The Secrets of Savannah and Pelican Bay are both spin-offs of her debut series. Belle loves writing romance and crafting happily-ever-afters. When she’s not wrangling her two high maintenance dogs or spending time with her husband and two daughters, Belle enjoys travel and exploring new places.

Follow Sandra on Twitter

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor

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