Author Interview: Lee Tobin McClain

Hello, reader friends! From Rescue River and Sacred Bond to her new Arcadia Valley Romance seriestoday’s featured author often highlights diversity through her contemporary romance. 

About the Author

Lee Tobin McClainLee Tobin McClain read Gone With The Wind in the third grade and has been an incurable romantic ever since. The PW bestselling author of fifteen contemporary Christian romances, she enjoys crafting emotional, faith-infused love stories with happy endings.

When she’s not writing, she’s probably driving around a carload of snarky teen girls, playing with her rescue dog and cat, or teaching aspiring writers in Seton Hill University’s MFA program. She is probably not cleaning her house.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER

 

Interview

Beth: Writing is generally a solitary endeavor. Tell us a little bit about writing within the Arcadia Valley Romance universe. 

Lee: Writing in Arcadia Valley feels communal in two ways. First, it’s fun being part of a community of writers who are creating Arcadia Valley together. We’ve become good friends and are in touch all the time with questions, ideas, and support for each other.

And second, Arcadia Valley has become a community that feels very alive, with families and shops and greenhouses and farms and churches. We have pictures of the town (it’s modeled on a real town in Idaho) and of the surrounding terrain. When I write about Arcadia Valley, I feel like I’m actually there!

Wise at Heart takes place primarily at the hero’s home—a big converted barn surrounded by open land. That’s because Daniel, the hero, is a bit introverted, and he feels alienated from his family and community. Throughout the book, that changes, and he becomes more strongly connected to his siblings and to Arcadia Valley.

 

About the Book

Wise at Heart by Lee Tobin McClainWhen Daniel Quintana needs a summer nanny for his twins, it only makes sense to hire Tabitha Moore. Just back from an extended mission trip, she needs the job. The fact that she was his wife’s best friend shouldn’t matter, and neither should the fact that he finds her attractive. Daniel’s not in the market for relationships because he’s just so bad at them.

Tabitha Moore doesn’t want to work for Daniel because she knows a terrible secret about his daughters. But when staying with her sister is no longer an option, she feels like she has no choice. After all, it’s just for the summer…

With the help of Daniel’s five-year-old twins, Daniel and Tabitha start to become more than friends. Growing vegetables, rescuing a mama cat and her kittens, eating delicious Mexican food at El Corazon… all of it makes these two lonely souls crave to create a family long term… unless Tabitha’s secret rips apart everything they’re starting to build.

GOODREADS | AMAZON

 

Beth: I’m certainly looking forward to reading Wise at Heart! What do you want readers to gain from this story?

Lee: First, of course, I want readers to escape from their problems and immerse themselves in a happily-ever-after story. Because Wise at Heart has a secret at the center, I want readers to stay up late, turning the pages, to discover how everything plays out.

And I also hope that readers will enjoy seeing how God’s hand hovers over everything, gently nudging us in the directions we need to go in order to become the people He means for us to be.

 

Beth: What inspires you to create diverse minority characters like the Quintana family?

Mexican food

Lee: When I got involved in the Arcadia Valley project, I was immersed in studying Spanish, so that was a factor.

Also, the fictional town of Arcadia Valley is set in a part of Idaho where about 1/3 of the population self-describes as Latino or Hispanic, but when I joined the group, we didn’t yet have any major Latino characters.

Since the series is food-oriented—and since I love Mexican food—it made sense to create the restaurant, El Corazon, run by a family of Mexican descent.

 

Beth: I appreciate your dedication to crafting authentic settings, characters, and stories for your readers. In what ways do the second (and third) generation of the Quintana family honor their Mexican heritage?

Lee: One big way is through food! The Quintana siblings update their family restaurant throughout the series, moving toward healthier, more contemporary fare, but they keep many of their mothers’ traditional recipes untouched.

star-shaped piñata

They also maintain some Mexican holiday customs. For example, in Wise at Heart, the story ends with a traditional posada celebration that marks the beginning of the Christmas season—and leads into the hero and heroine’s happy ending.

On a deeper level, in traditional Latino families, the oldest male is considered as the head of the family. That would be Javier Quintana, the hero of Secrets of the Heart (review), and he feels every bit of that responsibility. His siblings alternately rely on, and get exasperated with, him and his tendency toward bossiness and control.

Honoring your heritage isn’t a simple matter, especially when you’re living in a different country and are surrounded by competing cultural traditions and ideals.

 

Beth: Since food plays such a major role in Arcadia Valley Romance, what is your favorite authentic Mexican dish?

Lee: My favorite authentic Mexican dish is tacos! Not the crunchy Americanized ones, or that abomination my daughter adores, the Walking Taco of concession-stand fame. But rather, small soft tacos made with homemade corn tortillas and various fillings. Buying a tortilla press and learning to use it rocked my culinary world! I’m mostly vegan, so my taco fillings tend to be vegetable based.

 

Coming soon from Lee Tobin McClain…

Available in stores mid-February


preorder now

Romance from the Heart: an Arcadia Valley Romance series

  
Look for Book 3
Joy of My Heart
April 2018

 

Lee, thank you so much for joining us!
Are y’all familiar with Mexican posada celebrations? I learned something new today!

 

interview by Beth Erin
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Author Interview: Joy Massenburge

Happy Monday, Reader Friends!

Please help me welcome new author Joy Massenburge to our blog! She’s here to talk about her debut novella, “A Cry for Independence,” which is one of several stories in the Summer Fireworks boxed set.

Enjoy!

~*~

About the Author: 

 Joy crafts the love stories of pastors and their kids. She was born the sixth child of a pastor. Thinking she had avoided the church scene, she married a football player. She left the University of Texas at Austin and her theater scholarship to join him at Sam Houston State where she obtained her Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice. On signing day with the Green Bay Packers, he advised her she would be a pastor’s wife…they raised pastor’s kids; a son a daughter and god-daughter. Her life is filled with twists and turns that come in twos—two donkeys, two dogs, and two teenagers who came to live with her soon after she became an empty nester.

With the kids married and off to college, she took the advice of her favorite author, Francine Rivers (for new writers), and joined ACFW as well as the not-so-local chapter DFW Ready Writers, where she serves as Chaplain.

Joy resides in Arp, Texas where you can find her in the concession stand on a Friday night, curled up on her back porch with a good book on a Saturday, or filling her five-acre country home with fifty plus people for a Blue Bell party.

Like her name, Joy’s writing is filled with heartfelt emotions, surprises, and excitement. Like her life, Joy’s readers experience change, a good church service, and the perfect dose of tears and laughter. She found the perfect formula for the contemporary romances God called her to write.

*Follow Joy on Facebook

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About the book: 

 Some cry wolf, Tammie Morris cries independence. After having Q’s baby out of wedlock and struggling to support herself and her child, she is determined to never depend on a man again. He will only abandon her like her father. It has taken twelve months to gain her GED, employment, and the five-year-life-plan she is committed to live by to make it happen. When her apartment availability is delayed, she is forced into a temporary living arrangement that threatens the future she’s mapped out.

Quan Blanton Sr., Q, has found the freedom only salvation through Jesus can offer. All there is to do now is put his family back together and live the Christian life. His ne Paroled to his son’s aunt and uncle’s house as part of the Father’s Heart program, he is determined to reunite his family the right way as soon as Tammie comes home from the shelter. There is only one problem, he is not a part of her plans.

When the storms of life usher in unexpected opposition, Tammie and Q find themselves headed the same direction, no matter their original plotted courses.

~*

Interview with Joy Massenburge, author of A Cry for Independence:

Alexis: Why did you name your book “A Cry for Independence”? Explain the significance of the title to the story.

Joy: The title came after I’d completed a little over half of the book. My heroine was quick to say she wanted to do things on her own, without the help of family, friends, or a man. But her internal thoughts cried out a different story. We’ll say a lot of things when we’re scared. Thank goodness God knows the heart and sends us what we need.

Alexis: Your heroine is Tammie Morris. What is she like? Describe her hopes, dreams and fears.

Joy: Tammie Morris is a young mother hardened by life. She has a five-year-plan to work and make enough money to take care of her son on her own without the help of another man. Hopes and dreams got her in the position she’s in so she doesn’t waste time on that anymore. She fears her attraction to Q. She fears failure. She fears herself.

Alexis: Your hero is Quan Blanton Sr. What is he like? Describe his strengths, weaknesses and heart.

Joy: Yes, but he goes by Q. He’s street smart. Confident. Passionate. And a new convert. He’s the type of guy that once he believes something, he digs in deep. However, he is struggling with how to handle his feelings for Tammie within this new system of right and wrong.

Alexis: Why does Q invite Tammie to church and why is she repelled by the thought of him getting “religion”?

Joy: Since he’s joined the church and they play such a strong part in the changes in his new life, he wants her to experience the relationship he’s enjoying with his church family and learn what he’s learned. Tammie blames the church and it rules and regulations for destroying her family life and her relationship with her Father.

Alexis:  Share details on Q and Tammie’s history. What brought them together and what drove them apart?

Joy: Q and Tammie are high school sweet hearts. After she became pregnant, they moved in together. A five-year prison sentence separated them. Tammie, a vulnerable single parent, hurt that Q chose his father over her and their son, moves on with her life and begins a relationship with another man.

Alexis: How old is Q and Tammie’s son? What role does he play in this story?

Joy: Their son, Quan Jr., if Tammie is talking, or Junior if Q calls him, is 8. He’s the crucible of the story that forges the restoration of their relationship.

Alexis: Why does Q want to help Tammie?

Joy: He loves her. He wants her to experience the liberty he has found in Christ Jesus. He wants to have the family, he’d been denied.

Alexis: Why did Q go to prison? How did he get out?

Joy: Q took a drug charge for his father in a last attempt to gain his father’s love and respect. He never thought he’d serve real time since he didn’t have any priors. He paroled out after agreeing to participate in the Father’s Heart community outreach program. A church partnered with the state with the idea of restoring the family unit to stop the prison numbers from increasing with the next generation.

Alexis: Why does Tammie crave independence but doesn’t know what it looks like?

Joy: I believe God places the desire in every heart to live in liberty. Tammie is like many others raised in a family that made mistakes in how they handled trials and claimed their deeds were in response to what God would have them do. So many people misrepresent God’s desires because they fail to read God’s Word for themselves and when they do, they lack understanding. He’s more than rules and regulations. God is Love. Grace. Mercy. Holiness. Until Q, in his new walk in life, Tammie had never seen the God of the Bible lived out in a way that she’d recognize Him as her hearts true desire.

Alexis: At what point does Tammie turn to God? What drove her to pray to Him?

Joy: Like many of us, we accomplish the things on our list that we thought would make us happiest, only to learn it does not satisfy. That’s what happens to Tammie. At the end of her list, she realizes something in her life is still missing. She wants the peace of life Q is living. She’s tired of handling things on her own and finally cries out for help.

Alexis: You deal with tough topics in this story. What lesson are you hoping to teach your readers through it?

Joy: We all make mistakes. Fear is the biggest prison we overlook. God does not want us to live in fear, but liberty. His love is big enough to cover our faults. He’s waiting for us to cry out to Him so He can lead us into the abundant life He planned for us.

Alexis: Your story features African American characters. Do you think that CBA needs to publish more stories featuring Black people? Why or why not?

Joy: I’d love to see more stories featuring African American characters. I’m an avid reader of Christian Romance and my decision to start writing came from me yearning to see my people on the pages beyond plots covering slavery, sexually explicit romance, or scandal. Every race of people has a uniqueness that deserves to be portrayed and preserved in book format. Going to CBA conferences, I realize very few Black authors are submitting works. An agent recently told me she’d been waiting for the last three years to have African American characters pitched to her. I made sure to pitch both books I’d prepared for the event.

Alexis: What kind of impact do you hope that your book will create in communities of color?

Joy: I can’t tell you how many family members and church members have come to me saying they’ve been inspired to write after seeing me do it. It’s not only a dream for me, but a calling. I obeyed the call on my life and pray it becomes a standard in my family for my children and children’s children to do the same. I’d love to inspire more people in our community to write.

Then, there’s the information inside the cover. Like the parables Jesus used to help the people gain understanding, I desire for every reader to walk away knowing more about their Heavenly Father than before.

Alexis: What was the greatest challenge for you as an author in writing this story? Explain.

Joy: Me! I had already written the full-size novel that introduced the main characters in this story and it was still being reviewed by an editor I had pitched to at the ACFW conference. Since I hadn’t been validated by others that my writing was worth reading, I struggled to accept the opportunity to submit a novella in my mentor’s July Fourth Anthology Collection when she asked me to. Lena Nelson Dooley wouldn’t take no for an answer and encouraged me all the way. After a lot of prayers, sweat, and tears, I completed the second book I’d ever written. BLISS, book one in the Wounded Lamb Series, is still under review. It’s funny how the subplot characters’ story reached readers first.

God used this situation to teach me not to wait for man to validate the calling on my life. Those He calls, He equips.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Joy! Do you have closing comments to share?

Joy: If we are going to see more stories with Black people as main characters, we have to increase demand for it to be stocked on the shelves. Starting in our families, communities, and churches, we have to encourage them to become readers. To become writers. And if not that, then support others who do.

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor

Author Interview: Angie Dicken

Happy Monday, Reader Friends!

I can’t believe Thanksgiving is this week! This year has flown by. But before we all get ready for the holidays, I’ve got a new interview for you. Angie Dicken has stopped by to talk about her novel, My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate, Utah. Have you read it yet? If not, nows your chance to learn more.


About the Book

The Blurb: “Schoolteacher Leanna McKee plans on leaving the coal mining town of Castle Gate, Utah, and never looking back. Good riddance to coal dust, rugged men, and the fatal mine that took her husband’s life.

Until the widow meets a widower who awakens her heart…and she finds herself inexplicably falling for miner Alex Pappas which stirs up a whole heap of trouble.

Alex’s Greek parents have arranged a more traditional match for him. When the schoolteacher’s association with the Greek family begins to anger the American miners, they threaten Alex and his family. Leanna has received an offer to teach elsewhere and feels she has no choice but to leave Castle Gate. . .though she will be leaving her heart behind.”

Links: Amazon, Goodreads


Interview

Toni: Welcome to Diversity Between the Pages. I’ve heard a lot about your book so I’m excited to interview you today. First, tell us something interesting about yourself.

Angie: I am pretty much an open book, so if you are connected to me on social media you probably know most of my quirks. 🙂 Something fun to share is that my husband proposed to me on a gondola in Venice. I studied abroad in Italy my senior year of college.

Toni: How romantic! Venice is a gorgeous spot for a proposal! What are you currently reading?

Angie: I tend to have lots of books that I am reading all at once. At least, this is a current habit I am forming. 🙂 Right now, I am reading The Engagement Plot by Krista Phillips, Heidi Chiavaroli’s Freedom’s Ring, and a couple non-fiction books.

Toni: I want to read The Engagement Plot! What made you want to write in the historical fiction genre? And will you ever test the waters in another genre?

Angie: I love history. I have this world timeline in my head, and any intriguing facts I’ve learned over the years just shine bright, begging for me to find a story. I think living in a family that values family roots and traveling, and also growing up in a different country (England) for a few years, has given me a deep appreciation for world cultures and history.
Also, I have written a Contemporary Romance! It does, of course, have a ton of history in it since my heroine is obsessed with British history…um…not such a stretch to write that. But it was so fun to write it. I hope it gets published one day!

Toni: Yes! I would love to read it. Alex Pappas is Greek. It’s interesting to think of him being discriminated against because we don’t usually think about that in present day. How did you research this to bring authenticity to the novel?

Angie: My whole family is Greek, and my grandparents grew up in Salt Lake City. I recall hearing brief mention of being discriminated against when they were young, so when I came up with a story, I wanted to look into that further. I researched actual accounts of Greek immigrants, and the general social climate of the time—finding articles in newspapers around the country talking about lynching threats and anger toward the Greeks when they stepped over the line of social norm—like inter-cultural courtships. I think many immigrant groups in this country have similar trials in their history, which is very sobering and hopefully, enlightening for progress even now.

Toni: Wow! As a female writer, how did you get into Alex’s point of view to portray him accurately?

Angie: Great question! I am blessed with strong men in my family who give me such great insight into the male mentality. I also wove a lot of my own struggles into Alex’s journey, including being true to my family traditions but following my heart to different paths—like a different church, my husband’s own American traditions, and some similar familial conflicts that both men and women can find themselves in.

Toni: I love it when you can look around you for examples to write. Both Alex and Leanna are dealing with hurts. Do they have a common theme for their journey? If so, what is it?

Angie: Their common theme is giving grace to themselves. They are both riddled with guilt, but once they step back and look at God’s hand in their lives, they realize the grace that He gives freely. If we think about the grace we receive every day, it’s much easier to treat ourselves with the same grace, isn’t it?

Toni: Yes and amen! Have you ever been to Greece? If not, what’s the farthest you’ve traveled for vacation or research?

Angie: Yes! My parents took my siblings and I the day after I graduated from high school! We traveled on the mainland for a week, visiting Athens and the villages of three of my grandparents’ families, then we went sailing for two weeks and visited my great grandfather’s village in Crete (the man who came over to the mines in Utah).

Toni: I am so green right now, lol. I would love to go to Greece. Can I go in your suitcase next time? Before you go, can you share any advice for aspiring writers?

Angie: Connect with the writing community! It is important to get other eyes on your work, but to also have friends who understand your journey and become a source of encouragement. I don’t think I would be here if I hadn’t connected to ACFW, found a critique partner, and met all my writing friends at conference each year. Seriously. I really think I would have given up a long time ago if it weren’t for community.

Toni: Amen! I love the writing community and the ACFW one at that. Readers, do you have any questions for Angie?


About the Author

Angie Dicken credits her love of story to reading British literature during life as a military kid in Cambridgeshire, England. Now living in the U.S., she’s an ACFW member, a blog contributor to the Writer’s Alley, a baseball mom, and a self-proclaimed foodie. Two of her historical romance novels comprise her Fall 2017 debut: The Outlaw’s Second Chance, in September, and My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate, Utah, in November. She also writes historical and contemporary fiction. You can connect with her on social media and learn about upcoming releases at www.angiedicken.com.

Follow: Website, The Writer’s Alley, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

Author Interview: Sarah Monzon

Happy Monday, Diverse Reader Friends!

I hope you had an awesome weekend and got some reading in. I’m kicking off this week with an interview with the lovely Sarah Monzon. Her latest novel, The Esther Paradigm, is a must read and a great fit for our blog.

Let’s get started!


About the Book:

The Blurb: “Hannah Pratt dreams of starting a school for the Bedouin clan she grew up with as a missionary kid, and finally her hopes are coming true. But shortly after she returns to the desert from her college years in the U.S., she discovers her parents have received threats from their Muslim neighbors. As the danger escalates, Hannah finds she’s in the middle of a battle no one seems to understand. She must decide to what lengths she’ll go to stay faithful to the mission to which God has called her. Even if it costs her everything.

As sheikh, Karim Al-Amir feels the weight of responsibility as the leader of his people. When a mysterious illness ravishes the clan’s flocks and threatens to destroy their centuries-old way of life, locals believe the American doctors and their daughter, his childhood friend, Hannah, are to blame. Karim must do something to keep them safe—even if the only solution can be found within marriage vows.

In a society where the line is drawn between us and them, Christianity is outlawed, and foreigners are mistrusted, will their union heal wounds or inflict the final fatal blow?”

Links: Amazon, Goodreads


Interview

Toni: Thank you so much for joining me at Diversity Between the pages to talk about your latest novel, The Esther Paradigm. This novel is fantastic! What made you pair an unlikely couple together?

Sarah: Well, since the book is inspired by the Biblical story of Esther, I had that foundation to go by. King Ahasuerus of Persia has a different experience in life than Esther had. Their differences included social economics, culture, ethnicity, religion, background, etc. I wanted to give my characters similar differences.

Toni: You did a fantastic job! I loved it. How were you able to write from Karim’s point of view so authentically considering the difference in gender, ethnicity, and religion?

Sarah: Haha. Prayer and a lot of research.

Toni: We don’t often get to look at the Muslim culture in Christian books. How did you research and prepare for this?

Sarah: I watched a documentary series on Netflix about the region and the people there. I read books and online articles about the religion—beliefs and practices—as well as missionary experiences and conversion testimonies.

Toni: That’s awesome! Would you ever write a sequel to this novel? Why or why not?

Sarah: I don’t have any plans to at this time, though my plans have changed before in the past. I’ll probably do another Biblical “inspired by” story, though.

Toni: Hooray! What is the overall theme in The Esther Paradigm?

Sarah: 1 Corinthians 16:14 “Let all that you do be done in love.”

Toni: A great charge! If you could vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Sarah: Is a trip around the world cheating? There are so many places I’d like to go!

Toni: It might be, but I agree so I’ll let it slide. 😉 Have you ever ridden a camel?

Sarah: I vaguely remember riding one when I was little. I wanted to get to the zoo and refresh my memory for this book, but it never happened.

Toni: Too bad! Then you could have had a pic of you on a camel all over social media. 🙂 Have you any missionary experience? And if so, can you tell us a little about it?

Sarah: I went on a two-week, short-term mission trip when I was about 15 to Fiji. We did a building project and helped in a school. Between my Sophomore and Junior year in College I went as a student missionary to China for 10 months and taught English.

Toni: That’s so neat! I’ve never been on a missionary trip so I love picking people’s brain. If you could say anything to the readers, what would you tell them?

Sarah: God made us all, died for us all, and loves us all. Let’s show love to one another, too.

Toni: Amen! Readers, do you have any questions for Sarah? (P.S. Look for Beth Erin’s review this Friday!)


About the Author

Sarah Monzon is a Navy chaplain’s wife and a stay at home mom to the two cutest littles in the world. Playing pretend all day with them isn’t enough, she spends the evenings after their heads hit the pillow to create her own imaginary characters. When she isn’t in the world of make believe, she can be found in the pine forests of western Washington taking care of her family, fostering friendships, and enjoying all the adventures each day brings.

Her debut novel, The Isaac Project, skyrocketed to Amazon bestseller status while her Sophomore book, Finders Keepers, won the 2017 SELAH award for contemporary romance.

Follow: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

Interview with Belle Calhoune, author of “Adored”

Happy Monday, Reader Friends!

Please welcome Belle Calhoune to the blog today.

She’s here to talk about her book, Adored.

~*~

About the Book:

 This series centers around seven brothers and one sister raised by Penelope and Jude Donahue in the idyllic Florida seaside town of Pelican Bay. A blended family of adopted and biological siblings, the Donahue clan always have each other’s backs as they face life’s challenges and search for love. A spin-off of the Cape Cod Donahue brothers, the Pelican Bay clan are their southern cousins.

Caleb Donahue is a chef who has recently achieved his life’s dream of opening his own bistro, The Blue Bayou. Adopted by the Donahue family of Pelican Bay, Caleb’s past is a bit murky. He’s stuffed down the memories of his biological mother and the circumstances leading to his adoption by the Donahue family.

Addie Fontaine steps into his life when he least expects it. Daughter of a wealthy businessman, Sebastian Fontaine, Addie is attempting to prove herself to her father by making inroads in the business world. When her father gives her his partnership in the Blue Bayou, Addie ends up working side by side with Caleb. Addie is determined to step up and live her life out loud, while Caleb is determined to make his bistro a success.

When love comes calling, will Addie and Caleb be able to reach out for the love of a lifetime?

Book purchase link: Amazon

~*~

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 Belle on Twitter

~*~

Interview with Belle Calhoune about her book, Adored:

Alexis: What inspired you to write this book?

Belle: I have been writing about children adopted through the foster care system for several years now. This series is a spin-off of my original “Seven Brides, Seven Brothers” series where all seven children were adopted from foster care. With Adored, I wanted to create a love story between two people who came from vastly different backgrounds and experiences, yet both yearned for a soft place to fall. The desire to love and be loved is universal.

Alexis: What is the significance of your book’s title “Adored”?

Belle: To be honest, I love the idea of two people adoring one another. Adored is such a powerful state of being. To be adored! I also love the Prince song “Adore” so that sentiment of being so richly loved resonated with me. And I think it resonated with Caleb and Addie.

Alexis: Paint of picture of this story’s setting (Pelican Bay) with words.

Belle: Pelican Bay is a small, seaside town in beautiful, sunny Florida. Known for sunsets, dolphin sightings, and stunning vistas, Pelican Bay is a little bit of paradise.

Alexis: Describe the ethnic and racial makeup of your hero Caleb and your heroine Addie.

Belle: Both Caleb and Addie are African-American.

Alexis: What is about Caleb that makes him the perfect hero for this story?

Belle: Despite his difficult origins, Caleb has a huge heart. He views the world through an optimistic lens and he has a lot of love to bestow on a woman. He is dependable and loyal, loving and strong.

Alexis: What is it about Addie that makes her a good heroine in this story?

Belle: Addie, much like Caleb, has suffered huge losses in her life, particularly the death of her twin sister, Tabitha. Despite that tremendous loss, Addie never gives up on the idea of her own personal happy ending. She lives each day with hope and an open heart.

Alexis: What draws Caleb and Addie to each other?

Belle: They are thrust together for work purposes, but soon find that there is an attraction neither anticipated. Although their backgrounds are very different, they are very similar in what they want for their lives. Faith. Family. Forever.

Alexis: How—and when—do Caleb and Addie they realize that they’re the perfect romantic match?

Belle: I think it’s a gradual realization. For Caleb, Addie is a source of support and she provides him with immeasurable companionship as he unravels the mystery of his past. For Addie, Caleb is the person who helps her grow and change, both emotionally and with regards to stepping outside of her comfort zone. I think both realize that their lives are better with each other in it. At that moment, they know it’s love.

Alexis: Did you research bistros to write this story? I see that the main focus is on Caleb who is a chef and business owner of a bistro. So if you visited bistros, please share details.

Belle: Because I live an hour outside of New York City, I have the good fortune of being able to visit the city often. They have the most wonderful bistros there. I have also been fortunate to travel to Paris on two occasions. Paris has very unique and delightful bistros that offer the most wonderful food in the world.

Alexis: What role does race play in this story…or does it?

Belle: It doesn’t really, other than I enjoy portraying diverse characters as I experience them in real life. Addie is the daughter of a successful businessman while Caleb was adopted into a very loving and warm family. His birth mother loved him tremendously but circumstances were not kind to them. I strive to portray my diverse characters as intelligent, hard-working, God-fearing people who love with all their heart and soul.

Alexis: Do you think that we need more stories like yours in the Christian book markets, stories that feature diverse characters? Why or why not?

Belle: I absolutely think that the Christian market is lacking in diverse characters and stories. The market should reflect the world we inhabit, and sadly, that is not the case at the moment. Diverse authors have so much to give to this genre and they should be afforded the opportunity to shine and tell their stories. It’s 2017 and we still need diverse books.

Alexis: Do you write about your personal experiences related to what you’ve experienced as a woman writer of color, in your stories? Why or why not?

Belle: I have been very fortunate as a writer of color. I have wonderful fans and my stories have been embraced by my wonderful readership. I have written about things that have happened to me as a person of color. When I was a child my family lived in a predominantly white town in Massachusetts. We were one of the first, if not the first, families of African American descent to live there. There were racist incidents against my family, which was devastating since my parents were such loving, hard-working professional people. Several boys racially harassed me in my class for years. It was very scary as a child who had no way to fight back against prejudice. I wrote about this in one of my books in the Secrets of Savannah series. My heroine was able to face her tormentor as an adult. It felt cathartic since I have never been able to do that.

Alexis: How would you describe your view of the world and do you write your characters according to that view? Or do you create them based on imagination or watching people in real-life?

Belle: As writers, I think we always inject ourselves into our works. It’s impossible not to. I believe that we are all humans and it doesn’t matter what color or race we are. People are people. Love is love. God made us all and His command is to love one another. I think I inject that philosophy into all of my novels.

Alexis: What would you say was the most difficult part of writing this story? Explain.

Belle: I tend to get very emotional about my prologues. The reality is that kids end up in foster care for very sad and tragic reasons, whether it’s neglect, drug abuse, abandonment or other reasons. I can’t shy away from it. But when I actually do the prologue and place the child in the scenario it hurts. I have a very tender heart, so it’s not easy. But readers do love the prologues because they get a glimpse into the background of the now adult characters. It makes the readers love the character even more because their journey has been so epic.

Alexis: If you could do dinner with Caleb and Addie at the bistro, what would you order and what would be the focus of your conversation?

Belle: I would love to hear both Caleb and Addie discuss their childhoods. Caleb has the memories of his biological mother that he has repressed for many years, but he also has the memories of his adoptive family, the Donahues. Addie has been raised in luxury, but her parents went through a painful divorce and she lost her twin sister. I would like to hear them talk about these life-altering moments. And I would order a French sandwich, Croque-Monsieur with a side of grilled Kale. I would order sparkling water and chocolate mousse for dessert.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Belle! Do you have any closing comments?

Belle: Thank you for inviting me to be your guest. The questions were very thought-provoking and interesting. Blessings.

*Interviewed by Alexis A. Goring

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Author Interview with Cortez Law III

Happy Monday, friends!

We at Diversity Between the Pages hope you had a great weekend! I (Toni) am kicking off the week with an interview with Cortez Law. Cortez has stopped by to talk about his latest novel, Serial Rites. 

Let’s get started!


About the Book

The Blurb: “Atlanta Homicide Sergeant Malcolm Hobbs’ strength: Acute intuition into human nature. His weakness: Loss of faith in God. Despite his immense ability, he’s on the edge and contemplates quitting. The mystery of Hobbs is his sanity. Will his spirit and soul unite in time to resolve his trauma or will they divide too late to stop him from experiencing the peace of God as they rage a live or die war?

In the psychological thriller, SERIAL RITES, a prequel to KREMLIN TIDE (2014) and COLD LICK (2015), Hobbs’ detective skills encounter one of the most compelling cases in his career, but there’s a big problem. A precarious Hobbs isn’t at full strength and he’s breaking in a new Detective to his team in former Columbus, Ohio hotshot, Shepard Cush.

When Hobbs and his elite team of investigators nicknamed, The X-Men, discover the catalyst to the murders, they must decipher the puzzling schematic from the cold heart of a psychopath known as, The Profiler.

Atlanta’s confidence in the high-profile detectives is on trial against this meticulous and motivated predator with a macabre M.O. The question is will The Profiler’s blood-lustful vision satisfy him enough not to include The X-Men themselves?”

Links: Amazon, B&N, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords, Goodreads


Interview

Toni: Thank you so much for joining us at Diversity Between the Pages to talk about your novel, Serial Rites. Tell us about the X-Men detectives.

Cortez: Thank you for having me, Toni. The X-Men Homicide Squad includes:

  • Sergeant Malcolm X. Hobbs: His faith and psyche are in shambles when his spirit, soul, and body wage a life or death war despite a stellar career.
  • Detective Orlando Queen: He struggles to let go of a prior love in Selena and disapproves of her current man, Ernest Brown.
  • Detective Pepper Love: Her relationship with Malcolm and Selena will be sorely tested. This may get ugly.
  • Detective Selena Monet: She’s intricately tied into this case and that could cost her very dearly.
  • Detective Shepard Cush: A funny and bold new hire, he fights for respect amidst professional and personal pressures.

The detectives reflect African-American and gender diversity by design. Also, some characters live Christian lives and some others don’t just like real life.

Toni: Definitely an interesting and diverse cast of characters. Malcolm Hobbs is the lead detective. How is his faith (or lack thereof) integral to the plot?

Cortez: Yeah, Malcolm’s faith takes a serious journey into darkness, the catalyst of which I won’t disclose (please read the book). The reader might not have experienced the same situation, but will still be able to identify with him. The world can be a cruel and unjust place for all of us in different ways. I hope the reader will sympathize and empathize with Malcolm, but also take heart in that the human spirit is resilient. With God, all things are possible to them that believe. But it’s also important as Malcolm struggles to learn that God will put spiritual bumpers in our paths to steer us back on course.

In addition, another story track runs parallel to Malcolm’s for contrast and can lead to greater introspection for the reader as well.

We all have daily choices to make that affect our destinies.

Toni: This is a psychological thriller. Who are the authors who influenced you in this area?

Cortez: I think more films than books influenced Serial Rites. After watching The Silence of the Lambs movie, I wanted to write a story like that one day and that film came out in 1991! It was based on a Thomas Harris novel as was the film adaptation, Red Dragon. Jeffery Deaver’s novel-to-film adaptation, The Bone Collector, with Denzel Washington was another film that planted those psychological thriller roots in me. The big screen story Se7en also played a part.

Toni: What a list of movies! What kind of research did you have to do for this novel?

Cortez: I read several books on criminal psychology/motivations. I read books and articles and watched documentaries on real-life killers like Ted Bundy, Jeffery Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy, the BTK serial murderer Dennis Rader, the Green River Killer, Gary Ridgway and others.

Toni: Sounds like you did your research. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

Cortez: I was always creative as a child through drawings, mock football games with plastic soldiers and animals. The writing began with a sports writer position on a junior high school newspaper for a couple of years. But in college, I took a copywriting class and had to create a couple of commercials for real-life small businesses as part of the course. Later in college, I took a screenwriting class and that was it. From that point on whether film, TV, or books, I continued to write. I tend to write with the TV on for background noise though I believe I’ve rewritten books with jazz instrumentals doing their thing as I did.

Toni: I’m a big music listener when writing. Who is your favorite X-Men (Marvel style)?

Cortez: Interesting question, Toni. I always loved Spider-Man. Thanks to the movies, Iron Man, Wolverine and Black Panther challenge ol’ Spidey.

Toni: Oh, I can’t wait to see Black Panther! Last but not least, what’s next for you on your writing journey?

Cortez: Serial Rites marketing, the next X-Men Homicide Squad story and the sequel to the science fiction/thriller, S.Y.P.H.E.N. Thanks for taking the time, Toni!

Toni: You’re very welcome! Praying you success on your writing journey.


About the Author

Cortez Law III is the author of five independently published books. The romance novel, My Brother’s Keeper (2001), the Atlanta X-Men Homicide Squad suspense/mystery/thriller novels Kremlin Tide (2014), Cold Lick (2015) and Serial Rites (2017) and the science fiction/thriller, S.Y.P.H.E.N. (2015). He resides in the Metro Atlanta, Georgia area. Visit him online at www.cortezlaw.net.

Follow: Facebook, Goodreads, YouTube, LinkedIn

Author Interview: Bartholomew Boge

Happy Monday!

Today we have Bartholomew Boge to talk about his novel, Regarding Tiberius. Have you read it? If not, now’s the time to learn more, so grab a cup of tea (or coffee) and chat with us.


About the Book

The Blurb: “As true today as it has been for all of human history, one fundamental question plagues mankind:

In the midst of ancient hostilities and recent atrocities, which choice is the most honorable, the most moral one:  justice or mercy?

This novel offers an answer.

Regarding Tiberius is the novelization of a series of ancient scrolls recently discovered in the ruins of famed Roman commander Scipio Africanus’ seaside villa (near Naples, Italy). Written in the First Century by a young woman of Persian and Æthiopian ancestry, Helena Mithridates Kleopatra, they comprise an account of how her life and destiny were forever altered by her chance meeting with Tiberius, the son of a prominent Roman senator.

The pair embark on an odyssey that takes them from Asia Minor to Syria and Judæa. His goal is to rise to the upper echelon of Roman military leadership at any cost, hers to find and assassinate Cato, the commander who gave the order to slaughter the entire population of Eupatoria, her ancestral home. Their aspirations lead them to Jerusalem where both of their quests meet bloody, final resolutions.”

Links: Amazon, Goodreads


Interview

Toni:  Thank you so much for joining me today. Regarding Tiberius ask the question, “In the midst of ancient hostilities and recent atrocities, which choice is the most honorable, the most moral one: justice or mercy?”. What made you want to explore that theme in a historical setting?

Bartholomew: Great question. The answer goes back to a political/theological conversation I had with my former father-in-law in early 2004. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had just been captured and his trial was underway when the question of “could a ruthless dictator and war criminal like Saddam Hussein ever go to Heaven?” came up. My then-father-in-law, a brilliant lawyer and a very news-savvy guy, well aware of Hussein’s long list of civilian atrocities, said “no, I don’t think it would ever be possible.” I took the position that there is absolutely no one whose crimes are so ghastly or so numerous that he/she could not be saved by the work of Christ on the cross if that person, convicted of sin, were to cry out for forgiveness.

Regarding Tiberius, then, is my 192k word parable defending that position.

Toni: Wow! I bet that was an interesting conversation. I’d like to have been a fly on the wall. 🙂 Tell us a little about Helena Mithridates Kleopatra. Did you find it difficult to write about a woman and one who has a different ethnic background then your own?

Bartholomew: To be honest, I was more concerned with getting the tone right with regard to writing from a woman’s perspective than writing from a different ethnicity’s point of view. If the book were set in modern times, I might have a bit more trepidation with regard to ethnic perspectives, but the ancient world was so very different than 21st Century American culture that I did not fear offending a modern reader too much.

Over the course of my life I have worked in three environments in which I was, as a man, a minority figure (in a customer service call center, a health club, and in a large daycare center). I also was raised in a family comprised exclusively of strong-willed women. I wanted to be very careful to write with a gender mentality in mind, but without ever coming across as either patronizing on one extreme, or not authentic or believable on the other. They say “write what you know,” and I think I know intelligent and courageous women.

I modeled Helena’s mentality on that of a female athlete, a type of person I’ve run into quite often in my life. You’ll have to forgive my broad-brush generalizations, but in my experience, female athletes have a way of thinking that is remarkably different than that of most men and most other women. They do not use anger, rage, or bravado to motivate themselves like many male athletes do, but they do share one important ability that men often possess: to be able to completely shut down their emotional states in order to achieve razor-sharp focus on the immediate task at hand. To that I added academic brilliance, and came up with a character who has been described as either “Nancy Drew with a sword” or a “Female Jack Bauer.” Logical, decisive, courageous under duress, and unflinchingly lethal if circumstances demand lethality.

The ethnicity issues addressed in the book follow the stereotypes of the Roman world, which were very different than those of today. In the Roman world, barbarians from the North (blue-eyed blondes) were considered brave but stupid and uncivilized, while Ethiopians were considered very shrewd and wise, but not terribly brave. An olive-skinned Roman, therefore, considered himself the perfect compromise of those two extremes. Also, among Romans, lighter skin on a woman was considered a sign of wealth, because it meant she did not work in the fields as servants did. Aristocratic women from the highest ranks of Roman society, therefore, commonly wore make-up to lighten their appearance.

These ancient cultural values crop up in a few places in my novel. I enjoyed having Helena defy them, as she has a dark-complexion and yet is a woman of royal descent and high station in the Roman world. She is an exception to those stereotypes, and while at first she is dismissed by some as being of lower class or status, she quickly opens their eyes to her true genius, character, strength, and worth… sometimes only for the last few fleeting moments of their lives!

Toni: It sounds like you had a lot of ret insight and life experiences to aid you in your writing of Helena. Did you find it difficult to accurately portray this time period in history? What kind of research did you need to do?

Bartholomew: I was a history major in college, which helped me with the discipline for the kind of research it would take to write this book credibly. That said, I did not study the intricacies of Roman culture, politics, or military structure in college, so it was a slow process to get up to speed. It usually went something like this: write for an hour, then spend forty-five minutes doing research to determine whether or not what I just wrote was even remotely plausible. Then modify what could be salvaged, pitch the rest, and start again. By the time I was about two-thirds through the book, I was able to write more and research less, but the supplemental research never ends when writing a period piece like this.
I lived in mortal fear of two extremes: the online “Romano-phile” community completely cutting my work to ribbons if I did not have the details right, and turning rank-and-file readers off by making the entire work read like a history textbook. I am cautiously optimistic that I veered between those twin icebergs without sinking the ship!

Toni: Why did you choose Regarding Tiberius for a title?

Bartholomew: It is a play on words, really. I intend both meanings of the word “regarding.” In one sense, the book is about Tiberius. But as the reader will learn in the first few pages, the body of Tiberius, perfectly embalmed and preserved, was presented to Tiberius’ father, Lucius, for viewing, and, in this sense, Lucius is “regarding” his dead son, as in “to look upon.”

Toni: That’s beautifully done. What is the message you hope readers will leave with after reading this book?

Bartholomew: The central theme is forgiveness, from both sides of that sacred act: extending forgiveness, and seeking it in humility or under conviction. One of the greatest compliments I’ve received from a reader is that it caused her to reflect upon her own life and explore whether or not there are persons who she needs to forgive or whom she should beg forgiveness from.

Ultimately, I want the book to put to bed that original argument my father-in-law and I debated over a decade ago: that no one is beyond the forgiveness and redemption of God through Christ.

Toni: Forgiveness is one of my favorite themes. Last but not least, what’s next for you on your writing journey?

Bartholomew: I have received a lot of positive feedback about Regarding Tiberius, particularly with regard my protagonist, Helena. I was going to move on to other projects, but there are enough unanswered questions to justify writing at least one sequel. At the time of this interview I am working on the tenth chapter in that first sequel, and I have a basic plot outline for a third book as well. I have been debating killing off Helena at the end of the third installment, keeping her story a neat trilogy, but my oldest daughter would probably not let me live that down!

Toni: Lol, or a lot of readers, I can imagine. Thanks again for joining us here at Diversity. Readers, do you have any questions for Mr. Boge?


About the Author

Originally known for applying his creative vision to the composition of Christian art-rock epics, Bartholomew Boge found a new niche writing historical fiction. Whether it be through music or literature, Bartholomew challenges his audience to examine the sinfulness of man and the role faith plays in developing one’s moral compass.

In his debut novel, Regarding Tiberius, Bartholomew explores questions of justice, mercy, unconditional love, and forgiveness. Set during the time of Christ, this fast-paced story moves through several locations within the Roman Empire including Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Syria, and Judea. Confronted with the brutal death of her parents and the destruction of her kingdom, Bartholomew’s female protagonist, Helena Mithridates Kleopatra, must weigh her quest for vengeance against her desire to love and be loved. Reflecting on lessons learned in his own life, Bartholomew’s writings remind us once again that through literature and the arts, one can find understanding and healing.

Bartholomew Boge lives with his family in Northeast Wisconsin.

Follow: Facebook


Interview conducted by Toni Shiloh

Author Interview: Chautona Havig and “Will Not See”

We’re welcoming Chautona Havig to Diversity Between the Pages today to talk about her latest release, Will Not See. This is the second book in Chautona’s Sight Unseen series, and it is best to read this series in order. You can learn more about the first book in the series, None So Blind, here. You can also read my review of Will Not See at Fiction Aficionado.


~ About the Author ~

ChautonaAuthor of the Amazon bestselling Aggie and Past Forward Series, Chautona Havig lives and writes in California’s Mojave Desert. With dozens of books to her name, Chautona spends most of her time writing, but when she takes the rare break, she can be found reading, sewing, paper crafting, or sleeping and dreaming of finishing the dozens of books swirling in her overly-active imagination at any given moment.


Connect with Chautona: 
Website  //  Facebook  //  Twitter  //  Pinterest  //  Instagram

~ About the Book ~

When Vikki Jeffries wakes up in a Rockland hotel with no idea of who she is and why she can’t remember… well, anything, the Rockland medical community begins to take a closer look at what may have happened to cause a second case of inexplicable amnesia.

But for Vikki, this is more than a medical anomaly–it’s her life. What is she doing in Rockland, thousands of miles away from her home in Apache Junction, Arizona? Who is she? Why is no one looking for her? Or are they?

The secrets of a past she’s discovering she doesn’t want to know lay locked away in a memory that refuses to acknowledge their existence.

When Brandon Marana finds his neighbor struggling to open her front door, his quiet life becomes a race to protect Vikki and himself from people who are determined to find her.

He’s falling in love with her–but he shouldn’t. He’s a Christian. She’s not. But the more she depends on him to know who she is and learn why these things keep happening to her, the stronger those ties become.

Will Not See: Sometimes, the past needs to stay there.

Genre:  Contemporary Christian Fiction
Release date:  29 August 2017
Pages:  340
Publisher:  Wynneword House

Amazon  //  Goodreads


~ Interview ~

KATIE: Thanks for joining us at Diversity Between the Pages today, Chautona. Let’s start off by taking a little ‘flight of fancy’. Finish these sentences for me:

If I could visit any place in the world, I would visit…

Well, since I’m dying to write this cool book idea I have for an American who marries a Greek man and moves to a small Greek village with no knowledge of the language or customs, I’d definitely say that one.

Lol! Make sure you pack me in your suitcase. I have a feeling that would be a memorable trip!

If I could assign one household task to the fairies forever, it would be…

This is so easy it isn’t even funny.  Grocery shopping.  I hate all forms of shopping, but I loathe, despise, and abominate grocery shopping.  I’ve been working on trying to like it for almost twenty years now—ever since I heard a preacher say that if we MUST do something, we might as well learn to like it.

My seven-year-old LOVES doing the grocery shopping. Go figure! Maybe he’ll change his mind when he’s the one paying for it!

If I was a musical instrument, I would be a…

I’d say if I were an instrument, I’d definitely be a cello.  Besides being rather shaped like me (although I have a much shorter neck), as I’ve gotten older, my singing voice has deepened.  It also has a lot of volume.  Even when you play a cello quietly, it doesn’t whisper—ever.  Yep. I’m definitely a cello.

Oh my goodness! I think you might be my clone!

When I was a child, I wanted to be a…

I had it all planned out.  I’d own a yellow house with a white picket fence and a huge oak tree in the front yard.  I planned to have a collie, and I wanted it to have a genius name like “Inkling” or something. I would teach high school English for 9 months of the year and write over my full three months of summer break (stop laughing.  Even with teachers in my family whom I helped get ready for their classes every year… over summer), I existed in a dream world.

Then, in my spare time (again, stop laughing!) I’d edit during the school year.  This way I’d be able to write one book per year. I had chosen to eschew husband and children, not being interested in having those horrible creatures, you see.  Okay, there you can laugh. After all, I’m pretty sure God got the last one on that idea.  His plans were FAR different (not to mention superior) than mine. Nine kids and a husband later, I write four to six books a  year. Snort.

Bahahahaha! I had similarly idealistic dreams when I was growing up. Something about being a concert pianist, a lawyer, AND having ten children! 😂

My ideal place to read would be…

A “window seat hammock.” I want one so bad it isn’t funny.  Perfect window seat area… nice bay window perhaps… and then a hammock hanging.  Sun shining on my feet.  Balmy breezes flowing in.  Huge stack of books… Oh, wait. What did you say?

Who, me? I have no idea. Would you mind passing me one of those books while I make myself comfortable? 😉

Let’s discuss your Sight Unseen series now, and more specifically, Will Not SeeEach book in this series tells the story of someone who wakes up with no memory of who they are or of their life up to that point. What inspired you to make that the basis of a series?

Well, I tend to be a bit of a rebel, so part of it did have to do with wanting to do something different with a trope.  So instead of someone waking up after a car accident and having to work his or her way back from a blank slate (or doing a “Remember Sunday/50 First Dates” kind of thing), I wanted it traumatic-less.  Inexplicable.  And then what would you do with a clean slate when you knew you’d probably never get those memories back again?

You? A rebel? 😉 But I can see why the idea intrigued you.

Memory loss always seems like a tricky element to introduce to a story in my mind, from a point of view of making it realistic and consistent. How does memory loss affect Vikki in the book, and what kind of research did you have to do to make it believable?

Vikki’s memory loss was harder than Ella’s (from the first book). Ella had family to fill in her past and help her with things.  It also annoyed her because she wanted to be seen for who she’d decided to be rather than who she had been (she didn’t really like her former self when she figured out some things).  But Vikki has a completely different personality.  I really had to struggle to find people like her and study them—people who wouldn’t want to know the horrors of their pasts.

And what I discovered is that even those people would still want to know THEM.  Many I talked to were very connected to their own identities despite agreeing that if there were situations in the past that I’d created for Vikki, they wouldn’t want those details.  The only way I could make it believable was simply to ask.

My mind boggles at the thought of what it would feel like to be in Vikki’s position. It was one of the reasons I found the story so compelling!

Learning Vikki’s ethnic background is a little tricky, given she doesn’t know it herself! Could tell us a little bit about that background, and why it’s difficult for her to discover that background after she loses her memory?

She’ll learn a bit more in book three (if there is a natural place to share it). I know that she was removed from her mother at a very young age and placed into foster care.  I chose not to give her a permanent placement because she needed a logical reason to become who she was. My personal knowledge of people of color isn’t ethnically or culturally much different from me.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m on the west coast or if it’s because I’ve always lived in rather diverse places where most people become rather homogenous.  So that’s mostly why I put her in Apache Junction.  I didn’t see it as too implausible that, once on the streets, she might have been recruited by another runaway and then induced into one of the Hispanic dominated gangs.

So, she has a bit of street slang she has picked up, but since she spent time in the home of an educated family, her speech slips in and out of “street” from time to time.

Okay, so let’s think about this for a moment. You have an ethnically diverse character who’s not exactly sure of her heritage, and you need to write her in a way that avoids clichés and stereotypes. How exactly do you go about doing that?

Well, as I said above, my best choice was to put her in places that could “homogenize” her a bit so she didn’t turn into a TV cliché.  I was so worried about that.  For example, the blacks I know personally (I chose that word for a reason), have said they don’t care to be called “African-American.”  In the words of one man, “I’ve never been to Africa… you’ve never been to Scotland.  Why should you get to be ‘just American’ but I have to be defined by the location of ancestors that go way back?”

I think he makes a valid point.  So, I moved her in and out of enough homes that she identified as a part of whatever group she was in rather than a specific culture or race.  If I’d tried to write someone from the deep South, for example, I’d have under represented her or made her a horrible stereotype.  I really wanted to avoid that.

Whenever I started doubting myself, I actually thought of that man’s daughters and tried to imagine how they’d respond in the situation.  It helped.  A little.

I, too, know people who prefer to be referred to as black rather than African-American. In any case, I think you did a great job with Vikki. She really is her own person!

What inspired Vikki’s character? Was there a reason you made her an ethnically diverse character, or was that just an organic part of the character who presented herself to you?

I fought the ethnicity for a bit, if you want the truth.  I knew she’d be harder to write than another character I have in the works. I knew it would be crazy easy to get her wrong, but she demanded to have a voice.  She reminded me that I have friends of all colors, shapes, sizes, and intellects.  I needed to embrace her for who she was.  I’d never reject someone I met in the store, at a restaurant, or in church based on her color, so why would I do it in a book?

Good point. And it sounds exactly like something Vikki would say!

What do you hope readers take away from this series? (Besides the enjoyment of a riveting read, of course!)

If I can only show one thing through this series, it will be that we often hide from the truths of ourselves because of what we see there.  Well, Jesus’ blood has washed that ugliness away. It’s gone.  Isaiah tells us, and Hebrews reminds us that God won’t remember our sins anymore.  We need to let the blood of Christ be sufficient.  But being blind to them rather than repenting of them doesn’t do us any good.  Like any problem, we have to face them.  Lay them at the feet of the cross.  Step back. Revel in the beautiful work Jesus did there.  But we can’t do that if we refuse to acknowledge and repent of them.

This series really does explore that in a fascinating way. Thanks for chatting to us today, Chautona!


~ Sight Unseen Series ~


Interview by Katie Donovan.

Author Interview: Cindy Flores Martinez, featuring “Love’s Second Chance”

Let’s welcome Cindy Flores Martinez to the blog today!

She’s here to talk about her book, Love Second’s Chance.

Read Cindy’s interview below to learn more about her All-American/Latina heritage and discover her passion for portraying Latino-American characters in her stories whose experiences are relatable to the readers regardless of the readers’ race.

~*~

About the book: 

Can two broken hearts find healing together?

Brad McIntyre is much too young to feel so disillusioned with his life as a deputy sheriff. Esperanza De La Cruz has left the only home she has ever known to work at Sweet Grove’s daycare. When someone steals her car, Deputy McIntyre comes to the rescue.

There’s an instant attraction between them, but they’re both broken on the inside. Her father is in prison for intoxicated manslaughter and she’s afraid that Brad won’t want to be with her because of it.

He’s thinking of leaving the only career he’s ever known but pretends that everything is fine. His desperate prayers seem to go unanswered.

When they start spending time together and their feelings for each other begin to grow stronger, things become even more complicated. When the truth comes out, will it pull them apart or will they find a second chance at love and in life together?

Buy the book on Amazon

~*~

About the Author: Cindy Flores Martinez is a USA Today bestselling author. She writes Christian romance. She has an MFA in Creative Writing with an emphasis in Screenwriting. Her debut novel, Mail-Order Groom, started as a screenplay and movie project, which she shopped around Hollywood, New York, and other parts of the world. You can learn more about her at www.cindyfloresmartinez.com.

Follow Cindy: Facebook ~ Twitter

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Interview with Cindy Flores Martinez, author of Love’s Second Chance:

Alexis: Tell us about the First Street Church Romances novella collection. What is it about? How did you get involved? Why did you want to contribute your story to the collection?

Cindy: The First Street Church Romances novella collection is part of Amazon’s fan fiction called Kindle Worlds. The series is based on Melissa’s Storm’s Christian romance series, which includes Love’s Prayer, Love’s Promise, Love’s Prophet, and Love’s Vow. Each of the stories takes place in the fictional town of Sweet Grove, Texas where the First Street Church is an important part of the characters’ lives. I knew Melissa from a boxed set that we were part of together and I found out that she was seeking authors for her Kindle World debut. I reached out to her and became one of twenty authors who were chosen. The Christian romance theme is what interested me in contributing a story.

Alexis: Tell us about your story, Love’s Second Chance. What is it about? What or who inspired you to write it?

Cindy: Love’s Second Chance is about a young woman who moves to Sweet Grove, Texas after landing a job at the daycare there. The day she arrives, someone steals her car and a young deputy sheriff answers the call. They’re attracted to each other and their feelings grow as they spend time together, but they face obstacles that keep them from admitting their feelings for one another. My inspiration came from reading Melissa’s books. Her characters face serious problems in life and find strength and answers through prayer. I had written mostly romantic comedy and wanted to try writing a deeper story like that.

Alexis: Your story’s heroine is Esperanza De La Cruz. She’s a Latina. Which country is she from and how does her heritage affect the way she is portrayed in your story?

Cindy: Esperanza is American with Mexican ancestry. Her character was easy to write because I consider myself the same. The difference between me and her is that I have American Indian ancestry on both of my parents’ sides, so I connect with that ancestry as well. Like me, Esperanza speaks both English and Spanish perfectly, has a college education, and a career, but the Mexican culture has played a big role in her life. Her story reflects the reality of so many Latinos. We grew up as all-American kids who became college-educated adults and we happen to have Mexican parents (or parents from other Latin American countries) who raised us according to their customs.

Alexis: Do you think there is a need for more Latino main characters in fictional stories written for the Christian book market (CBA)? Why or why not?

Cindy: Absolutely! I would love to see more Latino main characters in Christian fiction, as well as more Christian Latino authors. I often see stories that are written by authors who happen to be Latino but the genres aren’t what I want to read. I find myself looking to Christian women as role models and I enjoy reading Christian romance. It’s rare to see a Latino point of view within that mix. If there are other Christian Latino authors out there, please let me know!

Alexis: How did your own experience as a Latina affect the way that you wrote Esperanza’s character?

Cindy: I think the way Esperanza acts and reacts has everything to do with my experience as a Latina. One of my beta readers told me that the first draft of my story had parts that were melodramatic. I didn’t think so because, in the Latino culture, it’s normal to express strong emotions and to look at life in a way that may seem overly dramatic. I mean, some of us were told as children not to go out in the cold without a jacket or else our face would get twisted and stay that way. Talk about dramatic! That’s just one example. Well, the final draft of the story is much calmer than the first, but Esperanza still reacts emotionally when she experiences the problems in her life.

Alexis: In what ways do you hope that Esperanza’s story will impact your readers?

Cindy: My desire is that Esperanza’s story will show others that God is alive and active. He hears the prayers of His people and responds. Things may happen that aren’t fair and that don’t make sense, but He knows why. If you wait on Him and trust in Him, He will lead you to the right place and you will look back and understand why things happened the way they did. Esperanza’s story may be fictional, but the experience of God in her life is very real.

Alexis: Describe Esperanza’s look, personality, and heart. What is her most troublesome character flaw? Explain.

Cindy: Esperanza’s name, Esperanza De La Cruz, means “Hope of the Cross”. Her mother’s name, Milagros, means miracles. I chose those names on purpose to represent the theme of the story, which is the hope of the Cross of Christ. Esperanza is described as young and attractive and her most troublesome character flaw is that she carries guilt and shame over the negative events that have happened in her life, even though she wasn’t to blame. Isn’t that true for many of us?

Alexis: What happened to Esperanza that broke her heart? Is there hope for restoration? Why or why not?

Cindy: Esperanza’s father was arrested for intoxicated manslaughter and sent to prison. He didn’t plan on committing the crime. He had a few alcoholic beverages, drove home and hit and killed a pedestrian. In addition to devastating the victim’s family, it destroyed Esperanza’s perfect life. She suffered the pain of her father being taken away, and as a result of him being gone, her parents lost their home. Esperanza’s boyfriend left her because he couldn’t handle her family problems. She thinks there’s no hope for a better tomorrow, but God doesn’t see it that way.

Alexis: Esperanza works for Sweet Grove’s daycare. Why did you give her a heart for children? What role does her passion play in this story?

Cindy: Esperanza wants to teach kindergarten because she has a desire to affect people’s lives in a positive and lasting way, but she feels that teaching adults would limit her ability to do so. She realizes that teaching children would enable her to make more of an impact on others. Her desire drives her to move to a place she’s never known before and leave her mother in the process. Working at the daycare will enable her to get experience for when she is able to become a teacher.

Alexis: Brad McIntyre is the hero of your story. Describe his looks, personality, and heart. What is his most prominent character flaw? Explain.

Cindy: Brad is young and attractive and he believes that God has given him a calling in life to help others. He has pursued a career in law enforcement after realizing it was part of that greater purpose. His character flaw is that he wishes he can change the whole world and he doesn’t see the positive effect he has on the lives of the people around him. This leads to a sense of disappointment and feelings of being a failure.

Alexis: Describe Brad and Esperanza’s meet-cute. What brings them together? Is there anything that drives them apart? Explain.

Cindy: When Esperanza arrives at Sweet Grove with all of her belongings in her car, she parks in front of the apartment building where she plans to rent an apartment. She enters the building to search for the landlord, and when she returns, someone is driving away in her car. Brad quickly arrives after a witness calls the police. Their meeting isn’t a typical meet-cute because Brad is so focused on doing his job and Esperanza is overcome by the horror of what has happened. When Brad offers to drive her to the First Street Church to see if they can help her, she hesitates. Although they’re attracted to each other, it takes a while for things to become romantic.

Alexis: What’s Brad’s race? How does his heritage affect the way that he deals with people who do not share his same background…or does it not matter to him?

Cindy: Brad is described as having blond hair and blue eyes and he doesn’t fully understand Spanish, but I didn’t emphasize his ancestry. Like Esperanza, he’s all-American, but not Latino like her. He notices her dark hair and dark eyes and that she speaks to her mom in Spanish, and he’s attracted to her wholeheartedly. He helps her without hesitation.

Alexis: What role does Brad and Esperanza’s faith in God play in this story?

Cindy: When Brad struggles with his job situation, he calls out to God for help. When Esperanza needs a job, she seeks God’s guidance. Brad isn’t as confident in his faith as Esperanza. He’s confused about his life, but despite it, he waits on Him. No matter what, God remains their only hope.

Alexis: What’s the moral of the story?

Cindy: No matter how hopeless life can seem, God will rescue you if you seek Him with all of your heart. People often quote Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,” but they fail to continue to the part that says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”. A passion for God is the key to moving mountains.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Cindy! Do you have any closing comments?

Cindy: I want to thank you for letting others know that there are Christian diverse stories available to read. Sometimes our names and ancestries might give others the impression that our stories won’t be relatable to them. The result is that they don’t “hear” the message that God has inspired us to share. By sharing our works, you’ve opened a door that could lead to more lives being touched.

~ Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor ~

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Author Interview: Stacy Hawkins Adams, featuring Watercolored Pearls

Let’s welcome Stacy Hawkins Adams!

You should know her by now because she’s been a regular guest on our blog. 🙂 In case you don’t know Stacy yet, here’s the scoop: She’s a journalist and author with a passion for creating stories that are real and sincere. She likes to write about African-American characters and tell their story.

Stacy stopped by the blog today in order to talk about her original novel, Watercolored Pearls. Enjoy your time with Stacy via this author interview!

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About the book:

Three women spend a summer discovering that their less-than-perfect circumstances, their friendships with one another, and their faith are stepping stones to the lives they long to live. Serena never thought she’d have children; now she has two active toddlers. But instead of being overjoyed, she’s overwhelmed. Did she make the wrong choice in giving up her successful career to be a stay-at-home-mom?

Tawana, an ambitious new lawyer, is trying to pull her life to together, but her past keeps getting in the way. An incredible opportunity at a prestigious law firm forces her to confront her demons. Can her new responsibilities fit with her growing faith?

Erika’s estranged and once-abusive husband wants her back. He says he’s changed, and he’s even going to church. But is he telling the truth? Or is he just smooth-talking her back into a bad situation? Enjoy this anniversary edition of Stacy Hawkins Adams’ bestselling inspirational women’s fiction novel.

Purchase the book: Amazon ~ B&N

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

She has penned nine faith-based novels and one devotional book. She also serves as a parenting columnist for a Virginia-based newspaper and blogs for the Huffington Post on social justice issues.

Stacy lives in Virginia with her family. Learn more about her at www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com.

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The Interview:

Alexis: What or who inspired you to write this book?

Stacy: Watercolored Pearls was inspired by my desire to help readers realize (through my characters) that wherever they are in life is a particular moment in time to appreciate and to learn specific lessons, rather than rushing through, worrying or feeling less than good enough.

This novel was first published in 2006 and was so popular among my books that I released an anniversary edition, with a new cover, in 2015. It is still receiving positive reviews from readers, all these years later. I’m grateful!

Alexis: Why did you call this book “Watercolored Pearls”?

Stacy: In this novel, the three main characters are at very different places in life and feel like they should be making better, wiser choices. An older woman mentors them and explains that they are “pearls in progress.” The way a pearl is shaped in an oyster is a process of hardship and endurance – just like life. This mentor tells these three women friends that they are watercolored pearls because their issues and journeys are unique and varied, but still worthwhile all the same.

Alexis: What can you tell us about the main characters of this story and their “less-than-perfect circumstances”?

Stacy: Serena is a stay-at-home mom of toddler twin boys and feels like she needs parenting lessons; plus, she’s a bit insecure in her marriage because she feels competition from another woman who flirts with her husband.

Erika has found the strength to leave an abusive marriage, but worries that God wants her to stay married and forgive her estranged husband rather than move on to a healthier, saner life.

Tawana is thriving as a law school student at one of the premier universities in the nation, yet she struggles with shame over having been a teen mother and other issues stemming from her disadvantaged upbringing.

The glue that holds these characters together is their unconditional love for each other and their willingness to eventually let their faith, and their women mentors, guide them to a more confident space.

Alexis: How long have the heroines of this story been friends? Briefly, describe their bond.

Stacy: These women characters have been friends for more than a decade, and while Watercolored Pearls is a standalone book, they were first introduced to readers in my first and second novels, Speak To My Heart and Nothing But the Right Thing. Those two books are currently out of print but should be available before year’s end, in reprint format.

Alexis: What role does the faith of your characters play in this story?

Stacy: Faith is the foundation of life for these characters, even when they don’t openly talk about it. Serena is a pastor’s wife, so her personal journey of faith routinely intertwines with her duties as a First Lady.

Erika was once an atheist, but now as a new believer, she is excited to follow the biblical mandates to a T, even when they trip her up. She has to learn how to also hear God speaking to her heart in ways specific to her personal needs.

Tawana, the youngest of the bunch, has a fledgling connection to her faith but seeing how her older friends Serena and Erika live out theirs, inspires her to mature in her relationship with God.

Just like real life, the characters are in varying places and spaces in their faith journeys. Sometimes they struggle, sometimes everything falls into place. The key for them is to keep seeking, searching and trusting that God has a good plan for their lives.

Alexis: Let’s talk about Serena (character). Why did she think she’d never have children? Why is she overwhelmed? What was her career before she became a stay-at-home mom?

Stacy: In a prior book (Nothing But the Right Thing), Serena struggled with infertility; so she knows without a doubt that her 2-year-old twin boys are a gift from God. Yet, imagine having to take care of two busy toddlers around the clock! They wear her out, and she begins to feel inadequate. Before she was a stay-at-home mom, she had a fulfilling career in the advertising field and always felt on top of her game. Raising kids is brand new territory for her, and she has to learn how to go with the flow.

Alexis: Let’s talk about Tawana (character). Why is she passionate about the law? What is it from her past that keeps getting in the way as she tries to “pull her life together”? How’s her love life, or is she a workaholic?

Stacy: Tawana grew up in an economically deprived part of her city, in a small apartment with a single mom. As she went off to college and then law school, she saw many of her classmates and neighborhood friends either going to jail or being killed. This has given her a heart for justice and led her to enter the legal field. I don’t want to give away too much by answering your other questions because it might spoil the story for readers. Let’s just say that she lacks confidence and tries to overcompensate in several surprising ways in her personal life.

Alexis: Let’s talk about Erika (character). Describe her conflict with her estranged husband. When did he start being abusive? How long ago did she leave him? Why is she considering taking him back? How does her conflict with her husband affect other areas of her life?

Stacy: Erika’s estranged husband was abusive before she even married him. Eventually she finds the will to leave (in the prior book, Nothing But the Right Thing), and here we are several years later, with her still trying to move on. She doesn’t want to dishonor God by pursuing divorce if God wants her to forgive her husband and take him back. She is struggling to figure out what to do and still be true to her newfound faith. Struggling in this area of her life threatens to cost Erika opportunities to move forward in other positive ways. Just like in real life, our choices in one area always touch other areas of our lives.

Alexis: Watercolored Pearls is your best selling inspirational women’s fiction novel. Did you know it was a winner when you wrote it? Why or why not?

Stacy: This book felt special to me when I wrote it because I could really connect with the characters and how multi-layered they are. This was the first book that caused me to cry while I wrote it; and by it having that affect on me, I hoped it would similarly affect readers – inspiring them to have empathy and patience toward others while granting themselves grace.

Alexis: What race are the women in this story? Do you feel like their experiences are unique to their race? Or are their stories and struggles universal? Explain.

Stacy: These women happen to be African American, but truthfully, their stories could be any woman’s. Women of all backgrounds struggle with infertility, abuse and divorce, single motherhood and trying to start over. This book is packaged through a lens that shows how women of color bonded and managed to survive but the heart of the story is relatable to all kinds of readers.

Alexis: What do you want readers to remember most about Watercolored Pearls?

Stacy: I want readers to remember that just as the main characters aren’t perfect and don’t have to be perfect in order to be accepted, neither do they. They are good enough as they are and they are worthy of love, as they are. If they continue to push through challenges and take baby steps forward in life, they too will discover that they are God’s treasured pearls, of great worth.

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

Stacy: Thank you for featuring me and allowing me to share this special novel with your readers, Alexis! I hope your readers will consider reading Watercolored Pearls with their women friends and then gather to share their insights and aha moments. I also invite them to reach out to me through my website, http://www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com, my blog www.LifeUntapped.com or social media: www.Facebook.com/StacyHawkinsAdams and http://www.Twitter.com/SHAdams.

~ Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor ~