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

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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

~*~

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!

~*~

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.

~*~

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 ~

Interview with Terri J. Haynes

Happy Monday, Diverse Reader Friends!

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


About the Book

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

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

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

Links: Amazon, Goodreads


Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Terri: Both depending on my mood.

Toni: I hear ya! Rain or sunshine?

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

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

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

Toni: Lol. Summer or Winter?

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

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

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

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


Interview conducted by Toni Shiloh


About the Author

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

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

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

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

Follow: Website, Facebook, Twitter

Author Interview: Jana Kelley


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


About the Book

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

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

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

GOODREADS | AMAZON | B&N


About the Author

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

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


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

Apples or oranges?

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

Carrie: Yumm… honey mandarins sound intriguing!

Winter or Summer?

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

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

Dogs or Cats?

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

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

Finally…. coffee or tea?

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

Carrie: I sense you like diplomatic answers 😉 LOL

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

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

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

Who is your favorite book character from childhood?

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

Carrie: I love this!! How sweet!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carrie: Yes. Amen.

What’s coming up next for you?

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


This interview originally appeared on ReadingIsMySuperPower.

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

Author Interview: Jacqueline Freeman Wheelock

Happy Monday, Diverse Reader friends!

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


About the Book

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

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

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

Links: Amazon, Goodreads


Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


About the Author

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

Follow: Website, Facebook, Twitter


Interview conducted by Toni Shiloh

 

Author Interview with Dina Sleiman

Hey there, Diverse Reader Friends!

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


About the Book

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

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

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

Links: Amazon, Goodreads


Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dina: Fresca, actually. Is that weird?

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

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

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

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


About the Author

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

Follow: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest


Interview conducted by Toni Shiloh

 

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

Good Morning and Happy Monday, reader friends!

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

Enjoy her interview!

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About the book:

 Indigo Burns is excited. Her wedding preparations to the man of her dreams are under way, her career as a photographer is a success, and her family seems to be doing better than ever–all except her brother Reuben who nobody has seen in years. But that’s about to change, because Reuben has decided to move back home to Jubilant, Texas.

But Reuben’s hope to find healing with his sisters doesn’t seem to be working. Soon enough their lives intersect in dramatic, sometimes painful, and ultimately healing ways. This insightful novel by an Essence bestselling author will pull in women readers from the urban market and beyond.

Purchase the book: Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ CBD

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

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

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

Stacy lives in Virginia with her family.

Learn more about her at www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com.

~*~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~*~

Connect with Stacy:

Website – www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com

Twitter – www.twitter.com/shadams

Facebook – www.facebook.com/stacyinspires

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

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Author Interview: Alena Pitts with Wynter Pitts

Happy Monday, diverse reader friends!

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the interview!

~*~

About the book: 

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

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

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

Book purchase links: Amazon, B&N, CBD

~*~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~*~

Questions for Wynter:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alexis: What is it like raising a superstar?

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

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

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

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

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

~*~

A Question for Alena and Wynter

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

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

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

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

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

~*~

About the Author:

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

Follow Alena: Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Instagram

~*~

Contributor Bio: 

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

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

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