Merry Christmas, Reader Friends!
We thank you for joining us on this blogging ride. Have a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year and we’ll see you in 2018!
Merry Christmas, Reader Friends!
We thank you for joining us on this blogging ride. Have a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year and we’ll see you in 2018!
Happy Hump Day!
I hope you’re having an awesome week. We at Diversity have a new book spotlight for you. We’re featuring Kim Cash Tate’s Though I Stumble, book one in the Promises of God series.
About the Book
The Blurb: “Four women, one weekend, and their lives will never be the same.
Stephanie London thought she’d heard from God when she moved to Hope Springs, N.C. But a tragedy in that small town left her soul desolate. Now her husband’s inattentiveness has pushed her over the edge. Bereft of hope, she travels home to St. Louis as a women’s ministry conference kicks off. Though less than enthused to attend, new friendships offer strength and light. But what happens when the weekend ends and real life begins again?
Treva Langston grieves still the loss of her husband of twenty-two years. Now, two years later, her heart is breaking again as her oldest daughter’s travails come to light. Traveling from DC to St. Louis for a women’s conference seems the last thing she should do, given the circumstances. But in St. Louis her path crosses with someone new—and her world turns upside down. Will it only lead to more heartbreak?
Jillian Mason can’t wait to attend the Living Word women’s conference. She’s done their Bible studies for years and expects God to show up in an amazing way. But the weekend delivers something unexpected—a discovery about her husband. As the state of her marriage hangs in the balance, Jillian is suddenly anxious about returning home.
Faith Langston has always been a girl after God’s heart. She loves Living Word studies and registered early for the conference. But at the end of her college sophomore year, she finds herself in circumstances she never imagined—with a heart that has strayed from God. She makes it to St. Louis nonetheless, with her boyfriend in tow—but how will she find her way back to God?
Four women in different seasons of life converge at a women’s conference—with a theme that charges them to run “in hot pursuit” for Christ. But how do they run when challenges seem insurmountable? And can they help one another navigate the difficult terrain?”
About the Author
KIM CASH TATE is the author of several books, including Cling (2017) and If I Believe (2017). A former practicing attorney, she is also a Bible teacher and is currently doing a study on First Samuel on YouTube. She’s been married to her husband Bill for more than two decades, and they live in St. Louis with their two young adult children. You can find Kim online at kimcashtate.com and on social media @kimcashtate.
Good Monday. It’s time for another author interview. Today, we’ll get to know Cara Luecht.
Ione has everything she’d wanted with her busy shop filled to the brim with sumptuous fabrics, gossiping debutants, and a neatly increasing profit margin. Not to mention the unexpected attention of a man who doesn’t know her past.
And then the letter dropped from the mail slot onto to lush carpet. He was back. And the abuse, the shame, rushes in, reminding her of how unworthy she really is.
Miriam also has everything she’d wanted—and with a baby on the way, for the first time in her life, she has everything to lose. When she’d been alone, the future had held promise, but now with her life full, it also holds fear.
Unwilling to risk a vision of loss, Miriam stops painting what will be…right before Ione needs it most.
Available on Amazon
Award winning author, Cara Luecht, lives in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin with her husband, David, and their children. In addition to freelance writing and marketing, Cara works as an English Instructor for a local college. Cara graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Wisconsin and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Currently, Cara is studying for a Masters of Divinity at Fuller Theological Seminary.
Terri: Thank you so much for joining us today. Soul’s Cry is the third book in the series, but Ione is introduced in a previous book. Did you always know that you wanted to tell her story?
Cara: I always knew I wanted to write Ione’s story. In fact, I had some trouble when I first began writing the series, because I wanted to go deeper into Ione’s character than I was able to as she was supposed to be a supporting character in Soul Painter. I’ve looked forward to writing Soul’s Cry for a while.
Terri: Soul’s Cry seems to be a strong finish to your Portraits of Grace series. And all three stories have very different heroines. Did you find it difficult to write outside your race? How did you overcome those difficulties?
Cara: I found it very difficult to write outside my race, but not because I didn’t feel I could connect to Ione; rather, because I was intimidated by the idea of making a mistake. Also, the current dialogue about whether or not a white person should even try to write an African American character messed with my mind a bit.
I remember one particularly difficult point when I realized that one of the African American characters needed to identify as African American. This seems a silly problem, no one goes around thinking “I’m white” or “I’m black,” but we all carry inner dialogues. For example, my own inner dialogue might question if a white person should try to write a novel from the perspective of a minority. See what happened? In my thought process, I identified myself as white.
One of my African American characters was thinking about another, and the thought came up about success despite racial barriers. But no one would say something in their head, like “gee, racial barriers really didn’t hold him back!” That would be silly. The inner dialogue needed to be more natural. Consequently, my character needed to self-identify—but how would an African American in the 1890s do so? Would they use the word Negro? Black?
To get to the bottom of this problem, I enlisted the help of an African American friend who also happens to be a student of literature. She helped me, but in the end, I think I made this more of a problem than it needed to be, simply due to my own insecurity.
There were a lot of these kinds of moments in writing this book. I think one of the reasons is that I consider it such a privilege to have a publisher who trusted me to write outside of my race in a market that is not famous for its diversity.
Terri: I greatly appreciate your dedication not to make a mistake. It shows that you care about your African American readers. There is a quite a bit of buzz about diversity in the Christian publishing industry. In particular, books with African Americans on the covers being less appealing. What was your reaction when you first saw the cover and why do think it was important to have Ione on the cover?
Cara: Because I am white, I will never know what it feels like to grow up in a culture where I am not represented. And frankly, I can’t even believe that this is a question that we still have to deal with. It’s the 21st century, for Pete’s sake. How is it even possible that this has to be a question? And that it is a huge question in the CHRISTIAN industry…there are no words…
But it’s true. I was beyond grateful to publish this book with a company who was willing to take the risk (even saying that makes me angry). They never questioned that Ione needed to be on the cover, and even though I know there will be some readers out there who look at her picture, and then look at my white face on the back of the cover, and then roll their eyes because I wrote outside my race, I am proud of her, and of my publisher (Roseanna White did a beautiful job designing the cover!).
If you’ll forgive a longer answer, I’d like to tell you a bit more…The racism that is inherent in this conversation goes beyond what people can see. Behind the scenes, finding the model for Ione was difficult. There was never a question that an African American woman would be on the cover, but when time came to sort through potential pictures, and to find (modern) models in Victorian dress (so that we could have a cover in full color), the only options that came up with the search terms “African American Victorian Women” were women dressed in Burlesque fashion.
I was appalled.
There was a thriving, wealthy, African American society in most urban areas of this time period. In fact, if you google “African American Victorian woman 1890,” you will find all sorts of vintage examples of beautifully dressed women. While they didn’t make up the majority of the population, they were there. However, they have been forgotten to history because they didn’t match with the imagined picture of people who had recently come out of slavery. The black and white photos prove they existed, but there is so little need for this picture in modern times, that the models are almost non-existent.
The truth is, many in the African American community were well-educated, wealthy, and making a substantial difference in the lives of the people in their communities.
In addition to writing, I teach college English at a technical college. When I made this inadvertent discovery, I couldn’t help but wonder how different the lives of my students would have been had the been shown a picture of their ancestors that they could have been proud of– people who stood as historical role models instead of the only photos being of slaves.
We have so much work to do.
Terri: I totally understand the challenge of finding African Americans for cover art. Many people don’t realize that is a real problem. It is a small step to the work that needs to be done in the Christian publishing industry to diversity. Ione is presented as a strong woman who will do whatever she needs to provide for her family. How hard was it to relate to her?
Cara: Ione is the woman I would hope to be if I ever found myself in a situation like hers. She found herself in dire circumstances, but she never lost sight of the priority of looking after others.
We hear all the time about women who end up the victims of trafficking, and sometimes what they go through is so brutal, they end up addicted to drugs just to deal with the pain. Ione, in my mind was different. She was victimized, she had to deal with the guilt and the fall-out from some of her decisions, but it never destroyed her. It never stole the part of her that tells her, even in the most horrendous of circumstances, that she can still help others.
I think Ione taught me that in order to be effective for those we love, we need to feel that we have value…otherwise what do we have to give? With Ione, I created a picture of someone who was hurt unimaginably, but never lost sight of her own value. I relate to her in that I aspire to be like her.
Terri: Ione is an inspiring woman in her strength and love for her family. She is also a talented seamstress. What research did you have to do gain insight on her craft?
Cara: My family has always been crafty, and while I am not a seamstress, I am familiar with sewing. I also love to look at photos and drawings of vintage dresses. Additionally, because of my love for historical fiction, I think that this time period, along with the clothes, customs, etc., is forever a part of my imaginary world.
When I write, I do so with a running movie in my head. That way, I write about what I see and hear and smell. Most of my research is done at the beginning of the project, because if it wasn’t, I’d never be able to develop the movie.
Terri: I also have met few crafts that I didn’t like. I’m sure all your research would make an interesting Pinterest board. If you could write in another genre, what would it be or have historicals completely captured your heart?
Cara: I might try science fiction or even apocalyptic fiction. Actually, I’ve started playing with a steampunk. But I love historical. When I read, I want to be transported to another world. Same thing goes with writing. In order to keep my attention, it needs to be something that I can build in my mind. Every time I try to write contemporary, I just get bored with it.
Terri: I’ve always loved Steampunk. I don’t think it’s gotten all of the attention it deserves. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
Cara: I never even thought about it until I was in my 30s. I was not one of those people who grew up knowing what she wanted to be. In fact, I’m pretty sure I will never figure out what I want to be when I grow up😊 When I look back, though, I realize that I always read like a writer, and I always loved literature.
Terri: Flexibility is essential when God is leading you. What’s next for you?
Cara: I’m working on another historical set in Colorado in the 1860s. I will amp up the suspense in this one. That being said, I am not progressing as quickly as I would like because I am also in school working toward my Masters of Divinity. At some point, I am hoping to tackle some non-fiction.
Terri: God speed with the degree, and we look forward to reading your new series. Thank for chatting with us.
Looking for a book before heading to the beach or your favorite summer vacation location? Or maybe you’re looking for a read to devour on your staycation. Whichever the case, diverse Christian fiction is a great choice. Here are some titles to enrich your summer reading:
Having come to terms with his disability, business empire heir Dante Dupree has it all, but Nadine Saylor is too busy to be impressed with his accolades, and too busy to fall in love. Yet, love keeps knocking on her door…
Billionaire bachelor Dante Dupree has arrived. Living with paraplegia, he now has a state-of-the-art wheelchair to handle his disability, and a private jet to take him across the world to buy up smaller companies for the Hot Dupree global hot sauce empire. And the best news yet for his career: He has been handpicked to be the next CEO of Hot Dupree, Inc., and he’s going to inherit a fifth of the multi-billion-dollar family fortune. He has it all.
At the end of an international business trip, Dante stops in Savannah for merger talks and to visit his pregnant sister. Exuberant and on top of his game, single and free, the center of attention among ladies, and recently voted one of the top ten most eligible young billionaires in the world, self-confident Dante suddenly finds himself in a predicament he cannot solve: he’s in love.
But he can’t get her attention. She is not impressed at all with his accolades.
Nadine Saylor is busy, busy, busy. Her job as a virtual assistant to clients traveling through six or seven time zones keeps her on her toes around the clock. The last thing she needs right now is Dante Dupree flinging signals and invitations at her, even though he did look handsome in his Lagerfeld tuxedo at his sister’s wedding eleven months ago.
Nadine keeps telling herself that her calendar is full. There’s no room for romance. Dante can go find someone else to be his Flavor of the Month.
When one of Dante’s professional problems intersects with Nadine’s personal predicament, they find themselves thrown together to sort out these chapters of their lives. Has God put them together in this place for such a time as this?
Girls like her don’t get to be Cinderella…
Emi Adebayo is a servant’s daughter. On the island of Yedan that means she has no social rank. She knows that aspiring above her station only leads to disappointment. It’s hard not to hope though when the one thing she wants is the love of the prince.
His Royal Highness Prince Taiwo of Yedan takes his duty to his country seriously. Nothing distracts him. That’s true until the only girl he’s ever wanted comes back into his life.
Despite the friendship they once shared, Emi and Prince Taiwo come from two different worlds. Disapproval, judgment, and shame caused her to run from him once. When they meet again, can they find love or will fear keep them apart?
Find out in this prologue novella set in the Royals of Yedan universe.
At the FirstBaptist Church of Maeby, Arkansas, the sins of the child belonged to the parents until the child turned thirteen. Sarah Jones was only eight years old in the summer of 1964, but with her mother Esther Mae on eight prayer lists and flipping around town with the generally mistrusted civil rights organizers, Sarah believed it was time to get baptized and take responsibility for her own sins. That would mean sitting on the mourner’s bench come revival, waiting for her sign, and then testifying in front of the whole church.
But first, Sarah would need to navigate the growing tensions of small-town Arkansas in the 1960s. Both smarter and more serious than her years (a “fifty-year-old mind in an eight-year-old body,” according to Esther), Sarah was torn between the traditions, religion, and work ethic of her community and the progressive civil rights and feminist politics of her mother, who had recently returned from art school in Chicago. When organizers from the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) came to town just as the revival was beginning, Sarah couldn’t help but be caught up in the turmoil. Most folks just wanted to keep the peace, and Reverend Jefferson called the SNCC organizers “the evil among us.” But her mother, along with local civil rights activist Carrie Dilworth, the SNCC organizers, Daisy Bates, attorney John Walker, and indeed most of the country, seemed determined to push Maeby toward integration.
With characters as vibrant and evocative as their setting, Mourner’s Bench is the story of a young girl coming to terms with religion, racism, and feminism while also navigating the terrain of early adolescence and trying to settle into her place in her family and community.
After years of preparing for marriage, Catalina Santé is interested in little more than making a good match. And why not? She’s young, beautiful, educated… everything a wealthy man should want. However, a tragic accident will leave her with less than a marriage proposal— she’s fighting for her very life! Matthew Martin spends most of his time just trying to fit into American society. It’s one of the reasons he became a deputy. Willing to risk it all in order to protect Catalina, he can’t imagine what that entails… until she’s abducted and sold to a Mexican saloon, where a border battle rages between two towns. Can love and faith survive in such a harsh place? Will Matthew even be able to save Catalina?
Texas state trooper Garrett Kincaid is a lone wolf—until he becomes an instant father of two young children. The former solider never knew he had a son…or that his little boy has a baby sister with nowhere to go. His landlady, lovely widow Anjelica Ortega-Garza, offers to help, and suddenly Garrett’s life is all about nap schedules and baby bottles and trying to make his traumatized son smile. Falling for Anjelica isn’t part of the plan. Yet even Garrett can’t deny that love has begun building a family of four right around him.
Need more suggestions? Check out our Diverse Book Recommendations page.
TGIF, Diverse Reader Friends!
I pray this week has been a blessing to you. Today I’m sharing a book review of Hand in His. I read this book earlier in the year and was thrilled to see a Latina featured.
Check it out!
About the Book
“The man intended for Nicole De León will come along when she is good and ready and not a minute sooner, no matter how desperately the older women of her church try to find her a match. She simply does not have the time to date with Nursing courses, her best friend’s wedding, work and volunteering at church. If and when she finds the time to find love, it will be with a man in love with Jesus and most certainly not the flirty best man that makes her heart do funny things.
Drew Wells is adamant that falling in love is a waste of time, as is organized religion. As long as he has a say, neither are in his future and the closest he will ever get to either is being the best man at his cousin’s wedding and spending a week with the bible thumping bridal party. The beautiful brunette bridesmaid is fun to flirt with but she will most certainly not make him want to think about settling down or worse, become a holy-roller.
Can either stop their hearts from betraying their minds?”
I was tickled pink to read Nicole’s story. It’s not too often I read a book with a Latina heroine. It was nice to see another culture and another part of the world. I’ve never been to Jersey so I enjoyed the description. The food, family, and secondary characters added to this heartwarming read.
My favorite: the faith element. Nicole had to walk the path of self-examination. Was she too judgmental? Too hard on Drew? It’s a question that a lot of long-standing Christians must ask ourselves. Too often we forget what it was like before we knew Christ. I loved how Ms. Marcano dealt with this subject.
I also enjoyed Drew’s faith journey. It was such a strong plot line that the ethnicities took a background place in my reader’s mind. There’s a moment in here that melted my heart.
This is not the first book in the series, but the book completely stands alone. I say this because I didn’t read the first ones in the series. 🙂
Review by Toni Shiloh
Happy Saturday, Diverse Reader Friends!
I hope you had an awesome week. I’ve been mulling over potential topics all week and finally, I settled on one.
Y’all, this one is something that falls into stereotypes, yet has truth with it. And isn’t that the problem with stereotypes? Which leads me to the question: what is the appropriate setting for people of color characters?
I think some people believe ethnically diverse characters can only appear in books where the setting itself is diverse. You know places like, Chicago, D.C., New York, etc. But in some genres small-town places are the ticket, and you don’t always imagine people of color in them.
Does that mean you can’t place them there? Let’s face it, there are small towns in the US devoid of diversity. It’s not a stereotype, it’s a fact and if a reader can’t imagine people of color in those locations, it’s not a big surprise.
Still, sometimes the problem is with the reader. My first book, A Life to Live, was set in Nottingham, England. I actually had a person of color complain in their review that Black people weren’t in England.
But isn’t that what diversity is about? Showing the world what’s real? Widening ones’ knowledge of places?
Nevertheless, I questioned my choice, even though I’ve been to England. Met my husband in England and saw other people of color there. After a brief time, I decided to choose more obscure places. Could you imagine a book where people of color were in Montana? Because the assumption is there are no people of color there, right? Well in my novellete in A Spring of Weddings collection, that’s exactly what I did.
The great thing about books is they widen our perspective. Loose the scales over our eyes. Setting is just as important in the diversity discussion as the people we’re portraying.
Let’s open the discussion. Authors: what is the unusual setting you’ve placed people of color in? Did you fear reader backlash?
Readers: What’s the most interesting setting you’ve read that featured people of color? Was it unbelievable or did it give you a deeper perspective?
Discussion written by Toni Shiloh
TGIF!! Hope you’ve had a great week! Today, I’m sharing my review of Varina Denman’s Looking Glass Lies. Have you read it?
About the Book
Blurb: A poignant and relatable novel, Looking Glass Lies captures the war women wage against themselves, and the struggle to see beauty reflected in a mirror not distorted by society’s unrelenting expectations.
For most of her adult life, Cecily Ross has compared herself to other women—and come up short. After a painful divorce from her emotionally abusive husband, Cecily returns to her hometown of Canyon, Texas, looking to heal.
But coming home isn’t what she expects. In a town as small as Canyon, her pain is difficult to escape—especially with her model-perfect ex–sister-in-law working at the town’s popular coffee-shop hangout. With help from her father, a support group, and an old friend who guides her to see her own strengths, Cecily may have a shot at overcoming her insecurities and learning to love again.
The true test comes when tragedy strikes, opening Cecily’s eyes to the harmfulness of her distorted views on beauty—and giving her the perfect opportunity to find peace at last.
Looking Glass Lies is a poignant read that will transform the reader. Cecily Ross struggles with her self-image. I think everyone can identify with that issue. I loved how Varina Denman tackled the subject. She laid it all out, exploring every nook and cranny of this issue. She also included a diverse group of secondary characters.
Shanty is half-Black and half-Asian. Her husband is from Latino descent. Shanty is the one who motivates and encourages Cecily to love herself just the way she is. I loved her character and I love that she has her own social media page.
If you’ve ever struggled with self image, please read this book. It will encourage you and help you see that God created you just the way you need to be.
About the Author
Varina Denman enjoys writing fiction about women and the unique struggles they face. Her novels include the Mended Hearts trilogy: Jaded, Justified, and Jilted, as well as her latest release, Looking Glass Lies. She seems to have a knack for describing small town life, and her debut novel, Jaded, won the ACFW Genesis Contest, the BRMCWC Selah Award, and the INSPYs Bloggers’ Award for Excellence in Faith-Driven Literature.
Varina attended three universities over a span of five years, majoring in four subjects and earning zero degrees. However, she can now boast sixteen years as a home educator, volunteering in her local cooperative where she has taught numerous subjects including creative writing and literature. Varina lives in North Texas where she volunteers in local marriage and family ministry. She is represented by Jessica Kirkland of Kirkland Media Management.
Happy Friday, diverse reader friends!
I’m excited to share my review of Vivir el Dream by Allison K. Garcia. You may have remembered I interviewed her Monday as we discussed her debut novel. Before I share my review, let’s check out the book.
About the Book
“Linda Palacios crossed the border at age three with her mother, Juanita, to escape their traumatic life in Mexico and to pursue the American dream. Years later, Linda nears college graduation. With little hope for the future as an undocumented immigrant, Linda wonders where her life is going.
Tim Draker, a long-unemployed businessman, has wondered the same thing. Overcome with despair, he decides to take his own life. Before he can carry out his plan, he changes course when he finds a job as a mechanic. Embarrassed about working at a garage in the barrio, he lies to his wife in hopes of finding something better.
After Juanita’s coworker gets deported, she takes in her friend’s son, Hector, whom her daughter Linda can’t stand, While Juanita deals with nightmares of her traumatic past, she loses her job and decides to go into business for herself.
Will the three of them allow God to guide them through the challenges to come, or will they let their own desires and goals get in the way of His path?”
Vivir el Dream gives us a realistic glimpse into the immigration struggle in the Hispanic community. Ms. Garcia weaves a tale giving the reader three view points.
Linda Palacios is an undocumented college student. Brought to the United States at the age of three, Virginia is all she knows. It’s her home and the community she lives in helps define her identity.
I loved how Ms. Garcia explored the prejudice and ignorance the outside world has regarding immigration. I loved getting to know Linda and see her strengths. She taught me so much.
Ms. Garcia also gives us the view point of Juanita, Linda’s mother. You get to see the reasons behind her decision to immigrate across the Mexican border into the U.S. My heat ached for her as bits and pieces of her story were slowly shared.
And Tim. I struggled between empathizing with his plight and being extremely annoyed (that’s the nicest thing I can say) about his prejudice and ignorance of the Latino community. As a fellow writer, I admire the depth Ms. Garcia went through creating his character. You can see the stereotypes that others believe through his eyes. I think he’ll be the eye opener for readers. Will they see similar prejudices and ignorance?
Vivir el Dream really made me think about the truth of “walking a mile in someone’s shoes.” This is a must read for all who want to understand another culture and widen their views.
*I received a complimentary copy from the publisher. This review is my own, honest opinion.
Review by Toni Shiloh
Good Monday. Today we are featuring Vanessa Riley, who gives a poignant interview about race in Regency fiction.
About the Book
Winning in the courts, vanquishing England’s foes on the battlefield, Barrington Norton has used these winner-take-all rules to script his life, but is London’s most distinguished mulatto barrister prepared to win the ultimate fight, restoring his wife’s love?
Amora Norton is running out of time. The shadows in her Egyptian mind, which threaten her sanity and alienate Barrington’s love, have returned. How many others will die if she can’t piece together her shattered memories? Can she trust that Barrington’s new found care is about saving their marriage rather than winning the trial of the century?
Free 1st Episode: http://amzn.to/1JLYkPj
The full collection- all 4 episodes: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01H0K1C6I
Vanessa Riley worked as an engineer before allowing her passion for historical romance to shine. A Regency era (early 1800s) and Jane Austen enthusiast, she brings the flavor of diverse peoples to her stories. Since she was seventeen, Vanessa has won awards for her writing and is currently working on two series. She lives in Atlanta with her military man hubby and precocious child. You can catch her writing from the comfort of her Southern porch with a cup of Earl Grey tea.
Terri: You write historical diverse Christian Fiction. In the past, this genre has been stories of slaves and plantations. Unveiling Love shows diverse characters in places we won’t normally see them. Why did you choose this aspect of history over the more traditional slavery point of view?
Vanessa: I think there are a great many authors who focus on the history of diverse cultures within the United States. Many awesome books tell stories about the Civil War, Reconstruction, and The Great Migrations. Yet, most think of the black or African race as having a very narrow historical path. Many believe we were Kings and Queens (1500 BC) in Egypt. Then nothing and reappeared as slaves in America causing a war in 1865. There is a great deal of history occurring in many more places than Egypt and America that fills that span of over 3000 years. The missing timelines are rich in culture but are rarely are showcased in Christian Fiction. When I look on the bookstore shelves, no one lived in the void. Yet, we survived and thrived. I am called to tell these stories, the ones that show love lasts and overcomes.
Terri: I love the statement “missing timelines.” It is very true. As I read your book, all I kept thinking of was the movie Belle (2013). It was wildly popular because it was based on a true story and quite frankly, a part of history frequently overlooked. What are some of the surprising historical facts your research has uncovered about people of color?
Surprise isn’t the word. I think shocked and appalled might be more apt. There were ten thousand free black living in London during the time of Jane Austen. In 1772, the pivotal Somerset Case gave the enslaved rights setting the ground work for ending slavery. By 1833, slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire including its colonies. This occurred before a single shot was fired in the Civil War. I didn’t learn this in elementary school or even high school. My world changed taking an elective course in Western Civilization. I was disturbed as the impact of the whitewashing of history slapped me soundly in the face. Little brown girls and boys grow up thinking that the past was full of hate for them, not the accomplishments, not the times when love won. How does that impact their future when hate seems more prevalent today as they can be targeted for nothing more than driving while being other?
Terri: I completely agree about the way our history is framed for us. Pain is plentiful, and acknowledgment of accomplishments are few. How important is being historically accurate when in comes to characters of color? Or do you prefer to create worlds where diverse characters are the norm?
Vanessa: That question is a sore spot. When you tell a fuller narrative, a story that is different from what you heard growing up, many think you’ve made up stuff. They call all your fact checking and cross-referencing historical fantasy. Maybe they forgot, don’t care, or don’t know that Jane Austen wrote about a mulatto heiress in Sandition (1817). In this story, Lady Denham, who is a part of the upper class, tries to get her impoverished nephew to marry the money, the little blackamoor rich girl. Would Jane Austen write about things that had no possibility of occurring? I do not know, but I do know that no one today would question Austen’s right to do so. Austen was a contemporary author writing about her times, not a fantasy author.
I write what I am passionate about and that is showing that love survived. It cannot be bound by ignorance or ignored because it makes someone uncomfortable. It shouldn’t be put away because it disagrees with the lies we tell ourselves.
Terri: When I first met you at a writer’s conference a few years ago, I was fascinated by the fact that you were writing diverse historical Christian fiction. I distinctly remember thinking, “I need to watch her career because she’s found an amazing niche.” Was I right? Have you found a niche that other Christian authors haven’t explored?
Vanessa: I followed the normal path. I was traditionally published in 2013 with Madeline’s Protector, a heroine of Spanish decent. Then, I signed with an agent with an earlier version of Unveiling Love. I thought this was it. I am breaking through, but a funny thing happened. The CBA houses weren’t interested. A funnier thing happened. A few ABA houses requested the full manuscript. They loved my voice, they loved the story, but they said “we can’t reach the Christian market.” I lived in a catch twenty-two world.
I began to question myself. I wrote a great story? Think so. I had great agent? Check. I was with a well-respected agency? Check. Then, what were the traditional ABA and CBA houses saying? Were they saying drop faith from my stories or change the complexion of my characters to get a sale? I don’t know but it wasn’t a good spot to be. I searched the depths of soul, and decided not to sell it. I heard very clearly, “tell your stories,” not change your stories or stop telling stories.
I decided to go Indie. In 2015, I published The Bargain, a story of a formerly enslaved woman who discovers her faith as she helps save Port Elizabeth, a British Colony in South Africa. Hundreds of thousands of books in the hands of my readers later, I have not looked back. Bless you readers.
Terri: That’s fantastic that you found readers. That is an encouraging feeling after rejection. How did you get the idea for Unveiling Love?
Vanessa: I do a lot of research, and I found this area in Vauxhall Gardens called the Dark Walk, an isolated area where girls would walk away from their chaperones to meet with their sweethearts. That tidbit made me wonder about what happens when things went awry. During the Regency, the woman be found at fault even if the man had taken liberties. The London world would shame her as if it was her fault. That started the writing wheels turning. Those elements were the genesis for Unveiling Love.
Terri: What is your favorite historical TV show or movie and why? If you say the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice with Jennifer Ehle and Colon Firth, we’ll be friends forever.
Vanessa: Yes, the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice with Jennifer Ehle and Colon Firth is the best thing ever. I own the DVD. When I come home from a stressful day, I will put the 5-hour movie on to escape. Last year, I watched it at least 75 times.
Terri: We are now friends for life! Tea party or coffee shop?
Vanessa: This is tough, but I think I like coffee shops more.
Terri: Tough choice, but there is nothing like a cozy coffee shop. What’s next for you?
Vanessa: In August, No Hiding for The Guilty is released. What if super heroes were mortals and they lived and loved in the Regency? That is the premise a group of Regency authors tackled for The Heart of The Hero series releasing this summer. No Hiding for The Guilty is now on pre-order.
In January, The Bittersweet Bride, part of the Advertisements for Love Series with Entangled Publishing will release. This series focuses on three Blackamoor heiresses who need quick marriages of conveniences. They place advertisements in the Morning Post. Of course, foolishness, romance, and a bit of mayhem follow. It will be a story that people of faith and Regency lovers will enjoy.
Terri: Thank you so much for joining us. Praying Godspeed on all your future endeavors. Here’s to many more happy readers!
It’s time for our author interview. This week we feature Leslie Sherrod, author of Man of My Schemes.
About the Book
Having a fake boyfriend comes with a real price. It started with her co-workers and then spread to her sister-friends at church: the “must-have-a-man-marriage-baby-family-right-now-because-you’re-not-getting-any-younger” fever. Tired of the merciless prying and invasive questions about her lack of a love life, thirty-four-year-old Berry Jenkins comes up with an elaborate plan to convince everyone she has finally landed the man of her dreams – she fakes it. However, her foolproof conspiracy to pretend she’s met the perfect beau turns out to be proof of foolishness as her scheme of a made-up relationship spirals out of control. Only a miracle will save Berry from her fairytale fantasy turned nightmare reality, which only worsens as her web of lies begins to unravel. Facing exposure, Berry fears that the trap she’s created for herself is too messy, too tangled – and maybe even too deadly – for her chance at love to survive.
About Leslie Sherrod
Leslie J. Sherrod, MSW, LCSW-C, LICSW, is the author of seven faith-based novels that speak to the hopes and dreams of diverse women. The recipient of the SORMAG Readers Choice Award for Christian Author of the Year (2012), Leslie has a Masters in Social Work which has allowed her to be a therapist and service provider for preschoolers, pregnant women, teens, seniors, and church folk, among other clientele. Her work has been featured in Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library Writers LIVE! Series, as well as on local CBS and NBC television affiliates. She has been a guest on both national and regional radio shows and podcasts, including The Mother Love Show (LA Talk Radio) and AOL’s Black Voices. Leslie has received a starred review from Booklist and has contributed to several blogs and devotionals.
Leslie lives in Baltimore, Maryland with her husband and three children. As both a writer and a social worker, Leslie tackles matters of current social significance, including mental health and wellness, healthy relationships, and spiritual growth – with the unique backdrop of page-turning, satisfying suspense and heartwarming humor. With a talent for drawing on raw emotions and painting vivid and meaningful imagery with her pen, her books have been welcomed at book club meetings, literary events, and church groups around the country.
Terri: I am very excited that you’re joining us today to talk about Man of My Schemes. How did you get the idea for this book?
This was not a book I planned to write. The main character, Berry, showed up in my imagination as I was plotting a different story. However, Berry’s voice was so loud and distinct, the other story I was working on got washed out. She demanded attention for her plight, and I gave in. I could hear Berry’s sense of humor, her annoyance with everyone’s concern with her love life, and her willingness to go to outrageous lengths to maintain a fake relationship. Once this character took shape in my mind, what she did and how she did it easily came together.
Terri: Characters do that sometimes. We try to resist, but they just take over. I’m glad Berry pushed her way into your mind and into print. Your other books feature strong female leads. How is Berry different?
Berry is young, and – dare I say – a little immature. She’s missing some introspection that I think comes from life experiences, lessons learned, and having good girlfriends to keep you straight! I like Berry, though, because I think there is much to learn from her about how we can let others’ perceptions control us. Once a negative thought gets planted in our heads that shapes how we see ourselves, it is not difficult for that thought to take root and bear fruit of detrimental actions. At heart, Berry has not learned to simply love and accept herself as she is, without needing a relationship to define her identity or purpose. Berry’s personal growth does come, I believe, but not before a zany wallop of a ride.
Terri: Man of My Schemes is a fun read, but in a way, it is like a single woman’s manifesto. Did you intend for the story to give single Christian women a voice through Berry?
I wanted to give voice to any woman who feels like she has to continually explain or defend her relationship status. I wanted to give voice to any woman who feels like she’s been trying her value and self-worth to societal standards of love and romance. I wanted to encourage awareness that esteem and worthiness are not dependent on who you are with or how others see you. You are special and awesome and worthy because of Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Terri: That is a great message for all women to hear. How much did the African-American church culture this culture shape your portrayal of Berry? Do you think this story would have worked in another culture?
I write out of the experience I know, and that experience includes fried chicken, green beans, potato salad, red punch, and coconut cake church dinners. It includes rousing sermons, youth choirs, and building funds; church mothers, peppermint candy, and solemn-faced deacons in Cadillacs. My experience also includes community, fellowship, encouragement, and strength; teaching, empowering, praying, and faith. Berry’s story is told in the context of the community in which she lives, moves, breathes, and has her being. While the general themes of romance and relationships could be set in any culture, the nuances of Berry’s church community help define how she experiences these themes. For example, her natural hair journey, the setting of a perfect date, even what characteristics would be valued in her imaginary boyfriend, have roots in the struggles and realities of the culture she knows.
Terri: Yes, and the story is well rooted in that culture. It adds perspective and context to the book. Berry goes through great lengths to keep up appearances. What lesson would you like to pass on to readers who are a little or a lot like Berry?
Fakeness and lies never lead to happy endings, and once a lie starts, the more complicated it gets to keep it going. We all know this. However, sometimes there’s a disconnect in knowing this and living it out as we get caught up in trying to present our lives as perfect to everyone around us. And keeping up appearances goes well beyond romantic relationship status. Look at social media where perfection abounds. We offer status updates to people who are minimally involved in our lives. If we get consumed with putting up perfection, it’s easy to get sidetracked from focusing on what matters: being genuine, so that others’ can be genuinely blessed by our presence in their lives.
Terri: That is a very timely message. Many women get caught up in keeping up with the next women not realizes their competing with someone who is not who they appear to be. Since Berry was such a fan of social media, what’s your preferred social media site and why?
I am most active on Facebook, but that’s a low key active. I post pictures that make me happy and the occasional status update. I’ve shared some honest challenges I’ve faced, offered encouragement, and, of course, given updates about my books. However, I read through my Facebook feed all the time. I bookmark articles, laugh at videos, and smile at my friends’ successes and celebrations. While I do have a couple of other social media accounts, Facebook has been the most engaging for me.
Terri: I’ve totally become more of a Facebook stalker lately. Berry travels a bit in the book. Tell me about your ideal vacation.
I love to travel, and if I can’t physically go somewhere, I will research details and let my imagination transport me there. I tend to include different cities and states – even countries – in my stories, and Berry’s story is no different. While my year does not feel complete if I do not have at least one trip to somebody’s beach, I’ve found that I most love trips that take me to cultures and experiences that are different from my own. My ideal vacation has a lot of food to sample, a cultural and/or historical feature to visit, a Groupon deal to take advantage of, and some downtime to absorb it all. And a little water to dip in never hurts! I love planning trips with my family and friends and am incredibly grateful for every single opportunity I’ve had to make a trip out of my beloved Baltimore. From kayaking on a bioluminescent bay in Puerto Rico, to meandering through the French Quarter in New Orleans, to enjoying a food tour in South Beach, to exploring the Port Lucaya Marketplace in the Bahamas, to admiring the artwork of Venice Beach vendors in California, I’ve learned that my ideal vacation is one that connects to all my senses and leaves me feeling inspired.
Terri: Yes, water never hurts a vacation unless it’s torrential rain. What’s next for you?
Okay, big confession. After writing and having published seven novels over the past ten years, I’ve spent the last year working on…. nothing. I think I’ve needed this break to re-focus and re-energize my writing goals and dreams. I will gladly be transparent and say that this writing journey has not been the easiest. I’ve come close to quitting completely many times. I would like to be able to tell you that I am working on a new novel, or that I’ve finally started the children’s book I want to do along with my artist husband, or that I’ve finally uploaded some of my short stories onto Amazon. Truth is, I’m fervently seeking clearer direction on what to work on next. My continual prayer is that God gets the most glory from whatever gifts and talents He’s given me. I am excited about pursuing Him and am confident that I’ll have writing clarity soon. Until then, I’ll keep picking up my pen, pecking on my keyboard, practicing my writing skills, playing around with plot ideas, polishing up my dialogues…. Prayerfully waiting for the next work to take firm shape. Check back with me soon and I’ll share whatever comes out of this season. Thanks!
Terri: I understand. Everyone needs reenergizing in our lives. Well, whatever is next, I certain that God will lead you. Thank you so much for being here today.