Author Interview: Melissa Wardwell

Happy Monday, diverse reader friends!

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


About the Book

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

Links: Amazon, Goodreads


Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toni: That’s awesome! Reading or Writing?

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

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

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

Toni: Flats all the way! Pineapples or Oranges?

Melissa: Both – together!

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

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

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


About the Author

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

Follow: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon


Interview conducted by Toni Shiloh

Book Review: Looking Glass Lies by Varina Denman

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.

Links: Amazon, B&N, Goodreads


Review

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.

Follow: Website, Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest 

Book Spotlight: Hello Stars (Faithgirlz / Lena in the Spotlight) by Alena Pitts

Happy Wednesday, Reader Friends!

Thanks for stopping by Diversity Between the Pages.

Today, we’re bringing you a book spotlight featuring a movie star! Alena Pitts is a multi-talented young girl who is an actress, model, magazine contributor, and author. She wrote a fictional book called Hello Stars focusing on a character named Lena, and today we’re sharing the story with you.

Enjoy!

~*~

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

~*~

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

Author Interview: Vanessa Riley

Today, we’re featuring Vanessa Riley.

She’s the author of Regency-era novels with gorgeous book covers, captivating characters, and intriguing storylines!

Vanessa visits with us today to talk about her story, Unmasked Heart.

About the book: 
Shy, nearsighted caregiver, Gaia Telfair always wondered why her father treated her a little differently than her siblings. She never guessed she couldn’t claim his love because of a family secret, her illicit birth. With everything she knows to be true evaporating before her spectacles, can the mulatto passing for white survive being exposed and shunned by the powerful duke who has taken an interest in her?

Ex-warrior, William St. Landon, the Duke of Cheshire, will do anything to protect his mute daughter from his late wife’s scandals. With a blackmailer at large, hiding in a small village near the cliffs of Devonshire seems the best option, particularly since he can gain help from the talented Miss Telfair, who has the ability to help children learn to speak. If only he could do a better job at shielding his heart from the young lady whose honest hazel eyes see through his jests as her tender lips challenge his desire to remain a single man.

Unmasked Heart is the first Challenge of the Soul Regency Romance novel.

Purchase the book: Amazon, BAM!B&N

Author bio: 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Interview: 

Alexis: Unmasked Heart is the first book in your Challenge of the Soul Regency series. Tell us about it. How did you create the concept for this story?

Vanessa: Unmasked Heart is a story in which I kept pushing the envelope. I didn’t want to tell a normal tale. Every novel in the series will focus on a challenge of faith from someone who has been rocked to his/her core by life circumstances. The hero or heroine or both must answer, “Who am I in Christ?” Am I conqueror, a temple, no longer a slave, an heir?

When we meet Gaia, we see she is a nice young woman from a modest family. She’s the kind sister and the caregiver in her family. She is doing good things and takes primary care of her stepbrother. Gaia is a believer and her faith is evident from the beginning. When she is alone, she prays to God, mentioning all her frustrations. At first, these problems seem to be nothing more than what a young woman of the 1800s would face.

Yet, what would make Gaia challenge everything that she knows including her bedrock of faith? It wasn’t enough to have her requited in love. It wasn’t enough to have her doubt her father’s love. What if she doubted who she was? That is where her story begins. Who am I in Christ? Am I who He says I am or the lies I’ve grown up believing?

Alexis: What are Gaia’s greatest hopes and deepest fears? Why?

Vanessa: Like all of us, Gaia wants to be loved. She has spent her life in want of it. She wants deep and abiding, love-all-of-me love. Fear of never possessing it or not being brave enough to say she deserves it, this is Gaia’s problem. If she can overcome the fear of asking and failing, she will never have everything God wants her to have. How can she be all that God wants her to be if she does not have the strength to try?

Alexis: Gaia grew up believing that her natural tan is a result of her mother’s Spanish ancestry. But then she learns the truth. How does her father’s confession rock her world?

Vanessa: The day Gaia learns that her mother had an affair and that Gaia is the product of a liaison with an African man, her world is turned upside down. She is ashamed of her mother’s sins. She knows little of the African race. In her isolated village away from London, she may have not seen that many. She has heard the jokes about that race being slow-witted or happy slaves. She must come to terms with who she is as a biracial woman. She has to accept that the past does not matter. It is who she in in Christ, how she makes her life a willing sacrifice to Him—that is what matters. My hope is all who read Unmasked Heart, will sense her heartache of learning the truth and the weight of her dilemma. Some will never value her humanity because of the sins of the past, but she must come to understand that Gaia is not defined by it. Her present counts more. She is wonderfully made molded in the image of the Creator.

Alexis: A mulatto “passing” for White was an act that is not limited to the Regency era but still happens in modern times. What is your definition of a mulatto?

Vanessa: A mulatto is a person of mix ancestry with typically one white parent and one black parent. Gaia is a mulatto. A Blackamoor is a person of darker colored skin. Had she been darker skinned, unable to pass for White, she could have also been labeled as a Blackamoor.

Alexis: William St. Landon, the Duke of Cheshire, is the hero of your story. Describe his looks, mannerisms, and heart.

Vanessa: William is a handsome, older hero. He’s in his mid-thirties, which was older for the shorter Regency life spans. William is a military man. Rigor and discipline are his norms. It’s what he is used to, but now he finds himself widowed and raising a daughter who is mute. Can you imagine if you are accustomed to shouting commands to your men who do as they are told but you can’t command this little girl? She won’t say “Yes, Sir” and do his bidding. He is frustrated and desperate. So, when he meets Gaia and finds out that she is a caregiver who has taught her mentally disabled brother to speak, he has hope. He must meet Gaia and find a way to convince her to help.

Alexis: What is it about Gaia that draws William to her, making him reconsider his desire to remain single?

Vanessa: William is a widower, but his marriage was difficult. His wife married him for his title and his wealth. He meets Gaia who doesn’t care about either. In a truly Darcy-kind-of-way, he’s taken by her because she’s not running after him or fawning all over him. In fact, she believes herself in love with someone else. He feels he can be himself around her without worrying about her trying to attach herself to him. The problem with spending more time with Gaia is that he sees her heart, begins to covet it then wants it for himself.

Gaia is love with her neighbor, Elliot. Unfortunately, he has begun to court her sister, Julia. Gaia is heartbroken to see her sister’s treachery for who else would know of her love for Elliot better than the sister she with which she was close? Gaia’s happily-ever-after won’t come until she is able to repair relationships with her family and learning to live without bitterness if her efforts fail. Not everyone will be able to accept who you are, but you must love yourself enough to not crumble. Gaia should accept the challenge to love herself more than sorrow, more than loss. If God loves us so much that He sacrificed his only Son for our sakes, why can’t we love ourselves beyond our own failures or the poor labels given to us by those who are not working for our good?

If Gaia and William, can both learn to love to love in the light, beyond the shadows of the past, they will earn their happily-ever-after.

Alexis: What were the challenges of writing this book?

Vanessa: There wasn’t a challenge per se. The problem lies more in the attitudes one confronts during and after publication, centering on the lie that this story could never happen. Dido Belle, the mulatto niece raised by Lord Mansfield is not known by many but there is a lovely movie called Belle if one needs cliff notes to this history. One may not care to know that Jane Austen wrote about a mulatto heiress in Sandition (1817). One probably doesn’t know of the scandal of Prince William, the brother of the Regent who was caught in an affair with a mulatto woman from Jamaica (1778).

I was on a panel and a very, very popular bestselling author, tried to make a joke about it being “impossible to put African Americans in her Regency novels because it was England.” She thought it was cute to indicate, “that you people have no seat at the table.”

She forgot about the American-born slave women brought to London post the Revolutionary War, technically African-Americans. She forgot about the free Blackamoor and mulatto women present in London at the time Pride and Prejudice was written. Bless her heart. She did have her hands full marginalizing other populations in her books as her answer to the growing call to add diversity to her stories.

Alexis: What would you like to see change in CBA when it comes to authors of color who write about characters of color and how that impacts their journey to publication?

Vanessa: I would love for there to be more opportunity, but opportunity is only part of the battle. The systemic marketing issues are huge. Stories centered on characters of color are often packaged as exotic like it’s the same as an alien futuristic novel. Other marketing tactics are to put a house on the cover as if the reader should be tricked into buying the book. Or lastly, the guilt-ridden complex which equates to buy this book of color because it’s Black History Month, etc. as if the story would not make a good read in March. The CBA is not alone in this struggle, but it seems that with the data available about buying patterns and habits, newer fresher ways to market diverse books should also exist.

Alexis: You’ve said that ABA wants your historical romance stories that feature characters of color but CBA does not. What did they say was the reason? How do you feel about that? Explain.

Vanessa: I can’t speak for the ABA (American Booksellers Association) or CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) but ABA seems to be more successful in getting different types of books to the market. They take more risks, which paid off with more unexpected hits.

With the ABA or CBA, you still face challenges in marketing diverse stories. If the sales numbers are not there, you’ve now doomed the slots for your future books and or books like yours. Yes, this is the extra weight of every diverse narrative that is traditionally published. Can you stand the rain?

I have an umbrella, and I decided to go with a publisher who has had success in publishing different books to a wider market and has the distribution to land New York Times bestsellers. For my 2018 releases, I am being published by Entangled in their single title historical select imprint. I am very happy for the opportunity to tell my story to a broader audience.

Alexis: What advice do you have for authors of color who want to share their stories but are afraid to write what they know?

Vanessa: Tell the story you are given. Don’t chase the market for it always moving. Write what is on your heart. When I gave up trying to fit my square peg Regency tales into a round market that didn’t necessarily think a market for diverse Regencies existed, I found my lane, my audience. I am ever grateful for my traditionally published CBA debut and every one of my independently published titles that have found homes around the world on readers’ shelves or Kindles.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Vanessa!

~*~

Connect with Vanessa:

Website – www.vanessariley.com

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/VanessaRileyAuthor

www.facebook.com/ChristianRegency

Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/VanessaRiley

Pinterest – http://pinterest.com/regencymaid

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

Purchase Vanessa’s book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00WDR6C7S

Sign up for Vanessa’s newsletter: http://christianregency.com/subscribe.html

Open Discussion – The Importance of Advocacy

Happy Saturday, friends!!

I’m so glad you’ve decided to take time out of your busy schedule to stop by Diversity. We really appreciate your support in making this blog great!

I’m excited to delve into this week’s topic: “Open Discussion – The Importance of Advocacy.”

One of the goals of our blog is to share with avid readers the availability of ethnically diverse Christian fiction. There are authors who write the fiction. Readers who want the fiction. Yet, how can we make a greater impact?

Is it as simple as reading diverse books?

Having authors who write them?

To make a global change, we have to band together. In the comments, share some ways we can advocate for diverse books and what you plan to do. 🙂


Written by Toni Shiloh

Book Review: Hope Beyond Savannah by Melissa Wardwell

Hello, Reader Friends!

Thanks for stopping by Diversity Between the Pages. I have a new review for you today. I’ll be sharing my thoughts on Melissa Wardwell’s Hope Beyond Savannah, the novelette in A Spring of Weddings collection.

Let’s get started!

*Tune in June 12th for an interview with Melissa Wardwell.


About the Book

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

Links: Amazon, Goodreads


Review

I very much enjoyed this story. My favorite part was seeing Nik’s culture throughout the book. I honestly can’t recall a single book that featured a Samoan or explored the Maori culture in New Zealand. This alone put me in happy land of diverse fiction.

Besides that, the story line is fantastic. Every bride fears that they’ll not get along with their mother-in-law. And Ms. Wardwell hit on that in a big way. Lily is not all what Nik’s mother imagined for her son. But because Lily and Nik love God, they handled the situation with grace. Truly, the tone of this book is one of grace, love, and kindness.


About the Author

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

Follow: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon


Review by Toni Shiloh

Book Spotlight: Romance Grows in Arcadia Valley

Today’s book spotlight is a novella collection that kicks off a multi-author project rich with cultural diversity. Characters of Asian descent (former high school bullying victim), a family of Mexican descent * (they own and operate an authentic Mexican restaurant), and a large Greek family (they own and operate a deli featuring an artisan butcher) are all among the citizens of Arcadia Valley. Plus authors feature a wide variety of backgrounds including hometown natives & new residents, financial diversity, single parents, deaf characters, etc.

About the Book

Join us in the fictional town of Arcadia Valley, Idaho, where a foodie culture and romance grow hand-in-hand.

Six popular and bestselling authors of contemporary Christian romance have teamed up to create an entire world exploring food, friends, and family.

Romance Grows in Arcadia ValleyThis is not your usual collection of novellas! Each one is set in Arcadia Valley. Each kicks off a three-book series, intertwined with the works of the other authors. This permanent collection is only the beginning of your adventure with us.

Romance Grows in Arcadia Valley includes:
Spring’s Blessing (Seasons of Faith) by Mary Jane Hathaway
Life gets complicated for Charlotte MacGregor when a motherless child and a handsome widower encroach on her carefully laid plans. Will she keep her heart above the fray, or take a leap of faith?

Loaves and Wishes (A Baxter Family Bakery Romance) by Elizabeth Maddrey
Inheriting her friend’s Bed and Breakfast in Idaho is a second chance to succeed, but falling for the farmer next door wasn’t in the plan.

*Sheltered Hearts (Romance from the Heart) by Lee Tobin McClain
A curvy jilted bride gets stranded in a snowstorm with a handsome restaurant cook who’s not what he seems to be.

Sow in Love (A Garden Grown Romance) by Valerie Comer
A real estate consultant’s ideas for fulfilling a living trust are shot down by the elderly greenhouse owner’s grandson, but some of the arrows piercing her heart come directly from Cupid’s bow.

The Scent of Romance (Legacy of the Heart) by Danica Favorite
A high-powered lawyer must convince a woman determined to protect her family’s legacy to sell the family farm to his father’s development company, but finds his heart leading him away from everything he’s spent his life trying to accomplish.

A Romance Rekindled (A Homegrown Love Story) by Annalisa Daughety
When former engaged couple, Kate and Drew, find themselves thrown together after more than a decade apart, neither of them are thrilled about it. Can they let go of the past and consider a future together?

Get your copy of Romance Grows in Arcadia Valley today and join us at ArcadiaValleyRomance.com to keep up with all the latest.

Goodreads | Amazon

 

Arcadia Valley Romance series (so far)

 Summer's Glory by Mary Jane Hathaway 
goodreads | amazon

 

Although we focus on fiction featuring minorities here, what are some additional areas you’d like to see Christian fiction expand? 

 

Spotlight by Beth Erin