Interview with Neta Jackson about her book “Penny Wise”

Good Monday Morning, reader friends!

Today, we’re sharing our interview with Neta Jackson about her book, Penny Wise.

Enjoy!


Interview with Neta Jackson about her book, Penny Wise:

Alexis: Penny Wise is book number three in the Windy City Neighbors series. Tell us about this series.

Neta: We were inspired to write this series by our own wonderful multi-cultural neighborhood. It took a little time, but we know all our neighbors on this block, have yard parties together, keep each other’s house keys, pray for each other, pick up the mail or look after pets when someone is out of town. We even had a neighborhood Bible study for whoever wanted to come—believers or not.

The Windy City Neighbors series picks up characters from our previous House of Hope series—Harry Bentley and his wife Estelle—and moves them into a new neighborhood in Chicago. The five books in the series each focus on a different household in the neighborhood and cover one year of time—showing how one family loving their neighbors can help change a block of individual houses into a real neighborhood.

In a different twist from our previous adult novels which we wrote individually, either as Neta Jackson or Dave Jackson, Dave and I decided to write the Windy City Neighbors series together—although that basically meant brainstorming the stories together as “parallel novels,” then each of us chose which household/family we wanted to write about. So I wrote Grounded (Book #1), Dave wrote Derailed (Book #2)—which are a pair. Then I wrote Penny Wise (Book #3) and Dave wrote Pound Foolish (Book #4)—another pair. Then I wrapped up the series with Snowmageddon (Book #5).

Alexis: Why did you write Penny Wise? What is the significance of that title?

Neta: So many of us are busy, busy, busy—jobs, church, kids, school, personal friends, extended family—all good things. But sometimes the “tyranny of the urgent” blinds us to what is really important. We decided to include one story in this series dedicated to a reality most of us face—busyness—and the unintended consequences of not giving our time and attention to the needs of those right around us.

As for Penny Wise, it’s half of an old saying about being “penny wise but pound foolish” (which also created the title for the next novel, Pound Foolish, in this parallel pair). In the case of this story, the “penny” stands for the small things that may seem insignificant but are really important. Michelle Jasper, the POV character, actually claims a promise that God cares about the crises they are facing when she finds a new penny each day.

Alexis: Tell us about the Jasper Family. What role do they play in this book?

Neta: Michelle and Jared Jasper, the middle-class African American family in Penny Wise, are no different from other busy families—until a series of crises affecting their own kids and tough personal choices that test their values make them realize: something’s got to change.

Michelle is a social worker who gets personally involved with her clients. She also volunteers as a counselor for women who’ve had abortions, while hiding her own personal crisis.

Jared is an air traffic controller at O’Hare, the world’s busiest airport—a job with a lot of stress. Their son Destin needs money to pay for basketball summer camp, and the twins, Tavis and Tabitha, are trying to grow up too fast. Around them, their neighbors also have their challenges—like Greg Singer, who has lost his job and is trying to make a go of selling an energy drink. He enlists young Destin as a salesman, with disastrous results, creating anger and tension in the neighborhood . . . and therein lies the tale!

Alexis: Use creative words to paint a picture of the neighborhood where the Jasper Family lives. What makes it special?

Neta: We chose an actual working-class neighborhood in West Rogers Park, one of Chicago’s northernmost neighborhoods, as our prototype. It’s full of typical “Chicago bungalows”—usually one-story brick homes, often with a useable basement—and a few two-flats. Nothing special—except for the large “McMansion” a wealthy playboy built at the dead-end of this particular street. Rogers Park is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the nation, and our fictional block is no different.

We populated our “Windy City Neighbors” with white families, African Americans, Hispanic, gay and straight, elderly and young families, single and married, homeschoolers and public school teachers, Orthodox Jews, Christians, and “other.” Therein lies the challenge: how to bring people together to be a real neighborhood?

Alexis: Does the Jasper family believe in God? If so, in what ways does their faith impact their lives when a series of crises strikes their family?

Neta: The Jaspers are a church-going family of faith, very active in their black Baptist church. Maybe too active. The Pastor seems to always be calling on Jared when he needs extra help because, well, he knows Jared will usually say yes. He can be counted on.

Michelle is head of the women’s ministry on top of her other social work and volunteer responsibilities. Their faith is shaken when a series of crises hit their family. (Why, Lord, when we’ve been so faithful to always be at church serving You?) Part of what God teaches them during this time is that it’s okay to say “no” to “church busyness.” More than okay; sometimes critical to the spiritual and physical health of their family.

Alexis: You used the “parallel novels” storytelling technique to tell this story. Why?

Neta: Writing parallel novels is a unique storytelling technique in which two novels, each with their own set of characters, drama, and story arc, nonetheless overlap in time and space as the characters’ lives become intertwined with their neighbors and affect one another. The stories are told from different points of view, so even the overlapping scenes reveal more about the characters and what’s going on.

We developed this idea when Dave “stole” one of the characters from my House of Hope series (Harry Bentley) saying this affable doorman had his own intriguing story—so he wrote Harry Bentley’s Second Chance, overlapping Harry’s story with what I had already written in Where Do I Go? and Who Do I Talk To? After that, I wove details from Harry’s life into the rest of my House of Hope series . . . and so forth.

But with the Windy City Neighbors series, we decided to try writing “parallel novels” from the get-go—that is, we would plan to overlap our stories from the beginning. I have to admit, it was more challenging than we thought!

Alexis: What do you want your readers to remember most about Penny Wise?

Neta: Hopefully many readers can identify with the Jasper family—a solid, loving family who nonetheless get swamped by the busyness of life. Many of us need to re-evaluate what’s important in our relationships and be willing to make sacrifices in order to survive.

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

Neta: Although each novel in the Windy City Neighbors series stands alone and is a complete story in itself, the series is richer when all the characters come alive in the other novels as the different households interact and affect each other. And the final novel, Snowmageddon, pulls all the loose ends together in a wonderful climax that will have you laughing and crying and cheering as these neighbors, once so isolated, become a real neighborhood.

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor


About the Book:

Penny Wise (Book 3 in the Windy City Neighbors series) introduces us to yet another family in “the neighborhood”-the Jaspers, busy with demanding jobs, busy with church, busy volunteering, parents of three active teenagers, juggling sometimes crazy schedules.

All good things. Until all those “good things” feed into a series of crises that affects the whole family. Something’s gotta change!

Penny Wise is a contemporary peek at an urban family wrestling with the spiritual and practical challenges of real life.

The series employs the innovating storytelling technique of “parallel novels,” each with its own drama and story arc, but whose characters’ lives become intertwined with their neighbors and affect one another.

Welcome to Beecham Street-a typical, isolated American neighborhood that is beginning to come out of its shell . . . for better or worse.


About the Author:

Neta Jackson and her husband Dave are an award-winning husband-and-wife writing team, the authors or coauthors of more than 130 books that have sold over 2.5 million copies.

They are best known for Neta’s Yada Yada Prayer Group series and its sequels, as well as their forty-volume Trailblazer series of historical fiction about great Christian heroes for young readers.

Neta and Dave raised two children as well as a foster daughter and are now enjoying all the “grands”!

The Jacksons are thankful for their multi-cultural church and neighborhood in the Chicago area, which provides the characters and setting for their novels.

Follow Neta and her husband Dave Jackson on social media: 

Website: http://www.daveneta.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DaveNetaJackson

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Interview with Cathe Swanson about her book “Hope for the Holidays”

Happy Monday, reader friends!

Last November, we did a spotlight on Cathe Swanson’s Christmas story Hope for the Holidays. Today, Cathe is back and this time, we’re asking questions about her same book.

Enjoy our interview with Cathe Swanson, author of Hope for the Holidays!


Interview with Cathe Swanson about her book,  Hope for the Holidays (Great Lakes Collection):

Alexis: What about the holiday season inspired you to write this book?

Cathe: Christmas brings out the best and worst in communities, so there are always stories to tell. The first Unity Plenkiss book, Snow Angels, was too short to include all of the characters’ Christmas stories. I especially wanted to talk about Tally, a homeless vet with PTSD, because she is so real to me – vulnerable but trying to get and maintain control of her life.

 Alexis: What is does your book title, “Hope for the Holidays,” mean?

Cathe: Christmas can be an emotional season, with pressures and sad memories as well as great joy, fun, and peace. In Chicago, the short winter days are cold. Maly Park is an aging Chicago neighborhood with a diverse population. There are elderly people who’ve lived in the same house through blessings and losses, peace and wars, left behind when their children grew up and left home. There are veterans, women in crisis, children in unstable homes, and other people facing challenges. It’s not just a matter of money – like us, they need love. They need community. The Unity Plenkiss and the church – The Blessed Church of the Sacred Lion and Holy Lamb – provide warmth and encouragement for everyone. Hope!

Alexis: I love the cover art for your book! It is beautiful and captivating! Was it challenging to find a cover photo that featured your hero who is Black and your heroine who is White together sipping what looks like a latte or hot chocolate? Share your cover design story with details like who created it and if it was expensive.

Cathe: Yes, it was hard! There aren’t enough stock photo options for people of color, and finding the right search terms was complicated. I spent an entire day looking at all the major stock photography websites for the right people. In the end, my cover designer, Chautona Havig, had to patch together the image, bringing the couple closer together across the table and fading out the crowded background. This would be a great business opportunity for a professional photographer!

Alexis: As a White author, did you find it difficult to write a hero of color? Why or why not?

Cathe: I didn’t find it difficult to write about Micah, because he just seemed to be “Micah” – a man conflicted over his spiritual gifts vs. his current responsibilities. He came from a suburban Christian home.

I am aware of the limitations of my experience and understanding, and I do worry about “doing it wrong” when I write about characters of markedly different cultures, so I follow the age-old advice and “write what I know.” The adult people of color I know lead lives similar to my own, so that’s how I envision Micah. I live on campus at a treatment center for boys who’ve been in trouble with the law, so my teenage characters might – in a very general way – reflect some of the attitudes and history of the boys here. I realize that Micah’s racial heritage is part of who he is, and he must have experienced racial conflict in his life, but my Christmas novella has a limited scope and setting, and I didn’t explore all of that.

Alexis: Did you do any research when writing this interracial romance between Carrie and Micah? Share details and advice on how you made it work.

Cathe: There are a few interracial relationships in my family and more among our friends and in our church, so I just portrayed it as naturally as I could. In real life, it’s challenging for some people, but it wasn’t really a problem for Carrie and Micah because of her upbringing as a missionary kid in a Black family.

Alexis: What advice do you have to other White authors who may want to write about characters of color in their fiction stories for CBA but are hesitant or scared to do so?

Cathe: If you are going to write a story with significant cultural conflict or issues, get advice from people who have a real understanding of those things. I have found that when I say, “I’m an author writing a book about…”, people are usually happy to share information and help me understand things.I use the Tumblr blog “Writing with Color” for research and advice. It’s a great, helpful website, but it’s also very intense. When I read about all of the mistakes that I can make, I get paralyzed – too scared to write anything at all!

Whatever their skin color, just write about people – real human beings with realistic backstories. If you are worried about something, pray about it. My first goal is to glorify God in my writing, so I write from my own experience, ask for help when I have questions, and just do the best I can.

Alexis: Would you like to see more stories that feature interracial romances, published by CBA? Why or why not?

Cathe: Certainly. I like to read stories with characters who reasonably represent the demographics of their environment, and interracial romances aren’t at all uncommon anymore.

Alexis: Let’s talk more about the romance elements in your story. What is it about Carrie that makes Micah want to pursue a romantic relationship with her?

Cathe: Carrie is energetic and overflowing with good ideas. She can be bossy, but her good intentions shine through. Her childhood, growing up as a missionary kid in the Congo, made her both savvy and naïve. She listens to people. Micah was able to tell her how he felt without being afraid she would judge him.

Alexis: What is it about Micah that tugs on Carrie’s heartstrings and inspires her to give him a chance?

Cathe: Micah – besides being charming and handsome – wants to take care of his people. His congregation may exasperate him, but he feels a great sense of responsibility for them. He won’t leave them to pursue his own dreams until he has provided for their future leadership.

Alexis: Your story’s opening scene is hilarious and your couple’s meet cute is sweet! What were Carrie and Micah’s first impressions of each other?

Cathe: Carrie is startled by the theft of her long-awaited treat and Micah’s intervention. She’s embarrassed by her reaction, and he’s embarrassed by the behavior of his parishioner, but they find each other fascinating.

Alexis: Why is Carrie eager to organize and improve the Unity Plenkiss Community Center?

Cathe: She’s a capable girl and doesn’t like to see resources wasted. She sees great possibilities for the Unity Plenkiss and knows she can make a real difference, but she’s also eager to prove that she’s an intelligent adult – not Roy’s little sister, who only got the job because he recommended her.

Alexis: What kind of pastor is Micah? Describe his leadership style.

Cathe: Micah is very, very conscientious and feels responsibility for everyone in his church. At the same time, he feels like they manage just find on their own.

Alexis: Has Micah always had a big heart for people and has Carrie always had a passion for organization? Explain.

Cathe: Micah’s faith is solid and transparent, and he’s a lively preacher, but his heart is in teaching, not pastoring. He wants to help people but believes he lacks the skills to connect and help them one-on-one.

Carrie has always been sensible and worked hard, as a missionary kid in a poverty-stricken region. Learning to work efficiently made it easier. She gets frustrated now with disorganization.

Alexis: Did you self-publish this book or was it traditionally published? Explain why you chose that publication path for this book and give advice for aspiring authors.

Cathe: I think an author’s personality is the biggest factor when choosing which publication route to take. All my books are independently published. I like the control this gives me over my work and marketing, but it’s a lot of work.

If you like group projects and working with a team, conventional publishing might be a better choice.

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

Cathe: I want them to remember the humanity of the individual characters, and how each one of them needed dignity.

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

Cathe: Thank you for letting me talk about my book. Hope for the Holidays is one of my favorites.

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor


About the Book:

Newly arrived from her home in the Congo and armed with a brand-new degree in nonprofit management, Carrie Strough is eager to organize and improve the Unity Plenkiss Community Center. Unfortunately, no one wants to be organized, and only Micah Neresen, the charming and handsome pastor of the local church, is interested in her plans. Or is he just interested in her?

With a cast of lively and eccentric characters including a homeless vet with PTSD, a con man, an elderly couple with an over-the-top Christmas display, a feisty committeewoman with a past of her own, and a police investigation, Micah and Carrie wonder if there is any hope for the holidays this year!

Book Purchase Link: Amazon


About the Author:

Cathe Swanson lives in Wisconsin with her husband of 32 years. They enjoy spending time with their family and being outdoors, kayaking, hiking, birdwatching and fishing, but summer is short in Wisconsin, so it’s important to have indoor hobbies, too. Cathe has been a quilter and teacher of quiltmaking for over 25 years, and she enjoys just about any kind of creative work, especially those involving fiber or paper.

Her family is growing steadily; she and her husband had three sons, and those boys all grew up and married delightful women and started producing grandchildren: four boys and three girls so far!

The long Wisconsin winters are perfect for writing and reading books! Cathe enjoys writing stories with eccentric characters of all ages. Her books will make you laugh and make you cry – and then make you laugh again.

Follow: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Goodreads, BookBub, Amazon, Newsletter


Author Interview: R. Rushing

author-interview

Happy Monday reader friends! Today I am pleased to welcome R. Rushing to talk about her wonderful book, Seal of the Sand Dweller!


Q&A

Tell me why you write.

 Rushing: I write because I’ve been so moved by the great stories I’ve read. Storytelling can be such therapy and nourishment for the soul of the reader. Nothing is more powerful than a writer who tells a great story and leaves an imprint of hope in the reader’s heart.

What is your debut novel about?

 Rushing: Seal of the Sand Dweller is my debut novel about Joseph [known as Yoseph in story] of the Bible becoming vizier of Egypt. I investigate a set of plausible challenges he might have faced going from the position of a foreign Asiatic slave to vizier of one of the greatest and most sophisticated civilizations recorded in history.

What do you want readers to get from reading Seal of the Sand Dweller?

 Rushing: I want readers to step back from what they know about the story of Joseph and step forward again into his world and surroundings. I’d like people to respect and appreciate more his extraordinary set of circumstances and understand the challenges of his situation. Ancient Egyptians were not fond of foreigners. The elite class was a small but privileged group of nobles favored by the king. How would they feel about a foreign slave who suddenly became their vizier at the king’s decree?

What is your favorite part of your book?

 Rushing:  One of my favorite parts of the story is when Joseph attends a garden party after he is named vizier. The awkwardness of the situation still stirs my gut. A lowly Asiatic slave is suddenly dressed in high court fashion and invited to the king’s party. I wouldn’t want to endure the snickers and smirks of the jaded courtiers in attendance. Does anyone really take him seriously? He’s a curious novelty chosen on a king’s whim and very few take him seriously. Very few tolerate him in the long run or even believe he will last.

Yoseph and many (all?) of the other characters are depicted as people of color. This is accurate for the story and the time, yet most versions portray Joseph as white. When did this change in our culture?

Rushing:  Hollywood has a way of doing what is convenient for Hollywood. It is, however, sad and somewhat dangerous when storytelling can leave us feeling sated enough to sway us with more emotion than fact. I have yet to see Joseph portrayed as a man of color, who in reality was a lot closer to the equator than to the North Pole. We have only recently seen a truer take on the look of the Ancient Asiatic in films like The Nativity Story where at least Mary seems to be a woman of color and Risen where I celebrated the representation of Jesus as finally being portrayed as a man of color instead of a gorgeous Caucasian male with beautiful blue eyes.

Have you always loved Ancient Egpyt?

Rushing: Like most of the world, I am fascinated with the sophisticated and elegant yet brutal social structure and practices of Ancient Egypt. I have indeed always loved Egypt. Who could resist the intriguing pyramids, the mystery of the mummy, the exotic look of the wealthy with their intricately layered wigs and jewelry?

Tell us a cool fact about Ancient Egpyt that none of us know.

Rushing: It is a popular belief that horses were introduced by the Hyksos rulers during the second intermediate period, around 1700 B.C.E. However, horses were already indigenous to Africa and remains were found in Ancient Egypt as early 3100 B.C.E. So it is likely that the Hyksos rulers probably brought down a certain type of horse or introduced the horse and a popular style of chariot at the time which seemed to give them a bit more credit for introducing the horse to Ancient Egypt then they deserved.

I want book 2! When is it coming out? Please don’t make me wait 5 years!!!!

Rushing: Book 2, Harvest Of The Sand Dweller, is being stretched over the coals and should be out by this spring!

If you could hang out with any of the characters from your book, who would it be?

Rushing:  If I could hang out with one character from my book would probably be the king’s cupbearer Lord Hetnu. But I wouldn’t stand too close or beg his attention. Hentu is very exacting but emotional, very knowledgeable but prickly. He’s a character we hate to love, but life is easier with his approval.

What actors would you cast for a movie/TV version of your book?

Rushing: Well, throw Idris Elba in there somewhere, that’s for sure! However, I’d be happy to see a cast of black actors representing Ancient Egyptians for a change. It’s long overdue.

What do you do when you are not writing?

Rushing:  I think about writing…not kidding.

Anything else cool you are doing, writing-wise?

Rushing:  Yes! I’m delighted to be involved in Christian Authors Traveling Bookfair (C.A.T. Bookfair), a traveling Christian bookfair group that will be visiting local churches in my area to talk about writing. We donate a percentage of the profits and a free book each to the local congregation. We’ll have our first bookfair on December 2nd from 2-5 pm at Shenandoah Heights Baptist Church in Waynesboro Virginia. Meet us there if you can!

Wonderful! I know I’ll be there! Can’t wait to read book two! You really are an amazing author! Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview!

Read more about R. Rushing and her book, Seal of the Sand Dweller, below.


About the Book

R_Rushing_EbookA

Famine threatens the kingdom while neither priest nor sage can decipher the king’s Horus dream. The slave drawn from the garrison is a sand dweller, a vile Asiatic from beyond the northern borders of Egypt. His interpretation seems, at first, a desperate snatch at freedom, but when his words prove true, he is raised to inconceivable heights.

The courtiers of the king’s house are fascinated with the god-kissed Asiatic. But when Yoseph’s astute sense of order reveals extortion, the king must check the integrity of his administrators or remain a pawn of his own government.

Yoseph has paid the price for integrity. The first of heavy fines were exacted by jealous brothers, the next by his master’s lascivious wife. As vizier, he confronts corruption with the authority of a king’s seal.

And this time, integrity might cost him everything.

Enter the columned halls of the king’s house for the retelling of the biblical story of Joseph as you’ve never heard it before.

Links: Amazon, Goodreads


About the Author

r rushing author pic

If you’ve ever heard someone sniffing back tears in the movie theater during a Lord of the Rings battle scene, it might have been R. Rushing. She’s always had a penchant for majestic battles, soulish struggles, kingdom intrigues, and complicated romance.

R. Rushing reads the Bible with open-mouthed fascination. There’s enough political and kingdom intrigue, battles and conflict for a lifetime of lessons.

Rushing lives in Virginia with her husband, Ben, and loves to write fiction in the vein of compelling stories such as Ben-Hur, The Robe, and Voice in the Wind.

Seal of the Sand Dweller is her debut novel and the first installment in The Servant Ruler series.

Follow: Website, Facebook, Instagram

Author Interview: Elizabeth Byler Younts

author-interview

Happy Monday reader friends! Today I am pleased to welcome Elizabeth Byler Younts to talk about her wonderful book, The Solace of Water!


 

Q&A

What made you write a story with diverse characters?

Elizabeth: I didn’t set out with that as my mission or goal—I’d say it came to me. It was around 6 years ago that I saw in my mind’s-eye an Amish woman running through the woods to a non-Amish neighbor’s home. The neighbor was a distraught African American woman—I didn’t know much more than that for a long time. Then it just came little by little in layers: the alcoholic Amish husband, the child who died, the daughter with guilt over her lost brother, and the relationship between the Amish boy and the African American girl, and what water had to do with it all. It just came piece by piece.

Jessica: It always amazes me at how stories come to authors!

 

Can you tell us a little bit more about The Solace of Water?

Elizabeth: Besides the retail summary, ultimately this story is about unlikely friendship. It’s about 3 women who find each other in the midst of isolation and heartache and form a bond with one another that in the 1950s their social circles would not have considered a positive friendship. It touches on things that no one really wants to talk about—child loss, self-harm, alcoholism, and racism. But folded within all of that mess and sadness is hope.

Jessica: So many people today need to hear that there is hope. No matter what hand life has dealt you, there is hope.

 

Did you struggle writing these characters?

Elizabeth: I did! Their pain was so palpable and I cried often. I wanted to be authentic and honest about not just the diversity within their races, regions, and religions but within their pain and the reason for their isolation. There are so many things that cause us to feel different or be separate from our communities and I didn’t want to cheapen what they were in the midst of or their most obvious difference in their races. I wanted the reader to be able to enter into each character’s unique story. Each of them had such a beauty about them that I knew would be used for their spiritual and emotional healing. Their burdens were heavier because they loved so deeply and it can be hard to carry that as a writer and a reader.

It was challenging to make sure that every word and every plot choice was about the story and not about anything else. To overly simplify it—I tell stories. I tell stories about people who feel incredibly real to me and I intend to do it honestly and with the weight and beauty of the truth I believe in woven within the story.

Jessica: I like reading “real” stories. The characters are easier to relate to. 

 

What do you hope readers will gain from this story?

I don’t know if I can put my finger on that exactly since every reader is coming into the story uniquely… but what I can do is tell you what I’ve come away with and what I’ve gained. I’ve been deeply affected by the stories of Delilah and Emma and Sparrow. They have been traveling with me in my head for years and they became fixtures in my life. I have never written a book with the intention to teach someone or to prove some point, but often realize there’s something important for ME to learn. I learned that I’m not as good as I think I am and that I don’t seem to love well the person God is growing me to be—but instead I fight His chosen growth in me. I learned that bitterness will destroy everything it touches—always. I learned that withholding forgiveness is never worth it—never-ever. I learned that the person on the other side of that inflammatory FaceBook post that makes you want to “unfollow” them has a story behind that post—it’s usually worth hearing. I am learning to bite my tongue and listen and see what God wants from me once I’ve heard. I learned so much in writing this book and I’m still learning.

There’s a quote by L.M. Montgomery that says, “My pen shall heal, not hurt.” This was where my heart is in writing any book that I find at my fingertips. In walking with characters and entering into their burden or pain with them we can journey full circle in their shoes and maybe find some of our own healing. With healing comes learning, wisdom, and often repentance. That’s what I experienced in several areas in writing The Solace of Water.

Jessica: Thank you for sharing this. We all have things to learn in our lives, and how wonderful that God has blessed you with learning while you’re writing.

 

Which Diverse Reads are you most excited about putting on your TBR stack?

Elizabeth: You have an amazing list of Diverse Reads on your website and some of them are “new to me” authors. Since I love a good series, the two that especially stand out to me to add to my TBR stack are the Maple Run series by Toni Shiloh and Piper Huguley’s Milford College books. I love that you have put so much at a reader’s fingertips!

Jessica: Warning – do NOT read the Maple Run series hungry 😉 

 

What are you reading right now?

Elizabeth: I’m currently reading Peace Like a River by Lief Enger and Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. Enger’s is especially a beautiful and literary and both are pushing me to think outside of myself. I am drawn to literary fiction that is usually historical and to be led to consider a life that is different from mine. I am not an escapist reader so much as I like to be challenged, to think deeply, and to cry! I also like some non-fiction that can be a little random but must be thought provoking.

Jessica: I am intrigued! Thank you for visiting with us today!


 

About the Book

The Blurb: “After the loss of her young son, Carver, an African-American preacher’s wife named Delilah Evans moves with her family from Montgomery, Alabama, to Sinking Creek, Pennsylvania, for a fresh start. The last thing she could have imagined was becoming friends with Emma Mullet, a reclusive Amish woman.

Emma is fighting personal battles of her own and feels estranged from her small Amish community. The secrets that have kept her isolated from her own community serve to unite her in an unlikely friendship with Delilah.

Sparrow, Delilah’s eldest daughter, knows she is responsible for the death of her little brother. When tensions at home become unbearable, she seeks solace at Emma’s house, becoming the surrogate daughter Emma has always wanted. Sparrow, however, is hiding secrets of her own, secrets that could sever all ties to her safe refuge.

Life for these three gets harder when church and social issues confront them, causing rifts within Sinking Creek’s three distinct communities: whites, blacks, and Amish. When their carefully protected secrets come to light, there seems to be little hope for friendship, restoration, or even forgiveness. But when the unthinkable happens, Delilah and Emma find themselves looking into the mirror of their own self-deceptions and are forced to make a choice that will set the way of their future. ”

Links: AmazonB&NCBDGoodreads


 

About the Author

Elizabeth Byler Younts gained a worldwide audience through her first book Seasons: A Real Story of an Amish Girl and is a RITA nominated writer. She is also the author of The Promise of Sunrise series. She has consulted on Amish lifestyle and the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect two award-winning television shows. Elizabeth lives in Central Pennsylvania with her husband, two daughters, and a cockapoo named Fable.

Follow: WebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagram

Interview with Neta Jackson about her book “Stand by Me”

Good Monday Morning, reader friends!

Today, we’re featuring an interview with Neta Jackson about her book Stand by Me.

Enjoy!


Interview with Neta Jackson about her book, Stand by Me:

Alexis: What inspired you to write this book, Neta?

Neta: Actually, it was a comment from our adult son, Julian, who said I ought to write a novel about millennials who are all fired up to fix society’s ills and think they have the answers—but without the experience to know just how complicated real people’s lives are. Or something like that. At the same time, my readers were clamoring for “more” about the original Yada Yada Prayer Group characters. So I got this idea to bring a well-meaning idealistic white college student into SouledOut Community Church, who gets under the skin of our dearly beloved Avis—a wise, spiritually mature, African American leader and role model who nonetheless is struggling with some personal issues and has no patience for this know-it-all! Put them together and . . . fireworks!

Alexis: What is the significance of your story title, Stand by Me?

Neta: Without giving away the story, several of the characters in this novel struggle with personal conflicts and have to decide whether to push their rivals away . . . or find ways to stand together and support each other as brothers and sisters in Christ in the same church.

Alexis: Tell me about the SouledOut Sisters book series. What is the core message?

Neta: There are just two novels in the SouledOut Sisters series: The first is Stand by Me, which we are talking about here, followed by Come to the Table. The title of the series comes from the primary setting, SouledOut Community Church, a church merger of a black church and white church that happened toward the end of the Yada Yada Prayer Group series. Each of the novels has more than one “voice.” For example, in Stand by Me, there are two primary characters, Kat Davies and Avis Douglass, and the chapters go back and forth between their points of view. In Come to the Table, there are three primary voices sharing their points of view in different chapters.

As for the core message . . . life is messy and complicated, but we are a spiritual family in Christ, and if we hang in there and listen to one another and walk in each other’s shoes, God begins to do some amazing things in spite of our mess-ups!

Alexis: Why is it that you as the author of this story believe that, “Sometimes the person you most need is the one least like you?” Explain how that belief plays out in this fictional story world of Stand by Me.

Neta: Too often we in the church tend to categorize people either as “needy people who need to be ministered to” or “mature Christians who do the ministering.” But I believe that all of us have problems (even the long-time Christians), and all of us have spiritual gifts and life wisdom (even the newest Christian or person with seemingly big problems). If we humble ourselves and realize even the “neediest” person also has something to give, we may end up on the receiving end of just the encouragement or help we need from an “unlikely” source.

In this story, Avis and Kat are absolute opposites—and yet in the end, they each need each other in unique ways. The person who annoys Avis the most (Kat) ends up finding Avis’s missing daughter through her weird dumpster diving, and Avis fills a void in Kat’s life for the parents who have disowned her.

Alexis: Kathryn Davies is a leading character in Stand by Me. What makes her tick? What makes her heart smile? What role does she play in this story?

Neta: Kat comes from a wealthy, prominent Arizona family of physicians, and is under high expectations and pressure to follow in their footsteps. But the attractive young woman with the wavy dark hair and startling blue eyes doesn’t want to go to med school. She likes working with kids, and she’s interested in healthy food issues and how to solve world hunger. She shocks her family when she “finds Jesus” at a Christian Music Festival. But it’s the last straw when she drops out of her pre-med program at the University of Arizona and applies instead to a small Christian college in Chicago after meeting some young people from CCU at the music festival who feel like kindred spirits.

Kat is impulsive, energetic, and enthusiastic, has lots of ideas for improving hunger issues in the poorer areas of the city. After graduating with her master’s degree in education from CCU, she lands at SouledOut Community Church, along with several of her CCU buddies—and doesn’t understand why everyone at the church isn’t instantly on board with her ideas. Life gets complicated when she impulsively brings home a homeless mom and her little boy to the apartment she shares with her three “buddies” from CCU—especially when she discovers their identity. Her new “housemates” complicate her budding attraction to Nick, one of her best friends—but for the rest of that romantic tangle, you have to read Book Two in the SouledOut Sisters series (haha)!

Alexis: Why did Kathryn, whom you call “Kat” in this story, take a leap of faith at a Christian music fest and why did her faith leap cause conflict that resulted in making her family distant?

Neta: Kat was restless when she went to the music festival. She was on track to graduate from the University of Arizona in pre-med but realized she didn’t really want to go on to medical school—and she was drawn to all the young people who were excited about Jesus, a Jesus who cared about the poor, who gave His followers courage to be all-out committed to what they believed rather than simply climbing the corporate ladders of success. But as I mentioned earlier, Kat came from a family of prominent physicians in Arizona who had high expectations that she would follow in their footsteps. When she quit her pre-med program at UA and applied instead to a small Christian college in Chicago . . . well, she was a huge disappointment to her parents.

Alexis: Tell us about SouledOut Community Church. Where is it located in this story? What makes it special? Did you have a real-life inspiration for it?

Neta: SouledOut Community Church is roughly based on a multicultural, multiracial church in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. But the name actually comes from a bookstore in Canada where I did a book-signing—and I loved the name so much I asked if I could steal the name “SouledOut” for a church in my novels.

I placed my fictional church in a shopping center in one of Chicago’s northern neighborhoods. It first appeared in one of the last novels in my Yada Yada Prayer Group series—a merger of a black church and a white church (which is fictional). In the SouledOut series, I show some of the challenges and struggles such a merger creates, as well as the joys!

Alexis: What is it about the multicultural congregation that makes Kat feel like she belongs at this SouledOut Community Church? In what ways does Kat almost wear out her welcome?

Neta: Kat had visited this church as part of CCU’s Urban Experience program and wanted to share it with her friends. SouledOut excited her idealistic nature, black and white worshipping together. She and her friends had decided to live in the city for the summer and they wanted to find a church, so . . . why not SouledOut? They find an apartment to share nearby and jump into the church with both feet. But some of the church members get a little annoyed by Kat’s big ideas—especially Avis Douglass, one of the worship leaders. Everyone tries to be patient, but she manages to step on people’s feet—this suburban white girl, a new Christian, who sometimes has more enthusiasm than wisdom.

Alexis: Avis Douglass is also a leading character in Stand by Me, a woman of great faith in God. Tell us about her. What are her goals and passions in life? What makes her upset? What makes her happy? What role does she play in this story? However, she and her family are facing a trial that makes them wonder where God is in it. What role does faith in God play in this story?

Neta: Avis will be familiar to readers who have read the Yada Yada Prayer Group series. This attractive African American woman is an elementary school principal, mature, dignified, poised, well-educated, experienced—as well as deeply spiritual. She is the acknowledged leader of the Yada Yada Prayer Group which involves a multiracial group of women from several different churches and cultures. At SouledOut, she’s one of the worship leaders and Kat admires her a lot. However, Avis is also reserved and has little patience for this impulsive young woman who talks too much.

Unknown to many, however, Avis is having a crisis of faith because her youngest daughter left an abusive marriage with her little boy, and Avis doesn’t know what has happened to her daughter and grandson. They’ve simply disappeared. She struggles with God: Why has God let this happen? Why isn’t God answering her prayers? But God is gently opening her eyes that this annoying young woman is hurting, too, because of rejection from her family—and as her heart opens to Kat, she realizes that God is also using Kat to answer some of her prayers about her missing daughter.

Alexis: What is the moral of this story, Stand by Me?

Neta: Hmm. Just what the blurb on the book says: “Sometimes the person you most need is the one least like you?” I’m hoping readers will open their hearts to people they’re not naturally drawn to, realizing that that person may need them and that God might use that very person to meet a need in their life as well.

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

Neta: I’m hoping that readers who enjoy Stand by Me will also read the following SouledOut Sisters novel, Come to the Table. The story of Kat and Avis and others we meet at SouledOut—including Nick, Kat’s best “buddy,” who is falling in love with her, and Rochelle, Avis’s daughter, who is falling for Nick—gets complicated, even as God unravels the tangled web of relationships, inviting them “to the table” which represents the Body of Christ, which includes us all.

Thanks for the interview, Alexis! And thanks for your blog highlighting “diversity between the pages.”

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor


About the Book:

Sometimes the person you most need is the one least like you.

Kathryn Davies is a bright young woman from a prominent Phoenix family. But after making a leap of faith at a Christian music fest, dropping out of med school, and moving to inner city Chicago, her family all but disowns her.

When Kat discovers SouledOut Community Church, she longs to become a part of the multicultural church family. But her tendency to immediately say whatever she’s thinking steps on the toes of nearly everyone she meets—especially Avis Douglass.

Avis has a strong faith, is the principal of one of Chicago’s highest performing elementary schools, and is a founding member of SouledOut. But the country’s economic downturn has thrown both her and her husband’s jobs in question. And Avis hasn’’t heard from her youngest daughter in months—, an estrangement that gnaws at her every day. Where is God in this?

Kat’s flamboyant zeal for living a “radical” Christian life is a stark contrast to Avis’s more reserved faith. But in God’s timing, the two women discover they need each other in ways neither of them expected.

*Buy Stand by Me on Amazon.


About the Author:

Neta Jackson and her husband Dave are an award-winning husband-and-wife writing team, the authors or coauthors of more than 130 books that have sold over 2.5 million copies.

They are best known for Neta’s Yada Yada Prayer Group series and its sequels, as well as their forty-volume Trailblazer series of historical fiction about great Christian heroes for young readers.

Neta and Dave raised two children as well as a foster daughter and are now enjoying all the “grands”!

The Jacksons are thankful for their multi-cultural church and neighborhood in the Chicago area, which provides the characters and setting for their novels.

Follow Neta and her husband Dave Jackson on social media: 

Website: http://www.daveneta.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DaveNetaJackson

Interview with Alexa Verde, author of Season of Joy (+Giveaway)

Good morning, readers!

Thank you for joining me as I talk to Alexa Verde about her Christmas book, Season of Joy.

Phyllis: Tell me something about Season of Joy that is  not in the blurb.

Alexa: First of all, thank you so much for interviewing me, Phyllis, and for all your support of Christian authors. I can probably talk forever about this book.

I loved writing Season of Joy because it had so much love, faith, humor, and light. I also enjoyed creating a plus-size heroine because it helped me leave my insecurities in the past. Season of Joy is a friends to true love and second chances romance, which are two of my favorite romance tropes!

Phyllis: Rios Azules. You use this setting for many of your books. What is it like?

Alexa: It’s a small town in south Texas with a caring community and quirky characters whom I’d be happy to have as friends in real time. It also has some great restaurants where I wouldn’t mind to eat myself. Rios Azules is “Blue Rivers” in Spanish, and the town is situated near a river while surrounded by forests and fields, and it’s about forty-minutes drive to the ocean. This small town is a place where people make you feel welcome whether you come for a visit or to stay. I enjoy tremendously returning there again and again, and I hope so do my readers.

Phyllis: Tell me more about the characters.

Alexa: Joy Avila is fun, down-to-earth, and caring, and Dylan McGregor thinks she’s absolutely gorgeous, though it takes him some disastrous dates with other women (set up by Joy!) to realize his soulmate is actually his childhood friend. Her profession, a travel reporter, is close to my heart. Once upon a time, I loved traveling and writing about my trips. Due to being belittled and teased as a teen, Joy has commitment issues. Dylan is a single father who works in construction and home repair. After a heartbreaking marriage to a drug addict, he’s afraid to fall in love, too. The characters of Dylan’s sons, Travis and Junior, were a lot of fun to write!

Phyllis: What were the challenges you faced creating them?

Alexa: While sweet and heartwarming, Season of Joy deals with difficult issues, for example, child abandonment and drug use by a secondary character. While I loved creating the character of Dylan’s son, Junior, it wasn’t easy writing the scenes were the boy feared for his father’s life or when he blamed himself for his mother’s abandoning him. I did love Junior’s honesty and pure faith!

Phyllis: What do you love about them and what do you hate?

Alexa: I get attached to my characters, so I love everything about them. Even when they make mistakes or behave in the way I personally wouldn’t want for them to behave, I realize they need to learn from their errors and cheer them on their difficult journey to their happily-ever-after. The only thing I hate about my characters is saying good-bye to them. That’s why they often “visit” my new books. And Joy’s best friend, Samantha, became the main character in a different book, Rapsodia.

Phyllis: What was your inspiration for writing this particular story?

Alexa: First, I wanted to write another Christmas romance, Book 2 in the Rios Azules Christmas series, because I enjoyed writing a Christmas story so much. We should remember about God’s gift to us, about His amazing love, about grace and salvation. We should turn to Jesus in every moment of our lives. Of course, we should do this always, not only during Christmas, but there’s something amazing about this most wonderful time of the year.

Second, I used to have self-image issues because I considered myself overweight in high school, so writing about a plus-size heroine who found her happiness and was adored by people around her was in a way liberating. I’m an avid reader, and I read about many romance heroines who were slim, gorgeous, and just perfect, and I thought that I didn’t look like that. Many women I know don’t look like that! I also felt it would be great to write about a man who became an everyday hero to me by raising his son alone and adopting a teenage boy, Travis, whom nobody wanted to adopt. And so Season of Joy was born.

Phyllis: What do you want your readers to learn from it?

Alexa: Society puts a lot of pressure on us to look a certain way, and sometimes we feel we don’t measure up and forget that we’re all beautiful in God’s eyes. And like Joy and Dylan, we need to let go of the past and open ourselves to new possibilities again.

Phyllis: What do you love most about writing about diverse cultures? What is most challenging about it?

Alexa: Writing about diverse cultures teaches me about acceptance of other people, and I just enjoy learning new things, one of the reasons I used to love traveling so much. And isn’t it fun trying new dishes or returning to the personal favorites? How about eating pizza for research? The challenging part about writing about diverse cultures is probably avoiding stereotypes. There are certain things associated with some nationalities, and one could subconsciously write them into a book.

Phyllis: Your bio tells me that you speak 5 languages and mentions English, Spanish and Russian. What are the other two? And what inspired you to learn them all?

Alexa: Belarusian and German, but I’m forgetting German by now. Two of five are my native languages. I learned Spanish because I love learning new languages and because many people in Texas speak Spanish. So I decided to get a B.A. in Spanish. I learned German because I wanted to travel to Germany and was fascinated by their culture.

Thank you so much for the interview, Phyllis! I loved talking to you.

Phyllis: And thank you, Alexa. It has been a pleasure to learn more about you and your books. I’m looking forward to reading Season of Joy!

*Interview conducted by Phyllis Helton, contributor


About the Author:

Alexa Verde Author-PhotoAlexa Verde writes sweet, wholesome books about faith, love, and murder. She has had 200 short stories, articles, and poems published in the five languages that she speaks. She has bachelor’s degrees in English and Spanish, a master’s in Russian, and enjoys writing about characters with diverse cultures. She’s worn the hats of reporter, teacher, translator, model (even one day counts!), caretaker, and secretary, but thinks that the writer’s hat suits her the best. After traveling the world and living in both hemispheres, she calls a small town in south Texas home. The latter is an inspiration for the fictional setting of her series Rios Azules Christmas and Secrets of Rios Azules.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Amazon | Bookbub | Newsletter


About the Book:

Season of Joy by Alexa VerdeSecond chance or second heartache?Single dad Dylan McGregor wants to give his two sons the best life possible in the small town where he’d grown up. When his youngest son writes a letter to God asking for a Mom for Christmas, Dylan reluctantly starts dating again. His lifelong friend, Joy Avila, agrees to help him find the right woman. Then Dylan begins to see Joy in a new light and believes she’s the right woman for him and his family.

Overweight and teased in school, Joy never hoped her first crush, Dylan McGregor, would return her feelings. Confident and successful now, she’s found her passion in writing about international travels. The trip of a lifetime awaits her after the holidays. Instead, will she find her dreams right there in Rios Azules?

Season of Joy is available on Amazon in eBook format and paperback and is also on Kindle Unlimited.


Giveaway

Alexa is kindly giving away one eBook copy of her entire Rio Azules Christmas series collection (In Love by Christmas) to one random commenter.  If you are interested in winning, comment below. If you aren’t sure what to say, tell us what you enjoy about reading diverse fiction.

Giveaway ends at midnight November 12, 2018

Interview with Dave Jackson, author of Harry Bentley’s Second Chance

Good Monday Morning, reader friends!

Today, we’re featuring an interview with Dave Jackson about his book Harry Bentley’s Second Chance.

Enjoy!


Interview with Dave Jackson about his book, Harry Bentley’s Second Chance:

Alexis: What inspired you to write this story?

Dave: As Neta was writing Where Do I Go, the first book in her House of Hope series, I became intrigued by the doorman in the high rise building where Neta’s main character, Gabby Fairbanks, lived. Harry Bentley was wise and capable of so much more than working as a doorman. But that was all we learned about him in Neta’s novel. I began wondering why he wasn’t running a company or functioning in some professional position? And what about his personal life?

That’s when I began to imagine that he was a retired Chicago cop, who’d been asked to take early retirement by Internal Affairs after he blew the whistle on his corrupt boss. They essentially put him on ice while they investigated his accusations and put together the case. So, he “retired” and got a simple job as a doorman, something that wouldn’t draw attention but would give him something to do with his time.

Of course, we don’t really have any problems with police corruption here in Chicago, right? So, this is all fiction.

Alexis: Who is Harry Bentley and why does he need a second chance?

Dave: Harry’s career as a cop had pretty much decimated his family life. Crazy, unpredictable schedules meant he wasn’t home for his wife or his son, Rodney. Stress contributed to a drinking problem. His wife finally divorced him, and his son continued to get in trouble with the law until Harry lost touch with him for ten years . . . until DCFS contacted Harry, asking him to take in his grandson—a grandson Harry didn’t even know he had.

Threats from his old boss, being accused of assault and kidnapping by his grandson’s crack-head mother, and complications in trying to care for his elderly mother with dementia, left Harry in need of help, the kind of help the brothers in the Bible study he visited said came from God. But if he wanted to be a good father to his grandson, he needed to have God as his father . . . Perhaps he was being given a second chance at both!

Alexis: Was it challenging for you as a White male author to write a character that is an African American male? Why or why not?

Dave: Of course, it was a challenge, but one I richly enjoyed. I am part of a men’s Bible study, not unlike the group Harry finally met, and not unlike the Yada Yada prayer group in Neta’s novels. Over the years, my Bible study has been at least half African American. One was a cop. As I developed the character of Harry Bentley, I had my brothers read the early drafts and correct me in various ways. Over the years, Neta and I have also been privileged to be part of black churches that have enriched our lives immensely. Also, for several years I worked with a street chaplain to gangs and assisted him leading Bible studies in the juvenile detention center. All these experiences helped me become comfortable with and highly respectful of Harry Bentley as he developed. But like I said, there were still times my Bible study brothers said, “No, no, no, Dave. Harry Bentley would never say (or do) that. See, what you don’t understand is . . .”

Alexis: Do you want to see more books like yours that are written by White authors about characters of color, published by the Christian book market? Explain.

Dave: More importantly, I would like to see more authors of color get their stories published! But I would also like white brothers and sisters to put in the time and effort to really get to know people of color well for their own sake. Perhaps then they can create authentic characters of color when they include them in their novels . . . and they should always be included, and not just in stereotypic or peripheral roles.

Alexis: Where is your story about Harry set? Is it a setting that can be found in real-life or is it fictional? Paint a picture of the setting with words.

Dave: All these inter-related novels that grow out of The Yada Yada Prayer Group are set in Chicago. Gabby Fairbanks lived in the Richmond Towers penthouse—before her husband kicked her out—and that’s the building where Harry is the doorman. It’s a real building, the tall, black-glass, high rise on the north end of the outer drive on Chicago’s lake front. The House of Hope shelter is fictional, but located near the Sheridan ‘L’ stop on the Red Line. Any public or major location is real and can be found if you want to take a tour. Ball game scores and the weather are even accurate. Neta and I had fun doing this. For instance, when Harry took Estelle out to dinner at the Dixie Kitchen in Evanston, it looked like this (for real):

“The Dixie Kitchen and Bait Shop fulfilled the ‘bait shop’ half of its name through its funky décor—there were no crawlers on the menu or in an icebox in the corner. But an old wooden fishing boat did hang from the ceiling, “Rent-a-Rod” fishing poles for twenty-five cents leaned in the screened porch, jars of home-canned peaches and tomatoes sat in open cupboards, and bright tin signs for everything from Genuine NeHi Orange Crush to Burma Shave patched the weathered clapboard walls. Mismatched wooden chairs, checkered tablecloths, and Zydeco music made Harry feel like he was in an authentic Southern diner as they sampled complimentary johnnycakes and selected peach-glazed chicken wings and fried green tomatoes for appetizers. Estelle ordered her étouffée and a side of greens while Harry got crawfish fritters with jalapeño jelly and a side of slaw.”

Alexis: How did Harry feel when he was asked to take an early retirement?

Dave: Harry had put in over 20 years on the force, so he qualified for full retirement. But being a cop is a very stressful career, and he was glad for a break. But reporting his boss’s corruption was the primary reason for his retirement. Harry’s sense of civic duty and concern for justice was why he reported Fagan in the first place. Potentially, it was a career-ending move no matter what way the case went. You just don’t “cross the blue line” and think your career will survive. But he couldn’t have lived with himself otherwise.

Alexis: Why is Harry as a doorman still working to build a case against his boss?

Dave: After submitting his evidence, it was up to Internal Affairs to investigate and build a case. But everything became deadly serious when Harry was threatened for his plans to testify… and when his grandson’s welfare was threatened.

Alexis: What are “parallel novels” and how does Harry’s story follow that concept?

Dave: Parallel novels were a completely new concept in Christian fiction when we proposed the idea: two stories taking place in the same timeframe, same neighborhood, involving some of the same characters living through their own dramas and crises but interacting with and affecting one another—just the way it happens in real life. It’s the kind of undertaking that only a tight writing team can accomplish—like Neta and me. Continual coordination is essential. Of course, we had to work out compatible storylines, but a few “moments of intense fellowship” arose over such trivia as what kind of furniture was in the lobby of Richmond Towers where Harry worked and Gabby lived. But we always worked it out.

Alexis: What was the most challenging—and easiest—aspect of writing this story?

Dave: As is often the case for me, when a character is well defined and fully understood—including motives, history, character strengths and weaknesses—then when you put that person in a situation, the story almost begins writing itself because you know how they would respond to each crisis or triumph. When leading writing workshops, I’ve sometimes used this illustration: Imagine that your best friend’s cat just died. You probably have a very good idea how your friend would respond: Cry unconsolably for a day, and then get on with life. Or go into a long depression. Or say, “good riddance; I was tired of that hairball anyway,” etc. You can predict their response because you know their character.

Alexis: What’s the moral of this story?

Dave: To be a father (or a mother) like God, you need to have God as your father.

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

Dave: As the story progresses, and after Harry meets some caring brothers in the Bible study, he begins feel like someone is choreographing his life, not in the sense of forcing him to do or not do anything, but in the sense of providing opportunities for good—to be a father to his grandson, to begin a healthy relationship with Estelle Williams, to develop new, positive friends at the Bible study. Could that be God caring about him and inviting him, he wonders? I hope readers see that possibility in every good gift that comes into their lives.

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

Dave: Neta began including all these new elements about Harry Bentley in her second House of Hope book, Who Do I Talk To? But that, of course, created another timeframe for Harry’s life to progress. He was doing just fine once he had custody of his grandson and was enjoying a second romance with Estelle. He’d connected with God, the Yada Yada brothers, and SouledOut Community Church . . . and then he developed a blind spot right in the center of his vision in his left eye. Was it a brain tumor? A stroke? Diabetes? Or worse . . . was he going blind? Where was God? Why didn’t he answer Harry’s prayers?

So, I had to write Harry Bentley’s Second Sight. Ultimately, he used his police skills as well as his “second sight,” to solve a major crime.

Furthermore, Harry and Estelle became such favorites of many fans that we made them the anchor family when they moved to Beecham Street for the Windy City Neighbors series of five more exciting “parallel novels.” All these novels, and more, can be found at www.daveneta.com.

Thanks so much, Alexis, for this opportunity to share with your marvelous readers.

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor


About the Author:

Dave Jackson and his wife, Neta, are a husband and wife writing team and the authors of more than 120 books that have sold over 2.5 million copies, including their 40-volume Trailblazer Books about Christian heroes for young readers.

Most of their adult novels, including Dave’s Harry Bentley novels and the Windy City Neighbors series (featuring Harry and Estelle Bentley) are set in Chicago where the Jacksons make their home.

However, Dave’s latest novel, Flying Blind, is set in Colombia, South America, and involves a kidnapping by the revolutionary forces of FARC.

Follow Dave on Facebook


About the Book:

HARRY BENTLEY’S SECOND CHANCE “To be a father like God, to have God as his father … perhaps Harry was being given a chance at both.” Retired Chicago cop, Harry Bentley, was lying low.

He’d blown the whistle on a gang of rogue cops and was awaiting the day when Internal Affairs would call him to testify and help put their leader, Lieutenant Matty Fagan, behind bars. His cover was working as a doorman in a luxury high-rise on Chicago’s lakefront. Then Gabby Fairbanks and her husband moved into the building’s penthouse. She brought home a bag lady, got a job at the Manna House Women’s Shelter, found her life falling apart, and managed to entangle Harry in the whole affair. (Gabby’s story is in Neta Jackson’s parallel novel, WHERE DO I GO?) But there was an upside. Through Gabby, Harry meets the Yada Yada brothers and the classy Estelle Williams and envisions a second chance at romance.

The Yada Yada brothers provide a new circle of friends to replace his old CPD cohorts. But when Harry discovers he has a grandson he didn’t know about, will he find the faith to take on the boy as a “second chance” to be the father he’d failed to be to his own son-even when the boy creates new dangers in Harry’s fight against corruption and may derail his “second chance” at love?

Dave Jackson and his wife, Neta, are the award-winning authors of the 40-volume Trailblazer series. The phenomenal popularity of Neta’s Yada Yada Prayer Group series inspired them to write “parallel” spin-off novels, two stories taking place in the same context … just the way it happens in real life. They live in the Chicago area, where these stories are set.

Purchase link for Harry Bentley’s Second Chance: 

http://www.daveneta.com/books/HarryBentley/HBSC-1.html

Interview with Neta Jackson, about her book “Where Do I Go?”

Good Monday Morning, reader friends!

Today, we’re talking with Neta Jackson about her book “Where Do I Go?”

Enjoy the author interview!


Interview with Neta Jackson about her book “Where Do I Go?”

(Yada Yada House of Hope Series, Book 1):

Alexis: Did you co-author this book with your husband? Why or why not?

Neta: The Yada Yada House of Hope series is written by me but Dave was very instrumental in brainstorming the idea for the book, reading and editing my chapters. He also helped me with Chicago research, walking around the areas where the story takes place, finding the “tunnel walkway” where Gabby’s husband Phillip was mugged . . . THEN, the rascal, Dave stole one of my secondary characters and made him the primary character in two novels he wrote to parallel the House of Hope series! (More about that later.)

Alexis: Why did you write this book?

Neta: At the end of The Yada Yada Prayer Group series, the prayer group got involved in a women’s shelter, and that situation just begged for more stories! Also, at the time I was volunteering at Breakthrough Urban Ministries women’s shelter in Chicago and I was deeply moved by all the different “stories” of the women there. I wanted readers to get to “know” the kinds of situations where women might end up in a shelter—many of them not so different than us. So the House of Hope series was born. I added a new main character, who met some of the original Yada Yada characters who were volunteering there to give this series continuity to the original series.

Alexis: What is the significance of your story’s title?

Neta: One time I spoke at a women’s conference on the same stage as Dottie Rambo, who wrote the song, “I Go to the Rock.” I loved that song, and realized that the words totally captured what I was trying to convey in the House of Hope series—when you don’t know where to go, when you don’t know who you can lean on, or talk to . . . you go to the Rock. Which is what Gabby Fairbanks had to do when her life fell apart. The words of that song actually became the titles for each of the books in the series!

Here’s the song, sung by Whitney Houston in the movie, The Preacher’s Wife: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOu7bis3We0

Alexis: How is hope found in “the last place you look?”

Neta: Who would have thought that a chance meeting with an elderly “bag lady” would lead to a job at a women’s shelter, which in turn would become a shelter for Gabby Fairbanks when her privileged life and marriage fell apart, which in turn became a place of hope as God turned disaster into an amazing opportunity to bless many others. God can use anything and anybody to bless us—and that goes for each of us as well!

Alexis: Tell us about Gabrielle Fairbanks. What role does she play in this story? Describe her character, hopes, and failures.

Neta: Gabby is a free spirit, a “down home” girl from North Dakota, when she meets a handsome young man on a trip to Paris who “sweeps her off her feet.” But it’s not long till Gabby ends up feeling caged in her marriage, playing second fiddle to a man who is all about succeeding in business with little regard for Gabby’s needs. They move to a penthouse in Chicago, where she feels totally alone, her only “friend” being a helpful older doorman in their building until she meets an odd “bag lady” whom she takes to a local women’s shelter. In spite of her husband’s objections, she applies for a job there as program director, a way to use her gifts and college training. The job energizes her spirit but becomes a thorn in her already stressful marriage.

Alexis: Why is Gabrielle searching for “real purpose” in her life?

Neta: She’s a wife, but only an ornament to her husband’s career. She’s a mother, but even her boys are away at a posh boarding school. She doesn’t feel needed or wanted or useful. She’s dying inside.

Alexis: What is the Manna House Women’s Shelter? Describe its significance.

Neta: Manna House is an emergency women’s shelter that can only house homeless women for 30 days, not meant for long-term housing. But they need a program director to fill the days with helpful and meaningful activities—a role that Gabby has the skills and training to fulfill.

Alexis: How does becoming a program director for the shelter help Gabby?

Neta: Gabby sees an opportunity to fill the emptiness in her life and throws herself into her new job. What she doesn’t expect is how the various staff and volunteers and even the “guests” at the shelter also bring her into a deeper and meaningful relationship with Jesus.

Alexis: What is the most major conflict in this story?

Neta: When her husband Philip gets fed up with his wife’s “new life” apart from his schedule, his needs, his wants, and he kicks her out of their penthouse and his life with nothing! Now she’s the one who is homeless with nowhere to go.

Alexis: What was the most challenging part of this story to write?

Neta: Gabby and Philip’s dysfunctional marriage was challenging for me to portray throughout the book because my own marriage is so different. I have a wonderful, loving, supportive, godly husband, praise God! But I do have close friends who have or had difficult marriages, with whom we have walked through painful times in their lives that I drew on in order to portray the Fairbanks’ marriage.

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

Neta: The answer to the question in the title: When you face challenges in your life, whatever they might be, even if you feel as if your whole life is falling apart, when you don’t know what to do or where to go, you go to the Rock of your salvation, who is Jesus Christ. He is your shelter, your comforter, your friend, your salvation, and He will never, never leave you nor forsake you.

Alexis: If you could step into your story as a licensed counselor, what would you tell Gabrielle to help her make the best decision when her husband gives her an ultimatum?

Neta: Whoa! This is the hardest question of all! (And I’m not a licensed counselor.) I do know that marriage is all about compromise, even making sacrifices for the good of one’s partner . . . but at the same time, I don’t believe a wife’s personhood should be squashed, and God doesn’t bless that either. Verbal abuse is as unacceptable as physical abuse. Sometimes we have to do what we need to do to stay sane, to stay alive—even if it means a separation. You make reasonable compromises if you can. Get counseling together if you can. But if your partner refuses to meet you halfway, you PRAY and ask God to make it clear what you need to do. Stay? Separate? Divorce? Finally, be at peace about your decision.

Alexis: What do you as the author, love the most about this story? Why?

Neta: I love the fact that God sometimes uses the most unlikely people to encourage us, to show us God’s truth, to be the person God uses to make a difference in our life. A doorman? Harry Bentley was there for Gabby, and (in the rest of the series) became a treasured friend. Lucy the bag lady Gabby “saved” her at the beginning of the book, but it was Lucy who “saved” Gabby at the end. I love seeing the surprising ways God works! (This truth permeates the Gospels, both in how Jesus related to “the least of these” and also in His teachings.)

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

Neta: Yes! Speaking of Harry Bentley, the doorman . . . my husband decided there was a lot more to Harry’s story that didn’t come out in Where Do I Go? So like I mentioned at the beginning of this interview, he stole that character and wrote two parallel novels with Harry as the main character that parallels the House of Hope novels! Harry became such a beloved character to our readers in Harry Bentley’s Second Chance and Harry Bentley’s Second Sight, that he and his (eventual) wife anchored a whole new series that Dave and I wrote together called: Windy City Neighbors (five novels).

Also, at the end of the House of Hope series (four novels), there are still some questions about what happened to Lucy the bag lady. So Dave and I together wrote a stand-alone novel about her life called Lucy Come Home, starting from her life as a teenager and catching up all the way to where readers meet her in House of Hope—and beyond. Some readers have called Lucy “the best one yet!”

You can check out these House-of-Hope-related novels on our website: www.daveneta.com

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor


About the Book:

Sometimes you find hope in the last place you look.

Gabrielle Fairbanks has nearly lost touch with the carefree, spirited young woman she was when she married her husband sixteen years ago. But when the couple moves to Chicago to accommodate Philip’s ambition, Gabby longs for the chance to find real purpose in her own life.

A chance encounter with a homeless woman suddenly opens a door she never expected. The women of Manna House Women’s Shelter need a Program Director–and she has the right credentials. Gabby’s in her element, feeling God’s call on her life at last, even though Philip doesn’t like the changes he sees in her. But she never anticipated his ultimatum: quit your job at the shelter or risk divorce and losing custody of our sons.

In this moment, Gabby’s entire foundation shifts. She must find refuge, as in the song they sing at Sunday worship: “Where do I go when there’s no one else to turn to . . . I go to the Rock I know that’s able, I go to the Rock.”

For everyone who loves the best-selling Yada Yada Prayer Group novels comes a brand new series sprinkled with familiar faces and places from the Yada Yada world. It’s the perfect novel to start with–or to meet friends from past Yada stories.

Buy Neta’s book on Amazon.


About the Author:

Neta Jackson and her husband Dave are an award-winning husband-and-wife writing team, the authors or coauthors of more than 130 books that have sold over 2.5 million copies.

They are best known for Neta’s Yada Yada Prayer Group series and its sequels, as well as their forty-volume Trailblazer series of historical fiction about great Christian heroes for young readers.

Neta and Dave raised two children as well as a foster daughter and are now enjoying all the “grands”!

The Jacksons are thankful for their multi-cultural church and neighborhood in the Chicago area, which provides the characters and setting for their novels.

Follow Neta and her husband Dave Jackson on social media: 

Website: http://www.daveneta.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DaveNetaJackson

Author Interview: Jaycee Weaver

Welcome to another week of diverse Christian reads here at DBP! Today, we’re kicking things off with an author interview. Jaycee Weaver is the author of Whatever Comes Our Way, the second book in her Everyday Love series.


q&a

Why do you write stories with diverse characters?

Jaycee: The world is a big, beautiful, multi-colored place. Why wouldn’t we want to represent the beautiful tapestry of cultures and peoples in fiction the way they are in reality? At least, that’s how I think.

I’m an overly avid reader, and I firmly believe that fiction readers tend to learn empathy well because they are always putting themselves in other characters’ heads. That makes fiction a perfect vehicle for reaching people’s hearts and showing them that we are all just human beings. While we might have different values or traditions or cultural identities that set us apart from others, ultimately, we are all humans who love and live on the same planet. We are children of the same God, which means we should honor one another and treat each other with love and understanding.

With that, I felt led to set my books in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I live. It’s not a place very well represented among all the big cities and fictional small towns, but it’s a wonderful place that holds my heart. There is absolutely no way I could set stories here without being willing to represent all the different facets of our culture. Hispanics outnumber every other people group here, so it’s just logical to tell stories that involve characters of Hispanic descent. I have always been fascinated by the culture, food, language, and love of family I experience in this state.

Beth: I couldn’t agree more with your thinking! 

Tell us a little bit about your latest series. 

Jaycee: The Everyday Love series is about regular people in everyday situations. I love that I can showcase my city and all of the many things I love about it!

What Could Be, the first in the series, is about a college student named Brynn who is trying to figure out what it really means to follow God’s will. She has all of these massive expectations for herself, some good, some unrealistic, and it isn’t easy for her to let go of the preconceived notions she’s grown up believing. Josh Davis is a single father who has rededicated his life to Christ. He’s drawn to Brynn and her innocence, but the things that pique him also make him second-guess himself. As their friendship develops, they really have to figure out if maybe God has a bigger plan for them than they thought possible.

Whatever Comes Our Way is actually my personal favorite of the two (so far). Gina Hernandez has some fairly deep-rooted issues. She’s a bundle of contradictions sometimes, but she has a heart for taking care of other hurting people. Jaydon Bennett is a reformed pastor’s kid, now a youth pastor himself, who has a painful past of his own. The two immediately share a strong connection, but while they are trying to navigate this new relationship, Jaydon comes across a family in crisis. Their experiences just might make them the perfect people to help do the Lord’s work in their lives.

Beth: Oh, these stories sound like they’re right up my alley!

Describe Gina.

Jaycee: I have to admit, I really adore Gina. She was raised by a single mother whose partying ways put her at risk and led to a whole slew of issues including severe anxiety, a distorted body image, and an overdeveloped sense of personal responsibility. By nature, she’s determined and strong-willed, with a bit of snark and sass, but she’s also a natural caregiver. Her first-generation immigrant grandparents helped raise her early on, and their loving influence is what has helped her get past the damage her mother inflicted unaware.

My heart when writing her story was to really get at the heart of some of the ugly things that happen to people in this fallen world, but how a loving God takes those things and makes something beautiful from them. Gina has to learn to trust, and Jaydon makes it easy. My favorite stories are those that take heavy issues and make them not feel so heavy. I want to be inspired, to reaffirm my undying belief that God will never leave us to deal with things on our own and that we are never too far gone. Ever. So that’s how I tried to write Gina.

Beth: Gina sounds like a great character! 

What do you hope readers will gain from your story?

Jaycee: I think I pretty much summed it up already. My prayer is that readers will finish my books inspired and uplifted, maybe even with a renewed sense of hope for their own lives. I hope readers connect to my characters and think, “Whoa, that’s me. I’m not perfect, I’m not always a ‘good Christian,’ but God still loves me.” I don’t want to write white-washed fiction where everybody is living a perfect faith walk, because the reality is, even Christians struggle with sin and fall short. We need hope that the Lord can still use us and show Himself in our everyday lives because LOVE is what draws us to Him.

Beth: Yes, yes, yes!!! I’m so excited about reading your stories, friend!

Who are some of your favorite authors of “diverse reads”?

Jaycee: I’ll be honest. I don’t go into a book specifically hoping it’s “diverse”. I go into it hoping it’s authentic, with characters from lots of different walks of life.

But when I consider authors that come to mind right off the bat who represent diverse characters? Definitely Toni Shiloh, for one. I get so hungry when I read her Maple Run series! Sarah Monzon is another of my favorite writers, as is Chautona Havig. Belle Calhoune is one I haven’t read in a while but used to. Jenn Faulk is one of my most favorite authors because I just love her voice. I know quite a few of her characters have been from Africa and Japan, and she also features several missionary characters. I could easily list another three dozen writers I follow whose books I voraciously devour, but I think I’ll quit here. HAHA!

Beth: We share several favorites! 

What book are you reading right now?

Jaycee: Oh, now that’s so hard to answer, because it will change four times between writing, submitting, publishing, and someone reading this! If you look at my GoodReads profile, it will tell you I’m loving the Once Upon a Laugh collection, still trying to finish the Timeless Love collection (I’m a moody reader with historical), the Yesterday’s Mail collection, but also All the Way to Heaven by Becky Doughty. That’s way more collections than I normally read at once, but so many good ones have been in my TBR pile for entirely too long!

Beth: I can completely relate!  Thanks so much for visiting with us, Jaycee! 

 

about the book

Gina Hernandez is no stranger to hard work. She’s got three jobs to prove it. Trauma in her teens may have left her with severe anxiety and some body image issues, but no one can say she’s not a fighter. Her life has never been easy. It’s what’s made her strong.

Then she meets youth pastor Jaydon Bennett, a gentle giant with a big beard and an even bigger heart—though it does have a few scars. He’s never doubted God could bring him the perfect woman, he just never thought He really would. Until Gina.

When Jaydon encounters a troubled teen whose family is in crisis, he and Gina have to figure out if maybe the painful pasts they’ve been dealing with just might equip them to help this hurting family.

Goodreads | amazon

 

about the author

Jaycee Weaver lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with her amazing husband, three daughters, a crazy shih-tzu, and a dwarf rabbit. When she’s not writing, she’s probably in hot pursuit of her 90 million other hobbies or shuttling the kids around.

Jaycee loves to read books in multiple genres, drink too much coffee (honestly, when are they going to make the coffee IV a real thing?!), sing, take landscape and floral photos, sew, cook, bake, and craft just about anything (can we say Pinterest?).

She considers herself a recovering perfectionist and sometimes hot mess. She does her best to live her faith in action, being open, honest, and real and letting God be Lord over the good, the bad, and the ugly even when it’s hard.

website | facebook | twitter | instagram | pinterest

 

Don’t y’all just want to be Gina’s friend and learn all about her story?!
I’d love to meet her grandparents too! Be sure to say hi to Jaycee in the comments.

 

interview by Beth Erin

Interview with Michelle Stimpson about her book “Mama B: A Time to Dance”

Happy Labor Day, reader friends!

This Monday, we have an interview featuring author Michelle Stimpson.

She’s here to talk about her book, Mama B: A Time to Dance.


Interview with Michelle Stimpson about Mama B: A Time to Dance

Alexis: Why is this book called “Mama B: A Time to Dance”?

Michelle: In this book, Mama B, who has never been a dancer due to religious reasons, will consider putting her previous thoughts aside in order to try something new, but dancing is just the beginning.

Alexis: What is the inciting incident in this book?

Michelle: Mama B’s nephew, Derrick, comes knocking on her door, needing a place to stay. He and his wife have separated, and Mama B must decide if she’s willing to take in a marital refugee.

Alexis: Why is “help” almost Mama B’s middle name and how does her helpfulness affect the plot of this fictional story?

Michelle: Mama B is a lot like what I saw in my grandparents. They didn’t have much, but they were always willing to share whatever they had. They always opened their home and had people (mostly from their church) staying with them.

Alexis: Who is Henrietta and what role does she play in this story?

Michelle: In this book, Henrietta serves as a huge antagonist for Mama B. She’s always keeping up a mess but Mama B and the others suspect that there’s something misfiring in Henrietta.

Alexis: Who is Dr. Wilson and what is his significance in this story?

Michelle: Dr. Frank Wilson is the 5-year-younger physician who begins his pursuit of Mama B in this book, but she is not trying to hear it! What’s a 70-something-year-old woman doing falling in love?

Alexis: What is the moral of the story?

Michelle: This one has several messages to convey, most importantly keep an open mind about how God might use you and the people He brings into your life. Even at Mama B’s age, she is still learning new things and new depths of His love.

Alexis: If you could step into your story as a professional counselor, what advice would you give to your main characters? Why?

Michelle: I would tell Derrick and his wife that they need each other more than they know, and to communicate more. They remind me of my husband and I. We are actually celebrating 25 years of marriage this year, but our first years were just a bunch of foolishness. I’d tell them to give it time, give each other space to grow up, forgive often – not just now, always.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Michelle!

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor


About the Book:

Mama B thought her life would return to normal, but when her nephew, Derrick, comes knocking on her door, she has to reconsider. Though she’s not known for housing marital fugitives, she realizes Derrick is looking for more than a place to stay; he needs help finding his way back to God.

Of course, help is almost Mama B’s middle name until Henrietta crosses the line with her accusations about Mama B’s intentions with the recently widowed pastor. Mama B isn’t looking for romance with either the pastor or her suitor, Dr. Wilson—but will love come looking for her?

Fans of the “Miss Julia” series will enjoy this feisty, downhome character!

Buy Michelle’s book on Amazon.


About the Author:

Bestselling author Michelle Stimpson has penned more than thirty Christian fiction books including traditional bestsellerDivas of Damascus Road, Amazon #1 bestseller, Stepping Down, the award-winning Mama B series, and Falling Into Grace, which has been optioned for a made-for-TV movie.

She has also published more than fifty short stories through her educational publishing company, WeGottaRead.com.

Michelle holds an English degree from Jarvis Christian College and a master’s degree in education from the University of Texas at Arlington.

She is a part-time language arts consultant. She also serves in women’s ministry through teaching and publishing. She and her husband have two young adult children, one granddaughter, and one bizarre dog.

Follow Michelle on FacebookTwitter, Website