Author Interview: Allison K. Garcia

Happy Monday, Reader Friends!

Thanks for stopping by Diversity Between the Pages. I’ve got the lovely Allison K. García here to talk about her debut novel, Vivir el Dream. Let’s get started!


About the Book

The Blurb: “Linda Palacios crossed the border at age three with her mother, Juanita, to escape their traumatic life in Mexico and to pursue the American dream. Years later, Linda nears college graduation. With little hope for the future as an undocumented immigrant, Linda wonders where her life is going.

Tim Draker, a long-unemployed businessman, has wondered the same thing. Overcome with despair, he decides to take his own life. Before he can carry out his plan, he changes course when he finds a job as a mechanic. Embarrassed about working at a garage in the barrio, he lies to his wife in hopes of finding something better.

After Juanita’s coworker gets deported, she takes in her friend’s son, Hector, whom her daughter Linda can’t stand, While Juanita deals with nightmares of her traumatic past, she loses her job and decides to go into business for herself.

Will the three of them allow God to guide them through the challenges to come, or will they let their own desires and goals get in the way of His path?”

Links: Amazon, Goodreads


About the Author

Allison K. García is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a passion for writing. Latina at heart, Allison has absorbed the love and culture of her friends, family, and hermanos en Cristo and has used her experiences to cast a glimpse into the journey of undocumented Christians.

Follow: Website, Facebook, Twitter


Interview

Toni: Thank you so much for joining me today. I’m so excited to talk about your debut novel, Vivir el Dream. I get positively giddy when I talk about diverse Christian fiction, so I love that the majority of your characters are Hispanic. What made you decide to write about immigration in the Latino culture?

Allison: Thanks, Toni! I’m pretty giddy myself! I can’t remember exactly when I came up with the idea for the book. I just know that God placed it on my heart to write it after I had seen a lot of injustice with my hermanos at the church and with therapy clients and with my friends and family. I feel it is a topic that everyone has an opinion on but few know much about. I hoped to shed some light on why people come, what kinds of things they have to go through to get here, and what can happen once you’ve crossed the border. As I think back, I believe I was inspired in part by the deportation of a close friend from church.

Toni: I can only imagine how that would effect a person. I’m glad you used it to shed light on the subject. Vivir el Dream focuses on Linda, an undocumented college student; Juanita, her mother; and Tim, a Caucasian who has some prejudice towards the Latino race. How did you decide to focus on these three and provide them their own povs (point-of-view)?

Allison: I think I came back fresh from a conference where they told us that one POV wasn’t cool anymore, so it probably stemmed from that. I think this was the first story I wrote from more than one POV, but now I love it! I like the idea of it being like a movie with different camera angles, so you can see things from different people’s points of view. For me Linda is the central character so choosing her was a no-brainer. And I felt Juanita had important history that needed to be heard, and I wanted people to understand why she came and all they had to go through and how she carries the traumas with her. With Tim, I placed a lot of the covert racism that isn’t shown but is hidden under the surface for a lot of folks. Also when I started the book in 2012, it was in the midst of a lot of financial turmoil in the country, so I think some of that seeped in as well.

Toni: Camera angles, yes! That’s a perfect way to describe it. I loved how you did that. Did you fear that you would paint the Latino culture with stereotypes considering your own ethnic background?

Allison: I both love and hate this question. I love it because it is an important and hard question to ask. There are so many stereotypes out there for different people of color, I don’t want to add any more to the mix and it is something very much to be aware of. I also hate this question because as a white person in the majority, I know I need to tread carefully in this realm. Really, what I did was write with my heart. I just hope that I am enough enmeshed in the Latino culture with my husband and his family, with my church family, and with my friends, that I have accurately portrayed the beauty of Latino culture and the struggles that Latino people experience. It’s so hard because my heart wants me to be Latino, but deep down I know I’m only a white person with European roots and I can’t. I’m only on the outside looking in. So that’s a hard question for me.

Toni: But you answered it so eloquently. 🙂 What made you choose a Spanish title?

Allison: I went through a thorough choosing process. I wanted Dream in the title because of both The Dream Act and “the American dream.” I felt Vivir gave it a cool vibe and helped showcase the authenticity of Spanish language used within the book.

Toni: I love the title! What is the message you hope readers will leave with after reading Vivir el Dream?

Allison: That despite all the things going on in your life, God is there. He has a plan, and your faith in Him can carry you through.

Toni: Amen! How about some easier questions?

Allison: Yes, please! You put me on the spot before! Haha! But in a good way! It is good to have the experience of feeling singled out and put on the spot. Helps you understand others who experience it every day.

Toni: I like to just dive right into the diversity topic. 😉 Maybe I’ll use more finesse in the future, lol. Beaches or mountains?

Allison: I like beaches and mountains! I live in the Shenandoah Valley so the mountains are right there, but I still think I might choose beach!

Toni: They are both beautiful in their own ways. Coffee or Tea?

Allison: Normally I might say tea but I’ve gotten into coffee lately. So…both!

Toni: I recently started drinking ice coffee, so I hear you. TV or Movies?

Allison: Also both! I love bingewatching TV shows but I also love a good movie!

Toni: Netflix is my friend for both of those options. Last but not least, what’s next for you on your writing journey?

Allison: I plan to translate Vivir el Dream into Spanish (with the help of several native speakers)! I also have another completed Latino fiction book, Finding Amor, that’s ready for editing, plus I’ve written 6 out of 8 books of Prince Miguel and His Journey Home, a children’s fantasy series.

Toni: Wow! That’s awesome. Praying you success in your writing endeavors. Readers, do you have any questions for Allison?


Interview conducted by Toni Shiloh

Author Inview: Bonnie Engstrom’s Connie’s Silver Shoes

Happy Monday, Reader Friends!

Today, we’re kicking the week off with an interview with Bonnie Engstrom. Ms. Engstrom’s stopped by to talk about her novel, Connie’s Silver Shoes. Have you read it? If not, it’s free on KU.


About the Book

Connie’s life is about to change. Is she ready?

Jaeda, the banker who explained the financial windfall to her made a mistake. He needs to make up for it. But, how? The money is already spent.

Is there a way to keep his secret so he won’t lose his banking career? Is it possible she may be falling in love with the handsome, dark skinned banker? Should he resist her even though their skin colors are different? What will her Bible quoting mother say, and how will his family react? What part does Jake the little dog play in their romance?

When she takes off a shoe and rubs her leg against his ankle, will that make a difference in his feelings for her?

Can they really have a future together?

Links: Amazon, B&N, Goodreads


About the Candy Canes

This is book number four in the Candy Cane girls’ series, but it, as all the others before and in future (yes, there will be more) can be read as a standalone. It might be more fun to start with Noelle’s story in Noelle’s Christmas Wedding and progress to Cindy’s story in Cindy’s Perfect Dance, but Natalie and Candy will explain everything about the Candy Canes to you in Candy’s Wild Ride.

Ten years ago six high school freshmen formed a swim team that became legendary. They won the state relay swim championship four years in a row. In addition to their skill and devotion to daily practicing, they prayed together and vowed to be sisters forever. Another thing that set them apart was they chose their own swimsuits making them a team within a larger team. They chose red and white diagonally striped swim suits. Thus, became known as the Candy Canes. They always will be.

I hope you enjoy their stories.


About the Author

Bonnie Engstrom and her psychologist husband, Dave, live in Arizona near four of their six grandchildren. The other two live in Costa Rica where they surf. They share their Arizona home with Sam and Lola, their two rescued mutts in charge of the household.

Bonnie is passionate about Jesus, her husband, her grandchildren and romance writing. She writes exclusively for the Forget Me Not Romances division of Winged Publications. Connie’s Silver Shoes is Book Four in The Candy Cane Girls Series set in Newport Beach, California.

Because she loves to include real people in her stories, you may “see” yourself in a future one.

When she isn’t writing, she is either moderating two online prayer chains or driving grandchildren to activities or volunteering in their classrooms. Currently, she is attempting to grow orchids, and has been successful growing basil in abundance, both of which she coaxes to thrive in the Arizona heat.

After dinner she reads romance novels for relaxation, and just before bed she makes a snack of nachos using Cindy’s secret ingredient in Cindy’s Perfect Dance.

Bonnie can be reached via email. Be sure to put BOOK in the subject line so your post doesn’t float around in her junk folder. Her website is www.bonnieengstrom.com, and she can also be found occasionally on Facebook, although she’s not very astute at it. You can sign up for her Life on the Lake quarterly newsletter on either one.


Interview

Toni: Thank you so much for joining us to talk about Connie’s Silver Shoes. I love to see more interracial relationships being explored. What made you decide to write this book?

Bonnie: I love to write about real people in my life, yet make them fictional characters. I was about to start on the fourth book in the Candy Cane series and was wondering about whom (real or otherwise) to feature as a hero. Then, I stopped in my bank to ask one of the managers for assistance with an account. Whoopee! Jaeda is a doll, handsome, and has an engaging presence and sense of humor. I got as far as the parking lot, turned and went back in. After he agreed to allow me to use his real name and make him a prominent male character, I dragged him out to the parking lot and took several photos of him. If you read the book, he really was wearing a red shirt. Cool!

Toni: That is beyond awesome! Hmm, I wonder if I can start going up to random strangers. Nah, too introverted. 🙂 Your hero, Jaeda Wayman is a banker and an African American. Was it hard to write about a Black man versus Connie’s character?

Bonnie: Not hard at all. Both Jaeda and Connie are pretty effusive characters with warm personalities. One in real life, and one totally fictional. Both have a lot of self-confidence, until Connie asks Jaeda to be a model for her clothing line. Then, the fun began.

Toni: Oh, I love when the fun begins! Always pulls me into the book further. How did you write their relationship without falling into racial stereotypes?

Bonnie: I didn’t totally. I have no problem with interracial couples or marriages. But, the story is set in very conservative Newport Beach, so I had to be thoughtful. I think I brought out the racial stereotypes briefly in a scene when Connie and Jaeda met an old high school friend of hers. I probably could have made more of it when they met at Starbucks, but even though Connie had issues with her family, I didn’t want their different races to become an overwhelming theme. They are two people who fall in love. Period.

Toni: Love is great and all I need in a romance. 🙂 Did you ever have any doubt while writing this story? Or consider changing the race of Jaeda?

Bonnie: Never! It is one of the most fun stories I’ve written. Well, to be honest, I did have a doubt about how Jaeda’s real life wife would accept the story. He assures me she has had no problem with his following in love with a Caucasian woman; he says she even loved the book. I sure hope he’s right because I want this woman to be my friend.

Toni: How awesome that they’ve both read it! Tell us about other ‘real’ characters in your books.

Bonnie: I have quite a few ~ Bill Lord is introduced in Candy’s Wild Ride, book three. He is a larger than life good friend and so appropriate. Some minor characters are Marg the owner of Scottsdale Floral, who appears in almost every story. But, Jill the wedding coordinator is in every story. She is very real, made each of my children’s weddings spectacular. I think she needs her own story soon. Although not yet in the Connie story, Shane Sullivan who is the owner of Spine Scottsdale is in Natalie’s Deception and will be prominent in Melanie’s story (untitled yet).

I have learned real people love being part of a novel story. It makes them feel special, and they are! My debut novel, Butterfly Dreams, features Kay and Duc, owners of Pauline’s Nails. They sell my books in their salon. Marg, owner of Scottsdale Floral throws her arms up when I enter. Shane Sullivan will be having a book signing after my next story is published. He was flattered I included him and his business. It’s so much fun for them, and for me.

The animals: Star the cat is real, but her name is really his ~ Bingo. Jake the dog featured on the cover of Connie’s Silver Shoes was real. Sweet Jake was my running partner for over fifteen years. Lola, the dog in Melanie’s story (yet untitled) will appear on the cover of Melanie’s story.

Toni: That is so awesome! It’s great that they all support you in your writing as well. How about some easier questions?
Heels or flats?

Bonnie: Flats! Always. Because of my ugly foot and my leg problem.

Toni: I’m the same way and for leg issues as well. Leggings or jeans?

Bonnie: I occasionally wear jeans, like to my grandchildren’s soccer games. But, mostly leggings from Eileen Fisher. Yeh, I have a designer fetish, but only for her clothes. And only on sale.

Toni: I confess, I’ve never heard of her. Must look her up. Favorite holiday?

Bonnie: Christmas, of course! We have a 9 ½ skinny, artificial tree hubby grumbles about putting up, but even he loves clicking the lights on. When our eldest grandchild (she turned twelve Saturday, bless her heart) was born, I decided to decorate with something she would understand at that age ~ so, Santa. I have collected Santas for over a decade. Many are representative of family members ~ a fishing Santa for my hubby, a surfing Santa for our son and a techie Santa for the other son, her uncles. There are dog and kitty Santas for our animals. I haven’t yet found a writing Santa to represent me, nor a teacher one for our daughter.

Of course, we have a lovely Nativity and even a stuffed bear Santa that recites the Nativity story if you squeeze his paw. The real reason for Christmas is never lost on us, but the Santa tree has become a tradition.

Toni: That sounds neat! Last but not least, what’s next for you on your writing journey?

Bonnie: I am writing Melanie’s story, number six in the Candy Cane Girls series. I hope it will give some very fun surprises, especially about Jaeda and Connie.

Toni: Yay! Praying God gives you the words for book six and continues to bless you on your writing journey. Thank you for stopping by to talk with us. We appreciate you. 🙂

Readers, do you have any questions for Bonnie?


This interview conducted by Toni Shiloh

Author Interview: Stacy Hawkins Adams

I’d like to introduce a writer friend of mine Stacy Hawkins Adams. She’s a journalist and author with a passion for creating stories that are real and sincere. She likes to write about African-American characters and tell their story.

She’s stopped by the blog today in order to talk about her novel, The Someday List. Enjoy your time with Stacy via this author interview!

About the book: 

Rachelle Covington has it all. A fabulous home, a handsome and prestigious husband, two beautiful children, and a place in the upper crust that’s quite comfortable. But her life is not all it’s cracked up to be. When her husband goes away on business trip and the kids are sent off to the grandparents for a month, Rachelle takes up the challenge of a dying friend to start a list of things to do before she dies.

She heads back to Jubilant, Texas, to reconnect with her past, her purpose, and herself. But when her ex shows up in town looking very fine and very single, Rachelle must confront feelings she thought she’d long buried.

Will she give up everything to recover the past? Or will she find a reason to plan for the future? The Someday List is an honest look at what makes us who we are and what can throw us off track.

Author Stacy Hawkins Adams writes with a voice that is fresh, sincere, and completely real. Her characters jump off the page and into her readers’ hearts.

Purchase the book: Amazon ~ B&N ~ CBD

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

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

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

The Interview:

Alexis: What’s your “story behind the story” for this book of yours, The Someday List?

Stacy: I wrote this novel after hearing from many women readers who felt like they were stuck in life, or that it was too late to pursue their dreams. I wanted them to realize that as much as we love and value our families, God loves and values each of us; and our hopes and dreams are meant to be birthed. The main characters in The Someday List eventually realize that as they concentrate on what brings them meaning and joy, the more they’re able to be and do for others.

Alexis: Rachelle Covington is your heroine. What makes her tick? What fills her heart with bliss? What made her fall in love with her husband?

Stacy: Your questions are at the heart of this novel’s premise: Rachelle no longer knows these answers. She has lost herself in being a wife and mother and has a hard time figuring out why she matters. This novel takes her on a journey to remembering what makes her tick, what fills her heart with bliss, and what made her fall in love with her husband, among other things.

Alexis: How close was Rachelle to her dying friend and how did her friend’s challenge lead to Rachelle creating her “someday list” of things she wants to do before she dies?

Stacy: This was a childhood friend of Rachelle’s that she hadn’t seen in years, but during her friend’s farewell party she was deeply moved by how her friend was able to die with no regrets. Rachelle couldn’t say she would face that fate with the same peace. So attending that event, and then struggling to create a list of things she wanted to accomplish, jolted her into realizing that she needed to reclaim her life and her faith.

Alexis: You set up this story at the start to show that Rachelle has it all but the reader can infer that something is missing. What is missing in her life?

Stacy: What’s missing is the core of who she is. In doing her best to love and serve her family, she forgot to carve out some time to nurture her own interests and dreams – a pattern many women fall into. There’s nothing wrong with sacrificing and serving those we love most; that’s how we grow a loving family. However, what many women tend to find over time is that when doing so leaves us drained or empty, we haven’t truly given of ourselves in the best way. Also, I’ve found that as women–including myself- we need to practice self-care and take care of our inner selves as much as we “dress up” our outer selves. When we take the time to do this, our families, friends, and associates are blessed by what pours from us. My character, Rachelle, eventually realizes this.

Alexis: Rachelle’s journey takes her home to Jubilant, TX and she encounters her ex-boyfriend who is just as fine as ever. What role does he play in this story?

Stacy: She and Troy had a long and deep history together (I won’t say more, or I’ll give away too much), and their romance was sweet and honorable. But because Rachelle seems to have never been able to stand up for herself or for her own desires, the relationship was shattered. She went on to marry her current husband; yet as the story unfolds, you see that neither she nor Troy (her former partner) fully healed from their breakup.

Alexis: You’re known as an author for writing characters who, “jump off the page and into her readers’ hearts”. How much time did it take you to develop that skill?

Stacy: Thank you for saying that. I’m humbled by that, and grateful that my readers react to my characters in this way. My goal is to make every character and every scenario seem real, so that readers can lose themselves in that story and root for the “good girls” while simultaneously finding themselves frustrated with the “not so good” characters. Just like in real life, right? Lol

Truthfully, though, no person is all good or all bad, and I try to show these layers in my main characters and in some of the secondary characters.

I can’t say that I’m finished developing as a writer, because it’s an ongoing process, and I’m always striving to get better at my craft. However, I do work at it, and I think that intention pays off. I try to read good books with great dialogue, plots, and character development. I also read writing craft books to help me better refine the “people” I’ve created in my stories.

Alexis: Your voice as an author is described as “fresh, sincere and completely real.” What do you think of that? Did you always want to be an author? Explain.

Stacy: Again, I’m honored by this, and I’m grateful, because this is who I aim to be as both a person and a writer – sincere, real and also creative in how I express myself and engage my readers.

Yes, I’ve wanted to be an author since I tried to pen my first book around age 8. I’ve loved writing since I learned to read, and I always wrote stories and poems throughout my childhood. I segued into a journalism career, which allowed me to hone my nonfiction writing skills and learn to write on deadline, research stories, and understand people from all walks of life, and this training has been invaluable in crafting memorable fictional characters.

Alexis: What stirs you to write?

Stacy: I’d have to say life! When something exciting or heartbreaking or intriguing happens in the world around me or in the world at large, I’m often inspired to express myself through writing – whether fiction or nonfiction – and to share that with the world, to help others process the issue, too, or to simply offer food for thought or encouragement as readers consider what has unfolded or how to react.

Alexis: How do you deal with writer’s block?

Stacy: I’ve come to realize that my form of writer’s block is procrastination. When I should be writing I’ll load the dishwasher or decide to clean a closet. And sometimes I give in to that because taking a break from the writing allows your mind to relax into the story. Taking a walk also helps. It gets the creative juices flowing. I’ll allow myself a short break and then get back to it. If the chapter or paragraph still isn’t flowing, I just write through it, knowing that I can go back and fix it later.

Alexis: Most if not all of your books feature African American characters. Is there a special reason why you only write fictional stories about African Americans?

Stacy: Since I am African American it’s quite natural to write what you know. Plus, I think it’s valuable to all readers to have an opportunity to read about characters from all backgrounds–protagonists who may have some similarities to the reader, yet also some differences. What my stories show is that ultimately, we all have the same hopes and dreams and desire to be loved–by God and by other people. And while most of my characters are African American, I never write a one-color world. In The Someday List, Rachelle’s husband takes a mission trip to Uganda with his Caucasian partner, for example; and in subsequent books, you see Rachelle’s family members befriending and/or working with people of various ethnicities.

Alexis: How does your experience as a journalist impact the way that you write your fictional stories?

Stacy: Having the ability to write on deadline is a major benefit. And the research skills I learned as a journalist have helped me seek out facts and trivia for my novels that make my stories more true-to-life.

Alexis: If you were not an author, how else would you spend your creativity?

Stacy: That is a great question. Since I’ve always been a writer, I’m not sure! Writing is second nature; so it flows all the time, even in just simple musings. So even if I had chosen another career path, I might find myself writing in some way.

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

Stacy: Thank you for featuring me, and thanks to all of your readers who have read my books or will take the time to read them. I try to write stories that are entertaining, but also that touch a chord with readers wherever they may find themselves in life. It has been a humbling and satisfying experience to see how the written word truly does matter, and I hope to continue writing and inspiring readers for years to come.

~*~

Connect with Stacy:

Website – www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com

Twitter – www.twitter.com/shadams

Facebook – www.facebook.com/stacyinspires

Author Interview: Melissa Storm

Today, we’re featuring Melissa Storm. She’s an author with a passion for creating characters about people who are underrepresented in the book world and real-world society. Her newest release, Love’s Promise, is the focus of today’s interview feature.

About the book:

Kristina Rose Maher wants to know why fairytales never happen for fat girls. Certain that diner cook Jeff, handsome and fit, will never want her as more than a friend, she stuffs down her attraction to him. But when she finds herself facing a life-altering weight loss surgery, she discovers she’s willing to do whatever it takes to embrace life—and love—to the fullest.

Jeffrey Berkley can’t bear the thought of losing the friend he’s only just beginning to realize matters so much to him… no matter what size she is. But he is also terrified that helping her reach for her dreams will also mean finally reaching for his own—and letting down his family’s legacy in the process.

Both Kristina Rose and Jeffrey must learn to love themselves before they can find a way to make a promise to each other. Will they finally be able to lay their heavy burdens at the Lord’s feet, and trust him to bring the happily-ever-after they both crave?

Don’t miss this sweet tale of faith, love, and gastric bypass–get your copy of Love’s Promise today!

Purchase the book: Amazon, B&N, Kobo

Author bio: Melissa Storm is a mother first, and everything else second. Her fiction is highly personal and often based on true stories. Writing is Melissa’s way of showing her daughter just how beautiful life can be, when you pay attention to the everyday wonders that surround us.

Melissa loves books so much, she married fellow author Falcon Storm. Between the two of them, there are always plenty of imaginative, awe-inspiring stories to share. When she’s not reading, writing, or child-rearing, Melissa spends time relaxing at home in the company of her four dogs, four parrots, and rescue cat. She never misses an episode of The Bachelor or her nightly lavender-infused soak in the tub. Because priorities.

The Interview:

Alexis: Why did you write this book?

Melissa: Love’s Promise is deeply personal for me. I don’t think I’ve ever written as much of myself into a character as I did Kristina Rose. As a former gastric bypass patient and someone who has struggled with body image issues my whole life (and still does), I wanted to write a romance that was every bit as much about self-love as romantic love.

Alexis: What’s the special meaning behind your title, Love’s Promise?

Melissa: Love’s Promise is about the promise we must make to ourselves, and how when you start respecting your commitments to your own life you can truly unlock a better and happier world!

Alexis: The heroine in your story, Kristina Rose Maher, desires to know “why fairytales never happen for fat girls.” Talk about the reasons why she believes that to be true. Share her personal journey.

Melissa: Kristina Rose lives in the same small Texas town she grew up in. All her friends are thin and fair. As the only overweight woman in her friend group and one of the few racial minorities in the town, she’s kind of written off the chances of ever having her own love story. She develops feelings for a long-time friend but thinks he would never, could never want her in return.

Alexis: Jeffrey Berkley is the hero of your story. Describe his looks, personality, character flaws and passion for his work as a diner cook.

Melissa: Jeffrey is handsome and fit. He likes to take long runs with his Newfie, Toto, and loves preparing healthy, creative meals. His main flaw is that he never considers what he wants and lives his life by trying to please others. In this way, despite their physical differences, Kristina Rose and Jeffrey face the same struggles of not really loving themselves. They take the journey toward self-acceptance together even though they start at very different points.

Alexis: Why does Kristina think that her being fat equates to the “fact” that Jeffrey will never love her more than a friend?

Melissa: Like so many women, Kristina Rose can’t see her own beauty and therefore assumes others can’t see it either. I think that’s a problem most of us face whether we find ourselves too fat, too thin, too anything. It’s like we reject ourselves before others have the chance to do it for us.

Alexis: What is the turning point for Kristina?

Melissa: She has her first bout of dumping syndrome following her bypass surgery—imagine the most nausea you’ve ever felt and multiply it by 100. She blames herself even though it’s extremely common after surgery. Jeffrey comforts her and makes her promise that she’ll start treating herself the way she treats others, since she is on the same team as her body. It’s a struggle, but now that she realizes how unfair she so often is to herself, she begins to make progress in turning that attitude around.

Alexis: What does Jeffrey think of Kristina when he first meets her? What does Kristina think of Jeffrey?

Melissa: This is a friends-to-lovers story. Jeffrey and Kristina Rose have known each other since high school and been great friends ever since they both began working at the local diner. They’ve just always been there for each other, but don’t realize their friendship has turned to love until the prospect of possibly losing Kristina on the eve of her surgery makes Jeffrey realize how much he cares for her—and that’s much more than as a friend.

Alexis: What role does faith in God play in this story?

Melissa: The role of faith is huge, and the message really comes out when Kristina Rose attends the sermon of her best friend who is also the youth pastor of their church. Self-doubt is a form of fear, and ultimately both Kristina Rose and Jeffrey must learn to trust in God in order to also trust in themselves.

Alexis: As a White author, was it challenging for you to write about a hero and heroine who are both African-American? If so, describe the challenges. If no, explain why.

No, it really wasn’t. It gave me a chance to think about how the characters’ lens might differ from my own. But that’s what authors do with every single character they write. We have to become a different age, gender, personality, set of experiences each and every time—especially for deep point of view books like I write.

Alexis: Why are you passionate about telling Kristina and Jeffrey’s story?

Melissa: Because it’s one so many of us can relate to and hopefully find hope in. All my stories are about finding light in dark times, and the world needs that now just as much as ever.

Alexis: What advice do you have for White authors who want to write about characters of color (African American, Hispanic, Indian, Asian, etc.), but are not quite sure how to tell their story?

Melissa: Be authentic, period. Remember that no matter the background, each character is more defined by their unique personality and experiences than just their race, just their gender, just their creed. Develop the whole character. Be open to learning, and don’t resort to stereotypes. A character should be a three-dimensional being living in your two-dimensional world. Give your character life.

Alexis: You’re passionate about telling the stories of everyone, regardless of their race. Have you always been this way? If not, what was the inciting incident that set you on this hero’s journey?

Melissa: Yes, I have always been drawn to multicultural fiction both as a writer and a reader. I grew up in a poor, mostly non-White area, and for years was the only White girl around. I was bullied, teased, and didn’t have any friends until late in elementary school. I know how it feels to be outcast simply based on appearances and prejudices, and it sucks.

At the same time, all that time by myself and with my books in those formative years was amazing for my self growth and creativity. I don’t regret it as an adult, but I was an incredibly lonely child—and that’s still having been a member of America’s dominant society. I still saw myself represented on TV, in magazines and books. I can’t imagine how isolating it must be to feel alone on all levels, especially for a child.

More recently in life… My first husband came from India. We were together for eight years, and for eight years I lived and breathed that culture. As such, Hindu culture makes it into my stories most often, but I also enjoy exploring characters from other walks of like too.

Currently, my wonderful soulmate (second) husband and I are in the process of adopting a child—or possibly children—from Bulgaria. They are of Romani descent, a culture which has been discriminated against widely throughout history. The Romani children are frequently adopted to America, because the rampant racism in Europe makes it difficult to find homes there. We are enjoying learning about their beautiful culture and their shared history with the Jewish people of Europe, and we are also teaching our three-year-old daughter as we learn.

I simply cannot image a life without full color. Our differences make us unique, and they make life exciting!

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

Melissa: Thank you for the thoughtful interview questions, Alexis. I am so pleased that I am able to bring this story into the world and hopefully help others who struggle with the same self-esteem issues I faced growing up and even as an adult. Fiction entertains, yes, but I also hope mine means something special to those who read it.

~*~

Connect with Melissa:

Website ~ www.MelStorm.com

Facebook ~ www.Facebook.com/MeetTheStorms

Instagram ~ www.Instagram.com/MeetTheStorms

Pinterest ~ www.Pinterest.com/MelStormAuthor

Twitter ~ www.Twitter.com/MelStormAuthor

YouTube ~ www.MelStorm.com/YouTube

~*~

Links for Love’s Promise:

Book Trailer ~ https://youtu.be/qBLm9Im_vsk

Read the First 3 Chapters ~ http://www.melstorm.com/SpecialPreview

Author Interview: April W. Gardner

Happy Monday, y’all! Wait to you see who’s chatting with us today! That’s right, April W. Gardner, historical romance author. She’s going to be talking about her novel, The Red Feather. Be sure to check out her other books on the Diverse Books recommendation page AND Beth Erin will be sharing her review of The Red Feather, later this week. Let’s get started!


About the Book

theredfeatherOn a moonless night in 1813, Adela McGirth encounters a set of wolves and the steely eyed warrior who slays them, searing himself on her heart. When he returns, it’s with a brand of a different sort—the flaming arrow that destroys her life.

In the copper-haired captive, Totka Lawe finds the other half of his spirit. He vows he would die ten deaths to protect her, and he would kill any who tried to steal her away. With bluecoat soldiers pursuing him, a jealous cousin pursuing her, and the woman herself pursuing home, that vow stands a serious chance of being called into action.

In the first of this three-part, inspirational story, award-winning author April W Gardner brings to vibrant life an obscure event and the noble people who once dominated the Southeast but are now forgotten.

Purchase at: Amazon    Add to: Goodreads


About the Author

aprilwgardnerAPRIL W GARDNER writes history with a Christian perspective and a little imagination.

She is a copyeditor, military wife, and homeschooling mother of two who lives in Texas. She writes Christian historical romance with a focus on our Southeastern Native tribes. In no particular order, April dreams of owning a horse, learning a third language, and visiting all the national parks.

Connect and follow: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads


Interview

Toni: Thank you so much for joining us to talk about The Red Feather, part 1 in the Beneath the Blackberry Moon saga. I’m tickled pink that you’ve chosen to focus on Native Americans in this book. Care to share a little about the tribe Totka Lawe is part of?

April: Sure! But before I dive into that, thank you for having me, and thank you for this blog. It’s more needful today than ever before, and I’m honored both to have been invited and to write diverse characters.

Totka is Muscogee, or Creek as his people were first called by the British. For over a hundred years, the Muscogees were the dominate people group in our Southeast. They ruled from the East Coast to present-day Alabama and beyond. When they migrated into the area, they were smart conquerors and incorporated the tribes they overtook into themselves and, over time, created the Creek Confederacy. It was so mighty that President George Washington treated it with the same respect he did the European nations.

This history is taught in few American schools today. The Creeks and their history have been systematically swept under the rug since 1813 when the nation raged over the massacre at Fort Mims (the setting of The Red Feather). It was the largest massacre of whites by Natives in our history (some estimate 500 dead). The event was horrific, no denying, but I take special care to show both sides of the story. I tell it through the eyes a Muscogee warrior named Totka who simply wants to preserve his land and his culture from encroaching whites. Their method of warfare was a more violent one than Americans were (and are) accustomed to, but they were behaving in accordance with their culture and traditions. However, from that day on, Americans associated the Creek Nation with disgust and began to wipe them from the history books. It’s their forgotten story I long to tell.

Toni: Wow! Now you’ve got me wanting to do a search to learn more! Such an interesting story to tell. And your other character,  Adela McGirth, is Totka Lawe’s captive. Man, oh man, did that get my attention in the blurb. There’s a struggle that appears between one’s past life, present circumstances, and the future. How does Adela handle the pressure?

April: Adela is the other half of the equation, and her story is based on the actual McGirth family. They were rescued from the fort in the heat of the battle and protected by a Muscogee warrior for the duration of the war. The romance is my own invention, which wasn’t easy to do, considering Totka is partly to blame for Adela’s grief. How does she handle it? The only way any person can handle such a thing and come out the stronger for it is through the power of Christ. Apart from His grace and the comfort of the Holy Spirit, I don’t know if it’s possible to survive such a thing emotionally, much less come away loving the enemy. Adela is a strong character to begin with, and though she does emerge from the ordeal bearing emotional scars, she relies heavily on God, staying true to Him and her faith.

Toni: God is amazing! I love to see how His presences changes a person. Now, since we’re all about diversity, I have to ask, how did you develop Totka Lawe’s character without falling into racial stereotypes?

April: With lots of help! My dear expert, Ghost Dancer, is Muscogee. He is passionate about preserving his heritage and has dedicated countless hours to helping me get it right. Without his guidance and the careful eye of another expert and friend, Edna, I probably would have stumbled into more than one racial stereotype.

Toni: How awesome! I love to hear who authors have spoken to in their research. What is it about this time in history that captivates you so?

April: Good question! I grew up hearing that my great-great-something grandfather was Billy (Red Eagle) Weatherford, one of the attacking Creeks who later leapt from a bluff to save his people from the pursuit of General Andrew Jackson. As a young adult, I dug into that story, wished it were told in novel form, and decided to do it myself. My research became an addiction and a love that continues to this day.

Toni: Ah, that makes sense. Family history has a way of weaving into our present. How about some easier questions?
What do you do for fun in your spare time?

April: Um, write? LOL. Other things I enjoy doing are walking my fur-babies (two German Shepherds), visiting historical sites, and reading.

Toni: German Shepherds are such gorgeous animals. How about favorite meal?

April: Anything I don’t have to cook. Ha! But if you’re looking for something specific… I’m a big rice girl. If it has rice, I’m a fan!

Toni: Kindred spirits! I say the same thing and rice is wonderful. Especially with butter and sugar. But I digress. Favorite Christian song?

April: There are a ton of contemporary songs that I adore, but my favorite hymn is “The Love of God” by Frederick Lehman. The third verse is my favorite:

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

Toni: Beautiful! Last but not least, what’s next for you on your writing journey?

April: Glad you asked! Bitter Eyes No More released February 7. Its tagline is, “A man of abiding honor, tested by a woman of ruinous passion. A woman of unspeakable sins, pursued by a God of unquenchable mercy.” It takes place during the last days of Spanish Florida and depicts the upheaval between the Spanish, Natives, and Bluecoats (American soldiers).

It’s such a new release that my “what’s next” is still at least six months away, but I’m already working on it. The fifth book in the Creek Country Saga is entitled Love the War Woman. Its female lead is a Muscogee woman who is, you guessed it, a warrior. She is bodyguard to Chief Tall Bull who is far too handsome and prestigious to consider loving a roughened woman such as herself. It’s set during the inciting event of the First Seminole War, and because of the rare setting and characterization, it promises to be quite unique!

Toni: It sounds great! I’m looking forward to it and definitely adding your books to my TBR pile. Thank you so much for talking with me today.  I’ve enjoyed it. 🙂 What about you, reader friends? Care to ask April some questions?


Interview conducted by Toni Shiloh

Author Interview: Deborah Raney

Happy Monday, Reader Friends! Today, Deborah Raney has stopped by to talk about her novel, Home at Last. It sounds like it’s going to be an awesome read. Let’s get started!


About the Book

homeatlastLink Whitman has settled into the role of bachelor without ever intending to. Now he’s stuck in a dead-end job and, as the next Whitman wedding fast approaches, he is the last one standing. The pressure from his sisters’ efforts to play matchmaker is getting hard to bear as Link pulls extra shifts at work, and helps his parents at the Chicory Inn.

All her life, Shayla Michaels has felt as if she straddled two worlds. Her mother’s white family labeled her African American father with names Shayla didn’t repeat in polite––well, in any company. Her father’s family disapproved as well, though they eventually embraced Shayla as their own. After the death of her mother, and her brother Jerry’s incarceration, life has left Shayla’s father bitter, her niece, Portia, an orphan, and Shayla responsible for them all. She knows God loves them all, but why couldn’t people accept each other for what was on the inside? For their hearts?

Everything changes one icy morning when a child runs into the street and Link nearly hits her with his pickup. Soon he is falling in love with the little girl’s aunt, Shayla, the beautiful woman who runs Coffee’s On, the bakery in Langhorne. Can Shayla and Link overcome society’s view of their differences and find true love? Is there hope of changing the sometimes-ugly world around them into something better for them all?

Purchase at: Amazon, Abingdon, CBD, Goodreads 


About the Author

deborahraneyDEBORAH RANEY’s first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title and launched Deb’s writing career. Twenty years and thirty books later, she’s still writing. She and her husband traded small-town life in Kansas––the setting of many of Deb’s novels––for life in the city of Wichita. They love traveling to visit four grown children and seven grandchildren who all live much too far away.

Connect and follow at: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Blog, Amazon, Instagram, Pinterest, Goodreads


Interview

Toni: Thank you so much for joining us to talk about Home at Last. I can’t tell you how excited I was to see your novel will be dealing with the subject of interracial relationships. What made you decide to write this book?

Deborah:  I grew up on a farm in Kansas, attended country school, then married and raised our kids in a small town where racial issues were almost non-existent, partly because there were few people of any color except white. Still, no one I knew was racist, or if they were, they pretended not to be. We studied the civil rights movement and celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. in school, but I thought the things he fought about were ancient history. Perhaps I was too sheltered from the way things were in other parts of the country, even though my parents taught me to love unconditionally.

I first witnessed subtle racism when we traveled in the South, nearly always from older people, and I remember thinking “this will take care of itself in another generation because young people aren’t so prejudiced.” But then I learned of a young white girl who was dating a wonderful black Christian man, and her parents were devastated. We’d met the young man and loved him. We were shocked that such blatant racism still existed in this enlightened 21st Century. That incident opened my eyes to the fact that until Jesus returns, there will always be sinners, and sadly racism will likely still be one of the sins we must deal with. Unfortunately, after many years of making great strides, the problem seems to have grown worse in the last decade. The divide along racial lines in this country breaks my heart. As do the divides along religious lines, economic lines, and any other lines that cause one group of people to believe they are superior to another group.

Four years ago, my husband and I moved to Wichita, Kansas, into a very wonderfully diverse neighborhood. We have invited each of our neighbors over for dinner and have gotten to know some of the most wonderful people—African American, Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Lutheran, Catholic, non-believers—people who don’t look like we do, or have the same background we do. But sitting around a table, sharing a meal, we suddenly begin to find the ways we can see eye-to-eye—and to celebrate the ways we are different. I truly believe that so much could be solved if people would just sit down to a meal with those they think they have nothing in common with. How often they would discover that exactly the opposite is true! Fear of one another would be replaced by respect for one another. Stereotypes would fall by the wayside. And God’s love would break down any remaining barriers. I want my writing to be part of that wave of His love.

Toni: That is wonderful! I’m glad you’re working towards harmony. Others will definitely see Christ in your actions. Which brings me to your character, Shayla Michaels , who is biracial. Given your own ethnic background, did you find it difficult to write Shayla’s?

Deborah: Just as it is when I write ANY character who is different from me—whether in gender, age, occupation, economic status, religion, or race—it is a challenge to assume the point of view of someone different from yourself, and I know that I’d better do my homework. When I write from a male character’s point of view, I often holler down to my husband, “Is this something you would say? How would you feel if…?” Or if I’m writing a character who’s closer in age to my kids than to me, I’ll shoot them an e-mail and ask, “How would you say this? What word would you use?” Of course, knowing a wide variety of people, having watched a ton of movies and read a ton of books, I’ve learned a lot about people who are different from me. But I admit I’m surprised by how often I guess the answer wrong to those questions!

Writing a biracial character was no different. I’ve never experienced being biracial, and I’ve never been in an interracial relationship. So I did what I do with every novel: I found real people who HAVE experienced those things, and asked them to read my manuscript and to be very honest about whether I was writing realistically or if I’d gone off track. I asked them to tell me if they found any of my characters’ words offensive. (Of course, I had some villains whose job in my novel was to BE offensive. I’m surprised how often readers “blame” me, the author, as if I agreed with the bad things my villains think!)

But even if I interview 100 people, and read dozens of books from the perspective of my character, I will never write “truth” for every person who reads my book. One interracial couple I interviewed experienced almost no opposition to their marriage; another couple, nearly disowned by their parents. And if we are ever going to get past the racial divide in this country, we must acknowledge BOTH truths. We must rejoice that there has been some progress, but we must also mourn that we’re not there yet and there is still work to do.

My writing critique partner, Tamera Alexander, and I laugh because I was raised on a farm in the Midwest, and she’s a city girl from Atlanta. We are closest of friends, but WOW do we ever see things differently! And those differences are a wonderful thing! They make us unique and interesting to each other, and they help us realize that not everyone thinks and feels exactly like we do! But those very differences—whether race, economics, religion, life experience, etc.—can be what make us fascinating and inspiring and educational to each other, IF we are willing to view our differences that way.

Toni: I’m so thankful for those who are genuinely interested in having an open discussion about differences. Kind of fits one of the themes of Home at Last: racial reconciliation. As a Christian, why do you feel this subject is so important?

Deborah: God sees and loves His children all equally. And He has called us to love one another the way He loves us. Right now, we’re not doing a very good job of it in this country [U.S.] and in this world. And that breaks my heart. If my writing can be one drop of water in a flood of love that brings healing, then I will feel my work was worthwhile.

Toni: Amen! How did you make Shayla believable without falling into racial stereotypes?

Deborah: I think there are several things that helped me flesh out Shayla’s character. First, I tried to look at her character and her personality apart from how she appears physically. I tried to get to know HER. The essence of her. Every normal human being has the same wealth of emotions, the same balance of positive and negative qualities. I tried to make Shayla unique, even though she was very much a product of her parents’ rocky interracial marriage. Another thing I did was to purposefully make Shayla’s brother fall into the stereotype, which angers her, because she’s worked so hard to overcome the stereotypes. Sometimes, pretending stereotypes don’t exist only draws attention to them, so I tried to face that head-on, yet in a way that shone a light on the wrongfulness of perpetuating stereotypes and judging people by them.

Toni: Love that! I imagine there are many great scenes from that alone. Is there a Bible verse that speaks to Shayla and Link’s story?

Deborah: The whole Bible! Because the entire story of God’s Word, from Genesis to Revelation is a story of reconciliation! Ephesians 2:14-22 speaks of the “ethnic” difference between Jews and Gentiles, and sets the example for how we should look at breaking down the walls that divide any diverse groups:

“For he himself [Jesus] is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

Toni: Love God’s Word. Thanks for sharing that.
How about some easier questions?
Do you listen to music while writing or require silence?

Deborah: I listen to movie soundtracks while I write, trying to match the music to the mood of the scene I’m writing. Soundtracks are intended to be background for a scene, so they are perfect for writing. I always wish my readers could listen to the same playlist while they read my novels.

Toni: Have you checked out Spotify? You can make a playlist and share it with your readers.
Favorite season?

Deborah: Spring or Fall, usually whichever we’re currently in. Living in Kansas we have a wonderful range of seasons and I do love the ever changing seasons and weather. But the relief Spring and Fall each offer from the more brutal seasons of cold and heat make them my favorite.

Toni: I hear that! Favorite candy?

Deborah: I love Heath Bars and other toffee-based candy, Coffee Nips, and jawbreakers. Sadly, I’ve never met a piece of candy I didn’t like.

Toni: I love toffee covered peanuts. Last but not least, how can readers support you on your writing journey?

Deborah: I don’t think readers realize the power they have to encourage and inspire writers. We appreciate our readers so much! When you write to an author telling them you enjoyed their book, or when you write a glowing review, that is like fuel to our writers’ engines. Probably most tangibly important is that you buy our books. Authors make ZERO money on free books, books borrowed from the library, or books bought used. Many readers don’t realize that authors spend out-of-pocket money on books and shipping when they do giveaways. But if a book doesn’t make money, publishers won’t sign that author for another contract. So, a huge THANK YOU to the readers who have purchased their favorite authors’ books.

Thanks so much for hosting me, Toni! I love the work you are doing toward reconciliation and to promote Christian fiction!

Toni: Thanks so much for being here! Readers, do you have any questions for Deborah?


Interview conducted by Toni Shiloh.

Author Interview: Grace Ibitamuno Obienu

I originally ran this interview with Grace Ibitamuno Obienu a couple of weeks ago on my own review blog, but I went back and talked with her some more about her characters in preparation for posting the interview here on Diversity Between The Pages.


About the Author:

Grace Ibitamuno Obienu has been a storyteller all her life, completing her first novel at the age of twelve, which thankfully went unpublished. She has worked as a technical writer in Biotechnology but has recently embarked on a journey toward dual doctoral degrees in Medicine and Public Health. With roots in Nigeria, she calls Central New Jersey home, where she lives with her husband and son.

You can connect with Grace on Facebook.


About the Book:

Burdened by the shame of her past and by the pain in her body, hope for a better tomorrow is a heavy chain to wear for Lola, a nineteen-year-old survivor of years of trafficking and exploitation.

Jaisen, a police officer, is drawn to Lola, both for the fire in her eyes and the hesitation in her step.

For Deja, Jaisen’s cousin, marriage to her fiancé is the greatest prize—a prize for which she would forsake all else.

As the story unfolds, vivid flashbacks of lurid moments past, lurking former owners, long buried secrets, and the search for a murderer threaten each of their quests, testing their mettle and their faith.

Could hope possibly flourish in the face of such painful obstacles? Is love truly a worthy pursuit, or a consolation prize for unwitting fools?

Not Yet Beautiful, a debut novel set in the Northeast corridor, is grippingly raw in its portrayal of love, loss, and restoration.

Purchase at: Amazon, B&N


Carrie: Hi Grace! Welcome to the blog! Thank you so much for chatting with me!

Grace: Thanks for having me. It’s great to chat with you!

Carrie: Let’s start with a ‘fast four’. Apples or oranges?

Grace: Oranges for on the go. Apples if I have time. I really don’t like the feel of apple skin against my teeth so I have to peel them before I can eat them. And oranges are so refreshing.

Carrie: Winter or Summer?

Grace: Winter… but only because it is closer to Fall temperature-wise. I like cooler weather, running in the 50s and 60s… cool enough for a light jacket and boots kind of weather.

Carrie: Dogs or Cats?

Grace: Haha, I’d unfortunately have to say neither at the risk of offending all the wonderful cat and dog people. But I hear pets are great, so who knows maybe one day…

Carrie: Coffee or Tea?

Grace: Coffee if I need the caffeine. Tea if it feels like a put-my-feet-up-I-have-time-to-relax kind of day. So coffee 🙂

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

Grace: I like to think that is the power of imagination. I always have stories running around in my head.

Carrie: That’s an awesome superpower for a writer to have! When you walk into a bookstore, where do you head first?

Grace: The Inspirational Romance aisle. I like to see what’s new in the genre. Or the section with books on leadership.

Carrie: Inspy romance is the first place I go too! Do you have any strange writing habits/quirks?

Grace: I like to outline my stories in as much detail as possible both before I begin and as I write. Usually before bed is my time to imagine scenes in my story down to the details of the dialogue. So, as I lie in bed waiting to fall asleep, I imagine scenes in my story, complete with dialogue, visualizing the characters moving, talking, walking, whatever the case may be. I have even been known to hug myself when my characters do :-). Night after night, I can work on the same scene till it feels perfect then I either add it to my outline or flesh out the one I have with details I gathered from my bed time brainstorming 🙂

Carrie: Oh gosh! I think remembering these scenes is another superpower you have! I would forget by the time i woke up lol 🙂

Not Yet Beautiful addresses the issue of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Describe your main characters for us and – without giving spoilers, of course – explain how they’ve been touched by human trafficking.

Grace: There are three main characters – Lola, Jaisen and Deja. Lola is a survivor of sex trafficking trying to find her way, searching for hope and love in the midst of the pain of her past wounds. Jaisen is a police officer and Lola’s love interest. Equal parts fervent, equal parts impulsive, he pursues Lola passionately, drawn by her. Deja, Jaisen’s cousin, befriends Lola, though her vision is clouded by her own troubled relationship with her fiancé.

Carrie: These three main characters – Lola, Deja, and Jaisen – are all of Nigerian descent. How did your own heritage influence your development of these characters?

Grace: As a Nigerian American who lived in Nigeria for 10 years, I drew on my own experience in creating these characters – their mannerisms, the things that mattered to them (for Deja, feeling the pressure from her mother to marry for instance), the native food, the colloquial Pidgin English used in one scene. The name “Lola” is native to one of the many Nigerian languages in fact. It means “wealth.”

Carrie: They all sound like very powerful and intriguing characters!  I think a lot of us don’t realize how prevalent human trafficking is, even in our own cities. What inspired you to write Not Yet Beautiful?

Grace: I was at a Writer’s Conference a few years ago sharing about how badly I wanted to write a novel and how I wanted it to be about something compelling when I got to talking with a faculty member. She brought up the topic of human trafficking. Inspired, I started my research when I returned home and it wasn’t long before I grew infuriated with the heinousness of the crime as well as the fact that it happens under our noses. So, I chose to write about it, looking at the group of people forced into the trade and held by debt bondage. However, I wanted the story to be hopeful and to focus on the aftermath of the experience, looking at the recovery process from trauma. I wanted to attempt to humanize the choices – good, bad or otherwise – people (in this case my characters) make in trying to confront or overcome painful pasts, while still highlighting the God factor, the work He does in us when we ask.

Carrie: The process of recovery is so inspiring, from the accounts I’ve read. And God is THE ultimate Rescuer, isn’t He? What do you most want readers to take away from Not Yet Beautiful?

Grace: I tried to cover a lot of grounds – looking at trauma and recovering from trauma, how hardships affect what we believe in or think we believe, how they force us to look inward and examine ourselves. And where we end up when all is said and done, whether that be where we thought we would or not. And perchance if it is, if that be for reasons we ordinarily would have thought would lead us there. I tried to look at people as consummate, influenced by our own psychology, our social lives, our faith, our fears and hopes and mostly by our dreams. But still imperfect because none of us are.

I’m really glad you asked this question as it gives me a chance to reflect. I hope everyone takes something from the book about the power of hope and love, something that makes their lives a little richer.

Carrie: Grace, thank you so much for taking time to talk with me twice! LOL. What’s coming up next for you?

Grace: I have a lot of things in the works, though they are all mostly in my head at this point. The first order of the day is the sequel to Not Yet Beautiful – spotlighting Deja’s story a little more and continuing Jaisen and Lola’s journey.

Carrie: We will be praying for you as you continue to breathe your heritage and God’s grace into their stories!


Interview conducted by Carrie Schmidt