Interview with Traci Wooden-Carlisle

Happy Memorial Day to our US readers! I hope you’re enjoying the long weekend – and what better way than chatting about books?!?

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Traci Wooden-Carlisle about (of course) books and, specifically, her suspense novel – Missing Destiny.

About the Book

missing destinyShe spends Friday nights with charts and graphs. His best friend is a dog named Sebastian.

All she’s ever wanted was peace and to feel she belonged. All he ever wanted was to disappear.

She’s a city girl hiding in a small town. He’s back home hiding from his past.

If life were perfect, they could be each other’s missing destiny.

When a mysterious man becomes a threat to her health Dr. Shauna Nathan, a workaholic scientist, is about to lose control over her emotions and her life. Her family steps in to protect her even if it means disrupting her otherwise predictable and orderly existence by bribing her with a chance to spend time with her old college roommate and surround herself with her one true passion — horses.

She heads to a ranch in Chandler County to hide from her stalker. Instead, she might find there healing she looks for — and love she doesn’t.

Horse therapist Zach moved to New York, had a successful career in finance, a beautiful wife, and daughter one day and the next it was all gone. He came back to Chandler County to come to terms with his loss and find a modicum of peace as a ranch hand- turned therapist at Murphy’s Equestrian Therapy Center. He has lost everyone he loved. Would he risk his heart again for Shauna?

Though the ruthless killer on Shauna’s trail will stop at nothing to destroy her, will Zach and Shauna escape danger and find happiness in each other’s arms and their missing destiny?

GOODREADS | AMAZON | B&N


Hi Traci! Thanks so much for chatting with us today! Let’s start with a question ‘just for fun’! Ocean or mountains?

Traci: This should be easy, but I’m torn. I was born and raised near the ocean in Southern California and went to college between the mountains and the ocean. I can receive peace from both but if I want to retreat for more than a day it will be the mountains.

Carrie: I’m the same way – both bring me such peace, but when i have to choose it’s going to be the mountains!

Other than the Bible, what are five of your most cherished books?

Traci: I will probably always go back to Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen for its language, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman for its wisdom, The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell due to nostalgia, Archer’s Voice by Mia Sheridan for its ability to make me cry buckets, and Black Presence in the Bible by Walter Author McCray which opened my eyes to my some of my ancestor’s accomplishments.

Carrie: Oh! Excellent choices & I love the variety!

If I asked your characters to describe YOU as an author, what would they say?

Traci: I love it when she writes because she listens well to what we’re saying and feeling, but sometimes she leaves us for weeks in the same position or situation and that gets frustrating. One good thing is she doesn’t erase and rewrite our scenes over and over but sometimes it does take her a moment to find just the right word or expression to describe how we are feeling.

Carrie: Don’t leave your characters hanging, Traci! haha! 😉 

Shauna and Zach are both hiding out in Chandler County for various reasons. What inspired you to incorporate this element into both of their characters?

Traci: I have been surrounded by quiet and strong men all my life. They can express themselves when they want and are affectionate. I love sharing those traits with my male characters. From the beginning I saw Zach as a recluse. He brooded but was still able to take comfort in nature. From that thought I worked backward to uncover the cause for his behavior. My inspiration for Shauna came from my niece who was going through college at the time. She was struggling with the transition from grade school to college life. Books weren’t the issue. Finding her passion was. My character, Shauna, had the chance to get reacquainted with herself and what she loved by getting lost in a town that expected nothing from her.

Carrie: Oooo I suspect Zach might become one of my new book boyfriends 😀 And Shauna – how many of us have been in the same position, right? Trying to find what we’ve been created for, our passion. I can’t wait to meet them both 🙂

What is one of your favorite quotes from the book & why do you love it?

Traci: I will preface this answer by letting you know that the conversation following this quote is one of my favorites because it uncovers so much about both Zach and Shauna and it makes my heart sigh. “And right there, as she looked into those warm, gold-speckled, brown eyes, every single emotion hovering at the edge of reason jumped off.”

Carrie: Oh i love that!!

Why is it important to you to write ethnically diverse characters?

Traci: I love to read and as a reader I enjoy many different genres. My favorite is romance and its subgenres. I love reading romances books with ethnically diverse characters because I enjoy reading about different cultures, including my own, and the influence those cultures have on the characters’ reaction to different situations and their feelings for each other.

Carrie: Those differences just add so many great layers and dimensions to the story, don’t they? 

How can we as readers of Christian fiction better support diverse authors and diverse stories?

Traci: We as readers can support diverse authors and diverse stories by introducing them to networking groups that would like to exchange ways to expand their readership. Buying and sharing is important but you can’t buy and share something you don’t know exists.

Carrie: That is so true and a great reminder for us!


About Traci Wooden-Carlisle

traci wooden carlisleTraci Wooden-Carlisle began writing poetry and short stories as soon as she was able to form words on paper. She used that as a way to creating worlds, as well as, to communicate with God. A native of Los Angeles, California, she grew up attending United Methodist Church under the leadership of a pastor whose heart was for youth. Once she finished college at she found herself at a loss. She felt caught in the transition between childhood and adulthood. She surrounded herself with saints and volunteered her services as a graphic artist. Through the early-morning prayer, all night Friday prayer and 3-day shut-ins she started on her journey toward her most desired gift, an intimate relationship with God.

Today, Mrs. Wooden-Carlisle lives in San Diego with her husband, David Carlisle. She teaches fitness classes, runs a jewelry and craft business, and is currently writing her third book in her Christian-fiction series, Promises to Zion.

CONNECT WITH TRACIwebsite | Facebook | Twitter


**Giveaway**

Have a comment or question for Traci? She’s giving away a print copy of Missing Destiny and a bookmark. (US only, International winner will receive a $6 Amazon gift card instead) One winner will be randomly selected from everyone who comments on this post by Friday June 1, 2018.

Advertisements

Interview with Stacy Hawkins Adams about her book “Finding Home”

Happy Monday, reader friends!

Let’s welcome Stacy Hawkins Adams to the blog again!

Today, she’s here to talk about her story Finding Home.


About the Book:

What happens when you’re so desperate for things to go your way, that anything goes? Jessica Wilson Arnold is a superstar professional speaker whose husband and friends fret about the strain of her ambitions, while she hungers for more.

When a medical crisis and some poor decisions bring her fast-track success to a screeching halt, Jessica is forced to admit that her life isn’t as perfectly packaged as advertised. Her quest to restore her health and prioritize what matters most leads her to a crossroad.

Will she revive her faith and learn to love herself and others more deeply, or cling to a path that threatens disaster? Jessica’s desperate choices and gripping fear will take readers on a literary ride that’s both shocking and familiar, mostly leaving them rooting for her to win big – with family, faith and finding her way.

Purchase the book: Amazon ~ B&N ~ BAM!


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

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

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


Interview with Stacy Hawkins Adams, author of Finding Home:

Alexis: Why did you call this book “Finding Home” and what is its involvement with “Winds of Change”?

Stacy: Finding Home is the third book in the Winds of Change series, and since the first two books contained the word “home” (to convey each main character’s search to better understand herself) I wanted to continue that theme with this final book in the series. It also characterizes the reconnection between the main character  (Jessica Wilson Arnold) and her two estranged sisters, who are featured in Book 1 and Book 2 in the series. Each book in the series is written as a stand-alone title, meaning it does not need to be read in any particular order. Even so, it was important to show how the main character in Finding Home (Jessica) grew from one level of maturity and self-confidence to another by book’s end.

Alexis: Tell me about your story’s heroine Jessica Wilson Arnold. What drives her? What are her dreams for both her career and personal life? What is her worst weakness? Explain.

Stacy: I don’t want to give away too much and spoil it for readers, because these questions are at the very heart of the book’s plot. Jessica has portrayed herself a certain way to the world. However, as she begins to make decisions that aren’t the wisest or the most loving, her ploy for fame and success by any means necessary surface in stunning ways.

Alexis: How did Jessica become a “superstar professional speaker”? Give insight into her journey.

Stacy: Jessica attended one of the top universities in the nation and used that as leverage to craft a career that would bring her attention, accolades and success like her family had never before experienced. She is the baby of the family, but she is also its rockstar. As her story unfolds, however, readers will learn that her drive is actually borne from a source of deep pain. Everything is not always as it seems.

Alexis: Why do Jessica’s husband and friends “fret about the strain of her ambitions”?

Stacy: They see how driven she is and how hard she works, and they worry that it may cost her what matters most – a loving, meaningful life offstage, when the speaker spotlights are dim. Her husband, who is eager to start a family, feels especially concerned about this.

Alexis: Who is Jessica’s husband? What is his name and how does he help her? Is there anything that he does to deter her from her heart’s desire? Why does he adore his wife?

Stacy: Jessica’s husband Keith is patient and loving and does his best to support her career ambitions even as he seeks to excel in his own pursuits. He’s even patient with her when he wants to start a family, giving her time to accomplish her goals even though it means what he longs for must wait. However, he is also realistic about her need to balance work and life, and he sees that she struggles in this area. Jessica knows her husband loves her unconditionally and would do anything to support her; but when she faces a personal challenge that she can’t control, she’s certain this issue will cause him to demand that she slow down – a step she’s just not ready to take.

Alexis: Is Jessica a workaholic? Why or why not?

Stacy: Jessica is not necessarily a workaholic; she takes time off work and enjoys hanging out with her friends and husband. But she is definitely driven to succeed at all costs. So while she is not working around the clock, per se, she makes strategic decisions (right and wrong) to propel herself to another level of success.

Alexis: Describe the crisis that brings Jessica’s fast-paced lifestyle to a halt. What impact does that have on her career-oriented mind and dream-filled heart?

Stacy: Without giving away too much to readers, I’ll share that she is diagnosed with a chronic health condition that affects her energy and mobility. She is crushed, yet determined to push through. She believes she is too close to seeing her dreams come true to change course for any reason.

Alexis: Would you like to see more characters of color like Jessica in Christian fiction? Why or why not?

Stacy: I hope readers are lured to this book because of the compelling storyline and its twists and turns, without getting hung up on Jessica’s ethnicity and race. She just “happens” to be a successful African American woman with close friends from other backgrounds. Since this is not a social justice story, but instead a novel about one woman’s journey to recognizing and accepting her flaws so that she can self-correct and become a better person, this is a story that any woman can relate to, even if the choices Jessica makes feel foreign to some women readers at the beginning. By book’s end, readers from all backgrounds will appreciate the emotional journey Jessica takes.

Alexis: What steps does Jessica take to restore her health and reconnect with the people that matter most?

Stacy: I don’t want to give away a significant part of her journey before readers have a chance to discover it in the pages of the book. However, I’ll share that by the middle of the novel, she receives a wake-up call that helps her snap out of her selfishness long enough to realize that she needs to do things differently if she wants to enjoy lasting love and develop self-respect.

Alexis: Why does Jessica’s faith need a revival?

Stacy: Like many Christians, she has found herself going through the motions rather than making intentional efforts to connect with God. Additionally, her history as a PK (preacher’s kid) impacted her view of the church and of God, and she has to overcome some childhood experiences to give God another chance to fill her heart and soul.

Alexis: When you first created Jessica’s character and started the rough draft of writing your story, was she someone you could root for or not? Explain.

Stacy: When I wrote the first half of the book I did not like Jessica. Her thought process and her decisions seemed foolish and farfetched to me, even as I crafted them. However, several young women who are millennials that I spoke with about the plot I was crafting encouraged me to keep going because due to the thriving industry of reality TV, many women would view Jessica’s actions as plausible, they insisted. Based on their advice, I moved forward with the plot and with describing Jessica’s schemes, yet I did not care for her! By the time I wrote the second half of the book and explained a little more of her background to readers, I felt compassion for her.

Alexis: Would you say that Jessica is a “strong Black woman”? Why or why not?

Stacy: I seek to avoid stereotypes with my writing and with the characters I create. I write about women who are dealing with issues to which all women can relate, and about women who have unique personalities based on their particular backgrounds; so no- I would not give her this label.

Alexis: Who is Jessica’s closest friend and what role do they play in this story?

Stacy: Jessica has several close women friends and they serve as her “armor bearers” in a sense when she is at her lowest point. Even when she doesn’t respond, they continue to offer her their love and support, as only true friends can.

Alexis: As the author, what was your greatest challenge in writing this story?

Stacy:  My greatest challenge in writing this story was to write a plot that seemed so farfetched from women I know and interact with; however, as I indicated in my previous response, my twenty-something readers encouraged me to push forward, because they said Jessica’s choices reflect what some women would actually do in moments of desperation. I hope this story will change their minds!

Alexis: What message do you want your readers to remember most about Finding Home?

Stacy: I would like readers to put down this book with a greater understanding of the importance of truth, integrity, faith, and hope. I hope they’ll be able to relate the struggles Jessica faces to their own Goliaths and know that instead of trying to figure everything out on their own, they, too, can trust God to grant grace and make their paths straight, if they will just stand still and give Him the space and opportunity to work things out for their good.

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

Stacy: Thank you so much for featuring me and my novel Finding Home, Alexis! I’d simply like to thank your readers (in advance) for taking time to read this novel and for sharing their thoughts in online reviews if they are inclined. I hope that even if Jessica’s choices don’t resonate with them, they’ll keep reading to see how she grows over the course of the book and winds up a better, stronger, more faithful version of herself. In case they’re interested, here’s a link to an excerpt from the book: http://www.stacyhawkinsadams.com/finding-home—excerpt.html

Thanks again, and blessings!

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor


Connect with Stacy:

Website – www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com

Twitter – www.twitter.com/shadams

Facebook – www.facebook.com/stacyinspires

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

YouTube – https://bit.ly/2H1A7Kv

SaveSave

Interview with Pat Simmons, author of “My Rock: Tabitha”

Happy Monday, reader friends!

Let’s welcome Pat Simmons to the blog again. Last week, we shone the spotlight on her book My Rock: Tabitha. Today, you get to read my interview with Pat about her book!

Pat shared great insight into her story and her life as an author, in this interview.

Enjoy!


Author Interview with Pat Simmons about her book My Rock: Tabitha

Alexis: This book focuses on three sisters living in different cities. Why did you choose to tell their stories?

Pat: God told me to write it. “Someone needs to hear from Me,” He said. I obeyed to bring awareness to the sacrifices of caregivers who are struggling in plain sight.

Alexis: What were the challenges in merging three storylines?

Pat: I focused on Tabitha’s story while setting up Kym and Rachel’s. No two caregivers’ situations are the same, so I will highlight different scenarios in the other stories. Our society has an increasing number children, teenagers, and young adults with special needs who will need care for the rest of their lives as well as elderly loved ones.

Alexis: Would you say that this book is Contemporary Romance, Women’s Fiction or something else? Please explain its genre and category.

Pat: I write Christian romance about contemporary themes and universal issues that are important to women. There are differences among inspirational, sweet, and Christian romances. Christ’s whispers and the Scriptures are integral parts of my romantic storylines, so I classify myself as Christian romance writer. Inspirational romance may focus on positive and uplifting thoughts without Christ being the center.

Alexis: Why did you write this book with a focus on caregivers?

Pat: Besides God inspiring me? I like to tackle real issues in my books. I always want my readers closing the book knowing something they didn’t know in the beginning.

Alexis: How did you select the three cities for each of your main characters? Give us insight into the research that went into writing this story.

Pat: It was random choices that I felt I could get help from a friend or reader to assist me with the cities’ backdrop. I have a news background, so I approached the topic as a reporter. I interviewed caregivers and organizations’ spokespersons, attended meetings, and did online research. I also made sure I had a clear understanding of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Alexis: Why is your character Tabitha from St. Louis struggling to find a balance?

Pat: Her situation can be typical of a caregiver. The demands of her new job were overwhelming. After work, she had no respite at home, because she focused on Aunt Tweet’s needs.

Alexis: In what ways does a potential romantic relationship rock Tabitha’s world?

Pat: When it comes to romance, a person wants to give their all to invest in a relationship. Tabitha felt the timing wasn’t right. She knew there could be no spontaneity like going to a movie at the last minute. Aunt Tweet’s well-being had to take priority over everything Tabitha wanted to do. Marcus proved her wrong. He convinced her that they were in it together.

Alexis: Why is Tabitha beyond overwhelmed with being a caregiver?

Pat: Despite her textbook knowledge of medical terms and conditions, she wasn’t prepared for an 89-year-old’s contrary behavior to mimic that of a helpless child. The person can appear self-sufficient, but little by little, their mind begins to slip away. She is taking care of her great-aunt Priscilla “Tweet” Brownlee who doesn’t have any children of her own.

Alexis: Who is Marcus Whittington and what role does he play in this story?

Pat: The story begins with a neighbor whose surveillance video captured a woman sitting on her porch a few times in the morning. When he learns that the elderly woman wanders from home, Marcus accuses Tabitha of endangerment and threatens to call the authorities on her. He’s clueless to Tabitha’s frustration as she tries to keep track of her aunt’s every movements 24/7.

Alexis: What is it about the elderly that brings out a soft side in Marcus?

Pat: He had endearing memories of his grandparents. Marcus begins to see the Aunt Tweet on the outside isn’t the same one on the inside. Recognizing Tabitha’s frustration and helplessness, coupled with his growing attraction, gives Marcus reasons why he can’t walk away.

Alexis: Why does “every caregiver need a caregiver” in this story and in real-life?

Pat: As many caregivers focus their attention on the loved one’s needs, they don’t take care of themselves. That scenario happened to my next-door neighbor. She cared for her husband for years while she still worked. We didn’t know she was very sick until after she died barely nine months later after her husband had passed. My message to caregivers is to take care of yourself. People on the outside should not assume caregivers have it under control. They need compassion, help, and respite, especially if they are caring for two or more generations, such as grandchildren and an aging mother.

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

Pat: Being a first-time caregiver is a learning experience no different than a husband or wife becoming parents for the first time. You don’t know what to expect, you have to infuse patience with love.

Alexis: Do you only write about African American or Black characters? Why or why not?

Pat: My main characters are always Black because I’m Black or African American. Minorities like to see themselves portrayed in movies and sitcoms on television. Reading about people of color is just as appealing, especially in storylines that reflect the Black community. For me, it’s an honor to write about Black love when society has denied it exists from slavery to the White House. The big publishers, even some Christian publishers, don’t believe a character with brown skin and curly hair is attractive as a hero or heroine.

Alexis: Would you like to see more African American (AA) people on the covers and characters of color inside the stories of CBA books? Why or why not?

Pat: YES without a second thought. Christians are not one race as Candace, Queen of Ethiopia, is mentioned in the Bible. Native Indians, Mexicans, African Americans, and other’s stories are just as important. Unfortunately, stereotypes and racism have kept many great AA authors out of the publishing industry. One national bestselling author was offered a contract in the 90s, if she changed her characters from black to white.

Alexis: What did you enjoy the most about writing “My Rock”?

Pat: Two things: Showing Tabitha’s mindset that she considered it a privilege to take care of Aunt Tweet and despite the frustration, she did it with love and respect; and inspiring readers that there is no obstacle too great for love to find them.

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

Pat: Thank you for sharing your readers with me. I hope “My Rock” is an eye-opener and readers will recognize we all are each other’s caregivers. I think former First Lady, Mrs. Rosalyn Carter said it best: “There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.”

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor


About the Book:

Three sisters living in three different cities (Baltimore, St. Louis, and Nashville) make a pact to share responsibilities for their aging relative after authorities find Aunt Tweet across state lines. Her destination had been a neighborhood grocery store. The siblings soon learn the definition of caregiver includes a cup full of patience, a slight sense of humor, and when to cry out for help. Women juggle between career and family all the time, but Tabitha Knicely (St. Louis) is struggling to find a balance. Romance is the last thing she’s trying to add to her list. The Aunt Tweet she knew all her life is not the same one who is residing in her home when she accepts the role as a caregiver for six months.

Overwhelmed can’t begin to describe her emotions. Marcus Whittington is an opinionated, successful business owner, but he has a soft side when it comes to the elderly. They remind him of good memories of his grandparents. When Aunt Tweet is the mystery woman who stakes out his porch, he becomes concerned that she is not being taken care of properly. He sheds his misconceptions about what Tabitha isn’t doing right when he discovers that every caregiver needs a caregiver. Marcus knows in order to win Tabitha’s heart; he has to charm Aunt Tweet’s too.

Book Purchase Link: Amazon


About the Author:

Pat Simmons is celebrating ten years as a published author with more than thirty titles. She is a self-proclaimed genealogy sleuth who is passionate about researching her ancestors and then casting them in starring roles in her novels, in the hope of tracking down any distant relatives who might happen to pick up her books. She has been a genealogy enthusiast since her great-grandmother, Minerva Brown Wade, died at the age of ninety-seven in 1988.

Pat describes the evidence of the gift of the Holy Ghost as an amazing, unforgettable, life-altering experience. She believes God is the Author who advances the stories she writes.

Pat holds a B.S. in mass communications from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. She has worked in various positions in radio, television, and print media for more than twenty years. Currently, she oversees the media publicity for the annual RT Booklovers Conventions.She is the multi-published author of dozens of Christian titles, including the #1 Amazon best seller in God’s Word category.

She is the multi-published author of dozens of Christian titles, including the #1 Amazon best seller in God’s Word category A Christian Christmas. Her award-winning titles include Talk to Me, ranked #14 of Top Books in 2008 that Changed Lives by Black Pearls Magazine.She is a three-time recipient of the Romance Slam Jam Emma Rodgers Award for Best Inspirational Romance for Still Guilty (2010), Crowning Glory (2011), and The Confession(2016). Her titles consistently hit the top ten ranking in the BCNN1/BCBC National Bestsellers List, two books in the Carmen Sisters series hit #1 and #2.

In addition to researching her roots and sewing, she has been a featured speaker and workshop presenter at various venues across the country.

Pat has converted her sofa-strapped sports fanatic husband into an amateur travel agent, untrained bodyguard, GPS-guided chauffeur, and administrative assistant who is constantly on probation. They have a son and a daughter.

Readers may learn more about Pat by contacting her at authorpatsimmons@gmail.com.

Visit Pat’s website, http://www.patsimmons.net, to get to know her better.

Follow Pat on Twitter.

SaveSave

Interview with Susan Valles about her book “Zimrah, Dream Singer”

Happy Monday, reader friends!

Let’s welcome Susan Valles to our blog! She’s a talented writer and musician. Today, she’s here to talk about her novel “Zimrah, Dream Singer.” Susan has a heart for God and a love for people. Her faith in God informs her writing too.

I hope that you will enjoy her author interview!


About the Author:

 For the past fourteen years, Susan Valles has been using her gifts to lead others into the presence of God through worship. Touched by this presence in a profound way at the age of ten, Susan developed a deep hunger to help others experience the love of God and the majesty of His presence. Writing, singing, playing the guitar and songwriting became extensions of this hunger, an outlet for the passion Holy Spirit stirs inside her to bring the lost and hurting into the healing embrace of the loving Father.

Susan is married and the mother of four children. She currently lives in the beautiful state of North Carolina.

Connect with Susan on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.


Interview with Susan Valles about her book Zimrah, Dream Singer:

What inspired you to write this book?

Zimrah, Dream Singer was divinely inspired! I woke up one morning with a picture in my mind. I saw the Father, sitting on an easy chair by a window with a scroll in his hands. He was reading the scroll and singing into existence what was written there. (Like the picture portrayed in Psalm 139:16) I grabbed my laptop and wrote down what I saw. What I wrote is now the prologue of the book.

How did you decide on the title? What is its significance?

The title of my first draft was actually Scroll of Remembrance. My editor had me keep giving her options until I came up with Zimrah, Dream Singer. We both liked it much better. Zimrah is the name of my main character. She sings songs she hears in her dreams, so Zimrah, Dream Singer fit the book very well. Funny story, I was recently talking to some Jewish friends, and they told me in passing that the director of music in their synagogue is called Zimrah Mary. Mary is her first name and Zimrah is the Hebrew word for her function! I did not know that the minister of music is called Zimrah at the time when I decided on the book title. That’s the fun of walking with God! There is always more to be discovered.

Would you say that this is Biblical fiction? Why or why not?

It is Biblical fiction in the sense that the events and timelines are true to the Bible and historical records. For example, Zimrah grows up in a city of Refuge, in the house of a Hebrew man from the tribe of Asher. She learns to read and write from the Hebrew scrolls. In this first book though, there are no characters from the Bible mentioned. My characters are completely fictional. Although, Dream Singer definitely sets the stage for the second two books where my character does meet a few significant Biblical personalities.

Who was your favorite character to write in this book? Why?

I have to say, my favorite character to write was Theophilus, a Roman soldier who is Zimrah’s love interest. I didn’t do this consciously – much of what I write is unconscious. I realize things later – but he is very much like my husband. He is patient, funny, kind, and good at breaking stereotypical norms. Theophilus sees things in Zimrah that she can’t see in herself. She would not be who she becomes without his influence in her life.

Give us a glimpse into the research that you did for this story. Did you go on a research trip to the Middle East? What kind of resources did you use?

The research I did came mostly from the Bible. Zimrah is a slave in a Hebrew house, so Jewish history comes into play a great deal in the story. I also studied historical maps, rivers, and mountains. I wanted to know what Zimrah saw when she looked out of her windows. What was life like at that time? What did they eat? What was the furniture like? All these little things were fascinating to me. I did a lot of research online, read way too many articles on archeological discoveries. It was fun though. For this first book, I didn’t get to go on a research trip, but for book two, (which is currently in the editing process) I did! I took a trip to Israel this past February 2018. It was amazing seeing the places I’d written about and researched come to life!

Why did you choose Israel as the setting for this story?

Again, I don’t know if I consciously thought about it. The story kind of emerged as I was writing. You could say Israel chose me. I think as Bible reading believers in Jesus, we all have a secret love affair with Israel. The Holy Land is in our DNA. It is part of all of our origin stories.

Talk about your story’s heroine Zimrah. What does she look like? What does her name mean? What is her primary motivation in this story? Explain.

My college English professor always said to write what you know. Zimrah is such a representation of me, of my life experiences and journey with God. She is tall, brown-skinned with curly hair and grey eyes. She looks very different from the people in her city (no one knows who her people are or where she comes from) and they treat her pretty badly. Her motivation and greatest longing is just to be loved. Zimrah is one of the Hebrew words for praise, more specifically, “to play upon an instrument in praise”. She learns just how significant her name is the destiny she was born for.

How does being an orphan affect Zimrah’s worldview and persona?

Not knowing who she is or where she comes from definitely affects what Zimrah thinks about herself. She sees the world as a frightening place where she is not accepted and can’t imagine anyone loving her or seeing her for more than a slave. She is alone and wears that persona as a badge, afraid to let anyone into her heart.

Why did you as the author decide to make Zimrah a slave?

I did not realize it’s how I felt until I wrote this book. Like Zimrah, I was a slave to my fears, my past, and my false opinion of myself. Freedom came only after learning the truth of who I was, from the One who made me. Zimrah being a slave is a representation of the bondage that comes when we believe the Tormentor’s lies.

What role does faith in God play with your characters in this story?

Faith is everything. My character’s faith or lack of faith shapes their reality and their destiny. I believe one of the miracles of this story, and our lives, is the journey of faith. Some of my characters in Dream Singer are angels, so that was an exciting aspect of faith to explore as well.

As a woman of faith, how does your belief in God affect your storytelling?

I love how telling a story can change the way we think. Everyone has a backstory. There is a reason we become who we are, good or bad. The human story is that, history…His-story. As a woman of faith, my greatest joy is being able to tell a story that has the potential to change my reader’s life. I believe that God gave me this story (which is really my testimony), that can be like that answer in the dark, that comes when all other hope is gone.

What was the most difficult part of writing this book? Why?

It was probably how long it is. I am a songwriter and had never written anything as long as a novel before. I didn’t even tell anyone that I was writing it until I was almost done because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to finish. It took a lot of prayers like, “Lord, this is Your story. You started this! You have to help me finish it!” I was also homeschooling two of my four children at the same time, so that made finding time to write a challenge. (God gave me like, supernatural sleep! I would stay up all night, sleep an hour or two and feel completely rested!)

What was the most rewarding aspect of telling Zimrah’s story? Why?

It was very rewarding being able to incorporate songs into the story. Music has been such a huge part of my language with God. When the story touches my readers, and they can sing the same songs that God used to speak to Zimrah, and Zimrah used to speak to God, it’s beyond joy for me.

The cover of your book shows Zimrah as a woman of color. What is her heritage?

Zimrah’s heritage is a bit of a mystery in this first book. She doesn’t know what she is. In a time when not many traveled very far, no one can tell her what people group her features resemble. She is a woman of color, and I could tell you what she is, but it would be a spoiler for book two!

Would you like to see more books featuring women of color who lived in Bible times, published by CBA? Why or why not?

Absolutely! I think because of our western culture, in the media and in paintings for generations, we have a mental picture of what people in the Bible looked like. The truth is, there was much more diversity than we have been led to believe, across gender and racial lines. Exploring culture in a broader view encourages us to see that God has created us with great purpose. We all have a role to play in history, past, present, and future. CBA’s have an important voice in every genre.

How does your own worldview as a woman of color affect your character creation and writing career as an author?

Like Zimrah, I was raised far away from people who looked like me. I didn’t seem to fit people’s boxes. This comes out in my writing. The longing to fit in and belong somewhere, I felt this very acutely in my younger years. I think it’s a common human desire and struggle. Most people feel different in some way or another, so I think my characters are relatable. As a woman of color, I know what it feels like to be ignored or overlooked. But my characters overcome the boxes their society has for them and discover the calling of the great Author. I hope in my career, and in my life, I can do the same.

Thanks for the interview, Susan! Do you have any closing thoughts?

Thank you for interviewing me! Writing this book was a turning point for me. I feel like it helped me have a greater understanding of who I am and what my purpose is. My prayer would be that it does the same for others as well. No matter what our past is like, like Zimrah, we have a loving Father who has an amazing future for us. There is so much joy in the journey of figuring out who He is and what adventures He has in store for us!

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor


About the book:

In the land of ancient Israel, in the days just before the miracles of Jesus the Christ began, there lived an orphan girl named Zimrah. A foreigner and a slave with no knowledge of who she is or where she came from, except that she was rescued barely alive and only a week old from a caravan of slavers, Zimrah has many demons to overcome. Living among people that despise her for being different, she finds shelter in the last Jewish house in a City of Refuge, only to find that her master has demons of his own. She learns that these dark spirits who have tormented her all her life can not only be battled, but can be defeated when she begins to heed the gentle Voice that speaks to her in her dreams.

Her obedience to the Voice leads her not only to freedom from the fear that stalks her in the night, but to the arms of a loving father who has been there all along. Following the Voice, Zimrah finds a lyre and the songs that have been hidden for her in her dreams. Singing these dream songs – an inheritance passed on through the bloodline of which she does not yet know- will determine the path to her heart’s desires, her future, and her destiny. Assisted by Rebecca and Garbar, the Warrior Angels that guard and protect her, and the love of a Roman officer who she must learn to trust, Zimrah discovers that her life has much more significance than she could have ever imagined. Her obedience and courage will shake the heavens and stir the hearts of all who touch Zimrah, Dream Singer.

Buy Susan’s book on Amazon

SaveSave

Author Interview: Lee Tobin McClain

Hello, reader friends! From Rescue River and Sacred Bond to her new Arcadia Valley Romance seriestoday’s featured author often highlights diversity through her contemporary romance. 

About the Author

Lee Tobin McClainLee Tobin McClain read Gone With The Wind in the third grade and has been an incurable romantic ever since. The PW bestselling author of fifteen contemporary Christian romances, she enjoys crafting emotional, faith-infused love stories with happy endings.

When she’s not writing, she’s probably driving around a carload of snarky teen girls, playing with her rescue dog and cat, or teaching aspiring writers in Seton Hill University’s MFA program. She is probably not cleaning her house.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER

 

Interview

Beth: Writing is generally a solitary endeavor. Tell us a little bit about writing within the Arcadia Valley Romance universe. 

Lee: Writing in Arcadia Valley feels communal in two ways. First, it’s fun being part of a community of writers who are creating Arcadia Valley together. We’ve become good friends and are in touch all the time with questions, ideas, and support for each other.

And second, Arcadia Valley has become a community that feels very alive, with families and shops and greenhouses and farms and churches. We have pictures of the town (it’s modeled on a real town in Idaho) and of the surrounding terrain. When I write about Arcadia Valley, I feel like I’m actually there!

Wise at Heart takes place primarily at the hero’s home—a big converted barn surrounded by open land. That’s because Daniel, the hero, is a bit introverted, and he feels alienated from his family and community. Throughout the book, that changes, and he becomes more strongly connected to his siblings and to Arcadia Valley.

 

About the Book

Wise at Heart by Lee Tobin McClainWhen Daniel Quintana needs a summer nanny for his twins, it only makes sense to hire Tabitha Moore. Just back from an extended mission trip, she needs the job. The fact that she was his wife’s best friend shouldn’t matter, and neither should the fact that he finds her attractive. Daniel’s not in the market for relationships because he’s just so bad at them.

Tabitha Moore doesn’t want to work for Daniel because she knows a terrible secret about his daughters. But when staying with her sister is no longer an option, she feels like she has no choice. After all, it’s just for the summer…

With the help of Daniel’s five-year-old twins, Daniel and Tabitha start to become more than friends. Growing vegetables, rescuing a mama cat and her kittens, eating delicious Mexican food at El Corazon… all of it makes these two lonely souls crave to create a family long term… unless Tabitha’s secret rips apart everything they’re starting to build.

GOODREADS | AMAZON

 

Beth: I’m certainly looking forward to reading Wise at Heart! What do you want readers to gain from this story?

Lee: First, of course, I want readers to escape from their problems and immerse themselves in a happily-ever-after story. Because Wise at Heart has a secret at the center, I want readers to stay up late, turning the pages, to discover how everything plays out.

And I also hope that readers will enjoy seeing how God’s hand hovers over everything, gently nudging us in the directions we need to go in order to become the people He means for us to be.

 

Beth: What inspires you to create diverse minority characters like the Quintana family?

Mexican food

Lee: When I got involved in the Arcadia Valley project, I was immersed in studying Spanish, so that was a factor.

Also, the fictional town of Arcadia Valley is set in a part of Idaho where about 1/3 of the population self-describes as Latino or Hispanic, but when I joined the group, we didn’t yet have any major Latino characters.

Since the series is food-oriented—and since I love Mexican food—it made sense to create the restaurant, El Corazon, run by a family of Mexican descent.

 

Beth: I appreciate your dedication to crafting authentic settings, characters, and stories for your readers. In what ways do the second (and third) generation of the Quintana family honor their Mexican heritage?

Lee: One big way is through food! The Quintana siblings update their family restaurant throughout the series, moving toward healthier, more contemporary fare, but they keep many of their mothers’ traditional recipes untouched.

star-shaped piñata

They also maintain some Mexican holiday customs. For example, in Wise at Heart, the story ends with a traditional posada celebration that marks the beginning of the Christmas season—and leads into the hero and heroine’s happy ending.

On a deeper level, in traditional Latino families, the oldest male is considered as the head of the family. That would be Javier Quintana, the hero of Secrets of the Heart (review), and he feels every bit of that responsibility. His siblings alternately rely on, and get exasperated with, him and his tendency toward bossiness and control.

Honoring your heritage isn’t a simple matter, especially when you’re living in a different country and are surrounded by competing cultural traditions and ideals.

 

Beth: Since food plays such a major role in Arcadia Valley Romance, what is your favorite authentic Mexican dish?

Lee: My favorite authentic Mexican dish is tacos! Not the crunchy Americanized ones, or that abomination my daughter adores, the Walking Taco of concession-stand fame. But rather, small soft tacos made with homemade corn tortillas and various fillings. Buying a tortilla press and learning to use it rocked my culinary world! I’m mostly vegan, so my taco fillings tend to be vegetable based.

 

Coming soon from Lee Tobin McClain…

Available in stores mid-February


preorder now

Romance from the Heart: an Arcadia Valley Romance series

  
Look for Book 3
Joy of My Heart
April 2018

 

Lee, thank you so much for joining us!
Are y’all familiar with Mexican posada celebrations? I learned something new today!

 

interview by Beth Erin

Author Interview: Angie Dicken

Happy Monday, Reader Friends!

I can’t believe Thanksgiving is this week! This year has flown by. But before we all get ready for the holidays, I’ve got a new interview for you. Angie Dicken has stopped by to talk about her novel, My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate, Utah. Have you read it yet? If not, nows your chance to learn more.


About the Book

The Blurb: “Schoolteacher Leanna McKee plans on leaving the coal mining town of Castle Gate, Utah, and never looking back. Good riddance to coal dust, rugged men, and the fatal mine that took her husband’s life.

Until the widow meets a widower who awakens her heart…and she finds herself inexplicably falling for miner Alex Pappas which stirs up a whole heap of trouble.

Alex’s Greek parents have arranged a more traditional match for him. When the schoolteacher’s association with the Greek family begins to anger the American miners, they threaten Alex and his family. Leanna has received an offer to teach elsewhere and feels she has no choice but to leave Castle Gate. . .though she will be leaving her heart behind.”

Links: Amazon, Goodreads


Interview

Toni: Welcome to Diversity Between the Pages. I’ve heard a lot about your book so I’m excited to interview you today. First, tell us something interesting about yourself.

Angie: I am pretty much an open book, so if you are connected to me on social media you probably know most of my quirks. 🙂 Something fun to share is that my husband proposed to me on a gondola in Venice. I studied abroad in Italy my senior year of college.

Toni: How romantic! Venice is a gorgeous spot for a proposal! What are you currently reading?

Angie: I tend to have lots of books that I am reading all at once. At least, this is a current habit I am forming. 🙂 Right now, I am reading The Engagement Plot by Krista Phillips, Heidi Chiavaroli’s Freedom’s Ring, and a couple non-fiction books.

Toni: I want to read The Engagement Plot! What made you want to write in the historical fiction genre? And will you ever test the waters in another genre?

Angie: I love history. I have this world timeline in my head, and any intriguing facts I’ve learned over the years just shine bright, begging for me to find a story. I think living in a family that values family roots and traveling, and also growing up in a different country (England) for a few years, has given me a deep appreciation for world cultures and history.
Also, I have written a Contemporary Romance! It does, of course, have a ton of history in it since my heroine is obsessed with British history…um…not such a stretch to write that. But it was so fun to write it. I hope it gets published one day!

Toni: Yes! I would love to read it. Alex Pappas is Greek. It’s interesting to think of him being discriminated against because we don’t usually think about that in present day. How did you research this to bring authenticity to the novel?

Angie: My whole family is Greek, and my grandparents grew up in Salt Lake City. I recall hearing brief mention of being discriminated against when they were young, so when I came up with a story, I wanted to look into that further. I researched actual accounts of Greek immigrants, and the general social climate of the time—finding articles in newspapers around the country talking about lynching threats and anger toward the Greeks when they stepped over the line of social norm—like inter-cultural courtships. I think many immigrant groups in this country have similar trials in their history, which is very sobering and hopefully, enlightening for progress even now.

Toni: Wow! As a female writer, how did you get into Alex’s point of view to portray him accurately?

Angie: Great question! I am blessed with strong men in my family who give me such great insight into the male mentality. I also wove a lot of my own struggles into Alex’s journey, including being true to my family traditions but following my heart to different paths—like a different church, my husband’s own American traditions, and some similar familial conflicts that both men and women can find themselves in.

Toni: I love it when you can look around you for examples to write. Both Alex and Leanna are dealing with hurts. Do they have a common theme for their journey? If so, what is it?

Angie: Their common theme is giving grace to themselves. They are both riddled with guilt, but once they step back and look at God’s hand in their lives, they realize the grace that He gives freely. If we think about the grace we receive every day, it’s much easier to treat ourselves with the same grace, isn’t it?

Toni: Yes and amen! Have you ever been to Greece? If not, what’s the farthest you’ve traveled for vacation or research?

Angie: Yes! My parents took my siblings and I the day after I graduated from high school! We traveled on the mainland for a week, visiting Athens and the villages of three of my grandparents’ families, then we went sailing for two weeks and visited my great grandfather’s village in Crete (the man who came over to the mines in Utah).

Toni: I am so green right now, lol. I would love to go to Greece. Can I go in your suitcase next time? Before you go, can you share any advice for aspiring writers?

Angie: Connect with the writing community! It is important to get other eyes on your work, but to also have friends who understand your journey and become a source of encouragement. I don’t think I would be here if I hadn’t connected to ACFW, found a critique partner, and met all my writing friends at conference each year. Seriously. I really think I would have given up a long time ago if it weren’t for community.

Toni: Amen! I love the writing community and the ACFW one at that. Readers, do you have any questions for Angie?


About the Author

Angie Dicken credits her love of story to reading British literature during life as a military kid in Cambridgeshire, England. Now living in the U.S., she’s an ACFW member, a blog contributor to the Writer’s Alley, a baseball mom, and a self-proclaimed foodie. Two of her historical romance novels comprise her Fall 2017 debut: The Outlaw’s Second Chance, in September, and My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate, Utah, in November. She also writes historical and contemporary fiction. You can connect with her on social media and learn about upcoming releases at www.angiedicken.com.

Follow: Website, The Writer’s Alley, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

Author Interview: Sarah Monzon

Happy Monday, Diverse Reader Friends!

I hope you had an awesome weekend and got some reading in. I’m kicking off this week with an interview with the lovely Sarah Monzon. Her latest novel, The Esther Paradigm, is a must read and a great fit for our blog.

Let’s get started!


About the Book:

The Blurb: “Hannah Pratt dreams of starting a school for the Bedouin clan she grew up with as a missionary kid, and finally her hopes are coming true. But shortly after she returns to the desert from her college years in the U.S., she discovers her parents have received threats from their Muslim neighbors. As the danger escalates, Hannah finds she’s in the middle of a battle no one seems to understand. She must decide to what lengths she’ll go to stay faithful to the mission to which God has called her. Even if it costs her everything.

As sheikh, Karim Al-Amir feels the weight of responsibility as the leader of his people. When a mysterious illness ravishes the clan’s flocks and threatens to destroy their centuries-old way of life, locals believe the American doctors and their daughter, his childhood friend, Hannah, are to blame. Karim must do something to keep them safe—even if the only solution can be found within marriage vows.

In a society where the line is drawn between us and them, Christianity is outlawed, and foreigners are mistrusted, will their union heal wounds or inflict the final fatal blow?”

Links: Amazon, Goodreads


Interview

Toni: Thank you so much for joining me at Diversity Between the pages to talk about your latest novel, The Esther Paradigm. This novel is fantastic! What made you pair an unlikely couple together?

Sarah: Well, since the book is inspired by the Biblical story of Esther, I had that foundation to go by. King Ahasuerus of Persia has a different experience in life than Esther had. Their differences included social economics, culture, ethnicity, religion, background, etc. I wanted to give my characters similar differences.

Toni: You did a fantastic job! I loved it. How were you able to write from Karim’s point of view so authentically considering the difference in gender, ethnicity, and religion?

Sarah: Haha. Prayer and a lot of research.

Toni: We don’t often get to look at the Muslim culture in Christian books. How did you research and prepare for this?

Sarah: I watched a documentary series on Netflix about the region and the people there. I read books and online articles about the religion—beliefs and practices—as well as missionary experiences and conversion testimonies.

Toni: That’s awesome! Would you ever write a sequel to this novel? Why or why not?

Sarah: I don’t have any plans to at this time, though my plans have changed before in the past. I’ll probably do another Biblical “inspired by” story, though.

Toni: Hooray! What is the overall theme in The Esther Paradigm?

Sarah: 1 Corinthians 16:14 “Let all that you do be done in love.”

Toni: A great charge! If you could vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Sarah: Is a trip around the world cheating? There are so many places I’d like to go!

Toni: It might be, but I agree so I’ll let it slide. 😉 Have you ever ridden a camel?

Sarah: I vaguely remember riding one when I was little. I wanted to get to the zoo and refresh my memory for this book, but it never happened.

Toni: Too bad! Then you could have had a pic of you on a camel all over social media. 🙂 Have you any missionary experience? And if so, can you tell us a little about it?

Sarah: I went on a two-week, short-term mission trip when I was about 15 to Fiji. We did a building project and helped in a school. Between my Sophomore and Junior year in College I went as a student missionary to China for 10 months and taught English.

Toni: That’s so neat! I’ve never been on a missionary trip so I love picking people’s brain. If you could say anything to the readers, what would you tell them?

Sarah: God made us all, died for us all, and loves us all. Let’s show love to one another, too.

Toni: Amen! Readers, do you have any questions for Sarah? (P.S. Look for Beth Erin’s review this Friday!)


About the Author

Sarah Monzon is a Navy chaplain’s wife and a stay at home mom to the two cutest littles in the world. Playing pretend all day with them isn’t enough, she spends the evenings after their heads hit the pillow to create her own imaginary characters. When she isn’t in the world of make believe, she can be found in the pine forests of western Washington taking care of her family, fostering friendships, and enjoying all the adventures each day brings.

Her debut novel, The Isaac Project, skyrocketed to Amazon bestseller status while her Sophomore book, Finders Keepers, won the 2017 SELAH award for contemporary romance.

Follow: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

Author Interview with Cortez Law III

Happy Monday, friends!

We at Diversity Between the Pages hope you had a great weekend! I (Toni) am kicking off the week with an interview with Cortez Law. Cortez has stopped by to talk about his latest novel, Serial Rites. 

Let’s get started!


About the Book

The Blurb: “Atlanta Homicide Sergeant Malcolm Hobbs’ strength: Acute intuition into human nature. His weakness: Loss of faith in God. Despite his immense ability, he’s on the edge and contemplates quitting. The mystery of Hobbs is his sanity. Will his spirit and soul unite in time to resolve his trauma or will they divide too late to stop him from experiencing the peace of God as they rage a live or die war?

In the psychological thriller, SERIAL RITES, a prequel to KREMLIN TIDE (2014) and COLD LICK (2015), Hobbs’ detective skills encounter one of the most compelling cases in his career, but there’s a big problem. A precarious Hobbs isn’t at full strength and he’s breaking in a new Detective to his team in former Columbus, Ohio hotshot, Shepard Cush.

When Hobbs and his elite team of investigators nicknamed, The X-Men, discover the catalyst to the murders, they must decipher the puzzling schematic from the cold heart of a psychopath known as, The Profiler.

Atlanta’s confidence in the high-profile detectives is on trial against this meticulous and motivated predator with a macabre M.O. The question is will The Profiler’s blood-lustful vision satisfy him enough not to include The X-Men themselves?”

Links: Amazon, B&N, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords, Goodreads


Interview

Toni: Thank you so much for joining us at Diversity Between the Pages to talk about your novel, Serial Rites. Tell us about the X-Men detectives.

Cortez: Thank you for having me, Toni. The X-Men Homicide Squad includes:

  • Sergeant Malcolm X. Hobbs: His faith and psyche are in shambles when his spirit, soul, and body wage a life or death war despite a stellar career.
  • Detective Orlando Queen: He struggles to let go of a prior love in Selena and disapproves of her current man, Ernest Brown.
  • Detective Pepper Love: Her relationship with Malcolm and Selena will be sorely tested. This may get ugly.
  • Detective Selena Monet: She’s intricately tied into this case and that could cost her very dearly.
  • Detective Shepard Cush: A funny and bold new hire, he fights for respect amidst professional and personal pressures.

The detectives reflect African-American and gender diversity by design. Also, some characters live Christian lives and some others don’t just like real life.

Toni: Definitely an interesting and diverse cast of characters. Malcolm Hobbs is the lead detective. How is his faith (or lack thereof) integral to the plot?

Cortez: Yeah, Malcolm’s faith takes a serious journey into darkness, the catalyst of which I won’t disclose (please read the book). The reader might not have experienced the same situation, but will still be able to identify with him. The world can be a cruel and unjust place for all of us in different ways. I hope the reader will sympathize and empathize with Malcolm, but also take heart in that the human spirit is resilient. With God, all things are possible to them that believe. But it’s also important as Malcolm struggles to learn that God will put spiritual bumpers in our paths to steer us back on course.

In addition, another story track runs parallel to Malcolm’s for contrast and can lead to greater introspection for the reader as well.

We all have daily choices to make that affect our destinies.

Toni: This is a psychological thriller. Who are the authors who influenced you in this area?

Cortez: I think more films than books influenced Serial Rites. After watching The Silence of the Lambs movie, I wanted to write a story like that one day and that film came out in 1991! It was based on a Thomas Harris novel as was the film adaptation, Red Dragon. Jeffery Deaver’s novel-to-film adaptation, The Bone Collector, with Denzel Washington was another film that planted those psychological thriller roots in me. The big screen story Se7en also played a part.

Toni: What a list of movies! What kind of research did you have to do for this novel?

Cortez: I read several books on criminal psychology/motivations. I read books and articles and watched documentaries on real-life killers like Ted Bundy, Jeffery Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy, the BTK serial murderer Dennis Rader, the Green River Killer, Gary Ridgway and others.

Toni: Sounds like you did your research. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

Cortez: I was always creative as a child through drawings, mock football games with plastic soldiers and animals. The writing began with a sports writer position on a junior high school newspaper for a couple of years. But in college, I took a copywriting class and had to create a couple of commercials for real-life small businesses as part of the course. Later in college, I took a screenwriting class and that was it. From that point on whether film, TV, or books, I continued to write. I tend to write with the TV on for background noise though I believe I’ve rewritten books with jazz instrumentals doing their thing as I did.

Toni: I’m a big music listener when writing. Who is your favorite X-Men (Marvel style)?

Cortez: Interesting question, Toni. I always loved Spider-Man. Thanks to the movies, Iron Man, Wolverine and Black Panther challenge ol’ Spidey.

Toni: Oh, I can’t wait to see Black Panther! Last but not least, what’s next for you on your writing journey?

Cortez: Serial Rites marketing, the next X-Men Homicide Squad story and the sequel to the science fiction/thriller, S.Y.P.H.E.N. Thanks for taking the time, Toni!

Toni: You’re very welcome! Praying you success on your writing journey.


About the Author

Cortez Law III is the author of five independently published books. The romance novel, My Brother’s Keeper (2001), the Atlanta X-Men Homicide Squad suspense/mystery/thriller novels Kremlin Tide (2014), Cold Lick (2015) and Serial Rites (2017) and the science fiction/thriller, S.Y.P.H.E.N. (2015). He resides in the Metro Atlanta, Georgia area. Visit him online at www.cortezlaw.net.

Follow: Facebook, Goodreads, YouTube, LinkedIn

Author Interview: Bartholomew Boge

Happy Monday!

Today we have Bartholomew Boge to talk about his novel, Regarding Tiberius. Have you read it? If not, now’s the time to learn more, so grab a cup of tea (or coffee) and chat with us.


About the Book

The Blurb: “As true today as it has been for all of human history, one fundamental question plagues mankind:

In the midst of ancient hostilities and recent atrocities, which choice is the most honorable, the most moral one:  justice or mercy?

This novel offers an answer.

Regarding Tiberius is the novelization of a series of ancient scrolls recently discovered in the ruins of famed Roman commander Scipio Africanus’ seaside villa (near Naples, Italy). Written in the First Century by a young woman of Persian and Æthiopian ancestry, Helena Mithridates Kleopatra, they comprise an account of how her life and destiny were forever altered by her chance meeting with Tiberius, the son of a prominent Roman senator.

The pair embark on an odyssey that takes them from Asia Minor to Syria and Judæa. His goal is to rise to the upper echelon of Roman military leadership at any cost, hers to find and assassinate Cato, the commander who gave the order to slaughter the entire population of Eupatoria, her ancestral home. Their aspirations lead them to Jerusalem where both of their quests meet bloody, final resolutions.”

Links: Amazon, Goodreads


Interview

Toni:  Thank you so much for joining me today. Regarding Tiberius ask the question, “In the midst of ancient hostilities and recent atrocities, which choice is the most honorable, the most moral one: justice or mercy?”. What made you want to explore that theme in a historical setting?

Bartholomew: Great question. The answer goes back to a political/theological conversation I had with my former father-in-law in early 2004. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had just been captured and his trial was underway when the question of “could a ruthless dictator and war criminal like Saddam Hussein ever go to Heaven?” came up. My then-father-in-law, a brilliant lawyer and a very news-savvy guy, well aware of Hussein’s long list of civilian atrocities, said “no, I don’t think it would ever be possible.” I took the position that there is absolutely no one whose crimes are so ghastly or so numerous that he/she could not be saved by the work of Christ on the cross if that person, convicted of sin, were to cry out for forgiveness.

Regarding Tiberius, then, is my 192k word parable defending that position.

Toni: Wow! I bet that was an interesting conversation. I’d like to have been a fly on the wall. 🙂 Tell us a little about Helena Mithridates Kleopatra. Did you find it difficult to write about a woman and one who has a different ethnic background then your own?

Bartholomew: To be honest, I was more concerned with getting the tone right with regard to writing from a woman’s perspective than writing from a different ethnicity’s point of view. If the book were set in modern times, I might have a bit more trepidation with regard to ethnic perspectives, but the ancient world was so very different than 21st Century American culture that I did not fear offending a modern reader too much.

Over the course of my life I have worked in three environments in which I was, as a man, a minority figure (in a customer service call center, a health club, and in a large daycare center). I also was raised in a family comprised exclusively of strong-willed women. I wanted to be very careful to write with a gender mentality in mind, but without ever coming across as either patronizing on one extreme, or not authentic or believable on the other. They say “write what you know,” and I think I know intelligent and courageous women.

I modeled Helena’s mentality on that of a female athlete, a type of person I’ve run into quite often in my life. You’ll have to forgive my broad-brush generalizations, but in my experience, female athletes have a way of thinking that is remarkably different than that of most men and most other women. They do not use anger, rage, or bravado to motivate themselves like many male athletes do, but they do share one important ability that men often possess: to be able to completely shut down their emotional states in order to achieve razor-sharp focus on the immediate task at hand. To that I added academic brilliance, and came up with a character who has been described as either “Nancy Drew with a sword” or a “Female Jack Bauer.” Logical, decisive, courageous under duress, and unflinchingly lethal if circumstances demand lethality.

The ethnicity issues addressed in the book follow the stereotypes of the Roman world, which were very different than those of today. In the Roman world, barbarians from the North (blue-eyed blondes) were considered brave but stupid and uncivilized, while Ethiopians were considered very shrewd and wise, but not terribly brave. An olive-skinned Roman, therefore, considered himself the perfect compromise of those two extremes. Also, among Romans, lighter skin on a woman was considered a sign of wealth, because it meant she did not work in the fields as servants did. Aristocratic women from the highest ranks of Roman society, therefore, commonly wore make-up to lighten their appearance.

These ancient cultural values crop up in a few places in my novel. I enjoyed having Helena defy them, as she has a dark-complexion and yet is a woman of royal descent and high station in the Roman world. She is an exception to those stereotypes, and while at first she is dismissed by some as being of lower class or status, she quickly opens their eyes to her true genius, character, strength, and worth… sometimes only for the last few fleeting moments of their lives!

Toni: It sounds like you had a lot of ret insight and life experiences to aid you in your writing of Helena. Did you find it difficult to accurately portray this time period in history? What kind of research did you need to do?

Bartholomew: I was a history major in college, which helped me with the discipline for the kind of research it would take to write this book credibly. That said, I did not study the intricacies of Roman culture, politics, or military structure in college, so it was a slow process to get up to speed. It usually went something like this: write for an hour, then spend forty-five minutes doing research to determine whether or not what I just wrote was even remotely plausible. Then modify what could be salvaged, pitch the rest, and start again. By the time I was about two-thirds through the book, I was able to write more and research less, but the supplemental research never ends when writing a period piece like this.
I lived in mortal fear of two extremes: the online “Romano-phile” community completely cutting my work to ribbons if I did not have the details right, and turning rank-and-file readers off by making the entire work read like a history textbook. I am cautiously optimistic that I veered between those twin icebergs without sinking the ship!

Toni: Why did you choose Regarding Tiberius for a title?

Bartholomew: It is a play on words, really. I intend both meanings of the word “regarding.” In one sense, the book is about Tiberius. But as the reader will learn in the first few pages, the body of Tiberius, perfectly embalmed and preserved, was presented to Tiberius’ father, Lucius, for viewing, and, in this sense, Lucius is “regarding” his dead son, as in “to look upon.”

Toni: That’s beautifully done. What is the message you hope readers will leave with after reading this book?

Bartholomew: The central theme is forgiveness, from both sides of that sacred act: extending forgiveness, and seeking it in humility or under conviction. One of the greatest compliments I’ve received from a reader is that it caused her to reflect upon her own life and explore whether or not there are persons who she needs to forgive or whom she should beg forgiveness from.

Ultimately, I want the book to put to bed that original argument my father-in-law and I debated over a decade ago: that no one is beyond the forgiveness and redemption of God through Christ.

Toni: Forgiveness is one of my favorite themes. Last but not least, what’s next for you on your writing journey?

Bartholomew: I have received a lot of positive feedback about Regarding Tiberius, particularly with regard my protagonist, Helena. I was going to move on to other projects, but there are enough unanswered questions to justify writing at least one sequel. At the time of this interview I am working on the tenth chapter in that first sequel, and I have a basic plot outline for a third book as well. I have been debating killing off Helena at the end of the third installment, keeping her story a neat trilogy, but my oldest daughter would probably not let me live that down!

Toni: Lol, or a lot of readers, I can imagine. Thanks again for joining us here at Diversity. Readers, do you have any questions for Mr. Boge?


About the Author

Originally known for applying his creative vision to the composition of Christian art-rock epics, Bartholomew Boge found a new niche writing historical fiction. Whether it be through music or literature, Bartholomew challenges his audience to examine the sinfulness of man and the role faith plays in developing one’s moral compass.

In his debut novel, Regarding Tiberius, Bartholomew explores questions of justice, mercy, unconditional love, and forgiveness. Set during the time of Christ, this fast-paced story moves through several locations within the Roman Empire including Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Syria, and Judea. Confronted with the brutal death of her parents and the destruction of her kingdom, Bartholomew’s female protagonist, Helena Mithridates Kleopatra, must weigh her quest for vengeance against her desire to love and be loved. Reflecting on lessons learned in his own life, Bartholomew’s writings remind us once again that through literature and the arts, one can find understanding and healing.

Bartholomew Boge lives with his family in Northeast Wisconsin.

Follow: Facebook


Interview conducted by Toni Shiloh

Author Interview: Stacy Hawkins Adams, featuring Watercolored Pearls

Let’s welcome Stacy Hawkins Adams!

You should know her by now because she’s been a regular guest on our blog. 🙂 In case you don’t know Stacy yet, here’s the scoop: She’s a journalist and author with a passion for creating stories that are real and sincere. She likes to write about African-American characters and tell their story.

Stacy stopped by the blog today in order to talk about her original novel, Watercolored Pearls. Enjoy your time with Stacy via this author interview!

~*~

About the book:

Three women spend a summer discovering that their less-than-perfect circumstances, their friendships with one another, and their faith are stepping stones to the lives they long to live. Serena never thought she’d have children; now she has two active toddlers. But instead of being overjoyed, she’s overwhelmed. Did she make the wrong choice in giving up her successful career to be a stay-at-home-mom?

Tawana, an ambitious new lawyer, is trying to pull her life to together, but her past keeps getting in the way. An incredible opportunity at a prestigious law firm forces her to confront her demons. Can her new responsibilities fit with her growing faith?

Erika’s estranged and once-abusive husband wants her back. He says he’s changed, and he’s even going to church. But is he telling the truth? Or is he just smooth-talking her back into a bad situation? Enjoy this anniversary edition of Stacy Hawkins Adams’ bestselling inspirational women’s fiction novel.

Purchase the book: Amazon ~ B&N

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

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

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

~*~

The Interview:

Alexis: What or who inspired you to write this book?

Stacy: Watercolored Pearls was inspired by my desire to help readers realize (through my characters) that wherever they are in life is a particular moment in time to appreciate and to learn specific lessons, rather than rushing through, worrying or feeling less than good enough.

This novel was first published in 2006 and was so popular among my books that I released an anniversary edition, with a new cover, in 2015. It is still receiving positive reviews from readers, all these years later. I’m grateful!

Alexis: Why did you call this book “Watercolored Pearls”?

Stacy: In this novel, the three main characters are at very different places in life and feel like they should be making better, wiser choices. An older woman mentors them and explains that they are “pearls in progress.” The way a pearl is shaped in an oyster is a process of hardship and endurance – just like life. This mentor tells these three women friends that they are watercolored pearls because their issues and journeys are unique and varied, but still worthwhile all the same.

Alexis: What can you tell us about the main characters of this story and their “less-than-perfect circumstances”?

Stacy: Serena is a stay-at-home mom of toddler twin boys and feels like she needs parenting lessons; plus, she’s a bit insecure in her marriage because she feels competition from another woman who flirts with her husband.

Erika has found the strength to leave an abusive marriage, but worries that God wants her to stay married and forgive her estranged husband rather than move on to a healthier, saner life.

Tawana is thriving as a law school student at one of the premier universities in the nation, yet she struggles with shame over having been a teen mother and other issues stemming from her disadvantaged upbringing.

The glue that holds these characters together is their unconditional love for each other and their willingness to eventually let their faith, and their women mentors, guide them to a more confident space.

Alexis: How long have the heroines of this story been friends? Briefly, describe their bond.

Stacy: These women characters have been friends for more than a decade, and while Watercolored Pearls is a standalone book, they were first introduced to readers in my first and second novels, Speak To My Heart and Nothing But the Right Thing. Those two books are currently out of print but should be available before year’s end, in reprint format.

Alexis: What role does the faith of your characters play in this story?

Stacy: Faith is the foundation of life for these characters, even when they don’t openly talk about it. Serena is a pastor’s wife, so her personal journey of faith routinely intertwines with her duties as a First Lady.

Erika was once an atheist, but now as a new believer, she is excited to follow the biblical mandates to a T, even when they trip her up. She has to learn how to also hear God speaking to her heart in ways specific to her personal needs.

Tawana, the youngest of the bunch, has a fledgling connection to her faith but seeing how her older friends Serena and Erika live out theirs, inspires her to mature in her relationship with God.

Just like real life, the characters are in varying places and spaces in their faith journeys. Sometimes they struggle, sometimes everything falls into place. The key for them is to keep seeking, searching and trusting that God has a good plan for their lives.

Alexis: Let’s talk about Serena (character). Why did she think she’d never have children? Why is she overwhelmed? What was her career before she became a stay-at-home mom?

Stacy: In a prior book (Nothing But the Right Thing), Serena struggled with infertility; so she knows without a doubt that her 2-year-old twin boys are a gift from God. Yet, imagine having to take care of two busy toddlers around the clock! They wear her out, and she begins to feel inadequate. Before she was a stay-at-home mom, she had a fulfilling career in the advertising field and always felt on top of her game. Raising kids is brand new territory for her, and she has to learn how to go with the flow.

Alexis: Let’s talk about Tawana (character). Why is she passionate about the law? What is it from her past that keeps getting in the way as she tries to “pull her life together”? How’s her love life, or is she a workaholic?

Stacy: Tawana grew up in an economically deprived part of her city, in a small apartment with a single mom. As she went off to college and then law school, she saw many of her classmates and neighborhood friends either going to jail or being killed. This has given her a heart for justice and led her to enter the legal field. I don’t want to give away too much by answering your other questions because it might spoil the story for readers. Let’s just say that she lacks confidence and tries to overcompensate in several surprising ways in her personal life.

Alexis: Let’s talk about Erika (character). Describe her conflict with her estranged husband. When did he start being abusive? How long ago did she leave him? Why is she considering taking him back? How does her conflict with her husband affect other areas of her life?

Stacy: Erika’s estranged husband was abusive before she even married him. Eventually she finds the will to leave (in the prior book, Nothing But the Right Thing), and here we are several years later, with her still trying to move on. She doesn’t want to dishonor God by pursuing divorce if God wants her to forgive her husband and take him back. She is struggling to figure out what to do and still be true to her newfound faith. Struggling in this area of her life threatens to cost Erika opportunities to move forward in other positive ways. Just like in real life, our choices in one area always touch other areas of our lives.

Alexis: Watercolored Pearls is your best selling inspirational women’s fiction novel. Did you know it was a winner when you wrote it? Why or why not?

Stacy: This book felt special to me when I wrote it because I could really connect with the characters and how multi-layered they are. This was the first book that caused me to cry while I wrote it; and by it having that affect on me, I hoped it would similarly affect readers – inspiring them to have empathy and patience toward others while granting themselves grace.

Alexis: What race are the women in this story? Do you feel like their experiences are unique to their race? Or are their stories and struggles universal? Explain.

Stacy: These women happen to be African American, but truthfully, their stories could be any woman’s. Women of all backgrounds struggle with infertility, abuse and divorce, single motherhood and trying to start over. This book is packaged through a lens that shows how women of color bonded and managed to survive but the heart of the story is relatable to all kinds of readers.

Alexis: What do you want readers to remember most about Watercolored Pearls?

Stacy: I want readers to remember that just as the main characters aren’t perfect and don’t have to be perfect in order to be accepted, neither do they. They are good enough as they are and they are worthy of love, as they are. If they continue to push through challenges and take baby steps forward in life, they too will discover that they are God’s treasured pearls, of great worth.

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

Stacy: Thank you for featuring me and allowing me to share this special novel with your readers, Alexis! I hope your readers will consider reading Watercolored Pearls with their women friends and then gather to share their insights and aha moments. I also invite them to reach out to me through my website, http://www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com, my blog www.LifeUntapped.com or social media: www.Facebook.com/StacyHawkinsAdams and http://www.Twitter.com/SHAdams.

~ Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor ~