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

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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 ~

Interview with Terri J. Haynes

Happy Monday, Diverse Reader Friends!

Today I’m interviewing one of our co-contributors, Terri J. Haynes. We’re talking about her novel, Love Simplified. Let’s get started!


About the Book

The Blurb: Tempest Day is an expert on helping others find love through her Connection Parties matchmaking service and the methods outlined in her bestselling book, Love Simplified. She’s one step away from becoming a celebrity matchmaker, the pinnacle of her career dreams.

But when a seemingly simple interview on the nation’s most popular daytime television show takes an ugly turn, Tempest is forced to admit a secret she’s carried for years: She’s never been in love. The fallout is immediate and severe. So severe that the only way to fix the damage is to use her own methods on a reality TV show.

Tempest soon discovers that love is anything but simple. The show and its cranky but handsome associate producer, Lance Moretti, challenges all that Tempest thought she knew about relationships, even her relationship with God. What starts as a desperate attempt to repair her reputation turns into Tempest’s biggest love connection ever.

Links: Amazon, Goodreads


Interview

Toni: Thank you so much for joining me today. I absolutely adore the blurb for Love Simplified. Where did the idea come from?

Terri: Watching late night TV, something I rarely do. I was watching a reality TV show about a self-help guru helping others with their relationships. As I watched, I started to wonder what would happen if the guru had the same problem as the people she’s supposed to help. I imagined someone who could say all the right things but didn’t actually do them. I was fascinated by that irony.

Toni: That’s what interested me in the blurb! Tempest is African American but Lance is Italian. Was it hard to write a story with an interracial relationship?

Terri: Not really because my marriage is cross-cultural. My husband is originally from Barbados. I know what it’s like to fall for someone who was raised in a different culture. Even more than that, I know what it’s like to bridge the gap between cultures. Interracial relationship was a small jump in my imagination.

Toni: Love it when life’s experiences help us in our writing. Here at Diversity, we hope to bring more diverse Christian fiction to the readers. Our world is diverse, so are books should be as well. But I wonder, do you think too much emphasis is placed on ethnic backgrounds?

Terri: Actually, I don’t think there is enough emphasis on ethic backgrounds. One of the key pieces of good fiction is characters, their background, how they were shaped and their fears. A truly moving story can’t be told without considering someone’s ethnic background. If we take away the emphasis on ethnic backgrounds, we will have the same stories told by the same characters.

Toni: Yes! I completely agree. How about some easy questions? What are you currently reading?

Terri: Yeah…I read 3-5 books at a time! I’m reading a book to write a review and I’m a sensitivity reader for another. I’m really excited about that one. In my devotional time, I’m reading Unlimiting God by Richard Blackaby. I’m also reading The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. I just finished Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly and A Shattered Tree by Charles Todd. I’m about to start In This Grave Hour by Jacqueline Winspear.

Toni: Wow! That’s a lot of reading! Skittles or M&Ms?

Terri: Both depending on my mood.

Toni: I hear ya! Rain or sunshine?

Terri: Sunshine. Rain and bad weather often triggers migraines so I sometimes dread rain.

Toni: Boo. I love a great rainstorm, but having your health react is no fun. Flip flops or sandals?

Terri: Either. I love shoes so I’m take pumps, boots and espadrilles, too.

Toni: Lol. Summer or Winter?

Terri: Winter! I love blizzards and have been known to swoon when the forecasters call for thundersnow. Every time there is a heavy snow that shuts the DC metro down for a few days, I watch the whole Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Toni: Blech! You lost me with that one. I lost my mind during the last blizzard in DC metro area. No more! Last but not least, how can readers help support you in your writing journey?

Terri: Pray. Pray and pray hard. I am facing some hard circumstances with it comes to my writing. First, I have many manuscripts in many differ genres. I read broadly so my ideas are all over the place. I don’t quite know if I want to brand myself or write whatever I want. Second, traditionally published diverse Christian fiction has been slow to materialize. Although there is a lot of talk about diversity, I’m not sure I see in fruit of that yet (but I do have hope). Third, Love Simplified is self-published, so I have that option and do plan to self-publish more. It is hard to decide what direction to take, but God knows where I need to go next. He’ll open the door and I trust Him to do just that.

Toni: You have our prayers! Blessings to you! Readers, do you have any questions for Terri?


Interview conducted by Toni Shiloh


About the Author

Terri J. Haynes, a native Baltimorean, is a homeschool mom, writer, prolific knitter, freelance graphic artist and former Army wife (left the Army, not the husband). She loves to read, so much that when she was in elementary school, she masterminded a plan to be locked in a public library armed with only a flashlight to read all the books and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. As she grew, her love for writing grew as she tried her hand at poetry, articles, speeches and fiction. She is storyteller at heart. Her passion is to draw readers in the story world she has created and to bring laughter and joy to their lives.

Terri is a 2010 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis contest finalist, and a 2012 semi-finalist. She is also a 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Quarterfinalist. Her publishing credits include Cup of Comfort for Military Families, Crosswalk.com, the Secret Place Devotional, Vista Devotional, Urbanfaith.com and Publisher’s Weekly.

Terri holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology, a Master’s degree in Theological Studies and a certificate in creative writing and graphic design, meeting the minimal requirements of being a geek. She and her husband pastor a church where she serves as executive pastor and worship leader.

Terri lives in Maryland with her three wonderful children and her husband, who often beg her not to kill of their favorite characters.

Follow: Website, Facebook, Twitter

Author Interview with Dina Sleiman

Hey there, Diverse Reader Friends!

Hope you had an awesome weekend! Today, I’m sharing an interview I did with the awesome, Dina (D. L.) Sleiman. We’re discussing her novel, Dance from Deep Within. I can’t wait to share! Let’s get started.


About the Book

The Blurb: “Despite her conservative Muslim heritage, Layla Al-Rai longs for a chance to earn her degree in engineering and perhaps even…dare she dream…to choose her own husband. But young women from her background rarely enjoy such freedoms. When she finally talks her parents into letting her attend college, she is drawn to fellow twenty-something students, Allie and Rain, over a class project.

Allie, the blonde ballerina, faces her own struggles as she deals with an ex-fiancé and a church she had hoped to leave behind. Rain, the bi-racial hippie chick, longs for something to believe in, but her questioning could cost her the love of her life.

When Layla’s childhood sweetheart reenters her world, it seems her dreams might become real. Until everything falls apart. When she meets truth face to face, will she find the courage to accept it even if it requires the ultimate sacrifice?”

Links: Amazon, Goodreads


Interview

Toni: Thank you so much for joining us to talk about Dance from Deep Within. When I saw your novel in the WhiteFire Publishing Scavenger hunt, I was bouncing in my seat. I LOVE discovering diverse Christian fiction and your book seems to have it in spades. How did you even come up with this story idea?

Dina: My husband is from Lebanon, and I’ve been there several times. I always wanted to tell the story of a Muslim woman. But at the end of the day…like most of my books…the idea just sort of popped into my head, and I had to get it down on paper.

Toni: That is so awesome! As you stated above, Layla Al-Rai is Muslim. Wow, just wow. I can’t decide if I want to ask you about her religion or heritage…hmm, how about both? Is she American by birth or an immigrant? How does her religion factor into the novel?

Dina: Layla was raised in the states in a moderate Muslim family, originally from Lebanon. She’s the type of Muslim girl who wears the headscarf and modest clothing, but still manages to stay in the height of fashion. I modeled her after a stylish young Muslim woman I saw wearing a red mini-dress over a long sleeved black turtle neck and leggings once in Lebanon. Her religion and heritage, and even the difference between the two, play a huge part in her story. There are aspects of it she loves, and aspects of it that really bother her. I talked to a lot of former Muslims and even had one critique the book to make sure I got Layla right.

Toni: Yay! So happy you could talk to former Muslims. I’m sure it helped add authenticity. So Rain is biracial! Eek! Seriously, you gave us a melting pot in one novel! Was it difficult to write Rain’s background? Did it feel too far removed from your own? (Why can’t I stick to just one question, lol?)

Dina: I know, this book covers a lot! I modeled Rain after a few zany characters I loved from television: Freddie Brooks from the old A Different World series, and Dharma from Dharma and Greg, even though Dharma was white. Rain is the typical flower child of aging hippies, and that’s what stands out most about her. I think her bi-racial heritage really captures the post-modern spirit and new age type beliefs I was aiming for. Rain pretty much wrote herself, and she’s hysterical. I felt like since she had both black and white in her background, I had more flexibility in how she might think and feel. And African-American readers have really enjoyed her.

Toni: I loved Freddie in A Different World! Rain sounds like an amazing character. But she’s not the last one. The last young lady featured in your novel is Allie, a ballerina. I see church is her struggle. How did you create her character?

Dina: Allie is a lot like me, so she was fairly easy to write in some ways, but I also had to be careful how I presented her for a Christian audience. She loves God, but has a lot of hurts and hang ups due to her uber-conservative religious upbringing. She’s a ballerina by training, but she actually prefers contemporary dance and heavy metal music. She’s a free spirit at heart. Not a great fit for her traditional family and church. I needed to portray her woundedness in a sympathetic manner that wouldn’t alienate the reader. It took some work to hit just the right note.

Toni: *Sigh* Wounded people tug at my heart strings. *Adding to library hold list* Was there a particular theme you were shooting for, or did it all just fall into place?

Dina: I started the writing process with the main characters and their early conversations. I focused on what would happen when these three diverse cultures collided. As I like to say, “A Muslim, a hippie, and a Christian walk into a coffee shop…” But the theme of discovering who you really are and what you really believe and living from deep within emerged early in the process.

Toni: Love the line! How do you think our cultural perceptions are skewed? Do you find most people hang on to stereotypes or are willing to meet a person on their own merits?

Dina: Wow, that’s a loaded question. I mean, everyone enters a new situation with their own baggage and history. Our past experiences are a natural part of how we understand the world and make meaning out of it. I think a lot of people have a hard time seeing past their preconceptions, but all three of these girls were pretty special in that area. It did take them a while to adjust to one another and to learn to understand one another, but they were all open and curious and willing to learn. By the end, they became more than friends; they were sisters.

Toni: Hope you didn’t feel put on the spot. Love your answer! It’s always important to be “willing to learn.” How about some easier questions? Chocolate or candy?

Dina: Ha! I like fruity candy better most days.

Toni: They do have their place. 🙂 Favorite season?

Dina: Summer. I love summertime activities like the beach and swimming, and I like the laid back, lazy feel of summer.

Toni: Yes! Take me to a beach. Favorite soda?

Dina: Fresca, actually. Is that weird?

Toni: Lol, no. It’s actually good. I can’t remember the last time i had one or saw them. Is it a regional thing? I don’t think Virginia has them. Anyway, I digress. 🙂 Last but not least, what message do you want readers to receive after reading Dance from Deep Within?

Dina: This book is really a journey of discovery that you take along with the characters. Amidst the drama, romance, and humor, I hope that readers are challenged to develop a deeper level of intimacy with Christ and that they will desire to live from deep within like Layla, Rain, and Allie.

I’d like to also mention that this is the first book in the series, and book 2 will be releasing in November. It will add to the already diverse cast Fatima, who comes from a radical Saudi Arabian Muslim family, and integrate more African-American characters as well.

Toni: Hooray for more books! Hopefully, you’ll come back and visit with us. 🙂


About the Author

Award-winning author, Dina Sleiman, writes stories of passion and grace. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. Her debut novel, Dance of the Dandelion with Whitefire Publishing, won an Honorable Mention in the 2012 Selah Awards, and her cross-over YA novel, Dauntless, won the 2016 Carol Award in its genre from the American Christian Fiction Writers. Also look for her books, Love in Three-Quarter Time, Dance from Deep Within, and the rest of her Valiant Hearts series with Bethany House Publishers including Chivalrous and Courageous. Dina serves on the editorial board for WhiteFire as well, and during the day she utilizes her writing talent with the humanitarian organization Operation Blessing International. Join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace.

Follow: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest


Interview conducted by Toni Shiloh

 

Author Interview: Stacy Hawkins Adams, featuring “Dreams That Won’t Let Go”

Good Morning and Happy Monday, reader friends!

Journalist Stacy Hawkins Adams returns to the blog today to answer my questions about book number three in her Jubilant Soul Series, Dreams That Won’t Let Go.

Enjoy her interview!

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About the book:

 Indigo Burns is excited. Her wedding preparations to the man of her dreams are under way, her career as a photographer is a success, and her family seems to be doing better than ever–all except her brother Reuben who nobody has seen in years. But that’s about to change, because Reuben has decided to move back home to Jubilant, Texas.

But Reuben’s hope to find healing with his sisters doesn’t seem to be working. Soon enough their lives intersect in dramatic, sometimes painful, and ultimately healing ways. This insightful novel by an Essence bestselling author will pull in women readers from the urban market and beyond.

Purchase the book: Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ CBD

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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.

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Interview with Stacy Hawkins Adams about her book, Dreams That Won’t Let Go:

Alexis: Why did you title this book “Dreams That Won’t Let Go”?

Stacy: I chose this title because in their own ways, each of the featured characters was striving to achieve a dream that wouldn’t give his or her spirit rest. Until they resolved the issues related to their goal or dream, they would remain unsettled or unfulfilled.

Alexis: In this book, the reader reconnects with Indigo Burns whose passion for photography in Worth A Thousand Words (Jubilant Soul Book 2) has turned into a successful career and now she’s ready to get married. Describe her journey to her dreams. What were the highlights and struggles?

Stacy: I don’t want to give away the plot of the story by sharing too much with readers, but I’ll say that in this book, Indigo has matured into a lovely young woman who now has to deal with some of life’s twists and turns in a mature way. She finds herself in a gender-reversed version of the Prodigal Son story when her long-lost brother returns home, and she begins to resent the attention showered on him. Part of her journey to her dreams is wrestling with how to give others space to also experience theirs, without feeling like her needs are being overlooked or disregarded. It’s a matter of learning to look and love beyond yourself.

Alexis: Indigo is getting married! Who is her future spouse, how did she meet him, and how did she know he was “The One”?

Stacy: Sharing this news will give away the ending of the previous book in the series, Worth a Thousand Words! So as an author, I’ll remain somewhat coy with my response, okay? Lol. Let’s simply say that as Indigo began to figure out who she was and what she truly wanted in life, she also was able to recognize true love and what it could look like for her. The person she is marrying is also confident in himself and his purpose, and certain that Indigo is the woman meant to walk life’s journey with him.

Alexis: Indigo has not seen her brother Rueben in years. Why?

Stacy: Reuben moved away years ago to attend college and take a job on the West Coast – far from their Texas hometown – and the family never understood why he rarely came home. All of a sudden, however, he shows up with a wife and a child, ready to re-insert himself back into family life. They are so excited to have him home that they don’t ask too many questions. Before the book is over, however, readers will learn why he has returned, and why his journey back has everything to do with the dreams in his heart and mind.

Alexis: How do drama, pain, and healing play a role in this story?

Stacy: In the effort to pursue the dreams in their hearts and also love their family, Indigo, Reuben, and other members of their family deal with the everyday twists and turns that come with being in relationship with other people. They have to learn how to fall down, get back up, deal with anger, decide to forgive, and ultimately how to love and support one another no matter what.

Alexis: What were the challenges and rewards of writing this book?

Stacy: The challenge as a writer is always finding the discipline to sit in the chair and write! Lol. There are always dishes in the sink, laundry to be folded, places to be and things to do. So there’s that challenge of making yourself focus on the blank screen or the blank page right in front of you to create something out of nothing. The rewards have included finishing a book that I hope will both entertain and transform readers, and also hearing from those who have read the novel about how it spoke to them in a meaningful way regarding issues they personally were wrestling with or trying to maneuver. That always makes the hard work worthwhile.

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

Stacy: What I want readers to remember most is that we have to honor the dreams in our hearts, especially when we believe or know that God has placed them there. I also want readers to learn, as the Burns family discovers in this book, that you don’t always have to fully understand another person’s dream to support them in that dream. Sometimes all you have to do is love them, and trust that as you love them unconditionally, God will take care of the rest.

Alexis: How did your personal faith in God affect how you wrote this story?

Stacy: My personal faith infuses every aspect of my life, so in terms of how it affected this story (and every story I write), it just became a natural extension of the characters and plot, regardless of whether God is referenced. There are characters in the book who are entrenched in their faith and others who struggle with understanding how God can allow bad things to happen to good people. This is real life, and in capturing these issues in my fiction, I hope I’m helping dissect the questions and the answers that readers may be wrestling with in their daily lives.

Alexis: Would you say that this book is targeted to women in the urban market or that this book has a universal message? Explain.

Stacy: I write about issues and people who are just people; and while most of my “people” happen to be African American, the challenges, joys, fears and hopes that fill their lives are the same that many women from all walks of life encounter and embrace. So my target audience is women readers who want to be encouraged, inspired and uplifted; and by reading a book that features women of color, it’s also an opportunity for women of color to see themselves reflected in the pages of fiction or for Caucasian and other women to learn more about their “sisters” of another culture.

Alexis: What advice do you have for authors of all races who want to write for the urban market but may not be sure how to start?

Stacy: I wouldn’t say that my books have been targeted to an “urban” market. That is a specific genre versus writing African American fiction. My readers tend to be African American, but I also have many, many readers beyond this readership group. So my advice for writers as a whole is to write the book that is in your heart. Create characters that reflect who you are, but also the world around you. Very few of us live in a monolithic society, where there’s only one culture or color. Incorporate the broader world into your fiction, so that readers either see themselves or learn about what they may be missing by not getting to know people beyond their current boundaries.

Alexis: Briefly share your journey to becoming a published author.

Stacy: I began my writing career as a newspaper reporter and columnist, and one of the opportunities in that arena opened the door for me to meet an acquisitions editor for Baker Publishing Group. As destiny would have it, Baker was looking for an opportunity to publish some African American fiction, and I had a manuscript I had been working on for about three years almost ready to go. I polished it and got it in the best shape possible, and Baker’s Revell Books imprint published that first book, Speak To My Heart, in 2004.

Alexis: Will there be another book in your Jubilant Soul Series? Or is this the end?

Stacy: I don’t think I’ll write another full-fledged novel in the Jubilant Soul series, but a short story that updates readers on the characters’ lives is always a possibility. Stay tuned!

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

Stacy: Thanks for the opportunity to share details with your readers about my sixth book, Alexis. It’s always an honor to talk about my characters and the messages each book offers. I’d like to thank your readers for their interest in my work and invite them to visit me on my website, www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com, or to connect with me on my Facebook and Twitter pages. I love hearing from readers. And to the aspiring writers reading this, my advice is to write what’s in your heart; seek out the best editors or critical readers to give you honest feedback; revise, revise, revise and make your story the best it can be, because someone somewhere needs to read what you have to share with the world. Godspeed and God bless.

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Connect with Stacy:

Website – www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com

Twitter – www.twitter.com/shadams

Facebook – www.facebook.com/stacyinspires

~*~ Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring ~*~

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