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

Good Monday Morning, reader friends!

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

Enjoy!


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

Alexis: What inspired you to write this story?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alexis: What’s the moral of this story?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor


About the Author:

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

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

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

Follow Dave on Facebook


About the Book:

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

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

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

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

Purchase link for Harry Bentley’s Second Chance: 

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

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Interview with Neta Jackson about The Yada Yada Prayer Group (Book #1)

Happy Wednesday, reader friends!

Today, we’re featuring an interview with Neta Jackson about Book #1 in her series, The Yada Yada Prayer Group.


Interview with Neta Jackson about her book, The Yada Yada Prayer Group (Yada Yada Series) Book #1:

NOTE: All of these answers are by Neta, as the YYPG novels were all written by Neta. Future author interviews will include Dave who is her husband and beloved writing partner.

Alexis: What inspired you to write this Yada Yada Series?

Neta: Our church was being very intentional about “racial reconciliation,” so at one point an African American sister and I decided to co-lead a women’s prayer group that was intentionally diverse—and getting to know these amazing women from different backgrounds and different life experiences, who had such deep and solid faith, had such an impact on my life that my husband, Dave, said, “You ought to write a book.” Nope, I said. Can’t. The stuff we share is confidential. He said, “I mean, write a novel, using your prayer group as inspiration, but make it fiction.”

Alexis: Who are the main characters in Book #1 of The Yada Yada Prayer Group? Describe them briefly.

Neta: As the title implies, this novel is about a group, though the POV character is Jodi Baxter—a typical, middle-class, white, “good Christian girl” and third-grade teacher who ends up in a multi-cultural prayer group led by Avis, the African American principal of her school. Avis is mature, gracious, and deeply spiritual, who wisely leads this group of women who are as diverse as a “drawerful of crazy, mixed-up socks”—forcing Jodi to confront her presumptions, prejudices, and ignorance in spite of all her “good intentions,” and to learn how to pray and worship in whole new ways out of her comfort zone.

Besides Jodi and Avis, the group consists of:

Hoshi—a Japanese grad student at Northwestern University, who has become a Christian and been disinherited by her Shinto parents.

Nonyameko—an African immigrant from South Africa, married to an African-American professor at NU (Hoshi was in one of his classes).

Adele—a blunt African American with her own hair salon, taking care of her mother, who is suffering from dementia.

Chanda—a single mom from Jamaica who wants to win the lottery.

Leslie (aka “Stu”)—a single white social worker, who seems to do everything better than Jodi, making Jodi feel awkward, inept, and jealous.

Florida—a middle-aged black mother, married, plain-speaking, former drug addict and street person who is “five years saved and five years sober!”

Ruth—a childless, middle-aged “Messianic Jew” who has a special place in her heart for Yo-Yo.

Yo-Yo—a white twenty-something ex-con who grew up in foster homes and is now the sole caretaker for her two younger teenage brothers. Yo-Yo isn’t sure about this “Jesus stuff” and doesn’t let any of the prayer group get away with religious clichés.

Delores—a Spanish-speaking trauma nurse originally from Mexico and mother of a loveable tribe of 5 kids, who are often babysat by Edesa.

Edesa—a Spanish-speaking black college student from Honduras.

ALL of these characters are essential to the development of the Yada Yada Prayer Group . . . which originally was going to be only one novel—but I found out you can’t put 12 feisty women in a novel and expect them to stay there! All their stories (past, present, and future) clamored to be told in depth—which is why there are 7 novels in the Yada Yada series!

Alexis: What are some of the obstacles that your characters have to overcome?

Neta: Delores’s teenage son is accidentally shot while taking his younger siblings to the park.

Florida is trying to find her 8-year-old daughter who got “lost” in the foster-care system when she was strung-out on drugs.

Chanda finds a lump in her breast, is terrified because her mother died of breast cancer.

Jodi causes a fatal accident “driving while angry,” doesn’t feel “worthy” to be forgiven—causing Florida to get in her face to help her understand she was never “worthy,” she’s “just a sinner saved by grace,” just like herself and all the rest of the sisters.

(That’s just the beginning—the prayer group faces a LOT more challenges as their stories spill into the next books in the series!)

Alexis: What was the “biggest crisis” of your life that you faced and how did your prayer group help you survive?

Neta: I think you are confusing me (the author) with my POV character, Jodi. It was Jodi that had the “biggest crisis of her life” (the fatal accident she caused) who was helped to survive by the prayer group. (However, for inspiration to write that episode, I drew on a fatal accident my mother was involved in years ago in which a child ran in front of her car, as well as an accident I was involved in, in which my father died of a heart attack. Both events pre-dated my being in my real-life prayer group, but helped me in capturing the emotions Jodi struggled with).

Alexis: What is the moral of this Yada Yada Prayer Group story?

Neta: I think a lot of us are like Jodi Baxter—at least that’s what my readers tell me! (“I’m such a Jodi!”) Growing up in a Christian home as a “good Christian girl” like Jodi, I had unrealistic expectations both for myself and others and had to learn that I too am “just a sinner saved by grace.” That can be a cliché, but the reality of knowing that is the key to accepting God’s forgiveness when we mess up big time—and being able to forgive others.

Alexis: What do you want readers to learn from this book?

Neta: The purpose for writing this novel was to share through fiction that the Body of Christ includes many people who are different from us, and even though stepping outside our “comfort zone” can be challenging, God uses the very people who represent a different part of His Body (in their gifts, life experiences, and cultures) to bless and enrich our lives! Not only that, but we actually need each other. I Corinthians 12:21 says, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you’.” Etc. If we stay in our comfort zone with people just like us, we miss the many ways God wants to enrich and bless our own lives, as well as teach us many things about Himself and others we might not learn any other way.

Alexis: What lesson did you learn while writing this book?

Neta: Lessons—plural!

First, that my husband truly believed I could write this novel. Even though I was a writer for many years, we often did projects together—this was to be the first full-length adult novel I wrote by myself. I was scared. Dave took over the shopping, cooking, laundry, and a bunch of other stuff so I could write it! I never could have done it without his encouragement.

Second, that the Holy Spirit kept dropping ideas and people and experiences into my life while I was writing that God wanted me to share in this novel (so much for best-laid plans!). I learned it was important to listen to the Holy Spirit during any writing project.

Third, I had no idea how God was going to use this novel to touch so many lives. My reader letters are the most amazing gifts God could ever give me, showing me ways God has used The Yada Yada Prayer Group to encourage people to pray believing … to open their eyes to their own presumptions and prejudices, to hunger for new ways to worship God, to be inspired to start a prayer group, to be encouraged during difficult times in their lives. What I learned is that we use the gifts God gives us to the best of our abilities—and then watch as God multiplies them to bless others, just like Jesus did with the five loaves and two fish that the little boy gave him.

Alexis: How important is it to you to show diversity in your stories? Explain.

Neta: Very. But first, it’s important to “live diversity” in my own life. Even though I write fiction, I can’t truly represent the importance of having diverse relationships unless having those relationships are a reality for me. God has used my sisters of color and from other backgrounds and cultures to bless my socks off! I long for my readers to experience that same blessing. And besides, the real world isn’t just “white and middle-class.” If I want to write realistic fiction, I need to include diverse characters who aren’t just incidental, but critical to the story.

Alexis: Would you like to see more books with content like this one published by CBA? Why or why not?

Neta: Absolutely. Primarily because people of color are sadly under-represented in the world of Christian fiction. Why? Because CBA publishers and editors and publishing houses are still staffed mostly by white people! And yet . . . there are very talented authors who are people of color! They are part of the Body of Christ and we need them! (See 1 Corinthians 12 again!) There are so many amazing stories yet to be told coming out of the different cultures and life experiences (including non-white churches) that make up our own cities and towns in our own country.

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

Neta: The question I get asked most often is, why did you call this prayer group “Yada Yada”?

What really happened is this: A friend was showing me the meaning of “yadah” from a Hebrew/English lexicon to the Old Testament, which basically means “to sing and give praise to God.” But right there above the word “yadah,” was the word “yada”! To my astonishment, I discovered that the word “yada” appears 944 times in the Hebrew Scriptures, a root word which means “to know and be known intimately.” A good example is Psalm 139, which uses the word “yada” several times to express how intimately God knows us.

I thought, Wow! That would be an amazing name for a prayer group—to know God and be known by God intimately, and to know each other in the same way! And thus, the Yada Yada Prayer Group name for my fictional series was born!

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor


About the Author:

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

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

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

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

Follow Neta and her husband Dave Jackson on social media: 

Website: http://www.daveneta.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DaveNetaJackson


About the Book:

What do an ex-con, a former drug addict, a real estate broker, a college student, and a married mother of two have in common? Nothing, or so I thought.
Who would have imagined that God would make a prayer group as mismatched as ours the closest of friends? I almost didn’t even go to the Chicago Women’s Conference–after all, being thrown together with five hundred strangers wasn’t exactly my “comfort zone.”
But something happened that weekend to make us realize we had to hang together, and the “Yada Yada Prayer Group” was born! When I faced the biggest crisis of my life, God used my newfound Sisters to show me what it means to be just a sinner saved by grace.
Buy the book on Amazon

Interview with Tyora Moody about her book “Relentless Heart”

Good Monday Morning, reader friends!

Today, we’re featuring Tyora Moody’s book Relentless Heart.

Read our interview with this amazing author below.


Interview with Tyora Moody about her book, Relentless Heart:

Alexis: What inspired you to write this book?

Tyora: When I started to outline the Reed Family Series a few years ago, I felt led with this series to start with the middle sister, Jo, in the first book, Broken Heart and then the youngest sister, Toni, in Troubled Heart.

In Relentless Heart, readers meet Asia Reed, the oldest sibling. The story revolves around her desire to find her ex-boyfriend’s murderer.

Alexis: Tell us about your story’s heroine Asia Reed. What is her motivation, passion, and mission in life?

Tyora: All three sisters have pretty strong personalities, but Asia is probably the most opinionated and loves her role as the oldest sister. She also is the most complex sister.

Asia has a passion to win, which she does in the courtroom as a prosecutor. She does have lingering doubts about her ambitions now that she’s drawing closer to forty and her desire to be married and have children consume her.

Alexis: Why is Asia relentless about not losing a case? What drives her to excel?

Tyora: Asia is definitely the classic overachiever. She grew up in a family where her father put away the bad guys as a cop and later as the police chief. It’s ingrained in her to fight for justice for victims.

Alexis: Why is Asia fighting a losing battle in the faith department?

Tyora: Asia has been bent on winning but in Relentless Heart, she runs into a wall with an investigation. The death of a young man at the hands of a police officer really hits home to her. She is also starting to experience signs of weariness at the constant revolving door of prosecuting criminals.

Asia’s mother, Vanessa, is constantly encouraging Asia to make sure she’s not running on empty by leaving God out of her life. Asia is definitely one to work weekends and let cases consume her life, which has also resulted in the burnout.

Alexis: Asia is turning 40 years old, never married and has not had children. How is this situation affecting her career and outlook on life?

Tyora: Asia’s biological clock has been ticking in her ears for a while, but she’s also been pretty busy with her career. Something about turning 40 is making her wonder if all of her “wins” in the courtroom have been really worth it. During this time her younger sister Jo is having her second child and her youngest sister Toni is engaged to be married. These changing dynamics in her close-knit family are also making Asia take a second look at her life.

Alexis: What is the name of Asia’s former boyfriend, a prominent defense attorney who was gunned down in his office? Describe the connection he had with Asia. Did they have a good relationship? How did Asia cope with his death?

Tyora: Adam Locklear is a prominent defense attorney in Charlotte. Asia really wasn’t interested in having a relationship, but she found out that she and Adam had a lot in common. Their relationship started out being a really good fit until Asia caught Adam cheating on her.

She’s never really recovered from the relationship and has enjoyed her revenge in the courtroom. Adam has never been able to win a case against her.

Asia’s lingering feelings for Adam along with her doubts about her life’s direction cause her to take Adam’s death hard. It also didn’t help that she was on her way to see Adam and she comes across the horrific crime scene.

Alexis: What is it about her ex-boyfriend’s death that jolts Asia into action, determined to hunt down his killer and fight for justice?

Tyora: Adam was a “bad boy,” but Asia knew he had a good side. She realized in the last conversation with him that he may have had something to share with her…this information may have resulted in his death.

Alexis: Who is Adam Locklear and what role does he play in this story?

Tyora: If you have the money and you’re in trouble, Adam Locklear is the defense attorney in Charlotte to hire. His clientele consists of criminals and some very shady people with loads of money. Adam’s conscience causes him to reach out to Asia. If Adam suddenly gains a conscience, then Asia knows what he has to tell her is serious.

Alexis: Describe your story’s hero Isaac Coleman. What’s he like?

Tyora: Detective Isaac Coleman is new to homicide. He recently was promoted to detective. He’s a single father raising a teenage daughter. He’s a “cool cucumber,” taking his new role in stride despite some obstacles with his new partner. Being new, he has attention for details. He also has his eyes on Asia!

Alexis: How do Isaac and Asia cross paths and how do they help each other?

Tyora: Isaac is assigned to investigate Adam Locklear’s murder. He takes Asia’s statement. He knows who she is and is kind of in awe of her. The Reed Family is well-known in law enforcement. Asia is a prosecutor, but she’s determined to stick her nose in Isaac’s investigation. He understands her need to know what happened. Both of them start becoming drawn to each for reasons beyond the investigation.

Alexis: Is there hope for a happily ever after for Asia or will she stay a single lady forever?

Tyora: Nothing is impossible with God! That’s advice I share with my real-life single family members and friends. Hopefully, when readers check out Relentless Heart, they will be enamored with Asia’s interest in Detective Coleman.

Alexis: What will it take for a man to woo and win Asia’s heart?

Tyora: Asia needs to trust the man in her life. Adam broke that trust and Asia never really recovered. She’s a strong, independent professional and being disappointed by a man only led her to be more consumed with her independence. She needs a man who respects who she is and has her back especially during the really difficult cases.

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

Tyora: I would tell Asia that work should not be her life. She really has a counselor in her mom, but most people are stubborn about listening to mom’s advice. I would encourage her to take on other interests outside the courtroom that allow her to relax and leave her cases behind.

Alexis: Would you like to see CBA publish more stories featuring main characters of color like Asia who are strong and passionate about career and life? Why or why not?

Tyora: It would be great to see the CBA publish more stories featuring main characters of color. If CBA ever wanted to really get into the business of publishing books with main characters of color, they need to understand the various cultures that read the books. African American readers don’t mind switching to secular to Christian on their reading list. Some edginess to Christian Fiction is accepted.

I had the opportunity to be published traditionally with Urban Christian for four books. The advance was great for marketing funds and it was definitely great to work with multiple editors. I’m a graphic designer so I always didn’t necessarily care for my covers. I don’t miss the tight deadlines.

In all honesty, since independent publishing has matured it will be hard to really convince some authors to give up some of the control they have with their own work. The Holy Spirit remains my main editor and my readers accept my books regardless of the publisher.

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

Tyora: Thank you for having me. I appreciate the opportunity to introduce your readers to Relentless Heart and the Reed Family series. I hope to return the series in the future and write the brothers’ stories.

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor.


About the Book:

Assistant District Attorney Asia Reed is relentless about not losing a case. But she’s fighting a losing battle in the faith department. Now approaching forty, never married and with no children, a growing sense of unease has made her weary about her career and life.

When a former boyfriend and prominent defense attorney is gunned down in his office, Asia is jolted into action, determined to find out who’s responsible. Only hours before his death, Adam Locklear insists they meet about information she needs to know. Did Locklear’s death have anything to do with what he wanted share?

Detective Isaac Coleman seems to think so. Will Asia’s persistence put her in the path of a killer?

Buy this book on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

~*~

About the Author:

Tyora Moody is the author of Soul-Searching Suspense books which include the Reed Family SeriesEugeena Patterson MysteriesSerena Manchester Series, and the Victory Gospel Series.  She is also the author of The Literary Entrepreneur Series, editor for the Stepping Into Victory Compilations and Aspiring Love Short Stories Compilations under her company, Tymm Publishing LLC.

As a literary-focused entrepreneur, she has assisted countless authors with developing an online presence via her design and marketing company, Tywebbin Creations LLC. Popular services include book covers, book formatting, and book trailers.

To contact Tyora about book club discussions or for book marketing workshops, visit her online at TyoraMoody.com.

Follow Tyora: Amazon ~ Facebook ~ Goodreads ~Instagram ~ Twitter

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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.

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Interview with Regina Jennings, author of Sixty Acres and a Bride

Happy Monday, reader friends!

Join us in welcoming Regina Jennings to our blog today!

She’s here to talk about her debut book, Sixty Acres and a Bride.


About the Author:

 Regina Jennings is the winner of the National Reader’s Choice Award, a two-time Golden Quill finalist and a finalist for the Oklahoma Book of the Year Award. A graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University with a degree in English and a minor in history, Regina has worked at the Mustang News and at First Baptist Church of Mustang, along with time at the Oklahoma National Stockyards and various livestock shows. She lives outside of Oklahoma City with her husband and four children when not traveling the world.

Connect with Regina on Facebook and visit her official website.


About the Book: 

She’s Finally Found a Place to Call Home . . . How Far Will She Go to Save It?



With nothing to their names, young widow Rosa Garner and her mother-in-law return to their Texas family ranch. Only now the county is demanding back taxes and the women have just three months to pay.

Though facing eviction, Rosa falls in love with the countryside and the wonderful extended family who want only her best. They welcome her vivacious spirit and try to help her navigate puzzling American customs. She can’t help but stand out, though, and her beauty captures attention. Where some offer help with dangerous strings attached, only one man seems honorable. But when Weston Garner, still grieving his own lost love, is unprepared to give his heart, Rosa must decide to what lengths she will go to save her future.

Buy Regina’s book on Amazon.


Interview with Regina Jennings about her book, Sixty Acres and a Bride:

Why did you call this book “Sixty Acres and a Bride”? Explain the significance.

Marketing is always a factor when choosing titles, and using the word “Bride” is very popular with romance readers. That was one consideration, but primarily we took our cue from the biblical story of Ruth (which was the inspiration for the story) and played off the fact that when Boaz went to the city elders about buying the property from his kinsman, the fact that a widow came with the property was significant. Many historical novels involve saving or acquiring a farm, but rarely is there a wife attached to the deed. That made the title more enticing.

What is the main conflict in your story?

After the Civil War, Louise and her family had escaped from Reconstruction Texas to start anew in Mexico. Their time there was a disaster. After the death of her son and husband, Louise and her daughter-in-law Rosa come back to Texas to reclaim their ranch that had been leased, only to find that heavy back-taxes are due and it was on the verge of foreclosure. Louise and Rosa must beat impossible odds to pay the taxes.

Let’s talk about your story’s heroine, Rosa Garner. What does she look like? What is her personality type? What’s her motivation in this story?

Rosa is a hard-working, energetic woman. Because of her status as a newcomer and her unfamiliarity with the customs, she feels that she has to repress her usual enthusiasm, but sometimes the mask slips and reveals her vivaciousness. She is a beautiful Nahua woman, without Spanish blood. She is very dainty and the people in Texas tend to think that she’s younger than she is.

Rosa loves her mother-in-law, who is emotionally fragile, and is determined to protect Louise from the harsh realities of life. Louise was the outsider in Mexico, and Rosa has kept the role as protector even though they are back in Louise’s homeland.

Would you say that your fictional story is a spin on the real Bible story of Ruth, Naomi and Boaz? Why or why not?

Absolutely. This story began when I was asked to write a Christmas play with the theme of Redeemer. I had to compose a few skits that showed redemption and I knew immediately that I wanted to do the Ruth and Boaz story. Because of the Bethlehem Christmas scene, we already had the biblical times costumes in one drama, so I wanted to do something different for the Ruth story. A wealthy farmer? A woman with her foreign daughter-in-law who are going to lose their land? This sounded very much like a story straight from the old west. After the play, I decided to expand the plot to a full-length novel.

What I really wanted to accomplish with this story was to use the much-loved character of Ruth to explore how hard it is to come to a new place as an immigrant and to highlight some of the comical cross-cultural misunderstandings that happen with anyone who travels internationally. Also, I wanted to give us a fresh look at the story of Ruth. How did the women of the town feel about a foreigner taking the most eligible bachelor? What did they say about how the marriage came about? (Going to his bed in the middle of the night could not have been that common.) There’s a lot of drama built into the story and it made an excellent framework for a historical romance set in the 19th century.’

Describe the countryside that Rosa fell in love with and explain why you chose it for the setting of this story.

The story setup—a family fleeing lawless Texas for Mexico and then returning to find the taxes had risen on the farm during Reconstruction—has a solid historical footing behind it. Taxes were raised on the Southern states such as Texas to punish the rebellious and to help pay for the war. This fit nicely with what I was trying to accomplish with the plot. I live in Oklahoma, so the western culture is very familiar to me, but since Oklahoma was Indian Territory at the time, the story wouldn’t work here, so Texas it had to be.

Why are American customs “puzzling” to Rosa? What is she used to? Describe her home country and compare how it’s different from America.

The Victorian Era in America was marked by un-naturalism for women. Women wore whale-boned corsets and padded layers of clothes to disguise and manipulate their figures. Pregnancy was never mentioned in polite society and allusions to common body parts like “legs” were avoided. While women in 19th century Mexico weren’t given equal rights either, women from rural areas did live less restrictive lives. Natural body functions weren’t considered shocking and they had more freedom. Rosa had not been schooled to hide her emotions and opinions like other young ladies of society, and that leads to embarrassment and conflict for her.

Who is Weston Garner and what role does he play in this story?

Weston portrays the biblical idea of a kinship redeemer. Reconstruction Texas was a rough place and as the patriarch of his family, Weston is the leader and protector of several family units. He feels responsible for everyone. When Louise (the widow of his uncle) arrives, he immediately takes responsibility for her. While Weston had never met Rosa before, she’s family by marriage and he always takes care of family.

How does Weston’s relationship with Rosa affect the storyline?

Weston’s main motivator is duty. Since the death of his wife he has lost his joy, but he never fails in his obligations to his family. In Rosa, he meets someone who is just as driven by duty as he is. The fact that she is also a part of his extended family, means that she falls under his care. Weston is immediately attracted to her but isn’t interested in love. When circumstances force him to choose between protecting his family or protecting his heart, he does what chivalry requires, even though he knows it’s going to cost him.

As a White author, did you find it challenging to write about characters of color? Why or why not?

Rosa is different from my other heroines because of her culture and the experieces she’s lived through, but I found the variety invigorating. In this case, the writing was made easier by 15 years of relationships I’ve cultivated in Mexico and I was able to have this character do things and say things my typical 19th century white heroine wouldn’t be able to do or say. That much was really fun. Still, it’s always intimidating to put yourself in unfamiliar shoes. As with all characters, you just try to create a well-rounded character while being influenced by research and your knowledge of the human condition.

Would you like to see more White authors write stories for CBA featuring main characters of color? Why or why not?

One of my favorite tropes to read and write is the ‘fish out of water’ trope. What happens when cultures clash? You can’t have that when everyone in the cast of characters has the same background and understanding of the world. So yes, I’d love to see more diverse heroes and heroines in CBA fiction by authors of every color, but I feel the impetus is on readers to support those efforts.

What do you want readers to remember most about Sixty Acres and a Bride?

Mostly, that it was a good story that made them laugh and sigh. Secondly, I hope reading Sixty Acres and a Bride will make readers more empathetic to people who are new to a culture.

Thanks for the interview, Regina! Would you like to share closing thoughts?

Thanks so much for letting me visit here at Diversity Between the Pages. I enjoyed getting to visit about my debut novel.

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor

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Author Interview with Brandi Boddie featuring “Dear One” (book)

Happy Monday, reader friends!

Let’s welcome Brandi Boddie to our blog today! She’s a returning guest. Today, Brandi is here to answer questions about her book “Dear One”. It’s the perfect read for Valentine’s Day!  She’s also going to share some of the race-related roadblocks she’s faced as an author of color writing about characters of color.

Enjoy your time with Brandi!


Interview with Brandi Boddie, author of Dear One (book):

Alexis: What inspired you to write a story about “Steel Town America during the midst of WWII” and call your story “Dear One”?

Brandi: Thanks for having me as a guest again, Alexis. During WWII, the “steel towns” were cities that were known for their high production of steel. This metal was highly needed to craft planes, tanks, and ammunition for the troops overseas. The more notable steel towns of the day were Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Birmingham, Alabama, and Trenton, New Jersey. The story is called “Dear One” because it’s part of a multi-author collection called Valentine Matchmakers. Each story is titled after a saying on those classic candy hearts. The company that manufactured the candy started putting “Dear One” on the hearts during the 1940s.

Alexis: Why did you choose Youngstown, Ohio as the setting for your story?

Brandi: I was born in Youngstown, Ohio. During the 1910s-70s, the city had numerous steel mills. During WWII, they were used to furnish vehicles and weapons. Many of my male relatives worked in these mills before going off to fight in the war or to college in the latter half of the century. I wanted to pay tribute to the hard-working people of the city and my family by recognizing part of Youngstown’s legacy.

Alexis: Describe the Valley Bulletin, the town’s most prominent African American newspaper. How many years did it take for it to rise up in the ranks?

Brandi: The Valley Bulletin is a fictional African American newspaper based on the real-life examples of black journalism during that time. Since African Americans didn’t often find work with white newspaper companies, they formed their own. The papers featured news of the day as told from an African American perspective, as well as entertainment, gossip and advice columns. This tradition continues today in major cities.

Alexis: How did your story’s heroine Molly Clayton become a “ladies columnist” for the Valley Bulletin?

Brandi: Molly took a few secretary and writing courses after high school, which enabled her to find employment with the Valley Bulletin. She loves to give practical advice on war rationing to ladies in her weekly column.

Alexis: Why are Molly’s parents struggling and in what ways does she help them?

Brandi: Molly’s father lost his job in the steel mill due to a work-related injury. She tries to help him find work by bringing home the classifieds in the Valley Bulletin. She helps her mother with the share of the household duties .

Alexis: Describe Molly’s passion for swing dancing. How and when did she start?

Brandi: Swing dancing, or Lindy Hop, was one of the big pastimes during the 30s and 40s. While money was tight, it didn’t cost much to attend a dance. Molly began dancing during high school and goes regularly to these social events in her spare time.

Alexis: What’s the significance of the “Valentine’s Day dance” that Molly is invited to by a friend?

Brandi: The Valentine’s Day dance has a romantic theme of music and dining. Molly has been working hard at the newspaper office lately, and a friend suggests she deserves a little time to enjoy herself.

Alexis: Let’s talk about your story’s hero, Stephen Keller. Describe his looks, personality and taste in music. What’s his motivation in this story?

Brandi: Stephen is tall and handsome with dark hair, hazel eyes, and tan skin. He has an outgoing personality and is an avid fan of jazz music. He’s a hard worker and talented talker, not to mention dancer. But he always feels the need to prove himself.

Alexis: Why did you make Stephen a jazz magazine editor?

Brandi: Stephen has relatives who are jazz musicians. This lively, soulful music is in his blood.

Alexis: What draws Molly to Stephen? Is there anything that makes her not like him later on in the story?

Brandi: Molly is drawn to Stephen’s charisma, both on the dancefloor and in his conversation. He’s passionate about music and making advances for people of color. He’s suave, and there’s a cultured element to his behavior and way of dress. However, there’s also an unspoken element that she can’t put her finger on.

Alexis: How does Stephen’s “painful secret” affect his relationship with Molly?

Brandi: It goes back to his need to always prove himself. He’s trying to escape from the memories of his past, as well as something he can’t change about himself. This leads Molly to see another side of his personality, one that’s sad and bitter.

Alexis: What were the challenges of writing this story? What were the rewards?

Brandi: While there are many WWII romances to read, few of them feature people of color. We know for a fact that black and brown American soldiers helped win the war. We also know that their families, friends, and love interests worried about them. Just like white women, black women did their part to send care packages and letters. They anticipated their husbands and boyfriends coming home. I wanted to tell such a story. It’s been amazing to write about a young black couple falling in love against the backdrop of a war that ended up changing the scope of how we view religious, ethnic, and moral grounds.

Alexis: As a woman of color, what are the challenges you’ve experienced in trying to publish your books about people of color with traditional CBA publishing houses?

Brandi: I’ve had books get canceled because they featured people of color. In earlier stages of query, I’ve had editors ask me the race of my characters before they even knew the plot. I think this is because, historically, people of color haven’t had an easy time in this country. Historical fiction has to deal with that reality or it can become very disingenuous. It’s my belief that certain settings and subject matter make publishing houses want to proceed with caution. However, the human race can’t heal and POC are not being served if their experiences are sugarcoated, glossed over, or not given a voice at all.

Alexis: Would you like to see more love stories featuring heroines of color, successfully published and marketed by CBA? Why or why not?

Brandi: I certainly would, but it has to reflect POC experiences and their unique journeys of faith. God doesn’t lead us all down the same path. I’d also like to see more heroines of color being featured in genres such as mystery and science fiction.

Alexis: If you could advise the marketing and sales departments in traditional CBA publishing houses on how to market books about people of color, what would you say?

Brandi: Be proactive about it. Survey readers of existing romance novels that feature POC. Ask them why they enjoyed the book and what they would like to see in the future. Also, bring authors of color to your conventions and conferences to be guest speakers. Have several panels on diversity (with POC as the panelists) to start the conversation.

As for in-store and online marketing, don’t be afraid to have covers featuring POC. I’ve seen too many books that featured ethnic characters, but had flowers or a vague landscape for the cover. Why can’t we see cover models for the characters?

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Brandi! Do you have any closing thoughts?

Brandi: Thanks for inviting me again, Alexis. I enjoy reading your blog features. Thanks for sharing diverse stories with your readers.

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor.


About the Author:

 Brandi Boddie writes historical and contemporary romance. She resides in Texas where she loves spending time with her husband and dogs, a cocker spaniel and a schnauzer who both aspire to be food critics. She holds a juris doctorate from Howard University School of Law and a B.A. in political science from Youngstown State University. She has worked for the Office of the Attorney General in Washington D.C. and traveled extensively across the country as a military wife. When she isn’t writing, Brandi enjoys fencing and swing dancing.

Visit her website www.brandiboddie.com for news and updates.

Follow Brandi on Twitter


About the Book:

Love in Steel Town America during the midst of WWII

Youngstown, Ohio 1944

Molly Clayton works as a ladies columnist for the Valley Bulletin, the town’s most prominent African American newspaper. Between writing, aiding the war effort, and helping her struggling parents pay the bills, she doesn’t have time for her favorite pastime of swing dancing.

When a friend gives her tickets to a Valentine’s Day dance for her birthday, Molly can’t wait to attend. She meets Stephen Keller, a handsome jazz magazine editor. She’s attracted to him, but a painful secret lurks beneath the surface of Stephen’s easy charm that makes him defensive to others and suspicious of her faith.

Things take a turn for the worse when a vicious rumor threatens to destroy both her career and her blossoming courtship. Will she gain the courage to confront the rumor and speak her heart to Stephen before it’s too late?

Interview with Brandi Boddie, author of “The Preacher’s Wife”

Happy Monday, reader friends!

Let’s welcome Brandi Boddie to our blog today! We did a book spotlight on her story “The Preacher’s Wife” last week. Today, Brandi is here to answer questions about her book and share her insights as an author of color in the publishing industry.

Enjoy your time with Brandi!


About the Author: 

 Brandi Boddie writes historical and contemporary romance. She resides in Texas where she loves spending time with her husband and dogs, a cocker spaniel and a schnauzer who both aspire to be food critics. She holds a juris doctorate from Howard University School of Law and a B.A. in political science from Youngstown State University. She has worked for the Office of the Attorney General in Washington D.C. and traveled extensively across the country as a military wife. When she isn’t writing, Brandi enjoys fencing and swing dancing.

Visit her website www.brandiboddie.com for news and updates.

Follow Brandi on Twitter


About the Book:

 Can this small-town girl trade her tarnished past for a respectable life?

During the hot, windy summer of 1870 in the burgeoning prairie town of Assurance, Kansas, Marissa Pierce is fed up with her abusive boss. She longs to start a new life and is growing weary of convincing townsfolk that she is most certainly not a prostitute.

Civil War veteran and preacher Rowe Winford arrives in town intent on leaving the tragic memories of his deceased family behind. Although Rowe has no plans to fall in love anytime soon, the plans of God rarely match those of man.

Faced with adversity and rejection from the town and Rowe’s family, can Marissa overcome her past, renew her faith, and experience the life of love that God has planned for her?


Interview with Brandi Boddie about her book, The Preacher’s Wife:

Alexis: Why do you call this book “The Preacher’s Wife”?

Brandi: Actually, the original title was called “Garters For Lace”. There’s a line in the story that provides more detail about it. My publisher decided to give the novel a new title, which also is very fitting to the story.

Alexis: Let’s talk about your story’s heroine Marissa Pierce. What’s she like? Describe her personality, looks, and motivation.

Brandi: Marissa is a young woman in her twenties. I describe her as tall, with long black hair and brown eyes. She’s attractive. Today we might describe her as biracial or multiethnic because she is Native American and Caucasian. Although Marissa was born in the 19th century, some aspects of her personality resemble today’s modern woman. She’s very resilient and independent. She’s a survivor of sexual and physical abuse. Although there are things in her past that are very discouraging, she strives to move forward in life with the help of God and caring friends.

Alexis: What’s Marissa’s backstory? Why do people think she’s a prostitute?

Brandi: Marissa had a difficult childhood and early adult life. Circumstances have forced her to work in a saloon as a dancehall girl. In the frontier days, ladies could earn money by dancing with saloon patrons and serving drinks. Not all of these women were prostitutes, but saloons and their employees were often considered disreputable at this time by the public. Marissa has to battle this perception.

Alexis: Let’s talk about your story’s hero Rowe Winford. What is he like? Describe his personality, looks and motivation.

Brandi: Rowe is a kind, strong man who journeys west from Virginia after losing his wife and unborn child. He’s always wanted to be a minister, a profession that his tobacco farming family disapproves of. He desires to make a new start. Rowe is over six feet tall, has blue eyes and dark brown hair.

Alexis: What tragic memories is Rowe trying to escape?

Brandi: Rowe is saddened by the loss of his young wife and unborn child. He also is depressed by his family’s rejection of him.

Alexis: How do God’s plans for Rowe contradict Rowe’s plans for his life?

Brandi: As the town’s new preacher, Rowe wants to do everything right to impress the people and show his competence as a spiritual leader. He doesn’t anticipate meeting and being attracted to Marissa, a woman who many consider beneath his station.

Alexis: What brings Marissa and Rowe together? Is there anything that threatens to tear them apart? Explain.

Brandi: A chance meeting at the saloon and a later encounter firmly place the two in each other’s lives. Rowe doesn’t count on the backlash from the town or Marissa’s abusive employer, the saloon owner Jason Garth.

Alexis: In what ways to Marissa and Rowe work to overcome adversity?

Brandi: Marissa works to escape the saloon and abusive people in her life. Part of that involves seeking new employment, but not everyone in the town wants to be associated with a former saloon girl. Rowe soon learns that his can-do spirit and eagerness to prove himself must be met with action. Being a preacher involves more than Sunday sermons. He learns he has to truly serve others, even those society rejects.

Alexis: What role does faith in God play in Marissa and Rowe’s lives?

Brandi: They learn to recognize God’s voice and accept where He leads them. Marissa, due to her mistreatment by the morally upstanding people of the town, has formed the wrong impression of God. Rowe wonders how God could allow him to lose his family.

Alexis: Marissa is Native American. Why did you give her this heritage and how does it affect her story?

Brandi: Although Hollywood would have us think differently, the historic frontier west actually was made up of diverse peoples. Roughly 40 percent of cowboys were black and Latino. Among white settlers, there were often low populations of women, especially when towns were first being established. It wasn’t unheard of for white men to have children with Native American women or take them as wives. This is partly how Marissa has Choctaw in her ancestry.

Alexis: What’s Rowe’s ethnicity? What role does his racial makeup play in this story?

Brandi: Rowe is Caucasian. As a white man in a mostly white small frontier town, there are certain expectations of him. Will he fulfill them, or will he go against the grain?

Alexis: How do your own experiences as a woman of color affect your storytelling?

Brandi: I’ve always loved to read, but I didn’t see too many women/girls of color as the main characters in stories. This left me feeling like people who looked like me didn’t matter and that our stories weren’t worth telling. If I did find stories featuring POC, they were often relegated to their own little hidden corner of the bookstore or given the general label of Urban Fiction. I have nothing against urban fiction if that’s the actual story setting. However, I’ve seen too many books mischaracterized and given that broad label simply because the protagonists are people of color.

Even now, as a fan of romance novels, it can be discouraging to rarely see black women on the covers. The underlying message is that we are not worthy of love or romantic pursuit. I write stories to help change this by uplifting and representing women of color. We are from all walks of life. We have different experiences. And we have always been here.

Alexis: What changes would you like to see in CBA this New Year 2018 when it comes to authors who write books featuring people of color?

Brandi: I strongly hope we will see more stories featuring POC, written by POC. If we want this, there has to be action behind our words. We can’t just talk about what we’d like to see. We need to be proactive by promoting and encouraging authors. Buy books by POC. Tweet, follow on social media, and don’t be afraid to write to CBA traditional publishers and agents. Let them know there is a demand for diverse stories. Support the indie author movement, because that’s where we’re going to see the impact of diversity in storytelling first.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Brandi. You’ve shared such great thoughts! We look forward to your return in February to talk about another one of your books! God bless you.

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor.

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Interview with Belle Calhoune about her book “Reunited at Christmas”

About the book:

 A Season to Remember 

Two years after the avalanche everyone thought had claimed her life, Ruby Prescott returns to the remote Alaskan town of Love. And no one is more ecstatic than her husband, Liam, and their young son. Even if amnesia has robbed Ruby of her memories, she’s soon woven back into the fabric of their lives. As they celebrate the holiday season, Ruby is falling head over heels for the man she’s told was the love of her life. But she can’t escape the feeling that there’s something Liam is keeping a secret. Will the return of her memories tear them apart for good—or will this be a Christmas she’ll never forget?

Book purchase link: Amazon

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Interview with Belle Calhoune, author of Reunited at Christmas:

Alexis: The setting for your story, Reunited at Christmas, is an Alaskan town called “Love”. How sweet! It’s a very unique name for a town. What makes it special? Paint a picture of it with words.

Belle: Love is a quaint Alaskan town that is very special due to the charming townsfolk and its remote location. Love is only accessible via ferry boat and seaplane. The town has an imbalance of males to females, so the premise of the series is that the town mayor, Jasper Prescott, starts a program called Operation Love that brings single females who are looking for love to the lovelorn town called Love. There is lots of love in this town along with warm-hearted folks who live their life with faith.

Alexis: Ruby Prescott is the heroine of your story. What is she like? Describe her looks, personality and heart.

Belle: Ruby is a beautiful woman with tawny colored skin, long black hair and warm brown eyes. She is African American. She is very brave. In the story she is suffering from amnesia, so when she returns to Love it is on a wing and a prayer. She’s forced into situations where she is completely lost, so she really has pluck and grit. She’s very honest and loving. She has a very big heart and she tends to think of others before she thinks of herself.

Alexis: How was Ruby’s life before the avalanche that almost claimed her life and how is it different now that she survived?

Belle: Prior to the avalanche she was working as a member of a search and rescue team which required a lot of courage and mental fortitude. She was happily married to Liam and raising a small child, Aidan. Although she and Liam were very much in love, he was very concerned about her career and the inherent dangers, so that was an issue standing between them. Overall, she was happy but conflicted about her career.

Alexis: Liam Prescott is the hero of this story. What is he like? Describe his looks, personality and tell us what defines his outlook on life.

Belle: Liam is very handsome. He’s tall with dark brown hair and brown eyes. He is probably the quietest Prescott. He’s a doctor who cares deeply about the world around him and his patients. He looks at life as an opportunity to care for others and show compassion and love. It takes a lot to anger or upset him. He’s a loving husband and devoted father.

Alexis: Ruby and Liam have a son. Tell us about him. How old is he? Who does he look like the most, his Mom or Dad? What is his favorite hobby?

Belle: Their son is named Aidan. He’s a really cool kid. He’s five years old. He looks like a sweet combination with dark hair and light brown skin. He’s biracial and beautiful. His favorite hobby is sledding. He loves the Alaskan outdoors and spending time in nature. He also loves pizza.

Alexis: How did Liam and his son react when Ruby’s avalanche accident happened?

Belle: They were both devastated by her death. Liam had to hold it together so he could raise Aidan as a single father, but he was really messed up emotionally by losing Ruby, the love of his life. One of the beautiful aspects of this story is how Liam and Aidan had to band together in the absence of Ruby so that their little family didn’t fall apart at the seams.

Alexis: Why does Ruby have amnesia? What are her husband and son doing to help her regain her memory?

Belle: Because of the fall she sustained during the avalanche, Ruby suffered a head trauma. She does have spurts and flashes of memory, which lead her back to her hometown of Love. Through the course of the story we see that Ruby begins to remember things. The hope is that she will get back most of her memories, although it is quite possible some things will be forever lost to her. I think Liam and Aidan’s role is to be quietly supportive. Their very presence helps Ruby remember her past.

Alexis: The cover models for your book are beautiful! What race are Ruby and her husband? Why did you choose to write about an interracial romance?

Belle: Yes, they really are gorgeous. Ruby is African American. Liam is Caucasian. Aidan is both. I wanted to write about an interracial couple because that reflects my reality. I myself am biracial and it is something very natural for me to see in my environment. My ancestry is diverse. I am African, Irish and have many other European ties. I think it is realistic in this day and age to show a loving, devoted couple who are interracial.

Alexis: Did you experience any roadblocks to getting your interracial romance story published by a traditional Christian (CBA) publisher? Why or why not?

Belle: Not at all. I presented the character and the story and my editor, Emily Rodmell and Harlequin Love Inspired embraced it. We never discussed race and it was never raised in the story. It was not relevant to their love story in any way, shape or form.

Alexis: Would you like to see more interracial romance stories published by CBA? Why or why not?

Belle: Absolutely. First, I would like to see more diverse characters in CBA. So far, they are really behind the curve in representing people of color in their books. In 2017 this shouldn’t be happening. We need to reflect the world we inhabit, especially as Christians.

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

Belle: It was challenging to write an amnesiac because I had to reconcile her new personality with her old personality. In essence, Ruby was born after the head injury. She’s the same person, but different. So I had to remind myself of that fact. Also, I had to portray amnesia in a realistic manner. I didn’t want to have Ruby suddenly remember everything. I think flashes of memory are more realistic. And also, I had to show that she may never regain those memories because that is what happens with real life individuals who suffer from amnesia.

Alexis: If you could spend this Christmas with The Prescott Family, what would you all do? Why?

Belle: If I could spend Christmas with the Prescott Family I would ask them to take me sledding with them on the mountain. It would be so much fun to sled in Alaska and share fun times with this incredible family. I would also love to meet Mayor Jasper Prescott because he is the center of this quaint town and quite a character. He would definitely make me laugh out loud.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Belle! God bless you and Merry Christmas!

Belle: Thanks for having me on your blog. Merry Christmas to you as well. Blessings!

~*~

About the Author:

 Belle Calhoune grew up in a small town in Massachusetts as one of five children. Although her mother was a doctor and her father a biologist, Belle never gravitated toward science. Growing up across the street from a public library was a huge influence on her life and fueled her love of romance novels. Belle is the author of nine Harlequin Love Inspired novels with a tenth hitting the shelves in March of 2018. She has Indie published the popular and best-selling inspirational romance series, Seven Brides, Seven Brothers. The Secrets of Savannah and Pelican Bay are both spin-offs of her debut series. Belle loves writing romance and crafting happily-ever-afters. When she’s not wrangling her two high maintenance dogs or spending time with her husband and two daughters, Belle enjoys travel and exploring new places.

Follow Sandra on Twitter

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor

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Author Interview: Joy Massenburge

Happy Monday, Reader Friends!

Please help me welcome new author Joy Massenburge to our blog! She’s here to talk about her debut novella, “A Cry for Independence,” which is one of several stories in the Summer Fireworks boxed set.

Enjoy!

~*~

About the Author: 

 Joy crafts the love stories of pastors and their kids. She was born the sixth child of a pastor. Thinking she had avoided the church scene, she married a football player. She left the University of Texas at Austin and her theater scholarship to join him at Sam Houston State where she obtained her Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice. On signing day with the Green Bay Packers, he advised her she would be a pastor’s wife…they raised pastor’s kids; a son a daughter and god-daughter. Her life is filled with twists and turns that come in twos—two donkeys, two dogs, and two teenagers who came to live with her soon after she became an empty nester.

With the kids married and off to college, she took the advice of her favorite author, Francine Rivers (for new writers), and joined ACFW as well as the not-so-local chapter DFW Ready Writers, where she serves as Chaplain.

Joy resides in Arp, Texas where you can find her in the concession stand on a Friday night, curled up on her back porch with a good book on a Saturday, or filling her five-acre country home with fifty plus people for a Blue Bell party.

Like her name, Joy’s writing is filled with heartfelt emotions, surprises, and excitement. Like her life, Joy’s readers experience change, a good church service, and the perfect dose of tears and laughter. She found the perfect formula for the contemporary romances God called her to write.

*Follow Joy on Facebook

~*~

About the book: 

 Some cry wolf, Tammie Morris cries independence. After having Q’s baby out of wedlock and struggling to support herself and her child, she is determined to never depend on a man again. He will only abandon her like her father. It has taken twelve months to gain her GED, employment, and the five-year-life-plan she is committed to live by to make it happen. When her apartment availability is delayed, she is forced into a temporary living arrangement that threatens the future she’s mapped out.

Quan Blanton Sr., Q, has found the freedom only salvation through Jesus can offer. All there is to do now is put his family back together and live the Christian life. His ne Paroled to his son’s aunt and uncle’s house as part of the Father’s Heart program, he is determined to reunite his family the right way as soon as Tammie comes home from the shelter. There is only one problem, he is not a part of her plans.

When the storms of life usher in unexpected opposition, Tammie and Q find themselves headed the same direction, no matter their original plotted courses.

~*

Interview with Joy Massenburge, author of A Cry for Independence:

Alexis: Why did you name your book “A Cry for Independence”? Explain the significance of the title to the story.

Joy: The title came after I’d completed a little over half of the book. My heroine was quick to say she wanted to do things on her own, without the help of family, friends, or a man. But her internal thoughts cried out a different story. We’ll say a lot of things when we’re scared. Thank goodness God knows the heart and sends us what we need.

Alexis: Your heroine is Tammie Morris. What is she like? Describe her hopes, dreams and fears.

Joy: Tammie Morris is a young mother hardened by life. She has a five-year-plan to work and make enough money to take care of her son on her own without the help of another man. Hopes and dreams got her in the position she’s in so she doesn’t waste time on that anymore. She fears her attraction to Q. She fears failure. She fears herself.

Alexis: Your hero is Quan Blanton Sr. What is he like? Describe his strengths, weaknesses and heart.

Joy: Yes, but he goes by Q. He’s street smart. Confident. Passionate. And a new convert. He’s the type of guy that once he believes something, he digs in deep. However, he is struggling with how to handle his feelings for Tammie within this new system of right and wrong.

Alexis: Why does Q invite Tammie to church and why is she repelled by the thought of him getting “religion”?

Joy: Since he’s joined the church and they play such a strong part in the changes in his new life, he wants her to experience the relationship he’s enjoying with his church family and learn what he’s learned. Tammie blames the church and it rules and regulations for destroying her family life and her relationship with her Father.

Alexis:  Share details on Q and Tammie’s history. What brought them together and what drove them apart?

Joy: Q and Tammie are high school sweet hearts. After she became pregnant, they moved in together. A five-year prison sentence separated them. Tammie, a vulnerable single parent, hurt that Q chose his father over her and their son, moves on with her life and begins a relationship with another man.

Alexis: How old is Q and Tammie’s son? What role does he play in this story?

Joy: Their son, Quan Jr., if Tammie is talking, or Junior if Q calls him, is 8. He’s the crucible of the story that forges the restoration of their relationship.

Alexis: Why does Q want to help Tammie?

Joy: He loves her. He wants her to experience the liberty he has found in Christ Jesus. He wants to have the family, he’d been denied.

Alexis: Why did Q go to prison? How did he get out?

Joy: Q took a drug charge for his father in a last attempt to gain his father’s love and respect. He never thought he’d serve real time since he didn’t have any priors. He paroled out after agreeing to participate in the Father’s Heart community outreach program. A church partnered with the state with the idea of restoring the family unit to stop the prison numbers from increasing with the next generation.

Alexis: Why does Tammie crave independence but doesn’t know what it looks like?

Joy: I believe God places the desire in every heart to live in liberty. Tammie is like many others raised in a family that made mistakes in how they handled trials and claimed their deeds were in response to what God would have them do. So many people misrepresent God’s desires because they fail to read God’s Word for themselves and when they do, they lack understanding. He’s more than rules and regulations. God is Love. Grace. Mercy. Holiness. Until Q, in his new walk in life, Tammie had never seen the God of the Bible lived out in a way that she’d recognize Him as her hearts true desire.

Alexis: At what point does Tammie turn to God? What drove her to pray to Him?

Joy: Like many of us, we accomplish the things on our list that we thought would make us happiest, only to learn it does not satisfy. That’s what happens to Tammie. At the end of her list, she realizes something in her life is still missing. She wants the peace of life Q is living. She’s tired of handling things on her own and finally cries out for help.

Alexis: You deal with tough topics in this story. What lesson are you hoping to teach your readers through it?

Joy: We all make mistakes. Fear is the biggest prison we overlook. God does not want us to live in fear, but liberty. His love is big enough to cover our faults. He’s waiting for us to cry out to Him so He can lead us into the abundant life He planned for us.

Alexis: Your story features African American characters. Do you think that CBA needs to publish more stories featuring Black people? Why or why not?

Joy: I’d love to see more stories featuring African American characters. I’m an avid reader of Christian Romance and my decision to start writing came from me yearning to see my people on the pages beyond plots covering slavery, sexually explicit romance, or scandal. Every race of people has a uniqueness that deserves to be portrayed and preserved in book format. Going to CBA conferences, I realize very few Black authors are submitting works. An agent recently told me she’d been waiting for the last three years to have African American characters pitched to her. I made sure to pitch both books I’d prepared for the event.

Alexis: What kind of impact do you hope that your book will create in communities of color?

Joy: I can’t tell you how many family members and church members have come to me saying they’ve been inspired to write after seeing me do it. It’s not only a dream for me, but a calling. I obeyed the call on my life and pray it becomes a standard in my family for my children and children’s children to do the same. I’d love to inspire more people in our community to write.

Then, there’s the information inside the cover. Like the parables Jesus used to help the people gain understanding, I desire for every reader to walk away knowing more about their Heavenly Father than before.

Alexis: What was the greatest challenge for you as an author in writing this story? Explain.

Joy: Me! I had already written the full-size novel that introduced the main characters in this story and it was still being reviewed by an editor I had pitched to at the ACFW conference. Since I hadn’t been validated by others that my writing was worth reading, I struggled to accept the opportunity to submit a novella in my mentor’s July Fourth Anthology Collection when she asked me to. Lena Nelson Dooley wouldn’t take no for an answer and encouraged me all the way. After a lot of prayers, sweat, and tears, I completed the second book I’d ever written. BLISS, book one in the Wounded Lamb Series, is still under review. It’s funny how the subplot characters’ story reached readers first.

God used this situation to teach me not to wait for man to validate the calling on my life. Those He calls, He equips.

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

Joy: If we are going to see more stories with Black people as main characters, we have to increase demand for it to be stocked on the shelves. Starting in our families, communities, and churches, we have to encourage them to become readers. To become writers. And if not that, then support others who do.

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor

Author Interview: Vanessa Riley

Today, we’re featuring Vanessa Riley.

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

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

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

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

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

Purchase the book: Amazon, BAM!B&N

Author bio: Vanessa Riley worked as an engineer before allowing her passion for historical romance to shine. A Regency era (early 1800s) and Jane Austen enthusiast, she brings the flavor of diverse peoples to her stories. Since she was seventeen, Vanessa has won awards for her writing and is currently working on two series. She lives in Atlanta with her military man hubby and precocious child. You can catch her writing from the comfort of her southern porch with a cup of Earl Grey tea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Interview: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alexis: What were the challenges of writing this book?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Vanessa!

~*~

Connect with Vanessa:

Website – www.vanessariley.com

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

www.facebook.com/ChristianRegency

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

Pinterest – http://pinterest.com/regencymaid

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

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

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