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

~*~

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

SaveSave

SaveSave

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