Interview with Neta Jackson about her book “Stand by Me”

Good Monday Morning, reader friends!

Today, we’re featuring an interview with Neta Jackson about her book Stand by Me.

Enjoy!


Interview with Neta Jackson about her book, Stand by Me:

Alexis: What inspired you to write this book, Neta?

Neta: Actually, it was a comment from our adult son, Julian, who said I ought to write a novel about millennials who are all fired up to fix society’s ills and think they have the answers—but without the experience to know just how complicated real people’s lives are. Or something like that. At the same time, my readers were clamoring for “more” about the original Yada Yada Prayer Group characters. So I got this idea to bring a well-meaning idealistic white college student into SouledOut Community Church, who gets under the skin of our dearly beloved Avis—a wise, spiritually mature, African American leader and role model who nonetheless is struggling with some personal issues and has no patience for this know-it-all! Put them together and . . . fireworks!

Alexis: What is the significance of your story title, Stand by Me?

Neta: Without giving away the story, several of the characters in this novel struggle with personal conflicts and have to decide whether to push their rivals away . . . or find ways to stand together and support each other as brothers and sisters in Christ in the same church.

Alexis: Tell me about the SouledOut Sisters book series. What is the core message?

Neta: There are just two novels in the SouledOut Sisters series: The first is Stand by Me, which we are talking about here, followed by Come to the Table. The title of the series comes from the primary setting, SouledOut Community Church, a church merger of a black church and white church that happened toward the end of the Yada Yada Prayer Group series. Each of the novels has more than one “voice.” For example, in Stand by Me, there are two primary characters, Kat Davies and Avis Douglass, and the chapters go back and forth between their points of view. In Come to the Table, there are three primary voices sharing their points of view in different chapters.

As for the core message . . . life is messy and complicated, but we are a spiritual family in Christ, and if we hang in there and listen to one another and walk in each other’s shoes, God begins to do some amazing things in spite of our mess-ups!

Alexis: Why is it that you as the author of this story believe that, “Sometimes the person you most need is the one least like you?” Explain how that belief plays out in this fictional story world of Stand by Me.

Neta: Too often we in the church tend to categorize people either as “needy people who need to be ministered to” or “mature Christians who do the ministering.” But I believe that all of us have problems (even the long-time Christians), and all of us have spiritual gifts and life wisdom (even the newest Christian or person with seemingly big problems). If we humble ourselves and realize even the “neediest” person also has something to give, we may end up on the receiving end of just the encouragement or help we need from an “unlikely” source.

In this story, Avis and Kat are absolute opposites—and yet in the end, they each need each other in unique ways. The person who annoys Avis the most (Kat) ends up finding Avis’s missing daughter through her weird dumpster diving, and Avis fills a void in Kat’s life for the parents who have disowned her.

Alexis: Kathryn Davies is a leading character in Stand by Me. What makes her tick? What makes her heart smile? What role does she play in this story?

Neta: Kat comes from a wealthy, prominent Arizona family of physicians, and is under high expectations and pressure to follow in their footsteps. But the attractive young woman with the wavy dark hair and startling blue eyes doesn’t want to go to med school. She likes working with kids, and she’s interested in healthy food issues and how to solve world hunger. She shocks her family when she “finds Jesus” at a Christian Music Festival. But it’s the last straw when she drops out of her pre-med program at the University of Arizona and applies instead to a small Christian college in Chicago after meeting some young people from CCU at the music festival who feel like kindred spirits.

Kat is impulsive, energetic, and enthusiastic, has lots of ideas for improving hunger issues in the poorer areas of the city. After graduating with her master’s degree in education from CCU, she lands at SouledOut Community Church, along with several of her CCU buddies—and doesn’t understand why everyone at the church isn’t instantly on board with her ideas. Life gets complicated when she impulsively brings home a homeless mom and her little boy to the apartment she shares with her three “buddies” from CCU—especially when she discovers their identity. Her new “housemates” complicate her budding attraction to Nick, one of her best friends—but for the rest of that romantic tangle, you have to read Book Two in the SouledOut Sisters series (haha)!

Alexis: Why did Kathryn, whom you call “Kat” in this story, take a leap of faith at a Christian music fest and why did her faith leap cause conflict that resulted in making her family distant?

Neta: Kat was restless when she went to the music festival. She was on track to graduate from the University of Arizona in pre-med but realized she didn’t really want to go on to medical school—and she was drawn to all the young people who were excited about Jesus, a Jesus who cared about the poor, who gave His followers courage to be all-out committed to what they believed rather than simply climbing the corporate ladders of success. But as I mentioned earlier, Kat came from a family of prominent physicians in Arizona who had high expectations that she would follow in their footsteps. When she quit her pre-med program at UA and applied instead to a small Christian college in Chicago . . . well, she was a huge disappointment to her parents.

Alexis: Tell us about SouledOut Community Church. Where is it located in this story? What makes it special? Did you have a real-life inspiration for it?

Neta: SouledOut Community Church is roughly based on a multicultural, multiracial church in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. But the name actually comes from a bookstore in Canada where I did a book-signing—and I loved the name so much I asked if I could steal the name “SouledOut” for a church in my novels.

I placed my fictional church in a shopping center in one of Chicago’s northern neighborhoods. It first appeared in one of the last novels in my Yada Yada Prayer Group series—a merger of a black church and a white church (which is fictional). In the SouledOut series, I show some of the challenges and struggles such a merger creates, as well as the joys!

Alexis: What is it about the multicultural congregation that makes Kat feel like she belongs at this SouledOut Community Church? In what ways does Kat almost wear out her welcome?

Neta: Kat had visited this church as part of CCU’s Urban Experience program and wanted to share it with her friends. SouledOut excited her idealistic nature, black and white worshipping together. She and her friends had decided to live in the city for the summer and they wanted to find a church, so . . . why not SouledOut? They find an apartment to share nearby and jump into the church with both feet. But some of the church members get a little annoyed by Kat’s big ideas—especially Avis Douglass, one of the worship leaders. Everyone tries to be patient, but she manages to step on people’s feet—this suburban white girl, a new Christian, who sometimes has more enthusiasm than wisdom.

Alexis: Avis Douglass is also a leading character in Stand by Me, a woman of great faith in God. Tell us about her. What are her goals and passions in life? What makes her upset? What makes her happy? What role does she play in this story? However, she and her family are facing a trial that makes them wonder where God is in it. What role does faith in God play in this story?

Neta: Avis will be familiar to readers who have read the Yada Yada Prayer Group series. This attractive African American woman is an elementary school principal, mature, dignified, poised, well-educated, experienced—as well as deeply spiritual. She is the acknowledged leader of the Yada Yada Prayer Group which involves a multiracial group of women from several different churches and cultures. At SouledOut, she’s one of the worship leaders and Kat admires her a lot. However, Avis is also reserved and has little patience for this impulsive young woman who talks too much.

Unknown to many, however, Avis is having a crisis of faith because her youngest daughter left an abusive marriage with her little boy, and Avis doesn’t know what has happened to her daughter and grandson. They’ve simply disappeared. She struggles with God: Why has God let this happen? Why isn’t God answering her prayers? But God is gently opening her eyes that this annoying young woman is hurting, too, because of rejection from her family—and as her heart opens to Kat, she realizes that God is also using Kat to answer some of her prayers about her missing daughter.

Alexis: What is the moral of this story, Stand by Me?

Neta: Hmm. Just what the blurb on the book says: “Sometimes the person you most need is the one least like you?” I’m hoping readers will open their hearts to people they’re not naturally drawn to, realizing that that person may need them and that God might use that very person to meet a need in their life as well.

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

Neta: I’m hoping that readers who enjoy Stand by Me will also read the following SouledOut Sisters novel, Come to the Table. The story of Kat and Avis and others we meet at SouledOut—including Nick, Kat’s best “buddy,” who is falling in love with her, and Rochelle, Avis’s daughter, who is falling for Nick—gets complicated, even as God unravels the tangled web of relationships, inviting them “to the table” which represents the Body of Christ, which includes us all.

Thanks for the interview, Alexis! And thanks for your blog highlighting “diversity between the pages.”

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor


About the Book:

Sometimes the person you most need is the one least like you.

Kathryn Davies is a bright young woman from a prominent Phoenix family. But after making a leap of faith at a Christian music fest, dropping out of med school, and moving to inner city Chicago, her family all but disowns her.

When Kat discovers SouledOut Community Church, she longs to become a part of the multicultural church family. But her tendency to immediately say whatever she’s thinking steps on the toes of nearly everyone she meets—especially Avis Douglass.

Avis has a strong faith, is the principal of one of Chicago’s highest performing elementary schools, and is a founding member of SouledOut. But the country’s economic downturn has thrown both her and her husband’s jobs in question. And Avis hasn’’t heard from her youngest daughter in months—, an estrangement that gnaws at her every day. Where is God in this?

Kat’s flamboyant zeal for living a “radical” Christian life is a stark contrast to Avis’s more reserved faith. But in God’s timing, the two women discover they need each other in ways neither of them expected.

*Buy Stand by Me on Amazon.


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 provides 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

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Book Spotlight: Mama B – A Time to Speak

Happy Wednesday, reader friends!

Today, we’re shining the spotlight on Mama B: A Time to Speak by Michelle Stimpson.


About the Book:

The good folks at Mt. Zion Baptist are doing their best to keep the church flowing smoothly while Pastor Phillips takes time off to be with his wife in her final days. Beatrice “Mama B” Jackson even opens her home so that the women’s groups can continue to meet faithfully after some “rascal” stole the copper from the church’s air conditioning unit. With her semi-estranged granddaughter and great-grandson staying in the guest room, Mama B soon has a full house.

When the interim preacher and his wife start touting messages that don’t line up with the Bible, Mama B wonders how and if she can intervene without causing strife in the congregation or discouraging the young couple.

But Mama B can only take so much of this foolishness. Soon enough, Mama B will realize that there is much more at stake than she or anyone else at Mt. Zion ever imagined. And it’s time to speak.

Mama B – A Time to Speak is full of godly wisdom and humor that will make you take a deep breath after that last page and smile from the inside out. Fans of the classic “Miss Julia” will enjoy Mama B to the fullest!

Buy this book on Amazon or B&N


About the Author:

Bestselling author Michelle Stimpson has penned more than thirty Christian fiction books including traditional bestseller Divas of Damascus Road, Amazon #1 bestseller, Stepping Down, the award-winning Mama B series, and Falling Into Grace, which has been optioned for a made-for-TV movie.

She has also published more than fifty short stories through her educational publishing company, WeGottaRead.com.

Michelle holds an English degree from Jarvis Christian College and a master’s degree in education from the University of Texas at Arlington.

She is a part-time language arts consultant. She also serves in women’s ministry through teaching and publishing. She and her husband have two young adult children, one granddaughter, and one bizarre dog. Visit her online at www.MichelleStimpson.com.

Follow Michelle on FacebookTwitter, Website

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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Book Spotlight: Adored by Belle Calhoune

Happy Wednesday, Reader Friends!

Thanks for stopping by Diversity Between the Pages.

Today, we’re featuring a book by the famous Belle Calhoune! It’s called Adored.

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About the book:

 This series centers around seven brothers and one sister raised by Penelope and Jude Donahue in the idyllic Florida seaside town of Pelican Bay. A blended family of adopted and biological siblings, the Donahue clan always have each other’s backs as they face life’s challenges and search for love. A spin-off of the Cape Cod Donahue brothers, the Pelican Bay clan are their southern cousins.

Caleb Donahue is a chef who has recently achieved his life’s dream of opening his own bistro, The Blue Bayou. Adopted by the Donahue family of Pelican Bay, Caleb’s past is a bit murky. He’s stuffed down the memories of his biological mother and the circumstances leading to his adoption by the Donahue family.

Addie Fontaine steps into his life when he least expects it. Daughter of a wealthy businessman, Sebastian Fontaine, Addie is attempting to prove herself to her father by making inroads in the business world. When her father gives her his partnership in the Blue Bayou, Addie ends up working side by side with Caleb. Addie is determined to step up and live her life out loud, while Caleb is determined to make his bistro a success.

When love comes calling, will Addie and Caleb be able to reach out for the love of a lifetime?

Book purchase link: Amazon

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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