Open Discussion: Who/what should be on the cover?

Happy Saturday, my friends!

Thanks for stopping by Diversity Between the Pages. I’m excited to jump start today’s open discussion. My co-contributor, Alexis, and I were discussing this and voila, a discussion post was created.

Today’s question is “who/what should be on the cover” of an ethnically diverse book? Sure it seems like the obvious answer would be an ethnically diverse character, but is it?

What if a cover such as this one (yes I used my own) prevents a non-minority reader from picking up the book because she thinks she won’t be able to relate to the characters?

Sure, it’s nice looking, but does it scare away readers who are not African American? Would some publishers even considering putting people on the cover or would they automatically use one without in the hopes that it’ll reach more readers?

Cecelia Dowdy is an Indie (independent) publisher. She chose to use silhouettes on the cover of her Bakery Romance series. Her characters are ethnically diverse, but will a reader realize that? Sure, she’ll describe the characters in the books, but will a reader pick up on that or automatically assume they’re Caucasian?

Indie authors have the choice to choose what goes on the cover, but they still have to look at the marketing aspect. Google romance covers and you’ll see the majority of them have people on the covers. Some readers want the picture to clue them in how the character(s) look(s).

But are covers without people bad? Ms. Raney doesn’t have a couple on her cover. In fact, this book features an interracial couple. However, it is important to note that none of her covers in the Chicory Inn series have people and that is the main reason they went without people. In fact, the Dutch versions all have the female lead. But I’m curious, would a publisher get backlash from readers if they used an interracial couple on the cover? After all, in some parts of the United States, interracial relationships are still frowned upon. Just a couple of years ago, there was a huge uproar when a commercial for Honey Nut Cheerios featured an interracial family. Are publishers (Indie or traditional) not being “honest” when they choose to not depict the faces?

So what is an author to do, if she has a choice? What is a publisher supposed to do? Put ethnically diverse people on the covers or not? If they chose not to, are they hurting the opportunity for minorities to see more books that feature people like them?

What say you? Who or what should be on the cover of ethnically diverse books?

Post written by Toni Shiloh

Author Interview: April W. Gardner

Happy Monday, y’all! Wait to you see who’s chatting with us today! That’s right, April W. Gardner, historical romance author. She’s going to be talking about her novel, The Red Feather. Be sure to check out her other books on the Diverse Books recommendation page AND Beth Erin will be sharing her review of The Red Feather, later this week. Let’s get started!

About the Book

theredfeatherOn a moonless night in 1813, Adela McGirth encounters a set of wolves and the steely eyed warrior who slays them, searing himself on her heart. When he returns, it’s with a brand of a different sort—the flaming arrow that destroys her life.

In the copper-haired captive, Totka Lawe finds the other half of his spirit. He vows he would die ten deaths to protect her, and he would kill any who tried to steal her away. With bluecoat soldiers pursuing him, a jealous cousin pursuing her, and the woman herself pursuing home, that vow stands a serious chance of being called into action.

In the first of this three-part, inspirational story, award-winning author April W Gardner brings to vibrant life an obscure event and the noble people who once dominated the Southeast but are now forgotten.

Purchase at: Amazon    Add to: Goodreads

About the Author

aprilwgardnerAPRIL W GARDNER writes history with a Christian perspective and a little imagination.

She is a copyeditor, military wife, and homeschooling mother of two who lives in Texas. She writes Christian historical romance with a focus on our Southeastern Native tribes. In no particular order, April dreams of owning a horse, learning a third language, and visiting all the national parks.

Connect and follow: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads


Toni: Thank you so much for joining us to talk about The Red Feather, part 1 in the Beneath the Blackberry Moon saga. I’m tickled pink that you’ve chosen to focus on Native Americans in this book. Care to share a little about the tribe Totka Lawe is part of?

April: Sure! But before I dive into that, thank you for having me, and thank you for this blog. It’s more needful today than ever before, and I’m honored both to have been invited and to write diverse characters.

Totka is Muscogee, or Creek as his people were first called by the British. For over a hundred years, the Muscogees were the dominate people group in our Southeast. They ruled from the East Coast to present-day Alabama and beyond. When they migrated into the area, they were smart conquerors and incorporated the tribes they overtook into themselves and, over time, created the Creek Confederacy. It was so mighty that President George Washington treated it with the same respect he did the European nations.

This history is taught in few American schools today. The Creeks and their history have been systematically swept under the rug since 1813 when the nation raged over the massacre at Fort Mims (the setting of The Red Feather). It was the largest massacre of whites by Natives in our history (some estimate 500 dead). The event was horrific, no denying, but I take special care to show both sides of the story. I tell it through the eyes a Muscogee warrior named Totka who simply wants to preserve his land and his culture from encroaching whites. Their method of warfare was a more violent one than Americans were (and are) accustomed to, but they were behaving in accordance with their culture and traditions. However, from that day on, Americans associated the Creek Nation with disgust and began to wipe them from the history books. It’s their forgotten story I long to tell.

Toni: Wow! Now you’ve got me wanting to do a search to learn more! Such an interesting story to tell. And your other character,  Adela McGirth, is Totka Lawe’s captive. Man, oh man, did that get my attention in the blurb. There’s a struggle that appears between one’s past life, present circumstances, and the future. How does Adela handle the pressure?

April: Adela is the other half of the equation, and her story is based on the actual McGirth family. They were rescued from the fort in the heat of the battle and protected by a Muscogee warrior for the duration of the war. The romance is my own invention, which wasn’t easy to do, considering Totka is partly to blame for Adela’s grief. How does she handle it? The only way any person can handle such a thing and come out the stronger for it is through the power of Christ. Apart from His grace and the comfort of the Holy Spirit, I don’t know if it’s possible to survive such a thing emotionally, much less come away loving the enemy. Adela is a strong character to begin with, and though she does emerge from the ordeal bearing emotional scars, she relies heavily on God, staying true to Him and her faith.

Toni: God is amazing! I love to see how His presences changes a person. Now, since we’re all about diversity, I have to ask, how did you develop Totka Lawe’s character without falling into racial stereotypes?

April: With lots of help! My dear expert, Ghost Dancer, is Muscogee. He is passionate about preserving his heritage and has dedicated countless hours to helping me get it right. Without his guidance and the careful eye of another expert and friend, Edna, I probably would have stumbled into more than one racial stereotype.

Toni: How awesome! I love to hear who authors have spoken to in their research. What is it about this time in history that captivates you so?

April: Good question! I grew up hearing that my great-great-something grandfather was Billy (Red Eagle) Weatherford, one of the attacking Creeks who later leapt from a bluff to save his people from the pursuit of General Andrew Jackson. As a young adult, I dug into that story, wished it were told in novel form, and decided to do it myself. My research became an addiction and a love that continues to this day.

Toni: Ah, that makes sense. Family history has a way of weaving into our present. How about some easier questions?
What do you do for fun in your spare time?

April: Um, write? LOL. Other things I enjoy doing are walking my fur-babies (two German Shepherds), visiting historical sites, and reading.

Toni: German Shepherds are such gorgeous animals. How about favorite meal?

April: Anything I don’t have to cook. Ha! But if you’re looking for something specific… I’m a big rice girl. If it has rice, I’m a fan!

Toni: Kindred spirits! I say the same thing and rice is wonderful. Especially with butter and sugar. But I digress. Favorite Christian song?

April: There are a ton of contemporary songs that I adore, but my favorite hymn is “The Love of God” by Frederick Lehman. The third verse is my favorite:

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

Toni: Beautiful! Last but not least, what’s next for you on your writing journey?

April: Glad you asked! Bitter Eyes No More released February 7. Its tagline is, “A man of abiding honor, tested by a woman of ruinous passion. A woman of unspeakable sins, pursued by a God of unquenchable mercy.” It takes place during the last days of Spanish Florida and depicts the upheaval between the Spanish, Natives, and Bluecoats (American soldiers).

It’s such a new release that my “what’s next” is still at least six months away, but I’m already working on it. The fifth book in the Creek Country Saga is entitled Love the War Woman. Its female lead is a Muscogee woman who is, you guessed it, a warrior. She is bodyguard to Chief Tall Bull who is far too handsome and prestigious to consider loving a roughened woman such as herself. It’s set during the inciting event of the First Seminole War, and because of the rare setting and characterization, it promises to be quite unique!

Toni: It sounds great! I’m looking forward to it and definitely adding your books to my TBR pile. Thank you so much for talking with me today.  I’ve enjoyed it. 🙂 What about you, reader friends? Care to ask April some questions?

Interview conducted by Toni Shiloh

Open Discussion: Where can you get diverse fiction published?

Happy Saturday, y’all!

Thanks for joining me as we settle down for another open discussion. One common question I’ve seen across social media is where can you get ethnically diverse Christian fiction published?

Readers are clamoring for fiction that fits their lives. Not everyone around them looks like they do, experiences the same life issues they do, etc. Yet, their fiction usually focuses on the same theme, a Caucasian who lives in a small-town.

A lot of ethnic authors are Indie (independently/self-publishing) publishing their works. Each has their own reason, but some Indie publish, because no one will take their ethnically diverse characters.

So, if you know of an agent or publishing company (small press, big press, etc.) who wants diversity, leave a comment and help an author out. 🙂

But, before you go, since this is an open discussion, tell me, what do you think publishers should do to change the market to be open to everyone regardless of race?

Book Spotlight: A Girl Named Mister by Nikki Grimes

We have another YA book for you all to check out from award winning author Nikki Grimes!

About the Book

3052eb_f450Mary Rudine, called Mister by almost everyone, has attended church and sung in the choir for as long as she can remember. But then she meets Trey. His long lashes and smooth words make her question everything, and one mistake leaves her hiding a growing secret.

Another Mary is excited about her upcoming wedding, and has done everything according to Jewish law. So when an angel appears and tells her—a virgin—she’ll give birth, Mary can’t help but feel confused, and soon finds herself struggling with the realities of God’s blessing.

While feeling abandoned, Mister is drawn to Mary’s story, and through reading begins to understand the future laid before her.

What Critics Are Saying

“This novel in poetry looks clearly at both teen pregnancy and struggles with faith. Mister is exceptionally well characterized … The language is intimate and immediate.” -Kirkus Reviews

Where to Buy: Amazon | B&N | CBD

About the Author

ph_nikkigrimes_2016_300dpi_3x5New York Times bestselling author Nikki Grimes is the recipient of the 2017 Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, the 2016 Virginia Hamilton Literary Award, and the 2006 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Her distinguished works include the much-honored books Garvey’s Choice, ALA Notable book What is Goodbye?, Coretta Scott King Award winner Bronx Masquerade, and Coretta Scott King Author Honor books Jazmin’s Notebook, Talkin’ About Bessie, Dark Sons, Words with Wings, and The Road to Paris. Creator of the popular Meet Danitra Brown, Ms. Grimes lives in Corona, California.

Connect with the author!
Website | Twitter | Facebook

Book Spotlight: Hope in My Heart, A Collection of Heartwarming Stories

Thanks for visiting our blog!

Today, we are featuring a book spotlight on Hope in My Heart: A Collection of Heartwarming Stories, written by our contributor Alexis A. Goring.

About the book: Hope in My Heart is a collection of short, heartwarming stories with characters in need of hope.hope-in-my-heart

In Love Unexpected,a car crash brings commitment-wary Sebastian and career woman Chandra together. Neither is looking for romance, but those around them see the potential, and Sebastian and Chandra discover that sometimes love shows up unexpectedly.

Christmastime is the setting for the middle story, The Best Gift. Christina desires to lose ten pounds so she can fit into her dress for her sister’s wedding. Jordan wishes her mom would stop trying to marry her off. And Joshua hopes to be reunited with his ex-girlfriend but eventually learns that the best gift this Christmas will be the restoration of his relationship with God.

In Peace and Love, three characters living in a metropolitan area are desperately searching. Elle, a starving artist, aspires to become a paid professional. Eric, a divorce attorney, wants to resolve his issues concerning his parents’ divorce. Kristine anticipates finding her birth mom before she marries Derek. All characters pray their searches will conclude this holiday season and fill their hearts with peace and love.

Purchase the book: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, CBD

About the author:

alexis-a-goring-nov-2014-author-photoAlexis A. Goring is a writer at heart and a journalist by profession. She loves the art of storytelling and is especially delighted to have released her first book, an inspirational romance short story collection called Hope in My Heart: A Collection of Heartwarming Stories, in Sept. 2013. When she is not working on her next book, Alexis can be found listening to songs by her most admired musicians, enjoying the food in cafes/restaurants, shopping at her favorite malls and spending quality time with loved ones (family and friends). She recently joined the Forget Me Not Romances family of traditionally published authors and is excited about the publication journey that God is taking her on.

Connect and follow: Blog, FacebookTwitter

Author Interview: Deborah Raney

Happy Monday, Reader Friends! Today, Deborah Raney has stopped by to talk about her novel, Home at Last. It sounds like it’s going to be an awesome read. Let’s get started!

About the Book

homeatlastLink Whitman has settled into the role of bachelor without ever intending to. Now he’s stuck in a dead-end job and, as the next Whitman wedding fast approaches, he is the last one standing. The pressure from his sisters’ efforts to play matchmaker is getting hard to bear as Link pulls extra shifts at work, and helps his parents at the Chicory Inn.

All her life, Shayla Michaels has felt as if she straddled two worlds. Her mother’s white family labeled her African American father with names Shayla didn’t repeat in polite––well, in any company. Her father’s family disapproved as well, though they eventually embraced Shayla as their own. After the death of her mother, and her brother Jerry’s incarceration, life has left Shayla’s father bitter, her niece, Portia, an orphan, and Shayla responsible for them all. She knows God loves them all, but why couldn’t people accept each other for what was on the inside? For their hearts?

Everything changes one icy morning when a child runs into the street and Link nearly hits her with his pickup. Soon he is falling in love with the little girl’s aunt, Shayla, the beautiful woman who runs Coffee’s On, the bakery in Langhorne. Can Shayla and Link overcome society’s view of their differences and find true love? Is there hope of changing the sometimes-ugly world around them into something better for them all?

Purchase at: Amazon, Abingdon, CBD, Goodreads 

About the Author

deborahraneyDEBORAH RANEY’s first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title and launched Deb’s writing career. Twenty years and thirty books later, she’s still writing. She and her husband traded small-town life in Kansas––the setting of many of Deb’s novels––for life in the city of Wichita. They love traveling to visit four grown children and seven grandchildren who all live much too far away.

Connect and follow at: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Blog, Amazon, Instagram, Pinterest, Goodreads


Toni: Thank you so much for joining us to talk about Home at Last. I can’t tell you how excited I was to see your novel will be dealing with the subject of interracial relationships. What made you decide to write this book?

Deborah:  I grew up on a farm in Kansas, attended country school, then married and raised our kids in a small town where racial issues were almost non-existent, partly because there were few people of any color except white. Still, no one I knew was racist, or if they were, they pretended not to be. We studied the civil rights movement and celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. in school, but I thought the things he fought about were ancient history. Perhaps I was too sheltered from the way things were in other parts of the country, even though my parents taught me to love unconditionally.

I first witnessed subtle racism when we traveled in the South, nearly always from older people, and I remember thinking “this will take care of itself in another generation because young people aren’t so prejudiced.” But then I learned of a young white girl who was dating a wonderful black Christian man, and her parents were devastated. We’d met the young man and loved him. We were shocked that such blatant racism still existed in this enlightened 21st Century. That incident opened my eyes to the fact that until Jesus returns, there will always be sinners, and sadly racism will likely still be one of the sins we must deal with. Unfortunately, after many years of making great strides, the problem seems to have grown worse in the last decade. The divide along racial lines in this country breaks my heart. As do the divides along religious lines, economic lines, and any other lines that cause one group of people to believe they are superior to another group.

Four years ago, my husband and I moved to Wichita, Kansas, into a very wonderfully diverse neighborhood. We have invited each of our neighbors over for dinner and have gotten to know some of the most wonderful people—African American, Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Lutheran, Catholic, non-believers—people who don’t look like we do, or have the same background we do. But sitting around a table, sharing a meal, we suddenly begin to find the ways we can see eye-to-eye—and to celebrate the ways we are different. I truly believe that so much could be solved if people would just sit down to a meal with those they think they have nothing in common with. How often they would discover that exactly the opposite is true! Fear of one another would be replaced by respect for one another. Stereotypes would fall by the wayside. And God’s love would break down any remaining barriers. I want my writing to be part of that wave of His love.

Toni: That is wonderful! I’m glad you’re working towards harmony. Others will definitely see Christ in your actions. Which brings me to your character, Shayla Michaels , who is biracial. Given your own ethnic background, did you find it difficult to write Shayla’s?

Deborah: Just as it is when I write ANY character who is different from me—whether in gender, age, occupation, economic status, religion, or race—it is a challenge to assume the point of view of someone different from yourself, and I know that I’d better do my homework. When I write from a male character’s point of view, I often holler down to my husband, “Is this something you would say? How would you feel if…?” Or if I’m writing a character who’s closer in age to my kids than to me, I’ll shoot them an e-mail and ask, “How would you say this? What word would you use?” Of course, knowing a wide variety of people, having watched a ton of movies and read a ton of books, I’ve learned a lot about people who are different from me. But I admit I’m surprised by how often I guess the answer wrong to those questions!

Writing a biracial character was no different. I’ve never experienced being biracial, and I’ve never been in an interracial relationship. So I did what I do with every novel: I found real people who HAVE experienced those things, and asked them to read my manuscript and to be very honest about whether I was writing realistically or if I’d gone off track. I asked them to tell me if they found any of my characters’ words offensive. (Of course, I had some villains whose job in my novel was to BE offensive. I’m surprised how often readers “blame” me, the author, as if I agreed with the bad things my villains think!)

But even if I interview 100 people, and read dozens of books from the perspective of my character, I will never write “truth” for every person who reads my book. One interracial couple I interviewed experienced almost no opposition to their marriage; another couple, nearly disowned by their parents. And if we are ever going to get past the racial divide in this country, we must acknowledge BOTH truths. We must rejoice that there has been some progress, but we must also mourn that we’re not there yet and there is still work to do.

My writing critique partner, Tamera Alexander, and I laugh because I was raised on a farm in the Midwest, and she’s a city girl from Atlanta. We are closest of friends, but WOW do we ever see things differently! And those differences are a wonderful thing! They make us unique and interesting to each other, and they help us realize that not everyone thinks and feels exactly like we do! But those very differences—whether race, economics, religion, life experience, etc.—can be what make us fascinating and inspiring and educational to each other, IF we are willing to view our differences that way.

Toni: I’m so thankful for those who are genuinely interested in having an open discussion about differences. Kind of fits one of the themes of Home at Last: racial reconciliation. As a Christian, why do you feel this subject is so important?

Deborah: God sees and loves His children all equally. And He has called us to love one another the way He loves us. Right now, we’re not doing a very good job of it in this country [U.S.] and in this world. And that breaks my heart. If my writing can be one drop of water in a flood of love that brings healing, then I will feel my work was worthwhile.

Toni: Amen! How did you make Shayla believable without falling into racial stereotypes?

Deborah: I think there are several things that helped me flesh out Shayla’s character. First, I tried to look at her character and her personality apart from how she appears physically. I tried to get to know HER. The essence of her. Every normal human being has the same wealth of emotions, the same balance of positive and negative qualities. I tried to make Shayla unique, even though she was very much a product of her parents’ rocky interracial marriage. Another thing I did was to purposefully make Shayla’s brother fall into the stereotype, which angers her, because she’s worked so hard to overcome the stereotypes. Sometimes, pretending stereotypes don’t exist only draws attention to them, so I tried to face that head-on, yet in a way that shone a light on the wrongfulness of perpetuating stereotypes and judging people by them.

Toni: Love that! I imagine there are many great scenes from that alone. Is there a Bible verse that speaks to Shayla and Link’s story?

Deborah: The whole Bible! Because the entire story of God’s Word, from Genesis to Revelation is a story of reconciliation! Ephesians 2:14-22 speaks of the “ethnic” difference between Jews and Gentiles, and sets the example for how we should look at breaking down the walls that divide any diverse groups:

“For he himself [Jesus] is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

Toni: Love God’s Word. Thanks for sharing that.
How about some easier questions?
Do you listen to music while writing or require silence?

Deborah: I listen to movie soundtracks while I write, trying to match the music to the mood of the scene I’m writing. Soundtracks are intended to be background for a scene, so they are perfect for writing. I always wish my readers could listen to the same playlist while they read my novels.

Toni: Have you checked out Spotify? You can make a playlist and share it with your readers.
Favorite season?

Deborah: Spring or Fall, usually whichever we’re currently in. Living in Kansas we have a wonderful range of seasons and I do love the ever changing seasons and weather. But the relief Spring and Fall each offer from the more brutal seasons of cold and heat make them my favorite.

Toni: I hear that! Favorite candy?

Deborah: I love Heath Bars and other toffee-based candy, Coffee Nips, and jawbreakers. Sadly, I’ve never met a piece of candy I didn’t like.

Toni: I love toffee covered peanuts. Last but not least, how can readers support you on your writing journey?

Deborah: I don’t think readers realize the power they have to encourage and inspire writers. We appreciate our readers so much! When you write to an author telling them you enjoyed their book, or when you write a glowing review, that is like fuel to our writers’ engines. Probably most tangibly important is that you buy our books. Authors make ZERO money on free books, books borrowed from the library, or books bought used. Many readers don’t realize that authors spend out-of-pocket money on books and shipping when they do giveaways. But if a book doesn’t make money, publishers won’t sign that author for another contract. So, a huge THANK YOU to the readers who have purchased their favorite authors’ books.

Thanks so much for hosting me, Toni! I love the work you are doing toward reconciliation and to promote Christian fiction!

Toni: Thanks so much for being here! Readers, do you have any questions for Deborah?

Interview conducted by Toni Shiloh.

Open Discussion: Who should write ethnic characters?

letstalkOne of my fellow bloggers pointed out a great article, in which they discussed who should be allowed to write ethnic characters. Of course, I immediately began to think about having an open discussion here, hence this post. 🙂

Y’all, my talk-it-out self is practically dancing in my seat waiting to start this discussion. However, the above article has A LOT of topic points. So this week we’re only going to focus on one. (But please read the article in its entirety, it has a lot of great points.)

Some people believe that you can only write what you know (aka are). They want white authors to write white characters and minority authors to stick to their own ethnic group. They believe to do otherwise is shutting out the minority authors as well as stealing from that culture and receiving acclaim for the majority race. Of course, not everyone feels this way, which is where you come in and why we have this open discussion.

To be honest, this is a hot-button topic, but one I think the Christian writing community should have. After all, shouldn’t we be the ones striving for racial reconciliation? Shouldn’t we want the body to come together and celebrate the aspects that make us unique? I can’t wait to hear (read) your thoughts and discuss this more in depth. But first, some ground rules.

  1. This is a safe place and people will be treated with respect no matter their opinion.
  2. Please stay within the purviews of this topic. It’s easy to get distracted and bring up other issues, but like we stated in our welcome posts, our main concern is ethnically diverse Christian fiction.
  3. Have fun, learn something, and discuss and listen with an open heart.

Now for the question this week.

  1. Do you believe that an author should only write what they know, when it comes to race (i.e., white authors write white characters only, Black authors write black characters only)? Why or why not?

Pull up a chair and let’s talk!

Post written by Toni Shiloh