Interview with Traci Wooden-Carlisle

Happy Memorial Day to our US readers! I hope you’re enjoying the long weekend – and what better way than chatting about books?!?

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Traci Wooden-Carlisle about (of course) books and, specifically, her suspense novel – Missing Destiny.

About the Book

missing destinyShe spends Friday nights with charts and graphs. His best friend is a dog named Sebastian.

All she’s ever wanted was peace and to feel she belonged. All he ever wanted was to disappear.

She’s a city girl hiding in a small town. He’s back home hiding from his past.

If life were perfect, they could be each other’s missing destiny.

When a mysterious man becomes a threat to her health Dr. Shauna Nathan, a workaholic scientist, is about to lose control over her emotions and her life. Her family steps in to protect her even if it means disrupting her otherwise predictable and orderly existence by bribing her with a chance to spend time with her old college roommate and surround herself with her one true passion — horses.

She heads to a ranch in Chandler County to hide from her stalker. Instead, she might find there healing she looks for — and love she doesn’t.

Horse therapist Zach moved to New York, had a successful career in finance, a beautiful wife, and daughter one day and the next it was all gone. He came back to Chandler County to come to terms with his loss and find a modicum of peace as a ranch hand- turned therapist at Murphy’s Equestrian Therapy Center. He has lost everyone he loved. Would he risk his heart again for Shauna?

Though the ruthless killer on Shauna’s trail will stop at nothing to destroy her, will Zach and Shauna escape danger and find happiness in each other’s arms and their missing destiny?

GOODREADS | AMAZON | B&N


Hi Traci! Thanks so much for chatting with us today! Let’s start with a question ‘just for fun’! Ocean or mountains?

Traci: This should be easy, but I’m torn. I was born and raised near the ocean in Southern California and went to college between the mountains and the ocean. I can receive peace from both but if I want to retreat for more than a day it will be the mountains.

Carrie: I’m the same way – both bring me such peace, but when i have to choose it’s going to be the mountains!

Other than the Bible, what are five of your most cherished books?

Traci: I will probably always go back to Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen for its language, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman for its wisdom, The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell due to nostalgia, Archer’s Voice by Mia Sheridan for its ability to make me cry buckets, and Black Presence in the Bible by Walter Author McCray which opened my eyes to my some of my ancestor’s accomplishments.

Carrie: Oh! Excellent choices & I love the variety!

If I asked your characters to describe YOU as an author, what would they say?

Traci: I love it when she writes because she listens well to what we’re saying and feeling, but sometimes she leaves us for weeks in the same position or situation and that gets frustrating. One good thing is she doesn’t erase and rewrite our scenes over and over but sometimes it does take her a moment to find just the right word or expression to describe how we are feeling.

Carrie: Don’t leave your characters hanging, Traci! haha! 😉 

Shauna and Zach are both hiding out in Chandler County for various reasons. What inspired you to incorporate this element into both of their characters?

Traci: I have been surrounded by quiet and strong men all my life. They can express themselves when they want and are affectionate. I love sharing those traits with my male characters. From the beginning I saw Zach as a recluse. He brooded but was still able to take comfort in nature. From that thought I worked backward to uncover the cause for his behavior. My inspiration for Shauna came from my niece who was going through college at the time. She was struggling with the transition from grade school to college life. Books weren’t the issue. Finding her passion was. My character, Shauna, had the chance to get reacquainted with herself and what she loved by getting lost in a town that expected nothing from her.

Carrie: Oooo I suspect Zach might become one of my new book boyfriends 😀 And Shauna – how many of us have been in the same position, right? Trying to find what we’ve been created for, our passion. I can’t wait to meet them both 🙂

What is one of your favorite quotes from the book & why do you love it?

Traci: I will preface this answer by letting you know that the conversation following this quote is one of my favorites because it uncovers so much about both Zach and Shauna and it makes my heart sigh. “And right there, as she looked into those warm, gold-speckled, brown eyes, every single emotion hovering at the edge of reason jumped off.”

Carrie: Oh i love that!!

Why is it important to you to write ethnically diverse characters?

Traci: I love to read and as a reader I enjoy many different genres. My favorite is romance and its subgenres. I love reading romances books with ethnically diverse characters because I enjoy reading about different cultures, including my own, and the influence those cultures have on the characters’ reaction to different situations and their feelings for each other.

Carrie: Those differences just add so many great layers and dimensions to the story, don’t they? 

How can we as readers of Christian fiction better support diverse authors and diverse stories?

Traci: We as readers can support diverse authors and diverse stories by introducing them to networking groups that would like to exchange ways to expand their readership. Buying and sharing is important but you can’t buy and share something you don’t know exists.

Carrie: That is so true and a great reminder for us!


About Traci Wooden-Carlisle

traci wooden carlisleTraci Wooden-Carlisle began writing poetry and short stories as soon as she was able to form words on paper. She used that as a way to creating worlds, as well as, to communicate with God. A native of Los Angeles, California, she grew up attending United Methodist Church under the leadership of a pastor whose heart was for youth. Once she finished college at she found herself at a loss. She felt caught in the transition between childhood and adulthood. She surrounded herself with saints and volunteered her services as a graphic artist. Through the early-morning prayer, all night Friday prayer and 3-day shut-ins she started on her journey toward her most desired gift, an intimate relationship with God.

Today, Mrs. Wooden-Carlisle lives in San Diego with her husband, David Carlisle. She teaches fitness classes, runs a jewelry and craft business, and is currently writing her third book in her Christian-fiction series, Promises to Zion.

CONNECT WITH TRACIwebsite | Facebook | Twitter


**Giveaway**

Have a comment or question for Traci? She’s giving away a print copy of Missing Destiny and a bookmark. (US only, International winner will receive a $6 Amazon gift card instead) One winner will be randomly selected from everyone who comments on this post by Friday June 1, 2018.

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Author Interview (+ Giveaway): Jerusha Agen

Y’all, I’m super excited to share our first author interview on Diversity Between the Pages. Today, author Jerusha Agen has stopped by to talk about her novel, This Redeemer. Let’s get started!


About the Book

ThisRedeemerNot all prisons have bars.

Charlotte Davis should know—she’s lived in one for years. She can handle getting slapped around by her boyfriend, Tommy, and even being forced to do things she would never choose, but when Tommy turns on her 10-year-old daughter, Charlotte must try to escape. With nowhere else to turn, Charlotte runs to the stranger her dying mother believed would help her.

Looking only for shelter or cash, Charlotte finds a family she longs to call her own and a gentle man she could learn to love. But if Tommy catches up with Charlotte, these strangers could discover the truth about her. Will they send her back to Tommy? Or can a Father’s love set her free?

Purchase at: Amazon, B&N, CBD


About the Author

jerusha-agenJerusha Agen imagines danger around every corner, but knows God is there, too. So naturally, she writes romantic suspense infused with the hope of salvation in Jesus Christ. With a B.A. in English and a background in screenwriting, Jerusha is the author of The Sisters Redeemed Series. Jerusha writes about fighting against fear in our everyday lives at The Fear Warrior Blog. Visit Jerusha at Website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.


Interview

Toni: This Redeemer deals with a difficult subject matter of abuse. How did you decide to write a book about it?

Jerusha: Domestic abuse has long been a topic close to my heart. While I was still in college, writing short stories for creative writing classes, God laid this issue on my heart and I explored abuse and its ramifications in a series of pieces about a family imprisoned by abuse.  Whenever possible, I continue to write about this topic in an effort to raise awareness concerning the divisiveness of domestic abuse and the reasons behind why it happens.

I was blessed to have a beautiful, near-idyllic childhood with no abuse of any kind. I think that because of my childhood, I’m deeply impacted by the tragedy of domestic abuse—how it destroys what should be the place of safety and love in people’s lives.

Most often, I’ve written about domestic abuse from the perspective of its most vulnerable victims—children. But in This Redeemer, I wanted to write about a woman, a mother, who is trapped in the prison of domestic abuse.

When volunteering at a domestic abuse shelter, I was struck by how crucial the woman’s role is in the cycle of abuse. Often, she’s in a position to protect children and herself or to end her children’s abuse (whether she’s the abuser or knows the person who is). But just as often, there are a myriad of reasons why she cannot break free from the cycle or free her children. In so many cases, the redemption of Jesus Christ is the only way she can truly be set free.

Toni: I love the saving power of Jesus! It truly does set us free. Now, one of your characters is African American. Why did you decide to write the character that way?

Jerusha: I’m a very visual thinker and writer, so when I imagine a new character for a story, my first thought of that person is always accompanied by an image of what he or she looks like. I can modify this initial image if I need to, but usually I stick with my original picture of the person.

In the case of Gabe, the hero of This Redeemer, my immediate imagined image of him showed him to be African American. Gabe actually appears first in a supporting role in This Shadow, Book Two in the Sisters Redeemed Series. In that book, he blossomed into a character I loved so much that I just knew he had to be the hero of the next installment.

I wouldn’t intentionally write a character into any of my stories to be a sort of “representative” of an ethnicity. Gabe, like people of various ethnicities who appear in my stories, came out of a realistic vision of the fictional world, which is intended to be an accurate representation of the real world we live in. Diversity should be natural in our stories, since diversity is a natural part of our world!

The fact that Gabe is African American, though, did add some enriching complexities to the story of This Redeemer. Charlotte, the heroine, was raised in an impoverished and abusive home in which her mother taught her little of truth or value. Among the baggage that Charlotte carries with her is prejudice and mistrust of police officers and African Americans. But, guess what, Gabe is both!

Gabe, however, is not without his own prejudices. As a recently jaded police officer, he’s developed a cynical and judgmental view of criminals. He doesn’t think that his attitude will affect his relationship with Charlotte, until he discovers the secret she’s been hiding from him.

I just loved writing this story of a romance that seems impossible at first, but through the changing love and grace of Jesus, becomes not only possible, but extraordinary.

Toni: Considering the events of today, I’m beyond intrigued that Gabe is African American and a police officer. I can’t wait to read this story! Did you find it hard to write an African American character given your own ethnic background?

Jerusha: No, not at all! Writing an African American character is no different to me than writing about any other character of any ethnic background. At the risk of sounding naïve, I’ll admit that I don’t actually like the term “race” to describe people, nor am I fond of dividing people according to ethnicities. The Bible tells us that we are all one race—the human race. We are one people, all created in the image of God. So people of different ethnic backgrounds are all part of the same race and people that I am, and that gives me a significant common ground from which to create a character.

I believe that too much emphasis is put on differences between ethnicities, as if those differences are insurmountable or enough to keep groups of people separated from each other. Such a perspective only creates divisions and prejudices in our society, rather than bringing people together.

That said, I recognize that there are cultural and environmental factors which accompany ethnicities. So, as with all of my characters who have a different personal history than myself, I had to draw on research, knowledge, and imagination to write a realistic character.

Toni: Society does like their labels. I’m glad you’re embracing diversity in your fiction, but not letting it separate us. As a Christian writer, how has your faith integrated into your writing?

Jerusha: My faith and identity as a Christian inspires and pervades every aspect of my writing. I write because of God, for God, and through His enabling. For me, there’s no purpose in spending my time writing stories unless I am doing so for His glory.

That foundation translates into a deep presence of Christianity in all my stories. As a writer of contemporary romantic suspense, realism is always a primary goal, so I write about realistic people in the real world where God actively works.

My stories focus on the core journey of the main characters, which necessarily is always spiritual at its root. That focus enables me to realistically infuse my stories with the message of the Gospel and other aspects of Christianity that bring redemption and hope to those in dark places.

Toni: *sigh* God is awesome! What is the message you hope readers will take away after reading This Redeemer?

Jerusha: I hope and pray that anyone who is caught in a sinful cycle—whether it be abuse, addiction, or any other type—will walk away from reading this story with the conviction and reminder that there is hope. You CAN end that cycle, you CAN be free, but not on your own strength, which has probably failed you many times before.

You can have freedom through the forgiveness and power of Jesus Christ, who paid the penalty for everything you’ve done wrong and offers you the gift of eternal life and forgiveness through Him. If you repent of your sins and ask God to forgive you and come into your life, He will change you, breaking you free from whatever prison holds your soul captive.

For readers who are not caught in such a cycle and are already believers in Christ, I pray that This Redeemer will give them a greater empathy and understanding for people caught in domestic abuse. I also hope that such readers will gain a conviction of areas in which they are harboring hidden prejudices.

Toni: Empathy is so important! Praying for the reader who picks up your novel. May God reign in their heart. How about some easier questions?

Whew! Thanks for the break—you’re a tough interviewer! 🙂

Toni: lol, but what an interesting topic! But these next few will be easier, promise. What is your favorite fruit?

Jerusha: My favorite fruit…hmm. That’s actually tough to pick! I guess I’d have to say strawberries, but pineapple is a very close second.

Toni: Both are great! Favorite drink?

Jerusha: Water! Love it, as long as it’s not the bottled variety that includes additives “for flavor.” Ruins the flavor every time! Can you tell I’m a bit of water snob? 🙂

 Toni: I’m the complete opposite! 😉 Favorite meal?

Jerusha: If we’re talking something special, then probably our traditional Thanksgiving dinner, because it includes so many of my favorite dishes. But if you mean more of an everyday choice, it’s hard to beat a classic, fabulous peanut butter and jelly sandwich. (Strawberry jelly, of course!)

Toni: Of course! Last but not least, what’s next in your writing journey?

Jerusha: When you find out, let me know! 😉 Seriously, I’m in a period of waiting on God at the moment (and praying a lot) to see what is next in my writing career. In the meantime, I’m working on a romantic suspense novel that I hope will be the first in a series of books about five siblings who live in the Chicago area. It’s a story about fear and the power of God to bring hope when all hope seems gone.

Toni: You have our prayers! Thank you so much for stopping by and talking with us. Readers, Jerusha is offering a Kindle or print copy. You can enter the Rafflecopter giveaway by answering the question: Why do you read Christian fiction?


Giveaway

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Interview conducted by Toni Shiloh