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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Interview with Susan Valles about her book “Zimrah, Dream Singer”

Happy Monday, reader friends!

Let’s welcome Susan Valles to our blog! She’s a talented writer and musician. Today, she’s here to talk about her novel “Zimrah, Dream Singer.” Susan has a heart for God and a love for people. Her faith in God informs her writing too.

I hope that you will enjoy her author interview!


About the Author:

 For the past fourteen years, Susan Valles has been using her gifts to lead others into the presence of God through worship. Touched by this presence in a profound way at the age of ten, Susan developed a deep hunger to help others experience the love of God and the majesty of His presence. Writing, singing, playing the guitar and songwriting became extensions of this hunger, an outlet for the passion Holy Spirit stirs inside her to bring the lost and hurting into the healing embrace of the loving Father.

Susan is married and the mother of four children. She currently lives in the beautiful state of North Carolina.

Connect with Susan on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.


Interview with Susan Valles about her book Zimrah, Dream Singer:

What inspired you to write this book?

Zimrah, Dream Singer was divinely inspired! I woke up one morning with a picture in my mind. I saw the Father, sitting on an easy chair by a window with a scroll in his hands. He was reading the scroll and singing into existence what was written there. (Like the picture portrayed in Psalm 139:16) I grabbed my laptop and wrote down what I saw. What I wrote is now the prologue of the book.

How did you decide on the title? What is its significance?

The title of my first draft was actually Scroll of Remembrance. My editor had me keep giving her options until I came up with Zimrah, Dream Singer. We both liked it much better. Zimrah is the name of my main character. She sings songs she hears in her dreams, so Zimrah, Dream Singer fit the book very well. Funny story, I was recently talking to some Jewish friends, and they told me in passing that the director of music in their synagogue is called Zimrah Mary. Mary is her first name and Zimrah is the Hebrew word for her function! I did not know that the minister of music is called Zimrah at the time when I decided on the book title. That’s the fun of walking with God! There is always more to be discovered.

Would you say that this is Biblical fiction? Why or why not?

It is Biblical fiction in the sense that the events and timelines are true to the Bible and historical records. For example, Zimrah grows up in a city of Refuge, in the house of a Hebrew man from the tribe of Asher. She learns to read and write from the Hebrew scrolls. In this first book though, there are no characters from the Bible mentioned. My characters are completely fictional. Although, Dream Singer definitely sets the stage for the second two books where my character does meet a few significant Biblical personalities.

Who was your favorite character to write in this book? Why?

I have to say, my favorite character to write was Theophilus, a Roman soldier who is Zimrah’s love interest. I didn’t do this consciously – much of what I write is unconscious. I realize things later – but he is very much like my husband. He is patient, funny, kind, and good at breaking stereotypical norms. Theophilus sees things in Zimrah that she can’t see in herself. She would not be who she becomes without his influence in her life.

Give us a glimpse into the research that you did for this story. Did you go on a research trip to the Middle East? What kind of resources did you use?

The research I did came mostly from the Bible. Zimrah is a slave in a Hebrew house, so Jewish history comes into play a great deal in the story. I also studied historical maps, rivers, and mountains. I wanted to know what Zimrah saw when she looked out of her windows. What was life like at that time? What did they eat? What was the furniture like? All these little things were fascinating to me. I did a lot of research online, read way too many articles on archeological discoveries. It was fun though. For this first book, I didn’t get to go on a research trip, but for book two, (which is currently in the editing process) I did! I took a trip to Israel this past February 2018. It was amazing seeing the places I’d written about and researched come to life!

Why did you choose Israel as the setting for this story?

Again, I don’t know if I consciously thought about it. The story kind of emerged as I was writing. You could say Israel chose me. I think as Bible reading believers in Jesus, we all have a secret love affair with Israel. The Holy Land is in our DNA. It is part of all of our origin stories.

Talk about your story’s heroine Zimrah. What does she look like? What does her name mean? What is her primary motivation in this story? Explain.

My college English professor always said to write what you know. Zimrah is such a representation of me, of my life experiences and journey with God. She is tall, brown-skinned with curly hair and grey eyes. She looks very different from the people in her city (no one knows who her people are or where she comes from) and they treat her pretty badly. Her motivation and greatest longing is just to be loved. Zimrah is one of the Hebrew words for praise, more specifically, “to play upon an instrument in praise”. She learns just how significant her name is the destiny she was born for.

How does being an orphan affect Zimrah’s worldview and persona?

Not knowing who she is or where she comes from definitely affects what Zimrah thinks about herself. She sees the world as a frightening place where she is not accepted and can’t imagine anyone loving her or seeing her for more than a slave. She is alone and wears that persona as a badge, afraid to let anyone into her heart.

Why did you as the author decide to make Zimrah a slave?

I did not realize it’s how I felt until I wrote this book. Like Zimrah, I was a slave to my fears, my past, and my false opinion of myself. Freedom came only after learning the truth of who I was, from the One who made me. Zimrah being a slave is a representation of the bondage that comes when we believe the Tormentor’s lies.

What role does faith in God play with your characters in this story?

Faith is everything. My character’s faith or lack of faith shapes their reality and their destiny. I believe one of the miracles of this story, and our lives, is the journey of faith. Some of my characters in Dream Singer are angels, so that was an exciting aspect of faith to explore as well.

As a woman of faith, how does your belief in God affect your storytelling?

I love how telling a story can change the way we think. Everyone has a backstory. There is a reason we become who we are, good or bad. The human story is that, history…His-story. As a woman of faith, my greatest joy is being able to tell a story that has the potential to change my reader’s life. I believe that God gave me this story (which is really my testimony), that can be like that answer in the dark, that comes when all other hope is gone.

What was the most difficult part of writing this book? Why?

It was probably how long it is. I am a songwriter and had never written anything as long as a novel before. I didn’t even tell anyone that I was writing it until I was almost done because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to finish. It took a lot of prayers like, “Lord, this is Your story. You started this! You have to help me finish it!” I was also homeschooling two of my four children at the same time, so that made finding time to write a challenge. (God gave me like, supernatural sleep! I would stay up all night, sleep an hour or two and feel completely rested!)

What was the most rewarding aspect of telling Zimrah’s story? Why?

It was very rewarding being able to incorporate songs into the story. Music has been such a huge part of my language with God. When the story touches my readers, and they can sing the same songs that God used to speak to Zimrah, and Zimrah used to speak to God, it’s beyond joy for me.

The cover of your book shows Zimrah as a woman of color. What is her heritage?

Zimrah’s heritage is a bit of a mystery in this first book. She doesn’t know what she is. In a time when not many traveled very far, no one can tell her what people group her features resemble. She is a woman of color, and I could tell you what she is, but it would be a spoiler for book two!

Would you like to see more books featuring women of color who lived in Bible times, published by CBA? Why or why not?

Absolutely! I think because of our western culture, in the media and in paintings for generations, we have a mental picture of what people in the Bible looked like. The truth is, there was much more diversity than we have been led to believe, across gender and racial lines. Exploring culture in a broader view encourages us to see that God has created us with great purpose. We all have a role to play in history, past, present, and future. CBA’s have an important voice in every genre.

How does your own worldview as a woman of color affect your character creation and writing career as an author?

Like Zimrah, I was raised far away from people who looked like me. I didn’t seem to fit people’s boxes. This comes out in my writing. The longing to fit in and belong somewhere, I felt this very acutely in my younger years. I think it’s a common human desire and struggle. Most people feel different in some way or another, so I think my characters are relatable. As a woman of color, I know what it feels like to be ignored or overlooked. But my characters overcome the boxes their society has for them and discover the calling of the great Author. I hope in my career, and in my life, I can do the same.

Thanks for the interview, Susan! Do you have any closing thoughts?

Thank you for interviewing me! Writing this book was a turning point for me. I feel like it helped me have a greater understanding of who I am and what my purpose is. My prayer would be that it does the same for others as well. No matter what our past is like, like Zimrah, we have a loving Father who has an amazing future for us. There is so much joy in the journey of figuring out who He is and what adventures He has in store for us!

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor


About the book:

In the land of ancient Israel, in the days just before the miracles of Jesus the Christ began, there lived an orphan girl named Zimrah. A foreigner and a slave with no knowledge of who she is or where she came from, except that she was rescued barely alive and only a week old from a caravan of slavers, Zimrah has many demons to overcome. Living among people that despise her for being different, she finds shelter in the last Jewish house in a City of Refuge, only to find that her master has demons of his own. She learns that these dark spirits who have tormented her all her life can not only be battled, but can be defeated when she begins to heed the gentle Voice that speaks to her in her dreams.

Her obedience to the Voice leads her not only to freedom from the fear that stalks her in the night, but to the arms of a loving father who has been there all along. Following the Voice, Zimrah finds a lyre and the songs that have been hidden for her in her dreams. Singing these dream songs – an inheritance passed on through the bloodline of which she does not yet know- will determine the path to her heart’s desires, her future, and her destiny. Assisted by Rebecca and Garbar, the Warrior Angels that guard and protect her, and the love of a Roman officer who she must learn to trust, Zimrah discovers that her life has much more significance than she could have ever imagined. Her obedience and courage will shake the heavens and stir the hearts of all who touch Zimrah, Dream Singer.

Buy Susan’s book on Amazon

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

Happy Monday, reader friends!

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

Enjoy your time with Brandi!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor.


About the Author:

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

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

Follow Brandi on Twitter


About the Book:

Love in Steel Town America during the midst of WWII

Youngstown, Ohio 1944

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

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

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

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

About the book:

 A Season to Remember 

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

Book purchase link: Amazon

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Interview with Belle Calhoune, author of Reunited at Christmas:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~*~

About the Author:

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

Follow Sandra on Twitter

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor

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Book Spotlight: Reunited at Christmas

Happy Wednesday, Reader Friends!

Thanks for stopping by Diversity Between the Pages.

Today, we’re featuring a holiday story by Belle Calhoune! It’s called Reunited at Christmas.

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About the book:

  A Season to Remember 

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

Book purchase link: Amazon

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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

Open Discussion: Vanilla Confessions

Hi, y’all! I am an avid reader and actively seek out diverse fiction yet I am seriously lacking in the life experience department. Growing up in our small rural farming community has a lot of benefits but exposure to cultural diversity is not one of them.

HandsI was taught that we are all the same, regardless of skin color, which is true at the very core of who we are, members of the human race, children of God, residents of the third rock from the sun, yet we are also shaped by our experiences. Although I am still not completely sure why… colorblind doesn’t make it all better.

Fellow Christian fiction enthusiasts, share your thoughts and help a vanilla sister out!

What do you as members of a multicultural community want us backcountry white folks (with little to no exposure to diversity apart from the media) to know?

Author Interview: Cindy Flores Martinez, featuring “Love’s Second Chance”

Let’s welcome Cindy Flores Martinez to the blog today!

She’s here to talk about her book, Love Second’s Chance.

Read Cindy’s interview below to learn more about her All-American/Latina heritage and discover her passion for portraying Latino-American characters in her stories whose experiences are relatable to the readers regardless of the readers’ race.

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About the book: 

Can two broken hearts find healing together?

Brad McIntyre is much too young to feel so disillusioned with his life as a deputy sheriff. Esperanza De La Cruz has left the only home she has ever known to work at Sweet Grove’s daycare. When someone steals her car, Deputy McIntyre comes to the rescue.

There’s an instant attraction between them, but they’re both broken on the inside. Her father is in prison for intoxicated manslaughter and she’s afraid that Brad won’t want to be with her because of it.

He’s thinking of leaving the only career he’s ever known but pretends that everything is fine. His desperate prayers seem to go unanswered.

When they start spending time together and their feelings for each other begin to grow stronger, things become even more complicated. When the truth comes out, will it pull them apart or will they find a second chance at love and in life together?

Buy the book on Amazon

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About the Author: Cindy Flores Martinez is a USA Today bestselling author. She writes Christian romance. She has an MFA in Creative Writing with an emphasis in Screenwriting. Her debut novel, Mail-Order Groom, started as a screenplay and movie project, which she shopped around Hollywood, New York, and other parts of the world. You can learn more about her at www.cindyfloresmartinez.com.

Follow Cindy: Facebook ~ Twitter

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Interview with Cindy Flores Martinez, author of Love’s Second Chance:

Alexis: Tell us about the First Street Church Romances novella collection. What is it about? How did you get involved? Why did you want to contribute your story to the collection?

Cindy: The First Street Church Romances novella collection is part of Amazon’s fan fiction called Kindle Worlds. The series is based on Melissa’s Storm’s Christian romance series, which includes Love’s Prayer, Love’s Promise, Love’s Prophet, and Love’s Vow. Each of the stories takes place in the fictional town of Sweet Grove, Texas where the First Street Church is an important part of the characters’ lives. I knew Melissa from a boxed set that we were part of together and I found out that she was seeking authors for her Kindle World debut. I reached out to her and became one of twenty authors who were chosen. The Christian romance theme is what interested me in contributing a story.

Alexis: Tell us about your story, Love’s Second Chance. What is it about? What or who inspired you to write it?

Cindy: Love’s Second Chance is about a young woman who moves to Sweet Grove, Texas after landing a job at the daycare there. The day she arrives, someone steals her car and a young deputy sheriff answers the call. They’re attracted to each other and their feelings grow as they spend time together, but they face obstacles that keep them from admitting their feelings for one another. My inspiration came from reading Melissa’s books. Her characters face serious problems in life and find strength and answers through prayer. I had written mostly romantic comedy and wanted to try writing a deeper story like that.

Alexis: Your story’s heroine is Esperanza De La Cruz. She’s a Latina. Which country is she from and how does her heritage affect the way she is portrayed in your story?

Cindy: Esperanza is American with Mexican ancestry. Her character was easy to write because I consider myself the same. The difference between me and her is that I have American Indian ancestry on both of my parents’ sides, so I connect with that ancestry as well. Like me, Esperanza speaks both English and Spanish perfectly, has a college education, and a career, but the Mexican culture has played a big role in her life. Her story reflects the reality of so many Latinos. We grew up as all-American kids who became college-educated adults and we happen to have Mexican parents (or parents from other Latin American countries) who raised us according to their customs.

Alexis: Do you think there is a need for more Latino main characters in fictional stories written for the Christian book market (CBA)? Why or why not?

Cindy: Absolutely! I would love to see more Latino main characters in Christian fiction, as well as more Christian Latino authors. I often see stories that are written by authors who happen to be Latino but the genres aren’t what I want to read. I find myself looking to Christian women as role models and I enjoy reading Christian romance. It’s rare to see a Latino point of view within that mix. If there are other Christian Latino authors out there, please let me know!

Alexis: How did your own experience as a Latina affect the way that you wrote Esperanza’s character?

Cindy: I think the way Esperanza acts and reacts has everything to do with my experience as a Latina. One of my beta readers told me that the first draft of my story had parts that were melodramatic. I didn’t think so because, in the Latino culture, it’s normal to express strong emotions and to look at life in a way that may seem overly dramatic. I mean, some of us were told as children not to go out in the cold without a jacket or else our face would get twisted and stay that way. Talk about dramatic! That’s just one example. Well, the final draft of the story is much calmer than the first, but Esperanza still reacts emotionally when she experiences the problems in her life.

Alexis: In what ways do you hope that Esperanza’s story will impact your readers?

Cindy: My desire is that Esperanza’s story will show others that God is alive and active. He hears the prayers of His people and responds. Things may happen that aren’t fair and that don’t make sense, but He knows why. If you wait on Him and trust in Him, He will lead you to the right place and you will look back and understand why things happened the way they did. Esperanza’s story may be fictional, but the experience of God in her life is very real.

Alexis: Describe Esperanza’s look, personality, and heart. What is her most troublesome character flaw? Explain.

Cindy: Esperanza’s name, Esperanza De La Cruz, means “Hope of the Cross”. Her mother’s name, Milagros, means miracles. I chose those names on purpose to represent the theme of the story, which is the hope of the Cross of Christ. Esperanza is described as young and attractive and her most troublesome character flaw is that she carries guilt and shame over the negative events that have happened in her life, even though she wasn’t to blame. Isn’t that true for many of us?

Alexis: What happened to Esperanza that broke her heart? Is there hope for restoration? Why or why not?

Cindy: Esperanza’s father was arrested for intoxicated manslaughter and sent to prison. He didn’t plan on committing the crime. He had a few alcoholic beverages, drove home and hit and killed a pedestrian. In addition to devastating the victim’s family, it destroyed Esperanza’s perfect life. She suffered the pain of her father being taken away, and as a result of him being gone, her parents lost their home. Esperanza’s boyfriend left her because he couldn’t handle her family problems. She thinks there’s no hope for a better tomorrow, but God doesn’t see it that way.

Alexis: Esperanza works for Sweet Grove’s daycare. Why did you give her a heart for children? What role does her passion play in this story?

Cindy: Esperanza wants to teach kindergarten because she has a desire to affect people’s lives in a positive and lasting way, but she feels that teaching adults would limit her ability to do so. She realizes that teaching children would enable her to make more of an impact on others. Her desire drives her to move to a place she’s never known before and leave her mother in the process. Working at the daycare will enable her to get experience for when she is able to become a teacher.

Alexis: Brad McIntyre is the hero of your story. Describe his looks, personality, and heart. What is his most prominent character flaw? Explain.

Cindy: Brad is young and attractive and he believes that God has given him a calling in life to help others. He has pursued a career in law enforcement after realizing it was part of that greater purpose. His character flaw is that he wishes he can change the whole world and he doesn’t see the positive effect he has on the lives of the people around him. This leads to a sense of disappointment and feelings of being a failure.

Alexis: Describe Brad and Esperanza’s meet-cute. What brings them together? Is there anything that drives them apart? Explain.

Cindy: When Esperanza arrives at Sweet Grove with all of her belongings in her car, she parks in front of the apartment building where she plans to rent an apartment. She enters the building to search for the landlord, and when she returns, someone is driving away in her car. Brad quickly arrives after a witness calls the police. Their meeting isn’t a typical meet-cute because Brad is so focused on doing his job and Esperanza is overcome by the horror of what has happened. When Brad offers to drive her to the First Street Church to see if they can help her, she hesitates. Although they’re attracted to each other, it takes a while for things to become romantic.

Alexis: What’s Brad’s race? How does his heritage affect the way that he deals with people who do not share his same background…or does it not matter to him?

Cindy: Brad is described as having blond hair and blue eyes and he doesn’t fully understand Spanish, but I didn’t emphasize his ancestry. Like Esperanza, he’s all-American, but not Latino like her. He notices her dark hair and dark eyes and that she speaks to her mom in Spanish, and he’s attracted to her wholeheartedly. He helps her without hesitation.

Alexis: What role does Brad and Esperanza’s faith in God play in this story?

Cindy: When Brad struggles with his job situation, he calls out to God for help. When Esperanza needs a job, she seeks God’s guidance. Brad isn’t as confident in his faith as Esperanza. He’s confused about his life, but despite it, he waits on Him. No matter what, God remains their only hope.

Alexis: What’s the moral of the story?

Cindy: No matter how hopeless life can seem, God will rescue you if you seek Him with all of your heart. People often quote Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,” but they fail to continue to the part that says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”. A passion for God is the key to moving mountains.

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

Cindy: I want to thank you for letting others know that there are Christian diverse stories available to read. Sometimes our names and ancestries might give others the impression that our stories won’t be relatable to them. The result is that they don’t “hear” the message that God has inspired us to share. By sharing our works, you’ve opened a door that could lead to more lives being touched.

~ Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor ~

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Book Spotlight: Love’s Second Chance by Cindy Flores Martinez

Happy Wednesday, Diverse Reader Friends!

We’re featuring a new book today. Love’s Second Chance is a book that was written by accomplished author/screenwriter Cindy Flores Martinez.

Enjoy her book spotlight!

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About the book: 

Can two broken hearts find healing together?

Brad McIntyre is much too young to feel so disillusioned with his life as a deputy sheriff. Esperanza De La Cruz has left the only home she has ever known to work at Sweet Grove’s daycare. When someone steals her car, Deputy McIntyre comes to the rescue.

There’s an instant attraction between them, but they’re both broken on the inside. Her father is in prison for intoxicated manslaughter and she’s afraid that Brad won’t want to be with her because of it.

He’s thinking of leaving the only career he’s ever known but pretends that everything is fine. His desperate prayers seem to go unanswered.

When they start spending time together and their feelings for each other begin to grow stronger, things become even more complicated. When the truth comes out, will it pull them apart or will they find a second chance at love and in life together?

Buy the book on Amazon

~*~

About the Author: Cindy Flores Martinez is a USA Today bestselling author. She writes Christian romance. She has an MFA in Creative Writing with an emphasis in Screenwriting. Her debut novel, Mail-Order Groom, started as a screenplay and movie project, which she shopped around Hollywood, New York, and other parts of the world. You can learn more about her at www.cindyfloresmartinez.com.

Follow Cindy: Facebook ~ Twitter

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Book Review: Watercolored Pearls

Book title: Watercolored Pearls

Author: Stacy Hawkins Adams

Number of pages: 228

About the book:

Three women spend a summer discovering that their less-than-perfect circumstances, their friendships with one another, and their faith are stepping stones to the lives they long to live.

Serena never thought she’d have children; now she has two active toddlers. But instead of being overjoyed, she’s overwhelmed. Did she make the wrong choice in giving up her successful career to be a stay-at-home-mom?

Tawana, an ambitious new lawyer, is trying to pull her life to together, but her past keeps getting in the way. An incredible opportunity at a prestigious law firm forces her to confront her demons. Can her new responsibilities fit with her growing faith?

Erika’s estranged and once-abusive husband wants her back. He says he’s changed, and he’s even going to church. But is he telling the truth? Or is he just smooth-talking her back into a bad situation?

Enjoy this anniversary edition of Stacy Hawkins Adams’ bestselling inspirational women’s fiction novel.

Purchase the book: Amazon ~ B&N

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My Thoughts:  Watercolored Pearls is a true pearl of a fictional story written by Stacy Hawkins Adams.

The characters are relatable, likable and their stories are inspirational. The author paints a vivid picture of each main character and portrays their multifaceted lives. The author drives the reader deep into the innermost desires and details the outer motivations of each character. She tells each of their storylines through their unique personalities and outlooks on life. There are many moments in this novel that will make you “ooo” and “ahh”. However, this is not your average HEA (Happily Ever After) novel.

The author shows the struggles that Serena, Tawana, and Erika face. She handles sensitive topics like abuse and immorality with care and conviction. She makes the reader care about the welfare of her characters. This is truly a riveting story!

My only complaint is that at times it felt like there were too many characters on the pages of this story and the varied viewpoints for each character along with their personal dramas made it a bit confusing for me as a reader. It was hard to keep up with each storyline and remember who was dealing with what as I moved from chapter to chapter. But the key line is that I kept it moving because the author knows how to keep the reader’s attention by building tension from scene to scene.

This book is a keeper! I’d share it with all young women who are dealing with issues and looking for hope. Watercolored Pearls may be just what you need to read.

~Reviewed by Alexis A. Goring, contributor~

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About the Author: 
Stacy Hawkins Adams is an award-winning author, journalist and writing mentor whose fiction and nonfiction enlightens readers while helping them find confidence in their own stories.

She has penned nine faith-based novels and one devotional book. She also serves as a parenting columnist for a Virginia-based newspaper and blogs for the Huffington Post on social justice issues.

Stacy lives in Virginia with her family. Learn more about her at www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com.

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Book Spotlight: Finding Home by Stacy Hawkins Adams

Happy Wednesday, Reader Friends!

Thanks for stopping by Diversity Between the Pages.

Today, we’re featuring Finding Home which is a book written by Stacy Hawkins Adams.

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About the book: 

 What happens when you’re so desperate for things to go your way, that anything goes? Jessica Wilson Arnold is a superstar professional speaker whose husband and friends fret about the strain of her ambitions, while she hungers for more.

When a medical crisis and some poor decisions bring her fast-track success to a screeching halt, Jessica is forced to admit that her life isn’t as perfectly packaged as advertised. Her quest to restore her health and prioritize what matters most leads her to a crossroad. Will she revive her faith and learn to love herself and others more deeply, or cling to a path that threatens disaster?

Jessica’s desperate choices and gripping fear will take readers on a literary ride that’s both shocking and familiar, mostly leaving them rooting for her to win big – with family, faith and finding her way.

Book purchase links: Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Kobo

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About the Author: Stacy Hawkins Adams is an award-winning author, journalist and writing mentor whose fiction and nonfiction enlightens readers while helping them find confidence in their own stories. 

She has penned nine faith-based novels and one devotional book. She also serves as a parenting columnist for a Virginia-based newspaper and blogs for the Huffington Post on social justice issues.

Stacy lives in Virginia with her family. Learn more about her at www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com.

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Connect with Stacy:

Website – www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com

Twitter – www.twitter.com/shadams

Facebook – www.facebook.com/stacyinspires