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

Good Monday Morning, reader friends!

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

Enjoy!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor


About the Book:

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

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

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

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

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

*Buy Stand by Me on Amazon.


About the Author:

Neta Jackson and her husband Dave are an award-winning husband-and-wife writing team, the authors or coauthors of more than 130 books that have sold over 2.5 million copies.

They are best known for Neta’s Yada Yada Prayer Group series and its sequels, as well as their forty-volume Trailblazer series of historical fiction about great Christian heroes for young readers.

Neta and Dave raised two children as well as a foster daughter and are now enjoying all the “grands”!

The Jacksons are thankful for their multi-cultural church and neighborhood in the Chicago area, which provides the characters and setting for their novels.

Follow Neta and her husband Dave Jackson on social media: 

Website: http://www.daveneta.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/DaveNetaJackson/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DaveNetaJackson

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Book Review: The Bashful Bride

Happy Friday, reader friends!

Are you ready for the weekend?

Today, we’re featuring my review of Vanessa Riley’s new novel, The Bashful Bride.

It’s the perfect weekend read!


My Review of The Bashful Bride:

This book was amazingly well written, and completely captivating from start to finish. Vanessa Riley, the author, has really outdone herself with this one. I’m not a big fan of historical romance but Vanessa’s stories are delightful and make me want to read more books by her brilliant mind!

Reading this book was a theatrical experience on paper. It’s like the author takes you by the imagination from page one and transports you back in time to the Regency era then invites you to a front row seat as you watch this beautiful story unfold.

The characters were likable, their background was believable and the dialogue was beautiful. I loved the idea of love at first sight and enjoyed seeing how the heroine’s celebrity crush became her real-life love interest via a meet-cute that threw them together in the most unique and intriguing way.

The author is not afraid to make her characters real and heroic in every sense—the hero is a famous, handsome actor with the passionate platform of an abolitionist. Arthur Bex is his name and he’s not afraid to speak out a time in history where most kept silent. He’s passionate about freedom and he’s not afraid to express his views even when his push for equality threatens to overhaul the status quo.

The heroine, a shy heiress by the name of Ester Croome, is heroic in terms of honesty and loyalty because she refuses to marry anyone who her heart does not love in a society where sometimes women married for money, status or other practical reasons. She may be shy but when it comes to marriage, she knows what she wants and who she wants—handsome actor Arthur Bex. But beyond good looks, Ester wants a man of character and integrity, and Arthur seems to fit the bill.

But love at first sight only becomes the forever kind of love that lasts when it’s tested and tried to be true. The author doesn’t shy away from testing the love between Arthur and Ester. She throws her main characters into quite the plight as the story progresses! Riley knows how to build tension and leave the readers wanting more at the end of each scene. I kept turning the pages until I finished this story in one sitting!

Even if you’re not a fan of historical romance, read this book by Vanessa Riley. It will captivate your heart!

*I (Alexis A. Goring) received a complimentary copy of this book (The Bashful Bride) from the author for me to read. My opinions in this book review are my own.


About the Book:

A friend’s newspaper advertisement for a groom nets the most famous actor in London, Arthur Bex. Shy heiress Ester Croome proposes to elope with the handsome man, who she’s secretly loved for two years, in order to escape an impending engagement arranged by her overbearing family.

Trying to outlive the shadow of his villainous uncle, Bex needs to marry quickly—to a woman of good character. And smart, beautiful Ester fits the bill. But a harrowing trip to Gretna Green and dangerous abolition rallies prove to be a more treacherous stage than either imagined. Infatuation and a mutual love for Shakespeare might not be enough to bind a couple looking to outrun the chains and secrets of family and the past.

Buy The Bashful Bride on Amazon


About the Author:

Vanessa Riley writes Regency and Historical Romances of dazzling multi-culture communities with powerful persons of color. 

Vanessa writes for historical romance readers who admire and acquire books that showcase women who find joy in sweeping kisses and strong sisterhoods. Even in the darkness, she promises to give you laughs and to show you how light always prevails and how love always, always wins. 

Vanessa juggles mothering a teen, cooking for her military-man husband, and speaking at women’s and STEM events. She’s known for her sweeping romances and humorous delivery of poignant truths. You can catch her writing from the comfort of her southern porch with a cup of Earl Grey tea.


Connect with Vanessa:

Website – http://www.vanessariley.com
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/VanessaRileyAuthor/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/VanessaRiley/
YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/user/RegencyMaid
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/vanessarileyauthor/

Sign up for her newsletter to get access to free stories, giveaways, and more at: 
http://www.vanessariley.com

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Author Interview: Stacy Hawkins Adams, featuring “Worth a Thousand Words”

Please extend a warm welcome to a familiar face here on our blog!

Journalist Stacy Hawkins Adams returns to answer my questions about book number two in her Jubilant Soul Series, Worth a Thousand Words.

Enjoy!

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About the book:

 Life has always gone Indigo Burns’s way. She’s smart, pretty, and talented, and she knows exactly what she wants. A photography internship at her hometown’s local newspaper is the next step in her well-laid plans for her future. But her long-term goals are put to the test when her boyfriend Brian proposes–two years before he’s supposed to and in front of all the guests at her college graduation party. Too concerned about his feelings to say no, she heartily agrees, but inside she’s cringing.

Indigo knows in her heart that she’s not prepared to sacrifice her dreams to become Brian’s wife–not before she has achieved any of them. Will she find the answers among family and friends in Jubilant, Texas? Or will the picture-perfect life she dreams of be left behind?

Purchase the book: Amazon ~ B&N ~ CBD

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Author Bio: 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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Interview with Stacy Hawkins Adams about her book, Worth a Thousand Words:

Alexis: What was the inspiration behind the title of this book?

Stacy: Worth a Thousand Words is a metaphor for how the truth is worth a thousand words. The main characters in this novel had to choose between living their lives to please others or finding the courage to stand in their own truths.

Alexis: Indigo is a very artsy, unique name for a heroine. How did you imagine her name? What is she like? Describe her personality, passion, career goals and dreams of her heart.

Stacy: I’m always on the hunt for intriguing character names – whether I find them in articles or overhear them in conversations. I don’t quite recall how I discovered this particular name, but when I heard it, I fell in love, and when it was time to create a young character who was vibrant and arts-oriented (via her photography), this name seemed perfect.

Indigo is a recent college grad beloved by her family, including her favorite older cousin Rachelle, who is the main character in The Someday List, the first novel in my Jubilant Soul series. She is eager to launch a career as a photographer and see the world, so she is caught off guard when her handsome boyfriend – who her parents consider to be “a good catch” – proposes at her graduation party before she even has a chance to experience independence. While she says yes to the proposal to save face, her heart is screaming something else, and she must decide which path to take.

Alexis: Why would her boyfriend Brian’s proposal interfere with her carefully constructed life plans?

Stacy: In part because she is so young that her plans simply include being excited about the possibilities life could offer. By choosing to follow Brian in following his dream, she might always wonder if she had compromised her own. And truthfully, Indigo has to decide whether the love she feels for Brian is truly deep enough to spend the rest of her life with him, or just convenient and pleasing to her parents.

Alexis: Does Indigo love Brian? It looks like her heart didn’t want to say “yes”.

Stacy: As I mentioned above, she does, but even she is not sure if it’s an enduring, God-ordained love. They make a picture-perfect couple, but beyond the surface, are they really compatible, and meant to help each other flourish in their purpose and dreams? The fact that Indigo seems less than thrilled by the proposal and the impending wedding plans makes her wonder.

Alexis: Why does Indigo fear marriage and settling down with Brian?

Stacy: Because she’s so young. There’s so much to learn about herself and life and her purpose. She doesn’t know how to articulate this, but what she’s feeling is the question of “Is there something more?” And the fact that she’s asking herself this in various ways is her clue that there probably is something more, or at least something different, for her.

Alexis: What were the challenges unique to writing this story?

Stacy: This was a fun book to write because it allowed me to explore the inner thoughts, hopes, and fears of two young adult characters (in their early 20s), at a pivotal time in their lives. The only challenge was trying to tell the story without giving away Brian’s struggles too early and also those of a few other characters. I also sought to write about the issues they were facing in a balanced way so that readers could decide for themselves whose side to take.

Alexis: What were the most rewarding parts of writing this novel?

Stacy: Showing the humanity of all of the characters, even when they made choices that I knew readers might question or find frustrating. My goal was to show their motivation for their choices so that when readers put down the book and considered the choices of people around them, they might begin to extend a little more grace.

Alexis: As a real-life journalist, was it easy for you to write the scenes where Indigo takes pictures with her professional camera? Why or why not?

Stacy: Yes – having worked in newsrooms with great professional photographers was a bonus. I was able to pull from those experiences to make Indigo’s summer job realistic.

Alexis: As an author of color, do you feel like you need to write about characters that look like you and share your experiences? Or do you write stories about characters that are not of color too? Explain.

Stacy: I write about the humanity of all characters because, at the end of the day, we all care about the same things and about people we love. We all want to be safe, happy, loved and fulfilled, and we all can grow from a personal relationship with God. With that in mind, it’s a pleasure to write about characters of color who reflect this, because this is who I am, and many people I know. At the same time, I’ve heard from readers of all backgrounds that they’ve found my stories relatable, and that they were surprised once they started reading how they sometimes forgot that the characters “happened” to be African American.

I don’t take those comments to mean that there’s anything wrong with having characters who are people of color; instead, I believe what they’re saying is that the stories were relevant to them, no matter what the characters looked like. And yes – I often include characters in my books who are not African American, because we live in a multi-cultural world, and this helps the book feel more true-to-life.

I also try to show that true friendship, grace, love, and caring can be more powerful than any surface or cultural differences; we just have to open our hearts and eyes to this and truly see the other person.

Alexis: What do you want your readers to remember most about this story?

Stacy: I want readers to remember that trusting the truths in your heart is the best path to take, in every aspect of your life.

Each of the primary characters in this novel experienced a peace beyond understanding when they embraced this reality and stood tall in who they felt called to be and in what they felt led to do. This doesn’t mean it was always easy or that the path was always clear; but because they were honoring what they felt was right, they knew they would be okay. They trusted that God’s hand on their lives was the best roadmap to follow to their joy.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Stacy! Would you like to share closing thoughts?

Stacy: Thanks for the opportunity to share with your readers about my novel Worth a Thousand Words. I loved writing this book and I hope they will find it inspiring, eye-opening and thought-provoking. I’d love to receive feedback on my social media pages. In the meantime, I wish everyone reading this all my best.

~*~

Connect with Stacy:

Website – www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com

Twitter – www.twitter.com/shadams

Facebook – www.facebook.com/stacyinspires