Interview with Allison K. Garcia about her book “Finding Amor”

Happy Monday, reader friends!

Today, we’re featuring an interview with Allison K. Garcia, author of Finding Amor.


Interview with Allison K. Garcia about her book, Finding Amor:

Alexis: What inspired you to write this book?

Allison: I was inspired by a couple things in 2014…On the news, there was a video of little kids on a bus near an immigration detention center. Outside the bus were a bunch of angry Americans yelling at them and carrying signs. It broke my heart. I thought about how scary it must be for those small children to be surrounded by an angry mob after what was surely a traumatic border crossing. And I began to think how most likely some of those people yelling angrily at the children were also proclaiming to be Christians (as I had heard echoed sentiments in our community), and I wanted to change the narrative. This is the first scene of my book. The other thing that inspired my book was hearing the story from someone at church about how a little boy in the afterschool program came to Christ and subsequently brought many of the other little kids to salvation as well. That touched my heart, and from there my main character, Emanuel, was born.

Alexis: How did you choose your characters?

Allison: I am a pantser, so a lot of times my characters choose me. Haha. But seriously, I had the idea for Emanuel, so logically his mother, Ana, came next. I added a third POV of the afterschool teacher, Lauren, and her husband, Peter, who is a loveable slob. I’m not sure how Carlos, my antagonist, came about but my editor made me turn him into a POV character so you can thank her for that! Mamita is just this sweet little grandma that I pictured, the representation of quintessential unconditional love. Kayli, Mari, and Dwayne are my favorite of Emanuel’s buddies. You’ll see more of them in my second book. Sandra, Ana’s mother, was really fleshed out in editing, and I really love her now. There is a lot under the surface there.

I know I didn’t answer your question, but truthfully, I feel like they chose me, and they keep surprising me! Who knows what will happen in my second and third books? I have a general direction but there are plenty surprises for all of us around the corner.

Alexis: What is the setting for this book? Describe it.

Allison: Lederville, Virginia is a small city I created in the Shenandoah Valley. It has a diverse population and is loosely based off of Harrisonburg, VA, where I live. It has all four seasons, including beautiful fall foliage and occasionally disruptive snowfalls. They have a bus system and Uber. There are suburbs, trailer parks, apartments, and farms. They have thrift stores and international grocery stores, especially Hispanic/Latino, which is a burgeoning population in Lederville. There is a park called North River Park which has open fields and shelters for picnics and parties. Also, there is a nice church called Dove Peak Presbyterian Church next to the Rolling Hills Trailer Park where three of my main characters live. It is a very welcoming church that holds an afterschool program and does Christmas caroling and has a thriving Spanish service.

Alexis: What is Finding Amor about? Share in a few sentences (not the blurb).

Finding Amor is the first part of a larger series, Buscando Home, about a family from El Salvador broken through decades of war, violence, and distance. Finding Amor is the first glimpse into their world – why they are broken, some of what they’ve gone through, and how far they have to go in order to heal and find peace and home together. Finding Amor is about finding the love of family, God, and within ourselves. It also calls people to love both God and their neighbors, the two main tenants of Christianity.

Alexis: Take us inside Emanuel Martinez’s mind. What was it like to be thrown into an immigration center after he was so close to freedom at the border?

Allison: I think we’ll get a much better idea of this in my next book, but it is a horrible thing. His mother had to leave to make enough money to support him, but he was too small to travel across three countries, so he has waited so long to be with his mother, living in an abusive home environment. The coyote (the person who helps people cross the border) took him on a freight train for faster travel, where he had some traumatic experiences. Just a reminder that from El Salvador to the border is about 2,000 miles, which is the equivalent of traveling from Virginia to Arizona. To travel that far and to be so small, it is impressive. Emanuel is a strong little guy, but the journey took its toll on him. Imagine traveling all the way from east to west coast at eight years old and just as you’re about to see your long-lost mother, you are apprehended and told you may never see her. This is a truth that is happening again and again. People who are just looking for asylum, for a better life for their family, risking their lives for freedom, only to be put into cages. Very upsetting.

Alexis: Did Emanuel travel to the border by himself? I understand that he’s only eight years old. Describe his journey.

Allison: His mother paid for a coyote, someone to cross him. It is a 2,000-mile journey. Often people will take freight trains to make the trip faster. It usually takes a month or more of hiding from immigration officials in the various countries, especially Mexico, where officials are sometimes corrupt and need bribes to let you pass. Also, there is a lot of gang activity near the border and people sometimes get kidnapped. For Emanuel, he took a traumatic freight train ride with the coyote, he traveled for about a month, hiding from officials, and then was captured at the border. More info about his journey will come out in my next book. It is a horrible journey even for adults and thousands of people die trying to cross the border. Emanuel is one of the lucky ones who made it across.

Alexis: In what ways does Finding Amor reflect the current immigration debate, trauma and drama in the USA?

Allison: My main goals for writing Latino Christian fiction are to have Latinos represented in Christian fiction, share God’s word, and show authentic stories of undocumented immigrants so that people can open their hearts and minds and grow in compassion and love and understanding. In showing real stories and explaining the whys and showing the human side to immigration, my hope is that people who have negative views towards immigrants will understand more and realize that we are called to love our neighbors, no matter what their documentation status or skin color or language, etc. I purposefully put a very diverse group of people in the book, because it represents America and also in Revelations is shows Heaven as a place where “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” people are praising God. Also, there are important verses that remind us that we cannot love God if we do not love our neighbor. We cannot love God without loving our neighbor any more than we can love our neighbor without loving God. This is another theme that is represented in Lauren’s story. Seeing her neighbors in a new light and seeing the love they show her, helps her grow to love others and herself more. So, for me, the trauma and drama and debates in the U.S. boil down to a lack of love.

Alexis: Who is Lauren Barrett and what is her significance to this story?

Allison: Lauren is an overweight, churchgoing legal secretary who has trouble saying no, especially to church activities. She gets roped into helping with the afterschool program at church, which is hurtful because she has been dealing with infertility for over a decade. She represents the average churchgoing person who looks fine from the outside but has a lot going on inside, while at the same time finds herself lacking compassion for others and losing perspective on where she is in her life. Her interactions with the Martinez family and the other families in the afterschool program make a drastic impact on the way she views the world.

Alexis: How does Lauren’s family dynamics and a background that made her insecure affect her life as a grown woman? In what ways does her personal history endear her heart to Emanuel?

Allison: Lauren grew up in a very unsupportive family with some emotional abuse that made her more vulnerable towards abusive relationships. In high school, she had an abusive boyfriend, but thankfully, she met Peter, who showed her unconditional love. Even though she has God in her life and Peter, she still has the burden of those early days, and she struggles with that need to please and make people happy and also with loving herself. I think she sees herself in Emanuel a little bit, plus Emanuel just has a good heart and is kind to her right off the bat, which endears him to her.

Alexis: What role does Lauren grow to play in Emanuel’s life?

Allison: It’s a little bit the other way around for this book. Lauren wants to help the kids in the afterschool, but really they are the ones who impact her life. I think that happens a lot with mission work, we want to help and then we get way more back than we ever gave out.

Alexis: What does Emanuel think of Lauren at first and as the story progresses?

Allison: She views her as someone who is sad and has “nerves” like Marta from home. He wants to make her feel better and is kind to her. I think as the story progresses, he sees her as a mentor and friend and someone he can confide in and learn from.

Alexis: What do you want readers to remember most about Finding Amor?

Allison: That everyone has a story. We often judge a book by its cover and as Christians, that’s not okay. We are called to love everyone, unconditionally. I hope that sticks with them.

Alexis: Who is your publisher for Finding Amor? Is it a CBA publisher?

Allison: CreateSpace/Me! I had to go indie because it is very hard to get diverse fiction published traditionally in the Christian market. Plus the undocumented immigration is seen as controversial and they didn’t want to touch it with a 10-foot pole. But God wants me to write it and get it out to the world, so I am thankful for Amazon and all my indie published friends who helped me figure out how to indie publish.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Allison! Would you like to share closing comments?

Allison: Alexis, thank so much for the insightful interview questions. I really challenged me to look at my book in detail. I feel totally prepared for some events I have coming up in September now! Thank you for this opportunity! I hope people pick up a copy and enjoy it!

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor


About the Book:

Escaping a violent and abusive environment, eight-year-old Emanuel Martinez attempts to cross through three countries to be with his mother, Ana, whom he hasn’t seen since he was a baby. When la migra catches him at the border and he’s thrown into an immigration center, his dreams for being a real family start to disappear.

Vowing never to be like her own mother who abandoned her and never looked back, Ana has worked for six years to get her son to the United States, Now Ana has to rely on her distant mother and her alcoholic boyfriend, Carlos, to finally get her son to her side so they can build a life together.

When Lauren Barrett agrees to help with the afterschool program, she soon realizes she’s bitten off more than she can chew. Growing up in an unsupportive home has made her insecure and vulnerable, plus suffering through years of infertility hasn’t helped matters. Yet she longs to do something meaningful with her life and wonders when that opportunity will come along. When a special young boy named Emanuel enters her life, he turns her worldview on its head.

As their lives intersect, will they help each other understand what family and love and home really mean?

Buy Allison’s book on Amazon


About the Author:

Allison K. Garcia is a Licensed Professional Counselor, but she has wanted to be a writer ever since she could hold a pencil.

She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Shenandoah Valley Writers, Virginia Writers Club, and is Municipal Liaison for Shenandoah Valley NaNoWriMo.

Allison’s short story, “At Heart,” was published in the Winter 2013 edition of From the Depths literary magazine, along with her flash fiction. Her work, “You Shall Receive,” was published in GrayHaven Comics’s 2014 All Women’s anthology. Winning an honorary mention in the ACFW Virginia 2015 short story contest, “Just Another Navidad” was published in A bit of Christmas. Allison finaled in the 2016 ACFW Genesis Contest and is a 2018 Eric J. Hoffer Montaigne Medal Finalist for Vivir el Dream, published May 2017. Her highly-anticipated novel, Finding Amor, releases in September 2018.

Latina at heart, Allison has been featured in local newspapers for her connections in the Latino community in Harrisonburg, Virginia. A member of cultural competency committees for work and a participant in several pro-immigrant rallies and other events in her region, she also sings on the worship team and enjoys get-togethers with the hermanos in her church. With the help of her husband, Julio, and their son, Miguel, she has been able to nurture her love for the Latino people.

Follow Allison on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Website

Sign-up for Allison’s Newsletter here.

Interview with Belle Calhoune, author of “Adored”

Happy Monday, Reader Friends!

Please welcome Belle Calhoune to the blog today.

She’s here to talk about her book, Adored.

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About the Book:

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

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

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

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

Book purchase link: Amazon

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About the Author: 

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

Follow Belle on Twitter

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Interview with Belle Calhoune about her book, Adored:

Alexis: What inspired you to write this book?

Belle: I have been writing about children adopted through the foster care system for several years now. This series is a spin-off of my original “Seven Brides, Seven Brothers” series where all seven children were adopted from foster care. With Adored, I wanted to create a love story between two people who came from vastly different backgrounds and experiences, yet both yearned for a soft place to fall. The desire to love and be loved is universal.

Alexis: What is the significance of your book’s title “Adored”?

Belle: To be honest, I love the idea of two people adoring one another. Adored is such a powerful state of being. To be adored! I also love the Prince song “Adore” so that sentiment of being so richly loved resonated with me. And I think it resonated with Caleb and Addie.

Alexis: Paint of picture of this story’s setting (Pelican Bay) with words.

Belle: Pelican Bay is a small, seaside town in beautiful, sunny Florida. Known for sunsets, dolphin sightings, and stunning vistas, Pelican Bay is a little bit of paradise.

Alexis: Describe the ethnic and racial makeup of your hero Caleb and your heroine Addie.

Belle: Both Caleb and Addie are African-American.

Alexis: What is about Caleb that makes him the perfect hero for this story?

Belle: Despite his difficult origins, Caleb has a huge heart. He views the world through an optimistic lens and he has a lot of love to bestow on a woman. He is dependable and loyal, loving and strong.

Alexis: What is it about Addie that makes her a good heroine in this story?

Belle: Addie, much like Caleb, has suffered huge losses in her life, particularly the death of her twin sister, Tabitha. Despite that tremendous loss, Addie never gives up on the idea of her own personal happy ending. She lives each day with hope and an open heart.

Alexis: What draws Caleb and Addie to each other?

Belle: They are thrust together for work purposes, but soon find that there is an attraction neither anticipated. Although their backgrounds are very different, they are very similar in what they want for their lives. Faith. Family. Forever.

Alexis: How—and when—do Caleb and Addie they realize that they’re the perfect romantic match?

Belle: I think it’s a gradual realization. For Caleb, Addie is a source of support and she provides him with immeasurable companionship as he unravels the mystery of his past. For Addie, Caleb is the person who helps her grow and change, both emotionally and with regards to stepping outside of her comfort zone. I think both realize that their lives are better with each other in it. At that moment, they know it’s love.

Alexis: Did you research bistros to write this story? I see that the main focus is on Caleb who is a chef and business owner of a bistro. So if you visited bistros, please share details.

Belle: Because I live an hour outside of New York City, I have the good fortune of being able to visit the city often. They have the most wonderful bistros there. I have also been fortunate to travel to Paris on two occasions. Paris has very unique and delightful bistros that offer the most wonderful food in the world.

Alexis: What role does race play in this story…or does it?

Belle: It doesn’t really, other than I enjoy portraying diverse characters as I experience them in real life. Addie is the daughter of a successful businessman while Caleb was adopted into a very loving and warm family. His birth mother loved him tremendously but circumstances were not kind to them. I strive to portray my diverse characters as intelligent, hard-working, God-fearing people who love with all their heart and soul.

Alexis: Do you think that we need more stories like yours in the Christian book markets, stories that feature diverse characters? Why or why not?

Belle: I absolutely think that the Christian market is lacking in diverse characters and stories. The market should reflect the world we inhabit, and sadly, that is not the case at the moment. Diverse authors have so much to give to this genre and they should be afforded the opportunity to shine and tell their stories. It’s 2017 and we still need diverse books.

Alexis: Do you write about your personal experiences related to what you’ve experienced as a woman writer of color, in your stories? Why or why not?

Belle: I have been very fortunate as a writer of color. I have wonderful fans and my stories have been embraced by my wonderful readership. I have written about things that have happened to me as a person of color. When I was a child my family lived in a predominantly white town in Massachusetts. We were one of the first, if not the first, families of African American descent to live there. There were racist incidents against my family, which was devastating since my parents were such loving, hard-working professional people. Several boys racially harassed me in my class for years. It was very scary as a child who had no way to fight back against prejudice. I wrote about this in one of my books in the Secrets of Savannah series. My heroine was able to face her tormentor as an adult. It felt cathartic since I have never been able to do that.

Alexis: How would you describe your view of the world and do you write your characters according to that view? Or do you create them based on imagination or watching people in real-life?

Belle: As writers, I think we always inject ourselves into our works. It’s impossible not to. I believe that we are all humans and it doesn’t matter what color or race we are. People are people. Love is love. God made us all and His command is to love one another. I think I inject that philosophy into all of my novels.

Alexis: What would you say was the most difficult part of writing this story? Explain.

Belle: I tend to get very emotional about my prologues. The reality is that kids end up in foster care for very sad and tragic reasons, whether it’s neglect, drug abuse, abandonment or other reasons. I can’t shy away from it. But when I actually do the prologue and place the child in the scenario it hurts. I have a very tender heart, so it’s not easy. But readers do love the prologues because they get a glimpse into the background of the now adult characters. It makes the readers love the character even more because their journey has been so epic.

Alexis: If you could do dinner with Caleb and Addie at the bistro, what would you order and what would be the focus of your conversation?

Belle: I would love to hear both Caleb and Addie discuss their childhoods. Caleb has the memories of his biological mother that he has repressed for many years, but he also has the memories of his adoptive family, the Donahues. Addie has been raised in luxury, but her parents went through a painful divorce and she lost her twin sister. I would like to hear them talk about these life-altering moments. And I would order a French sandwich, Croque-Monsieur with a side of grilled Kale. I would order sparkling water and chocolate mousse for dessert.

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

Belle: Thank you for inviting me to be your guest. The questions were very thought-provoking and interesting. Blessings.

*Interviewed by Alexis A. Goring

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Book Review: Adored by Belle Calhoune

Happy Friday, Reader Friends!

Today, we’ve got a book to recommend that you read over the weekend.

Enjoy my review of Adored (Seven Brides Seven Brothers Pelican Bay Book 2), a book written by Belle Calhoune.

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About the Book:

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

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

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

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

Book purchase link: Amazon

~*~

My Review:

“Adored” by Belle Calhoune is a sweet story.

The story centers on Addie Fontaine, Caleb Donahue, and their families.

The setting for this story is true to its idyllic description of Pelican Bay, which in this story is a seaside town in Florida.

Caleb is going through a rough patch in life until Addie walks into his life and brings a fresh breath of air. Though their initial meeting was a bit rocky because of Addie’s father, Sebastian Fontaine. He is the famous wealthy businessman known for being ruthless and has his sights set on Caleb’s bistro, The Blue Bayou. But Addie and Caleb manage to work together to save Caleb’s bistro and in the process, they fall in love.

No love story is worth its weight in gold without conflict and this story has plenty! It’s filled with family drama, traumatic memories from Caleb’s past, plot twists and moments where you are sitting on the edge of your seat hoping that there’s still hope of a happily-ever-after.

The plot is drawn out very well but some of the drama went from high to low too quickly. It almost felt like one moment they were mad at each other and then in the next second, they were kissing. However, some may argue that’s true to real-life.

The characters are creative in their nature and likable. As a reader, I found myself rooting for Addie and Caleb’s love story from the start because they seemed like a good match—the type where one is weak the other is strong and visa versa. The personalities of Addie and Caleb along with their different approaches to business, and outlook on life created the perfect balance not only in their private lives but in their work experience.

It only took two days for me to read this story from start to finish. The author’s storytelling style will sweep you off your feet, drop you into the center of her fictional story world and keep you entertained until you reach “The End”…once there, you may not want to return to the real world!

Overall, this was a wonderful story worth a rating of at least 4-stars.

*Reviewed by Alexis A. Goring

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