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Category: Hallee’s Interviews with Christian Authors

Interview with Adam Blumer and a Giveaway!

Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance, and the authors visiting my blog answered them! This week, I am so excited to have mystery author Adam Blumer as my guest. I love that Adam and I have very similar writing philosophies – to write realistic characters battling real-world problems. Adam’s new release sounds SO GOOD – read on to see how you can enter to win a copy!

Tell us a little bit about yourself. I grew up in lower Michigan and began writing at an early age, mostly pirate stories. I graduated to mysteries in high school and took novel writing in college, along with journalism as my degree. Winning a few writing contests in high and college fanned the flames of my desire to be a published novelist.

I live in Upper Michigan with my wife and two daughters, and I edit books from home for a living. In my free time, I work on my next clean Christian thriller. God opened the door in 2009 for me to publish my first suspense novel with Kregel. I’ve traditionally published three novels so far, but my fourth, coming out this fall, will be self-published. I believe in writing “Meaningful Suspense,” adrenaline-laced suspense that includes a redemptive message to encourage both believers and unbelievers.

Tell us about your current release. I was recently invited to join nine other Christian suspense authors for a novella collection called Mistletoe and Murder: A Christmas Suspense Collection, which releases on October 6. My contribution is the novella Death the Halls, which was a blast to write. I hope readers are able to get their hands on it and enjoy it. Award-winning authors contributing to the collection include Nancy Mehl, Loree Lough, Vicki Hinze, and Cara Putman.

What is Death the Halls about? Here is the back-cover blurb:

Two strangers join the Henry family Christmas reunion. One wants Lauren for a ransom. The other wants her dead.

Lauren Henry looks forward to introducing her boyfriend, James, at the Christmas family reunion at Henry Haven, her parents’ Upper Michigan getaway. But when two strangers surprise the family in a home invasion that turns deadly, they take Lauren as their captive.

Now she finds herself at the mercy of a man with a mysterious connection to her family’s past. The two men are at odds about what to do with Lauren. When tempers flare, she has only one option to stay alive: escape. Meanwhile, James becomes concerned that he may never see Lauren alive again. There’s one sure way to put his fears to rest: find her or die trying.

What is your personal, most effective way to get past writer’s block? I don’t usually struggle with this problem, but when I do, I get away from my computer, go for a walk, and pray. I ask God to help me sort through the story and find the right path. Then I take the advice of Steven James in his book Story Trumps Structure. I think about the story and consider what could possibly go wrong. Then I show the protagonist making things right. Usually at this point, a variety of options emerge, and I can take my pick.

Do you feel pressured to compromise your standards in order to reach a larger audience or be more successful? Yes, this is a very real pressure for anyone seeking to write books that will sell. A few industry professionals have told me, “Your next book needs to be secular” or “How about you try to remove religious references from your manuscript?” I believe in writing my tagline, “Meaningful Suspense.” That means I deliver not only an action-packed story but also a redemptive message. Without delivering the truth, what else is there but entertainment, which has no eternal value? That’s not the path for me. I’d rather write for a smaller audience that desires a strong plot wedded with a meaningful message.

What do you think is lacking in Christian Fiction? Depth. As I stated in my last response, there is pressure in the industry to either go secular or tone down the redemptive message. But when has there ever been a more opportune time in our world to share the message of Jesus Christ? A lot of Christian fiction is primarily written like secular fiction with God thrown in here and there with only a little meaningful takeaway. I believe in showing realistic character grappling with real-world issues and finding answers only God provides.

What inspired you to start writing, or did you always want to write? When I was a kid, I devoured Hardy Boys books—yes, even my sister’s collection of Nancy Drew. I read a lot of mystery and fantasy authors. All those novels inspired me to write my own stories. When I was a child, I began writing wildly imaginative pirate and fantasy stories. I rarely finished them, and I never had a plan. My first handwritten story was a fantastical tale about Captain Kidd’s spyglass. In high school, I wrote and finished an unpublished novel called Down with the Ship. It’s such an Agatha Christie copycat that I laugh whenever I peruse it, but emulation is how a lot of authors get to be where they are today. I loved writing fiction and couldn’t stop.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers? If you’re a writer who wants to be a published novelist, be patient and work hard but keep in mind that doors will open for you only in the Lord’s timing. We can’t rush God. If He has prompted you to write, God gave you that desire for a reason. Explore what His will could be, but learn to wait on Him—perhaps even for a long time. When He’s ready, He’ll let you know. In the meantime, seek Him with your whole heart.

Who were some of your favorite authors as a child? (Book series, maybe?) Authors write what they like to read. When I was a kid, I devoured Hardy Boys books—yes, even my sister’s collection of Nancy Drew. I also enjoyed fantasy authors C. S. Lewis, Lloyd Alexander, and Madeleine L’Engle.

Do you have your plotline and character development already laid out before you begin writing a book, or do they develop as you write? I always begin a novel with a story premise in mind that I hope readers will find unique. Then I have a clear beginning path for my main character, perhaps even a possible ending. But then I mold the story and characters as I write based on the story world that emerges. I was a meticulous plotter and planner for my early novels, but more recently, I’ve discovered a much more enjoyable experience when I allow the story and characters to present new possibilities. I choose from those options as I move along. I assume that if I’m surprised by where the story goes, readers will be too. In my opinion, nothing is worse in a story than predictability. Though I may have a novel ending in mind, often new possibilities emerge as I draw closer to the finish line. Usually, an ending or even a plot twist emerges that is far better than anything I planned at the beginning.

Here is where you can find Adam online:

Website: http://www.adamblumerbooks.com/

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/adamblumer

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/adamblumer

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2315682.Adam_Blumer

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/adamblumer/

Adam is giving away an ebook copy of Mistletoe and Murder to a reader! See below how to enter to win:a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Interview with Daniel and Michael Jolls and a Giveaway!

Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance, and the authors visiting my blog answered them! This week, I am so excited to have the Jolls brothers, Michael and Daniel as my guests. I love the story of how they got the idea for their book. It’s also fun to find movie buffs who love what I love about movies. Looking over Michael’s other books, I feel a kinship to him. I have a brother who graduated from University of Southern California with a degree in cinematography – movies are what our family does, what our family loves, where we center a lot of conversations and arguments. I love talking to people passionate about movies.

Enjoy this interview as much as I did. Read on to see how you can enter to win an autographed copy of Michael and Daniel’s book!

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Michael Jolls is a film producer with over a hundred various productions, both large and small. He is the author of the books The Films of Steven Spielberg and Make Hollywood Great Again. 

Daniel Jolls holds a B.A. in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). He served as the student president of the St. John Paul II Newman Center at UIC from 2017 to 2018, and in the fall of 2017 wrote and presented a senior honors thesis entitled, “Mental Health in Cinema: A Spectatorship and Allegiance Approach.” He later presented a modified version of this thesis at the UNIV Congress in Rome, Italy in the spring of 2018.

 Tell us about your current release. Rev. William Netstraeter: A Life in Three Parts is the biography of a German immigrant to the United States in the 1860s who was made pastor of a small Catholic parish in rural Chicagoland. In his fifty-year tenure, Father Netstraeter oversaw the real-estate development for Chicago’s northside, influenced the educational system and local politics. Twenty years after his death, his life savings would become a source of controversy between Cardinal George Mundelein and Adolf Hitler.

If you knew ahead of time your book would benefit only one person on their spiritual journey, would you still write it? (Michael) Sure! I guess if you were asking, ‘If I knew only one single person would ever read the book,’ that would be a little discouraging. But in this case, the very existence of the book, Rev. William Netstraeter itself, served a higher purpose of giving dignity to Fr. Netstraeter’s parish, St. Joseph’s Wilmette. About three months before formally starting the book, the Archdiocese of Chicago and Cardinal Cupich had targeted the parish for dissolvement. Should St. Joseph’s Wilmette be snuffed out as a parish, all the records which include the majority of the documentation on Fr. Netstraeter would have disappeared.

St. Joseph Wilmette’s buildings and cemetery are historical, therefore any acknowledgment to this historical importance of the land was a rebuttal to the Archdiocese’s shady attempt to sell it off. In 2015, long before this biography was considered for a book, the Archdiocese demanded the church, i.e. the congregants, to raise upwards of $1.5 million dollars to refurbish the buildings. Then, in the summer of 2019, out of left field, they announced that the school was closing in the middle of summer! They intended to shut down those buildings and simply informed the parents that the property was getting tossed on the real-estate market!!! Well, it’s much harder to do that when there’s historical significance tied to the place. The book was one of a few “monkey wrenches” tossed into the machinery to cease that process.

Now, along the way, if Fr. Netstraeter’s life work and story help strengthen someone’s spiritual devotion, that’s an added bonus. Even if you didn’t know the current nonsensical politics that ushered forth the book, the story itself is meant to inspire.

(Dan): Absolutely! For me, the book has just as much a spiritual component as a historical one. We are called to bring each other closer to God, using our gifts and talents to do so – so even if only one person happened to read our book and benefit from it spiritually, that’s still a “win” for them and for God. The same goes for people who write detailed memoirs or self-help books. If just one person benefits from them, they should be proud. It’s very humbling to think that people could be inspired by what my brother and I wrote.

What is your personal, most effective way to get past writer’s block? (Michael): I don’t really get “writer’s block,” but I have had moments where I get fixated on two or three sentences, and after fighting with it for fifteen minutes, I realize I’m just wasting my time. In most cases when that’s happened, it’s already the evening, so I stop and take a little break, get a light buzz going, and then the pen just magically turns on and the sentences flow perfectly. That’s the same approach with film editing: when something doesn’t work, all it takes is 3 seconds to make a digital copy of the original clips, and then just start trimming and cutting footage. The same is true with writing; stop overthinking and just start trying.

(Dan): While I do have a little humorous nameplate in my office that says “Write Drunk, Edit Sober,” I’ve yet to try alcohol as a means of getting past writer’s block. For me, I tend to do A LOT of pacing and music-listening to clear my mind and “get back in the groove,” so to speak. And as much as I hate to admit this, I also tend to get past procrastination/writer’s block by waiting until the last minute, so then I’m forced to finish the task whether I like it or not. Then, once I receive feedback from whoever, at least I can edit a finished work and not have to continue writing from scratch.

What inspired you to start writing, or did you always want to write? (Michael): There’s a duo answer to that question: first is “comfort zone” and second is “opportunity.” Going back to my high school years, I preferred essay and short-answer questions to multiple-choice questions. In college, I had an excess of papers to write and turn in, and if you do something enough times with rapid repetition, you get better at it. Then, with filmmaking as a profession, I was more comfortable with writing stuff. I don’t know how to properly format a screenplay, but when needed I could easily pop out a “script” of some sort — which is ironic because on my productions we rarely use a screenplay.

Anyway, when the opportunity presented itself to write and make money at it, I figured it wouldn’t be too hard. At the same time, in my professional line of work, being employed by countless Catholic churches, there’s a lot of writing involved, be it a letter to parents, notices for events, etc. Writing was always something that just came my way and I could manage.

(Dan): I always wanted to write because I find my thoughts are clearer through my writing than through my speech. In school, I could always articulate my thoughts better on paper than I could in class discussion. Writing is also therapeutic and allows more ideas to flourish, for me at least. Whether I’m writing analytically or personally, I often find that I’m at peace when I finish, because I had to get those thoughts out of my head and onto some paper. You could ask any of my closest friends — I write long personal letters. Subconsciously it helps me work out my own thoughts as I talk to my audience. It’s a very helpful exercise that ends up benefitting my work and the people who read it.

Do you have pre-determined length in mind when you first begin a book? (Michael): So far yes, but if you were to ask me that question again in five years I might say no. When I first started Rev. William Netstraeter I thought it would be a little shorter than it turned out, but it wasn’t long after we got started that I got a sense of the size and scope of the book.

(Dan): No. Though I have to be aware of my limits as I write, I don’t want to start out with a specific number of pages or chapters because I’m worried that would prevent me from saying everything I want (or need) to say.

What is your preferred method of writing? (computer, pen & paper, etc.) (Michael): Most of the time it’s pen & paper, but there’s always been exceptions. Generally, when I’m in the early assembly of a book, it’s almost exclusively pen & paper.

(Dan): Start with pen & paper but gradually move to the computer. I very rarely write full paragraphs on paper, but I have a journal that I will jot down any and all thoughts into during the day, during prayer, etc. As cliche as that sounds, it works. And I revisit those thoughts later and assemble them accordingly when I write on a computer.

Who were some of your favorite authors as a child? (Book series, maybe?) (Michael): I didn’t read as a child. I was just disinterested until fourth grade when we were forced to read 20 minutes each night for homework. Through September and October I slugged through it, but eventually the books themselves became mildly “cool.” We all started getting interested in what each other was reading. In fact, there was a small group of about three or four kids that would start picking up thick airport novels just to one-up each other, you know? That’s funny to think about in hindsight. A true story: in the spring of fourth grade there were three kids in the class reading To Kill A Mockingbird on their own. Why? Just because. I remember my Mom in particular thinking that was the weirdest thing she ever heard, and even inquired to the teacher who was just as miffed at it. Sixteen or seventeen years later I decided to actually read the book one summer and I realized how INSANE it was that my classmates, at the age of ten, were reading this book and acting like they understood it.

Anyway, so fourth grade was where reading became appealing, that spring a new Star Wars movie was coming out and the Star Wars books started appearing at Borders – for anyone that remembers those stores. I think I can safely say that reading for the remainder of grade school was an unhealthy level of Star Wars books and novels. When seventh and eighth grade rolled around, J.R.R. Tolkien was in, and by high school I switched primarily to non-fiction books.

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(Dan): Wow. It’s been a long time since I’ve revisited books from childhood. I identify more with the books I read in high school, but long before that, I loved fantasy novels. The Chronicles of Narnia will forever be my favorite, but I also remember reading a collection of short novels entitled Tales From Dimwood Forest by Avi (pen name) in 3rd grade that really captivated me. The books were simple enough on the outside – anthropomorphic animals (mostly mice) living in a forest much like every Disney movie ever made, but what drew me to those books was how “adult” certain things seemed to me as a child. A major character dies quite tragically in one of the books, there are couples and characters who are constantly working out their familial issues or romantic relationships, and the adventures never seemed too far-fetched to be ridiculous or too “childlike.” I loved those books as a kid.

Also, I never read Harry Potter until I was much older, but I read a series that was basically a knock-off called Children of the Red King by Jenny Nimmo. Think of it as a cross between Harry Potter and X-Men, but it doesn’t take as many risks in terms of character deaths or adult subject matters. Nevertheless, they were engaging enough for me by the time I entered middle school and branched into reading other types of fiction.

Do you remember where you were or what you were doing when you started this story? All too well. This book began in 2009 when I first learned the story of Fr. Netstraeter, who was practically an after-thought and nearly forgotten about. Jump ahead to February 2012 when I was hired to do a video production for St. Joseph’s Wilmette and I essentially pitched a documentary about Fr. Netstraeter. In the aftermath of the production, we did a commemorative picture book that was auctioned off at some fundraiser and… you know, that was that. Onwards to the next adventure.

Six years go by and then three events happen almost simultaneously that resulted in the necessity of this book:

The first, as I mentioned, was the Archdiocese announcement of dissolving St. Joseph’s Wilmette. The way they were going to do this was by merging it with a nearby parish, St. Francis Xavier. Now, here’s the honest truth: those two parishes hate each other. I’m not supposed to say that, but… the lies need to stop. These are two groups that have bickered for decades about everything. This is not a playful rivalry, but rather actual high society nonsensical drama of families scoffing at each other about who has the bigger bank account, houses, cars, etc. And just to boot, St. Joseph’s is conservative and St. Francis Xavier’s is liberal, but the geniuses at the Archdiocese who are merging parishes all over the Chicagoland area rarely consider grouping conservatives with conservatives and liberals with liberals. Naw, go ahead and stick two clashing theologies together because, you know, “harmony.” “Unity.” To my knowledge, since they did this, the infighting between the two “merged” parishes has only increased.

The second reason, which I made reference to previously, was how two weeks into summer vacation, the Archdiocese announces that St. Joseph’s School — a popular Blue Ribbon recipient with high enrollment — was going to close! It essentially confirmed everyone’s suspicions that Cardinal Cupich was targeting churches based on real-estate value and parishes that were “traditional.” St. Joseph’s Wilmette has a reputation of being a tad more orthodox than most, and that was something very much reflected in Fr. Netstraeter’s life. To be fair, St. Joseph’s Wilmette wasn’t the only parish that Cardinal Cupich has crippled for this reason. Everyone knows that a parish who leans more towards traditional Catholicism will be subject to scrutiny from the Archdiocese. I have done part-time jobs for three separate parishes in Chicago’s Jefferson Park neighborhood. The one that was the most “orthodox” and “traditional” got shut down. After that happened, the larger one that was pretty ecclesiastical, started drastically acting more progressive to play face with the Archdiocese.

The third and final event that really propelled the book into existence was when I got an email from Nancy Canafax, a former mayor of Wilmette, informing me that Fr. Netstraeter’s image was going to be embedded on a bronze plaque that was to be hung at New Trier High School (a school Fr. Netstraeter helped found in 1902). Because of this, I knew that Fr. Netstraeter’s story was going to become relevant again, and so just out of curiosity I started looking at the history I collected from six years ago. Well, in six years time, a simple online search yielded more information about Fr. Netstraeter than what was known at the time of the documentary production. That’s when the idea of taking that commemorative coffee-table book we made, and turning it into something more comprehensive came around.

(Dan): The timing couldn’t have been better for me. I graduated from UIC in 2018 and until the fall of 2019, my main job was in the produce department at a local grocery store which I had been working at since I started college. I had been applying to jobs and doing some writing projects on the side, but nothing major. I began 2019 by attending SEEK, an annual Catholic conference sponsored by FOCUS (Fellowship Of Catholic University Students). It’s well-known for booking Catholic celebrities to give talks: Dr. Scott Hahn, Fr. Mike Schmitz, Sr. Miriam James Heidland, and Lila Rose to name a few. This conference took place in early January, and at the time the church was in divisive turmoil yet again because of two things: the ongoing sex abuse crisis, and the fact that dioceses across the nation were suffering financially, much like the Archdiocese of Chicago. Granted, this didn’t strike me right away, rather, it sat in the back of my mind and was something to be aware of as I continued to live out my faith one day at a time. I knew on the last night of the conference though that I wanted to continue writing – especially at a time where nothing was stopping me yet it was so easy to be discouraged.

Fast forward to March, and my brother comes to me with an idea for this book on St. Joseph’s in Wilmette – more specifically, a book about their prominent pastor. The reasoning behind it was a no-brainer. History was being erased. The legacy of Fr. Netstraeter was going to disappear.

From what I recall, I initially started as an editor, and considering I still had access to online databases from school, I would be doing some research as well. It wasn’t until a bit later that we made the decision that I would also co-write. I didn’t have the same depth of knowledge that Michael had with the material, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t learn and develop a deeper appreciation for it. For me it was seeing the painful allegories between Nazi Germany and the German immigrants in northern Illinois: while the homeland burned under tyrannical rule, the “new land” was thriving. Religion as a belief or “interest” was being snuffed out in Nazi Germany, while in Chicago religious freedom was given its chance to flourish. This angle was what hooked me. And while we had plenty of support from family and friends, it was the support from the local Wilmette community that made this project worthwhile. People were excited at the prospect of knowing that the story of their home parish would be remembered in a concrete way.

Here is where you can find Daniel and Michael online:

twitter.com/jollsdan

https://www.facebook.com/michaeljolls

Daniel and Michael are giving away a signed copy of their book, Rev. William Netstraeter: A Life in Three Parts to a reader! See below how you can enter to win:a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Interview with Melony Teague and a Giveaway!

Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance, and the authors visiting my blog answered them! This week, I am so pleased to have Melony Teague as my guest. I love reading about feedback from one beta reader that made writing her book worthwhile to her — I’ve had such similar experiences! Read on to see how you can enter to win a copy of her “Be Original” pin!

Tell us a little bit about yourself. I’m a freelance writer who believes everyone has a story to tell.  As co-author of As the Ink Flows, I love to inspire and motivate others through written words. I write Contemporary Romance with a dash of humor. I’m a member of ACFW and The Word Guild. My favorite drink is a matcha green tea latte with white mocha and I’ve been known to eat vegetables for breakfast—well, pumpkin pie—same thing. I was born in South Africa and now live in Toronto with my husband, our two teenagers, and two cats.

Tell us about your current release. A Promise to Keep is about promises made and kept. Research librarian Savannah Sanderson wants to escape into her happily-ever-after novels with their larger-than-life fictional heroes. But a promise to her late husband has her attending her dreaded twenty-year high school reunion, and taking desperate measures just to keep her vow, even if she has to hide behind the décor to do it. Once a reckless troublemaker, Michael McCann fled town after graduation. Now a professional technical rescuer, he’s back for the reunion, but on his trip down memory lane, he soon comes face to face with unresolved issues, namely Savannah. Before the night is over, a pact between these two old friends will lead them on an adventure into uncharted emotional territory where Michael must confront his past regrets and find the courage to reveal the truth. But can Savannah fly from her sheltered nest and risk her heart on a real-life hero?

If you knew ahead of time your book would benefit only one person on their spiritual journey, would you still write it? Yes, in fact it already had. It had a profound impact on one of my beta readers and that made the querying, pitching and all the edits and processes following that worthwhile.

Do you feel pressured to compromise your standards in order to reach a larger audience or be more successful? Not at all. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and also that they should tell it in their own way. I can’t help but write from my own world view or from who I am. I can’t fabricate what I’m not. I will always be authentic in my writing and no pressure would make me do otherwise. It’s just not who I am. I have my eyes focused on the eternal, not on fame and fortune.

What do you think is lacking in Christian Fiction? I love seeing authors be truly authentic and address the real and messy issues of life and how we deal with them. What niggles me is when a story is cookie-cutter and not based in reality, especially in contemporary stories. I love real, flawed and forgiven characters who I can relate to.  In A Promise to Keep we can relate to the struggles both main characters face and cheer them on as they learn to overcome. I love happy ever after stories because I believe there is always hope, even when it doesn’t look like it

With all those characters in your head screaming to get out how do you write fast enough to get it all down? Sadly, I don’t have that problem. I don’t have an overabundant imagination like some writers do. For me writing is hard. Really hard. It takes time and effort to get to know my characters and their stories. And sadly it’s not something I can rush either. However, once I get several chapters in and the characters have come alive, it’s a bit easier. But only a bit. I have to fall in love with my characters first and let’s face it, Michael McCann in A Promise to Keep is not hard to love. Savannah is someone I’d love to have as a friend.  Right now I’m working on my next story and these characters are giving me a run for my money.

What inspired you to start writing, or did you always want to write? When I told someone a decade ago that I wanted to write a book someday and they laughed at me I took it as a challenge. I was like, “Oh yeah, watch me.” But now that I’ve done it, I realize why they were laughing. It’s no walk in the park, but it’s worth it and it is what I was always meant to do. It just took me longer than most to figure that out.

Do you have pre-determined length in mind when you first begin a book? Yes usually, and you have to determine that in order to know where you are pitching your book to and how the structure and pacing of the book will map out. It’s a bit of math, which I loathe, but it’s helpful to know what you are aiming at from the start.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers? Keep writing, writing is a skill you develop over time by writing and writing more, and never giving up. In the end your perseverance will pay off, if you stick with it. Keep growing and keep moving forward, one step at a time.

What is your preferred method of writing? (Computer, pen & paper, etc.) Both, I brainstorm on paper. But I write on my laptop and edit on my desktop. It works for me.

Here is where you can find Melony online:

Website | Facebook | BookBub | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon

Melony is giving away a ‘Be original” pin to a reader! See below how to enter to win:a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Interview with Angela Ruth Strong and a Giveaway!

Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance, and the authors visiting my blog answered them! This week, I’m thrilled to have Angela Ruth Strong. I regularly stalk Angela’s social media because she very openly took us on her breast cancer journey and I so much drew from her love for her husband and her faith in God. In turn, I prayed for her regularly. To have her as my guest is very humbling for me. And — she’s giving away a copy of her latest book! Read on to see how you can enter to win!

Tell us a little bit about yourself. I’m a remarried mother of three who is almost an empty nester here in Idaho. I just kicked breast cancer’s butt, and I’m currently trying to figure out if I’ve gotten lazy or I’m still recovering. When not lazy (or recovering), I paddle board, snowshoe, and ride behind my husband on our Harley. I also like to cook and eat really good food, so I follow Hallee’s dinner posts on Facebook.

Tell us about your current release. A Latte Difficulty is book #3 in my CafFUNated Mysteries. It follows a coffee lover and tea drinker who are as different as their favorite beverages but run a shop together where they sell caffeine and solve crimes. Each book is set during a holiday, so A Latte Difficulty involves an attempted murder during the Independence Day parade. All kinds of fireworks involved.

What do you think is lacking in Christian Fiction? I know of way too many circumstances where amazing books are rejected by Christian publishers because the ending isn’t “happy enough.” This is a trigger for me, and I ranted to my agent just last week. For example, while the movie I Can Only Imagine is one of my favorites, it’s also my husband’s story…but without the happy ending. When leaving the theater, he said, “Why didn’t I get that ending? Why did my dad have to die before repenting for his abuse and reconnecting with me? Did I do something wrong? Does God not love me as much as he loves Bart Millard?” And my heart breaks for readers of Christian fiction who need to know that when everything else goes wrong, as it often does, God is enough. The happy ending that matters most is in Heaven.

With all those characters in your head screaming to get out how do you write fast enough to get it all down? I don’t. It’s only the characters who scream the loudest and the longest who get their stories told. Many ideas will never see the light of day. But according to the former president of Disney, that’s okay. Michael Eisner said something like, “If you don’t rush, then time will separate the really good ideas from those that only seemed good in the moment.” As an Idahoan, I would compare this to the story of the potato farmer taking the bumpy road to market because it made the largest potatoes rise to the top. Sometimes I have to slow down in order to offer my best.

How do you push past the fear of your writing being average and be bold enough to sell it to a publisher (or agent or audience if you self-publish)? It’s okay if you don’t like one of my books because I’m always trying to write a better one.

Who was your first Screen/Musical Crush? I was probably in kindergarten when I realized Han Solo was also Indiana Jones, and I was done for.

What inspired you to start writing, or did you always want to write? My mom was a writer. I grew up reading her stories in Sunday school material and sometimes reading about myself in Women’s World. When I was a cheerleader in high school, I wrote about the time a basketball player dove out of bounds, knocking me into the bleachers and breaking four of my ribs. Mom helped me submit the story to American Cheerleader Magazine. After they paid me a hundred bucks and published it, I decided to pursue journalism in college. Selling a story has never been that easy since.

How did you make the initial step into writing your first novel. What were some of your major roadblocks and how did you overcome them? While I was writing my first novel in 2005, my first husband had an affair. I felt like God told me to stop writing for a year to really work on our marriage. I didn’t want to, but I wanted my husband to know he was my priority, so I did.

The following year, I finished writing the book with the help of Donald Maass’s workbook for Writing the Breakout Novel. It taught me how to write, and it’s what I always recommend to new writers.

I took that first novel to a writer’s conference where I met my critique partner, Christina Berry/Tarbochia. We bonded over shared stories of our husband’s infidelity. After that, our lives mirrored each other’s. We both finaled in writing contests, won scholarships, got agents, and sold our debut novels. Then her husband left her. I said to my husband, “I’m so glad I have you.” But a few months later he left me for another woman as well.

I was devastated but am very grateful that when he blamed my writing for our divorce, I could say, “I quit writing for a year to work on our relationship.”

But I still had to finish writing Love Finds You in Sun Valley as my own marriage fell apart. I didn’t believe in romance anymore, and I quit writing the genre after that.

Then I met Mr. Strong. He’s so amazing he makes the heroes in my novels look bad. His love changed my life. And now there’s nothing else I’d rather write about.

Though I was afraid to write again. I was afraid of making Jim feel like he wasn’t as important as my writing the way my first husband claimed. I cried in premarital counseling, and our marriage counselor said, “Angela, Jim is a different man, and it’s not going to be a problem in a marriage this time around.”

Jim has supported my writing journey over the last decade. That doesn’t mean I don’t have other roadblocks, but when you’re on a road trip with someone else, the miles don’t matter as much. I will be as content writing stories that never get published/produced as I will be in writing a NYT bestseller/Oscar winner. Either way, I have more to offer my audience because of what I’ve learned through my challenges, and I believe God will use my work if/when He wants to.

Where’s the strangest place you’ve ever had a great writing idea? I outlined The Princess and the P.I. on a napkin at Cheesecake Factory.

I assume when you start a book, you pretty much have the plot laid out. Do you ever change your mind later on in the book and go in a different direction? Yes. For Lighten Up, the first chapter I ever wrote was the last chapter. Then after writing the whole novel, the ending didn’t work anymore. I completely changed it, and I’ve probably gotten more reader letters about this book than any others. Author Jill Williamson even said, “I was reading the book and was like, ‘Angela can’t do that!’ So I skipped to the end, and after reading it I said, ‘Angela can’t do that either!’ But then I read the whole thing in order and it worked perfectly.’”

Lighten Up is about the daughter of a pastor who couldn’t forgive her dad for running off with the church secretary until she fell in love with her own pastor. I wrote it before my first husband left, and reading it afterwards actually helped me heal.

What is one thing that you “never saw yourself doing” and either do it now or have done? I usually rebel against writing exercises because I want to write my own thing, but my friend Hope Lyda put together the book My Unedited Writing Year, so I’m doing an exercise every day and sharing my favorite from the week in a YouTube video on Mondays. You’re invited to join me!!! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuraamNU_Ktic_gg6DGoFgg

Here is where you can find Angela online:

Angela is giving away a copy of her book to a reader! See below how you can enter to win:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Interview with Susan Miura and a Giveaway!

Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance, and the authors visiting my blog answered them! This week, I am so pleased to have young adult author Susan Miura as my guest. She is a fellow traveler and has the same passion for teaching writers that I have. I so much enjoyed her interview and hope that you do, too! Read on to see how you can enter to win TWO of her latest releases!

Tell us a little bit about yourself. I’ve been blessed or cursed (not sure which) with wanderlust, so travel is a passion that has opened my eyes to God’s amazing creation and the incredible sameness and fascinating differences of people worldwide. It has been a catalyst for unforgettable family vacations that inspire conversations that make us laugh, contemplate, and feel grateful. It has also provided some nice artwork for our walls, since photography is also a passion! Top spot on the travel bucket list is currently Fairbanks, Alaska, to see the northern lights.

A few basics about me: I work in public relations for a Chicago suburban library and began my career as a newspaper and television reporter in the Chicago area and Albuquerque, eventually making my way back to Illinois. To date I have three published young adult novels, with a fourth releasing this October and my first women’s fiction title coming in 2021. I also have a Christian children’s book, Pawprints in the Snow, that features my wildlife photos and animal poems.

I’m married to a retired police sergeant, who’s very helpful with my crime scenes, and have a grown son, daughter, stepdaughter, and Cleo cat. Love them all to pieces!

I’m a longtime member of Willow Creek Church, president of the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Chicago Chapter, and a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Tell us about your current release. Beautiful Sicily is the setting for the first half of Shards of Light, the sequel to Healer. It is told from the perspectives of two main characters, Shilo Giannelli and her best friend, Melody O’Hara, who was adopted as a newborn and is striving toward a career as a professional ballerina. The story begins in a centuries-old convent on a secluded Sicily mountaintop, where Shilo is spending the summer with her great-grandmother; the only one who can answer questions about the power to heal – a God-given gift Shilo received just before her 17th birthday. While in Sicily, Shilo will discover the horrors of human trafficking and fight to shield the rescued girls living on the convent’s grounds. She will also learn the mysteries of her gift and encounter a force of evil that will take her to the brink of death. An ocean away, Melody will suffer a catastrophic injury that will lead her into darkness as she unveils an unimaginable truth about her Nigerian heritage. Though both girls’ stories involve some heavy issues, there are also touches of humor and romance throughout the book.

If you knew ahead of time your book would benefit only one person on their spiritual journey, would you still write it? Absolutely! That’s an easy one! If I could look back on my life and know one person accepted Jesus or even took one step forward on their spiritual journey because of something I wrote, that would be huge. That would be worth all the time and effort, for sure.

Do you feel pressured to compromise your standards in order to reach a larger audience or be more successful? Yes, and in a way, I did. Not because of my publisher, though. It was my idea, because the Christian fiction market for teens is pretty small, and I wanted to reach more young adults with stories that tackled tough issues without graphic sex, violence, or swearing. So my upcoming release, Signs in the Dark, is more of a secular book, but still clean and containing Christian values. It’s about a deaf girl who gets kidnapped.

How do you push past the fear of your writing being average and be bold enough to sell it to a publisher(or agent or audience if you self publish)? I work hard to push past average with some hard-hitting (and sometimes dark) issues combined with enough action to keep readers turning pages. Shards of Light, for example, tackles human trafficking, adoption, depression, and a really evil guy. But there’s also a cool dog, a couple of very hot guys, and some feisty nuns to lighten the drama now and then. I actually enjoy talking to editors and make sure my pitches include all of the above, which usually results in a proposal request.

What is your personal, most effective way to get past writerís block? Take a walk. It has worked for me nearly every time. My house is on a small lake, which is really a blessing because I have such a beautiful place to walk, think, and pray. Plus, my office window looks out on the lake. It clears my head and soon the block just melts away and I can come back in and start writing.

What inspired you to start writing, or did you always want to write? I was the nerdy kid in school who loved English class and got excited about writing assignments. I won first prize in my grade school’s Arbor Day poetry contest and it was like a gateway drug! (But, you know, not as bad.) After that I was constantly writing poems and stories, then became a reporter for my high school and college newspapers. In my early 30s, I started getting the bug to write fiction. It took 20 years from the initial thought to getting a publishing contract.

How did you make the initial step into writing your first novel? What were some of your major roadblocks and how did you overcome them? I wrote a paragraph. Seriously, I didn’t even know if I’d get beyond that because I had a full-time job and two young children. It was an absolutely insane time to start a novel, but it was there in my head, day after day, and I thought writing the initial scene would clear it out. So, I wrote that paragraph and soon I was writing (in notebooks and on scraps of paper) during lunch hours at work, in my car during soccer practices, on the gym floor during basketball practices – wherever and whenever I could squeeze it in. That book became Healer…and took 10 years of revisions and polishing before a publisher said “yes!” Joining the American Christian Fiction Writers during that time was a real blessing. I learned so much from the workshops and discussions with fellow authors.

What is one thing that you never saw yourself doing and either do it now or have done? If I can change the question slightly…

When I attended my first writer’s conference and sat in my first writing workshop, I watched the presenter and absolutely knew I wanted to do that. I imagined myself up there, providing insight, helpful knowledge, and encouragement to other writers. At that point, I wasn’t even close to getting published and had so much to learn. But…I got there! Now I teach writing workshops and am excited to be one of the workshop leaders for the next Write to Publish Conference. It was supposed to happen last June, but a little pandemic got in the way.

Here is where you can find Susan online:

twitter.com/miura100/

https://www.facebook.com/susan.miura.1/

http://susanmiura.com/

www.instagram.com/susanmiura1/

Susan is giving away a boxed ebook set of Shards of Light and Healer to a reader AND a paper back of Healer to another reader! See below how you can enter to win:a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Interview with Becky Van Vleet and a Giveaway!

Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance, and the authors visiting my blog answered them! This week, I am so happy to have Becky Van Vleet as my guest. Her award-winning children’s book sounds like such an adventure and how fun that they are all inspired by family stories! Read on to see how you can win a copy!

Tell us a little bit about yourself. I have been married to my college sweetheart for 45 years. I live in Colorado Springs and I’m enjoying retirement from my teacher/principal positions. After raising four daughters (yes, my husband survived hormone hill), we are now enjoying life as empty nesters.  And certainly, the scampering around of eight grandchildren are an added blessing.  When I’m not busy with the Grands, I enjoy writing, gardening, oil painting, and hiking and biking around in God’s great playground He designed in Colorado.

Tell us about your current release. Talitha, the Traveling Skirt was published in August 2019 by Elk Lake Publishing Inc. Geared for ages three to eight, this fun tale takes young readers through three generations of little girls who wear a plaid skirt and get their pictures taken on their second birthdays. But Talitha encounters problems when she least expects them. And Tippy, the dog, even creates some of the problems. Filled with colorful and detailed illustrations, I believe young children will delight in this heartwarming story about a little skirt’s adventures. This children’s book has won two awards: The Purple Dragonfly Award, 2nd place, and EIE Award, 1st place. And I’m excited that Harvey, the Traveling Harmonica will be coming out soon as a companion book. I have plans to write two more “traveling” books, all inspired by true family stories, ultimately making these books a series.

How do you push past the fear of your writing being average and be bold enough to sell it to a publisher (or agent or audience if you self- publish)?  Admittedly, I struggle with this from time to time, so I have to work at pushing back the fear. When I write, I try to shoo peer pressure out the door. I read spectacular blogs and riveting books galore, but I won’t compare myself to other fabulous writers who have numerous published works. Un-huh, won’t go there!

What’s the first major news headline that you can remember and what do you remember?  I will never forget the headline of President John F Kennedy’s assassination. I was in the fourth grade in 1963, so I never would have thought to have saved the paper. But I sure wish I had a copy today. I remember feeling that our world was so horribly shaken as I heard my parents talk about this and our small black and white television was filled with this shocking news.

How did you determine whether to self-publish or seek a traditional publisher?  I would have to say for me, it was the luck of the draw. I really did not know anything about the self-publishing and traditional paths and the differences. So, as I set out to publish my first children’s book, I got in touch with a free-lance editor for help. When all was said and done with editing and the proposal, she recommended Elk Lake Publishing, a small Christian press, to me. And it’s history from there. They are publishing my second book coming out soon.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?  I believe the most important advice I can offer, whether you are a teen or a retired senior, is to just start writing! I know this sounds like an overused cliché, but it’s so important. Write down your thoughts and ideas, start some files, take note of events in your life, and just write. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish. Don’t focus on publication—that can come later.

Who were some of your favorite authors as a child? (Book series, maybe?)  My two favorite authors as a young child were Beverly Cleary and Carolyn Haywood. Cleary wrote the Henry Huggins and Ramon Quimby series and Haywood wrote the Betsy and Eddie books. I loved my third-grade teacher when she read these books aloud for our class every day after lunch! These series are classics now.

What is one thing that you “never saw yourself doing” and either do it now or have done?  That’s an easy one. I thought I would never write a children’s book and have it published! But now my second one will be released soon and I’ve started my third. I’m also currently working on a YA book about my father’s service and adventures aboard the USS Denver in WW2. I’m enjoying this new path of writing immensely in my sixties!

Here is where you can find Becky online:

https://www.beckyvanvleet.com

https://www.instagram.com/becky_van_vleet/

https://www.facebook.com/authorbeckyvanvleet

https://www.pinterest.com/beckyvanvleet/boards/

http://www.beckyvanvleet.com/blogs/

Becky is giving away one signed copy of children’s picture book, Talitha, the Traveling Skirt, along with coloring pictures, geared for ages 3-8 to a reader! See below how to enter to win:a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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