Today, I get to introduce you to Marysol Ramos Moreira, the author of The Open Letter! Read on to learn more about her writing journey, upcoming projects, and what inspired her to write such a unique story.
Every writer’s story is different. Tell us a little bit about your writing journey and how you got started!
When I was around 13 years old, I had a desire to write this story. I grew up with a weak mentality and pushed the dream away as I believed I was not smart or creative enough to write a book. When I was 27 years old, I began a journey to start believing in myself and revisited my dream of becoming an Author for this specific fiction story. As a single mother, I worked full time during the day and stayed up till past midnight working on the story at least 3 nights out of the week. 4 years later and here I am enjoying this interview for The Open Letter.
What inspired the really unique premise of The Open Letter?
Ever since I was in my early teens, I observed people and question why they were the way they were. I noticed that each of us live in our own little worlds based off different parenting styles, siblings, cultures, heritage, and so forth; yet we judge each other based off the same standards as our owns. Such as, “we both” had the opportunity to go to high school, but only one of us got to go home to loving parents who were not verbally abusive. Yet teachers expected the same energy, mindset, and effort from both students. (This just being an example.) Explaining this to others was usually like talking to a wall. So, this fiction story, The Open Letter, was actually written in hopes of people reading it and receiving a clear definition as to why we should simply love others without giving ourselves reason as to why they don’t deserve our love and kindness.
I love the way you included the characters’ prayers into the story. Why do you think it was so important to share those moments between them and God?
Beautiful question! I think it was especially important to share the prayers and what I strongly believe would have been God’s response because it shows how much in-common we all actually have. Many people have responded saying they relate to a prayer or 2 out of the story though the circumstances turned out to be different. It’s also difficult to hear God responding back in the mist of darkness and therefore I tried to highlight the importance and difference of taking the time to breathe and hear God in return.
What are some of the stories (or authors) that have inspired you?
I have one specific book by William P. Young titled The Shack – that inspired me from my teens till this very day. It’s a beautiful story clearly written to help others understand forgiveness and God’s love. I highly suggest reading the book and then watching the movie. It’s actually a book and a movie that compliment each other.
What are you currently working on? Can readers expect a sequel to The Open Letter?
As of right now, I am not working on a sequel. I am still a full-time working single mother and have jumped from project to project. I am working on children’s books (as I work as a therapist for kids with autism) to help understand anxiety and other mental disabilities. I do have hopes of working on other fiction stories for adults that relate to The Open Letter. All in due time. I’m definitely looking forward to continuing my life as a writer.
Thank you so much, Marysol, for joining me on the blog this week! It was a joy to learn more about your writing journey and your heart for seeing others through God’s eyes.
You can connect with Marysol on Instagram and buy The Open Letter on Amazon! Be sure to share your review once you’ve read it! It’s the best way to support indie authors 🙂
Tomorrow, it’s time for the cover reveal of Effie Joe Stock’s debut novel, Child of the Dragon Prophecy, and I’ll be sharing my review of the novel!
What have you been reading lately? I’d love to know your recommendations!
I’m so excited to share my interview with Erica Richardson, author of Luna’s Rescue! She offers insights into finding a balance between writing and parenting, what inspired her to write middle-grade books, and what readers have to look forward to as The Cottonwood Chronicles continue!
Have you entered the giveaway for a print copy of Luna’s Rescue?! There’s still time left! Head to my Instagram to enter, and I’ll announce the winner on Friday. This is an adventure you won’t want to miss out on 🙂
Share with us a little bit about Luna’s Rescue and what inspired you to write it!
The transition to parenthood was a lot harder for me than I had expected (especially being a stay-home mom). Being a mother to my kids has been very natural in so many ways, but “staying home” has been a lot less natural! It’s a tricky balance because staying home with my kids is important to me and I really love being their primary care giver. I spent the first several years of motherhood searching for an outlet that would help me recharge, grow intellectually, and connect with other people. I did a lot of praying and searching to find something that would be a good fit for our family. One of the things I eventually tried was getting a pet! I have adored animals for as far back as I can remember. Long story short, we ended up getting a crested gecko, which I named Luna. Through some miraculous combination of having Luna in our home and reading some middle-grade books I’d gotten ahold of, I felt inspired that I could write a book. I had tried to write books when I was a teenager (Lord-of-the-Rings-never-ending-journey types of books), but I had never considered writing a book as an adult.
The One and Only Ivan really inspired me because it was a beautiful story with a simple plot and loveable animal characters. There is something so pure about animals. Animals and children have that in common. I started getting ideas about the things Luna would do if she were to go on an adventure. From The One and Only Ivan and Hello, Universe, I learned that a storyline doesn’t have to be complicated to be beautiful and worth reading. That encouraged me.
I’m a writer—a long winded one—so I apologize for the long answer! But one more thing that might be useful to someone… I’ve dealt with some mental health issues throughout my life but couldn’t quite put my finger on what they were until several years into motherhood. I learned that I have OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Before learning about my own diagnosis, I had never met or talked to anyone with OCD. I just thought of it as an adjective that people use when they describe themselves as very organized (which I now understand is a disservice to those who actually have the disorder). I now understand that OCD made college very challenging for me. I got great grades and excelled in my classes, but I would go through phases of intense anxiety where I would change my major again and again and again! It was very stressful. I have changed my major 7 or 8 times in school (probably more), which has made it very hard to finish! After leaving school to be home with kids, then going back to school, then having to stop due to health problems, my self-confidence took a pretty big blow. I started to feel like I couldn’t finish anything! I wanted to finish something or accomplish some kind of goal so badly!
Writing children’s books has brought me so much peace in that sense because it is something that I can finish! Finishing my first book, Luna’s Rescue, left me in a bit of a shock. I kept thinking to myself, Did I REALLY finish? Is it done? Did I actually do it? I actually got really stressed out after publishing my book because I was convinced that I hadn’t really finished! I still haven’t fully processed the fact that I’ve finished and published books!
Anyways, it was such an answer to prayers to be led to writing—an outlet that I could focus on to channel my mind in a productive way, rather than letting my mind obsess over stressful, unproductive things. Writing has been a great blessing to me and definitely an answer to prayer.
What do you love most about writing for middle grade readers? What do you think makes middle-grade fantasy an important genre?
I’m 28 years old on the outside and 10 years old on the inside. Writing for young kids feels natural to me because I share the same interests and sense of humor as many of them. I’ve loved writing for a long time, but it has been so thrilling to finally have found a niche that really fits me.
I love that kids are honest. When I give my manuscript to my test readers, I know that the feedback they give will be honest. And when they say, “I loved it” or “I couldn’t put it down!” I know they are being genuine and not just being polite. It’s really rewarding.
I think that writing fantasy for middle-grade readers is important because these kids are in a very formative time of life. Whether or not they have access to books (and whether or not they enjoy those books) can have a big impact on their educations and reading throughout the rest of their lives. I also feel it’s important to teach good values and lessons in middle-grade literature. I want my readers to finish my books feeling entertained, but even more importantly, inspired. There are so many different messages being thrust at young people in today’s world. I feel honored to have the chance to share messages with young people through my books, and I take the responsibility of providing clean content with good moral lessons very seriously.
Do you have any advice for fellow writers who are balancing a writing career and parenthood? How have you seen motherhood and writing influence each other?
Firstly, my kids inspire me! They are full of creativity, light, and—putting a shameless plug in for Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel here—wonder! My kids are examples to me every day of seeing the wonder and beauty in the world. They see it in everything—bubbles, macaroni and cheese, playing in the grass, etc!
As far as advice… If any of you figure out how to balance a writing career and parenting, please contact me and tell me your secret! Honestly, trying to find a balance is one of the constant challenges of mortal life, in my opinion.
A few thoughts are:
1.) Let your kids be involved (to an extent!) with your writing process. My kids respond better to me being on my computer when I explain to them what I’m doing. I’ll tell them what book I’m working on, what the storyline is, and about the characters. I’ll talk through what I’m doing as I design covers. They especially like seeing the covers being made. As far as the actual writing, they lose interest pretty quickly, but they are more likely to be satisfied with giving me time and space if I give them a chance to hear about what I’m doing than if they just see me on the computer and have no idea what I’m doing on it. (My kids are all too young to be able to read, by the way.)
2.) For me, as a stay-home mom, it can be so ridiculously hard to respect myself, my time, and my space. I’ll fight down a dragon if it calls my kid a rude name, but if my kid disrespects me, it can be easy to just take it and shrug it off. I’ve learned that for my well-being, and the well-being of my whole family, I need to take care of myself. I have to set healthy boundaries and teach my kids to respect me. So, on that note, it’s so important that as parents who are also writers, we are able to teach our children healthy boundaries. Setting boundaries makes life so much better. My kids need to know that there is time for me to be totally present with them, and that there is time for me to be able to work on my writing. Before learning that, I often felt that my kids had to have my undivided attention ALL. THE. TIME. …That left me feeling like an oatmeal-brained zombie who then felt excessive amounts of guilt for not being a great mom (because I HAD NO ENERGY OR SPARK!) It’s so important that parents, especially stay-home moms, recognize that their personal pursuits are of value. Being a writer has made me a better mom. And my kids need that healthy, happy mom! So, I need to keep up my writing, which will in turn keep me feeling healthier and more balanced, which will enable me to be a great mom.
What are you reading right now?
Right now, I am reading The Last Rabbit by Shelley Moore Thomas. The Trebors by Caroline C. Barney is on top of my current reads pile. And Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel will be leaping straight to the top of my reading pile once I receive my copy! Looking forward to it! (The word “carousel” is surprisingly hard to spell!)
You’re currently working on your next book! What do readers have to look forward to as The Cottonwood Chronicles continue?
This is really exciting, but I actually just recently finished Hoover’s Horn, which is the second book in The Cottonwood Chronicles (Luna’s Rescue being the first). I’m in the very final stages of having this book ready for publication. The readers of The Cottonwood Chronicles have a wild ride ahead of them. They can definitely look forward to going on some unexpected adventures and meeting some very unique, lovable characters, including a garden gnome named Terracotta Glaze who is a very restless spirit.
Want to follow along on all of Erica’s writing adventures? 🙂 Head to her Instagram so you won’t miss out on any exciting updates!
Thank you again to all of the wonderful authors who have joined me for excerpts, interviews, and giveaways (Oh my!) over the last few weeks! It has been such a delight to get to know all of you and share your stories with readers! I can’t wait to see all the wonders God does through the words you write over the years to come 🙂
Do you have a favorite author you’d like to see featured on the blog? Please let me know! I’m always looking for recommendations!
This week, I have the pleasure of featuring YA historical fiction author Stephanie Daniels! She shares more about her current work-in-progress, The Uncertainty of Fire (excerpt coming this Thursday!), her passion for the historical, and advice for aspiring authors!
Read on and follow along on Stephanie’s writing journey below!
Tell us about your current work in progress!
First of all, thank you so much for inviting me to your blog. I’m so happy we’ve been able to connect over on Instagram and I’m really looking forward to reading your work. My current finished manuscript is entitled The Uncertainty of Fire. It is the first book in my planned trilogy called The Uncertain Riches series. It’s a Christian YA historical (with romance) that takes place during the Great Chicago Fire. My main character, Whimsy Greathart, has lived a privileged life. But her heart is tender toward those who have not had her advantages. Throughout the book she learns to deal with the choices she makes. Sometimes those choices are in good faith, even with good will, but because she makes them in her own strength and her own wisdom, God teaches her some things. And sometimes those lessons stem from heartbreaking circumstances.
What do you think makes YA fiction such an important and necessary genre?
Young people are bombarded with far more challenges than I ever had as a teen and college-aged adult. And I feel like I saw and dealt with a lot. But in all areas of the arts, it is becoming more difficult for young people to find characters that believe as they do. And that can be a lonely place. I think the popularity and rise of faith-based films and television programs is evidence that young people want those mirrors–characters who face the same decisions and trials they do. But I think we may be failing them in our books. Parents and young people are reaching back to the classics because of the faith and morals those books embodied. Those same things are lacking in today’s books. We have plenty of faith-based books that are clean and may have some element of faith. But I’d like to see more. More characters committed to their faith. I believe readers want to reach forward and find those faith and moral elements in today’s books. Even though my story takes place in a historical setting, the themes of forgiveness, not trusting our own heart, trying to understand God’s plan, are still timeless themes.
You’ve spoken on social media about your love for the antique and the historic. What sparked your interest and how did both become part of your writing?
I’m not sure when my love for history and antiques really began. I didn’t even like history much in school–until I went to college and had some professors who made Bible history come alive for me. I was fortunate to live in places where history was all around me. Washington D.C., Italy, Hawaii (not far from Pearl Harbor), Fairfax County, Virginia. I remember as a child exploring the replica ships at Fort McHenry, visiting Pompeii and Rome, and touring Mount Vernon so many times I could probably have been a guide. My parents thought it was important for us to see these places even though most of the time I never made the historical connection of what occurred in those places. And then I loved books. Since we moved around a lot, I think my fictional friends sometimes became a comfort to me. I’m not complaining about the fact that I was able to live in so many amazing places, but I was shy, and making friends every time we moved could be a challenge. Maybe I began to like old things because of the roots they represented. My roots have always been family-based, not place-based. Even now, when people ask me where I’m from, I always struggle to form an answer. I’m from a lot of places. And they’ve all made me who I am.
Do you have any advice and/or encouragement for aspiring authors who are daunted by the publishing process, whether they go traditional or indie? What keeps you going when faced with discouragement?
As someone who is still deciding between the two, make sure you pray a lot. And surround yourself with writing friends at all stages of the journey. You need your unpublished friends who understand where you are because they are going through it too. If you have the chance to find a mentor, someone who has published and can weigh in on the wisdom they’ve gained, take advantage of that. I feel like I really started viewing myself as a writer when I joined the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). If there is a professional local group you can join (Word Weavers is another good organization), do it as soon as you can. Veteran writers have a lot to offer. And if you’re willing to learn from them, it will help grow your craft exponentially. But always remember that this gift God has given is uniquely yours. Don’t fret about an idea that’s already been done. Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes that there is nothing new under the sun. So that brilliant idea you came up with has been done before. But it has not been said the way you can uniquely say it. Because there is only one person in this whole world that has your exact unique viewpoint. Discouragement and feeling like giving up, bad reviews, unfavorable feedback are all the hard parts of this journey. But if you can remember why you felt God led you to your story, it can help buoy you through those disappointments and keep you committed to the task He has set before you.
Do you have any books by indie authors that you’d love to recommend?
I wish I could say I had a long list, but because I’d always planned to traditionally publish, I have usually read traditionally published books. But I have been reading more indie authors lately and have made some wonderful friends in the indie author community. I’ll concentrate on YA authors in the Christian market, since that’s the genre I write. Amanda Tero is an indie author who has written in many genres but concentrates on Christian historicals for YA. If you would enjoy fairy-tale retellings without romance, you will want to check out her Tales of Faith series. And her latest novella, A Strand of Hope, a Depression-era historical, released last summer. I’m privileged to be on two launch teams for two indie YA authors. Careena Campbell has just written a 17th century Christian YA historical entitled Free. I’ll be reading it in the coming week. Another author I’ve come to know is H.A. Pruitt who has written a Christian YA fantasy entitled Anathalien. Her sequel to the series is called Earth Quaking and will be coming out in the next few months. I’m looking forward to forming friendships with more indie authors and reading their books. And it may just be that God is leading me to publish indie too. We shall see.
Thank you so much, Stephanie, for doing this interview!
Welcome to my next author interview with Jessica Smith! It has been such a joy to get to know her and learn more about her upcoming novel, Evergreen and the Silver Tree!
Below, Jessica shares about the books that ignited her love of reading, what writing teaches her about God’s character, and lots more!
Most writers start out as avid readers. Which books ignited your love of reading and your desire to create worlds of your own?
I used to loathe being forced to read in grade school, until I picked up The Secret of the Old Clock, one of many in the Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene. Suddenly, books weren’t just for school but for transporting myself to other places and times. I also loved C.S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew and, of course, his beloved The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. As a child, I would often pretend I was Lucy finding the entrance to Narnia or the White Witch creating Turkish delight. Playing pretend was essential to me as a child but is also just as essential today, and I’m thankful I can use drama and writing to keep childhood alive.
Tell us a little bit about your book, Evergreen and the Silver Tree! What inspired this story?
Writing has always been a solace for me, but I had never considered writing a full novel until after graduating from college, during a transition period in my life that was both scary and lonely. Spiritually, I was in a desert land, and the Lord provided me with a stream in the desert: An idea for a story. The idea started out as a picture of a giant evergreen tree with a prophecy engraved upon its trunk. It didn’t matter how small and unformed this idea was at the time, it ignited such a joy within me, that I knew I had to brainstorm, plan, and finally, write.
In a nutshell, Evergreen and the Silver Tree points to Hope for the hopeless, Truth in a world of deception, and Light that darkness will never overcome. Ten years after Evergreen’s first-grade classmates disappear from Purple Fire Cavern, Evergreen is called into Ezra City to find her classmates, to break deception’s spell by restoring truth, and to battle a dragon king in a war for freedom. In meeting Silverman, the dragon king’s faithful servant, Evergreen finds his bitterness and his cold silver hands are uninviting, but she learns he might be the key to unravel the lies coiled around this enchanted realm.
What’s your favorite thing about writing in the fantasy genre?
The FREEDOM and the JOY! I will never tire of exploring different worlds, different kinds of magic and creatures. In another world, I can defy gravity or create birds that glow or a tree that turns silver in the sunlight. Writing fantasy is just as Willy Wonka puts it: “A world of pure imagination.”
Writing stories is such a beautiful way of drawing closer to God. What is the most meaningful thing you’ve learned about His character through the writing process?
Through writing, I have learned and experienced so much of His mercy! He is the Creator, but the fact He would allow me or any of us to have even the smallest taste of creating art, whether it be through writing or drawing or inventing, is just…mercy. Art is a joy, a breath of fresh air, a stream in the desert lands of life, and the Lord is so kind to not only allow us, but to desire us, to be “miniature” creators.
Will readers get to explore Evergreen’s world soon? I know I absolutely can’t wait!
I hope so! I am currently working on finishing a book proposal and also querying literary agents in order to traditionally publish. I’m thankful for you, Alexandria, and our friendship. I really had no idea Instagram was such a wonderful place for writers to form friendships and encourage one another until recently. Thank you for interviewing me, and I look forward to reading Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel!
Thank you so much, Jessica, for sharing such thoughtful answers! Having your friendship and encouragement has been such a blessing the last couple of months, and I’m also so grateful for the writing community on Instagram!
If you’d like to follow along on Jessica’s writing journey and hear all the latest news on Evergreen and the Silver Tree, follow Jessica on Instagram or on her blog, Christine’s Smithereens.
This Thursday, be on the lookout for an intriguing excerpt from Evergreen and the Silver Tree!
Happy release day to Free, a YA Christian historical fiction novel by Careena Campbell!
To celebrate, I have the pleasure of sharing my interview with Careena, where she shares what led her to write YA historical fiction, tips for authors curious about cover design, and what she hopes readers will get out of reading her debut novel!
Tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming a writer and published author! What first inspired you to pick up the pen?
As a little girl, a pen was just another outlet for my ever-active imagination. As I got older, I wanted to write so I could create the kinds of books I had always wanted to read–books full of adventure that featured main characters that would set a good example of character to me. I wanted young people like me to go on wild adventures that inspired them to live closer to Jesus.
Of all the genres you could write in, what drew you to YA historical fiction?
I have always been fascinated by the past. The way people lived, how they thought, and how it was similar or different to me always filled me with wonder and curiosity. I chose YA because I was the same age as YA protagonists. I will soon be beyond the YA age myself, but I still have a special place in my heart for teen readers. Adolescence is such a moldable time, and teen minds are like a sponge. I want to give them good, wholesome stories that they can “soak up” with excitement, that also help build their character into that of strong adults.
Top three tips to help cure writer’s block! Go! 🙂
I feel like this is cheating because I actually did a YouTube video on this topic a while back. I’ll try not to quote it though! My best two tips are taking a break or reevaluating your outline. If you feel void of any inspiration on what to do next, a short break can help. If that doesn’t work, there may be a piece of the story missing from your outline. Of course, not everyone uses an outline to plan their story, but I personally find it a great way to avoid getting “stuck”!
You designed your own cover for Free. Do you have any advice for other independent writers who are looking to venture into the world of cover design?
Look at lots of different book covers. While it’s good to pay special attention to those of a similar genre to your own, look at other genres too. You might see a useful design element that was less common in the genre you had previously been looking at. Also, don’t be afraid of creating “mock-up” book covers by collaging a bunch of pictures together. I’ve lost count of the exact number, but I created at least five different versions of the book cover for Free. While you don’t want to use Pinterest and similar sites for your final cover, they can be very useful for finding images to practice with. I searched for and downloaded ocean and person pictures so I could practice getting the right layout.
Today is release day for Free! Congratulations! What do you most hope readers get out of reading this story?
I want to remind readers of their identity in Christ–that, no matter the circumstances, if we remember Whose we are, there is an unlimited spring of hope and courage available to us. We are free to shine for the Lord, no matter what may happen, and free to celebrate our identity in Him.
What are some of the books you’ve recently read and enjoyed?
I know I’m behind on the classics, but in January I finished Pride and Prejudice! I thoroughly enjoyed the worlds Austen created and can’t wait to explore more of them. Her characters were so funny, lovable, and–at times–embarrassing, they felt like they might really be your neighbors in the next manor over. I also recently enjoyed the Tales of Faith series by Amanda Tero. It consisted of three novelettes, each a Christian retelling of a different fairy tale. They were so clean and uplifting, and yet at the same time riveting and full of adventure. I will certainly be reading more of her books in the future!
Next week, an adventure begins. Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves publishes this spring, and the Kickstarter officially opens next week! My heart is overflowing with expectation for how God is going to restore our reassurance in His heart and His intent, listening ear for our prayers.
I hope you’ll join me in the next chapter of 21:25 Books’ story. It’s my greatest desire to fill the world with books about Him and the good things He does, and I hope I get to continue doing just that all of my days.
Welcome to the final week of Author Spotlight Month!
I had the privilege of interviewing Niki Florica! She has some great insight to share about balancing a passion for writing with a day job, what inspires her to pen the stories she does, plus a special shout-out to H.A. Pruitt!
Niki Florica is a passionate writer, blogger, and daydreamer who finds joy in Jesus, her Underwood typewriter, and in her daydreams-turned-stories. Driven to inspire her fellow young adult readers with plots that enchant, convict, and shine with Truth, Niki is dedicated to capturing that Truth in the fantastical. She plans to dive deeper into creative writing and literature in her university studies . . . unless, of course, she finds Narnia first.
There are so many genres to write in. What made you choose Christian fantasy? What do you think makes this genre unique/important?
I don’t think of myself as a writer of Christian fantasy as much as a Christian writer of fantasy . . . in other words, I dream of shining Truth to those who don’t already have it, in places they don’t expect to find it.
I’ve had a heart for the fantastical since before I was old enough to recognize it, dreaming of Peter Pan and Narnia, getting lost in my own imagination, finding God in faraway places. I think we all want to be transported beyond the ordinary, but what’s amazing is that Truth can be brought to life in those far-off worlds in dazzling ways. God isn’t limited by physical reality—He can meet us in our imaginations just as easily. When fantasy meets Truth, it brings us closer to the wonder and creativity and greatness that is God . . . and by knowing Him there for a little, we can know Him better here . . . to paraphrase good ol’ C.S. Lewis.
Do you have any advice for writers who are trying to balance their dream of writing with a day job?
It’s so different for everyone, but I’d say: find a time that works for you, offer it to God, and don’t panic when things come up that take temporary priority. God knows our dreams, and He’ll bring them to fruition in His time if that’s part of His plan, so relax, focus on living for Him first and foremost, and find a system that allows you to enjoy writing, not to see it as an extra heap of stress. I often use writing to take “breaks” from work throughout the day, so I have a reason to make time for it—for my own sanity! Whether your sweet-time is late nights, early mornings, or lunch breaks, there’s no perfect formula. Just write when you can, and entrust it (and your dream) to God!
Supporting indie authors is so important. What are some ways that readers can do that?
Anything you can do to give an indie author extra exposure is a huge support! Bookstagram is a great way to do that—if readers are like me, they fall in love with book covers before they even meet the stories—but book reviews, social media shout-outs, and good old-fashioned word-of-mouth are all great ways to support.
If you want to go the extra mile, I strongly believe in personal connection. Authors don’t just need support for their books, they need support as people. If you loved their book, find a way to reach out and tell them. Engage meaningfully with their social media posts if you can. Be the person who lets them know—sometimes on days that they may really, really need it—that what they’re doing is worthwhile.
Are there any indie authors whose books you would recommend readers check out?
I know she’s already been featured this month, but I am just so inspired by H.A. Pruitt and her novel, Anelthalien. Seeing the passion she pours into her story and how God is using her gifts to glorify His name is just incredible. She inspires me as a person and as an aspiring author, and a project filled with that much Godly love is bound to be truly powerful!
What are you currently reading?
I’m waiting for Brandon Sanderson’s new Stormlight Archive novel, but I may wait until the end of the semester to dive into that adventure—or risk binge-reading right through exams.
Are there any current projects that you can share with us?
Yes! Thanks to NaNoWriMo 2020, I’m currently knee-deep in a contemporary YA standalone novel—a complete departure from anything I’ve tackled so far. It was partially inspired by the newest Little Women film (I still haven’t gotten around to finishing the book—I know, I know!) and it’s inspiring me to take a break from fantastical creatures to tap into something simple and intimate. The story follows a cluster of small-town, slightly-Irish teens—a girl, her two brothers, and the almost-brother-but-maybe-something-else neighbour boy—and how their love for each other is threatened by the space creeping in between them. Each character expresses themselves differently (which is fun for me) and they all struggle with something unique that they feel the need to bury, hide, or fight on their own. I’m already so in love with this little gang and so invested in their healing. Even people who love each other deeply can exist lightyears apart, but God can make a family out of strangers and constellations out of stars, and I can’t wait to see Him breathe His healing power into this story.
That’s all for Author Spotlight Month! A huge thank you to all the authors who were kind enough to participate: H.A. Pruitt, Richard Spillman, Lisa Howeler, and Niki Florica! Go read all their wonderful stories 🙂
Next week, we’ll be going somewhere new, to a home nestled on a quiet, cobblestone street, where a young girl is holding tightly to wonder…
Welcome to the third week of Author Spotlight Month!
It was such a joy to interview Lisa! Below, she shares more about what inspired her story, A New Beginning, what resting in the Father’s love looks like for her, and what to do when you’re caught in a creative slump.
Lisa Robinson-Howeler is a writer and photographer from Northeastern Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband and two children. She is a former small-town newspaper reporter who decided to write her first novel in 2019. Her fiction focuses on issues of personal failings and triumphs, romance, and personal growth through faith and life lessons. Lisa has had her writing and photography featured in newspapers, magazines, and online nationally and internationally. In addition to being a new novelist, she is a blogger and a homeschooling mother.
What inspired you to write a story that deals with forgiving yourself and finding freedom from your past?
The inspiration for A Story to Tell, the first book I wrote, was my great-grandmother and great-grandfather’s story. A New Beginning is a sequel to A Story to Tell. In other words, A New Beginning was still inspired by my great- grandmother and great-grandfather’s story.
My great-grandmother sort of “ran off” with my great-grandfather around 1910 and got married, but I didn’t really want to write a book based in the early 1900s so I moved the story up to the 1950s and, of course, changed the story slightly. I kept the names of my great-grandparents in a way. Blanche was my great-grandmother’s name, but my great-grandfather was Howard. In the book, the characters are Blanche and Hank.
In real life, Blanche moved away from her hometown to live with Howard about an hour away. They were only married a couple of months when Blanche became pregnant. She returned to her family when my grandfather was about a year old and not long after she divorced my great-grandfather and my grandfather was given my great-grandmother’s maiden name. No one in the family was allowed to talk about my great-grandfather Howard and for much of my life that was still the way it was, even though Howard did make contact with my grandfather to try to make some sort of amends after my great-grandmother passed away.
As I got older, and after hearing this story a few times, I started to wonder what Howard had done that made Blanche leave him and eventually divorce him. I also started to wonder what it had been like for Blanche in the aftermath of it all – if she was able to forgive herself for running away with Howard, for trusting someone that family lore says wasn’t very nice or trustworthy, and then having a child with him. Or was it more of a struggle for her to forgive Howard for whatever he had done? And as she worked through those struggles, did she also wonder if she would ever find happiness, or love, again?
In my books, Howard’s character, Hank, is abusive and an adulterer. In real life, I don’t know that Howard was abusive, but family legend says he was an alcoholic and a womanizer and most likely an adulterer. So, while I pondered Blanche’s life and the role of forgiveness for her, I also began to ponder the fact that my grandfather was eventually able to forgive his father, in a way, by at least talking to him before he died. There were redemption and forgiveness all over the story of my great-grandparents, mixed in with what had to have been a lot of bitterness for betrayal, broken hearts, and rejection.
That same redemption and forgiveness have been peppered throughout my own life as well. These are subjects that have been conquered for me in some ways and are a work in progress in others.
(An aside: While researching for the first book, I also learned that my great-grandfather ran away with his nephew’s wife shortly after divorcing my great-grandmother and that woman abandoned her husband and daughter to be with him. Even more betrayal, yes, but even more opportunity for redemption and forgiveness I hope came for them all before they passed away.)
Shame and regret are weapons that the enemy so often uses against us. What helps you rest in God’s love and forgiveness?
This is a hard one for me in some ways because I don’t always trust in God’s love and forgiveness. Isn’t that awful? I know that I have been taught he forgives us and sees us as his child, no matter what we do, but when I make a mistake, I will dwell on that over and over. There are times I struggle to forgive myself almost more than I struggle to forgive others. I am quicker to make an excuse to understand why someone else acted the way they did than I am to understand why I acted the way I did. If that makes sense.
What helps me remember that Christ loves me as I am, though, is the very fact he died on the cross for me – for us. He died not because I was perfect, but because he is. When God looks at us he doesn’t see our mistakes – he sees Christ. God also sees his child, who he loves, and who he grieves for when he sees us make mistakes.
Many people dream of writing a book but are held back by the fear of not being good enough. What encouragement would you offer them?
First, don’t look at it as writing a book. Look at as writing a chapter. Then another. Then another. Then another until your story is done and you have a book. It’s such a daunting task when you think you are writing “a whole book.” I shared chapters for my first book on my blog and my readers wanted to know what happened next so I just kept writing the story for them. Before I knew it, I had a book completed. It wasn’t the best book ever written and I’d love to rewrite that first book someday, but it was a book and it was a story I wrote. I knew I wanted to try it again.
I definitely don’t feel good enough, but one thing I’ve reminded myself is that every reader has different tastes, likes, interests so what I’m writing may not be one reader’s “cup of tea” while it will be exactly what another reader enjoys. Plus, I remember the saying “practice makes perfect.” The more I do this whole “writing a book” thing, my hope is I’ll keep getting better. Will I ever be an award-winning author? I don’t know and I’m not worried about that. I’m simply having fun telling stories. The bottom line of this whole writing thing for me is to have fun. I worked for 14 years as a newspaper reporter. It’s what my degree is in. By the end, writing wasn’t fun anymore. I was also a photographer after I left newspapers and tried to make a career of it. It killed my love of photography for a few years. Once I gave up on the idea that I needed to make money from either of those things, I loved them again.
Life is so short. You never know what will happen if you simply sit down and just start writing. My main advice is to not look at writing as a way to make money, but as a way to share what you want to share – whether a story or encouragement or advice. Whatever it is, your goal should be connecting with people more than connecting with a paycheck because it’s never guaranteed you will be paid, or at least paid well, for what you write.
If you find yourself in a creative slump, what helps you get out of it and find inspiration?
Creative slumps happen often to me. For writing slumps, I either read a well-written book or watch a well-made movie. I need a good story to ignite ideas for my own stories. And sometimes I even watch a bad movie or read a not-so-great book to remind me what I don’t want to create.
Sometimes during those slumps, I walk away from whatever piece I’m working on for a while to give my brain some time to detox and recover. Then there are other times I keep writing through the slump. Whatever I’m writing during that time may be awful, but I hope that I will eventually write myself out of the slump.
Talking to people is another way I pull myself out of a slump. I’m a people watcher and there are times something I see or hear in real life will trigger an idea for a future story.
Can readers hope to see another book that focuses on Blanche’s story? Are there any projects that you’re currently working on that you’d like to share with readers?
I do have plans for another book that will be a branch off from Blanche’s story. It is going to be called Related by Blood and will focus on Blanche’s son Jackson and his relationship with his biological father Hank.
I’ve also started a story that will either be a novella or a full-length novel about Lily, who is mentioned in A New Beginning. The book will simply be called Lily and will be a little more challenging to write and read (for some) than some of my books because it will deal with difficult subjects like child abuse, teenage pregnancy, and addiction.
I just published a novella dealing with rekindling the passion in marriage called Rekindle and it is currently available on Amazon and Kindle, as well as through Kindle Unlimited. I hope to have it available through other sellers this winter as I figure out how to offer books places other than Amazon. The book focuses on Liam and Maddie Grant who are in the midst of a divorce when they are forced into quarantine after Liam comes in contact with someone who has a rare virus (yes, I wrote this during the onset of the COVID situation). The book also follows the story of Liam’s brother Matt, a United States Senator, who is also forced into quarantine and begins to think about how much he has neglected his marriage and family to pursue his political career. This book may be the basis for a future series, but I haven’t decided that for sure yet. I’m also in the middle of writing The Farmer’s Daughter, the first in a series. The book should be out sometime in February 2021. It is about Molly Tanner, a 26-year old woman who is still living on her family’s farm but wonders if she should start her own life by leaving the farm and finding out what else is out there in the world for her. While the book does include a romantic element, it also follows the story of the Tanner family, who is fighting to keep their family farm and store from going under during hard economic times.
I can’t wait to read more of Lisa’s books. She is a truly talented writer, and you won’t want to miss any of her novels!
I had the privilege of interviewing Richard Spillman, author of The Awakened, and I’m so excited to share the insights he offered into his inspiration for this fantastic novel.
You can read Richard’s author bio and my full interview with him below.
Richard Spillman has a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and has taught Computer Engineering for over 30 years retiring five years ago.
Since a university professor has summers off, he used that time for mission work. In 2004 he founded the Kingdom is Near (KIN) Ministries. Though KIN he has supported an orphanage in Uganda as well as a church/school for kids from conflict zones in the Philippines. The primary call of KIN has been to take individuals, who other ministries would not consider, on short term missions overseas that is, people who have come to Christ but have a history of drugs, prison time or homelessness. He has also taught in DTS for YWAM in Mali, South Korea, India and the Philippines.
The Awakened is such a powerful story. What real-life events and/or personal experiences inspired you to write it?
In 2014 my team was ministering in the jungles of the Philippines when ISIS discovered we were there and got hold of our cell phone numbers. For a week, they called us telling us to stop, turn over a pastor to them and leave the area or they would hunt us down. We took precautions but didn’t obey any of their commands.
It was a scary time but one in which we all felt the protection of the Lord. When I got home I was moved to write my trilogy which plays out the conflict between good and evil on a world wide scale.
Writing a book can be extremely intimidating for someone who is just starting out. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
The number one thing to do is go to book conferences. There you can take classes but even more important you can meet authors in every stage of writing. You will find that what you learn from other authors can be invaluable in helping you to recognize and get over the bumps in the road we all face.
Which authors or stories have inspired you the most over the years? Why?
As I grew up I immediately fell in love with science fiction especially the Dune and Foundation series. The way these books made alternative universes come to life, to be places I’d love to visit impressed me. Later in life I discovered my all time favorite story in The Lord of the Rings. Not only did it also bring another world to life, the people (and others) seemed so real. Finally I ran into the writings of C.S. Lewis. The way he brought God into his stories touched my heart.
When it came my turn to write a story I selected something where I didn’t have to create an entirely new world, never-the-less I wanted the way I tweaked our world to appear in every sense real. I wanted my characters to be real to deal with real struggles. Most of all I wanted God to appear as a natural part of the story in a way that could grab the heart of the reader.
What led you to write a story that specifically revolves around end times?
That wasn’t my goal but it turned out to be a natural consequence of my goal. I wanted to write something that dealt with the nature of the absolute evil I encountered in the Philippines. I wanted to explore its motives and its methods. It just turned out that the moment in history when evil of this scope will be easiest to see is the end times, hence my time period.
When can readers hope to see book three of The Lazarus Chronicles available?
That’s a good question. I wish I could say soon but every time I would make progress something freaky would happen to slow me down. I fell and broke a couple of ribs. Once they healed my wife fell and broke her arm. I’ve had issues from my childhood rise up and terrorize me. I’ve never had so much difficulty writing. It’s required a lot of prayer to get through all this. But recently there has been a turn around (I’m sure thanks to many people around the world praying for me and my family) and I seem to be on the right track to get this turned in early next year and out before December. I’m real excited about it because there are some big surprises coming.
While you wait for the third book to release, you can grab a copy of The Awakened and book two, The Ascension, on Bookshop, which supports independent booksellers with every purchase!
Happy Thursday, everyone! I’m so excited to introduce you all to H.A. Pruitt, the author of Anelthalien (you can read my full review here)! Check out Heather’s author bio and my full interview with her below!
H. A. Pruitt is a pastor’s wife who teaches two Bible studies and wrote the recovery program for the church they serve. Her mission in all she does is to listen to, obey, and glorify God. She has always enjoyed art, using her imagination, and writing and is enjoying God using those abilities to shape her into an author.
Also, she really loves her guinea pigs … all 14 of them.
Anelthalien is such a beautiful story. Tell us a little more about your heart for this story and what inspired you to write it.
Anelthalien is definitely in my heart, and my heart is definitely in Anelthalien. Before it was a book or even a story, Anelthalien was my place to play, escape to, and be with God. It was a place where I was safe from reality yet also where I could gain what I needed to go back to and make sense of reality. In a way, that desire to escape to something different inspired me to write Anelthalien. I didn’t intend to write a book; God just told me to start writing, and because I wanted to go to Anelthalien with God and hear His story, I started writing.
The whole story of Anelthalien is pretty long, and so if you want to know more, please do watch the story behind the story on my YouTube channel HAPruitt Anelthalien.
Writing can feel pretty lonely sometimes. Do you have any advice for those who are looking for community with fellow writers?
I have found the most writer support on Instagram. Even if you don’t know any other writers, you can start by following hashtags like #ChristianFictionWriter or #FantasyWriter, and then you will start to find authors who use those hashtags. Also, engage. Many authors are introverts, and so starting conversations can feel uncomfortable, but if you do stay open and communicate with others, then people will open to you and communicate with and support you.
If you had to pick three writers who have inspired you the most, who would they be? What do you love about their stories?
I don’t really have authors I’ve been inspired by as much as stories or books that have impacted me.
1. The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy: I read this book in high school, and it totally changed how I see others.
2. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis: The imaginative world always vividly stuck with me and gave me a hunger to go there.
3. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding: When I read this book, I really comprehended the innately sinful nature of man, and it changed how I understand humans–myself included.
As a Christian writer, what do you most hope readers learn about God’s character from your books?
From Anelthalien I hope readers learn that God brings hope of something different, of a life that is not only better but is purposeful and significant. From the entire series, I hope readers learn that God loves them and desires for them to be with Him.
What is your favorite thing about being a writer?
Writing. I love getting to write down this amazing story as God tells it to me.
That’s all for the first week of Author Spotlight Month!
Remember, you can find Anelthalien at your favorite bookstore or at Bookshop, a fantastic website that allows you to support independent booksellers with every purchase!