I’m so excited to share my interview with M.H. Elrich! She shares the heart behind Etania’s Worth, the inspiration she hopes readers find in the story, and her plans for the rest of The Daughters of Tamnarae series!
Etania’s Worth is such a powerful, redemptive story. What inspired you to include characters who are struggling to receive grace and accept God’s calling on their lives?
First off, thank you for the compliment. I definitely wanted that to come across in my book, so it makes me happy that you discovered it! I was actually inspired by real life circumstance. I have also struggled with receiving grace and accepting God’s calling on my life. For a long time, I vacillated between doing an office job and teaching. Eventually, God convinced me to teach, albeit kicking and screaming, and I discovered he was right, I love it! So I can relate to Etania very much about not being sure if this is what God really wants. I also have thought I didn’t deserve God’s love or grace, so writing that for Etania came through easily.
What made you choose to write in the Christian fantasy genre? How do you think this genre uniquely speaks into readers’ fears or struggles?
I chose to write in the Christian fantasy genre because I realized it was impossible for me to separate my faith elements from my fiction. Many people are able to write clean fiction without faith elements, and maybe one day I will be able to do that. But right now, I find it easier to have a God character in Melchizedek and focus on the Christian audience. I think this genre speaks uniquely to Christians in that it inspires them in their faith. I think that more Christians need books that help them grow in their faith, and not through nonfiction, but through the fiction format. Plus, this helps the nerds like me out there who love fantasy, but also love God.
Parents are typically absent from young adult stories. I love that your book is different! What led you to give the parents such pivotal roles in the story?
I actually want to reverse reader expectations, so that’s a good catch. 😁 As a reader myself, I saw the absentee parents trope and thought: that’s not realistic! Most people have one or two parents. So I wanted to create a relationship dynamic with parents that was realistic. As a young woman, I wasn’t as close to my father as I am now. Formulating Etania’s relationship with Jakin was easier because of these experiences. I haven’t gone through exactly what Etania went through with her mother, but I know how I would feel if I did. Thus, I created parents that reminded me of my own, but different.
I walked away from Etania’s story with a fresh understanding of Who God is and who I am in Him. What do you most hope that readers take away from reading Etania’s Worth?
Honestly, that is the message I wanted people to take away from my story! I’m so happy you got it! 😀 I recently added to the novel the key verse, “Who can find a virtuous woman? For her worth is far above rubies.”-Proverbs 31:10 KJV. I want every young woman who reads this book to realize that God loves them and values them far more than rubies.
Can we look forward to a sequel to Etania’s story?
Yes! Finally, after two years of finishing my credential and the draft of Etania’s Calling, I am able to work on finishing it. I hope to come out with the sequel in December, God willing, and publish the next book in Etania’s series the year after that. Therefore, Etania’s story will take place over three novels, Etania’s Worth, Etania’s Calling, and Etania’s Destiny. After I finish working on Etania’s stories, I intend to start publishing three books on Etania’s daughter, Lavanna, and at least one book on Etania’s mother, Tala. That should complete my Daughters of Tamnarae series, but who knows? God may inspire me to write more. The best way to stay tuned to my book progress is to join my email list or to follow me on Instagram.
I talk about it more on those two platforms than anywhere else.
Thank you so much for the interview!
Thank you so much for doing this interview! Follow M.H. Elrich’s writing journey at the links above, and be sure to grab a copy of Etania’s Worth on Amazon or Bookshop!
Next week, I’ll be featuring my review of A Tapestry of Light and an interview with the author, Kimberly Duffy! I can’t wait!
I’m so excited to share my interview with C.D. Hulen as we continue to celebrate the recent release of his sci-fi novel, Abort!
Read on to learn more about the inspiration for Abort, C.D. Hulen’s advice for fellow indie authors, and his thoughts on how to include a powerful, faith-based message in novels!
I really enjoyed reading your novel! What inspired the story of Abort?
Thanks so much! Honestly, I’m not entirely sure what inspired me, outside of God of course (as all things work according to His will). This particular story concept came to me almost fully formed, which wasn’t super common for me. I thought it would make a good book, so I wrote down the idea and then promptly forgot about it for about 6 months. But obviously, I found it again, and here we are.
One common pro-life argument that is used to confront abortion is that of comparing unborn children to people in a coma who are going to wake up (both are dependent on others, neither are highly responsive, and both are in their respective states for a limited amount of time, i.e., the person in a coma will wake up and the child will be born). This particular argument was definitely an inspiration. After the initial stages of writing, I drew inspiration from other sources, such as my Christian faith, my Dad’s suggestions, Ray Comfort’s videos on abortion, and Paul Washer’s articulation of the gospel, in order to add more depth to the story.
Throughout the story, Mason wrestles with divided loyalties and the distinction between right and wrong. Was he a difficult character to write? What do you think makes characters like him so compelling?
Definitely one of the most difficult things about writing Mason was keeping the reader from being completely disgusted by him. What he’s trying to do is terrible, and readers generally don’t want to root for that, so it was a struggle to balance the sympathetic aspects of his character without excusing his actions. I think his relatability and understandability help make him compelling. Although the reader hopefully won’t agree with his mission, they can understand why he’s doing it, and can relate to the many trials he faces on the HS10.
Christian sci-fi isn’t a genre that I, personally, hear much about, and it was exciting to read your novel! What about sci-fi do you believe uniquely positions the genre to share a faith-based message?
There’s definitely not much Christian sci-fi in mainstream media—none in film that I’ve seen, and not a ton in literature. But anyway, I think science fiction can be uniquely poised to tackle current issues as well as delve into compelling allegories. The concept of Abort was perfectly setup for a science fiction setting—I didn’t even consider another genre! I also believe that with science fiction you have something that Fantasy can struggle with—a real presentation of the gospel. This can be done in contemporary and historical fiction for sure, but fantasy generally relies heavily on gospel allegories if it wants to approach the Christian theme (Jesus). Science fiction has the privilege of dealing with the real thing.
What are some of the obstacles you’ve faced as a self-published author and what enabled you to overcome them? Do you have any encouragement to offer fellow writers who want to follow that same route?
I think the battle against anonymity has been the hardest. I can learn how to write good prose, design a book cover, and develop compelling characters, but as an author who started with zero platform, it’s been challenging. I think what’s to be learned is that it’s all up to God. If He wants the book to go far, it will. If not, it won’t. I have to hold my dreams loosely, trust His plan, and be faithful. If the marketing of this book has taught me anything it’s that God is in control.
A note of practical advice for writers: keep writing, keep getting feedback, and write again. It’s a long slog sometimes, but the more you do it, the better you get. And if you’re a Christian who is writing fiction, don’t tack your faith onto it. What I mean is that the gospel isn’t an afterthought, so if you’re a Christian and writing a story, don’t force the gospel into it, allow it to permeate the entire thing. Don’t sprinkle the gospel onto your story, soak your story in the gospel. All or nothing. Don’t be afraid to be preachy but tell a good story, make it real, and give it over to God.
Can you share any details with readers about your current or upcoming projects?
Well, I don’t want to share too much, but I’ve always got story ideas in my head. People who’ve followed me for a while know that I’ve wanted to write a musical, as well as refurbish and finish my historical fantasy trilogy. I also have some more Christian sci-fi stories brewing which address the current issues of the woke church and Christless conservatism. All that to say, I’m not sure what I’ll do yet, but whatever it is, I want God to be glorified.
Thank you so much to C.D. Hulen for joining me for this interview!
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 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!