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An Interview With Kimberly Duffy

I’m overjoyed to welcome Kimberly Duffy to the blog today! She shares what drew her to writing historical fiction, how struggles with grief and doubt wove their way into her stories, and what’s in store for her next book, Every Word Unsaid!

This interview was such a delight, and I hope you enjoy!

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Grief and doubt are topics we often dance around, but you confront them with a remarkable honesty and courage. What led you to address both in A Tapestry of Light?

I have always struggled with fear. Some of my earliest memories are of OCD flares (which I was diagnosed with post-partum after my second child was born) and I can’t think of anything that scares me more than losing a loved one. As a reader and writer, I process through story. Through imagination and words. As someone who suffers with OCD, it is nearly impossible for me to turn those thoughts off. They are relentless, coming at me with a ferocity that sometimes has me paralyzed. They are graphic and disturbing. And for brief moments, when my breath is coming short and shallow and my heart is twisting, I think, “How would I survive this if it was more than intrusive thoughts?” 

So I pour it all out in my stories. I live vicariously through my characters. I watch them suffer and struggle and, ultimately, discover they can survive. And that offers me a bit of hope. We’re resilient. We’re created for more than this place, these bodies, even the love we’ve discovered here. 

And doubt…it’s something I’ve struggled with for about a decade. I have no idea where it came from. No idea what triggered it. My faith walk is split into the before and after—before, when I was certain of everything I’d been taught, and after, when nothing was as it should be. I deconstructed—that’s a buzzy word. Deconstruction. Thankfully, I didn’t wallow in the shards of my shattered faith. I cut myself loose of all the extraneous stuff that had nothing to do with Christ. Like Ottilie, I protected that fragile, single seed. And every time I found myself doubting, questioning, I said, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” It was enough. For YEARS. And then I began reading through the Bible. I filled myself with the word. I read apologists and great minds like CS Lewis and Chesterton. And eventually, the doubt began to flicker. It didn’t completely extinguish—every once in a while it is fed a little bit of oxygen—but mostly it leaves me alone. 

Unfortunately, I felt very alone the entire time of my struggle. No one was talking about it. No one was addressing it. It was dismissed. And I don’t want any other Christian who struggles with it to feel as though they have no one walking beside them.

What first drew you to writing historical fiction?

I love history. I spent six months in tenth grade digging deep into the ancient Etruscans. Another six months in Ancient Rome. A good part of my 11th grade year researching everything I could on the Civil War. Most days, I shoved aside my history textbooks in favor of historical narratives, autobiographies, classic literature (I never studied a moment for any of my history exams yet I got a nearly perfect score on the AP test. I’m a big believer in learning history through what Charlotte Mason called “living books”.) I spent a bit of time scared of writing historical fiction—choosing instead to write contemporary romance—but my love for it eventually won out and from the moment I typed the first line of A Mosaic of Wings, I didn’t look back (or forward?)
I love that people don’t really change. The same things we want and struggle with today are the same things they wanted and struggled with a hundred years ago. Human nature is fairly constant and, as a woman and mother of three girls, I’m fascinated by the amazing things women achieved in times when it was nearly impossible to step outside expected social norms and carve a path for themselves.

Historical fiction is an extremely popular genre. What do you think gives historical figures and events such a unique ability to speak into our present-day experiences?

I think there’s a comforting kind of familiarity that’s tempered with enough differences—enough years—to give us a bit of distance. It’s like seeing someone you know in the same stage of life dealing with something adjacent to your own personal struggles. It’s not exactly the same so you can comfort yourself by saying, “Well, that’s not happening, at least” but it’s close enough that you can watch and see how they handle it. Learn from their experience.

The descriptions in your novels are so stunning. What helps or inspires you when trying to bring a certain location or period to life for readers?

Thank you! I work hard to immerse my readers in every scene. I want them to feel and taste and see and hear everything my characters do. I’m lucky that I write during a time when photography was becoming more widely available and there are a ton of photographs available online. Especially when I was researching for Tapestry, there were so many of Kolkata during the 1880s-90s. I could see the streets, houses, fashions. I spend a lot of time collecting images in Pinterest boards and searching them for any detail I can add that will lend an engaging sensory detail to my stories. I also read a lot written during the time I’m writing. There’s no contemporary essay or article or book that can replace the authenticity of actual personal accounts.

What are you currently reading? Do you have certain books that you’re always recommending?

Currently I’m reading two nonfiction health books (I’m usually reading a health book of some sort) and trying to work through my TBR. I got super behind while I was on deadline. I just finished The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel which was fantastic. I started The Gentleman Spy by Erica Vetsch (her books are always very engaging) yesterday and am planning on finishing up doing a read aloud of The Hiding Place with my older two girls soon. I can’t say there’s any particular book I recommend all the time because it just depends on who is reading and what they enjoy.

Can you share any details with us about your next book?

I’d love to! Every Word Unsaid releases November 2, 2021 and it’s about Gussie Travers—globetrotting, adventure seeking, unintentional trouble making photographer who, through no fault of her own, creates a scandal and escapes to Poona, India—landing right in the middle of a bubonic plague epidemic. There’s an adorably geeky doctor hero, fun scenes set in some of India’s most beautiful cities, and a heroine who, no matter how hard she tries, can’t seem to escape the reach of the words that chase her.

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Thank you so much, Kimberly, for doing this interview and offering such thoughtful, heartfelt answers!

A Tapestry of Light is available on Amazon, Bookshop, and other booksellers!

Be sure to also check out Kimberly’s stunning debut novel, A Mosaic of Wings. It will always be one of my favorite stories!

You can connect with Kimberly on her website, Instagram, or Facebook!

Once you’ve read (and fallen in love with) the stories, be sure to leave a review on Goodreads. Reviews are one of the best and easiest ways to help the authors we love!

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Next week, it’s time for a marvelous adventure! I’ll be sharing my review and an excerpt from Hoover’s Horn, a children’s book by another favorite author of mine, Erica Richardson!

Happy reading!

Alexandria

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An Interview With D.M. Sonntag

I’m excited to welcome D.M. Sonntag, author of The Lightning Bride, to my blog today! She shares news of her upcoming book release, what encourages her amidst the challenges of being an indie author, and what she believes sets her book apart from other YA fantasy!

Read on below and check out my full review of The Lightning Bride here!

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The Lightning Bride includes both mythical creatures and characters with magical powers. What inspired you to include those elements in the story?

I’ve always been fascinated with magical powers and constantly think on all the various ways someone could manipulate an element, like fire. I wanted to give the main character of The Lightning Bride, Maylie, something more than just one elemental component, so I made her an energy mage and explored the boundaries and usages of that magical power.

While I enjoyed the Little Mermaid as a child, I didn’t really get into those mythical creatures until Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stanger Tides. The movie introduced the concept that mermaids could walk on land once they dry, and be somewhat malevolent. I was fascinated and wanted to do something more on that. I wondered how they reproduce and got the inspiration from vampires that these somewhat malevolent fanged mermaids bit women to make more mermaids.

What’s your favorite thing about the YA fantasy genre?

I love the escape into another world with fantasy in general, and when it’s YA the main characters are typically teenagers thrust into life changing situations. It’s empowering to read about young characters who overcome trials and accomplish their goals when the world said they couldn’t due to being “just kids.” It was challenging enough when I was a young adult in the real world, so I loved reading stories about characters just like me in fantasy worlds where I could escape my reality and gain inspiration from their triumphs. If they could ride dragons or slay monsters, I could pass that physics test.

YA fantasy is an incredibly popular genre and there are a lot of books to choose from. What do you think sets The Lightning Bride apart from other YA fantasy novels?

I have yet to read a popular YA fantasy book centering on pirates! I could be very wrong and they are out there, but normally if I pick up a YA fantasy book, it’s either about faeries or vampires the majority of the time. Neither of those creatures are in my Kingdom Isles novels, because I wanted to write something that isn’t overdone and sets it apart from other YA novels.

Pursuing indie publishing presents unique challenges. What has encouraged you through those challenges? What are some ways that you encourage/support other authors?

Finding a community has definitely encouraged me. I could not have accomplished everything that I have alone, and it’s strengthening to know that there are others struggling with the same things that I struggle with, because we can help each other and hold each other accountable. Some ways that I encourage and support other authors is reading their books and promoting their works. As an indie author myself, I know how important reviews are, not only to help the authors become seen but provide feedback on how to improve their writing. I also try to market books that I’ve read and loved as equal if not more than my own book, especially in my day job or to my family and friends.

Are there any fellow indie authors you’d like to give a shout-out to?

Absolutely! I would not be where I am today without Genevieve Crownson, author of The Argos Dynasty trilogy and Cage of Glass. She convinced me to self-publish and gave me the tools and resources to get my foot in the door.

Matthew Romeo has become one of my good friends in the writer community on Instagram, and we’ve learned we’re very similar in our writing styles and elements that we enjoy to read. He just completed his sci-fi fantasy trilogy, The Maven Knight!

Luke Courtney is also another fellow, whose fantasy worldbuilding is absolutely incredible and I call the new indie Tolkien. He is always super supportive of my writing and we’ve bonded over our shared love for the Witcher series.

A. M. McPherson is about to release her debut novel, The Guardian’s Daughter, in September! We met through beta reading of my prequel novella, The Mermaid’s Shadow, and became immediate friends (similar to that scene in Stepbrothers) by finding out the fandoms we’re both into.

What can you tell us about upcoming projects or releases?

The Lightning Bride is just the first of many! The Mermaid’s Shadow is already out, and it is a prequel novella following the mother of my main character in TLB. The Golden Wolf will be Book Two in the Kingdom Isles series which I hope to release in August, and there will be a third and final book in this series. I also have two more prequel novellas planned, though am unsure if one is getting released before or after Book Three.

After the Kingdom Isles, I have so many projects! My most immediate is a YA trilogy about werewolves and vampires in a small-town theater, then after that a generational seven book steampunk series.

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Thank you so much for joining me for this interview!

You can connect with D.M. Sonntag on Instagram and her website!

The Lightning Bride is available on Amazon!

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Next week, I’m looking forward to featuring my review of Etania’s Worth by M.H. Elrich and an interview with the author!

Until then,

Alexandria

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An Interview With C.D. Hulen

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!

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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.

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Thank you so much to C.D. Hulen for joining me for this interview!

You can connect with him on his website, Instagram, and Goodreads to stay up-to-date on his writing journey!

Abort is available on Amazon.

Alexandria

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Author Interview With Marysol Ramos

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.

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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.

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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 🙂

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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!

Alexandria

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An Interview With Erica Richardson

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 🙂

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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.

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You can purchase Luna’s Rescue and Hoover’s Horn on Amazon! And make sure to check out Erica’s story, Lisa’s Ugly Glasses 🙂

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!

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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!

Hoping your weekend is full of good books,

Alexandria

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An Interview With Stephanie Daniels

Welcome to our newest author interview!

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!

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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.

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Thank you so much, Stephanie, for doing this interview!

You can follow Stephanie on Instagram and on her blog!

And don’t miss the excerpt from her upcoming novel, The Uncertainty of Fire, coming this Thursday!

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May your week be full of good books!

Alexandria

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An Interview With Jessica Smith

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!

Enjoy!

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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!

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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!

Until then, happy reading!

Alexandria

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An Interview with Careena Campbell

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!

Enjoy 🙂

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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!

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You can order Free on Amazon and follow along on all of Careena’s adventures on Instagram and her website, The Anchored Writer!

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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.

Until tomorrow,

Alexandria