Posted in Book Reviews

Interview and Book Review: Befriending the Beast by Amanda Tero

15Belle has returned unannounced to the castle to restore her relationship with the king, her father. Her hopes are dashed with the devastating message: “The king refuses to see you.” Convinced that God has led her home, she is unwilling to return to Lord and Lady Kiralyn.

Time is running out for the decision that will change her life. When tragedy strikes, will she and her father be pulled further apart or knit together? Could she stay at the castle even if she will never see her father again?

Amanda Tero is likely the YOUNGEST published author that I’ve had the pleasure of reading. It’s refreshing to see so much wisdom and purity coming from such a youthful package. You can read my chat with Amanda following the review as we talk about new stories, old stories, and life as a young author. 

What I Loved: I love the Beauty and the Beast so I was thrilled to get my hands on Amanda Tero’s retelling. She has such a creative take on the story that I admired right away. Tero stripped the story of all magic and romance and presented it in a brand new way. One of the highlights of the novella was the way Tero treated the gospel. The gospel was presented so clearly. The overall theme of forgiveness and following Christ’s plan for you life was also well handled and beautifully presented.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving it Befriending the Beast 5 stars and I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys Christian Fiction, Christian Fairy Tale Retellings, or Christian Historical Fiction.

~ I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own.

And now for my interview with the author…

Me: You have such a unique take on this Beauty and the Beast retelling. Can you tell us how this idea came to life? What were some of the thoughts going on in your head?

Amanda: Well, those who know me personally know that I’m not a huge fan of romance. 🙂 It’s just not me. So, when it comes to stories, I am usually drawn to a non-romantic setting. 😉 With Befriending the Beast, I wasn’t actually trying to plot out a fairy tale retelling. God just placed the question on my mind, “What if the beast was Belle’s father?” And of course, from there, I began to wonder how to make it a believable story that would draw the hearts of the readers to Belle, even though there was no romantic interests for her (sorry, Anita, there aren’t romantic interests for Belle despite what you conjure up 😉 ).

 

Me: I know you have a BEAUTIFUL Pinterest board set up for Befriending the Beast, can you share the link please?


Me: Fairy tale retellings are becoming very popular. Fans LOVE the chance to revisit old stories. Do you have a favorite retelling? Why?

Amanda: Hmm… I haven’t read very many retellings, but I loved Shantelle Hannu’s A Dream Not Imagined (retelling of Cinderella). I loved how she took the story we all knew and added some great twists! She’s a teen writer, but I found it a refreshing read!


Me: Are you planning to write any more fairy tale retellings?

Amanda: At the present, no. But, God can always surprise me! 🙂


Me: You’re likely the youngest published author that I’ve read and yet you have a stack of published short stories and a couple of novellas under your belt. Tell us about your first publication. 

Amanda: Being homeschooled definitely enabled me to pursue my love of writing as a teenager as Mom catered my schooling to include a special dose of writing help. 🙂 Most of my stories written in my teens will never see the world. 🙂 My first publication would be “Letters from a Scatter-Brained Sister” in which Nicole pours out her heart to her newly married sister, who left her in charge of the kitchen. I got the fun, whimsical idea to write a story in which I could share kitchen mishaps that happened to me, my sisters, and cousins. I started it in October 2010 (age 19) but only wrote a few of the letters. My younger sister, Rachel, begged me to finish it, so for Christmas 2013, I surprised her and gave it to her as a gift. Honestly, that was the only dream I had for it. The next Christmas (2014), I wrote three other short stories for my three youngest sisters: “Maggie’s Hope Chest,” “Noelle’s Gift,” and “Deb’s Bible.” I’m not a big dreamer. These short stories were just something fun and special for my little sisters. I wasn’t necessarily planning on becoming a published author anytime soon. But in Spring 2015, I got a booth at the Louisiana Homeschool Convention for my music endeavors and Mom suggested that I print my short stories to sell there. That piqued my interest in what publishing for Kindle entailed. Within a month, the Lord allowed me to have an author website set up with the four short stories available in print and for Kindle. And you know what? People bought the stories and actually enjoyed them!

Me: Where have you taken your readers since then?

Amanda: In short stories, I have taken readers to a castle in medieval England, a lighthouse in the 19th century, and into the hearts of modern girls with daily life struggles. Most recently, I have exposed my readers to the trials and joys of Orphan Train riders at turn-of-the-century America.

Me: Who is your target audience and what should readers expect from you?

Amanda: Because of the content of my writing, my target audience is definitely pre-teens, though I hope all ages will enjoy it. I came up with a descriptive alliteration  for my writing: faith-filled, family-friendly, flinch-free fiction (and yes, that’s a LOT of F’s!).

Me: Is there a setting you’ve grown to love more and hope to write in more often?

Amanda: Medieval! Or maybe it’s a tie. I love a lot of historical eras, but America in the 1800’s and medieval England just draws me.

Me: Is there a setting that you haven’t tried yet but hope to? Or one that you’re slightly intimidated by?

Amanda: Now this would be the medieval era — which answers both questions. Lord willing, in the nearish future, I will be experimenting here!

Where will you take your readers next?

Amanda: As far as short stories go, I’m not quite ready to divulge this information to the public. 😉 But for novels … oh boy! Next is a journey from New York to Indianapolis to Missouri … and then everywhere that the 18th Missouri regiment traveled during the Civil War (which goes down to Mississippi). Nat is a boy on the move in Journey of Choice.

Me: What has writing taught you about life?

Amanda: It seems like every time I have a theme to write about, God reveals how much I need to work on these areas in my own life. In a way, the lessons that I “teach” my readers are lessons that God is working in my life as I write. It reminds me of God’s grace for daily living.

Me: I know you’re a young lady of many talents. Tell us what else you’re involved in?

Amanda: I’ll go for the nutshell here. I usually juggle writing, music (piano, violin, hymn arranging, recording, family music group, teaching), photography, and web/graphics design.

Me: What similarities have you found between writing and music?

Amanda: There are a lot of similarities. They both take dedication, commitment, practice, work. They both can be shared and enjoyed by others. They both can be used to glorify God. Anyone can plunk a chord on the piano and anyone can piece together a sentence, but to create something that is of true value, one must diligently study the craft and practice what they’ve studied.

Me: Publishing seems like an impossible task and yet you’ve tackled it at a young age. What word of encouragement could you give to someone that is still in the dream stages of something big in their life?

Amanda: There are a couple of things, actually. 🙂

– When I first began thinking about publishing, I heard a sermon where the preacher went on a “rabbit trail” about battle plans. God had different battle plans for different battles in the Old Testament, and just because one battle plan worked once, didn’t mean that’s what God wanted the next battle plan to be. Even though it was just a sidenote, it really spoke to me. It was very easy to try to find an author to follow, but the Lord used that sermon to remind me that, while I can get ideas from others, ultimately I needed to seek Him for His “battle plan” for my publishing. So first and foremost, seek God in this dream!

– Secondly, don’t be so eager to get out there that you neglect to polish up your work. I have read many young authors who don’t have enough eyes read through their work before it’s sent out to the world (this means that we read all of the spelling and grammatical errors as well as plots that needed one extra run-through–and it also means that this is what your name is attached to). I am far from being a perfectionist, but every time I’ve slowed down to be more careful, it’s been completely worth it.

I hope you enjoyed getting to know Amanda Tero better! She really is as sweet as she appears on paper. And she’s the type of author that I would gladly hand over to anyone looking for a heartwarming story, but especially for parents looking for something wholesome for their children to read.
You can connect with Amanda online on Facebook and her website.
And you can pick up your copy of Befriending the Beast today!!

Posted in Book Reviews

Interview with Lynn Austin

We’re celebrating my favorite author’s new release today. I had the pleasure of interviewing Lynn Austin this month. We talked history, her writing habits, and, of course, Waves of Mercy!

20Austin Returns with a Multi-Generational Historical Novel

Geesje de Jonge crossed the ocean at age seventeen with her parents and a small group of immigrants from the Netherlands to settle in the Michigan wilderness. Fifty years later, in 1897, she’s asked to write a memoir of her early experiences as the town celebrates its anniversary. Reluctant at first, she soon uncovers memories and emotions hidden all these years, including the story of her one true love.

At the nearby Hotel Ottawa Resort on the shore of Lake Michigan, twenty-three-year-old Anna Nicholson is trying to ease the pain of a broken engagement to a wealthy Chicago banker. But her time of introspection is disturbed after a violent storm aboard a steamship stirs up memories of a childhood nightmare. As more memories and dreams surface, Anna begins to question who she is and whether she wants to return to her wealthy life in Chicago. When she befriends a young seminary student who is working at the hotel for the summer, she finds herself asking him all the questions that have been troubling her.

Neither Geesje nor Anna, who are different in every possible way, can foresee the life-altering surprises awaiting them before the summer ends.

I’m looking forward to reading Waves of Mercy and will be reviewing it later this month. For now, let’s see what Mrs. Austin has to say about it…

Me: Which character is most like you? Which is your polar opposite? And which inspires you the most?

Austin: I suppose Geesje is somewhat like me because she dares to get angry with God and question why He allows pain and suffering. Geesje and I both know that a real relationship is an honest one—and besides, God knows that we’re angry, so we can’t really hide anything from Him! I was most inspired by Geesje’s parents—who didn’t question God, and were willing to do His will, even if that meant suffering. They also lived out their faith in their daily lives, no matter what. I’m probably least like Maarten, who never seemed to have doubts and lived a solid, consistent, Christian life, sacrificing for others.

Me: Where did the inspiration for Waves of Mercy come from?

Austin: I grew up in the area of New York State that was originally owned and settled by the Dutch, and I visited Holland, MI for the first time when I attended Hope College. I was immediately impressed by how proud the community was of their faith and their Dutch heritage. My husband grew up in Holland, so when we decided to move back here two years ago, I began researching Holland’s history to see if it would make a good novel. It intrigued me to learn that the first Dutch settlers came here in 1846 for religious freedom after suffering persecution in the Netherlands. Since that’s true of so many other immigrant peoples over the years, I knew the story would resonate with many readers. I was very surprised to learn how much hardship these early settlers suffered in the process of founding this community. If nothing else, their story taught me not to take our religious freedom or the American Dream for granted.

Me: What was the biggest hurdle when researching Waves of Mercy?

Austin: There was so much information available—including an entire VanRaalte Research Center at Hope College—so it was difficult to do a thorough job and not be completely overwhelmed. I knew I was leaving out a lot of good information but I had a story to tell, first and foremost. I hate reading novels with too much history tossed in. Keeping the history and the story in balance was challenging at times.

Me: What Message do you want the reader to walk away with?

Austin: I hope they see what a close relationship with God is really like, and will learn to trust Him through the hard times and praise Him in all circumstances.

Me: Is there a theme that seems to show up in your writing more often?

Austin: Life is hard but God is good—and He always has everything under control.

Me: You’ve covered a lot of ground, historically speaking, is there an era that intimidates you? 

Austin: Aside from my biblical novels, which go WAY back in history, the earliest time period I’ve written about is the mid-1800s. I don’t think I’d want to go back any earlier than that in U.S. history. Researching the time of the Pilgrims or the Revolutionary War would scare me.

Me: Lol We have that in common. I’m intimidated by Revolutionary War history too…although I’d really love to try my hand at it someday. Biblical fiction however…I’ll leave in your capable hands. 😉

Me: Most history lovers have an antique or two around their home. Assuming this is true for you, do you have a favorite? Anything on a wish list?

Austin: I love antiques, but my husband doesn’t care much for them, so I have to keep my collection under control. (No wish lists!) My favorite pieces are the ones that were handed down through my family, such as the mantle clock that my great-grandfather bought for my great-grandmother as a present on the day my grandmother was born. I guess he wanted her to know what time it was when she got up to feed the baby in the middle of the night! I also have a huge, wooden steamer trunk from 1812 that I bought before Ken and I were married to serve as my “hope chest.” We’ve been dragging it around ever since. My oldest antique is an oil lamp I purchased in Israel that dates to the time of King Hezekiah.

Me: WOW! Those are some amazing pieces!

Me: Do you have a favorite era to research?

Austin: The Civil War. I did a lot of traveling when I researched my three Civil War novels, and I enjoyed every minute. The battlefields and cemeteries were very moving, especially seeing the grave of my husband’s great-great grandfather, who died in the war. And I loved visiting the beautiful plantations in the South. This time period also brought a lot of good changes for women, so that made it interesting, too.

Me: And that is why you’re my favorite author. 😉 It was your Civil War novels that hooked me…and it happens to be my personal favorite to research too.
Now let’s talk about your writing habits…

 

Me: Do you have any writing must haves?

Austin: I must have my daily quiet time for prayer and Bible reading—or else I don’t get anywhere at all with my writing.

Me: Do you partner with any other authors?

Austin: I have never partnered with anyone to write a book, but I would never have gotten where I am today without the faithful women from my writers’ critique group: Jane Rubietta and Cleo Lampos. They are also two of my favorite authors.

Me: What is your least favorite phase of the writing/publishing process?

Austin: The part I hate the most is getting the first editorial review of my finished manuscript. I just want to be done with the book (and of course I’m convinced it’s perfect) but my editor always has a few suggested changes.

Me: How do you recharge your batteries?

Austin: I go out and play! I love to ride my bike, walk in the woods, and play with my granddaughter. My husband is a professional musician, so going to his concerts recharges me, too.

Me: Is it possible to get a small clue about your current work in progress? 

Austin: It’s about two wealthy sisters who live in Chicago in the late 1800s. They love to travel the world and seek adventure.

Me: And lastly, can we see where all these wonderful stories are born?

Austin:
39

I hope you enjoyed getting to know Mrs. Austin.If you’re already a fan, please share your favorite Austin book in the comments below. For those just getting to know Lynn Austin, you can connect with her on Facebook and her Website. And don’t forget to pick up your copy of Waves of Mercy today!