About Julie Cantrell

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Julie Cantrell has been a freelance writer for more than a decade and has contributed to more than a dozen books. Julie and her family live in Mississippi where they operate Valley House Farm. Her debut novel, Into the Free, hit shelves February 2012 (David C Cook) with the sequel releasing September 2013. She is represented by Greg Johnson of WordServe Literary.

My Next Big Thing

So…here’s the scoop on the long-awaited sequel to Into the Free.

YBarks-300x287ou may have noticed authors posting recently about their Next BigThing. You can read about Carla Stewart’s next big thing by visiting her blog. My answers (below) are all about my upcoming novel, WHEN MOUNTAINS MOVE due to release THIS SEPTEMBER. Enjoy!
What is your working title of your book?

When Mountains Move (Hits shelves this September!)

Where did the idea come from for the book?

This book is the sequel to Into the Free and explores the next phase of Millie’s life. I always felt there was more to Millie’s story than what was shared in the first book, and I’m grateful so many readers have asked for more. I hope folks will enjoy seeing what happens next as Millie strives to create the happy family she never had as a child.

What genre does your book fall under?

It’s considered general fiction, inspirational fiction, Christian fiction, and women’s fiction. Some would call it romantic. It will also appeal to those who enjoy southern literature (since our main characters are southern), as well those who like books about the west (since they leave Mississippi to launch a ranch in the Colorado Rockies during WWII.) Choose your weapon. I don’t focus so much on how it’s boxed (I know that’s important, though). I just hope it’s a human story people like, no matter what they want to call it.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I struggle with this question so much because I never picture any real person when I’m writing my characters. I would love my characters to be depicted by actors who have never been thought of as any other character on a large scale, so they can fully become Millie, Bump, River, etc. without other well-known personality traits blurring that presentation. That said, while watching Les Miserables, I thought Samantha Barks would make a perfect Millie (pictured above). That would be my dream.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
The book will be released September, 2013 by David C Cook, the phenomenal publishing company who produced my debut novel, Into the Free. I am represented by Greg Johnson, literary agent extraordinaire.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Oh goodness. This is a trick question. I really struggled to carve writing time for this sequel. I finally forced myself to focus for five weeks this summer and just get the story down on paper. That meant I had to work through five months of very heavy edits, of course. Believe me…it’s never a good idea to try to write a novel in five weeks. I remember hearing JK Rowling once admit she considered breaking her own arm to delay a deadline. I now understand how she feels. The pressure was intense.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Maybe the Big Stone Gap trilogy by Adriana Trigiani, or the Mitford Series by Jan Karon. Both are character driven series which create a world of believable people and explore the daily struggles and emotions experienced in real life. My characters live more on the gritty side of life though. I aim to show both the brutality and the beauty of this world, because life for a lot of people just isn’t pretty. But in the end, I hope my characters show how to rise above the struggles and never give up hope.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Originally, I wrote my first novel just to see if I could do it. It was on my bucket list, and turning 35 was the trigger for me. I never planned to publish it. But after the story came alive to me, I felt nudged to share it. This book is a continuation of that story, so it was all inspired by a compelling desire to push myself into uncomfortable territory and to grow stronger, braver, and more creative in the process.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Second chances. The mythic West, the Rocky Mountains, a girl trying to overcome her past. Gypsies, cowboys, ranchers. A young couple struggling to make ends meet and to love unconditionally despite many challenges to their new marriage. A journey of growth, as Millie develops deeper faith, a stronger spirit, and the ability to trust. Outlaws, renegades, and secret lovers. This book explores the complicated webs we weave, with secrets and sins, love and loyalty, faith and forgiveness. And hope.

 

Meet Nashville Music Industry Guru, Kathy Harris

kathy-media2-largeAs I continue to introduce you to talented folks, I am excited for you to meet my friend Kathy Harris. She’s led such an amazing life, the best thing to do is just jump right into an interview so we have room to talk about it all. Enjoy!

Kathy, You have led a fascinating life, working with the Oak Ridge Boys for more than thirty years and building a reputation in the country music industry as a reliable and talented marketing guru. Before we discuss your writing career, tell us a really interesting story from behind-the-scenes in the Nashville music industry. (Something funny or surprising about the music world, etc.)

Entertainers are like the rest of us. They go to the grocery store, shop at Wal-Mart, and take their children to school. In Nashville, you might run into a music star anywhere. Of course, you also might not recognize them because they look different in their “everyday” clothes. (smile)

Nashville is a small community, and almost everyone has a connection to the entertainment industry. You either know someone in the business, have children who go to school with an entertainer’s son or daughter, or do business with entertainers.

As a marketer, what are the two most important things writers need to do to market their books professionally?

It seems that many Christian writers stress over the idea of self-promotion. My best advice is to remember that you’re marketing a product, not yourself. Yes, that may be a fine line, but it helps tremendously if you can separate yourself from your book.

Determine how your book can help readers. Maybe it’s solely for entertainment. Maybe it will inspire them, empower them, or encourage them. Maybe all of the above. Now, figure out how to articulate that in simple words.

You should also be willing to step out of your comfort zone. Even if you’ve never done it before, consider speaking at local churches or civic clubs. Offer to facilitate book club and/or library events. Get out there and meet people! It will bless you while you’re blessing others. God may have called you to do more than just write.

rtm-book-cvrBefore launching a novel, you wrote devotionals and family stories while also ghostwriting biographies. Your debut novel, The Road to Mercy, was inspired by an actual event you experienced as a child. Tell us about that childhood tragedy, and why did you decide to write this story as fiction instead of nonfiction?

 

The Prologue is based on personal experience. When I was a young girl, I witnessed the aftermath of a plane crash. My dad found the last victim, a small child, only a few hundred feet away from where I stood. I still remember the look on my dad’s face when he told me.

That experience haunted me for years. I wanted that child to live. And, in my book, he does. Hopefully, “his” story will encourage or edify those who read it.

Because I explored the “what if…,” it had to be told through fiction.

Your story explores the controversial theme of abortion. You’ve said your own journey with infertility has given you a unique perspective about this issue, and your experience with the plane wreck made a tremendous impact on you as a child. Did you intend to write about such a politically-charged theme, and how have readers responded? How do you feel about people who protest abortion clinics and abuse the women whose life situations bring them to those doors? What would you say to people on each end of the issue?

I didn’t intend to write about abortion but the story had a mind of its own. Funny how that happens, isn’t it? I initially set out to write about generational blessings and the impact of one particular life. But, as I explored the “life” theme, the story took a couple of sharp turns.

For me, there are two things that are key to the abortion issue. One is education and the other is love.

We need to help people understand that life begins at conception. Thankfully, science is now helping with that. But we must also remember that behind every unwanted pregnancy is a hurting person, a woman who is desperate to make the right decision, and we need to reach out to her with a loving attitude. The greatest of these is love. (1 Cor. 13:13b)

How does your faith influence your work as a writer, and what do you want people to know about Christian Fiction?

I’ve wanted to write books since I was a young girl, and I pursued that goal through high school and college, graduating with a Communications degree. Then my life took a turn into music. I made several attempts through the years to write a novel, but I could never get beyond the first chapter—until I made the decision to write Christian fiction. Then, the words started to flow. My faith is an important part of what I write. As someone who reads, as well as writes, Christian fiction, I view it as a great way to encourage and edify other Believers.

As a music pro, what song would best serve as the themesong for The Road to Mercy?

That’s an easy one. : )  About six weeks prior to the book release, I was listening to a new CD, Only You, by Contemporary Christian singer-songwriter Karyn Williams. I was rocking along, enjoying the music, when I got to track 10, a song entitled This Is Freedom. The first time I heard it, I knew it was a perfect match for The Road to Mercy.

Through mutual friends, I contacted Karyn and asked her about using it for the book trailer. She agreed! (You can view the trailer and listen to the song here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOXDx3JEZhc.)

And, just for fun, what song best describes you? Or…who is your favorite band, etc.?

It would definitely be a praise song with an up-tempo beat and a few minor chords. I love Contemporary Christian Music—no matter what the style, rock, hip-hop, pop or alternative.

Fill in the blank…If you like to read edgy Christian fiction, you’ll enjoy The Road to Mercy.

Finally, what are you working on now?

I have three books in the works right now… one, a romantic suspense, is finished in first draft form. But my primary goal is to complete my next women’s fiction book, another stand-alone novel.

What fun questions, Julie! Thanks so much for having me here today. I hope you’ll visit my blog, www.DivineDetour.com, sometime soon!

On Becoming a Belle..and other things Southern-y

Most of you know I grew up in Louisiana, but no one would have ever described me as a Southern Belle. The only crown I ever wore was for homecoming queen (Thanks to all you crazy kiddos who thought I stood a chance in the world). I didn’t much care for beauty pageants, and we didn’t have debutante balls in our little town. It wasn’t that kind of place. In fact, I endured more of a hard-knocks, rough-livin’, survival-of-the-fittest kind of growing up that taught me early on how to love and how to let go.

So it came as a surprise to me when four leading ladies of southern literature invited me to join them as a Southern Belle. To be honest, I thought their mimosas might have bitten them a little to hard, so I quickly accepted before any of them sobered up enough to realize their great mistake. Now they’re stuck with me (evil laugh), and I’m having SO much fun!

It’s been a wonderful experience mainly because I have long admired the work of Lisa Wingate, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Rachel Hauck, and Beth Webb Hart, the four REAL Belles who let me tag along and play with the big girls. We all discuss an assigned topic each week, and I get to post my two-cents on Wednesdays.

So far, I’ve chatted about how I caught my man (Love and Marriage? Not for Me!), my obsession with Johnny Depp, my favorite reads of 2012, the world’s fastest workout, how Mr. Rogers helped me through the Sandy Hook tragedy, a year of thankful thoughts, and much more.

If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll join us on the porch where we do what southerners do best…we talk! The more the merrier, I like to say, so pull up a rocking chair, grab a glass of sweet tea, and join us. We’ll be glad to see y’all there. Follow us at: http://www.southernbelleviewdaily.com/ Each morning while you sip your coffee, you can take part in the mellow, quiet cyberchat about the topic of the day. Inhale. Exhale. It’s that easy. It’s like The View only slightly more sane. And much more zen. And we talk over each other, promise.

And stay tuned…next week I’m going to be revealing some BIG HINTS about the upcoming sequel to Into the Free!!!

IntoTheFree_horiz_bannerad440x125

 

 

 

2012 Highlights and BIG Thanks!

Image2012—WOW! What a year! It’s hard for me to believe one year ago I was still an unpublished novelist. SO much has happened during just one little spin around the sun…but to hit the highlights…since my debut novel, INTO THE FREE, was released in February (David C. Cook), this little book:

• Received a starred review by Publisher’s Weekly (HUGE honor!)

• Spent three weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List

• Landed a repeat spot on the USA Today Top 150 (Bestseller List)

• Became top Mover and Shaker on Amazon.com

• Earned the #1 spot on Amazon.com for paperback fiction and ebook fiction (I’ll never forget watching it slide past Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and 50 Shades of Grey! Unbelievable feeling for little ol’ me sitting on my sofa in my PJs shaking my head in shock.)

• Was selected by Books-a-Million for their national Summer Bookclub

• Was released as an audiobook by Oasis Audio

• Was released in Large Print edition

• Was selected as the number one title on the Top Fiction of 2012 list by Lifeway Booksellers

• Was selected as Top Novel of 2012 by USA TODAY book editor Serena Chase

• Was chosen by Harding University as a community read

• Was selected as a group read by too many wonderful bookclubs, libraries, and schools to mention (THANK YOU!)

• Has been nominated for several prestigious awards (results pending, keep your fingers crossed please…most results announced Fall 2013)

• Was optioned by a Dutch publisher with the foreign edition set to release later this year

• Has been optioned by a production company with high hopes of bringing Millie, Bump, and River to the big screen! (Again, prayers appreciated.)

And that doesn’t count the REAL honors I received this year, as I read emails, text messages, facebook posts, inbox messages, letters, and blogposts from YOU…supportive friends, family members, fellow writers, and readers. It’s been an absolute joy to travel this year to my first author events, writer conferences, and school visits, and I’ve very much enjoyed getting to meet so many wonderful people along the way.

This year, I’m counting my many blessings and hope each of you know…I consider you among my greatest gifts. Thank you for your kindness, your support, your friendship, your smiles, your encouragement, and your willingness to give this little story a shot. I can’t even say you’ve made my dreams come true because, honestly, I never dared to dream so big.

Now, I’m finishing the sequel with each of you in mind and I hope you’ll all enjoy seeing where Millie’s life takes her next. I’m excited about the next phase of her adventure, and I’m eager to share it with you. It’s schedule to be released September 2013, and the working title is WHEN MOUNTAINS MOVE. May you each have a wonderful 2013 and I sure hope your life takes you beyond your wildest dreams.

THANK YOU!

2013 – Radical Well-Being

As promised, I’ll continue introducing you to some amazing authors throughout 2013. This week, with all of us focusing on our resolutions and feeling inspired to live healthier, happier lives, I’m excited to feature my friend, Dr. Rita Hancock, who is board-certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation as well as in Pain Management and whose work in the medical field has helped countless patients focus on the mind, body, spirit connection.

radical well being coverResearch increasingly shows a strong connection between our spiritual life, our emotions, and our physical well being. Yet too often our physical conditions are treated without taking our whole lives into account.  In her latest book, Radical Well-being, Rita shows us how the mind, body, and spirit are connected and addresses the factors that can contribute, and even cause, illness, addictions, and chronic pain.

So the first thing I did was ask Rita, Who will benefit from reading this book?

“Many people can benefit from understanding the concepts described in Radical Well-being,” explains Dr. Hancock. “If you suffer from medical conditions like fibromyalgia, migraine headaches, neck or back pain, irritable bowel syndrome, jaw pain, food and drug allergies, depression, anxiety, or unwanted behaviors such as overeating, an eating disorder, overspending, drug abuse or alcoholism, Radical Well-being will show you a biblical, whole-body approach to overcoming your condition.”

If you’re like me, you approach self-help books with skepticism. I’m never one who is easily sold on a guidebook for life. But with nearly twenty years of experience counseling patients from a balanced, mind/body/Holy Spirit perspective, Rita goes beyond the preaching and provides practical nuts-and-bolts advice, including how to:

·           Identify the lies that are manipulating you from a subconscious level

·           Deal with emotional factors that can make your pain seem worse

·           Address addictive behaviors that you want to get rid of

·           Fully accept God’s love and forgiveness on a deep, healing level

According to Dr. Rita Hancock, true freedom and improved health come when deeply-rooted lies are illuminated and replaced with knowledge from the merciful heart of God. “Radical Well-being will help you feel better in all three domains—in your mind, body, and in your spirit,” Rita says. And if you don’t believe her, just ask one of her patients  instead: “I feel like the weight of a skyscraper has been lifted off my shoulders.”

If it’s weight loss you’re after, Dr. Hancock’s previous books include The Eden Diet (Zondervan) and The Eden Diet Workbook, which are about learning to eat in response to physical rather than emotional hunger.

Want to learn more? Visit www.TheEdenDiet.comand www.RadicalWell-being.com.

Meet the Gypsies of Spain

Susan-with-lace-cropped-31-222x300I’m excited to introduce you to a new friend of mine, Susan Nadathur, whose debut novel, City of Sorrows, was just released. You’re one of the first to learn about this beautiful new story set in the Gypsy communities of Spain, and this might just be the first interview posted publicly regarding the book.

JC: Susan, You have a fascinating life. You grew up in a quaint New England community but after graduate school became an ex-Pat and relocated to Spain. There, you fell in love with a man from India, and together, after years of some pretty amazing adventures, you decided to move among the Gypsies of Spain whom you describe as some of the most generous, humble people you’ve ever met. Tell us briefly how you ended up “running away with the Gypsies.”

SN: I often wonder where this journey began. I think God always knew, even though He was not so good about sharing the details with me. But, looking back on my life, the road seems clear. For example, if as a child I had not been bullied, picked on and humiliated, I would not have developed the keen sense of empathy I have for people who are marginalized. And without that compassion, I would not have been profoundly affected by a racist remark targeted at my Indian friend in Spain who was confused for a Gypsy way back when I was a twenty-two-year-old expat living in Seville.

“Gypsies and Moors are not served here,” a Spaniard said before refusing my friend a cup of coffee. That one statement, spat out decades ago in a bar in Seville, became the catalyst for a story of love and loss in the vibrant world of Gypsy Spain—a world I would never have penetrated if I had not felt the sting of isolation, humiliation, and rejection that gave me the unique, unspoken connection to this group of persecuted people.

Several years later, that story finally germinated. I started to write the novel which has become CITY OF SORROWS. But, in order to do justice to the project, I had to return to Spain. And this time, I had to meet and get to know the people whose culture I was writing about. Spanish Gypsies.

The only problem was, I knew that most of the Gypsies in Seville lived in poor, dangerous sectors of the city. My husband knew that too. As well as my pastor. The only way I was going to convince both my husband and pastor that I would be safe in these marginalized areas was by connecting with a Christian church that had ministries in the Gypsy community. Well, to make a long story short, I ended up in a  Pentecostal Gypsy church called Dios Con Nosotros (God with Us), in one of the most sordid sectors of the city (Las Tres Mil Viviendas). And not once did I ever feel unsafe. The congregation embraced me, though kept me at a distance whenever I asked questions about their culture. Too many years of marginalization and oppression had made them wary of foreigners.

But as the weeks went by, and they began to trust me, my experiences began to change. I was invited into homes, into people’s lives. Finally, I was asked to leave the apartment I had rented in Seville and invited to live with Pastor Pepe Serrano and his family in their home on the outskirts of Seville. Once I moved into Pastor Pepe’s home, I no longer had to ask questions. I only had to live as part of a family to understand the people I had been led to write about.

Pepe-Pura-and-Susan-Cropped1-300x242Looking back now, I remember what Pastor Pepe said to me that day I first entered his church.

“God has not brought you here to research your book,” Pastor Pepe said. “He has brought you here to work on you.”

I guess God always knew the plans he had for me. There was a reason I was me.

JC: You are not only fluent in Spanish, you have created a successful business teaching Spanish to medical professionals and have published several books on this topic. It’s clear you have spent your life working to promote cross-cultural understanding. What do you consider the most positive aspect of modern Gypsy life in Spain? What are their struggles?

SN: I think the most positive aspect of modern Gypsy life in Spain right now is the transformation that is occurring because of Spanish Gypsy evangelism. Negative behaviors historically associated with Gypsies, such as vagrancy, theft, violence, revenge and tribal feuding, are being modified and corrected with conversions to Christ.

From “gypping” someone out of their money, to truancy and laziness, to admonishment for being unhygienic, to retaliation and revenge, the standard image of the Spanish Gypsy is cloaked in negative stereotyping. The Gypsy has come to symbolize everything that modern-day, industrialized societies reject as immoral and inefficient. But that image is changing from the only place where change is meaningful – from within.

A remarkable phenomenon is occurring that is changing the face of the Spanish Gypsy: Pentecostal evangelism. As thousands of Gypsies convert to Christ, their slogan has become:

 

Antes los gitanos iban con cuchillos y quimeras.

Ahora llevamos la Biblia, la palabra verdadera.

Before the Gypsies went with knives and quarrels into battle.

Now we take the Bible, God’s True and Holy Word.

For more on this subject, here’s a link to an article I wrote for EMQ Online titled “Waiting on Dibel: The Growth of Pentecostalism among Spanish Gypsies.” https://www.dropbox.com/s/nusbzyrmnk48sku/Waiting%20on%20Dibel.pdf?m

  • “Waiting on Dibel: The Growth of Pentecostalism among Spanish Gypsies” was originally published in the April 2011 issue of EMQ (www.emqonline.com). Reprinted with permission. Not to be reproduced or republished without permission.

As far as their struggles, Spanish Gypsies have much to overcome. Poverty is rampant, Work inconsistent (A large number of Spanish Gypsies make their living as itinerant street vendors, a way of life that has been severely affected by the economic crisis that has plagued Spain since 2008). Drugs and crime threaten the world in which many Gypsies live. And attitudes toward education sometimes limit them from exploring options outside of what is familiar to them as a group of people living as part of, while at the same time separated from Spanish culture. And of course, there still exists a subtle level of (sometimes self-imposed) social marginalization from mainstream Spanish society as well as the perpetuation of negative stereotypes. You will still see the beggar sitting in front of a church, or the fortune teller stalking the outside of the Cathedral for unsuspecting foreigners ready to part with their money for a Tarot spread or palm reading. But, the positive news is that change is coming, slowly but surely to the Spanish Gypsies.

CITYofSORROWSfinaldigitalCOVER-660x1024JC: Because you are a writer, you have documented some of the stories you’ve witnessed during your adventures. Tell us a bit about this project and how your real life influences your fiction.

SN: CITY OF SORROWS (release date December 2012) is the story of a young Spanish Gypsy, Diego Vargas, and his journey from the shackles of grief to the obsession of revenge, to the miracle that is love after loss. Young Diego lives with his family on the Southside of Seville, in what is basically a Gypsy ghetto. Just turned nineteen, he is recently married, madly in love, expecting his first child, and completely unaware that his life is about to come crashing down around him. On a dark road outside the city of Seville, Diego must find the courage to face death, the strength to survive it, and the power to hold onto his humanity while both his mind and his will scream against it.

The seeds for this novel were sown many years ago, when I first lived in Spain. But for a long time, those seeds remained dormant. When I finally sat down to write the book, I was all revved up and ready to whip this story into shape. Just “write what you know,” I thought. Well, yes and no. I had NO idea what I had gotten myself into. Surprise, surprise, sitting down to write a novel actually meant acquiring some new skills. Like characterization, plotting, pacing and so many other things I had simply taken for granted.

After writing what was basically a fictionalized account of my life with my Indian friend in Seville, I soon realized that if I wanted this story be of interest to anyone except my immediate family, I had better start studying the craft, and then, start rewriting. As I went through the process of a second draft, I started seeing some subtle changes. My protagonist, who had some pretty obvious character traits of that Indian friend I had met in Spain, started taking a back seat to his fictional best friend, Diego Vargas. And then it seemed as if Diego wanted to write his own story. When that happened, I convinced a lot of people that I needed to abandon my home for a while and go live with the Gypsies in Seville. There was no way Diego was going to hijack the story without me doing my research.

Many of the scenes in the novel are based on my experiences living among the Gypsies. I have tried to be faithful to the reality of their world without either glamorizing it or condemning it. Like in real life, my novel has both good and bad Gypsies. Good and bad Spaniards. And yes, there is a strong Indian presence offered through one of the supporting characters, Rajiv Kumaran. Rajiv is Diego’s philosophical friend from India, the man who helps him to work his way out of the darkness of despair and into the light. And yes, I admit it, Rajiv does have a strong likeness to that Indian friend from Spain who later became my husband.

JC: Finally, I’m intrigued by your efforts to help young adults cope with bullying by celebrating their differences. You even offer a blogsite for such teens. Tell us about these efforts.

SN: I have always enjoyed young people, especially those who don’t quite “fit in.” I currently volunteer at the local high school in Lajas, Puerto Rico, where I live. I work with the students both individually and in a group setting, where I encourage them to express themselves in writing. Many of these students feel isolated or “different” from their more popular peers. They all have been labeled something, from “Goth” to “Nerd” to other more offensive titles. And up until recently, they have, for the most part, kept silent. I have been working with them to help them find their voices.

The students and I have formed a group called Vox Occulta which translates to “hidden voice.” The students have written poems, stories, and rap songs about their lives, learning about themselves in the process. Many of these stories are posted on my blog www.susannadathur.com.

These young people have made a mark on my life. And like the Gypsies, they have influenced my writing. My next novel-in-progress is for young adults. You can’t spend so much time with young people without being influenced by them. They are a wonderful addition to my life.

_________________________________________________________________

SUSAN NADATHUR is a widely-traveled writer, teacher, and self-proclaimed “outsider” from Connecticut who lives on-and-off in Spain with an extended family of Gypsies in Seville. A registered nurse with a Masters degree in Spanish, Susan teaches language and cultural diversity workshops to childbirth and healthcare professionals, and has authored several books on Spanish language acquisition and cross-cultural communication. City of Sorrows (Azahar Books, 2012) is her debut novel. She lives with her husband, a philosophical scientist from India, and their daughter in Lajas, Puerto  Rico. Visit the author online at www.susannadathur.com.

That Whole ‘Unequally Yoked’ Thing (guest Nancy Rue & Giveaway)

I’m so excited to introduce y’all to one of the coolest authors I know –, the incredible Nancy Rue. I’m honored to be a part of Nancy’s blog hop this week, and I hope you’ll enjoy learning all about this fabulous Harley chick and her newest release, Too Far to Say Far Enough.

____________________________________________________________________

What a delight it is to bring my community of “Nudgees” to yours here on Julie’s blog. After endorsing Julie’s book, Into the Free (amazing) and getting to know her a little via email and Facebook, I’m thinking you’re a lot like we are: people who feel nudged by God and need the company of folks who won’t think we’re crazy – or will accept us if they do.

toofartosayenough3D400pxYou are the fourth stop on our hop, and I have to say that “hop” is really too “fluffy” a word for what we’ve been about, which is the asking of the hard-to-deal-with –questions that come with being a Christian. They’re the ones addressed in the trilogy of fiction novels The Reluctant Prophet – and there is probably none more sticky than today’s. Here it is:

What about the whole ‘unequally yoked’ thing? Should you even consider a partner who isn’t where you are spiritually? 

That would be an easy question to answer if the partner under consideration were in the Gomer category – you know, that “bad boy” who oozes sexuality and very little else. Our answer would be like the one we’d give a teenage girl who wanted to “minister to” the hot kid with the juvenile record. Someone told me recently that’s called “Missionary Dating.” I love that!

But it isn’t an easy one to answer in a situation like the one protagonist Allison Chamberlain finds herself in. The man she struggles not to fall in love with is “Chief,” a Harley-riding attorney with more integrity than any three of your average men put together  and a heart bigger than the engine of his Road King and a life that looks so much like the one Jesus led it’s uncanny. Except that he isn’t an official Christian.

In fact, Chief tells Allison early on that he respects her faith but he can’t go there. And then he keeps acting like Jesus. In time he comes around to believing in God again, but as he says to Allison, he isn’t ready to go into the pond (you have to read Unexpected Dismounts to understand that). Then he goes on acting even more like Jesus. How is Allison not to continue to fall more deeply in love with him?

When a proposal is imminent, Allison turns desperately to her mentor, Hank D’Angelo, with this very question: “Do I go ahead and marry him if I’m not totally sure we’re on the same spiritual page?”

Hank could have pointed Allison to Paul. He was, after all, wonderful at bringing people into the body and showing them how to make a life in Christ as easy as possible on themselves. But instead she does what she usually does and what Jesus so often does. She asks another question: “Have you talked to him about it?”

If we’re insistent that an equal yoke has to consist of two people who can pinpoint the day and time they gave their lives to Christ and have been faithful churchgoers and tithers ever since, then that question does us no good. I know some amazing couples who have that kind of yoked-ness and it’s beautiful.

I, however, don’t.

My husband was raised in the Roman Catholic Church and was quite devout as a young boy, until the day his mother was dropping him off at parochial school and he looked at the kids going into the school at the Presbyterian Church next door and asked his mom, “So if what I’m being taught is true, all those kids are going to hell?” When she couldn’t quite answer that, he knew that Catholicism wasn’t for him. He never gave up God, though. When we met and fell in love, I was captured not only by his wit and warmth and overall cuteness, but by the way he lived out his values. I saw God in his soul and I married him.

I have always gone to church and there have been marvelous seasons in our life together when we’ve been involved in a particular church together. We’ve taught Sunday school as a team, been youth group advisors more than once, gone on missions trips as team leaders. Most of our lasting relationships with other people have come out of our church experiences. Several years ago, however, when the church we were part of became toxic and the members turned on each other, my husband said, “Y’know, I think I’m done with the church. I’ll support you in whatever you want to do but I can’t do it anymore.”

I didn’t insist that we find a church together. I found one and I’m happy there. More than happy. I miss him sitting next to me, though. Of course I wish he were. There are in fact things I don’t participate in because he’s not. And at times I wondered, “Is he still talking to God? Is he okay spiritually?”

After I wrote Hank’s words, “Have you talked to HIM about it?”, I thought, well., um, no, I actually haven’t.

So I did. His answers are between the two of us, but what they showed me is that this question goes beyond who we’re “yoked” to and into our assessments of who’s Christian and who’s not, something we touched on a couple of posts ago.

Why do we make these assessments and judgments about how Christian is Christian enough without getting to know the people in question?

What are the signs we absolutely have to see in order to know, okay, that’s a Christian? Do those signs keep us from having a conversation that could tell us so much more?

And is it up to us to see those signs before we can say, “Oh, yeah. Definitely a believer.”

Absolutely we have to know that if marriage is part of the equation. But these questions of an “is this okay?” nature go far deeper than what’s “legal” for Christians. Allison and Chief’s situation raises more than the issue of being unequally yoked. It asks each one of us: what does a Christian look like to God? Now there’s a question I could hop to.

I believe those of you hoping to win prizes might need this quote from Too Far to Say Far Enough.
I believe those of you hoping to win prizes might need this quote from Too Far to Say Far Enough.

Nancy Rue is the author of over 100 books for adults and teens, including Healing Waters, which was a 2009 Women of Faith Novel of the Year, and The Reluctant Prophet which received a Christy award in 2011. Nancy travels extensively-at times on the back of a Harley Davidson-speaking and teaching to groups of `tween girls and their moms and mentoring aspiring Christian authors. She lives on a lake in Tennessee with her Harley-ridin’ husband Jim and their two yellow labs (without whom writing would be difficult.)

Now what you have probably been waiting for…winning books!  Nancy’s publisher, David C. Cook, is giving away:

  • Reluctant Prophet series (3 books) to 10 winners
  • PLUS 10 copies of Reluctant Prophet to each winner’s recipient of choice

Nancy will personally sign each book as well as include a letter with Reluctant Prophet to your person of choice.  Visit here for the Rafflecopter entry form and official rules.

If you are joining the hop mid-way through and not sure where to go, here are all the stops for each day.  That way you are able to maximize your entries into the giveaway, as well as capture Nancy’s heart as she wrote this series:

Monday: Nancy Rue, The Nudge “What Hank Says . . . About Leaving the Pew”
Tuesday: Mocha With Linda “Will the “Real” Christians Please Stand Up?”
Wednesday: Jen Hatmaker “When the Nudge Drives a Wedge”
Thursday: Julie Cantrell “That Whole ‘Unequally Yoked’ Thing
Friday: Far From Perfect MaMMa “Is It Worth Having a Record?”

If you would like to connect with Nancy, she can be found here:

Website: www.nancyrue.com
facebook (adult fans): www.facebook.com/nnrue
facebook (for teen fans): www.facebook.com/nnrueforteens
twitter: www.twitter.com/nnue
pinterest: www.pinterest.com/nnrue
In addition to Nancy’s blog, The Nudge, (for her adult audience), she also has a blog for teens (In Real Life) and for tweens (Tween You and Me)