Good News: When Mountains Move Wins 2014 Carol Award!

AmandaBostic_JulieCantrell_2014ACFWThis weekend, I traveled to St. Louis, Mo. to join nearly a thousand folks for the 2014 Carol Awards Gala.

When Mountains Move had been shortlisted as one of three finalists in the Historical Fiction category, alongside two extraordinarily talented authors: Liz Tolsma for Snow on the Tulips (a stunning WWII tale), and Diana Wallis Taylor for Claudia, Wife of Pontius Pilate (a fresh look at this historical icon).

I was stunned (to say the least) when Millie’s story was selected. The Carol Award was formerly known as “ACFW’s Book-of-the-Year Contest” before being renamed in honor of editor-extraordinaire, Carol Johnson.

What an honor it was to join so many talented authors who were being recognized for the LONG hours and HARD work they have put into building works of fiction.

Because I never expected to win (and because I’m a complete ditz and usually make a total fool of myself in public), I stuttered and stumbled my way through the acceptance speech, huffing and puffing in a flawed effort NOT to cry. My hands were shaking and I was trying to talk super-fast so I wouldn’t bore everyone in the room.

Needless to say, the entire event is a blur to me, but when I viewed the video — I realized I had failed to mention so many people who deserved recognition, including my sweet friend and brilliant critique partner Lisa Wingate, my devoted and dear publicist, Jeane Wynn, and my incredible tribe of author pals, especially the ones who blog with me daily at Southern Belle View.

If my head had not been spinning, I would also have thanked my faithful friends who have saved me this year, again and again, in ways too large to measure: Chris Greissinger, Kerri Greene, Gina Beltz, Ken and Teresa Murray, Larry Wells, Christa Allan, Carol Langendoen, and others (in no particular order).

Because I’ve had a few requests from folks who wanted to see the acceptance speech, I’ll post it here — for those who are curious, or who need a good laugh, or who simply want to make fun of me to break up the workday. (I’m game. It’s all in good fun.)

But before you begin, let’s add a little lagniappe to this “good news” report. (I’m a Louisiana girl after all and we always like to add a “little something extra.”)

I’m THRILLED to introduce y’all to my new editor, Amanda Bostic (see her celebrating with me in the photo above), who will be working with me to produce a third novel with Harper Collins Christian under the direction of publisher Daisy Hutton and her BRILLIANT team.

We are hoping the book will be released November 2015, and it will be a contemporary work of women’s fiction set in my home state of Louisiana. Please stay tuned for more information to follow in the months ahead, and thank you all for your tremendous support.

 

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!

Adoption: What Do Adopted Children Really Think of It?

My friend, Catherine West, has recently published an emotional and personal novel titled Hidden in the Heart. In it, she taps into the complexities of the adoption journey, giving us a new perspective on those most affected by the experience — the children.
I hope you’ll enjoy getting to know Cathy, one of the many talented authors working within the Christian realm of the publishing industry today.
Fill in the blank: If you like to read ______, then you’ll like my book, Hidden in the Heart.
Karen Kingsbury, Deborah Raney, Susan Meissner – I love to write romantic family/saga type stories filled with angst and humor and most of all, a healthy dose of healing and restoration.
Cathy, you were adopted as a child. What do you most want people to know about adoption?
I believe adoption is a wonderful thing, however, I don’t believe it’s the fairytale a lot of people think it is. You bring home a relinquished baby from the hospital or from halfway around the world, and don’t get me wrong, this is a GOOD thing. That child is going to have many advantages they might not have had growing up, and most of all, get to be raised in a loving home with parents who can provide for their needs.
BUT…the growing trend within the Christian church of international adoption is something I’m watching with interest. Not that I don’t agree with it or applaud those families who are following the call they believe God has given them, I’m just fearful that many of these kids may grow up with a ton of unanswered questions and not know how to handle it.
The side to adoption that is often not explored is the long-term effect on the adopted child. Not knowing where you came from or who your birth parents are can have, and most likely will have, a profound impact on that child. If this is not dealt with sensitively, being adopted can turn into something negative.
When I was younger, I always felt guilty for wanting to know where I came from. I didn’t feel like I could ask questions. I was afraid of hurting my parents. In the end, I hurt myself for pretending I really didn’t care, didn’t want to know. When I eventually gave in and decided to search, I opened a Pandora’s Box and was blindsided by feelings so soul-deep I barely knew what to do with them, and hadn’t been aware they existed.
All this to say, I am all for adoption, but it is a sensitive subject and needs to be treated as such.
What do you want people to know about Christianity and your understanding of real faith?
Um, well of course I want people to know that all Christians are perfect, we never make mistakes, ever. We’re too holy for that.
Not. Seriously – Real faith is a journey. Real faith is understanding this, knowing we’re not perfect, accepting that we’re never going to be, and quit trying to pretend we are. Real faith to me, in one word, is this – authenticity. Be the real deal. We don’t have time for anything less.
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned from your publishing journey?
I’m not sure I’ve really been surprised by anything thus far – maybe a few reader reactions to some of the things in my last novel, Yesterday’s Tomorrow. I don’t exactly write sweet romance, so there were a few raised eyebrows. Too early to say whether I might shock anyone with Hidden in the Heart. I hope not. Or maybe I hope I do. I don’t know.
Sometimes I think it’s too easy to sanitize our writing, to ignore the hard stuff, step around the mud puddles instead of jumping through them. I guess I like to think of it this way – if I never get dirty, I’ll never experience the joy of getting cleaned up by God. It surprises me that some people are still offended by this train of thought.
Do you have more works planned for the future?
New works – yep, I’m always working on something new! My agent currently has two books that she’s shopping, so hopefully they will land on the right desk at some point. If that happens then I’m guessing I’ll be in edit mode again, but for now I’m taking a bit of a break and doing some research on the next book I want to write, which takes place on a winery in Sonoma, CA. Yes, I do think I need to do first hand research for that.
Catherine West is an award-winning author who writes stories of hope and
healing from her island home in Bermuda. Learn more about Catherine by visiting her website and following her blog: Http://www.catherinejwest.com

Meet Author Lynne Bryant

I first discovered Lynne Bryant’s work when she sent her debut novel, Catfish Alley, to the Southern Literary Review before it was released in April, 2011. I was immediately drawn to her southern voice and appreciated her ability to slice deep into the sensitive areas of Mississippi life, all while celebrating the many wonderful things about life in this part of the country.

Now her second novel, Alligator Lake, is about to hit shelves April 3. Lynne has graciously given us a sneak peek, and I hope you’ll all enjoy learning a bit about one of my favorite authors.

JC: Both your debut novel, Catfish Alley, and your second novel, Alligator Lake (NAL Accent, April, 2012), were set in Mississippi where you spent your childhood. Why did you choose to set both books in your home state? Are you comfortable with the genre of Southern Fiction or do you prefer your book to be categorized in another way?

LB: I love setting stories in Mississippi for a couple reasons: first, it’s where I grew up, where my roots are, and is more familiar to me than any other place in the world. So, naturally, when I think of stories set in the South, they’ll be there; and second, as you know, the culture of Mississippi just lends itself to storytelling!

I am comfortable with the Southern Fiction genre, although I do think that Alligator Lake has some universal themes when it comes to families coping with differences and change.

JC: One of the most intriguing parts of Alligator Lake is your unique point of view. You choose to tell the story in first person, but you create three different narrators. I imagine it was a tremendous challenge to create three unique voices, and I was impressed with your ability to examine racial issues across three generations (plus Celi, an interracial child who struggles to understand the treatment she receives while visiting relatives in the south). How did writing this book affect your own outlook on race relations?

As always, I learned so much more about Mississippi’s history when doing research to develop the characters and their various life stories. I think, if anything, I always finish a book with a little more perspective on how history affects the attitudes of whites and blacks toward each other, even today.

JC: Have you ever been a victim of racism? Have you ever caught yourself behaving in a racist way? Does anyone you love express racist thoughts/behaviors, and if so, how do you react to that?

No, as a somewhat generic white person, I’ve never been a victim of racism that could in any way compare to what blacks experience. One of the most important things I’ve become conscious of is the privilege that automatically goes along with being white. When you’re white, you don’t expect to be treated poorly because of your color—it’s just not part of your experience.

There have been times that I realized that my thoughts and actions were coming from an unconscious point of view about race. It is one thing to say you’re not prejudiced because you don’t use the “N” word, but quite another to realize that maybe you’ve just made an assumption about someone’s ability because of their color.

I do struggle sometimes with the racist comments of some of my Mississippi family. My reaction nowadays is usually to ask questions, to dig deeper into why they feel the way they do.

JC: You currently teach nursing at the University of Colorado. Your main character, Avery, in Alligator Lake is also a nurse in Colorado who comes home for a family wedding in Mississippi. How much of yourself do you see in Avery? In the other characters?

There’s probably a little of me in all of my characters; I think that’s inevitable for a writer. I relate to the way Avery feels about returning to Mississippi having experienced a very different culture in Colorado. I relate to the way she comes home with a broadened perspective on the world. I can also relate to Willadean’s nonconformity and her frustration with the Mississippi status quo.

JC: How did your nursing background affect your decision to create a character with sickle-cell disease? Have you always had in interest in this particular disease, and if so, why?

My nursing background gave me an opportunity to see a patient struggling with the horrible pain of sickle cell disease, and even in contemporary time, I could see that health care professionals doubted the extent of her pain. And I wondered how much their reaction to her had to do with her race (and this was in Colorado, by the way, not in Mississippi).

I haven’t always been interested in sickle cell disease. It was a good fit for this story, because it’s a classic reminder of how arbitrary it is to make assumptions based on skin color.

JC: Readers often assume a novel is based on real events in the author’s life. What, if anything, in this book was drawn from your real life?

My real life has given me context for stories—especially the voices that echo in my mind with particular resonance. However, the actual story of Alligator Lake is pure fiction.

JC: Race relations are a key theme in both novels. You grew up during the tumultuous civil rights era in Mississippi – a state once categorized as the “most racist state in the nation.” I live in Mississippi now and find race relations still a fascinating part of our culture here, one that continues to evolve but remains a sensitive and difficult aspect of Mississippi life. I also lived in Colorado before moving here. I’m sure you’ve made observations, as I have, about the two different cultures and the racial issues that exist in both. What do you want people to know about Mississippi in the past versus Mississippi today?

Caveat here: Anything I say about Mississippi is based on my personal experience – I don’t in any way pretend to be the voice of the state! AND other places have many of the same issues; I just happen to be from Mississippi, so that’s the place I’m particularly interested in.

I’ve been delighted to meet people in Mississippi today who have a much more progressive and enlightened view of life, race relations, and social issues.

That being said, many Mississippians are still in need, just as I was, of learning more about the experiences of African Americans right in their own hometowns. People still deny their racism because they can’t see it, or they still believe that’s just how things are. Some still believe that the Civil Rights Movement solved all racial inequities, and that now, everything’s fine. Not so.

JC: How do your relatives in Mississippi react to your stories?  Are any of them offended by your portrayal of some southerners as racists, or do they appreciate your ability to scratch beneath the surface and examine the reasons that lead to such mindsets?

Hmm. I wouldn’t say that they’re offended—maybe puzzled. I remember when I was getting ready to publish Catfish Alley, one of my sisters asked me if I had an agenda. That was a difficult question to answer. On the surface, I just wanted to tell entertaining stories. I think somewhere along the way I had to admit to myself that I did have an agenda with Catfish Alley and Alligator Lake: to look at the struggles of particular people placed in circumstances that challenge all of their existing ideas about race. I think most days my family respects what you call my “ability to scratch beneath the surface.” But there are probably some days when they’d rather I write something else!

JC: Do you think you’ll ever move back to Mississippi?

No, I don’t think so. I love Mississippi and all of her history. I love being rooted there and the experiences I had there. But I’m busy exploring the rest of the country now, and I’m thankful to always have Mississippi as a place to come home to.

JC: You generated a loyal readership with your debut novel, and they will certainly come back for Alligator Lake. What can your fans expect from you in the future?

I’m not sure. I have another novel set in Mississippi in the works, and it’s coming along slowly. I think that I’m at a crossroads with my writing, and I need to renew my creative energy. I will definitely keep writing. I’m just not sure about future stories always being set in the South.

Thanks so much for taking time to share your thoughts with us today. I’m sure readers  who like stories set in the south will enjoy your Mississippi stories, and I know they’ll appreciate hearing your views as both a southern and a mountain girl.

Meet Lynne Bryant

  • Lemuria in Jackson, MS: April 11th at 5:00 pm 
  • Books-A-Million in Columbus, MS: April 12th at 7:00 pm

Summary of Alligator Lake:

A summer wedding calls Avery Pritchett home. Back to the fertile Mississippi Delta she left ten years ago. Back to the family that sent her away…

As a pregnant teenager, Avery Pritchett found refuge in Colorado, but now, ten years later, her brother’s wedding — and some burning questions — bring her back home to her small Southern town.

But will introducing her mixed-race daughter to her eccentric grandmother bring solace or sorrow?

Will confronting her class-conscious mother allow for new beginnings or confirm old resentments? And how can she ask for forgiveness of her lover from her youth who has been denied his child all these years?

As the summer progresses, Avery’s return provokes shocking discoveries — of choices made, and secrets kept, and of deceptions that lie closer than she suspects.

 Learn more: http://www.lynne-bryant.com/

 

 

 

Debut Novel Continues Astounding Run

I’m happy to share this latest press release by my publisher, David C Cook. Thank you all for continuing to share Millie’s story with others. I’ve been overwhelmed by the powerful reader response to this little book, and I’m grateful for each and every person who gives this story a shot.

‘Into the Free’ Hits NYT & USA Today Lists Simultaneously
Debut Novel Continues Astounding Run
COLORADO SPRINGS— Debut novel, Into the Free, by Mississippi author and literacy advocate Julie Cantrell continues to gain momentum with readers. Cantrell has passed a debut milestone by reaching two key best-seller lists with her inaugural novel, an accomplishment normally characteristic of established authors with key releases.

For the week ending Mar. 11, 2012, Into the Free is number 13, currently the highest debuting novel on the prestigious New York Times E-Book fiction list. Only four authors from ECPA publishing houses have appeared on the list, which was launched in Feb. 2011. Cantrell’s appearance puts her in the company of Karen Kingsbury, Ted Dekker, and Joel Rosenburg.

Cantrell and Into the Free also reached another marker this week, when the book entered the USA Today Top 150 at number 47, a feat rarely attained by a debut author.

 

Into the Free Hits Top-Selling List in First Month of Release

I’m excited to share the following press release distributed this week by my wonderful publisher, David C Cook.
 
COLORADO SPRINGSDebut novel, Into the Free, by Mississippi author and literacy advocate Julie Cantrell, is quickly making major sales and market impact. David C Cook has confirmed that, as of Fri., Feb. 24, 2012, Into the Free spent five days in the top 100 paid bestseller at Amazon.com. It was also: number-five bestseller in literature and fiction in paperback, number-one bestseller in literary fiction in Kindle ebooks, number-one bestseller in historical fiction in Kindle ebooks, number-one bestseller in romance in Kindle ebooks, number-one bestseller in historical romance in Kindle ebooks, number-one bestseller in contemporary fiction in Kindle ebooks, and number-one bestseller in religious fiction in Kindle ebooks. In addition, Into the Free is also in the top 100 on the Barnes & Noble list. On some Amazon.com lists, the book placed above general market bestsellers such as The Help and Water for Elephants.

Ginia Hairston, David C Cook Vice President of Marketing and Multimedia said, “Into the Free is not your typical novel. There is something very exciting about Julie Cantrell’s work of Southern literary fiction. It’s exciting to see how readers are embracing Into the Free, a lyrical, brutal, powerful yet heartwarming tale set in Mississippi during the 1930s. The reviews are glowing, and its popularity continues to grow every day.”

Into the Free also garnered early acclaim with a coveted red-star review in Publishers Weekly and coverage in USA Today, in addition to extensive print, online, and broadcast coverage. Cantrell currently speaks and participates in literary events in her home state of Mississippi and beyond. Cantrell has been thrilled by the response to her first novel. She said, “I am incredibly honored to see my debut novel so well received. It has been surreal to see it listed alongside works by authors I have admired so greatly, and I am overwhelmed by the positive feedback. It’s very gratifying to hear from readers who connect so emotionally with Millie’s story.”

A speech language pathologist and literacy advocate, Julie Cantrell is the editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review. She has served as a freelance writer for ten years and has published two children’s books. Cantrell and her family live in Mississippi, where they operate Valley House Farm.

David C Cook is a leading nonprofit resource provider serving the global Church with life-transforming, Christ-centered materials. Headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colo., with offices in Illinois, Canada, and the United Kingdom, David C Cook¹s resources are published in over 150 languages and distributed in more than 160 countries. Originally founded in 1875 as a curriculum publisher, David C Cook today publishes numerous bestselling fiction and non-fiction books from a variety of award-winning authors. It is also a leading provider of worship music through its Integrity Music and Kingsway Music labels, which produce over one-third of the top-100 praise and worship songs sung around the world.

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Meet My Publisher: David C Cook

It’s been a long time coming, but now we’re in the final stretch of seeing my first novel, Into the Free, hit shelves (02.01.2012). I’ll be blogging about my journey as a debut novelist, providing behind-the-scenes research information, interviews, photographs, and more. PLUS…we’ll be offering fabulous PRIZES for those who want to play along. So be sure to subscribe to Julie’s Journal, follow JulieCantrell on Twitter, and Like the JulieCantrellAuthor page on facebook to make sure you don’t miss any of the fun.

First, I thought you might like to know more about David C Cook. Since signing this book contract, I’ve been asked countless times, “Who is your publisher?” Well, I couldn’t be more proud or grateful to have landed with an incredibly talented and generous team – David C Cook.

Want to know more about this wonderful company? Visit their website and check out this inspirational clip.