Let me introduce you to one of my newer friends from American Christian Fiction Writers--Toni V. Lee. Today, we're featuring her book Expectations.
Toni, tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
I don’t believe that it’s possible to write a story and not have elements of yourself shape the characters that you “give birth” to.
In Expectations, the heroine, Daria, and I share the same profession. I’m a Coordinator of Computer Applications. I analyze, design, implement, and maintain computer applications systems.
In addition, Daria’s main struggle was my own—unforgiveness. I experienced firsthand its stagnating and destructive force. Like Daria, I also experienced Christ’s liberating power in this area.
Daria and Aunt Lenore have several crab boils in Expectations. That’s something that I do several times a month.
That sounds like fun and tasty. What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
I’m drawing a complete blank, but I’m sure I have done some quirky things. My teenaged son has certainly said often enough, “Mom, you’re embarrassing me.” When I think about some of the embarrassing moments he caused me as a tyke, I have to say, “Ah, payback is sweet!” LOL!
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
Two years ago, when I shared the first few chapters of Expectations with some friends. These particular friends can be brutal (in a nice way), so I expected to be slammed. They were stunned and kept saying, “This is really good.” Their reaction made me believe that maybe I could string words together in an interesting way.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I’m an avid reader. I enjoy so many books. I like cozy mysteries and historical and contemporary romances. My only requirement is that they MUST give me a good giggle.
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
Just prior to my work on Expectations, I published my first play, The Crown Mystery.
I have almost completed my second novel, Even Then (working title). It contains some of the lovable and hilarious characters from Expectations. Even Then is a romantic comedy-drama about two women whose hearts are sent into a tailspin when they’re broadsided by the love of men they thought they knew very well.
If you like Aunt Lenore and Aunt Euvinia in Expectations, you’re going to love ‘em in Even Then.
My third novel, Acts of a Desperate Sister (working title), is also in progress. It’s a romantic-comedy about a woman who tires of waiting for the Lord to send her a husband, and her campaign to find her own.
We have a lot in common. I, too, have a background in drama. How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
It’s so easy to get caught up in life and become too busy to have one-on-one time with the Lord. It’s easy, but it’s also harmful. It is absolutely necessary to remain intimate with the Lord. That intimacy is maintained through reading/hearing His Word and through worship. My day begins with time in the Word. I also attend church regularly.
Listening to Christian—Urban/Black Gospel and Alternative—music is a big part of my daily routine.
I am so glad that we don’t have to stand on ceremony with the Lord and can worship Him anywhere and at anytime.
When I start feeling overwhelmed from writing, church, work, and familial responsibilities, I take a timeout and watch Bollywood films.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
For my play, The Crown Mystery, I spent hours searching the internet for name combinations (first and last names). The names had to be right because they revealed the characters’ true nature. The names were clues to solving the mystery.
It can be tough choosing names for characters when you have a large family. In Expectations, I’d originally named one of my characters Gwendolyn. I have a cousin named Gwendolyn. When I told her the character’s name, the first thing she asked me was, “Do I die?” Well…I changed the character’s name to Evelyn.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
My son. Running a close second is publishing Expectations and The Crown Mystery.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
This is a tough question because I’m not an “animal person.”
I’m thinkin’ real hard with my face scrunched up and my tongue caught between my teeth. Sorry, my mind is remaining a blank canvas.
I asked one of my friends what animal she’d pair me with. After laughing, she said, “You? You are so not an animal person. If I had an emergency and needed someone to take care of my cat, your contribution would be to help me find somebody else to do it.”
What is your favorite food?
Blue Crab—steamed, boiled, or fried. Throw in some corn and potatoes…oh, man! Now, I’m going to have to go and get some.
Bring me some while you're at it. What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
For someone whose patience is about the size of a gnat, waiting is excruciating. LOL!
Submit and wait. Submit and wait. Submit and wait. Did I mention the waiting?
Getting this novel published has definitely helped me to grow in this area.
When I finished writing Expectations, I felt strongly that it had an in-time message that needed to be released immediately. My mentor and award-winning author, Louise M. Gouge, quickly disabused me of that idea when she told me, “You are not ready to be published.” Well, needless to say, that burst my bubble. LOL! I was disappointed, but determined. I allowed her to guide and teach me. Through her patient tutelage, I found my voice. After a lot of hard work, she finally told me that she thought I was ready to be published.
After receiving affirmation from Louise and another expert in the publishing industry, I sought the Lord’s will for the release of His message. I stopped stressin’ about the avenue to publication and started listenin’. And here I am today.
Louise is a good friend of mine. I know she gave you excellent advice. What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
· Make sure you know why you’re writing. Are you writing for profit or to be a conduit for the Lord’s message?
· Writing is hard work and not everyone will appreciate your brilliance. LOL! Weigh what you hear. Accept that which edifies—instructs and improves. Reject that which destroys.
· Remember, enjoyment of the written word is subjective. One person may not like your story, but another may love it.
· Please, please keep it real. Don’t sugarcoat life and the truth. I have received encouraging responses from readers about Expectations. Without fail, they’ve enthused about how real and believable the characters and situations are. If readers can identify with your characters and feel like they are a part of your story, I believe there’s a better chance of the message being accepted.
Expectations is a romantic comedy-drama about a woman who prays for a husband and receives more than one unexpected answer.When Michael Greer barges into Daria Simpson’s home to avoid a belligerent ex-girlfriend, Daria is not impressed. Then Michael renews his relationship with Christ and begins attending her church. Suddenly, the atmosphere becomes electric, and despite her best intentions, Daria can’t get her mind off that man. Soon they’re having monster alerts that have nothing to do with ogres or dragons. Hilarious encounters, eccentric aunties, and a persistent ex-girlfriend give them plenty of action, but nothing prepares them for the arrival of a secret baby who reveals an awful secret.
It’s a fresh look at the struggle for pre-marital purity and the power of forgiveness. Using recognizable characters, situations, and comedy, this novel addresses the impact of self-discovery, physical intimacy, and spiritual renewal on the Christian single man and woman.
Expectations has many interrelated messages. I would like readers to gain the following:
· The truth that God loves them and is concerned about every facet of their lives.
· Sometimes the answer we expect from God is not the answer we receive, but it will be the right answer for us. The timing of that answer will be perfect.
· Unforgiveness is a destructive force.
· Time for us here on earth is finite. Don’t put off having an honest and intimate relationship with Christ until tomorrow, because tomorrow may never come.
· It’s important to stay pure before God in thought and deed.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
Thank you, Toni, for letting us into your life.
Readers, you'll want to check out Toni's web presence. Also, if you want a chance to win a free copy of her book, be sure to leave a comment. There's still time to leave a comment on these interviews, too:
Kathleen Y'Barbo - Beloved Castaway
Lynette Sowell, Carrie Turansky, Gail Sattler, Vasthi Reyes Acosta - A Big Apple Christmas
Miralee Ferrell - The Other Daughter
Irene Brand - Colonial Christmas Brides
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