Bio: I grew up in
a small town in southern Maine
and had a childhood that was wonderful in all the ways that matter. My parents
were in fulltime Christian ministry, so we didn’t have a lot of “extras”
growing up, but we saw firsthand what it means to invest in things of eternal
significance. I’m so grateful that God gave me humble, loving, self-sacrificing
parents who taught us to love God and put Him first, above all else.
I graduated from Gordon
with degrees in English
Language and Literature as well as Biblical Studies. I’ve earned my living as a
professional wedding photographer, high school English teacher, newspaper copy
editor, piano teacher, and women’s self-defense instructor.
And now I can officially add author to that list! My first
book, Picture Perfect
, released March 2 from Lighthouse Publishing of
. A dream come true!
The best thing that ever happened to me was walking into a
coffee shop one morning and walking out, leaving my heart with the fine-looking
barrista working behind the counter. My husband Jason is the inspiration for my
storybook heroes and my biggest cheerleader on this writing journey. We are
blessed with a teenage son, two cats, and a dog named Boomer.
Welcome, Emily. Tell
us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
A ton! So many people give writers the advice “write what
you know,” and I think it’s natural for our passions to flow into our stories
in some form or another.
A perfect example in Picture Perfect is the scenes
relating to martial arts. Micah, the hero in the story, practices jujitsu.
Lily, the heroine, studies boxing. One of the underlying currents of the story
is the concept of self-defense and safety.
Having grown up in a Christian “bubble,” as a teen I was
anxious about leaving for college. It didn’t help that the first college I
attended was on the outskirts of New
York City. The summer before freshman year, I asked a
family friend (a police detective) if he would teach me self-defense. We got
together and he showed me a few tactics, but I remember at the end of the
evening feeling more worried, because as he showed me scenarios, my mind
started to run. I realized how little I knew, and how many different ways a
person could attack another person. (To be clear, it wasn’t his fault. He
taught me simple techniques to use in an emergency. In retrospect, what I
wanted was training and that’s not something that happens in one night!)
In college, I took an 8-week course that was an intro to
martial arts. Again, nothing wrong with the instructor or the class. But it was
about precision of strikes, blocks, and kicks, and step-by-step attack/defense
sequences. It was not “down and dirty” self-defense. (It wasn’t designed to be,
but in my ignorance, I equated “martial arts” with “women’s self-defense” and left
feeling frustrated and vulnerable.)
Fast forward a few years. Not long after meeting my husband,
I learned he studied jujitsu (a soft-style martial art). He asked if I wanted
to learn. I said no. I wasn’t interested in jujitsu. I wanted to learn
self-defense. So he invited me to meet his instructor, who was excited to teach
me techniques geared for women. I started coming early, before jujitsu class, to
learn. I learned about women’s areas of strength, awareness and alertness, and
the physics of the human body. I practiced palm strikes and knees to the groin
until I developed muscle memory and instinct and earned the nickname “Lethal
Then my session would end, and jujitsu class would begin. It
didn’t take long before I was joining them on the mat. J
I love teaching self-defense because I've seen wonderful
things happen when a woman learns she really can protect herself
physically. We have a vested interest in our physical and sexual safety and should
not leave it up to chance or assume it's someone else's responsibility.
Learning self-defense helps develop confidence, which has
far-reaching effects—women discover inner strengths they never knew they had
and become "stronger" on different playing fields of life, whether it
be work, relationships, communication, setting boundaries, the list goes on.
What is the quirkiest
thing you have ever done?
Tried to put diesel in my Nissan Sentra. The nozzle didn’t
fit (of course) and I got frustrated. I tried dribbling fuel into the
reservoir, and the guy in the gas station gave me a weird look. I dribbled
about 17 cents worth in the tank before I gave up, all huffy about “this stupid
gas station,” and went in to pay. Except I’d forgotten my wallet. The gas
station attendant was not impressed.
When did you first
discover you were a writer?
I’ve always loved reading but never thought I’d be able to
write a whole story. That sounded daunting. I wrote a short story in high
school and poetry in college, but that was it until about seven years ago when
I started a story. Then I realized I needed to learn the craft and mechanics of
story-building, so I joined American Christian Fiction Writers. I got connected
to other writers, critique groups, and a storehouse of publishing information
that I soaked up, realizing how little I really knew!
Tell us the range of
the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I read everything except Sci-Fi, and I haven’t read much
fantasy. I grew up devouring every mystery I could find and still love
everything from cozies to political thrillers. In high school, it was Russian
lit, where I learned about symbolism and first discovered the power of using
words to show rather than tell. In college, it was every other lit—Irish,
British, women’s… Now I read a good deal of Christian publishing, and again
it’s a wide range. If it’s good writing, count me in!
How do you keep your
sanity in our run, run, run world?
The easiest escape is to tie on my sneakers and take my dog
Boomer for a run through the nearby trails. It clears my head, releases
stresses, and puts me in a good mood. I also have several hobbies, so when I
start getting “burned out” with one, I shift attention to something else for a
while—piano, photography, writing. Housework hasn’t managed to find its way on
the list. ;)
How do you choose
your characters’ names?
I choose names randomly, often from people I know or names I
like. But when I choose a name of someone I know, the personality and physical
description don’t come along for the ride. It’s just the name.
As my characters develop, they become very real to me.
Probably too real. While I was writing Picture Perfect, one of the funniest
things occurred one morning during my devotions. I use index cards to list
prayer requests, friends’ names, or praises. Flipping through cards helps me
stay focused when I’m praying, because my mind often wanders.
Well, I’d been working the night before on some scenes where
Lily was feeling defensive and bitter toward Micah. The next morning as I
pulled out my prayer cards and settled in, I started with couples on my prayer
list, saying their names and praying for specific needs. “Lord, please be with
Sarah and Shawn and their financial need… Please be with Mary and Aaron that
they’d grow closer to you, that their marriage would be strong… And, Lord,
please help Lily forgive Micah for the grudge she’s harboring, and help Micah
And I burst out laughing. I’d just prayed for my imaginary
What is the
accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Well, it’s not something I can take credit for. Nine years
ago we adopted a four-year-old boy from China. It was the biggest unknown we’d
ever faced. It was frightening and daunting, but amid all the questions was an
overriding peace. It was in God’s hands. True, there was no way to know the
outcome. Every step was faith.
During the adoption journey, I
read Zech 4:10 and wrote this on our blog: Our job is to take that first step
and let God do His part by seeing us through. We're learning that we can't leap
ahead and plan it all NOW. God meets us one step at a time.
When people hear about us adopting they often say, “Wow! He
is so blessed!” And we shake our heads and smile, because inside we know we’re
the ones who are so blessed.
I love this quote from The
Voice of Adventure in which Max Lucado says, “There is a rawness and a
wonder to life. Pursue it. Hunt for it. Sell out to get it. Jesus says the
options are clear. On one side there is the voice of safety. You can build a
fire in the hearth, stay inside, and stay warm and dry and safe. Or you can
hear the voice of adventure—God’s adventure … Follow God’s impulses. Adopt the
child. Move overseas. Teach the class. Change careers. Run for office. Make a
difference. Don’t listen to the whines of those who have settled for a
second-rate life and want you to do the same so they won’t feel guilty. Your
goal is not to live long; it’s to live. Sure it isn’t safe, but what is?”
What is your favorite
What is the problem
with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge on my path to publication was
twofold—not giving up and, well, not giving up. By that I mean not giving up on
the dream of one day seeing my book in print, but also not giving up the fun of
writing. Don’t let anyone fool you. Writing is hard. Many people don’t realize
the years of labor involved. I had no idea what I was doing when I first
started writing, so Picture Perfect got completely revamped multiple times. Was it
hard? Yes. Was it worth it? Yes! I loved learning how to plot a good story, and
I absolutely love the result. But it took seven years to get to this point.
I also had to learn to accept who I am as an author. I’m not
a particularly fast writer. The story doesn’t unfold in a straightforward
manner for me. I’m much more seat-of-the-pants than plotter. So I have to
constantly remind myself that it’s okay that the course is not charted; that’s
part of the fun for me (I get to be surprised when a character says or does
something). Only it’s not always fun! Sometimes it’s downright awful. It means
the story doesn’t journey in a straight line from start to finish. There will
be detours and dead ends and “wasted” time. But that’s just how it works for
me. I can choose to get frustrated and think I’m less of a “real writer”
because of it, or I can choose to accept that it’s just one of the weird ways I
Tell us about the
Picture Perfect is a light-hearted, hope-filled humorous
romance. In this story, a photographer and a martial artist partnered for swing
dance lessons also become unknowingly pitted against each other in a real
estate tug-of-war. As romance heats up, secrets from the past close in. Agendas
collide, and when the truth comes out, one wrong move could trip them up for
Here’s the back cover copy:
Professional photographer Lily Caswell has one goal in
mind—opening her own photography studio in her charming New
town. Too many months of working odd jobs has taken its
toll, and Lily is determined to earn the coveted studio space in the heart of
the downtown district. With the help of her friends and support of her church
community, Lily sets out to make her dreams of Picture Perfect
Micah Wyland is used to taking punches—just not in the usual
way. He returns to his hometown with the intention of opening his own martial
arts studio, but putting his past behind him proves harder than anticipated
when Lily Caswell comes back into his life.
When they get thrown together for swing dance lessons,
romance heats up on—and off—the dance floor. As Lily gets to know Micah, she
believes he’s changed. But forgetting the past isn’t easy, especially when she
discovers they’ve both set their sights on the same piece of real estate. And a
dark secret from Micah’s past is quickly catching up ...
Please give us the
first page of the book.
The critter had gulped its last breath in church, surrounded
by coffee and donuts.
Not a bad way to go.
Lily Caswell stood in the muggy fellowship hall and stared
into the wastebasket, frowning at the bat. It lay squashed between a chocolate
glazed donut and a half-eaten bagel, its delicate webbed toes curled around a
Styrofoam cup from Sunday’s fellowship time.
When had pest control become part of her job description as
She bent closer and scrunched her nose. Gross. Hitching a
shoulder to catch the sweat trickling down the side of her face, she
contemplated the not-so-dearly departed.
You can do this. Tip the canister and dump everything into
the plastic bag. Lily screwed her eyes closed. Despite the June heat, she
shivered. Then she straightened her shoulders. It’s not hard. Come on.
She grabbed the wastebasket, keeping it at arm’s length, and
The dead thing moved.
But it didn’t slide into the bag with the rest of the trash.
Defying gravity, the creature bolted straight for her face.
Lily’s scalp prickled. She shrieked and ducked, covering her
head. Blood pounded up her neck, filling her ears with a whooshing noise.
Almost as quickly, the roar in her ears faded, and she heard only her fast
And a few final thip-thip-thips as the bat flapped away.
Then blessed silence.
Except for the random creak from the back corner as a
floorboard or joist in the ancient building settled. After several years, she
should be used to hearing sounds she couldn’t trace, but at times, especially
as light began to fade, being alone here still creeped her out.
Lily peeked between her crossed arms. The furry brown thing
had folded itself into a corner of the rafters and nestled in.
Ugh. She stood, knees spongy, then grabbed the vacuum and
fled. She backed out of the room and slammed the door. She tried to scratch
away the prickly feeling on the back of her neck. But being alone in a 200-year-old
church amplified the spook factor,
especially with creepy little heavenly hosts flapping around, the echo of
batwings still reverberating in the silence.
I love your writing
style. How can readers find you on the Internet?
I love to connect with readers! Find me on Facebook under
Emily C Reynolds or at my web site. My web site is: www.emilycreynolds.com
Picture Perfect is also available through Lighthouse Publishing
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