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Author Q&A with Samara Shanker

Author Q&A with Samara Shanker

Author Q&A with Samara Shanker

I recently read NAOMI TEITELBAUM ENDS THE WORLD. It was such a fun book that I wanted to find out more about the inspiration behind it. So today I’m super excited to share my Q&A with author Samara Shanker. She’ll tell us a bit about what inspired her gloriously fun debut novel and drop a few hints about what’s coming next. First, here’s a little bit about the book…

About Naomi Teitelbaum Ends the World by Samara Shanker

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A magical Bat Mitzvah gift gets out of control and thrusts a girl into a supernatural quest with the fate of the world at stake in this spooky middle grade adventure that’s perfect for fans of Aru Shah.

Naomi Teitelbaum is so ready for her Bat Mitzvah. Her prayers are memorized and she’s definitely got a handle on her Torah portion (well, almost). Then she gets a mysterious gift: a tiny clay Golem. To Naomi’s shock, it comes to life—and obeys her every command.

At first, this small magical helper seems like the best Bat Mitzvah gift ever. But with each command, the Golem grows…and gets harder to hide. And creepy, unnatural creatures like dybbuks, demons, and a congregation of ghosts have started following Naomi around. To keep herself out of trouble and the Golem out of harm’s way, Naomi gives the Golem well-intended instructions: save the world.

Unfortunately, this leaves more room for interpretation than Naomi thought. Before long, the Golem is wreaking havoc all over Los Angeles, and only Naomi and her friends can stop it.

Author Q&A with Samara Shanker

Q: I find that a story was often inspired by a question. Was there a question that inspired you to write Naomi Teitelbaum Ends the World?

Sort of. I’ve always been really interested in golem stories, and I guess the question that stuck with me was “what would this idea of a worker with no nuance but endless energy look like in the hands of a kid with strong convictions but no strong sense of how to apply them?” So Naomi was born.

Q: Who is your favorite character in the book? Were there things about them which couldn’t be included in the story?

I adore all the kids, but I think my favorite character is Becca. All the kids are unapologetically themselves, but Becca doesn’t really have a choice. She has to wear her experiences on her sleeve because she feels everything so strongly. It’s no wonder she ended up best friends with Naomi. I wrote Becca for my nephew, who is still too little to read, but is on a similar trajectory to Becca’s particular struggles, so I hope I did her justice. I’m so lucky and excited that I get to spend more time exploring the world from Becca’s point of view in the second book.

Q: The Golem does some interesting things in the book as it tries to follow Naomi’s instructions. What’s your favorite moment or scene involving the Golem? What inspired you to create that moment?

I just love golems. I could talk about the incredible history and inspiration behind the creation of an entity like that forever, but I think in the story my favorite moment with the Golem has to be the last one. No spoilers, but I think that moment is where we really see Naomi understand what it means to take responsibility, rather than trying to just shoulder the problems of the world alone. For the Golem, it’s a little bittersweet. Golems have always raised questions of agency for me, and what it means to have been created for a singular purpose. I think in a sense Naomi’s Golem has achieved his purpose at the very end, it’s just not quite what Naomi thought it was.

Q: Is there a scene or moment in your novel that really sticks with you? Can you tell us a little bit about it?

There’s a moment where the kids are having a conversation with Rabbi Gershon in the temple in Santa Clarita. They’re tired, they’re scared, they’re incredibly out of their depth, and this ghost is teaching them Talmud, and discussing golems, and Naomi asks the question, “but what if we love it?” and I think that really is just the core of Naomi’s character. She’s intense and a little insufferable sometimes, but she’s entirely motivated by love, and that matters.

Q: Naomi’s relationships with her best friends Eitan and Becca are the central relationships in the story. What is your favorite thing about Becca or Eitan?

So I talked a little about Becca up above. But I think my favorite thing about her is the ways she extends trust. Emotional expressions aren’t really her thing, but handing Eitan her maps means something to both of them. It’s a concrete way of showing that she trusts and loves her friends. My favorite thing about Eitan is his unexpected complexity. I think it would be very easy for him to be just a nerd, or just the boy on the crew, but he’s the one who needs physical comfort more than anyone else, and he bakes well enough that he made a full-sized American Girl doll cake for his cousin, and he just DESPERATELY wants to go to space camp, which I relate to wholeheartedly.

Q: I feel like it used to be rarer to see a story set in Los Angeles, but now I tend to see that city as a setting more often. What made you choose Los Angeles as the setting for your story?

Honestly it was a strategic choice. I have a bit of a quirk of setting a lot of my writing in small town New England, but you don’t find so many Jews there, and it felt a little cliché to set a Jewish story in New York, but there is actually a really big Jewish community in L.A.. It’s also an area pretty immediately affected by climate change in particular, so it made sense for Naomi. Plus I had friends there I could consult on geography, and I desperately need help on all things geographical.

Q: What do you most hope that readers take away from your novel?

I am so proud of this generation of kids. All of them are so passionate about changing the world and making the future better. I wrote this book as kind of a love letter to them, and to remind them that it’s not all on them. “You are not obligated to complete the work.” Burnout doesn’t help anyone; it’s not only ok but necessary to stop and enjoy life without feeling guilty about work you’re not doing.

Q: What is one question about your novel you are often asked by readers?

Who sent the golem? And my answer is: There’s going to be a second book next year!

About Samara Shanker

Samara Shanker has been making up stories about magic and monsters since she was a kid sneaking in extra reading past her bedtime. By graduate school, she had moved on to writing stories that reimagined the folklore and mythology she had always loved as a kid (mostly still written after bedtime, once she finished all her sensible homework). She now works as a tutor and children’s literacy specialist and gets to do most of her writing during the day, which has done wonders for her sleep schedule. She lives in Virginia with her rescue puppy, Jack Kirby, and devotes most of her time not spent working or writing to spoiling her niece and nephew. NAOMI TEITELBAUM ENDS THE WORLD is her debut novel.

Author Q&A with Robin Farmer

Author Q&A with Robin Farmer

When I received an opportunity to review MALCOLM AND ME, I was so moved by the description of the book that I knew I was going to read it even before I reached the end of the email. I didn’t expect to ALSO have the amazing opportunity to do a Q&A with the author, Robin Farmer, whose own experiences inspired this amazing story. I’m super excited to share her answers with you today.

First, here’s a little bit about the book in case you aren’t familiar.

Malcolm and Me
Robin Farmer
INtense Publications
Published November 17, 2020

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indiebound | Goodreads

Philly native Roberta Forest is a precocious rebel with the soul of a poet. The thirteen-year-old is young, gifted, black, and Catholic—although she’s uncertain about the Catholic part after she calls Thomas Jefferson a hypocrite for enslaving people and her nun responds with a racist insult. Their ensuing fight makes Roberta question God and the important adults in her life, all of whom seem to see truth as gray when Roberta believes it’s black or white.

An upcoming essay contest, writing poetry, and reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X all help Roberta cope with the various difficulties she’s experiencing in her life, including her parent’s troubled marriage. But when she’s told she’s ineligible to compete in the school’s essay contest, her explosive reaction to the news leads to a confrontation with her mother, who shares some family truths Roberta isn’t ready for.

Set against the backdrop of Watergate and the post-civil rights movement era, Angel Dressed in Black is a gritty yet graceful examination of the anguish teens experience when their growing awareness of themselves and the world around them unravels their sense of security—a coming-of-age tale of truth-telling, faith, family, forgiveness, and social activism.

Author Q&A with Robin Farmer

Q: I find that a story was often inspired by a question. Was there a question that inspired you to write this story?

Yes, how did my fight with a nun and the resulting suspension affect me? The question arose when I had to write an essay for an application for a prestigious journalism fellowship. I realized the traumatic incident changed my life and shaped the trajectory of my career. Seeing racism and religion collide as a girl led me away from organized religion, sealed my resistance against bullies, and shaped my decision to work as a journalist to expose truth, scrutinize powerful institutions, and amplify the voice of marginalized people. I was 39 when I realized it all can be traced back to what happened in that classroom and maybe it was worth writing about.

Q: What’s your favorite thing about Roberta’s character? What do you find most challenging about her?

She’s not afraid of speaking truth, even if it involves a bully doubling as her teacher. She’s also 13, so she’s a trapeze artist in the mood department, bouncing up, down and all around.She’s often emotionally messy with one leg in childhood and the other headed toward young adult independence.

Q: Is there a moment that sticks with you most from the story? Can you tell us a little bit about that?

There’s a point where Roberta’s Mom shares a devastating truth about Roberta’s father. It’s a moment that sucker punches Roberta as she pieces together clues she had overlooked. In an instant, she shifts her respect and affection toward her Mom. She experiences an emotional roller coaster in a matter of minutes and I hope her reactions feel authentic.

Q: What do you most hope that readers take away from MALCOLM AND ME?

Truth matters, especially today in a world of alternative facts. Speak up, criticize, question and think critically. Doing so can be scary. Do it anyway. Another takeaway is to embrace the power of forgiveness, especially when someone hurts you deeply.  I want readers, especially younger ones,to know hate is a heavy load to carry.  Forgiveness allows you to heal and move on. And finally, love your family and yourself hard. Shortcomings and all. 

Q: What is one question that you are often asked by readers?

When people ask what MALCOLM AND ME is about, I think they want a pithy answer. But a book can be about numerous things, with rich and layered themes. In my novel, I explore adult hypocrisy, racism, divorce, faith wrangling and social justice activism.

Q: What was the hardest part of the story to write? What made it so difficult?

I  struggled with helping readers understand why Sister Elizabeth disliked Roberta so much. It’s clear both are headstrong. A militant upstart, Roberta clashes with a steely nun who cherishes tradition. But is there a deeper reason for the tension? The story is told through Roberta’s viewpoint so presenting Sister’s perspective is a challenge. 

Q: Was there a scene or character that you had the most fun writing? What made that scene or character so much fun?

I had an absolute blast writing about Sister Carol jumping rope with Roberta. It was rare to see the nuns jump rope back in the day, but the ones who did are forever embedded in my brain. This scene serves as a love letter to every nun unafraid to evoke her inner child and have fun with young people.  I also adore the idea of these two figures — one a budding social justice activist, the other a stalwart of a faith she too has wrestled with due to racism — literally in sync with each other.

Q: Are there any books or movies that you recommend to readers interested in learning more about the time period in which MALCOLM AND ME is set?

“Brian’s Song” was influential because it depicted a powerfulfriendship between a Black and white football player at a time when race relations were strained in certain cities, Philly included, as schools integrated and “white flight”occurred.  All the President’s Men” — the book or the movie — details the Watergate scandal and a heroic moment in U.S. journalism.  I Loved “Sounder” and” Claudine.” And THE FRIENDS by Rosa Guy was one of my favorite novels. I recall seeing myself in those pages, which is why I recently purchased it and will read it again more than 45 years later.

Q: Are there other novels that inspired you that you’d like to share?

Yes, The GIRL WHO FELL FROM THE SKY by Heidi Durrow forced me to toss my manuscript into the trash. The originality and emotional truth of her debut novel inspired me to dig deeper. THE WHORES ON THE HILL by Colleen Curran was a fantastic story about defiant Catholic teens with a major plot twist. That story influenced me to add a bit of mystery. ONE CRAZY SUMMER by Rita Williams Garcia was masterfully executed. I learned so much from it. Finally, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD was the first book I recall reading that made me say I will write a book someday. I adored Atticus Finch and then I saw a gorgeous Gregory Peck play him in the film and cherished him more.

About Robin Farmer

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Robin Farmer is a national award–winning journalist and transplanted Philadelphian who currently calls the Richmond, VA, area home. At eight, she told her mother she would write for a living, and she is grateful that her younger self knew what she was talking about (many young folks do). Her other interests include screenwriting, poetry, movies, and traveling. She’s still hoping to write stories about young people for television and film. Robin earned her degree in journalism from Marquette University. She lives in Richmond, VA.

Author Q&A with Katherine Barger

Author Q&A with Katherine Barger

A few weeks ago, I got an email about an intriguing book loosely inspired by the Bible stories of Daniel and Nehemiah in a contemporary setting. I’m super fascinated by this concept, so I jumped at the chance to interview Katherine Barger to learn more. I’m sharing that Q&A here today!

First, here’s a little bit about the book, FORTUNE’S FALL.

Fortune’s Fall
Katherine Barger
Anaiah Press
Published November 3, 2020

Amazon | Goodreads

While her classmates prepare for elite careers across America, Nyssa Ardelone trains for her secret job as the president’s dream interpreter. But when her mentor lies to the president about the prophecy in his latest dream, Nyssa must figure out why before the lie unravels. What she learns could destroy her own future.

Fearful of a rumored rebellion, the president has launched a gas attack on Nyssa’s hometown, and her mentor lied about the dream to protect the survivors from more harm. When Nyssa learns her parents were injured in the attack, she flees with a stranger sent to steal the antidote—a stranger who claims to know her.

Together, they race to deliver the cure as well as an interpretation of another prophetic dream only Nyssa can provide. But a devastating loss dulls her caution, and she learns too late that not everyone is trustworthy. To survive the president’s deadly pursuit, Nyssa must break every rule she’s ever followed, learning along the way that faith is the only thing that can save her.

Author Q&A with Katherine Barger

Q: What led you to write a story inspired by Daniel and Nehemiah, and why did you choose a modern setting?

A: I’ve always been fascinated with the stories in the Old Testament, and when our pastor did a sermon series on Nehemiah, I went down a million Googled rabbit-holes to learn about the Babylonian exile of the Jews. When I learned that only the elite Jews were exiled to Babylon and everyone else was left behind to fend for themselves, a story began to brew. What if the Jews who were left behind not only survived, but they thrived, waiting somewhere for their ultimate return to Jerusalem?  

My main character in FORTUNE’S FALL was born from that question. A character inspired by Nehemiah – an exile who led the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and Daniel – an exile and dream interpreter to the king. Fortune’s Fall is the futuristic tale of a people exiled to an unfamiliar place, the family and friends they left behind, and a girl’s determination to bring them all back together.

Now, to the question about why I put it in a modern setting. I originally had it set in a fantasy world. But something felt off about the whole thing. It just wasn’t giving me that punch in the gut I wanted. So, I thought “What if I set it in a future America?” I tried it. And it worked.

Q: What’s your favorite thing about Nyssa’s character?

A: I love that her faith journey takes time. I’m a very analytical person, and I definitely relate to her need to ask questions and consider all possible answers and outcomes before making a decision. I loved seeing her grow across the chapters into a more complete version of who she was meant to be.

Q: What do you most hope that readers take away from FORTUNE’S FALL?

A: The verse that pops up over and over throughout FORTUNE’S FALL is Hebrews 11:1. “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we don’t see.” I hope that readers see Nyssa’s journey to Fortune’s Fall as a testament to faith. It takes a strong woman to be a Christ follower, especially today. Be kind and generous. But also, be bold and follow Him in faith.

Q: Since you’ve written a story about dreams… do you remember your dreams? Are there any that stand out as odd or significant in some way?

I do remember my dreams! They’ve always been totally nuts and intense, which is why I’m so fascinated with dreaming in general. A few years ago, I started writing mine down, which coincided with the early brainstorming stages of FORTUNE’S FALL. Eventually, several of those dreams I’d written down made their way into the story.

Q: What was the hardest part of FORTUNE’S FALL to write? What made it so difficult?

A: The ending! (Smacking forehead). FORTUNE’S FALL is the first in a trilogy and I know how the trilogy ultimately ends, but knowing where to stop this book was h-a-a-a-r-d.

Q: What character or scene was the most fun to write? What made it so fun?

A: My favorite character to write was Greer. His personality is kind of a blend of a few guy friends I’ve had over the years with sarcastic senses of humor. I loved putting those pieces of them into his story and creating a character that made me laugh. My editor really helped me develop his relationship with Nyssa, and there are a few scenes between them that I love, love, love.

Q: Are there other YA books that inspired you to write? Or, what books have most inspired you as a writer?

A: I’m most inspired by Madeleine L’Engle’s YA books. I love her characters and her ability to create a setting that’s both cozy and eerie. Plus, she was so great at weaving Scripture into regular, every-day conversations without coming across as preachy.

About Katherine Barger

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Katherine Barger writes stories about characters of faith in a world where faith is challenged. When she’s not wrangling kids alongside her forever-forbearing husband, she’s writing, eating Mexican food, or snuggling with her family’s two rescue pets: a dog named Queen Elsa and a cat named Princess Jasmine.

Katherine loves hearing from readers! You can contact her at the links above.

Blog Tour and Q&A with Lucia DiStefano

Once in a while a book comes along that really piques my curiosity, and BORROWED by Lucia DiStefano is definitely one of those! Today, I’ve got the pleasure of sharing an interview with the author where she answers some of my questions about her super intriguing book! First, though, let’s talk about the book.

by Lucia DiStefano
Elephant Rock Books
Published November 1, 2018
264 pages

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

About Borrowed
Love, mystery, and danger collide in this new literary thriller with the dark heart of a Gillian Flynn novel and the lyrical prose of Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun.

A triumph of authenticity, grace, and nail-biting suspense, Lucia DiStefano’s ingenious debut is an unflinching, genre-bending page-turner.

As seventeen-year-old Linnea celebrates the first anniversary of her heart transplant, she can’t escape the feeling that the wires have been crossed. After a series of unsettling dreams, inked messages mysteriously appear on her body, and she starts to wonder if this new heart belongs to her at all.

In another Austin neighborhood, Maxine braces for a heartbreaking anniversary: her sister Harper’s death. Between raising her brothers and parenting her grief-stricken mother, Max is unable to ignore her guilty crush on Harper’s old flame or shake her lingering suspicion that her sister’s drowning wasn’t really an accident. With Harper as the sole connection, Linnea and Maxine are soon brought together in fantastic and terrifying ways as the shocking truth behind Harper’s death comes to light.

Q&A with Lucia DiStefano

I find that a story was often inspired by a question. Was there a question that inspired you to write BORROWED?

Absolutely! Many years ago, after standing in a post-office queue and watching a woman scribble a note on the palm of her hand, I asked myself, “What would it be like to find a message on your hand and have no memory of putting it there?”

Were there things about your favorite character which couldn’t be included in BORROWED?

I think my favorite character may be Leo, the wildly talented chef whose personal life is a hot mess (and that’s an understatement). I find him so brash and unpredictable and entertaining, and maybe he’s my favorite because he’s so unlike me in many ways. Regarding things about Leo that couldn’t be included: the full details of his many arrests, what his apartment looks like, who he hangs out with, and what he’s doing when he’s not in the restaurant kitchen. Some of those things may be hinted at in the book, but they couldn’t be included because Leo is a minor character, after all, and all that backstory wouldn’t serve the story at large. (But can you tell I think about them?)

Can you tell us a little bit about something you know about the story that the reader may not know? Kind of a behind-the-scenes look at a character’s backstory or something interesting about the setting that didn’t make it to the final version of BORROWED?

Linnea’s mother wanted a child but not a partner (she’d had several disastrous relationships in the past, including one with a man who hated kids), which is why she availed herself of IVF when she wanted to conceive. Although that fact of Linnea’s parentage is mentioned once in the final draft, I’d had much more about it in earlier drafts, including an unsuccessful attempt by Linnea to find the person who she believes passed on a faulty heart to her. Because those details felt interesting to me but did not move the story forward, I had to cut them.

Is there a scene or moment in BORROWED that really sticks with you? Can you tell us a little bit about it?

I’m thinking about the scene that I hadn’t wanted to write because I knew it would be so excruciating to write. In the draft I sent in to Elephant Rock Books’s Helen Sheehan YA Contest, I had only implied that this major event occurred; I hadn’t written any of it. But my brilliant, thoughtful editor Jotham Burrello asked me to consider writing it, and gave very compelling reasons for doing so. Once he laid out his logic, I knew the story would be stronger with that very difficult scene in there, and I knew I had to muster up my courage to write it. I was right: it was excruciating to write, but I am glad Jotham saw the need for it, and I am glad I worked myself up to writing it.

Where did your ideas for your antagonist come from?

Sometimes writing feels mysterious to me. Often I can track the origin of my ideas (as in the question that triggered one major idea behind the novel), but when it comes to the antagonist this time around, the line is blurry at best. I think the reason for this is that I wanted the girls to drive the story first and foremost, and so writing them felt like conscious work on my part. But what the antagonist said/did felt like “gifts” from the antagonist himself, clues and motivations he lobbed my way when I was trying to focus on the two main characters. I can’t describe the process where he’s involved more accurately than saying those ideas all came from him; I just accepted them gratefully.

What do you most hope that readers take away from BORROWED?

The thing I most hope readers take away from BORROWED is hope itself. Both of the protagonists have been through hell and back, and in each of those scenarios, many people might not get up again afterwards. And yet, both of these strong young women go on to engage with life, and to me, that’s the epitome of hope: accepting the reality of the darkest of situations, and yet believing the sun will shine again and therefore turning one’s face toward the sun.

What is one question about BORROWED you are often asked by readers?

Questions along the line of: “Are you a baker? The desserts you described sound delicious. Did you make them before you put them in the book?” And my answer: I’m an amateur baker at best (and I consistently fail at making my desserts pretty, so I doubt I’d make a good pastry chef). I may not have made everything Linnea makes in the novel, but I can (proudly) say that I’ve eaten it all. (Which is why I hear the treadmill calling…)

About Lucia DiStefano

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

A former high school English teacher, Lucia DiStefano currently works as an editor, ghostwriter, and writing coach. First-generation Sicilian-American and daughter of an olive farmer, she admits to having recurring pasta dreams. Hailing from central Connecticut, Lucia lives near Austin, Texas with her husband and an old bloodhound named Waffle.

Follow the Blog Tour for More

August 1: Cover reveal at YA Interrobang

September 4: Review at Alice Reeds

September 10: Author interview at Alice Reeds

September 24: Cover reveal at BubblersRead

October 8: Review at Liz Loves Books  

October 9-15: Giveaway at Miss Print

October 15: Review at BubblersRead

October 17: Guest post at Liz Loves Books

October 22: Excerpt at YA Interrobang

October 25: Author interview at YA Outside the Lines  

October 31: Author interview at Katya de Becerra: The Last Day of Normal

November 1: Giveaway and guest post at Carina’s Books

November 5: Author interview at BubblersRead

November 12: Author guest post at BubblersRead

November 14: Author interview at Cynsations

November 19: First impressions video with YouTuber BookRatMisty

November 20: First impressions on The Book Rat

November 20: Author interview at The Story Sanctuary – You are here!

December 5: Podcast Interview at The Writing Barn

Like Elephant Rock on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @ElephantRockBks for book and blog tour news and updates!

Q&A with Author Laurie Lucking

If you’re a fan of The Selection by Kiera Cass or Everless by Sara Holland like I am, you’ll really enjoy the servant-girl-must-save-the-kingdom story of Common by Laurie Lucking. Today I’m sharing the questions and answers session I had with Laurie where she talks more about what inspired her to write her book.

Q&A with Author Laurie Lucking

I find that a story was often inspired by a question. Was there a question that inspired you to write Common?

It was more like a series of questions 🙂 I wanted to write a friendship that turns into romance, but because I love fairy tales, I started thinking things like “What if he was a prince and she was a maid?” “What if his parents arranged his engagement to someone else?” “What if the maid uncovered a plot against the royal family and had to save the day?” From there, my story was off and running!

Who is your favorite character? Were there things about him/her which couldn’t be included in the novel?

I think my favorite character has to be the protagonist, Leah, because there are so many aspects of her that remind me of my own teenage self and I love that she’s a quiet, understated heroine. In my original draft, the opening chapters took place during Leah’s childhood as she meets and becomes friends with the prince. Sadly, those chapters had to be cut. The opening is much stronger for it, but I do think those scenes were a fun look at Leah as a young girl, working hard at the palace and in search of a quiet refuge from her boisterous fellow servants.

Is there a scene or moment in your novel that really sticks with you? Can you tell us a little bit about it?

One scene that comes to mind is when Leah has retreated to her broom closet hideout and is crying after being teased by the stable hands. Prince Raphael finds her there and comforts her.

This scene stands out to me first because it’s a rare moment of vulnerability for Leah. She tries so hard to be strong and logical, and this is one occasion where she lets her guard down. I also love this scene because it’s one of the first times where hints of romance creep into Leah’s friendship with the prince. One of my favorite aspects of friendship-turned-romance relationships are those key moments where the characters start to view each other in a different light, and the hug they share in this scene is definitely one of those turning points.

Where did your ideas for your antagonist come from?

My antagonist started out as a very murky concept because he stays behind-the-scenes for the majority of the book. But once he finally made an appearance, I drew a lot of inspiration from Rasputin in the 1997 film Anastasia and Jafar from Disney’s Aladdin. He’s a power-hungry, somewhat deranged yet oddly charismatic man who has been waiting a long time for revenge and has a twisted concept of justice.

What do you most hope that readers take away from your novel?

I hope readers first of all realize that no one, no matter how ordinary they may seem, is “common.” We are all UNcommon and capable of extraordinary things! I also hope readers take away the reminder that often the darkest, most challenging parts of our journey are preparing us for something much greater.

What is one question about your novel you are often asked by readers?

I’m often asked about my inspiration for the mystics, the group of unusual nuns my protagonist encounters in the second half of Common. The concept derived from the mystics of the early Christian church—holy men and women who lived in seclusion to achieve a greater union with God and would occasionally receive visions from God. I used my license as a fantasy writer to expand on that idea and ended up with a group of ladies who are in equal parts devout and powerful.

What have you read recently that you loved, or what’s one book on your reading list that you’re super excited about finally getting to read?

I’m in the middle of my advance review copy of A Dance of Shadows by Erica Marie Hogan, and it’s fantastic! I loved the first book in the series, Winter Queen, so I couldn’t wait to get started with this one! Her writing style is so lyrical, and her characters and fantasy world are increasingly deep and complex. I would highly recommend it for fans of Christian fantasy!

About Laurie Lucking

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

An avid reader practically since birth, Laurie Lucking discovered her passion for writing after leaving her career as an attorney to become a stay-at-home mom. When she gets a break from playing superheroes and driving windup cars, she writes young adult fantasy with a strong thread of fairy tale romance. Her debut novel, Common, released in February from Love2ReadLove2Write Publishing, and her short story, “Threshold,” was published in a Fellowship of Fantasy anthology titled Mythical Doorways. Laurie is the Secretary of her local ACFW chapter and a co-founder of Lands Uncharted, a blog for fans of clean young adult speculative fiction. A Midwestern girl through and through, she currently lives in Minnesota with her husband and two young sons. Find out more by visiting www.laurielucking.com.


About Common by Laurie Lucking


Only one person knows of the plot against the royal family and cares enough to try to stop it—the servant girl they banished.

Leah spends her days scrubbing floors, polishing silver, and meekly curtsying to nobility. Nothing distinguishes her from the other commoners serving at the palace, except her red hair.

And her secret friendship with Rafe, the Crown Prince of Imperia.

But Leah’s safe, ordinary world begins to splinter. Rafe’s parents announce his betrothal to a foreign princess, and she unearths a plot to overthrow the royal family. When she reports it without proof, her life shatters completely when the queen banishes her for treason.

Harbored by an unusual group of nuns, Leah must secure Rafe’s safety before it’s too late. But her quest reveals a villain far more sinister than an ambitious nobleman with his eye on the throne.

Can a common maidservant summon the courage to fight for her dearest friend?




Q&A with Martin Hospitality Author Abigayle Claire

One of the books that caught my attention lately is Martin Hospitality by Abigayle Claire. It’s about a pregnant teenage girl who finds refuge with the Martin family. I love the sweet premise and couldn’t resist learning more about what inspired the story. Abigayle has graciously taken time to answer my questions, and I’m sharing her answers here. First, let me tell you a little more about the book.

About Martin Hospitality

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Gemma Ebworthy is eighteen, pregnant, and alone. Now that she’s been evicted, she finds herself sleeping in a barn, never dreaming that tomorrow could bring kindness of a life-changing magnitude.

The Martins aren’t a typical family—even for rural Kansas. With more kids than can be counted on one hand and a full-time farm, Gemma must make a lot of adjustments to fit in. But despite their many differences, Gemma finds herself drawn to this family and their radical Christian faith.

When Gemma’s past collides with her yet again, she must begin revealing her colorful history. With every detail Gemma concedes, she fears she will lose the Martins’ trust and the stable environment she desires for herself and her unborn child. Just how far can the Martins’ love and God’s forgiveness go?

Q&A with Abigayle Claire

I find that a story was often inspired by a question. Was there a question that inspired you to write Martin Hospitality?

A crazy dream I had inspired Martin Hospitality, so I’ve never really thought about it from the question standpoint! But I suppose one of the questions I sought to answer was what would  a family similar to mine look like to someone completely foreign to the faith and how might they be influenced.

Who is your favorite character? Were there things about him which couldn’t be included in the novel?

My favorite character in book 1 is actually Mr. Martin, a controversial character. (Although Gemma and Josiah are of course close seconds as the MCs.) I think about his past and future in relation to book 1 all the time, so yes! Lots not included that still shaped him as a character.

Is there a scene or moment in your novel that really sticks with you? Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Chapter 12 was actually the first chapter I wrote and takes place during a fall festival which makes me very happy. I also really love Gemma’s strength and all the tiny developments in that chapter with the drama.

In Martin Hospitality, Gemma wrestles with judgment and forgiveness. What made you want to write about these themes?

I think the themes came along easily with Gemma being a lost, pregnant teen. I wanted her to glimpse God through unexpected kindness long enough for her to stand up for herself and seek the God behind it in her own right. Plus, I think both judgment and forgiveness are things that both nonbelievers and believers alike deal with during their lifetime.

What do you most hope that readers take away from Martin Hospitality?

Tough question! One of the big things is God’s sufficiency. It sounds simple, but it’s so easy to forget. Gemma has to reach her own end over and over again and decide whether or not to trust God each time. But He is worth trusting, He is always there, and He is always capable. And often He’s just waiting to be asked.

What is one question about your novel you are often asked by readers?

“How did you write it?” The answer is that it wasn’t me. It came through a dream and developed a depth and intricacy that no amount of planning or editing on my part could have produced. Soli Deo Gloria.

I also get “Mr. and Mrs. Martin are your mom and dad, right?” from people who know me. While there are general similarities, I don’t consider them the same people by any means.

What have you read recently that you loved, or what’s one book on your reading list that you’re super excited about finally getting to read?

I just finished reading Fawkes by Nadine Brandes in September. I loved her other books, so I expected to like it, but the expansive themes and intense reality of the internal turmoil (with plenty of outside turmoil to make a great story of course!) really blew my mind. I’m already hoping to reread it soon which I don’t do often. Talk about changing people with your fiction! It’s wonderful to see characters grapple with their idea of God in a way that deepens your own faith.

About Abigayle Claire

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Abigayle has been a writer ever since her mother taught her how to hold a pencil. However, she devoted more time to reading words with her green eyes than penning them with her left hand. Inspired by a crazy dream at the age of sixteen, she set off on a journey to self-publish her first novel, Martin Hospitality. Since then, Abigayle has devoted herself to sharing what she has learned through the mediums of freelance editing and her blog theleft-handedytpist.blogspot.com … when period drama films are not calling more loudly. None of her successes, including winning a 2017 Readers’ Favorite Award, would be possible without the support of her Savior, large family, and online community.