Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Meet Debut Author Amanda Wen!

Welcome back, friends. I invite you to get comfy in my tea parlor, grab a scone, and pour yourself a cup of tea. Today's guest is a brand new author to the Christian Fiction scene.

Amanda Wen is an award-winning writer of inspirational romance and split-time women’s fiction. She has placed first in multiple contests, including the 2017 Indiana Golden Opportunity Contest, the 2017 Phoenix Rattler Contest, and the 2016 ACFW First Impressions Contest, among others. She was also a 2018 ACFW Genesis Contest finalist.

In addition to her writing, Amanda is an accomplished professional cellist and pianist who frequently performs with orchestras, chamber groups, and worship teams, as well as serving as a choral accompanist. A lifelong denizen of the flatlands, Amanda currently lives in Kansas with her husband, their three adorable and hilarious Wenlets, and a snuggly Siamese cat. Roots of Wood and Stone is her debut novel.

Welcome, Amanda! I am so glad to meet you and to introduce you to the world. Let's get started!

CC: First off, how can we pray for you?

AW: I would love prayer for the launch of Roots of Wood and Stone. It’s a dream come true, and while I’d love to say I’m excited and joyful and soaking up every minute, I’m actually very anxious about it. I have no idea how to ensure a book’s success once the writing is done, and I’m a little confused as to why God would choose to have me release this book in the midst of a global pandemic when many things are shut down, in-person launch events can’t happen, and the economy is less than amazing. Every aspect of writing this book, though, has been an exercise in trust, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that releasing it is any different. But if you could pray that a) those who God wants to read this book will read it and be brought closer to Him, and b) that I’d be able to relax and enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience without worrying that I’m somehow doing it wrong, that’d be amazing.

CC: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

AW: I’ve written stories for fun off and on ever since I was a kid, but the writing bug hit me big-time in January 2008, when I wrote stories and actually let other people read them. Then came the Wenlets—all three within four years—so that gobbled up my time until 2014, when story ideas came out of nowhere and refused to let go. Around that time I started letting a lifelong friend, herself a multi-published author in the general market, read my work. She took me under her wing and gently corrected all my newbie writing errors, but told me I had publishable talent and ideas. I decided that if God had given me that gift, I should probably pursue it through whatever avenue he chose.

CC: What has been the biggest challenge for you on your writing journey?

AW: Trusting God’s timing, which is I think a common one for us writers. So many of us finish our first novel and then we think we’ve Arrived somehow, and we want to run out and get it published. I was absolutely no exception. And though my first novel won a few contests and landed me my wonderful agent, it did not sell to publishers. I was pretty disappointed, as anyone would be, but while that book was on submission, I’d started to write another book in a slightly different genre—one I truly loved writing and felt at home in. My agent wasn’t as excited about it as she had been my first book, but she believed in my writing and said she’d pitch anything I wrote. That second book didn’t do as well in contests and was on submission for over a year…but the folks at Kregel fell in love with it, and that book is the one that became Roots of Wood and Stone.

One postscript illustrating God’s perfect timing: Roots of Wood and Stone was inspired by my mom’s research into our family history, and I dreamed of the day when I’d get to tell her that the book was under contract. The day that dream came true and I finally got to call her with the news, I got to call Ireland, where she and my dad were celebrating their 50th anniversary. At the time of the call, they were eating lunch in a little café in the hometown of the ancestor whose life inspired the book. It doesn’t get much more perfect than that.

CC: Did you hide any secrets in your book that only a few people will find?

AW: This book is inspired by aspects of my own family history. My mom is a genealogist and has been tracing our family—and sharing their stories—my whole life. As an homage to her and all the rest of my ancestors, many of the people and places in the book are named for my ancestors. There are also several shout-outs to Wichita, Kansas, my home for most of my life, which people who’ve been around these parts might recognize.

CC: What was your hardest scene to write?

AW: I can narrow it down to two, and I really can’t go into detail about either one of them because MAJOR spoilers. However, I can say that these two scenes forced me to confront my two greatest fears, and seeing how God was present for my characters helped me realize that even if these fears do come to pass at some point in my life, He is still God, and He is still good.

Roots of Wood and Stone

This historic home holds the keys to their destiny . . .and their hearts

Abandoned at birth, her family roots a mystery, historical museum curator Sloane Kelley has dedicated her life to making sure others know theirs. When a donor drops off a dusty old satchel, she doesn't expect much from the common artifact . . .until she finds real treasure inside: a nineteenth-century diary.Now she's on the hunt to find out more.

Garrett Anderson just wanted to clean out his grandmother's historic but tumbledown farmhouse before selling it to fund her medical care. With her advancing Alzheimer's, he can't afford to be sentimental about the family home. But his carefully ordered plan runs up against two formidable obstacles: Sloane, who's fallen in love with both the diaries and the house, and his own heart, which is irresistibly drawn to Sloane.

A century and a half earlier, motherless Annabelle Collins embarks with her aunt and uncle on the adventure of a lifetime: settling the prairies of Sedgwick County, Kansas. The diaries she left behind paint a portrait of life, loss, and love--and a God who faithfully carries her through it all. Paging through the diaries together takes Sloane and Garrett on a journey they never could have planned, which will change them in ways they never imagined.

This warm, beautifully written split-time novel will resonate with readers looking for stories that reveal the beauty of God's plan for our lives, and how our actions ripple for generations.

You can check out Amanda's book Roots of Wood and Stone at your favorite retailer.

If you would like to be entered for a chance to win a copy of Roots of Wood and Stone. Be sure to comment below with a "Congratulations!" and your email in (at) (dot) form. :-)

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Interview and Giveaway with author Susan Spess!!

 Today on The Diamond Mine, we welcome author Susan Spess. We're going to find out a bit about her and her new book: Jordan Valley Miss.

 Sometimes it takes the loss of everything to gain the joys God has in store... 

When Pastor Eli's wife and brother ran away together, he was the one who lost- his family, his church, and his faith. All he has left are his four-year-old daughter and a little church in the world's smallest town. But he still has his speaking talent, and with it, he's sure he can build up their numbers so he can catch the attention of another mega-church. He needs to be back in the big time where he belongs.

Glory Matthews voted against hiring the new minister. He's single and handsome and more charismatic than any man has the right to be. He'll draw every man-hunting woman around. And because he's used to the big time, he won't stay long. But when Eli is with his daughter, he's down-to-earth, loving and everything she could want, and Glory's heart melts like a forgotten candle burning in the night.

If it's one thing Eli Daniels doesn't need, it's Glory Matthews. She's head-strong, pretty, faithful and doesn't seem to be fazed by his "celebrity." But Glory is also everything he could ever want, and somehow this Jordan Valley miss just might help him find his faith and mend his heart.

Wow! This sounds like a great read to me! Now let's get to the interview. 
Susan, what do you like best about this story?
I enjoy the characters and the setting. They're all composites of people and places I've known in my life. Writing it was kind of like going home.

How did you get the idea for the story?
I went to a Christian college when I graduated from high school, and I might have known a guy or two who were super talented like the hero of my story.

Do you have a favorite character, and if so, why are they your favorite?
Yes, my two favorite characters are the mother and aunt of the heroine. They write children's books and have a ball doing it.

I bet you had fun writing those two characters!
Do you have the whole story planned out before you write it, or do you write it as you go?
I don't have the entire story planned out, but I usually have my turning points before I start.

That sounds like a good method.
Do your characters ever surprise you?
Absolutely. Once I wrote a scene (not in this book) about a man who punched a wall and broke his hand. Later I had him getting into the shower when he waved his casted arm at me and said, "I can't get this wet." LOL!

I love that!! What a great glimpse into the sometimes wacky world of writing characters! 
Speaking of characters, are yours based on yourself or people you know?
Yes, they are. Usually, they're a little bit of several people I know... with my emotional responses.

I often wonder if the people reading our books know which of their traits we've borrowed for a character!
What's the most difficult thing about writing?
Finding time to do it. I still work full time in the family business.

That must be stress-full for you at times.
What do you enjoy most about being a writer?
Actually putting the words on paper. I've always made up stories to entertain myself, and now that I write them down, I know where I left off.

I'm glad you write them down now!
So, how much of a role does your faith play in your writing process?
My faith is part of all of my life. I just pray I'm not too preachy when I write.

Yes. I think most Christian writers worry about that!
What would you like readers to take away from your stories?
That God is a loving father who'll never leave us or forsake us.

That is a most precious and vital understanding for everyone to know. I'm so glad you weave that into your books.
What are you writing now?
I have two more books finished in this series set in Jordan Valley, Oklahoma, and now I'm working on a series set in Purdy Water, Oklahoma.
I'm just an Okie at heart. 
Thank you for having me. This was so much fun!

Yes, it was, and I'm so glad to have had a chance to showcase you and your book. Thanks for the lovely interview, Susan!

Okay, readers! If you'd like to be entered in the drawing for a copy of Susan's book, please leave a comment and your email address!
Also, here are some of Susan's links: 

Instagram: sshay74020
Twitter: @shaywriter
Purchase link: Amazon