Even though The Revisionary released in 2017, it remains increasingly relevant to our times. After all, living in 2020 has somewhat felt like living in a dystopian novel (where anything that can go wrong probably will go wrong).
That said, my desire in writing The Revisionary and the other two books in the trilogy was to show hope through dark circumstances. Specifically, my characters find that hope by rediscovering America’s heritage. I want my readers to walk away feeling inspired to press on and do what’s right even if they’re swimming against the popular current.
I’m honored to share an excerpt from this latest book review. For more details and to learn more about this reviewer’s blog, keep reading.
“I’ve seen one dystopian movie and have never been particularly interested in the genre, but after looking at the reviews for The Revisionary, I decided to give this book a try. The Revisionary is the first dystopian book I’ve read, and wow, does it set the bar high for other books in the genre. Five stars is not a high enough rating. The plot is incredible, the characters relatable, and the settings chilling …
“The Revisionary is a powerful, thrilling read. Whatever your opinion of the dystopian genre, this is a book you have to add to your TBR list.”
Tessa Emily Hall is one of my go-to authors for young adult inspirational fiction, and when I heard she was releasing a non-fiction devotional for teens, I wanted to know more. Today, she shares about Love Your Selfie, her new devotional designed to help teen girls gain a biblical perspective of their worth in Christ.
Q: What need do you see present in the lives of teenagers today that you hope Love Your Selfie will help meet?
The issues of self-shame, insecurity, and comparison is nothing new amongst teens; however, I believe the measure in which teens have dealt with these issues have increased. It’s been less than ten years since I, myself, was a teen, but I feel like the pressure to be perfect has since reached new heights.
These days, teens desire to attain the polished perfection that they are exposed with on social media through the aid of filters. Their measure of worth fluctuates day-to-day as it’s often attached to the number of likes on their posts and followers on social media. And, of course, there seems to be no escaping from the cyber bullying that runs rampant on Instagram and YouTube. Because of this, I don’t believe there has ever been more of an identity crisis amongst youth than there is today.
I hope that, by drawing from my personal experiences with self-shame and insecurity, I can help these girls seek God and His Word along their quest for identity and confidence. Through the use of Scriptures that proclaim the truth about who we are in Christ, girls will be challenged to view themselves through the eyes of the Word rather than the eyes of the world. Then, as they rise up in confidence, they will be better equipped to utilize their God-given gifts to reach out and extend God’s Kingdom.
“Girls will be challenged to view themselves through the eyes of the Word rather than the eyes of the world.” ~ Tessa Emily Hall on @khogrefeparnell
Q: What experiences from your own life impacted the writing of Love Your Selfie?
This devotional comes from a vulnerable place, only because self-shame was an issue that I personally wrestled with as a tween/teen as well. I often felt like people were secretly judging me for my “flaws”; because of that, I would often keep myself hidden. But as I drew closer to Christ and rooted my identity in Him, His love enabled me to rise back up with boldness. He helped me learn how to embrace my uniqueness rather than condemning myself for being “different.”
Throughout this journey, I discovered why the enemy wants to keep us paralyzed with insecurity: because he doesn’t want us to reach out. He wants us to remain hidden rather than being like a “city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden” (Matt. 5:14). Because if the enemy can cripple us with self-shame and insecurity, then we will never gain the confidence we need to step up, to speak out, or to extend a helping hand. We will never come to realize the full potential God has placed within us—gifts we should use to build the Body of Christ.
Q: Selfies, selfie-sticks, photo filters, and more—All these tools have become commonplace today. How can teens find a balance between sharing about themselves and not becoming overly self-focused?
Great question. The message of self-acceptance can often cause Christians to cringe—and, really, I get it. We don’t want to preach the wrong message of pride; after all, pride is the root of all evil. We have been called to die to our flesh, to bear our cross, to focus more on others rather than ourselves, to live as Jesus lived. And, yes, there is potential danger for the message of self-acceptance/love to be taken too far.
But from my perspective, self-acceptance is different from self-pride. Self-acceptance involves being confident (not proud) in your own skin. In the way that God has designed you. When we grow in confidence and understand our worth in Christ, we will then be motivated to treat ourselves with care (which is scriptural). It’s hard to care for something or someone when we don’t see the value of it. Then, as we step into our identity in Christ, we will become unashamed to embrace the unique ways in which we have been called to share the gospel.
Isn’t this partly why Christ paid such a high price for us? So that we could grasp just how much we are worth in His eyes? So that we could live in freedom from condemnation, including the kind that comes from self-shame?
The Bible makes it clear that there is only hate and love; light and darkness; hot and cold. No in between. This makes me wonder—if we aren’t loving ourselves, then are we hating ourselves? And if so, is that really the behavior in which we should treat a creation of our Creator?
I believe it comes down to the state of our hearts. The journey of self-acceptance should never be taken apart from God’s Word; if it is, then, yes, we’d certainly become at risk of idolizing ourselves. We’d become at risk of living for ourselves rather than for God and His children. But if this journey is taken as a result of our time spent with God and in His Word, then our hearts will remain in the right place. Our hearts will then remain focused on what matters to Jesus: loving God, loving others, and living in total surrender to Him.
Freedom is simply a byproduct of drawing closer to Christ.
Q: With social media, we often see only people’s “best faces.” How can this reality lead to an unhealthy comparison, and what should young people remember when viewing content online?
Exactly! Social media is yet another means by which we mask our insecurities, considering it presents us with the temptation to create a persona. We can hide our true selves behind the disguise of photo filters. We can post pictures that reflect our best adventures in life and toss out photos that reflect our everyday difficulties.
Yet even though we remember this when it comes to hiding our insecurities, we tend to forget this as it applies to other people. In other words, we tend to compare our “flaws” with the filtered versions of others on Instagram. This is what has created an unhealthy trap of comparison amongst teen girls—resulting in even more of a self-hatred issue.
This is why it’s important for girls to remember that reality is only found in real life. Not on social media.
When we draw closer to Christ, we build spiritual muscles and are less likely to give in to the temptations of the flesh. I believe this applies with the temptation to compare as well. Because, yes, I do believe that comparison is a sin, considering it comes from a place of both pride and jealousy. Yet this relationship with Christ enables us to focus less on ourselves and embrace our God-given identity; therefore, that trap of comparison will eventually becomes less appealing as we scroll through Instagram.
Q: What is one takeaway you hope teenagers will hold onto after reading this book?
I hope teen readers will discover that God has designed them in a unique way for a reason, as a way to help them fulfill the specific calling He has placed on their lives. A calling that is centered on furthering God’s Kingdom.
Meet award-winning author Tessa Emily Hall, who challenges teens to embrace their God-given identity in her new release, Love Your Selfie.
Tessa Emily Hall is an award-winning author who writes inspirational yet authentic books for teens to remind them they’re not alone. She writes both fiction and devotionals for teens, including her upcoming release, LOVE YOUR SELFIE (October 2020, Ellie Claire). Tessa’s passion for shedding light on clean entertainment and media for teens led her to a career as a Literary Agent at Cyle Young Literary Elite, YA Acquisitions Editor for Illuminate YA (LPC Imprint), and Founder/Editor of PursueMagazine.net.
About Love Your Selfie
The truth is: the Creator of the Universe stamped His approval on you far before anyone ever had the chance to disapprove. In this 52-week devotional, you will be guided through a journey of embracing the unique way you were created. Author Tessa Emily Hall shares her personal struggles of dealing with insecurity and self-shame as a teen, then she invites you to reflect on the weekly message through journal prompts and social media challenges. You will be taken on a journey to understand what Scripture says about your identity, discover how you can tap into your God-given potential, and learn to love who you are inside.
Subscribe to Kristen’s newsletter for monthly book buzz about Christian fiction and non-fiction for teens and adults, plus be the first to learn about giveaways and personal takeaways for your everyday adventures.
When you join, you’ll receive a free copy of Kristen’s novella, A Cord of Three Strands, the prequel to her award-winning novel, The Revisionary.
I first met Kristen in a Facebook readers group and discovered we share two things in common. First, we spell our names the same way. If you’ve ever had someone misspell your name, you know how exciting it is to meet someone else who has the same spelling as you.
Also, we both write young adult dystopian fiction from a Christian worldview. I’m thrilled to share an interview with Kristen today where she talks about her new release, Apprentice, now available on Amazon.
Q: You’ve written several nonfiction books for teens. What prompted you to also branch into young adult fiction and the dystopian genre, in particular?
As a kid I was always reading, so fiction has been a life-long love for me. I have a bit of a soft spot for books like Brave New World, the Hunger Games and so on. I love a good story — one that keeps you on the edge of your seat reading to the end. It was fun to try and write one of those stories for myself.
Q: What do you hope readers will take away from this dystopian adventure?
First and foremost, I hope they’ll be entertained by the story. But I guess I hope people will also enjoy the themes it raises as it investigates the question of love: what is love, really? What does the word mean? How do we know love when we see it? The dystopian aspect of the story looks at the question of how love and power intersect. What happens when a political power takes a word we all care about and uses it for their own ends?
Q: You’ve lived in the UK, Sydney, and currently live in New South Wales. (That’s in Australia, for my American friends). Have any of the places you’ve lived or visited impacted the setting of this book?
Not for this one. There is another series I’m working on that was inspired by my local region. But this one was more inspired by sterile environments I’ve seen in images than by anywhere I’ve lived.
Q: When did you first start writing for teens, and why do you think reaching this age group through both fiction and nonfiction is important?
I started writing for teens when I was one (quite a long time ago!). For teens, I think they’re living through an age where life can be super threatening – where they are processing issues of identity and purpose and a general sense of “where do I fit in the world?” Fiction gives teens a safe space to explore those questions in a way that non-fiction doesn’t always manage as well. Fiction helps us to process issues that are often too threatening to deal with in real life. In fiction we get to see characters triumph over adversity. We watch the characters experiment with different actions and consequences, and make choices that we might not be brave enough to make. So through fiction, we learn to orient ourselves in the world even while we’re being entertained.
“Through fiction, we learn to orient ourselves in the world even while we’re being entertained.” ~ Kristen Young on @khogrefeparnell
Q: As writers, we often don’t get to see how our writing influences others. However, sometimes readers do reach out and share with us. What has been the most encouraging feedback you’ve received?
I received feedback on one of my books from a non English-speaking reader a few years ago – they tracked me down through Facebook to say that they’d managed to get a copy in their country. It was a little mind-blowing to find that my work had travelled so far around the world. That was super encouraging!
Q: What has been the most challenging and/or most rewarding part of being a writer?
The most challenging part is the waiting. The concept of ‘overnight success’ is a complete furphy (as we say in Australia). That is, it’s non-existent. It took me several practice novels and a lot of writing before Apprentice was born. In between, there were long, painful periods of waiting to hear from publishers and other professionals.
Q: Can you hint when readers might expect to see the sequel to Apprentice?
2021 is going to be a good year. Is that enough of a hint? 🙂
Meet Author Kristen Young whose new Christian dystopian novel for young adults is the latest extension of her heart for teens.
Kristen Young was born (and spent a memorable first few months of her life) in the UK, grew up in Sydney, but now lives in the Central West of NSW with her husband, three children, and slightly neurotic dog. She has been involved in church-based ministry for over 20 years, and loves helping people of any age to see how awesome Jesus is. Kristen has had a number of books published, beginning with The Survival Guide series of devotions for teens. What if? Dealing with Doubt is a book for anyone from high school age onward, and aims to help anyone struggling with doubts about God, Jesus, or faith. In more recent years she has been writing fiction, and Apprentice, the first book in the Collective Underground trilogy is being released through Enclave Escape in October, 2020.
The Love Collective is everywhere. It sees everything. Be not afraid.
Apprentice Flick remembers everything, except the first five years of her life. And for as long as she can remember, Flick has wanted to enter the Elite Academy – home to the best, brightest, and most loyal members of the Love Collective government.
Flick’s uncanny memory might get her there, too … even if it is the very thing that marks her as a freak. But frightening hallucinations start intruding into her days and threaten to bring down all she has worked so hard to accomplish. Why is she being hijacked by a stranger’s nightmare over and over again?
Moving to the Elite Academy could give Flick the future she’s always wanted. But her search for truth may lead to a danger she cannot escape.
Since buying our home in March, we’ve been renovating the place, and I’ve shared parts of our kitchen remodel story with you here on the blog. Through this process, I’ve discovered that unfinished things awaken my old enemy of perfectionism, disguised as “the next-thing” syndrome. It tries to steal the beauty of progress by running a to-do-list of unfinished tasks through my mind.
Wanting to get ahead and take ownership are positive traits, but there is a gray area where this “next-thing” mentality becomes a problem. It can encourage a subtle spirit of discontent and restlessness that distracts from “the main thing” that matters more.
Let’s go to God’s Word to find guiding practices for fighting “the next-thing” mentality.
Fight the “next-thing” mentality by remembering “the main thing.” @khogrefeparnell
How do you respond to urgent matters? If you’re like me, I tend to drop everything and try to put out that fire and then have to figure out where I left off.
Don’t be like me. Be like Jesus instead. When He received an urgent message that His friend Lazarus was dying, He actually chose to delay his arrival, because He wanted to increase the faith of those with Him by performing a miracle (John 11:4).
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again” (John 11:5-7 NKJV).
Did you catch that? The wording here reveals that because Jesus loved this family, He waited to respond.
The truth is that we can better love people when we don’t hurry. Hurry breeds anxiety, forgetfulness, and a rushed spirit. Hurried actions suggest we need more and we need it now to be content. The focus is on ourselves, not others. On the flip side, intentional actions leave room for prayer and thoughtful preparation.
Granted, none of us is God. We don’t have the foresight to know that the situation will turn out all right as Jesus did. However, His example is still relevant for us. Instead of reacting like a reflex, we can pause and be intentional with our next steps. Doing so reveals consideration for others over ourselves.
Learn to be Present
Although Jesus performed wonderful miracles during His earthly ministry, He knew what His primary purpose was: “to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28 NKJV). In Luke 18, He confides in His disciples that they must journey to Jerusalem so that He can fulfill “all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man” (Luke 18:31 NKJV).
Have you ever had a mission or task to fulfill? I’m not talking about dying to save the world like Jesus, but maybe you’ve had a deadline to meet, a ministry to manage, or a project to complete (*cough* like a kitchen renovation). In those times, I tend to get tunnel vision: focusing on the goal so much that I lose sight of my surroundings.
Even though Jesus had the literal weight of the world on His shoulders, He remained present. As He approached Jericho on the way to Jerusalem, He met a blind man who begged for mercy and for his sight to be restored.
Jesus didn’t tell Him, “Can’t you see I’m busy? I’m about my Father’s business and have to get to Jerusalem. You can’t even imagine the anguish I’m going to suffer. I’m going to die to save you. Isn’t that enough?”
No, Jesus didn’t say any of those things. Instead, He offered the gift of His presence to this needy man and met him right where he was.
Then Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well” (Luke 18:42 NKVJ).
So too, we can offer the gift of being present to our families, friends, and even complete strangers in the middle of unfinished work. Instead of being task-focused, we can be present to love the people in our path.
Focus on What Matters More
We’ve already met Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus, but I want to include another part of their story because it touches at the heart of “the next-thing” syndrome. At a different time, they were hosting Jesus in their home, but while Martha was slaving in the kitchen, Mary was no where to be found! Martha finally spotted her, sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him teach.
Frustrated that all the work fell to her, Martha ratted out her sister to Jesus: “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me” (Luke 10:40b NKJV).
Martha was so focused on the next thing that she was missing out on the main thing: Jesus was in her home, sharing His presence and wisdom with her family and their guests.
What if she had seen Mary, and instead of getting upset, realized that she herself was the one missing out? Maybe Martha would have pulled out the paper plates instead of the fine china so she could listen in too.
Remember the Reason
I really hope that one day, I’ll wake up a Mary, but I suspect I’ll be a Martha to the end. Hopefully, a reformed Martha. Let’s not be so consumed with the task that we forget the reason for it.
For me, that looks like welcoming people into my unfinished home and prioritizing community over perfection. For you, it might look like something completely different.
The bottom line is that we’re all works-in-progress in this journey to grow more like Jesus. And maybe, just maybe, God places these unfinished tasks and projects in our path, not to make us discontent, but to remind us that we are to be about our Father’s business, not our own accomplishments.
God places unfinished tasks and projects in our path, not to make us discontent, but to remind us that we are to be about our Father’s business, not our own accomplishments.
Some conversations leave you feeling energized, like you just finished chatting with a best friend over coffee and are now ready to continue all the tasks at hand. That’s how my interview at The Correspondent podcast with Evelyn Corral felt.
I would love for you to take a listen to this episode. Whether you’re a writer or pursuing some other calling, you’ll be encouraged to persevere and embrace new beginnings, no matter how small.
Some of my favorite takeaways from our chat include the following:
Appreciate closed doors since they might be blessings in disguise.
Remember we have to start somewhere, no matter how small.
Be faithful to your calling.
Struggles are part of pursuing any passion. What can you learn from them?
Your little is not too little for God to use.
Which one of these takeaways resonates most with you? Or did a different takeaway stick with you?
Live in abundance and keep pursuing those God-given dreams.
Whether you’re a writer or pursuing some other calling, be encouraged to persevere and embrace new beginnings, no matter how small. @khogrefeparnell
Samples have taken a hit since Covid19 struck. I was in a beauty store over the weekend, and the sales clerk apologized that she could no longer give me a sample to find my perfect shade match but assured me I could return the product if I was dissatisfied.
Naturally, I understood, but samples can be so helpful in letting us determine if something is a good fit for us or not.
That’s why I’m excited to share this news! My publisher has released a special three-chapter sample of The Revisionary, available for free as an e-book! Maybe you’ve never read dystopian before and are curious if you’ll enjoy the genre. Or maybe you are familiar with blockbuster sagas like The Hunger Games and Divergent but are curious how a dystopia could offer hope for the future.
Sometimes, I wondered if this day would come. The search for the right literary agent has been quite the journey.
But the wait was worthwhile. I’m so honored to share that I signed with the Blythe Daniel Agency and Literary Agent Stephanie Alton, who will be representing me on a new Christian Romantic Suspense project I cannot wait for you to read one day!
About My New Project
The setting of this story is near to my life (and heart) as it takes my heroine from her ordinary world in Tampa to the snow-covered slopes of Beech Mountain. Both places are special to me, because I’m a Florida girl by birth, and my husband James proposed to me near Beech Mountain. You’ll get to experience so much of what I love about these settings in this novel.
Here’s a sneak preview of the premise:
Kaley just wants a carefree ski trip with her church singles’ group, but trouble follows her to Beech Mountain. When her last client of the day is murdered hours after she leaves for vacation, she becomes the target of an underworld celebrity who will stop at nothing to keep her secrets buried. The ally Kaley needs to survive is none other than her ex-boyfriend who won’t give up on her, even if she gave up on him.
You can be praying with me as my agent works to place this project with the right publisher.
Introducing My New Agent
Speaking of my agent, I’m excited for you to meet her! But first, some backstory:
It’s so neat how God works in unexpected ways. I met Blythe Daniel, the owner of the Blythe Daniel Agency, several years ago at the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference. I appreciated so much her professional expertise and also her gracious ability to connect with people on a personal level. Never in my dreams did I imagine that one day, I’d get to be part of her author community.
She connected me with her Blog About Blogger Network, organized by her colleague Stephanie Alton. For a few years, you’ve enjoyed the giveaways made possible through this network right here on the blog.
In March of this year, Faith Pitch on Twitter did a special #FaithOverFear contest where writers could pitch an in-progress project, and the participating editors and agents would each award one person a consultation. Although I figured it was a long shot, I pitched my current WIP (work in progress), and to my delight, won a consultation with Stephanie Alton, also an agent with the Blythe Daniel Agency.
Stephanie has been so helpful in answering my questions and a delight to communicate with. Long story short, I just signed an agreement for her to represent me on my new project.
Because we only see news (like this) and new book release announcements on social media, it often appears that just like that, the book is published.
But that’s not how the publishing industry works. In reality, it’s a slow process that often takes years.
All that to say, it could be over a year or even two before you have this novel in your hands. But in the meantime, I’ll be sharing the journey right here with you, along with other book news, the author chat features I hope you’ve been enjoying, giveaway opportunities, and as always, faith in the everyday adventures of life.
Thanks so much for being my friends and celebrating with me today!
Book News! I’m proud to partner with the Blythe Daniel Agency. @kjhogrefe