Author Chat with Kristen Young on Her New YA Dystopian Release

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.

About the Author

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.

About Apprentice

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.

If I Can Cook with Cast Iron, You Can Too.

Did you or your kids ever watch “The Little Engine that Could” where the train puffed and puffed and told himself, “I think I can, I think I can”? Yes, I did too.

While I’m all for positive vibes, I also believe in giving ourselves and others grace for making mistakes. As an online English teacher, I often tell my students, “It’s okay to make mistakes,” and “Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid not to try at all.” The truth is, there have been many days I needed to give myself that same freedom to make mistakes and learn from them, especially when in the kitchen.

Cooking as a Single

When I was single and living on my own, I mastered the art of not starving. I could make a mean salad and felt pretty confident about my grilled egg, ham, and cheese English muffin sandwiches. Also, I firmly believed mac and cheese constituted a complete meal. (Can I get an Amen?)

I was so busy working, serving at my church, or meeting up with friends that food literally took a back burner.

Cooking as a Newly Wed

As I prepared for my wedding, I started to Pinterest in earnest, searching for “easy meals,” which was code for, “How can I keep my husband happy … and alive?” I had a few tried and true menus, like grilled cheese, spaghetti, my friend Ashley’s taco soup recipe, a chicken bacon ranch Crockpot, and something else I can’t remember at the moment. But clearly, I needed to start paying attention to food, because I didn’t want to be that wife.

Good news. We’re a year and a half into our marriage, and James thinks I’m a decent cook. Side note: He is the nicest human ever. I also encourage him to grill as often as he wants.

Cooking with Cast Iron

When my friend Ashley first told me she had been contracted to write a book on Modern Cast Iron, I celebrated with her out loud but inwardly wondered how on earth I could help support her in this endeavor since cooking with cast iron TERRIFIED me.

The first problem: I didn’t own a piece of cast iron.

The second problem: Ashley and her husband are amazing cooks, and I am not. (I’ve seen them in action a few times.) True, I had managed to recreate her taco soup recipe with smashing success, but that was one taco soup recipe. Even girls like me get “lucky” sometimes.

But more important than my pride was my friendship with Ashley. While researching how to cook pork chops on Pinterest, someone recommended a small cast iron grill pan. It was right around my birthday, so I asked for one, and behold, my wish was granted.

First impression: Dang, this thing is heavy. Second impression: Hey, this isn’t so scary. I successfully cooked pork chops and later asparagus in the grill pan. Everyone survived the experience.

And then my friend Ashley did the kindest thing. Perhaps she suspected my cooking insecurities or my need for a nudge in the right direction, because she gifted me with an enamel Dutch Oven. It was for my birthday, anniversary, and housewarming all wrapped in one, and I literally cried when I received it because she was so thoughtful, and it was so beautiful.

But still the nagging thought: Can I actually cook with cast iron?

Making Homemade Bread

What can be more terrifying and intimidating than making homemade bread? Okay, yes, a T-Rex, but those are extinct.

Still, I knew I had to try this beautiful Dutch Oven gift or appear ungrateful. So I found a Crusty No Knead Dutch Oven Bread Recipe on Pinterest and followed the directions.

Other than not rising as much as I had hoped, it looked like … bread. It even tasted like bread. Hello, I made homemade bread! And James liked it, which is ultimately what matters.

Choosing to Be Brave

None of us likes feeling like a fish out of water. Instead of focusing on the fear of failure, though, let’s focus on the possibilities. Even seasoned fishermen don’t always get things right.

I love the story in Scripture where Peter, the expert fisherman, worked his nets all night and had nothing to show. Nada.

That feeling must have been way worse than my failed zucchini boat lasagna attempt. But I digress.

When Peter and those with him returned to shore, Jesus asked them a simple question, “Children, have you any food?” When they answered in the negative, Jesus then said, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some” (NKJV John 21:5-6). Now what’s so amazing is that this event took place after Jesus’ resurrection, and the preceding verse made clear that the disciples didn’t know it was Jesus Himself who was talking to them.

But there must have been something undeniably special about Him, because Peter and his friends listened and did exactly what He said. And guess what? They cast their nets and couldn’t even pull them back in because they were overloaded with fish! At this point, Peter recognized Jesus for who He is, and, in typical impulsive Peter fashion, jumped overboard to get to Jesus first.

There’s so much more to this story, and I hope you’ll take the time to dig deeper into it, but here’s my takeaway for today: If God gives us a nudge to do something, whether it be learning to be a better cook or befriending the neighbor next door, let’s do it. Let’s plunge right in like Peter!

There’s the chance we’ll bomb dinner or get a door in the face. But just maybe that recipe will become our new favorite or we’ll discover a best friend living next door. Let’s fear failure less and be brave more.

The Bottom Line

Although I’m nowhere near ready to call myself a cook, there’s a healthy rotation of meal options in our home, and even though cooking for company intimidates me, I’m determined to try more … and be content to order pizza the rest of the time. Kidding not kidding.

Seriously, though, I think I can cook with cast iron. I even bought myself a skillet so I can try Ashley’s Peach Dutch Baby recipe. Maybe it will become our next favorite Saturday breakfast tradition.

Regardless, here’s my dare for you: If I can cook with cast iron, you can too. Be brave and willing to try something you’re not good at. You might just discover a new world of possibilities.

If I can cook with cast iron, you can too. @khogrefeparnell

Happy cooking, friends!

~ Kristen

I’m grateful to my friend and gifted author Ashley L. Jones for inviting me to share this post first on her beautiful blog at BigSisterKnows.com. Check out her blog for more encouragement and delicious recipes for your everyday life.


About Ashley’s Book: Modern Cast Iron

In Modern Cast Iron, self-proclaimed cast-iron connoisseur Ashley L. Jones recaptures the ease and joy of cooking with cast-iron cookware. Jones introduces readers to the best brands and types of cast-iron cookware to fulfill any cook’s needs. She offers detailed tips and tricks for rescuing old, rusted pans and keeping them properly seasoned, and she shares recommendations for the best cooking oil for every recipe. With Jones’s help, both experienced and beginner cooks will be able to rival grandma’s cooking. Chock-full of stories from Jones’s own childhood growing up with cast-iron meals, as well as recipe after tantalizing recipe―from breakfast quiche to gluten-free meals and beautiful blueberry cobbler―Modern Cast Iron explores the countless ways that cast iron benefits health and happiness.

Get Your Copy.

Author Chat with Ashley L. Jones on Modern Cast Iron

This author interview is special for so many reasons. I met Ashley during a writer’s conference several years ago, and we formed an instant friendship. She is such a godly friend and gifted writer, and I am so excited for you to learn about her new release, Modern Cast Iron. It’s a guidebook to choosing, using, caring for, and cooking with cast iron.

Q: What prompted you to write Modern Cast Iron?

It was totally a “God thing”! I had been using and researching cast iron for years for the health benefits and nostalgia of it, but it wasn’t until I met the publisher (Red Lightning Books) at a book expo and saw their amazing lineup of books that I thought, “A book about cast iron would really fit here!” In a moment, God gave me the complete idea for the book—and it came out just as He planned!

Q: Why do you think cooking with cast iron is relevant and beneficial for today’s generation?

We’ve been using lightweight aluminum and chemical nonstick pans since their introduction in the 1970s, and now we’re becoming aware of the potential health issues associated with those products. In contrast, cast iron doesn’t leach or off-gas any harmful chemicals or fumes. It only leaches iron, which is something our bodies need anyway.

Plus, I think there’s a “back to basics” movement going on right now where young women are looking to capture the simplicity and wholesomeness of past generations. Cooking in cast iron is a way great way to do that because we’re able to recreate the recipes our grandmothers made and enjoy the nostalgia that comes along with them.

Q: You shared that Modern Cast Iron isn’t a cookbook but a guidebook. Explain what you mean by that.

Most cookbooks these days are filled with hard-and-fast recipes featuring the trendiest ingredients that are only available at specialty grocery stores. It may be fun to watch chefs prepare those meals on TV, but it’s not so fun to shop for them or prepare them on a busy weeknight.

Instead, Modern Cast Iron is a guidebook to all things cast iron, from selecting the best pan for your kitchen to cleaning and seasoning your pan. Of course, the book includes a bunch of recipes—fifty, to be exact—to pique your interest and get you started. However, those recipes are rather simple and can be easily modified to fit your diet and nutritional needs.

Q: What would you tell young adults who don’t feel confident in the kitchen? How could this book help them?

My primary goal in writing this book was to encourage readers to gain confidence in the kitchen by using cast-iron cookware—because that’s how I gained my confidence. If you tend to use your smoke detector as the oven timer, take note of the following ways cast iron can help.

The texture and flavor of many traditional dishes, especially Southern food, can only be recreated if they’re cooked in cast iron. (Ever tried to make cornbread in a glass dish? The texture is all wrong!)

Even if you’re not trying to make Southern food, you’ll appreciate cast iron’s superior heat retention and its ability to heat evenly. This is what allows you to sear a steak to perfection without burning it (so you can give that smoke detector a rest).

Another benefit of cast iron is that you can take it from the stove top to the oven and back again—something other cookware just can’t do. So if you can’t get that steak to cook all the way through on the stove top, you can pop it in the oven for a couple minutes. Voila!

Don’t see your pain point listed here? There are many more advantages of cast iron listed in the book, so be sure to check it out.

Q: Our culture leans toward “fast food” and “instant meals” for quick and easy satisfaction. What problems does this mindset present in the present and in the long run?

Eating out—even if you’re grabbing dinner from the hot bar at the grocery store—can present health issues because that food is usually loaded with salt and preservatives. If you make food at home, you can still suffer from the same health issues if you’re merely heating up prepackaged food. While these are alright in moderation, cooking more wholesome meals at home should be a health goal for all of us.

Devices like instant cookers, pressure cookers, air fryers, and even slow cookers are intended to help us cook faster or at least have dinner ready when we get home. All of these gadgets have their place, but they make it difficult to understand the process of cooking—how foods come together and how to create different textures and layers of flavors. For some of them, you can’t even smell the food cooking!

When I cook with cast iron, I have control over the ingredients and the entire cooking process, and I appreciate the results more—it’s like I’m being more “intentional” in the way I prepare food. And with few exceptions, it doesn’t actually take any longer to cook in cast iron than it does in those other kitchen gadgets.

Q: Do you have a special memory of cooking with your grandma? If so, please share!

My grandmother was always cooking something, usually from scratch. It seemed that she used her hand mixer every night, whether for mashed potatoes or for baking a cake for my grandfather. The sound that mixer made as it bumped around the bowl—vroom, va-va-vroom, varoom—was such a happy sound to me! Every time I get my hand mixer out, it takes me back to her kitchen.

Q: How do you think cast iron cooking will become a legacy for your own family?

Ever since I learned of the health benefits of cooking with cast iron, I’ve challenged myself by asking, “Can I make this in cast iron?” That’s why we use cast iron at nearly every meal. I plan to teach my son Gordon (now 20 months old) to cook on cast iron at an early age because I want him to feel confident in the kitchen, too. I also want him to be conscientious of what he puts in his body so he can make wise decisions when he’s an adult.

Q: How did you first discover your writing ability, and how have you seen God use it in unexpected ways?

I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I never thought it could be a career for me. In 2003, God gave me an idea for a faith-based nonfiction book, Girls with Gusto, which is still looking for a publishing home. However, it wasn’t until I went to my first writers conference in 2015 that I really felt like I had the tools and knowledge to pursue a writing career.

I never intended to write a book about cast-iron cooking, but God is using this book to develop my writing platform and to enable me to reach people I would never have reached otherwise. And what do those people find when they visit my website, BigSisterKnows.com? Lots of articles about God and faith. I pray those help to plant seeds!

Next year, my children’s series, “Big Answers” (Little Lamb Books), debuts with Who is God? I can’t wait to share this one with moms around the world!

Q: Can you hint about what next project you have in the works?

I’m working on some new children’s books, and I’d really like to find a home for Girls with Gusto. I also have an idea for a powerful nonfiction book that explores the secret lives of the Appalachian people.

Be sure to follow me on BigSisterKnows.com and on social media so you can follow along on these projects. There’s no telling what God will do next!

Author Chat with Ashley L. Jones on Modern Cast Iron with @khogrefeparnell

About the Author

Ashley L. Jones is an author and blogger, but she prefers the title of Big Sister. A firm believer that we all know something worth sharing, she started the blog Big Sister Knows as a way to encourage other young women to live with gusto. Her upcoming releases — Modern Cast Iron (Red Lightning Books, 2020) and the children’s series Big Answers (Little Lamb Books, 2021) — are a continuation of that mission. Ashley lives in Tallahassee, Florida, with her uber-patient hubby and one busy toddler. Find your encouragement and follow Ashley’s journey at BigSisterKnows.com.

About Modern Cast Iron

In Modern Cast Iron, self-proclaimed cast-iron connoisseur Ashley L. Jones recaptures the ease and joy of cooking with cast-iron cookware. Jones introduces readers to the best brands and types of cast-iron cookware to fulfill any cook’s needs. She offers detailed tips and tricks for rescuing old, rusted pans and keeping them properly seasoned, and she shares recommendations for the best cooking oil for every recipe. With Jones’s help, both experienced and beginner cooks will be able to rival grandma’s cooking. Chock-full of stories from Jones’s own childhood growing up with cast-iron meals, as well as recipe after tantalizing recipe―from breakfast quiche to gluten-free meals and beautiful blueberry cobbler―Modern Cast Iron explores the countless ways that cast iron benefits health and happiness.

A comprehensive guide to all things cast iron and home-style cookin’, Modern Cast Iron offers a new way for cooks to spice up the kitchen using all-natural tools and ingredients.

Get your copy.

Author Chat with Hope Bolinger on her Modern-Day Daniel Series

You all are in for a treat today! Hope Bolinger is a literary agent and multi-published YA novelist who has accomplished so much in such a short amount of time. She’s an inspiration for young writers (and “young at heart” writers too), and today, she shares about her latest release in her modern-day Daniel series.

Q: What prompted you to write a contemporary fiction series on Daniel?

It all started in a college class. We were going over the Old Testament in a semester, and during the unit on Daniel, the teacher said, “Daniel and his friends would’ve been 14 or 15 when they were taken into the Babylonian captivity.” That always struck me. I’d thought of them as being 20 or 30. But these teens are standing strong in their cultural identity and are thriving. I wanted to see what that looked like now.

Q: Danny and his friends deal with serious drama and trouble from the schools they attend. Did any of your own experiences shape some of their situations?

Legally, I’m not sure how much I can spill on this, but in short, yes. One of the schools I attended, which shall remain nameless, contributed a great deal of content in the book. It’s so funny because when I talked with high schoolers on the book, they asked, “Legally, how is this possible?” And I said, “Actually, a great deal of what goes down happened on some level in my own experience.” All three books in the trilogy have a kernel of truth in what I experienced at said school.

Q: Who is your favorite character in this series and why?

Oh, Hannah. She’s basically Tumblr and Hot Topic meets Christianity. She never minces words and is everything I wish I could be if I didn’t have a filter.

Q: What do you hope readers will take away from this series?

I hope they walk away with some form of a discussion. This series tackles relevant topics from cyberbullying to school shootings to mental health. I know I don’t go easy on readers in this series, but teens deal with this stuff every day. If we don’t talk about the problem, the problems will never get fixed.

Q: What advice would you give aspiring young writers?

So many things I could put in this answer! The most obvious is, obviously, don’t give up. You’ll be surprised just how many steps it takes from writing that first draft to getting it in front of readers.

And second, learn everything you can about publishing. I started querying at 17 years old, only having written books for a year, and I did NOT know what I was getting myself into. It takes a lot of time, a lot of practice, and a lot of learning.

Q: In addition to Den, releasing this week, you have another book scheduled to release next year. What can you tell us about it?

Yes, ma’am! So I have a superhero chat-fiction “Dear Hero” releasing with INtense Publications this September 2020. It follows the story of a Hero and Villain as they meet on a Nemesis-pairing app. Basically Tinder for heroes and villains. They fight, but they don’t expect to fall in love.

The sequel for that is projected to come out in April of 2021, and if the publisher gives the green light, the final book in the Blaze trilogy should release in August of 2021.

Meet Hope Bolinger, a multi-published novelist and literary agent whose Modern-Day Daniel series challenges young adults to confront the lions in their own lives.

About the Author

Hope Bolinger is a literary agent and multi-published YA novelist (Blaze, Den, and Dear Hero). When she isn’t busy racking up 60+ bylines, she loves to connect with readers at hopebolinger.com

About DEN: If You Don’t Want to Die, Don’t Sleep with Lions

Danny Belte barely survived his sophomore year at King’s Academy, having to deal with horrible initiation practices, stomach-churning cafeteria food, and the constant threat of arson.

His junior year doesn’t start off much better. Facing a series of mysterious suicide attempts that begin on day one–and a disturbing pattern that appears to connect them–Danny has a feeling something far more sinister is at play. He tries to narrow down a list of suspects as those closest to him disappear, one by one.

Can he protect his friends from a possible murderer on the loose? Or will he find himself trapped in a fate worse than a lions’ den?


Stay Connected

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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. 

Author Chat with Bryan Davis on his New Christian Science Fiction Series

I met Bryan Davis at a writer’s conference several years ago and enjoyed getting to know him and his daughter Amanda (also an author). His books are favorites among the students I teach, and I’m honored to have him be my guest on the blog. In our author chat feature today, he shares about a brand new Christian science fiction series, with the first book releasing today.

Q: What prompted you to write this new series, or what was your inspiration?

This story began as a dream about a dystopian society with a tyrannical regime and a rebel faction trying to bring it down. In the dream, two rebels posed as fake doctors to deliver a toxic vaccine to regime troops, and the novel sprouted from that seed.

Q: What are some science fiction elements in the story that help drive or enhance the storyline (if you can share without giving away spoilers)?

The story has hovercraft drones, a scanner that can see a soul in the brain, a portal in the sky that has been breached by an alien race, weapons that shoot plasma spheres, and a missile designed to destroy a cross-dimensional conduit.

Q: Fiction often mirrors reality, even if the setting, time period, and characters are other-worldly. What aspects of the story might readers find paralleling their own experience?

In this case, the parallels are all too real. The story includes the threat of a contagion that will kill millions and a requirement to take a vaccine that is touted to be helpful but might be hazardous. I wrote the story long before the COVID-19 situation, and the current-events elements came to pass after I completed it.

Q: What message do you hope readers will take away from this story?

I try not to reveal specific story themes that I intended, because I want readers to glean for themselves, but in all of my stories, including this one, I hope to promote faith, courage, and self-sacrifice in my readers.

Q: You’re a household name for fans of young adult Christian fantasy. How is this new series different from some of your other books, and/or how is it similar?

It’s different in the target age—for older teens and adults instead of for middle-graders and younger teens. It is more science fiction than fantasy, though there are some fantastical elements. It is similar in that I continue to feature characters who display sacrificial heroism and other virtues, and the Christian world view never wavers.

Q: How have you seen God use your writing journey in unexpected ways?

In too many ways to describe here. For myself, I have seen God provide in miraculous ways during the lean years, which has helped me more fully understand His sufficiency as I practice contentment. For readers, I hear from them nearly every day that my books have helped them in their faith as well as their physical lives. For example, more than 20 readers have told me that my books kept them from committing suicide. Some have given my stories credit for helping them with drug abuse, sexual exploitation, and self harm. The feedback has been a huge blessing and an overwhelming one.

Q: I know you’ve taught teen track courses at writer’s conferences. What do you enjoy most about talking to teen writers, and what is the best advice you would give them as they work on their own stories?

Teen writers often have great story ideas, and their energy and passion are invigorating and inspiring. Most are ready to listen and learn, and they are looking to make a positive influence.

I encourage teen writers to learn the craft and to exercise patience. It can take years for a new writer to a create professional-level novel. Some, when they are unable to acquire a traditional publisher, jump to self-publishing even though their stories might not be ready to publish. I am not opposed to self-publishing, but I urge young writers to be ready for that step before leaping in.

Q: When can we expect to see the next book in the series?

I don’t have an exact date, and I don’t have a title yet, but it will probably come out early in the spring of 2021.

Enjoy this interview with best-selling author Bryan Davis who talks about his new Christian science fiction series. @khogrefeparnell

About the Author

Bryan Davis is the author of several fantasy/science fiction series for youth and adults, including the best-selling Dragons in our Midst series. He and his wife, Susie, have seven adult children, and they work together as an author/editor team.

About Heaven Came Down

In the chaotic aftermath of apocalyptic war, the strange lights in the sky heralding the coming of unearthly beings seemed like an answer to prayer. When the heavenly visitors entered selected people and transformed them into angels who demanded obedience in exchange for the restoration of order, the majority accepted their new rulers.

But Ben Garrison and his siblings, Jack and Trudy, have seen a dark side to these so-called angels. They join a rebel faction with one goal: destroy the invaders and free the world from their tyranny.

When the rebels catch wind of an angel plot to invade the resistance region and spread a deadly contagion, the Garrisons embark on a crucial mission to swap the angel troops’ vaccine with a fake injection, stealing the real vaccine to save the rebels. The catch: Ben and Trudy, in disguise as doctors, must volunteer to become implanted by angels and fake their implantation.

The rebels’ plan, however, is soon exposed, jeopardizing the mission and their lives. Their only hope for rescue lies in an odd bounty hunter, a young angel priestess, and a mysterious spy embedded among the angels—a woman whose identity the rebels have yet to discover.

Author Chat with Lindsay A. Franklin on Her Weaver Trilogy

Have you ever talked to someone ONCE and come away thinking, “Wow, she’s so cool but totally down to earth, and I think we could be friends in real life?” That’s how I feel about award-winning author Lindsay A. Franklin. Although I’ve never had the privilege of meeting her in person, the emails we’ve exchanged make me hope that our paths will cross one day.

For now, though, I’m thrilled for you to meet her right here on the blog as she shares about her Christian fantasy series, The Weaver Trilogy, and its epic conclusion, The Story Hunter, releasing today.

Q: What inspired the fantasy element of “story strands” and the concept of “weaving stories” as being a special power some characters possess?

The series was inspired by the phrase “story peddler,” which I heard an acquisitions editor say in a workshop about the publishing process. She was referring to selling manuscripts to her publishing board, but I wondered what it might be like to be a “story peddler” in a world where art was magic and “story” had to be something a traveling peddler (in the more traditional sense) might sell—something physical. Why strands that solidify into crystal? I have no idea! It just came out of my imagination that way.

Q: Who is one of your favorite characters from the Weaver Trilogy and why?

I have a lot of favorite characters in this story, even when I’m forcing them to make terrible decisions (Brac comes to mind there). Digwyn is the most personal to me, as her story is the most based on mine, but something personal is poured into each of them. My love for my father is in Yestin. My close relationship with my daughter is in Tannie (on whom I based Tanwen, back when my daughter was only five). Kharn’s easygoing nature and his dorky dad jokes are a wink at my beloved husband. There’s a little something I love (or love to hate in some cases!) in each of them.

Q: The characters in your stories experience the loss of friends and family throughout their journeys. When Tanwen asks how she can make the loss stop hurting, she’s told, “It’s supposed to hurt. Because people matter. And when we lose them, it hurts. It leaves a void.” Why do you think this truth is so important to include in fiction, and how do you think it can help readers who have experienced loss?

It’s human nature to try to avoid pain. It leads to a lot of unhealthy coping mechanisms. Avoidance. Denial. Numbing. I think it’s important to accept that some things are supposed to hurt. Life is hard. Our world is fallen. Pain is inevitable. Doctors tell us physical pain is important because it shows us where the injury is, where the disease lies, what’s broken. Emotional pain is the same. Allowing yourself to ride those waves of pain, rather than trying futilely to fight against or ignore them, is the beginning of processing your grief so you can heal and one day move into your new normal—one that will always honor and in some sense grieve the ones you lost but will allow you to live on without them.

Q: An important topic The Story Hunter explores is choosing forgiveness over revenge. Why do you think this message is so powerful, not only for a fiction story like this one, but also in real life?

Forgiveness can be profoundly difficult to practice. By nature, I’m a bit justice obsessed, to be honest. We have a long-running joke in my family of origin. When I was two or three years old, my older sister hit me and was made to apologize. She bounced over to me and threw out a flippant, “Sorry!” I glared at her and said, “The main thing is you did it.” It was utterly shocking and offensive to me that my parents expected me to forgive her just because she said she was sorry. It didn’t erase what she’d done in the first place! So, “The main thing is you did it” became something of catchphrase in our family—usually to poke fun at how ridiculously difficult it was for me to forgive someone who had wronged me.

But when I became a Christian at eighteen, everything changed. I was suddenly sharply aware of my own sin—the many ways I failed on a daily basis, and how woefully desperate I was for God’s grace. Because of Jesus’s atoning sacrifice, God never says, “The main thing is you did it” when we ask for forgiveness. He offers complete forgiveness freely, and it has been my life’s goal to model that in my life whatever way I can. Vengeance merely compounds wrongs. It doesn’t bring healing, it doesn’t bring peace. Vengeance says, “I want you to hurt because I hurt.” Forgiveness sets the offender and the offended free.

Q: Can you hint about what next project you have in the works?

Well…I can tell you it’s a YA portal fantasy, and my research will involve reading and rereading many classic works of literature. The project “code name” is Cosmic Library, which is fantastically terrible. I promise to think of a better title than that!! 😊

Meet author Lindsay A. Franklin who talks about her Weaver Trilogy, latest release, and the power of forgiveness. @kjhogrefe

About the Author

Lindsay A. Franklin is a Carol Award–winning author, freelance editor, and homeschooling mom of three. She would wear pajama pants all the time if it were socially acceptable. Lindsay lives in her native San Diego with her scruffy-looking nerf-herder husband, their precious geeklings, three demanding thunder pillows (a.k.a. cats), and a stuffed marsupial named Wombatman. She’s @LinzyAFranklin on Instagram and Twitter, and is also on Facebook.

About The Story Hunter, Book 3 in The Weaver Trilogy

Redeeming the past is a fatal quest.

In the wake of a deadly coup, the capital city of Urian has descended into chaos. Heartbreak and bloodshed await Tanwen and her friends as they discover the unlikeliest leader now rules Tir.

If they want to save the realm, Tannie and the Corsyth weavers must rescue Queen Braith and unmask the Master, ending the strife once and for all. But the success of their hunt depends upon an ally no one trusts.

The Master has a new target in sight: fragile, trauma-scarred Digwyn, whose unique weaving ability could turn the tide of any war. When the desire for vengeance proves too powerful for Digwyn to resist, Tanwen must face a terrifying truth: the fate of Tir rests in the hands of a volatile, shattered girl.


Author Chat with Morgan L. Busse on her Ravenwood Saga

Last year, I discovered Morgan as an author when both our novels were finalists in the 2019 Selah Awards for Speculative Fiction. Her Mark of the Raven later took first place (so well-deserved). The Ravenwood Saga has made her my new favorite fantasy author, and today, it is my absolute pleasure to welcome her as a guest to the blog! In this interview, you can catch her heart for writing, for her readers, and for “the Light.”

Q: What prompted you to write this fantasy series?

All of my books start with a scene that I see in my head. For The Ravenwood series, I saw a young woman assassin standing over the bed of young man. I knew he was important, and I could tell she was hesitating to fulfill her mission. So I started asking who was she? How did she get to this point? Who was the young man? Why was he important? Why was there a target on his life? From that scene Selene’s story grew into what it is today: The Ravenwood Saga.

Q: Selene’s dreamwalking ability is such a creative twist on special powers. Did something inspire you to invent her skill, and if so, what was it?

There are a lot of assassin stories out there, so I wanted to make this one different. Then I thought, what if she had some other power? One of my favorite cartoons to watch with my kids is My Little Pony. The job of one of the royal sisters is to watch over the dreams of the other ponies at night. The moment I saw that episode, I knew what Selene’s power was: to walk in dreams. But it had been corrupted, and her story would be her journey to bring her family’s power back to what it was supposed to be: protecting the dreams of people.

Q: Who is your favorite character from the Ravenwood Saga and why?

Ooo, that is a hard one. Of course I love Selene: her struggle with figuring out who she is and if there is anything redeemable about her abilities. I also love Damien’s quiet but fierce love for both his people and eventually Selene. And of course I love Lady Bryren, the leader of the wyvern riders. She’s a firecracker and a fun character to write about!

Q: Selene and Damien have to grow up quickly due to their circumstances and their life or death decision at the end of book one (no spoiler). Why do you think it is important for young adult fiction to present strong, vulnerable characters who must make hard choices?

Becoming an adult means facing hard choices, and the path we choose many times determines the adults we become. I wanted to show through Selene that we always have a choice in who we become, that we are not bound to the choices our family has made. And by choosing to walk away from the wrong choices our family has made can change not only ourselves, but eventually our family, and our world. Damien is an example that there are strong young adults who are selfless leaders.

Q: What do you hope readers will take away from this saga?

Hope and strength. That each step toward the light is worth it. That when we give up ourselves, we save not only ourselves but those around us.

Q: How did you first discover your writing ability, and how have you seen God use it in unexpected ways?

I never wanted to be a writer. I loved reading and that’s it. But my husband continued to encourage me to write. So I finally gave in (he’s quite the persistent cheerleader!). When I write a book, I pray for the person who needs to read it and that God would help me write the message that person needs to hear. And with every book, I get at least one email from someone who needed that story at that time. Last week, there was a young woman who received an advance copy of Cry of the Raven (the last book), and the day she finished the book, her grandmother passed away. One of the themes of Cry of the Raven is dealing with the death of loved ones, and she wrote about how much this book is already helping her with the death of her grandmother.

Q: What advice would you give aspiring young writers?

One: study the craft of writing. Read books, go to the conferences, follow the newsletters of those who teach. Two: write, write, write! You only become good by practicing. A friend of mine once said that most people need to write a million words before they start writing something worth reading. Third: live life. Don’t forget to spend time with your family, go for a walk, enjoy life. The writing is always there, but if you aren’t living, you will have nothing to write about.

Q: Can you hint about what next project you have in the works?

Yes! I’m currently working on a new steampunk series and am already halfway through the first book. The series is currently dubbed The Plague Wars. Here is a quick blurb:

In a world covered in a deadly mist that forces humanity to live in the sky, Cass escapes the purges and survives by her wits until she stumbles onto the airship Daedalus and finds a job as a diver. As a diver, she explores the ruined cities within the mist, searching for treasure and family heirlooms for the rich. But everything changes when a young man hires her to find the very thing that will turn their world upside down: a way to eradicate the mist.

Theodore Winchester is a member of one of the five powerful families that rule the sky over the mist. Following in his father’s footsteps, he searches for the source of the deadly mist that turns people in the undead and hopes to stop the purges used to control over-population. But what he finds are secrets and ambition, and with each question comes horrifying answers. If he continues his search, not only will he encounter opposition, but perhaps even his own death.

But the mist is rising, and if a remedy isn’t found soon, the entire world will be enveloped in its deadly embrace, turning all of humankind into monsters.

Ready to find your next favorite fantasy series? Meet author Morgan L. Busse who shares about her award-winning Ravenwood Saga.

About the Author

Morgan L. Busse is a writer by day and a mother by night. She writes fantasy and steampunk novels and sometimes dabbles in science fiction. She is the author of the critically acclaimed Follower of the Word series, The Soul Chronicles, and award-winning Ravenwood Saga. When she’s not writing, she loves to play games, take long walks, and dream about her next novel.

About Cry of the Raven, Book 3 in the Ravenwood Saga

Lady Selene Ravenwood has come into her full power as a dreamwalker just as the war with the Dominia Empire begins. Working with the other Great Houses, Selene and Damien use their gifts to secure the borders and save those devastated by the war. But conflict, betrayal, and hatred begin to spread between the Great Houses, destroying their unity as the empire burns a path across their lands. At the same time, Damien Maris starts to lose his ability to raise the waters, leaving the lands vulnerable to the empire’s attacks.

The only one who can unite the houses and restore her husband’s power is Selene Ravenwood. But it will require that she open her heart to those who have hurt her and let go of her past, despite the one who hunts her and will do anything to stop her power.

Will Selene survive? Or is she destined to fall like the dreamwalkers before her?

3 Questions Wednesday with Kristen Hogrefe — Inspired Prompt

Who’s my favorite author, and if I could write about anyone, who would it be? Thanks to Betty Thomason Owens and the Inspired Prompt crew for inviting me to share in this interview!

Welcome back to 3 Questions Wednesday, Kristen Hogrefe! This is an exciting and very busy week for Kristen, as her third book in The Rogues Trilogy released yesterday! Congratulations, Kristen. Let’s see how she answers our three questions […]

via 3 Questions Wednesday with Kristen Hogrefe — Inspired Prompt

The Reactionary: Happy Launch Day!

Happy release day! I’m so excited to share The Reactionary with you and hope you enjoy the final part of Portia’s story.

Tonight at 7 pm Eastern, I’m hosting a launch party on Facebook, and you’re invited to join! There will be trivia and drawings for an autographed copy, Kindle copy,  and some other special giveaways.

To join the party, click here.

Don’t miss out on the special release day sale for The Reactionary and the first book in the trilogy, The Revisionary. Both Kindle versions are at discounted price.

Thanks for being part of this trilogy adventure! Hope to see you at the party tonight.

~ Kristen

 

The Reactionary: Gratitude Moments

Coming to the end of a trilogy is a little like crossing the finish line of a half marathon. The only reason I felt amazing at that time is that I’d prepared and trained with friends. Others cheered me on, even though they may have secretly thought I was crazy.

This Tuesday, The Reactionary publishes, and I want to start the week with gratitude by saying thank-you to everyone who made crossing this finish line not only possible, but truly unforgettable. My family has been my constant support, and some new faces have joined those ranks throughout this journey, including my sister-in-law Brooke.

Pictured with my brother Dave and sister-in-law Brooke

I also want to say a special thanks to my fiancé, James Parnell, for wanting to join this bandwagon and encouraging my writing.

Photo credit: Aja Skye Photography

Members of my writing family include fellow author Ashley Jones, my Word Weavers group, members of my book tribe (You know who you are!), and more recently, my colleague Maria Constantine whose family roots go back to Italy. At one point, I mentioned to her that my heroine travels to Italy in this final book and that in my dreams, I’d get to visit one day.

That’s when she said, “You have to go! Want to come with me?” As a result, she and I planned a spontaneous trip to some of the settings in this novel, and in a month’s time, I found myself walking the streets of Orvieto and then mapping out Portia’s entrance to the Port of Civitavecchia from just outside Fort Michelangelo. I can’t thank Maria enough for helping make this dream a reality!

Exploring Civita di Bagnoregio, Photo credit: Maria Constantine

In another sense, Kelli Sorg (Make It Snappy) traveled with me this whole journey as well. She made brainstorming and creating the final cover perhaps the most enjoyable design session of all time.

The leadership and talent at Write Integrity Press also deserve my heartfelt gratitude. My editor Marji Laine championed this book and made the production process as seamless as possible. I’m also grateful to my primary editor Brittany Clubine who grasped the vision of Portia’s story from the start and believed in it.

At the end of my half marathon, people asked me, “So, what’s next?” I told them, “I’ll keep running!” Those runs might be in my neighborhood, for my church’s Hope 5K, another half marathon some day … who knows! The same is true of my writing. Lord willing, I’ll keep composing the stories He gives me and then watch where He takes them.

~ Kristen

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