Author Spotlight: Emily Conrad

We’ve got an exciting new feature on the blog today: my first-ever author interview! My sweet friend Emily Conrad is getting ready to release her debut novel, Justice (which is amazing, by the way!), and she agreed to be my guinea pig.

Justice_w12338_750.jpg

 Justice is a work of contemporary romantic women’s fiction, with inspiration taken from the Biblical account of Mary and Joseph. Here’s the blurb…

 Jake thought he was meant to marry Brooklyn, but now she's pregnant, and he had nothing to do with it. Brooklyn can’t bring herself to name the father as she wrestles with questions about what her pregnancy means and how it will affect her relationship with Jake. If Harold Keen, the man who owns the bookstore across from Jake's coffee shop, has anything to do with it, the baby will ruin them both.

Doesn’t that sound great? Justice releases March 9 and is available for pre-order and purchase in e-book format from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

 

Welcome, Emily, and congratulations on your debut!

Thank you! It’s great to be here.

Jesus doesn’t shy away from facing the ugliness of life head-on, so I always rejoice when Christian novels are willing to confront it in a similar manner. What inspired you to address the issue of sexual assault in the pages of Justice?

I don’t remember what inspired me to write about sexual assault—I started my first draft of the story that would become Justice seventeen years ago—but that’s really just the inciting incident, and from there, the story goes on to focus on things we all have to deal with: revenge versus forgiveness, people failing us, and conflict in the church. These show up in my fiction because they’re in my life, too. Believers are forgiven, but still flawed, and I think it’s important for fiction to reflect that.

Which character was the easiest for you to write, and why? Which character’s head was most difficult for you to get into, and why?

I had an easier time writing Jake. Parts of Justice were inspired by the biblical account of Mary and Joseph. One thing that’s said of Joseph is he’s a just man, so naturally, Jake is committed to justice. However, if he did everything right all the time, there would be no story. Jake’s struggle is when a desire for justice in the name of protecting what’s most important to him inches toward a quest for revenge.

As for difficulties, it was pretty late in the drafting process that one of my critique partners brought up weaknesses in Brooklyn’s character arc. What was her internal struggle? When (and how) did she overcome it? Up until my critique partner raised those questions, I’d written the book thinking Brooklyn had enough on her hands healing from a rape. With that prompt, however, I reconsidered and realized she had a flaw that had been interfering with her life long before the attack and complicated her healing process afterward: perfectionism. Once I pinpointed that, her story came together in ways I hadn’t anticipated.

Justice is your debut novel. Could you tell us briefly about your journey to publication?

In brief, it was long. I have been writing fiction for about twenty years. I started querying agents in high school. In college, when one of my professors praised another student by saying she thought he’d be published by age twenty-five. Jealous, I thought, Why aren’t you saying that about me?

I must’ve internalized publication by age twenty-five  as a goal, because my twenty-fifth birthday was depressing for me, largely because I was unhappy with where I was on the path to publication.

I turn thirty-five later this month, and looking back, that publication-by-twenty-five kick sounds immature, but I confess that I can still relate. I still tend toward having my own timeframe and wishing God would stick to it, but of course, that’s not how He operates.God’s ways are not my ways—they’re better. Life experiences and connections built in the writing world over the last twenty years have helped prepare me to launch my first novel. Whatever further delays, frustrations, or setbacks I face, He will use for good.

What lessons do you hope readers will take away from Justice?

That God is in the midst of our trials, even when things are at their blackest. He is in control, He is present, and He is good. Zephaniah 3:5 is the verse that probably best sums it up.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I walk my two dogs every day. On is a black and tan hound mix, and the other is a pit bull mix. Also, we have an international student living with us this year, and I’ve been enjoying learning to cook Chinese.

What question are you dying for someone to ask you about Justice, but no one has? Go ahead and ask yourself that question, and then give us the answer.

One question I’ve never been asked is this one:  “You’ve said you borrowed some inspiration from the account of Mary and Joseph. How closely does Justice mirror their story and what did you learn writing the story this way?”

I think it’s important to first point out the differences: Justice is a contemporary novel, so the setting and time are different. Also, Justice deals with the aftermath of a rape, which is of course a completely different circumstance than what Mary and Joseph faced.

However, both couples do face the scandal an out-of-wedlock pregnancy they didn’t cause.Running with that, the book is full of nods to Mary and Joseph. For example, many of the names of characters were inspired by the Biblical account, including the main characters’ names: Jake Davidson and Brooklyn Merrill. (Davidson/son of David and Merrill/Mary.)

Some of the plot elements, location names, and character traits were also inspired by what we read in the Bible, and I hope it’s fun for readers to keep an eye out for those, taking note of similarities and differences (as I said before, there are plenty of differences!).

Throughout the process of writing Justice, I learned some trivia. For example, Nazareth is on a hill, and that’s how I came to name Jake’s coffeeshop Hillside. But on a more serious note, borrowing inspiration from Mary and Joseph’s lives reminded me that we serve the same God today. God is present and active in our lives, He provides for us and gave His son in order to redeem us. With Him, all things are possible, and we are never alone in any trial we face.

Wow! I totally missed the Davidson/David and Merrill/Mary when I read it. I’m going to have to reread and see how many more of those hints I can pick up on!

One last question, Emily. How can we pray for you?

Oh, wow! I haven't gotten that question in an interview yet! I would appreciate prayer for discernment regarding my writing career. There are decisions at every turn, and I want God's wisdom and not my own impatience or worry or ambition at the helm. I would love to hear readers' prayer requests in the comments so I can lift them up, too!

Thank you so much for being here today, Emily! I hope you are as blessed as we are to have you!!

Conrad_Headshot2 (1).jpg

Emily Conrad lives in Wisconsin with her husband and two rescue dogs. She loves Jesus and enjoys road trips to the mountains, crafting stories, and drinking coffee. (It’s no coincidence her debut novel is set mostly in a coffee shop!) She offers free short stories on her website and loves to connect with readers on her website, Facebook, Twitter,and Instagram. 

 

 

Take Five

This is what my TBR pile looks like right now...

This is what my TBR pile looks like right now...

To hear my mom tell it, I started reading when I was a toddler. (There is a picture of me at about 18 months old “reading” a book about butterflies). While I doubt I was reading real words at that age, there’s no denying that books and I have never been far from one another throughout my life. And real books are definitely my preference. My Kindle is cool, and I like taking it on trips, but there’s just something about real pages that makes the reading experience that much better. I also have a Kindle app on my phone, which I’ve grown to dislike. Reading a book on a phone screen just seems wrong, although it is definitely better than nothing!

Since I decided to try my hand at writing books, my reading habits have changed. For one thing, I no longer read purely for pleasure. Reading is something we writer-types must do to stay abreast of what’s current, what’s being done, what’s being overdone, etc. And for another, the more I learn about writing, the harder I am to please because the more mistakes I can spot. It is a rare book that makes me turn off my inner critic and get sucked into the story, which definitely makes me more sympathetic to agents and editors!

But there have been a few books I’ve read recently that have accomplished this for me. So, without further ado, here are my five favorite books of 2017 (so far).

 

When I Fall In Love (Susan May Warren)

Cautious, afraid-to-try-anything-new Grace gets paired up with determined, flirtatious, intense, can’t-afford-to-make-a-mistake Max for a cooking competition in Hawaii. Max helps Grace overcome her fears and embrace life, but what Grace doesn’t know is that Max likely doesn’t have a lot of life left; he’s a carrier for Huntington’s Disease, a progressive, fatal disease he’ll contract in a few years.

These are some of the clearest character arcs and most compelling conflicts I’ve ever read. This book is a great example of the instruction we have to make things bad for our characters, and then make them even worse. And I love, love, love that the Huntington’s angle wasn’t dealt with via miraculous healing. Sometimes God does that, but frequently He doesn’t, and it is the latter that makes for more compelling stories. 

 

Grace and the Preacher (Kim Vogel Sawyer)

I had the privilege of meeting Kim at a multi-author book signing recently and picked this up having never read any of her work. Grace is a preacher’s daughter in small-town Kansas in the 1880s who falls in love via letter with Rufus Dille, the recent seminary graduate who’s on his way to take over for Grace’s retiring uncle. However, when Rufus arrives, she's confused: the real guy doesn't match the guy whose letters she's been receiving. This is because “Rufus” is actually Theo, a man on the run from vengeful cousins and who, in a matter of fortuitous timing, was able to commit identity theft, nineteeth-century style. This book had lots of twists and turns and a really compelling conflict; there is no easy way to resolve this level of deception. I felt like the resolution was almost a bit too quick, but it was believable enough to be very satisfying.

 

A Twist of Faith (Pepper Basham)

I’d never read any of Pepper’s books, either, but after reading this one, a contemporary take on Pygmalion, I kind of want to be her BFF. Dr. Adelina “Dee” Roseland places a bet with a co-worker that she can eliminate Appalachian country boy Reese Mitchell’s strong accent and reform his atrocious grammar so he can get a job in Chicago. But Dee’s in over her head with Reese’s loving family and her powerful feelings for him, and Reese must confront trust issues from his first wife’s betrayal. This book had everything I require in a book: smart, snarky humor, passionate kisses, angst, and characters who love the Lord and want to serve Him, but still notice each other’s physical appearances and have the feelings associated with that noticing. I’m all for purity, both in books and in life, but so often inspirational books go too far the other direction and have the characters not notice things about one another’s appearance at all. Pepper Basham strikes the balance exactly right. I can’t wait to read more of her books!

 

A Note Yet Unsung (Tamera Alexander)

This is not only one of my favorite books of the year, but one of my favorites ever. As a musician, I am a sucker for books with musician characters. But because I’m a musician, I notice errors that non-musicians probably wouldn't. Tamera Alexander nailed her portrayal of violinist Rebekah Carrington, who seeks to become the first woman to audition for the Nashville Philharmonic. Maestro Nathaniel Tate Whitcomb isn’t quite ready to push the envelope that far, but he does recognize talent when he sees it, so he makes her his assistant. Though Rebekah’s not thrilled with this assignment at first, she and Tate soon learn what a powerful team they make, both musically and personally. Tate’s back story was amazing, his angst was believable, and the conflict of women onstage in an era when that just wasn’t done was resolved in a most creative way.

 

Home At Last—Deborah Raney

I started this one last night, and even though I’m still a few chapters from the end, it’s safe to put this one on the list. Link Whitman and Shayla Michaels have all kinds of obstacles thrown at their budding relationship, from Shayla’s complicated life situation to their racial differences. As half of an interracial couple myself, I have to cheer every time the lead characters are from different backgrounds. While my husband and I haven’t had to deal with some of the difficulties Link and Shayla have, we’ve had our own challenges, and I found myself nodding along with many scenes in this book. As always, Deb Raney creates believably flawed, sympathetic, three-dimensional characters (I’m pretty sure I fell in love with Link on page 1) and witty dialogue, and I applaud her for tackling such a hot-button, timely issue. This book is opening my eyes and causing me to think about some things differently, and I highly, highly recommend it.

 

Your Turn: What are you reading currently? Have any books so far in 2017 really stuck with you? My TBR pile is already as tall as I am, but it won’t hurt to add another few titles…