Today I'm hanging out with the talented Emerald Barnes here at the book blog. Emerald graduated from Mississippi University for Women, earning a B.A. in English with an emphasis on Creative Writing.
She has since put her writing talent to good use, writing mainly suspense and thrillers in the YA genre, though she dabbles in other genres and her books are enjoyed by readers of all ages.
Many thanks to Emerald, who took time out of her busy writing schedule to tell us about her new Christian teen romance books: Entertaining Angels and the novella she's produced as a sequel, Before We Say I Do.
KB: What inspired you to write your latest book?
EB: I was inspired to write Entertaining Angels and Before We Say I Do based on the fact that I think these topics needed to be broached. Entertaining Angels focuses on a young girl who is trying to survive high school. She hates her looks, hates herself, and it doesn’t help that she’s being teased by someone at her school constantly about her looks. Being overweight my whole life, I knew how hard it was to deal with bullying. I was always being teased, made fun of, and boys weren’t interested in me because I was fat. I was always in the “friend zone,” and I never truly felt loved.
It wasn’t until I was two years into college, that God used a song to reach me and tell me how beautiful I was. It took even longer to believe it! But, by the grace of God, I’ve come to realize that the world's standard of beauty doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the only standard, and I want teens and women and even men to realize that they’re beautiful (or handsome) just the way they are. I hope that I’ve achieved that to some degree with Entertaining Angels.
Before We Say I Do is a little different. It deals with learning to forgive, which we all have a hard time doing. I’ve dealt with unforgiveness before, and it’s something you don’t want to have to deal with. But also, I was inspired to write this short story because Madison and Chase were so loved from book one!
KB: How did you come up with the titles?
EB: Entertaining Angels came from the Bible verse, Hebrews 13: 2, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
That pretty much sums up the book as a whole.
Before We Say I Do came from the short story as a whole because it all takes place before Mads and Chase say I do.
KB: What was the hardest part of writing your books?
The hardest part was facing my own feelings regarding my weight and feeling ugly. I had kept it to myself, not really sharing my testimony with anyone because I didn’t want them to know what I had been through, all I had faced, but this story helped me with that. If one person can be helped from what I went through, I want them to know it.
KB: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
EB: I learned a lot from my novel, and it’s really to love myself no matter what. I still battle thoughts of looking in the mirror and being disgusted with myself, wishing that I looked this way or that, but if my own book taught me anything, it’s God loves me for who I am, and I should love myself for that same reason.
I touch on my overweight issues on this post which reveals a little more of what I learned while writing my novel.
KB: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
EB: Yes, I want them to learn what I learned. They’re beautiful. They don’t have to feel like they aren’t simply because the world doesn’t want them to. Being beautiful isn’t always about your outer beauty either. It’s about who you are as a person, and I hope they can see that through my stories. I also hope they’ll know that God is there with me, watching over them and sending His angels to protect them from themselves.
KB: How much of the book is realistic?
EB: I honestly think this question depends on whether we know we’ve had an angelic experience or not. The book can certainly be realistic because I believe it happens to everyone at some point in their lives that they have felt this way about themselves, and I believe that we’ve all had an angelic experience, whether we realized it or not.
As far as realistic in a sense that it happened to me, only what Madison has felt like, her thoughts – and the way she dresses – is very much realistic and like me.
KB: What were the challenges (research, literary, and logistical) in bringing this book to life?
EB: The biggest challenge I faced in bringing this novel to life was the fact that I have no idea how the angel realm works. I didn’t want to stray from what the Bible says, but I also had to make this fiction. I think I handled the balance delicately and correctly. I mean, the Bible does say that we can come across strangers who are angels unawares.
KB: So these two books are part of a series - tell us a little about the sequels.
EB: Yes, these two books are part of a series. The Entertaining Angels series. As of right now, I only have book two planned out, and I’m currently writing it. (You can read a sneak peek in the back of Before We Say I Do.) Here’s the working blurb:
Lexi Johnson is determined to escape her abusive father and drunk mother, and to escape her misery, she turns to the blade. But, that isn’t enough to end her pain. There’s something missing in her life, but she refuses to acknowledge what it is, determined she doesn’t need anyone in her life.
Roxy Taylor is the new girl in town, and when she comes waltzing into school, she tries to befriend Lexi. Lexi doesn’t trust her, especially when she teams up with DJ Tucker to try and break down the barriers that Lexi has put in place.
Little does Lexi know, there are greater forces at work trying to save her life from the dangerous path she’s on. And as Lexi begins to fall for DJ, she’ll see that she isn’t alone in this world.
Meanwhile, Zach Taylor is back, and he’s determined to make sure that Madison and Chase Sanders are on the path that God has chosen for them.
KB: What is your favorite theme/genre to write about?
EB: My favorite genre to write has so far been these teen Christian romances. They deal with such difficult issues, but it’s really fun to see them fall in love and overcome the obstacles that life has thrown at them.
KB: For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
EB: I may get flogged for this, but I prefer ebooks. I can carry them with me wherever I go, and I have a literal library at my fingertips. I still love paperbacks and hard back books, but I love the ease of ebooks.
KB: What is the hardest thing about writing?
EB: The hardest thing about writing is fine-tuning the book. I find that I get too attached to my own work, and I miss important plot points or add something that doesn’t improve the overall story. So basically, editing.
KB: What is the easiest thing about writing?
EB: The easiest this is the first draft. I love seeing a new story unfold on the blank pages!
KB: Where can we find you online?
Entertaining Angels: Amazon US & Amazon UK
Before We Say I Do: Amazon US & Amazon UK
Follow Emerald's virtual book tour here.
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