April McGowan

Getting to know you–Author Dina Sleiman

dancewithpassionI love getting to know authors–and I love books. Every now and then, when I read a new book that connects with me, I’m going to share it with you! It just so happens, I have another author I would love to introduce you to. Please join me in welcoming author Dina Sleiman!

Dina, what inspired you to start writing? Not to sound trite, but I felt called to writing. I always loved reading and writing, and I studied writing in college and grad school, but I didn’t get serious about it until my mid-thirties when I felt God leading me to write my first novel.

How long did it take you before you were first published? From the time I started my first novel until it was published was five and a half years.

Do you write fiction, nonfiction, or both? I guess you could say I write both, but fiction is my true love, and my published books are all fiction.

Do you use an outline, or do you prefer to write by the seat of your pants? I’m a mixture. I like to get started on the book organically and meet the characters. I’ll write in random order whatever I see and hear going on in my head. But after that initial writing spree, I sit down and plot the book to the end, usually in synopsis form. From that point on, I stick pretty close to my plan.

Where do you write? I like to write curled up with my computer on my lap, either on the couch in the sunny living room or on my bed.

What are your hobbies/interests (other than writing)? I love dance and theater. Right now I’m in my glory choreographing and directing the dance for an entire musical at my son’s middle school. I also run a worship dance team at my church and lead worship for children’s church once a month, which is always at least as much dancing as singing.

Do you consider yourself to be an introvert or an extrovert, and how do you think that affects your writing? I am definitely an introvert and desperately need my time alone. For writing, this works out great because I’m perfectly happy with the company of the imaginary people in my head for extended periods of time. When I really get in the writing zone, I have to warn my family to remind me to do stuff like cook dinner and pick up the kids from their lessons.

Tell us a bit about your latest book. What was your inspiration? My latest book to be published is Dance from Deep Within, although I actually wrote this one between 2009 and 2010. It is pretty unique, so it took a while to findDFDW Final the right publishing home. The novel is about a veiled Muslim woman who bonds with a bi-racial hippie chick and a blond Christian ballerina over a group project for college. The book is full of drama, humor, and romance, but is ultimately about how the three girls are changed by their relationships with one another. My husband is from Lebanon, and I always wanted to write a book with a Muslim character. But the specific inspiration for this one came when I saw a particularly stylish young Muslim woman in the parking lot of a grocery store in Sidon wearing a red mini-dress with a black long sleeved top, black leggings, and a black veil. You can order Dina’s latest book here

What project can we look forward to seeing next? I’m very excited to share that I will have a young adult medieval series releasing with Bethany starting in spring 2015. This goes back to my roots. My first novel was a medieval coming of age story geared toward younger women, but at the time I was told that the medieval era was not marketable in the Christian publishing world. As it turns out, it works fine for a young adult audience, and I was very happy to make that subtle switch. The series actually crosses over to the “New Adult” audience as well. It’s called Valiant Hearts, and each novel will feature a strong heroine. Book one, Dauntless, is a Robin Hood type story with a female lead.

If you’ve written other books, could you please list their titles or series name? Dance of the Dandelion and Love in Three-Quarter Time. Both are available through online distributors.

Where can your readers go to connect with you online? 

My web page at http://dinasleiman.com

On Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/authordinasleiman

On Twitter at https://twitter.com/DinaSleiman1

And on Pinterest at http://www.pinterest.com/dinasleiman/

Here’s my five star review of Dina’s novel, Dance From Deep Within

Dina Sleiman paints a clear picture of the oft clashing cultures of Christianity, Humanism and Muslim and offers us three strong young women who must, for the sake of a class, work together to investigate each other’s religions. D.L Sleiman does an excellent job of respectfully delving into each one, revealing their strengths and weakness in clear, honest investigation. The characters of Allie, Rain, and Layla feel real and deep. As each of them goes about sharing about their upbringings, their families and their trials and blessings from their own perspectives, the reader is given an empathetic look into the stresses and pressures each culture applies.

Writing a novel from three different points of view is no easy task–but the author does so seamlessly. I was never left feeling that one character got more page time than another. Having grown up in a cultural area heavy with Christian, pagan and humanistic beliefs, I can say she did a great job portraying those cultures. And having only heard what the media portrays as truth from a Muslim perspective, I found that introduction honest and respectful. All in all, Sleiman used a gentle, respectful, loving hand to guide the reader into areas they might never have tread before.

This book was heart-touching and real, examining the struggles we all have in connecting respectfully to one another–and how we can honestly share our faith in a true, loving, impactful way. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series!

Thanks so much for joining us, Dina. Please be sure to check out Dina’s books and leave a comment or question below!


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Getting To Know You–Susie Finkbeiner

Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to my friend and fellow WhiteFire Publishing author, Susie Finkbeiner. Susie’s second novel, My Mother’s Chamomile, just released to rave reviews. I’ve recently started reading it–and it’s riveting. You’re going to want to read it, too. Be sure to leave a comment or question for Susie–and we’ll be doing a book drawing for a copy of the ebook version of My Mother’s Chamomile a week from today–YOU COULD WIN IT!

susie head shotWelcome Susie! Would you share what inspired you to start writing?  My grandma gave me this little journal when I was in third grade. It was powder blue with little teddy bears all over it. I still have it somewhere. If I think back, that was the beginning of my writing. I wrote stories about my friends. Drew pictures of us sipping tea. Made up stories about horses that could talk. Really, it was a way for me to escape a little. I loved it. I’ve been making up stories ever since. Recently, though, I haven’t written any talking horses into my stories.

How long did it take you before you were first published? Oh, goodness. Years. Years and years. I was twenty-eight when a play I’d written was published. When I started work on my first novel, what would become Paint Chips, I had no idea that I’d ever submit it. From the first word typed to the day Paint Chips released, it was just about three years. Maybe even more.

Do you write fiction, nonfiction, or both?  I typically stick with fiction. It feels much more natural for me. Quite honestly, it’s safe. For most of my life, fiction has been my defense mechanism. It’s worked for me pretty well thus far.

Where do you get your ideas?  Everywhere. I see someone quirky at the grocery store and follow them around, listening to the way they speak, studying the way they walk. Don’t worry, I’m smooth about it. Usually, at least. I watch documentaries. Those are absolutely bursting with possibilities. Oh! And church! Church is a fabulous place for inspiration to hit me.

How much research, if any, do you do when writing a book?  It really depends on the book and subject matter. For My Mother’s Chamomile, I had to contact funeral directors for interviews and a tour of the funeral home. I read books and watched, probably ten to fifteen documentaries. I interviewed family and friends about their experiences. I committed hours upon hours to learning as much as I could about the funeral business and end of life matters. I’m so glad I took the time.

Do you use an outline, or do you prefer to write by the seat of your pants?  The more I write, the more I value my notes. I wouldn’t consider myself an outliner. I’m far too disorganized and rebellious for that. I do, however, have a list of things that will happen in the story. After the first draft, I take scissors and tape and turn the thing into a patchwork quilt. It’s messy and emotional, but it works for me.

Where do you write?  Wherever I can find a place to set my laptop. In my house, I sit at my desk in the kitchen. Afternoons when my boys are in school, I go to a coffee shop. Really, though, I can get the work done anywhere.

What are your hobbies/interests (other than writing)?  I love music. I’m not necessarily the best at piano or guitar, but I sure love playing and singing. It’s relaxing. It gets creative juices flowing. I’m also an avid reader. It’s one addiction I’m not likely to fight off.

Do you consider yourself to be an introvert or an extrovert, and how do you think that effects your writing?  You know, I think I’m a little of both. Strange, right? I love getting to know people and I really enjoy being in front of an audience. However, I truly cherish my quiet time. I can be with people to a certain extent, but then I really need to be alone to recharge. I think it does effect my writing in that I can handle the quiet, focused time it takes to put together stories. My outgoing side makes it easy for me to connect with others who can help me research. I guess sometimes it really is good to be a little in the middle.

Tell us a bit about your latest book. What was your inspiration?  My Mother’s Chamomile is a novel about a family of funeral directors. They have poured out comfort and mercy on just about every one in their small town. But My Mother's Chamomile Frontwhen tragedy strikes their family, they need to accept mercy from others. The inspiration for this book came from my experience with my husband’s grandma, being with her when she died. Seeing the wonderful Hospice nurses and kind funeral directors inspired me. I wanted to write their story because, really, it’s everyone’s story.

What project can we look forward to seeing next?  I’m actually pretty secretive about current projects. I like to keep them undercover until I know for sure where they’re going. I will tell you this, it’s very different from my other two novels. I really love it so far!

Is there a subject you’ve longed to write about, but haven’t had the chance?  I have this novel that I started several years ago, after the earthquake in Haiti. It’s the story of different people who survived and what brought them all together. I’ve got a good portion of it finished, but I’m not a good enough writer to finish it yet. I need to learn more about the craft to really give it its due.

Where can your readers go to connect with you online?  My web page at www.susiefinkbeiner.com my blog at  www.susiefinkbeiner.wordpress.com, I’m on Twitter @SusieFinkbeiner and Facebook  Susie M. Finkbeiner ~ Novelist

Where can readers go to find your latest release? They can hop on over to Amazon http://www.amazon.com/My-Mothers-Chamomile-Susie-Finkbeiner-ebook/dp/B00IC8E530/ref=zg_bsnr_7588886011_1

Thanks so much for spending time with us here today! And readers, don’t forget to ask Susie a question or leave a comment below to enter the drawing! You could win a ebook copy of Susie’s latest book!


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The Book I Read: The Journey of Eleven Moons

Eleven Moons cover vfinal front coverI’ve just finished a lovely book called The Journey of Eleven Moons by best-selling author, Bonnie Leon. This is a revised version of the novel she had published in 1995. Although I’m a huge fan of Bonnie’s novels, I’ve never read this series, so I can’t compare it to the original or any changes that were made—but from chapter one, I was immediately drawn into the story.

Bonnie Leon gracefully weaves a tale of realistic, deep characters who experience real-life tragedies and triumphs, all the while staying true to a culture and time that transports the reader. We are introduced to a group of the Aleut peoples in Alaska, the harshness and beauty of their surroundings, their traditions, and spiritual life set around the end of the 19th century.

Horrible tragedy leaves Anna and her youngest sister orphaned and destitute. The relationship formed between the two moves from sibling to parental in a natural way, allowing us to identify with the character on a deeper level—Anna has to move beyond her grief for her sister’s sake, and try to build their lives again. When Anna meets Erik, a Civil War veteran, she’s instantly distrustful of the tall foreigner—with good reason. But Erik proves to be a true friend in their time of great need.

The beauty of the Alaskan wilderness and its native people (as well as the occasional ugliness of foreigners looking for quick wealth) are shared in a truthful, unbiased way. Bonnie portrays the Aleut culture in a respectful, but honest light. She does an equally skillful job interweaving the message of the gospel with a subtly that shows us what it was like for Anna to go from her multi-theistic belief system to learning about the One True God.

All in all, the realism of emotion and setting pulls the reader through the story to a very satisfying conclusion. I highly recommend this book and gave it five stars.

You can find The Journey of Eleven Moons in your local bookstore, or pop over to Amazon and order it here.

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