Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Interview With Author Brenda Helton





1. What inspired you to write this book? Since my book is based on my mother's family, she, along with my siblings, inspired me to write my book.  Ever since I was a young girl, my mother would tell us stories of her family and childhood.  The stories were eye-opening.  She raised my sisters and I completely different than the way she was raised.  She often told us that was purposeful.  She never wanted us to grow up in a household like hers.  She strived to do things differently (following traditions, importance of education, and general household atmosphere) than how she was raised. In 2010, I traveled to different cities in the U.S. to interview my mother's siblings.  Of the six children, four were still living. I recorded each interview.  At the time, I was in the second year of my Master's program, still had three teenage daughters at home, and was teaching full time.  Consequently, the book got put off for several years.  I kept promising that I would begin writing the book when I retired. However, when I retired in 2014, my first grandchild was born.  Again, I put off writing my book.  I went from teaching high school, to babysitting grandchildren for the next seven years. My mother, my aunts and uncles, and my siblings were a constant reminder that I needed to move forward with the book based on their family.  They had a strong conviction that the story of my grandmother Grace, and God's Grace that covered the family, needed to be broadcast for the world to read, and be encouraged. 


2. What exactly is it about and who is it written for? If It Hadn't Been For Grace, is a novel with a key.  In other words, it's a novel based on a true story with a fiction overlay.  It's a historical novel, covering 40 years (1918-1958), of an Italian family living in the Midwest.  Grace is a young, timid, girl of fifteen working in her parent's boarding house.  One summer, an Italian immigrant, Gio Rivia, arrives at her family's boarding house to rent a room.  Grace and Gio fall in love, and marriage quickly follows.  Gio is a strong-willed, visionary type of man.  He's bold, knows what he wants, and aggressively moves forward to reach his goal.  Not much stops him. Initially, all of these strong, confident, characteristics attract Grace to Gio.  She loved that he was everything she was not. Until, she matures, and his boldness overwhelms her.  Grace becomes ill.  She can no longer take care of the house, and children as Gio demands.  Without Grace's consent, Gio moves his widowed sister into the house to help out with cooking, cleaning, and caring for the children.  Sophia is as bold and demanding as her brother.  Together, they rule the household.  Grace, nor the grown children, have any input.  Sophia's indiscretions complicate the already scrambled family.  Twists and turns in the household occur as Grace becomes more and more ill, and ultimately bedridden. As she listens and watches her family falling apart from her upstairs bedroom, all she has the power to do is pray that God's grace covers her children into their adult years.  This book is written for adults.


3.  What do you hope readers will get out of reading your book? I hope readers will walk away feeling encouraged that God's grace will cover you in times of difficulty.  Prayer is important, and powerful.  Continue to pray in the good times and the bad times.  God is listening, even when you don't think He is. 


4. How did you decide on your book’s title and cover design? I decided on the book's title because Grace was the name of my grandmother, and the book is about God's grace that covered her children when all she could do was pray for them while up in her bedroom, bedridden. I chose a cover design with a reflection of the word GRACE to emphasize the double meaning of the word Grace.


5. What advice or words of wisdom do you have for fellow writers – other than run!? My advice is to keep going.  Try and try again.  You are never too old to try something new.  If it's your passion, go for it.  Let it lead and motivate you.  Make it happen.  If you are stuck, or confused about a direction for your book, take a twenty-four-hour break, and come back to it.  You'll see a difference when you return to your writing.  


6. What trends in the book world do you see -- and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading?  I see more and more people reading electronically.  However, there are still "paper-turners" out there that like to dog-ear pages, and use a book mark too. I think both realms will continue.  Afterall, publishers need to satisfy all the various types of readers.


7. Were there experiences in your personal life or career that came in handy when writing this book?  Yes.  All the years I listened to my mother's stories of her life growing up with a bedridden mother, and an indiscreet aunt in her home all came in handy when painting the picture and tone of my book. 


8. How would you describe your writing style? Which writers or books is your writing similar to? My writing style includes focusing on a character, or a family, and following them through decades of their lives building a true bond between the character/family and the reader.  I often hear responses from my book's readers saying that they didn't want the book to end.  They wanted more time with the character/family. They felt the bond that I was trying to capture.


9. What challenges did you overcome in the writing of this book? The biggest challenge in writing this book was changing the real names to fake names.  The whole set of names, places, cities, states, schools, and colleges had to be changed three times.  It's a long story, but in doing that, typos in the draft were made. Fourteen to be exact.  The original edited draft was fine, but once all the name changes came about, other words became incorrect.  I am glad my second book had no names to be changed.  The editing process was much easier.


10. If people can buy or read one book this week or month, why should it be yours?

People should buy my book because it's a true story.  True stories are a gem on the bookshelf.  It's real information that someone somewhere lived and survived.  It's an interesting read when you read it with the idea in your mind that what you're reading really happened.


About The Author: Brenda Helton is an author of encouraging Christian fiction generated from personal life experiences of love, loss, and lessons learned.  Born and raised in the Midwest, Brenda is a retired school teacher that dedicated thirty-five years of service in the public-school setting.  She started writing books ten years after she retired.   For more info, please see: http://www.christianfaithpublishing.com/books/?book=if-it-hadn't-been-for-grace


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About Brian Feinblum

Brian Feinblum should be followed on www.linkedin.com/in/brianfeinblum. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2024. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester with his wife, two kids, and Ferris, a black lab rescue dog, and El Chapo, a pug rescue dog. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s The Independent.  This award-winning blog has generated over 3.9 million pageviews. With 4,900+ posts over the past dozen years, it was named one of the best book marketing blogs by BookBaby  http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs  and recognized by Feedspot in 2021 and 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. It was also named by www.WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” For the past three decades, including 21 years as the head of marketing for the nation’s largest book publicity firm, and director of publicity positions at two independent presses, Brian has worked with many first-time, self-published, authors of all genres, right along with best-selling authors and celebrities such as: Dr. Ruth, Mark Victor Hansen, Joseph Finder, Katherine Spurway, Neil Rackham, Harvey Mackay, Ken Blanchard, Stephen Covey, Warren Adler, Cindy Adams, Todd Duncan, Susan RoAne, John C. Maxwell, Jeff Foxworthy, Seth Godin, and Henry Winkler. He hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America several years ago, and has spoken at ASJA, Independent Book Publishers Association Sarah Lawrence College, Nonfiction Writers Association, Cape Cod Writers Association, Willamette (Portland) Writers Association, APEX, Morgan James Publishing, and Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association. His letters-to-the-editor have been published in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Post, NY Daily News, Newsday, The Journal News (Westchester) and The Washington Post. His first published book was The Florida Homeowner, Condo, & Co-Op Association Handbook.  It was featured in The Sun Sentinel and Miami Herald.

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