CAFE: A gathering place. A place of refreshment.

Thirsty for the latest releases in Christian fiction? Ready for a peek into the world of publishing and writing conferences? Hungry for spiritual and real-life nourishment? Pull up a seat; you're in the right place, and I'm so glad you've stopped by.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


When I first met Christina Berry and her mom Sherrie Ashcraft, Christina and I were finalists in the Genesis contest. We were both unpublished, but hopeful that we would soon find homes for our novels. This is something I’ve noticed and love about conferences—you seem to find those who are kindred spirits, and when you see their joy in landing an agent or signing a first contract, it feels very personal. We’re all on a journey together, and it’s so much more fun to be traveling with friends. Christina is one of those simply radiant individuals who I’m blessed to know, and I’m thrilled to have her with us at the Cafe today.

ABOUT CHRISTINA: As a single mom and foster parent, Christina Berry carves time out of her busy schedule to write about the heart and soul of life. She lives with her family in rural Oregon. The Familiar Stranger is her debut novel. Get to know her better here. Christina and her mom also have an “infrequent and humorous” newsletter which you can find here.

Welcome and congratulations, Christina. First, tell me about your novel.

The Familiar Stranger—formerly known as Undiscovered—is about a couple going through a really rough patch in their marriage. When an accident incapacitates the husband, their relationship must be redefined. Which would be a lot easier to do if BIG secrets from his past didn’t raise their ugly heads. Despite the upheaval, the choices they make involving forgiveness and trust might allow a new beginning. Or … they might not.

How did you come up with the story?

In the summer of 2006, two stories appeared in the newspaper. One was a huge, national story; the other a smaller, local-interest item. I wondered what it might look like if those two stories conceived a child. Boom! I had the entire plot for The Familiar Stranger. It will be interesting to see if readers can figure out which stories inspired the book.

Your creative weaving of the two stories landed you your first contract (big smile here). What surprised you about the publishing process after your novel was contracted?

I knew that titles were frequently changed for publication, but I didn’t expect the title to change before the contract was officially signed. Also, I knew that editors move from house to house fairly often in this industry, but I didn’t expect to lose my dream editor two days after signing the contract. (Hi, Andy!)

After getting over the shock of losing my editor, I was very surprised at how much Moody valued my input, how frequently they communicated with me, and how they lifted my family up in prayer. In fact, everyone from my editor to the marketing manager to the author liaison has been amazing!

What takeaway value do you hope readers receive after reading your novel?

The recent changes in my life—losing my husband, facing finding a “real” job, selling my home—have done nothing but solidify what I hope to be the theme of the book and my life: Live Transparently—Forgive Extravagantly. If reading The Familiar Stranger makes even one man or woman be more honest with his or her spouse or delve into trust issues in a healthy way, I’ll consider it a success. Maybe there’s a hurting heart that can find a new path to forgiveness because of the story.

You’ve already received some very favorable reviews, so I’d say you’re on the way to seeing lives changed. One final question: What fun facts may surprise your readers about you?

I was the team captain and second answerer in the speed round for our family on “Family Feud” in 2000 … and we won! Also, I grew up in Nigeria, West Africa, while my parents were Southern Baptist missionaries. I remember being awed at the selection of toilet paper in the grocery store when we returned to the States.

From Africa to Family Feud to debut novelist – wow! Thanks so much, Christina, for stopping by today.

On October 31, Christina will be giving away 10 copies of The Familiar Stranger at the conclusion of her blog tour. To be entered in the drawing, all you have to do is leave a comment here. Please leave your contact information in your comment. US residents only and void where prohibited. Chances of winning dependent on number of participants.

The Familiar Stranger is also available here and here.

MY REVIEW: What an amazing debut novel! In a word – captivating! From the beginning I was drawn into the intrigue of where this story was going. Christina exhibits skill in showing the point of view of both Craig and Denise whose marriage has grown stale and troubled. Then Craig is critically injured and a mysterious man is killed. It’s a love story, one of astonishing grace by a wife who stands by her husband even when faced with jarring evidence that he’s not the man she thought he was. It’s also a mystery that unfolds one layer at a time into a resonant and satisfying resolution.

I really liked this story because of its unique approach and writing that wasn’t overdone or clichéd. Christina’s straightforward storytelling pulled me in and kept me turning the pages. My husband echoed my sentiments after reading the book. Highly recommended for both male and female readers.

Your turn. Leave a comment, and if you've already read Christina's book, share your thoughts.


Koala Bear Writer said...

Sounds like a fascinating book! Congrats to Christina.

Christina Berry said...

Carla, I love these words in your review: "a love story ... of astonishing grace." Thanks so much for having me here and listing me as one of the top reads!

Koala Bear Writer, thanks for your comment! You're entered in the contest. :)