I am happy to share with you an interview with author Alexa Verde that first appeared on Diversity Between the Pages, a blog that I am an occasional contributor for. Following the interview I will share my thoughts on her book, Season of Joy.
Phyllis: Tell me something about Season of Joy that is not in the blurb.
Alexa: First of all, thank you so much for interviewing me, Phyllis, and for all your support of Christian authors. I can probably talk forever about this book.
I loved writing Season of Joy because it had so much love, faith, humor, and light. I also enjoyed creating a plus-size heroine because it helped me leave my insecurities in the past. Season of Joy is a friends to true love and second chances romance, which are two of my favorite romance tropes!
Phyllis: Rios Azules. You use this setting for many of your books. What is it like?
Alexa: It’s a small town in south Texas with a caring community and quirky characters whom I’d be happy to have as friends in real time. It also has some great restaurants where I wouldn’t mind to eat myself. Rios Azules is “Blue Rivers” in Spanish, and the town is situated near a river while surrounded by forests and fields, and it’s about forty-minutes drive to the ocean. This small town is a place where people make you feel welcome whether you come for a visit or to stay. I enjoy tremendously returning there again and again, and I hope so do my readers.
Phyllis: Tell me more about the characters.
Alexa: Joy Avila is fun, down-to-earth, and caring, and Dylan McGregor thinks she’s absolutely gorgeous, though it takes him some disastrous dates with other women (set up by Joy!) to realize his soulmate is actually his childhood friend. Her profession, a travel reporter, is close to my heart. Once upon a time, I loved traveling and writing about my trips. Due to being belittled and teased as a teen, Joy has commitment issues. Dylan is a single father who works in construction and home repair. After a heartbreaking marriage to a drug addict, he’s afraid to fall in love, too. The characters of Dylan’s sons, Travis and Junior, were a lot of fun to write!
Phyllis: What were the challenges you faced creating them?
Alexa: While sweet and heartwarming, Season of Joy deals with difficult issues, for example, child abandonment and drug use by a secondary character. While I loved creating the character of Dylan’s son, Junior, it wasn’t easy writing the scenes were the boy feared for his father’s life or when he blamed himself for his mother’s abandoning him. I did love Junior’s honesty and pure faith!
Phyllis: What do you love about them and what do you hate?
Alexa: I get attached to my characters, so I love everything about them. Even when they make mistakes or behave in the way I personally wouldn’t want for them to behave, I realize they need to learn from their errors and cheer them on their difficult journey to their happily-ever-after. The only thing I hate about my characters is saying good-bye to them. That’s why they often “visit” my new books. And Joy’s best friend, Samantha, became the main character in a different book, Rapsodia.
Phyllis: What was your inspiration for writing this particular story?
Alexa: First, I wanted to write another Christmas romance, Book 2 in the Rios Azules Christmas series, because I enjoyed writing a Christmas story so much. We should remember about God’s gift to us, about His amazing love, about grace and salvation. We should turn to Jesus in every moment of our lives. Of course, we should do this always, not only during Christmas, but there’s something amazing about this most wonderful time of the year.
Second, I used to have self-image issues because I considered myself overweight in high school, so writing about a plus-size heroine who found her happiness and was adored by people around her was in a way liberating. I’m an avid reader, and I read about many romance heroines who were slim, gorgeous, and just perfect, and I thought that I didn’t look like that. Many women I know don’t look like that! I also felt it would be great to write about a man who became an everyday hero to me by raising his son alone and adopting a teenage boy, Travis, whom nobody wanted to adopt. And so Season of Joy was born.
Phyllis: What do you want your readers to learn from it?
Alexa: Society puts a lot of pressure on us to look a certain way, and sometimes we feel we don’t measure up and forget that we’re all beautiful in God’s eyes. And like Joy and Dylan, we need to let go of the past and open ourselves to new possibilities again.
Phyllis: What do you love most about writing about diverse cultures? What is most challenging about it?
Alexa: Writing about diverse cultures teaches me about acceptance of other people, and I just enjoy learning new things, one of the reasons I used to love traveling so much. And isn’t it fun trying new dishes or returning to the personal favorites? How about eating pizza for research? The challenging part about writing about diverse cultures is probably avoiding stereotypes. There are certain things associated with some nationalities, and one could subconsciously write them into a book.
Phyllis: Your bio tells me that you speak 5 languages and mentions English, Spanish and Russian. What are the other two? And what inspired you to learn them all?
Alexa: Belarusian and German, but I’m forgetting German by now. Two of five are my native languages. I learned Spanish because I love learning new languages and because many people in Texas speak Spanish. So I decided to get a B.A. in Spanish. I learned German because I wanted to travel to Germany and was fascinated by their culture.
Thank you so much for the interview, Phyllis! I loved talking to you.
Phyllis: And thank you, Alexa. It has been a pleasure to learn more about you and your books.
Season of Joy
by Alexa Verde
Publication Date March 23, 2017
Genres: Christian Fiction, Clean Romance
Setting: Texas Contemporary
Main Character Ages: 25-34
Written for: Adults
Single dad Dylan McGregor wants to give his two sons the best life possible in the small town where he’d grown up. When his youngest son writes a letter to God asking for a Mom for Christmas, Dylan reluctantly starts dating again. His lifelong friend, Joy Avila, agrees to help him find the right woman. Then Dylan begins to see Joy in a new light and believes she’s the right woman for him and his family.
Overweight and teased in school, Joy never hoped her first crush, Dylan McGregor, would return her feelings. Confident and successful now, she’s found her passion in writing about international travels. The trip of a lifetime awaits her after the holidays. Instead, will she find her dreams right there in Rios Azules?
I received a complimentary copy of this book. This gift did not influence my opinion or review.
As you are probably aware, it is unusual for a romance story to contain a heroine who is not thin and gorgeous. Author Alexa Verde stepped out on a limb by creating Joy as a plus-sized character. I applaud her for that! It did seem like the author made her a little too perfect in every other way (except for her clumsiness). Somehow, whatever was needed, Joy was the answer to it. Her primary failing, at least in Dylan’s eyes, was her fear of commitment. Other than that, it was hard to not like Joy.
The boys and Dylan were lovingly incompetent males when it came to domestic chores such as cooking. It was fun how the boys kept reacting to the potential of Dylan cooking. Their hearts were large and the love they had for one another was touching, especially Travis, who apparently was in a rough situation before he was adopted. I enjoyed the way he continually watched out for Junior and even tried his hand at matchmaking.
With various adventures, several trips to the emergency room, and some disastrous dates that Dylan went on, Season of Joy is a heartwarming story of a young boy’s letter to God and the way his prayer was answered.