author interview and giveaway: the captivating heather sunseri

I picked up Mindspeak after reading an interview with Heather on a different blog. The premise of the book was enticing and the teaser on Amazon sucked me in enough to purchase and read it. You can read my review here. I contacted Heather after I finished her book and asked if she’d visit us and let me pick her brain about some of the things in her book. She said yes, even though I warned her about what I was going to ask her. 🙂 Raise a soda to Heather, and welcome her to the blog!

Thank you so much, Lisa, for having me on your blog! It means so much to me when bloggers and readers ask questions and/or share their reading experience!

My first question is one that I ask everyone who stops by: do you consider yourself a Christian author or an author of Christian fiction? What do you think the difference is?

I am a Christian. And I am a writer who allows her faith and beliefs to influence her writing, but MINDSPEAK is not Christian fiction.

The difference is simple in my mind: audience. An author of Christian fiction is mostly reaching other Christians. I desire to reach a much broader audience.

The main character in Mindspeak, Lexi, clearly believes in God yet there are some “no-no’s” in your book that would make many Christians cringe: cussing, boy/girl sleeping together (not in the biblical sense). Why the apparent dichotomy?

All readers (and writers) bring to the reading experience a set of beliefs, past experiences, and core principles that influence the way they react to a story. I know writers who only wish to write characters and stories to fit their core beliefs, and that’s okay. For them, anything that goes against those core beliefs is wrong. I am not that writer. I believe we are constantly called to discern between what’s right and wrong according to our own worldview. That’s a good thing. And my writing is going to reflect this.

Take the Harry Potter series, for example. I am a huge fan. But there is murder and hate and cursing in Harry Potter. As a reader and movie enthusiast, I didn’t skip a beat as I enjoyed this adventure, even when Mrs. Weasly called Bellatrix Lestrange a bi$%# then obliterated her. As a Christian, I was able to later, after I heard that the books and movies had caused a ruckus among some conservative Christian circles, to go back and assess whether these books influenced my belief system negatively. These books did not change who I am as a Christian. I found the characters to be believable and true to the fictional story world J.K. Rowling created.

In MINDSPEAK, Lexi Matthews was shuffled off to grow up in a boarding school at the young age of eleven. Choices were made for her. She no longer had parental supervision or influence. What she and her classmates know to be good and right in the world, they’ve taught themselves or picked up from their teachers. In the story, Lexi is seventeen and is faced with betrayal by her father. She must come to grips with who and what she is, and that her father controlled both from before she was born. Once she discovers that she is different and that people want something from her, she must search for real purpose in life. She’s unsure of herself and of a boy who claims to care for her. Lexi, a fictional character who is trying to find her unique purpose in an insecure world, sometimes speaks with a slightly coarser language. I’m okay with it and was very intentional about the use of sh#$ and cr&@—the only two curse words in the book, by the way. I found them to be warranted and true to the seventeen-year-old character that I created. She’s simply trying to find her way in a difficult world and sometimes needed a strong word to express the severity of a situation.

I would hope that all Christians would rejoice that a novel written for the general market features a seventeen-year-old girl who, though she was raised with minimal parental supervision, doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke (anything), and doesn’t engage in premarital sex. The worst that she does is utter a few words that mean nothing more than human feces.

My hope is that the youth of today can relate to Lexi in some way. Though today’s teens are not dealing with how Lexi came into this world, far too many are dealing with harsh issues—parents who are split, being raised by a single parent, a grandparent, parents who struggle with alcoholism, and various other problems. Like Lexi, I hope that youth today know that there are people in the world who they can turn to who won’t judge them for uttering a few bad words or making one wrong choice. Or even a dozen bad choices.

Every teen in today’s world (and most adults, for that matter) are searching for purpose. Sometimes they have to lose their way, take a wrong turn before finding the right way. All of us are forced to live in a world where bad things happen, we say things that are less than wholesome and make bad choices. We can’t escape these realities without love and forgiveness. Isn’t that the essence of Christianity?

Who did you have in mind when you wrote Mindspeak?

MINDSPEAK was written for young adults (and adults who enjoy young adult fiction) ages 14 and up. It’s a story with plenty of romance, some pretty interesting science that may or may not exist in today’s world ;), and some paranormal consequences to science reaching into troublesome areas of genetic manipulation. MINDSPEAK creates a safe story world where readers can explore issues like intimacy and discovering one’s place and purpose in the world.

What is one thing you’d like your readers to know?

I want readers to know that the single most important thing to me as a writer is to know I’ve provided lovers of fiction an entertaining experience that forces them to suspend their beliefs for a few hours and consider that just because something shouldn’t exist in the world, doesn’t mean it couldn’t or doesn’t already.

How long will we have to wait to find out what happens to Lexi and Jack?

#2 in the MINDSPEAK series is going to be a fast-paced adventure for Lexi and Jack. Readers should look for an announcement about title and cover this summer (maybe even later this spring — I already know the title 😉 ). And I’m hoping for a late summer, early fall release.

Thanks for stopping by, Heather!

If you want to know more about Heather and her upcoming novels, you can find her on the web at http://heathersunseri.com/.

Do you have a question for Heather? Please let us know if you’d like to be one of two lucky commenters who will win a free copy of Mindspeak. Leave your contact information in a safe format (name at gmail dot com) if I don’t already know how to reach you.

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19 thoughts on “author interview and giveaway: the captivating heather sunseri

  1. I’ve heard of MINDSPEAK. Now I HAVE to read it. This is exactly the kind of book I like even though I left young adulthood behind two decades ago. It’s also the kind of book I want to see on the shelves for the young adults of today. I love heroes and heroines who make good moral choices and even better when this is based in a Christian world view whether or not that is overt.

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    1. Thanks, Gretchen! I love how the young adult genre is popular among adults. I left that age behind a couple of decades ago as well, but I love a well-written story that takes me on an adventure that many adult novels aren’t going to go. And I love that so many great writers are giving these types of stories to the young adults these days. I wish I had had these stories when I was in middle and high school.

      Hope you enjoy Mindspeak. Please drop me a note and let me know! 🙂

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  2. I really agree with characters behaving in a real way that fits their place in life. While I wouldn’t enjoy a book that goes out of its way to include excessive language, bits of language that fits that character and their journey make the story itself more alive and real. Also keeping in mind that certain words are barely considered swear words in todays secular society (like cr&@).

    I was expecting pure science fiction in this book. The mention of paranormal consequences has me even more intrigued! I’d love to be entered to win a free copy.

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    1. To clarify, what I mean is if a pastor or teen raised in a conservative Christian home said those words, it would bother me because it wouldn’t be an accurate portrayal of a realistic character (unless purposely used to point out a teen rebelling a bit at constrictions, a pastor struggling with faith issues, etc.). But a secular character or one raised in a not-so-conservative Christian home using mild language wouldn’t make me bat an eye.

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      1. Thanks for the comments, sparksofember. And I agree. There are many who don’t even consider crap or dang it, and many others swear words. And it’s funny how our sensitivities to these words are so different. I can handle a lot of those words and much worse in literature and on TV and movies, but my children know that I don’t want them to say ANY OF THEM. I don’t even let my 13-year-old get away with crap, dang, or my least favorite – sucks!

        I was helping with third and fourth graders at church a few weeks ago, and one child kept saying “dang it” over and over. It drove me crazy! But I know it’s just because his parents sensitivities are different than mine. And that’s the beauty of the world we live in. It takes all kinds, right? I’m sure there are things I do that would make another cringe. (Or maybe not. ;))

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  3. Kat – I agree with you that there are times when language is necessary to the setting. My husband and I went to see a play last night – A Few Good Men (love the movie too) and it was fantastic but there were f-bombs all over the place and some very colorful language and insinuations. The thing is, no one expects navy/marine/army barracks to have clean language, so it didn’t bother me. Now, if my kids spoke like that– oh my! That’s another story.

    And the paranormal stuff in the book is very cool. 🙂

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  4. Happy Monday, everybody! I love the discussion so far. I just wanted to drop in and let everyone know that I would love to hear your thoughts and questions on this today. It’s a topic I analyze regularly in my book worlds and don’t take lightly. Ill be back by after work this evening to respond to any questions and add to the discussion. Thanks, Lisa, for having me!!!

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  5. Great interview. Heather, I love your take on the fiction as a Christian, comparing to H Potter, using swear words that non-Christian characters would normally use. You’ve stated all that really well and it makes sense. Sounds like you’ve written a smart and thought-provoking book! Thank you. 🙂 Susan Cottrell, Writers on the Storm

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  6. This is a stimulating interview about a book with a title that will be hard to forget. You own that word now, Heather! I’d love to read the story, based on its subject matter and theme. A few mild cusses won’t bother me. “Dang it” appears once in my own novel for young teens. It is spoken occasionally in polite society, and I’d rather a kid slip once in a while and say that in a moment of exasperation, rather than some of the alternatives.

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  7. Thanks for commenting everyone! The winners of Mindspeak are Sparksofember and Cynthia Toney! Congratulations, gals. I’ll be interested in hearing what you think of it once you’ve read it.

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