Gutsy and fast-paced, Kept sweeps the reader in and doesn’t let go until the final, riveting page. With keen insight into human nature and the tangled relationships of our times, author and pastor’s wife Sally Bradley explores romance against the backdrop of God’s infinite, redeeming grace.~Laura Frantz, author of Love’s Reckoning
Vibrant characters, compelling questions, modern-day issues… Kept is a contemporary Christian classic along the lines of Redeeming Love. Impossible to put down, this story pulls us into the heart of Chicago and shows us how God’s hand can work, even when we repeatedly make the wrong choices. Sally Bradley’s voice is gripping and clear, and her debut is a shining beacon of how very relevant Christian fiction can be.~Heather Day Gilbert, author of God’s Daughter (Amazon Norse bestseller) and Miranda Warning
At the intersection of immorality and redemption, Sally Bradley’s Kept will redefine contemporary Christian romance. Rife with engaging characters, powerful storytelling, and authentic emotion, this romance will challenge how we view the fallen and reaffirm the swoon-worthiest men are those whose deepest passion is for Christ.~Nancy Kimball, award-winning author of Chasing the Lion
All of the above and more is what people are saying about Sally Bradley's debut book, Kept.
Today, I am happy to host this new author and experienced freelance editor on my blog! But first a little back story: I know firsthand the value and expertise of Sally Bradley as a freelance fiction editor because she edited my first book! Hope in My Heart: A Collection of Heartwarming Stories would not have been the same stellar story if it was not for Sally's substantive/content edit which made me take a second look at my work and fine tune it to make it shine. So I am especially grateful for Sally's talent and keen eye for improving stories while not losing the author's creative voice and I am not at all surprised that Sally's first book Kept is already on the fast track to becoming a best seller.
I hope you will enjoy what Sally has to say today in her author interview and if you haven't already, I encourage you to buy her book. It could be your Christmas present to you and from you! :)
Without further ado, here's Sally's author interview (questions from Alexis in bold, answers by Sally not in bold)...
Alexis: Your book Kept is a keeper, a beautifully woven story of redemption, God’s grace and His perfect love. Why did you write this novel?
Sally: Thanks for the kind words, Alexis! I’d been meeting more and more women who’d come out of partying, promiscuous pasts and become Christians. Some of them still struggled with guilt over what they’d done. All of them dealt with keeping the details a secret because if people at church found out... what would happen? How would their friends look at them? How would people perceive them? Treat them?
I wanted to show that regardless of their pasts, God loves them the same as the “good” Christians, the ones who don’t have those pasts or have just done a fabulous job of hiding it. And I wanted to open up this line of thinking to those who haven’t come from that background, to get them thinking about how they’d react to someone who’s lived that way but is now following God, someone who’s just as forgiven and loved as they are.
Kept is quite a thick novel with 422 pages! Did you ever grow weary during your story writing process? What “kept” you inspired and motivated to finish this novel?
I really didn’t. I loved the story from day one and wanted to spend every second I could with Miska and Dillan. Believe it or not, the original draft was much longer, and I ended up cutting sixty-thousand words. I don’t know how many pages that is, but that’s basically a short novel itself.
The main character in Kept is a woman named Miska who works as a freelance editor. Since you work as a freelance editor in real life, was it easier writing Miska's story and making her work believable because you have experience in that industry?
Her work history is different than mine. I’d say she actually has more experience editing than I do. But I needed a job where she could work from her home. And having her love words and wanting to write herself made a couple of the other subplots fit perfectly. So it was an idea that occurred very early with the character and allowed everything else in the story to click seamlessly into place.
As far as making it believable, it did help having a behind-the-scenes take on the publishing world. At one point Miska says something about going back to work in-house for a publisher and how it doesn’t appeal to her like it used to because now she knows what it’s really like. All the meetings and such... I remember being stunned at how many meetings there were. There are constantly meetings—weekly, monthly meetings on the calendar as well as impromptu ones that pop up. I wondered how certain departments got anything done!
You’ve said in previous interviews that you modeled Miska after a "more natural" Kim Kardashian West. Why was the famous socialite your inspiration for this character?
Actually it was more the opposite. I got the idea for the story back in the beginning of 2007, and I had no idea who the Kardashians were then. But I knew immediately what Miska looked like. She would be gorgeous, of course, but she wouldn’t have that innocent, girl-next-door look. She’d have a more exotic, pin-up look. And when I saw a picture of Kim K. almost two years later (yes, I was late to knowing who they were!), it was almost like looking at a picture of Miska. Almost because Miska has naturally curly hair. So I always phrase it by saying that Kim looks a lot like Miska, not the other way around. And nothing about Kim herself had anything to do with Miska’s character. They look alike; that’s all. Their personal lives are completely different.
Miska has a blog about being a “kept” woman. What does that mean?
Basically she’s the mistress of a professional baseball player, a “kept” woman because Mark, the baseball player, always gives her gifts that help her stay in her dream home. He’s told her he’s leaving his wife for her, but she finds out in that first chapter that he might have been stringing her along all this time.
Since Miska’s a writer who edits, she often doesn’t have the energy or brain cells to write something of her own; all her writing energy goes to her clients. And she’s struggling to stay in her dream home so she’s working tons of editing hours. But the need to write is strong. So she decides to start writing about the one thing she knows that’s unique to her—and that’s being a kept woman. She doesn’t want to put her name on it—and Mark wouldn’t want her to either—so she blogs anonymously whenever she can, when ideas strike, that sort of thing. It’s just a way to satisfy her craving for story and words.
You went indie with your first book (Kept). Describe what “indie” means. What are the unique challenges and benefits of being an indie author?
Indie just means that I published it myself. Some might use the term self-published, but that has a negative connotation from before the e-book era. I just hired out everything a publisher would do that I couldn’t. So I hired a cover designer, an editor, and a formatter. The rest—the numbers side of things, the marketing, etc.—that’s all on me. So I take all the risk, but I get all the reward too. And so far I’m really pleased with the experience. I plan to keep going this route.
Do you want to be traditionally published with an agent, book deal and the works? Why or why not?
I haven’t ruled out traditional publishing, but my take on it has changed. The traditional route has a lot of value, but the author gives up a ton for that. Really indie publishing has a lot to say for itself, a lot that’s making more and more traditionally published authors take a second look.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors who want to write a book that’s receiving such remarkable reviews and winning awards like yours?
Take risks. Writing a salable book that agents and publishers say they’re looking for is just fitting in with the crowd. If you want to stand out, you have to write the book you’re passionate about and let it take you where it wants to go.
This might mean that the traditional route won’t touch it. That’s what happened to me. I was a complete unknown with a small platform and too much risk. But if you can publish that book yourself and build a readership (which, let’s be honest, is impossible to do without a book to sell!), you can interest publishers that way.
I think you just write what’s on your heart, what God’s led you to write, and be honest about it. You might say, Go big or go home. I knew Kept was a risky story to try to sell; I just didn’t realize how risky. But in the end, it’s all worked out. So the risk was well worth it.
And it should go without saying, but... Grow as a writer. Read a ton; write a ton. Always be learning. And don’t publish too soon. Don’t be satisfied until your stuff reads like good novels in bookstores.
What are you hoping your readers will remember most about Kept?
That when we come to God on His terms, He’ll put our sins behind us, that we can then have a true, loving, deep relationship with Him.
Do you plan on writing more books? Are you working on your next one now? If so, please share details.
I’m thinking through a sequel to Kept. It’s not ready to write now but maybe in a year or two. Right now I’m working on a book called Shelf Life. The tagline is, “What’s the shelf life of a trophy wife?” It’s about a woman who’s become a Christian after a traumatic event. Being a Christian has healed so much of her life—except her marriage. Her husband, an out-of-work baseball closer, doesn’t believe in God, so her new faith is tearing their marriage apart. I wanted to explore how women handle a relationship when they each have such different worldviews.
What is the name of your favorite author and which one of their books resonates with you the most? Why?
I love Francine Rivers. She became a Christian in the late eighties/early nineties, and it’s her books from that point on that I enjoy. She deals with real issues and goes deep, all the while maintaining an honest yet Biblical worldview. My favorites of hers are A Voice in the Wind, The Scarlet Thread, and The Last Sin Eater. I think The Scarlet Thread would be my favorite.
Alexis: Complete this sentence: My favorite feature about being a published author is _____________because____________.
Sally: My favorite feature about being a published author is making up stories for a living because my mind is just wired that way!
Sally Bradley writes big-city fiction with real issues and real hope. A Chicagoan since age five, she now lives in the Kansas City area with her family, but they still get back to Chicago once in a while for important things—like good pizza and a White Sox game. Fiction has been her passion since childhood, and she’s thrilled now to be writing books that not only entertain, but point back to Christ. A freelance fiction editor, you can find Sally at sallybradley.com and on Facebook at Sally Bradley, Writer. Kept is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.