Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Romantic Reads: Smile for Me (book)

Welcome Jan Thompson to the blog! 

She's here today to talk about her book Smile for Me
Enjoy the interview!

Alexis: What inspired you to write an interracial romance novel for the Christian fiction book market?

Jan: As a Christian Asian American, I have felt for many years that interracial romance is under-represented in our current Christian fiction market. In the words of Toni Morrison, “If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.”

Taking it a step further, as a Christian who is in a multiracial family, I think that the current Christian fiction market largely does not reflect my real world. While not all my books are multiracial, I have made an effort to do so whenever the characters fit the story. I have several multiracial romances in my Savannah Sweethearts, Vacation Sweethearts, Protector Sweethearts, and Binary Hackers series.

Alexis: How did you come up with title “Smile for Me” of this first book in your Vacation Sweethearts series? Explain how your book title plays into your storyline.

Jan: Before I write the first book in each of my series, I agonize over the titles until I have all the book titles ready to go. This way, it’s easier for me to send the branding specifications to my cover designer. Vacation Sweethearts has book titles that end with “for Me.” The seven books in this series are Smile for Me, Reach for Me, Wait for Me, Look for Me, Pray for Me, Care for Me, and Cheer for Me. Each novel focuses on a couple at a vacation location that is familiar to me, somewhere I have visited in real life.

In this series, I try to mention the title at least once in the book as part and parcel of the story. In Smile for Me, my Christian beach romance set in the Bahamas, I wanted to contrast careful Byron from carefree Tina. There is a scene in which Tina asks Byron to smile for her. At the end of the novel, Byron is all smiles. I’ll let readers read it to find out why.

Alexis: How did you research this story? Did you travel to the Bahamas where it’s set?

Jan: Yes, indeed. Many years ago, my husband and I went on a cruise to the Bahamas, and I had such a memorable time that I never forgot it. I can still remember the towns and people, beaches and hammocks, ocean and sky. Since I grew up on yet another tropical island in a former British colony, I was able to relate to Nassau and Freeport. We walked about the towns, visited nearby islands, and rested under swaying coconut trees. Smile for Me is a mix of my memories of this visit, plus the recollections of my childhood days in the tropics.

Alexis: Why is your story’s hero, Byron Moss, a “deadline-driven workaholic assistant school principal” and a meticulous planner too?

Jan: Byron is based on the planner side of me, which stemmed from my past career as a computer programmer. I meticulously plan everything and I even have plans for plans. I need deadlines to complete tasks or they would take forever if I let the perfectionism in me take over. So I decided that Byron would carry his iPad around his neck to show how tied he is to his planner.

Alexis: Why is your story’s heroine, Tina MacFarland, an “easygoing art teacher and studio potter with no sense of time” who likes to live life season to season?

Jan: Tina is based on the artistic side of me. In my life, I have done wheel pottery as Tina does, and like Tina, I have painted in many mediums and enjoyed art. These days I’ve been writing more than I’ve been painting (though I hope to get back to that soon). When I did a lot of painting, I rarely looked at the clock. I could paint all day long if given the chance. I thought that as a contrast to Byron, Tina would have “no sense of time” not because she doesn’t care, but because she finds the clock limiting to her artistic side.

Alexis: What role does Summer by the Sea Day Camp play in bringing the hero and heroine together? Paint a picture (with words) of Summer by the Sea Day Camp.

Jan: Sponsored by the Chapel by the Sea Christian School in Nassau, the Summer by the Sea Day Camp run by assistant principal Byron Moss provides schoolchildren of all grades an opportunity to enrich their hobbies and interests that they might not be able to do during the regular school year. The students can go beyond their regular academic curriculum. There are actually more than just art and music camps, but in Smile for Me, I only focus on the art camp because that’s where Tina interacts the most with Byron. The two cannot avoid each other, and they must confront the friction carried over from two summers ago.

Alexis: What happened the first time that Tina and Byron met that made them at odds with each other? Is there hope for a better, healthier and happier working relationship now that they’re in the same place again?

Jan: When Tina first went to Nassau to teach in the summer camp two years ago, she and Byron didn’t get along. Tina likes to say that Byron made her cry that summer because he kept a very strict schedule in the summer camp and she could barely keep up. Byron would roll his eyes over that accusation and say that she needs to learn to be better organized.

Alexis: Does Tina think that things will be different between her and Byron as she agrees to be an art teacher for his students this second time around? Why or why not?

Jan: Now that time has passed, and each has grown spiritually and gotten wiser when my novel begins, both of them have hopes that they can work together. After all, it’s for just one month to begin with. After four weeks, if they still can’t stand each other, Tina would go home to Savannah, and that would be the end of it.

Alexis: What role does Tina’s faith in God play in her giving Byron a second chance?

Jan: Tina and Byron discover that God is always loving and ever forgiving. Once they own the truth of God in their hearts, they begin to see the special love that God has in store for them. I loved writing about how they come together this time and how God’s love conquers all. As in all my other fiction books, I often include scripture verses that my characters learn as they travel along in life.

Alexis: Why is Byron so uptight?

Jan: Byron’s family makes its fortune in the hotel and cruise industry. His brother, Donovan, enjoys his yacht, for example. His mother, Nancy—the matriarch of the family—has to run their family business alone after Byron’s father passed away suddenly. Byron has chosen the career path of an educator, earning a lesser salary than his jet-setting brother. I think Byron feels that he must be the best in his chosen profession and rise to the top, not only because he is in ministry for the Lord at a Christian school, but also to show his family that he has made the right decision for his own career.

Alexis: What are Byron’s greatest dreams for his career path and how does that goal affect how he operates?

Jan: His aspiration to become the principal (aka headmaster) overrules all else in his life. When the opportunity comes sooner than he expects, Byron plunges into more work. At the same time, he falls more and more in love with Tina, and begins to wonder if running a Christian school, with its many details, is something he wants to do for the rest of his life.

Alexis: What is it about seeing Tina again that hints to Byron’s heart that his adverse feelings for her are transforming into something more … romantic?

Jan: I think that deep in Byron’s heart, he finds Tina fascinating because she is so carefree. His work at the school is demanding, and the big shoes he has to fill as acting principal carries with it a heavy burden. When Byron is with her, he lets his guard down and he can be himself. He doesn’t have to perform or keep up protocols. He is free to seek God’s perfect will for his life without putting preconditions on himself. As he grows spiritually, his attitude towards Tina changes. Tina’s view of Byron as the taskmaster also changes, and her heart softens toward him.

Alexis: What’s the moral of the story?

Jan: There are several Bible verses in this novel, but two would probably describe the main themes of Smile for Me:

“A man's heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps” (Proverbs 16:9 KJV).

Only God has the perfect plan, and I would do well to seek His perfect will for my career and life, rather than plan it however I want and then ask God to bless whatever I purpose. Instead, may His perfect will prevail.

“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled” (Hebrews 12:14-15 NKJV).

The Bible admonishes Christians to be at peace with one another so that we don’t cultivate the destructive “root of bitterness” that can defile our testimony. When Byron and Tina start understanding each other, they are able to encourage each other in their walk with the Lord.

Alexis: If you could step into this story as a professional counselor for both Byron and Tina, what advice would you give to each person in a private session? Why?

Jan: I would discuss the two Scripture verses above, and pray with them for God’s wisdom to guide their lives professionally and privately. I’d also remind Byron to recall his conversations with his friend, Pastor Diego Flores, who has given him some good advice about balancing his personal life and professional career. As for Tina, I would counsel her to consider adding some structure to her productivity by putting herself on a flexible schedule that allows for her creativity to flow without losing track of time. Above all, I would encourage them to keep studying God’s Word and drawing closer to Him every day.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Jan! Would you like to share closing thoughts?

Jan: Thank you very much for inviting me to your blog website. These are wonderful questions, and I appreciate your taking the time to prepare them. To me, writing is a calling. I have been writing for a long time, and I am thankful to God for the opportunity to be able to fulfill His calling for my life. Sometimes it takes me years to write one book. Sometimes it takes months. Either way, my ultimate goal is to glorify God!

Author Bio:

USA Today bestselling author Jan Thompson writes clean and wholesome multiethnic contemporary Christian romance with flavors of women’s fiction, Christian romantic suspense with elements of mystery, and inspirational international thrillers with threads of sweet Christian romance. 

Her books are for readers who love inspiring stories of faith, family, and friends. 

Smile for Me blurb:

She is laid-back. He is uptight. Never the twain shall…kiss?

A deadline-driven workaholic assistant school principal who meticulously plans his schedule months in advance meets an easygoing art teacher and studio potter with no sense of time, living her life as the seasons come and go. When they cross paths again at the Summer by the Sea Day Camp sponsored by his church in Nassau, Bahamas, how can they get along if they cannot see eye to eye?

From USA Today bestselling author Jan Thompson comes Smile for Me, book 1 in her Vacation Sweethearts collection of inspirational Christian travel romance novels. To start off the series, we travel to the Bahamas in the Caribbean, where the waters are clear, skies are blue, hammocks sway under coconut trees, and hearts are in love…

Tina MacFarland is laid-back…

When invited back to the Bahamas for a second time two years after a disastrous mission trip there, potter and art teacher Tina MacFarland isn’t sure she wants to face the obnoxious assistant principal of the Chapel by the Sea Christian School again. The last time she encountered Byron Moss, he found fault in everything she did. It seems that nothing she ever does is good enough for Mr. Uptight, as attractive as he may be to her.

Regardless of her personal concerns, they need art teachers at the Summer by the Sea Day Camp, and Tina answers the call to go. Surely God will help her last for four short weeks. What can possibly happen in a month? Nothing she can think of.

Byron Moss is uptight…

Assistant Headmaster Byron Moss is at a crossroad in his career. On the one hand, he has worked very hard to get to this position at the Chapel by the Sea Christian School. One more step up from this assistant principal position, and he’d be in charge of the entire school.

On the other hand, when Tina returns to Nassau, Byron suddenly feels hemmed in by his career choice. He is restricted from showing his transforming feelings for Tina. He fears he has taken a wrong turn in his career, and that if he keeps going on that route, he may lose his chances with Tina. More importantly, what is God’s will for his life? Somehow, he knows that Tina is part of all that. But she’s so…chaotic! And it drives him nuts. For the first time in his life, Byron is confused about what he needs to do.

Never the twain shall…kiss?

Ah, Byron and Tina. How will they navigate the super-conservative work environment where office romance is frowned upon? Can they change the old rules? Or will the old rules change them?

Buy Smile for Me on Amazon

Connect with Jan:
Website: JanThompson.com
Book News: JanThompson.com/newsletter
Amazon USA: JanThompson.com/amazon
Goodreads: JanThompson.com/goodreads
BookBub: JanThompson.com/bookbub
Facebook: JanThompson.com/facebook
Twitter: https://twitter.com/thompsonauthor

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