Thanks for stopping by, Susan!
Ice crystalizes around Shilo’s heart, threatening to plunge her into darkness as she’s gripped by evil. And it is only Week Two of her summer-long exile to Sicily. But Shilo will face the evil, and the torment of missing Kenji, because the reason she crossed an ocean is worth that and more. Nonna Marie, her great-grandmother. The one who set their family tree on fire. Years ago, she received The Gift – a miraculous, divine power to heal. The same power bestowed upon Shilo just before her seventeenth birthday. Becoming a Healer has already led to danger and heartache, but it is nothing compared to what lies ahead. High on Mt. Etna, in a centuries-old convent, Shilo will discover the horrors of human trafficking, heroic feats propelled by courage and faith, and the unbearable pain of another loss.
On a ballet stage halfway around the world, Melody grand jetés into a life-changing moment. But after years of strenuous preparation, something goes terribly wrong. When she regains consciousness, her ballet dreams lie shattered, piercing Melody with shards of hopelessness. What is life without ballet? And how will she survive this ordeal without Shilo? As Melody struggles to piece together the fragments of her broken life, she reflects on the Nigerian-Russian parents she never knew, and a pair of hauntingly familiar ebony eyes.
As I write this, I’m still walking on air over a wonderfully unexpected development: Shards of Light is the #1 new release on Amazon in the Teen & Young Adult Christian Action & Adventure category. When the news came via text message, my emotions surged from disbelief to gratitude powerful enough to blur my eyes. Whether this honor will translate into sales is yet to be seen, but honestly, the fact that it happened at all is, in my eyes at least, a miracle and a blessing. And that is what I love about writing – the unexpected blessings, in all their many forms. The friendships. The random stranger who says she loved your book. The letter from your little niece saying she’s so proud of you for being an author. Barnes and Noble saying “yes, we’ll be happy to schedule a signing.” That’s what makes you temporarily forget the rejections, harsh critiques, and insecurities about whether anyone will think your book is worth the paper it’s printed on. (I know, I know…I ended with a preposition.)
What I also love about writing is the freedom to interject some of my own passions into the story, and hope that maybe they will ignite in some of my readers. For me, one of these is diversity, and not because it’s trendy or cool or politically correct. We live in a world full of people of all colors, shapes, sizes, cultures, opinions, economic situations, religious beliefs, etc. Books should reflect that. My main character, ShiloGiannelli, is Italian-American like me, because I felt comfortable writing from that point of view, but her best friend is half Nigerian, her boyfriend is Japanese, her little sister is a genius, and her other friend is a single, teen mom. I can’t write those character’s from my own experience, but I can combine my imagination with the real world experiences of friends and family to help me keep those characters real, and ensure my book reflects the beautiful variety of individuals who, I hope, will be reading it.
Another issue I care deeply about is human trafficking, which still isn’t getting the attention it needs. And it needs a lot. To bring awareness to the 40 million people in slavery, many of them children, I incorporate it into almost everything I write. Sometimes it’s brief, but in Shards of Light, human trafficking is part of both girl’s stories. I won’t go into detail, in order to avoid spoilers.
The last one I’ll highlight in this post is encouragement, because this dark, often negative world needs it by the boatload. My characters encourage each other – not in a preachy or sappy way, but in simple, realistic ways that are oh-so-easy for everyone to do every day. (And yes, I have some total jerks in my books, too, because we all know you can’t have conflict without a jerk or two.) I’m hoping that their words and actions will serve as a reminder that it’s ridiculously easy to lift someone up. It’s how we shine that light God put inside us.
Huge thanks to Laura Hilton for inviting me to be a guest blogger today.
Faith, family, and a passion for nature, writing, and photography nurture Susan’s soul. She loves to visit the world’s amazing places and has a travel bucket list that includes the Northern Lights, sunsets anywhere, Jamaica’s Luminous Lagoon, and basically anything that glows. Her background includes several years as a newspaper and television reporter in the Chicago suburbs and Albuquerque before switching to public relations. Susan is the author of three young adult novels: Healer (2018), Shards of Light (just released), and Show Me a Sign (2014). Her poetry and wildlife photos are featured in her children’s book, Pawprints in the Snow: How God Protects Animals from the Cold (2017), and she has short stories published in three anthologies. Susan is president of the American Christian Fiction Writers Chicago Chapterand a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.