Friday, September 6, 2013

Featured Debut Novelist: Julie Cantrell

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Julie Cantrell is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Into the Free, which won Christy Awards for Best Debut Novel and for Book of the Year 2013. 

Cantrell has served as editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review and is a recipient of the Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Fellowship. She and her family live in Mississippi, where they operate Valley House Farm. Her new novel, When Mountains Move, hit shelves from September 1, 2013.


The following is a September 2013 interview with Julie.

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ENTER THE GIVEAWAY 
AT THE END OF THE INTERVIEW


Be in to win a set of Julie's novels - two sets to be won
~One USA winner (print copies)
~One international winner (digital copies)

Contest open to entrants worldwide.

Contest runs from 6-19 September NZDT

 

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Tell us a little about yourself.

I'm a mom of two spunky souls who keep me laughing every day, an animal lover with plenty of four-legged furry friends to keep me busy, a tree hugging Earth lover who is happiest on remote hiking trails, a love-to-get-my-hands-dirty sustainable organic farmer who isn’t afraid of bugs or hard work, an advocate for literacy in my community, a dedicated wrap-my-heart-around-you teacher to students who are at risk of falling through the cracks, an avid reader with a tendency to read too many books at once, a loyal friend who values relationships tremendously, and a lover of life who never seems to have enough hours in a day to do all it is I want to do.


What inspired you to become a novelist, and did you always want to write?

I've been writing since I was a very young girl. I think it's always been my way of processing my thoughts as I try to understand the mysteries of the world around me.


What do you think is significant about Christian fiction?

If I contribute anything to this world, whether it's a meal at dinner time, a lesson for my students, or a gift for a friend, I want it to come from my heart, and I want it to be meaningful to those who receive it. I hope my stories will inspire people, too. I hope they remind everyone that we are of worth, that we are here for a reason, and that we are loved. By writing Christian fiction, I am able to share the fundamental belief that our lives matter, that there is always hope, and that we are never alone.


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How do you hope your readers react to the stories you write?
I hope they are able to see the world through a different lens, to better understand themselves and others, and to fully appreciate the gift that is their life. I also hope readers are reminded that every single choice we make has an impact...either positive or negative...and that impact may last much longer than we think, affecting future generations far beyond our years. That said, I hope they also see hope in restoring broken relationships, injured spirits, and shattered hearts. Forgiveness...true, unconditional forgiveness...really is the only way to move through the mess with our souls intact.


What has been the most surprising aspect to becoming a published novelist?

I'm always surprised to hear how much of an impact Millie’s story has had on readers. It’s a pleasure to hear reader feedback, and I admit...that’s what has inspired me to keep sharing my work. On a more practical note, I'm also surprised by how much time and energy goes into behind-the-scenes work. No one could begin to imagine how hard authors really work.


How has being a novelist impacted your relationship with Christ?

I am in constant movement toward deeper faith, and writing Christian fiction helps me explore the questions and thoughts that bring me to a deeper place.

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Other than being a novelist, what other goals do you have for your life?
I'd love to travel the entire world. I long to see and do it all. I think I should start with New Zealand!


What do you like to do in your spare time?

Spare time???? Ha!


What can you tell us about your debut novel?


Into the Free is a commonly described as a classic coming-of-age tale about a girl named Millie Reynolds. The story is set in Depression-era Mississippi, where Millie faces a tough life. With an abusive father, a depressed mother, and a tree as a best friend, Millie lives on the fringes of her community, dreaming of escaping with the Gypsies who caravan through town each spring. When she discovers a hidden box filled with family secrets, her life begins to make a bit more sense, but then she’s faced with some difficult decisions to make as she struggles to find her way...into the free. 

We’ve all been excited to see how far this story has reached. When Publishers Weekly honored it with a rare starred review, the book was given lots of attention. Then it hit both the New York Times and USA TODAY bestseller lists, which was incredible for me to experience as a debut novelist. Since then, it’s reached readers across the world and has won the Christy Award for both Debut Novel of the Year and the grand prize Book of the Year. Recently it also won the Mississippi Library Association’s Fiction Award, too. All of this means more to me than I can begin to express, and I am incredibly grateful for everyone who has given this story a chance.


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Into the Free

Just a girl. The only one strong enough to break the cycle.

In Depression-era Mississippi, Millie Reynolds longs to escape the madness that marks her world. With an abusive father and a "nothing mama," she struggles to find a place where she really belongs.

For answers, Millie turns to the Gypsies who caravan through town each spring. The travelers lead Millie to a key that unlocks generations of shocking family secrets. When tragedy strikes, the mysterious contents of the box give Millie the tools she needs to break her family's longstanding cycle of madness and abuse.

Through it all, Millie experiences the thrill of first love while fighting to trust the God she believes has abandoned her. With the power of forgiveness, can Millie finally make her way into the free?


Saturated in Southern ambiance and written in the vein of other Southern literary bestsellers like The Help by Kathryn Stockett and Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin, Julie Cantrell has created in Into the Free—now a New York Times Best Seller—a story that will sweep you away long after the novel ends.

Winner of the Christy Awards for Best Debut Novel and for Book of the Year 2013


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When Mountains Move

It is the spring of 1943. With a wedding and a cross-country move, Millie’s world is about to change forever.
 
If only her past could change with it.
 
Soon after the break of day, Bump will become Millie’s husband. And then, if all goes as planned, they will leave the rain-soaked fields of Mississippi and head for the wilds of the Colorado Rockies. As Millie tries to forget a dark secret, she hasn’t yet realized how drastically those past experiences will impact the coming days.
For most of Millie’s life, being free felt about as unlikely as the mountains moving. But she’s about to discover that sometimes in life, we are given second chances, and that the only thing bigger than her past … is her future.


Into The Free
[Purchase:  Amazon.com | Amazon Kindle | The Book Depository]

When Mountains Move
[Purchase:  Amazon.com | Amazon Kindle | The Book Depository]

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What stories can your fans expect from you in the days ahead?
The sequel to Into the Free just hit shelves in September. It continues Millie’s story as she heads to Colorado with her new husband to launch a ranch in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. There, Millie learns the only thing bigger than her past...is her future.

There’s a mysterious man in town who may or may not be a danger, a new friend for Millie who may or may not be as nice as she seems, and a constant threat of drought, wildfires, disease, and mountain lions. One thing I’m really excited about in this book is that I brought in Millie’s Choctaw grandmother, Oka, to play a leading role. I’ve enjoyed working with the Mississippi Band of Choctaw as I researched this book, and I hope readers will enjoy learning about this beautiful culture, too.

Now that Book Two is off and running, I’m working feverishly on a third novel. This one won’t continue Millie’s story. Instead, I’ll be introducing you to a brand new cast of characters with a story based in Louisiana – the state where I was “born and raised.” I’m excited to bring readers to this unique setting where anything can happen (and likely will!)


What would you like to say to your upcoming fans in New Zealand and around the world?

I say...WOW! It still seems surreal to me that this little story has landed all the way on the other side of the planet. I wrote this story in the wee hours of the morning, when everyone else was sleeping. I never intended to show anyone, much less to publish it. But Millie kept tugging at my heart, nudging me to tell her tale. So, I took a leap of faith and dove head first into the publishing world...despite the fact I had never taken a writing course in college and knew nothing at all about publishing a novel. I’m sincerely honored you have entered Millie’s world, and I’m grateful for your support.


Do you have any parting words?

Thank you for taking time to interview me and to share my work with readers in New Zealand (and beyond). I’m sitting on the porch of my little farmhouse in Mississippi looking at my small herd of sheep imagining all of you in beautiful New Zealand...and that has brought many smiles. I picture you reading as herds of sheep roam freely over your green hills, or perhaps you are soaking up sun near Lake Tekapo, or hiking a trail through Kahurangi National Park, or having a picnic in Milford Sound. Or maybe you’re in your office taking a lunch break, or in your home taking care of your family. And perhaps you are imagining what it’d be like to visit Mississippi or Colorado. I hope my stories help you explore new worlds, and I appreciate you sharing this conversation with me across the miles. Thank you!!


Buy Julie's Books at The Book Depository

Free Delivery on all Books at the Book Depository

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY

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Be in to win a set of Julie's novels - two sets to be won
~One USA winner (print copies)
~One international winner (digital copies)

Contest open to entrants worldwide.

Contest runs from 6-19 September NZDT

Please comment about the interview or leave a message for Julie when making a blog post comment - simply commenting about entering the draw or wanting to win the books does not qualify for valid entry into the draw.


Read Previous Featured Author Interviews


New Releases in Christian Fiction for September 2013

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