I am interrupting my regular blog schedule because I have the extreme privilege to welcome award-winning author Sandi Rog to my blog. A little Q&A with one of my favorite writers regarding her newest release, YAHSHUA'S BRIDGE, and then at the end a chance for some pretty extreme prizes I'm equally thrilled about. But before I welcome Sandi, I must tell you how I discovered her as an author.
When researching existing Christian fiction about gladiators, I came across the description of her book and had a serious meltdown of epic proportions that we'd written the same book. I couldn't click "Buy it now" fast enough and when my copy of THE MASTER'S WALL arrived, I read it cover to cover the same day. Both because it was that engaging and because I was still panicking. Thankfully, even with an almost identical premise (a young man wrongly enslaved in Ancient Rome who trains as a fighter to earn his freedom and rescue the woman he loves) we'd written two very different stories. And I loved her story! Well, David's story I should say, the hero of The Master's Wall. I also discovered a talented writer whose passion for God, history and a great story dripped off every page. And I've kind of been stalking her writing ever since ;-)
Now, without further ado, welcome Sandi!
Thank you for having me as your guest, Nancy. It’s an honor to be here.
The honor is all mine, believe me. Can I start by telling you when reading Yahshua’s Bridge, I was struck with how often I would be overwhelmed with emotion as a reader because of what the characters were experiencing? Beginning on page one where the hero Alexander is being drowned by his master, all the way to the very last page. Especially the last page. Were there moments in the writing of Yahshua’s Bridge that you experienced that as the author?
That’s a great question. I never felt overwhelmed while writing the story. Maybe that’s because this story has been on my heart for over ten years. However, when I pitched YAHSHUA’S BRIDGE to an editor at a writer’s conference, my eyes filled with tears. I was shocked at how emotional I got when I was supposed to be conducting business. But it told me how close I already was to the characters in my book. Oh, and the editor asked for a full. :-)
And I'm SO glad they did! Although I have to be really honest here and confess that at one point, I truly laughed out loud and it was completely inappropriate for what was happening. Alexander turned to the atrium, sagging onto the edge of the impulvium. With the master drinking again, he’d better get used to spending more time in the fountain. I was so angry but at the same time, Alexander’s perspective touched me as funny because in different ways, each of us has been there and that’s how it really is. (Though I did feel like a terrible person afterward for laughing, I really did.) You’ve been enduring some extraordinary hardships with your health recently and your note to the reader shared that you also grew up with abuse. How did those experiences translate into the writing of Yahshua’s Bridge?
It’s true, that is how it really is. And I don’t think you’re awful for laughing. In fact, the line that makes me laugh out loud is one that is even more inappropriate. It’s when Alethea’s father says to David, I thought you finally died! Poor David. But it was so true. They were just waiting for him to be killed in the arena, but David was too good of a fighter.
Anyway . . . yes, I was abused as a kid, but there’s always someone out there who’s had it worse. I mentioned the abuse with the hopes of helping others who have suffered (that’s why I dedicated this book to those who suffer). I just had to write this story, had to get it out to readers, because life can be overwhelming, and I wanted to show them how to be overcomers in this world. A lot of times we hear media blaming adult behavior on the fact that they had a rough childhood. To me, that’s no excuse. I know that abuse can affect how we make decisions and treat others, but God has given us a choice. That’s why I wanted to contrast the choices made by David and Alexander. Alexander was used to being a slave, so it was easy for him to give in and simply do what he was told. It actually made him a better Christian, because it was easy for him to bow down to his Maker and be humble and obedient. But David, who never adapted well to slavery, could only see his own will.
Recently I came to the realization that I start all my stories with children, either being abused or in difficult circumstances. I can remember a lot from when I was young, even when I was just one. I can remember how I felt and what I thought. So, I often implement that into my stories. While my characters experience different types of abuse than I did as a child, it’s still the same.
One of the things that truly engaged me as a reader was Demetri’s story and how there were moments I absolutely hated him, moments I cheered him, and moments I actually hurt for him, which shocked me. I’ll ask carefully to avoid a spoiler, but was it difficult at all to give Demetri an end that might seem fitting to some readers and unjust to others?
Yes, it was difficult. That’s when I had to try to see Demetri through God’s eyes (as if he were a real human being). God wants us ALL to be saved, to come to repentance. And the best person to reach him was his own son because he had the most to forgive. What better way to show God’s love?
I wanted to show readers how to see those around us through God’s eyes. It’s not about this life. It’s about forgiveness. But when I say forgiveness, that doesn’t mean a victim should be stupid. If you recall, Alexander had no expectations from his father. We should have no expectations from a former abuser (especially when it’s a parent). But you can still love them and show them God’s love. And loving them does not mean breaking down boundaries. I believe having boundaries is a form of love and keeps us from enabling our abusers to continue abusing.The way you felt about Demetri is so natural and real. I’m glad you felt the way you did because it’s how many of us feel toward our abusers.
There is at least one moment in Yahshua’s Bridge that takes us deeply into the spiritual realm from the point of view of a character who has died physically. (I won’t tip you off, readers. I’ll let you be terrified the entire time like I was leading up to it.) While reading that section I found myself intrigued by how the descriptions and reader experience fit perfectly what I know from scripture but at the same time never broke from the story. While I’ve read other Christian fiction that glimpses this aspect of our world, I’ve never read someone who went there as deeply as you did, especially in a historical novel. Were you at all nervous about how that would be received by your readers or your publisher?
Very nervous! I did as much research as I could, based solely on scripture. I wanted to be as accurate as possible, but there’s so little information out there. In fact, the Bible (from what I could tell) talks more about hell than heaven. And because of that, there were still things I had to invent. That was not easy. Especially because I like to be as accurate as possible.
Oh I can tell you're driven for accuracy, both in your theology and in your period detail. That's a time period I know well, obviously, hehe, and found both Master's Wall and Yahshua's Bridge spot on. Bravo for that by the way. What do you hope readers take away when they turn that final page in Yahshua’s Bridge?
I’m hoping readers will learn to see how temporary this life is, to see things from God’s point of view, to be overcomers despite what’s thrown at them, and to learn to forgive. After all, if we don’t forgive, God won’t forgive us.
Can I break here to throw down a Texas-sized AMEN? That truth is everywhere in the bible, and specifically in the Lord's prayer, and yet so often we want to ignore it. That was specifically one of the things I enjoyed in the story is that there are consequences to unforgiveness in addition to being disobedient to God's Word. I want to also break here to say this interview might make it sound like Yahshua's Bridge is all message, but believe me, it's not. The story is absolutely incredible, with gladiators, sheiks and traitors, old friends... and enemies... from book 1. So now that book 2 is out, are there any sneak peaks or things you can tell us yet about The Father’s Rock, Book 3 in the Iron and the Stone series?
Sure! THE FATHER’S ROCK takes place about 200 years after YAHSHUA’S BRIDGE. Here’s the book jacket description:
As a thief, all Ander knows is the master who rescued him after his parents were murdered. Ander's criminal behavior becomes an art and his passion.
During a drunken stupor, his master reveals an uncut amethyst stone shaped like a star. Ander recognizes the unique jewel that once belonged to his father—a stone passed down from generation to generation. Is it possible that the man who rescued him murdered his parents?
Disillusioned, Ander escapes his master and goes in search of his past. Little does he know, the past is waiting for him.
Ugh! Now I wish I hadn't asked that because I already want to get my hands on it, hehe. Maybe we can talk later about getting an advanced reader copy ;-) Thank you again for stopping by and all God's best to you, my friend.
Visit Sandi on her website, www.sandirog.com and her blog "Dare to Dream" at www.sandirog.blogspot.com/ and check out Yahshua's Bridge in more detail HERE at Amazon.
Now then blog readers, I'm ready to give away some books, and a shot at a free nook color or kindle fire to boot. Here's how this is going to go down:
1. At midnight (CST) Saturday night, December 17th, I'm going to take the names of those who leave a comment with an e-mail address or a link-back to reach you to get a winner. That person will get a print copy of Yahshua's Bridge, Sandi's new release, which is an awesome prize on its own, trust me.
2. BUT... if I go look on the donor list at Sandi's GiveForward page and see your name there also (and it matches your name or username here) with "Friend of Jonathan" in the comment and a donation of at least $2.00 (Two Dollars), I'll also send you a copy of book 1, The Master's Wall. Info about Sandi's battle and the fundraiser is at the top of my page or at the Giveforward link HERE.
3. But there's MORE! That donation will also enter you into Phase 2 of Sandi's fundraiser raffle, where prizes abound from gift cards to the grand-prize, a Kindle Fire or Nook Color e-reader (Winner's choice!) Those raffle tickets are $2.00 each and you get entered just for donating at the GiveForward page. Read more about this extra giveaway HERE.
Ready, set, GO! =)