For the past couple Christian Fiction Friday posts, I've talked about this recurring character that shows up in a lot of my novels. I'm not talking about someone like the mysterious red-haired journalist who keeps popping in (who IS he, by the way?!). I'm talking about the same character type that seems to show up no matter what I'm writing.
She's always smart, worldly, a full of life, and she always is the roommate of a tamer, more introverted main character.
A few weeks ago, I introduced you to Willow, Kennedy's everyone-learns-to-love-her-in-spite-of-her-weird-hair-styles roommate in the Kennedy Stern series. Last week, you met Mee-Kyong, the feisty, street-smart North Korean inmate from The Beloved Daughter.
Today, I'm sharing a snippet about Chun-Hee. Never heard of her? That's probably because she belongs to my Agent Ko spy thriller series, which is published under a slightly different name since the characters are grittier and the story lines more intense than an Alana Terry Christian fiction novel.
But ... surprisingly or not ... Agent Ko finds herself indebted to a roommate who's like Willow with black hair or Mee-Kyong outside of a North Korean prison camp.
One thing I love about working on the Prevailing Prayer Podcast with my co-host Jaime is the prayer adventure portion of the show. In this segment, we share stories of answered prayers from pillars of the Christian faith like Amy Carmichael, world famous for rescuing Indian girls from temple prostitution.
Before she followed God's call to India, however, Amy Carmichael served as a missionary in Japan, where the other Christians in the area had seen very little spiritual breakthrough.
For last week’s Christian Fiction Friday post, I introduced Willow to anyone who hasn’t met her yet. Willow is Kennedy’s roommate in the Kennedy Stern Christian suspense series, but the worldly roommate who takes the new fledgling under her wing is a recurring type in a lot of my novels.
Today, I’d like to introduce you to Mee-Kyong. If you’ve read Slave Again, you know her story in full, but right now in The Beloved Daughter, readers are only just now getting introduced to Chung-Cha’s feisty roommate in a North Korean prison camp.
Northern lights. Midnight sun. Dogsled teams, glaciers, and breathtaking mountain views. What's not to love about Alaska?
Actually, quite a bit.
For those of you who’ve been waiting, the next Kennedy Stern novel (can you believe we’re already to book six?!) will be coming out as soon as we put the finishing touches on the cover and weed out those last sneaky typos.
I don’t want to give away too many spoilers (although I will be posting a few teasers here before long!), but I do want to let you know that Woong will show up in this book quite a bit.
If you don’t know Woong yet, he’s the star in Flower Swallow, which has won awards from Illumination Book Awards as well as Moonbeam Book Awards. This little snippet might give you a taste of what an endearing character he is.
Woong was sitting in front of his Battleship display, shielding it from view. “What’s for snack?” He scrunched up his eyes and stared at Willow. “And why’s her hair that color? Were you born that way, or did you get it painted?”
“Dyed,” Kennedy corrected.
“Who died?” Woong’s eyes widened. “Someone died?”
“No, I was just talking about Willow’s hair.”
“Her hair’s dead? Do you mean all the way dead or just mostly dead? ’Cause there’s a difference, you know.”
“I just mean when you color your hair, you say that it’s dyed.”
“You can’t say that something is died. You say something is dead. That’s better grammar.”
I can't wait for you to read the rest of the adventure with Woong, Kennedy, Willow, and all the others. Just like our excerpt is about a little kid, this week's Prevailing Prayer Podcast episode deals with teaching kids to pray. Whether you're a parent, grandparent, Sunday school teacher, or an adult who loves children, I hope you find some encouragement (and maybe a good laugh or two).
I love hearing from readers about Kennedy's roommate Willow. A lot of people say things like, "I'm actually surprised, but I like her a lot!"
Willow is Kennedy's foil and the perfect opposition to her high-strung personality. It's hard to picture two college students any less alike, yet their respectful coexistence morphs into true friendship.
The funny thing is I've discovered a character like Willow in every one of my series to date. A few days ago I blogged about The Author's Subconscious and the times I've surprised myself by recognizing recurring characters or themes in my books. Usually, I can pinpoint where those personalities came from, but in Willow's case, I'm perfectly clueless.
As far as I know, with the exception of a cabin-mate during a two-night orchestra camp when I was in junior high, I never developed a deep friendship with someone like Willow, but the feisty, worldly roommate who jumps in and takes the more prudish newbie under her wing shows up in the Kennedy books, The Beloved Daughter, and my Agent Ko Spy Thriller series.
It’s always a huge joy to complete one of my books. My next Kennedy Stern novel, Infected, is due out in about a month Lord-willing.
I try to do my best to show how grateful I am to the people who make my novels possible, but I never feel like I can really express deeply enough how my books are truly a team effort.
The friends in my prayer team are my behind-the-scenes comrades in arms. This small group of intercessors receive regular emails (about one or two a week) and pray for the spiritual impact of my books. I know that without them, even if I were able to manage to write a novel, it would be void of any spiritual impact.
It's no secret that I put different aspects of my own personality, history, and self into my characters. For example, Kennedy's college experiences closely mirror my own (minus the constant danger and life-threatening situations, thankfully).
Sometimes I intentionally draw on my own experiences, like I when I set my romantic suspense novel Identity Theft in the same part of Alaska where my husband and I lived ten years ago. But often, I don't notice the similarities until the story is complete and I go back and reread what I wrote.
Let me tell you, sometimes my subconscious surprises me.
I've said it before, but I don't mind saying it again. The thing I love most about Kennedy Stern from my Kennedy Stern Christian suspense series is that she is always growing. She's being constantly stretched, her worldview is constantly expanding, and she's slowly gaining that maturity she lacked in chapter 1 of Unplanned when she made her way to Pastor Carl's pregnancy center for the very first time.
It's not just her view of the world that's expanding either. Kennedy's faith is slowly growing, slowly gaining momentum. Included in that is her prayer life. This conversation from book 4 in the Kennedy Stern series really stands out to me because it speaks so much about our own prayers and quiet times. I actually heard a pastor preach the same thing the camp speaker told Kennedy so many years earlier, and I think a lot of us have fallen into the same trap she did.
Kennedy knew she should pray but lacked the spiritual stamina to do so. As a little girl, she’d once gone to a Christian summer camp where the speaker shared a story about what happened when he told his atheist friend, “I’ll be praying for you.”
“Why?” the atheist wanted to know.
It's no secret that I've got a heart for the people in the closed nation of North Korea. My first three novels were set in North Korea, and my Kennedy Stern series is about the daughter of missionaries who have devoted their lives to supporting North Korean refugees.
In case you're wondering, I'm not Korean. In fact, my Japanese ancestry means that my great-great-grandparents would have been considered the wicked oppressors of the Korean peninsula. Today, it's no longer the Japanese but the ruling Kim regime that is holding God's children of North Korea in bondage.
So how did a half-Japanese woman who's never set foot in Asia decide to write about North Korea? It all began with a prayer burden.