Interview of Samantha Hart, from “One Among Men”

 

Today I’m going to do something every writer should love. I’m going to interview a character from my newest novel, One Among Men. Why should every novelist love this? Because it’s the best way to get to know your character as you write the book. The crazy thing is, I’ve already published One Among men and yet I’ve discovered even more about this young woman today then when I first wrote her. One Among Men--final cover

Take a look …

First, tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Samantha Hart and I am the resident director of a 500-person dormitory, Calvert Hall, at Maryland State University.

Isn’t that an all-male dorm?

Um, well … yes.

Don’t you have to live there?

Mm-hm.

Ummmm … How’d you get that job?

Actually, I’d interviewed for the all-female dorm, but they didn’t offer it to me. The Calvert vacancy came up suddenly, and I needed a way to pay for my graduate-school classes, so when I was offered that building <Samantha shrugs> I figured why not. I’d have my own apartment with its own bathroom. I didn’t think about the fact that the guys would be roaming the halls, coming in and out of the public men’s rooms dressed only in a shower towel. I just knew I needed a job and someone was willing to give me one.

Other than the fact that you are a lone woman living with 500 college guys, tell us three things about yourself that would surprise our readers.

Let’s see … I should warn you, my life hasn’t been pretty. You ready?

<Connie nods her head>

You sure?

<Connie nods again>

Okay. Here you go …

· My mother was murdered in a drug bust gone bad,

· My last boyfriend was an abusive drug addict, and …

· I rebelled against God after my mother’s death until just last year, when I dove all-in to a new Christian faith. Hopefully, I’ll make better choices now … and be able to tell others about my wonderful Creator who sent His son to wipe away all the other junk I did before.

Wow! So glad things have turned around for you. Do you have any career aspirations?

I am currently working toward a graduate degree in psychology. I hope to help women who’ve been abused so they can know they deserve better than that. Although sometimes I feel I’m running against the wind with these plans, like maybe God is setting up a road block. In fact, I couldn’t figure out how I was given the all-male building instead of my colleague, Tiffany Lundgren. After all, my resume demonstrates my focus in women’s issues. She’s studying College Student Personnel, and yet was placed in the all-female dorm.

<Connie taps her chin>That is interesting.

What’s the quirkiest thing you’ve ever done?

I don’t know about quirky, but the night of the multi-cultural program seemed filled with unusual opportunities. First, one of my resident assistants, Kadhi, asked me to wear his mother’s sari to represent his country of origin, India. Do you know what a sari is? It’s a long silk cloth you wrap around your body and fasten with pins. It’s beautiful!!! But not particularly practical on a blustery March evening. Still, it did get the notice of … uh … <she blushes> never mind.

After showing up in that, Kwan, another resident assistant, wanted me to taste some native Korean fare. I agreed before I knew what it was. Let’s just say, some animals are not meant to be seen in a chafing dish.

Share something about your day-to-day life that might help a reader to feel as though they know you a little better.

My day usually includes lectures, study, research, homework, office hours and various staff meetings. During office hours, I meet with residents who have complaints or disciplinary issues needing punishment. The staff meetings throughout the week are endless. I’m required to meet with each member of my six-person staff, then the staff as a whole. Additionally, I need to meet with my boss, and then my boss and the other RDs of the community. My favorite meetings <Samantha smirks> are the meetings to schedule meetings. Those kind of remind me of the forms we have to prove we filled out the other forms. Bureaucracy at its best.

However, sometimes this monotony is broken up with a good-ole-fashioned drug bust. Ugh! Which means I have to play prosecutor against the student at a Resident Life Judicial Board Hearing. <she grimaces> Fun!
Fun indeed!

When did things change dramatically in your life?

There have been two major shifts in my life. The first was when my mother died. I was fourteen and just beginning to “blossom into womanhood” as she used to say, looking me over, a gentle smile on her face. My mom was a woman of great faith, and yet God let her die. Not just die, but be murdered. I never understood that. I still don’t, exactly. But at least I trust God enough to know His ways are always better than mine, even if I can’t figure Him out.

That was what happened in the next big shift of my life. After many, many years of being lost, I finally surrendered to my Creator and accepted His wisdom. It took a very long relationship with my best friend, Emma, who is now a missionary in Africa. It also took me messing up a whole lot before a realized I needed to trust Him. I hope to show God’s ways to the students here at the University, but I’m not so sure they will be receptive to the idea. I certainly wasn’t at their age.

Who are the most important people in your life today, and why?

First, my dad. I love him so much. He and I got lost together a little when Mom died. But we’re both better now. Next would be my best friend, Emma, and her parents. They saw me through a lot of broken years, never judging. Just loving me through that time … even though I knew they worried a lot about me, because they saw all the destructive decisions I kept making.

Who do you despise?

I try not to despise anyone, but there are those who I avoid when I can. Two people who make my skin crawl whenever I see them are Drake Dixon and Marcus Williams. Drake is one of those guys who looks at you like you’re naked all the time, and he’s rumored to be selling drugs to residents. I can’t figure out why Chris Johnson is such good friends with him, except that they’re in a band together.

Who’s Chris Johnson?

Oh … just some guy in my building <she waves her hand>.

Marcus is a resident doing community service for me because he sexually assaulted a girl last semester. I don’t understand how the Judicial Board allowed him to stay in the halls. His lawyer’s argument at the hearing should have been repulsive to anyone who heard it.

Tell us about the current journey you are on.

Really, I’m just trying to get a degree and find some purpose in my life. I know now I want to honor God with my work, and even my current job, but I don’t really know what that will look like. I’m also trying to figure out how to NOT make a fool of myself in a position I have no experience for, with a staff that is afraid I’ll get too “girly” on them, hanging lacy curtains in the lounges or paint the halls pink. And there’s Chris, who seems to be waiting for me to mess up one minute, and then helping me the next. I just can’t figure that guy out, but something tells me I need to.

Oh yeah?

Yeah!

Is he cute?

<Samantha’s brow crunches> Why would you ask such a thing?

<Connie smiles> Just wonderin’.

He’s … well … I guess some girls might think he’s … kinda good looking.

<Connie’s smile broadens> Hmmmmm.

Ahem. In three words describe yourself.

· Artsy

· ADD-riddled

· Fascinated … with the differences between people and the world around me (Oops, that’s more than three)

Do you trust yourself in your work or do you rely on the wisdom of others, feeling they know more than you?

Spanish guitar on old wall, copy spaced.I feel like a child in so many areas of my life. I’m a new Christian, so still need to rely on my best friend’s parents to guide me spiritually. I have no experience in resident life, so I often ask lots of questions of my staff for work … not to mention to understand the ways of men … which, it turns out, are not completely the same as women. I’m very blessed this semester, however, to work with a wonderful resident assistant, nick-named Preacher, who though a few years my junior, has wisdom in all those areas: faith, job and men. God has been very good to me. Now, if He’d only tell me what to do about that resident, Chris.

What about Chris?

Oh, uh … nothing.

Alrighty then.

What is the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you?

That might be the time one of my residents got my white shirt wet at a field-day event. That was most humiliating. Not just because his goal was to see through my top, but it showed his great lack of respect for me both as an authority figure AND as a woman.

That sounds horrible.

Yes, it was, but thank goodness Chris was there to … ummmmm …

That’s okay, Samantha. You needn’t tell us what Chris did, since he seems a sensitive topic. We’ll just have to read One Among Men to find out.

And thank you for joining us today. It’s been fascinating getting to know you.

One Among Men

A Christian Romantic Suspense dealing with today’s issues and the clash that sometimes occurs between faith and secular academia.

Though her job requires she live with five-hundred, hard-partying college guys, only one will lead her to danger.

Samantha Hart wants to find Godly purpose within her new Christian faith, like her missionary best friend, but is forced to take a job as the resident director of the all-male, Calvert Hall at Maryland State University. Facing the typical challenges of her position, such as sexual assaults and drug use by residents, and those unique to being a woman, she leans heavily on her faith. She must also gain respect from young men who view her as a sex object—one of whom is stalking her—while guarding against the campus serial rapist.

It doesn’t help that her boss treats her like an imbecile. So why did God put her here when her experience was with women’s issues and she’d applied for the all-female building? Sam’s new faith reminds her not to question God, but she still wonders what He’s up to.

Chris Johnson, a rock guitarist who is returning to school as a music major, is intrigued by the resident director and the faith she shares with her muscle-bound resident assistant from “the hood,” nick-named Preacher. While Chris observes how they act on their beliefs, he is drawn into a relationship with a ruthless supplier of the on-campus drug trade.

While observing Sam’s care of students who don’t deserve her efforts, Chris assists her on the sly. Can he manage his two worlds without risking Samantha’s life?

Though this work is set at a completely FICTIONAL campus, “Maryland State University,” ten percent of current author income from it will go to Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) at University of Maryland College Park.

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Connie Almony is trained as a mental health therapist and likes to mix a little fun with the serious stuff of life. She was a 2012 semi-finalist in the Genesis Contest for Women’s Fiction and was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Winter 2012 WOW Flash Fiction Contest. Her newest release, At the Edge of a Dark Forest, is a modern-day re-telling of Beauty and the Beast about a war-vet, amputee struggling with PTSD.

You can find Connie on the web at ConnieAlmony.com, writing book reviews for Jesus Freak Hideout, and hosting the following blogs: InfiniteCharacters.com, IndieChristianFictionSearch.Blogspot.com, and LivingtheBodyofChrist.Blogspot.com.

You can also meet her on the following social media outlets:

Twitter

Facebook

Pinterest

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Vanessa’s Character Picks January 29, 2015

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Vanessa’s Character Picks January 27, 2015

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Widows and Orphans

Ashley set the box of files on the table. Why did every project she tackled take so long? Maybe because you put things off until they grow out of proportion. Her inner voice mocked, but she had to agree. Her life was entirely too busy. With a sigh, she pulled out the first folder and opened it.

Hmm, genealogy. She’d been involved in tracing her family tree several years ago, but had almost forgotten everything she’d learned when more pressing duties took over. Seemed every year her life became more and more busy. Cleaning out the extra bedroom was her New Year’s resolution this year. It’d taken her almost a month to get started, but she was determined to get it done.

She flipped through the charts of names and dates going back into the eighteenth century. This was an accumulation of research she’d done twenty … or maybe thirty years ago back when her kids were toddlers. How had she found the time then? She laid the folder aside and pulled a picture album out and opened the cover. Old pictures … copies actually … filled the pages. She’d gone to every relative she could find in the area and snapped a copy of their pictures with the close-up lens on her camera. Amazingly, she’d gotten some fairly decent copies. Sadly, all the owners of these pictures were gone now. Many had encouraged her plan to publish a family history book. They said it would allow the children and grandchildren to learn about and take pride in their heritage. She’d never gotten it done.

Then her gaze landed on her aunt’s portrait and the poem below signed by her cousin.

 

If you catch Mom talking to herself, don’t fear.

She isn’t senile yet—her mind is sharp and clear.

The mumbles you hear are coming from her love

As she brings those who hurt to the Lord God above.

 

Mom’s life here is winding down, she’ll soon be gone.

Although I know in heaven she’ll have a better home,

I cry when I hear her plea, “Lord, if You have time,

Would You fill this lonely heart of mine?”

 

If you’re reading this you know today is Mom’s birthday.

She’s eighty years old now, and I’d just like to say,

If you find someone who seems to have been forgotten

Take time by voice or pen to visit or maybe just listen.

 

We all get busy, that’s for sure,

But can’t we take a little time for our Savior

And do kindness unto the widow, orphan, or the least of these,

So their burden of loneliness we might ease?

 

The poem was simply signed Camelia.

 

Ashley covered the page with her hand as tears ran down her cheeks. Aunt Emily was one of her favorites, and she had gone to visit her, but she could have gone more often. She hadn’t known Aunt Emily was lonely. Was Mrs. Hochstetter across the street? What of her aging cousin, Camelia? She always wrote a note about her family in the Christmas card she sent each year while Ashley only signed her and Jack’s names. Camelia lived too far away to visit, but would it hurt to write a letter telling of the children’s families and their activities?

Ashley gathered the genealogy files and replaced them in the box. Maybe a second resolution should be to finish the family book. She’d get back to it after she got home from Mrs. Hochstetter’s. Then she’d write a long overdue letter to Camelia. She’d love to hear that her poem had touched Ashley’s heart.

 

“Verily, I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matthew 25:40

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Vanessa’s Character Picks January 25, 2015

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Purify My Motives, Lord

Businessman Thinking on Steps

 

Every day when I begin my daily activities, I ask God to be in charge, to give me ideas for my stories. Sounds like a really spiritual thing to do. Right? In my case, wrong.

 

A lot of times I have to examine my motives. If I’m honest, I like asking God to guide my day because I know His way is better than mine, not because I truly want him to be in charge. Does that make sense?

 

Or gathering ideas for my stories. I plead with God to help me write a more compelling plot because I know His thinking is more creative and fresh than mine. Sometimes I go to Him red faced and confess my intentions are not pure.

 

We can ask God to help us because He’s better at it than us. But I think the ultimate reason should be because we love Him and want to please Him, putting Him first in our lives. Honestly I don’t think our thinking will be completely righteous until we see him face to face. We’re still living in this body of sin daily and battling our fleshly desires.

 

“Whatever may be your task, work at it heartily as for the Lord and not for men.” Colossians 3:23.

 

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Vanessa’s Character Picks January 20, 2015

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Welcome Jonathan Cohen from Jennifer Slattery’s Newest Release “When Dawn Breaks”

Hey readers! Jennifer Slattery is back on IC today, and she must have enjoyed herself immensely last time, cause she brought a friend. Can’t wait to get to know him. Also, Jennifer is giving away one paperback copy of her latest novel, When Dawn Breaks, to a lucky commenter. More details below. So let’s get to know her guest …WhenDawnBreaks_N154102_300dpiRGB

Tell us a little about yourself.

Uh… OK. I guess I should start with my name. I’m Jonathan Cohen, and I’m the … er… hero? (embarrassed laugh) Guess I’d prefer to say main male character, of Jennifer Slattery’s second novel, When Dawn Breaks.

I’ve never done anything like this before. It feels strange, talking about myself like this. I’m really not that exciting, but I told Jennifer I’d do this, so… (nervous laugh) Let’s see. I recently moved to Willow Valley from Alta Loma, California. I’ve worked for the railroad for almost 30 years. I guess you could say it’s in my blood. I’m a widower. How’s that for a conversation stopper, huh? Anyway, I took a new job recently, a promotion with a bigger company, though that’s not why I hired on with Central Rails. I took the job to be closer to family.

You’re doin’ fine, Jonathan. <Connie winks> I’ll go easy on you with the questions.

Now … tell us three things about yourself that would surprise our readers.

Uh… I’m not sure I do anything surprising. I’ve done a fair number of stuff to surprise my new female friend Jacqueline, though I’m not sure that’s a good thing. For example, the time I took her on a picnic but forgot to bring eating utensils and decided to offer her vegetable sticks instead. But hey, they worked.

And if it works … don’t fix it … uh … or something like that.

Have you ever done anything really quirky?

I already told you about one of my first dates with Jacqueline. She could probably tell you a few more goofy stories, though I’d probably rather she not. According to my sister, it’s downright absurd to go to church in shorts and flipflops. Course, I told her I came to see Jesus not participate in a fashion show. Not sure that impressed her much. (chuckle) Oh, man! I almost forgot about my blind date with Miss-grass-eating Maggie.

<Connie cringes, imagining a pastured cow>

Now that was something else—something I hope to never have to do again, that’s for sure. If only I could get my sister to stop playing matchmaker. She really stinks at it. I mean bad. (shakes head)

Oh, I so understand that. I hated it when people tried to fix me up with guys … of course my hubby was a blind date, so maybe … never mind.

Jonathan, share something about your day-to-day life that might help a reader feel as though they know you a little better.

No one told me when I agreed to do this interview we’d be talking about such personal stuff.

Well, um …

I mean, I’m not trying to be rude or anything, but I don’t normally talk about myself all that much. That was always Evie’s thing. (gives a sad smile) She’s been gone five years, and I still miss her. It doesn’t hurt quite like it used to, and in a way, that scares me. It’s almost like by losing the pain I’ll lose her for good, you know? Not sure if that makes any sense. Life’s awful quiet without her. So… lonely. Which is why my sister keeps trying to set me up. But the way I figure it, a man only finds “the one” once in his lifetime, and I found mine.

Awwww!

Ahem. When did things change dramatically in your life?

Now that’s a loaded question. I’ve been around a few years now, so I guess you could say I’ve gone through a lot of dramatic changes. Losing Evie was a big one. That nearly ripped me in two. Moving to Willow Valley was another. Gotta say, this new job isn’t turning out to be anything like I thought. Truth be told, I’d say there’s something shady going on. Sure wish I knew what. Then again, I probably don’t want to know. I don’t need to get caught up in someone else’s mess. Guess by being here I already am, though, huh?

Oh, no! I hope not.

Tell us about the current journey you are on.

(Takes a deep breath) I guess you could say I’m doing what I planned long ago, what I worked for years for—preparing for my retirement. But this last leg isn’t turning out to be anything like I planned. Evie and I were supposed to be here together. I never thought I’d retire alone. Never thought I’d end my life alone. Oh, sure, I got Jeanne-Anne and Walter, my girl Stephanie. And soon I’ll have a son in the mix. But that’s not the same as having a companion. (sighs) So, to answer your question, I guess I just keep walking. Hoping for the best, soaking up the good as it comes.

What inspired you to change things in your life?

Moving you mean? It was time. Alta Loma held too many memories. That was where our daughter was born, where we raised her, where she first went to school, went to her first prom. All of that. It was good for a while, made me feel like I still had Evie with me. But then, as I began to heal… I almost feel guilty saying this…. I wanted a fresh start. Then one day my brother-in-law told me of a position that was open on Central Rails, so I applied. Course I had no idea what a mess the place would be. Not much I can do about it now except try to keep to myself, do my job best I can, and hopefully, to make it to retirement without getting fired.

How long did you do things as usual before you knew things needed to change?

Oh! Are you talking about once I started putting two-and-two together at work? That was a hard one. That was a real hard one, because I knew if I started poking around it’d be my word against my boss’s. Being the new man on the floor, who do you think the feds would believe?

Gasp! The Feds?!?!

Yeah, that’s what I thought, too. But I knew I had to do something. Tell someone. I’m a God-fearing man, after all. And sometimes you just gotta do the right thing just because it’s the right thing. And hope God’s got your back. (nervous laugh)

What is your current life goal?

To retire without getting fired? Or maybe to move back to Alta Loma? Although as time goes on, I’m beginning to realize what I want more than anything is a companion to spend my retirement years with. What do you think, can a man find true love more than once in his lifetime?

For your sake, Jonathan, I hope so.

What things stand in the way of achieving that goal?

I’ve sort of already mentioned that—a boss I’m pretty sure is slimy who has a crew who seems to jump at his every command. I’ve never been a conspiracy theorist but… Yeah, this is bad. Those guys are hiding something, and when things go down, I have a feeling it could cost me my job. I’m in management, after all, so ultimately I’m responsible for what happens on the shop floor. Especially if my boss decides to throw suspicion my way. I could lose my railroad retirement. Then where would I be? Sleeping in my sister’s basement?

I hope not!

Last question. In three words describe yourself.

Hard worker, simple, laid back.

I could sense that in you, Jonathan. Thanks for coming by.

Readers, if you’d like to know how things turn out for Jonathan … and if he ever finds another “one,” comment below and you will be entered to win a paperback copy of When Dawn Breaks. A winner will be chosen after midnight January 22, 2015.

When Dawn Breaks

As the hurricane forces Jacqueline to evacuate, her need for purpose and restitution motivate her to head north to her estranged and embittered daughter and into the arms of a handsome new friend. Dealing with his own issues, Jacqueline isn’t sure if he will be the one she can lean on during the difficult days ahead. And then there are the three orphans to consider, especially Gavin. Must she relinquish her chance at having love again in order to be restored?

Read a free, 36-page excerpt here: http://issuu.com/newhopedigital/docs/slattery_sampler/1

You can buy a copy here: http://www.christianbook.com/when-dawn-breaks-a-novel/jennifer-slattery/9781596694231/pd/694231

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headshot2013--J.SlatteryJennifer Slattery writes soul-stirring fiction for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. She also writes for Crosswalk.com, Internet Café Devotions, and the group blog, Faith-filled Friends. When not writing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her teenage daughter and coffee dates with her handsome railroader husband.

Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.

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Vanessa’s Character Picks January 13, 2015

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Vanessa’s Character Picks January 11, 2015

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