Happy Friday! Through tomorrow (culminating with a list of winners), I have the privilege of sharing mini interviews with nearly all of the 2020 ACFW Carol Award Finalists! Today I’m starting with Cher Gatto and her Carol Award finalist book Something I Am Not! You can check out a list of all the finalists HERE.
FYI – There will be 2-3 posts per day, and a series-long giveaway, so make sure you catch them all!
Cher Gatto is an award-winning author of Young Adult Christian Fiction. She writes clean reads with real world tension, light in the darkness, depravity that comes home. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and five teenaged and young adult children. Cher is president of the American Christian Fiction Writers NY/NJ Chapter. Visit her at www.journeywithwords.com
SOMETHING I AM NOT
GENRE: Inspirational Young Adult
PUBLISHER: Illuminate YA
RELEASE DATE: January 25, 2019
Winner of the 2016 Genesis Award, the 2020 Christian Indie Award for Best YA, and a finalist in the upcoming 2020 Carol Award for Best YA!
SOMETHING I AM NOT is a powerful look at the insidious world of human trafficking right in our own backyard, and the redemptive story of a young man’s fight to get out.
A father who never loved him. A woman who stole his worth. A brother he couldn’t protect. Where does someone run in the face of his deepest shame?
Billy McQueen works hard to keep his life together … and concealed. At seventeen, he dreams of an escape from the barroom, his father’s manipulation, and the advances of his father’s girlfriend. However, on his eighteenth birthday, he is introduced to a younger brother he never knew he had. An eight-year-old, barely capable of navigating the distorted and corrupt world of his father’s boxing club. Billy realizes in order to protect his little brother, he can never leave.
After discovering a battered young woman in the back shed of the club, Billy uncovers the true nature of his father’s activities. Before he can share it with the sheriff, Billy is kidnapped by his father and sold to a wealthy old maid who imprisons him on her yacht in the Gulf of Mexico. His death is fabricated and his little brother used as leverage for his compliance.
In order to secure his freedom, Billy must fight for it. To save his little brother who is next in line for the slave trade… he must die for it.
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Hi Cher! Welcome back to the blog!
Q: How has Christian fiction impacted you personally?
Cher: It’s taught me to trust, to wait, to hang on, to hope, to understand, to impact my world, to fix my eyes on Jesus. I love reading both Christian and not-necessarily-Christian (especially the Classics), but without a touch from Him (at least in the author’s worldview), I am left a little empty. Like with music—secular songs are great to sing along with sometimes, but not to nourish my soul. I find the same with books.
Carrie: beautifully said! yes!
Q: When you’re not writing your next award-nominated book 😉 who are your fave authors to read & why?
Cher: Charles Dickens is my all-time favorite. I have many sweet memories reading with my kids late into the night Great Expectations or Oliver Twist or David Copperfield. I am a classics-junkie, but am stretching myself of late to read contemporary fiction—especially YA as my alter-ego seems to be a 17-year-old boy ;). Lately, I’ve really enjoyed John Green’s books (Turtles All the Way Down; Looking for Alaska) as they dive into the turbulence of adolescence.
Carrie: I haven’t read John Green yet but I’ve heard good things – and you can’t go wrong with Dickens!
Q: Which of your characters has really stretched you as a writer?
Cher: Definitely Billy (MC of Something I Am Not). He was complex in so many ways and his authenticity never ceased to amaze me. Through him, I needed to explore deep, deep brokenness and redemptive grace to its fullest. It was a humbling experience. I began his sequel a few weeks ago and slipped back into his skin like it was the most natural thing to do.
Carrie: the characters that speak most deeply to the author also speak most deeply to the reader, i’ve found ♥
Q: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve googled lately while researching a book?
Cher: For my psychological suspense YA, Regent (releasing the end of this year … hopefully), I spent a lot of time understanding psychiatrics in the 60s. Believe me, you would NOT want to experience a spinal tap back then! Very grateful for modern science ;).
Carrie: So very true!!
Q: What is something God taught you while you wrote Something I Am Not?
Cher: I’ve shared this before, but for those who haven’t read anything on my bio, I never meant to be a writer. It’s something that happened to me when I wasn’t looking. Our family lived in Mexico developing a horse ranch for kids in poor areas, at-risk youth, and broken families. Our co-workers ran a women’s shelter, and we used the horses to love on them. Most of the women in the shelter were children themselves (13, 14, 15 years old) trying to raise babies on their own. Many of the babies a result of abuse, rape, or incest. Some had been drawn out of trafficking. Their stories tragic and incomprehensible.
About a year after we got on the field, the shelter closed down for a dangerous breach in security. All the girls were sent back to where they came from. We could do nothing. Nothing at all, but watch them go. A few months later, I saw one of the girls at church escorted by her “father.” When our eyes met, the vacancy in hers shattered my heart. I will never forget it. And one day, while I was cleaning a horse corral, I had Billy’s story. Not the whole thing, but a piece of it. Just one distinct scene, actually.
I hid myself away whenever I could for months and wrote furiously. I had no idea how the story would unfold, or even what themes would develop. But three hundred and fifty pages later, I was done. I guess it was all in there, needing to come out. Billy’s journey gave me the key to process and heal from things I saw around me but couldn’t change. Things that broke my heart.
I needed a different ending—a redemption.
Carrie: such a reflection of the redemption of the gospel – a different ending. Thank you, Lord! And thank YOU, Cher, for going on that journey to tell a powerful story.
Q: What is one of your favorite quotes from Something I Am Not & why do you love it?
Cher: My books often portray our heritage of being an orphan—cut off from our Father at the Fall—and our journey home. Nothing reflects this more profoundly than the relationship between father and son/daughter on earth. In its brokenness, it can be very painful …
I stood over my father for a moment in the calm. His arm clutched the pillow, and one leg hung over the edge. I did not know the woman who slept next to him. The muscles on his broad bare back, still solidly defined without the gym, rose and fell with each steady breath. His profile seemed so serene and almost beautiful. The ironic paradox of my father. All my life I wanted to believe in him. I wanted to trust him. I wanted to be like him in many ways and yet nothing like him. I loved my father, and I hated him.
… and in its healing, very beautiful. Once, when I was a teenager, I saw my dad cry—really cry—and rocked my world. This quote in Something I Am Not came from that moment. Billy watches his mentor (and father-figure) break down.
There is something unnerving, alarming even, when a grown man cries. Everything strong and safe implodes. The fortress crumbles. And the boy recognizes the mortality of his hero.
I am offering one reader any TWO books (print copies) that finaled in the 2020 Carol Awards! (open internationally as long as Book Depository ships to your address) This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.
What about you? What makes you want to read the Young Adult Carol Award finalist Something I Am Not by Cher Gatto & what did you enjoy about Cher’s answers?