Welcome Tammy L. Gray Author of: MY HOPE NEXT DOOR Interview
Rad-Reader: Where did the idea for this book come from?
Tammy: I was praying in my car and asking God for direction for a story. My publisher had just asked for a new book, and my agent had just told me I could do better than the last idea I submitted. Never what you want to hear. So, I’m sitting there, admittingly frustrated, and after I was done complaining to God, I turned on our local Christian radio station. A song came on about second chances, about how God loves us despite our past mistakes and how He welcomes the burdened and broken. An hour later, I had Katie’s story.
Rad-Reader: Would you say that this is a Christian Romance?
Tammy: I would call it Modern Christian Romance. There is a great chasm between traditional Christian Romance and what I write. Yes, my stories glorify Christ, but they also deal with many typically taboo subjects like drugs, alcohol, sex, addiction and the list goes on. I believe in writing culturally-relevant stories that can cross the boundaries between Christians and non-Christians. I deal with deep emotional issues that everyone can relate to, not just the saved. And I create worlds where flawed human beings are real and honest and relatable.
Rad-Reader: Katie came home with a lot of skeletons in her closet that she feared taking out to deal with. She knew she had to face them. What do you think was her biggest fear? Was it really in that closet or in herself?
Tammy: I think Katie feared what we all do. Rejection, judgment, accountability. She was forced out of her bubble. Forced to deal with all the hurt she’d locked tight inside. Forced to confront the worst side of herself. Imagine if you were to come face to face with your worst mistake, how terrified would you be? The beauty of Katie’s story is it exposes the real source of her condemnation—herself.
Rad-Reader: Cooper was hurt but he was coming across as a bully how did he ever expect to really ever win her over like that? Or did he?
Tammy: Cooper is a very complex character, like most of, are in real life. He’s hurting, and therefore he lashes out. He’s lonely, yet has no real idea what true love and acceptance feels like. He’s passionate and loyal, yet at the same time, without direction, those traits become weapons. Cooper essentially behaved the only way he knew how to.
Rad-Reader: Her father called and asked for her help but did nothing to smooth the way between her and her mother or Cooper. Why did he call? He just caused more problems.
Tammy: I think the key thing to remember with her father is that he is hurting, too. His wife is sick, his pride is destroyed, he fights fear every day and battles inadequacy. Calling Katie was a very humble and brave thing to do, but it also forced the three of them to deal with a very dysfunctional relationship. Extremely hard to do when all three were professionals at erecting walls and avoiding openness. No character is two-dimensional, and like all of us, their actions reflect their brokenness. Very rarely is someone cruel for no reason.
Rad-Reader: The night she came out that first night to talk to Asher they both came away with something. What was it?
Tammy: The connection they had was their pain. That’s what I love so much about this story. It breaks down the walls between stereotypes. Katie’s mistakes and Asher’s mistakes were different. They grew up with different world views, different struggles, but self-loathing doesn’t discriminate. Christians, atheist, or whatever religion you want to insert here, they all feel pain, regret, and heartache. Yet, no matter what place you come from, the answer to that pain is the same: abiding with Christ.
Rad-Reader: What message do you hope the readers come away with?
Tammy: My Hope Next Door is a story of second chances. It’s about letting go of past regrets, mistakes and the image we all carry. It’s about looking beyond stereotypes to the person God has created us to be. And it’s a beautiful love story between two very different people who share a similar pain. As an author, I always want my books to leave the readers changed in some way, or at least see the world through a different lens. I truly think this book will do both.
Rad-Reader: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Tammy: I honestly never expected to become a writer, and the way this whole career has played out is none other than God’s mighty hand. When I decided to write my debut novel, Shattered Rose, it came after a very hard weekend for me mentally and emotionally. I was struggling with a sin that I just couldn’t seem to overcome and was broken over it.
So, I sat down that Monday after and starting writing with one goal in mind. I wanted to show an analogy between the freedom in Christ and the temptation of sin. How even when we know it’s wrong, we are pulled back in over and over. Eight weeks later, I had a novel. I sent it to a few friends and they went crazy over it. Told me I had to keep writing. So, I did.
Rad-Reader: What did you do before becoming a writer?
Tammy: I spent 8 ½ years as a military engineer. After leaving the Air Force, I became a stay at home mom, supporting my husband in full-time ministry. I went back to school and got an MBA and then after wrestling with God for years about my purpose, found my calling as a writer.
Rad-Reader: How long after writing you first book did it take you to become published?
Tammy: I took a very different track than most writers. I independently published my first series: The Winsor Series. Back then, most agents would not touch my writing. I even had one tell me it wasn’t Christian. I, of course, respectfully disagree. Tackling tough subjects is important, recognizing our human nature is important and breaking down stereotypes and barriers is essential if we are ever going to reach the world for Christ. Anyway, I digress. After my first series found greater success than I ever expected, Waterfall Press called me and said they were starting a new Christian imprint. One that was looking for crossover fiction and loved the message I had in my books. We were a match in every way. Soon after, I found my current agent, Jessica Kirkland, who is also a great supporter of my voice. So now, I do both independent publishing and traditional publishing. But to answer your question, I finished my first book in January 2013 and published it in April.
Rad-Reader: What is your next project and when is it coming out?
Tammy: My next project is the sequel to this book, My Unexpected Hope. It is Chad and Laila’s story and takes place about 9 months after My Hope Next Door ends. It’s available for Pre-order now and releases June 27th.
Rad-Reader: Where can our readers buy your books?
Tammy: Amazon is the biggest carrier of my work, especially my independently published titles. But Mercy’s Fight, My Hope Next Door and My Unexpected Hope are available across all online retail sites.
Rad-Reader: Where can our readers find you on the Web?
I would like to thank Tammy for taking the time to be with us. She was talented enough to write the book I was able to read but gracious enough to take the time to answer my FANGIRL questions. For this I am thankful. I hope you come by anytime to share one of you books on our Shout Out: An Author's Place page, for you too are now a 1 Rad-Reader Misfit.
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