Monday, March 22, 2010

As a single mom and foster parent, Christina Berry carves time out of her busy schedule to write about the heart and soul of life. She’s one of those crazies who enjoys Math and Literature, majoring in both with a minor in French. All that confusion must have influenced her decision to be team captain of a winning team on Family Feud. Get to know her better at,,, or on Facebook.

When did you decide to be a writer?

Buried deep within my closet, one might find some angst-filled poetry from my teenage years and a very spooky seven pages of the novel I started in high school. Though I was in love with the idea of being a writer, it wasn’t until I finished college and stayed home with my first child that I actually decided to write a book. Truthfully, my mom told me we were going to write one together, and being the obedient daughter I am …

How long did you write before you sold your first book?

My mother, Sherrie Ashcraft, and I began writing in the summer of ’99. We figured the accountability of having a co-writer would make us actually do what we’d always dreamed of but never put action to. It took a long road of learning how much we didn’t know, tons of re-writing, brooding over rejections, making connections, pitching at conferences, and directional prayer to make our writing salable.

In the summer of 2006, when Mom was busy caring for her dying mother-in-law, I got the itch of a new story idea. Undiscovered was written by February 2007, edited by June, won second place in the 2008 ACFW Genesis Contemporary category, and was renamed The Familiar Stranger, contracted by Moody Publishers in October, and published in September 2009.

One decade from naïve first scribbles to debut novel!

Everyone’s journey to publication is different. Now that you’ve walked that road, what tips can you give to authors still hoping for that first contract?

~Read craft books—anything by James Scott Bell is a great place to start
~Join a critique group
~Attend writing conferences
~By open to criticism. One always has room to grow!

I wish I could say I’d found an amazing secret that held the key to getting published, but I believe it comes down to constantly working on craft and waiting on the Lord’s perfect timing. Don’t ever give up unless you hear Him calling you to something else.

Was there something about the experience of getting published that was a surprise to you?

I knew that titles were frequently changed for publication, but I didn’t expect the title to change before the contract was officially signed. Also, I knew that editors move from house to house fairly often in this industry, but I didn’t expect to lose my dream editor two days after signing the contract. (Hi, Andy!)

After getting over the shock of losing my editor, I was very impressed at how much Moody valued my input, how frequently they communicated with me, and how they lifted my family up in prayer. In fact, everyone from my editor to the marketing manager to the author liaison has been amazing!

Are you a disciplined writer or do you just write when you feel like it?

When I am in the writing mode, as in on a self-imposed deadline, I am very disciplined. I set a daily word count, usually of 1500 words, and I meet it no matter what. When I don’t have a deadline or a specific goal in mind, I get far less done.

What kind of activities to you like to do that help you relax and step away from your deadlines for a bit?

I love playing sappy songs from musicals or Disney tunes on the piano. I’m not a great musician, but it makes me happy to sing along. Of course I love to read, though there’s far less time for that now that I’m officially a writer. When I need to clear my mind, I clean. Love, love, love doing laundry. (Yes, it’s a sickness!)

I also enjoy a few TV shows, card games, the Wii (especially the Wii Fit Plus), trips to the beach or nearby lake … anything I can do with my family.

What is your favorite novel (not written by you) and what made it special?

Francine River’s first book in the Mark of the Lion Trilogy, A Voice in the Wind. The heroine of the novel, Hadassah, was so real to me. She lived out her faith in a soul-sacrificing way. As I read, I felt my heart changing and becoming hungry to please God.

How do you think reading the work of others helps you as a writer?

A deft turn of a word, a brilliant description, a true-to-life yet bigger-than-life character … all these things I note and then aspire to do in my own writing. To be honest, there are also books I read where I might say to myself, “Oh, this author just crossed the line into preachiness, in my opinion,” and I’ll go back and reread to see why I felt that. Reading both the good and the excellent, I learn what works and what doesn’t.

Tell us a little about your latest release:

The Familiar Stranger—formerly known as Undiscovered—is about a couple going through a really rough patch in their marriage. When an accident incapacitates the husband, their relationship must be redefined. Which would be a lot easier to do if BIG secrets from his past didn’t raise their ugly heads. Despite the upheaval, the choices they make involving forgiveness and trust might allow a new beginning. Or … they might not.

You can see the back cover copy and what other authors have said about The Familiar Stranger by going to

Where did you get your inspiration for The Familiar Stranger?

In the summer of 2006, two stories appeared in the newspaper. One was a huge, national story; the other a smaller, local-interest item. I wondered what it might look like if those two stories conceived a child. Boom! I had the entire plot for The Familiar Stranger.

Denise and Craig’s story is based on the lessons of forgiveness God taught me when my marriage fell apart … the first time. During the editing process, and years after my husband and I reunited, our marriage of thirteen years unexpectedly ended. The words I had written as a happily married woman ministered to me in my singleness. My heart’s hope is that this book will lead people to Live Transparently—Forgive Extravagantly!

Which character is most like you?

Many of the emotions Denise goes through correspond to what I felt, though our situations differ. However, I also wanted to really understand the male perspective, so Craig had parts of me in him as well. The path away from God and following temptation is something we can all recognize and, unfortunately, identify with.
Who is your favorite character and why?

Jamie, the couple’s youngest boy, is a fun-loving, good-hearted scamp. Any scene with him in it came alive. But I also love Denise’s friend Sarah, and think anyone who has a friend like her is a blessed person.

Did you know how The Familiar Stranger would turn out? Were you surprised by any of the plot twists or characters?

I had a rough outline, and the ending is the main point of the book, so I did know what the ending would be. The last chapter however, didn’t appear until a month after I thought the story was finished. In feedback from readers, I would have been in big trouble if I hadn’t added it!

The sons took on a life of their own. Jamie and Nicolas became such organic subplots, all I had to do was transcribe what I saw them doing.

What is the main thing you hope readers remember from this story?

My novel is an exploration in forgiveness. When do we grant it? Why? What do we expect in return? What are the limits? If reading The Familiar Stranger makes even one man or woman be more honest with his or her spouse or delve into trust issues in a healthy way, I’ll consider it a success. Maybe there’s a hurting heart that can find a new path to forgiveness because of the story.

What kinds of things have you done to market this book? Have you found anything that works particularly well?

I set up a 61-day, 90+ blog tour that seemed to be very effective. Many people heard about the book in the first few months after its release. Since then, I’ve taken the approach of making one fan at a time. My mother and I also have an infrequent, humorous newsletter with almost 1,000 subscribers. As soon as we hit that mark, we’ll be giving away free autographed books or an iPod Shuffle. (Sign up at Word of mouth is everything to marketing, so people need to care about the book or the story and the author to really invest in future books. I’m always looking ahead, hopefully planning for a long and fruitful career.

Tell us what new projects you’re working on.

What are you currently writing?

I’m about 1/5 of the way through my next manuscript, Unafraid, a story about a girl’s kidnapping, and how her life unfolds because of the trauma. One of my characters is a PI, so I’m having loads of fun with the research.

The humor Sherrie Ashcraft (my sometime co-author and always mother) and I display in our infrequent, humorous newsletters—you can also sign up at --has garnered the attention of an editor. You just might see a funny, non-fiction cooperative work from the Ashberry Ladies at some point in time. Plus, I have a funky TV-based devotional a house is interested in … Busy, busy, busy!

Do you have any parting words of advice?

Write with purpose, whether it is a letter to a friend, a blog entry, or a full-length novel. The Lord says we will be held accountable for what we’ve said, so let’s make these words of our count for eternity!
Christina is giving away a copy of her book, The Familiar Stranger. Be sure to stop by The Borrowed Book on Friday for your chance to win!


  1. I finally caved and went out and bought this book. :) It is holding down my TBR stack but I am DYING to read it. I think I'm going to wait though until a road trip in April. :) It's going to be tough....

  2. My fingers itched to pick it up, too, Casey! I saw it in Books-A-Million just yesterday. Unfortunately, I have a couple of deadlines pressing and didn't trust myself to buy it, knowing I probably wouldn't be able to resist spending the time reading it. LOL! It's on my list to read, though!!

  3. Casey, I'm so glad you bought it and hope you DO somehow manage to read it before you die. ;) Drop me a line afterward, and let me know what you thought. (And, of course, sign up for the infrequent, humorous newsletter to win free books for life!)

    Elizabeth, that's so encouraging to hear it was still on the shelf in stores! May you make your deadline early and find a few moments ... just to read the first chapter. ;)Thanks for having me here!


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