Today I’m excited to welcome author Allyson Kennedy to my blog. Allyson is a newlywed and is preparing to release two books this year, so I appreciate that she made time for an interview about the role of fiction stories and her upcoming releases. Welcome, Allyson 🙂
AK: Thank you so much for having me on your blog today, Liz! It’s great to be here! 🙂
LB: You have such a heart for middle-grade and young adult readers and the challenges they face. I love how you tackle some really tough topics with poise and empathy. In Can’t Beat the Heart of a Carolina Girl, readers see gossip divide a high school. Speak Your Mind‘s main character is a teenager who is persecuted for her Christian faith and is struggling with social anxiety. In The Crush we watch Sawyer battle depression while Emery learns to help him through it. Can you give readers a hint of what to expect in The Fall?
AK: Thank you so much! The Fall picks up a few months after we last left Emery in The Crush. Without spoiling the ending of The Crush, I will say that The Fall involves Emery learning how to overcome grief by leaning on God, and learning how He can use even the worst moments of our lives to usher us into brand new beginnings that are better than we could have ever planned for ourselves.
LB: It sounds beautiful, and I look forward to seeing Emery grow in The Fall. What do you believe is the importance of fiction stories in the life of a Christian?
AK: Because fiction stories are essentially kaleidoscopes that allow readers to experience alternative forms of reality, I personally believe that reading fiction is an imperative habit Christians must form to 1) learn the dangers certain sins can have on one’s life without having to experience the detriment of those sins ourselves and 2) seek out the redemptive character arcs in the books we read, using them as reminders of how accepting Christ has allowed a redemptive change to happen in our own lives.
LB: Interesting analogy with the kaleidoscope! When did you first dream of becoming an author, and what prompted you to write for the middle-grade and young adult audience?
AK: I was seven-years-old when I first dreamed of becoming an author. We had just begun to write creative stories in my second grade class at school, and I was all into it. When I was home back then, I would write and illustrate my own books, stapling together construction paper to form physical copies. For Christmas that year, my Aunt Sherry gave me a Mark-Kate & Ashley notebook and a set of pencils, telling me I should write stories in it. Twenty years later, I’m still putting pen to paper, and am living out my author dream.
Though I didn’t read much from the time I was in 4th grade to the 11th grade due to my school district’s reading program squashing my love for reading during that time, when I finally fell in love with books again at the age of 17, I noticed that many of the young adult books I found were full of vulgar and worldly content. I eventually found some clean and Christian YA books that I thoroughly enjoyed, such as Stepanie Morill’s Ellie Sweet duology, and thought that the world needs more books for young adults and middle schoolers that illustrate biblical morals rather than worldly morals (or lack thereof). I also felt led to bridge the gap between Christian fiction’s labels of being “boring” or “too perfect” and secular fiction’s appeal of gripping, life-like storytelling. Why can’t YA and middle grade fiction be both biblical and realistic? I’ve since made my mission as an author to try to write books that can change the way young readers regard Christian fiction.
LB: You’ve definitely found a way to make biblical standards relevant to young readers! Your Writing by Faith blog series is a gem of wisdom and encouragement for Christian authors, and I’m thrilled that you plan to develop it into an e-book. Was this your plan from the start of the blog series?
AK: Thank you so much! 🙂 Honestly, it wasn’t until about halfway through the series that I felt the nudge from God to make the series into a free e-book to help as many Christian authors as possible along their author journeys. At that point in writing the series (since I wrote each post or “chapter” each month as it went along), I was skeptical about it, not knowing how the final product would turn out. But, now that it’s finished, I’m excited to see what God will do with Writing by Faith after its release.
LB: The Writing by Faith blog posts are so inspiring, and just like in your fiction, you don’t shy away from hard conversations. Why is it important that we, as Christians, authors, readers, and friends, discuss tough issues?
AK: Hard conversations are what drive us to overcome conflict and keep the boat rowing, so to speak. If we continue to ignore tough issues, and sweep them under the rug as if they weren’t there to begin with, they’re just going to pile up under the rug and cause us to trip and fall over it later. The same thing applies to tough issues in fiction. If we as Christian authors don’t tackle tough subjects in our books, the world will, and by doing so, the world will cause readers to stray from biblical truths and chase Satan’s lies instead. While having hard conversations can and will make us uncomfortable, it’s better to not leave those conversations unsaid. We are called to be the light in the fallen world, pointing others to Christ. How are we to do that if we are scared of shining our light on the darkest of places?
LB: Well said. When can we look for The Fall and Writing by Faith?
AK: Lord willing, Writing by Faith: Following God’s Calling to be a Christian Author will be released on February 22, 2022, which is also my 5th anniversary as a published author. Though I haven’t yet decided on an official release date for The Fall, it will be available at some point in October 2022.
LB: Wonderful! Where can readers follow you?
Thank you again for having me on your blog today, Liz! 🙂