Sally Bradley: Kept

Bio-Shot1[1]I’m excited to welcome author Sally Bradley to my blog. Sally recently released her debut novel, Kept, a contemporary Christian novel that deals with the hard edges of life and how they’re refined by a God who specializes in bringing beauty from ashes.

Sally is a member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and is a four-time finalist in ACFW’s Genesis Contest. She also won Novel Rocket’s Launch Pad Contest for the General Fiction category in 2014; RWA’s Great Expectation Contest 2013, Inspirational category; RWA’s Duel on the Delta Contest, Inspirational category; finally, she won ACFW’s Category 5 Contest for the Contemporary category.

Wow, right? There’s more!

Accolades from other writers:

“Filled with relevant issues handled with delicate poignancy, Kept is a refreshing change to the normal Christian fare…one of the most surprising and best books I’ve read this year.”

– MaryLu Tyndall, best-selling author of Legacy of the King’s Pirates series

“Gutsy and fast-paced, Kept sweeps the reader in and doesn’t let go until the final, riveting page. With keen insight into human nature and the tangled relationships of our times, author and pastor’s wife Sally Bradley explores romance against the backdrop of God’s infinite, redeeming grace.”

– Laura Frantz, author of Love’s Reckoning

About Sally:

Sally Bradley writes big-city fiction with real issues and real hope. A Chicagoan since age five, she now lives in the Kansas City area with her family, but they still get back to Chicago once in a while for important things—like good pizza and a White Sox game. Fiction has been her passion since childhood, and she’s thrilled now to be writing books that not only entertain, but point back to Christ. A freelance fiction editor, you can find Sally at sallybradley.com and on Facebook at Sally Bradley, Writer. Kept is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

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From the Back of the Book:

Life has taught Miska Tomlinson that there are no honorable men. Her womanizing brothers, her absentee father, and Mark, the married baseball player who claims to love her—all have proven undependable. But Miska has life under control. She runs her editing business from her luxury condo, stays fit with daily jogs along Chicago’s lakefront, and in her free time blogs anonymously about life as a kept woman.

Enter new neighbor Dillan Foster. Between his unexpected friendship and her father’s sudden reappearance, Miska loses control of her orderly life. Her relationship with Mark deteriorates, and Miska can’t help comparing him to Dillan. His religious views are so foreign, yet the way he treats her is something she’s longed for. But Dillan discovers exactly who she is and what she has done. Too late she finds herself longing for a man who is determined to never look her way again.

When her blog receives unexpected national press, Miska realizes that her anonymity was an illusion. Caught in a scandal about to break across the nation, Miska wonders if the God Dillan talks about would bother with a woman like her—a woman who’s gone too far and done too much.

My Review of Kept:

Three times.That’s how often my tired eyes were moisturized (aka, I cried) between 11pm and 1am when I was finishing Kept, a must-read contemporary Christian novel that skirts the darkness of life without Christ but ultimately pulls back the shadow to reveal brilliant, bright new mercies each morning.I knew from the endorsements and reviews that this had to be a fantastic book; it’s much more than that. Kept is poignant, real, funny. It’s unforgettable. Kept’s pages are filled with characters I came to care deeply for. The author’s ability to keep the reader turning pages, rooting for imperfect characters and wondering what happens next, is a fiction-writing gift.

Miska is a city girl and book editor, hardened at life’s offering thus far but hiding a soft heart. Her life is driven by a want she hasn’t yet realized she doesn’t need. When she meets new neighbor Dillan, a youth pastor who lives with his brother Garrett, an unexpected friendship forms, setting the stage for a future neither expected. Together? How would that ever be possible?

Miska is such a well-written, imperfect character that I alternated between wanting to hug her and shake her. (Secondary character Tracy took care of that very well.) The friendship between the two women was beautiful and heartfelt; I especially appreciated the way the author doesn’t gloss over pain and betrayal but instead reminds the reader of God’s grace and forgiveness. Dillan’s struggle throughout the story was portrayed with truth and raw emotion that will leave readers rooting for him as well. The ending is fulfilling, leaving a lump in my throat as I closed the final page.

As a writer, I was completely taken with the author’s skillful use of dialogue to show who these characters were. The scenes between Dillan and Miska were so authentic, their interactions so realistic and powerful, that I felt like a fly on the wall in their high-rise condos, enjoying the view of Buckingham Fountain and the skyline of Chicago right along with them.

Best way to sum up this fantastic story? God is in the business of restoring what was lost and healing what is broken. Author Sally Bradley doesn’t sugar-coat the worldly view some of the characters have – and live – in Kept; instead she drops God’s grace plumb in the middle of the mess we can make of our lives without Him, cleaning dirty places and wiping souls clean with grace. Miska’s transformation is a powerful reminder that we don’t live under bondage but live within His merciful hands.

Kept is a keeper. Read it, ponder who you would be without Jesus, and praise God that he reaches the lowest depths to bring us back. I highly, highly recommend this story and look forward to reading Sally’s other books.

***

  • Try to put into words how it felt to hold your book baby in your hands for the first time. You’re a writer; you can do it! Five words or less (just kidding). Amazing, right?

SB: It was amazing for half a second! And then the very orange cover hit me. Like seriously orange. Miska looked like she’d gotten into really cheap, bad self-tanning lotion. And the Chicago skyline on the back of the book, the one with the sun setting behind the skyscrapers, looked like an atomic bomb had gone off. So it was a very weird moment. Cool, then disappointing because I knew I couldn’t unleash the print version on the world.

But when I opened up the book and scanned the pages, everything was good again. Yes, an amazing, amazing thing to see your baby in print!

  • Oh no! I think this cover turned out just beautiful. Kept is a powerful transformational story about God’s grace. It’s also a beautiful love story. The word that crossed my mind when I closed the book was ‘brave.’ Miska and Dillan’s story is brave, and so very relevant in 2014. What led you to write Kept?

SB: Lots of things. Christian women I’ve known over the years who’ve come from pasts like Miska. The way our society continues to become more immoral. How many people are being raised with absolutely no knowledge of God or exposure to a church of any kind. I wanted to portray where our society is and show that, yes, God is still bigger than that.

  • There’s much I loved about Kept…the characters, the fast-paced story, the realistic relationships. But my favorite aspect, as I mentioned in my review, is the incredible dialogue. To quote a random Pixar movie, “You so totally rock…at dialogue!” Was dialogue something you had to work on in your writing?

SB: Definitely! It was probably one of the first things in my writing career that I really studied, so I think it’s been a strength for a while. I typically don’t have to rewrite it, but I do need to narrow it down. Sometimes I just go overboard and it sounds too real—too many interruptions, every little grunt and groan. So I tone it down and cut the excess.

As for getting the men right… I did my research there. For several months, I listened to guys Dillan’s and Garrett’ ages on Facebook and Twitter and in true reality/documentary shows. I wrote down the unique things they said, then incorporated the phrases that kept popping up. So it’s been very encouraging to hear that even the men sounded right.

So glad you felt the dialogue worked, Kerry!

  • Great fiction contains characters we adore and characters we despise. Some we want to wrap in a big hug and others we want to shut the door in their face. Did you have a favorite character in Kept? How about a least favorite?

SB: Adrienne is probably my least favorite. From the very beginning, she and I just didn’t get along.

Of course, I loved my main characters, Miska and Dillan. But other than them, Garrett really grew on me. There was a point in the book where I wasn’t a fan and had some serious doubts about him, but then a couple pages later he’d crack me up. He might be the most complex character in the book, and I’m toying with writing a sequel about him.

  • What a great idea! Garrett really grew on me, too. You’re a wife, mom of three, active member of ACFW, reader, editor, and so on. You’d probably like to request a twenty-six hour day every now and then, like me, right? A little extra sleep, etc… How do you balance family and writing/editing?

SB: It’s really, really hard. I feel like I wing it every day and that there are things I forget or let go of every day. I wish there was an easy answer, but there isn’t.

My view is that I need to do the things that matter most. I often have a plan in the morning, but things come along that throw my plan out the window. So I’m constantly evaluating and prioritizing about what needs to be done next. Sometimes that means I need a mental break and a good book or a some HGTV or I play a little Black Ops with my kiddos.

We women have bought into the idea that you can do it all, but that’s a lie that causes a lot of angst and frustration. You cannot do it all. You have to pick and choose. So pick and choose wisely and give yourself some grace. And a break!

~ Quick Questions ~

Any pets? Nope. I have plenty to do as it is. But I do enjoy other people’s dogs.

Favorite Holiday? Thanksgiving. Awesome food, a real break, and then time to put up the Christmas tree and play Christmas music. Plus it’s not so cold yet that you loathe having to leave the house.

A color we’ll never see you wear? Orange. Oh. My. Goodness. I despise orange. Ironically, my two oldest look absolutely stunning in orange. They have their dad’s coloring.

Night owl or mourning dove? Night owl. I often go to bed early in the morning.

A book you’ll never part with? Chateau of Echoes. I love the story, the relaxed pace of it, the cheap vacation to rural France. It’s now out of print so I if I lose that book, I’ll never get to see the gorgeous cover again! That would make me sad.

Favorite way to spend a lazy day? Reading! Shocking, I know.

Sally, thank you so much for stopping by and sharing about this story! You’ve written a truly remarkable, grace-filled love story. I highly recommend Kept and look forward to your future books.

SB: Thanks so much, Kerry! I appreciate that.

As part of this interview, I’m offering a giveaway of one copy of Kept to a reader who comments here on my blog, or on the post on Facebook. Please leave a comment on this blog with your name and email address. The drawing closes Thursday, November 6th at noon. I’ll post the winner’s name on my blog and contact the winner by email.

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