Becoming a Christian is the best and worst thing that has ever happened to Sarah Hollenbeck. Best because, well, that’s obvious. Worst because, up to this point, she’s made her very comfortable living as a well-known, bestselling author of steamy romance novels that would leave the members of her new church blushing. Now Sarah is trying to reconcile her past with the future she’s chosen. She’s still under contract with her publisher and on the hook with her enormous fan base for the kind of book she’s not sure she can write anymore. She’s beginning to think that the church might frown on her tithing on royalties from a “scandalous” book. And the fact that she’s falling in love with her pastor doesn’t make things any easier.
With a powerful voice, penetrating insight, and plenty of wit, Bethany Turner explodes onto the scene with a debut that isn’t afraid to deal with the thorny realities of living the Christian life.
“The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck is a rare treat packed with humor, hope, and heart. Sarah’s struggles are real and nearly tangible, and she feels like a friend we’ve all had. I laughed with her and fell in love alongside her and couldn’t wait to hear her whole story. What a charming, delightful book!”
—Liz Johnson, bestselling author of The Red Door Inn
I’ve been serious about it for the last five or six years, I suppose, but I think I was bitten by the bug way back in second grade. I placed and won a medal in a state-level contest for my deep, heart-level, inspiring essay about John Stamos. I guess that should have been my first clue that pop culture would always play a pretty big role in my writing…
How does your book relate to your spiritual practice or other life path?
I, like Sarah Hollenbeck, previously wrote some novels which don’t fit into the Christian market. Unlike Sarah, mine were not graphic in nature, by any means. Also unlike Sarah, hardly anyone has ever read mine! But when I began to believe that the Lord was calling me to write Christian romance, I worried about that. I worried about whether or not I would be accepted into the Christian market. On a much, much smaller scale, I could relate.
Are there under-represented groups or ideas featured in your book?
I felt very strongly from the moment the book began bouncing around in my head and heart that I needed to write a story which presented some middle ground for Christian readers. Certainly not always, but often, Christian fiction can tend to present the Christian walk as a neat and tidy thing. Those stories can be fantastic, of course, but sometimes they can be a little bit difficult to relate to. But a lot of what is presented in the general market is just as extreme, on the other end of the morality spectrum. I wanted to write a story in which we see our heroine go from adult non-believer to adult Christ-follower, and I wanted us to journey with her as she struggled to adapt to her new life, through the lens of her new faith. I wanted Sarah Hollenbeck to struggle with temptation in ways she never had before because she was tackling life with a brand new moral compass. And it was important to me that Sarah faced as much resistance from Christians as she did from those outside the faith. Salvation does not always equal maturity and wisdom.
What literary character is most like you?
Hmm…I think I have to say Ramona Quimby, from the Beverly Cleary books. Those were the first books I truly loved, and without a doubt they unearthed my love of reading. Probably because I identified with Ramona. Granted, I was about eight years old when I read Ramona Quimby, Age 8, but I think I can relate to her just as much today, in my late-thirties. Much like Ramona, I tend to say yes, and deal with the consequences later. We’re both impatient and never stop dreaming, and just like Ramona, I’m not a fan of nap time.
Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?
I would actually say I’m a full-time writer, who also has another full-time job. God has blessed me beyond anything I ever would have asked or imagined, and after years of being in a career which drained me, I now have two careers which fill me up – and they even play nice together! I’m on the staff of a church, and I get to go into an office and work in ministry alongside some of my very best friends. And when it comes to writing and publishing, the people I work with – and do life with, really – are among my strongest supporters. It’s honestly difficult, at this stage in my life, to imagine one career without the other.
What do you want your tombstone to say?
Either “What she did mattered,” or “Colin Firth may never recover from this loss.” I can’t decide which.
Bethany Turner is the director of administration for Rock Springs Church in Southwest Colorado. A former VP/operations manager of a commercial bank and a three-time cancer survivor (all before she turned 35), Bethany knows that when God has plans for your life, it doesn’t matter what anyone else has to say. Because of that, she’s chosen to follow his call to write. She lives with her husband and their two sons in Colorado, where she writes for a new generation of readers who crave fiction that tackles the thorny issues of life with humor and insight.
Grand Prize: Copy of The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck + a typewriter tote bag + a typewriter notebook + Columbia Jo’s coffee + Novel Teas teabags 2nd Prize: Copy of The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck + a typewriter hardcover journal + typewriter enamel lapel pin 3rd Prize: Copy of The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck + $10 Barnes & Noble Gift Card