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Interview with Bethany Turner

Hi, Bethany! Tell us a little about your writing journey.
I have enjoyed writing ever since I was young, but I didn’t even begin to get serious about it until about six or seven years ago when I desperately needed some stress relief. I was managing the operations side of a multi-branch bank which was going through a buy-out, followed by another buy-out. At the end of my twelve hour workdays, I would come home, spend a few minutes with my husband and kids before they went to sleep, and then I would unwind by writing. It wasn’t a good way to be living life, but it did awaken my passion for writing. And then in 2014, God made it very clear to me that I was supposed to walk away from my banking career and focus on writing for a while. That’s not at all to say that I planned to make a career as an author! We honestly didn’t know how we were going to even have enough money to pay our bills and keep our house, and put food on the table. But I knew that God was saying, “Come sit with me a while. Let’s create together.”

Where did you come up with the story The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck?
Not too long after I left my job, my friend and I were sitting and talking, and somehow our conversation got around to Fifty Shades of Grey, and the shocking, unprecedented way it was taking over mainstream culture at the time. At one point I said, “Can you imagine if an author of books like that suddenly announced she had become a Christian?” And that was it. I was off and running. I started writing that day, had a chapter by that evening, and finished the first draft in about six weeks.

Are you a plotter or pantser?
All pantser, all the time. The only exception to that is when I’m nearing the end of a book and I’m so engrossed in the story that I can’t type quickly enough to keep up, and I worry I’ll forget where I’m heading. Sometimes I will jot down the basics of what needs to happen in each of the last few chapters, just to keep myself focused on the finish line. But even then, the plotting is very minimal.

What do you love about writing? What are some challenges?
I love the moments when I know exactly who my characters are, and I’m feeling everything they feel. I don’t have to think of how to write genuine dialogue, because I instinctively know exactly what my characters would say in response to any given situation. And I love the moments when it’s flowing so freely that the only thing holding me back in the speed at which I can type. The challenges are the moments which are the exact opposite of all of that. When characters haven’t revealed themselves to me yet, and I know where a story is going to end up, but I have no idea how to get it there.

What do you hope your readers will take away from your newest book?
There are several things. I hope they walk away with a deeper understanding that there is nothing in our past that is too big for God, and that nothing will surprise him. (He’s fully aware of our sin, no matter how much we try to hide from it.) I want readers to know that being a Christ-follower isn’t easy, and if someone told them that by accepting Jesus, their struggles would go away, well…they were lied to. But the struggles and the challenges are absolutely worth it, and the power of the struggle dulls in comparison to a relationship with Jesus. And I would hope that readers would see that those of us within the Christian faith do Jesus a disservice by judging others when we should be loving them. But more than anything, I want readers to walk away knowing that it’s okay (and in fact, it’s a good thing) to talk about all of these issues, and even laugh at ourselves a bit.

You work in full-time ministry at your church. Does of any of your work there make an impact on your books?
I have been on staff at this church for about three years, but my family has attended and been active volunteers here for more than a decade. And I grew up in a vocational ministry family as well. So much about ministry and church life is ingrained in me, certainly, and that absolutely came through in The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck. I’ve witnessed local churches at their best, on fire for the Lord, and I’ve seen them at their worst, divided by selfish ambitions and judgmental attitudes. Now, in my current role on staff, I am becoming so acutely aware of the need to have real conversations and remove some of the curtains that we, as Christ-followers, can tend to pull up around our true selves. If we act as if Christians are supposed to be perfect, then those who are less spiritually mature may be made to feel inadequate or ashamed because they don’t believe they meet the standard. Well, Jesus is the standard, and no…none of us will ever meet that standard. So let’s not pretend that we do. Let’s be real. I will always strive to bring that realness to everything I write.

What is your favorite Bible verse and why?
Ephesians 3:20 — “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” and of course verse 21 which completes the thought by saying, “to HIM be all glory…” We serve such a big God, and so often what we think can be accomplished is limited in our minds by what we think we can do. But I love this reminder in Ephesians that what we can do doesn’t even scratch the surface of what can be done.

What are five of your favorite things in the world?
Pumpkin Spice Latte, turtles, Kate Spade handbags, Cincinnati-style chili, and Broadway musicals.

Do you have any favorite authors?
Of all time, Jane Austen. But of those who are still active (since my girl Jane hasn’t released anything new recently…), I adore Becky Wade and Katie Ganshert.

Any parting words?
As Ben Delaney says in The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck, “I will never even be worthy, much less holy, and yet the God of the universe knows my name.” It’s so remarkable to me that God doesn’t just get stuff done in spite of our inadequacies. He uses our inadequacies for the glory of his kingdom. It’s such a privilege and honor to create stories with God and, as writers, I think we can all do our best work by never losing sight of how messed up we truly are. Let’s be real—with God, with each other, with our readers. And then let’s sit back and marvel at what God can do!


CJ Myerly is a graduate from Clearwater Christian College. She resides in Tampa, Florida with her husband and two children. She’s always loved reading and writing and is currently working on a contemporary romance series. She hates clutter, loves organization, and has a love/hate relationship with all electronics. CJ blogs about books, writing, motherhood, and homeschooling at

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