In addition to receiving a review copy of the ebook from the author, I interviewed R.J. Berry about her work. Read through the full post to learn about her inspiration, advice for indie authors, and future plans.
From the very first sentence, it is clear that R.J. Berry has a deep love and respect for her grandmother. And in that sense, The First Sunday is very touching.
Sunday Rose is a headstrong young woman who decides to move away from home and pursue her dream of becoming a singer. But once she moves to Dallas, Texas, she finds her goals have changed, especially once she meets the handsome Joe Jr., otherwise known as JJ. Her caring nature also leads her to become close with Mama Mae, a motherly figure who takes Sunday Rose in but also needs help herself.
The story is sweet, but did not really hook me until the last third or so. Up until then, there was a lot of backstory on Sunday Rose and her parents and siblings—which is important, but would have been more interesting if threaded throughout the rest of the story. It also seemed to brush over any conflict in Sunday Rose’s life. For example, **SPOILER ALERT** she is unsure whether or not she wants to marry JJ because she thought she wanted to be a singer, but then over the span of a few hours she decides she is fine with suddenly changing her life plans. She also takes a job cleaning an older couple’s house, even though she didn’t like doing chores back at home. Yet she never really shows any signs of being unhappy or conflicted. Even though she ultimately accepts her life and is happy with her choices, it’s hard to believe she just readily and immediately accepts everything.
However, the story ramps up towards the end. After she is married and pregnant with her first child, Sunday Rose makes a big decision. Though her husband is against it, she decides that she will give birth at her family’s home, with the family mid-wife.
JJ and Sunday Rose have a few arguments, and in the end JJ’s worst fears come true, and he doesn’t know if he can forgive Sunday Rose. Their perfect marriage seems to be falling apart. Sunday Rose must make some tough decisions, and she doesn’t know if she can ever repair her relationship with her husband.
The genre of this book is not what I usually read, which is important to keep in mind. But after finishing The First Sunday, I think that the next two books in the series will be faster-paced and show a lot more conflict. Sunday Rose and her husband must work through their struggles and learn to love each other again.
It must be hard to accurately tell a loved one’s story while also incorporating certain writing elements, but I think overall R.J. Berry did a good job. Sunday Rose has a story worth telling, and R.J. Berry does so in a way that is endearing and portrays her grandmother in a warm, positive light. If you like historical fiction that blends together Christian values and family tales, then try out the Sunday Rose series.
S.R.: How and when did you start writing?
R.J.B.: Prior to my retirement in 2009, I worked for the Dallas Independent School District. Because the district is so large, much of the communication between departments or other districts was written communiques’ or reports so I guess this was where I began my formal writing career. When I made the decision to write the Sunday Rose series it was an easy process to begin.
S.R.: What inspired you to write the Sunday Rose series?
R.J.B.: As I remember times that I spent with my maternal grandmother, much of our time together was her telling me about her childhood and her family. After hearing these stories, it dawned on me my grandmother’s words and experiences would be interesting to others and they could benefit from hearing about her life.
S.R.: What can readers expect in the first book of the series, The First Sunday?
R.J.B.: In book 1 of the series, The First Sunday, the story unfolds with the beginnings of the Turner family and birth of Sunday Rose, my grandmother. Her story takes form when she makes her first major decision as a young woman and how this decision has a major impact on her life.
S.R.: How did you decide to start self-publishing?
R.J.B.: My first book was published with a traditional publisher and my last two books were self-published. There were two reasons that I chose to self-publish. First, the process to publish a book is faster and the secondly, I was able to publish my last two books cheaper than my first book.
S.R.: What advice would you give to authors looking into self-publishing?
R.J.B.: My advice to authors would be to research all possible options and if self-publishing is the route they choose, make sure to inquire about all of the specials they have for authors especially for first time authors.
S.R.: What do you want readers to take away from the Sunday Rose series?
R.J.B.: After reading the Sunday Rose series, readers should realize that decisions we make at the beginning of our lives can follow us to the ends of our lives. Also, readers should understand that all of the decisions we make in our lives should be made with guidance from the Lord.
S.R.: What are you working on next?
R.J.B.: My next book, Forever Love, will be published in 2015 and is also a historical fiction about true love. “Eight on Ten,” will be published in 2016 and is based on the true story of eight friends who have remained friends through time and distance.