Stand By Me, SouledOut Sisters Series #1Stand By Me, SouledOut Sisters Series #1
Neta Jackson
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Avis Douglas and her husband, Peter, have dreamed of selling his software business to finance a two year mission effort in South Africa. But when the economy crashes, they're suddenly faced with the real possibility of bankruptcy.
When one of the co-pastors of SouledOut Community Church passes away suddenly, Avis and Peter are asked to step in and assist with the leadership of the church in the interim. but that creates an all-black leadership, fanning some subtle racial issues in their multi-cultural church. As tensions mount, they wrestle with returning to a traditional church where things would be easier.
Meanwhile, Kate Blanchard arrives in urban Chicago with three friends. Their vision of radically following Jesus--from dressing in second-hand clothes to trying to live green--only adds to the unrest at SouledOut Community Church. When Kate attaches herself to Avis as a mentor, Kate's good heart but lack of wisdom drives Avis nuts. Before long they realize that the body of Christ needs all parts--and Avis will see that she needs Kate's joy in following Jesus as much as Kate needs Avis' wisdom.

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Neta Jackson's award-winning Yada books have sold over 600,000 copies and are spawning prayer groups across the country. She and her husband, Dave , also an award-winning writing team, are known for Trailblazer Books & Hero Tales. They live in Chicago where the Yada Yada and House of Hope stories are set.

Favorite Verse: Philippians 4:6-8 - Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus...

Visit Neta Jackson in our Writers Corner Interview with Neta Jackson


Please tell us a bit about yourself.

Uh oh. The older I get, the more there is to tell! But briefly . . . I’m married to a fellow writer (Dave Jackson), which makes “the writing life” far more interesting (and sometimes challenging—we have moments of “intense fellowship” when editing each other’s work, though we are both better writers for each other’s input). We live in the Chicago area, where most of our stories are set, and attend a multi-cultural, multi-language church. Our kids have flown the nest and are feathering theirs, blessing us with 4 grands.

That’s an interesting title; is there a special meaning behind the title?

You should see the ones that got away! Choosing a title for a novel is a give-and-take between author, editor, publisher, and marketing—and hopefully in the end, one that works for all of us, but especially the reader! In this case, “Stand By Me” reflects the theme of the book, which focuses on the relationship between two very different women—in age, life situation, race, personality—who come to realize they need each other in ways they never expected.

What inspired the concept for the SouledOut Sisters Series?

Throughout the last two series I’ve written—The Yada Yada Prayer Group and The House of Hope series—a church has emerged called SouledOut Community Church. (I actually got the name from a bookstore in Canada and fell in love with it!) So in this series, I pick up one of my favorite characters from the first series (Avis), and add some new characters into the mix (some idealistic college students out to change the world) as they meet at SouledOut. As for what “inspired” this particular story, I’d have to say some of the awkward dance in our church trying to merge a mish-mash of cultures, ages, languages, educations, which land us in messy pickle oftentimes. True grist for a LOT of stories!

Is any part of Stand By Me factual?

Not really. Though bits and pieces of real life, real conversations, real interactions sneak in. (There were a lot more “factual” incidences in The Yada Yada Prayer Group series.)

How long did Stand By Me take you to complete?

Most of my novels take 6-8 months to plan and write, and this one was no different.

Do you have a favorite character in Stand By Me? Why?

Actually, I became quite fond of “Kat” who is super annoying (as was my main character, Jodi, in The Yada Yada series), but underneath has a good heart—and it’s fun and rewarding to see her grow.

How much research did Stand By Me take?

Would you believe I had to check out dumpster diving and interview vegetarians/vegans? But a lot of the “research” just comes out of real life, people who’ve made an impact on my life, and just the nitty gritty of living in Chicago.


What was the most interesting tidbit that you learned while writing Stand By Me?

How difficult it is to truly live out the reality of I Corinthians 12, which talks about how the different parts of the Body of Christ actually need each other. (Oh, wait, maybe that’s the most interesting/difficult thing I’m learning in my real life. My fictional life and my real life get all mushed together somehow.)

How many books will be in the SouledOut Sisters series?

At this time I’m just planning on two.

What are some of the challenges you face as an author?

(1)  Taking longer than I’d hoped to write a manuscript, and ending up working six-day weeks. I usually set myself a two-chapter goal for each week, and if I don’t make it by Friday, I end up having to write Saturday, too. Bummer. Same thing when I need to write THREE chapters a week in order to make my deadline! (like last week)

(2) But probably the biggest challenge is having a story burning in my soul that I want/need to write—but my editor and publisher don’t agree that’s what should come next. It’s very hard to set it aside and “come up with” something else that doesn’t have the same passion for me. But writing a novel is a teamwork process—and I need them as much as they need me. So at the end of the day (sometimes months!), we need to be on the same page in order to get a book into the hands of the reader.

What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?

• Finishing a manuscript!

• Working at home with my (writer) husband.

• Getting letters from readers whose lives have been impacted in a major way by my stories. (Absolutely the best reward of being a writer!)

• Creating a fictional world and fictional characters that become so real, it’s like living in an alternative universe. I know I’ve succeeded when readers write that they find themselves praying for my characters and their challenges—oops, oh, yeah, these people are fiction!

What writing clubs or organizations do you belong to?

I belong to an online group of Christian novelists who encourage each other, share our various expertise, learn from one another, share our woes and prayer requests—and get together once a year for a face-to-face writers retreat. This has been a lifeline for both my husband and me.

What were your favorite books as a child?

The Little House books, C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series, Mary O’Hara’s My Friend Flicka series (and tons of other “horse stories”), the Book House books, Madeleine L’Engle’s books . . . too many to count. We didn’t have television so I read, read, read.

What is your writing style? (Do you outline? Write “by-the-seat-of-your-pants? Or somewhere in between?)

Somewhere in between. I definitely plot a general story arc, knowing who my main characters are, the basic theme, where the story starts, and where I want to end up. But once I’m actually into the story, having conversations with my characters and living/breathing/crying/laughing with them, things drop in that take me completely by surprise. (Where did that come from???) But events grow out of the situation that I couldn’t have seen when the story was still in outline form.

Do your characters begin to take on a life of their own as you write?

Absolutely. They develop personalities and do things I hadn’t anticipated, but are consistent with their character. One of the most fun aspects of writing novels.

Who was the person who influenced you the most with your writing?

Not just one person but many—especially other writers whose novels blow me away, and I think, “How does she/he do that?” I try to learn from good writing.

However, I got started on the path to becoming a writer because my high school English teacher encouraged me—in fact, sent one of my short stories to a national Scholastic Magazine writing contest, and it won First Place in the short story division! Bells and whistles went off in my head. Maybe other people actually want to read the stories I write! I used the prize money to buy a typewriter (yeah, I know, “what’s that?”) and marched off to college determined to be a writer.

What message would you like your readers to take from Stand By Me?

Two things:

(1) that even the most “together,” mature person faces struggles and challenges and is sometimes hurting, and we need to come alongside, stand with them, allow them to be human, too. And

(2), that the different “parts” of the Body of Christ have something important to contribute, and actually, we need each other to be whole.

What is your greatest achievement?

Being married to the same man for 45 years, and loving it!!!! (But he made it easy.)


Oh, you mean, writing achievement! Well, one of my novels won a Christy Award last year, which was thrilling . . . but I’d still have to say, my file folders full of reader letters are the greatest reward I could ever receive. Reading their testimonies of how the “yada yada” novels have given them a new hunger to deepen their prayer life, to increase their desire to worship, to open their eyes to the gifts that other cultures and races bring to the faith journey . . . makes all the hard work worthwhile. But I can’t say it’s “my” achievement, because really, all the glory goes to God. He’s the one who takes my “five loaves and two fishes” and multiplies it in readers’ hearts.

What is your goal or mission as a writer?

To be faithful with the gifts God has given me. Mostly I do that by sharing through my novels the things God has been teaching me in this faith/life journey.

There’s a quote that says: “The talents you have are God’s gift to you. What you do with them is your gift back to God.” I want to use my talents in a way that brings glory to God.

What do you do to get away from it all?

On an everyday level, I love to read (I have 3-4 books going at the same time), watch DVD movies with my husband at the end of a long writing day, play with my grandchildren who have “sleepover” on Friday nights, and putter in my flower garden (inside and out). (My husband grows vegetables BIG TIME as his “refresher.”)

But probably the most energizing and renewing thing I do is meet weekly with my multi-cultural group of Bible study sisters every Tuesday night to study God’s Word and pray for each other. When we do manage a “vacation,” my husband and I like to go camping. And we love long train trips!

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Yes. The truth of this Scripture has carried me through many a challenging situation: “Trust in the Lord with ALL [my] heart, and don’t lean on [my] own understanding. In ALL [my] ways acknowledge Him, and HE WILL direct [my] paths” (Proverbs 3:5, 6).



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