About the Book
Book: If You Really Knew Me
Author: Alison Cheah
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction
Release date: December, 2021
Tommy is glad of friendships which make him forget the situation at home. His father’s illness makes his behavior so unpredictable that the whole family must tip-toe around him for fear of becoming the butt of his anger.
Elise wishes her twin sister didn’t think being champion swimmers was an adequate goal for their lives. She has her own dreams to fulfil.
Carrie hides a secret, avoiding other students so nobody will ever find it out. But Tommy and Elise both look to Carrie to save them from their situations.
Until she disappears.
Tommy’s protective instinct kicks in, and Elise reassesses her priorities so she can help keep Carrie safe.
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About the Author
Alison Cheah worked at Youth for Christ for five years and volunteers with her church youth group. One of her favorite activities is preparing Bible Studies and seeking how to connect the stories of the Bible with her students’ own stories.
As a child she was always to be seen with her nose in a book, and nothing has changed. One of her favorite authors was Patricia St. John. Her characters are people you want to know, and you are rooting for them to overcome their problems, but for Alison, the added dimension was that each person discovers their answers in Jesus. She saw that the faith she had grown up with had applicability in real life.
Her prayer is that this story has the same result for you.
More from Alison
I spent five years working at Youth for Christ with middle school students like Tommy, Carrie, and Elise. They are not based on kids I met, but they are inspired by my experiences then.
My friend and mentor in youth ministry was Anna-Marie Valles who is also a character in Tommy, Carrie and Elise’s story helping them to make sense of some of the questions they have.
We don’t get to know her well in the book, but I had a chat with her recently about youth ministry and here is an extract from that conversation. I think you will enjoy getting to know her better.
Alison: In the story, Elise shares her problems with you. Do you find teens want to talk to an adult about their problems?
AMV: Kids are hungry to be able to unload their stories on people who are willing to listen. I remember in one club a student said that all day, adults were telling him what to do. But club was a space where people were asking him, “How are you feeling? “What are your thoughts on this?” He was shocked.
Alison: You were only eighteen when you started in youth ministry. After all these years, how do you stay current so kids still want to talk with you?
AMV: If you come to kids with a willingness to learn, you become relevant. Say to them, “Tell me what’s going on?” Don’t pretend you have all the answers. I find that has worked for me. “I don’t know your culture like you do. But I’m willing to see through your lens if you’re able to share that with me.”
Age is interesting. I always worried I would age out. At my application interview for seminary I said, “I always thought if I aged out of youth ministry, I’d be a chaplain.” And the professor called me out on that. You never age out because kids still need that safe place where someone is willing to listen.
Alison: The profits from this book will be used to send kids to camp. Why is this important to you?
AMV: Youth ministry is all relational. But trust can take a while to build. The beauty of camps is that you can create a bond in one week that could take two years without.
And at camp they hear the gospel presented in different ways by different speakers. Other people’s creativity and presentation may reach my students in a way that I haven’t been able to.
What saddens me is not everyone can go because camps are costly. My desire is that every student who wants to go will have the opportunity to do so.
For more of this conversation, see alisonrcheah.com
(Interview transcribed by https://otter.ai )
My prayer is that the story of Tommy, Carrie and Elise will be one of those different speakers Anna-Marie talked about, helping kids to begin their own relationship with Jesus.
Author Interview with Allison
- What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?
When I wanted a frustrated Tommy to do something defiant and dangerous because he hadn’t been able to save Carrie from being found, I had heard that some kids were experimenting with eating Tide Pods. I ran the idea past my son and Anna-Marie, the youth worker who features in the book as herself. My son said it was a college student stunt not suitable for a middle schooler, and Anna-Marie suggested instead that he should be doing parkour. I’d never heard of it before but fortunately, many experts have made videos demonstrating their skills and teaching beginners how to get started and I watched with as much awe as Tommy and his friends watched Steve.
- How do you overcome writer’s block? Do you have any advice for others in finding their process to overcome it?
I think of writing as something that I do with God, so he is the first place to go when I get stuck. But answers don’t usually come immediately so rather than cudgeling my brains, it’s better to go away and do something else, and often the answer comes when I am not thinking about it.
The other Sunday I stood outside our church sanctuary to greet people as they arrived. It was a lovely day with the sun streaming in on me from the windows at my side, but the congregants were not streaming. As I waited for them, a whole new story outline came to me.
- Do you read the genre you write? Why or why not?
I do read middle grade fiction. Although I lead a Bible Study group at church for middle schoolers, which helps me write authentically about them, my target audience is slightly younger, so I want to know what is selling for that age group.
I also write reviews of the books I read on my Facebook author page because parents can’t read everything available in the library and it can be a help to read recommendations of suitable material.
- How did you come up with the title for your book?
I am fortunate in having a friend who likes to read my writing and who doesn’t hold back on constructive criticism. The original title was Pizza Lady, because that is what Anna-Marie is often called.
“I don’t like the title,” my friend announced. She suggested If You Really Knew Me, which is the name of an exercise in the Unedited! program which is referred to in the book. In later revisions of the story, I cut out the full account of Unedited!
- What’s your favorite writing snack, drink, and/or music?
The best time for me to begin my writing day is early. Unfortunately, reading the Bible and taking my walk are competing for the same slot. However, the happy solution is to read the Bible and take a walk before breakfast. When I return from the walk, I serve out the oatmeal with raisins and cinnamon that has been simmering while I was out and brew a pot of English Breakfast tea with loose leaves. I love the sound of the tea as it pours out of the pot through the strainer and into my China cup, sitting in its saucer. The milk that I add to my tea is warm—an innovation that would undoubtedly be considered unrefined by a purist, but it keeps the tea from cooling down too fast. Tea must be hot.
“Bless this food to my use and my work in your service.”
Then with computer open before me, I start writing. And starting early in the day like this means I am likely to be more focused and productive throughout the day.
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Locks, Hooks and Books, May 14
Texas Book-aholic, May 15
Beauty in the Binding, May 16 (Author Interview)
Blogging With Carol, May 16
For Him and My Family, May 17
Inklings and notions, May 18
Blossoms and Blessings, May 19 (Author Interview)
deb’s Book Review, May 20
Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, May 21
Simple Harvest Reads, May 23 (Author Interview)
Vicarious Living , May 23
Library Lady’s Kid Lit, May 24
Guild Master, May 26 (Author Interview)
To celebrate her tour, Alison is giving away the grand prize package of a $50 Amazon gift card and a copy of the book!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.