Beyond The Smoke
Bonnie S. Calhoun 

Bonnie S. Calhoun is the Founder and Publisher of Christian Fiction Online Magazine . She is also the Owner and Director of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance which is the parent organization for the magazine.

In addition to her passion for spreading the word about Christian fiction, Bonnie is also an aspiring author of action/adventure thrillers. She is represented by Terry Burns at Hartline Literary.

Introducing Kim Ford

This month I'd like to introduce you to Kim Ford. She is one of our Christian Fiction Blog Alliance members, and a book reviewer extrordinaire!

Kim Ford

I have always felt compelled to write. I’ve journaled since I was a young girl, and have had a life-long love affair with good books. I suppose it was natural for me to major in English in college. I took a creative writing and found the delight of my heart—writing!

Throughout my junior year, I wrote what evolved into a young adult novel. I attended my first writer’s workshop under the leadership of children’s author Doris Buchanon Smith. I learned that writing was not only a passion and a gift, but also honest to goodness hard work! My last year in college was a heady whirlwind of Southern authors like Ann Rivers Siddons, Pat Conroy, Harry Crews, and Stuart Woods. I shared meals and conversations with them and paid careful attention to their every word. I came away understanding that writing must come first in your life—always at any cost.

I got married the fall after graduation and spent the next year trying to publish and rewrite my children’s novel, all the while collecting an impressive number of rejections. Then, I was focused on becoming like the Southern icons of my college years, so God didn’t have much to do with my writing at all. But the Lord showed me that my writing and love for books came from Him. Long story short, I told God that I’d never try to publish a word until I knew I could honor Him in it.

I then discovered Christian fiction. It dawned on me that I could publish stories that glorified Christ, and I didn’t have to sacrifice family or friendships to write. So I wrote the authors and told them how much I enjoyed their work and how it encouraged me in my spiritual walk as well as to continue writing. While raising a family and serving as an army wife, I read and devoured every book the Christian market produced.

Last summer the director of my local library introduced me to Jodi Cowles, who was traveling through our area, promoting her first Christian novel. Through her I discovered blogging and blog alliances. Suddenly a whole new world opened up and I could write about and share my reading experiences with the world! Since last September, I’ve projected my work of the past several years—reviewing and talking with authors—onto my blog! I share my thoughts about what I’m reading and how God is using that in my life to draw me closer to Him. I am fully convinced this is preparing me to take yet another step of faith and write the story of my heart.

On my blog I post reviews of books I read. I examine the author’s style and writing ability specifically as it relates to the Christian fiction market. I include spiritual application or criticism. Sometimes a book makes such an impact on me in its spiritual timeliness and challenges that I include a personal testimony.

I have enjoyed a front-row seat watching the growth and development of the Christian fiction market. These books have moved from a few formulaic tales to rich, vibrant stories of the Christian walk through this fallen world. Their Christian worldview offers a spiritual element lacking in other markets, thus taking the reader’s experience to an entirely new level.

When I review a book, I can have extremely different responses—extreme pleasure or extreme displeasure. In all fairness, someone reading my review who is trying to decide whether or not to purchase the book needs to know exactly what triggers my responses. Every reader brings a different perspective to the story, and I have to remember that, lest I cause someone to miss a blessing. A story that may have left me listless may lift someone else to the height of blessing.

I also feel responsible to be fair when I review areas of Scriptural accuracy or doctrine. The authors are at different ages and stages of their spiritual journey with Christ. What is presented as truth in an earlier work may mature and change as the author grows in Christ. Once again, as a reviewer, I need to be mindful of this. This is the point where author interviews come into play. When I spend time with the author, share my review, and ask a few questions, I often come away with an entirely new understanding of the “real” story behind the novel. It is an amazing process!

The book reviews on my blog are a continuation of a process I began years ago—contacting the author personally to share with them my response to their work. As a Christian I recognize God’s fingerprints upon the books that come my way, and I try very hard to respond in a way that would encourage both the author and the potential reader. With a background in writing, book reviews provide a way for me to share my two greatest passions with others: reading and writing. Reviewing books in the Christian market also allows me to share a glimpse of God’s love as well.

So, what is a book review? A review provides a window into a reader’s mind, an author’s heart and God’s miraculous gift of telling a story in a way that reflects His glory!

Kim Ford has been a resident of Alabama for more than ten years. Originally from Georgia, she holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from Brenau Women’s College. She has spent the past 9 years in sales and marketing and has been an avid reader of Christian Fiction for more than 20 years.

A mother of two teen sons and married to a technical writer and Army veteran, Kim’s life is full and blessed. She and her husband also volunteer as teachers for a resident rehab program for women with life-controlling issues. She uses her fiction to encourage the ladies she teaches.

Visit her blog at Window To My World