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Friday, December 23, 2011

The Story Behind Diamond Estates--by Nicole O'Dell

As promised last Friday, Nicole is back to tell us what inspired her to write The Diamond Estate Series. It's a great reminder of the call God has on all of us to help the hurting, as well as an example of how God can even take our sorrows and use them to bring something special to others.
Sixteen-year-old Olivia Mansfield can’t wait to escape the confines of her home, where she endures nothing but perpetual torment and abuse from her stepfather while her mother turns a blind eye. She dreams of being accepted into a prestigious music school far, far away . . .but until she graduates from high school, Olivia must make the best of her dire situation. When poor choices lead her to the brink of a complete breakdown and she finds herself dealing with the unexpected death of her best friend, Olivia comes to a crossroads. Will she find the path to ultimate hope and healing that her heart longs for? Or will the demons from Olivia’s past prove too much to bear?
Join sixteen-year-old Olivia Mansfield on her journey to hope and healing, as she struggles to pick up the pieces of her life—and faith—at Diamond Estates. October 1, 2011, Barbour Publishing. . .available in the Choose NOW Store or anywhere books are sold. 

The story behind The Diamond Estates series is a good way for me to segue’ into talking about why I started reaching out to teens. The Wishing Pearl is my story in many ways--not all, but many. When I was a young teen, like Olivia Mansfield, I started making some really bad choices in response to some things that happened to me. My life spiraled out of control, and I hit rock bottom. I got to the point where I didn’t think I’d even have a chance at getting it together unless I got out of my circumstances, so I went to live at a residential home for girls called Teen C hallenge. I lived there for about eight months, and so much of what you read about Diamond Estates is how it was for me at Teen Challenge.
Olivia’s story is not completely my own, but her life and the lives of the girls she meets at Diamond Estates (and the ones in books two, The Embittered Ruby, and three, The Shadowed Onyx) are all sort of a conglomeration of all I saw and experienced during my months of prayer, counseling, introspection, and solitude at Teen challenge. Without that opportunity, I don’t know where I’d be today, because it was during that time the Holy Spirit got ahold of my heart and set me free from many strongholds.

Our enemy is so good at telling us the lies we’re programmed to believe. He’s not going to come at every teenager the same way because that wouldn’t be effective. It’s hard to recognize his darts as lies because they’re often the things we’re most afraid we’ll see in ourselves, so when they crop up, we’re not taken by surprise.

I often get criticized, or at least questioned, about why I tackle such tough issues in The Wishing Pearl and my other books. Things like drug/alcohol use, teen sex, sexual abuse, eating disorders and even abortion. Readers and their parents wonder why I want to cover those things and whether it’s even appropriate in Christian fiction for teens. The thing is, though, that list sounds about like a normal week at an average high school. Those things all exist in the lives of our teens and/or those around them.

My passion is to help teens face the tough issues well in advance of those things actually popping up in their lives. I believe it’s far easier for teenagers to make a commitment to good decisions and prepare a response to temptation before peer pressure is staring them in the face.

In order to keep balance, I spend a lot of time in prayer and really searching my heart to make sure I’m not going there just for a sensationalistic reaction from readers. I believe that if I feel right about putting a subject or storyline in my book, and if I can defend it when asked about it, then it’s my responsibility to go there. I think that’s part of my calling. I mean, it’s tough to address the topic of making good choices if we can’t talk about what those choices will be.

It’s all about choices!

Nicole O’Dell, founder of Choose NOW Ministries is a youth culture expert, who writes and speaks to preteens, teenagers, and parents about how to prepare for life’s tough choices. She is the author of a bunch of YA books, including the popular Scenarios for Girls interactive fiction series and the upcoming Diamond Estates Series, 2011-2012. Non-fiction for teens includes Girl Talk, 2/1/12, which she wrote with her two daughters based on their popular blog column by the same name, and O’Dell’s desire to bridge the gap between parents and teens is evident in her adult non-fiction like the upcoming Hot Buttons series.

The host of Teen Talk Radio where “It’s all about choices!”, Nicole dives in on topics like peer pressure, dating, purity, drugs, alcohol, modesty, popularity, decisions about the future, and many other things that might come up along the way. Over the years, Nicole has worked as a youth director, a Bible study leader for women and teens, and a counselor at a crisis pregnancy center. She lives in Illinois with her husband, Wil and her six wonderful kids–including a set of toddler triplets.

…battling peer pressure by tackling the tough issues

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