How did you come up with the idea for The Familiar Stranger? I was drawn into this story hook, line and sinker.

In the summer of 2006, two stories appeared in the newspaper. One was a huge, national story; the other a smaller, local-interest item. I wondered what it might look like if those two stories conceived a child. Boom! I had the entire plot for The Familiar Stranger. It will be interesting to see if readers can figure out which stories inspired the book.

Though the plot of The Familiar Stranger came from news stories, I’d been looking for a fictional vehicle to express the lessons I’d learned regarding forgiveness in my own marriage. I knew no one was interested in reading my particular story, but I still felt God had given me something to say. My husband and I worked through a major issue six years ago and found a vibrant, completely renewed marriage on the other side.

However, eight months ago, that same issue broke our bond. Now as a newly-single woman, I’m in the midst of promoting a book that touches far closer to home than I would have ever dreamed. If no one else ever reads it, I’ve been convicted and encouraged by my own words. If that isn’t a gracious God at work, I don’t know what is!
(This picture Debby De Carlo of the local paper (NewsTimes) took of all of us)

Did you come up with The Familiar Stranger title? If not, what was the working title? Is there a meaning behind the title? If so, please explain.

The Familiar Stranger—formerly known as Undiscovered—is about a couple going through a really rough patch in their marriage. When an accident incapacitates the husband, their relationship must be redefined. Which would be a lot easier to do if BIG secrets from his past didn’t raise their ugly heads. Despite the upheaval, the choices they make involving forgiveness and trust might allow a new beginning. Or … they might not.

I worked with the title of Undiscovered because I was exploring secrets, the effect of their revelation on a marriage, and how the fear of what we don’t know changes our behavior. My tagline was, “An accident that isn’t—secrets that won’t be.”

Before I had even officially signed the contract with Moody, they, in all their marketing wisdom, changed the title to The Familiar Stranger. Despite the fact that a few other, ahem …, “spicier” books had the same title, it fit the story and I was MORE than happy to accept the change. One of the best parts of editing was finding the perfect spot to insert the new title in the story.

Did you have any say in the choosing the book cover for The Familiar Stranger? It’s interesting.

Again, Moody surprised me. As a first time author, I expected no say whatsoever in the cover. The second phone call I received from Moody was the marketing director asking what images I pictured on the cover. We spent 45 minutes discussing the themes and scenes of the book. He sent me three mockups of the cover with explanations why he didn’t think they worked well. Then he sent two more that were getting close, but the team still wasn’t satisfied. Honestly, I would have been happy with any of them as it had my name on it! One of the things we were trying to do was appeal to the male audience. What would a man feel comfortable holding on a train or a bus?

When they sent the final cover, we were all overjoyed. The expression on the woman’s face, the fuzziness of the man’s … it perfectly tells the story. The colors and design clearly show its genre of contemporary fiction. Plus, I think it lends itself easily to a series of similar looking books.

What was your favorite scene to write? What was your most difficult?

I have a scene involving a Krispy Kreme donut that was particularly tantalizing to write. I laugh every time I read it. Also, I had to take a research trip to Multnomah Falls in the gorgeous Columbia Gorge. Using the beauty of that place in a scene was a lot of fun.
The most difficult?

I was in the middle of revisions when my marriage fell apart. God orchestrated it so that I was beefing up a "struggle with forgiveness" scene in those first few weeks of singleness. While aspects of that were hard to deal with, the very words I thought would help someone else ministered to me.

When do you do your best writing? What inspires you to write?

I do my best writing between midnight and 3 AM. Seriously, my brain goes into overdrive and everything seems richer and deeper when I write it then. Or I could be delirious from lack of sleep. Either way, I don’t get to do much of that nowadays since I need to be prepared to accept a substitute teaching job when they call at 5:30 AM!

My ideas come from this interesting world we live in. I think this is pretty typical of authors, but almost every day I hear or see something that has potential as a plot line. Just the other day I read about a woman who was so badly mutilated when her boyfriend killed her that the police identified the body by the serial numbers of her breast implants. That’s horribly graphic, I know, but my first thought is, “There are serial numbers inside countless women? Do they know this? What if the numbers had been switched?” Yes, it’s a sickness.

Did you always know you were going to be a writer? If not, what was the turning point for you?

Buried deep within my closet, one might find some angst-filled poetry from my teenage years and a very spooky thirteen pages of the novel I started in high school. Though I was in love with the idea of being a writer, it wasn’t until I finished college and stayed home with my first child that I actually decided to write a book. Truthfully, my mom told me we were going to write one together, and being the obedient daughter I am …

Sherrie Ashcraft and I began writing in the summer of ’99. We figured the accountability of having a co-writer would make us actually do what we’d always dreamed of but never put action to. It took a long road of learning how much we didn’t know, tons of re-writing, brooding over rejections, making connections, pitching at conferences, and directional prayer to make our writing salable.

In the summer of 2006, when Mom was busy caring for her dying mother-in-law, I got the itch to write a new story. Undiscovered was written by February 2007, edited by June, won second place in the ACFW 2008 Genesis Contemporary category, and was renamed The Familiar Stranger and contracted by Moody Publishers in October.
One decade from naïve first scribbles to debut novel!


1. If you could hang out with any two people in the history of the world alive or dead (besides Jesus), what two people would you pick and what would do?

Adam and Eve. For one thing, I wouldn’t have to worry about wearing the wrong thing. This answer is contingent on being able to travel back in time and hang out in Eden pre-fall, of course. I’d love to see how the animals were, ask what waking up and seeing a new world was like, observe love unspoiled by jealousy or lies, walk in the garden with God, … and maybe strongly suggest that they stay away from the forbidden fruit. (As if I would have more sway then God’s command!)

2. What special quality, talent or event you’ve experiences would surprise your readers? Do Tell!!

As a past Family Feud winner, I’ve rocked the game show format. I would love to get permission to upload footage of our win, but I’m thinking it might be a bit of a hassle.

Also, I’m a first-degree purple belt in Tae Kwondo. After six belts and promotions, I was only three away from black belt when I tore my ACL, landing after breaking two boards with a jumping reverse sidekick. After months and months of physical therapy and a very painful surgery, I decided purple matched my skin tones better than black.

My early-elementary school years were spent in Nigeria, West Africa while my parents were Southern Baptist missionaries. I was able to return as a newlywed in the summer of ’96 and see how people still respected and remembered my father’s work.

So … add those all up and this is what my special talent becomes: I can speak a traditional Hausa greeting before telling you, with over-the-top enthusiasm, what the most popular answer to a ridiculous question is ALL the while making threatening movements in the air. Watch out for Christina Berry, folks!

3. Name 4 of your favorite books of all time?

Peace Like a River by Lief Enger

These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner

Deception by Randy Alcorn

A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers

4. What movie most affected you as a child? Why?
I grew up in Africa, so I didn’t watch many movies at all. I remember seeing Romeo and Juliet the night I came down with Hepatitis, so never really cared to watch it again. Maybe Heidi. That was the first movie I watched where I had read the book first. I loved how the story came alive and fit what I had imagined.

5. What was the last movie you saw at the theatre? Did you like it and what snacks did you eat, if any?

Planet 51, and I enjoyed it quite a lot, though the for-adult jokes bother me more now in kids’ movies because my own children are getting to the age where they understand them. I loved the idea of turning the “alien” planet idea around on itself. What if a human were the alien? Plus, fifties music and clothes are pretty much my favorite era.

I made an unusual splurge and bought popcorn because it had been so long since I’d taken us to the show. I also ate a few random Hot Tamales that were rolling around in my coat pocket.

6. You find yourself in a life threatening situation, who would you call on to save you? You can pick anyone from books, movies, etc. the sky is the limit.

My daddy. He’s the smartest, most resourceful, loving man I know and he would find the way to save me … or give me the courage to face what was coming if death were necessary.

7. What three things would you not want to give up? Things that you look forward to each day and would not want to do without.

I am a Chapstick addict and might lose my sanity without at least one tube. The world might stop turning if I couldn’t check email. And I’m utterly spoiled by a hot, relaxing shower each day. (The people who live with me probably couldn’t do without this, either.)

8. Name three websites that you check out daily!

Hmm, I used to run through my entire blog roll everyday, but I had to give that up when I became a single mother and started working outside the home. Probably most frequented are my email sign-in page, my own blog to post/edit/respond to comments, and Facebook. Don’t I sound pretty self-absorbed!

Christina I was checking out the pictures you have on your face book and I ran across some pictures that just made me laugh. Can you explain this duck picture? It's a riot!!

Yes. Both the Duck pictures are with my high school BFF Brooke. And we're actually holding the mascot up. We were trying to get a picture of the kiss on both cheeks, and he jumped into the air and made us hold him! :)

You've got to meet some really talented authors--You did a book signing with Robin Jones Gunn and who was the other author. Forgive me I'm not familiar with her.

Yes, I have met some really special authors. The woman standing and laughing with me at the signing is the talented author Patricia Rushford. :)

I’m honored you found me deserving of your time! Come find me on Twitter or Facebook or Shoutlife or my blog ( or my website ( ) or subscribe to the infrequent, humorous newsletter for your chance to win free autographed books for life OR go buy the book. Actually, that last one would be really nice. :) Thanks, Nora and readers!


THANKS for doing this interview and letting us get to know you. I'm very excited that the ladies in my book club chose your book to read this year. I look forward to chatting with you on the phone at book club.

ALL the BEST to you Christina. I really enjoyed your book and Can't wait talk to you at book club.


Nora :D



DRAWING WILL BE FEBRUARY 20th so enter today!!

CONGRATS goes to Edwina Cowgill you've won a copy of Familiar Strangers. Thhanks to everyone that left encouraging comment for the author and me about this interview. I appreciate you doing that.

I used Random Integer Generator to pick the winner.

Blessings to you all.

Nora :D

****DISCLAIMER: Entering the give away is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws. Void where prohibited; open U.S. residents and Canadian residents only, odds of winning depend on number of entrants *****


  1. Great interview. Thanks for offering the book.

  2. Wonderful interview! I really enjoyed learning so many interesting things about Christina! How hard it would be to have to deal with a disintegrating marriage while revising a novel. The Familiar Stranger intrigues me. I'd love to win a copy. :)

    srfbluemama at gmail dot com

  3. Nora & Christina!
    Enjoyed the interview! The Familiar Stranger sounds like a great book and I would love to win a copy! I can't imagine writing about something very personal and then having to deal with that same issue while trying to finish the book. I'm intrigued to find out what 2 national news stories triggered the novel!
    Thanks for sharing the interview.
    Ann Kinamon

  4. What a great long interview. I loved all the pictures, too.
    Please enter my name in your draw. Thanks.

  5. The interview was very interesting I really enjoyed getting a peek at the life of the author.She is very open about things and that makes her more accessible to the readers.

  6. Just the outline of the book described tickles my anticipation to read it.

  7. A Family Feud winner?! How fun!! I have really been wanting to read this book. Please enter me.

    Michelle V

  8. I, too, am interested in trying to guess the news stories. The author is refreshingly real about her struggles and I'm sorry to hear what she is going through right now...I'm sure God will use her to minister to others through her books.

  9. Great interview...OK give us the info on the newspaper articles! Can't wait to read the book and would love to win it!

    Gail Mundy

  10. I have admired Christina ever since I read a short bio about her. I would be thrilled to win this book!

  11. Sounds like a great book! Please enter me in the drawing. My email address is shryackmom[@]charter[.]net

  12. I enjoyed your interview. I would like the chance to win the book. I went through a similar situation some years back as I was preparing to go to another country and minister to some churches. I would really like to read her book. I pray the Lord God will bless her life greatly. Thank you.

  13. It Was an interesting interview .

  14. FACCBOOK COMMENT 44 minutes ago 02/17/10

    Enjoyed getting to know Christina a little better through this fun interview.

    Mary Ann Hake

  15. Great interview. I think it is really neat to learn about the authors whose books I read. I am really excited abot reading this book. I would love to win it. thanks

  16. ACFW Post to loop

    This was a great book with a wonderful ending. Great job for her debut novel.


    Touching Hearts...Changing Lives
    Becoming Lucy (January 2010)

  17. Please enter me. I REALLY want to read this book! Thanks!!


  18. What an encouragement it is to read all of these wonderful comments! Thanks for taking the time to not only read the interview, but also to share your thoughts. :)

  19. Christina, ever since I first heard the plot line for this book I've wanted to read it. It sounds wonderful.

    And its cover is compelling Moody does a terrific job on covers.

    Latayne C Scott

  20. Nora & Christina:
    Great interview. Can't wait to read this one. I"m always looking for a new author and love debut books. Christina I'm reading one of your favorites, Deception, as I write this. Thanks so much for giving us an insight to your book and you.

  21. Interesting and fun interview! Thanks for taking the time to tell us about your book. I like the cover too. Congratulations!

  22. CONGRATS goes to Edwina Cowgill you've won a copy of Familiar Strangers. Thanks to everyone that left encouraging comment for the author and me about this interview. I appreciate you doing that.

    I used Random Integer Generator
    to pick the winner.

    Blessings to you all.

    Nora :D

  23. Congrats, Edwina! You should be receiving the book any day now ...

    Sheryl, are you done with Deception yet? Did you enjoy it as much as I did?

    Barbara, I still love looking at the cover! :)