The Breeding Tree by J. Andersen - Author Interview and Giveaway

Is the opportunity to create the next 

generation of life a dream come true 

or a deadly nightmare?



When seventeen year old Katherine Dennard is selected to become a "Creation Specialist" in Sector 4, the opportunity sounds like a dream come true. But Kate soon discovers the darker side of her profession - the disposal of fetal organs and destruction of human life. It makes sense, really. In a society where disease and malformations don t exist, human perfection demands that no genetic "mutants" be allowed to live. For Sector 4, "survival of the fittest" is not just a theory - it's The Institute's main mission. 

When Kate discovers that The Institute is using her DNA to create new life, her work gets personal. In order to save her unviable son, she'll have to trust Micah and his band of underground Natural Born Rebels. The problem is, if The Institute discovers her betrayal, the next body being disposed of could be hers.

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Interview with the author of The Breeding Tree, J. Anderson

Why did you become a writer…was it a dream of yours since you were younger or did the desire to write happen later in your life? 

I have to say “BOTH” to this. Just before my first book was published, my mom showed up at my house with one of those “what I want to be when I grow up” packets from elementary school. It was from 3rd grade. In it, I said I wanted to be famous for writing a book. I have no memory of this. When I was at camp at age 12, I remember saying I wanted to write a book by the time I was 25. But that always seemed like a pipe dream. It wasn’t until I taught middle school and was reading what the students were reading that I really became serious about writing a book. I would write during the summers and on my days off. I was older than 25, but I did get that first book out. Then came a new publisher and a new contract. Now I’m working on book 2 in THE BREEDING TREE series. It’s been contracted, and we’re in edits right now.

Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination? What was the most interesting research you had to do for your books?  

Honestly, I try to do as little research as possible, but there were a few things I researched: For both my first book, AT WHAT COST—A YA contemporary, and THE BREEDING TREE, fetal development was important, so I made sure to get the details right on that. I did some research on underground cities. That was kind of cool. But the best research was when I was trying to describe shooting a gun, but I’d never shot one. My brother took me to get the feel of it. That was pretty fun.

How do you go from an idea for a book to the birth of the story?  Is the process the same for every book you write?  How long does it take you to write a book?  

I like to think the process is the same for me, but the more I write, the more I realize each book is a little different. Sometimes I get the whole story plopped into my head at once and I just have to sort out the details. I use a triangular plot chart to give myself a one page glance at the whole story. This happened with THE BREEDING TREE. The second and third books in that series (Yes, they’re both written) needed a little more brainstorming. I did this with some friends. Just shot around ideas. Then I used the same triangular plot chart. The new story I’m working on—I’d tell you the title, but it’s changed 3 times already—has been a bugger to plan! I like to plan. I need to see where I’m going so I can figure out how to get there. But I couldn’t figure it out for this one, so I just started writing. Then I brainstormed with someone and the story took a new turn, which meant I had to toss a lot of what I had. I tried a new kind of chart to plan, which helped to get me on the right track, but still wasn’t the best. So I’ve been fleshing out this story a little at a time, then going back and planning more.

It takes me 8 months to a year to write a book, but this one that hasn’t let me plan has been a year already and it’s not done.

Are you currently working on any new book projects? 

Always. My goal is to get ahead of the publishers, or rather, stay ahead of the publishers. While I was agent searching and subsequently, when he was publisher searching, I kept writing. I have 3 unpublished stories so far.

What’s your writing schedule like?  When do you find time to write? 

This is always a tough one because I’m a stay at home mom, so finding time is like swimming through peanut butter—It might be possible, but it’s going to be hard to do. I recently discovered that writing sprints work really well for me. I can get more done in a 1 hour sprint than I can all the rest of the week. So now, I take my kiddo to a sitter once a week and head to a coffee shop to write. Then, if I don’t get any writing done any other time, I don’t worry about it b/c at least I had that sprint. I’m hoping things will open up a bit when the little one goes to Preschool in the fall.

How did you find your publisher?  What was your journey to publication like?

I queried agents … lots of them until one took me on. I knew from the start I wanted to go the traditional publishing route and even when people told me I could self-publish my stories, I refused, knowing that wasn’t for me. For some writers, it’s perfect. For me, it wasn’t. Once I had my agent, he sold my book to a small pub within 6 months and it was published in less than a year. From there we have moved to a larger publisher with this next book. As much as I would love to be one of those break out authors who hit the NYT best seller list with the first book, that’s not my story. (Pun intended.) Some of us have a different path.

How have your friends and family received your career as an author?  Are they supportive? 

My friends and family are my biggest cheerleaders, though, at the same time, I think they think it’s weird. Lol. For instance, my hub is very supportive and glad that I have an outlet for myself, especially being a stay at home mom, but I also think he doesn’t quite understand my NEED to write all the time. Unless you’re a writer too, you can’t possibly understand writers. We’re a strange bunch. I have a few friends and family members who help me brainstorm/name characters/make book trailers/take photos, so everyone has been great.

What’s the most challenging aspect of writing for you? 

POV issues; using too much passive voice and not enough active voice; trouble creating active and engaging dialogue; using too many similar words in starting sentences; or something else?        

This sounds strange, but the actual WRITING. I’m a much better re-writer and editor than I am a writer. Once I have some material to work with, I’m good, but getting those first ideas on the page is a horrific experience for me. I do tend to use the same words over and over. I work hard to vary my sentence structure, so starting sentences with different words is fine, but I’ll use something like difficult five times in one page. During the writing process, I just highlight those and move on, knowing I’ll come back to them during editing.

Author Bio

There’s not much to do growing up in a small town in Western, NY, so J. Andersen wrote stories and won high school writing contests. But in college her writing was limited to term papers. While teaching middle school she began to read young adult books and got serious about writing. She now writes full time, volunteers at the town library, helps to run a School of the Arts at her church, and sings in the church band. She enjoys good coffee—read: home roasted by her husband—crafts, baking, running a small essential oil business, and chasing after her children. You’ll rarely see J. without a book in her hands, and that’s the way she’d like to keep it. 


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Interview with Lee Strobel about God is Not Dead 2

Image from PureFlix Entertainment

Lee Strobel is a New York Times best-selling author of more than twenty books and serves as Professor of Christian Thought at Houston Baptist University. His best-known books are the “Case” series - The Case for Christ, The Case for the Resurrection, and The Case for a Creator, all of which have been made into documentaries. He also holds a Master of Studies in Law degree. With this expertise, Strobel was asked to “testify” as himself in God’s Not Dead 2.
In the movie, a teacher is about to lose her job and is even on trial for mentioning Jesus in her classroom. We're grateful to our apologetics colleague for taking the time to answer our questions about his role, and why the fictional case is a cause for real-life concern.

RC: What part did being a journalist play, if any, in your moving from atheist to Christian – were you already writing on the topic of whether the Bible and Jesus were real?
LS: I was legal editor of the Chicago Tribune and not really engaged with biblical issues until my wife became a Christian through a neighbor. The changes in my wife’s life and values are what made me begin looking into biblical issues.

RC: As an investigative journalist you probably spent some time in courtrooms. Is it plausible that such issues as the historicity of Jesus are addressed in court?
LS: In God's Not Dead 2, it becomes an issue whether Jesus really lived and what He did. Conceivably, these questions could be relevant because if He’s a historical figure, which He is, why can’t He be referenced in school like other historical figures? The name of Jesus shouldn’t be outlawed in the public square.

RC: How much of your “witness stand testimony” in the movie came from personal experience – were the “attorney” character’s questions pretty much the same you actually get out in public?
LS: With me, the questions focus in real life as to whether Jesus lived, was He executed, and did people really see Him alive afterward? These are the three main questions open to investigation and which make people question Christianity. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:17, “If Christ has not been raised your faith is futile.” So when they asked me to testify in the film the material was familiar to me, but I think actual court testimony might be a little different than portrayed.

RC: Did you and J. Warner Wallace get to chat at all about the strategy you would use in the roles you played? (see our interview with Wallace about his role.)
LS: Jim’s an old friend. I wrote the foreword to Cold Case Christianity. When I was asked to be in the film, I knew he’d been in it – I asked if it was a good idea, we discussed strategy, and I was able to write part of my script and contribute ideas with the director and writers. My part wasn’t filmed until the rest of the movie was made.

RC: What would you say to today’s journalists and blogging critics who are against the Bible as truth?
LS: I would say do what I did and do what Jim did, like so many other nonbelievers who’ve ended up coming to Christ. Investigate the Bible and see if it has historical viability and a firm underpinning of truth.
My experience is that when you apply the same tests as you would with any other historical document, the Bible emerges very well. My confidence has only increased since writing The Case for Christ – that these testimonies are true.
RC: And what would you say to critics’ claims that movies like this over-exaggerate today’s discrimination against Christianity in academia and other places?
LS: Peter Kirsanow, an attorney and a member of the United States Commission on Civil Rights, has said, “Over the last few decades there’s been a creeping erosion of religious freedom in our country.” I taught law at Roosevelt University (Chicago). The First Amendment is something I take very seriously. At the end of the film is listed the real-life cases that have happened. A case exactly like the one in God’s Not Dead 2 hasn’t happened, but is not out of the realm of possibility.

We’ve had students who weren’t allowed to use the Bible as a historic reference of Roman history, students suspended for just wearing a rosary, students being censored from mentioning Jesus in speeches, all kinds of examples of this erosion. Critics can say that case, the movie case, hasn’t happened, but we’re inching toward it in this country.

Some of our politicians say we have freedom of “worship.” Well, we can do “worship” in church…but that’s not freedom of “religion.” Freedom of religion is when we can take it out to the public square.

RC: There’s already a buzz, even within the apologetics and Christian communities, about these movies not being factual or realistic enough. It seems they’re not giving it a chance to help our case. What’s your take on this?
LS: A film is a story. Film is not often the best way to deliver apologetic material. Documentaries are designed to present it, but this is a fictional story which can only convey so much biblical truth. You can always be criticized for not doing enough or too much – I would tell these critics, go make your own movie and wrestle with how artistically you present the evidence in a compelling story! I think this movie does a good job of telling a compelling story and presenting some solid evidence. Our books are mentioned in the film, and people should use these resources.
My book The Case for Christ was over 300 pages long, but people still said “what about this, what about that?” You can never cover everything.

RC: Why do you believe religious freedom is so important?
LS: Each generation must make sure religious freedom is protected. This is going to get more serious in the schools and other issues with religious conscience. If I were teaching law today I’d be a very busy man trying to keep abreast of all the developments.
RC: What advice would you give to Christians who might experience their free speech being challenged?
LS: We’re told in scripture to be gentle and respectful, but that doesn’t rule out using legal means to enforce our rights. There are organizations that specialize in this. They will intervene so that it doesn’t even go to court. It can be resolved. Some require leverage from attorneys, often just a letter, and some will work pro bono. I encourage people to pursue these remedies.
RC: Ratio Christi believes we not only need to defend our faith, but to defend the right to defend the faith today. Would you agree, and why?
LS: I totally agree. Our right under the free exercise clause and free speech are both in the First Amendment. We should have an opportunity in the public square to express and defend our beliefs. There are people who would certainly like to close our mouths, but we must keep going.

RC: So, is God dead? Why or why not?!
LS: I’d like to actually write a book and call it “God’s Still Not Dead”!

Agreeing with Strobel about the possibilities of this fictional case becoming real is attorney Erik Stanley with Alliance Defending Freedom. See our interview with Stanley. 

Ratio Christi equips college and high school students with historical, scientific and philosophical evidence for the Christian faith. This helps them stand for the truth of Christ on campus. Our chapters hold friendly meetings where atheists, skeptics, and those of other religions can also join discussions about Christianity. Find out more at

An Interview with Teen Dynamo Sadie Robertson of 'God's Not Dead 2'

Sadie Roberts courtesy of the Billy Graham Library
Sadie Robertson plays “Marlene” in the riveting God’s Not Dead 2, opening this Friday, April 1. “Marlene” is the best friend of the main high school character, “Brooke.”

We are excited to share an interview we did with Sadie prior to the opening. But first, please make plans to see this sequel to God’s Not Dead! For that matter, if you haven’t seen the original, run to rent it … now. The first movie surprised numerous naysayers and critics by its amazing box office and rental success in 2014.

Both movies are important to audiences that value religious free speech in American society. The fictional situations are based on real-life incidents and court cases, as is illustrated by the long lists of actual lawsuits that run at the end of the films.

Robertson, 18, is a member of the Duck Dynasty family featured on the A&E TV series. But she is her own accomplished person and a young lady of prolific talents.

Robertson attends Ouachita Christian Academy in Monroe, Louisiana where she wore jersey #15 for the girls’ basketball team in her sophomore and junior year. Her team stats appear on many high school sports statistics websites. In conjunction with fashion designer Sherri Hill, she designs clothes under the label “Live Original” that encourage a stylish yet modest wardrobe for teen girls. The clothing line uses the same title as Robertson’s popular book, Live Original: How the Duck Commander Teen Keeps It Real and Stays True to Her Values (Howard Books, 2014).

She sang with country star Alison Krauss for her family's album, “Duck The Halls: A Robertson Family Christmas” (2013).

The following year she moved from singing to dancing and took Second Place with professional dance partner Mark Ballas on Season 19 of “Dancing with the Stars” despite remaining modestly costumed and insisting on dance routines that were not as “sexy” as many on the reality show.

Then came the big offer to appear in the movie God’s Not Dead 2. That’s where our interview comes in.

Q: What led to you being cast as “Brooke’s” friend “Marlene” in the movie?

A: My parents (Willie and Korie Robertson) were in the first movie, and the producers wanted to continue the legacy. They felt the character was a lot like me, and when I read the script I had no doubt about doing it.

Q: Did you create a “backstory” for your character - i.e., what motivates her and prompts her to support Brooke?

A: Yes - as Brooke’s best friend, she was the one go-to friend in high school no matter what Brooke was going through. She was there to encourage her.

Q: Did you have a chance to meet or spend time with all the actors, or the apologetics experts like J. Warner Wallace or Lee Strobel, who weren’t in your scenes?

A: No, I didn’t meet everyone – I was only on the set for three days! But I did get to be with Melissa, Jesse, and Hayley. They were all great, and it was a wonderful experience (Melissa Joan Hart as the main character “Grace,” Jesse Metcalfe as Grace’s attorney, and Hayley Orrantia as “Brooke”).

Q: What did you think of the court scenes in the movie where the witnesses were giving evidence about the truth of the Christian story?

A: Even as a lifelong Christian, I learned a lot from the movie, especially about the true origin of the phrase “separation of church and state.”

Q: Were there any discussions among the cast about how the script was a parallel to real-life occurrences in society today? 

A: Yes – we knew that at the end of the movie they were showing the cases that have happened. I didn’t realize how big the problem is!

Q: Why is it important for both Christians and non-Christians to see this movie?

A: People will be motivated. They’ll fear less, gain strength, and learn so many things like I did. I didn’t know some of these facts. If you are not a Christian – go anyway – it’s a good movie, and you’ll learn some real information from history you may not know.

Q: How can this movie help people who are struggling with expressing their faith to others?

A: The movie gives you courage to know God will take you all the way through something. I liked how Melissa (“Grace”) was praying on her bed.

Q: Have you or a friend or teacher ever experienced anything like the bias portrayed in the movie?

A: No. I went to a private school. But I have seen other kinds of punishment and ridicule, and I feel it all relates to this situation.

Q: The issue of Christians being able to voice their faith in public has become huge for your strong Christian family. When did you first feel driven to get involved?

A: It was actually before that – I was thirteen and away on a sports trip. Everyone wanted to party while being away from parents, but I never did. I made the decision not to go with the world but to go with God. I felt His presence and knew He was worth it. After that I got baptized. When you surrender and let God in, you know how good He is.

Q: Have you had a special teacher in your life who encouraged you in your faith?

A: Yes – my favorite teacher – she would ask if she could pray for us and listen to us – even in chemistry class. She led us by example and showed how important faith is.

Q: Ratio Christi teaches apologetics to Christian students so they can combine faith and reason to support their biblical worldview. Have you ever studied apologetics?

A: Our private school system used Christian books with science and history supporting the Bible.

Q: What do you think is the biggest concern on your Christian peers’ minds today?

A: Their biggest concern is what other people think about them – what are people going to say? They need to know that things will come and go but they can rely on God.

Q: You took Second Place on "Dancing with the Stars" with no dance experience! What encouraged you to go on the show?

A: Crazy! My grandma really wanted me to do it. I was scared but I learned a lot about myself and what I am able to do.

God’s Not Dead 2 is slated to open in 1,700 theaters across the U.S. If it has the impact and holding power of its predecessor, it will be circulating on movie screens for at least two months and be very much in demand once it is on video and cable. But don’t wait that long to see it! 

Photos courtesy of the Billy Graham Library
Original interview posted at Ratio Christi