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Introducing…To Be Loved! (Tell Me You Love Me Anthology, character Q&A, + fun extras!)

Buckle in for a wild ride, because I’m going to do what I’ve been wanting to for the past several months and give you all the fun story tidbits, behind-the-scenes details, and extras related to my story “To Be Loved” in Tell Me You Love Me Anthology!!! There’s also a character Q&A I was forced by the characters to write in narrative-style. Honestly, it was…way too much fun. But enough of me talking about it; do read on and enjoy!

About “To Be Loved”

A young noblewoman’s recklessness cost someone his life.

Stricken with regret and shame, Evangeline has fled her home city in disgrace, rejected both by the family she loves and even, she fears, by God. She’s desperate to start a new life all alone, separated even from Reed, the private investigator who stole her heart years ago. But he’s just as desperate not to let her face this nightmare on her own. How can his most relentless efforts ever convince her that she is still wanted?

The Fun Tidbits!

moodboards, playlists, behind-the-scenes, quotes

Graphic design by Lydia M. Jupp!

the process of writing it

When Grace first posted about this anthology and announced that submissions were open, I knew I had to enter. I’d been working on my still-current WIP Gillory for several months, and it was JUST the thing I needed to refresh my brain and fill my proverbial creative well. I immediately had bursts of too many ideas and realized with trepidation and excitement that…my problem would not be thinking of an idea, but choosing one out of the many I had! 

Now, was I confident my story would be one of The Chosen Ones™? 

*cackles as only Present Me can*

Absolutely not. Because up till that point, I’d focused only on full-length novels. Short stories scared me, because I like to ramble on and on, and mine the depths of my characters, and go into great detail. Not entirely conducive to the short story format. *dramatic sobbing* 

BUT. I knew I had to try. And I’m always usually up for a fun challenge!

So I started brainstorming vibes. (Yes, you read that correctly. XD) I never consciously realized it till now, but whenever I want to write a new story, I first pinpoint the vibe. What’s the feel of the story? What’s the aesthetic like? What am I most in the mood for right now? What would be most fun to write?

(I talk more about the other vibes I had in mind in my upcoming interview with Lucia Molano!)

What drew me most was a soft, lyrical, tender fantasy vibe, and immediately I had a snippet of dialogue jump to mind: 

“I mean it.”

Her chin quivered. “All my life I’ve wanted someone to say they loved me – and to mean it.”

That quickly expanded into a story about an impetuous (and tempestuous) yet soft-hearted noblewoman and a stoic, observant private investigator who feels more than he lets on (although I guess ‘observant’ goes without saying). A kingdom existing during treacherous times. A huge mistake that cost a life.

Which turned into To Be Loved.

By the way, there are kind of conflicting vibes that I just wanted to point out: the story is set in a sunny, grassy field with an elm tree. But the surrounding world itself is a bit more gritty than that, hence the darker fantasy aesthetic mixed with the soft, pastoral aesthetic.

the message behind the story

Sometimes, we rail against being loved. We put up walls of barbed wire around our hearts, warding off anyone who would try to get close and tear the blinders from our eyes. Because we feel, so keenly, the weight of how broken, how marred, how undeserving we are.

Sometimes, there is someone brave enough to get close. To touch the barbed wire, to cut themselves on our edges, to tear away at the walls and face us for who we are. They see us, flaws and all, say we are perfectly loved. And because all we see are the ugly scars, we think, how could that be true?

Sometimes, all we can do is choose to believe, and choose to let go of the shackles of shame, doubt, fear.

Always most breathtaking of all is how the perfect Lamb sacrificed His life for us guilty, undeserving sinners. He was broken to heal us, when there was nothing redeemable in us.

This is what it is to be loved.

I have more to share, but I don’t want this post to become even longer than the short story itself, so I’ll save some of the rest for my newsletter subscribers, and share there more about the writing process, the most challenging parts, and how it’s been a pivotal moment in my author journey, so if you want to know more about that, just make sure you’re signed up here!

fun fact!

I should’ve known Evangeline would be a common name but it fit so perfectly that I chose it anyway. I just find it hilarious that there are two other Evangelines in the anthology—although one, a side character mentioned in passing, is spelled Evangelyn! The other is a sweet older heroine, Evangeline Jones, in the story “Old Time Devotion” by Lucia Molano! Both main characters are quite unique and distinctive, though, so I doubt you’ll be getting confused between the two. 😉

(And on the 31st, I’m actually sharing an author interview with Lucia Molano, one of the lovely authors in Tell Me You Love Me, so stay tuned for that!)

Character Q&A with Reed and Evangeline!

The wonderful Katherine Perry, author of “He Wanted My Heart” in Tell Me You Love Me, interviewed my characters! She and I had so much fun swapping characters to interview, and if you want to read the answers her characters gave to my questions, then stop by Teen Writer’s Nook tomorrow, where Katherine will be participating in the author blog tour!

(And speaking of character Q&As, I also interviewed H.S. Kylian’s amazing characters from her story “For Better or for Worse,” and she’s sharing that on her blog today!)

Without further ado, enjoy!

Hello, Evangeline and Reed! I hope you are both doing well on your journey! Thank you so much for joining me today to interview you!

Evangeline beams. “Hello, Katherine! I think I’m faring quite well; thank you for asking.” She darts a nervous glance at the author. “For the time being, that is. Anyway, Reed and I look forward to answering your questions!”

Reed touches the brim of his hat. “Miss Katherine,” he says by way of greeting.

Let’s get started! Evangeline, this first question is for you. Do you prefer fancy clothing or simple clothing?

“Oooh, that’s a good question! Hmm, let me think…” Evangeline taps her chin and scrunches her eyebrows in thought. 

Reed nudges her. “Be honest, Ev.”

She laughs sheepishly. “Fine. This may not be the most modest answer, but I do have such a weakness for fancy clothing. I love dressing up in finery and putting together complementing colors and fabrics to create something beautiful. I’m afraid I used to get into trouble playing with my mother’s finery when I was little.” Evangeline’s smile turns into a pained wince. “Horrible idea, I assure you. If any lasses at home are reading this, please ask for permission before raiding your mother’s wardrobe.” 

This next question is for Reed. Reed, I thought it was so cool that you are a private investigator in your kingdom! Can you tell me why you chose to pursue this career? 

“Thank you, Miss Katherine.” He nods and smiles, then a faraway look descends over his eyes. “Well, it wasn’t something I intentionally chose. It happened quite by accident, in fact. I was nineteen and was attending court with my father, listening to an unsolved case the lords were discussing, pertaining to our nation’s security. The urgency and mystery of it intrigued me, and I researched and hounded down leads until I solved the case myself. The entire court seemed shocked when I presented what I found, and seeing the potential, my father suggested I apprentice to an investigator. But that only lasted three years, because I’d already built my own system of investigating that diverged widely from the methods my master taught me. Or maybe I was just being a bit rebellious.”

Strange coughing noises emit from Evangeline. A hand flies to her mouth, stifling it.  

Reed ignores her. “I ended my contract with him and independently became a private investigator. Several years ago, the king hired me for the first time, and since then, he’s been my most important—and demanding—client. It pays handsomely, but I can’t say it’s my dream career. My brain is often overworked and exhausted after a day’s work.” He smiles wryly.

Now, Evangeline and Reed, if you don’t mind, these next questions are for the both of you. Do either of you have siblings?

Evangeline glances at Reed, and he reads her look, speaking up to answer first. “This isn’t mentioned in the story, but I do. I have two brothers, one older and one younger.” Lines crease around his eyes as his smile grows. “Being caught in between two other boys, as you can guess, I grew up being jostled around pretty hard, so I learned to act as both the oldest and youngest in different situations.”

“I think it’s very adorable, you with your brothers,” Evangeline says, a twinkle in her eye.

Reed smirks. “Some would think otherwise.” Then his eyes search hers, gentle, questioning. “Would you like to answer the question?”

“Oh, of course. Um, I do have an elder sister. I…don’t see her much…sadly. Juliet married into a royal family, and when—”

The author gestures wildly to Reed. He picks up on the hint, and whispers something in Ev’s ear.

Her eyes widen. “Oh, right. Sorry. Sensitive information and all. I can’t disclose anything just yet. Apparently the wonderful author”—she shoots an unamused look at said author—“is planning to further ruin our lives with a sequel in which she’ll disclose more secret information.”

The author and Evangeline get into an argument about rules and happy endings and being content. Reed sits back and watches, completely unhelpfully.

Do you have any hobbies? If so, what are they and which one do you most enjoy or are most passionate about?

“This may sound strange,” Evangeline begins, “but I love anything to do with colors. I enjoy dabbling in painting, in thinking up gown designs (though I’m no expert seamstress, believe me), arranging flowers. So designing things, I suppose. I also like archery, which I originally learned as a means of self-defense and for exercise. There’s something thrilling in bending back the bowstring and watching your arrow hit the target.”

“Not strange at all,” Reed whispers in an aside to Evangeline, then clears his throat and addresses Katherine. “Now, this is much more strange than her answer, but I’ve always been a collector of sorts. Rare editions of books, especially. I also enjoy tinkering with things and inventing little gadgets—nothing jaw-dropping, of course. Science has always fascinated me, and although I read everything I can on the subject, I’ve never had an opportunity to truly pursue it the way I’d like to. One of those dreams I’m simply keeping on the shelf until the right time, you know?”

“Don’t be deceived,” Evangeline stage-whispers to Katherine. “Some of the gadgets he invents are jaw-dropping.”

“Yours was the only jaw that dropped, darling,” Reed dryly stage-whispers back.

How/when did either of you come to know God?

“Oh, such a good question, Katherine,” Evangeline says, clasping her hands. “Well, I…” She pauses a minute, her throat working. Reed asks her if she’d like him to go first. “No, it’s fine. Sorry.” She blows out a breath, collects herself. “I have grown up privileged, a noble’s daughter, you see. My life has been one of ease and comparative wealth. And yet…it hasn’t been an easy one for me. I was little when I first became aware of this gaping hole in my heart, which I thought my family and friends could fill. They couldn’t, and it’s no fault of theirs.”

A muscle flexes in Reed’s jaw, but he refrains from speaking.

“One night, I found myself alone in my bedroom, crying. I was a rather pathetic child, bursting into tears at every little thing.” She chuckled, tearfully. “Apparently I haven’t grown out of that. But, anyway, one of the new maids heard me, and she came and told me a story. But it wasn’t any legend or fairytale. She spoke of the King of heaven calling little children to him. I asked a hundred questions, and the sweet girl answered them all, and that night, I fell asleep, the hole in my heart finally filled because I had given it to Christ.”

“That’s beautiful, Ev.” Reed laces his fingers through hers. “As for my story, my parents raised me on the Scriptures and taught me to know God, and I followed along because it was the right thing to do. But around the age of eighteen, during a very difficult stage in my life, I finally realized that I needed God. That I was helpless without Him. Before then I’d only viewed Him as someone to pay my respects to, someone to worship on Sundays and then offer up a few prayers to throughout the rest of the week. But God became real to me because I couldn’t manage life without Him, and I finally let go of my pride and surrendered my life to Him.”

What is your most treasured possession and why?

Evangeline sighs, and her fingers absently stray to the leather bag her now-only belongings are in. “I was actually forced to make that decision recently. I couldn’t bring everything with me, you know. My most treasured possession would have to be a painting I made of my family when I was little. The likenesses are very rough and not well done, but…” She smiles. “It captures something so special.” 

Reed shifts, weighing his answer. “Well, as someone who has whole collections of rare books, it should be a hard question to answer. But my most treasured possession is my grandfather’s Bible, without question. It’s old and falling apart, and needs to be rebound, but it’s actually what helped lead me to Christ.”

When you were a child, what did you dream you’d grow up to be?

“Exactly a million and one things. I wanted to be a nurse for little babies, a queen, a horse racer, a clothing designer, a chef…and I recall something about a princess married to a knight in shining armor.” Evangeline shares a tender gaze with Reed. “It appears some dreams will come true, after all.”

“If your definition of knight in shining armor is a humble private investigator.” Reed winks, then loops an arm around her with a gentle smile. “Things haven’t changed much for me. I was prepared to become a scientist whose inventions would change the world. Quite ambitious, I know.”

In one sentence, how would you describe/sum up who you are?

Reed blows out a breath as Evangeline groans. Seeing as how she’s entered a universe of existential crises, Reed speaks first. “I would say I’m stoic, dedicated, a bit straight-laced, a strange mix of a rebel and a rule-follower, and devoted to God.”

Evangeline emerges from her hole of existential crises, looking like she’s lost a battle. “How did you do that, Reed? I don’t know how I can condense who I am into a sentence, but I’ll do my best, say the first things that come to mind. Here goes: I’m a hopelessly spontaneous and chaotic yet…uh…well-meaning daughter of the King who…loves to create beauty, to brighten skies…and to share the burdens of others. There, how was that? A bit rambly, perhaps?”

“You could have just said ‘the opposite of Reed’,” Reed comments.

Lastly, what style of music is popular in Thagape?

“Ah, music. Everyone loves the traditional ballads, but there is a bit of a divide between the nobles and the peasants. You see, chamber music is all the craze among nobles, but the peasants prefer their more simple music with a lute, or the fiddle for lively tune. You can dance a proper jig to that.” Though her lips are sealed, Evangeline’s glowing smile gives away the secret that she’s done just that before.

Reed says nothing either, but his eyes dance with laughter. It appears he knows the reason for Evangeline’s smile. 

That concludes this interview. Thank you again, Evangeline and Reed, for joining me today! You are both incredible characters! And readers, you can learn more about Evangeline and Reed in their story, “To Be Loved,” featured in the Tell Me You Love Me anthology!

“Thank you so much, Katherine, for your wonderful questions!” Evangeline says with a bright smile.

Reed nods. “They truly were exceptional.”

“Thank you, Katherine!” Saraina, the author, jumps in to add. “You chose the perfect questions to crack open these stubborn characters! Okay, don’t look at me like that, Reed. You know it’s true. For all your huge personality differences, you both share a middle name, and it’s ‘stubborn.’”

You can read the short prequel “A Cheap Promise” HERE!

About the Anthology

Tell Me You Love Me – a timeless collection of stories that truly understand the meaning of “I love you”

Twelve young Christian authors have come together, alongside romance novelist Grace A. Johnson and editor Issabelle Perry to show our world of depravity and cheap imitations of romance what love really means: faith, hope, and sacrifice.

These stories range from contemporary YA to historical to fantasy, and tell diverse, unique love stories that compel, captivate, and warm readers’ hearts with their sweet and authentic nature.

Featuring work from Michaela Bush, Saraina Whitney, Karynn Heckler, Margaret Copeland, Lucia Molano, Sarah Lawton, Brooklyn O’Brennan, Mackenzie Hendricks, H.S. Kylian, Lydia M. Jupp, Katherine Perry, and Amelia Cabot, the Tell Me You Love Me anthology is the collaboration of talented and inspirational young writers you’ve been waiting for!

Learn more at or on Goodreads!

Cover design by Issabelle Perry at!

Tell Me You Love Me Author Tour

Grace A. Johnson – tour kickoff – January 17th

Michaela Bush – January 18th

H.S. Kylian – January 19th

Michaela Bush – January 19th

Amelia Cabot on Of Blades and Thorns – January 20th

Issabelle Perry – January 23rd

Grace A. Johnson – January 23rd

Maggie Copeland on Of Blades and Thorns – January 24th

Sarah Lawton – January 25th

Lydia M. Jupp on Of Blades and Thorns – January 25th

Saraina Whitney – January 26th (thou art here!)

Katherine Perry – January 27th

Mackenzie Hendricks – January 30th

Lucia Molano – January 31st

Grace A. Johnson – tour ends – January 31st


The giveaway starts January 17th and ends January 31st. The winner will be announced in Grace’s post at the end of the tour. The prize is an e-copy of Tell Me You Love Me and several surprise prizes. Entrants must be eighteen years of age or have their parent’s permission to enter. 

To enter, just comment on the posts in the tour! Each comment equals an entry, though replies to other comments don’t count. Have fun, and good luck!

What do you think about this? Are you excited for Tell Me You Love Me‘s release this Valentine’s Day? (I’m listening to an audiobook of Pride and Prejudice as I’m writing this, by the way. Isn’t that so perfect? XD) What’s another question I can ask? Are you entering the giveaway? How do you relate with Reed, and in what ways are you more like Evangeline?


22 thoughts on “Introducing…To Be Loved! (Tell Me You Love Me Anthology, character Q&A, + fun extras!)

  1. Wonderful post, Saraina! Your aesthetics are *chef’s kiss* beautiful! And I also find it so funny that there are’s more than one Evangeline in the anthology – what are the chances, eh? I guess it’s just a really popular name! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. AHHH! Oohhhh! Oooooo! LOVELY! The playlist looks awesome, for one. And the reason for the story, the Q-&-A is awesome, the characters are awesome! Thanks for this inside peak into it all!!! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Saraina, don’t make me cry with your definition of love, giiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrrrrrlllllll.
    AND EHEHEEE, YOUR AESTHETIC IS AMAZING!!! And Evangeline and the fancy dresses … GIRLS NEED SOME FANCY DRESSES, MK??? Let her have ’em! Sometimes, of course. 😉
    LOL, oh, dear, you argued with Evangeline?? And Reed … Dude’s so great. XD
    All y’all must have the time of your lives LOL. ❤ Super cute.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. AWWW!!! Okay I won’t…although is that something I can decide? ;P EEEEEE THANK YOU!!!!! Lol trueee! I’ll let her have the fancy dresses then 😉 Well, the argument didn’t last that long… *sheepish smile* Ahhh, right?? (Man, I can’t take compliments for my characters, because I never feel like I made them up…they’re so real to me. 😂) It was a blast! ❤ Thank you SO much for reading, Amelia!!


  4. Aww, these two are just adorable! I love the behind the scenes and notes from the author. 🙂 Such an amazing story – and the most beautiful of themes behind it. 🙂

    I can definitely see myself wandering about in a conversation like Evangeline did. 🙂 And by the way, that name is just gorgeous. I think it’s just going around the writing circles these days because it’s so pretty!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww, thank you!!! That means so much, Vanessa!!! <333

      Ohhh, me too! Haha, her rambling is very relatable… 🤭 You're so right! I think the name is beautiful, and popular for a reason! XD


  5. OH MY, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. I loved this style of Q&A, it was brilliant and I was sucked into the world of Evangeline and Reed for a moment. ☺️ I adore them already and want (or need *cough*) to learn more about them already!! This is a great, you young Christian authors are doing an amazing thing ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you so much for doing the character interview swap with me, Saraina!!!! ❤ 😀 It was so much fun!!! I loved interviewing your characters!!!! I will most definitely read the prequel now!!!

    Also, I loved reading your fun facts, writing process, and the message behind the story!!! It was all so interesting!! (Haha, it's hilarious there are so many Evangelines in one anthology!😂) Aah, girl, I love your Pinterest board and playlist!!!! *gets super excited at the Cimorelli songs* While reading your post, I thought of the song "Perfectly Loved" by Rachael Lampa, and I think it fits your story very well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re so welcome; it was SO much!!!! <333 😊 Ahhhh I'm so glad you liked it!!! Aww, thank you!!! (Lol, yes!! 😂) AHHH you like Cimorelli too??! *cheers* YES! Haha, I can't help including a lot of their songs in all my playlists that have songs with lyrics XD Oh wow, you're right, the lyrics to "Perfectly Loved" fit my story so well! Thank you for pointing that out! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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