A Conversation with Celeste Fletcher McHale

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Celeste Fletcher McHale. Her novel, The Secret to Hummingbird Cake (Thomas Nelson) is on the 2017 shortlist in the Debut Fiction category. Please join us in welcoming Celeste.

Today, we learn about the inspiration behind The Secret to Hummingbird Cake (it’s based on a true story!), get a glimpse of Celeste’s work space (and her cute writing companion) – plus more!

“Why won’t you just tell me what’s in that cake?” I’d been trying to get Laine’s recipe for years. We all had.

When all else fails, turn to the divine taste of hummingbird cake.

In the South you always say “yes, ma’am” and “no, ma’am.” You know everybody’s business. Football is a lifestyle not a pastime. Food—especially dessert— is almost a religious experience. And you protect your friends as fiercely as you protect your family— even if the threat is something you cannot see.

In this spot-on Southern novel brimming with wit and authenticity, you’ll laugh alongside lifelong friends, navigate the sometimes rocky path of marriage, and roll through the outrageous curveballs that life sometimes throws . . . from devastating pain to absolute joy. And if you’re lucky, you just may discover the secret to hummingbird cake along the way. – Goodreads

Author Interview with Celeste Fletcher McHale

INSPYs: What inspired The Secret to Hummingbird CakeThe Secret to Hummingbird Cake is a true story. I moved the actual time line around a little when I was writing it, but it is the story of me and my two best friends and an 18 month period in our lives.

Because it is a true story, I didn’t want to sugar coat the situations or the language in the book. I didn’t feel like whitewashing the truth would do me or anyone reading it any good. Some folks always follow the right path and that’s great. But some of us veer to the left or the right and others can sort of make us feel like we aren’t worthy of the love of God because of it. Nothing could be further from the truth. I wanted this book to send that message loud and clear. It isn’t God that moved away from us, it’s us that moved away from God and he will always accept us just like we are… even if some people don’t.

Celeste says of her work space, “It’s wherever I feel comfortable that day, but little Viloula is always by my side.”

What were some of the things that surprised you about the publishing process? I think what surprised me the most about the publishing process is how long it is between “the end” and release day. I have zero patience and it felt like I was five years old again waiting for Santa Claus.
Just for fun Questions:

1. What are you Watching? I generally turn my TV on the SEC channel and leave it there all day. I mostly watch sports and I don’t care what it is. If they are keeping score, I’ll watch it. LOL. I DO watch The Voice and the sitcom, Mom.

2. What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? My Sports Illustrated magazine comes on Thursday. I read it from cover to cover and then I’m done for the week. I honestly have very little time to read. I live on a working ranch and something ALWAYS needs attention. I use the time I would have to read…to write.

Face off Questions:

Print or Ebook? I want to hold my books. I don’t like a kindle.

Dark or Milk Chocolate? I’m not much of a chocolate fan, but if my mama puts a pan of biscuits on the table, y’all better get one before I see them ’cause I can eat half the pan. That’s why I have to run every morning. Hahaha.

Call or text? Definitely text!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Celeste Fletcher McHale lives on her family farm in Central Louisiana where she enjoys raising a variety of animals. Her hobbies include writing, football, baseball, and spending much time with her grandchildren. Website: fletchermchale.wordpress.com Facebook: FletcherMcHale Twitter: @FletcherMcHale


Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs.com blog today, Celeste. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight The Secret to Hummingbird Cake.

A Conversation with Melissa Jagears

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Melissa Jagears. Her novel, A Heart Most Certain (Bethany House) is on the 2017 shortlist in the Historical Romance category. Please join us in welcoming Melissa.

Today, we read about the inspiration for A Heart Most Certain learn about her nightstand reading and where she does most of her brainstorming – plus more!Melissa Jagears INSPYs

A Fresh Voice in Historical Romance!

Lydia King knows what it’s like to be in need, so when she joins the Teaville Moral Society, she genuinely hopes to help the town’s poor. But with her father’s debts increasing by the day and her mother growing sicker by the week, she wonders how long it will be until she ends up in the poor house herself. Her best chance at a financially secure future is to impress the politician courting her, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that the moral society’s president is her suitor’s mother. Her first task as a moral society member—to obtain a donation from Nicholas Lowe, the wealthiest man in town—should be easy . . . except he flat-out refuses.

Despite appearances, Nicholas wants to help others but prefers to do it his own way, keeping his charity private. When Lydia proves persistent, they agree to a bargain, though Nicholas has a few surprises up his sleeve. Neither foresee the harrowing complications that will arise from working together. When town secrets are brought to light, this unlikely pair must decide where their beliefs—and hearts—truly align. – Goodreads

Author Interview with Melissa Jagears

INSPYs: What inspired you to write, A Heart Most CertainI started brainstorming this book back in 2012 when I was not published. I lived near Coffeyville, KS which has this wonderful mansion residing where you would least expect one. Every time I passed it, I thought a mansion in the middle of nowhere would be a great setting for a story. But the mansion only belonged to one family, so I couldn’t use its actual history for a romance. Another time I was driving by, I was pondering how a lot of fairy tale retellings were getting published. (I do a lot of brainstorming in the car!) And while passing the mansion, I was trying to come up with fairy tale/classic stories that hadn’t been done in a Christian novel retelling and thought up Scrooge and Aladdin. Then I wondered if I could combine the two. That’s where it started. How to put Scrooge and Aladdin in a middle-of-nowhere Kansas mansion. The pictures on the series covers are of the actual Brown Mansion which is my Lowe Mansion’s inspiration.

What are some of the challenges/benefits of incorporating faith in your stories? I love theology. I’d go to seminary just for fun if I didn’t have to pay for it. I love reading pages upon pages of theology discussion, BUT not in my fiction. Back in the old days where Christian fiction would plop in an entire sermon delivered from a pulpit? Yeah, I’d skip right over those to get back to the story. So there’s the challenge for me not to go too gung-ho on the theology discussions when they happen in my stories because it’s just so fun to discuss, but I know when reading fiction that’s not what I’m looking for and I don’t want to write anything I myself would skip!

As for the benefit, I mentioned I wrote this book in 2012. When I started editing it again in 2015 for Bethany House, one of the Biblical messages in the book spoke straight to me. God used a book I’d written years before to help myself years later. I think addressing the spiritual in stories make them timely no matter when it’s read.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

1. What are you watching? Sorry I’m not that fun, I don’t have a television and the only movies I overhear are geared to preschoolers. I do watch youtube videos sometimes…..

2. What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? Last book I read was Love’s Winter Hope by Naomi Rawlings, and I’ve been itching to read The Lady and the Lionheart by Bischof.

Face-off Questions

1. Print or Ebook? I like both. They each have pros and cons, but if I had to choose one, I’d choose print because if there’s an end-of-the-world Apocalypse coming, I could read without electricity.

2. Dark Chocolate or Milk Chocolate? Milk Chocolate

3. Coffee or Tea? Neither, but if it were a life and death situation where I was forced to drink one, I’d choose tea. I’ve actually lived through an entire cup of tea, but I can’t make it past a sip of coffee.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carol Award-winning author Melissa Jagears is a homeschooling mom who writes Christian historical romance into the wee hours of the night. She’s the author of the Unexpected Brides series and Love by the Letter, a free prequel ebook novella. You can learn more about Melissa, her books, and where she hangs out online at www.melissajagears.com.


Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs.com blog today, Melissa. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight A Heart Most Certain.

Judging Applications for the 2017 INSPY Awards are Now Open!

Not only are we turning the page on a new month – happy March 1st! – we’re thrilled to announce the 2017 INSPYs judging applications are now open. Bloggers, you can now apply to be a 2017 judge! We’re so excited you share an interest in the Inspy’s with us. Without you, this program wouldn’t work and we value your time, enthusiasm, individual perspective and dedication to these awards for the month-and-a-half you will be reading and critiquing the shortlisted novels with fellow judges. Before applying, we do ask that you carefully consider what is involved in judging and understand what you are agreeing to.

We have some upfront simple criteria that must be met:

• You must be a blogger.
• You must provide a link to a recent book review you’ve written.
• You must agree to our statement of faith. We are looking for judges who are people of the Christian faith.
• You must be willing to obtain all of the books if necessary.
• You must agree to read all five shortlisted books by June 14 and participate in an online discussion with the other judges to determine the winner.
• You agree not to blog/tweet/Facebook about the shortlisted books as you are reading them or discussing them. After the winners are announced, you are welcome to blog about them.

The judging for the INSPYs takes place in two stages.

First Stage Once the period for book nominations has closed, the INSPYs Advisory Board will review the nominations and create a shortlist for each category of five books each.  This will be a collaborative process and every effort will be made to read at least a sampling of every book nominated.

Second Stage The shortlists will then be passed onto the preselected judges.  All judges must be bloggers with some book reviewing experience.  These judges will consider the books and select the winner.

For more information on who and what we will be looking for in a judge and the application form, please visit our 2017 application page to apply.

We are so excited to find a fabulous panel of judges and look forward to working with you!

We will accept applications (via the application form) through March 31, 2017. Judges will be announced April 15, 2017 (and shortlists will be announced April 30).

Presenting the 2017 INSPY Longlists

Hello fellow readers, blogger and authors. Before we announce the 2017 longlists, we first want to recap our year so far. First we welcomed our newest board member, Kara and then announced the inclusion of INDIE novels to our nomination process. Like last year, the following nomination process applied to each of our seven categories.

To help simplify our nomination process, we made some adjustments to our awards program. To that end, instead of publicizing our long list of nominations as they poured in, the Advisory Board kept the list private since the method of nomination involved a process of popular vote. The number of books that received the most nominations (the top 15 from each category) came out as the winners, which then determined the long lists.

Due to insufficient nominations or ineligibility, some categories fall short of the requisite 15 novels.

From the lists below, the Advisory Board will be narrowing these respective lists down to five books per category which will become our 2017 short lists. From there, the same judging process and practices will follow.

Grab your favorite beverage, and enjoy browsing through the books that YOU nominated, propelling them into “phase two.”

Contemporary Romance / Romantic Suspense

A Twist of Faith (Firefly Southern Fiction) by Pepper Basham

Silence in the Dark (Revell) by Patricia Bradley

Step by Step (Tyndale) by Candace Calvert

The Wedding Shop (Zondervan) by Rachel Hauck

Just a Kiss (Thomas Nelson) by Denise Hunter

Can’t Help Falling (Howard Books) by Kara Isaac

Tell me Lies (Brown Girls Faith) by Michelle Lindo-Rice

First Crush (Bling! Romance) by Ashley Elizabeth Ludwig

Finders Keepers (Radiant Publications) by Sarah Monzon

How to Charm a Beekeeper’s Heart (White Rose Publishing) by Candice Sue Patterson

Christmas Conspiracy (Love Inspired) by Susan Sleeman

The Heart’s Hostage (Sheaf House Publishers) by Jen Stephens

Like Never Before (Bethany House) by Melissa Tagg

Her One and Only (Bethany House) by Becky Wade

You’re the One that I Want (Tyndale) by Susan May Warren

Debut Novel

Forgiven (Cerrillo Press) by Carol Ashby

Counted with the Stars (Bethany House) by Connilyn Cossette

Slender Reeds: Jochebed’s Hope (Shiloh Run Press) by Texie Susan Gregory

The Lost Generation (Elk Lake Publishing) by Erica Marie Hogan

Close to You (Howard Books) by Kara Isaac

The Secret to Hummingbird Cake (Thomas Nelson) by Celeste Fletcher McHale

The Undoing of Saint Silvanus (Tyndale) by Beth Moore

Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations (WhiteFire) by V. Joy Palmer

Leaving Independence (Waterfall Press) by Leanne W. Smith

General Fiction

Land of Silence (Tyndale) by Tessa Afshar

Weighed Down (Elk Lake Publishing) by Laurie Bolden

The Feathered Bone (Thomas Nelson) by Julie Cantrell

Twilight at Blueberry Barrens (Thomas Nelson) by Colleen Coble

The Promise of Jesse Woods (Tyndale) by Chris Fabry

Forest Child (Woodhaven Press) by Heather Day Gilbert

Long Way Gone (Thomas Nelson) by Charles Martin

The Secret to Hummingbird Cake (Thomas Nelson) by Celeste Fletcher McHale

The Alliance (Tyndale) by Jolina Petersheim

Of Stillness and Storm (Thomas Nelson) by Michèle Phoenix

Nor Forsake (Presley Publishing) by Julie Presley

A Portrait of Emily Price (Thomas Nelson) by Katherine Reay

Song of Silence (Abingdon Press) by Cynthia Ruchti

Lead Me Home (Tyndale) by Amy K. Sorrells

The Things We Knew (Thomas Nelson) by Catherine West

Historical Romance

The Thorn Healer (Vinspire Publishing) by Pepper D. Basham

The Thorn Keeper (Vinspire Publishing) by Pepper D. Basham

A Flight of Arrows (WaterBrook) by Lori Benton

The Lady and the Lionheart (Mason Jar Books) by Joanne Bischof

The Ringmaster’s Wife (Thomas Nelson) by Kristy Cambron

The Cautious Maiden (Whitaker House) by Dawn Crandall

The Captive Heart (Shiloh Run Press) by Michelle Griep

Newton and Polly (WaterBrook) by Jody Hedlund

An Elegant Facade (Bethany House) by Kristi Ann Hunter

A Heart Most Certain (Bethany House) by Melissa Jaegers

– Aboard Providence (CrossRiver Media) by Keely Brooke Keith

The Sound of Emeralds (WhiteFire) by Rachelle Rea

She Walks in Power (Ransom Press) by MaryLu Tyndall

A Lady Unrivaled (Bethany House) by Roseanna M. White

The Confessions of X (Thomas Nelson) by Suzanne M. Wolfe

Literature for Young Adults

Unblemished (Thomas Nelson) by Sara Ella

The Beautiful Pretender (Thomas Nelson) by Melanie Dickerson

The Silent Songbird (Thomas Nelson) by Melanie Dickerson

A Daring Sacrifice (Zondervan) by Jody Hedlund

I’ll Be Yours (Sweet Pea Productions) by Jenny B. Jones

Forever Doon (Blink) by Lorie Langdon and Carey Corp

Gilt Hollow (Blink) by Lorie Langdon

The Glass Castle (Shiloh Run Press) by Trisha White Priebe

One Paris Summer (Blink) by Denise Grover Swank

Siren’s Song (Thomas Nelson) by Mary Weber

Mystery/Thriller

If I Run (Zondervan) by Terri Blackstock

The Domino Effect (Bethany House) by Davis Bunn

Deep Shadows (Harvest House) by Vanetta Chapman

Dressed for Death (Bethany House) by Julianna Deering

Always Watching (Revell) by Lynette Eason

The Waves Break Gray (Running Girl Prodcutions) by Sibella Giorello

Tangled Webs (Revell) by Irene Hannon

Missing (Revell) by Lisa Harris

Conspiracy of Silence (Bethany House) by Ronie Kendig

The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder (Harvest House) by Rachel McMillan

A Lesson in Love and Murder (Harvest House) by Rachel McMillan

Fatal Frost (Bethany House) by Nancy Mehl

When Death Draws Near (Thomas Nelson) by Carrie Stuart Parks

Cold Shot (Bethany House) by Dani Pettrey

The Progeny (Howard Books) by Tosca Lee

Speculative Fiction

Seasons of Glory (Blink) by Lisa T. Bergren

Light of the Last (Multnomah) by Chuck Black

The Shattered Vigil (Bethany House) by Patrick W. Carr

The Calling (Tyndale) by Rachelle Decker

Accelerant (Enclave) by Ronie Kendig

Merchant of Alyss (Revell) by Thomas Locke

Rebirth (Love2ReadLove2Write Publishing) by Amy Brock McNew

The Long Journey to Jake Palmer (Thomas Nelson) by James L. Rubart

Beast (Enclave) by Chawna Schroeder

A Branch of Silver, A Branch of Gold (Rooglewood Press) by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Far and Near (David C. Cook) by Amanda G. Stevens

King’s Folly (Bethany House) by Jill Williamson


We’d like to congratulate all of the nominated authors and thank all of the bloggers and readers who put forth their favorite reads of 2016.

We’re ready to get to work and find the top five in each of these categories.

Year Seven! INSPYs 2017 Nominations are Now Open

inspys-com-winter-nomination-featureHello, INSPY readers. The advisory board is excited to open year seven of the INSPY Awards, a program for the bloggers’ “best in fiction” award is welcoming a new year and opening the nominations for 2017.

The Inspys were created to select and showcase books with the highest literary standards that grapple with the Christian faith and were designed to help readers in their search for the preeminent faith-inspired literature of today.  This program is organized and judged by book bloggers who have considerable experience and knowledge of books published for both the CBA, general and INDIE markets.

If you haven’t nominated a book in the past year, please note, we’ve made a significant change to our nomination process. For you, the nominator, the rules remain the same, only difference you’ll note is the lack of a publicized long list. This is because the advisory board will be collecting our long list from the top 15 nominated novels in each category. So, even if you know someone else has nominated your favorite read of 2016 or you’re certain it’s already been nominated, go ahead and add your voice because that nomination could be the 15th vote that gets the book into the top fifteen.

Once the task of the top 15 is calculated and complete, we will publicize our long list, which will be then narrowed down to five books and from there, the same judging process will apply. For more information on the changes, please refer to our announcement post.

Please read through our Nominating Refresher post, and the nomination rules before nominating.

The dates of eligibility include books published in print between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2016. If a print book was released as an ebook prior to 2016, it is ineligible.

Books may be nominated in any of the following categories:

Debut Novel

General Fiction

Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense

Historical Romance

Speculative Fiction

Mystery & Thriller

Literature for Young Adults

For more detailed description of categories please see the Revised Nomination Categories. If you’d like to read more about the nominating process, read our blog post with some tips on nominating the right books in their best categories. Pull out those lists and let’s begin!

The deadline to nominate a book is January 16. Winners of the seventh annual INSPY awards will be announced June 28, 2017.

To stay up to date with all things INSPYs follow along with us on Twitter | Facebook | Google+ | Goodreads

Or email us with any questions: inspyawards@gmail.com

We look forward to your nominations. Besides nominating the best in faith-driven literature, another way to help today is to spread the word — blog about the INSPYs, tell your friends.inspy nominations

 

INSPYs 2017 | Nominating Changes and Reminders

INSPYs 2017 Nomination ChangesGood afternoon, readers. Today we have an amendment to our nomination process to announce and some helpful reminders to reiterate.

Earlier this month, we announced one of the changes to our Advisory Board. We said goodbye to a longtime board member, Stacy Millican and welcomed new member, Kara Boone. You can read more about this in our official statement.

Today we’re addressing new nomination changes. This year we are integrating Indie novels into our nomination process. We’re excited to open our nominations to the talented publishing world of independent novels, which has experienced rapid growth. Same as with all of our categories and nominations, there are some rules we ask nominators to apply to their nominations.

Rules Specific to INDIE Novels:

+ In order to be eligible for nomination, an INDIE novel must have a minimum 50 reviews on Goodreads.

+ INDIE books must have a four-star rating average on Goodreads.

+ The popular vote rule still applies; the top 15 novels from each category will constitute our longlists.

As an overview reminder, here is our book criteria (which applies to ALL nominations).

-The book must have been published in print in the United States between January 1st, 2016 and December 31st, 2016. Print books that were first released as eBooks prior to 2016 are ineligible.

-Reissues and eBooks are not eligible.

-The book must possess exceptional literary qualities including but not limited to: innovative, original writing, and depth of characterization.

-The book must respectfully grapple with some element of the Christian faith.

-The book must not have excessive profanity or explicit sex scenes.

Our categories are as follows:

Debut Novel: A debut novel (by a debut author) from any of the categories that is of exemplary literary quality. Unlike other categories, debut novels will be judged by the Advisory Board. Debut novels may also be nominated in their respective categories.

General Fiction: Realistic stories set in historical or contemporary settings that do not have plots with a central romance. This category may include literary and women’s fiction.

Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense: The romance category encompasses all romantic contemporary and suspense subgenres, with the exception of speculative romance. In order to be classified as a contemporary romance, the novel must be set in 1960 to the present. The plot must have a central love story that commonly ends in a happily ever after.

Historical Romance: Any novel set prior to 1960 that includes a plot with a central love story usually ending in a happily ever after. May include elements of suspense and includes all subgenres, such as biblical fiction.

Speculative Fiction: A story with fantastical elements (this includes science fiction, fantasy, supernatural fiction, superhero fiction, utopian and dystopian fiction, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, magical mysticism and alternate history). Middle grade and up.

Mystery & Thriller: Fast paced, action driven stories or mysteries, usually with a clearly defined hero against an evil villain. Includes cozy mysteries, police procedurals, legal thrillers, detective stories, gothic mysteries, historical mysteries, espionage, suspense, crime fiction, psychological thrillers, medical thrillers, and political thrillers.

Literature for Young Adults: Fiction books of any genre, with the exception of speculative fiction, written with a target audience of 13- to 19-year-olds.

You may nominate an Indie novel in any of the seven categories listed above. We ask that you please make note of the following criteria before nominating.

Below are a few reminders and refreshers which apply to ALL nominations. Please read through them carefully before you nominate your favorite books on December 27th.

+ When nominating a Debut Novel, please remember, this category is set aside for first-time authors. You can discover an author’s first publication by visiting their respective website or Goodreads page.

+ We reserve the right to move a book to a different category if we deem its nomination is in an inappropriate category.

+ Every nominator is allowed only one book per category.

+ Same as with INDIE novels, the popular vote rule is still in effect no matter the book; the top 15 novels from each category will constitute our longlists.

Nominations open December 27th. We look forward to discovering the books you loved in 2016.

INSPYs 2017 | Advisory Board Changes

INSPYs.com 2017
2017 begins the seventh year for the INSPYs Awards. Seven years ago, this journey began with a group of talented bloggers who led the way for so many of us in this blogging community.

As we roll towards December, the 2017 awards are entering a new season. This means changes accompany the start of a new year. One of these changes is bittersweet.

It’s with a sense of regret and gratefulness we adjust to saying goodbye to one of our veteran board members. The Advisory Board loses a champion in Stacy Millican. We graciously thank Stacy for her years of service and enthusiastic insight, and most of all, for sharing these talents with us. We wish her all the best as she focuses on personal commitments and pursues other projects.

On the heels of this goodbye, we are pleased to welcome new board member, Kara Boone. Kara has been a tireless champion of authors, fiction and book blogging since 2012. Her blog, Flowers of Quiet Happiness, is a testament to her vibrant personality and love of this community. We welcome Kara with excitement, and look forward to the perspective and valuable wisdom she will bring to the Advisory Board.

You can read more about Kara on our Advisory Board page. Please join us in welcoming her.

We will also be making nomination changes. An official announcement will be made in the coming weeks.

2016 INSPY Award Winners

INSPYs 2016-INSPY Winners Feature

Following careful consideration, our incredible judging panels chose the 2016 INSPYs award winners in our seven respective categories. Following months of reading (by the Advisory Board and later, our judging panels), planning, author interviews and emails in access, the INSPYs Advisory Board is pleased to announce the 2016 INSPY Award Winners.

Below are the seven winning novels in their respective categories and a statement from our judges on the reason why they felt it was worth the award…


CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE / ROMANTIC SUSPENSEBook - The Dandelion Field

The Dandelion Field by Kathryn Springer: In a category full of wonderful contemporary romances, we had a tough choice to make! Ultimately though, The Dandelion Field by Kathryn Springer stood out from the rest with its character growth and true-to-life issues as well as the author’s expressive way with words. Each character in the story was intriguing – from Gin and her daughter Raine, to firefighter Dan and Raine’s boyfriend Cody, to Dan’s big crazy family, Cody’s mom Evie, and even Gin’s coworkers. The romance between Dan and Gin was sweet and built slowly (but not too slowly), and the obstacles between them felt genuine, rather than just thrown in to create conflict. The relationship between Cody and Raine also felt real and sincere. Throughout this novel, Springer deftly dealt with true-to-life issues like single parenthood, teen pregnancy, poverty, and judgment within the church, showing how God can work through the hard things in life to bring healing and beauty. Really, that “realness” is what makes The Dandelion Field a perfect expression of the Inspy Awards’ mission statement, and it’s why we chose it for the 2016 award for Contemporary Romance.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH KATHRYN SPRINGER

DEBUT FICTION

JadedJaded by Varina Denman: Representing the best in debut fiction, Varina Denman’s Jaded is a complex contemporary novel that goes against the security most in its genre exhibit. The faith issues it wrestles with, the efficient snapshot of small-town living, and the quiet yet meaningful prose collide to create a story with depth. The romance is refreshing, not because of the opposition it presents, but because of the characters. Its heroine, Ruthie is a beautifully flawed and relatable character, whose fall from grace makes the lessons of forgiveness impacting, a theme that will stay with the reader long after the final page.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH VARINA DENMAN

GENERAL FICTION

Book - Secrets She KeptOur panel chose Secrets She Kept as winner of the General Fiction INSPY award for its deep emotional impact and for the subtly powerful way its theme of forgiveness is threaded into the story. We loved the way the dual timelines interwove and built on each other as secrets from the past were gradually revealed to modern day characters and to readers. Gohlke’s vivid storytelling and close attention to historical detail immersed us in the historical time period with Lieselotte, even as we discovered with Hannah just how profound an impact the past can have on the present. We found the lead characters endearing, and gladly cheered them on – Hannah toward self-discovery and a better understanding of her mother, and Lieselotte in her perseverance in following her conscience despite danger, betrayal, and hardship. The story as a whole impressed us all, and we are delighted to give the INSPY to this title.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH CATHY GOHLKE

HISTORICAL ROMANCE

Through-Waters-DeepThrough Waters Deep by Sarah Sundin: Through Waters Deep was an inspiring story about two individuals who learn that they’re stronger together while trusting in God than they are going it alone. Loveable characters, some suspense and danger, an historical setting the comes alive, sweet inspirational moments, and a romance that builds from friendship, all combine to make a masterly woven story that is engaging from beginning to end. Perfect for Historical Christian Romance readers!Book - An Uncertain Choice

AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH SARAH SUNDIN

LITERATURE FOR YOUNG ADULTS

An Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund: An Uncertain Choice stands out with a breathlessly tangible medieval setting, vividly described characters that are constructed in such a way that invites readers to know them better with every page. The writing, the characters, and the romance; every nook and cranny of An Uncertain Choice was flawless! Every page is a masterpiece of relatable storytelling as expressed through its impactful POV. Beyond its beautiful prose, An Uncertain Choice boasts a delicious romance, with three dreamy and chivalrous knights (!).The novel has everything and more any reader could want in the YA historical, or any fictional world, genre!

Book - The Bones will SpeakMYSTERY / THRILLER

The Bones Will Speak by Carrie Stuart Parks: We chose The Bones Will Speak because it draws readers in from the very beginning. Opening a suspense novel should involve a riveting and twisting plot that will hold reader’s attention until the final page. The Bones Will Speak provided just that. Its suspense is top notch, but the main character Gwen Marcey is what keeps us flipping the pages. The nail-biting suspense keeps readers engaged and the shroud of mystery surrounding the real culprit keeps the whodunit a guessing game. Fine writing, complex characterization and a great story make this book a winner.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH CARRIE STUART PARKS

SPECULATIVE FICTION

9780764213465The Shock of Night by Patrick Carr: This novel seamlessly combined the best of fantasy and mystery to create a unique story all its own. The complex tale described a world very much like our own: a nation grown complacent in its undeserved blessings, flawed characters who sometimes failed despite their good intentions, and yet, also, the redemptive work of God through his servants. The protagonist is a man mired by doubts and fears but unbroken by the darkness around and within him. Instead, he pours his heart out in honest, broken prayer, and takes the example of his Lord to heart by striving against the odds to bring good into a world that often does not recognize it. Engulfing twists, delightful wit, and authentic discussions of tough moral quandaries make The Shock of the Night a book not to be missed.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH PATRICK W. CARR


We’d like to thank our judges for their hard work and careful consideration of each title.

Congratulations to the winners and all the nominated authors! 

A Conversation with Zachary Bartels

INSPYs 2016-Zachary Bartels Feature

Our second interview today welcomes author, Zachary Bartels. Zachary has been shortlisted in previous INSPY awards and this year, his novel The Last Con (Thomas Nelson) is on the 2016 shortlist in the Mystery/Thriller category.

Today, Zachary shares inspiration for The Last Con as well as the most challenging factor of writing in the mystery genre. (Can you believe tomorrow we announce the 2016 winners!?)


Former con man Fletcher Doyle is finally home after six years in the pen. He’s working a menial job, regaining his bearings in the world, and trying to revive his relationships with his wife and Book - The Last Contwelve-year-old daughter. No easy feat.

But when Fletcher and his family go on a mission trip to Detroit—in the company of the condescending church leader who also happens to be his landlord—Fletcher finds his old life waiting for him. Within hours of arriving in the city, he’s been blackmailed into doing a job for a mysterious criminal who calls himself The Alchemist.

A series of relics hidden by the Knights of Malta, as ancient as they are priceless, are in the sights of The Alchemist. What he needs is a gifted grifter with a background in ecclesiastical history . . . what he needs is Fletcher Doyle.

Between hiding his reawakened criminal life from his wife and trying to hide her from their relentless landlord, Fletcher is ready to give up. But when his family is drawn into the dangerous world he can’t shake, Fletcher is forced to rely on his years in the game to save the only people who mean more to him than the biggest con in history. – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads


AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH ZACHARY BARTELS

INSPYs: What inspired The Last Con?

I’ve always been interested in con men and grifters as long as I can remember. Books like Catch Me If You Can, TV shows like White Collar, and movies like The Sting and Oceans Eleven have always entertained the heck out of me and maybe ten years ago, I started reading about the real grifters of the 1920s and ’30s, who really lived these lives that sound cartoonish on one level, but were really an empty veneer of deception covering over something so complex. Fascinating stuff!

The kernel of the story that became The Last Con came from a jail visit I made about a dozen years ago. Having done some prison ministry, I was used to being frisked, grilled, marched through metal detectors, etc. But once I presented my ordination certificate at the jail and got on the chaplain’s approved list to visit inmates, I was allowed to waltz right in and out without any of that. It got me thinking, what if there was a guy who used this loophole to run a business, smuggling items and information in and out of the jail? That role became the character Dante. From there, the rest of the crew sort of filled in themselves: Fletcher the brains, Happy the techie, Andrew the mentor, Marcus the muscle, and Meg who was just caught in the middle of it all.

With Playing Saint, I had woven in the characters from a screenplay I’d written, called The Jesuits. They were these Vatican agents operating in the shadows, searching for a hidden church relic. The publisher wanted a similar conspiracy/relic/secret society element for this book and I had been reading a lot about the Knights of Malta, so I decided to try bringing them together. Honestly, I can’t believe how easily and tightly these different elements all came together into one story, spanning centuries and continents, and yet the entire modern day story line taking place in Detroit over the course of four days.

Zachary's Study at his church, Judson Baptist Church.

Zachary’s Study at his church, Judson Baptist Church.

INSPYs: What are some of the challenges/benefits of writing suspense?

One of the greatest challenges of writing suspense, for me, is that I love reading stories that take their time developing characters and slowly-but-relentlessly unfold the conflict. With suspense, however, readers (or at least editors) expect more or less nonstop tension, nail-biting, and edge-of-the-seat sitting from the get-go. I have to force myself to write that way to meet the expectations of  the market. At the end of the day, however, it  works, so I’m not complaining.

As far as benefits, my favorite thing about writing suspense is to hear from readers that they were up till 2 AM reading, unable to put the book down because they had to know what happened next and how the story resolved. It’s humbling, but also the opposite of the humbling to be able to have that kind of an effect on someone, using only a story. Maybe because of this total buy-in from the reader, I find that suspense is also a great vehicle for introducing spiritual themes for readers to wrestle with.

Zachary's office coffee bar - a writer has to stay caffeinated!

Zachary’s office coffee bar – a writer has to stay caffeinated!

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

+ What Are You Listening? Andy Mineo’s “Uncomfortable” album, The Moth Radio Hour, ’90s Alternative Pandora station, and the Happy Rant Podcast.

+What are you watching right now? Rehab Addict, Better Call Saul, Voltron: Legendary Defender (with my son), New Girl (with my wife), Turn, Brooklyn Nine Nine, and binge-watching Grounded for Life on Netflix.

+ What are you reading? Tesla: Inventor of the Electric Age by W. Bernard Carlson, Unashamed by Lecrae Moore, Broken: Seven ‘Christian’ Rules Every Christian Should Break by Jonathan Fisk, and With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray.


Thank you so much for joining our author interview series, Zachary. It was a pleasure to learn more about the inspiration of your novel (all great inspirations!), and to read about the challenges of writing in this genre.

ABOUT THE AUTHORZachary Bartels

Called “the suspense author everyone is talking about” by Family Fiction Edge magazine, Zachary Bartels is the author of critically acclaimed supernatural thrillers. An award-winning preacher and Bible teacher, Zachary has been serving as pastor of Judson Baptist Church in Lansing, Michigan, for ten years. He enjoys film, fine cigars, stimulating conversation, gourmet coffee, reading, writing, and cycling.

His debut novel, Playing Saint, has been called an “intrigue-filled thriller” (Library Journal) and “a page-turner from the very beginning . . . gripping and realistic” (RT Book Reviews). His newest book, The Last Con (HarperCollins Christian Fiction, 2015) has met early positive reviews. He lives in the capital city of a mitten-shaped Midwestern state with his wife Erin and their son.

Author Website | Facebook | Twitter

A Conversation with Katie Ganshert

INSPYs 2016-Katie Ganshert FeatureAs we come down to the final hours before the INSPYs 2016 winners are announced (Tuesday!), today we welcome Katie Ganshert. A multi-genre author who made the jump to Indie and YA fiction last year, Katie’s novel The Art of Losing Yourself (WaterBrook Press) is on the 2016 shortlist in the General Fiction category.

Katie shares more on the inspiration of The Art of Losing Yourself, and the challenges/benefits of writing organically incorporated faith. Plus, she’s a Gilmore Girls fan!


Every morning, Carmen Hart pastes on her made-for-TV smile and broadcasts the weather. She’s the Florida panhandle’s favorite meteorologist, married to everyone’s favorite high Book - The Art of Losing Yourselfschool football coach. They’re the perfect-looking couple, live in a nice house, and attend church on Sundays. From the outside, she’s a woman who has it all together. But on the inside, Carmen Hart struggles with doubt. She wonders if she made a mistake when she married her husband. She wonders if God is as powerful as she once believed. Sometimes she wonders if He exists at all. After years of secret losses and empty arms, she’s not so sure anymore.

Until Carmen’s sister—seventeen year old runaway, Gracie Fisher—steps in and changes everything. Gracie is caught squatting at a boarded-up motel that belongs to Carmen’s aunt, and their mother is off on another one of her benders, which means Carmen has no other option but to take Gracie in. Is it possible for God to use a broken teenager and an abandoned motel to bring a woman’s faith and marriage back to life? Can two half-sisters make each other whole? – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads


AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH KATIE GANSHERT

What inspired The Art of Losing Yourself?

This doesn’t usually happen for me, but it was a passage of Scripture—from Ezekiel 37. It’s when the Lord gives Ezekiel a vision, and shows him a valley filled with dry bones. And then the Lord asks, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I was so very struck by the passage and the question, and of course, God’s response. So struck, I wanted to tell a story about God’s ability to breath the dead back to life. In the Art of Losing Yourself, that dead thing happens to be a marriage, a derelict motel, and a woman’s faith.

What are the challenges/benefits of incorporating faith into your story?

Well, for this book, incorporating faith into the story was relatively easy, as the entire theme revolves around the main character’s faith, or lack thereof. I think the biggest challenge is making sure the faith-element arises organically from the characters and the story, instead of making it this painted-on thing just because the genre demands it. The benefits are numerous! Namely, hearing from readers who have been encouraged in their faith after reading the story. And, of course, being encouraged in my own faith as I seek God and His truth while writing the story.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

What are you listening to?

Katie Ganshert TBR

Katie’s TBR pile.

Mostly, Bible kid songs. We have a Jesus Loves Me soundtrack that plays on repeat wherever we go because my daughter loves it and it’s good for her to try to sing familiar songs, as she has a severe speech delay. Music aside, I love audio books, and am currently listening to Kate Morton’s The Lake House.

What are you watching?

A conglomeration of things—nothing new. We don’t have cable, but we do have Netflix and Amazon Prime. Right now, I’m watching Gilmore Girls and when I’m in the mood for a laugh, The Office. I’ve already watched both.

What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand?

(See Picture) I’m reading 19 Minutes by Jodi Picoult. It’s my first Picoult book and so far, I’m enjoying it. I’m also reading Forgotten God by Francis Chan. And up next is Becky Wade’s newest—Her One and Only.


Thank you so much for joining us today, Katie! We enjoyed learning more about the inspiration of The Art of Losing Yourself, and discovering what’s on your TBR.

ABOUT THE AUTHORKatie Ganshert

Award-winning author, Katie Ganshert, graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison with a degree in education, and worked as a fifth grade teacher for several years before staying home to write full-time. She was born and raised in the Midwest, where she lives with her family. When she’s not busy penning novels or spending time with her people, she enjoys drinking coffee with friends, reading great literature, and eating copious amounts of dark chocolate.

Author Website | Facebook | Twitter