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

A Conversation with Susan May Warren

INSPYs 2016-Susan May Warren Feature

Happy Saturday, INSPYs readers. Today we welcome the award-winning talents of Susan May Warren. Susan has been shortlisted in previous INSPY awards and this year, her novel The Wonder of You (Tyndale House) is on the 2016 shortlist in the Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense category.

Today, Susan shares about the inspiration of The Wonder of You as well as the most challenging factor of writing a closely-connected familial series. (Plus Ross Poldark makes a cameo.)


Mortified after her year abroad is cut short, Amelia Christiansen returns to Deep Haven, certain she isn’t brave enough to embrace the adventures she’s dreamed of. The last thing she Book - The Wonder of Youexpects is for the man who broke her heart to cross the Atlantic and beg forgiveness.

Heir to a European hotel dynasty, Roark St. John has trekked from one exotic locale to another, haunted by tragedy and the expectations that accompany his last name. Amelia is the first woman to give him a reason to stop running. He’ll do anything for a second chance—even contend with Amelia’s old flame, who is intent on sending Roark packing.

While one surprise after another leaves Amelia reeling, Roark’s continued presence only highlights the questions pursuing her. Like him, is she running from the life God has called her to? Could finding her place mean leaving home behind? – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads


AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH SUSAN MAY WARREN

INSPYs: What inspired you to write The Wonder of You?

This story, and in particular, the heroine, Amelia was inspired by my beautiful daughter Sarah!  Sarah signed up for a semester in Prague. . .but when she got there, she realized that she was really a Baggins at heart – she didn’t want to leave the Shire, aka, our small town, or at least the safety of Minnesota.  This became a soul-wrenching experience as I watched her wrestle with her fears versus her dreams of seeing the world.  It became the basis for the story question:  What happens when you discover you’re not the person you thought you were?  More, she had disappointed herself… What happens when you fail yourself?  We often deal with characters failing others – like their parents, or their spouse, but failing yourself can be a much more devastating experience.  Sure, a character might be able to forgive themselves…but what do they do with the pieces of their failure?  And what if they fail again?

On a personal level, what does failure tell you about yourself and how can it affect your entire life?  Knowing how to forgive yourself, and what to do next are important – if challenging – life skills, and Amelia has to learn how to combat her failures as well as her fears if she wants to go forward.  So, the title is a double-entre…we are stronger than we realize because God is at work, in us.  It’s the wonder of God in us…to produce an amazing result.

INSPYs: What was your most challenging factor in writing a closely connected six-book series?

The Christiansen family series is a spin-off of the best-selling Deep Haven collection, a collection of stories about the townspeople of Deep Haven, Minnesota, a tiny resort town on the north shore of Lake Superior.  The original series started with a book entitled, Happily Ever After, and grew to include six titles.  However, one family began to stand out and I decided their story needed to be told. I wanted a series about a family with adult children, learning what it meant to carry on the legacy of faith into their lives.  And I wanted to write a series that would really let readers dig into the family, feel like they were a part of their journey.  The biggest issue was how to create both a stand-alone story arc as well as a series story arc that would keep readers glued to the drama of the series. I discovered that I really enjoyed writing this kind of connected series, where the events in one book push the events in the next.  However, I’ve discovered that readers need to enter the series anywhere without being lost—and that can be difficult in a closely connected series. The Wonder of You was a bridge book between two epic events that happen to the family, and the challenge of this story was to carry the story arc while giving the reader a story that could stand on its own.  I think Roark and Amelia pulled it off brilliantly.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

+What are you listening to?

Pandora. The Chase Rice station (that I designed).  Contemporary country music.

+What are you watching?

Just finished season one of Poldark.  *sigh*

Photo: ITV

Photo: ITV

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

Just starting another fabulous Lori Benton novel:  The Wood’s Edge.  I’m a huge historical fiction fan. Okay, I’m just a huge fan of well written books, regardless of genre. 🙂

Thank you for having me!!


Thanks so much for joining us today, Susan. It was a pleasure to learn more about The Wonder of You and chat about your current read.

ABOUT THE AUTHORSusan May Warren

Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning novelist of over thirty novels. A five-time Christy award finalist, a two-time RITA Finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Carol Award.

A seasoned women’s events speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you!

She is also the founder of www.MyBookTherapy.com, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice.

Author Website | Facebook | Twitter

A Conversation with Kristi Ann Hunter

INSPYs 2016-Kristi Ann Hunter FeatureOur debut author interviews continue today with novelist, Kristi Ann Hunter. Her debut novel A Noble Masquerade (Bethany House) is on the 2016 shortlist in the Debut Fiction category.

Today, Kristi gives us insight into the inspiration of A Noble Masquerade and shares her greatest surprise about the publishing experience.


Lady Miranda Hawthorne acts every inch the lady, but inside she longs to be bold and carefree. Entering her fourth Season and approaching spinsterhood in the eyes of society, she pours her Book - A Noble Masqueradeinnermost feelings out not in a diary but in letters to her brother’s old school friend, a duke–with no intention of ever sending these private thoughts to a man she’s heard stories about but never met. Meanwhile, she also finds herself intrigued by Marcus, her brother’s new valet, and although she may wish to break free of the strictures that bind her, falling in love with a servant is more of a rebellion than she planned.

When Marcus accidentally discovers and mails one of the letters to her unwitting confidant, Miranda is beyond mortified. And even more shocked when the duke returns her note with one of his own that initiates a courtship-by-mail. Insecurity about her lack of suitors shifts into confusion at her growing feelings for two men–one she’s never met but whose words deeply resonate with her heart, and one she has come to depend on but whose behavior is more and more suspicious. When it becomes apparent state secrets are at risk and Marcus is right in the thick of the conflict, one thing is certain: Miranda’s heart is far from all that’s at risk for the Hawthornes and those they love. – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads


AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH KRISTI ANN HUNTER

INSPYs: What inspired you to write A Noble Masquerade?

I don’t think there’s a person alive who is always themselves. We have masks and restrictions we place on ourselves depending on where we are or who we’re with. Sometimes, though, those limits can feel like an abrasive and confining prison despite the fact that we made them ourselves. Never is that more evident than when you find yourself placed in the middle of a new group of people and you have to decide who you’re going to be.

Exploring that idea brought about the book A Noble Masquerade. Because the heroine met the hero under two different circumstances, she presented two different versions of herself and he was able to do the same. In the process of bringing those two ideas together, they each came to a greater understanding of who they were and how they could be themselves more often. I think that’s something everyone could use a little more of.

INSPYs: What surprised you most about the process of writing/publishing a novel?

This is going to make me sound incredibly arrogant, but I think my biggest surprise was that I edited well. After the number of complaints and horror stories I’ve heard from people working with various editors, I was expecting the process to be rather painful. In some ways it was because it was the first time I’d ever gone through my work like that. There were sections that I refused to change in the way they wanted me to, but I did listen to the issues they had with the scene and rewrote it to fix those.

A lot of the credit for the process goes to the amazing editors I worked with at Bethany House who took the time to really see where I was trying to go with the book and helped me get there. By the end of the editing process, though, I was left sitting with a book I couldn’t believe I got to stick my name on and that’s a pretty heady feeling.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

+What are you listening to?

Ah, music. It is so very, very important in our house. Right now I’m hip deep in preparations for the launch of the next book in the series, An Elegant Façade, so I’m listening and refining the inspiration playlist for that book. I’ll be unveiling that entire list in July, but as a little sneak peek for you, it includes some amazing songs like Stained Glass Masquerade by Casting Crowns and Born to Be Free by Moriah Peters.

+What are you watching? 

Kristi Ann Hunter NightstandWell, the kids are home for the summer and just discovered the old original Power Rangers so I’m getting a nice little trip down nostalgia lane.

Otherwise I’m not watching a whole lot right now. We don’t have cable so I tend to be a little behind and go through spells of watching lots of TV off Netflix and then stretches of nothing. I can tell you what I WILL be watching in a few weeks and that’s the Olympics. WOOHOO! Love me some Olympics.

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

I’m actually reading an ARC right now, Dawn Crandall’s The Cautious Maiden. (Woohoo, author privilege, getting books before they come out!) I’m only a few chapters into it but I’m very intrigued.

Sitting right next to it though, taunting me and not-so-patiently waiting its turn is the new Karen Witemeyer book, No Other Will Do. I actually got that one a bit early, too, but haven’t gotten to read it yet. Sometimes writing the books gets in the way of reading them. Sigh.


Thanks for joining us, Kristi Ann! It was a pleasure to chat with you, learn more about your debut novel, learn what most surprised you about the publishing process (that’s a wonderful talent to possess) and to read about your 2016 Olympic excitement.

ABOUT THE AUTHORKristi Ann Hunter

Kristi Ann Hunter graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in Computer Science but always knew she wanted to write. Kristi is an RWA Golden Heart contest winner, an ACFW Genesis contest winner, and a Georgia Romance Writers Maggie Award for Excellence winner. She lives with her husband and three children in Georgia.

Author Website | Facebook | Twitter

A Conversation with Susan Anne Mason

INSPYs 2016-Susan Anne Mason

Join us in welcoming author, Susan Anne Mason today! This is Susan’s first year being shortlisted in the INSPY awards. Her  historical novel Irish Meadows (Bethany House) is on the 2016 shortlist in the Debut Fiction category.

Today, we learn about the music Susan Anne enjoys, read and see the inspiration for Irish Meadows plus more!


Irish immigrant James O’Leary has spent his life building Irish Meadows into a thriving horse farm and is not about to let hard economic times threaten its success. He intends for his Book - Irish Meadowsdaughters to marry prosperous men–ones who will secure the family’s rightful place in society, and at the same time, guarantee the future of Irish Meadows. Both girls, however, have different visions for their futures.

Brianna and Colleen O’Leary know their father expects them to marry well. Yet despite his wishes, Brianna, the quieter sister, dreams of attending college. Vivacious Colleen, meanwhile, is happy to marry–as long as her father’s choice meets her exacting standards. When stable hand Gilbert Whelan returns from college and distant family member Rylan Montgomery stops in on his way to the seminary in Boston, the two men quickly complicate everyone’s plans. It will take every ounce of courage for both sisters to follow their hearts. And even if they do, will they inevitably find their dreams too distant to reach? – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads


AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH SUSAN ANNE MASON

INSPYs: What inspired the story of Irish Meadows?

I’ve always loved sagas about large families. One of my favorite mini-series growing up was The Thornbirds about an Irish family who move to the outback’s of Australia. I became enthralled with the sweeping family saga—as well as the forbidden love between Meggie and Ralph—which inspired the romance between the fiery, Colleen O’Leary, and priest-in-training, Rylan Montgomery in Irish Meadows. And as many of my readers tell me, this couple hijacked the book! (I must confess that I fell in love with Rylan, too!)

Having Irish roots on both sides of my genealogical tree, I knew I wanted to write about a big Irish family. My great grandparents on my father’s side emigrated from Ireland to Brooklyn, NY around 1890. So I used New York as the backdrop for my saga about the O’Learys, an immigrant family who had overcome poverty and prejudice to achieve affluence in Long Island. When the book opens, patriarch James O’Leary is faced with the possibility of losing his horse farm and the affluent position he has achieved. This is the motivation for him wanting to find suitable, wealthy husbands for his two eldest daughters—but unfortunately for him, the girls have other ideas!

Horse farm1

A photo depicting Susan Anne Mason’s inspiration for Irish Meadows.

INSPYs: What are the challenges/benefits of writing historical fiction?

The challenge is definitely the research. Sometimes I end up doing hours of searching for a tiny aspect of the era you’re writing about—and it only shows up as one line in a scene. For instance, I had to do a lot of research just to find out about the use of telephones in 1911. Not only who might have a telephone in their house (rich people!), but what type of phone they would use. Hours of research for a tiny detail in a few scenes.

The benefits of writing historical fiction is that you become immersed in a different time period. Learning about the ways people lived back then—long before TV and the internet—is so interesting, and the good news is you get to come back to all the modern conveniences when you’re done!

Susan Anne Mason's favorite writing spot is her kitchen table.

Susan Anne Mason’s favorite writing spot is her kitchen table.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

+ What are you listening to? I don’t normally listen to a lot of music at home, but I tend to like songs that speak to me, not necessarily by one person or group. That being said, some of my favorite artists are Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift. Right now, I love the song “Piece by Piece” by Kelly. So moving. Another current favorite is “Stand by You” by Rachel Platten. 

+What are you watching?  Now that Downton Abbey is over (sniff), I’m having trouble finding a favorite show. I do enjoy Nashville, which thankfully has been picked up again. I watched Season One of Outlander but it got too graphic for me and I’ve only been watching it sporadically now. My guilty pleasure is the Bachelor/Bachelorette series. It’s romance, what can I say? (wink)

+What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? Oh, my. How long do you have? I am a serious book-a-holic! (At least now I can count the purchases as a business expense.) I just finished reading “The Lost Heiress” by Roseanna White, which was fabulous! Anyone who likes Downton Abbey will love this book! And now I’ve started Pepper Basham’s “Twist of Faith” which already has me hooked!

Here is a snap shot of my “To be read” pile! No shortage of material there! I’m very excited to read the latest books by Becky Wade, Melissa Tagg, and Susan May Warren. To name a few!

Susan Mason TBR

Thanks so much for having me here and for highlighting “Irish Meadows.” And best of luck to all the INSPYs finalists!


Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs.com blog today, Susan. It was our pleasure to host you; we enjoyed learning more about Irish Meadows, and seeing that impressive TBR!

Susan Mason author photoABOUT THE AUTHOR

I have always loved to write. As a teen, I wrote my first novel, only to be politely rejected by my publisher of choice.

Life got in the way – university, marriage and children became the priority. Then once I had time to start reading again, the writing bug bit once more.

I enjoy writing both contemporary and historical Inspirational romances. “Romance sprinkled with faith” describes my writing style. I love themes of forgiveness and redemption!

I am a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the Romance Writers of America. My association with such amazing groups of people has been the biggest asset toward learning my craft.

Home for me is Brampton, Ontario, Canada (near Toronto), where I live with my husband, our two children and two cats. My day job is a part-time secretary at a local church. In my spare time, I like to read and research our family history on-line.

Author Website | Facebook

A Conversation with Katherine Reay

INSPYs 2016-Katherine Reay

Our final week (before the INSPY Advisory Board announces the winners) of author interviews continues today with author, Katherine Reay. Katherine has been shortlisted in previous INSPY awards and this year, her novel The Bronte Plot (Thomas Nelson) is on the 2016 shortlist in the General Fiction category.

Today, Katherine shares about the inspiration of The Bronte Plot, and asks YOU for new TV show recommendations. Read on below.


Lucy Alling makes a living selling rare books, often taking suspicious measures to reach her goals. When her unorthodox methods are discovered, Lucy’s secret ruins her relationship with Book - The Bronte Plother boss and her boyfriend James—leaving Lucy in a heap of hurt, and trouble. Something has to change; she has to change.

In a sudden turn of events, James’s wealthy grandmother Helen hires Lucy as a consultant for a London literary and antiques excursion. Lucy reluctantly agrees and soon discovers Helen holds secrets of her own. In fact, Helen understands Lucy’s predicament better than anyone else.

As the two travel across England, Lucy benefits from Helen’s wisdom, as Helen confronts the ghosts of her own past. Everything comes to a head at Haworth, home of the Brontë sisters, where Lucy is reminded of the sisters’ beloved heroines, who, with tenacity and resolution, endured—even in the midst of change.

Now Lucy must go back into her past in order to move forward. And while it may hold mistakes and regrets, she will prevail—if only she can step into the life that’s been waiting for her all along. – Goodreads

Amazon ($1.99 e-book sale) | Goodreads


AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH KATHERINE REAY

INSPYs: What inspired the story of The Bronte Plot? 

The Bronte Plot came to me as a question while reading C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce. In that story, while asleep, Lewis travels to heaven where he witnesses souls traveling “upward and onward.” Decisions must be made and burdens relinquished if the “passengers” on this journey wish to remain in heaven. Wrapped within fantasy, Lewis introduces us to the ideas of free will, choice and consequence – as well as deftly portraying the strings pulling at our hearts and the nature of surrender. I began to ask, what could or would that journey look like on this side of eternity? And if someone did reach a point to make new decisions and lay down old burdens, what event or force might begin the process? Lucy entered the story first, with her red hair, passion for design and story – and a few other personality traits – but she didn’t complete it. I knew that such turning points can happen at any age and Lucy needed a companion, someone unlike herself yet able to understand. She needed a Helen. And so, with two women ready for change, The Bronte Plot began…

INSPYs: Who was your favorite character/storyline in The Bronte Plot?

I adore Helen. Her character became so complex, from the wild summer of her youth to the pressures that later defined her life. And to see her work to redefine and find herself again – and, in many ways, free her family – was exciting.

I also loved Sid. If I ever hire an interior designer, I’ll need to find him in the real world.

Katherine's favorite writing spot!

Katherine’s favorite writing spot!

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

+What are you listening to?  

To and from my daughter’s volleyball practice, we listen to audiobooks. We just finished The Book Thief – brilliantly narrated, by the way. We are now listening to The Screwtape Letters. At home, The Zac Brown Band is the most played Pandora station with Needtobreathe and Van Morrison close behind. Now… That said, Jimmy Buffet always makes a strong appearance on the back patio each summer.

+What are you watching?

I just finished The Night Manager, an AMC miniseries of the John le Carré novel. Wow! Incredibly tense and well done. Hugh Laurie is, as always, brilliant.

And now that Castle is over, I’m looking for recommendations. I need a new show! Please help…

+What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand?Katherin Reay TBR

I decided to pick up the two books on the floor and take a picture of the true mess that is my nightstand. It needs a little explanation. At present, I am reading The Blind Side, Prayer, The Screwtape Letters (I know, listening to it too… it’s research) and Self-Editing. The Nightingale has sat teasing me for six months because I want to get to it, but I need more time. I picked up the Moriarty ARC at BEA last month and hope to find time to read it this summer as well. And the Amor Towles? I picked that up at BEA too and pat it every now and then. His debut, Rules of Civility, was fantastic and I’m almost nervous to begin his second, A Gentleman in Moscow, because soon after I start that first sentence it’ll be over and I’ll have to wait five more years for another beautiful Towles tale. Oh… And Everybody’s Jane. Again research. I really do get the best research!

Thanks for inviting me here!


Katherine, thank you SO much for joining us! It was a pleasure to chat with you, and learn more about The Brone Plot.

EDITOR’s NOTE:  Some of my recent TV show favorites would be NBC’s Blindspot, ITV’s Grantchester and I’m currently watching the sixth season of TNT’s Rizzoli and Isles. What are you currently watching, readers?

ABOUT THE AUTHORKBR Headshot

Katherine Reay has lived all across the country and Europe and has just moved with her family to Chicago. She is a writer, wife, mom, runner, and, most randomly, a tae kwon do black belt. Her debut novel, “Dear Mr. Knightley,” is a contemporary story with a dash of Jane Austen and other nineteenth century writers thrown in for the fun of it. Her subsequent novels, “Lizzy & Jane” and “The Bronte Plot,” feature stories of hope, reconciliation, family, some seriously good food and travel. “A Portrait of Emily Price” will be released in November of this year. 

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A Conversation with Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon

INSPYs 2016-Carey and Lorie FeatureToday, the advisory board welcomes the writing duo of Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon. Know for their Brigadoon inspired YA lit retellings, Carey and Lorie’s latest novel, Shades of Doon (Blink) is on the 2016 INSPYs shortlist this year in the Literature for Young Adult category.

We hear from Carey and Lorie about the challenges and benefits of writing in an underrated market and the inspiration behind this story, plus they both share their current TV obsessions!


After cheating death, Veronica Welling is determined to savor every moment in her idyllic kingdom with both her true love and best friend by her side at last. At the same time, Mackenna Book - Shades of DoonReid is enthusiastically building her new life and a theater with her prince. But just as their dreams of happiness are within reach, the world Vee and Kenna have chosen is ripped away, leaving them to face their most horrific challenge yet—their old lives.

Thrust out of Doon, the best friends are confronted with tormentors from their past and no way to return to their adopted land. When the MacCrae brothers rush to their rescue, the girls’ situation turns from nightmare to modern-day fairy tale. But their happiness could be short lived: unbeknownst to them, someone in their closest circle is aiding the witch of Doon in her bid to destroy the kingdom once and for all. – Shades of Doon.com

Amazon | Goodreads


AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH CAREY CORP AND LORIE LANGDON

INSPYs: What inspired Shades of Doon

Lorie: Shades of Doon is the third book in a series inspired by the Scottish musical Brigadoon! When I was sixteen I saw the live musical and fell in love with the romantic tale of the village that only appears to the modern world once every one hundred years. But one thing always bothered me about the original – during the hundred years that the portal to the kingdom is closed, the people in Brigadoon sleep. Really? They sleep! I couldn’t stop thinking about what I could do with that hundred years…

INSPYs: What are the challenges/benefits of writing YA in the inspirational (an underrated genre) market? 

Carey: I think the biggest challenge of writing YA in the inspirational market is that readers have a very personal and varied definition of “inspirational.” Too much for some is not enough for others and same with the mainstream or secular elements of the story. Lorie and I don’t write specifically for the “inspirational” market. We write the same way we live, as honestly as humanly possible, in the world but not of the world. Life is messy, riddled with mistakes, doubt, and poor choices. Like us, our characters are beautifully flawed and through their weakness The Protector works His miracles. The biggest benefit to being in the inspiration genre is that we’re able to weave our faith and personal relationships with God into our stories. We’re constantly taking inspiration from things in our spiritual lives. Our greatest hope is that this series will plant seeds in readers’ hearts through which the Holy Spirit will bear fruit.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

+ What are you listening to?  

Lorie: I’m kind of obsessed with the Hillsong Young & Free album! Especially the acoustic version of This Is Living. I can be in the worst mood ever and that song will turn it around!

Carey: Besides HAMILTON?  Wait is there something other than HAMILTON?  For Forever Doon I listened to a lot of for King & Country, Casting Crowns, We The Kings, Ed Sheeran, and Francesca Battistelli.

+ What are you watching?  

Photo: CBS

Photo: CBS

Lorie: I’m binge watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix. I didn’t watch the series when it aired and I’ve been hearing about it for years. I finally know why everyone loves it so much. I don’t think they make character driven TV shows like this anymore. I feel like the Gilmore’s are friends. For me, it’s the closest a TV series has ever come to the experience of reading a book! I’m also kind of a superhero geek and enjoy watching The Flash and Supergirl with my youngest son.

Carey: My favorite show of the last couple years has been MTV’s Shannara Chronicles by the incredible Terry Books. I’m also into The Flash, Walking Dead (yes, I love my zombies), Once Upon a Time, and Hallmark movies – I’m a sucker for a good romance! I tend to skip the news and reality television in favor of SyFy and fantasy. Let’s take a look at my DVR: The VoiceSupernatural, Big Bang Theory, tons of Hallmark movies, Stitchers, Containment, The Colony, The Middle, Gravity Falls, Somewhere in Time (movie), and the 58th Grammys (saved for the HAMILTON number).

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

Lorie Langdon TBR 2016 (1)

Lorie: Right now I’m finishing Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas, the first book in a magical fantasy series that I’m really enjoying. My TBR pile is out of control! The picture only shows the physical books, I have about fifteen more on my Nook! I just scored the ARC of Sabaa Tahir’s A Torch Against the Night while at BEA…I may have to block off a whole day to read that one! An Ember in the Ashes was my favorite book of 2015.

Carey Corp TBR 2016 (1)

Carey:  I’m currently reading Cinda Williams-Chima’s new book Flamecaster and next up CJ Redwine’s Shadow Queen. Like Lorie, my TBR pile is out of control – it has it’s own room. I’m also rereading Lysa TerKeurst’s Unglued as my current devotional.


Thanks so much for joining us today, Carey and Lorie! Not only do you have amazing TV shows on for your current addictions, but we appreciate you sharing some insight into your thoughts about the YA market.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

careyCarey Corp NY Times & USA Today Best-selling author, Carey Corp, wrote her first book, a brilliant retelling of Star Wars, at the prodigious age of seven. Since then, her love affair of reinvention has continued to run amuck. Writing both literary fiction and stories for young adults, she begins each morning consuming copious amounts of coffee while weaving stories that capture her exhaustive imagination. She harbors a voracious passion (in no consistent order) for mohawks, Italy, musical theater, chocolate, and Jane Austen. Her debut novel for teens, The Halo Chronicles: The Guardian, earned her national recognition as 2010 Golden Heart finalist and more recently made the N Times Best-seller list. Coming Sept, 2015: Shades of Doon (book 3 of the 4 book Doon series), a young adult series loosely based on the concept of the musical Brigadoon, used with permission from the Alan Jay Lerner Estate & the Frederick Loewe Foundation, and co-written with Lorie Langdon.

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lorieLorie Langdon is one half of the author team that writes the best-selling DOON series, a YA re-imagining of Brigadoon!, published by Blink/HarperCollins. She has longed to write her own novels since she was a wee girl reading every Judy Blume book she could get her hands on. So a few years ago, she left her thriving corporate career to satisfy the voices in her head. Now as a full-time author and stay-at-home mom, she spends her days tucked into her cozy office, Havanese puppy by her side, working to translate her effusive imagination into the written word.

Lorie’s first solo novel, GILT HOLLOW, a YA romantic thriller, releases September 2016!

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A Conversation with Lisa Harris

INSPYs 2016-Lisa Harris Feature

The INSPYs Advisory Board welcomes Lisa Harris to the blog. Lisa is a Christy Award winner, the author of the Southern Crimes series and more recently, The Nikki Boyd Files. Her first novel in that series, Vendetta (Revell) has been shortlisted in the 2016 INSPYs Mystery/Thriller Category.

We learn what Lisa is writing next, and discover her current TV addiction. Join us in welcoming, Lisa.


No one needs to push Nikki Boyd to excel on the Tennessee Missing Persons Task Force. The case of her own missing sister, still unsolved after ten years, is the driving force in her work. Book - VendettaWhen a Polaroid photo of a missing girl shows up at a crime scene, Nikki quickly recognizes similarities to the past. The closer she gets to the abductor, the more she feels this case has become personal, and she is not the hunter . . . but the hunted.

With this explosive first book in The Nikki Boyd Files, award-winning author Lisa Harris takes you on a fast-paced pursuit of justice that will have you holding your breath until the heart-stopping finish. – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads


INTERVIEW WITH LISA HARRIS

INSPYs: What inspired Vendetta? The story’s heroine, Nikki Boyd really came first. I wanted a strong character motivated by a complex backstory. The story became the perfect way to share her past as it intertwine with the present. The setting of a national park quickly became another character that worked perfect with her search for a missing teen.

INSPYs: Can you give readers a sneak peek on what your working on next? I’ve just finished book three of this series (Pursued) and am now working on another suspense set in Italy.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

    • What are you listening to? Quiet. Sometimes that’s what I need. 🙂
    • What are you watching? The third season of When Calls the Heart. Love that show.
When Calls the Heart S3 E9 Rosemary and Lee Kiss

Photo: Hallmark

    • What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? Connie Mann’s upcoming Tangled Lies

Thank you so much for joining us today, Lisa. It was a pleasure to have you join us, and learn more about Nikki.

Lisa-HarrisABOUT THE AUTHOR

I’m a wife, mom, teacher, author, dreamer, photographer, world explorer, but most importantly a follower of Christ Jesus.

I currently live with my husband near the Indian Ocean in Mozambique where we work as church-planting missionaries. We’ve started the empty next stage with two children spread around the globe and a third—thankfully—still at home.

When I’m not working l love hanging out with my family at the beach, playing games, cooking different ethnic dishes, and heading into the African bush on safari.

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A Conversation with Ronie Kendig

INSPYs 2016-Ronie Kendig FeatureThe Advisory Board welcomes Ronie Kendig today to INSPYs.com. Ronie is a Christy award winning author, best known for her “Rapid-Fire” fiction (military suspense novels), this year wandered into Speculative fiction with her recent release, Embers. This year, she’s nominated in two categories. Her novels, Falcon (Shiloh Run Press) is a finalist in the 2016 shortlist in the Mystery/Thriller category and Embers (Enclave) is shortlisted in the Speculative Fiction category.

Today we talk with Ronie about the challenge of switching genres, her TV addictions plus more!


Book - EmbersEMBERS He’s coming for them. And the kingdom.

Haegan and Kaelyria Celahar are royal heirs of the Nine Kingdoms, but Haegan is physically crippled. What chance does he have against Poired Dyrth, the greatest enemy the kingdom has ever faced, who wields fire with a power none can match?

Their only hope is forbidden: Kaelyria must transfer her fire-harnessing abilities to Haegan. When she does it comes with a terrible price: Haegan’s disability is healed, but only by being transferred to Kaelyria. This decision causes their father, King Zireli, to unleash his wrath against Haegan.

Haegan flees the kingdom alone with two impossible tasks: Find a cure for Kaelyria and stop the coming war with the omnipotent Poired Dyrth. – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads

FALCON Special Forces operator Salvatore “Falcon” Russo vowed to never again speak to or trust Lieutenant Cassandra Walker after a tragedy four years Book - Falconago. But as Raptor closes in on the cyber terrorists responsible for killing two of their own, Sal must put his life—and the lives of his teammates—in her hands. Despite his anger, Cassie is ill-prepared for his resistance and the fallout when she must protect the one asset who can end the attacks. As allies become enemies and hostiles become unlikely partners, Raptor fights for its very existence. – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads


INTERVIEW WITH RONIE KENDIG

INSPYs: What inspired Embers and/or Falcon?

Embers was a classic “what if” inspiration while watching the BBC’s Merlin. There was a character that so aggravated me with her deception and treachery, I thought to myself, “But what if she really was making this sacrifice for her brother and the realm?” And that birthed the opening scenes of Embers.

Some elements of Falcon were inspired by a true story of a professional athlete who recruited his best friend into the same field. Then one tragic night, the athlete was driving drunk and killed the friend he’d recruited. And I could not escape thinking about the intense grief and trauma that athlete would live with for the rest of his life, and that birthed the backstory for Falcon.

INSPYs: What are some of the benefits/challenges of switching genres?

In all honesty, it’s not really a switch in that I’m writing both genres, but the hardest aspect of writing in two genres is that in the speculative genre, I’m starting all over in terms of audience and market. With suspense, my market and name are established. Not so within the speculative market, so that’s the biggest challenge. However, it’s also a benefit, because my loyal readers are willing to brave a new genre, simply because I wrote it. That’s a level of trust I don’t take lightly.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

+ What are you listening to? Capital Kings’ newest album, II.

Photo: NBC

Photo: NBC

+ What are you watching?  On most any day, I’m watching an episode or two (or ten) of Doctor Who… or Blindspot.

+ What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? I’m a mood reader, so I generally have a handful of books at various stages of being read. Right now, that includes: Billy Coffey’s There Will Be Stars, Steve Berry’s The 14th Colony, and Marissa Meyers’ Stars Above.


Ronie KendigThanks so much for joining us today, Ronie! It was a pleasure to talk with you, and learn more about the challenges of a genre change and learn about your TV addictions. (Editors note: Blindspot is seriously, amazing if you like mystery shows.)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ronie Kendig is an award-winning, bestselling author who grew up an Army brat. She married her own hunky hero, who’s an Army veteran. After twenty-plus years of marriage, she and her husband have a full life with four children and two dogs. Ronie’s degree in psychology has helped her pen novels of raw, broken characters. Since launching onto the publishing scene, Ronie’s Rapid-Fire Fiction has hit the CBA Bestseller List, won the prestigious Christy Award, finaled in numerous contests and reader awards, including ACFW Carol Awards, RWA’s Faith, Hope, & Love’s Inspirational Readers’ Choice Awards, Christian Retailing’s Readers’ Choice Awards, INSPY Award, The Christian Manifesto Lime Awards, and FamilyFiction’s Readers’ Choice Choice Awards. Ronie loves people and helping other writers through speaking, workshops, and/or mentoring.

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A Conversation with Mary Weber

INSPYs 2016-Mary Weber FeatureWe’re starting the first full week of June (where does time go!?) welcoming YA fantasy author, Mary Weber. Her novel, Siren’s Fury (Thomas Nelson) is a finalist in the 2016 shortlist in the Literature for Young Adults category.

Today we talk with Mary about the inspiration of Siren’s Fury, what she thinks of this underrated YA market and of course, question her about her TBR.


“I thrust my hand toward the sky as my voice begs the Elemental inside me to waken and rise. But it’s no use. The curse I’ve spent my entire life abhorring—the thing I trained so hard to Book - Siren's Furycontrol—no longer exists.”

Nym has saved Faelen only to discover that Draewulf stole everything she valued. Now he’s destroyed her Elemental storm-summoning ability as well.

When Nym sneaks off with a host of delegates to Bron, Lord Myles offers her the chance for a new kind of power and the whispered hope that it may do more than simply defeat the monster she loathes. But the secrets the Bron people have kept concealed, along with the horrors Draewulf has developed, may require more than simply harnessing a darker ability.

They may require who she is.

Set against the stark metallic backdrop of the Bron kingdom, Nym is faced with the chance to change the future.

Or was that Draewulf’s plan for her all along? – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads


INTERVIEW WITH MARY WEBER

INSPYs: What inspired Siren’s Fury?

Oh man, honestly? I’d have to say the darker parts of life. You know – the bits of the journey we each encounter that expose the ugly in our souls and just about wreck us.

(smiles) In that sense I’m not sure the book is so much “inspirational” as it is an examination of Nym’s “dark night of the soul.” It’s the idea that our choices, even with the best intentions, often lead us to broken places. Although, to me that very often IS inspirational… Because I’ve found those broken places can be the most holy spaces, where our walls are finally down and our hearts open enough to let the light of revelation in. 

INSPYs: As an author in the Inspirational YA market, where do you see this underrated (in inspirational) genre going? Ooh interesting question. Although I’m not sure I have an answer! Um…I’ll say I perceive it going in two directions simultaneously. I think we’ll see it continue to grow in the “traditional” inspirational vein—by that I mean Christian fiction, involving people and stories of faith, for young adults. But I also believe we’ll see a strong move toward more mainstream stories that focus on spiritual themes and values without using religious terminology or branding. Basically general market fiction that’s written from a spiritual worldview because the author happens to be a person of faith (which is actually already thriving if you look at many of the general market authors out there).

And both are important. I work with teens who only read Inspirational YA because that’s what hugely encourages them. And then I work with a host of others who won’t touch it because they’ve been so jaded by Christian culture and much of the hypocrisy therein. However, they will read a story that unashamedly talks about the relatable, raw experiences of life, especially if it allows them to process through it whilst offering hope. So I think it’s a matter of audience and authors and what their passion is to pursue.

But again, that’s just my two-cents. 🙂

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

+ What are you listening to? Halsey, Birdy, and Hillsong United.

+ What are you watching? Due to book deadlines, not much right now, gah! Although my husband’s got me into a discontinued show called “Person of Interest,” which has a very cool concept.

+ What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? These!! <3

Mary Weber Book TBR

Thank you for having me, lovelies!!!! <3


Thanks so much for joining us today, Mary! Great to chat with you about your thoughts on the YA market and your awesome taste in music.

ABOUT THE AUTHORMary Weber

Mary Weber is the award-winning author of the bestselling young adult Storm Siren Trilogy and an altogether ridiculously uncoordinated girl. In her spare time she plots taking over make-believe worlds through books, handstands, and imaginary throwing knives, sings 80’s hairband songs to her three muggle children, and ogles her husband who looks strikingly like Wolverine. They live in California which is perfect for stalking L.A. bands, Joss Whedon, and the ocean.

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