Author Interview: James L. Rubart

14291950We are happy to welcome James L. Rubart to the Inspy Blog! The author of Soul’s Gate, shortlisted for the Speculative Fiction Inspy, James gives us a peek into his writing life . . .

What led you to writing?

The Chronicles of Narnia. Those books blew my little ten year old mind. After reading them I decided I wanted to someday try to do for others what Lewis had done for me.

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

I’ve honestly never thought about incorporating faith or not incorporating faith into my novels. I simply write the story that is bouncing around my brain shouting to get out. But because my stories (so far) have had a spiritual premise central to the story, I think it’s easier for me than say an author writing a romance, or suspense, where a spiritual theme has to be woven into the novel without feel contrived.

The Secret Writing Room

The Secret Writing Room

Tell us about a book that epitomizes quality {Christian} faith-driven lit.

Arena, by Karen Hancock. It won a Christy, but didn’t have stellar sales. I wish it would have. It’s essentially Pilgrims Progress (one of the bestselling books of all time) for the modern age.

James L Rubart headshot 3 '13Favorite Book ~ Favorite Movie ~ Favorite TV Show?

Book(s) Chronicles of Narnia ~ you saw that coming, right?

Movie ~ Tie between The Matrix and It’s a Wonderful Life

TV Show ~ Lost (yes, even with that horrible ending)

What do you hope readers take away from Soul’s Gate?

Freedom.  I believe that’s the core of the gospel and the mission of Jesus. (Gal 5:1, Is 61:1) I want readers to come away from Soul’s Gate with victory over their fears, greater hope, and more freedom than they’ve ever known before. When I get e-mail and Facebook messages from readers telling me that has happened, it rocks my world in a very good way.

James L. Rubart started his career in broadcast radio and has since started his own marketing firm.  He really does {did} have a secret writing room accessed by a tiny closet door.  Read more about the man behind the books {and the writing room!} at

He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Author Interview: Kerry Nietz

Today we welcome Kerry Nietz, author of Freeheads – one of the five speculative fiction novels shortlisted for an Inspy.

12868624Summary from Goodreads

Expect everything to change . . . Having escaped the storms of Betelgeuse and the schemes of Jannah’s inhabitants, Sandfly and HardCandy make their way back to Earth. They have a message to deliver. A society to free. And A A3 is with them. Their mission is simple, and just. What could possibly go wrong? They reach Earth, only to find a different world, an unexpected domain. One they can no longer connect with. They are stranded, hopelessly separated beneath a wasteland of death and a planet of rules. Ultimately, Sandfly is alone, and Earth’s freedom relies on him and his newfound faith. But does his mission even matter anymore? He’s seen as a misfit and a throwback. A symbol for all that’s evil. Will anyone listen to the message he’s come so far to bring? Perhaps he’s the last freehead.

What led you to writing?

I can’t remember a specific time I decided to write, as I’ve been playing with the idea since I started reading. (My mother has scraps of stories I wrote when I was very young.)

The event that focused me on getting a book published, though, happened on an airplane.  I was flying from Detroit to Seattle and happened to sit beside an elderly gentlemen who told me was a writer. “I’m one of the rarest of breeds,” he said, “in that, I’m a published writer.”

I told him that I wanted to write a book “someday.”

“Well start early,” he said. “You might get published before you die.”

Shortly after that I bought a computer and started writing. (I worked for Microsoft at the time, but surprisingly didn’t have a computer at home.)  It took quite a few years before I got a book published, but I’m happy to say I’ve been through the experience multiple times now.  So I guess I exceeded his challenge.

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

The challenges to writing anything that is labeled “Christian” is that it relegates your book to a niche, meaning there are some people that will never read it because it has that particular label.  They are leery of being preached at, or having their worldview challenged in any way.

Then when you add an additional label of “speculative fiction” it gets even worse.  Let’s face it: speculative fiction and Christianity are two niches that rarely intersect.  What has been fun for me, though, is to challenge people from both niches to step outside of their comfort zone a little.  And I’ve had a fair amount of success with that.  My favorite reviews are those that start: “This is not the sort of book I normally read, but…”

The benefit for me of writing fiction where faith is allowed is it gives me the opportunity to be genuine.  I don’t have to tailor my message because it might offend people.  I’ve been a storyteller most of my life, and a Christian since I was very young.  If I get a cool idea, I write it.  I’ve found that it is near impossible to lock my faith out of anything I do now, so it invariably shows up on the page.

I’ve tried to write a strictly secular book before.  I just can’t do it. I’ve never written a story and then thought “OK, now I have to go back and make it Christian,” though. I just write what comes to me—what seems honest. Hopefully that’s a compelling and insightful story in the end.

Tell us about a book that epitomizes quality [Christian] fiction literature.

This is going to sound like pandering, but I’m a big fan of all the other Marcher Lord Press authors. Their books really entertain and challenge me. Very creative stuff.

That said, I could mention one book that surprised me. A friend sent me Tosca Lee’s Havah to read and I was reluctant to start it initially. Female author writing a female character—I just didn’t know if it would be agreeable to a male reader or not. (Similar to what some people think when they hear about my books, I’m sure. Can I possibly relate to this?)

I was surprised by the vividness and plausibility of the life of Eve that Tosca describes, though. Havah really paints a picture for how the early life of man might have been. Plus, since it is essentially a series of tragedies (and anyone who has read the Bible knows what those tragedies are) there were times when I didn’t want to pick Havah up again, because I knew the sadness that was coming. I don’t remember too many books having that effect on me: it is so good; I don’t want to read more.

Favorite Book~Favorite Movie~Favorite TV Show

I have lots of favorite books, but if I had to pick just one, I’d say Matheson’s I Am Legend. Right on the heels of that would be Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars and Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

I have many favorite movies as well. My top three are probably the original Star Wars, the original Alien and entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. All epic films.

TV watching for us has changed a lot in the last year or so due to Netflix. My wife and I have discovered a lot of fun older shows and worked our way through them. Stargate Universe was a pleasant surprise, as was Eureka and Alphas. Fringe is lots of fun too. Lately we’ve been watching a lot of I Shouldn’t Be Alive! Not only is it gripping reality-based television, it is good research for a novelist trying to figure out what he can put his hero through.

What do you hope readers take away from Freeheads?

Primarily, I hope they find Freeheads a compelling story and a proper ending to the DarkTrench saga.  I mean, if you stuck with me and Sandfly through three books, I hope you feel the journey was worthwhile. The saga is really an essay on the uniqueness of the Gospel, and how the knowledge of it ultimately births freedom.


Kerry Nietz’ career includes a stint at Microsoft as a programmer.  He’s been a published author for over 10 years, receiving quite a few awards and accolades including the 2011 Readers Favorite Gold Medal Award.  Kerry can be found at his website


Author Interview: Kathy Tyers


Today we welcome author of Daystar, Kathy Tyers.  Kathy’s book is among the top 5 shortlisted for the Speculative Fiction genre.

13612490Summary from Goodreads:

Times have changed for the telepathic Sentinels in the realm of the Federate Whorl. Persecution sends these genetically altered people fleeing to their sanctuary world, but a shipboard disaster exposes High Commander Brennen Caldwell to fatal radiation. Medical student Meris Cariole ends up stranded, an unwelcome outsider, at a sanctuary she never meant to invade. On another world, wrongfully imprisoned Sentinel Jorah Caldwell receives a supernatural visitor. For generations, the Sentinel kindred has anticipated Boh-Dabar, the prophesied Word to Come. The visitor hails Jorah as Boh-Dabar. Can he believe the news? Meanwhile, a mysterious stranger arrives at the sanctuary world, also claiming to be Boh-Dabar. Brennen and Firebird Caldwell, Meris, and Jorah are caught in a tangle of interstellar incidents that threaten the Sentinel kindred’s very existence. And no one-anywhere-has anticipated the events that will shake the interstellar Federacy. In the “Firebird” alternate universe, humankind has gone to the stars. The messianic bloodline has been genetically altered, and instantaneous communication links the settled worlds. Still, God’s character has not changed, nor have his promises failed. Daystar brings the saga to a conclusion that rocks the galaxies.

At this point in your writing career, what has been the most memorable experience?

Please let me give you three memories, but I’ll keep them brief. The first time I attended a SF convention after Firebird was published, and saw someone sitting on the floor in the motel hallway reading my book, was a moment I won’t forget. Then there was the Bantam authors’ dinner during ConFrancisco in the 1990s, when they bussed us over to Skywalker Ranch. Unbelievable surroundings, incredible meal, astonishing guest list—who could forget that? Best memory of the three: Witnessing the baptism of a young woman who said she had decided to become a Christian after reading the Firebird books.

What were the challenges in bringing Daystar to life?

In Daystar I wanted to show how different it might look if the same God came and walked among us under different circumstances, so my greatest challenges were theological. Trying to discern the purposes of Jesus’ miracles and teachings, and to line up the events in Daystar with those purposes—rather than trying to create a one-to-one correspondence of callings, healings, feedings, specific teachings—was something I tried to keep front and center. On the literary side, since this was the fifth book in a series but I wanted it to stand alone, I made Meris Cariole an “outsider” main character. She knew nothing about the characters in the other four novels, and I hoped readers would track with her viewpoint as she gradually came to understand the people around her.

Authors Love to Read Too!

Authors Love to Read Too!

As book lovers it interests us: What books or authors have influenced you?

That’s a challenging question, since I’m traveling as I write this interview. Depending on my memory is a dicey proposition! I was profoundly influenced at an impressionable age by Tolkien and Lewis. By the time I graduated high school, I had read LotR an embarrassing number of times and tasted Zenna Henderson, Ben Bova, Alan E. Nourse, and Anne McCaffrey. I admired the literary style of Dorothy L. Sayers and, later, Lois McMaster Bujold. Writing the last two Firebird-series books, Wind and Shadow and Daystar, I drew on the influence of my mentors at Regent College in Vancouver BC, most of whom are theological authors. I’ll recommend Iain Provan, J.I Packer and Craig Gay to anyone who’s interested in some chewy and thought-provoking reading!

Tell us about a book that epitomizes quality [Christian] faith-driven lit.

Choosing just one is hard, and again, I can’t see my bookshelf from half a continent away. Also, much depends on your favorite genre. To my literary-minded hostess this week, I recommended Winter Birds by Jamie Langston Turner. I’d send a teen-or-twenty-something who was looking for something new to the Marcher Lord Press site, armed with the names “Nietz” and “Williamson” among others, as up-and-coming SF and fantasy authors to look for. When I get home, I’ll surely smack my forehead when I spot the additional book(s) I SHOULD have also recommended.

What do you hope readers take away from Daystar?

Finally, an easy question! I hope Daystar’s readers will put down the book with a more passionate love for the Lord who walked among us in the universe He created, meeting our desperate needs and welcoming us into His Kingdom.


Kathy Tyers is a well-known author of science fiction, including one of the famed Star Wars books, The Truce at Bakura.  Kathy is an accomplished flutist and in her spare time mentors budding authors through the Christian Writers Guild.

Kathy can be found on her website or via Facebook.



2013 Shortlists announced

We are pleased to reveal the 2013 INSPY Award shortlists:

General Fiction

Into the Free by Julie Cantrell
Promise Me This by Cathy Gohlke
The First Gardener by Denise Hildreth Jones
The Messenger by Siri Mitchell
Stardust by Carla Stewart


To Whisper Her Name by Tamera Alexander
Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden
Love’s Reckoning by Laura Frantz
Breath of Dawn by Kristen Heitzmann
My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade


Gone to Ground by Brandilyn Collins
A Plain Death by Amanda Flower
Placebo by Steven James
Trinity: Military War Dog by Ronie Kendig
Proof by Jordyn Redwood

Literature for Young People

Wreath by Judy Christie
With a Name like Love by Tess Hilmo
Dead Man’s Hand by Eddie Jones
There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones
Cake: Love, Chickens, and a Taste of Peculiar by Joyce Magnin

Speculative Fiction

Caught by Margaret Patterson Haddix
The 13th Tribe by Robert Liparulo
Freeheads by Kerry Nietz
Soul’s Gate by James L. Rubart
Daystar by Kathy Tyers

Congratulations to all the shortlisted authors!


2013 Judges

The INSPY Advisory Board is thrilled to announce the judges for 2013. The shortlists will be announced on April 15 and once these judges receive their respective books, they then have the task to narrow from five novels to the one worthy of the 2013 INSPY in each category. We welcome these judges and thank them for their service.

General Fiction Judges

Rachel McMillanRachel McMillan loves Christian fiction, tea and Sherlock Holmes. She blogs at A Fair Substitute for Heaven and is a frequent contributor and featured reviewer at Breakpoint and Novel Crossing. She lives in Toronto. This is her third time judging the INSPY Awards and she looks forward to the fun discussions ahead!



Elizabeth SchulenbergElizabeth Schulenburg got her first library card at age 4 and hopes to be reading as long as her 106-year-old great-grandma. To pay the bills, she works behind the pharmacy counter, but her real passion lies in spending time with friends and family, especially her husband, Jeremy, and twin 2-year-olds, David and Sophia. Among her favorite Christian authors are Ted Dekker, Jamie Langston Turner, Angie Smith, Rachel Held Evans, and Jocelyn Green. If you’d like to see what she is reading, stop by

DMSelfDM Webb-Self lives, along with her family and a variety of pets, in the beautiful state of Mississippi. She is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), where she has served as a judge in the Carol Awards and Genesis Awards, and is an active participant in the ACFW critique group. Her novel, Mississippi Nights, was released in January 2012 and her children’s devotional, Balaam & the Donkey, was released on the Devokids website on April 1, 2013.

Her studies in art and sociology coupled with her many jobs ranging from bookstore clerk to volunteer firefighter/EMR has produced a plethora of ideas for upcoming books. You can find her at


Romance Judges

Susan BaganzSusan M. Baganz is acquisitions editor for Prism Book Group, an author of contemporary and historical romances, and a book reviewer. She loves a happy ending and the journey it takes to get there. She lives in the Midwest and loves curling up with her puppy, a good book, and a cup of spiced chai. Susan blogs at Susan Baganz’s Silygoos Blog.



Profile Picture Rachel BrandRachel Brand is an aspiring writer who lives in Scotland, where she is finishing her undergraduate degree in English and modern history at the University of St. Andrews. She is the fiction editor of the Christian e-zine, The Christian Manifesto, where she regularly reviews recent releases in the inspirational market. When she isn’t reading a novel or penning her own, Rachel enjoys baking, knitting, watching films and attempting to play computer games with her husband. A romantic at heart, Rachel can typically be found reading an Amish or historical romance, but she does occasionally take a break to enjoy some contemporary and young adult fiction.


2012Rissi An avid 20-something reader who is learning to like sci-fi, Rissi lives in the Midwest and is passionate about writing – which may explain why conversations between her current characters rotate through her mind (this can be quite inconvenient). Over the past six years, she’s written film reviews for a small Christian website, which then transitioned into blogging and eventually, book reviewing. A love of a good Jason Bourne mystery means she’s willing to try almost any crime show, and is in fact, addicted to several. British costume dramas are too few in her opinion as is BBC’s Sherlock and she uses the word “rather” too much (blaming this on those British dramas). For nearly three years, she has been fortunate enough to be a part of the coolest e-zine covering the best in literature and film. When not writing, she enjoys good music, hanging out with her family and pursuing other creative hobbies. Since August 2011, her writing haven has been blogging; she blogs at Dreaming Under the Same Moon.


Mystery/Thriller Judges

photoBeckie Burnham has been a blogger (By The Book) for more than four years, but has been a book enthusiast/promoter (nagger) for much longer. She is the member of three book discussion groups — her favorite being one she co-leads at a women’s rehab center. This dynamic group meets once a week to read books aloud and generally cut up and have fun. The mother of three college-aged children, she works when she has to as the office manager of her husband Brian’s veterinary office. They own one spoiled Boston terrier, four cats, two goats and 10 chickens.


DSCN1875Mark Buzard is a Pennsylvania transplant that has lived in northeastern Ohio since 1993. He has a BA in religious education, is single and currently looking for work. Although he has no children, Mark does have three nieces and three nephews that he loves as if though they were his own. Mark spends his extra time playing the piano, taking walks, shopping, and of course reading. He rarely reads secular books, so most of his reading is Christian fiction, the mystery/suspense/thriller genre in particular. At the suggestion of two of his friends, Mark explored the idea a few years ago of reviewing books, and was fortunate to get connected with several publishers, publicity groups and others. Mark really enjoys reviewing books and gets so many that he uses a spreadsheet to keep track of them all. Mark states that he is honored to be a judge for the INSPY Awards and is looking forward to the experience. You can find Mark blogging at Thoughts of a Sojourner.

Tami1Tami Erwin is a book blogger, avid reader and former librarian. Her years in library collection development expanded her interest in a wide variety of book genres, but mysteries have always been her favorite. In their 30 years of marriage, Tami and her husband, Dave, have lived in 13 towns in Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado. They have three grown children and two grandsons. Tami blogs at Just One More Thing . . .



Literature for Young People Judges

sheilaSheila DeChantal lives in Central Minnesota with her husband and three dogs, two of which are rescues (she has a weakness for hurt animals). Sheila has two amazing boys — one in college and one in the Navy. She spends her weekdays as a family life administrator and special events coordinator for her church, volunteers on the city library board and with Friends of the Library. Sheila is also honored to be a board member for Camp Benedict, a camp for people infected and affected by AIDS.

For fun Sheila loves riding bike, reading, rollerblading, mud runs, cabin weekends, and hanging out with friends. In 2014 she is signed up to run with the bulls. Her hope and prayer is that she is faster than the bulls ;) Sheila can be found blogging at Book Journey.

sherryearlySherry Early is the author and instigator of Semicolon, a blog about kids and books and homeschooling and communities and sometimes movies and politics and fun links and whatever else she wants to write about on any particular day. Sherry is an evangelical Christian and completely unapologetic about it. She is also a 52 year old homeschooling mom of eight children. Sherry enjoys reading — reading whatever comes her way, including, but not limited to, adult fiction, mysteries, historical fiction, nonfiction history and biography, Christian inspirational fiction, young adult fiction, fantasy and science fiction, children’s fiction and nonfiction, memoirs, cereal boxes, other people’s blogs, magazines, brochures, and picture books. When she’s desperate Sherry will read the notes on the bulletin board and the advertising signs on the wall of whatever establishment she is stuck inside without reading material.

IMG_1729 - CopyEmily Rachelle is the author of ebook novella Sixteen and a teenage girl in love with God and the world He created. Her favorite things include chocolate, pretty trees, the ocean, weddings, crafts, and books — rows upon rows of books, neatly lining library shelves or messily stacked in the corner of a bedroom. She blogs three times a week about writing, books, crafts and DIY projects, media, and society at


Speculative Fiction Judges

author picIn simple language, Pauline Creeden breaks down biblical stories and applies them to real life in new ways. Her methods of teaching have brought new light to old scriptures. Pauline is a horse trainer from Virginia, but writing is her therapy. In her fiction, she creates worlds that are both familiar and strange, often pulling the veil between dimensions. She becomes the main character in each of her stories, and because she has ADD, she will get bored if she pretends to be one person for too long.

Her articles, reviews, and devotionals have been featured in RUBY FOR WOMEN Magazine, Devotionals for Bloggers, Faith Filled Family Magazine, and Christian Fiction Book Reviews. One of Pauline’s short stories has won the CCW Short Story contest. Other short stories have been published in Fear & Trembling Magazine, Obsidian River, Free Flash Fiction, and Avenir Eclectia. An urban fantasy short will appear in The Book of Sylvari: An Anthology of Elves from Port Yonder Press, and a vampire short will appear in Monsters! from Diminished Media Group. And her sci-fi novel, Catalyst, will be published by Redeeming Tree this year. Pauline can be found blogging at Fat Free Faith.

P1050362Garrett Larson blogs at He is interested in the intersection of pop culture, current events, the way we live our lives, why we make the decisions we do, the American Dream/Dilemma, and the interconnection or disconnection with/from faith in the world we find ourselves living in the present day.

Garrett’s upcoming books include book one of his dystopian trilogy: Mastrick of jala, Inc., and a non-fiction thriller: The American Dream Failed! And You Can Too! He loves art as much as writing and has had two pop-up galleries featuring his work. His art is in private collections nationwide. His art site is: facebook page:

JoshOlds Josh Olds is a pastor, a storyteller and an editor. He is the coauthor of two very different books: Art and the Bible for Children, a combination art lesson and Bible story book, and The Blood Book, a special project coauthored with Ted Dekker. There are many other stories swimming in his head that may someday see the light of day.

Josh blogs at Life is Story, a website he began as a solo venture in 2008. In the years that followed, the site added giveaways, audio podcasts, flash fiction contests, movie reviews, and a web comic. He also serves as a contributor and managing editor for Fiction Addict. You can find out more about Josh at Facebook and Twitter.

Congratulations Long List Contenders ~ Speculative Fiction

Have you ever wondered exactly what is that genre entitled “Speculative Fiction?” And how is it different from Science Fiction?

According to The Speculative Literature Foundation “speculative literature is a catch-all term meant to inclusively span the breadth of fantastic literature, encompassing literature ranging from hard science fiction to epic fantasy to ghost stories to horror to folk and fairy tales to slipstream to magical realism to modern myth-making — and more.”

As you can see, spec lit covers it all whereas Science Fiction can be quite limiting ~ science fiction includes more futuristic stories and settings.  It is a genre that “relies on a considerable degree of suspension of belief,” and “according to science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein, “a handy short definition of almost all science fiction might read: realistic speculation about possible future events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world, past and present, and on a thorough understanding of the nature and significance of the scientific method.”

For our purposes, speculative fiction is more all-inclusive and should have an element of faith within the story-line.

Last year’s Speculative Fiction winner was The Falling Away by T.L. Hines.  The short-list judges had this to say of The Falling Away:  In his own distinctive “noir bizarre” style, Hines explores powerful truths about life, death and redemption. The author managed to tackle a familiar subject (spirituals warfare) in a most unconventional way. Full characterization meshed with a tight plot that is engaging even for newcomers to the supernatural thriller. Ultimately, more than one character learns important truths about the fallen world we live in and the spiritual dangers one may face from without and within. This novel is an embodiment of the concept that God’s power is made perfect in human weakness.

And now, the long-list contenders for 2013 ~
Asylum by Ashley Hodges Bazer
The Land Beyond the Portal by J.S. Bailey
H2O: The Novel by Austin Boyd & Brannon Hollingsworth
Daughter of Light by Morgan Busse
Godsmacked by Paul Cicchini
Mortal (The Book of Mortals #2) by Ted Dekkar & Tosca Lee
Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore
The Telling by Mike Duran
Caught (The Missing #5) by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Seeking Unseen (Toch Island Chronicles #2) by Kat Heckenbach
Griffin’s Storm by Darby Karchut
The Soul Saver by Dineen A. Miller
The Windrider Saga by Rebecca Minor
Cursebearer by Rebecca Minor
Winter Nova by Preston Morgan
Freeheads by Kerry Nietz
Soul’s Gate by James L. Rubart
Crosswind (Sark Brother #1) by Steve Rzasa
The Returning (Saga of Davi Rhii #2) by Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Starflower (Tales of Goldstone Wood #4) by Anne Elisabeth Stengl
A Light in the Darkness by Heather Sutherlin
Daystar by Kathy Tyers
A Hummen in Spiral Gorge by William T. Watts
Elemental by Emily White
The Dragon’s Tooth by N.D. Wilson
Do you see your favorite spec fiction novel on the list?
Be sure to check back on April 15 when the short-list novels are announced!

Announcing the 2011 INSPY Award Winners

The INSPY Advisory is pleased to announce the 2011 INSPY Award Winners:

Creative Nonfiction: Passport Through Darkness by Kimberly L. Smith

In Passport Through Darkness, Mrs. Smith portrays sacrificial Christian living as the absolutely normal and healthy choice for all Christians. She and her husband are willingly transparent with their weaknesses and present a realistic picture of what a Christian living looks like: hard, messy, and painful, but right and worthwhile. Passport Through Darkness is a powerful story that can change who you are at a fundamental level.

General Fiction: City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell (Henry Holt & Co, September 2010)
We chose City of Tranquil Light because it tells a compelling story with complex characters that feel true to life, characters we care about. Bo Caldwell’s prose is lyrical.

The characters live a very real faith. Everything they do has Kingdom service in mind, yet they never come across as preachy. Their faith is organic. Serving Christ is what they do, it’s who they are. Because of that, this book’s appeal goes beyond that of the Christian community.

Literature for Young People: Saint Training by Elizabeth Fixmer (Zondervan, 2010)

Saint Training is realistic in its examination of religion without stereotype or fundamentalist views. An inspiring read, relevant to young readers and a stand out in its genre. Mary Clare is very down to earth and anyone will be able to relate to her struggles.

Mystery/Thriller: The Bishop by Steven James

Steven James did not shy away from the “tough” questions about God and we appreciate that an author – a Christian author at that, would be up-front and center with the real tough spiritual questions. The Bishop treats the reader as intelligent and with a mind of her own. The plot was engaging and the characters felt real.

Romance: Yesterday’s Tomorrow by Cathy West (Oak Tara, March 2011)

Catherine West gives us a gritty and moving account of the Vietnam War as experienced by an intrepid journalist providing innovation of the setting, time period and subject matter. The edgy realism and poignant honesty that flow from West’s pen in Yesterday’s Tomorrow place it head-and-shoulders above some of biggest bestsellers on bookstore shelves today, and it easily fulfills all the requirements set forth to make it the INSPY Award Winner for Romance.

Speculative Fiction: The Falling Away by T.L. Hines (Thomas Nelson, September 2010)

Non-linear plot lines that all converge without being predictable, responsible treatment of mental disorders without cliche; self sacrifice, demonic encounters and the power of Grace; all these reasons and more make The Falling Away by T.L. Hines the speculative INSPY winner. In his own distinctive “noir bizarre” style, Hines explores powerful truths about life, death and redemption. The author managed to tackle a familiar subject (spirituals warfare) in a most unconventional way. Full characterization meshed with a tight plot that is engaging even for newcomers to the supernatural thriller. Ultimately, more than one character learns important truths about the fallen world we live in and the spiritual dangers one may face from without and within. This novel is an embodiment of the concept that God’s power is made perfect in human weakness.

2011 Speculative Fiction Judges

The 2011 INSPYS Advisory Board is pleased to announce the judging panel for the category of Speculative Fiction:

My name is Lydia and I am a book addict.  I squeal every day I get a book-shaped package in the mail and struggle with book-depression on days that the mailman doesn’t bring me love.  My purse always has my Kindle along with a physical book (or two.. or three).  Not only do I love to read, but I love to read just about everything.  I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve been able to chat and share my love with books on my blog, The Lost Entwife, and I strive to provide quality, interesting information there.

I have been a book lover from a very young age, mostly thanks to my mother who never refused to buy me a book or books.  I continued my love of reading through college where I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in biology and chemistry.  After spending many years in environmental chemistry and the medical industry, I have found my true joy in Christian publishing and book reviewing.  I review books on my blog, Carlybird’s Home.

I am married to a wonderful man, who also led me to Christ while we were dating.  After spending the first few years of our marriage in Atlanta, we have now settled down in Burlington, NC where we enjoy a quiet life.  I review books full-time while helping my husband with his insurance business.  I am also a dog lover, nature lover, health nut and a major nerd.

Carly Kendall blogs at Carlybird’s Home

Tim George has spent the last few years highlighting the best of faith-based suspense, mystery, and Sci-Fi at his blog, Unveiled. Along with book reviews, and interviews, Unveiled has also sponsored joint contests with authors such as Mike Dellosso and Athol Dickson. He is also a featured reviewer at where he has done a number of audio interviews with well known CBA authors. Tim is a full-time freelance writer and now represented by Les Stobbe for his own fiction.

Michelle R. Wood has been an avid reader from a very tender age, since her mother first began reading aloud to her. Eventually earning a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Arts and English, Michelle has worked as an editorial intern, staff writer, blogger, and print/web designer. Her personal musings and book reviews can be found at her blog, Distractions of Grandeur. She is honored and excited to serve as a judge in the speculative fiction category.

Jonathan Anderson has always been an avid reader.  At 26, he lives in Kansas City Missouri with his wife Sarah, and fills his bookshelves with science and speculative fiction, and fantasy.  He feels that speculative and science fiction give authors a chance to write about what it means to be human, juxtaposed with what we consider alien or other.

Jonathan blogs at Behind the Eyes, Oversimplified.

Interview with author David Gregory

David Gregory‘s The Last Christian is on the INSPYs shortlist for Speculative Fiction.

A summary of The Last Christian (from Goodreads):

A.D. 2088.

Missionary daughter Abigail Caldwell emerges from the jungle for the first time in her thirty-four years, the sole survivor of a mysterious disease that killed her village. Abby goes to America, only to discover a nation where Christianity has completely died out. A curious message from her grandfather assigns her a surprising mission: re-introduce the Christian faith in America, no matter how insurmountable the odds.

But a larger threat looms. The world’s leading artificial intelligence industrialist has perfected a technique for downloading the human brain into a silicon form. Brain transplants have begun, and with them comes the potential of eliminating physical death altogether—but at what expense?

As Abby navigates a society grown more addicted to stimulating the body than nurturing the soul, she and Creighton Daniels, a historian troubled by his father’s unexpected death, become unwitting targets of powerful men who will stop at nothing to further their nefarious goals. Hanging in the balance—the spiritual future of all humanity.

INSPYs: Why do you write?

David Gregory: Primarily, I write to challenge people’s belief systems and introduce them to the possibility of new ways of thinking. Dinner with a Perfect Stranger does this with Christian apologetics. A Day with a Perfect Stranger challenges people’s concept of God and the relationship of love he wants with us. My latest book, The Last Christian, poses what I hope are thought-provoking questions concerning the full nature of the gospel Jesus proclaimed, the effects of technology upon faith and human experience, and current trends in the evangelical church. Usually what holds us back in various areas of our life are faulty belief systems. I think challenging people to examine what they believe is always a valuable exercise.

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

The main challenge for me is to make sure I have a story, not just a lesson. I tend to be a non-fiction thinker, and that carries over into my writing. I usually know what message I want to communicate. The key for me is developing a story that holds the reader to the end and makes him or her think about the message it contains. The benefit is affecting people’s lives. It is so heartening to hear from readers who not only enjoyed the books, but whose life was significantly touched by one of them.

INSPYs: Favorite book – favorite movie – favorite TV show?

Book: That’s so difficult, to choose one book! Perhaps A Wrinkle in Time, or The Glory and the Dream: A Narrative History of the United States 1932-1972, by William Manchester.

Movie: Apollo 13. I grew up in Houston in the 1960s, so the space program was near and dear to me.

TV show: Right now, Fringe. Nothing else even close.

INSPYs: How do you feel about blogging? Do you have a blog?

I’m supposed to have a blog at, but I struggle with it. I find that my mind doesn’t tend to work in the arena of the daily or weekly topic. I am much more content to work on something long term and mull it over until it’s the way I want it to be.

INSPYs: Tell us about a book that epitomizes quality [Christian] faith-driven lit.

I still love C.S. Lewis’s space trilogy. All three books are thought-provoking, riveting (once you get into them), and so well conceived. There are two scenes in That Hideous Strength that I read several times a year, they are so good.

David Gregory is the author of Dinner with a Perfect Stranger and The Last Christian, among other books. He has master’s degrees from Dallas Theological Seminary and the University of North Texas. He served as a writer and editor for Insight for Living and Exchanged Life Ministries Texas before writing on his own full-time. He lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Interview with author Kirk Outerbridge

Eternity Falls cover

Kirk Outerbridge‘s Eternity Falls is on the INSPYs shortlist for Speculative Fiction.

A summary of Eternity Falls (from Goodreads):

The Undying Has Died

It wasn’t supposed to happen. People who took the Miracle Treatment weren’t supposed to die — ever. Especially not the famous movie star spokesperson for the Treatment. And yet, that’s exactly what’s happened. The stunning starlet Greta Darling, who looked 22 but was really 89, has suddenly died. Of natural causes. Desperate to assure their billions of clients that the Miracle Treatment really does work, company executives call in private investigator Rick Macey.

Macey’s job is to find out what really happened to Greta Darling — or, failing that, to simply come up with some other explanation for how she died. Macey is a war veteran with very special abilities and his own reasons for taking this case.

What exactly is so wonderful about living forever? Who is really pulling the strings here? What do the religious clues at the crime scene mean? And who will be left standing … when eternity falls?

INSPYs: Why do you write cyberthrillers?

Kirk Outerbridge

Kirk Outerbridge: I just love anything with the idea of a man-machine interface. Virtual realities, cybernetics, cyborgs, powered armor. That coupled with a good mystery/thriller element is what drives me.

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

Kirk Outerbridge: The challenge is knowing where to draw the line between realism and profanity. I want my stories to be readable by a Christian audience but not so sugar coated that a nonbeliever would dismiss it. After all, one of my main thrusts is to reach those who are still yet to consider Christ. The benefits? It lets you tell stories about things the secular world dismisses or minimizes, but when presented the right way it can be some of the most powerful material out there. After all, what’s more powerful than God’s truth?

INSPYs: Favorite book – favorite movie – favorite TV show?

Kirk Outerbridge: It’s too hard to pick an all time favorite so I’ll give you my current top three.

Book: The Wind up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. Not a Christian book but very well written (it was a Hugo and Nebula award winner). It has some very interesting and
heavy dystopian elements and has already influenced some elements of my third novel.
Amazing book.

Movie: Inception. Go see it.

TV show: Dexter! Now that’s a complex protagonist!

INSPYs: How do you feel about blogging? Do you have a blog?

Kirk Outerbridge: I love reading blogs but I find it hard to blog myself. I never seem to have much to say, LOL. I do have a blog but I don’t nearly update it enough to even call it a blog. Perhaps announcement board is more like it. *grins*

INSPYs: Tell us about a book that epitomizes quality [Christian] faith-driven lit.

Kirk Outerbridge: I’m probably biased but [the INSPY shortlisted] A Star Curiously Singing by Kerry Nietz does it for me. Literarily, Nietz turns every fiction rule on its head and makes it work. An extraordinary display of craft combined with an imaginative premise and a subtle but power Christian message. A must read.

Kirk Outerbridge resides with his wife, Ria, and son, Miles, in Bermuda. He is a member of the Church of Christ and is a professional engineer.