The INSPYs Advisory Board Announces the 2016 Longlists


For the INSPY Awards, change was the word as we began 2016.

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

After some behind-the-scene delays, today we are thrilled to announce the results from those votes. From the lists below, the Advisory Board will be narrowing these respective lists down to five books per category which will become our 2016 short lists. From there, the same judging process and practices will follow.

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

Contemporary Romance / Romantic Suspense:

  1. Pesto and Potholes by Susan M. Baganz (Prism Book Group)
  2. Moments of Truth by Sandra D. Bricker (Bling! Romance)
  3. Together with You by Victoria Bylin (Bethany House)
  4. Anna’s Healing by Vannetta Chapman (Harvest House)
  5. Legitimate Lies by Julie B. Cosgrove (Prism Book Group)
  6. The End Begins by Sara Davison (Ashberry La​ne​)
  7. No Place to Hide by Lynette Eason (Revell)
  8. London Tides by Carla Laureano (David. C. Cook)
  9. To Dance with Dolphins by Bonnie Leon (Ashb​erry​ Lane)
  10. Rising Darkness by Nancy Mehl (Bethany House)
  11. The Dandelion Field by Kathryn Springer (Zondervan)
  12. Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Beth ​K. ​Vogt (Howard)
  13. A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade (Bethany House)
  14. The Wonder of You by Susan May Warren (Tyndale House)
  15. Her Brother’s Keeper by Beth Wiseman (Thomas Nelson)

Debut Fiction Longlist:

  1. A Light in Bailey’s Harbor by Bethany Baker (Mantle Rock Publishing)
  2. The Thorn Bearer by Pepper D. Basham (Vinspire Publishing)
  3. Whitewashed by Amy Blake (Mantle Rock)
  4. To Soar on Eagle’s Wings by Renee Blare (Prism Book Group)
  5. Angelhood by A.J. Cattapan (Vinspire Publishing)
  6. Jaded by Varina Denman (David C. Cook)
  7. Blood of a Stone by Jeanne Gassman (Tuscany Press)
  8. A Noble Masquerade by Kristi Ann Hunter (Bethany House)
  9. Love’s Rescue by Christine Johnson (Bethany House)
  10. Irish Meadows by Susan Anne Mason (Bethany House)
  11. Cavernous by Monica Mynk (Mantle Rock)
  12. Broken Dolls ​by ​Tyrolin Puxty (Curiosity Quills)
  13. The Sound of Diamonds by Rachelle Rea (Whitefire Publishing)
  14. Finding Mia by Dianne J. Wilson (Harbourlight)

General Fiction Longlist:

  1. Hidden Storms by Nancy Shew Bolton (Prism Book Group)
  2. A Sparrow in Ter​ezi​n by Kristy Cambron (Thomas Nelson)
  3. A Cup of Dust by Susie Finkbeiner (Kregel)
  4. The Art of Losing Yourself by Katie Ganshert (WaterBrook Press)
  5. Secrets She Kept by Cathy Gohlke (Tyndale House Publishers)
  6. Spy of Richmond by Jocelyn Green (River North)
  7. Tea & Crumples by Summer Kinard (Light Messages Publishing)
  8. The Dog that Saved Stewart Coolidge by Jim Kraus (FaithWords)
  9. The Tomb by Stephanie Landsem (Howard Books)
  10. The Road to Terminus by Catherine Leggitt (Mountainview Books)
  11. Water From My Heart by Charles Martin (Center Street)
  12. Chapel Springs Survival by Ane Mulligan (Light​house Publishing​ of the Carolinas​)
  13. The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay (Thomas Nelson)
  14. The Five Times I Met Myself by James ​L. ​Rubart (Thomas Nelson)
  15. Final Grace for Reverend G by RJ Thesman (CrossRiver Media)

Historical Romance Longlist:

  1. A Light in Bailey’s Harbor by Bethany Baker (Mantle Rock)
  2. The Wood’s Edge by Lori Benton (Waterbrook Press)
  3. A Thousand Shall Fall by Andrea Boeshaar (Kregel)
  4. Not by Sight by Kate Breslin (Bethany House)
  5. The Captive Imposter by Dawn Crandall (Whitaker House)
  6. The Memoir of Johnny Devine by Cam​i​lle Eide (Ashberry Lane)
  7. The Mistress of Tall Acre by Laura Frantz (Revell)
  8. Brentwood’s Ward by Michelle Griep (Shiloh Run Press)
  9. Where Two Rivers Meet by Londa Hayden (Tate Publishing)
  10. Luther ​and​ Katharina by Jody Hedlund (Waterbrook Press)
  11. A Noble Masquerade by Kristi Ann Hunter (Bethany House)
  12. Guardians of the Heart by Loree Lough (Whitaker House)
  13. The Sound of Silver by Rachelle Rea (Whitefire Publishers)
  14. Through Waters Deep by Sarah Sundin (Revell)
  15. Promise to Keep by Elizabeth ​Byler ​Younts (Howard Books)

Literature for Young Adults Longlist:

  1. Season of Fire by Lisa T. Bergren (Blink)
  2. Rise of the Fallen by Chuck Black (WaterBrook Press)
  3. A Time to Speak by Nadine Brandes (Enclave Publishing)
  4. Lightning by Bonnie S. Calhoun (Revell)
  5. Shades of Doon by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon (Blink)
  6. The Choosing by Rachelle Dekker (Tyndale)
  7. The Golden Braid by Melanie Dickerson (Thomas Nelson)
  8. The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest by Melanie Dickerson (Thomas Nelson)
  9. See No Evil by Mary Hamilton (HopeSprings Books)
  10. The Sound of the Stones by Beth Hammond (eLectio Publishing)
  11. An Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund (Zondervan)
  12. Chivalrous by Dina L. Sleiman (Bethany House)
  13. Dauntless by Dina L. Sleiman (Bethany House)
  14. 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status by Cynthia Toney (Write Integrity Press)
  15. Siren’s Fury by Mary Weber (Thomas Nelson)

Mystery / Thriller Longlist:

  1. The Last Con by Zachary Bartels (Thomas Nelson)
  2. Whitewashed by Amy Blake (Mantle Rock)
  3. Gone without a Trace by Patricia Bradley (Revell)
  4. Murder Freshly Baked by Vannetta Chapman (Zondervan)
  5. Deadly Doll by Brooke Cox (Mantle Rock Publishing)
  6. A.D. 33 by Ted Dekker (Center Street)
  7. Honor at Stake by Declan Finn (Eternal Press)
  8. Vendetta by Lisa Harris (Revell)
  9. Taken by Dee Henderson (Bethany House)
  10. Falcon by Ronie Kendig (Shiloh Run Press)
  11. Where Hope Dwells by Elizabeth Ludwig (Guideposts)
  12. Desperate Measures by Sandra Orchard (Revell)
  13. The Bones will Speak by Carr​ie Stuart Parks (Thomas Nelson)
  14. Shattered Trust by Chris Richards (Prism Book Group)
  15. Ashes to Ashes by Mel Starr (Kregel)

Speculative Fiction Longlist:

  1. The Methuselah Project by Rick Barry (Kregel)
  2. Heir of Hope by Morgan ​L. Busse (​Enclave Publishing​)
  3. The Shock of Night by Patrick W. Carr (Bethany House)
  4. Angelhood by A.J. Cattapan (Vinspire)
  5. The Curse of Crow Hollow by Billy Coffey (Thomas Nelson)
  6. Valley of Decision by Lynne Gentry (Howard Books)
  7. The Sound of Stones by Beth Hammond (eLectio Publishing)
  8. Embers by Ronie Kendig (Enclave​ Publishing)
  9. The King’s Scrolls by Jaye L Knight (Living Sword Publishers)
  10. The Sword and the Song by C.E. Laureano (Nav Press)
  11. Waking Beauty by Sarah E. Morin (Enclave)
  12. Cavernous by Monica Mynk (Mantle Rock)
  13. Found and Lost by Amanda G. Stevens (David C. Cook)
  14. Take and Give by Amanda G. Stevens (David C. Cook)

…and there you have the 2016 INSPYs longlists.

We’d like to congratulate all of the nominated authors and thank all of the bloggers and readers who put forth their favorite reads of 2015.

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

2015 INSPY Award Winners

After our panel of judges careful consideration, the INSPYs Advisory Board is pleased to announce the 2015 INSPY Award Winners. Below are the seven winning novels in their respective categories and a statement from our judges on the reason why they felt it was worth the award…

Book - Miracle in a Dry SeasonDebut: Miracle in a Dry Season (Bethany House) by Sarah Loudin Thomas: 
We chose Miracle in a Dry Season not only because of the talent of the author, but because it is a unique and engaging story. A refreshing tale of miracles, love, and laughter set in the 1950s, Sarah Loudin Thomas pens an intriguing take based around the miracle of Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand. Through the story, characters – led primarily by a male character, Casewell, and events we gain a deeper understanding of faith and what it means to embrace the gifts and blessings God has given us.
Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense: Meant to Be Mine (Bethany House) by Becky Wade: Book - Meant to be Mine

Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade is the epitome of Christian romance. The chemistry between Ty and Celia is fabulous, and we could feel the sparks in every interaction between them! While the romance is spectacular, this book has so much more to offer. Beautifully written, it is an emotional experience in the best way. Wade’s descriptions of the characters brought them to life, and their relational, emotional, and spiritual journeys rang true. The other four novels in this category are wonderful, but Meant To Be Mine’s excellence is unable to be denied.


saving amelieGeneral Fiction: Saving Amelie (Tyndale) by Cathy Gohlke: 

What a challenge, to pick one winner from five fabulous titles including Biblical, historical and contemporary fiction. We are delighted to announce the winner of the 2015 INSPY Award for General Fiction is Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke, which impressed us all with its complex characters, fascinating historical detail, and bold yet subtle Christian message. The story is set in Germany in the early days of World War II, and plot centres on rescuing the deaf Amelie, from her father and from a regime which prized “perfection” over the sanctity of life. The characters face danger, hardship and uncertainty over the course of this thought-provoking and sometimes harrowing read. We were particularly impressed with the sensitive way Gohlke showed how God can use ordinary people in the bleakest of circumstances.

Book - Mark of DistinctionHistorical Romance: Mark of Distinction (Tyndale) by Jessica Dotta: 

We chose Mark of Distinction because it exemplifies the historical romance genre and confronts unique spiritual themes. Jessica Dotta has woven a story with a captivating setting and characters. The writing style and mystery of the plot draws the reader from the beginning into a Victorian society of restraint, secrets, and consequences. At its center is the theme of full surrender and trust in God. With complex characters and a unique voice, the story unfolds with unexpected twists and romance.

Book - Storm SirenLiterature for Young Adult: Storm Siren (Thomas Nelson) by Mary Weber:

Our panel decided to choose Storm Siren as the winner for the YA category. Nym deals with insecurities about her elemental powers and wondering why she was born with such a curse. This makes Nym relatable to young women all over the world and from every generation – we have all dealt with insecurities at some point in their lives. To see Nym have to come to terms with how she was created and to use those powers for the greater good shows tremendous character growth. Another reason we chose Storm Siren was because of the amazing and magical world that Mary Weber created. World building is one of the first things in a Fantasy novel that draws you into the story. Oh…and who doesn’t love a map inside their book!Book - A.D. 30

Mystery/Thriller: A.D. 30 (Center Street) by Ted Dekker:

A.D. 30 is a fast-paced adventure that keeps you turning the pages until the very end. Ted Dekker delivers a powerful, faith-filled story that brims with perils – each with their own kind of mystery and suspense, struggles, and most importantly hope. Dekker takes us on a journey to Jesus through the eyes of the daughter of Maviah, a gentile and an outcast, readers rediscover the message of Yeshua, experiencing it as never before. Dekker masterfully conveys the depth of God’s love for us — a knowledge we often hold in our heads, but fail to carry in our hearts. Warring kingdoms, power-thirsty adversaries, and fickle rulers are only a few of the obstacles in Maviah’s journey that keep the reader flipping pages. Whether she will succeed in her quest is a mystery. An uplifting and simple message, encased in a sweeping historical epic, is the primary reason it was selected A.D. 30 to be the winner of this year’s INSPY award.

Speculative Fiction: Spirit Bridge (Thomas Nelson) by James L.Rubart:

Book - Spirit BridgeSpirit Bridge is a brilliantly written story that was thought provoking and yet easy to follow as a standalone novel, though it is the third and final book in the Well Spring series. The story-world was populated with an excellent group of lead characters who were complex and easily relatable in their struggles in both the physical and spiritual realms. Their struggles challenge the reader to examine aspects of their own lives.  The story’s message, dying to self and keeping the enemy from gaining a foothold, was clear throughout, not getting lost in the suspense and action of the story. Spirit Bridge fully satisfies the reader’s expectations of the genre. It is a powerful spiritual thriller, with the speculative elements underpinning the novel and not requiring any further explanation to better understand it. Spirit Bridge is very worthy of the INSPY for Speculative Fiction.



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

Congratulations to the winners and all the nominated authors! 

Up Close and Personal with James L. Rubart

The Inspy’s Advisory Board is happy to welcome James L. Rubart, author of Spirit Bridge in the speculative fiction category!  James was the 2013 Inspy winner in speculative fiction with Soul’s Gate, on the shortlist in 2014 with Memory’s Door, and the 2010 shortlists with Room.

spiritbridgefrom Goodreads:

The warriors riding have battled in astounding supernatural realms. Set captives free. And awakened thousands of hearts. But now their only chance of survival depends on calling forth the spirit bridge.

Reece, Dana, Brandon, and Marcus have achieved staggering success in spiritual realms . . . but each is reeling from recent vicious attacks. They need rest. A break from the war.

But the warlord Zennon is raging and will give them no quarter. The demon holds what he believes is a trump card–a hidden strategy set in motion before the Warriors Riding even began–that will detonate the team from the inside out. And he’s just set it loose.

The street-magician Simon–finally free of Zennon’s alternate-reality prison–is racing to remember his past before his ignorance obliterates his destiny. Then there’s Miyo, a brash young warrior with advanced knowledge of spiritual realities and supernatural armor even Reece doesn’t know about. They will be pivotal in the final war against the Warriors Riding.

If only the Warriors knew which side Simon and Miyo are truly on.

What are you listening to? I’ve gotten hooked on podcasts lately. One called Serial was fascinating: Also been listening to Writing Excuses and How Stuff Works:

What are you watching? Saw the new Avengers movie. Loved it. Been watching The Black List (James Spader is memorizing) and The Flash.

What are you reading? Ted Dekker’s A.D. 30, Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader 25th anniversary edition (great variety of trivia, history, personalities, pop culture) and I’m reading Killing Lions with my oldest son.


James’ office ~ enter through the secret passageway {in his son’s closet!}


I spy Inspy-nominated books on that shelf!

Thank you, James, for giving us a peek into your super-secret writing room! As a podcast listener myself, I can so relate to getting hooked on all things Serial!  Isn’t Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader the greatest? My family has been hooked on those books for years ~ it’s amazing the oddball trivia included.  Such a pleasure hosting you today, James!

Learn more about James Website | Facebook | Twitter.

Author Interview: Lynn Chandler-Willis

We’re thrilled to welcome Pelican Book Group author Lynn Chandler-Willis to the Inspy’s blog!  Lynn’s novel The Rising is shortlisted in the Speculative Fiction category.  Welcome Lynn!


18115244Summary from Goodreads:

A dead child that isn’t dead. A cop out of control. When their worlds collide, God intervenes.




What led you to writing:   Although I loved making up stories as a kid, my interest in writing really piqued in the seventh grade when I had to do a book report on Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. I was simply amazed at the ability of a group of words to take me to an entirely different world.

Tell us a book you feel epitomizes quality faith-driven literature: The Shack was probably the first faith-based fiction I read. It opened my eyes to the fact God doesn’t have to be clothed in a flowing white robe. Faith and spirituality are deeply personal subjects but we are bombarded with ideas of what others think it should be. The Shack allowed me to feel comfortable with my own view of God and any book that can change a way of thinking has set new standards.

Lynn's Work Area

Lynn’s Work Area

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, theological, or logistical) in bringing the book to life? Although as a writer, I often play the “what if” game, but with The Rising, I found myself leaning with the main character, Detective Ellie Saunders, in wanting just the facts. Sure, the very definition of fiction is “not real” but it still has to be believable. Once I, as the writer, knew what I wanted to happen to the child in the story, I had to give at least a feasible medical reason for it to happen.

Favorite book ~ favorite movie ~ favorite tv show? Favorite book is Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. The beauty of the way the words work together is breathtaking. Favorite movie is Lonesome Dove. It’s so epic. To me, it defines romance. Not the sexual, man-woman love story but the passion for life, adventure, new things. Favorite tv show is Justified. The characters are absolutely brilliant.

What do you hope readers take away from The Rising? God forgives. I had a reader email me and say how she related to Ellie in how far away from God she had become and because of Ellie, the reader knew God had never moved away from her. If that was the only copy of the book ever sold, it would have been worth it.


Thank you for joining us Lynn!  For more information about The Rising and Lynn please visit her site at

Author Interview with Shannon Dittemore

Welcome, Shannon Dittmore! The author of the Angel Eyes trilogy, Shonnon’s final novel in that series, Dark Halo is a finalist in the speculative fiction category. Read her interview to find out what keeps her busy when not writing and what book influenced her young adult series.

Summary from Goodreads Book - Dark Halo

One halo brought sight to Brielle. Another offers sweet relief from what she sees.

Brielle can’t help but see the Celestial realm. Even without the halo, it’s everywhere she looks. And with the heavens above Stratus ravaged by war, Brielle wishes for another gift, any gift. Because Jake is gone. The only boy she’s ever loved has been taken by the demon, Damien–and she knows if she ever wants to see him again, she must fight.

But fighting is so hard when everything you see makes you afraid.

When she receives instructions from the Throne Room leading her to Jake, she unknowingly walks into a diabolical and heartbreaking trap. Then the Prince of Darkness himself offers Brielle a halo of his own making. With the dark halo, she won’t have to see the fear and brokenness that surround her. She’ll be free of that unbearable burden. And it comes with a promise: the guarantee of a life with Jake.

When confusing details about Jake’s past emerge, and the battle above reaches a fever pitch, Brielle is forced to make a choice. Will she choose the dark halo and the ignorance that comes with it, or will she choose to live with her eyes wide open and trust the Creator’s design–even if it means a future without Jake?

What do you do outside the world of books?

I’m a mom! And a wife! Roles that consume a ton of my time right now. We’re also very involved at our church; together my husband and I oversee the young adult and young married ministries. For fun, I enjoy fangirling. Most any fandom will do, though I’m partial to Sherlock and the San Francisco 49ers. And if life had taken a different turn for me, I’d be on stage performing Shakespearean tragedies. Maybe when the kids get older I’ll give it another go.

As book lovers it interests us – What books or authors have influenced you, both as a writer and a reader?

This question frightens me. I’m destined to forget a favorite, so why don’t I tell you about a single book that influenced me as I was writing the Angel Eyes trilogy? I read The Hunger Games at a very crucial time. It was during a self-imposed edit and I was attempting to make my sentences more active, more present. No one does that better than Suzanne Collins. After reading The Hunger Games, I stopped mid-edit and rewrote Angel Eyes in first person, present tense. Changed everything for me.

My CaveWhat are the challenges or benefits of incorporating faith into your storyline?

The challenge (and the benefit, I suppose) is in getting it right. I’ve read so many books that I almost loved. ALMOST! But when it came to the whole faith thing, they just didn’t do it for me. They made it too simple, or too hard, or too Biblically lacking. I wanted, desperately, to represent the truth and Scripture accurately while still allowing my imagination to fill in the blanks. I’m certain there are things I missed, but I did keep that a priority every time I sat down to write.

What do you hope readers take away from Dark Halo?

The truth that they’re not alone. Even when they most feel it. Even when they’re upside down and backward in their struggle. Hear me, friends, you’re not alone. We’re not alone. What we see isn’t all there is and the moment we grasp that—truly and deeply believe it—faith becomes something more than a Sunday morning service. It becomes life. We serve an invisible God who does amazing things and He often scoops us up and lets us be a part. It’s the kind of life we were meant to live. And faith in the Creator is how we get there.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, theological, or logistical) in bringing the book to life?

Writing with two young children is never easy and my deadlines were tight. So, there was that, but beyond the logistics, Dark Halo was a very personal story for me.

I’ve been in ministry nearly all my life. I was raised as the eldest daughter of a preacher and then I went on to marry one. And while I wouldn’t change it for anything, there have been times when I saw things in people I’d rather not see. There were times when I wished I could unknow the hard realities of the lives people were living.

In Dark Halo, Brielle is given a choice. She can continue to see the invisible world or she can choose spiritual blindness. The invisible world is a beautiful place but there are dark, ugly things to see there as well. Like fear and hatred. Like death and sin. The temptation to walk away from it all is one I understand. But once you’ve seen the world through God’s eyes, once you’ve tasted the truth, can you really ever unknow it? It was a question I puzzled out as I wrote, and that kind of gut-wrenching honesty can be challenging. The writing of this book changed me. I’m better for it.


Thanks for joining us, Shannon! Read more about Shannon, her books and stay-up-to-date on her latest projects by visiting her website.

Author Interview with Krista McGee

Today we’re pleased to welcome young adult author, Krista McGee. Her novel, Anomaly has been shortlisted in the Speculative Fiction category.

Summary from GoodreadsBook - Anomaly

Thalli has fifteen minutes and twenty-three seconds left to live. The toxic gas that will complete her annihilation is invading her bloodstream. But she is not afraid.

Thalli is different than others in The State. She feels things. She asks questions. And in the State, this is not tolerated. The Ten scientists who survived the nuclear war that destroyed the world above believe that emotion was at the core of what went wrong—and they have genetically removed it from the citizens they have since created. Thalli has kept her malformation secret from those who have monitored her for most of her life, but when she receives an ancient piece of music to record as her community’s assigned musician, she can no longer keep her emotions secreted away.

Seen as a threat to the harmony of her Pod, Thalli is taken to the Scientists for immediate annihilation. But before that can happen, Berk—her former Pod mate who is being groomed as a Scientist—steps in and persuades the Scientists to keep Thalli alive as a test subject.

The more time she spends in the Scientist’s Pod, the clearer it becomes that things are not as simple as she was programmed to believe. She hears stories of a Designer—stories that fill her mind with more questions: Who can she trust? What is this emotion called love? And what if she isn’t just an anomaly, but part of a greater design?

What do you do outside the world of books? I am a wife to Dave; we have been married 18 years. I am a mom to Emma, 15, Eliana, 13, and Thomas, 10. I am also a teacher – AP English and Musical Theater – at Citrus Park Christian School in Tampa.

As book lovers it interests us – What books or authors have influenced you, both as a writer and a reader? This is REALLY hard to answer! There are so many writers I admire…C.S. Lewis is a huge hero of mine. I love his versatility, his talent, and his faith. My favorite CS Lewis book is Till We Have Faces. I also love Jane Austen…cliche, maybe, but I never get tired of reading Pride and Prejudice. I was introduced to Christian fiction by the works of Eugenia Price, so she’ll always have a special place in my heart. Tedd Dekker and Francine Rivers are my favorite current writers, though there are dozens of others that I love, too.

Desk picWhat are the challenges or benefits of incorporating faith into your storyline? I have been involved in ministry for almost twenty years, and I love helping believers know Christ better. I have felt from the beginning that my writing is an extension of that ministry, so my goal is to saturate my stories with Truth so that readers come away entertained by what is hopefully a good story, but also encouraged to understand God better and to go deeper in their walk with Him.

What do you hope readers take away from Anomaly? I want my readers to consider how great God is, how involved he is in our lives, and how he has plans for us that are beyond what we can imagine.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, theological, or logistical) in bringing the book to life? The greatest challenge was creating a “new” world. Thinking through the logistics of a new government, a new kind of people, new foods and values and standards of right and wrong…that took a while! I also met with a friend who teaches AP Physics to talk through some of the scientific aspects of the story. I wanted to make sure there wasn’t too much fiction in my science! I met with a friend who plays violin, as well,  to better understand that instrument. My husband is a theologian, so I often discussed plot points with him to make sure I wasn’t taking too much biblical license in my presentation of the Designer and his follower in The State.

Thanks for joining us today Krista! Learn more about Krista and her novels on her website.

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!