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 Lane)
  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 (Ashberry 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 (Revell)
  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 Terezin 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 (Lighthouse 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 Camille 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 Carrie 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.

Up Close and Personal with Cathy Gohlke

Happy June, Inspy Friends! Our special author of the day is Cathy Gohlke, writer of Saving Amelie, shortlisted for the General Fiction Inspy.  Cathy is no stranger to the Inspy’s as she was also shortlisted in 2013 with Promise Me This.  Join us in welcoming this incredible lady.  We are thrilled to learn Cathy is hard at work on her next novel due in September, 2015.  Be sure to read through to the bottom as we’ve been given a few hints about Cathy’s next book in the picture at the bottom of this post.  Welcome Cathy!

saving amelieIncreasingly wary of her father’s genetic research, Rachel Kramer has determined that this trip with him to Germany–in the summer of 1939–will be her last. But a cryptic letter from her estranged friend, begging Rachel for help, changes everything. Married to SS officer Gerhardt Schlick, Kristine sees the dark tides turning and fears her husband views their daughter, Amelie, deaf since birth, as a blight on his Aryan bloodline.Once courted by Schlick, Rachel knows he’s as dangerous as the swastikas that hang like ebony spiders from every government building in Berlin. She fears her father’s files may hold answers about Hitler’s plans for others, like Amelie, whom the regime deems “unworthy of life.” She risks searching his classified documents only to uncover shocking secrets about her own history and a family she’s never known.Now hunted by the SS, Rachel turns to Jason Young–a driven, disarming American journalist and unlikely ally–who connects her to the resistance and to controversial theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Forced into hiding, Rachel’s every ideal is challenged as she and Jason walk a knife’s edge, risking their lives–and asking others to do the same–for those they barely know but come to love.

What are you listening to?
I’m loving Timeless Reflections, by Dave Kurtz. Inside the CD 
cover Kurtz writes, “This collection of cherished hymns is played on a piano—one instrument, no vocals—pure, simple, yet full of feeling and at times even complex and full of layers, much like our relationship with the Most Holy God.” This mesmerizing CD has long been my favorite, my absolute “go-to” when I need to stop, drop, and spend time with the Lord.

What are you watching?
I love British series—like “Downton Abbey” and “Endeavor” and “Foyle’s War.” I’m especially enjoying the new season of “Call the Midwives.” The characters are compassionate, real, and I love glimpsing each character’s backstory as their tale unfolds. Seeing themes from current events woven into the tapestry of long ago British life is an idea near and dear to my historical fiction writing heart.

Cathy's Daily Devotional Reading
What are you reading?
My daily devotional reading for this year includes The One Year Bible (NIV), Holy Scriptures Tree of Life Version, Jesus Today by Sarah Young, Hymns for the Living Church, and Notes from the Valley by Andy McQuitty. I love combining devotionals and a nonfiction book with daily Bible reading and hymn singing.

This second photo does not reveal the stack of tantalizing fiction lined up on my Kindle, but you can see that I’m focused on research in England for my work in progress—books to do with WWII child evacuees, the Blitz, the influence of C. S. Lewis, Beatrix Potter’s magical gardens, the flora and fauna of Britain and the beauty of the magnificent Lake District. You may also see some of my granddaughter’s books—which creep into every stack of books and take reading priority on daily demand. : )

Some of Cathy's research books for her work in progress


Thank you Cathy, for giving us brief glimpse into your world and a hint of what’s to come next!  For more information about Cathy and her books visit her Website | Facebook

Author Interview: Shannon Ethridge and Kathryn Mackel

We are thrilled to welcome two very talented authors to the Inspy’s blog today!  Shannon Ethridge and Kathryn Mackel are the team behind General Fiction shortlisted novel To Know You.


Years ago, Julia Whittaker gave up two daughters for adoption. Now she must find them to try to save the life of her son.

Julia and Matt Whittaker’s son was diagnosed with biliary atresia at birth. Dillon has beaten the odds for thirteen years only to have the odds—and his liver—crash precipitously. The only hope for his survival is a transplant. He can receive a “living liver” transplant but neither his parents, nor various family members and friends, are compatible.

The transplant list is long and Dillon’s time is short. Very short.

He has two chances for a compatible liver: his two older half-sisters, born eighteen months apart and adopted at birth.

But can Julia ask a young woman—someone she surrendered to strangers—to donate a portion of her body to a brother she’s never known? Will either sister even be a match for their half-brother? Will either of them show mercy and courage if they are?

Julia knows she’s probably on a fool’s errand—reaching out to the daughters she abandoned only now that she needs them. But what other choice does she have except to try?

Kathryn Mackel Photo Credit: Angela Hunt

Kathryn Mackel
Photo Credit: Angela Hunt

What led you to writing?

Kathy:  My father was a movie projectionist so, from the time I was a toddler, I spent a lot of time in movie theatres. I grew up orchestrating stories in my backyard with my playmates, directing actions from the top of our picnic table while I moved my friends this way and that. In college, I decided if I was a writer, I would be writing. And I didn’t– so the inescapable conclusion was that I was just a little weird and therefore, it was time to stop composing stories in my head.

The personal computer changed all that. As a lefty, my handwriting was never very good. The instant my fingers danced on my Mac keyboard, the thoughts began flowing. Even then, I thought I was simply a clever writer of plays for my children and their friends. I took my first Fiction Writing course when I was 41 and gave myself permission to think perhaps it’s not too late! I sold my first screenplay and my first novel within two weeks of my 45th birthday.

Shannon Ethridge

Shannon Ethridge

What books or authors have influenced you – both as a reader and a writer?

Shannon:  Max Lucado has inspired me since my early twenties with his sweet storytelling and amazing spiritual insights. Robin Norwood, particularly her book Daily Meditations for Women Who Love Too Much, showed me that writing can be a powerful tool to awaken readers to their sex, love, and relationship addiction issues – and I have to say that book helped me save my marriage and was a foundational cornerstone for my own ministry to women. As far as fiction influences, Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love was a novel that had me weeping on the rug over the notion that God fervently woos and pursues even those whose actions are undeserving of such lavish love.

What are the challenges/benefits of incorporating faith into your story lines?
Kathy:  The benefit of incorporating faith is that I get to be who I am—a child of God, saved by the grace and redeemed by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The challenge is not giving the easy answer in novels. We like storylines to arc and then tie up at the end. Faith is messy. I suspect that is why readers enjoy multi-volume stories with continuing characters, where we can follow characters for hundreds of pages and enjoy a more organic life journey.

I also write juvenile/YA fiction for mainstream publishers (Dial Books, HarperCollins, etc.) where incorporating a Christian worldview without overt faith language is indeed a challenge—and a blessing!

Shannon's sitting room where couples come for marriage coaching.  The 'counselor character' in upcoming novel Veil of Secrets is based on Shannon's work as a marriage coach.

Shannon’s sitting room where couples come for marriage coaching. The ‘counselor character’ in upcoming novel Veil of Secrets is based on Shannon’s work as a marriage coach.

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

Shannon:  I could say that receiving publisher awards for the Every Woman’s Battle series, or special recognition for surpassing the million-copy book sales mark, or speaking on the Women of Faith platform were my most memorable experiences, and indeed I’ve been overwhelmed by those amazing blessings. However, the most memorable experiences occur far more regularly — when I sit down to read emails and am blown away by the stories I receive from readers who tell me of the affairs or emotional entanglements they’ve found the strength to end… the personal self-esteem they’ve managed to recover… how their own marriage and family has been saved as a result of what God has done in their life through reading one of my books. A truly transformed life, marriage, and family is better than any accolade or paycheck a writer could receive!

The view from Shannon's office window, where she can look upon a house that provides great inspiration.  It’s the first house Shannon's family looked at in the neighborhood, but it was a TOTAL TRAIN WRECK!  The realtor was SO embarrassed, and explained that a couple had “bitten off more than they could chew” with a remodel, and had divorced due to the financial / relational devastation of the massive project!  The foundation was sinking on one corner of the house.  The kitchen cabinets weren’t flush with the ceiling. The stained glass in the front door was even cracked, Shannon's guess is from it being slammed so hard time after time as one spouse walked out on the other.  However, after Shannon's family bought the cute little cottage directly across the street, that house eventually sold, and a couple with a much healthier marriage (and bank account) transformed it into a total treasure.  To Shannon, that’s a perfect analogy of what she does as a life/relationship coach.  She helps couples sift through the wreckage of many painful years of marriage, and show them how to transform their relationship from a total train wreck into a total treasure!

The view from Shannon’s office window, where she can look upon a house that provides great inspiration. It’s the first house Shannon’s family looked at in the neighborhood, but it was a TOTAL TRAIN WRECK! The realtor was SO embarrassed, and explained that a couple had “bitten off more than they could chew” with a remodel, and had divorced due to the financial / relational devastation of the massive project! The foundation was sinking on one corner of the house. The kitchen cabinets weren’t flush with the ceiling. The stained glass in the front door was even cracked, Shannon’s guess is from it being slammed so hard time after time as one spouse walked out on the other. However, after Shannon’s family bought the cute little cottage directly across the street, that house eventually sold, and a couple with a much healthier marriage (and bank account) transformed it into a total treasure. To Shannon, that’s a perfect analogy of what she does as a life/relationship coach. She helps couples sift through the wreckage of many painful years of marriage, and show them how to transform their relationship from a total train wreck into a total treasure!

What do you hope readers take away from To Know You?
Shannon:  When Kathy and I crafted this intriguing cast of characters, we wanted to show both married and single women, young and old, how to embrace a lifestyle of sexual and emotional integrity, regardless of what demons they may be wrestling with, or what kind of ghosts from their past may be trying to haunt them. Julia shows us that a woman can choose to boldly face her sordid past, make amends with those she’s hurt, and be an instrument of healing in her own family as a result. Destiny reveals that single women can give and receive love without pre-marital sex having to be involved. Chloe vividly illustrates how destructive our own behavior can become when we compromise our emotional integrity in even the smallest of ways. Combined, these characters will hopefully inspire readers to take off their masks, be real with themselves and with others, and reap the rewards of incredibly open, life-giving relationships.

Thank you Shannon for sharing your inspiration and your writing with us!  For more of Shannon, her blog and latest books please visit  For more about Kathryn Mackel please visit her website at

Author Interview: Jocelyn Green

We are thrilled to have author of Widow of Gettysburg, Jocelyn Green, on the Inspy’s blog!  I simply had to include the photo of Jocelyn with the snow in the background, especially now that summer is here with a vengeance! 🙂  


from Goodreads:

For all who have suffered great loss of heart, home, health or family; true home and genuine lasting love can be found.

When a horrific battle rips through Gettysburg, the farm of Union widow Liberty Holloway is disfigured into a Confederate field hospital, bringing her face to face with unspeakable suffering-and a Confederate scout who awakens her long dormant heart.

But when the scout doesn’t die she discovers he isn’t who he claims to be .

While Liberty’s future crumbles as her home is destroyed, the past comes rushing back to Bella, a former slave and Liberty’s hired help, when she finds herself surrounded by Southern soldiers, one of whom knows the secret that would place Liberty in danger if revealed.

In the wake of shattered homes and bodies, Liberty and Bella struggle to pick up the pieces the battle has left behind. Will Liberty be defined by the tragedy in her life, or will she find a way to triumph over it?

Inspired by first-person accounts from women who lived in Gettysburg during the battle and its aftermath, Widow of Gettysburg is the Book 2 in the Heroines Behind the Lines series. These books do not need to be read in succession. For more information & resources about the Heroines Behind the Lines series, visit

What led you to writing?
I think I was born with a desire to write. As soon as I could print, I was writing captions for my coloring books, weaving the pictures into stories. My impulse to write has evolved over the years as I’ve gone from journalism to nonfiction to novels, but I’ve been on this general writing track as long as I can remember.

Tell us a book you feel epitomizes quality faith-driven literature.
There are so many! But the book that stands out in my mind as the first outstanding example of faith-driven historical fiction, since that is my particular interest, would have to be Vienna Prelude by Brock and Bodie Thoene. It’s the first book in the Zion Covenant series, and every book in the series is just amazing. I had never read anything like those books before, and they really are the epitome of what I strive for.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, theological, or logistical) in bringing the book to life?
It’s always challenging to bring a piece of history to life, and to breathe new energy and fire into something that happened one hundred fifty years ago. Research was challenging, but a trip to Gettysburg opened so many doors to me in this area. Not only was I able to read the diaries and letters of Gettysburg women who endured the battle and its aftermath, but I was blessed beyond measure to find a couple of historian friends there who served as my consultants during my research, writing, and editing phases. Their personal help was absolutely invaluable.

What do you hope readers take away from the Widow of Gettysburg?
Like the people of Gettysburg, we can either be defined by our loss and the tragedy that befalls us, or we can choose to triumph over it. Another lesson learned by nearly every woman in Gettysburg was to really love their enemy. It was easy to hate and despise the opposing army when they were far away, but when soldiers lie bleeding in front of them, with faces and names, they shed their bitterness and nursed them the best they could. Several Gettysburg women even married Southern soldiers they met in this way. We may not have the opportunity to literally save the lives of our enemies the way they did, but we can at least remember God’s commandment to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

Thank you so much for joining us Jocelyn and for bringing us quality faith-driven literature!  Love that you write about the women who were heroes in times of war – we need more literature that epitomizes the strength of women.

Green-6-hi-resAward-winning author Jocelyn Green inspires faith and courage in her readers through both fiction and nonfiction. A former military wife herself, she offers encouragement and hope to military wives worldwide through her Faith Deployed ministry. Her novels, inspired by real heroines on America’s home front, are marked by their historical integrity and gritty inspiration.

Jocelyn graduated from Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, with a B.A. in English, concentration in writing. She is an active member of the Christian Authors Network, the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, American Christian Fiction Writers, and the Military Writers Society of America.

She loves Mexican food, Broadway musicals, Toblerone chocolate bars, the color red, and reading on her patio. Jocelyn lives with her husband Rob and two small children in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Visit her at


Author Interview: Gina Holmes

We are thrilled to welcome author Gina Holmes to the Inspys Blog.  Her novel Wings of Glass is on the shortlist for General Fiction. 


from Goodreads:

From the best-selling author of Crossing Oceans comes a heartrending yet uplifting story of friendship and redemption. On the cusp of adulthood, eighteen-year-old Penny Carson is swept off her feet by a handsome farmhand with a confident swagger. Though Trent Taylor seems like Prince Charming and offers an escape from her one-stop-sign town, Penny’s happily-ever-after lasts no longer than their breakneck courtship. Before the ink even dries on their marriage certificate, he hits her for the first time. It isn’t the last, yet the bruises that can’t be seen are the most painful of all.

When Trent is injured in a welding accident and his paycheck stops, he has no choice but to finally allow Penny to take a job cleaning houses. Here she meets two women from very different worlds who will teach her to live an laugh again, and lend her their backbones just long enough for her to find her own.

Gina Holmes ’ stunning literary talent glistens like crystal in Wings of Glass. With subtle brilliance, she takes us into the very heart of what makes us hungry to love and be loved.

What do you do outside the world of books?

Like most writers, I have a day job. I’ve worked as a registered nurse since 1997 in different capacaties, from postpartum to dialysis, medsurg and everything in between. Currently I work part time as a school nurse. It’s about the best hours and situation for a writer I could ask for. I tried to stay home and write full time for a year. I thought I’d double my writing capacity but that just didn’t happen. I went stir crazy. Being an introvert I need time alone but that was waaaay too much of a good thing. Besides nursing, I’m a mom to two teenage boys and step mom to three (mostly grown) step daughters. Life is full and busy.

Tell us a book you feel epitomizes quality faith-driven literature.

How about a few? Peace Like a River, The Last Sin Eater, The Oath, A Prayer for Owen Meany, Straight Up, Born of Persuasion. I like books that raise the bigger questions without offering pat answers.

What were the challenges or benefits of incorporating faith into your story lines?

It’s always a bit of a challenge with me and the faith thread. In the CBA that element needs to be clear and sometimes I have no real take away message in my mind. I just want to tell a story. At the end of the first draft, I’m asked what the spiritual thread or take away is. I know my Christian worldview is present, because it’s present in every aspect of my life, but recognizing exactly what truth I’m relaying takes a few sets of eyes and a little shoring up. That’s the challenge, the benefit is that I get to put a lot of thought on exactly what it is I believe about a certain aspect of faith. My favorite part of being a writer is challenging others to consider another perspective or a faulty thought process that I myself have sludged through. It’s a great honor but also a heavy burden. My biggest fear in being a writer is pointing others away from truth rather than toward it.

What do you hope readers take away from the Wings of Glass?

This is the question that makes me have to shore up my spiritual thread. With Wings, I hope that those who are in abusive relationships recognize what it is about themselves that got them there and keep them there. I hope that young women who may be entering the dating world see the pattern that abuse often takes, and that it is almost always progressive.

For those who have never known an abusive relationship, it’s hard to understand what keeps a person in that dysfunction and explaining the mindset to them has been particularly gratifying.

To connect with Gina visit her Website.  Gina is the founder of Novel Rocket, regularly named as one of Writers Digest’s best websites for writers. Her debut, Crossing Oceans, was a Christy and Gold Medallion finalist and winner of the Carol Award, INSPY, and RWA’s Inspirational Reader’s Choice, as well as being a CBA, ECPA, Amazon and PW bestseller. Her sophomore novel, Dry as Rain was a Christy Award finalist. Her latest novel, Wings of Glass has been named as one of the best books of the year by Library Journal and was a SIBA Okra pick and a finalist for Romantic Times’ Reviewers Choice Award. She holds degrees in science and nursing and currently resides with her family in southern Virginia. She works too hard, laughs too loud, and longs to see others heal from their past and discover their God-given purpose

Thank you so much for sharing with us Gina!  And wishing you, along with all of our readers, a very Happy Mother’s Day!

Author Interview: Julie Cantrell


from Goodreads:

It is the spring of 1943. With a wedding and a cross-country move, Millie’s world is about to change forever. If only her past could change with it. Soon after the break of day, Bump will become Millie’s husband. And then, if all goes as planned, they will leave the rain-soaked fields of Mississippi and head for the wilds of the Colorado Rockies. As Millie tries to forget a dark secret, she hasn’t yet realized how drastically those past experiences will impact the coming days.For most of Millie’s life, being free felt about as unlikely as the mountains moving. But she’s about to discover that sometimes in life, we are given second chances, and that the only thing bigger than her past … is her future.

Julie Cantrell first ventured onto the Inspy’s scene in 2013 when Into the Free was shortlisted in the General Fiction category.  She is back with her follow-up novel When Mountains Move  shortlisted for 2014.  Although When Mountains Move can be read as a stand-alone novel, why would you want to miss out on the award-winning Into the Free?

Join me in welcoming Julie to the Inspy’s Blog!

What do you do outside the world of books?

I’m a mom of two teens who keep me runnin’ and gunnin’ full speed. We live on a small-scale sustainable organic farm that keeps us quite busy, and I do a lot of community advocacy in my spare time. Until this year, I was still working as a speech-language pathologist and ELL teacher as well, and I still maintain many freelance writing contracts in addition to my work as a novelist. Not to mention, we just like to have FUN. We spend a lot of time playing games, hiking, biking, reading, watching films, being artsy, hearing live music, and being outside as much as possible.

Julie's Spring/Summer Writing Nook

Julie’s Spring/Summer Writing Nook

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

I’m an avid reader and have an eclectic taste in books, so this is always a tricky question for me to answer. If I had to narrow it down today, off the top of my head and in no particular order, I’d say Barbara Kingsolver, Ann Patchett, John Steinbeck, Harper Lee, Marilynne Robinson, Anne Lammott, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sue Monk Kidd, Adriana Trigiani, Jamie Ford, Ellen Gilchrist, and Gail Tsukiyama. It may sound silly, but I also learned a lot about plot structure from everyone who writes for Pixar and Scooby Doo. Plus, I’d have to credit Astrid Lindgren because my favorite literary character of all time is Pippi Longstocking. I am Pippi at heart.
What are the challenges or benefits of incorporating faith into your storyline?

I think my faith is so deep, it will come through naturally in the stories I write. That said, I don’t think fiction needs to be used in the way nonfiction should be.

Fiction shouldn’t preach a sermon, dictate a lesson, or give someone specific ideas to swallow. The primary goal of fiction is to deliver a story. Period. The themes and morals of that story can come through in subtle ways by using literary methods such as symbolism. They don’t need to be dictated to readers in the same way nonfiction points are made.

I hope I am a writer who stimulates my readers to think and to feel in new ways, but I don’t want to tell them what to think or how to feel. I want them to take that journey in a natural way, and it should differ for each individual who reads my work.

Christian Fiction seems to have two camps. One group seems to want fictional tales based on characters who live the ideal Christian, moral life. These characters don’t sin and don’t make mistakes and they seem to be perfect people. These tales are penned to provide examples of how the Christian person should strive to live, and there is a need for those books and a large group of readers who enjoy them.

The thing is, however, I don’t know any perfect people. Even Jesus had a genuine human experience, struggling with anger, fear, grief, and sorrow at times. So, I prefer to deliver characters who have real flaws, just like everyone I know. My books show people moving through very difficult struggles in life and trying to deal with emotional complexities like we all must do.

My storylines are fictional, but I want readers to be able to identify with my characters on an honest level and see that even when life is very, very hard, even when times are dark and there seems no way out of the bad situation we may find ourselves in, our choices matter. And God is with us. And we are loved.

What do you hope readers take away from When Mountains Move?

Life is not always fair or easy. In fact, it can be downright cruel at times. But we must remember we are here to love and be loved. And sometimes the only way to move forward is to release the heavy burdens from our past. As Millie’s Choctaw grandmother teaches her, we must choose what to carry and what to bury.

Thank you Julie, for writing the kind of fiction real people can have that sense of connection.

Please join us on June 28th when the Inspy for General Fiction is announced.  In the meantime, be sure to sign up for the blog updates as we get up close and personal with the authors shortlisted for 2014!


Interview with author Mary DeMuth

Mary DeMuth‘s Life in Defiance is on the INSPY shortlist for General & Literary Fiction.

Summary of Life in Defiance (from Goodreads):

Set against the backdrop of Defiance, Texas, Life in Defiance, book three in the Defiance Texas Trilogy by Mary DeMuth, reflects a choice we all face: reveal our secrets or bury them forever … and live with the consequences.

INSPYs: Why do you write fiction?

Mary DeMuth: I fully believe in the transformational power of story. A story sticks to your ribs, enters your heart, and stays in your mind a lifetime. It’s a perfect way to reveal truth.

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

Mary DeMuth

Mary DeMuth: I don’t really see it as a challenge because a great novel is first a story. And that story flows from the heart of a writer. My job is to get my heart and priorities right before God so that my well-loved heart can communicate a well-told story.

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

Mary DeMuth: Tie: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Tie: Forrest Gump, Return of the King

TV: Friday Night Lights. I love the writing on this series. They create real characters with subtle levels of good/bad and lots of tension.

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

Mary DeMuth: I have a serious crush on blogging. I’ve been doing it since our family moved to France in 2004. My blog is We are now stateside in Texas, but I continue to write in my blog about faith, writing, healing and a variety of other things. Recently I’ve relaunched it on my personal site, which has been a boon to traffic. I love that I’m finding new readers. And I love the freshness of writing a blog often. I especially love the interaction. Soon I’ll be launching a forum on the site to further increase the interaction.

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

The Book of the Dun Cow by Walt Wangerin stunned me in every possible way. Loved his ability to tell a story and create characters that shattered me (in a good way). And I loved Til We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis. In addition to having a crush on blogging, I’ve always crushed on C.S. Lewis’ mind.

Mary E. DeMuth (@MaryDeMuth) is a writer, speaker and book mentor who took a long path to publication. She has had nine books published. She and her family live in Texas.

Interview with author Gina Holmes

Gina Holmes‘s Crossing Oceans is on the INSPYs shortlist for General & Literary Fiction.

A summary of Crossing Oceans (from Goodreads):

Jenny Lucas swore she’d never go home again. But being told you’re dying has a way of changing things. Years after she left, she and her 5-year-old daughter, Isabella, must return to her sleepy North Carolina town to face the ghosts she left behind. They welcome her in the form of her oxygen tank–toting grandmother, her stoic and distant father, and David, Isabella’s dad … who doesn’t yet know he has a daughter. As Jenny navigates the rough and unknown waters of her new reality, the unforgettable story that unfolds is a testament to the power of love and its ability to change everything — to heal old hurts, bring new beginnings … even overcome the impossible. A stunning debut about love and loss from a talented new voice.

INSPYs: Why do you write?

Gina Holmes: I write because I have a need to make sense of the world. Of mine and others’ motivations. Of the greatness of God in all circumstances. That and I love words. I love thoughts. I love people and their hearts. Writing gives me a way to understand the world around me and to help others see inside others’ hearts.

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

Gina Holmes: The biggest challenges for me is not coming across as authentic. In my personal life, it’s taken a long time and a lot of effort to take off the mask of Christianity and start letting people see the real me who struggles with sin, who falls down, who makes mistakes but tries to do better. I want people to read my books and see my characters struggle that way. None of us are perfect. The Bible says so. I want people to be able to relate to my characters and to understand grace better through their struggles.

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

Gina Holmes: Favorite book: Jane Eyre
TV show: I rarely watch TV but I really like the history channel and biographies.
Movie: Forrest Gump

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

Gina Holmes: I run Novel Journey along with a team of wonderful people. It’s been a huge blessing and door opener over the years.

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

Gina Holmes: My favorite Christian book would be Redeeming Love because it shows how no one is beyond God’s grasp. There are plenty of others too. I think Jane Eyre, while not a Christian novel per se, got me to rethink my faith as well. It showed that someone’s mission field could be just one person.

In 1998, Gina Holmes began her career penning articles and short stories. She holds degrees in science and nursing and currently resides with her husband and children in Southern Virginia.

Interview with author Meredith Efken

Meredith Efken‘s Lucky Baby is on the INSPYs shortlist for General & Literary Fiction.

A summary of Lucky Baby (from GoodReads):

Meredith Efken, the mother of an adoptive daughter from China, develops a poignant contemporary story about a family conflict that explores themes of abandonment from the perspective of both the child and the adoptive parent involved in international adoption.

After surviving an emotionally abusive childhood, Meg struggles to redefine who she is but is haunted by her past. In adopting a child from China, she hopes to prove to herself that she isn’t the self-centered person her parents have always told her she is. She longs to give that child the love and unconditional acceptance she never felt in her own family. Her husband, Lewis, is an established physicist who has it all except the love of the mother who abandoned him. He never wanted to be a father but doesn’t want to deny Meg the only thing she ever begged of him, even though he is terrified about the prospect of becoming a parent. And yet, despite their best intentions, Meg and Lewis find that things go poorly. Their daughter, Eva, rejects them as parents and they are left wondering whether they will ever be able to connect with her in the loving, intimate way they’d imagined.

INSPYs: Why do you write what you write?

Meredith Efken: Lucky Baby is women’s fiction with magical realism elements. Magical realism is a way of expressing the spiritual realm in everyday life, and I love it because it lets me explore faith and spiritual life in a more tangible, “hands-on” way. God breaks into our everyday lives all the time, and sometimes we’re too busy to notice or we take it for granted. I like to find fresh and surprising ways to represent that symbolically in my story.

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

Meredith Efken: My biggest challenge is to keep it fresh and not trite. I also am challenged to stop trying to provide answers and instead simply ask the questions and explore them. I want to trust the reader and trust God that they can dialogue about those questions and find answers without my direct input. I think we don’t always trust the reader enough and want to make sure they “get the message.” But I’m finding that one of the biggest benefits to incorporating faith into a story is the chance to allow the reader to discover and wrestle with questions of faith themselves. We could be depriving them of that journey and growth if we rush to always provide our own answers in our stories.

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

Meredith Efken: Favorite book: Argh — I hate that question! Is it possible to have only ONE favorite book? I shall rebel and offer three of my current favorites: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder, and Havah by Tosca Lee.

Favorite movie: This may be a risky choice to say in this forum, but one of my favorite movies is Stage Beauty. It’s not for everyone, and it has an R rating, and the historical accuracy is … missing. But the character development and writing are amazing, and the last 15 minutes of the movie had me entranced like few movies ever have. The acting was brilliant.

Favorite TV show: Currently, it’s Grey’s Anatomy. I hardly watch any TV — that’s pretty much it, and I have to admit I’m hooked on McDreamy.

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

Meredith Efken: I do have a blog. ( I like the concept of blogging. But I confess my execution of it is a little sketchy. I often struggle to think of something to say that will hold my interest, not to mention that of my reader. But I keep trying, and I figure eventually I’ll figure out a good rhythm and focus that suits me and that readers will enjoy. So be patient with me — I’m still in process.

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

Meredith Efken: Havah by Tosca Lee. It’s like reading poetry, the writing is so beautiful. Tosca makes the character of Eve a real woman that we all can relate to and love. Eve becomes someone accessible and understandable, and I think that is something that Christian stories have the potential to do well — portray the experience of being human so authentically that our compassion and grace and love for other human beings increases because we see that we’re really not so different from each other after all. Tosca also avoids providing answers — the story simply unfolds without commentary and allows the reader to think and wrestle with it on their own. As I said earlier, that is a strength of a faith-driven story that we all need to be more confident about utilizing because it’s when the reader continues to ponder the story that it has the power to transform their lives.

Meredith Efken and her husband live with their two daughters in Nebraska. One of their daughters is adopted from China, and it was that experience that inspired this book.

Interview with author Athol Dickson

Athol Dickson‘s Lost Mission is on the INSPYs shortlist for General & Literary Fiction.

Summary of Lost Mission (from GoodReads):

What haunting legacy awaits deep beneath the barrios and wealthy enclaves of Southern California?

An idyllic Spanish mission collapses in the eighteenth century atop the supernatural evidence of a shocking crime. Twelve generations later the ground is opened up, the forgotten ruins are disturbed, and rich and poor alike confront the onslaught of resurging hell on earth. Caught up in the catastrophe are:

• A humble shopkeeper compelled to leave her tiny village deep in Mexico to preach in America
• A minister wracked with guilt for loving the wrong woman
• An unimaginably wealthy man, blinded to the consequences of his grand plans
• A devoted father and husband driven to a horrible discovery that changes everything

Will the evil that destroyed the Misión de Santa Dolores rise to overwhelm them? Or will they beat back the terrible desires that led to the mission’s good Franciscan founder’s standing in the midst of flames ignited by his enemies and friends alike more than two centuries ago?

From the high Sierra Madre mountains to the harsh Sonoran desert, from the privileged world of millionaire moguls to the impoverished immigrants who serve them, Athol Dickson once again weaves a gripping story of suspense that spans centuries and cultures to explore the abiding possibility of miracles.

INSPYs: Why do you write?

Athol Dickson: I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have an urge to create. When I was very young I drew a lot, and invented machines that could fly and go underwater, and I was the kid who wanted to build tree houses rather than just play in them. Following that same instinct in college I went into the fine arts and studied painting and sculpture. Then I became an architect. Now I write, which is just another way of doing what I’ve always done, obeying the fundamental creative urge which was put in me because, like everybody else, I was created in the image and likeness of the original Creator.

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

Athol Dickson: For me there is no unique challenge connected with including issues of faith in a novel. It’s as challenging as everything else, no easier and no more difficult than looking deeply into any other part of the human condition. So the benefit of writing about faith is identical to the benefit of being able to write about things like courage and cowardice, peace and fear, or love and apathy. It’s about authenticity, writing about real life, rather than being forced to stick to some two dimensional imitation of life.

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

Athol Dickson: I assume you’re asking about my favorite novel, right? Because my favorite book is the Bible, by far, and I don’t just say that because I’m a Christian. It’s a fascinating book for anyone. But my favorite novel right now is One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Ask me again in a year and I might give you a different answer. For example, last year it was The Eighth Day by Thornton Wilder.

A favorite movie is very hard to pick. Citizen Kane, maybe. Or Babette’s Feast. Or Lars and the Real Girl.

I don’t watch much television. There’s no satellite or cable or antenna at my house, but I’ve seen some of the TV shows you can rent on DVD, and of them I tend to prefer period pieces based on literature, such as the David Suchet Poirot series, and the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series. The BBC did an adaptation of Bleak House in 2005 that I thought was very good. Frankly, most of the ongoing television programs I see on rare occasions make me worry about the state of western civilization.

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

Athol Dickson: I do have a blog, What Athol Wrote. I’m afraid I haven’t done a very good job at it. I post only sporadically, usually I stop altogether when I’m up against a deadline, I tend to write long posts, I don’t focus on one topic, and I don’t spend much time revealing interesting things about my personal life (because there aren’t many). But when I do post something, I’ve usually put a lot of thought into it, so I think readers will find it interesting.

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

Athol Dickson: If I had to pick just one author to epitomize Christian faith-driven fiction, it would be Charles Dickens. We don’t think of his work as Christian fiction these days, but he did. Here’s a quote: “One of my most constant and earnest endeavors has been to exhibit in all my good people some faint reflections of the teachings of our Great Master…. All my illustrations are derived from the New Testament; all my social abuses are shown to be departures from its spirit.” But there’s no way to pick just one book to use as an example. In addition to almost anything by Dickens I think of W. Dale Cramer’s Levis Will, which is a profound treatise on the nature of forgiveness. Also, River Jordan’s Saints in Limbo is a beautiful exploration of the connections between faith and courage. Susan Meissner’s The Shape of Mercy. Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River. Lisa Samson. Francine Rivers. There are so many. And of course there are the modern classics, The Moviegoer by Walker Percy, and Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood. Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair is a gut wrenching picture of the cost of faith. All of those are Christian authors, but many other novels with important things to say about faith have been written by people who either are not Christians or might not be Christians. Chaim Potok and John Irving come to mind. David Guterson’s Our Lady of the Forest is a thought provoking examination of the power of suggestion in false religion, and like all of his novels, beautifully written. I mentioned Thornton Wilder earlier; most of his novels deal powerfully with faith in one way or another. Believers or not, the two things all these authors and novels have in common is a tendency to avoid formulas and stereotypes and a fearlessness about digging deeply into the human condition. That’s what I value most in stories about faith.

A former architect (among other things), Dickson lives and writes in California. Lost Mission is his seventh novel.