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.

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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 ShannonEthridge.com.  For more about Kathryn Mackel please visit her website at KathrynMackel.com

Comments

  1. First of all, thank you to The INSPY Awards for bringing this book to my attention. The only reason I knew about the book was because it’s a nominee for the General Fiction Category. That drew me to read the summary of the book, which was compelling. My local library didn’t carry the novel so I ordered it from Amazon. And am I glad I did!

    What a simply fabulous novel!! I could not turn the pages quick enough to see what happened next. The humor in the novel helped break some of the tension. There were many lessons to be learned. I urge anyone on the fence, to give this novel a try. Amazing!

    I look forward to reading a Veil of Secrets.

  2. Awesome post. Yes on faith (and life) being messy!

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