2014 INSPY Award Winners

The INSPYs Advisory Board is pleased to announce the 2014 INSPY Award Winners:

Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense:

Barefoot Summer Book ArtBarefoot Summer by Denise Hunter is the quintessential definition of Christian Romantic Fiction. The writing style is in a word lovely, with perfect pacing and wonderful descriptions. Barefoot Summer played like a movie in our heads. Denise created characters with flaws and very real emotions that kept us invested in their story and engaged with each new scene. Not just with the main characters, but the other plot lines as well. While the other four novels were great reads this one climbed it’s way to the top. Barefoot Summer truly is the perfect Summer read, and for many more Summers to come.


Katherine Reay’s contemporary epistolary, Dear Mr. Knightley is one of the most brilliant character studies to come about in literature in years. Book - Dear Mr. KnightlySometimes you are given a gift that everyone assures you will be delightful but you aren’t entirely sure the contents will be to your liking. This is a book where the hype holds up. All the references to classical literature – from Great Expectations to Austen to Narnia, could have made the novel seem detached, but Reay uses them with such talent and creativity, you understand the characters on a deeper level because of them and because Dear Mr. Knightley’s heroine was less “figment” and much more, real. Above all, those qualities are this debut’s crowning glory – it’s more than just an expert piece of fiction. Not only is Dear Mr. Knightley the perfect debut, it’s a must read for any lover of classics, particularly Jane Austen.

16033233General Fiction: 

The field of nominees for the General Fiction category had some of the best books we have read this year, making this year’s selection process difficult indeed. After a lot of in depth discussion, we are awarding the Inspy to Wings of Glass by Gina Holmes. A moving account of a woman’s struggle with self in the face of spousal abuse, this novel will touch your heart and soul. Powerfully personal, beautifully written, with highly relatable characters, Gina Holmes’ novel presents a message of love and hope that Jesus always offered to everyone He met.

Historical Romance: 

???????????????????A Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund is an exceptional piece of Christian fiction based upon real events. The rich historical and cultural setting are characters in their own right, making the story come to life. The characters portray authentic growth as the story progresses, as well as an undeniable romantic tension present throughout, encouraging the reader to keep turning the pages. This beautiful story weaves in themes of trust, redemption, and the importance of having a relationship grounded in God, while emphasizing the importance of hope, forgiveness, and sacrificial love. Jody Hedlund is a skilled writer and her work displays the best of historical romance, both entertaining and speaking to the heart.

Literature for Young Adult: CaptivesSafeLands

Captives was a compelling and thought-provoking novel. Jill Williamson’s writing style, vivid imagery and intriguing plot keeps you on the edge of your seat. Captives also has insightful commentary on society. There was a large variety of characters with the light of the believers clearly contrasting the darkness and depravity of the society around them. Captives beautifully illustrates the bigger picture and how important it is to stand up for your beliefs. Thought-provoking and page-turning, Captives was not only far more than your typical YA dystopian story, but definitely one of the top YA novels of 2013.

Mystery/Thriller: The King

The King is suspense at its best and challenges readers to really think – what is our definition of a hero?  The author weaves a thread of faith throughout the novel that infused the story with hope, reminding us Who ultimately holds control and provides meaning when the journey becomes rough; captivating plots, intriguing characters, and twists at every turn immerse the reader deep into the tale. These characters: Patrick, Lien-hua, and Tessa held our heart and made us cheer for them. The writing was superb; this is definitely an author who knows how to write suspense while also endearing his readers to his characters. The story does not let you go. The King is a thought provoking read as much as it was a page turner…one to definitely be read with the light on!

anomalySpeculative Fiction:

Anomaly by Krista McGee featured fully developed characters exploring a world of both tragedy and hope. Details were revealed as they were needed, never intruding or halting the narrative but flowing alongside it. The protagonist Thalli is a heroine who learns to love without being defined it, combining creativity and logical reasoning, and able to eventually make her own choices while remaining compassionate to the needs of others. No easy answers are offered to the challenges she and the other characters face; instead, Thalli’s growing relationship with God gave her the ability to see past her fear and make choices not based on her own needs but those of others. The stark, first-person prose captured exactly what a young teen thrust in such situations might feel, neither drowning in the emotion nor ignoring it, but letting the reader truly live through another’s eyes.

Congratulations to the winners and all the nominated authors! 

Author Interview: Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon

So thrilled to welcome Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon, authors of the young adult shortlisted novel, Doon.  Be sure to play along with Carey’s writing space ‘I Spy’ at the end of the interview and leave us a comment with the number of items you actually did spy!

17745703Veronica doesn’t think she’s going crazy. But why can’t anyone else see the mysterious blond boy who keeps popping up wherever she goes? When her best friend, Mackenna, invites her to spend the summer in Scotland, Veronica jumps at the opportunity to leave her complicated life behind for a few months.

But the Scottish countryside holds other plans.

Not only has the imaginary kilted boy followed her to Alloway, she and Mackenna uncover a strange set of rings and a very unnerving letter from Mackenna’s great aunt—and when the girls test the instructions Aunt Gracie left behind, they find themselves transported to a land that defies explanation. Doon seems like a real-life fairy tale, complete with one prince who has eyes for Mackenna and another who looks suspiciously like the boy from Veronica’s daydreams. But Doon has a dark underbelly as well. The two girls could have everything they’ve longed for…or they could end up breaking an enchantment and find themselves trapped in a world that has become a nightmare.

DOON is loosely based on the premise of the musical Brigadoon, with permission from the ALan Jay Lerner Estate and the Frederick Loewe Foundation. Follow the journey at http://www.DoonSeries.com

~Destiny awaits!

What led you to writing?

Lorie: Mine was a long journey with lots of detours. I grew up obsessed with reading fiction and had a teacher in high school who encouraged me to purse writing as a career, so I majored in Journalism in college. But because of some well-meaning guidance from a professor—“you have too much talent to waste it on being a newspaper journalist writing stories about old ladies with cats”—I changed my major to Sociology with an emphasis in Human Resources.

For many years I made good money working in large corporations, but the work of hiring and firing was slowly killing my soul. So when I was in my early 30s, I began to pray for guidance, asking specifically for God to show me His purpose for my life. It wasn’t long after that, that I had a dream that inspired me to write my first novel. (That novel is a time-travel set during the American Revolution with Inspirational elements. It has yet to be published, but I’m currently re-working it for the YA market. )

Carey: When I invested my summer after sixth grade writing 100 pages of bad soap opera fashioned after Santa Barbara, I should have figured out that writing was my passion. But sadly, it would take another decade and a half to discover my destined path. In my late 20s, I had a dream inspired by the live-action Peter Pan movie from 2003 directed by P.J. Hogan. The next day I wrote the first chapter of Shades of Neverland and I was hooked.

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

Lorie: I adore The Halflings Series by Heather Burch because the characters are real and make mistakes. They feel things deeply and those feelings aren’t watered-down or sanitized. And I love that the spiritual message is woven seamlessly into a story full of action and romance, and ultimately hope.

Carey: C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. I took a class on the works of C.S. Lewis and adore all of it from his sermons to his fantasy and science fiction.

What is your favorite quote or saying?

Lorie: Well, if you follow me on Pinterest you know I have a little bit of a quote fascination. But one I’ve always loved is by Henry van Dyke: “Use what talent you possess: The world would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.” It reminds me to turn off my inner-critic because when it comes to creative endeavors everyone has something unique to give.

Carey: That’s a toss-up between Albert Camus and Walt Disney. They both inspire me in different ways. “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.” Albert Camus. “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” Walt Disney.

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

Lorie: I think we had challenges in each one of those categories. LOL! We’re on our second agent and we did six complete rewrites of DOON before it was published. So there were plenty of spiritual and physiological battles that almost derailed this entire project. But one of the most interesting challenges we faced was when our current agent told us we needed to get copy right permissions from the original writers of Brigadoon before she could send the book to publishers.

Neither one of us could afford an intellectual property attorney, but in what can only be called a miraculous blessing, I found one who gave me tips over the phone on how to approach the Lerner and Loewe estate—for free! Taking his advice, Carey called the estate attorneys and made the request. After several months of waiting on pins and needles, they granted us the rights to tell our story free and clear!

In writing a series together how do you break down the division of writing, research and editing?

Carey: We divide the writing by character. I write Mackenna and Lorie writes Veronica. And we both research, create the overall plot and work to polish the final document. Splitting responsibilities such as blogging, promotions, and social networking is a great blessing. The biggest advantage is that you have someone who is equally invested. Someone you can call at midnight with a brilliant plot idea, who won’t curse you out and block your phone number.

Favorite book ~ favorite movie ~ favorite tv show?

Lorie: Oh, this is hard. I have so many! But I’ll take a shot at my “current” favorites:
Fav book: SIEGE & STORM (the whole series) by Leigh Bardugo
Fav movie: FROZEN
Fav tv show: ONCE UPON A TIME
(Yes, I’m a bit fairytale obsessed!)

Carey: It’s hard to pick one. Here are my top two.
Fav book: LES MISERABLES by Victor Hugo/PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen

What do you hope readers take away from Doon
Believing in something and pursuing it with all your heart is the most terrifying thing you will ever do, but it will take you on unimaginable adventures and just might lead to your happily ever after!

Thank you ladies for giving us a peek at your writing system AND your offices!  Lorie you are amongst friends here with your favorite tv show – there’s a few Walking Dead fans around here!  

While I really really want my space to look like Lorie’s, inevitably, I have my own ‘I spy’ game going on with my desk.  You ladies rock! 


Carey's writing space - Inspy InterviewCarey’s Writing Space note: I can’t believe that I’m showing you my wreck of a writing space. But I thought that the authors who exist—and thrive—in chaos might appreciate the validation. I like to think of it like an I Spy picture book. I spy … five Doon Lego figures, a playbill from the my most recent Broadway series musical, a stuffed Kenna doll, wind chimes, a Doon coffee mug, a kalimba made from recyclables, one Scottish nutcracker, a Campbell County Public Library CONNECTIONS newsletter, a carriage fit for a princess, a Darth Vader Lego pen, the fantasy castle that inspired the Castle MacCrae, a KEEP CALM AND CROSS THE BRIDGE button, and a baggie of buttons. (Bonus points for finding the owl, sheep, spotted inchworm, beanie frog, and monkey.)

Lorie's desk

Lorie’s Writing Space note: I just finished remodeling our dining room into my dedicated office space—the first one I’ve ever had! But it’s unlikely it will stay looking this organized for long. 😉


Author Interview: Travis Thrasher

Thrilled to be bringing Travis Thrasher, author of shortlisted young adult novel Hurt ~ Book Number 4 in The Solitary Series to the Inspy’s blog!  As a huge fan myself of The Chronicles of Narnia series, I have a special affinity for Travis and his work.  We hope you enjoy learning a bit more of this flavorful author!

13207224His Rebellion Will Soon Turn to Hope When Chris Buckley first encountered the mysteries of creepy Solitary, North Carolina, he had little idea how far he would fall into the town’s shadows. After losing the love of his life, Chris tried to do things his way. He hunted answers. Then he gave up trying to find them. But now Chris comes back to Solitary knowing there’s a purpose for his being there. As he watches his place in a twisted and evil bloodline become clear, Chris waits for the last battle—and wonders who will be left when he finally makes his stand. The fourth and final book in the Solitary Tales shines light into deep darkness as Chris’s journey to Solitary comes to a dramatic close.

What led you to writing?  I’ve wanted to be a writer since my third grade teacher encouraged me in my writing. I foolishly thought I want to do that for a living one day. Thankfully it’s good to think foolish thoughts every now and then.

Tell us a book you feel epitomizes quality faith-driven literature.   I’ll go back to the series that started making me want to be a writer: the Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis.

More currently, I’m a big fan of Chris Fabry’s work. Titles like June Bug and Almost Heaven are beautifully written dramas. I really wish he’d stop writing such great books. Give us less-skilled authors a break.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, theological, or logistical) in bringing this book to life?   For Hurt, I was coming to the conclusion of a long journey. There were probably about two hundred questions that needed answering. I tried to answer quite a few. I wanted to payoff for those readers who had invested time and energy into the story. It’s all about Chris Buckley’s journey toward finding hope. I loved the emotional journey he’s on, and even the moments where you think he’s going to be the hero he needs to be and he just fails. That’s real life. That’s why I love Chris.

What do you hope readers take away from Hurt?   No matter what dark place you find yourself in, no matter what age you might be, God loves you and is pursuing you. I don’t care if that sounds corny. It’s the truth. There’s a lot of hurt in this world. It’s how you deal with that hurt that counts.


Epic words Travis, epic words – learning to deal with hurt IS the ultimate challenge.  Thank you for sharing your stories with us and especially for writing quality faith-driven lit for the youth of today.

To connect with Travis or to learn more about his novels for both young people and adults, please visit his website at TravisThrasher.com

Author Interview: Stephanie Morrill

We are thrilled to have Stephanie Morrill on the Inspy’s Blog today.  Stephanie is the author of shortlisted young adult novel The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet.  Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the Ellie Sweet books (Playlist).

18741771For once, Ellie Sweet has it all together. Her hair now curls instead of fuzzes, she’s tamed the former bad-boy, Chase Cervantes (she has, right?), and her debut novel will hit shelves in less than a year. Even her ex-friends are leaving her alone. Well, except for Palmer Davis, but it can’t be helped that he works at her grandmother’s nursing home.

Life should feel perfect. And yet, it’s not that easy. Ellie’s editor loves her, but the rest of the publishing biz? Not so much. And they’re not shy about sharing their distrust over Ellie’s unlikely debut.

Ellie has always been able to escape reality in the pages of her novel, but with the stress of major edits and rocky relationships, her words dry up. In fiction, everything always comes together, but in real life, it seems to Ellie that hard work isn’t always enough, the people you love can’t always be trusted, and the dream-come-true of publishing her book could be the biggest mistake she’s made yet.

What led you to writing? I started writing stories in first grade. We were given writing time every day in class and could write about whatever we wanted. When we finished our stories, we turned them in and someone (a teacher or volunteer parent, maybe) would type them for us. We got to pick the color of our cover and binding, and then they printed out our “book” for us to illustrate and read to the class. I loved it and from then on I started telling people I wanted to be a novelist when I grew up.

Stephanie Morrill Low ResTell us of a book you feel epitomizes faith-driven literature. I adored The Passion of Mary-Margaret by Lisa Samson. Not only was the writing beautiful, but the story spoke about Jesus’s great love for us in a very organic way.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, theological or logistical) in bringing your book to life?   The hardest thing about writing The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet was that the first book had just been released, so I was getting a bunch of reader feedback AS I wrote the sequel. My readers are wonderfully opinionated girls and they let me know who they liked and who they didn’t like. When I experienced that with my first series (The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series) I had already written all three books. It was hard at times with The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet to drill into the story without letting in too many voices.

Favorite book ~ favorite movie ~ favorite tv show? I want to say Pride and Prejudice, but it seems like everyone says that. My favorite book that I read recently was 11/22/63 by Stephen King. I was in awe of it.

My favorite movie is Pride and Prejudice, the one made in 2004. (Or 2005?)

I loved both Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars, and I lost them right around the same time. It was a dark time for me with TV 🙂 Fortunately, soon after, I discovered 30 Rock.

Stephanie's Office

Stephanie’s Office

What do you hope readers take away from The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet?  I loved how Ellie’s sense of security came out in this book. In the first book, she made a lot of choices out of insecurity. In the continuation of her story, we see a lot more of her drawing a line in the sand and saying, “No, I’m not going to do that. That’s not who I am.” That was really fun to develop.

Stephanie, a writer after my own heart – 11-22-63 IS MY all-time favorite!  Thank you so much for joining us today and sharing a bit more of how your novel came to be.  To find out more about Stephanie, please visit her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and if you’re a teen writer, definitely check out Go Teen Writers!



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

Author Interview: Jill Williamson

We are thrilled to welcome author Jill Williamson to the Inspy’s Blog!  Jill is the author of the shortlisted young adult novel Captives.  Jill currently lives in Oregon with her husband and two children.  She enjoys working with teenagers encouraging them to respect their dreams.  Welcome Jill!


In a dystopian future, eighteen-year-old Levi returns from Denver City with his latest scavenged treasures and finds his village of Glenrock decimated, loved ones killed, and many–including his fiancée, Jem–taken captive. Now alone, Levi is determined to rescue what remains of his people, even if it means entering the Safe Lands, a walled city that seems anything but safe.

Omar knows he betrayed his brother by sending him away, but helping the enforcers was necessary. Living off the land and clinging to an outdated religion holds his village back. The Safe Lands has protected people since the plague decimated the world generations ago … and its rulers have promised power and wealth beyond Omar’s dreams.

Meanwhile, their brother Mason has been granted a position inside the Safe Lands, and may be able to use his captivity to save not only the people of his village, but also possibly find a cure for the virus that threatens everyone within the Safe Lands’ walls. Will Mason uncover the truth hidden behind the Safe Lands’ façade before it’s too late?

jillwilliamsonWhat led you to writing?   I had recently quit working in the fashion industry—which was the career I’d gone to college for—and was searching for what I wanted to be when I, ahem, grew up. Since I had a pretty interesting childhood/life story growing up in Alaska, I thought that maybe I could be a motivational speaker for teens. I discovered that sometimes, people hire speakers based on articles written by the speaker. So I looked into writing articles. I was shocked at how hard that was! Meanwhile, a new Harry Potter book came out (book four, I believe), and a new barrage of debates within the church community (my husband is a youth pastor) flared up as to whether or not Christians should read the books. The debate inspired me to try and write my own teen novel that everyone would love. Yep, I was TOTALLY naïve and have since learned that no one likes every book. But that’s how I got started writing fiction. And once I’d created Spencer, I was hooked. I left article writing in the dust and never looked back.
Treadmill Desk 2014Is that a standing desk?!? Do you love it?   It is a treadmill desk. And I do love it. I should use it more than I do, though. I can’t get going very fast on there and still type and focus. But it works fine when I walk slowly or stand. And it’s always good to get me up out of my chair.
Tell us a book you feel epitomizes quality faith-driven literature.   A Walk to Remember by Nicolas Sparks. It’s the perfect story of how being yourself can change lives. And it’s a general market story too.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, theological, or logistical) in bringing the book to life?   The first challenge for me is always storyworld creation. I’m a storyworld first novelist. And if I don’t know my storyworld, I can’t write the story!  And I had a deadline that came faster than I had time to perfect my storyworld. But thankfully I got a chance to rewrite the book during the editing stage and by then I had really discovered what the Safe Lands were like.

I always struggle with researching anything scientific. And this book had a medical issue that gave me plenty of strife. I had to consult some friends who had medical and science training to talk out the plausibility of concepts and scenes in the book.

The biggest challenge I faced again and again was that I was trying to write Babylon for teens–so, in a clean way. And the world was not clean. So it was tricky to write this story with the adult subject matters of surrogacy, drug addiction, and STDs and keep things clean and entertaining.

And one final challenge for me with this book is that I had four points of view–four main characters. And I’d never written that many main characters before. I do tend to write epic stories, but it was a challenge to balance everything, keep it interesting, and keep my word count down.

What do you hope readers take away from Captives?   We live in a world in which anything seems possible, and we often think that who someone else is or what they have is better. And we sometimes think we don’t have enough or that we want what that person has. I hope that Captives might help readers see that sometimes what seems better might actually be worse. That the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of that fence. In fact, the grass might not even be real. It might be AstroTurf! We can all benefit from being content with who we are and what he have.

My Desk

Jill your office is fantastic!  I love how you notate all the essentials – and is that a photo of House on your character board?!?

For more Jill Williamson including free downloads and giveaways visit JillWilliamson.com



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 LynnChandlerWillis.com

Author Interview: Lori Benton

16142057We are thrilled to welcome Lori Benton, author of Burning Sky to the blog!  Her novel has been shortlisted in the Debut Fiction Category.

from Goodreads

Abducted by Mohawk Indians at fourteen and renamed Burning Sky, Willa Obenchain is driven to return to her family’s New York frontier homestead after many years building a life with the People. At the boundary of her father’s property, Willa discovers a wounded Scotsman lying in her path. Feeling obliged to nurse his injuries, the two quickly find much has changed during her twelve-year absence—her childhood home is in disrepair, her missing parents are rumored to be Tories, and the young Richard Waring she once admired is now grown into a man twisted by the horrors of war and claiming ownership of the Obenchain land.

When her Mohawk brother arrives and questions her place in the white world, the cultural divide blurs Willa’s vision. Can she follow Tames-His-Horse back to the People now that she is no longer Burning Sky? And what about Neil MacGregor, the kind and loyal botanist who does not fit into in her plan for a solitary life, yet is now helping her revive her farm? In the aftermath of the Revolutionary War, strong feelings against “savages” abound in the nearby village of Shiloh, leaving Willa’s safety unsure.

Willa is a woman caught between two worlds. As tensions rise, challenging her shielded heart, the woman called Burning Sky must find a new courage–the courage to again risk embracing the blessings the Almighty wants to bestow. Is she brave enough to love again?

Lori's Writing Desk

Lori’s Writing Desk

What led you to writing?    The deepest and truest answer to that question is God. I believe He leads us all in every aspect of our lives, when we are seeking Him and His will for us. But if you’re asking what sparked my interest in writing in the first place, that was my childhood friend, Leah. She wrote a story first, and told me about it. Epiphany! It had never occurred to me that anyone could write a story, whenever, about whatever. It seemed like the coolest idea ever, so I gave it a try. That was 1978. I’ve been writing stories ever since.

Favorite book ~ favorite movie ~ favorite tv show?    What I might call a favorite changes month to month, year to year. The Summer of the Danes, by Ellis Peters, is one of my favorite books. Amazing Grace is one of my favorite movies. Leverage is one of my favorite TV shows.

Tell us a book you feel epitomizes quality faith-driven literature.   My mind instantly floods with dozens of titles. Picking just one is impossible, because quality faith-driven literature is a broad and encompassing descriptive. And of course my choice is entirely subjective, based on my particular tastes. But since you ask… Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. It’s stood the test of time and has become a classic.

Lori's Inspiration for Writing ~ the History in Her Research Books!

Lori’s Inspiration for Writing ~ the History in Her Research Books!

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, theological, or logistical) in bringing the book to life?    Writing from the point of view of any character who isn’t a middle-aged white woman of modern American culture is a challenge. That means every character I write, because even a white woman living in the 18th century isn’t going to view the world as I do, practically, emotionally, and theologically. Getting inside the mindset of characters who are male, or of a different race and culture than me, requires thorough research and a stretching of my imagination and empathy. It also takes realizing that human beings have certain things in common, down through the ages and across all cultures—our basic nature (sinful) and need of a Savior.
What do you hope readers take away from Burning Sky?    I’ve heard it said that no two people who read the same book, read the same book. Each reader brings to the pages a lifetime of experience (opinions, wisdom, burdens, questions, preferences, and dislikes). It’s a wonderful, unpredictable chemistry that happens between the reader and the story world. But if a reader should turn the last page of Burning Sky and find herself reminded that through trials and tears we have a heavenly Source from which we can draw comfort, courage, and strength to help in time of need, I’d be thrilled.

Thank you for joining us Lori!  I don’t know that there’s ever been a truer statement about reading than “no two people who read the same book, read the same book.”  One of the reasons book clubs are so popular!

Visit Lori on her website to learn more about her books.

Author Interview with Dani Pettrey

We’re thrilled to welcome Bethany House author Dani Pettrey to the INSPYs blog. Homeschooling mom of two and author of the best-selling Alaskan Courage series, her second novel, Shattered is a finalist in the contemporary romance/romantic suspense category.

Summary from GoodreadsBook - Shattered

A Thrilling New Romantic Suspense from the Genre’s Newest Star

Piper McKenna couldn’t be more thrilled that her prodigal brother, Reef, has returned to Yancey, Alaska, after five years. But her happiness is short-lived when Reef appears at her house covered in blood. A fellow snowboarder has been killed–but despite the evidence, Reef swears he’s innocent. And Piper believes him.

Deputy Landon Grainger loves the McKennas like family, but he’s also sworn to find the truth. Piper is frustrated with his need for facts over faith, but he knows those closest to you have the power to deceive you the most. With his sheriff pushing for a quick conviction, some unexpected leads complicate the investigation, and pursuing the truth may mean risking Landon’s career.

With Piper waging her own search, the two head deep into Canada’s rugged backcountry–and unexpected complications. Not only does their long friendship seem to be turning into something more, but this dangerous case is becoming deadlier with each step.

Dani Pettrey

Dani and her family enjoying a vacation – full of fun the McKenna family would appreciate!

What do you do outside the world of books?

I’m finishing up my last year of homeschooling. My youngest daughter graduates in a few weeks so that’ll be a big change, but now we have our grandson who I have the pleasure of watching a couple afternoons a week. I love to read, travel, and spend time outdoors. I’m also a coffee and chocolate fanatic.

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

I think the challenge is to weave the faith element into the storyline in an organic way. You don’t want to put a faith element in the story just for the sake of having it there or to meet some publisher’s guidelines. You want it to already be part of the story—part of the character’s life and journey. The benefits are vast—sharing the Gospel with others, learning more about God as my characters do, and deepening my relationship with Christ are just three examples.

Landon and Piper

Meet Landon and Piper

What do you hope readers take away from Shattered?

Actually, I think this review sums it up best:

I liked the message that people can change through the transforming power of Christ! Even the greatest of sinners. We’re also reminded that being a Christian doesn’t make our journey easy, in fact, it probably won’t be, but you can have the confidence that it will be filled with purpose and at its end an eternal paradise. That’s hope!  —Sherry Kuhn of Love 2 Read Novels.

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

The greatest challenge was life at that time. My mom was very ill and passed away the week before Shattered was due. Writing it while taking care of her and seeing her decline health-wise was really difficult. A close friend read the first draft and said she could see my heart breaking through the story. It took some time afterwards and quite a lot of revisions to refine it into the story it is, but I would say that was my greatest challenge.


Thank you for joining us today, Dani. It was a pleasure to host you. Learn more about Dani’s books, browse fun extras related to her novels plus more, all on her website.


Author Interview with Julianna Deering

A native Texan, Julianna Deering has always been interested in storytelling and is keen on history, which is what inspired her latest series of books. The first novel in her new Bethany House series, Rules of Murder is on the shortlist in the mystery/thriller category. We welcome her today!

Summary from Goodreads:Rules of Murder

Drew Farthering loves a good mystery, although he generally expects to find it in the pages of a novel, not on the grounds of his country estate. When a weekend party at Farthering Place is ruined by murder and the police seem flummoxed, Drew decides to look into the crime himself. With the help of his best friend, Nick Dennison, an avid mystery reader, and Madeline Parker, a beautiful and whip-smart American debutante staying as a guest, the three try to solve the mystery as a lark, using the methods from their favorite novels.

Soon, financial irregularities at Drew’s stepfather’s company come to light and it’s clear that all who remain at Farthering Place could be in danger. Trying hard to remain one step ahead of the killer–and trying harder to impress Madeline–Drew must decide how far to take this game


Julianna’s Office Bookshelf!

What do you do outside the world of books?

I have three mischievous cats that make me laugh all the time. My favorite hobbies, besides reading, are quilting and cross stitching and embroidery. I don’t watch much TV unless it’s NHL hockey. I love it, and I love my team. Go Stars!

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

I think the biggest challenge is incorporating faith in a natural way. You don’t want to be preachy. If you think of the stories Jesus told (the Prodigal son, for example) or the story Nathan told King David in the Old Testament (“YOU are the man!”), you’ll see they aren’t the least bit preachy. They tell a story that’s real and human and relatable. where the hearer feels for the characters and gets the message without being beaten over the head. I try to write the faith aspects of my stories that way.

What do you hope readers take away from Rules of Murder?

1932 Rolls Royce

1932 Rolls Royce

The message my main character gets is that it’s never too late to come to God and that He never turns us away, no matter what we’ve done or how long we take to come to Him. My main character, Drew Farthering, is Oxford educated and has a background of social Christianity, so it’s rather hard for him to take that leap of faith to real relationship with God until circumstances make him realize that he, too, needs a Savior. I hope my readers find the same truths. Mostly, though, I hope they have a cracking good time reading the story!


Farthering St. John Inspiration.

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

Mystery is always the prospect of writing two stories. The first story is what seems to be happening on the surface. The second is what’s really happening behind the scenes. Ideally those two meet seamlessly at the very end of the book when the sleuth reveals the solution. Getting everything timed right and putting in the perfect clues (and red herrings) is always a challenge.  But it’s a ton of fun!

Thank you for joining us today, Julianna! It was a delight to feature you. Learn more about Julianna by visiting her website.