2016 INSPY Award Winners

INSPYs 2016-INSPY Winners Feature

Following careful consideration, our incredible judging panels chose the 2016 INSPYs award winners in our seven respective categories. Following months of reading (by the Advisory Board and later, our judging panels), planning, author interviews and emails in access, the INSPYs Advisory Board is pleased to announce the 2016 INSPY Award Winners.

Below are the seven winning novels in their respective categories and a statement from our judges on the reason why they felt it was worth the award…


CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE / ROMANTIC SUSPENSEBook - The Dandelion Field

The Dandelion Field by Kathryn Springer: In a category full of wonderful contemporary romances, we had a tough choice to make! Ultimately though, The Dandelion Field by Kathryn Springer stood out from the rest with its character growth and true-to-life issues as well as the author’s expressive way with words. Each character in the story was intriguing – from Gin and her daughter Raine, to firefighter Dan and Raine’s boyfriend Cody, to Dan’s big crazy family, Cody’s mom Evie, and even Gin’s coworkers. The romance between Dan and Gin was sweet and built slowly (but not too slowly), and the obstacles between them felt genuine, rather than just thrown in to create conflict. The relationship between Cody and Raine also felt real and sincere. Throughout this novel, Springer deftly dealt with true-to-life issues like single parenthood, teen pregnancy, poverty, and judgment within the church, showing how God can work through the hard things in life to bring healing and beauty. Really, that “realness” is what makes The Dandelion Field a perfect expression of the Inspy Awards’ mission statement, and it’s why we chose it for the 2016 award for Contemporary Romance.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH KATHRYN SPRINGER

DEBUT FICTION

JadedJaded by Varina Denman: Representing the best in debut fiction, Varina Denman’s Jaded is a complex contemporary novel that goes against the security most in its genre exhibit. The faith issues it wrestles with, the efficient snapshot of small-town living, and the quiet yet meaningful prose collide to create a story with depth. The romance is refreshing, not because of the opposition it presents, but because of the characters. Its heroine, Ruthie is a beautifully flawed and relatable character, whose fall from grace makes the lessons of forgiveness impacting, a theme that will stay with the reader long after the final page.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH VARINA DENMAN

GENERAL FICTION

Book - Secrets She KeptOur panel chose Secrets She Kept as winner of the General Fiction INSPY award for its deep emotional impact and for the subtly powerful way its theme of forgiveness is threaded into the story. We loved the way the dual timelines interwove and built on each other as secrets from the past were gradually revealed to modern day characters and to readers. Gohlke’s vivid storytelling and close attention to historical detail immersed us in the historical time period with Lieselotte, even as we discovered with Hannah just how profound an impact the past can have on the present. We found the lead characters endearing, and gladly cheered them on – Hannah toward self-discovery and a better understanding of her mother, and Lieselotte in her perseverance in following her conscience despite danger, betrayal, and hardship. The story as a whole impressed us all, and we are delighted to give the INSPY to this title.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH CATHY GOHLKE

HISTORICAL ROMANCE

Through-Waters-DeepThrough Waters Deep by Sarah Sundin: Through Waters Deep was an inspiring story about two individuals who learn that they’re stronger together while trusting in God than they are going it alone. Loveable characters, some suspense and danger, an historical setting the comes alive, sweet inspirational moments, and a romance that builds from friendship, all combine to make a masterly woven story that is engaging from beginning to end. Perfect for Historical Christian Romance readers!Book - An Uncertain Choice

AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH SARAH SUNDIN

LITERATURE FOR YOUNG ADULTS

An Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund: An Uncertain Choice stands out with a breathlessly tangible medieval setting, vividly described characters that are constructed in such a way that invites readers to know them better with every page. The writing, the characters, and the romance; every nook and cranny of An Uncertain Choice was flawless! Every page is a masterpiece of relatable storytelling as expressed through its impactful POV. Beyond its beautiful prose, An Uncertain Choice boasts a delicious romance, with three dreamy and chivalrous knights (!).The novel has everything and more any reader could want in the YA historical, or any fictional world, genre!

Book - The Bones will SpeakMYSTERY / THRILLER

The Bones Will Speak by Carrie Stuart Parks: We chose The Bones Will Speak because it draws readers in from the very beginning. Opening a suspense novel should involve a riveting and twisting plot that will hold reader’s attention until the final page. The Bones Will Speak provided just that. Its suspense is top notch, but the main character Gwen Marcey is what keeps us flipping the pages. The nail-biting suspense keeps readers engaged and the shroud of mystery surrounding the real culprit keeps the whodunit a guessing game. Fine writing, complex characterization and a great story make this book a winner.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH CARRIE STUART PARKS

SPECULATIVE FICTION

9780764213465The Shock of Night by Patrick Carr: This novel seamlessly combined the best of fantasy and mystery to create a unique story all its own. The complex tale described a world very much like our own: a nation grown complacent in its undeserved blessings, flawed characters who sometimes failed despite their good intentions, and yet, also, the redemptive work of God through his servants. The protagonist is a man mired by doubts and fears but unbroken by the darkness around and within him. Instead, he pours his heart out in honest, broken prayer, and takes the example of his Lord to heart by striving against the odds to bring good into a world that often does not recognize it. Engulfing twists, delightful wit, and authentic discussions of tough moral quandaries make The Shock of the Night a book not to be missed.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH PATRICK W. CARR


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

Congratulations to the winners and all the nominated authors! 

A Conversation with Cathy Gohlke

INSPYs 2016-Cathy Gohlke Feature

Good afternoon, INSPYs readers. We’re welcoming  author Cathy Gohlke today. Cathy is the author of novels like Saving Amelie, Promise Me This, and this year, her novel, Secrets She Kept (Tyndale) made the final in the 2016 INSPYs shortlist in the General Fiction category.

Below Cathy shares about the inspiration of Secrets She Kept, and gives us some insight into her favorite story to write in the two-person narrative of the novel.


The secret a mother was forbidden to share . . . the consequences a daughter could not redeem—but will risk everything in her attempt.Book - Secrets She Kept

All her life, Hannah Sterling longed for a close relationship with her estranged mother. Following Lieselotte’s death, Hannah unlocks secrets of her mother’s mysterious past, including the discovery of a grandfather living in Germany.

Thirty years earlier, Lieselotte’s father, ascending the ranks of the Nazi party, demands a marriage for his daughter to help advance his career. But Lieselotte is in love—and her beloved Lukas secretly works against the Reich. How far will her father go to achieve his goal?

Both Hannah’s and Lieselotte’s stories unfold as Hannah travels to Germany to meet her grandfather, who hides wartime secrets of his own. Longing for connection, yet shaken by all she uncovers, Hannah must decide if she can atone for her family’s tragic past, and how their legacy will shape her future. – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads


INTERVIEW WITH CATHY GOHLKE

INSPYs: What inspired Secrets She Kept? Secrets She Kept was conceived while researching WWII and touring Germany. I learned that WWII bred many deep secrets in families—secrets of good deeds unrewarded and secrets of evil deeds never discovered.

But I wondered, how did Holocaust survivors reclaim their lives and live beyond the tragedies of the war when anti-Semitism still existed? How did perpetrators and their families live with the horrors they’d inflicted? Were they sorry for what they’d done? Did they attempt to hide their wartime activities? Did they confess or try in any way to redeem the wrongs they’d committed? Is there atonement? How do Germans today reconcile what they or their nation did during WWII?

Those questions made me ask, too, how do we confront the far-reaching consequences of our actions or those of our family members?

Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch Christian, who, with her sister, father and many family members, helped Jews escape Nazi persecution during the war, inspired an answer in her book, The Hiding Place. I’ve been fascinated and convicted since my teenage years by Corrie’s courageous and triumphant faith, and the frank honesty of her journey.

INSPYs: Which character/story did you most enjoy writing about in Secrets She Kept? Lieselotte. During my research I walked Lieselotte’s paths in Berlin before and during the war, and through Ravensbruk Concentration Camp. I tramped through the rain from a train to the camp at Sachsenhausen and imagined what it meant to be Jewish or considered a political criminal, yanked from your life, taken away by train and thrown into prison . . . not just any prison, but one of terrible persecution.

Creating Lieselotte and imagining her life, the daring and courage it took to help Jews right under the nose of her Nazi loving father and brother, the grievous loss of her mother and the man she loved so dearly, and the terrible sacrifice she made for love of her daughter . . . I feel as if I know her, as if she and her journey are part of me.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

+ What are you listening to? “Favourite Wartime Songs—The Songs That Lifted a Nation’s Heart,” produced by English Heritage. It’s a wonderful collection of nostalgic and well-known British songs and dance music from WWII that I found at the Imperial War Museum in London. A note on the back of the CD case reads, “Tunes that we all remember from a time we will never forget.” Can you guess the period for my current wip? : )

+ What are you watching? My brother and sister-in-law introduced me to “Coalhouse at War,” a series filmed in Wales. I’m hooked! It’s a fascinating reality show about daily life in a Welsh coal town during WWII. Three modern-day families and a group of young men “drafted” to work the mines live, work and go to school just as they would have during WWII.

Men, women and children deal with blackout, rations, deprivations, evacuees from bombed towns, raising animals for food, air raids, Home Guard training, coal mining, the threat of invasion, dances and sing-songs for fun, weekly chapel, and all that went with life in those days. It is the only reality show I’ve ever seen that I would love to participate in—although I’m not keen on the idea of eating sheep’s tongue. : {Cathy Gohlke's Reading Table

+ What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? I’m rereading some of C. S. Lewis’s works, especially those things written prior to and during WWII. Many of his works were published or broadcast in different forms than the final books we have today. I’ve just finished reading Mere Christianity which is a compilation of his WWII radio broadcasts, The Problem of Pain, The Screwtape Letters, and am now reading The Weight of Glory. I’ve loved reading the Boxen stories he and his brother, Warnie, wrote and illustrated for fun as a children (inspired by beloved stories and illustrations of Beatrix Potter).

Daily I read my Bible. This year I’m enjoying Tyndale’s NLT and the new Tree of Life Version. Dwelling Places, by Lucinda Secrest McDowell is a favorite new devotional, as is Priscilla Shirer’s Fervent. Two wonderfully engrossing novels I’ve read and reread recently are Tessa Afshar’s Land of Silence and Carrie Turansky’s Refuge at Highland Hall.


Thanks so much for joining us, Cathy. It was a pleasure to learn more about Secrets She Kept, and which storyline was your favorite to write.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Cathy Gohlke Author-Photo

Cathy Gohlke is the two-time Christy Award–winning author of the critically acclaimed novels Promise Me This, William Henry Is a Fine Name, and I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires, which also won the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Book of the Year Award and was listed by Library Journal as one of the Best Books of 2008.

Cathy has worked as a school librarian, drama director, and director of children’s and education ministries. When not traipsing the hills and dales of historic sites, she, her husband, and their dog, Reilly, make their home on the banks of the Laurel Run in Elkton, Maryland.

Author Website | Facebook

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