A Conversation with Kristi Ann Hunter

INSPYs 2016-Kristi Ann Hunter FeatureOur debut author interviews continue today with novelist, Kristi Ann Hunter. Her debut novel A Noble Masquerade (Bethany House) is on the 2016 shortlist in the Debut Fiction category.

Today, Kristi gives us insight into the inspiration of A Noble Masquerade and shares her greatest surprise about the publishing experience.

Lady Miranda Hawthorne acts every inch the lady, but inside she longs to be bold and carefree. Entering her fourth Season and approaching spinsterhood in the eyes of society, she pours her Book - A Noble Masqueradeinnermost feelings out not in a diary but in letters to her brother’s old school friend, a duke–with no intention of ever sending these private thoughts to a man she’s heard stories about but never met. Meanwhile, she also finds herself intrigued by Marcus, her brother’s new valet, and although she may wish to break free of the strictures that bind her, falling in love with a servant is more of a rebellion than she planned.

When Marcus accidentally discovers and mails one of the letters to her unwitting confidant, Miranda is beyond mortified. And even more shocked when the duke returns her note with one of his own that initiates a courtship-by-mail. Insecurity about her lack of suitors shifts into confusion at her growing feelings for two men–one she’s never met but whose words deeply resonate with her heart, and one she has come to depend on but whose behavior is more and more suspicious. When it becomes apparent state secrets are at risk and Marcus is right in the thick of the conflict, one thing is certain: Miranda’s heart is far from all that’s at risk for the Hawthornes and those they love. – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads


INSPYs: What inspired you to write A Noble Masquerade?

I don’t think there’s a person alive who is always themselves. We have masks and restrictions we place on ourselves depending on where we are or who we’re with. Sometimes, though, those limits can feel like an abrasive and confining prison despite the fact that we made them ourselves. Never is that more evident than when you find yourself placed in the middle of a new group of people and you have to decide who you’re going to be.

Exploring that idea brought about the book A Noble Masquerade. Because the heroine met the hero under two different circumstances, she presented two different versions of herself and he was able to do the same. In the process of bringing those two ideas together, they each came to a greater understanding of who they were and how they could be themselves more often. I think that’s something everyone could use a little more of.

INSPYs: What surprised you most about the process of writing/publishing a novel?

This is going to make me sound incredibly arrogant, but I think my biggest surprise was that I edited well. After the number of complaints and horror stories I’ve heard from people working with various editors, I was expecting the process to be rather painful. In some ways it was because it was the first time I’d ever gone through my work like that. There were sections that I refused to change in the way they wanted me to, but I did listen to the issues they had with the scene and rewrote it to fix those.

A lot of the credit for the process goes to the amazing editors I worked with at Bethany House who took the time to really see where I was trying to go with the book and helped me get there. By the end of the editing process, though, I was left sitting with a book I couldn’t believe I got to stick my name on and that’s a pretty heady feeling.


+What are you listening to?

Ah, music. It is so very, very important in our house. Right now I’m hip deep in preparations for the launch of the next book in the series, An Elegant Façade, so I’m listening and refining the inspiration playlist for that book. I’ll be unveiling that entire list in July, but as a little sneak peek for you, it includes some amazing songs like Stained Glass Masquerade by Casting Crowns and Born to Be Free by Moriah Peters.

+What are you watching? 

Kristi Ann Hunter NightstandWell, the kids are home for the summer and just discovered the old original Power Rangers so I’m getting a nice little trip down nostalgia lane.

Otherwise I’m not watching a whole lot right now. We don’t have cable so I tend to be a little behind and go through spells of watching lots of TV off Netflix and then stretches of nothing. I can tell you what I WILL be watching in a few weeks and that’s the Olympics. WOOHOO! Love me some Olympics.

+What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand?

I’m actually reading an ARC right now, Dawn Crandall’s The Cautious Maiden. (Woohoo, author privilege, getting books before they come out!) I’m only a few chapters into it but I’m very intrigued.

Sitting right next to it though, taunting me and not-so-patiently waiting its turn is the new Karen Witemeyer book, No Other Will Do. I actually got that one a bit early, too, but haven’t gotten to read it yet. Sometimes writing the books gets in the way of reading them. Sigh.

Thanks for joining us, Kristi Ann! It was a pleasure to chat with you, learn more about your debut novel, learn what most surprised you about the publishing process (that’s a wonderful talent to possess) and to read about your 2016 Olympic excitement.


Kristi Ann Hunter graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in Computer Science but always knew she wanted to write. Kristi is an RWA Golden Heart contest winner, an ACFW Genesis contest winner, and a Georgia Romance Writers Maggie Award for Excellence winner. She lives with her husband and three children in Georgia.

Author Website | Facebook | Twitter

A Conversation with Varina Denman

INSPYs 2016-Varina Denman Feature

Hello, INSPY readers! Our author interview features continues today with not one but two spotlights. Our first introduces us to debut author, Varina Denman. Varina’s novel Jaded (David C. Cook) is on the 2016 shortlist in the Debut Fiction category.

Today, Varina shares about the inspiration of Jaded, and gives us some insight into what the publishing process has been like.

Ruthie Turner resents the Christians in her small Texas town, but when she falls for the new preacher, she must release her bitterness…and learn to love. On the surface, nothing seems to change in Book - Jadedthis dull town-yet God always works beneath the surface. – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads


INSPYs: What inspired the story of Jaded? 

Jaded tells the story of Ruthie Turner, whose family was shunned by the local congregation. It’s an emotional tale of forgiveness, and it continues to pull at my thoughts. (In a good way) Even though I’ve never experienced church hurt as monumental as what Ruthie endured, I’ve witnessed it too many times, and it breaks my heart. Ruthie finally learns to let go of the past, and it’s my prayer that Jaded encourages readers to forgive each other’s sins and make peace with their own differences.

INSPYs: What surprised you most about the writing/publishing process? 

I have greatly enjoyed learning the publishing process, but at first I was quite surprised that authors were expected to participate so deeply in the marketing. Now, it’s seems obvious, but back in the beginning, I imagined I could just write my little stories and be done with it. Ah … wouldn’t that be nice?


+What are you listening to? 

I work best in total silence, so at the moment I don’t have music playing. However, I can hear three things: my air conditioner, my fingers typing on the keyboard, and my kids laughing in the next room. Later when I stop working, I’ll probably cranky-up my favorite Pandora station which revolves around “Everybody,” by Ingrid Michaelson

+What are you watching?

My family is addicted to NetFlix, and recently we’ve watched “Notting Hill” and “Death Comes to Pemberley.” I loved both of them. My teenagers are out of school for the summer (which means they spend way too much time in front of the television) and every time I leave my office to raid the refrigerator, they are watching “Supernatural.” This is NOT my kind of show, so I try not to watch it as I walk through the room, but it’s just. So. Hard. Not. To.

+What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? VDenman-Nightstand

I read most books on my kindle which leaves my nightstand fairly clear, but a friend recently loaned me a copy of Interrupted, by Jen Hatmaker. Okay, so it’s been next to my bed for over a year, but I really, really plan on reading it … eventually. I absolutely loved 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, so when I get around to it, I’ll probably love Interrupted just as much. As for my kindle, I’m currently reading Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty. And as you can see, I also have an antique copy of A Tale of Two Cities on my bedside table, along with two volumes from James Fennimore Cooper’s Works, just for decoration. If I ever decide to read Dickens or Cooper, I’ll probably download them onto my kindle and save the wear and tear on the antiques, but I love seeing them there!

Thank you so much for joining us today, Varina. It was a pleasure to learn more about Jaded.


Varina Denman writes stories about the unique struggles women face. A native Texan who spent her high school years in a small Texas town, Varina now lives near Fort Worth with her husband and five mostly grown children. Her passion is helping others make peace with their life situations. Varina’s Mended Hearts series is a compelling blend of women’s fiction and inspirational romance. Connect with Varina through her website or one of the social media hangouts.

Facebook | Twitter


A Conversation with Pepper D. Basham

INSPYs 2016-Papper Basham Feature

Hello, happy INSPY readers. Joining us today is the first of this year’s debut author finalists, Pepper D. Basham. Pepper’s debut novel The Thorn Bearer (Vinspire Publishing) has earned acclaim in the blogging world, and has been shortlisted in the 2016 INSPYs Debut Fiction Category.

Today, Pepper shares with us some of her thoughts on the challenges (and benefits) of writing historical fiction, more about The Thorn Bearer and we ask her about her current music, TV and book obsessions.

From the decks of the ill-fated Lusitania to the smoke-filled trenches of WW1, Ashleigh must choose between the forgiveness of her past, life in the present, and a Savior who can rescue Book - The Thorn Bearerher from them all.

When her fiancé leaves her eight months before their wedding, the unexpected blow ignites a battalion of insecurities stemming from her father’s intimate betrayal. Her worst fears are confirmed – who could ever love a soiled woman? In an attempt to escape the shame and disappointment of her past, Ashleigh boards the ill-fated Lusitania to cross the war-torn waters of Europe. Much to her dismay, she isn’t traveling alone.

Sam Miller is always making up for his best friend’s mistakes. Determined to help Ashleigh, he offers his compassion and protection as she ventures across a perilous sea. With the faint hope of renewing his lost love for Ashleigh’s sister, Sam never expects to find the woman of his dreams in his best friend’s former fiancé and his own childhood companion. As they travel across the Atlantic, neither is prepared for the life-altering and heart-breaking journey of their friendship. When the truth of Ashleigh’s past explodes in the middle of war and Sam rejects her, Ashleigh must decide if God is enough – or if the double weight of her betrayal and past will crush her life forever. – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads


INSPYs: What inspired you to write The Thorn Bearer?

Real life mixed with a discovery of the perfect book ignited the creation of The Thorn Bearer. I’d begun daydreaming about this young woman who had been wounded in a severe and intimate way from someone she should have trusted, because of some personal experience with the topic as well as knowing people who have felt the sting of such betrayal. What I hoped to create was a story of hope, of God bringing healing even in the darkest of circumstances.

Well, while I was creating this story idea, I found a book about The Lusitania at a yard sale for something like fifty cents. Suddenly the story began to come together and The Thorn Bearer was born. Now, of course, the version you read has been rewritten several times and edited even more, but that’s the history behind it 🙂

INSPYs: What are the challenges/benefits of writing historical fiction? 

The challenges, for me, is finding the time to write (in general) AND the research. Wow!! There are so many little nuances and details that can really put some readers off if they’re not done correctly. I strive to make the details correct of the time because I really want people to get a sense for the era.

The benefits? The research 🙂 I know, I already used it as challenging, but there are many challenging things in life that bring the most benefit 🙂 Earning a degree, teaching kindergartners, giving birth 😉

But I love the research – the discovery of another time and place. And the Edwardian/WW1 era is my FAVORITE! There was so much change going on with transportation, inventions, women’s rights, travel, and education…AND the costuming was FABULOUS!


+ What are you listening to? Pandora Worship and Praise Radio, The Piano Guys, and Michael Buble

Captain America Civil War Wanda Steve

Photo: Marvel

+ What are you watching? The Flash, Agents of Shield, Dancing with the Stars, Phineas and Ferb, North and South, Emma, Austenland….and my family really enjoyed the new Captain America movie!

Book - The Sound of DiamondsI’ve also been watching lots of cool documentaries (sounds kind of oxymoronish doesn’t it…cool documentaries 😉 about WW1 as well as The Biltmore Estate. I’m determined to write a book involving the Biltmore some day.

+ What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? I’m in the middle of TOOO many books! Rachelle Rea’s The Sound of Diamonds, Sondra Kraak’s One Plus One Equals Trouble, and Tabitha – Girls from the Mountain book 1 (for research).

On my shelf? A Season to Love by Nicole Deese, Candee Ficks’ Dance Over Me, and The Christian Imagination edited by Leland Ryken.

Pepper, thank you so much for joining us today. It was a pleasure to chat with you and learn how The Thorn Bearer came to be.


Pepper D Basham has been telling tales ever since she was a little girl. When her grandmother called her a “writer” at the age of ten, Pepper took it as gospel and has enjoyed various types of writing styles ever since. A native of the Blue Ridge Mountains, mom of five, speech-language pathologist, and lover of chocolate, Pepper enjoys sprinkling her native Appalachian culture into her fiction wherever she can. She currently resides in the lovely mountains of Asheville, NC, where she works with kids who have special needs, searches for unique hats, and plots new ways to annoy her wonderful friends at her writing blog, The Writer’s Alley. She is represented by Julie Gwinn, and her debut novel, The Thorn Bearer, arrives on May 7th 2015.

Author Website | Twitter

Up Close and Personal with Zachary Bartels

Today the INSPY Advisory Board is excited to welcome debut author Zachary Bartels. His novel, Playing Saint (Thomas Nelson) is on the short list for the Mystery/Thriller category. In this interview, Zachary talks about his “old-fashioned” use of a landline and shares some of his TV addictions – including Downton Abbey!

Goodreads Summary:

Rising mega-pastor Parker Saint was wrapped up in his ratings and his book deal. But that was before the cops and the serial killer, the Vatican operatives, and the centuries-old plot to conceal an ancient relic. Now Book - Playing Sainthe’s just trying to stay alive.

Parker Saint is an up-and-coming superstar pastor on the verge of achieving everything he’s wanted–including a national TV program and major book deal. His success seems all but guaranteed until an angry incident with a flight attendant. To keep his growing empire from collapsing, Parker cuts a deal and agrees to serve as a police consultant on the trail of a twisted serial killer who marks his victims with religious symbols. The problem is, Parker’s anything but an expert, faking his way through the investigation by slipping away to consult his smart phone.

As he is drawn deeper into a web of intrigue involving an obsessive and demanding detective, a trio of relentless Vatican operatives, a string of botched exorcisms, and a centuries-old conspiracy to conceal a mysterious relic, Parker finds himself questioning everything he has been trying so hard to protect.

Building to an intense climax, “Playing Saint” is a timely exploration of what compels us, what defines us, and what redeems us. With its combination of suspense, humor, and intriguing characters, it will captivate readers until the final twist.

1.) What are you listening to?

Lots of stuff. “Praise & Arrows” (an awesome compilation album full of music inspired by my boy Cliff Graham’s books), Trip Lee, Mumford and Songs, Of Monsters and Men, Lindsey Stirling, Joanna Newsom, Matisyahu, Andy Mineo, MxPx, “Gettys Live at the Gospel Coalition,” Dave Ramsey yelling at people for borrowing money, The Moth Radio Hour . . .

2.) What are you watching?

Lately, way too much stuff. Over the past few months, off-and-on, I’ve been casual watching or binging the following:

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – Nothing cracks me up more consistently than this show. Great characters and great timing.
Turn – Despite the crap-tastic special effects, this had a pretty decent first season. Was just starting to get into the second, but had to put it on hiatus until a couple of other shows end.
House of Cards – A case study in how simply making someone the protagonist and letting us into his head can get viewers (works with readers too!) invested in and caring about some pretty despicable people. Which makes for an interesting story experience.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – My almost-seven-year-old and I watch this together. (I’m talking about the weekly show on Nickelodeon with Seth Green and Sean Astin, not that gong-show of a movie that came out last year.) It’s one of the smartest, most exciting, most hilarious, inside-joke-and-Eighties-reference-filled productions to ever exist. You should watch it, even if you have no young children.
New Girl – Mostly for the Nick Miller quotes.
Reruns of Touched by an Angel – Just kidding.
Downton Abbey – It’s not a soap opera if the men regularly retire to the drawing room for cigars and brandy. Aside: If I could hang out with any fictional butler, it would be Carson.
Grantchester – (Obviously) I’m a sucker for clerics who also save the day.
Better Call Saul – Helps dull the pain over the end of Breaking Bad. Also, serves as a mini-course on how to throw down backstory and develop a nice slow-burn plot.
Justified, Mad Man – I’m trying—truly trying—to get over the fact that these are no more. Spectacular writing.

3.) What’s on your nightstand?

Here’s my bedside:Zachary's Books

(That’s right; I still have a landline and still use not one, but two Palm Pilots!)

The books at my bedside are:

Treasury of Daily Prayer – Even though I’m not Lutheran, this is one of my favorite devotional volumes
Morning & Evening by Charles Spurgeon – The gold standard for short daily devotionals, written by the Prince of Preachers
Evangelism by J. Mack Stiles
ESV Bible – The “English Sanctified Version,” natch.
Novum Testamentum Graece – Got to keep that Greek up.
Lifting Up Our Hearts: 150 Selected Prayers of John Calvin
Shadow of the Mountain: Exodus by Cliff Graham– This is the one I’ve been tearing through the last few nights.
This Elegant Ruin by Erin Bartels – Short story collection by my beautiful, talented wife, who was called one of “the greatest up-and-coming fiction writers today” by the Saturday Evening Post.
Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan
Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God  by J.I. Packer
Sabotaged by Dani Pettrey
The Advocate by Randy Singer
The Drop Box by Brian Ivie and Ted Kluck
lifehacker by Gina Trapani
Implications Abound by Adam4d – Web comics from the spectacular site www.adam4d.com

Kindle, containing many books, including The Expulsive Power of a New Affection by Thomas Chalmers and The Essential Works of John Wesley, which I am re-reading now.

Here’s another angle:

Zachary's Table (2)

(Oh, wait… what’s that red book doing there?? How embarrassing! Looks like The Last Con, my second novel, coming out July 7 from HarperCollins Christian Publishing! Let me just…um…put that over here.)


Thank you so much for joining us today, Zachary! It was great fun to chat with you. Learn more about Zachary: Facebook ǀ Twitter ǀ Website

Author Interview: Jessica Dotta

Welcome Jessica Dotta, Debut Author Shortlist Contender!  Jessica is truly an author to watch along with being a gracious philanthropist!

17703150The year is 1838, and seventeen-year-old Julia Elliston’s position has never been more fragile. Orphaned and unmarried in a time when women are legal property of their fathers, husbands, and guardians, she finds herself at the mercy of an anonymous guardian who plans to establish her as a servant in far-off Scotland.

With two months to devise a better plan, Julia’s first choice to marry her childhood sweetheart is denied. But when a titled dowager offers to introduce Julia into society, a realm of possibilities opens. However, treachery and deception are as much a part of Victorian society as titles and decorum, and Julia quickly discovers her present is deeply entangled with her mother’s mysterious past. Before she knows what’s happening, Julia finds herself a pawn in a deadly game between two of the country’s most powerful men. With no laws to protect her, she must unravel the secrets on her own. But sometimes truth is elusive and knowledge is deadly.

Jessica's Writing Space

Jessica’s Writing Space

What do you do outside the world of books?

My life has seen a lot of transition within the last five years, and that has changed how I would have answered this question a few years ago. Trust me, as a single, working mom the answer to this question is not that exciting. Therefore, I’m going to take liberty and answer with what I am working to grow.

As a single mom, I am honored to meet the amazing women I’m finding on this path. These are women who have walked through some of the worst pain our society can throw at them, yet they are overcomers. They are no stranger to suffering and because of it their faith is unshakable. Their knowledge of God is so deep and personal. Yet they are often overlooked and left to sort out single parenting by themselves. I can attest that it isn’t possible to manage this walk without others supporting you. Many times as we’ve looked around it’s only other single mothers willing to step in and help. We truly have each other’s backs.

People need people, but the lonely and hurting are not in the position to be able to ask for help because they’re having to take more than they can give. Thus they remain silent and overlooked. My goal has changed from wanting to reestablish my daughter and my life with a hobby farm, to actively seeking ways to provide refuge and shelter for women who are in immediate need of housing, while simultaneously connecting single-moms, widows, the elderly, the lonely, and refugees into the community we’re building, so that their healing and potential can flourish, as well.

Jessica's Writing Space

Jessica’s Writing Space

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

Growing up, my bookstore was inside the mall and the fiction section was mostly classics. Thus I read Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters over and over again, while I saved up to buy new books.

I was stunned when some book reviewers compared me to Victoria Holt, because I’d never considered her an influence, but she was another author I’d read repeatedly. My grandmother had her books, which I’d re-read the same novels yearly over the summer. I’m also a fan of Daphne du Maurier. (She’s known best for Rebecca—but, my word, read My Cousin Rachel twice and you’ll see her genius.)

Christians authors whose work I adore include: Liz Curtis Higgs, Francine Rivers, Tosca Lee, Gina Holmes and countless others.

After I started writing I discovered Geraldine Brooks (Year of Wonders and March,) Arthur Golden (Memories of of a Geisha) and Susaana Clarke (Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.)  I’m go glad I did because I read them after I learned the “rules” of writing fiction and they helped expand my voice again, after having limited it.

Jessica's Writing Space

Jessica’s Writing Space

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

Faith is woven into the fabric of our lives and it affects the large and small decisions that we make, so to incorporate faith into novels only deepens the story’s believability by making it more realistic. The challenge, however, is having the ability to drop my defenses and to be honest without wanting to defend what I believe.

One challenge is avoiding the temptation to paint characters other than they are. Sadly we are frail and are weak, and just because we carry the gospel doesn’t mean we always act, think, and walk the way we should. Admitting this to a world, which is growing more antagonistic towards Christians, isn’t always easy. Yet, I want to explore faith honestly, not defensively.

When I write I often keep two friends in mind. One is an atheist, who has a life goal of disapproving the Bible. Our friendship goes back to middle school, when both of us were ostracized and we bonded as only rejected people can. The other is a friend who tearfully informs me that she’s too afraid to pray until she’s cleaned up her life more. Right now, I’m one of two people she will talk with about God, because while I speak words of mercy and grace over her, she can believe it—at least for that space of time.

While I write, I keep these two precious people in my thoughts and I ask myself: Have I shared truth in such a way that the first person can believe that my character intelligently is awake and aware and not just blindly following a mindset? Did I communicate there are depths I can’t explain but can only be experienced? And for the second person, have I written a story that emboldens them to approach the throne of grace, despite their deeds, their personality, despite what others think of them, and despite the lies they’ve consumed about their worth?

That’s the balance I always prayerfully keep in mind.

the desk

Jessica’s Writing Space

What do you hope readers take away from Born of Persuasion?

Ultimately, I hope Julia’s story awakens the belief that no person, regardless of his or her past, his or her injury, or what people collectively think about them is beyond the healing power of Christ. Thankfully God alone determines who we are, and in His hands the least likely person has potential for greatness.

About the Author

JessicaAuthor2Born in the wrong century‚ except for the fact that she really likes epidurals and washing machines‚ Jessica Dotta writes British Historicals with the humor like an Austen, yet the drama of a Bronte.

She resides lives in the greater Nashville area‚where she imagines her small Southern town into the foggy streets of 19th century London. She oversees her daughter to school, which they pretend is an English boarding school, and then she goes home to write or work on PR. Jessica has tried to cast her dachshund as their butler‚ but the dog insists it’s a Time Lord and their home a Tardis. Miss Marple, her cat, says its no mystery to her as to why the dog won’t cooperate. When asked about it, Jessica sighs and says that you can’t win them all, and at least her dog has picked something British to emulate.


Isn’t Jessica simply lovely? And her romantic, book-themed office is what dreams are made of!  Thank you so much for joining us today and giving us a peek into your writing space Jessica!