A Conversation with Celeste Fletcher McHale

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Celeste Fletcher McHale. Her novel, The Secret to Hummingbird Cake (Thomas Nelson) is on the 2017 shortlist in the Debut Fiction category. Please join us in welcoming Celeste.

Today, we learn about the inspiration behind The Secret to Hummingbird Cake (it’s based on a true story!), get a glimpse of Celeste’s work space (and her cute writing companion) – plus more!

“Why won’t you just tell me what’s in that cake?” I’d been trying to get Laine’s recipe for years. We all had.

When all else fails, turn to the divine taste of hummingbird cake.

In the South you always say “yes, ma’am” and “no, ma’am.” You know everybody’s business. Football is a lifestyle not a pastime. Food—especially dessert— is almost a religious experience. And you protect your friends as fiercely as you protect your family— even if the threat is something you cannot see.

In this spot-on Southern novel brimming with wit and authenticity, you’ll laugh alongside lifelong friends, navigate the sometimes rocky path of marriage, and roll through the outrageous curveballs that life sometimes throws . . . from devastating pain to absolute joy. And if you’re lucky, you just may discover the secret to hummingbird cake along the way. – Goodreads

Author Interview with Celeste Fletcher McHale

INSPYs: What inspired The Secret to Hummingbird CakeThe Secret to Hummingbird Cake is a true story. I moved the actual time line around a little when I was writing it, but it is the story of me and my two best friends and an 18 month period in our lives.

Because it is a true story, I didn’t want to sugar coat the situations or the language in the book. I didn’t feel like whitewashing the truth would do me or anyone reading it any good. Some folks always follow the right path and that’s great. But some of us veer to the left or the right and others can sort of make us feel like we aren’t worthy of the love of God because of it. Nothing could be further from the truth. I wanted this book to send that message loud and clear. It isn’t God that moved away from us, it’s us that moved away from God and he will always accept us just like we are… even if some people don’t.

Celeste says of her work space, “It’s wherever I feel comfortable that day, but little Viloula is always by my side.”

What were some of the things that surprised you about the publishing process? I think what surprised me the most about the publishing process is how long it is between “the end” and release day. I have zero patience and it felt like I was five years old again waiting for Santa Claus.
Just for fun Questions:

1. What are you Watching? I generally turn my TV on the SEC channel and leave it there all day. I mostly watch sports and I don’t care what it is. If they are keeping score, I’ll watch it. LOL. I DO watch The Voice and the sitcom, Mom.

2. What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? My Sports Illustrated magazine comes on Thursday. I read it from cover to cover and then I’m done for the week. I honestly have very little time to read. I live on a working ranch and something ALWAYS needs attention. I use the time I would have to read…to write.

Face off Questions:

Print or Ebook? I want to hold my books. I don’t like a kindle.

Dark or Milk Chocolate? I’m not much of a chocolate fan, but if my mama puts a pan of biscuits on the table, y’all better get one before I see them ’cause I can eat half the pan. That’s why I have to run every morning. Hahaha.

Call or text? Definitely text!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Celeste Fletcher McHale lives on her family farm in Central Louisiana where she enjoys raising a variety of animals. Her hobbies include writing, football, baseball, and spending much time with her grandchildren. Website: fletchermchale.wordpress.com Facebook: FletcherMcHale Twitter: @FletcherMcHale


Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs.com blog today, Celeste. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight The Secret to Hummingbird Cake.

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


AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH KRISTI ANN HUNTER

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.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

+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.

ABOUT THE AUTHORKristi Ann Hunter

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


AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH VARINA DENMAN

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?

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

+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.

ABOUT THE AUTHORVDenmanHeadshot2

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


INTERVIEW WITH PEPPER D. BASHAM

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!

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

+ 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.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Pepper Basham

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

Author Interview: Melissa Jagears

Today we welcome Melissa Jagears, author of A Bride for Keeps shortlisted in the Debut Category.  Melissa is a stay-at home mom, an ESL teacher by trade and working on a fixer-upper in Kansas.   Enjoy!

17350829Everett Cline will never humiliate himself by seeking a mail-order bride. Not again. He’s already been jilted by three mail-order brides and figures a wife just isn’t in his future. However, a well-meaning neighbor hasn’t given up on seeing him settled, so she goes behind his back to bring yet another woman to town for him.

Julia Lockwood has never been anything more than a pretty pawn for her father or a business acquisition for her former fiance. A mail-order marriage in faraway Kansas is a last resort, but she’ll do anything to leave her life in Massachusetts and the heartbreak she’s experienced there.

Although Everett doesn’t see how a beautiful, cultured woman like Julia could be happy sharing his simple life, he could really use a helpmate on his homestead. Determined to prove she’s more than just a pretty face, Julia agrees to a marriage in name only. Faced with the harsh realities of life on the prairie and hesitant to explore the tentative feelings growing between them, can Everett and Julia ever let each other in long enough to fall in love?

What do you do outside the world of books?

I keep three little children alive, homeschool the oldest, do my church’s financial paperwork, and wish for a full-time maid. (I took the picture of my writing area when it was clean, right now it has Jenga blocks all under my feet, and a bunch of other toys strewn about, and lots more paper mess….that’s why I need a maid.)

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

A Lori Wick novel was a birthday present from a friend in junior high which created my love for Christian Historicals. As to anything else, with all the reading I’ve done, I realized I enjoy the romance thread the most. Whether or not it’s the romance genre, the romance is what I get caught up in and find most disappointing when it falls flat, so that’s how I decided to write romance, I’d write what I enjoy…..Even though I am NOT a romantic person in real life. An unfortunate problem for my romantic husband, who’s married to one of the least romantic women of all time. But it makes us laugh.

Melissa's Writing Area

Melissa’s Writing Area

What are the challenges of incorporating faith into your storyline?

The challenge is to make it short and authentic to the characters, yet meaty enough to be worthwhile.

What do you hope readers take away from A Bride for Keeps?

That the sin burdens you carry shouldn’t be carried alone. If someone loves you, they’ll forgive, just like Christ, no matter how bad. There is healing in confession.

Thank you for joining us Melissa!  To connect with Melissa visit her website | Facebook | Pinterest