A Conversation with Kara Isaac

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Kara Isaac. Her novels, Close to You and Can’t Help Falling (Howard) are on the 2017 shortlists in the Debut Fiction and Romance /Romantic Suspense categories, respectively. Please join us in welcoming Kara.

Kara shares the inspiration behind BOTH of her shortlist novels, we learn about the US TV show she’s binge watching, and see her TBR shelf (look at all those amazing books!) – plus more!


Close to You | A disgraced scholar running from her past and an entrepreneur chasing his future find themselves thrown together—and fall in love—on a Tolkien tour of New Zealand. – Goodreads

Can’t Help Falling | A funny, heartfelt romance about how an antique shop, a wardrobe, and a mysterious tea cup bring two C.S. Lewis fans together in a snowy and picturesque Oxford, England. – Goodreads

Interview Questions

INSPYs: What inspired your debut novel, Close to You (Or Can’t Help Falling – or both! Whatever you’d like to share)?

Close To You was inspired by a conversation with an editor I had from a publishing house while at a writing conference in 2013. She asked if I had ever thought about writing a story set in New Zealand around Lord of the Rings. It had never crossed my mind but I immediately had this idea of a disillusioned tour guide and an American entrepreneur drop into my mind. They became Allie and Jackson and the rest of the story came from there!

Can’t Help Falling was inspired by a combination of things. As part of my research for Close To You I learned about J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis meeting at Oxford University and becoming friends. I’ve always been a fan of C.S. Lewis and the Narnia series so when my editor asked if I had any ideas for a second book that could be linked to Close To You I pitched her the idea of a story set in Oxford with a Narnia theme. Thankfully she loved it 🙂

What are some of the things you found most interesting or challenging about the publishing process?

One of the most interesting things has been getting an up close and personal insight into all of the things that go into the traditional publishing process. From the outside, it often being up to two years between contract and publication can seem crazy long. But when you’re in the process and juggling editing deadlines with rounds of cover design input with providing information to marketing and sales teams who are pitching your books to retailers six months before it releases it suddenly starts to feel short!

I’ve been challenged by how becoming an author makes you a (very minor) public figure and what can come with that. I don’t proactively go hunting for reviews of my books but every now and then I stumble over one in my travels around the internet and I’m always bemused by people who turn their opinion of a book into a personal opinion or assumption about the author. I read one recently where someone stated that they had been on my website and from one paragraph had surmised that I’m not really a New Zealander but a discontented American ex-pat longing for home and all I could think was “How on earth did you get that from me saying that I love Double Stuff Oreos???” I’ve gotten well practiced at reminding myself that what really matters is the person my friends and family know and that life is too short to worry about the assumptions of strangers who have never met me!

  1. What are you Watching?I am enthralled by Designated Survivor. I am literally sitting here waiting for my husband to get home so we can watch the next episode! I’m very grateful that right now my next release is current out of my hands with the proofreader and I have the luxury of time to catch up on episodes.
  1. What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? My nightstand is bookshelves filled to the brim with my TBR books. I wish I could say that is all of them but alas there are also piles lined up under my bed! I’ve got Katie Ganshert’s, Life After waiting for me. I’ve heard so many amazing things that it’s one of those books that I’m reluctant to start because then I will be a step closer to it being finished.
Faceoff Questions:
  1. Print or Ebook? Print. Unless I’m travelling 🙂
  2. Comedy or Action? Comedy
  3. PC or Mac? Mac
  4. Cookies or Cake? Ooh now that entirely depends on what kind we’re talking!


Kara Isaac is an award-winning writer who lives in Wellington, New Zealand, where her career highlights include working in tourism as Private Secretary for the Prime Minister. She loves great books almost as much as she loves her husband and two children.Visit her on KaraIsaac.com

Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs blog today, Kara. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight your shortlisted novels, Close to You and Can’t Help Falling.

Spotlighting Beth Moore and The Undoing of Saint Silvanus

Today, the INSPY Awards spotlights best-selling author, Beth Moore. Her novel, The Undoing of Saint Silvanus (Tyndale) is on the 2017 shortlist in the Debut Fiction category.

Beth is busy travelling so conflicts prevented her from joining us, but her publicist kindly sent us some questions Beth answered for publicity purposes. Please join us in welcoming Beth.

Only God knew why Jillian Slater agreed to return to New Orleans on the news that her father had finally drunk himself to death. It’s not like they were close. She hadn’t seen him–or her grandmother, the ice queen–in almost 20 years. But when Adella Atwater, the manager of her grandmother’s apartment house, called and said Jillian’s expenses would be paid if she’d fly in for the burial, a free trip to New Orleans was too intriguing to resist.

What Adella didn’t tell her was that the apartment house wasn’t a house at all and, whatever it was, bore the dead weight of a long and painful history. As soon as Jillian meets the odd assortment of renters and realizes that her grandmother had no idea she was coming, she hatches a plan to escape. But the investigation into her father’s death quickly unfolds and Jillian is drawn into the lives of the colorful collection of saints and sinners who pass through Saint Silvanus. She soon discovers there is more at stake than she ever imagined. Who is behind the baffling messages and the strange relics left on the steps? Is it possible that her family is actually cursed? Or is it just this crazy old house that holds them all under its spell?

Jillian walks into a web of spiritual and personal danger borne out of her family’s broken history, and despite Adella’s wiliest efforts, only God himself can orchestrate the undoing of all that is going on at Saint Silvanus. – Goodreads


1. Beth, you are well known to millions around the globe as a Bible study teacher, speaker, and the author of nonfiction books including So Long, Insecurity. What made you decide to write your first work of fiction?

I was ambushed by the love of story from both sides of my bloodline. My mother all but ate books, and from the time I was six years old, my father managed movie theaters. My fate was sealed. I still love both forms of entertainment, but to this day, what I love best about a movie is not landscape or costume. It’s dialogue. It all boils down to words with me. Before I could write my ABCs, I’d cat-scratch pretend cursive all over Big Chief tablets from the Piggly Wiggly, playing like I was writing a book. Through the years of writing Bible study curriculum and nonfiction trade books, I’ve been drawn like a magnet to the stories of the men and women in Scripture that seemed particularly complex. David and Absalom, for instance. Miriam and Moses. I love narrative. I love imagining what these lives of faith were like away from the page and how these men and women in the sacred pages interacted with those in their sphere of influence. Sometimes those imaginations would turn into creative writings.

Way down deep in my heart I wondered if I’d ever try a novel. Bible study curriculum is my first love and keeps me busier than I can even manage, so I couldn’t imagine how the time would present itself. Still, that seed was down in that soil, where I figured it would always stay. One day in discussions about So Long, Insecurity, Karen Watson glanced across the table and asked out of the blue, “Hey, Beth, have you ever thought about trying your hand at fiction?” I felt the heat go to my face like someone knew something on me she wasn’t supposed to know. And I don’t know how else to explain it—it was like she tipped a cup of water right over that soil and that sleepy seed started waking up. I went through something really hard not long after that. Something I wasn’t

free to talk about. There at home, trapped in my imagination, a storyline began to sprout, green and gawky but with enough semblance of form, I kept at it. I couldn’t have imagined I’d ever keep writing it, let alone finish it.

2. The Undoing of Saint Silvanus is a unique title. Can you tell us who—or what— Saint Silvanus is?

Please hear this word through a wide but ever-so-respectful grin: Nope.

3. New Orleans is a fascinating setting for your novel. Why did you choose to place your first work of fiction in this particular locale?

When I was fifteen, my little brother and I, the only two kids left at home, took a grueling two-day road-trip with our parents to our cousins’ house in Florida for vacation. Houston reaches Florida by the long, skinny arm of Interstate 10, the only decent bicep of the trip being New Orleans. I have no idea what got into my father’s head, but he decided to trot the four of us right down Bourbon Street. We’d only recently moved to Houston from a small town in Arkansas, so we hadn’t even acclimated to crowds yet. I’m pretty sure he had no idea what he was going to walk his family into the middle of. I was not an innocent adolescent. Our family had dangled on the precipice of hell for several years. I would have told you I wasn’t naïve, but I’d never walked by a strip bar in my life. Not sure I’d ever driven by one. The pictures posted at the front doors were explicit and so disturbing that I couldn’t shake them out of my head for years. Dodging drunks, we finally made our way to Jackson Square past painters and sidewalk entertainers and palm readers. It was the wildest thing I’d ever seen.

Fast forward many years, and Keith and I would go back to that city for anniversaries and bask in the deep-fried goodness of New Orleans’s brighter side. Still plenty spicy. Just not as seedy.

Fast forward a few more years, and I was asked to teach the women of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church at their annual conference. I guess it was as close as I’ve ever come to love at first sight. That whole congregation accepted this white girl like I was one of them. To be loved and embraced by them is still one of the greatest honors and joys of my ministry life. We are blood kin in Jesus. My Bible study Breaking Free was taped in their auditorium. When my younger brother was transferred there for work, FABC also threw their arms open wide to him. He attended that wonderful, warm church for several years until he was transferred again.

New Orleans is second in my heart only to Houston. I’m not sure I can explain exactly why. I’ve had a complex relationship with it. But that’s just it. I’m somehow rarely drawn to simple relationships.

Is there anything you’d like to tell us about the novel that I haven’t asked?

I can only think of one thing right now and I’ll set it up by supplying the question.

“Beth, did you enjoy the process of writing a novel?”

Every single second of it.


Best-selling book and Bible study author Beth Moore is a dynamic teacher whose conferences take her across the globe. She is a dedicated wife with two adult daughters and three delightful grandchildren. Beth lives in Houston, Texas, where she leads Living Proof Ministries with the purpose of encouraging and teaching women to know and love Jesus through the study of Scripture. Beth is one of the best-known women in the evangelical Christian arena. The Undoing of Saint Silvanus is her first work of fiction.

Hope you enjoyed learning more about Beth and the inspiration behind her debut novel, The Undoing of Saint Silvanus.

A Conversation with Connilyn Cossette

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes debut author, Connilyn Cossette. Her debut novel, Counted with the Stars (Bethany House) is on the 2017 shortlist in the Debut Fiction category. Please join us in welcoming Connilyn.

Today, we read about the challenges (or advantages as Conni tells) of writing Biblical fiction, learn what she’s binge watching on TV (Editor note: ITV for the win!), whether she likes coffee or tea – plus more!

A Story of Love, Desperation, and Hope During a Great Biblical Epoch.

Sold into slavery by her father and forsaken by the man she was supposed to marry, young Egyptian Kiya must serve a mistress who takes pleasure in her humiliation. When terrifying plagues strike Egypt, Kiya is in the middle of it all.

To save her older brother and escape the bonds of slavery, Kiya flees with the Hebrews during the Great Exodus. She finds herself utterly dependent on a fearsome God she’s only just beginning to learn about, and in love with a man who despises her people. With everything she’s ever known swept away, will Kiya turn back toward Egypt or surrender her life and her future to Yahweh? – Goodreads

Interview Questions

INSPYs: What inspired Counted with the Stars? Counted with the Stars was inspired by my own personal study into the book of Exodus. As I began to dig further into the roots of my own faith I discovered so much fascinating history that gave me greater context surrounding the Exodus. When I read Exodus 12:20 when it says “a mixed multitude went up with them” I began fascinated by the thought that it was not only Hebrews that left Egypt that day. I began to daydream about who these people might have been and what their reasons were for leaving. I saw an image of my mind of an older Egyptian woman standing on the Jordan River waiting to cross into Canaan and realized I had to discover how she got there, and suddenly, Kiya’s story was born.

What were some of the challenges of writing a Biblical novel? I am one of those nerdy people who adores research, I can get lost on historical rabbit trails for hours, but one of those most difficult things with Biblical research is reconciling so many different opinions about the history. The more I read, the more I realized just how vastly different those opinions are, even between scholars who consider the Bible to be historically accurate. I always do my very best to adhere to the timeline presented in the Bible itself, although some of it is vague, and without a doubt there are places where I will have gotten it wrong. But my goal is not to “teach history” per se, it is to inspire readers to read the Bible with fresh eyes, to see that the people in the Word were not just flannelgraph caricatures—they truly lived and breathed and loved and struggled just like us. Inevitably there will be those who disagree with my imagination on certain events but if I have challenged readers to dig into the Word, to throw off some of our Hollywood-ized ideas of the Bible, and to search for gems of grace in the Old Testament that point toward Jesus, then I have done my job. I leave the rest up to the Lord.

Connilyn’s Office


1. What are you watching?

Since I have just launched a new book and have had a number of writing projects I’ve been juggling I haven’t been watching much television lately. I did get into a few episodes of the Man in the High Castle which I’d like to get back to now and I binged out on Victoria a few weeks ago and loved it. I am desperate for the new Anne of Green Gables to come out though!

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

One of the great things about being finished with the launch now is that I can finally dig into my stack of TBR’s. I just read Becky Wade’s newest, True to You, and started digging into Jolina Petersheim’s The Divide which I’ve been impatiently waiting for! I am also looking forward to Katie Ganshert’s Life After which has been calling my name from my nightstand for a few weeks now. There are so many great books coming out over the next few months that I’ll have to work hard to focus on writing my own next book. Thank goodness for deadlines!

Faceoff Questions:

1. Chocolate or Vanilla Ice Cream? Chocolate, no question.

2. Print or Ebook? I’ll take them however they come to me, however nowadays because I read so many, I mostly use my Kindle. I use audiobooks to coerce myself to clean the house because I’d really rather be reading…

3. Coffee or Tea? I’m mainly a two to three cup coffee girl in the morning but I love tea as well. My favorite is Egyptian Licorice tea by Yogi which I used to help inspire me as I wrote Counted with the Stars. It’s the perfect blend of sweet, warm, and spicy.

4. PC or Mac? Mac all the way. Love my MacBook, it pretty much goes wherever I do. I had a nightmare the other night that I forgot it on a trip and I forced the pilot to turn the plane around to retrieve it!


Connilyn Cossette is a homeschooling mother of two with a passion for writing stories of timeless grace. She hopes to draw readers into a personal encounter with the rich ancient world of the Bible and spark curiosity that will lead to digging deeper into the truth of the Word. Her novel Counted With the Stars won the 2013 Frasier Contest and was a semi-finalist in the 2013 ACFW Genesis Contest. She lives near Dallas, Texas. Connect with her at www.connilyncossette.com.

Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs blog today, Conni. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight your debut novel Counted with the Stars.

A Conversation with Leanne W. Smith

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Leanne W. Smith. Her novel, Leaving Independence (Waterfall Press) is on the 2017 shortlist in the Debut Fiction category. Please join us in welcoming Leanne.

Today, we read about the inspiration for Leaving Independence (Louis L’Amour is involved), learn about her road to publication, and hear about her most recent TV binges – plus more!

Abigail Baldwyn might not be a widow after all.…

Ever since she received word that her husband, Robert, was killed in the Civil War, Abigail has struggled to keep her Tennessee home and family together. Then a letter arrives claiming that Robert isn’t dead, yet he has no plans to return. Desperate for answers, Abigail travels to Independence, Missouri, where she joins a westbound wagon train to find him.

Leading a company along the Oregon Trail isn’t part of Hoke Mathews’s plans. But then the former cavalry scout gets a glimpse of Abigail—so elegant compared to the rest of their hardscrabble wagon community, yet spirited and resilient. Through every peril they encounter—snakebites, Indian raids, fevers, dangerous grudges—his bond with Abigail grows.

Abigail knew this journey would test her courage. Now it’s testing her marriage vows and her heart, daring her to claim a future on her own terms in a land rich with promise. – Goodreads

Interview Questions

INSPYs: What inspired your debut novel, Leaving Independence? I have felt called to write from a young age, but like the fearful servant who buried his one talent, I kept trying to ignore it. Writing is a hard calling and I wanted to by-pass the difficulty. But story ideas kept bubbling to the surface. A few, like the story of Abigail Baldwyn, withstood the tests of time and my own cowardice.

It’s impossible to say when I first had the idea for this story. Over twenty-five years ago I saw a woman walking down the boardwalk of a western town. What inspired it? I don’t know…she just showed up and wouldn’t leave me alone. At some point you have to admit that a story is given to you as a gift, you’re the only one who can tell it in your unique way, and if you don’t get your brave on and put it out there, the world will never get to feel the blessing of your characters.

Leanne says of her novel, “About a year after I committed to seeing this story through to publication my youngest daughter and I flew to Kansas City, rented a car, and drove to Independence where we stayed at a bed and breakfast that became the inspiration for Mrs. Helton’s boarding house in the book. We arrived after dark and I was feeling apprehensive the next morning at the financial and time commitment I was making to this endeavor when Shelby and I drove out to our first historical sight for research and inspiration. We walked up a hill to read the first historical marker we saw and it said…Leaving Independence. This had been my working title for over a year. Felt like a real God-moment.”

As a teen, I read a lot of Louis L’Amour and know his influence shaped parts of this story, like Hoke’s character. In L’Amour’s book, Westward the Tide, the main character is Mathieu Bardoul, a French spelling. So I spelled Hoke’s last name of Mathews with one “t” as my personal tribute to L’Amour.

What are some of the things you found most interesting or challenging about the publishing process?

The most difficult thing for me is the fear of rejection…the fear of judgment. Once I got past the hurdles of signing with an agent, then a publisher, the process was a joy. I prayed a lot that God would control the parts I couldn’t…which were legion…and He did.

Doors started opening for LI at the same moment my personal life held some challenges. I signed with Jessica Kirkland, my agent, within months of my father being diagnosed with dementia. Then I signed with Waterfall, my publisher, during a period of his rapid health decline. I learned in October 2015 that the release date for LI was June 21, 2016. This would have been my parents’ fifty-third wedding anniversary, but my father passed away April 21, two months before my book’s debut.

This experience, along with our daughters leaving home in the same time-period, made me ultra-aware of how little I actually control in life, much less in setting a book upon the waters. I was forced…blessed, really…to leave the details in God’s hands, and everyone He sent me proved to be more wonderful than I could have imagined. He saw to it that I had the perfect editor and a beautiful cover, and He continues to send me kind reviews and affirmation.


What are you watching? I probably watch more TED Talks and video clips for the classes I teach than anything else. My husband and I have never watched a lot of television but a few months ago someone told me about a Netflix series called Longmire. They said Walt (the sheriff) reminded them of Hoke, so I had no choice but to check it out. It’s the first show we’ve watched since Downton Abbey ended. We rent movies on quiet weekends. Last two we saw were Hidden Figures and Hacksaw Ridge. Enjoyed both.

What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? I made a commitment to read through the Bible this year, so it tops the list. I’ve actually been reading a lot of screenplays on my computer. Have been fascinated with screenwriting for years and recently audited a class. One of the best I’ve read is Hell or High Water.

Non-fiction books I’ve read recently include Story by Robert McKee, Save the Cat by Blake Snyder, The Road Back to You by Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile, and Presence by Amy Cuddy. Next on the list are Simon Sinek’s Leaders Eat Last, Timothy Keller’s Every Good Endeavor, and Flying Flak Alley by my friend Alan Griggs.

Fiction I’ve read recently includes Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, and Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys. Am currently reading My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout and Mark Twain’s Roughin’ It. Next on the list are Anne Patchett’s Commonwealth and The Devil’s Bible by my friend Dana Chamblee Carpenter.

Face off Questions:
  1. Print or Ebook? Prefer to hold real books in my hands, but e-books pack lighter when flying.
  2. Chocolate or Vanilla? (Ice Cream) Vanilla, with dark chocolate fudge sauce.
  3. PC or Mac? Mac. All the way.
  4. Coffee or Tea? Coffee in the morning; tea in the afternoon.


Leaving Independence is Leanne Wood Smith’s first historical novel. In addition to writing, she teaches for a university in Nashville, Tennessee, where she lives with her husband, two daughters, and a son-in-law. Leanne believes that when something calls to you, you should journey toward it. Visit her website at www.leannewsmith.com for inspiration in pursuing personal and career-related dreams.

Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs.com blog today, Leanne. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight Leaving Independence.

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 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 Amy Sorrells


The Advisory Board is thrilled to host Amy Sorrels, debut author of shortlisted How Sweet the Sound.  Amy’s sophomore novel Then Sings My Soul released in March, 2015 and she is hard at work on Lead Me Home to be released by Tyndale in 2016.  Amy shares her writing nook {though her sweet dog steals the show} and another favorite spring writing spot ~ her garden!  Please join me in welcoming Amy K. Sorrells!

how sweet the soundFrom a distance, the Harlans appear to be the perfect Southern family. Wealth and local fame mask the drama and dysfunction swirling through their family line. But as the summer heats up, a flood tide of long hidden secrets surface. Devastation from a rape followed by the murder of two family members brings three generations of the Harlans together on their pecan plantation in Bay Spring, Alabama.

Chief among them is Anniston, who by the time she turned thirteen thought she’d seen it all. But as her heart awakens to the possibility of love, she begins to deal with her loneliness and grief. This tender coming-of-age tale, inspired by the story of Tamar in 2 Samuel 13, shows how true healing and hope comes only from God. Though our earthly family can wound and disappoint, our heavenly Father brings freedom to those long held captive through His mercy and grace.

What are you listening to?

I’m listening to the branches of the river birch brushing against the side of our home, because it’s about to thunderstorm.


What are you watching?

I’m watching my dog’s nose twitch as he sniffs the breeze coming through the screen of our open window.



What are you reading?

I’m reading too many books to list, so here’s a picture of my nightstand. (Not pictured: The Kitchen House on audio in my car.)


Thank you so much for joining us Amy and especially sharing your gorgeous dog with us!  I imagine he has quite the personality!

To learn more about Amy and her writing please visit her Website | Facebook | Twitter.

Up Close & Personal with Kristy Cambron


The INSPY Advisory Board is excited to welcome author Kristy Cambron. Her novel, The Butterfly and the Violin is on the short list for Debut Fiction. In this interview, Kristy shares her “research” style  (who knew watching television and movies were required research skills!) and a sneak peek at what she’s working on now! Welcome Kristy!

thebutterflyandtheviolinfrom Goodreads:

A Mysterious painting breathes hope and beauty into the darkest corners of Auschwitz–and the loneliest hearts of Manhattan.

Manhattan art dealer Sera James watched her world crumble at the altar two years ago, and her heart is still fragile. Her desire for distraction reignites a passion for a mysterious portrait she first saw as a young girl–a painting of a young violinist with piercing blue eyes.

In her search for the painting, Sera crosses paths with William Hanover–the grandson of a wealthy California real estate mogul–who may be the key to uncovering the hidden masterpiece. Together Sera and William slowly unravel the story behind the painting’s subject: Austrian violinist Adele Von Bron.

A darling of the Austrian aristocracy of 1942, talented violinist, and daughter to a high-ranking member of the Third Reich, Adele risks everything when she begins smuggling Jews out of Vienna. In a heartbeat, her life of prosperity and privilege dissolves into a world of starvation and barbed wire.

As Sera untangles the secrets behind the painting, she finds beauty in the most unlikely of places: the grim camps of Auschwitz and the inner recesses of her own troubled heart.

Kirsty's Home Office

Kirsty’s Home Office

What are you listening to?  I’m writing my next novel now– a foray into the world of Jazz Age entertainers centered on the lives of John and Mable Ringling, and the circus in 1920s America. Because of this story that’s coming alive in my heart, I’m really interested in a sense of enchantment and the childlike wonder in the concept of fairy tale worlds. The circus is very much that – a world with possibilities that bends the rules of convention to create a new reality. The soundtrack for my life right now is centered on those themes in music from the movies: Finding Neverland, Cinderella Man, Anne of Green Gables, and Little Women. It’s all about what’s “out there” – the possibilities that exist if we’d only look beyond ourselves (and look to God) in order to find them.

What are you watching?  We authors like to call our favorite TV shows “research”. I’m falling back on the previous seasons of Downton Abbey – in part because the time fits with my current novel. In other part? The costumes and characterization are just so rich, that I love falling into that world over and over! And the channel that is always on my TV? Turner Classic Movies (TCM). I love, love, LOVE classic films and stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood: Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Carole Lombard, Jimmy Stewart, Gary Cooper. I’m always going back to these important films because they’re the very definition of “classic”: you can always find something new in them.

Kirsty's Books Currently Reading

Kristy’s Nightstand

What are you reading?  As you can imagine, I’m reading research books on the Ringling Brothers’ circus and 1920s America. But after my novel is turned over to the brilliant hands of my editor? I’m going on a summer reading binge. I’m picking books now that range in: YA/fantasy, Regency, WWI, and even contemporary Chick-Lit. I’m so excited to explore some new worlds in between writing my upcoming novels. Can you say #BeachReads?! (P.S. Got any recommendations for me?)

Oh Kristy, have we got some good recommendations for you!  I’d say the entire shortlist lineup would be a great place to start 😉  I’m sure we have some readers who can offer great suggestions as well!  How about it Inspy Readers?

To learn more about Kristy, visit her Website | Facebook | Twitter