Presenting the 2017 INSPY Longlists

Hello fellow readers, blogger and authors. Before we announce the 2017 longlists, we first want to recap our year so far. First we welcomed our newest board member, Kara and then announced the inclusion of INDIE novels to our nomination process. Like last year, the following nomination process applied to each of our seven categories.

To help simplify our nomination process, we made some adjustments to our awards program. To that end, instead of publicizing our long list of nominations as they poured in, the Advisory Board kept the list private since the method of nomination involved a process of popular vote. The number of books that received the most nominations (the top 15 from each category) came out as the winners, which then determined the long lists.

Due to insufficient nominations or ineligibility, some categories fall short of the requisite 15 novels.

From the lists below, the Advisory Board will be narrowing these respective lists down to five books per category which will become our 2017 short lists. From there, the same judging process and practices will follow.

Grab your favorite beverage, and enjoy browsing through the books that YOU nominated, propelling them into “phase two.”

Contemporary Romance / Romantic Suspense

A Twist of Faith (Firefly Southern Fiction) by Pepper Basham

Silence in the Dark (Revell) by Patricia Bradley

Step by Step (Tyndale) by Candace Calvert

The Wedding Shop (Zondervan) by Rachel Hauck

Just a Kiss (Thomas Nelson) by Denise Hunter

Can’t Help Falling (Howard Books) by Kara Isaac

Tell me Lies (Brown Girls Faith) by Michelle Lindo-Rice

First Crush (Bling! Romance) by Ashley Elizabeth Ludwig

Finders Keepers (Radiant Publications) by Sarah Monzon

How to Charm a Beekeeper’s Heart (White Rose Publishing) by Candice Sue Patterson

Christmas Conspiracy (Love Inspired) by Susan Sleeman

The Heart’s Hostage (Sheaf House Publishers) by Jen Stephens

Like Never Before (Bethany House) by Melissa Tagg

Her One and Only (Bethany House) by Becky Wade

You’re the One that I Want (Tyndale) by Susan May Warren

Debut Novel

Forgiven (Cerrillo Press) by Carol Ashby

Counted with the Stars (Bethany House) by Connilyn Cossette

Slender Reeds: Jochebed’s Hope (Shiloh Run Press) by Texie Susan Gregory

The Lost Generation (Elk Lake Publishing) by Erica Marie Hogan

Close to You (Howard Books) by Kara Isaac

The Secret to Hummingbird Cake (Thomas Nelson) by Celeste Fletcher McHale

The Undoing of Saint Silvanus (Tyndale) by Beth Moore

Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations (WhiteFire) by V. Joy Palmer

Leaving Independence (Waterfall Press) by Leanne W. Smith

General Fiction

Land of Silence (Tyndale) by Tessa Afshar

Weighed Down (Elk Lake Publishing) by Laurie Bolden

The Feathered Bone (Thomas Nelson) by Julie Cantrell

Twilight at Blueberry Barrens (Thomas Nelson) by Colleen Coble

The Promise of Jesse Woods (Tyndale) by Chris Fabry

Forest Child (Woodhaven Press) by Heather Day Gilbert

Long Way Gone (Thomas Nelson) by Charles Martin

The Secret to Hummingbird Cake (Thomas Nelson) by Celeste Fletcher McHale

The Alliance (Tyndale) by Jolina Petersheim

Of Stillness and Storm (Thomas Nelson) by Michèle Phoenix

Nor Forsake (Presley Publishing) by Julie Presley

A Portrait of Emily Price (Thomas Nelson) by Katherine Reay

Song of Silence (Abingdon Press) by Cynthia Ruchti

Lead Me Home (Tyndale) by Amy K. Sorrells

The Things We Knew (Thomas Nelson) by Catherine West

Historical Romance

The Thorn Healer (Vinspire Publishing) by Pepper D. Basham

The Thorn Keeper (Vinspire Publishing) by Pepper D. Basham

A Flight of Arrows (WaterBrook) by Lori Benton

The Lady and the Lionheart (Mason Jar Books) by Joanne Bischof

The Ringmaster’s Wife (Thomas Nelson) by Kristy Cambron

The Cautious Maiden (Whitaker House) by Dawn Crandall

The Captive Heart (Shiloh Run Press) by Michelle Griep

Newton and Polly (WaterBrook) by Jody Hedlund

An Elegant Facade (Bethany House) by Kristi Ann Hunter

A Heart Most Certain (Bethany House) by Melissa Jaegers

– Aboard Providence (CrossRiver Media) by Keely Brooke Keith

The Sound of Emeralds (WhiteFire) by Rachelle Rea

She Walks in Power (Ransom Press) by MaryLu Tyndall

A Lady Unrivaled (Bethany House) by Roseanna M. White

The Confessions of X (Thomas Nelson) by Suzanne M. Wolfe

Literature for Young Adults

Unblemished (Thomas Nelson) by Sara Ella

The Beautiful Pretender (Thomas Nelson) by Melanie Dickerson

The Silent Songbird (Thomas Nelson) by Melanie Dickerson

A Daring Sacrifice (Zondervan) by Jody Hedlund

I’ll Be Yours (Sweet Pea Productions) by Jenny B. Jones

Forever Doon (Blink) by Lorie Langdon and Carey Corp

Gilt Hollow (Blink) by Lorie Langdon

The Glass Castle (Shiloh Run Press) by Trisha White Priebe

One Paris Summer (Blink) by Denise Grover Swank

Siren’s Song (Thomas Nelson) by Mary Weber

Mystery/Thriller

If I Run (Zondervan) by Terri Blackstock

The Domino Effect (Bethany House) by Davis Bunn

Deep Shadows (Harvest House) by Vanetta Chapman

Dressed for Death (Bethany House) by Julianna Deering

Always Watching (Revell) by Lynette Eason

The Waves Break Gray (Running Girl Prodcutions) by Sibella Giorello

Tangled Webs (Revell) by Irene Hannon

Missing (Revell) by Lisa Harris

Conspiracy of Silence (Bethany House) by Ronie Kendig

The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder (Harvest House) by Rachel McMillan

A Lesson in Love and Murder (Harvest House) by Rachel McMillan

Fatal Frost (Bethany House) by Nancy Mehl

When Death Draws Near (Thomas Nelson) by Carrie Stuart Parks

Cold Shot (Bethany House) by Dani Pettrey

The Progeny (Howard Books) by Tosca Lee

Speculative Fiction

Seasons of Glory (Blink) by Lisa T. Bergren

Light of the Last (Multnomah) by Chuck Black

The Shattered Vigil (Bethany House) by Patrick W. Carr

The Calling (Tyndale) by Rachelle Decker

Accelerant (Enclave) by Ronie Kendig

Merchant of Alyss (Revell) by Thomas Locke

Rebirth (Love2ReadLove2Write Publishing) by Amy Brock McNew

The Long Journey to Jake Palmer (Thomas Nelson) by James L. Rubart

Beast (Enclave) by Chawna Schroeder

A Branch of Silver, A Branch of Gold (Rooglewood Press) by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Far and Near (David C. Cook) by Amanda G. Stevens

King’s Folly (Bethany House) by Jill Williamson


We’d like to congratulate all of the nominated authors and thank all of the bloggers and readers who put forth their favorite reads of 2016.

We’re ready to get to work and find the top five in each of these categories.

A Conversation with Zachary Bartels

INSPYs 2016-Zachary Bartels Feature

Our second interview today welcomes author, Zachary Bartels. Zachary has been shortlisted in previous INSPY awards and this year, his novel The Last Con (Thomas Nelson) is on the 2016 shortlist in the Mystery/Thriller category.

Today, Zachary shares inspiration for The Last Con as well as the most challenging factor of writing in the mystery genre. (Can you believe tomorrow we announce the 2016 winners!?)


Former con man Fletcher Doyle is finally home after six years in the pen. He’s working a menial job, regaining his bearings in the world, and trying to revive his relationships with his wife and Book - The Last Contwelve-year-old daughter. No easy feat.

But when Fletcher and his family go on a mission trip to Detroit—in the company of the condescending church leader who also happens to be his landlord—Fletcher finds his old life waiting for him. Within hours of arriving in the city, he’s been blackmailed into doing a job for a mysterious criminal who calls himself The Alchemist.

A series of relics hidden by the Knights of Malta, as ancient as they are priceless, are in the sights of The Alchemist. What he needs is a gifted grifter with a background in ecclesiastical history . . . what he needs is Fletcher Doyle.

Between hiding his reawakened criminal life from his wife and trying to hide her from their relentless landlord, Fletcher is ready to give up. But when his family is drawn into the dangerous world he can’t shake, Fletcher is forced to rely on his years in the game to save the only people who mean more to him than the biggest con in history. – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads


AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH ZACHARY BARTELS

INSPYs: What inspired The Last Con?

I’ve always been interested in con men and grifters as long as I can remember. Books like Catch Me If You Can, TV shows like White Collar, and movies like The Sting and Oceans Eleven have always entertained the heck out of me and maybe ten years ago, I started reading about the real grifters of the 1920s and ’30s, who really lived these lives that sound cartoonish on one level, but were really an empty veneer of deception covering over something so complex. Fascinating stuff!

The kernel of the story that became The Last Con came from a jail visit I made about a dozen years ago. Having done some prison ministry, I was used to being frisked, grilled, marched through metal detectors, etc. But once I presented my ordination certificate at the jail and got on the chaplain’s approved list to visit inmates, I was allowed to waltz right in and out without any of that. It got me thinking, what if there was a guy who used this loophole to run a business, smuggling items and information in and out of the jail? That role became the character Dante. From there, the rest of the crew sort of filled in themselves: Fletcher the brains, Happy the techie, Andrew the mentor, Marcus the muscle, and Meg who was just caught in the middle of it all.

With Playing Saint, I had woven in the characters from a screenplay I’d written, called The Jesuits. They were these Vatican agents operating in the shadows, searching for a hidden church relic. The publisher wanted a similar conspiracy/relic/secret society element for this book and I had been reading a lot about the Knights of Malta, so I decided to try bringing them together. Honestly, I can’t believe how easily and tightly these different elements all came together into one story, spanning centuries and continents, and yet the entire modern day story line taking place in Detroit over the course of four days.

Zachary's Study at his church, Judson Baptist Church.

Zachary’s Study at his church, Judson Baptist Church.

INSPYs: What are some of the challenges/benefits of writing suspense?

One of the greatest challenges of writing suspense, for me, is that I love reading stories that take their time developing characters and slowly-but-relentlessly unfold the conflict. With suspense, however, readers (or at least editors) expect more or less nonstop tension, nail-biting, and edge-of-the-seat sitting from the get-go. I have to force myself to write that way to meet the expectations of  the market. At the end of the day, however, it  works, so I’m not complaining.

As far as benefits, my favorite thing about writing suspense is to hear from readers that they were up till 2 AM reading, unable to put the book down because they had to know what happened next and how the story resolved. It’s humbling, but also the opposite of the humbling to be able to have that kind of an effect on someone, using only a story. Maybe because of this total buy-in from the reader, I find that suspense is also a great vehicle for introducing spiritual themes for readers to wrestle with.

Zachary's office coffee bar - a writer has to stay caffeinated!

Zachary’s office coffee bar – a writer has to stay caffeinated!

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

+ What Are You Listening? Andy Mineo’s “Uncomfortable” album, The Moth Radio Hour, ’90s Alternative Pandora station, and the Happy Rant Podcast.

+What are you watching right now? Rehab Addict, Better Call Saul, Voltron: Legendary Defender (with my son), New Girl (with my wife), Turn, Brooklyn Nine Nine, and binge-watching Grounded for Life on Netflix.

+ What are you reading? Tesla: Inventor of the Electric Age by W. Bernard Carlson, Unashamed by Lecrae Moore, Broken: Seven ‘Christian’ Rules Every Christian Should Break by Jonathan Fisk, and With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray.


Thank you so much for joining our author interview series, Zachary. It was a pleasure to learn more about the inspiration of your novel (all great inspirations!), and to read about the challenges of writing in this genre.

ABOUT THE AUTHORZachary Bartels

Called “the suspense author everyone is talking about” by Family Fiction Edge magazine, Zachary Bartels is the author of critically acclaimed supernatural thrillers. An award-winning preacher and Bible teacher, Zachary has been serving as pastor of Judson Baptist Church in Lansing, Michigan, for ten years. He enjoys film, fine cigars, stimulating conversation, gourmet coffee, reading, writing, and cycling.

His debut novel, Playing Saint, has been called an “intrigue-filled thriller” (Library Journal) and “a page-turner from the very beginning . . . gripping and realistic” (RT Book Reviews). His newest book, The Last Con (HarperCollins Christian Fiction, 2015) has met early positive reviews. He lives in the capital city of a mitten-shaped Midwestern state with his wife Erin and their son.

Author Website | Facebook | Twitter

A Conversation with Katie Ganshert

INSPYs 2016-Katie Ganshert FeatureAs we come down to the final hours before the INSPYs 2016 winners are announced (Tuesday!), today we welcome Katie Ganshert. A multi-genre author who made the jump to Indie and YA fiction last year, Katie’s novel The Art of Losing Yourself (WaterBrook Press) is on the 2016 shortlist in the General Fiction category.

Katie shares more on the inspiration of The Art of Losing Yourself, and the challenges/benefits of writing organically incorporated faith. Plus, she’s a Gilmore Girls fan!


Every morning, Carmen Hart pastes on her made-for-TV smile and broadcasts the weather. She’s the Florida panhandle’s favorite meteorologist, married to everyone’s favorite high Book - The Art of Losing Yourselfschool football coach. They’re the perfect-looking couple, live in a nice house, and attend church on Sundays. From the outside, she’s a woman who has it all together. But on the inside, Carmen Hart struggles with doubt. She wonders if she made a mistake when she married her husband. She wonders if God is as powerful as she once believed. Sometimes she wonders if He exists at all. After years of secret losses and empty arms, she’s not so sure anymore.

Until Carmen’s sister—seventeen year old runaway, Gracie Fisher—steps in and changes everything. Gracie is caught squatting at a boarded-up motel that belongs to Carmen’s aunt, and their mother is off on another one of her benders, which means Carmen has no other option but to take Gracie in. Is it possible for God to use a broken teenager and an abandoned motel to bring a woman’s faith and marriage back to life? Can two half-sisters make each other whole? – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads


AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH KATIE GANSHERT

What inspired The Art of Losing Yourself?

This doesn’t usually happen for me, but it was a passage of Scripture—from Ezekiel 37. It’s when the Lord gives Ezekiel a vision, and shows him a valley filled with dry bones. And then the Lord asks, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I was so very struck by the passage and the question, and of course, God’s response. So struck, I wanted to tell a story about God’s ability to breath the dead back to life. In the Art of Losing Yourself, that dead thing happens to be a marriage, a derelict motel, and a woman’s faith.

What are the challenges/benefits of incorporating faith into your story?

Well, for this book, incorporating faith into the story was relatively easy, as the entire theme revolves around the main character’s faith, or lack thereof. I think the biggest challenge is making sure the faith-element arises organically from the characters and the story, instead of making it this painted-on thing just because the genre demands it. The benefits are numerous! Namely, hearing from readers who have been encouraged in their faith after reading the story. And, of course, being encouraged in my own faith as I seek God and His truth while writing the story.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

What are you listening to?

Katie Ganshert TBR

Katie’s TBR pile.

Mostly, Bible kid songs. We have a Jesus Loves Me soundtrack that plays on repeat wherever we go because my daughter loves it and it’s good for her to try to sing familiar songs, as she has a severe speech delay. Music aside, I love audio books, and am currently listening to Kate Morton’s The Lake House.

What are you watching?

A conglomeration of things—nothing new. We don’t have cable, but we do have Netflix and Amazon Prime. Right now, I’m watching Gilmore Girls and when I’m in the mood for a laugh, The Office. I’ve already watched both.

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

(See Picture) I’m reading 19 Minutes by Jodi Picoult. It’s my first Picoult book and so far, I’m enjoying it. I’m also reading Forgotten God by Francis Chan. And up next is Becky Wade’s newest—Her One and Only.


Thank you so much for joining us today, Katie! We enjoyed learning more about the inspiration of The Art of Losing Yourself, and discovering what’s on your TBR.

ABOUT THE AUTHORKatie Ganshert

Award-winning author, Katie Ganshert, graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison with a degree in education, and worked as a fifth grade teacher for several years before staying home to write full-time. She was born and raised in the Midwest, where she lives with her family. When she’s not busy penning novels or spending time with her people, she enjoys drinking coffee with friends, reading great literature, and eating copious amounts of dark chocolate.

Author Website | Facebook | Twitter

A Conversation with Susan May Warren

INSPYs 2016-Susan May Warren Feature

Happy Saturday, INSPYs readers. Today we welcome the award-winning talents of Susan May Warren. Susan has been shortlisted in previous INSPY awards and this year, her novel The Wonder of You (Tyndale House) is on the 2016 shortlist in the Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense category.

Today, Susan shares about the inspiration of The Wonder of You as well as the most challenging factor of writing a closely-connected familial series. (Plus Ross Poldark makes a cameo.)


Mortified after her year abroad is cut short, Amelia Christiansen returns to Deep Haven, certain she isn’t brave enough to embrace the adventures she’s dreamed of. The last thing she Book - The Wonder of Youexpects is for the man who broke her heart to cross the Atlantic and beg forgiveness.

Heir to a European hotel dynasty, Roark St. John has trekked from one exotic locale to another, haunted by tragedy and the expectations that accompany his last name. Amelia is the first woman to give him a reason to stop running. He’ll do anything for a second chance—even contend with Amelia’s old flame, who is intent on sending Roark packing.

While one surprise after another leaves Amelia reeling, Roark’s continued presence only highlights the questions pursuing her. Like him, is she running from the life God has called her to? Could finding her place mean leaving home behind? – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads


AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH SUSAN MAY WARREN

INSPYs: What inspired you to write The Wonder of You?

This story, and in particular, the heroine, Amelia was inspired by my beautiful daughter Sarah!  Sarah signed up for a semester in Prague. . .but when she got there, she realized that she was really a Baggins at heart – she didn’t want to leave the Shire, aka, our small town, or at least the safety of Minnesota.  This became a soul-wrenching experience as I watched her wrestle with her fears versus her dreams of seeing the world.  It became the basis for the story question:  What happens when you discover you’re not the person you thought you were?  More, she had disappointed herself… What happens when you fail yourself?  We often deal with characters failing others – like their parents, or their spouse, but failing yourself can be a much more devastating experience.  Sure, a character might be able to forgive themselves…but what do they do with the pieces of their failure?  And what if they fail again?

On a personal level, what does failure tell you about yourself and how can it affect your entire life?  Knowing how to forgive yourself, and what to do next are important – if challenging – life skills, and Amelia has to learn how to combat her failures as well as her fears if she wants to go forward.  So, the title is a double-entre…we are stronger than we realize because God is at work, in us.  It’s the wonder of God in us…to produce an amazing result.

INSPYs: What was your most challenging factor in writing a closely connected six-book series?

The Christiansen family series is a spin-off of the best-selling Deep Haven collection, a collection of stories about the townspeople of Deep Haven, Minnesota, a tiny resort town on the north shore of Lake Superior.  The original series started with a book entitled, Happily Ever After, and grew to include six titles.  However, one family began to stand out and I decided their story needed to be told. I wanted a series about a family with adult children, learning what it meant to carry on the legacy of faith into their lives.  And I wanted to write a series that would really let readers dig into the family, feel like they were a part of their journey.  The biggest issue was how to create both a stand-alone story arc as well as a series story arc that would keep readers glued to the drama of the series. I discovered that I really enjoyed writing this kind of connected series, where the events in one book push the events in the next.  However, I’ve discovered that readers need to enter the series anywhere without being lost—and that can be difficult in a closely connected series. The Wonder of You was a bridge book between two epic events that happen to the family, and the challenge of this story was to carry the story arc while giving the reader a story that could stand on its own.  I think Roark and Amelia pulled it off brilliantly.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

+What are you listening to?

Pandora. The Chase Rice station (that I designed).  Contemporary country music.

+What are you watching?

Just finished season one of Poldark.  *sigh*

Photo: ITV

Photo: ITV

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

Just starting another fabulous Lori Benton novel:  The Wood’s Edge.  I’m a huge historical fiction fan. Okay, I’m just a huge fan of well written books, regardless of genre. 🙂

Thank you for having me!!


Thanks so much for joining us today, Susan. It was a pleasure to learn more about The Wonder of You and chat about your current read.

ABOUT THE AUTHORSusan May Warren

Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning novelist of over thirty novels. A five-time Christy award finalist, a two-time RITA Finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Carol Award.

A seasoned women’s events speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you!

She is also the founder of www.MyBookTherapy.com, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice.

Author Website | Facebook | Twitter

A Conversation with Becky Wade

INSPYs 2016-Becky Wade

As our 2016 INSPY author interviews draw to a close, today we welcome Becky Wade. Becky has been shortlisted in previous INSPY awards and this year, her novel A Love Like Ours (Bethany House) is on the 2016 shortlist in the Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense category.

Today, Becky discussed how A Love Like Ours came to be and the challenges/benefits of writing a closely-connected familial series.


Former Marine Jake Porter has far deeper scars than the one that marks his face. He struggles with symptoms of PTSD, lives a solitary life, and avoids relationships.Book - A Love Like Ours

When Lyndie James, Jake’s childhood best friend, lands back in Holley, Texas, Jake cautiously hires her to exercise his Thoroughbreds. Lyndie is tender-hearted, fiercely determined, and afraid of nothing, just like she was as a child. Jake pairs her with Silver Leaf, a horse full of promise but lacking in results, hoping she can solve the mystery of the stallion’s reluctance to run.

Though Jake and Lyndie have grown into very different adults, the bond that existed during their childhood still ties them together. Against Jake’s will, Lyndie’s sparkling, optimistic personality begins to tear down the walls he’s built around his heart. A glimmer of the hope he’d thought he’d lost returns, but fears and regrets still plague him. Will Jake ever be able to love Lyndie like she deserves, or is his heart too shattered to mend? – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads


AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH BECKY WADE

INSPYs: What inspired the story of A Love Like Ours?

A Love Like Ours was inspired by the stories I’ve read and seen over the years about veterans dealing with PTSD. Those accounts of our real life heroes never fail to stir my emotions and my admiration. Thus, I decided to attempt to write a hero who’d encountered trauma on one of his tours with the Marines and has struggled with PTSD ever since. The result is Jake Porter and his journey toward hope, aka A Love Like Ours.Becky Wade INSPYs2

Becky Wade INSPYs

INSPYs: What are some of the challenges/benefits of writing a closely-connected series like the Porter Family books?

THE CHALLENGES

  • Balance. It’s always tricky to weave secondary characters who will star in future books or have starred in past books into the current novel. I’m constantly trying to lay groundwork for the books that are to come or catch up with characters from books that have been published. But I have to balance that with my foremost goal — which is to keep the plot of the current novel clicking along. It’s difficult to find just the right ‘recipe’!
  • Intricacy. Managing the details of a large family, their parents, their friends, their kids, and their town across four books and the passage of eight years in their story world is intricate work! I can’t tell you the number of times I had to cross reference or consult my notes or peek back at previous books to make sure I had the particulars right.

THE BENEFITS

  • Familiarity with the characters. I brainstormed each of the Porter Family characters before beginning book #1, Undeniably Yours. So when I started book #2, #3, and #4, I was already familiar with that book’s Porter hero or heroine. I already loved them and was invested in them.
  • Depth. Working with one family for so many years gave me a chance to really go deep with them, to show them across a whole season of marriages and babies and trials and joys. A writer can’t experience that same level of depth within the page count of a single book.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

+What are you listening to?

Audio books! I just finished A Man Called Ove, which was published in Swedish and has since become an international bestseller. It has some language in it, but overall, I found it utterly charming. Hilarious. Heartwarming. I was amazed by how authentically the main character was written. He was a curmudgeon and I loved him a great deal anyway.

+What are you watching?

So You Think You Can Dance is my favorite summertime show! This season, the contestants are kids and they’re phenomenally talented.

+What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? Book - The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder

I’m currently reading The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder, Rachel McMillan’s debut novel. I think it’s fantastic that she’s reimagined Sherlock and Watson as two women in 1910 Toronto

Thank you for interviewing me here at INSPYs.com! I’m so grateful to the Christian Fiction bloggers who work diligently in support of our genre. What an honor for A Love Like Ours to be shortlisted in the Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense category! Thank you, judges.


Thank you so much for joining us today, Becky! It’s great to learn more about the Porter family and the challenges and benefits they presented.

ABOUT THE AUTHORBecky-Wade5

Becky’s a California native who attended Baylor University, met and married a Texan, and settled in Dallas.  She published historical romances for the general market before putting her career on hold for several years to care for her three children.  When God called her back to writing, Becky knew He meant for her to turn her attention to Christian fiction.  She loves writing funny, modern, and inspirational contemporary romance!  She’s the Carol Award, INSPY Award, and Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award winning author of My Stubborn Heart, Undeniably Yours, Meant to Be Mine,  A Love Like Ours, and Her One and Only.

Author Website | Facebook | Twitter

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 Susan Anne Mason

INSPYs 2016-Susan Anne Mason

Join us in welcoming author, Susan Anne Mason today! This is Susan’s first year being shortlisted in the INSPY awards. Her  historical novel Irish Meadows (Bethany House) is on the 2016 shortlist in the Debut Fiction category.

Today, we learn about the music Susan Anne enjoys, read and see the inspiration for Irish Meadows plus more!


Irish immigrant James O’Leary has spent his life building Irish Meadows into a thriving horse farm and is not about to let hard economic times threaten its success. He intends for his Book - Irish Meadowsdaughters to marry prosperous men–ones who will secure the family’s rightful place in society, and at the same time, guarantee the future of Irish Meadows. Both girls, however, have different visions for their futures.

Brianna and Colleen O’Leary know their father expects them to marry well. Yet despite his wishes, Brianna, the quieter sister, dreams of attending college. Vivacious Colleen, meanwhile, is happy to marry–as long as her father’s choice meets her exacting standards. When stable hand Gilbert Whelan returns from college and distant family member Rylan Montgomery stops in on his way to the seminary in Boston, the two men quickly complicate everyone’s plans. It will take every ounce of courage for both sisters to follow their hearts. And even if they do, will they inevitably find their dreams too distant to reach? – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads


AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH SUSAN ANNE MASON

INSPYs: What inspired the story of Irish Meadows?

I’ve always loved sagas about large families. One of my favorite mini-series growing up was The Thornbirds about an Irish family who move to the outback’s of Australia. I became enthralled with the sweeping family saga—as well as the forbidden love between Meggie and Ralph—which inspired the romance between the fiery, Colleen O’Leary, and priest-in-training, Rylan Montgomery in Irish Meadows. And as many of my readers tell me, this couple hijacked the book! (I must confess that I fell in love with Rylan, too!)

Having Irish roots on both sides of my genealogical tree, I knew I wanted to write about a big Irish family. My great grandparents on my father’s side emigrated from Ireland to Brooklyn, NY around 1890. So I used New York as the backdrop for my saga about the O’Learys, an immigrant family who had overcome poverty and prejudice to achieve affluence in Long Island. When the book opens, patriarch James O’Leary is faced with the possibility of losing his horse farm and the affluent position he has achieved. This is the motivation for him wanting to find suitable, wealthy husbands for his two eldest daughters—but unfortunately for him, the girls have other ideas!

Horse farm1

A photo depicting Susan Anne Mason’s inspiration for Irish Meadows.

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

The challenge is definitely the research. Sometimes I end up doing hours of searching for a tiny aspect of the era you’re writing about—and it only shows up as one line in a scene. For instance, I had to do a lot of research just to find out about the use of telephones in 1911. Not only who might have a telephone in their house (rich people!), but what type of phone they would use. Hours of research for a tiny detail in a few scenes.

The benefits of writing historical fiction is that you become immersed in a different time period. Learning about the ways people lived back then—long before TV and the internet—is so interesting, and the good news is you get to come back to all the modern conveniences when you’re done!

Susan Anne Mason's favorite writing spot is her kitchen table.

Susan Anne Mason’s favorite writing spot is her kitchen table.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

+ What are you listening to? I don’t normally listen to a lot of music at home, but I tend to like songs that speak to me, not necessarily by one person or group. That being said, some of my favorite artists are Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift. Right now, I love the song “Piece by Piece” by Kelly. So moving. Another current favorite is “Stand by You” by Rachel Platten. 

+What are you watching?  Now that Downton Abbey is over (sniff), I’m having trouble finding a favorite show. I do enjoy Nashville, which thankfully has been picked up again. I watched Season One of Outlander but it got too graphic for me and I’ve only been watching it sporadically now. My guilty pleasure is the Bachelor/Bachelorette series. It’s romance, what can I say? (wink)

+What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? Oh, my. How long do you have? I am a serious book-a-holic! (At least now I can count the purchases as a business expense.) I just finished reading “The Lost Heiress” by Roseanna White, which was fabulous! Anyone who likes Downton Abbey will love this book! And now I’ve started Pepper Basham’s “Twist of Faith” which already has me hooked!

Here is a snap shot of my “To be read” pile! No shortage of material there! I’m very excited to read the latest books by Becky Wade, Melissa Tagg, and Susan May Warren. To name a few!

Susan Mason TBR

Thanks so much for having me here and for highlighting “Irish Meadows.” And best of luck to all the INSPYs finalists!


Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs.com blog today, Susan. It was our pleasure to host you; we enjoyed learning more about Irish Meadows, and seeing that impressive TBR!

Susan Mason author photoABOUT THE AUTHOR

I have always loved to write. As a teen, I wrote my first novel, only to be politely rejected by my publisher of choice.

Life got in the way – university, marriage and children became the priority. Then once I had time to start reading again, the writing bug bit once more.

I enjoy writing both contemporary and historical Inspirational romances. “Romance sprinkled with faith” describes my writing style. I love themes of forgiveness and redemption!

I am a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the Romance Writers of America. My association with such amazing groups of people has been the biggest asset toward learning my craft.

Home for me is Brampton, Ontario, Canada (near Toronto), where I live with my husband, our two children and two cats. My day job is a part-time secretary at a local church. In my spare time, I like to read and research our family history on-line.

Author Website | Facebook

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 Carla Laureano

INSPYs 2016-Carla Laureano

As we kick off the final week (before the INSPY board announces the winners), we welcome RITA-award winning author Carla Laureano. Her novel London Tides (David C. Cook) is on the 2016 shortlist in the Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense category.

Today, Carla shares more about London Tides and gives us a sneak peek into what’s coming next! Read on to discover more.


Book - London Tides

Irish photojournalist Grace Brennan travels the world’s war zones documenting the helpless and forgotten. After the death of her friend and colleague, Grace is shaken.

She returns to London hoping to rekindle the spark with the only man she ever loved—Scottish businessman Ian MacDonald. But he gave up his championship rowing career and dreams of Olympic gold years ago for Grace … only for her to choose career over him. Will life’s tides bring them back together … or tear them apart for good this time? – Amazon

Amazon | Goodreads


AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH CARLA LAUREANO

INSPYs: What inspired London Tides?

London Tides went through several iterations from when it was first conceived back in 2012 and the time it was completed in 2015. However, Grace’s story was sparked by some of the amazing photos coming out of the conflicts in the Middle East and my fascination with the photojournalists who willingly put themselves in harm’s way. I started wondering about the mindsets of those journalists and what they had to give up to do that kind of work. The premise for London Tides, with its traumatized heroine questioning her life’s choices, was born.

INSPYs: Can you give readers a sneak peek into what’s coming next?

In a pretty unusual but very fortuitous move, my MacDonald Family series has been acquired by my new publisher Tyndale, so the third book in the series, Under Scottish Stars, is being delayed while a new release schedule is being worked out.

In the meantime, I’m hard at work on a new food-centric contemporary romance series set in my hometown of Denver, Colorado. The first book is scheduled for Fall 2017 and involves a romance between the chef-owner of a fine dining restaurant and the writer who inadvertently ruined her career. Even though I’m moving back to America for the setting, readers can expect my usual mix of romantic chemistry and delicious food!

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

+What are you listening to?

As far as music goes, it depends on the day. Lately I’ve been in the mood for pop, so I’m digging Rachel Platten’s Wildfire, The Fray’s Helios, and Sia’s This is Acting. When my kids are in the car, I usually play K-Love. I also listen to a lot of podcasts while I’m cleaning and cooking. My favorites at the moment are The Portfolio Life, The Splendid Table, and The Tim Ferris Show. (Listen to Tim Ferris at your own risk—he has fascinating guests, but there can be some salty language.)

+What are you watching?

I’m totally obsessed with Blindspot and The Catch, both of which I DVR and then binge-watch. I’m also working my way through Cooked on Netflix, which is a Michael Pollan mini-series that covers cooking from an anthropological and historical perspective. It’s fascinating.

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

Carla's Nightstand2

I’m really behind on my pleasure reading because I’m in the first-draft stages of the new book. But I’ve got a couple novels from close friends of mine waiting, plus some research, craft, and time-management books. Since I subscribe to a ridiculous number of food and lifestyle magazines, there’s usually a handful waiting for attention.


Thanks so much for joining us today, Carla. Great to learn more about the inspiration of London Tides and meet another fan of Rachel Platten’s Wildfire.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

CL_Author1Carla Laureano is the RITA Award-winning author of contemporary inspirational romance and Celtic fantasy (as C.E. Laureano). A graduate of Pepperdine University, she worked as a sales and marketing executive for nearly a decade before leaving corporate life behind to write fiction full-time. She currently lives in Denver with her husband and two sons.

Author Website | Facebook | Twitter

A Conversation with Kathryn Springer

INSPYs 2016-Kathryn Springer Feature

Award-winning romance author, Kathryn Springer joins us today on INSPYs blog! Author of multiple novels, Kathryn’s recent novel, The Dandelion Field (Zondervan) has been shortlisted in the 2016 INSPYs Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense Category.

We chat with Kathryn about the inspiration behind The Dandelion Field, plus she gives us a quick peek into what’s next AND shares what’s occupying her TBR pile.


This handsome firefighter makes a living coming to the rescue, but Gin doesn’t need a man to fight her battles.Book - The Dandelion Field

After Raine s dad walked out, Ginevieve Lightly never lived in one place too long, a rambling lifestyle that defined her daughter s youth. When their car dies in Banister Falls, Wisconsin, Gin promises Raine they can stay until she finishes her senior year of high school. Gin will do anything to make sure her daughter has a bright future . . . a future that s compromised when Raine reveals she s pregnant.

Dan Moretti has only ever called Banister Falls home. After losing his best friend in a tragic accident, Dan devoted himself to responding to fires, rescuing the helpless, and guiding Cody Bennett, his best friend’s son, through life. With Cody being the epitome of the good kid, it was an easy job. Until he says four little words: The baby is mine.

Knowing gossip of Raine’s pregnancy will erupt sooner or later in the small town, Gin’s reflex is to grab the suitcase and escape to a new city, a new life. But with each passing day, Gin’s feet stay rooted in Banister Falls, and she falls a little more for this local firefighter who shows her not all men abandon women at the first sign of smoke.

As Gin and Dan do the best they can to guide the two teenagers through their early entry into adulthood, they discover together that romance can bloom in the rockiest of situations. And God can turn the pieces of a broken past into a beautiful new beginning.” – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads


AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH KATHRYN SPRINGER

INSPYs: What inspired The Dandelion Field?

The story started brewing in my head about five years before I actually started writing it. I would be typing away on my computer and characters from The Dandelion Field would suddenly “walk on stage” and interrupt the characters of the book I was working on. I tried to ignore them, tried to tell them it “wasn’t their turn yet”, but they didn’t seem to care!

So. . .I listened. I got to know feisty single mom Ginevieve Lightly and her teenage daughter, Raine, and realized I had to tell their story, too.

The Dandelion Field isn’t what I would call a conventional romance. Maybe because Gin is such an unconventional heroine! She and Dan Moretti don’t get to know each other in a romantic little bubble, sealed off from the rest of the world. They’re sucked into the middle of a small town scandal when Raine tells Gin she’s pregnant. The baby’s father is high school senior Cody Bennett, the boy Dan has mentored for years.

I write contemporary romance because I’m a huge fan of the HEA (Happily Ever After) but I also love to write about people whose lives are a little messy (okay, sometimes really messy!) and complicated, but they stick by each other when life gets hard. Those are also the kind of people who inspire me the most.

So. . .I guess in a way that answers your question!

INSPYs: Can you give us a peek into what’s next?

A peek into what’s next. . .

Right now I’m finishing up the second book in my Castle Falls “Bachelor” series for Love Inspired. It’s about three brothers who build canoes in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

+What are you listening to?

I’m still listening to the playlist I created for The Hearts We Mend, which picks up where The Dandelion Field left off. Although it has to be perfectly quiet while I’m writing, I love music so I do some of my best “plotting” when I’m on the treadmill at the gym.

+What are you watching?

My husband and I live in the country and get a whopping four channels on our television. I really like HGTV, though, so right now we’re watching “Fixer Upper” on Netflix.

+What’s on your nightstand?

Kathryn’s TBR pile!

Kathryn’s TBR pile!

My summer reading list is already starting to get as tall as the dandelions in our yard! I usually have a mixture of fiction and non-fiction so what you see in the photograph are the books that actually fit on my nightstand. I won’t even tell you how many titles are on my NOOK!

Jesus Calling holds a permanent spot. . .I think this is the third time I’ve gone through it. I know there are some authors who don’t read while they’re on deadline but that would be like telling me not to breathe. I stick to the romance genre (no surprise there!) so I picked up Lenora Worth’s latest title Truth and Consequences because I’m a fan of romantic suspense—and if there’s a dog on the cover, count me in! Cynthia Ruchti writes women’s fiction but her characters are so incredibly real I find myself thinking about them long after I finish the book.

There are so many great titles coming out this summer, by the time you read this there will probably be a few more on the pile!


Happy you were able to join us today, Kathryn! It was a pleasure to learn more about the inspiration of The Dandelion Field, and you’re not along: we sympathize with that e-reader count.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR kathryn_springer

USA Today Best Selling Author, Kathryn Springer, winner of the 2009 ACFW Book of the Year Award (Family Treasures), grew up in a small town in northern Wisconsin, where her parents published a weekly newspaper. As a child, she spent many hours sitting at her mother’s typewriter, plunking out stories, and credits her parents for instilling in her a love of books – which eventually turned into a desire to tell stories of her own.

Author Website | Facebook