A Conversation with Julie Cantrell

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes Christy-Award winner and New York Times best-selling author, Julie Cantrell. Her novel, The Feathered Bone (Thomas Nelson) is on the 2017 shortlist in the General Fiction category. Please join us in welcoming Julie.

Today, we read about The Feathered Bone and its inspiration, learn she’s a film buff and read what wins in her “faceoff” questions – plus more!

In the pre-Katrina glow of New Orleans, Amanda Salassi is anxious about chaperoning her daughter’s sixth grade field trip to the Big Easy during Halloween. And then her worst fears come true. Her daughter’s best friend, Sarah, disappears amid the magic and revelry—gone, without a trace.

Unable to cope with her guilt, Amanda’s daughter sinks in depression. And Amanda’s husband turns destructive as he watches his family succumb to grief. Before long, Amanda’s whole world has collapsed.

Amanda knows she has to save herself before it’s too late. As she continues to search for Sarah, she embarks on a personal journey, seeking hope and purpose in the wake of so much tragedy and loss.

Set amidst the murky parishes of rural Louisiana and told through the eyes of two women who confront the darkest corners of humanity with quiet and unbreakable faith, The Feathered Bone is Julie Cantrell’s master portrait of love in a fallen world. – Goodreads


Interview Questions

INSPYs: What was the inspiration behind the characters in The Feathered BoneI set this novel in my childhood hometown, Walker, Louisiana. During my youth, Walker was a small, rural community east of Baton Rouge, but it has experienced tremendous growth since Hurricane Katrina.

While the novel’s characters aren’t based on real people, Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard helped me research. When it was time to name the sheriff’s character, Jason and his wife Erica agreed to the name Jay Ardoin in honor of their tremendous assistance and lifelong friendship. I’m excited to hear that readers adore Sheriff Jay Ardoin and see him as a “good guy.” The world needs more of those, in both fiction and reality.

Like the sheriff, other characters in The Feathered Bone are uniquely southern, and yet readers everywhere seem to relate them to people they know. Gator and Raylene are two fan favorites, while the journey of the two young girls has broken many a heart. Some people have a hard time relating to Amanda’s character, while other women write me to thank me for giving them a voice.

In all, I tried to examine how one split-second of time can impact an entire community, and how one trauma can continue to ripple across time and place because, even when we don’t always realize it, we are all connected. Every choice matters, and every choice will shape the lives of all those within its scope.

I hope readers enjoy entering this special Louisiana community and getting to know “my people.”

Since your novel centers addresses Katrina, what were some of the challenges in writing this story? I wrote The Feathered Bone ten years after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. I was already living in Oxford, Mississippi at the time of that storm, and I was unable able to reach my Louisiana relatives for several days. Roads were closed. Cell towers were down. Power was out.  It was an anguishing wait, and I was very relieved when I finally learned most were safe.

The impact of the storm was far-reaching and long-lasting, not only for those communities hit by the winds, but also for the surrounding communities who offered safe refuge to evacuees. As I worked back through video footage, news reels, and written accounts of Katrina, I was surprised by how much it impacted me emotionally. It’s important for us as a nation to look back at what we’ve learned from traumatic experiences, especially those with such widespread impact.

Sadly, in August, 2016, the Flood of the Millennium hit Louisiana. Imagine waking up one morning to learn that 85 percent of your county was underwater. That’s what happened to Livingston Parish (the setting for The Feathered Bone). These are areas that had never been known to flood, so less than 15 percent of those impacted had flood insurance. (Trust me, FEMA is not an ideal solution. But that’s a book in itself.)

Our Lady of Blind River Pre-Flood (August 2016)

Our Lady of Blind River Post-Flood (August 2016)

Unlike a hurricane, there was little warning, so people did not have time to prepare their belongings or to evacuate before the waters rose. Nearly everyone I know from home lost nearly everything they owned and all the places they held dear—homes, vehicles, businesses, daycare facilities, schools, churches, and tons of irreplaceable personal belongings. Levees broke and some homes went completely under water in a matter of minutes in the middle of the night. Miraculously, no one was killed as a result of the flood in my home parish, and I credit that to the local leadership and community volunteers who risked their own lives to ensure the safety of others.

Unfortunately, my own parents lost their Baton Rouge homes, vehicles, and property in that flood. It’s been nearly nine months since the waters rose, and they are still rebuilding. The event has been far more traumatic than people can imagine, and the psychological impact has left its mark on the entire community. Yet the stories of heroism and service are inspirational. I have developed an even greater appreciation for Louisiana people as a result of their selfless and resilient response to this devastating flood.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

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

Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours (Half-way through this one)

Kerry Egan’s On Living (Just finished this one)

Ann Hood’s The Book That Matters Most (Just started this one)

What are you currently watching?

 I’m a film buff, but I rarely have time to watch. I finally bought a TV, just last month, but I have only turned it on twice—to stream Zumba and Yoga.

I do splurge on Netflix or Amazon Prime sometimes. I think the last thing I watched was Hello, My Name Is Doris. It’s a laugh-out-loud romantic comedy-drama that hits that sweet spot of plot tension and character development. Written by Michael Showalter and Laura Terruso, the film stars Sally Field and has earned rave reviews.

Before that, I watched A Man Called Ove because I had enjoyed the bestselling novel by Fredrik Backman. The film was just as sweet as the book, in its twisted sort of way.

Faceoff Questions:

1. Coffee or Tea? Tea, but mostly water.

2. Print or Ebook? Print during the day and e-book during those wee hours when insomnia gets the best of me.

3. Comedy or Action? An emotional, tear-jerking drama, of course. And then some comic relief.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Julie Cantrell is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Into the Free, the 2013 Christy Award winning Book of the Year and recipient of the Mississippi Library Association’s Fiction Award. Cantrell has served as editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review and is a recipient of the Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Fellowship. Her second novel, When Mountains Move, won the 2014 Carol Award for Historical Fiction and, like her debut, was selected for several Top Reads lists. Visit her online at juliecantrell.wordpress.com, Facebook: juliecantrellauthor, and Twitter: @JulieCantrell.


Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs blog today, Julie. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight your latest novel, The Feathered Bone.

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

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

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!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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 Lorie Langdon

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Lorie Langdon. Her first solo novel, Gilt Hollow (Blink) is on the 2017 shortlist in the Literature for Young Adult category. Please join us in welcoming Lorie.

Today, we read about what inspired Gilt Hollow and a look at what’s next from Lorie, get a peek at her nightstand reading – plus more!

Willow Lamott’s best friend is a murderer, and no one in the small town of Gilt Hollow will let her forget it. For four long years, she’s tried to fade into the background—but none of that matters when Ashton Keller comes striding into school, fresh out of juvie and fueled by revenge. The moment their eyes meet, Willow no longer feels invisible. Drawn to the vulnerability behind Ashton’s mask of rage, she sinks deeper into his sinister world and begins to question whether he’s a villain, a savior, or both.

Ashton thought he wanted vengeance, until Willow reminded him what he’d been missing. Now he longs to clear his name and become the person she sees in him. But the closer they get to uncovering the truth, the darker the secrets become, and Ashton fears his return to Gilt Hollow will destroy everyone he loves, especially the girl he left behind. – Goodreads


Interview Questions 

INSPYs: What inspired you to write Gilt Hollow? The idea for Gilt Hollow was sparked by a news story I saw about a teenage boy who was on trial for killing one of his friends. Which made me ask the all-important ‘what if’ questions. What if the boy was innocent, but took the fall for the crime and spent his formative teen years in juvie? How would it change him? What if he lived in a small town and the girl who’d been his best friend most of his life was ostracized after his conviction? How would that change her? And what would happen when the boy returned to the hometown after serving his time, seeking revenge against those who testified against him?

The ‘what ifs’ kept coming. I tried to ignore them, but this story would not leave me alone. It had to be told!

How did the writing process differ as a co-author (of the ‘Doon’ series) to writing Gilt Hollow solely? Collaborating on the Doon series was fun. I’ve said many times that those books were far better because Carey and I wrote them together. But there’s something special about writing a story that’s just yours. I have to admit that writing alone is a bit easier. You never have to compromise on your ideas and you can write at your own pace.  I feel blessed that I’ve had the chance to publish with one of my best friends and on my own.

What’s next for you? I’m so glad you asked! My next novel is a retelling called OLIVIA TWIST. It’s an epic love story, adventure set in Victorian London that follows some of the main characters from the classic Oliver Twist. It’s a story I’ve been longing to tell since I was a child, and I can’t wait to share it with the world! To read the full description, go to my website: www.LorieLangdon.com

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

1. What’s your favorite writing or reading snack? Trail Mix! I love grabbing some without looking and having a surprise combination of flavors.

2. What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? I’m currently reading FORGET TOMORROW by writing buddy, Pintip Dunn. See pic for some of the books on my TBR. I think I have enough unread books that I could read for at least two years without buying more…but I can’t seem to stop!

Faceoff Questions:

White Chocolate or Dark Chocolate? Dark Chocolate! My fav trail mix is Dark Chocolate Espresso from Target.

Early Bird or Night Owl? Early bird! I’m my most creative first thing in the morning. My brain starts to shut down after ten pm.

Coffee or Tea? Both. Coffee in the morning and Tea in the afternoon!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lorie Langdon is one half of the author team that writes the best-selling DOON series, a young adult reimagining of the musical Brigadoon. A few years ago, she left her corporate career to satisfy the voices in her head. Now she spends her days tucked into her office, Havanese puppy by her side, working to translate her effusive imagination into the written word.

Lorie has been interviewed on Entertainment Weekly.com and several NPR radio programs, including Lisa Loeb’s national Kid Lit show. The DOON series has been featured on such high profile sites as USAToday.com, Hypable.com, and BroadwayWorld.com.

Lorie’s solo debut, GILT HOLLOW, a YA romantic thriller, released September 27th 2016. GILT HOLLOW was recently named by Redbook Magazine as one of the “Books By Women You Must Read This Fall” and received a “Highly Recommended” review from USAToday.com.

For more information or just to say hello, go to: www.LorieLangdon.com


Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs.com blog today, Lorie. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight Gilt Hollow.

A Conversation with Katherine Reay

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Katherine Reay. Her novel, A Portrait of Emily Price (Thomas Nelson) is on the 2017 shortlist in the General Fiction category. Please join us in welcoming Katherine.

Today, we read about what inspired A Portrait of Emily Price, the travel research she did for ‘Emily’ and hear about her favorite snack – plus more!

Art restorer Emily Price has never encountered anything she can’t fix—until she meets Ben, an Italian chef, who seems just right. But when Emily follows Ben home to Italy, she learns that his family is another matter . . .

Emily Price—fix-it girl extraordinaire and would-be artist—dreams of having a gallery show of her own. There is no time for distractions, especially not the ultimate distraction of falling in love.

But Chef Benito Vassallo’s relentless pursuit proves hard to resist. Visiting from Italy, Ben works to breathe new life into his aunt and uncle’s faded restaurant, Piccollo. Soon after their first meeting, he works to win Emily as well—inviting her into his world and into his heart.

Emily astonishes everyone when she accepts Ben’s proposal and follows him home. But instead of allowing the land, culture, and people of Monterello to transform her, Emily interferes with everyone and everything around her, alienating Ben’s tightly knit family. Only Ben’s father, Lucio, gives Emily the understanding she needs to lay down her guard. Soon, Emily’s life and art begin to blossom, and Italy’s beauty and rhythm take hold of her spirit.

Yet when she unearths long-buried family secrets, Emily wonders if she really fits into Ben’s world. Will the joys of Italy become just a memory, or will Emily share in the freedom and grace that her life with Ben has shown her are possible? – Goodreads


Interview Questions

INSPYs: What was the inspiration for A Portrait of Emily Price? The idea came to me while reading C.S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces. There is a powerful scene near the end of the story when the main character, Orual, brings her case to the gods to justify all she has done. Yet, within the very act of articulating her case, she realizes she hasn’t got one. It falls at her feet as she sees everything differently. 

I wondered, in our world and in our time, what might it look like for a young woman to be challenged by another way of thinking, believing, living? What could be so enticing, and joy-filled, as to make her yearn for something new and perhaps something better? What might compel her to drop her guard, surrender control, and let in love? … And there began A Portrait of Emily Price.

Since Emily’s story takes her to Italy, what kind of research did you do while writing this novel? “Research” definitely required a visit to Italy 🙂 — and much more. I did a lot of research into art restoration, at the library, online and in person. Here in Chicago, I interviewed several restorers who work for insurance companies and cover a wide variety of mediums and valuations. Then – terribly exciting – I happened to meet a man who works in art restoration at the Vatican and he offered to arrange for a visit to the Vatican’s restoration labs when I was in Rome. So while in Italy, not only did I get to roam small villages and large cities, eat fantastic food and drink wonderful wine, I got a behind-the-scenes peek at restoration at the Vatican. That experience filled out Joseph’s character and the world of high-end art restoration. It was absolutely amazing.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

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

Right now I’m finishing A Man Called Ove and beginning The Seven Storey Mountain. I have also just downloaded Hidden Figures onto my Kindle for next week’s book club. Then… I’m reminding by the book actually sitting here that I have the honor of interviewing Lisa Jewell at our local book store next month. I picked up the ARC of her newest, I Found You, last week and that’s awaiting me too… So much fun!

What’s your Favorite Reading/Writing Snack?

I’m a snacker – almonds, always tea or water, chocolate, chocolate and maybe a little more of that.

Faceoff Questions:
  1. PC or Mac? Mac
  2. Print or Ebook? Yes.
  3. Dark Chocolate or Milk Chocolate? Definitely!

Okay those seem like ride-the-fence kinds of answers, but I truly love and have a place for both print books and ebooks in my life. I travel to Austin, TX for research this week and it’s fantastic to take my latest three reads with me and not have to check my bag. That said, if I want to revisit a book or need it for research, print is best.

As for chocolate, I’m an any-percentage-cocoa consumer. 🙂


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Katherine Reay has enjoyed a life-long affair with the works of Jane Austen and her contemporaries—who provide constant inspiration both for writing and for life. She is the author of three previous novels, and her debut, Dear Mr. Knightley, was a 2014 Christy Award Finalist, winner of the 2014 INSPY Award for Best Debut, and winner of two Carol Awards for Best Debut and Best Contemporary. Katherine holds a BA and MS from Northwestern University and is a wife, mother, runner, and tae kwon do black belt. After living all across the country and a few stops in Europe, Katherine and her family recently moved back to Chicago. Visit her on line at katherinereay.com Facebook: katherinereaybooks Twitter: @Katherine_Reay


Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs.com blog today, Katherine. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight A Portrait of Emily Price.

A Conversation with Lori Benton

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes Christy-winning author, Lori Benton. Her novel, A Flight of Arrows (WaterBrook) is on the 2017 shortlist in the Historical Romance category. Please join us in welcoming Lori.

Today, we read about the what if question that inspired A Flight of Arrows, hear about her most recent TV binge (Bones!) and her print book preference – plus more!

October 1776–August 1777

It is said that what a man sows he will reap–and for such a harvest there is no set season. No one connected to Reginald Aubrey is untouched by the crime he committed twenty years ago.

Not William, the Oneida child Reginald stole and raised as his own. Identity shattered, enlisted in the British army, William trains with Loyalist refugees eager to annihilate the rebels who forced them into exile. Coming to terms with who and what he is proves impossible, but if he breaks his Loyalist oath, he’ll be no better than the man who constructed his life of lies.

Not Anna, Reginald’s adopted daughter, nor Two Hawks, William’s twin, both who long for Reginald to accept their love despite the challenges they will face, building a marriage that bridges two cultures.

Not Good Voice and Stone Thrower, freed of bitterness by a courageous act of forgiveness, but still yearning for their firstborn son and fearful for the future of their Oneida people.

As the British prepare to attack frontier New York and Patriot regiments rally to defend it, two families separated by culture, united by love, will do all in their power to reclaim the son marching toward them in the ranks of their enemies. – Goodreads


Interview Questions

INSPYs: What inspired A Flight of Arrows? A Flight of Arrows is the second book in The Pathfinders series (The Wood’s Edge is the first). Inspiration for the series came by way of an article I read about twins born to a multiracial couple. One twin was white-skinned, the other brown-skinned.

My writer brain seized on that and began asking a hundred what if questions. What if such twins were born to an 18th century couple of different races? What if the mother of these twins was a white woman, captured and adopted by an Iroquoi tribe as a girl? What if the white-skinned twin was in turn stolen from her and her Iroquois husband and raised by a white family? What if he grew up and only then found out the truth?

What drew you to write historical fiction? My answer to this, on the surface, is not at all profound. After several years of dealing with chemo fog in my early thirties, I came to the point where I was ready to write again but was no longer interested in the genres I’d written previously. I’ve always enjoyed reading stories set before the Industrial Revolution, where the characters lived closer to the earth than most of us do nowadays. So I began to think about historical fiction. About that time I happened to see the movie The Patriot (with Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger) set during the Revolutionary War in the Carolinas. I found myself mulling over the 18th century fashion of knee breeches and how much I’d fancy writing male characters who wore them. I Googled knee breeches, found they began to go out of style around 1800, and knew I’d need to set my story in the 1700s. Unbeknownst to me, I’d stumbled upon a treasure trove, as I’ve since discovered in nearly two decades of researching and writing about the 18th century.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

1. What are you watching?

I’m rewatching the 12-season murder/mystery series Bones. It’s almost made me brave enough to try my hand at writing a historical mystery. I’m also watching Tales By Light, a Netflix series on nature and photography. Both are inspiring.

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

I took my current reading pile out with me for a photo shoot early one morning last week. Pictured left to right: Maggie Bright by Tracy Groot, The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron, Story Genious by Lisa Cron, and The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout, PH.D.

Faceoff Questions:
  1. Print or Ebook? Print, always. I’ve never owned an e-reader.
  2. Early Bird or Night Owl? I’ll get up at 2am for a sunrise photo shoot hours away, but I can’t stay up late to watch a movie. By the time 8pm rolls around I’m thinking about sleep.
  3. Coffee or Tea? Some of both, but if I had to choose, coffee.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lori Benton was raised east of the Appalachian Mountains, surrounded by early American history going back three hundred years. Her novels transport readers to the eighteenth century, where she brings to life the Colonial and early Federal periods of American history. When she isn’t writing, reading, or researching, Lori enjoys exploring the Oregon wilderness with her husband. She is the author of Burning Sky, recipient of three Christy Awards, and The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn. Visit her online http://loribenton.blogspot.com.


Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs.com blog today, Lori. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight A Flight of Arrows.

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.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

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.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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 Julianna Deering

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Julianna Deering. Her novel, Dressed for Death (Bethany House) is on the 2017 shortlist in the Mystery & Thriller category. Please join us in welcoming Julianna.

Today, we read about the inspiration for Dressed for Death (during which its hero travels to a regency era party!), learn more about Julianna’s favorite sweets, and hear about her love of a certain sport – plus more!

ABOUT THE BOOK

Drew and Madeline Farthering celebrate their six-month anniversary by attending a fancy Regency era costume party. Drew is glad to see Talbot Cummins, an Oxford classmate, and his fiancée, Alice Henley, though many present seem worried about the couple. Everyone’s concerns are realized when, at the concluding grand ball, Alice dies of an overdose of cocaine. Tal refuses to believe she took the stuff intentionally, and Drew is determined to find out if her death was an accident or murder.

Drew is shocked and disillusioned when the police arrest Tal’s father and reveal that the man has been smuggling drugs into the country for the past twenty years. Reeling from the death of his fiancée and the revelation about his father, Tal begs Drew to find out what’s going on. Drew, now questioning his own ability to see people as they really are, does so reluctantly, not ready for the secrets he’s about to uncover–or the danger he’ll bring down on everyone he holds dear. – Goodreads

Interview Questions

INSPYs: What inspired the creation of the amateur sleuth Drew Furthering and his friends?

I have been a fan of the golden age of cozy mystery for a very long time. Authors like Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and Margery Allingham have always delighted me not only with wonderful mysteries to solve but fascinating period characters to solve them with and England in the first half of the twentieth century as a glorious backdrop. I’m also a long-time lover of the movies of the 1930s and ’40s and think black-and-white cinematography is vastly underrated. Besides that, being a devoted Anglophile and an unabashed word nerd, I am intrigued by the small but considerable differences between British English and American English. Given all that, what could be better than writing a series of cozy English mysteries set in the 1930s featuring a British hero and an American heroine?

What is your favorite and least favorite thing of writing a series about the same characters?

I love that I know my characters very well and how they are likely to react in any given situation. But I also love how they sometimes surprise me with what they say and what they insist on doing. I enjoy uncovering new layers to each character as time goes on. (I’m always sorry when I try to force them to do something just to make my plot work. They invariably get mad and stop talking to me.)

The hardest thing about using the same characters again and again in a series is trying to make sure I don’t repeat myself. I want each of them to grow as a person while still keeping his or her original personality. In real life, it’s very unlikely that one person or small group of people not employed by the police or the courts would be involved in even one murder case much less a new one every few months. I always want to find new things for them to do and new ways to involve them in the case at hand, and that’s never easy.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

1. What are you watching? Hockey playoffs! I’m an NHL fiend, and for me this is the most wonderful time of the year. I’m just sorry my Dallas Stars didn’t make it to the playoffs this year. Wait till next time!

2. What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? I’ve been on a Georgette Heyer binge for the past few months. I just finished The Quiet Gentleman, which I loved, and I’m now reading Cousin Kate. Fortunately for me, Heyer wrote a ton of Regency romances and, even better, Richard Armitage has read three of them for audio books. When I can’t sit and read, I can still listen. Be still my heart.

Faceoff Questions:

1. Chocolate or Vanilla Ice Cream? Yes, please. Okay, chocolate wins out, but only by a fraction of an inch. Both are fabulous.

2. Print or Ebook? Again, yes. I love print books most because I can actually “have” them. But, since I have text-to-speech on my Kindle, I have really enjoyed listening to e-books while I’m doing other things around the house. Win-win!

3. Dark Chocolate or Milk Chocolate? Uh, yes. Dark chocolate gets the tiniest edge here, but both are my favorite. Trying to keep away from them is the problem.

4. Coffee or Tea? Oh, boy, I can never just answer, can I? I have to say both and neither. I always drank iced tea (unsweetened) when it was hot outside and coffee (cream only) when it was cold. But I had to stop drinking both because they were affecting me badly. So now it’s just water or juice (which I love, too).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Julianna Deering is the creator of the acclaimed Drew Farthering Mystery series. She has always loved British history and is a particular fan of the writings of Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie. She graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas with a degree in business administration and spent several years as a Certified Public Accountant. She lives outside Dallas, Texas. For more information visit www.juliannadeering.com.


Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs.com blog today, Julianna. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight Dressed for Death.

A Conversation with Celeste Fletcher McHale

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author Interview with Celeste Fletcher McHale

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

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

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

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

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

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

Face off Questions:

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

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

Call or text? Definitely text!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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


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

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.

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