A Conversation with Joanne Bischof

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Joanne Bischof. Her novel, The Lady and the Lionheart (Mason Jar Books) is on the 2017 shortlist in the Historical Romance category. Please join us in welcoming Joanne.

Joanne shares the inspiration behind her shortlist novel, including the research on the circus(!), her excellent taste in television – plus more!

ABOUT the BOOK

Raised amid the fame and mystique of the Big Top, Charlie Lionheart holds the audience in the palm of his hand. But while his act captivates thousands, it’s away from the spotlight where his true heart lies. Here he humbly cares for his pride of lions as if they were his brothers, a skill of bravery and strength that has prepared him for his most challenging feat yet—freeing an orphaned infant from the dark bondage of a sideshow. A trade so costly, it requires his life in exchange for hers, leaving him tarnished by the price of that choice.

As the circus tents are raised on the outskirts of Roanoke, nurse Ella Beckley arrives to tend to this Gypsy girl. All under the watchful eye of a guardian who not only bears a striking resemblance to the child, but who protects the baby with a love that wraps around Ella’s own tragic past, awakening a hope that goodness may yet reign. When their forbidden friendship deepens, Charlie dares to ask for her heart, bringing her behind the curtain of his secret world to reveal the sacrifice that gave hope to one little girl—boldly showing Ella that while her tattered faith is deeply scarred, the only marks that need be permanent are his own. – Goodreads


Interview Questions

INSPYs: What inspired the story of The Lady and the Lionheart? This story really came about with an anxiety I was wrestling over: wanting to change things that are unchangeable. It’s something I have always dealt with and a trait that has caused me to wear out the carpet with pacing more than a time or two. God spoke to my heart, bringing forward a character that literally embodied the unchangeable—the tattooed man in the circus. Before I knew it, I was on a whirlwind of a writing adventure, immersed in a story that touched my heart and helped me to embrace the Serenity Prayer, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

What kind of research was required for a book set in the circus? A LOT of research went into the circus elements for this book because I knew so little about the circus and not only was The Lady and the Lionheart immersed in that setting, but there is the Gypsy lifestyle and travel, Charlie’s life with his lions, and more. It really gave me the opportunity to discover a world that I knew only a fraction about. Amid the research, I found myself falling in love with the historical and cultural elements.

The wonderful thing about a circus is that each one is different and unique. It gave me the room to take liberties in crafting Charlie’s circus troop and Gypsy lifestyle just as my imagination led. But at the same time, the circus is a very specific and distinct culture so I had to craft all my imaginings to fall in line with these written and unwritten codes. Secret languages, unique terms, and surprising customs all came to play in learning how to build this world. Circus performers, their families are very real people and so my hope with writing The Lady and the Lionheart was to pay homage to this way of life and to give it the respect that it deserved. It was also incredibly important to me to honor and respect the animals in the tale—particularly our amazing lions, Axel, Han and Kristov. A lot of inspiration and research went into Charlie’s care of them and it taught me so much about these incredible animals and shattered a lot of my preconceived notions about them.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

What are you watching? 

I’m a sucker for a good historical drama. From “Poldark” to “Downton” to “Call the Midwife”…I just get hooked. A recent favorite has been “Mercy Street” … a wonderful Civil-War period drama on PBS. I gobbled up both seasons 1 and 2 and miss it already.

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

I’m on a book deadline right now so haven’t had much time for reading, but recently, I got to indulge in a novella called “The Girl Who Could See.” It’s written by a sweet writer-friend of mine and is SUCH a good story! I highly recommend it to anyone who loves YA or stories with a lot of imagination. I kind of have a crush on the hero, Tristan, which is saying a lot if someone can get my mind off of Charlie. 😉

Faceoff Questions:

Print or Ebook? Definitely both

Early Bird or Night Owl? Fluctuates without warning

Milk or Dark Chocolate? This does not. J Milk


ABOUT the AUTHOR

A Carol Award and three-time Christy Award-finalist, Joanne Bischof writes deeply layered fiction that tugs at the reader’s heartstrings. She was honored to receive the SDCWG Novel of the Year Award in 2014 and in 2015 was named Author of the Year by the Mount Hermon Writer’s conference. That same year, her historical novella, This Quiet Sky, broke precedent as the first self-released title to final for the Christy Awards. To Get to You, her 2015 release, was the second. Joanne’s 2016 novel, The Lady and the Lionheart, received an extraordinary 5 Star TOP PICK! from Romantic Times Book Reviews among other critical acclaim. She is represented by Sandra Bishop of Transatlantic Literary Agency. Visit her on her website.


Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs blog today, Joanne. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight your novel, The Lady and the Lionheart.

A Conversation with Kristy Cambron

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Kristy Cambron. Her novel, The Ringmaster’s Wife (Thomas Nelson) is on the 2017 shortlist in the Historical Romance category. Please join us in welcoming Kristy.

Today, we read about the inspiration for The Ringmaster’s Wife (Kristy shares a lot of great facts, and extras!), learn about her favorite reading and writing indulgence, her preference for print books (Editor’s note: WIN!) – plus more!

ABOUT THE BOOK

What is revealed when you draw back the curtain of the Greatest Show on Earth?

Rosamund Easling is no stranger to opulence. As the daughter of an earl, she’s grown up with every comfort money can buy. But when hard times befall the family’s Yorkshire estate in the aftermath of the Great War, Rosamund’s father sells her beloved horse, setting the stage for a series of events that would extend beyond even her wildest dreams.

Though expected to marry for a title instead of love, Rosamund feels called to a different life – one of adventure outside the confines of a ladies’ parlor. She abandons all she’s known and follows in pursuit as her horse is shipped to the new owner – an American entertainer by the name of John Ringling. Once introduced to the Ringling Brothers’ circus and knowing she has much to learn, Rosamund agrees to a bareback riding apprenticeship in the shadow of the Ringlings’ winter home—Ca’D’Zan. It is at that mansion, in what would become the last days of the enigmatic Mable Ringling’s life, that Rosamund finds a deeper sense of purpose in the life she’s been given, and the awakening of faith in her heart.

With a supporting cast of characters as mysterious and dazzling as the Ringlings’ big-top world, Rosamund’s journey takes her from the tradition of the English countryside to the last days of America’s Roaring ‘20s—a journey that forever changes what one life might have been. – Goodreads

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

INSPYs: What was the inspiration for The Ringmaster’s Wife?

Kristy and a circus performer at the 150th birthday bash for John Ringling — with his 1923 Rolls Royce in the background!

I’m something of an old soul. Even in childhood, I was drawn to vintage stories and watched classic films as a connection to the past that sparked my curiosity. One favorite film was The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)— a Hollywood blockbuster that looked at the lives of performers under the Big Top in the Ringling Bros.’ circus world. So when my publishing family brought me the idea for a semi-biographical novel about the Ringlings in late 2015 (because they just knew Mable had a story to tell), I just had to be the one to dive in and write it.

The Ringmaster’s Wife takes place in two different eras; what was your least favorite and favorite part about writing dual time periods?

To sum up—I love it all! Every moment of a deep-dive into history.

With this novel, it was important that we do two things: honor Mable Ringling for the real person she was, and paint a vivid picture of the traveling circus as it existed in the golden years of The Roaring Twenties. Writing in dual periods was the way to connect those two aspects of the story. If readers could see Mable (Burton) Ringling as she was throughout her life, it would make her that much more real. Weaving in the unique brilliance of the Chicago World’s Fair and a snapshot of an Atlantic City pier was just a bonus!

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

1. What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? I snapped a pic of my bookshelves for y’all, so you can see what’s moved to the top of my TBR pile right now…

In addition to the historical and contemporary fiction stack I’m planning to work my way through (Katherine Reay’s latest book!), I’m also reading quite a lot in non-fiction these days— especially Bible studies. I’m transitioning to publish Bible studies as well as fiction in 2018 (The Verse-Mapping Series DVD Bible studies), so my bookshelves are overflowing with wisdom and beauty from both of those writing worlds.

2. What’s your Favorite Reading/Writing Snack? A medium skinny Black Bear on the mean side.

Allow me to translate: That’s a 16 oz. peppermint mocha latte, with skim milk and ½ syrup—my signature drink at the local coffee shop. It’s an outdoors themed shop, and I write at a table in the corner with the kayaks hanging on the wall. So my absolute favorite “snack” would have to be a super-diva-writing drink with a gutsy outdoorsman theme, right? It’s served me well for my last three book deadlines. 😊

Faceoff Questions:

1. PC or Mac? — I’m a former Corporate America gal and we always used PCs. I’m too tired/lazy/busy to switch to a new operating system right now, so a PC it remains.

2. Print or Ebook?Always If you’re once a traditionalist, vintage-loving reader… you’re always one.

3. Chocolate or Vanilla (Ice Cream)? —YES. Add cheesecake and bring coffee while you’re at it.

EXTRAS 

The Ringmaster’s Wife is a love letter to the American circus, and a Thank You card to the real-life person of Mable Ringling.

Stepping into the Ringlings’ world was a researcher’s absolute dream. From the eclectic circus acts and side-show oddities, to the high-society Gatsby-style flapper parties, to the genuine warmth of a woman whose persona seemed almost too good to be true… I was immersed in story from moment one.

Research sent our family to the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, FL, where we were escorted through every corner of the Cà d’Zan (“House of John” in Venetian dialect)—the Ringlings’ immaculate Gilded Age mansion. We tried out our talents on a real “hire-wire” at the circus museum, and stepped into the Ringlings’ famed Pullman train car—the Wisconsin. And just in time for John Ringling’s 150th birthday celebration, Mable’s book made a grand appearance alongside Burton and Ringling family descendants at 1920s era lawn party on the mansion grounds (complete with John Ringling’s 1923 Rolls Royce)!

The journey from research to writing to holding that first copy of The Ringmaster’s Wife was one I’ll never forget. It’s been the pleasure of my heart to share it with you.

To tour the along with Kristy, visit these YouTube Research Files adventures:


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kristy Cambron has a background in art and design, but she fancies life as a vintage-inspired storyteller. Her debut novel, The Butterfly and the Violin, was named to Library Journal’s Best Books of 2014 and nominated for RT Book Reviews’ Choice Awards Best Inspirational Novel of 2014 and for the 2015 INSPY Awards for Best Debut Novel. Her second novel, A Sparrow in Terezin, was named Library Journal’s Pick of the Month (Christian Fiction) for February 2015 and a Top Pick for RT Book Reviews. Kristy holds a degree in Art History from Indiana University. She lives in Indiana with her husband and three young sons. Website: kristycambron.com Twitter: @KCambronAuthor Facebook: Kristy-Cambron-Author.


Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs blog today, Kristy. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight your latest novel, The Ringmaster’s Wife.

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 Melissa Jagears

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Melissa Jagears. Her novel, A Heart Most Certain (Bethany House) is on the 2017 shortlist in the Historical Romance category. Please join us in welcoming Melissa.

Today, we read about the inspiration for A Heart Most Certain learn about her nightstand reading and where she does most of her brainstorming – plus more!Melissa Jagears INSPYs

A Fresh Voice in Historical Romance!

Lydia King knows what it’s like to be in need, so when she joins the Teaville Moral Society, she genuinely hopes to help the town’s poor. But with her father’s debts increasing by the day and her mother growing sicker by the week, she wonders how long it will be until she ends up in the poor house herself. Her best chance at a financially secure future is to impress the politician courting her, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that the moral society’s president is her suitor’s mother. Her first task as a moral society member—to obtain a donation from Nicholas Lowe, the wealthiest man in town—should be easy . . . except he flat-out refuses.

Despite appearances, Nicholas wants to help others but prefers to do it his own way, keeping his charity private. When Lydia proves persistent, they agree to a bargain, though Nicholas has a few surprises up his sleeve. Neither foresee the harrowing complications that will arise from working together. When town secrets are brought to light, this unlikely pair must decide where their beliefs—and hearts—truly align. – Goodreads

Author Interview with Melissa Jagears

INSPYs: What inspired you to write, A Heart Most CertainI started brainstorming this book back in 2012 when I was not published. I lived near Coffeyville, KS which has this wonderful mansion residing where you would least expect one. Every time I passed it, I thought a mansion in the middle of nowhere would be a great setting for a story. But the mansion only belonged to one family, so I couldn’t use its actual history for a romance. Another time I was driving by, I was pondering how a lot of fairy tale retellings were getting published. (I do a lot of brainstorming in the car!) And while passing the mansion, I was trying to come up with fairy tale/classic stories that hadn’t been done in a Christian novel retelling and thought up Scrooge and Aladdin. Then I wondered if I could combine the two. That’s where it started. How to put Scrooge and Aladdin in a middle-of-nowhere Kansas mansion. The pictures on the series covers are of the actual Brown Mansion which is my Lowe Mansion’s inspiration.

What are some of the challenges/benefits of incorporating faith in your stories? I love theology. I’d go to seminary just for fun if I didn’t have to pay for it. I love reading pages upon pages of theology discussion, BUT not in my fiction. Back in the old days where Christian fiction would plop in an entire sermon delivered from a pulpit? Yeah, I’d skip right over those to get back to the story. So there’s the challenge for me not to go too gung-ho on the theology discussions when they happen in my stories because it’s just so fun to discuss, but I know when reading fiction that’s not what I’m looking for and I don’t want to write anything I myself would skip!

As for the benefit, I mentioned I wrote this book in 2012. When I started editing it again in 2015 for Bethany House, one of the Biblical messages in the book spoke straight to me. God used a book I’d written years before to help myself years later. I think addressing the spiritual in stories make them timely no matter when it’s read.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

1. What are you watching? Sorry I’m not that fun, I don’t have a television and the only movies I overhear are geared to preschoolers. I do watch youtube videos sometimes…..

2. What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? Last book I read was Love’s Winter Hope by Naomi Rawlings, and I’ve been itching to read The Lady and the Lionheart by Bischof.

Face-off Questions

1. Print or Ebook? I like both. They each have pros and cons, but if I had to choose one, I’d choose print because if there’s an end-of-the-world Apocalypse coming, I could read without electricity.

2. Dark Chocolate or Milk Chocolate? Milk Chocolate

3. Coffee or Tea? Neither, but if it were a life and death situation where I was forced to drink one, I’d choose tea. I’ve actually lived through an entire cup of tea, but I can’t make it past a sip of coffee.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carol Award-winning author Melissa Jagears is a homeschooling mom who writes Christian historical romance into the wee hours of the night. She’s the author of the Unexpected Brides series and Love by the Letter, a free prequel ebook novella. You can learn more about Melissa, her books, and where she hangs out online at www.melissajagears.com.


Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs.com blog today, Melissa. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight A Heart Most Certain.

2017 Shortlists Announced

The day has arrived. We are ready to announce our 2017 INSPYs shortlists. 

We thank you so much for your continued support, especially in light of the 2017 changes as we strive to create a program that is considerate of the many wonderful novels written in this genre. 

Following multiple book deliveries plus multiple time zones, and juggling our respective schedules, the Inspy Awards Advisory Board is thrilled to (finally) announce the 2017 shortlist contenders. As each year does, another daunting task was placed before us to pick just 5 books in each category from a long list nominated by readers and bloggers around the world. After careful consideration and deliberation, the INSPYs Advisory Board is pleased to announce that the following books have been shortlisted in the 6th annual INSPY Awards. 

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE/ROMANTIC SUSPENSE 

Can’t Help Falling (Howard) by Kara Isaac
Her One and Only (Bethany House) by Becky Wade
Just a Kiss (Thomas Nelson) by Denise Hunter
A Twist of Faith (Southern Firefly Fiction) by Pepper Basham
You’re the One that I Want (Tyndale) by Susan May Warren

 DEBUT FICTION

Close to You (Howard Books) by Kara Isaac
Counted with the Stars (Bethany House) by Connilyn Cossette
Leaving Independence (Waterfall Press) by Leanne W. Smith
The Secret to Hummingbird Cake (Thomas Nelson) by Celeste Fletcher McHale
The Undoing of Saint Silvanus (Tyndale) by Beth Moore

GENERAL FICTION 

The Alliance (Tyndale) by Jolina Petersheim
The Feathered Bone (Thomas Nelson) by Julie Cantrell
Land of Silence (Tyndale) by Tessa Afshar
Long Way Gone (Thomas Nelson) by Charles Martin
A Portrait of Emily Price (Thomas Nelson) by Katherine Reay

HISTORICAL ROMANCE

A Flight of Arrows (Waterbrook) by Lori Benton
The Lady and the Lionheart (Mason Jar Books) by Joanne Bischof
A Heart Most Certain (Bethany House) by Melissa Jaegers
The Captive Heart (Shiloh Run Press) by Michelle Griep
The Ringmaster’s Wife (Thomas Nelson) by Kristy Cambron

MYSTERY/THRILLER

Conspiracy of Silence (Bethany House) by Ronie Kendig
Cold Shot (Bethany House) by Dani Pettrey
Dressed for Death (Bethany House) by Julianna Deering
If I Run (Zondervan) by Terri Blackstock
When Death Draws Near (Thomas Nelson) by Carrie Stuart Parks

LITERATURE FOR YOUNG ADULTS 

A Daring Sacrifice (Zondervan) by Jody Hedlund
Gilt Hollow (Blink) by Lorie Langdon
I’ll Be Yours (Sweet Pea Productions) by Jenny B. Jones
Siren’s Song (Thomas Nelson) by Mary Weber
Unblemished (Thomas Nelson) by Sara Ella

SPECULATIVE FICTION

Accelerant (Enclave) by Ronie Kendig
The Calling (Tyndale) by Rachelle Dekker
The Long Journey to Jake Palmer (Thomas Nelson) by James L. Rubart
Seasons of Glory (Blink) by Lisa T. Bergren
The Shattered Vigil (Bethany House) by Patrick W. Carr


Congratulations to all of the nominated authors and shortlist contenders! We now turn the job over to our 2017 judges to select a winner in each category. Winners will be announced June 28th.

Download Press Release here.

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 Pepper D. Basham

INSPYs 2016-Papper Basham Feature

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

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


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

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

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

Amazon | Goodreads


INTERVIEW WITH PEPPER D. BASHAM

INSPYs: What inspired you to write The Thorn Bearer?

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

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

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

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

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

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

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

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

Captain America Civil War Wanda Steve

Photo: Marvel

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

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

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

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


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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Pepper Basham

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

Author Website | Twitter

A Conversation with Kate Breslin

INSPYs 2016- Kate Breslin Feature

The INSPYs Advisory Board welcomes Kate Breslin to the blog today. Last year, Kate was on our debut shortlist for her novel, For Such a Time. This year, her sophomore novel  Not by Sight (Bethany House) has been shortlisted in the 2016 INSPYs Historical Category.

We learn what inspired the story behind Not By Sight, learn what’s next from Kate plus chat with her about her current favorites. Join us in welcoming, Kate.


Gripping Sophomore Novel from a Rising Historical Romance TalentBook - Not By Sight

With Britain caught up in WWI, Jack Benningham, heir to the Earl of Stonebrooke, has declared himself a conscientious objector. Instead, he secretly works for the Crown by tracking down German spies on British soil, his wild reputation and society status serving as a foolproof cover.

Blinded by patriotism and concern for her brother on the front lines, wealthy suffragette Grace Mabry will do whatever it takes to assist her country’s cause. When she sneaks into a posh London masquerade ball to hand out white feathers of cowardice, she never imagines the chain of events she’ll set off when she hands a feather to Jack.

And neither of them could anticipate the extent of the danger and betrayal that follows them–or the faith they’ll need to maintain hope.  – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads


INTERVIEW WITH KATE BRESLIN

Photo: PBS

Photo: PBS

INSPYs: What inspired Not By Sight? I blame it all on PBS Masterpiece Theater’s Downton Abbey. 🙂 I’m a die-hard fan of the miniseries and watched an episode in Season 2, where a pair of suffragettes crashed a war-aid benefit at the Crawley home and handed out white feathers of cowardice to all men not in uniform. When the Crawley’s young footman, William, received a feather, it was the final push he needed to enlist. It was a decision that would later prove most unfortunate for him, but also the bud that blossomed into my next novel. When my heroine Grace gives hero Jack a white feather at a London ball during the war, the wealthy suffragette has no idea the chain of events she’ll set off in Not By Sight.

INSPYs: Just for fun: can you give us any teasers of what’s coming next from you? I’d love to! Currently I’m working on my next WWI historical romance, which releases in July of 2017. It’s a connecting book to Not By Sight, and takes place in Brussels with a tad more drama, intrigue, and danger. 🙂 My Christian message deals with the struggle to believe in God’s mercy when we can’t forgive ourselves. I do hope readers will enjoy the story!

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

+ What are you listening to? “Tuck,” the third novel in Stephen Lawhead’s “The King Raven Trilogy,” a delightful and different take on the legend of Robin Hood. Adam Verner reads all three audiobooks and he’s wonderful!

+ What are you watching? Thanks to the DVR, I’ve been catching up on PBS Masterpiece’s “Call The Midwife” series and also the second season of “Grantchester.” I’m working up a Pinterest board for my next novel and actor James Norton is definitely a candidate for the story hero!

Kate's nightstand, full of wonderful reads!

Kate’s nightstand, full of wonderful reads!

+ What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? Ohh so many tantalizing selections! I’ve included a photo, and being democratic, I’ve stacked them in alphabetical order: Jane Austen’s unfinished manuscript, Sanditon; Kristy Cambron’s new release, The Ringmaster’s Wife; Elizabeth Camden’s, Until the Dawn; Dawn Crandall’s upcoming October release, The Cautious Maiden (third book in her Everstone Chronicles series); a perennial favorite, Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love; Carrie Turansky’s, The Governess of Highland Hall (first book in her Edwardian Brides series); and Karen Whitemeyer’s A Worthy Pursuit. I have so many others I want to read as well!


Thanks so much for joining us today, Kate. We enjoyed learning more about the inspiration behind Not By Sight, and totally approve of the hero inspiration for your June 2017 novel!

ABOUT THE AUTHORKATE BRESLIN

Former bookseller-turned-author Kate Breslin enjoys life in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and family. A writer of travel articles and award-winning poetry, Kate received Christian Retailing’s 2015 Best Award for First Time Author and her first novel, For Such A Time, won American Christian Fiction Writers 2015 Carol Award. Kate’s second novel, Not By Sight released in August, 2015. When she’s not writing inspirational fiction, Kate enjoys reading or taking long walks in Washington’s beautiful woodlands. She also likes traveling to new places, both within the U.S. and abroad, having toured Greece, Rome, and much of Western Europe. New destinations make for fresh story ideas.

Author Website | Twitter

A Conversation with Laura Frantz

INSPYs 2016-Laura FrantzHappy Monday! As we begin a new week, the Advisory Board welcomes respected author, Laura Frantz today. Laura is a Christy Award finalist, an INSPYs finalist, and she’s a fan favorite. This year, her novel The Mistress of Tall Acre (Revell) is honored on the 2016 shortlist in the Historical Romance category.

We chat with Laura about the inspiration of The Mistress of Tall Acre plus she gives us a sneak peek into what’s next.


The American Revolution is finally over, and Sophie Menzies is starved for good news. When her nearest neighbor, General Seamus Ogilvy, finally comes home to Tall Acre, she hopes it is Book - Mistress of Tall Acrea sign of better days to come. But the general is now a widower with a small daughter in desperate need of a mother. Nearly destitute, Sophie agrees to marry Seamus and become the mistress of Tall Acre in what seems a safe, sensible arrangement. But when a woman from the general’s past returns without warning, the ties that bind this fledgling family together will be strained to the utmost. When all is said and done, who will be the rightful mistress of Tall Acre?

Triumph and tragedy, loyalty and betrayal–you will find it all in the rich pages of this newest novel from the talented pen of Laura Frantz. – Goodreads | Amazon


What inspired you to write The Mistress of Tall Acre?

So many of us have lost touch with this particular time period in history, our very beginnings. It’s not considered the ‘sweet spot’ in historical fiction like the 19th-century. I’ve thought a lot about how the American Revolution tore up the very fabric of our society, how many lives were changed, and how much we owe our freedom to those founders we know so little about. I thought writing about the fallout just after the war, specifically genteel Virginians, and how they fought to resume normal life would be interesting and moving. I hope readers agree!

Can you share with us any teasers of what’s next?

Oh yes, happily. My next novel returns to the Kentucky frontier, 1777, and is titled A Moonbow Inn, and releases January 2017. Cover art is underway now and the title implies a night scene, something rare in CBA fiction. Can’t wait for you to meet my surveying hero and inn-keeping heroine!

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

+ What are you listening to? Cam’s “Burning House” and “Mayday.” Also anything violin/fiddle related like Cal Morris’s, ‘The Prayer.”

+ What are you watching? Poldark and Cranford after Downton Abbey

Laura Frantz Nightstand FullSizeRender

+What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? The Poldark series by Winston Graham, a whale of a novelist


Thanks so much for joining us today, Laura. We appreciate you taking the time to share with us the journey of The Mistress of Tall Acre and answering some of our “fun” questions.

ABOUT THE AUTHORLaura Frantz

I was born and raised in Kentucky, living first in Ashland, Mammoth Cave, Bowling Green, and then Lexington. But my heart has always been in Berea, Madison County, the place my family has resided since the 18th-century. I came to know Christ there at the age of 12, was baptized, and spent my childhood roaming through the woods and swimming in the rivers of my books.

Author Website | Facebook