A Conversation with Kristi Ann Hunter

INSPYs 2016-Kristi Ann Hunter FeatureOur debut author interviews continue today with novelist, Kristi Ann Hunter. Her debut novel A Noble Masquerade (Bethany House) is on the 2016 shortlist in the Debut Fiction category.

Today, Kristi gives us insight into the inspiration of A Noble Masquerade and shares her greatest surprise about the publishing experience.

Lady Miranda Hawthorne acts every inch the lady, but inside she longs to be bold and carefree. Entering her fourth Season and approaching spinsterhood in the eyes of society, she pours her Book - A Noble Masqueradeinnermost feelings out not in a diary but in letters to her brother’s old school friend, a duke–with no intention of ever sending these private thoughts to a man she’s heard stories about but never met. Meanwhile, she also finds herself intrigued by Marcus, her brother’s new valet, and although she may wish to break free of the strictures that bind her, falling in love with a servant is more of a rebellion than she planned.

When Marcus accidentally discovers and mails one of the letters to her unwitting confidant, Miranda is beyond mortified. And even more shocked when the duke returns her note with one of his own that initiates a courtship-by-mail. Insecurity about her lack of suitors shifts into confusion at her growing feelings for two men–one she’s never met but whose words deeply resonate with her heart, and one she has come to depend on but whose behavior is more and more suspicious. When it becomes apparent state secrets are at risk and Marcus is right in the thick of the conflict, one thing is certain: Miranda’s heart is far from all that’s at risk for the Hawthornes and those they love. – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads


INSPYs: What inspired you to write A Noble Masquerade?

I don’t think there’s a person alive who is always themselves. We have masks and restrictions we place on ourselves depending on where we are or who we’re with. Sometimes, though, those limits can feel like an abrasive and confining prison despite the fact that we made them ourselves. Never is that more evident than when you find yourself placed in the middle of a new group of people and you have to decide who you’re going to be.

Exploring that idea brought about the book A Noble Masquerade. Because the heroine met the hero under two different circumstances, she presented two different versions of herself and he was able to do the same. In the process of bringing those two ideas together, they each came to a greater understanding of who they were and how they could be themselves more often. I think that’s something everyone could use a little more of.

INSPYs: What surprised you most about the process of writing/publishing a novel?

This is going to make me sound incredibly arrogant, but I think my biggest surprise was that I edited well. After the number of complaints and horror stories I’ve heard from people working with various editors, I was expecting the process to be rather painful. In some ways it was because it was the first time I’d ever gone through my work like that. There were sections that I refused to change in the way they wanted me to, but I did listen to the issues they had with the scene and rewrote it to fix those.

A lot of the credit for the process goes to the amazing editors I worked with at Bethany House who took the time to really see where I was trying to go with the book and helped me get there. By the end of the editing process, though, I was left sitting with a book I couldn’t believe I got to stick my name on and that’s a pretty heady feeling.


+What are you listening to?

Ah, music. It is so very, very important in our house. Right now I’m hip deep in preparations for the launch of the next book in the series, An Elegant Façade, so I’m listening and refining the inspiration playlist for that book. I’ll be unveiling that entire list in July, but as a little sneak peek for you, it includes some amazing songs like Stained Glass Masquerade by Casting Crowns and Born to Be Free by Moriah Peters.

+What are you watching? 

Kristi Ann Hunter NightstandWell, the kids are home for the summer and just discovered the old original Power Rangers so I’m getting a nice little trip down nostalgia lane.

Otherwise I’m not watching a whole lot right now. We don’t have cable so I tend to be a little behind and go through spells of watching lots of TV off Netflix and then stretches of nothing. I can tell you what I WILL be watching in a few weeks and that’s the Olympics. WOOHOO! Love me some Olympics.

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

I’m actually reading an ARC right now, Dawn Crandall’s The Cautious Maiden. (Woohoo, author privilege, getting books before they come out!) I’m only a few chapters into it but I’m very intrigued.

Sitting right next to it though, taunting me and not-so-patiently waiting its turn is the new Karen Witemeyer book, No Other Will Do. I actually got that one a bit early, too, but haven’t gotten to read it yet. Sometimes writing the books gets in the way of reading them. Sigh.

Thanks for joining us, Kristi Ann! It was a pleasure to chat with you, learn more about your debut novel, learn what most surprised you about the publishing process (that’s a wonderful talent to possess) and to read about your 2016 Olympic excitement.


Kristi Ann Hunter graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in Computer Science but always knew she wanted to write. Kristi is an RWA Golden Heart contest winner, an ACFW Genesis contest winner, and a Georgia Romance Writers Maggie Award for Excellence winner. She lives with her husband and three children in Georgia.

Author Website | Facebook | Twitter

A Conversation with 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


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.


+ 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


INSPYs: What inspired you to write The Thorn Bearer?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Captain America Civil War Wanda Steve

Photo: Marvel

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

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

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

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

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


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

Author Website | Twitter

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


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!


+ 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!


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!


+ 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.


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

A Conversation with Lori Benton

INSPYs 2016-Lori Benton

With a new weekend here, today the Advisory Board welcomes Lori Benton. Lori was shortlisted in the 2014 awards for her debut novel, Burning Sky. This year, her novel The Wood’s Edge is honored on the 2016 shortlist in the Historical Romance category.

We chat with Lori about the inspiration behind The Wood’s Edge, the challenges of writing in the historical fiction genre, and learn what TV addiction she’s anxiously awaiting. (Editor’s note: I feel the delay of this particular British show most ardently!)

At the wood’s edge cultures collide. Can two families survive the impact?Book - The Wood's Edge

The 1757 New York frontier is home to the Oneida tribe and to British colonists, yet their feet rarely walk the same paths.

On the day Fort William Henry falls, Major Reginald Aubrey is beside himself with grief. His son, born that day, has died in the arms of his sleeping wife. When Reginald comes across an Oneida mother with newborn twins, one white, one brown, he makes a choice that will haunt the lives of all involved. He steals the white baby and leaves his own child behind. Reginald’s wife and foundling daughter, Anna, never suspect the truth about the boy they call William, but Reginald is wracked by regret that only intensifies with time, as his secret spreads its devastating ripples.

When the long buried truth comes to light, can an unlikely friendship forged at the wood’s edge provide a way forward? For a father tormented by fear of judgment, another by lust for vengeance. For a mother still grieving her lost child. For a brother who feels his twin’s absence, another unaware of his twin’s existence. And for Anna, who loves them both–Two Hawks, the mysterious Oneida boy she meets in secret, and William, her brother. As paths long divided collide, how will God direct the feet of those who follow Him? – Goodreads | Amazon

What inspired you to write The Wood’s Edge?

I’m always looking for intriguing historical events to set a story against, and the 18th century overflows with them. While researching my debut novel, Burning Sky, set in western New York after the Revolutionary War, I went back further and read about the war, thinking I ought to know what my characters from various cultures and sides in that war might have experienced. It was then I learned about the Six Nations, or Iroquois League, and the devastating impact this war had on them, tearing their ancient confederation apart when the Oneida nation chose to side with the Americans, while most of the other nations (Mohawks, Onondagas, Cayugas, Tuscaroras, and Senecas) sided with the British.

I’m also always on the look-out for historically accurate situations in which a character might find him or herself torn between two ways of life, across cultures, race, or ideologies. Because that’s what intrigues me as a writer.

During this time I read an article about a couple who had twins, one born brown-skinned, one born white-skinned. Instantly intrigued, I began to wonder what would happen if such twins were born on the New York frontier in the 18th century and somehow were separated so that one grew to manhood never knowing he had any other blood but what his skin proclaimed and just how might that happen…? Somewhere down that trail of questions The Wood’s Edge and its sequel A Flight of Arrows took shape.

What are the challenges/benefits of writing historical fiction?

Challenges for me would include the research and capturing of setting. I live 3000 miles away from the places I write about and don’t often find the time to take away from the actual writing (it takes me slightly longer than a year to write my books, about all the time I have between deadlines, and unfortunately I’ve never been able to write while traveling) to make long research trips. But I did spend half my life living on the east coast and was a bit of a tomboy as a child, with similar interests then as I have now, including a love of exploring the out-of-doors, so I have a lot of memories to draw from for the types of “close to the earth” settings I like to create.

As for benefits, I find it immensely satisfying writing historical fiction. I’m always learning. I feel like I give myself a new degree in history with every novel I write. I’ve heard it said it’s good for the brain to keep learning!


+ What are you listening to? I don’t listen to music often, but I just finished listening to The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown.

+ What are you watching? I’m waiting for the new seasons of The Last Ship and Poldark to commence. Meanwhile I catch episodes of Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D, The Flash, and Blue Bloods.

TBR Lori Benton

+ What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? I read a lot via audio books because reading print is liable to put me to sleep in ten minutes these days, no matter what time of day or night, and there’s a good chance I’ll never get to a book I really want to read if it’s only in print, because of the daunting amount of research that’s always waiting.

I’m reading A Country Between, The Upper Ohio Valley and Its People by Michael N. McConnell and The Scratch of a Pen, 1763 and the Transformation of North America by Colin G. Calloway, among other research material.

I’m listening to What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty and my annual re-listen of To Say Nothing of the Dog, or How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump at Last by Connie Willis (read by Steven Crossley).

I’m reading a lovely book for endorsement by Joanne Bischof called The Lady and the Lionheart (be on the lookout for that one later this year, readers!)

And here is a stack of some of books I would like to get to soon (I’ve just started the one on top!).

Thanks so much for joining us today, Lori. Reading about one particular novel on your nightstand TBR is one I anticipate, and I appreciated the insight you gave us into the inspiration of The Wood’s Edge.


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, The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn, and The Wood’s Edge.

Author Website | Facebook

A Conversation with Sarah Sundin

INSPYs 2016-Sarah Sundin

Today, in the first of our 2016 shortlist author interviews, favorite historical fiction author, Sarah Sundin joins us. Author of multiple WWII series’, Sarah has established herself as a respected novelist. Her novel, Through Waters Deep (Revell) is on the 2016 shortlist in the Historical Romance category.

We chat with Sarah about what inspired Through Waters Deep, her favorite TV show (Editor’s Note: I totally understand this addiction), plus she gives us a sneak peek into what’s next!

It is 1941 and America teeters on the brink of war. Outgoing naval officer Ensign Jim Avery escorts British convoys across the North Atlantic in a brand-new destroyer, the USS Atwood. Book - Through Waters DeepBack on shore, Boston Navy Yard secretary Mary Stirling does her work quietly and efficiently, happy to be out of the limelight. Yet, despite her reserved nature, she never could back down from a challenge. When evidence of sabotage on the Atwood is found, Jim and Mary must work together to uncover the culprit. A bewildering maze of suspects emerges, and Mary is dismayed to find that even someone close to her is under suspicion. With the increasing pressure, Jim and Mary find that many new challenges–and dangers–await them.Goodreads | Amazon

INSPYs: What inspired you to write Through Waters Deep?

I was fascinated by what was happening in the United States in 1941, while war was raging in Europe but America remained neutral. I was surprised to learn that US warships escorted Allied convoys in 1941, and that five American cargo ships and a US destroyer were sunk by U-boats—before Pearl Harbor! Meanwhile, Americans were bitterly divided between isolationism and interventionism, with many rumors of sabotage and espionage.

Sarah's 2015 research trip: a USS Cassin Young destroyer at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston.

Sarah’s 2014 research trip: a USS Cassin Young destroyer at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston.

In Through Waters Deep, Ensign Jim Avery serves on a US destroyer escorting convoys and fighting U-boats while the nation clings to neutrality. Meanwhile, Mary Stirling works as a secretary at the Boston Navy Yard. When evidence of sabotage surfaces, Jim and Mary work together to find the culprit…and their long-time friendship promises to blossom into something more.

INSPYs: Can you give us a sneak peak into what’s coming next?

The second book in the Waves of Freedom series, Anchor in the Storm, just released. For plucky Lillian Avery, America’s entry into World War II means a chance to prove herself as a pharmacist in Boston. She loves the wartime challenges of her new job but spurns the attention of society boy Ens. Archer Vandenberg. As Arch’s destroyer battles U-boats along the East Coast, Lillian uncovers a black market drug ring. Arch and Lillian work together on the investigation, but can he ever earn her trust and affection?

I’m working on the edits for the third book, When Tides Turn, which will release in March 2017. It features the oldest Avery boy, Dan, and Mary and Lillian’s friend Quintessa Beaumont. It was a lot of fun to write!


  • What are you listening to?

Right now? Silence. I can’t listen to music when I work. I start humming or singing, and I want to get up and dance. Rather distracting. But in my car, I have big band music playing—Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Harry James—I love it all.

  • What are you watching?

I don’t control the remote in our house, so I catch up on my shows on Thursday nights when my husband’s at choir practice and our son’s at youth group. I’ve been super-busy this year and I’m so far behind. I’m only on Episode 6 of the final Downton Abbey season! Do NOT tell me how it ends.

Sarah Sundin TBR pile 2

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

I just finished three wonderful novels. Karen Barnett’s Through the Shadows is set in the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco, and it’s rich with history and character depth. Kara Isaac’s debut novel, Close to You, is a fun romance featuring a woman who leads Tolkien tours in New Zealand. And I read another debut, Jennifer Lamont Leo’s You’re the Cream in My Coffee for endorsement. It doesn’t come out until September, but keep your eyes open—a delightful story set in Chicago in the Roaring Twenties.

I also have a ton of research books on my pile, since I’m digging in to my new World War II series which follows three estranged brothers who fight on D-Day on the sea, in the air, and on the ground.

Thank you so much for joining us today, Sarah. It was a pleasure to talk with you, and learn more about the behind-the-scenes happenings of your writing.

MEET THE AUTHORSarah-Sundin-green-1-187x300

Sarah Sundin enjoys writing about the drama and romance of the World War II era. She is the author of the Waves of Freedom series (Through Waters Deep, 2015, Anchor in the Storm, coming May 2016, When Tides Turn, coming March 2017), the Wings of the Nightingale series (With Every Letter, 2012, On Distant Shores, 2013, and In Perfect Time, 2014), and the Wings of Glory series (A Distant Melody, A Memory Between Us, and Blue Skies Tomorrow). She also has a novella in the WWII Christmas collection Where Treetops Glisten (WaterBrook, 2014).

A mother of three, Sundin lives in northern California. She works on-call as a hospital pharmacist and teaches Sunday school and women’s Bible studies. She enjoys speaking to community, church, and writers’ groups.

Author Website | Facebook | Twitter


Up Close and Personal with Stephanie Landsem

We continue this week’s short list author interviews with Stephanie Landsem. Stephanie’s novel  The Thief (Howard Books) is on the short list for the Historical Romance category. Below we chat with Stephanie about her talented musical family and their love of superheroes.

Goodreads SummaryBook - The Thief

Nissa is a Jewish woman with a sharp tongue and no hope of marriage. Abandoned by the God she once loved, her only recourse is to depend upon Mouse, the best thief in Jerusalem, to keep her blind brother, Cedron, fed and the landlord satisfied.

Longinus is a Roman centurion haunted by death and failure and is desperate to escape the accursed Judean province. Accepting a wager that will get him away from the aggravating Jews and their threats of revolt, he sets out to catch the thieves harassing the marketplace.

When a controversial teacher miraculously heals Cedron, Nissa hopes for freedom from her life of lies. But the supposed miracle brings only more misfortune, and Longinus, seeking to learn more about the mysterious healer, finds himself drawn instead to Nissa, whose secret will determine the course of both their futures.

Cedron, Longinus, and Nissa are unexpectedly caught up in the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus. As danger closes in on them from every side, they must decide if the love and redemption Jesus offers is true or just another false promise. How can the so-called Messiah save them from their shackles, when he cannot even save himself?

What are you listening to?

Since I live in a musically talented family, there’s seldom a quiet moment in our house. With a son home from college and his band re-connecting in our basement (which means I’m always out of food), I hear a lot of indie rock and jazz. My husband’s band plays an eclectic mix of 80s and current rock on weekends. With another son playing guitar and daughter playing bass, well . . . let’s just say the dishes are usually rattling in the cupboards. I love hearing my family’s music but when I get  quiet moment, I tend to savor the silence.

What are you watching?

Right now I’m re-watching a series called Grand Hotel. It’s a little like Downton Abbey but set in a hotel in Spain with mucho more drama, backstabbing, literal stabbings, revenge, heartbreak, and—unlike the stoic Britsplenty of manly crying. I absolutely love it. One warning to anyone who might be tempted to watch: the last season is not yet subtitled in English so after a cliffhanger episode you will have to wait to see what happens or learn to speak Spanish. With my kids, I’m watching all the Marvel/Avengers movies again before going to see Age of Ultron at the theater. We love our superheroes! Then we’ll do the same before the new Jurassic Park comes out this summer.

What are you reading?

I have several books going and a pile to read this summer. I’m happily catching up on some biblical titles I put off while I was writing The Living Water Series and have Pharaoh’s Daughter by Mesu Andrews on kindle now. On audio, I’m listening to classics that I somehow missed in high school and am halfway through The Brothers Karmazov. On my nightstand is Innocence, by Dean Koontz and I’m loving it. If you’ve always thought of Koontz as a horror writer, you’d be surprised at the themes of faith, hope, and forgiveness that are coming out in his latest works. As for nonfiction, I’m reading The Grace of Yes, Eight Virtues for Generous Living, by Lisa Hendey for a summer bookclub and Created to Relate, God’s Design for Peace and Joy, by my lovely friend Kelly Wahlquist. I’m always browsing a new cookbook and right now it’s The Ancestral Table by Russ Crandall — the blend of history and food is deliciously compelling.

Here’s my reading stacked up on my nightstand. As you can see, I always keep industrial strength earplugs handy in case band practice goes later than my bedtime 🙂

nightstand books

Thank you so much for joining us today, Stephanie. It was a pleasure to host you here. Learn more about Stephanie: Facebook ǀ Twitter ǀ Website

Up Close and Personal with Elizabeth Camden

Hello, everyone. Today, we have the pleasure of welcoming shortlist author Elizabeth Camden. Elizabeth’s novel  With Every Breath (Bethany House) is on the short list for the Historical Romance category. Below we chat with Elizabeth about her addiction to Pandora, get a sneak peek at her TBR and learn about the inspiration behind With Every Breath.

Goodreads SummaryBook - With Every Breath

In the shadow of the nation’s capital, Kate Livingston holds a respectable position as a government statistician when she encounters a rival from her past, the insufferable Trevor McDonough. A Harvard-trained physician, Trevor never showed the tiniest flicker of interest in Kate, and she’s bewildered at the way he suddenly seeks her out. Surprising even herself, Kate agrees to Trevor’s entirely unexpected and risky proposal to work side-by-side with him in his quest to rid the world of tuberculosis, a contagious and deadly disease.

As Kate begins to unlock the mysteries of Trevor’s past, she realizes there is much more to him than she could have imagined. His hidden depths may fascinate her, but his most closely guarded secrets and a shadowy enemy lurking in the background carry a serious threat to their future.

When the truth of the past comes out, threatening to destroy everything they hold dear, how will Trevor and Kate ever overcome all that stands in their way?

Novel Inspiration for With Every Breath.

I read a lot of memoirs from the late 19th century, which often triggers my plot ideas. A few years ago I read a fascinating memoir by Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau (1848-1915) about his quest to cure tuberculosis, a painful and usually fatal disease. He knew he risked his life each time he treated a patient, and although I have tremendous admiration for such courage, I started to wonder how his wife felt about that! Personally, I’d be terrified, but what a heroic man! I knew I had the makings for a terrific love story, but I did not want to model it after Dr. Trudeau, who did indeed eventually contract tuberculosis and die from the disease. I tend to be a happily-ever-after kind of writer, but I love putting my hero and heroine through an emotional wringer before they earn a happy ending. As with all my novels, I tried to inject notes of subtle humor, hope, and inspiration throughout the novel.

– Elizabeth Camden

Interview Questions:

1.) What are you listening to? I am addicted to Pandora, which is an online music service that lets you customize your own music preferences. I love film scores and made a station filled with gorgeous, moody, elegiac music that gets me in the perfect mood to write turbulent romances. You can listen to my music station here: http://pdora.co/1E2jYug You don’t even have to subscribe to Pandora to listen in. Just click the link and the music should launch.

2.) What are you watching?  I don’t watch much TV, but confess to enjoying Judge Judy while I cook dinner. There’s something about listening to her rip into scoundrels that appeals to my need for a little guilty pleasure. Complete trash, but I love it!

3.) What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? Here is a snapshot, which gives a good cross-section of what I read for pleasure and what I’m researching for my next novel. I usually write a book about two to three years before it goes to print, so the book about the pearls won’t see the light of day until 2017.

Camden's reading

Thanks, Rissi, for asking me on some really off-the-beaten track questions!


Thank you so much for joining us today, Elizabeth. It was a pleasure to host you here. Learn more about Elizabeth: Facebook ǀ Website

Up Close and Personal with Jody Hedlund

Good afternoon, INSPY readers! We have the pleasure of welcoming shortlist author Jody Hedlund today. Jody’s novel Captured by Love (Bethany House) is on the short list for the Historical Romance category. Not only has Jody been shortlisted (and won) more than once, this year she debuted as a YA author and has a brand-new book due out this coming month. Below Jody shares about re-watching historical classics and what helped inspire Captured by Love.

Goodreads SummaryBook - Captured by Love (Hedlund)

It is 1814 and the British have taken hold of Mackinac Island and its fort, forcing American residents to swear an oath of loyalty to the British crown in order to retain their land. Pierre Durant is a voyageur–a fur trader who left his family home to find freedom and adventure. He’s been gone five years and when he returns, his family’s farm is at the mercy of the British invaders.

Torn between the life he’s grown used to and guilt over leaving his brother and mother, he’s drawn back into the loyalist fight against the British–and into a relationship with Angelique Mackenzie, a beautiful local girl who’s been befriended by the daughter of the British commander. As tensions mount and the threat of violence increases, both Angelique and Pierre must decide where their loyalties rest, how far they will go to find freedom, and how much they will risk to find love.

Interview Questions

1.) What are you listening to? While I write, I listen to my Piano Guys station on Pandora. I love piano, cello, and violin music and find them very inspiring as I write.

2.) What are you watching? This past year I’ve re-watched some “classic” historicals with my teen daughters including Last of the Mohicans, The Patriot, Dances with Wolves, etc.

3.) What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? Currently I’m reading Small Town Bachelor by Jill Kemerer and Allegiant by Veronica Roth. But I’m excited to read Becky Wade’s newest book, A Love Like Ours. I also just recently listened to the audio version of Ruby Red a YA by Kerstin Gier and liked it so much that now I added the next two books in the series to my TBR pile.



Mackinac Island

When asked what the inspiration behind Captured by Love was, Jody responded with this answer:

The story is set on Mackinac Island, a popular tourist destination in the Midwest. It’s my hope that the book captures the beauty of the area along with details of the fur-trading era. I also wanted to portray all of the difficulties that came during the British rule of the island during the War of 1812–starvation-like conditions, blockades, threats by the British captors, and an impending battle against the Americans who wanted to retake the island.

– Jody Hedlund


Thank you so much for joining us today, Jody. It was a pleasure to host you here. Learn more about Jody: Facebook ǀ Twitter ǀ Website