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!


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.


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


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 Susie Finkbeiner

INSPYs 2016-Susie Finkbeiner

Today we’re talking with another author shortlisted in our 2016 awards as our interview series continues. The spotlight today is on Susie Finkbeiner and her novel, A Cup of Dust (Kregel Publications), which is on the 2016 shortlist in the General Fiction category.

We chat with Susie about the inspiration behind A Cup of Dust, what’s next for her (fans of A Cup of Dust will want to read about this one), and learn what TV addiction she makes time for every Monday.

Where you come from isn’t who you are. Book - A Cup of Dust

Ten-year-old Pearl Spence is a daydreamer, playing make-believe to escape life in Oklahoma’s Dust Bowl in 1935. The Spences have their share of misfortune, but as the sheriff’s family, they’ve got more than most in this dry, desolate place. They’re who the town turns to when there’s a crisis or a need—and during these desperate times, there are plenty of both, even if half the town stands empty as people have packed up and moved on.

Pearl is proud of her loving, strong family, though she often wearies of tracking down her mentally impaired older sister or wrestling with her grandmother’s unshakable belief in a God who Pearl just isn’t sure she likes.

Then a mysterious man bent on revenge tramps into her town of Red River. Eddie is dangerous and he seems fixated on Pearl. When he reveals why he’s really there and shares a shocking secret involving the whole town, dust won’t be the only thing darkening Pearl’s world.

While the tone is suspenseful and often poignant, the subtle humor of Pearl’s voice keeps A Cup of Dust from becoming heavyhanded. Finkbeiner deftly paints a story of a family unit coming together despite fractures of distress threatening to pull them apart. – Goodreads | Amazon

INSPYs: What inspired A Cup of Dust?  When I was 17 I read The Grapes of Wrath for the first time. I’d never even heard of The Dust Bowl before then. Over the next 20 years I researched that era, pouring over books and documentaries and the photography of Dorothea Lange. Then, one day, I looked at my husband and said, “I’m ready to write my Dust Bowl novel.” He smiled and answered, “It’s about time.”
INSPYs: Can you give us a sneak peek into what’s coming next from you? I’m actually working on the sequel to A Cup of Dust. It’s called A Trail of Crumbs and it picks up right where Cup left off. I can’t wait for my readers to experience more of Pearl’s story. 


  • What are you listening to? I listen to all kinds of music. But when I write, I stick to classical music. Debussy is my favorite, particularly his piano pieces. 
  • What are you watching? I don’t watch much television. I find that it sucks away a lot of the time I could be spending with my family, writing, or reading. I do, however, indulge in watching Gotham with my husband on Mondays. It’s fun.

Susie Fink IMG_20160509_134629

  • What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? I’m currently toggling between This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff and Symphony for the City of the Dead by M.T. Anderson. Next on my list of to-reads is Alison Hodgson’s The Pug List and Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. I also have a stack of books to read aloud to my kids this summer. I can hardly wait!

Thanks for joining us today, Susie! It’s great to learn more about your novel, A Cup of Dust and the inspiration behind it, plus see what’s on your reading list.


Susie Finkbeiner is the author of A Cup of Dust: A Novel of the Dust Bowl (Kregel, 2015) as well as My Mother’s Chamomile (WhiteFire, 2014) and Paint Chips (WhiteFire, 2013). 

She is currently working on her fourth novel.

Susie is a wife, mother of three, and avid reader. She enjoys time with her family, coffee dates with her good friends, and quiet moments to read and write.

Author Website | Facebook | Twitter

Year Six! The 2016 INSPY Awards are Now Open

awhCbhLqRceCdjcPQUnn_IMG_0249Good morning, INSPY readers. The advisory board is excited to open year six of the INSPY Awards, a program for the bloggers’ “best in fiction” award is welcoming a new year and opening the nominations for 2016.

The Inspys were created to select and showcase books with the highest literary standards that grapple with the Christian faith and were designed to help readers in their search for the preeminent faith-inspired literature of today.  This program is organized and judged by book bloggers who have considerable experience and knowledge of books published for both the CBA and general markets.

This year, we’ve made a significant change to our nomination process. For you, the nominator, the rules remain the same, only difference you’ll note is the lack of a publicized long list. This is because the advisory board will be collection our long list from the top 15 nominated novels in each category. So, even if you know someone else who has nominated your favorite read of 2015 or you’re certain it’s already been nominated, go ahead and add your voice because that nomination could be the 15th vote that gets the book into the top fifteen.

Once the task of the top 15 is calculated and complete, we will publicize our long list, which will be then narrowed down to five books and from there, the same judging process will apply. For more information on the changes, please refer to our announcement post.

Please note the book eligibility and the nomination rules:

  • The dates of eligibility have returned to a 12 month timeframe and will include books published in print between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2015. If a print book was released as an ebook prior to 2015, it is ineligible.

  • Self-published books have been eliminated from consideration.

  • Reissues are ineligible
  • Books can not be self-nominated by their author.

Books may be nominated in any of the following categories:

  • Debut Novel
  • General Fiction
  • Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense
  • Historical Romance
  • Speculative Fiction
  • Mystery & Thriller
  • Literature for Young Adults

For more detailed description of categories please see the Revised Nomination Categories. If you’d like to read more about the nominating process, read our blog post with some tips on nominating the right books in their best categories. Pull out those lists and let’s begin!

The deadline to nominate a book is January 16. Winners of the sixth annual INSPY awards will be announced June 28, 2016.

To stay up to date with all things INSPYs follow along on:



Or email us with any questions: inspyawards@gmail.com

We look forward to your nominations. Besides nominating the best in faith-driven literature, another way to help today is to spread the word — blog about the INSPYs, tell your friends.

inspy nominations

Looking Back: Authors who Brought Inspirational Fiction into the 21st Century

Every generation brings with it a crop of new authors.  What we sometimes forget in our excitement welcoming new authors  are the names that inspired the market of Christian fiction. Unlike secular fiction, the Christian fiction genre and its subgenres, has not been as wildly popular until the more recent years.  Since the below authors came on the scene the Christian Fiction genre has exploded with brilliant talent targeting a wider audience by tackling thrillers, contemporary and even recently, dystopion fiction.   With the recent influx of talented writers genre readers have been able to discover and enjoy this genre.  In an effort to highlight the Christian Fiction genre the Inspy’s Advisory Board is looking back at some of the authors who helped to bring this genre the recognition it deserves.

Ted DekkerTed Dekker: In the early nineties while visiting a friend who had just written a book, Dekker decided to pursue a long held desire to be a novelist. Over the course of two years he wrote two full length novels before starting from scratch and rewriting both. Now fully enamored by the process and the stories, he realized that storytelling was in his blood. Two years and three novels later his first novel was published.

Dekker’s novels have sold over 5 million copies worldwide. Two of his novels, Thr3e and House, have been made into movies with more in production. Dekker resides in Austin, Texas with his wife Lee Ann and two of their daughters.

Dee Henderson: Award-winning novelist Dee Henderson excels at creating believable, challenging characters. Dee is the author of two series: the Uncommon Dee HendersonHeroes series and the O’Malley series of romantic suspense novels. Her books have won a host of awards, including the prestigious RITA Award, Bookseller’s Best Award, and National Reader’s Choice Award and Christy Award, Romance category.

Karen KingsburyKaren Kingsbury: Karen Kingsbury is America’s favorite inspirational novelist. There are more than 25 million copies of her award-winning books in print. Karen’s recent dozen titles have all debuted at or near the top of the New York Times Bestseller’s list. She is also a public speaker, reaching more than 100,000 women annually through various national events. Karen lives and works outside Nashville, Tenn., with her husband, Don, and their five sons, three of whom were adopted from Haiti. Also living nearby is their only daughter, Kelsey.

Most popular to Karen’s name is the many intersecting novels that tell the saga of the Baxter family in the Redemption, Firstborn and Baily Flannigan series’.

Tim LaHaye: LaHaye is best known for authoring the Left Behind fiction series, co-authored with Jerry B. Jenkins, which have broken all pTim Lahayeublishing records with a total of 80 million in print. These books have appeared on the best-seller lists of The New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, and Christian Booksellers Association.  Based on the Bible’s book of Revelation, the apocalyptic thrillers follow the lives of those left behind after the sudden disappearance of millions of believers.

Frank PerettiFrank Peretti: With more than 15 million novels in print, Frank Peretti is nothing short of a publishing phenomenon and has been called “America’s hottest Christian novelist.” The Oath (Word Publishing 1995), sold more than half a million copies within the first six months of release. The Visitation (Word Publishing 1999), was #1 on the CBA Fiction Bestseller list for four months. Born in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada in 1951, Frank is a natural storyteller who, as a youngster in Seattle, regularly gathered the neighborhood children for animated storytelling sessions, drew comics, and tapped out stories on his mother’s portable typewriter.

Janette Oke: Bestselling author Janette Oke (pronounced “oak”) is celebrated across the world for her significant contribution to the Christian book industry. She is credited with launching the modern era of inspirational fiction with the publication of her first novel, Love Comes Softly, in 1979. Today, her novels have sold more than 30 million copies, and she is thJanette Okee recipient of the ECPA President’s Award, the CBA Life Impact Award, the Gold Medallion, and the Christy Award. Janette and her husband, Edward, live in Alberta, Canada.

Janette is well-known for her prairie fiction stories – including the Love Comes Softly Series and the Canadian West novels, and many of her books have been inspiration behind several of the Hallmark Channel’s programming.

Francine RiversFrancine Rivers: Francine Rivers began her literary career at the University of Nevada, Reno, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Journalism. From 1976 to 1985, she had a successful writing career in the general market and her books were awarded or nominated for numerous awards and prizes. Although raised in a religious home, Francine did not truly encounter Christ until later in life, when she was already a wife, mother of three, and an established romance novelist. Shortly after becoming a born-again Christian in 1986, Francine wrote Redeeming Love as her statement of faith.  First published by Bantam Books, and then re-released by Multnomah Publishers in the mid- 1990s, this retelling of the biblical story of Gomer and Hosea set during the time of the California Gold Rush is now considered a classic work of Christian fiction and continues to be one of the Christian Booksellers Association’s top-selling titles; it has held a spot on the Christian bestseller list for nearly a decade.

Lori Wick: Lori Wick is a multifaceted author of Christian fiction. As comfortable writing period stories as she is penning contemporary works, Lori’s Lori Wickbooks (more than 6 million in print) vary widely in location and time period. Many of her books are published by Harvest House. Wick lives in Wisconsin with her husband Bob and 3 children.

Some of Wick’s well-known novels are the stand-alone contemporaries, Bamboo & Lace and Pretense, and her English Garden series.

Just to update you all on where the Inspy Awards are – our 2014 Inspy nominations have now closed and the Advisory Board is getting to work determining the five shortlist nominees in all seven categories before we put the winning decision in the capable hands of our judges. Judging applications open on March first. Until then, feel free to join the Inspy Awards on our Goodreads page where we ask that you leave us some helpful feedback via polls or invite you to join in some discussion threads. Stay tuned for more news!