Presenting the 2018 Longlists

Hello fellow readers, bloggers and authors. First, we’d like to say a big thank you to every reader and author who nominated their favorite reads of 2017, and likewise to those who shared about the opportunity to nominate on social media. The Advisory Board is again so grateful for the support and interest in this program. Like the last two years, the following nomination process applied to each of our seven categories.INSPYs, INSPY Awards 2018

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

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

From the lists below, the Advisory Board will be narrowing these respective lists down to five books per category which will become our 2018 short lists. From there, the same judging process and practices will follow.

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

Contemporary Romance / Romantic Suspense

Charming the Troublemaker (Bling! Romance) by Pepper Basham

Just the Way You Are (Woven Words) by Pepper Basham

A New Shade of Summer (Waterfall Press) by Nicole Deese

Chasing Secrets (Revell) by Lynette Eason

Moving Target (Revell) by Lynette Eason

Then There Was You (Bellbird Press) by Kara Isaac

The Writing Desk (Zondervan) by Rachel Hauck

Jane of Austin (Waterbrook) by Hillary Manton Lodge

Blind Spot (Bethany House) by Dani Pettrey

All This Time (Larkspur Press) by Melissa Tagg

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck (Revell) by Bethany Turner

True to You (Bethany House) by Becky Wade

Just Look Up (Tyndale) by Courtney Walsh

Begin Again (Impact Editions) by Crystal Walton

Just Maybe (Impact Editions) by Crystal Walton

Debut Novel

A Season to Dance (Bling! Romance) by Patricia Beal

Still Waters (Firefly Southern Fiction) by Lindsey P. Brackett

Freedom’s Ring (Tyndale) by Heidi Chiavaroli

Count Me In (I21 Publishing House) by Mikal Dawn

Grace in Strange Disguise (Indie) by Christine Dillon

The Elusive Miss Ellison (Kregel) by Carolyn Miller

Waiting for Butterflies (Walrus Publishing) by Karen Sargent

Stars in the Grass (Shiloh Run Press) by Ann Marie Stewart

Lady Jayne Disappears (Revell) by Joanna Davidson Politano

General Fiction

In the Light of the Garden (Lake Union Publishing) by Heather Burch

Perennials (Thomas Nelson) by Julie Cantrell

Looking Glass Lies (Waterfall Press) by Varina Denman

Catching the Wind (Tyndale) by Melanie Dobson

A Song of Home: A Novel of the Swing Era (Kregel) by Susie Finkbeiner

A Trail of Crumbs: A Novel of the Great Depression (Kregel) by Susie Finkbeiner

Life After (Waterbrook) by Katie Ganshert

The Mark of the King (Bethany House) by Jocelyn Green

The Esther Paradigm (Radiant Publications) by Sarah Monzon

The Space Between Words (Thomas Nelson) by Michele Phoenix

The Austen Escape (Thomas Nelson) by Katherine Reay

Bringing Maggie Home (Waterbrook) by Kim Vogel Sawyer

The Memory of You (Thomas Nelson) by Catherine West

Before We Were Yours (Ballantine Books) by Lisa Wingate

Home (Shiloh Run Press) by Ginny L. Yttrup

Historical Romance

A Note Yet Unsung (Bethany House) by Tamera Alexander

To Wager Her Heart (Zondervan) by Tamera Alexander

The Road to Paradise (Waterbrook) by Karen Barnett

Many Sparrows (Waterbrook) by Lori Benton

A Lady in Disguise (Howard) by Sandra Byrd

Wings of the Wind (Bethany House) by Connilyn Cosette

Havencross (Covenant Communications) by Julie Daines

A Moonbow Night (Revell) by Laura Frantz

An Inconvenient Beauty (Bethany House) by Kristi Ann Hunter

An Uncommon Courtship (Bethany House) by Kristi Ann Hunter

The Dishonorable Miss DeLancy (Kregel) by Carolyn Miller

Lady Jayne Disappears (Revell) by Joanna Davidson Politano

Once an Heiress (Waterfall Press) by Renee Ryan

The Sound of Rain (Bethany House) by Sarah Loudin Thomas

A Name Unknown (Bethany House) by Roseanna M. White

Literature for Young Adults

The Messengers: Concealed (Concordia Publishing House) by Lisa M. Clark

– The Returning (Tyndale) by Rachelle Dekker

Unraveling (Thomas Nelson) by Sara Ella

Spark (Love2readlove2write Publishing, LLC) by J.M. Hackman

For Love and Honor (Zondervan) by Jody Hedlund

Playing by Heart (Vinspire) by Carmela A. Martino

The Lost Girl of Astor Street (Blink) by Stephanie Morrill

The Evaporation of Sofi Snow (Thomas Nelson) by Mary Weber


– The Enoch Effect (Waterfall Press) by Rick Acker

If I’m Found (Zondervan) by Terri Blackstock

Death at Thorburn Hall (Bethany House) by Julianna Deering

Crown of Souls (Bethany House) by Ronie Kendig

A Portrait of Vengeance (Thomas Nelson) by Carrie Stuart Parks

Imperfect Justice (Thomas Nelson) by Cara Putman

Without Warning (Tyndale) by Joel Rosenberg

Fatal Mistake (FaithWords) by Susan Sleeman

The House on Foster Hill (Bethany House) by Jaime Jo Wright

Speculative Fiction

Raging Storm (Harvest House) by Vannetta Chapman

The Beast of Talesend (Indie) by Kyle Robert Schultz

The Divide (Tyndale) by Jolina Petersheim

The Girl Who Could See (Indie) by Kara Swanson

King’s Blood (Bethany House) by Jill Williamson

We’d like to congratulate all of the nominated authors and thank all of the bloggers and readers who put forth their favorite reads of 2017.

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

2018 Nominations Now Open!

Hello, INSPY readers. The advisory board is excited to open year eight of the INSPY Awards, a program for the bloggers’ “best in fiction” award is welcoming a new year and opening the nominations for 2018.

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, general and INDIE markets.

If you haven’t nominated a book in recent years, please note, 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 collecting our long list from the top 15 nominated novels in each category. So, even if you know someone else has nominated your favorite read of 2017 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 read through our nominating refresher post, and the nomination rules before you submit nominations.

The dates of eligibility include books published in print between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017. If a print book was released as an ebook prior to 2017, it is ineligible. Reissued books are also ineligible.

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 seventh annual INSPY awards will be announced June 28, 2018.

To stay up to date with all things INSPYs follow along with us on Twitter | Facebook | Google+ | Goodreads

Or email us with any questions:

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


2017 INSPY Award Winners

2017 INSPY Award Winners

Following careful consideration, our incredible judging panels (who we extend many thanks to) chose the 2017 INSPYs award winners in our seven respective categories. Following months of reading (by the Advisory Board and later, our judging panels), planning, author interviews and emails in excess, the INSPY Advisory Board is pleased to announce the 2017 INSPY Award Winners.

Below are the seven winning novels in their respective categories and a statement from our judges on the reason why they felt it was worth the award…


It is with great pleasure that we announce the decision for the contemporary romance award. Just a Kiss, by Denise Hunter holds the elements any reader would enjoy. The judging panel was blown away by the depth of this novel.

Just a Kiss focuses not only on romance but also on very modern issues. The military PTSD is a focus point that drove the characters at times. It wasn’t presented in a way that glorified it, but showed that it was acceptable, and that one could get help.

The romance element is tender and true. It is the type of romance one would hope to be able to form in real life. The moments are sweet, soft, and filled with faith not only in God but also in the characters’ ability to follow Christ and their love.

Though it is the conclusion in a series, this didn’t hold any of us back from enjoying it. It reads well as a stand alone or in order of the series. Denise Hunter created the perfect romance novel with Just a Kiss.


Striking a perfect harmony between humor and theme, Kara Isaac’s Close to You may seem like a light and frothy romcom until one actually delves inside. It’s an intelligent story, never apologizing for its unique setting, quirky tale, and delightful romance which all sit alongside the characters’ arcs beautifully! The characterization is a standout, with serious growth as the story progresses. The faith elements are interwoven seamlessly, quietly growing stronger, and feel like a natural progression. The writing truly shines as Ms. Isaac takes themes from Tolkien’s works, expands on them, and creates her own particular adventure. The novel does not read like a debut, but more as a seasoned writer’s exploration of reconciling with your past, surrendering to the point of being vulnerable, and the lessons we learn from these emotions.

Author Interview with Kara Isaac


There was something about Tessa Afshar’s Land of Silence that captivated us all unanimously. For starters, it is a beautifully written story. With vivid descriptions and relatable characters, this is an emotional read that will touch readers long after the last page. Afshar utilizes touches of humor as well as romance to complement the bittersweet and, building off one word in the Gospel account, she graces readers with a story that lingers soul-deep. Elianna could be any woman, today or in times past, and this is what makes her such a compelling heroine. Her encounter with Jesus leaves us loving Him all the more, and this is why we feel Land of Silence merits this year’s INSPY Award for General Fiction.

Author Interview with Tessa Afshar


The Lady and the Lionheart is a story of character growth, painful pasts, and the wonder and joy as well as the ups and downs of a faith filled life.  Charming characters, a touch of suspense mixed with highly emotional stakes and an intriguing historical setting along with the author’s smooth, engaging prose made this novel one that all our judges enjoyed. A strong, spiritual message and a romance that builds slowly from friendship combine to make a well woven story that is appealing from beginning to end.

Author Interview with Joanne Bischof


Unblemished is a beautifully woven story. The blending of contemporary and fantasy is well imagined, and intricately described, immersing the reader in this storybook world.

The story is full of danger, deception, adventure, romance, and an overarching message of hope. Along with these things, there are so many allegorical references to God’s love, and plan for us, and themes of love and beauty. It’s a story many can relate to in one way or another. The themes the prose presents bring focus to our human blemishes. Imperfections we carry until forgiveness and Christ’s love washes them away. The world that’s created and the depth of character development bring this story to life. Unblemished is a #BookHangover at its finest!

Author Interview with Sara Ella


Terri Blackstock pens a gripping novel chock-full of suspense and perils as Casey and the reader alike go on the run for their lives. All proving she’s a masterful story teller. Riveting storytelling and intriguing characters make If I Run a fast-paced tale we couldn’t put down! There’s a perfect balance in the POV between Casey and Dylan, each chapter making you more emotionally connected to the characters. The plot keeps us guessing, and the characters felt rich and complex.  And besides being a gripping thriller, this book shows how the quiet witnessing of a Christian’s everyday life can make an impact on the people around you. The simple and unobtrusive thread of faith woven throughout the story serves as a reminder that oftentimes the loudest message comes through the gentle whispers of living faithfully each day.


The Shattered Vigil by Patrick Carr is a sequel that dares to change the script rather than repeat its predecessor’s formula, shining the lens deeper on the characters already established while introducing new ones who quickly became old friends. Carr returns to a world at once different, yet like our own. His command of multiple characters and settings brought together the genres of fantasy and mystery in a satisfying journey. But it is the spiritual journies of the characters that continue to shine: a hero who doesn’t like to go to war and instead seeks peace, enjoying a rich relationship with God that brings him into conflict with his own destiny.

Author Interview with Patrick W. Carr

We’d like to thank our judges for their hard work and careful consideration of each title.

Congratulations to the winners and all the nominated authors! 

Download the press release here

A Conversation with Sara Ella

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Sara Ella. Her novel, Unblemished (Thomas Nelson) is on the 2017 shortlist in the Literature for Young Adults category. Please join us in welcoming Sara.

Sara shares about spending a day in the life of her characters (Ebony or Ky), Unblemished’s creation – plus more!


Eliyana has always recoiled from her own reflection in the mirror. But what if that were only one Reflection—one world? What if another world existed where her blemish could become her strength?

Eliyana is used to the shadows. With a hideous birthmark covering half her face, she just hopes to graduate high school unscathed. That is, until Joshua hops a fence and changes her perspective. No one, aside from her mother, has ever treated her as normal. Maybe even beautiful. Because of Joshua, Eliyana finally begins to believe she could be loved.

But one night her mother doesn’t come home, and that’s when everything gets weird.

Now Joshua is her new, and rather reluctant, legal Guardian. Add a hooded stalker and a Central Park battle to the mix and you’ve gone from weird to otherworldly.

Eliyana soon finds herself in a world much larger and more complicated than she’s ever known. A world enslaved by a powerful and vile man. And Eliyana holds the answer to defeating him. How can an ordinary girl, a blemished girl, become a savior when she can’t even save herself? – Goodreads


INSPYs: If you had to walk one day in the life of one of your characters, who would it be and why? I think I’d like to see what it’s like to be Ebony or Ky. They are both so confident and don’t seem to care what others think of them. I relate to El’s insecurities a lot. It might be nice to be the opposite for a change.

Sara’s workspace! [this is where the magic happens, readers!]

What inspired Unblemished? It was partly my love for Beauty & the Beast (true beauty lies within), but mostly stemmed from my own experience as a teen. I remember what it was like to feel ugly because of acne. To never want to look in the mirror because of mean things people said. And nowadays with filtered selfies and so much on social media telling us who to be and how many likes define us, I wanted to write something that showed teens they can and should be exactly who they are.

  1. What are you watching?The Handmaid’s Tale (which is totally addicting by the way).
  2. What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? The Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber (and its AMAZING!)

Faceoff Questions:
  1. Print or Ebook? Print! My Kindle just doesn’t smell the same 😉
  2. Early Bird or Night Owl? Used to be a night owl but morphed into an early bird. Don’t ask me why, LOL.
  3. Call or Text? Depends on who you are and what’s going on. I love long convos with my besties, but most of the time texting is the quicker, easier route.


Once upon a time, Sara Ella dreamed she would marry a prince and live in a Disney-style castle. Today, she is a winner of the ECPA Christian Book Award for her debut novel Unblemished, which released to magical applause: “a stunning journey into a fascinating new world of reflections” (RT Book Reviews). Sara spends her days throwing living room dance parties for her two princesses and conquering realms of her own imaginings. She believes “Happily Ever After Is Never Far Away.” Connect with Sara online at, Facebook: WritingHisTruth, Twitter: @SaraEllaWrites, Instagram: SaraEllaWrites, and YouTube: Sara Ella.

Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs blog today, Sara. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight, Unblemished.

A Conversation with Lisa T. Bergren

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Lisa T. Bergren. Her novel, Remnants: Season of Glory (Blink) is on the 2017 shortlist in the Speculative Fiction category. Please join us in welcoming Lisa.

Lisa shares with us which of her characters she’s like to be for a day, previews her next series, shares about her TBR – plus more!


In the third and final volume of the Remnants series—Seasons of Glory—the power of the Remnants and their people are growing, threatening Pacifica’s careful plans for domination. Among the Trading Union, village after village, outpost after outpost, and city after city are drawn to people of the Way, and agree to stand against those who hunt them. But Pacifica intends to ferret out and annihilate the Remnants—as well as everyone who hasn’t sworn allegiance to the empire—setting the stage for an epic showdown that will change the course of a world on the brink … forever. – Goodreads


INSPYs: If you had to walk one day in the life of one of your characters, who would it be and why? Andriana—because I always want to be in my heroine’s shoes! And her special gift is as an empath—so she can feel what everyone else is feeling. It would be cool—because wouldn’t you understand everyone around you so much better??—and it’d be bad—because that’s a lot of emotion to deal with. The second reason is that she gets to be a part of a group who are stronger together and fighting evil as a body—that fellowship would be incredibly awesome. And well, the last reason I wouldn’t mind walking in Andriana’s shoes is her knight, Ronan. Because, oh my. He’s a true hero and I wouldn’t mind just admiring him for a day.

Can you tell us what’s next for you? I’m working on a 1770s trilogy, The Sugar Baron’s Daughters. It’s set in the West Indies/Caribbean and I’m loving it! The first title is called KETURAH, and will release Spring 2018 with Bethany.

  1. What are you watching?The Bachelorette (I know, I know—but I watch it with my young adult daughters—guilty pleasure!); House Hunters International; Next Food Network Star; Indian Summer
  2. What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? Research books for Sugar Baron’s Daughters!
Faceoff Questions:
  1. Print or Ebook? Neither for fiction. Audio! For research, print (see pic above).
  2. Cake or Pie? Mmmm…pie. A la mode.
  3. Call or Text? Text. Introverts hate being on the phone!


Lisa T. Bergren is the author of over forty books, with a combined count of nearly three million copies sold.  She has written bestselling children’s books, award-wining YA (River of Time Series: Waterfall), popular historical fiction, contemporary fiction, women’s nonfiction, and gift books.  She is a writer residing in Colorado Springs, CO, with her husband and three children.  You can find out more about Lisa at

Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs blog today, Lisa. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight, Remnants: Season of Glory.

A Conversation with Becky Wade

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Becky Wade. Her novel, Her One and Only (Bethany House) is on the 2017 shortlist in the Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense category. Please join us in welcoming Becky.

Becky shares about reaching the end of a four-book series, her chocolate preference (white or dark), shares a picture of her TBR – plus more!


Romance Fans Eagerly Anticipate Every New Release from Becky Wade.

Gray Fowler, star NFL tight end, is being pursued by a stalker, so his team hires a protection agency to keep Gray under the watch of a bodyguard at all times. When Gray meets Dru Porter, an agent assigned to him, he’s indignant. How can an attractive young female half his size possibly protect him?

But Dru’s a former Marine, an expert markswoman, and a black belt. She’s also ferociously determined to uncover the identity of Gray’s stalker. And she’s just as determined to avoid any kind of romantic attachment between herself and the rugged football player with the mysterious past. But the closer they get to finding the stalker, the closer they grow to each other. As the danger rises, can Dru and Gray entrust their hearts–and their lives–to one another? – Goodreads


INSPYs: What inspired the characters and story of Her One and Only? Her One and Only‘s heroine, Dru, is a professional bodyguard and her character was inspired by female superheroes like Wonder Woman. Dru’s confident, brave, and blunt.  I had a blast writing her!

Gray, Her One and Only’s hero, is an NFL football player.  His character was inspired by all the professional football players I’ve watched on the field and in interviews over the years.

The story idea for Her One and Only was inspired by the bodyguard love stories I’ve enjoyed in books and movies.  Remember The Bodyguard with Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner?  I gave that premise my own twist by casting the heroine as the bodyguard.

 As the final book in the Porter Family Series, how was it to say goodbye to these characters in Dru’s story? It was bittersweet!  I sniffed back a mist of tears as I wrote the final pages of Her One and Only’s last chapter and epilogue.  It was difficult to say goodbye to those characters and their stories!  At the same time, I was grateful to the Lord because (thanks to  His equipping) I’d done what I’d set out to do five years before — I’d written my first ever series just the way I’d envisioned it.  Thus, the completion of Her One and Only delivered equal measures of joy and sorrow.


> 1. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE WRITING OR READING SNACK? Lately, it’s iced tea and trail mix.

> 2. WHAT ARE YOU READING OR WHAT’S ON YOUR NIGHTSTAND? Novels by my friend Katie Ganshert, Jojo Moyes, and Kristan Higgins are sitting on my nightstand currently.  I can’t wait to read these and others this summer!

>Faceoff Questions:


> 2. EARLY BIRD OR NIGHT OWL? Night owl.

> 3. PC OR MAC? Mac.

> 4. COMEDY OR ACTION? Action.  Unless it’s a ROMANTIC comedy, in which case, I’d choose that hands down.

Thank you very much for interviewing me here on the INSPYs site!  I’m thankful to the advisory board members and the judges who give of their time to make the INSPY Awards possible.


Becky Wade is a native of California who attended Baylor University, met and married a Texan, and now lives in Dallas. A favorite among readers of Christian contemporary romance, Becky has won a Carol Award, an Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award, and an INSPY Award. Learn more at

Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs blog today, Becky. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight, Her One and Only.

A Conversation with Carrie Stuart Parks

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Carrie Stuart Parks. Her novel, When Death Draws Near (Thomas Nelson) is on the 2017 shortlist in the Mystery/Thriller category. Please join us in welcoming Carrie

Below Carrie shares about the challenges of writing a series about the same characters, what’s playing on her TV screen – plus more!


Forensic artist Gwen Marcey is between jobs when she accepts temporary work in Pikeville, Kentucky—a small town facing big-city crime. But before Gwen can finish her first drawing of the serial rapist who is on the loose, the latest witness vanishes. Just like all the others.

Gwen suspects a connection between the rapist and the “accidental” deaths that are happening around town, but the local sheriff has little interest in her theories. When her digitally-obsessed teenage daughter joins her, Gwen turns her attention to a second assignment: going undercover in a serpent-handling church. She could get a handsome reward for uncovering illegal activity—a reward she desperately needs, as it seems her breast cancer has returned. But snakes aren’t the only ones ready to kill. Can Gwen uncover the truth—and convince anyone to believe her—before she becomes a victim herself?

In a thrilling race against time, When Death Draws Near plunges us into cold-case murders, shady politics, and a den of venomous suspects. – Goodreads

Interview Questions

INSPYs: If you had to walk one day in the life of one of your characters, who would it be and why? The main character, Gwen Marcey, is like a younger, prettier, more talented, better me…come to think of it, she’s nothing like me! Her forensic work is loosely based on my own, so I actually have walked in her shoes.

Carrie says,
“We were in Pikeville, Kentucky, teaching a forensic art
class for the Kentucky State Police. While there I did research on the
area, including attending a serpent handling church in Jolo, West
Virginia. This was taken after our horseback ride (not on that horse!)
with some of my students (I’m standing with the black hat.) Elements of
the horseback ride is in the book, When Death Draws Near.”

What are some of the challenge of writing a series about the same characters? You name it: who did I kill off? How old is everyone? What color is the kitchen? Did I use that line before? Yiiiiikes!


What are you watching?  Some reality shows like flipping houses, Hoarding (for when I need inspiration to clean,) My 600 Pound Life (for when I need to feel thin…,) Forensic Files (may just have one of my cases,) good movies.

What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? Research books for newest novel.

Faceoff Questions:

1. Print or Ebook? Print
2. Cake or Pie? Have you seen me? Both!
3. Coffee or Tea? COFFEE!!!
4. Comedy or Drama? Are you asking about my life?


Carrie Stuart Parks is a Christy finalist as well as a Carol award-winning author. She has won numerous awards for her fine art as well. An internationally known forensic artist, she travels with her husband, Rick, across the US and Canada teaching courses in forensic art to law enforcement professionals. The author/illustrator of numerous books on drawing and painting, Carrie continues to create dramatic watercolors from her studio in the mountains of Idaho. Visits Carrie on her website.

Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs blog today, Carrie. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight your novel, When Death Draws Near.

A Conversation with Mary Weber

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Mary Weber. Her novel, Siren’s Song (Thomas Nelson) is on the 2017 shortlist in the Literature for Young Adults category. Please join us in welcoming Mary.

 Mary shares some fun details about Nym’s journey in the Storm Siren trilogy, her (new) go-to reading snack – plus more!Siren's Song


With the loss of Tulla still fresh in mind, Rasha’s fate unknown, and Lord Myles taken over by the dark ability, Nym and the few Bron soldiers rush to warn Cashlin’s queen. Only to discover it may already be too late for the monarch and her eerie kingdom. As the Luminescents are sifting through Nym’s past memories and the queen is reading into her future, Nym is given a choice of how to defeat Draewulf, but the cost may be more than she can bear. And even then there are no guarantees.

With that reality burrowing into her bones—along with the guilt of the lives she will sacrifice—Nym returns to her homeland of Faelen to raise an army of peasants through promises of freedom. But when the few friends she has left, along with the world and citizens she loves, are staring down the face of a monster and his undead army, will Nym summon every element her blood is capable of controlling . . . or surrender to a different strength—one of sacrifice?

Because in the end, death may be more merciful for them all. – Goodreads

Interview Questions

INSPYs: What inspired the Storm Siren trilogy (or Siren’s Song specifically)? Oh man, so many things. *laughs* I think, simply put, the Trilogy was inspired by the journey (we all go through) of self-becoming.

Nym starts out the series carrying the weight of where she’s been, what she’s done, and who others say she is – as well as who SHE believes she is. Through the trilogy those things are all stripped away, re-framed, and reconstructed at a soul level, until, while life has only gotten harder, her perspective and relationships have grown richer and purer.

Ultimately, Siren’s Song is a celebration of that – of the journeys each of us are on and the people we’ve become, and the friends we do life with. I mean, Nym is still ill-prepared and fighting her demons as she’s forced to face the approaching battle head on – but that’s how so much of life is I think. You prepare, you brace, you discover who your community is, but at some point you also realize you were never in control anyway. Because life comes to us trickling through the hands of Someone infinitely more sovereign. So we soak it in, walk in faith with the one who holds us, and live it to the fullest – grief, loss, victory, and all – knowing there is ALWAYS a beautiful purpose.

Did you always know how you wanted Nym’s story to end or were there some surprises along the way? Oh fun question. 🙂 And I actually had no idea how it’d end when I began the trilogy. I love discovering people’s stories – whether in real life or with my characters – so I tend to buckle up and dig in for the ride. However, a few chapters into Siren’s Song, I got stuck and for the life of me couldn’t push further! I finally realized I actually needed to know the ending in order to get Nym there. Which meant I scrapped what I had and started from the last page – and wrote a third of the book backward. Hmm, I guess “beginning at the end” really is a thing! 😉

Mary Weber

Mary’s new favorite reading snack!

  1. What’s your favorite writing or reading snack? Normally I go for Cheetos, apples, or mangoes, but lately I’ve been weirdly obsessed with these (see picture)! So crunchy & good!
  2. What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? (And a pic for these!!) An old favorite (The Scorpio Races), a new-to-me read (Faking Normal) because I adore Courtney Stevens’s voice, a sequel (Tosca Lee’s Firstborn), and my latest (to refresh my memory as I edit the follow-up)!

    Mary Weber

    Mary’s “nightstand reading”!

Faceoff Questions:

  1. White Chocolate or Dark Chocolate? Ooooh, Dark Chocolate. With Sea Salt.
  2. Early Bird or Night Owl? I’d say Early Bird by necessity & Night Owl by choice. Except I must be getting old because these days I’m like, “MY BED IS EVERYTHING. ALL OF IT. I LOVE SLEEP.”
  3. Print or ebook? PRINT! The bookish scent calls to me like an old friend. <3


Mary Weber is the multiple-award-winning author of the bestselling young adult Storm Siren Trilogy, and The Evaporation of Sofi Snow series – all by HarperCollins. An avid high school, middle school, and conference speaker, Mary’s passion is helping others find their voice amid a world that often feels too loud. When she’s not plotting adventures involving tough girls who frequently take over the world, Mary sings 80’s hairband songs to her three muggle children, and ogles her husband who looks strikingly like Wolverine. They live in California which is perfect for stalking L.A. bands, Joss Whedon, and the ocean.

She gets nerdy at, FACEBOOK @MaryWeberAuthor, INSTAGRAM @MaryWeberAuthor, TWITTER @mchristineweber, and GOODREADS. Come say hi!!

Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs blog, Mary. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight your novel, Siren’s Song.

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 Patrick W. Carr

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Patrick W. Carr. His novel, The Shattered Vigil (Bethany House) is on the 2017 shortlist in the Speculative Fiction category. Please join us in welcoming Patrick.

Below, Patrick shares inspiration behind his shortlisted novel including the challenges of writing this story, and whether he’s a PC or Mac kind of guy – plus more!


Victory over the dark forces during the feast of Bas-solas should have guaranteed safety for the continent. Instead, Willet and the rest of the Vigil discover they’ve been outsmarted by those seeking to unleash the evil that inhabits the Darkwater. Jorgen, the member of the Vigil assigned to Frayel, has gone missing, and new attacks have struck at the six kingdoms’ ability to defend themselves.

Just when the Vigil thought they had quenched the menace from their enemy in Collum, a new threat emerges: assassins hunting the Vigil, men and women who cannot be seen until it’s too late. The orders of the church and the rulers of the kingdoms, fearing the loss of the Vigil’s members altogether, have decided to take them into protective custody to safeguard their gift. On Pellin’s orders, the Vigil scatters, leaving Willet to be taken prisoner by the church in Bunard.

In the midst of this, Willet learns of the murder of an obscure nobleman’s daughter by one of the unseen assassins. Now he must escape his imprisonment and brave the wrath of the church to find the killer in order to turn back this latest threat to the northern continent. – Goodreads

Interview Questions

INSPYs: What was the inspiration behind the characters in The Shattered VigilI’d always wanted to write a detective story from the time I was a boy. When my agent and publisher said they’d like a follow-up to “The Staff and the Sword” it seemed like an opportune time to indulge that desire. I’d never written one before so I needed a cast of characters to work with. For the lead character, Willet Dura, I decided to research the greatest detective characters of all time. I’d already read most of the Sherlock Holmes stories so I went to the library and checked out every book by Raymond Chandler I could find. His detective is one of the most famous, Phillip Marlowe. I also watched a lot of the old Hercule Poirot (Agatha Christie) episodes on Netflix and read some more recent stories by James Lee Burke (gritty stuff, that). All in all, I think I spent about a year reading and watching everything about detective stories I could find. I felt that to make the story work, I would need to hold on to the trope of the hard-bitten but tender-hearted detective. However, since this was also an epic fantasy, I needed a twist.

This twist came in the form of the supporting characters as well as my protagonist. For some reason, whenever I would write about Willet going into the poor quarter, I would get these flashbacks to the book and the movie “Oliver Twist.” By the time I got to the end of “The Shock of Night,” the prequel to “The Shattered Vigil,” I knew I’d stumbled into creating a wonderful set of supporting characters. Every time I brought the urchins into a scene, they completely stole it, which was kind of funny since they’re all thieves. I’ve become especially fond of Fess and Mark who are modeled after my two youngest sons. That’s probably why their scenes tend to get the most comment from reviewers. I’ve toyed with the idea of giving the urchins their own series, but that’s a book for another day. To be honest, the research I’d need to do for that type of story is more than a little intimidating.

The characters of Bolt and Peret Volsk were actually the easiest to write, since they were based on universal types that you’ll find in any fantasy novel. What I tried to do with Bolt was to give him a more nuanced background so that he wouldn’t seem like a cardboard cutout. Having him spout aphorisms that he tended to make up on the spot was one of the better inspirations I had for the series. It made a pretty forbidding figure more approachable and it allowed me to show his admiration for Willet Dura’s courage without having him break character. I’m working on the third book now, The Wounded Shadow, and a fair portion of the book is given to Bolt confronting his past. For Peret Volsk, who also plays a fairly typical fantasy character, I wanted to make him complex. In the end, he may be one of the most realistic characters I’ve written in that readers don’t really know how to feel about him. He’s simply too complicated to pin down.

As for the rest of the Vigil, the challenge was to communicate the weight of time within their characters and still make them characters the reader could relate to. It’s a common wish, I think for people to desire more time here on earth to accomplish our goals, but do we really want the burden of living centuries? I think the answer varies according to the individual, so I tried to keep the inner monologue of the members of the Vigil in keeping.

What were some of the greatest challenges you found while writing this story? By far the biggest challenge was getting the story to feel right. I remember being about 40,000 words into the novel and realizing I just didn’t like what I’d written. The pacing and sequence of events just didn’t feel right. I ended up tearing everything up and starting over. After I made the decision to do that, I moped around the house for a week. I’d put so much time and effort into the manuscript and now I was going to start from scratch. I remember talking to my sister (she’s my alpha reader) and she told me that if I’d made the decision to start over then the only thing I could do was to sit down and start writing.

In the end, she was right, of course, but throwing away those 40,000 words felt like pulling porcupine quills. I wanted so badly to find a way to make them work so that I wouldn’t be surrendering all that time. However, the final product that became “The Shattered Vigil” was so much stronger than the original.

Any challenge after that disaster seems pretty small now in retrospect, but one I didn’t count on was the size of the story. The world I’d created was much larger and more complex than the one I used for “The Staff and the Sword.” As I wrote, I would frequently have to go back and read portions of “By Divine Right” and “The Shock of Night” to make sure that events, characters, and world-building were all coherent. With this last book, “The Wounded Shadow,” the challenge has only gotten bigger, but I have a great set of beta-readers to work with, so I’m hopeful everything will come together.

  1. What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? I’m currently reading “Book of Spies.” It’s an anthology of excerpts from the best spy novels ever written. Everything I read is research for a future project, but I’m not talking about this one just yet. This summer I’ve decided to read “The Baroque Cycle” by Neil Stephenson, a brilliant writer and really the only writer I’ve ever read who can make writing in present tense look effortless.

    Photo: Netflix

  2. What are you currently watching? Mary and I are watching the Netflix series, “The Crown,” which is wonderfully enjoyable. We’re also waiting with baited breath for the next season of “Stranger Things” to come out this fall.
Faceoff Questions:
  1. PC or Mac? I have a PC desktop unit that I built myself, but I also have an ipad that I use for the iRealPro app. It’s a play along for aspiring jazz musicians. Aspiring describes me to a “T.” I think God wants me to try and learn jazz just to make sure I stay humble. Before this I used to think I was a reasonably bright fellow. 😉
  2. Print or Ebook? Print
  3. Comedy or Action? Both, separately or together, preferably together.


Patrick W. Carr is author of the acclaimed and award-winning The Staff and the Sword series, as well as The Darkwater Saga. After graduating from Georgia Tech, Carr worked at a nuclear plant, did design work for the Air Force, worked for a printing company, and as an engineering consultant. Patrick’s day gig for the last five years has been teaching high school math in Nashville, Tennessee. Patrick is a member of ACFW and MTCW and makes his home in Nashville with his incredible wife and their four awesome sons. Visit him on his official website.

Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs blog today, Patrick. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight The Shattered Vigil.