A Conversation with Zachary Bartels

INSPYs 2016-Zachary Bartels Feature

Our second interview today welcomes author, Zachary Bartels. Zachary has been shortlisted in previous INSPY awards and this year, his novel The Last Con (Thomas Nelson) is on the 2016 shortlist in the Mystery/Thriller category.

Today, Zachary shares inspiration for The Last Con as well as the most challenging factor of writing in the mystery genre. (Can you believe tomorrow we announce the 2016 winners!?)


Former con man Fletcher Doyle is finally home after six years in the pen. He’s working a menial job, regaining his bearings in the world, and trying to revive his relationships with his wife and Book - The Last Contwelve-year-old daughter. No easy feat.

But when Fletcher and his family go on a mission trip to Detroit—in the company of the condescending church leader who also happens to be his landlord—Fletcher finds his old life waiting for him. Within hours of arriving in the city, he’s been blackmailed into doing a job for a mysterious criminal who calls himself The Alchemist.

A series of relics hidden by the Knights of Malta, as ancient as they are priceless, are in the sights of The Alchemist. What he needs is a gifted grifter with a background in ecclesiastical history . . . what he needs is Fletcher Doyle.

Between hiding his reawakened criminal life from his wife and trying to hide her from their relentless landlord, Fletcher is ready to give up. But when his family is drawn into the dangerous world he can’t shake, Fletcher is forced to rely on his years in the game to save the only people who mean more to him than the biggest con in history. – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads


AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH ZACHARY BARTELS

INSPYs: What inspired The Last Con?

I’ve always been interested in con men and grifters as long as I can remember. Books like Catch Me If You Can, TV shows like White Collar, and movies like The Sting and Oceans Eleven have always entertained the heck out of me and maybe ten years ago, I started reading about the real grifters of the 1920s and ’30s, who really lived these lives that sound cartoonish on one level, but were really an empty veneer of deception covering over something so complex. Fascinating stuff!

The kernel of the story that became The Last Con came from a jail visit I made about a dozen years ago. Having done some prison ministry, I was used to being frisked, grilled, marched through metal detectors, etc. But once I presented my ordination certificate at the jail and got on the chaplain’s approved list to visit inmates, I was allowed to waltz right in and out without any of that. It got me thinking, what if there was a guy who used this loophole to run a business, smuggling items and information in and out of the jail? That role became the character Dante. From there, the rest of the crew sort of filled in themselves: Fletcher the brains, Happy the techie, Andrew the mentor, Marcus the muscle, and Meg who was just caught in the middle of it all.

With Playing Saint, I had woven in the characters from a screenplay I’d written, called The Jesuits. They were these Vatican agents operating in the shadows, searching for a hidden church relic. The publisher wanted a similar conspiracy/relic/secret society element for this book and I had been reading a lot about the Knights of Malta, so I decided to try bringing them together. Honestly, I can’t believe how easily and tightly these different elements all came together into one story, spanning centuries and continents, and yet the entire modern day story line taking place in Detroit over the course of four days.

Zachary's Study at his church, Judson Baptist Church.

Zachary’s Study at his church, Judson Baptist Church.

INSPYs: What are some of the challenges/benefits of writing suspense?

One of the greatest challenges of writing suspense, for me, is that I love reading stories that take their time developing characters and slowly-but-relentlessly unfold the conflict. With suspense, however, readers (or at least editors) expect more or less nonstop tension, nail-biting, and edge-of-the-seat sitting from the get-go. I have to force myself to write that way to meet the expectations of  the market. At the end of the day, however, it  works, so I’m not complaining.

As far as benefits, my favorite thing about writing suspense is to hear from readers that they were up till 2 AM reading, unable to put the book down because they had to know what happened next and how the story resolved. It’s humbling, but also the opposite of the humbling to be able to have that kind of an effect on someone, using only a story. Maybe because of this total buy-in from the reader, I find that suspense is also a great vehicle for introducing spiritual themes for readers to wrestle with.

Zachary's office coffee bar - a writer has to stay caffeinated!

Zachary’s office coffee bar – a writer has to stay caffeinated!

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

+ What Are You Listening? Andy Mineo’s “Uncomfortable” album, The Moth Radio Hour, ’90s Alternative Pandora station, and the Happy Rant Podcast.

+What are you watching right now? Rehab Addict, Better Call Saul, Voltron: Legendary Defender (with my son), New Girl (with my wife), Turn, Brooklyn Nine Nine, and binge-watching Grounded for Life on Netflix.

+ What are you reading? Tesla: Inventor of the Electric Age by W. Bernard Carlson, Unashamed by Lecrae Moore, Broken: Seven ‘Christian’ Rules Every Christian Should Break by Jonathan Fisk, and With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray.


Thank you so much for joining our author interview series, Zachary. It was a pleasure to learn more about the inspiration of your novel (all great inspirations!), and to read about the challenges of writing in this genre.

ABOUT THE AUTHORZachary Bartels

Called “the suspense author everyone is talking about” by Family Fiction Edge magazine, Zachary Bartels is the author of critically acclaimed supernatural thrillers. An award-winning preacher and Bible teacher, Zachary has been serving as pastor of Judson Baptist Church in Lansing, Michigan, for ten years. He enjoys film, fine cigars, stimulating conversation, gourmet coffee, reading, writing, and cycling.

His debut novel, Playing Saint, has been called an “intrigue-filled thriller” (Library Journal) and “a page-turner from the very beginning . . . gripping and realistic” (RT Book Reviews). His newest book, The Last Con (HarperCollins Christian Fiction, 2015) has met early positive reviews. He lives in the capital city of a mitten-shaped Midwestern state with his wife Erin and their son.

Author Website | Facebook | Twitter

A Conversation with Lisa Harris

INSPYs 2016-Lisa Harris Feature

The INSPYs Advisory Board welcomes Lisa Harris to the blog. Lisa is a Christy Award winner, the author of the Southern Crimes series and more recently, The Nikki Boyd Files. Her first novel in that series, Vendetta (Revell) has been shortlisted in the 2016 INSPYs Mystery/Thriller Category.

We learn what Lisa is writing next, and discover her current TV addiction. Join us in welcoming, Lisa.


No one needs to push Nikki Boyd to excel on the Tennessee Missing Persons Task Force. The case of her own missing sister, still unsolved after ten years, is the driving force in her work. Book - VendettaWhen a Polaroid photo of a missing girl shows up at a crime scene, Nikki quickly recognizes similarities to the past. The closer she gets to the abductor, the more she feels this case has become personal, and she is not the hunter . . . but the hunted.

With this explosive first book in The Nikki Boyd Files, award-winning author Lisa Harris takes you on a fast-paced pursuit of justice that will have you holding your breath until the heart-stopping finish. – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads


INTERVIEW WITH LISA HARRIS

INSPYs: What inspired Vendetta? The story’s heroine, Nikki Boyd really came first. I wanted a strong character motivated by a complex backstory. The story became the perfect way to share her past as it intertwine with the present. The setting of a national park quickly became another character that worked perfect with her search for a missing teen.

INSPYs: Can you give readers a sneak peek on what your working on next? I’ve just finished book three of this series (Pursued) and am now working on another suspense set in Italy.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

    • What are you listening to? Quiet. Sometimes that’s what I need. 🙂
    • What are you watching? The third season of When Calls the Heart. Love that show.
When Calls the Heart S3 E9 Rosemary and Lee Kiss

Photo: Hallmark

    • What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? Connie Mann’s upcoming Tangled Lies

Thank you so much for joining us today, Lisa. It was a pleasure to have you join us, and learn more about Nikki.

Lisa-HarrisABOUT THE AUTHOR

I’m a wife, mom, teacher, author, dreamer, photographer, world explorer, but most importantly a follower of Christ Jesus.

I currently live with my husband near the Indian Ocean in Mozambique where we work as church-planting missionaries. We’ve started the empty next stage with two children spread around the globe and a third—thankfully—still at home.

When I’m not working l love hanging out with my family at the beach, playing games, cooking different ethnic dishes, and heading into the African bush on safari.

Author Website | Facebook | Twitter

A Conversation with Ronie Kendig

INSPYs 2016-Ronie Kendig FeatureThe Advisory Board welcomes Ronie Kendig today to INSPYs.com. Ronie is a Christy award winning author, best known for her “Rapid-Fire” fiction (military suspense novels), this year wandered into Speculative fiction with her recent release, Embers. This year, she’s nominated in two categories. Her novels, Falcon (Shiloh Run Press) is a finalist in the 2016 shortlist in the Mystery/Thriller category and Embers (Enclave) is shortlisted in the Speculative Fiction category.

Today we talk with Ronie about the challenge of switching genres, her TV addictions plus more!


Book - EmbersEMBERS He’s coming for them. And the kingdom.

Haegan and Kaelyria Celahar are royal heirs of the Nine Kingdoms, but Haegan is physically crippled. What chance does he have against Poired Dyrth, the greatest enemy the kingdom has ever faced, who wields fire with a power none can match?

Their only hope is forbidden: Kaelyria must transfer her fire-harnessing abilities to Haegan. When she does it comes with a terrible price: Haegan’s disability is healed, but only by being transferred to Kaelyria. This decision causes their father, King Zireli, to unleash his wrath against Haegan.

Haegan flees the kingdom alone with two impossible tasks: Find a cure for Kaelyria and stop the coming war with the omnipotent Poired Dyrth. – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads

FALCON Special Forces operator Salvatore “Falcon” Russo vowed to never again speak to or trust Lieutenant Cassandra Walker after a tragedy four years Book - Falconago. But as Raptor closes in on the cyber terrorists responsible for killing two of their own, Sal must put his life—and the lives of his teammates—in her hands. Despite his anger, Cassie is ill-prepared for his resistance and the fallout when she must protect the one asset who can end the attacks. As allies become enemies and hostiles become unlikely partners, Raptor fights for its very existence. – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads


INTERVIEW WITH RONIE KENDIG

INSPYs: What inspired Embers and/or Falcon?

Embers was a classic “what if” inspiration while watching the BBC’s Merlin. There was a character that so aggravated me with her deception and treachery, I thought to myself, “But what if she really was making this sacrifice for her brother and the realm?” And that birthed the opening scenes of Embers.

Some elements of Falcon were inspired by a true story of a professional athlete who recruited his best friend into the same field. Then one tragic night, the athlete was driving drunk and killed the friend he’d recruited. And I could not escape thinking about the intense grief and trauma that athlete would live with for the rest of his life, and that birthed the backstory for Falcon.

INSPYs: What are some of the benefits/challenges of switching genres?

In all honesty, it’s not really a switch in that I’m writing both genres, but the hardest aspect of writing in two genres is that in the speculative genre, I’m starting all over in terms of audience and market. With suspense, my market and name are established. Not so within the speculative market, so that’s the biggest challenge. However, it’s also a benefit, because my loyal readers are willing to brave a new genre, simply because I wrote it. That’s a level of trust I don’t take lightly.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

+ What are you listening to? Capital Kings’ newest album, II.

Photo: NBC

Photo: NBC

+ What are you watching?  On most any day, I’m watching an episode or two (or ten) of Doctor Who… or Blindspot.

+ What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? I’m a mood reader, so I generally have a handful of books at various stages of being read. Right now, that includes: Billy Coffey’s There Will Be Stars, Steve Berry’s The 14th Colony, and Marissa Meyers’ Stars Above.


Ronie KendigThanks so much for joining us today, Ronie! It was a pleasure to talk with you, and learn more about the challenges of a genre change and learn about your TV addictions. (Editors note: Blindspot is seriously, amazing if you like mystery shows.)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ronie Kendig is an award-winning, bestselling author who grew up an Army brat. She married her own hunky hero, who’s an Army veteran. After twenty-plus years of marriage, she and her husband have a full life with four children and two dogs. Ronie’s degree in psychology has helped her pen novels of raw, broken characters. Since launching onto the publishing scene, Ronie’s Rapid-Fire Fiction has hit the CBA Bestseller List, won the prestigious Christy Award, finaled in numerous contests and reader awards, including ACFW Carol Awards, RWA’s Faith, Hope, & Love’s Inspirational Readers’ Choice Awards, Christian Retailing’s Readers’ Choice Awards, INSPY Award, The Christian Manifesto Lime Awards, and FamilyFiction’s Readers’ Choice Choice Awards. Ronie loves people and helping other writers through speaking, workshops, and/or mentoring.

Author Website | Facebook | Twitter

A Conversation with Carrie Stuart Parks

INSPYs 2016-Carrie Stuart Parks Feature

As we press ahead with the wonderful INSPYs author shortlist interviews, today we have the pleasure of chatting with author, Carrie Stuart Parks. Her novel, The Bones Will Speak (Thomas Nelson) is a finalist in the 2016 shortlist in the Mystery/Thriller category.

Today we talk with Carrie about the struggles she dealt with while writing The Bones Will Speak, her perspective on the mystery genre, plus more.


Forensic artist Gwen Marcey has become the target of a serial killer who believes he’s been appointed God’s executioner.Book - The Bones will Speak

In Copper Creek, Montana, Gwen Marcey is struggling to put together her life after cancer and divorce. When her dog retrieves a skull of a murder victim and leads her to the victim’s grave, Gwen uses her forensic art ability to identify a serial killer. She is horrified to discover all the victims look like her fourteen-year-old daughter.

The murderer is a “lone wolf,” a member of the terrorist group Phineas Priesthood-and he has a score to settle with Gwen. Unraveling the tangled Christian Identity movement, where race-not grace-provides salvation, Gwen is in a frantic rush against time. She must use all her skills to uncover the killer before he can carry out his threat to destroy her and everyone she loves. – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads


INTERVIEW WITH CARRIE STUART PARKS

INSPYs: What inspired The Bones Will Speak

Although this book came out as the second in the series about forensic artist Gwen Marcey, it’s the book I labored on for almost nine years learning how to write. By the time I was done, I HATED this book! My mentor, Frank Peretti, was very patient!

As a forensic artist myself, I wanted to use parts of my old cases and weave them into a story. In the 1980-90s, the Aryan Nations compound was located in nearby Hayden, Idaho. My dad had a crime lab and was the Director of Law Enforcement for North Idaho College. Feelings ran high between the law enforcement community and the Aryans/skinheads parked nearby, ended up with my dad being shot and wounded by one of them. I worked with the FBI on the Phineas Priesthood cases-a violent offshoot of the Christian Identity Movement- during that time. Also about then was the Robert Yates serial killing cases, which I worked on. This book was a blend of those experiences.

INSPYs: What are the challenges/benefits of writing in the mystery genre?

Being discovered by readers!! Suspense/thriller/mystery readers are very picky about authors and view new authors with suspicion. I’m hoping readers of Iris Johansen, early Patricia Cornwell, James Patterson will find my books and enjoy Gwen Marcey. 🙂

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

+ What are you listening to? When I write? Just the sounds on the ranch, located in the mountains of North Idaho. Usually in the mornings it would be birds, occasionally wild turkeys or

Great Pyrenees puppy, Elsa, checking out Carrie's bedside reading.

Great Pyrenees puppy, Elsa, checking out Carrie’s bedside reading.

coyotes. And my dogs barking outside (I have a total of five Great Pyrenees and a bull terrier. I show my dogs when I have time.)

+ What are you watching? Deer, elk, or sometimes a stray moose wandering past the windows. Inside, two of my Great Pyrenees and Bull Terrier tussling around the house.

+ What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? I do a lot of research, so right now I’m reading about the history of the Nez Perce Indians, Nez Perce war, and American Indian Movement. Also stacked up about a foot high on my nightstand are the books from my fellow writers that I need to finish and write reviews for. Just finished Colleen Coble’s excellent “Twilight at Blueberry Barrens.”


Thanks for joining us today, Carrie! It was great to learn more about the in-depth process of creating The Bones Will Speak.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carrie Stuart ParksCarrie Stuart Parks is an award-winning fine artist and internationally known forensic artist. Along with her husband, Rick, she travels across the US and Canada teaching courses in forensic art to law enforcement as well as civilian participants. She has won numerous awards for career excellence. Carrie is a popular platform speaker, presenting a variety of topics from crime to creativity. 

Author Website | Twitter

Up Close and Personal with Steven James

Today, award-winning and well-known author, Steven James joins us. Steven has been shortlisted (and won!) for an INSPY in year’s past and this year, his novels  Checkmate (Signet) is on the short list for the Mystery/Thriller category and Blur (Skyscape) in the Literature for Young Adults category. Below we chat with Steven about what’s playing on his television and his upcoming to-be-read pile (with photos!).

Checkmate Goodreads SummaryBook - Checkmate

In “Checkmate,” critically acclaimed novelist Steven James offers the final, chilling chapter in his bestselling series, The Bowers Files.

 When a clandestine FBI facility is attacked, Special Agent Patrick Bowers is drawn into the vicious, ruthless story that a killer from his past is bent on telling the world.

Clues lead to long forgotten secrets buried deep beneath uptown Charlotte, North Carolina. Now, Bowers is caught up in trying to stop one of the most deadly attacks ever planned on American soil.
Smart, tense and full of mind-bending twists and turns, “Checkmate” explodes onto the scene, bringing The Bowers Files to a climactic and unforgettable conclusion.

Blur Goodreads Summary

Book - BlurThe isolated town of Beldon, Wisconsin, is shocked when a high school freshman’s body is found in Lake Algonquin. Just like everyone in the community, sixteen-year-old Daniel Byers believes that Emily Jackson’s death was accidental. But at her funeral, when he has a terrifying vision of her, his world begins to rip apart at the seams.

Convinced that Emily’s appearance was more than just a mere hallucination, Daniel begins to look carefully into her death, even as he increasingly loses the ability to distinguish fantasy from reality.

What’s real? What’s not? Where does reality end and madness begin?

As Daniel struggles to find the truth, his world begins to crumble around him as he slips further and further into his own private blurred reality.

Mineshaft2

A mineshaft “under Charlotte.” Part of Steven’s research for his novel, Checkmate.

Full of mind-bending twists and turns, Blur launches a new trilogy of young adult thrillers from Steven James, a master of suspense.

1.) What are you listening to?

Lately, I’ve been wearing out The Rend Collective’s “Art of Celebration” CD, as well as tapping into my collection of Goa trance songs. I listen to the trance anthems while I’m writing and the songs with words as I’m typing in my edits. 
 
2.) What are you watching?

Let’s see—Orphan Black, The Blacklist, and The Flash (my daughters are huge fans).

3.) What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? What I plan to read over the next several months…
Steven James Reads

 

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

Up Close and Personal with Ronie Kendig

Rapid-Fire fiction author, Ronie Kendig is joining us today. Ronie has been shortlisted for an INSPY in year’s past and just announced her foray into the fantasy genre as well as a new thriller series with Bethany House. This year, her novels  Raptor 6 (Shiloh Run Press) is on the short list for the Mystery/Thriller category and Beowulf (Barbour Publishing) in the Contemporary Romance/Romantic category. Below we chat with Ronie about her favorite TV show being cancelled and get a glimpse of her TBR stack.

Goodreads Raptor 6 SummaryBook - Raptor 6

Captain Dean Watters keeps his mission and his team in the forefront of his laser-like focus. So when Dean’s mission and team are threatened, his Special Forces training kicks into high gear. Failing to stop hackers from stealing national security secrets from the military’s secure computers and networks isn’t an option. Zahrah Zarrick is a missionary teacher to Afghan children in Mazar-e Sharif. And a target. When Zahrah is captured because of her expertise in quantum cryptology, compromising the US military, Dean is forced to crack the lockbox around his heart—a move that might come at the highest cost.

Book - BeowulfGoodreads Beowulf Summary

Former Navy handler Timbrel Hogan has more attitude than her Explosives Detection Dog, Beowulf, but she’s a tough woman who gets the job done. Green Beret Tony “Candyman” VanAllen likes a challenge and convincing the hard-hitting handler they belong together might just get him killed.

When tragedy strikes and Tony’s career is jeopardized, Timbrel must re-evaluate her priorities—and fast! A terrorist plots to unleash a weapon of mass destruction on American soil. Can Timbrel and Beowulf track the chemicals in time? Will Tony surrender everything to save the woman nobody believes in?

 

1.) What are you listening to?

​ Right now, as I type this, I’m listening to the new soundtrack-style album by Two Steps From Hell called Battlecry. It’s the perfect music for writing! ​

2.) What are you watching?

​ Well, I’m actually silently weeping because my favorite TV show–Forever–has just been cancelled. I tried not to watch the last album so it wouldn’t end, but I wasn’t strong enough. I caved. ​

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

IMG_0992

​I started reading The Light We Cannot See, but then got invited to a book club with our Taekwondo school, and they wanted us to read The Girl on the Train, so I bought that. But I also have Lynette Eason’s newest, NO PLACE TO HIDE and Sabaa Tahir’s new An Ember in the Ashes. That’s just what’s on my desk. LOL! So many books, so little time!!!  ​

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

Up Close and Personal with Julianna Deering

Good afternoon, INSPY readers! Today our shortlist author interviews continue with Julianna Deering. Julianna is a second time shortlist nominee. This year her third Drew Farthering novel, Murder at the Mikado (Bethany House) is on the short list for the Mystery/Thriller category. Julianna shares about her love of movie soundtracks and shares some pictures that helped inspire her novel, Murder at the Mikado.

Goodreads Summary:Book - Murder at the Mikado

Just as Drew Farthering thinks his life has found smooth waters, Fleur Landis, an old flame, reappears in his life. She’s married now, no longer an actress, and he expects she’ll soon disappear–until she comes to him in dire need. The lead actor in her old troupe’s production of The Mikado has been murdered, and Fleur is the police’s number one suspect.

Drew would love nothing more than to just focus on his fiance, Madeline, and their upcoming wedding, but he can’t leave Fleur in the lurch–even if she did break his heart once. As Drew, Nick, and Madeline dive into the murder, they discover more going on behind the scenes of the theater troupe than could ever have been imagined. Nearly everyone had a motive, and alibis are few and far between. It’s Drew’s most complicated case yet.

1.) What are you listening to?
I tend to listen to movie soundtracks when I try to write, the more epic the better. Right now the music from “The Hobbit,” “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Chronicles of Narnia” seem to suit my mood. Of course, when I’m working on a historical novel, I try to play some of the music from that era, too. For my Drew Farthering mysteries, I like to listen to the music of the 1930s, especially the English bands, like Ray Noble’s.
Mikado1 - Copy

A vintage poster from Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado

2.) What are you watching?
I don’t actually have TV service right now. There’s really not anything on broadcast TV that interests me, and I’m generally too busy to just sit down and watch. I just Netflix what I want to see. Of course, the NHL playoffs are going on right now, and I never miss those games, so I go and watch at my dad’s house. That’s a lot of fun! I try to catch Masterpiece Theater and, especially, Masterpiece Mystery when I can.
 

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

TheaterRoyalKent - Copy

An English theater from the 1930s

There’s sort of a hodgepodge of books on my nightstand. I have a Bible-reading schedule that lets me read through the whole thing every two years, so the Bible is always there. Besides that, I have The Most Eligible Bachelor novella collection, The Face of a Stranger by Anne Perry, Tolkien’s The Hobbit, The Stolen March by Dornford Yates, Heartless by A. E. Stengl, Poirot and Me by David Suchet and First Steps to Free-Motion Quilting by Christina Cameli. So many books, so little time!
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Thank you so much for joining us today, Julianna. It was a pleasure to host you here. Learn more about Julianna: Facebook ǀ Twitter ǀ Website