2016 INSPY Award Winners

INSPYs 2016-INSPY Winners Feature

Following careful consideration, our incredible judging panels chose the 2016 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 access, the INSPYs Advisory Board is pleased to announce the 2016 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…


The Dandelion Field by Kathryn Springer: In a category full of wonderful contemporary romances, we had a tough choice to make! Ultimately though, The Dandelion Field by Kathryn Springer stood out from the rest with its character growth and true-to-life issues as well as the author’s expressive way with words. Each character in the story was intriguing – from Gin and her daughter Raine, to firefighter Dan and Raine’s boyfriend Cody, to Dan’s big crazy family, Cody’s mom Evie, and even Gin’s coworkers. The romance between Dan and Gin was sweet and built slowly (but not too slowly), and the obstacles between them felt genuine, rather than just thrown in to create conflict. The relationship between Cody and Raine also felt real and sincere. Throughout this novel, Springer deftly dealt with true-to-life issues like single parenthood, teen pregnancy, poverty, and judgment within the church, showing how God can work through the hard things in life to bring healing and beauty. Really, that “realness” is what makes The Dandelion Field a perfect expression of the Inspy Awards’ mission statement, and it’s why we chose it for the 2016 award for Contemporary Romance.



JadedJaded by Varina Denman: Representing the best in debut fiction, Varina Denman’s Jaded is a complex contemporary novel that goes against the security most in its genre exhibit. The faith issues it wrestles with, the efficient snapshot of small-town living, and the quiet yet meaningful prose collide to create a story with depth. The romance is refreshing, not because of the opposition it presents, but because of the characters. Its heroine, Ruthie is a beautifully flawed and relatable character, whose fall from grace makes the lessons of forgiveness impacting, a theme that will stay with the reader long after the final page.



Book - Secrets She KeptOur panel chose Secrets She Kept as winner of the General Fiction INSPY award for its deep emotional impact and for the subtly powerful way its theme of forgiveness is threaded into the story. We loved the way the dual timelines interwove and built on each other as secrets from the past were gradually revealed to modern day characters and to readers. Gohlke’s vivid storytelling and close attention to historical detail immersed us in the historical time period with Lieselotte, even as we discovered with Hannah just how profound an impact the past can have on the present. We found the lead characters endearing, and gladly cheered them on – Hannah toward self-discovery and a better understanding of her mother, and Lieselotte in her perseverance in following her conscience despite danger, betrayal, and hardship. The story as a whole impressed us all, and we are delighted to give the INSPY to this title.



Through-Waters-DeepThrough Waters Deep by Sarah Sundin: Through Waters Deep was an inspiring story about two individuals who learn that they’re stronger together while trusting in God than they are going it alone. Loveable characters, some suspense and danger, an historical setting the comes alive, sweet inspirational moments, and a romance that builds from friendship, all combine to make a masterly woven story that is engaging from beginning to end. Perfect for Historical Christian Romance readers!Book - An Uncertain Choice



An Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund: An Uncertain Choice stands out with a breathlessly tangible medieval setting, vividly described characters that are constructed in such a way that invites readers to know them better with every page. The writing, the characters, and the romance; every nook and cranny of An Uncertain Choice was flawless! Every page is a masterpiece of relatable storytelling as expressed through its impactful POV. Beyond its beautiful prose, An Uncertain Choice boasts a delicious romance, with three dreamy and chivalrous knights (!).The novel has everything and more any reader could want in the YA historical, or any fictional world, genre!

Book - The Bones will SpeakMYSTERY / THRILLER

The Bones Will Speak by Carrie Stuart Parks: We chose The Bones Will Speak because it draws readers in from the very beginning. Opening a suspense novel should involve a riveting and twisting plot that will hold reader’s attention until the final page. The Bones Will Speak provided just that. Its suspense is top notch, but the main character Gwen Marcey is what keeps us flipping the pages. The nail-biting suspense keeps readers engaged and the shroud of mystery surrounding the real culprit keeps the whodunit a guessing game. Fine writing, complex characterization and a great story make this book a winner.



9780764213465The Shock of Night by Patrick Carr: This novel seamlessly combined the best of fantasy and mystery to create a unique story all its own. The complex tale described a world very much like our own: a nation grown complacent in its undeserved blessings, flawed characters who sometimes failed despite their good intentions, and yet, also, the redemptive work of God through his servants. The protagonist is a man mired by doubts and fears but unbroken by the darkness around and within him. Instead, he pours his heart out in honest, broken prayer, and takes the example of his Lord to heart by striving against the odds to bring good into a world that often does not recognize it. Engulfing twists, delightful wit, and authentic discussions of tough moral quandaries make The Shock of the Night a book not to be missed.


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! 

A Conversation with Patrick W. Carr

INSPYs 2016-Patrick Carr

Hello, INSPYs readers. Today, we again have the pleasure of hosting another 2016 shortlist author. Popular speculative fiction author, Patrick W. Carr joins us. Author of multiple titles, Patrick is a familiar fantasy author name (he’s been shortlisted in the INSPYs, too) in this market . His novel, The Shock of Night (Bethany House) made the final of our 2016 shortlist in the Speculative Fiction category.

We chat with Patrick today about what inspired The Shock of Night, and learn about some of the music his son composed, plus he gives us a sneak peek into what’s next!

When one man is brutally murdered and the priest he works for mortally wounded on the streets of Bunard, Willet Dura is called to investigate. Yet the clues to the crime lead to Book - ShockOfNightCovercontradictions and questions without answers. As Willet begins to question the dying priest, the man pulls Willet close and screams in a foreign tongue. Then he dies without another word.

Willet returns to the city, no closer to answers than before, but his senses are skewed. People he touches appear to have a subtle shift, a twist seen at the edge of his vision, and it’s as though he can see their deepest thoughts. In a world divided between haves and have-nots, gifted and common, Willet soon learns he’s been passed the rarest gift of all: a gift that’s not supposed to exist.

Now Willet must pursue the murderer still on the loose in Bunard even as he’s pulled into a much more dangerous and epic conflict that threatens not only his city, but his entire world–a conflict that will force him to come to terms with his own tortured past if he wants to survive. – Goodreads | Amazon

INSPYs: What inspired you to write The Shock of Night?

Patrick's bookshelf, complete with a photo of his wedding day and sons.

Patrick’s bookshelf, complete with a photo of his wedding day and sons.

From the time I learned to read, I’ve always loved detective stories. When I was in elementary school, I would read every book from this series, “Alfred Hitchcock’s Three Investigators.” Then as I got older, I started reading the Sherlock Holmes stories and when I would visit my grandparents, I would read some of my grandmother’s Agatha Christie books. I’ve always wanted to write a detective series and after I finished “The Staff and the Sword” it seemed natural to go in that direction. At first, I was going to write it as a contemporary fantasy, but my editor and agent encouraged me to keep the story set in a more-or-less medieval timeframe and to try to incorporate the story into an epic fantasy. So, I guess you could say “The Darkwater Saga” is my attempt to marry two genres together. I like to describe it as Epic-fantasy-detective-suspense.

Of course, once I had the story idea, I needed a compelling main character. As usual, I looked to my personal experiences and came up with the idea of having a detective who is suffering from PTSD and dissociative disorder, albeit in a medieval fantasy sort of way. My dad was a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force in Korea and Vietnam and, like most of our veterans, returned with a lot of internal scars. The idea of having a main character who is still struggling with his memories of war from ten years ago appealed to me and I latched onto that as a way to honor the men and women in our country who have given so much. What made Willet so attractive to me as a central character is that his flaws keep him from being a reliable witness. Even though the reader is experiencing events through his point of view, whether those events and recollections are true remains in doubt. I have to admit that Willet Dura may my favorite character to date.

INSPYs: can you give us a peek into what’s coming next?

Sometimes, a change of scenery is needed. This is one of the views Patrick enjoys near his home.

Sometimes, a change of scenery is needed. This is one of the scenes Patrick enjoys near his home.

The Shattered Vigil, the sequel to The Shock of Night, will be releasing this fall. Karen Schurrer (my editor) and I are putting the finishing touches on the novel and we’re almost ready to begin the final edits where we’re mostly just smoothing out the language and the wording. All of my beta-readers have told me it’s the best thing I’ve ever written, so I’m pretty excited. This second book in the series will see the return of some characters, the urchins, we met at the end of the first book and will expand on their role. The title is a pretty good indication of how desperate things become for Willet and the rest of the Vigil and there are some consequences to Willet’s gift that he’s only just now beginning to realize. By the end of this book, we know who our ultimate bad guy is.


  • What are you listening to? I’m listening to a lot of jazz right now. My son, Patrick, who composed the music to the book trailer we threw together for “A Cast of Stones,” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqmIFM3T080) is giving me piano lessons and one of the requirements to that is listening to a lot of the great artists like Oscar Peterson and Red Garland. I’m very blessed to have a son who is so patient with me. I’m not exactly a budding Mozart. Of course, I can’t listen to jazz while I’m trying to write, it takes too much of my attention. For that I usually listen to some instrumental music that allows me to focus on the story, something along the lines of Windham Hill Chill.
  • What are you watching? I don’t watch television very much except to unwind after a long day at school. I did catch a few episodes of a cancelled series called “Forever” and enjoyed it, but most of my viewing amounts to channel surfing as I let go of a long day. I do have a few series that I enjoy, such as Sherlock, Daredevil, and Dark Matter, but I plow through those pretty quickly. I’m currently not watching anything of note.
  • What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? So many things! I finished “The Way of Kings” a few weeks ago and this summer I want to read “The Pillars of the Earth,” “Night Circus,” and “All the Light We Cannot See.” Not that I’ll be able to get to all of them, but they all come highly recommended to me from friends. Much of this summer will be spent working on the third book to “The Darkwater Saga.”

Thank you for joining us today, Patrick. It was a pleasure to talk with you, learn more about what inspired The Shock of Night and talk about favorite TV shows (Sherlock is amazing).


Patrick W. Carr was born on an Air Force base in West Germany at the height of cold war tensions. He has been told this was not his fault. As an Air Force brat, he experienced a change in locale Patrick Carrevery three years until his father retired to Tennessee.

Author Website | Facebook