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…


CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE / ROMANTIC SUSPENSEBook - The Dandelion Field

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.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH KATHRYN SPRINGER

DEBUT FICTION

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.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH VARINA DENMAN

GENERAL FICTION

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.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH CATHY GOHLKE

HISTORICAL ROMANCE

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

AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH SARAH SUNDIN

LITERATURE FOR YOUNG ADULTS

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.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH CARRIE STUART PARKS

SPECULATIVE FICTION

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.

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! 

A Conversation with Sarah Sundin

INSPYs 2016-Sarah Sundin

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

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


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


INSPYs: What inspired you to write Through Waters Deep?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

  • What are you listening to?

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

  • What are you watching?

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

Sarah Sundin TBR pile 2

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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