A Conversation with Rachelle Dekker

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Rachelle Dekker. Her novel, The Calling (Tyndale) is on the 2017 shortlist in the Speculative Fiction category. Please join us in welcoming Rachelle.

Rachelle shares “behind the scenes” of her writing journey, a teaser of what’s next, nightstand reading – plus more!

ABOUT the BOOK

Remko Brant had never been so sure of anything as escaping the Authority City with Carrington Hale. But bravado comes easy when you have nothing to lose. Now a husband, father, and the tactical leader of the Seers, Remko has never had so much at risk.

As he and his team execute increasingly dangerous rescue missions inside the city, they face growing peril from a new enemy. Recently appointed Authority President Damien Gold claims to be guiding a city shaken by rebellion into a peaceful, harmonious future. But appearances can be deceiving. In order to achieve his dangerous ambitions, Gold knows he must do more than catch the rebels–he must destroy the hope their message represents . . . from the inside out.

With dissension in his own camp–and the CityWatch soldiers closing in–Remko feels control slipping through his fingers. To protect those he loves, he must conquer his fears and defeat Gold . . . before one of them becomes his undoing. – Goodreads

Interview Questions

INSPYs: What was the inspiration behind your YA trilogy or The Calling specifically? I always say that first and foremost I am writing to discover truth in my own life. When I started the Seer Series identity was a theme I was growing in and trying to understand myself. So I created characters that battled with the same questions I did. In the Calling specifically, I was dealing with fear: fear of not measuring up, fear of letting people down, fear of failure. All major themes throughout The Calling.

Also, I have always been a big fan of world building and YA, so a dystopian setting was the perfect backdrop for me to write against. A little mystery, a little romance, a lot of action. I just thought, what would I like to read, and tried to write that.

What were some of the greatest challenges in creating this world? Making sure it felt authentic. What could the world really look like 100 plus years from now? What would people be like, how would they act, what would they say? Would it be very different of just more of the same? And I had to constantly check myself in order to not slow the pacing of the novel as I described the setting and world. The trick was to let the reader in fast enough to latch on, but serve them more detail as they continued to read. Or at least, that’s what I was trying to do J

What’s next for you? Well the third and final book in the Seer Series, The Returning came out early this year, so now I’m onto the next writing project. I won’t say much about it, but I will say it’s going to be my first stand-alone novel with a departure from dystopian into the realm of psychological thriller. It’s going to be a wild ride that I promise!

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

1. What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? I’m in between books so on my reading list is (just to name a few):

The Devil In the White City (Erik Larson)

Six of Crows (Leigh Bardugo)

Truly, Madly, Guilty (Liane Moriarty)

Big Magic (Elizabeth Gilbert)

2. What are you currently watching? SO MUCH! I love TV. I get so inspired from the great writing on TV. Okay, so currently I love Last Kingdom (Netflix original), Black Sails (I mean, hello pirates), This is Us (which always has me crying), Rosewood (a hilarious crime drama), and Elementary (because I am trying to get my Sherlock fix since Sherlock is over).

(Editor’s Note: I know the feeling. Although I will admit, I’m hoping for more from BBC Sherlock – even if it’s only a single film!)

Photo: CBS

Faceoff Questions:
  1. Coffee or Tea? All THE COFFEE
  2. Cake or Pie? Umm… Ice cream
  3. Comedy or Action? Neither is done well with out a little bit of the other

ABOUT the AUTHOR

The oldest daughter of New York Times bestselling author Ted Dekker, Rachelle Dekker was inspired early on to discover truth through the avenue of storytelling. She writes full time from her home in Nashville, where she lives with her husband, Daniel, and their diva cat Blair.


Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs blog today, Rachelle. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight your shortlist novel, The Calling.

A Conversation with Jolina Petersheim

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Jolina Petersheim. Her novel, The Alliance (Tyndale) is on the 2017 shortlist in the General Fiction category. Please join us in welcoming Jolina.

Jolina beautifully shares a piece of her heart today through the inspiration of her shortlisted title, shares about her love of dark chocolate – plus more!

ABOUT the BOOK

When Leora Ebersole sees the small plane crash in her Old Order Mennonite community, she has no idea it’s a foreshadowing of things to come. Once the young pilot, Moses Hughes, regains consciousness, they realize his instruments were destroyed by the same power outage that killed the electricity at the community store, where Englischers are stranded with dead cell phones and cars that won’t start.

Moses offers a sobering theory, but no one can know how drastically life is about to change. With the only self-sustaining food supply in the region, the Pacifist community is forced to forge an alliance with the handful of stranded Englischers in an effort to protect not only the food but their very lives.

In the weeks that follow, Leora, Moses, and the community will be tested as never before, requiring them to make decisions they never thought possible. Whom will they help and whom will they turn away? When the community receives news of a new threat, everyone must decide how far they’re willing to go to protect their beliefs and way of life. – Goodreads

Interview Questions

INSPYs: What was the inspiration behind The Alliance? I guess you could say I had a slightly different childhood. When I was six and my brother ten, our family stood in a field on the camp where my parents were caretakers, and my parents told us that this was where we would meet if we were separated when the world “blew up.” From this field, our family would travel by foot to our friends’ elaborate, fairytale home and live in the blue room hidden behind their bookshelves.

My parents in no way meant to instill fear in us. Now that I’m a parent, I see that they were trying to assuage their own fears by coming up with a disaster-recovery plan. But I was born with an overactive imagination, and therefore this plan planted in me the seed of fear—and, subsequently, a driving need to control my environment.

I wish I could say I uprooted this fear once I became an adult, but after I had my firstborn daughter, my fear grew worse, for not only did I have to control my environment; I also had to control hers.

When my eldest was six months old, an unnerving exchange with a logger caused my fear to deepen its roots and for me to ask myself whether I would ever use lethal force to protect myself and my family. I believed I would, even though, growing up, I sensed that my own father would adhere to his pacifist heritage if placed in such a situation.

The final puzzle piece for my book, The Alliance, slid into place when my father told us that we needed heirloom seeds to last us until the next harvest season. I remember standing in my darkened kitchen and repeating that phrase to myself—The Harvest Season.

Initially, I believed this would be the title of the book, but over time, I knew a community having enough food to last until the next harvest season was only a small element of the story. The larger element came from the protagonist, Leora Ebersole, and her driving need to control her environment, even after society crumbles around her, because if she controls her environment, she believes she will be able to keep her orphaned family safe.

With every one of my books, God’s been faithful to allow me to experience some portion of whatever topic I’m addressing. The Alliance is no exception. My family and I moved from Tennessee to Wisconsin shortly before I finished the rough draft. Eight weeks later, my husband went in for a CAT scan, which revealed a tumor near his brain stem. He had surgery the next morning, and all through that night next to his hospital bed, I feared for my family.

I feared for our two young daughters; our firstborn was two and a half and our youngest was four months old at the time. I feared that I would be a widow, living on a grid-tie solar-powered farm six hundred miles away from our immediate families. In a matter of hours, one of my worst fears had come true, and I didn’t know how to handle it.

However, all through my Garden of Gethsemane night, during the hours my husband was in surgery, and the critical weeks that followed the craniotomy, I felt God’s presence as if he was sitting beside me. I then understood that God had allowed me to face one of my greatest fears so that I would learn that inner peace can never be acquired through my futile attempts to control my environment—and therefore keep my family safe. Moreover, I can only achieve inner peace if I continually surrender my life and the lives of my family to the One who called us into being.

So I pray, dear reader, that you will discover the author of the peace that passes all understanding and daily surrender your life—and the lives of your family—to him.

What were some of the greatest challenges you found while writing this story? Well, it’s always challenging, trying to write around the demands of my two young children, but I would have to say that the greatest challenge for me, while writing The Alliance, came from the isolation I felt while living in Wisconsin. A lot of this had to do with my stage of life. It’s difficult to get out and about with a toddler and a newborn when it’s cold and there’s snow on the ground. Also, my husband’s health crisis was, needless to say, a great source of distraction. However, I believe that the cold, the snow, the isolation, and the fear all coalesced to allow me to really get into my main character, Leora’s head as she is also isolated, cold, and fearful while living in the mountains of Montana with her community.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

1. What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? I just finished Elizabeth Strout’s new novel, Anything Is Possible, which provides sneak peeks at the characters she introduced in her blockbuster, My Name Is Lucy Barton. I’m also listening to M.L. Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans for the second time. It’s a beautiful novel, and the narrator is fantastic…though sometimes he mumbles. I also just started reading a novel called, How It All Began by British writer, Penelope Lively. As you might be able to tell, I read a lot and widely. I carry a book around with me like my two-year-old carries her security blanket. But hey, at least I don’t suck my thumb! 

Photo: BBC

2. What are you currently watching? I don’t have the opportunity to watch much TV, but I am looking forward to the Poldark series when it releases on Amazon Prime. The date, May 25, I believe, is right after my due date for my third daughter, so I think I might indulge a bit during my “recovery.”

Faceoff Questions:
  1. PC or Mac? PC, simply because I’m so technologically inept I go through computers like they’re disposable!
  1. Milk or Dark Chocolate? Dark chocolate all the way! Unless, you’re swirling it in there with the milk! You’re talking to a pregnant lady, here….
  2. Comedy or Action? Hm, that’s a hard one. I lean more toward period dramas with beautiful soundtracks and costumes. My husband just loves it (sarcasm), though he did enjoy the first seasons of Downton Abbey more than he admitted!

ABOUT the AUTHOR

Jolina Petersheim is the bestselling author of The Midwife and The Outcast, which Library Journal called “outstanding . . . fresh and inspirational” in a starred review and named one of the best books of 2013. Her writing has been featured in venues as varied as radio programs, nonfiction books, and numerous online and print publications such as Reader’s Digest, Writer’s Digest, and Today’s Christian Woman. Jolina and her husband share the same unique Amish and Mennonite heritage that originated in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, but now live on a solar-powered farm in the Driftless Region of Wisconsin with their young daughters. Follow Jolina and her blog at jolinapetersheim.com.


Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs blog today, Jolina. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight your shortlisted novel, The Alliance.

A Conversation with James L. Rubart

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, James L. Rubart. His novel, The Long Journey to Jake Palmer (Thomas Nelson) is on the 2017 shortlist in the Speculative Fiction category. Please join us in welcoming James.

James shares the inspiration behind his shortlisted novel, read about the TV shows he’s watching, and read what wins his “faceoff” questions – plus more!

ABOUT THE BOOK

What if there was a place where everything wrong in your life could be fixed?

Corporate trainer Jake Palmer coaches people to see deeper into themselves—yet he barely knows himself anymore. Recently divorced and weary of the business life, Jake reluctantly agrees to a lake-house vacation with friends, hoping to escape for ten days.

When he arrives, Jake hears the legend of Willow Lake—about a lost corridor that leads to a place where one’s deepest longings will be fulfilled.

Jake scoffs at the idea, but can’t shake a sliver of hope that the corridor is real. And when he meets a man who mutters cryptic speculations about the corridor, Jake is determined to find the path, find himself, and fix his crumbling life.

But the journey will become more treacherous with each step Jake takes. – Goodreads

Interview Questions

INSPYs: What was the inspiration behind the characters in The Long Journey to Jake PalmerWhen our boys were young, Darci (my wife) and I took them to the same lake each summer in eastern Washington. One day, we anchored our boat at the end of the lake and I pointed at a wall of cattails and trees and said, “Anyone want to see if we can make it through and find out what’s on the other side?” We swam up to the cattails, pushed through them and the trees and wound up in a lush meadow on the other side. I told the boys we’d entered another realm full of mystery and adventure. Years later, Darci and were brainstorming story ideas and she said, “Do a story on the end of the lake. Make a legendary lost corridor that if you can find it, and get through it, the person will get what they want most in the world.” So yes, the corridor in the book is based on a real place.

Jake, the main character is the one that searches for the corridor and he is someone (like many of us) that never feels like he’s enough. Enough for his parents, friends, his wife … and the idea for him came from a close friend who has struggled all their life with meeting other’s expectations. One of the other characters that has a huge supporting role in the novel is Susan May Warren who has become a dear friend of Darci’s and mine. It was a kick to make her a character in the story.

What were some of the greatest challenges you found in writing this story? I had to write it lightning fast (8 weeks) and I struggled with figuring out where the story was going. Most of the time I have a strong idea of the overall plot, but this time it came together in a bunch of fragmented pieces. I’d write during the day and brainstorm with Darci at night. Plus I brainstormed with five other friends/authors so I had notes and ideas strewn all over the place. Thankfully I have two brilliant editors, Amanda Bostic and Erin Healy who helped it all come together in the end.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? Big Magic, Originals, Cain, Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader, and a stack of novels folks have asked me to read for possible endorsement. Trying to figure out how to read at night when I’m asleep.

What are you currently watching? We’re watching Designated Survivor, The Killing, Survivor and can’t wait for the next season of Stranger Things.

Faceoff Questions:
  1. PC or Mac? PC … but I’m weakening. The pressure, the pressure! (My sons have been trying to convert me for years.) Next laptop will be a Mac.
  2. Print or Ebook? If I have a choice, print all the way. But I read on my Kindle a lot as well.
  3. Comedy or Action?Action, no, comedy. No, action. I like both, but I’ll stop on action because (for me) the comedies of the last 5 – 10 years have rocketed down to the lowest common denominator for laughs, and that just doesn’t work for me.

ABOUT the AUTHOR

James L. Rubart is a professional marketer, speaker, and writer. He serves on the board of the Northwest Christian Writers Association and lives with his wife and sons in the Pacific Northwest. Learn more at www.jameslrubart.com.


Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs blog today, James. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight your shortlisted novel, The Long Journey to Jake Palmer.

A Conversation with Kara Isaac

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Kara Isaac. Her novels, Close to You and Can’t Help Falling (Howard) are on the 2017 shortlists in the Debut Fiction and Romance /Romantic Suspense categories, respectively. Please join us in welcoming Kara.

Kara shares the inspiration behind BOTH of her shortlist novels, we learn about the US TV show she’s binge watching, and see her TBR shelf (look at all those amazing books!) – plus more!

ABOUT THE BOOKS

Close to You | A disgraced scholar running from her past and an entrepreneur chasing his future find themselves thrown together—and fall in love—on a Tolkien tour of New Zealand. – Goodreads

Can’t Help Falling | A funny, heartfelt romance about how an antique shop, a wardrobe, and a mysterious tea cup bring two C.S. Lewis fans together in a snowy and picturesque Oxford, England. – Goodreads


Interview Questions

INSPYs: What inspired your debut novel, Close to You (Or Can’t Help Falling – or both! Whatever you’d like to share)?

Close To You was inspired by a conversation with an editor I had from a publishing house while at a writing conference in 2013. She asked if I had ever thought about writing a story set in New Zealand around Lord of the Rings. It had never crossed my mind but I immediately had this idea of a disillusioned tour guide and an American entrepreneur drop into my mind. They became Allie and Jackson and the rest of the story came from there!

Can’t Help Falling was inspired by a combination of things. As part of my research for Close To You I learned about J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis meeting at Oxford University and becoming friends. I’ve always been a fan of C.S. Lewis and the Narnia series so when my editor asked if I had any ideas for a second book that could be linked to Close To You I pitched her the idea of a story set in Oxford with a Narnia theme. Thankfully she loved it 🙂

What are some of the things you found most interesting or challenging about the publishing process?

One of the most interesting things has been getting an up close and personal insight into all of the things that go into the traditional publishing process. From the outside, it often being up to two years between contract and publication can seem crazy long. But when you’re in the process and juggling editing deadlines with rounds of cover design input with providing information to marketing and sales teams who are pitching your books to retailers six months before it releases it suddenly starts to feel short!

I’ve been challenged by how becoming an author makes you a (very minor) public figure and what can come with that. I don’t proactively go hunting for reviews of my books but every now and then I stumble over one in my travels around the internet and I’m always bemused by people who turn their opinion of a book into a personal opinion or assumption about the author. I read one recently where someone stated that they had been on my website and from one paragraph had surmised that I’m not really a New Zealander but a discontented American ex-pat longing for home and all I could think was “How on earth did you get that from me saying that I love Double Stuff Oreos???” I’ve gotten well practiced at reminding myself that what really matters is the person my friends and family know and that life is too short to worry about the assumptions of strangers who have never met me!

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS
  1. What are you Watching?I am enthralled by Designated Survivor. I am literally sitting here waiting for my husband to get home so we can watch the next episode! I’m very grateful that right now my next release is current out of my hands with the proofreader and I have the luxury of time to catch up on episodes.
  1. What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? My nightstand is bookshelves filled to the brim with my TBR books. I wish I could say that is all of them but alas there are also piles lined up under my bed! I’ve got Katie Ganshert’s, Life After waiting for me. I’ve heard so many amazing things that it’s one of those books that I’m reluctant to start because then I will be a step closer to it being finished.
Faceoff Questions:
  1. Print or Ebook? Print. Unless I’m travelling 🙂
  2. Comedy or Action? Comedy
  3. PC or Mac? Mac
  4. Cookies or Cake? Ooh now that entirely depends on what kind we’re talking!

ABOUT the AUTHOR

Kara Isaac is an award-winning writer who lives in Wellington, New Zealand, where her career highlights include working in tourism as Private Secretary for the Prime Minister. She loves great books almost as much as she loves her husband and two children.Visit her on KaraIsaac.com


Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs blog today, Kara. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight your shortlisted novels, Close to You and Can’t Help Falling.

A Conversation with Dani Pettrey

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Dani Pettrey. Her novel, Cold Shot (Bethany House) is on the 2017 shortlist in the Mystery and Thriller category. Please join us in welcoming Dani.

Below we read about the idea that sparked Cold Shot, learn what TV show she’s sad is over, and read what wins in her “faceoff” questions – plus more!

ABOUT THE BOOK

In college, Griffin McCray and his four best friends had their lives planned out. Griffin and Luke Gallagher would join the Baltimore PD. Declan Gray would head to the FBI and Parker Mitchell would go on to graduate school as a crime scene analyst. But then Luke vanished before graduation and their world–and friendships–crumbled.

Now Griffin is a park ranger at Gettysburg, having left life as a SWAT-team sniper when a case went bad. The job is mostly quiet–until the day he captures two relic hunters uncovering skeletal remains near Little Round Top. Griffin just wants the case to go away, but charming forensic anthropologist Finley Scott determines that the body is modern–a young social justice lawyer missing since spring–and all evidence points to the work of an expert sniper. When FBI agent Declan Gray takes over the case, past and present collide. Griffin soon realizes he’ll need to confront some of the darkest days of his life if he–and those he cares about–are going to escape a downward spiral of murder that crosses continents. – Goodreads

Interview Questions

INSPYs: What was behind the creation of Cold Shot? (i.e., the ties that thread them together, story, etc.) 

I knew I wanted to write a series about four friends who grew up together, but then had circumstances in their lives separate them. When Cold Shot opens, there’s a crime that pulls them all back together. I started with the intention of setting Cold Shot and the entire Chesapeake Valor series along the Chesapeake Bay, but an idea my editor posed got me thinking. I took the idea, ran with it, twisted it and made it something totally new, but I kept his idea for a location. Hence, how Gettysburg became the main setting of Cold Shot. I was blessed enough to travel there (it’s not too far away and my family has visited numerous times) and get a private, guided tour. Today, I’m sharing some pictures from that day. Hope you enjoy them!

Gettysburg mass grave site

Shrapnel!

What was the transition to a new series like (after five books with the Alaskan Courage series)?

It was definitely a new sensation since the Alaskan Courage series was my very first series. I was excited about introducing new characters and a new setting, but I’ll admit I miss the McKennas a lot. I think approaching Chesapeake Valor as a challenge to try out new ideas and grow as an author (hopefully) has been my main focus, and I’m really enjoying testing out more suspense and a little less adventure, but my next series, Coastal Guardians, will be a nice bridge between the two.

Dani’s office!

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

What are you watching? Legends with Sean Bean on Netflix. It’s fabulous! I’m so sad it only lasted two seasons.

What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? True to You by Becky Wade. It is also fabulous.

Faceoff Questions:
  1. Call or Text? Call
  2. Print or Ebook? Print
  3. Dark Chocolate or Milk Chocolate? Dark chocolate. Always, dark chocolate.
  4. Coffee or Tea? Most definitely coffee.

Dani Pettrey is the bestselling author of the Alaskan Courage series. Her books have been honored with the Daphne du Maurier award, two HOLT Medallions, two National Readers’ Choice Awards, the Gail Wilson Award of Excellence, and Christian Retailing’s Best Award, among others. She and her husband reside in the DC metro area. She can be found online at www.danipettrey.com.


Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs blog today, Dani. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight your latest novel, Cold Shot.

A Conversation with Kristy Cambron

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Kristy Cambron. Her novel, The Ringmaster’s Wife (Thomas Nelson) is on the 2017 shortlist in the Historical Romance category. Please join us in welcoming Kristy.

Today, we read about the inspiration for The Ringmaster’s Wife (Kristy shares a lot of great facts, and extras!), learn about her favorite reading and writing indulgence, her preference for print books (Editor’s note: WIN!) – plus more!

ABOUT THE BOOK

What is revealed when you draw back the curtain of the Greatest Show on Earth?

Rosamund Easling is no stranger to opulence. As the daughter of an earl, she’s grown up with every comfort money can buy. But when hard times befall the family’s Yorkshire estate in the aftermath of the Great War, Rosamund’s father sells her beloved horse, setting the stage for a series of events that would extend beyond even her wildest dreams.

Though expected to marry for a title instead of love, Rosamund feels called to a different life – one of adventure outside the confines of a ladies’ parlor. She abandons all she’s known and follows in pursuit as her horse is shipped to the new owner – an American entertainer by the name of John Ringling. Once introduced to the Ringling Brothers’ circus and knowing she has much to learn, Rosamund agrees to a bareback riding apprenticeship in the shadow of the Ringlings’ winter home—Ca’D’Zan. It is at that mansion, in what would become the last days of the enigmatic Mable Ringling’s life, that Rosamund finds a deeper sense of purpose in the life she’s been given, and the awakening of faith in her heart.

With a supporting cast of characters as mysterious and dazzling as the Ringlings’ big-top world, Rosamund’s journey takes her from the tradition of the English countryside to the last days of America’s Roaring ‘20s—a journey that forever changes what one life might have been. – Goodreads

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

INSPYs: What was the inspiration for The Ringmaster’s Wife?

Kristy and a circus performer at the 150th birthday bash for John Ringling — with his 1923 Rolls Royce in the background!

I’m something of an old soul. Even in childhood, I was drawn to vintage stories and watched classic films as a connection to the past that sparked my curiosity. One favorite film was The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)— a Hollywood blockbuster that looked at the lives of performers under the Big Top in the Ringling Bros.’ circus world. So when my publishing family brought me the idea for a semi-biographical novel about the Ringlings in late 2015 (because they just knew Mable had a story to tell), I just had to be the one to dive in and write it.

The Ringmaster’s Wife takes place in two different eras; what was your least favorite and favorite part about writing dual time periods?

To sum up—I love it all! Every moment of a deep-dive into history.

With this novel, it was important that we do two things: honor Mable Ringling for the real person she was, and paint a vivid picture of the traveling circus as it existed in the golden years of The Roaring Twenties. Writing in dual periods was the way to connect those two aspects of the story. If readers could see Mable (Burton) Ringling as she was throughout her life, it would make her that much more real. Weaving in the unique brilliance of the Chicago World’s Fair and a snapshot of an Atlantic City pier was just a bonus!

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

1. What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? I snapped a pic of my bookshelves for y’all, so you can see what’s moved to the top of my TBR pile right now…

In addition to the historical and contemporary fiction stack I’m planning to work my way through (Katherine Reay’s latest book!), I’m also reading quite a lot in non-fiction these days— especially Bible studies. I’m transitioning to publish Bible studies as well as fiction in 2018 (The Verse-Mapping Series DVD Bible studies), so my bookshelves are overflowing with wisdom and beauty from both of those writing worlds.

2. What’s your Favorite Reading/Writing Snack? A medium skinny Black Bear on the mean side.

Allow me to translate: That’s a 16 oz. peppermint mocha latte, with skim milk and ½ syrup—my signature drink at the local coffee shop. It’s an outdoors themed shop, and I write at a table in the corner with the kayaks hanging on the wall. So my absolute favorite “snack” would have to be a super-diva-writing drink with a gutsy outdoorsman theme, right? It’s served me well for my last three book deadlines. 😊

Faceoff Questions:

1. PC or Mac? — I’m a former Corporate America gal and we always used PCs. I’m too tired/lazy/busy to switch to a new operating system right now, so a PC it remains.

2. Print or Ebook?Always If you’re once a traditionalist, vintage-loving reader… you’re always one.

3. Chocolate or Vanilla (Ice Cream)? —YES. Add cheesecake and bring coffee while you’re at it.

EXTRAS 

The Ringmaster’s Wife is a love letter to the American circus, and a Thank You card to the real-life person of Mable Ringling.

Stepping into the Ringlings’ world was a researcher’s absolute dream. From the eclectic circus acts and side-show oddities, to the high-society Gatsby-style flapper parties, to the genuine warmth of a woman whose persona seemed almost too good to be true… I was immersed in story from moment one.

Research sent our family to the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, FL, where we were escorted through every corner of the Cà d’Zan (“House of John” in Venetian dialect)—the Ringlings’ immaculate Gilded Age mansion. We tried out our talents on a real “hire-wire” at the circus museum, and stepped into the Ringlings’ famed Pullman train car—the Wisconsin. And just in time for John Ringling’s 150th birthday celebration, Mable’s book made a grand appearance alongside Burton and Ringling family descendants at 1920s era lawn party on the mansion grounds (complete with John Ringling’s 1923 Rolls Royce)!

The journey from research to writing to holding that first copy of The Ringmaster’s Wife was one I’ll never forget. It’s been the pleasure of my heart to share it with you.

To tour the along with Kristy, visit these YouTube Research Files adventures:


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kristy Cambron has a background in art and design, but she fancies life as a vintage-inspired storyteller. Her debut novel, The Butterfly and the Violin, was named to Library Journal’s Best Books of 2014 and nominated for RT Book Reviews’ Choice Awards Best Inspirational Novel of 2014 and for the 2015 INSPY Awards for Best Debut Novel. Her second novel, A Sparrow in Terezin, was named Library Journal’s Pick of the Month (Christian Fiction) for February 2015 and a Top Pick for RT Book Reviews. Kristy holds a degree in Art History from Indiana University. She lives in Indiana with her husband and three young sons. Website: kristycambron.com Twitter: @KCambronAuthor Facebook: Kristy-Cambron-Author.


Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs blog today, Kristy. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight your latest novel, The Ringmaster’s Wife.

A Conversation with Julie Cantrell

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes Christy-Award winner and New York Times best-selling author, Julie Cantrell. Her novel, The Feathered Bone (Thomas Nelson) is on the 2017 shortlist in the General Fiction category. Please join us in welcoming Julie.

Today, we read about The Feathered Bone and its inspiration, learn she’s a film buff and read what wins in her “faceoff” questions – plus more!

In the pre-Katrina glow of New Orleans, Amanda Salassi is anxious about chaperoning her daughter’s sixth grade field trip to the Big Easy during Halloween. And then her worst fears come true. Her daughter’s best friend, Sarah, disappears amid the magic and revelry—gone, without a trace.

Unable to cope with her guilt, Amanda’s daughter sinks in depression. And Amanda’s husband turns destructive as he watches his family succumb to grief. Before long, Amanda’s whole world has collapsed.

Amanda knows she has to save herself before it’s too late. As she continues to search for Sarah, she embarks on a personal journey, seeking hope and purpose in the wake of so much tragedy and loss.

Set amidst the murky parishes of rural Louisiana and told through the eyes of two women who confront the darkest corners of humanity with quiet and unbreakable faith, The Feathered Bone is Julie Cantrell’s master portrait of love in a fallen world. – Goodreads


Interview Questions

INSPYs: What was the inspiration behind the characters in The Feathered BoneI set this novel in my childhood hometown, Walker, Louisiana. During my youth, Walker was a small, rural community east of Baton Rouge, but it has experienced tremendous growth since Hurricane Katrina.

While the novel’s characters aren’t based on real people, Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard helped me research. When it was time to name the sheriff’s character, Jason and his wife Erica agreed to the name Jay Ardoin in honor of their tremendous assistance and lifelong friendship. I’m excited to hear that readers adore Sheriff Jay Ardoin and see him as a “good guy.” The world needs more of those, in both fiction and reality.

Like the sheriff, other characters in The Feathered Bone are uniquely southern, and yet readers everywhere seem to relate them to people they know. Gator and Raylene are two fan favorites, while the journey of the two young girls has broken many a heart. Some people have a hard time relating to Amanda’s character, while other women write me to thank me for giving them a voice.

In all, I tried to examine how one split-second of time can impact an entire community, and how one trauma can continue to ripple across time and place because, even when we don’t always realize it, we are all connected. Every choice matters, and every choice will shape the lives of all those within its scope.

I hope readers enjoy entering this special Louisiana community and getting to know “my people.”

Since your novel centers addresses Katrina, what were some of the challenges in writing this story? I wrote The Feathered Bone ten years after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. I was already living in Oxford, Mississippi at the time of that storm, and I was unable able to reach my Louisiana relatives for several days. Roads were closed. Cell towers were down. Power was out.  It was an anguishing wait, and I was very relieved when I finally learned most were safe.

The impact of the storm was far-reaching and long-lasting, not only for those communities hit by the winds, but also for the surrounding communities who offered safe refuge to evacuees. As I worked back through video footage, news reels, and written accounts of Katrina, I was surprised by how much it impacted me emotionally. It’s important for us as a nation to look back at what we’ve learned from traumatic experiences, especially those with such widespread impact.

Sadly, in August, 2016, the Flood of the Millennium hit Louisiana. Imagine waking up one morning to learn that 85 percent of your county was underwater. That’s what happened to Livingston Parish (the setting for The Feathered Bone). These are areas that had never been known to flood, so less than 15 percent of those impacted had flood insurance. (Trust me, FEMA is not an ideal solution. But that’s a book in itself.)

Our Lady of Blind River Pre-Flood (August 2016)

Our Lady of Blind River Post-Flood (August 2016)

Unlike a hurricane, there was little warning, so people did not have time to prepare their belongings or to evacuate before the waters rose. Nearly everyone I know from home lost nearly everything they owned and all the places they held dear—homes, vehicles, businesses, daycare facilities, schools, churches, and tons of irreplaceable personal belongings. Levees broke and some homes went completely under water in a matter of minutes in the middle of the night. Miraculously, no one was killed as a result of the flood in my home parish, and I credit that to the local leadership and community volunteers who risked their own lives to ensure the safety of others.

Unfortunately, my own parents lost their Baton Rouge homes, vehicles, and property in that flood. It’s been nearly nine months since the waters rose, and they are still rebuilding. The event has been far more traumatic than people can imagine, and the psychological impact has left its mark on the entire community. Yet the stories of heroism and service are inspirational. I have developed an even greater appreciation for Louisiana people as a result of their selfless and resilient response to this devastating flood.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

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

Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours (Half-way through this one)

Kerry Egan’s On Living (Just finished this one)

Ann Hood’s The Book That Matters Most (Just started this one)

What are you currently watching?

 I’m a film buff, but I rarely have time to watch. I finally bought a TV, just last month, but I have only turned it on twice—to stream Zumba and Yoga.

I do splurge on Netflix or Amazon Prime sometimes. I think the last thing I watched was Hello, My Name Is Doris. It’s a laugh-out-loud romantic comedy-drama that hits that sweet spot of plot tension and character development. Written by Michael Showalter and Laura Terruso, the film stars Sally Field and has earned rave reviews.

Before that, I watched A Man Called Ove because I had enjoyed the bestselling novel by Fredrik Backman. The film was just as sweet as the book, in its twisted sort of way.

Faceoff Questions:

1. Coffee or Tea? Tea, but mostly water.

2. Print or Ebook? Print during the day and e-book during those wee hours when insomnia gets the best of me.

3. Comedy or Action? An emotional, tear-jerking drama, of course. And then some comic relief.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Julie Cantrell is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Into the Free, the 2013 Christy Award winning Book of the Year and recipient of the Mississippi Library Association’s Fiction Award. Cantrell has served as editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review and is a recipient of the Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Fellowship. Her second novel, When Mountains Move, won the 2014 Carol Award for Historical Fiction and, like her debut, was selected for several Top Reads lists. Visit her online at juliecantrell.wordpress.com, Facebook: juliecantrellauthor, and Twitter: @JulieCantrell.


Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs blog today, Julie. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight your latest novel, The Feathered Bone.

A Conversation with Connilyn Cossette

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes debut author, Connilyn Cossette. Her debut novel, Counted with the Stars (Bethany House) is on the 2017 shortlist in the Debut Fiction category. Please join us in welcoming Connilyn.

Today, we read about the challenges (or advantages as Conni tells) of writing Biblical fiction, learn what she’s binge watching on TV (Editor note: ITV for the win!), whether she likes coffee or tea – plus more!

A Story of Love, Desperation, and Hope During a Great Biblical Epoch.

Sold into slavery by her father and forsaken by the man she was supposed to marry, young Egyptian Kiya must serve a mistress who takes pleasure in her humiliation. When terrifying plagues strike Egypt, Kiya is in the middle of it all.

To save her older brother and escape the bonds of slavery, Kiya flees with the Hebrews during the Great Exodus. She finds herself utterly dependent on a fearsome God she’s only just beginning to learn about, and in love with a man who despises her people. With everything she’s ever known swept away, will Kiya turn back toward Egypt or surrender her life and her future to Yahweh? – Goodreads

Interview Questions

INSPYs: What inspired Counted with the Stars? Counted with the Stars was inspired by my own personal study into the book of Exodus. As I began to dig further into the roots of my own faith I discovered so much fascinating history that gave me greater context surrounding the Exodus. When I read Exodus 12:20 when it says “a mixed multitude went up with them” I began fascinated by the thought that it was not only Hebrews that left Egypt that day. I began to daydream about who these people might have been and what their reasons were for leaving. I saw an image of my mind of an older Egyptian woman standing on the Jordan River waiting to cross into Canaan and realized I had to discover how she got there, and suddenly, Kiya’s story was born.

What were some of the challenges of writing a Biblical novel? I am one of those nerdy people who adores research, I can get lost on historical rabbit trails for hours, but one of those most difficult things with Biblical research is reconciling so many different opinions about the history. The more I read, the more I realized just how vastly different those opinions are, even between scholars who consider the Bible to be historically accurate. I always do my very best to adhere to the timeline presented in the Bible itself, although some of it is vague, and without a doubt there are places where I will have gotten it wrong. But my goal is not to “teach history” per se, it is to inspire readers to read the Bible with fresh eyes, to see that the people in the Word were not just flannelgraph caricatures—they truly lived and breathed and loved and struggled just like us. Inevitably there will be those who disagree with my imagination on certain events but if I have challenged readers to dig into the Word, to throw off some of our Hollywood-ized ideas of the Bible, and to search for gems of grace in the Old Testament that point toward Jesus, then I have done my job. I leave the rest up to the Lord.

Connilyn’s Office

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

1. What are you watching?

Since I have just launched a new book and have had a number of writing projects I’ve been juggling I haven’t been watching much television lately. I did get into a few episodes of the Man in the High Castle which I’d like to get back to now and I binged out on Victoria a few weeks ago and loved it. I am desperate for the new Anne of Green Gables to come out though!

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

One of the great things about being finished with the launch now is that I can finally dig into my stack of TBR’s. I just read Becky Wade’s newest, True to You, and started digging into Jolina Petersheim’s The Divide which I’ve been impatiently waiting for! I am also looking forward to Katie Ganshert’s Life After which has been calling my name from my nightstand for a few weeks now. There are so many great books coming out over the next few months that I’ll have to work hard to focus on writing my own next book. Thank goodness for deadlines!

Faceoff Questions:

1. Chocolate or Vanilla Ice Cream? Chocolate, no question.

2. Print or Ebook? I’ll take them however they come to me, however nowadays because I read so many, I mostly use my Kindle. I use audiobooks to coerce myself to clean the house because I’d really rather be reading…

3. Coffee or Tea? I’m mainly a two to three cup coffee girl in the morning but I love tea as well. My favorite is Egyptian Licorice tea by Yogi which I used to help inspire me as I wrote Counted with the Stars. It’s the perfect blend of sweet, warm, and spicy.

4. PC or Mac? Mac all the way. Love my MacBook, it pretty much goes wherever I do. I had a nightmare the other night that I forgot it on a trip and I forced the pilot to turn the plane around to retrieve it!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Connilyn Cossette is a homeschooling mother of two with a passion for writing stories of timeless grace. She hopes to draw readers into a personal encounter with the rich ancient world of the Bible and spark curiosity that will lead to digging deeper into the truth of the Word. Her novel Counted With the Stars won the 2013 Frasier Contest and was a semi-finalist in the 2013 ACFW Genesis Contest. She lives near Dallas, Texas. Connect with her at www.connilyncossette.com.


Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs blog today, Conni. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight your debut novel Counted with the Stars.

A Conversation with Lorie Langdon

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Lorie Langdon. Her first solo novel, Gilt Hollow (Blink) is on the 2017 shortlist in the Literature for Young Adult category. Please join us in welcoming Lorie.

Today, we read about what inspired Gilt Hollow and a look at what’s next from Lorie, get a peek at her nightstand reading – plus more!

Willow Lamott’s best friend is a murderer, and no one in the small town of Gilt Hollow will let her forget it. For four long years, she’s tried to fade into the background—but none of that matters when Ashton Keller comes striding into school, fresh out of juvie and fueled by revenge. The moment their eyes meet, Willow no longer feels invisible. Drawn to the vulnerability behind Ashton’s mask of rage, she sinks deeper into his sinister world and begins to question whether he’s a villain, a savior, or both.

Ashton thought he wanted vengeance, until Willow reminded him what he’d been missing. Now he longs to clear his name and become the person she sees in him. But the closer they get to uncovering the truth, the darker the secrets become, and Ashton fears his return to Gilt Hollow will destroy everyone he loves, especially the girl he left behind. – Goodreads


Interview Questions 

INSPYs: What inspired you to write Gilt Hollow? The idea for Gilt Hollow was sparked by a news story I saw about a teenage boy who was on trial for killing one of his friends. Which made me ask the all-important ‘what if’ questions. What if the boy was innocent, but took the fall for the crime and spent his formative teen years in juvie? How would it change him? What if he lived in a small town and the girl who’d been his best friend most of his life was ostracized after his conviction? How would that change her? And what would happen when the boy returned to the hometown after serving his time, seeking revenge against those who testified against him?

The ‘what ifs’ kept coming. I tried to ignore them, but this story would not leave me alone. It had to be told!

How did the writing process differ as a co-author (of the ‘Doon’ series) to writing Gilt Hollow solely? Collaborating on the Doon series was fun. I’ve said many times that those books were far better because Carey and I wrote them together. But there’s something special about writing a story that’s just yours. I have to admit that writing alone is a bit easier. You never have to compromise on your ideas and you can write at your own pace.  I feel blessed that I’ve had the chance to publish with one of my best friends and on my own.

What’s next for you? I’m so glad you asked! My next novel is a retelling called OLIVIA TWIST. It’s an epic love story, adventure set in Victorian London that follows some of the main characters from the classic Oliver Twist. It’s a story I’ve been longing to tell since I was a child, and I can’t wait to share it with the world! To read the full description, go to my website: www.LorieLangdon.com

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

1. What’s your favorite writing or reading snack? Trail Mix! I love grabbing some without looking and having a surprise combination of flavors.

2. What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? I’m currently reading FORGET TOMORROW by writing buddy, Pintip Dunn. See pic for some of the books on my TBR. I think I have enough unread books that I could read for at least two years without buying more…but I can’t seem to stop!

Faceoff Questions:

White Chocolate or Dark Chocolate? Dark Chocolate! My fav trail mix is Dark Chocolate Espresso from Target.

Early Bird or Night Owl? Early bird! I’m my most creative first thing in the morning. My brain starts to shut down after ten pm.

Coffee or Tea? Both. Coffee in the morning and Tea in the afternoon!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lorie Langdon is one half of the author team that writes the best-selling DOON series, a young adult reimagining of the musical Brigadoon. A few years ago, she left her corporate career to satisfy the voices in her head. Now she spends her days tucked into her office, Havanese puppy by her side, working to translate her effusive imagination into the written word.

Lorie has been interviewed on Entertainment Weekly.com and several NPR radio programs, including Lisa Loeb’s national Kid Lit show. The DOON series has been featured on such high profile sites as USAToday.com, Hypable.com, and BroadwayWorld.com.

Lorie’s solo debut, GILT HOLLOW, a YA romantic thriller, released September 27th 2016. GILT HOLLOW was recently named by Redbook Magazine as one of the “Books By Women You Must Read This Fall” and received a “Highly Recommended” review from USAToday.com.

For more information or just to say hello, go to: www.LorieLangdon.com


Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs.com blog today, Lorie. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight Gilt Hollow.

A Conversation with Katherine Reay

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Katherine Reay. Her novel, A Portrait of Emily Price (Thomas Nelson) is on the 2017 shortlist in the General Fiction category. Please join us in welcoming Katherine.

Today, we read about what inspired A Portrait of Emily Price, the travel research she did for ‘Emily’ and hear about her favorite snack – plus more!

Art restorer Emily Price has never encountered anything she can’t fix—until she meets Ben, an Italian chef, who seems just right. But when Emily follows Ben home to Italy, she learns that his family is another matter . . .

Emily Price—fix-it girl extraordinaire and would-be artist—dreams of having a gallery show of her own. There is no time for distractions, especially not the ultimate distraction of falling in love.

But Chef Benito Vassallo’s relentless pursuit proves hard to resist. Visiting from Italy, Ben works to breathe new life into his aunt and uncle’s faded restaurant, Piccollo. Soon after their first meeting, he works to win Emily as well—inviting her into his world and into his heart.

Emily astonishes everyone when she accepts Ben’s proposal and follows him home. But instead of allowing the land, culture, and people of Monterello to transform her, Emily interferes with everyone and everything around her, alienating Ben’s tightly knit family. Only Ben’s father, Lucio, gives Emily the understanding she needs to lay down her guard. Soon, Emily’s life and art begin to blossom, and Italy’s beauty and rhythm take hold of her spirit.

Yet when she unearths long-buried family secrets, Emily wonders if she really fits into Ben’s world. Will the joys of Italy become just a memory, or will Emily share in the freedom and grace that her life with Ben has shown her are possible? – Goodreads


Interview Questions

INSPYs: What was the inspiration for A Portrait of Emily Price? The idea came to me while reading C.S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces. There is a powerful scene near the end of the story when the main character, Orual, brings her case to the gods to justify all she has done. Yet, within the very act of articulating her case, she realizes she hasn’t got one. It falls at her feet as she sees everything differently. 

I wondered, in our world and in our time, what might it look like for a young woman to be challenged by another way of thinking, believing, living? What could be so enticing, and joy-filled, as to make her yearn for something new and perhaps something better? What might compel her to drop her guard, surrender control, and let in love? … And there began A Portrait of Emily Price.

Since Emily’s story takes her to Italy, what kind of research did you do while writing this novel? “Research” definitely required a visit to Italy 🙂 — and much more. I did a lot of research into art restoration, at the library, online and in person. Here in Chicago, I interviewed several restorers who work for insurance companies and cover a wide variety of mediums and valuations. Then – terribly exciting – I happened to meet a man who works in art restoration at the Vatican and he offered to arrange for a visit to the Vatican’s restoration labs when I was in Rome. So while in Italy, not only did I get to roam small villages and large cities, eat fantastic food and drink wonderful wine, I got a behind-the-scenes peek at restoration at the Vatican. That experience filled out Joseph’s character and the world of high-end art restoration. It was absolutely amazing.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

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

Right now I’m finishing A Man Called Ove and beginning The Seven Storey Mountain. I have also just downloaded Hidden Figures onto my Kindle for next week’s book club. Then… I’m reminding by the book actually sitting here that I have the honor of interviewing Lisa Jewell at our local book store next month. I picked up the ARC of her newest, I Found You, last week and that’s awaiting me too… So much fun!

What’s your Favorite Reading/Writing Snack?

I’m a snacker – almonds, always tea or water, chocolate, chocolate and maybe a little more of that.

Faceoff Questions:
  1. PC or Mac? Mac
  2. Print or Ebook? Yes.
  3. Dark Chocolate or Milk Chocolate? Definitely!

Okay those seem like ride-the-fence kinds of answers, but I truly love and have a place for both print books and ebooks in my life. I travel to Austin, TX for research this week and it’s fantastic to take my latest three reads with me and not have to check my bag. That said, if I want to revisit a book or need it for research, print is best.

As for chocolate, I’m an any-percentage-cocoa consumer. 🙂


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Katherine Reay has enjoyed a life-long affair with the works of Jane Austen and her contemporaries—who provide constant inspiration both for writing and for life. She is the author of three previous novels, and her debut, Dear Mr. Knightley, was a 2014 Christy Award Finalist, winner of the 2014 INSPY Award for Best Debut, and winner of two Carol Awards for Best Debut and Best Contemporary. Katherine holds a BA and MS from Northwestern University and is a wife, mother, runner, and tae kwon do black belt. After living all across the country and a few stops in Europe, Katherine and her family recently moved back to Chicago. Visit her on line at katherinereay.com Facebook: katherinereaybooks Twitter: @Katherine_Reay


Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs.com blog today, Katherine. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight A Portrait of Emily Price.