A Conversation with Sara Ella

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

A Conversation with Lisa T. Bergren

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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

A Conversation with Becky Wade

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

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


Romance Fans Eagerly Anticipate Every New Release from Becky Wade.

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

>Faceoff Questions:


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

> 3. PC OR MAC? Mac.

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

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


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

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

A Conversation with Carrie Stuart Parks

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

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


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

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

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

Interview Questions

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

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

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


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

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

Faceoff Questions:

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


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

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

A Conversation with Mary Weber

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

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


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

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

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

Interview Questions

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

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

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

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

Mary Weber

Mary’s new favorite reading snack!

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

    Mary Weber

    Mary’s “nightstand reading”!

Faceoff Questions:

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


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

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

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

A Conversation with Joanne Bischof

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Joanne Bischof. Her novel, The Lady and the Lionheart (Mason Jar Books) is on the 2017 shortlist in the Historical Romance category. Please join us in welcoming Joanne.

Joanne shares the inspiration behind her shortlist novel, including the research on the circus(!), her excellent taste in television – plus more!


Raised amid the fame and mystique of the Big Top, Charlie Lionheart holds the audience in the palm of his hand. But while his act captivates thousands, it’s away from the spotlight where his true heart lies. Here he humbly cares for his pride of lions as if they were his brothers, a skill of bravery and strength that has prepared him for his most challenging feat yet—freeing an orphaned infant from the dark bondage of a sideshow. A trade so costly, it requires his life in exchange for hers, leaving him tarnished by the price of that choice.

As the circus tents are raised on the outskirts of Roanoke, nurse Ella Beckley arrives to tend to this Gypsy girl. All under the watchful eye of a guardian who not only bears a striking resemblance to the child, but who protects the baby with a love that wraps around Ella’s own tragic past, awakening a hope that goodness may yet reign. When their forbidden friendship deepens, Charlie dares to ask for her heart, bringing her behind the curtain of his secret world to reveal the sacrifice that gave hope to one little girl—boldly showing Ella that while her tattered faith is deeply scarred, the only marks that need be permanent are his own. – Goodreads

Interview Questions

INSPYs: What inspired the story of The Lady and the Lionheart? This story really came about with an anxiety I was wrestling over: wanting to change things that are unchangeable. It’s something I have always dealt with and a trait that has caused me to wear out the carpet with pacing more than a time or two. God spoke to my heart, bringing forward a character that literally embodied the unchangeable—the tattooed man in the circus. Before I knew it, I was on a whirlwind of a writing adventure, immersed in a story that touched my heart and helped me to embrace the Serenity Prayer, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

What kind of research was required for a book set in the circus? A LOT of research went into the circus elements for this book because I knew so little about the circus and not only was The Lady and the Lionheart immersed in that setting, but there is the Gypsy lifestyle and travel, Charlie’s life with his lions, and more. It really gave me the opportunity to discover a world that I knew only a fraction about. Amid the research, I found myself falling in love with the historical and cultural elements.

The wonderful thing about a circus is that each one is different and unique. It gave me the room to take liberties in crafting Charlie’s circus troop and Gypsy lifestyle just as my imagination led. But at the same time, the circus is a very specific and distinct culture so I had to craft all my imaginings to fall in line with these written and unwritten codes. Secret languages, unique terms, and surprising customs all came to play in learning how to build this world. Circus performers, their families are very real people and so my hope with writing The Lady and the Lionheart was to pay homage to this way of life and to give it the respect that it deserved. It was also incredibly important to me to honor and respect the animals in the tale—particularly our amazing lions, Axel, Han and Kristov. A lot of inspiration and research went into Charlie’s care of them and it taught me so much about these incredible animals and shattered a lot of my preconceived notions about them.


What are you watching? 

I’m a sucker for a good historical drama. From “Poldark” to “Downton” to “Call the Midwife”…I just get hooked. A recent favorite has been “Mercy Street” … a wonderful Civil-War period drama on PBS. I gobbled up both seasons 1 and 2 and miss it already.

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

I’m on a book deadline right now so haven’t had much time for reading, but recently, I got to indulge in a novella called “The Girl Who Could See.” It’s written by a sweet writer-friend of mine and is SUCH a good story! I highly recommend it to anyone who loves YA or stories with a lot of imagination. I kind of have a crush on the hero, Tristan, which is saying a lot if someone can get my mind off of Charlie. 😉

Faceoff Questions:

Print or Ebook? Definitely both

Early Bird or Night Owl? Fluctuates without warning

Milk or Dark Chocolate? This does not. J Milk


A Carol Award and three-time Christy Award-finalist, Joanne Bischof writes deeply layered fiction that tugs at the reader’s heartstrings. She was honored to receive the SDCWG Novel of the Year Award in 2014 and in 2015 was named Author of the Year by the Mount Hermon Writer’s conference. That same year, her historical novella, This Quiet Sky, broke precedent as the first self-released title to final for the Christy Awards. To Get to You, her 2015 release, was the second. Joanne’s 2016 novel, The Lady and the Lionheart, received an extraordinary 5 Star TOP PICK! from Romantic Times Book Reviews among other critical acclaim. She is represented by Sandra Bishop of Transatlantic Literary Agency. Visit her on her website.

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

A Conversation with Patrick W. Carr

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

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


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

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

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

Interview Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Photo: Netflix

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


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

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

A Conversation with Tessa Afshar

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Tessa Asfshar. Her novel, Land of Silence (Tyndale House) is on the 2017 shortlist in the General Fiction category. Please join us in welcoming Tessa.

Tessa shares the inspiration behind her shortlist novel, her TV shows (hint: she’s a BBC fan!) – plus more!


Before Christ called her daughter . . .

Before she stole healing by touching the hem of his garment . . .

Elianna is a young girl crushed by guilt. After her only brother is killed while in her care, Elianna tries to earn forgiveness by working for her father’s textile trade and caring for her family. When another tragedy places Elianna in sole charge of the business, her talent for design brings enormous success, but never the absolution she longs for. As her world unravels, she breaks off her betrothal to the only man she will ever love. Then illness strikes, isolating Elianna from everyone, stripping everything she has left.

No physician can cure her. No end is in sight. Until she hears whispers of a man whose mere touch can heal. After so many years of suffering and disappointment, is it possible that one man could redeem the wounds of body . . . and soul? – Goodreads

Interview Questions

INSPYs: Tell us about Land of Silence; what inspired it or its characters? Land of Silence is based on the gospel accounts of the woman suffering from a bleeding disease. I always found this story touching because of Jesus’ indescribable grace for an outcast. But after studying it, I found some hidden treasures, and was profoundly moved by them.

The context of the core story made me want to write a novel about it. A twelve-year-old girl is dying. Her father, Jairus, has come to beg Jesus to help. The situation is urgent. There is no time to waste. Jesus begins to follow Jairus to his house, a large crowd following in His wake. Suddenly, He comes to a dead stop. Most of us would agree that this doesn’t seem like a good time to halt. A little girl’s life depends on Him. Every moment is critical. This is a time to hurry, not to delay! But Jesus slows everything down and demands to know who has touched Him.

Finally a woman falls on her knees before Him. She has no father to beg for her. She has no one to approach Jesus on her behalf. For twelve years, the same number of years that the little girl has lived on this earth, she has been sick. And the nature of her sickness has brought her great shame. Because of her condition, she isn’t allowed to touch people. But in faith, she has touched the hem of Jesus’ garment. An outrage. A presumption. An act of faith.

With one touch, she is healed. She knows it. Jesus also knows it, because He has felt healing power going out of Him. Again, I had to ask myself, why the delay, then, when a little girl’s life hangs in the balance? The woman has already received the miracle she needed. Why endanger the little girl’s life?

I think Jesus has two reasons. First, He wants to declare publicly that the bleeding woman is healed. He wants the crowds to see that her shame is wiped clean. God has restored her.

There is another reason. Jesus calls her daughter, the only woman in thea New Testament that He addresses in such a way. She has no father to come and beg for her. No one implores the Master on her behalf. So Jesus takes on the role. He fills the hole. I think in addition to healing her body, in that moment Jesus heals a father wound in her soul as well. That is why He delays the procession to Jairus’ house. He wants to give this woman not only physical healing, but also a restored heart.

Pictured are “some of the books I used to find inspiration and direction and accurate information for Land of Silence.”

Tessa says of her notebook, “I always make [one] for each project, where I handwrite my notes. Of course, at the time I create the notebook, there is no book cover. So I try to find an image that fits the storyline.”

What are some of the greatest challenges writing Biblical Fiction? I am writing fiction based on Holy Scriptures. Scriptures that many of us hold sacred. As I weave my narrative around that core revelation, I have to be careful that I retain the truth, while weaving a fictional tale around it. At the same time, I must take care that the novel does not grow preachy while displaying biblical insights. I am not writing a Bible study. My books are supposed to entertain and engage the reader. It’s a tight rope. On the other hand, the people who inhabit the biblical world have managed to capture our hearts for thousands of years. Most of these characters are flawed men and women through whom God fulfills his purposes.  In my experience, all of us struggle with various wounds. Soul wounds. Biblical stories show us how in God’s hands a broken person can live a healed and healing life.


What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? I am reading The Black Prism by Brent Weeks. It is a secular fantasy. It sits sandwiched between my journal and the Bible, neither of which is secular or fantasy.

What are you currently watching? Season two of Poldark and season four of Sherlock.

Faceoff Questions:
  1. Cake or Pie? Cake, definitely. No offense, but pie is for amateurs. Way too much fruit.
  2. Print or Ebook? I still prefer print for my favorite books. I need to be able to flip to various portions at a moment’s notice.
  3. Comedy or Action? How about action with a lot of witty comments?


Tessa Afshar is an award-winning author of historical and biblical fiction. Her novel, Land of Silence was voted by Library Journal as one of five top Christian Fiction titles of 2016, and nominated for the 2016 RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for best Inspirational Romance. Harvest of Gold won the prestigious 2014 Christy Award in the Historical Romance category. Her book, Harvest of Rubies was a finalist for the 2013 ECPA Book Award in the fiction category. Her first novel, Pearl in the Sand, won her “New Author of the Year” by the Family Fiction sponsored Reader’s Choice Awards 2011. Tessa was born in Iran and lived there for the first fourteen years of her life. She moved to England where she survived boarding school for girls and fell in love with Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, before moving to the United States permanently. Her conversion to Christianity in her twenties changed the course of her life forever. Tessa holds an MDiv from Yale University where she served as cochair of the Evangelical Fellowship at the Divinity School. She serves on the staff of one of the oldest churches in America. But that has not cured her from being addicted to chocolate. Contact Tessa at tessaafshar.com or on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorTessaAfshar/

Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs blog today, Tessa. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight Land of Silence.

Thank you for inviting me to join you. I am honored to have spent this time with you and your readers.

A Conversation with Pepper Basham

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Pepper Basham. Her novel, A Twist of Faith (Southern Firefly Fiction) is on the 2017 shortlist in the Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense. Please join us in welcoming Pepper.

Pepper shares the “why” behind her writing a contemporary My Fair Lady, her fantastic taste in films and TV, and her TBR – plus more!


Dr. Adelina Roseland has worked ten years in research as an accent reduction specialist to attain her dream job. But a secret wager to transform Appalachian cattle farmer Reese Mitchell into corporate material challenges Adelina in ways she never expected, threatening her new position.

For one, Adelina didn’t plan for the faith and friction of Reese, or the unexpected influence of his chaotic family. Now, drawn into a culture she’d tried to forget, Adelina finds the warmth of family, the hope of faith, and the joy of love melting away the deep wounds of her past.

But when Reese discovers that he’s a pawn in her climb up the academic ladder, will he forgive Adelina’s deceit or will their miscommunication end in two broken lives? – Goodreads

Interview Questions

Photo: Warner Bros.

INSPYs: What inspired you to write a re-telling of My Fair Lady? I’m a speech-language pathologist by day and have always loved the musical My Fair Lady. Dr. Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle are such fun characters. One day, after taking a writing course about the Hero’s Journey, I was watching My Fair Lady and trying to ‘find’ some of those plot points. My mind started the whole ‘what if…’ thing and slowly the idea for a modern-day version began to emerge. It was the first time I actually used the 12 point plotting plan based on Joseph Campell’s Hero’s Journey. I love the Blue Ridge Mountains/Appalachia – and we’re always being teased about our accents around here, so I took that idea and gave it a modern-day twist 🙂 A Twist of Faith was born.

What are some of the challenges/benefits of incorporating faith in your stories? To be honest, I’m not sure I’d know how NOT to incorporate it, whether overtly or covertly. My Christian faith is my worldview, which changes the way I see everything in life, and I hope it is as pervasive in my actions. One of the first questions I ask my characters when they begin to come ‘to life’ is “What does God want to do in you through this story?” That doesn’t always have to be an overt answer on the page, but I know the answer. The benefit would be that faith brings hope wherever it goes…and since it’s my worldview, it’s easier to include it than not. A challenge? Making certain it’s authentic, digestible, and, I hope, winsome 🙂


1. What are you watching? Okay, my go-to t.v. shows? movies?

Shows I try not to miss are: Agents of Shield and Dancing With the Stars. I’m also a huge Victoria fan, Sherlock, and Poirot. As far as movies, my daughter and I have seen the new Beauty and the Beast several times at the movie theater (can’t wait for DVD). I rewatch Austen remakes and any version of Jane Eyre. I also collect LOTR paraphenalia and own every Marvel super hero movie 🙂 (yep, eclectic)

2. What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? I’m reading Lindsay Bracket’s debut novel, Still Waters. I’m also reading a nonfiction text called Retraining Cognition (Brain injury info), AND I’m reading my crit partner, Amy Leigh Simpson’s, newest release. FABULOUS characters and intense suspense. I hope to read Becky Wade’s newest because it looks phenomenal! And I’ve downloaded all of Amber Lynn Perry’s books onto my kindle to read them soon. TBR lists are terribly patient 🙂

Faceoff Questions:
  1. Print or Ebook? Print!
  2. Dark Chocolate or Milk Chocolate? Dark Chocolate (EVERY TIME)
  3. Call or Text? Texts are easier, but I love hearing people’s voices.


As a native of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Pepper Basham enjoys sprinkling her Appalachian culture into her fiction writing. She is an award-winning author of contemporary and historical romances, mom of five, speech-language pathologist, and a lover of chocolate. She resides in Asheville, North Carolina with her family. You can learn more about her at her website (PepperDBasham.com) or connect on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs blog today, Pepper. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight A Twist of Faith.

A Conversation with Ronie Kendig

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Ronie Kendig. Her novels, Conspiracy of Silence (Bethany House) and Accelerant (Enclave) are on the 2017 shortlist in the Mystery/Thriller and Speculative Fiction categories, respectively. Please join us in welcoming Ronie.

Ronie shares inspiration behind BOTH of her shortlist novels, the difference between Indie and traditional publishing, and her varied TBR – plus more!


Conspiracy of Silence | Four years after a tragic mission decimated his career and his team, Cole “Tox” Russell is persona non grata to the United States. And that’s fine—he just wants to be left alone. But when a dormant, centuries-old disease is unleashed at an archaeological dig where three Bronze-era censers are found, Tox is lured back into action. Partnered with an archaeologist and an FBI agent who’s an expert in deception, Tox and his team are pitted against a secret society, a plague dubbed the New Black Death, and a revered codex—which may hold the key to stopping the deadly outbreak. – Goodreads

Accelerant | He’ll destroy the world. But first he has to save it.

The Nine Kingdoms bleed. Leaderless, ravaged, the land awaits deliverance from Poired Dyrth’s devastating campaign. But what if one blight can only be cleansed by another? – Goodreads

Interview Questions

INSPYs: What inspired this new, ‘Tox Files’ series? ​Inspiration for this series came from many places, but it all started with author Brad Taylor who often posts images of obscure locations or objects in obsucre locations and gives a hint as to the location by referencing some anicent fact. He did this one night and–in my attempt to make good on honing my avoidance skills–I took up the challenge. That led me to a little-known book called the Jerusalem Crown, otherwise known as the Aleppo Codex. Since one of my favorite authors was James Rollins, ​my curiosity piqued. Could I write a series with ancient biblical artifacts and still keep up my Rapid-Fire Fiction brand and pace?

…and your fantasy novel, Accelerant? ​The Abiassa’s Fire series was borne out of a “what if” scenario that came to me while watching the BBC’s Merlin TV show. In it, Morgana Pendragon pretends to be making a great sacrifice for her Arthur, who is like a brother to her, but in the end, she’s been working against them. This episode so annoyed me that I wondered . . . What if a princess really did sacrifice herself to save her brother and their kingdom. What would that look like? And thus, the Abiassa’s Fire series was born.

You recently self-published a novella, Titanis. How has the Indie process been different than traditional publishing? ​The biggest change is that I was not restricted on when to release it, other than not compromising my commitment to my traditional publisher. ​

​Overall, the process is much the same, and I was enormously blessed to have some amazing help. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to move at my own pace and get a title out there that I knew readers wanted, yet didn’t have to assemble a series or deep proposal to get it done.


Photo: BBC

  1. What are you watching?​I regularly watch Doctor Who episodes and use it as white noise, and I’m also going through the TV series LOST on Family Night with my guys (husband, twin sons, and VVolt). ​
  2. What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? ​Two books at the moment: Laini Taylor’s STRANGE THE DREAMER and David Baldacci’s THE FIX. I also have two nonfiction I’m reading through: Lysa Terkeurst’s UNINVITED and Jennie Allen’s NOTHING TO PROVE. ​
Faceoff Questions:
  1. Call or Text? Text!
  2. Print or Ebook? Print! ​
  3. Dark Chocolate or Milk Chocolate? ​ Milk Chocolate​
  4. Coffee or Tea? Yes! :-)​


Ronie Kendig is an award-winning, bestselling author of over fifteen novels. She grew up an Army brat, and now she and her Army-veteran husband have an adventurous life in Northern Virginia with their children and a retired military working dog, VVolt N629. Ronie’s degree in Psychology has helped her pen novels of intense, raw characters.

Since launching onto the publishing scene in 2010, Ronie and Rapid-Fire Fiction novels have hit bestseller lists and garnered awards and critical acclaim.

Ronie can be found at www.roniekendig.com, on Facebook (www.facebook.com/rapidfirefiction), Twitter (@roniekendig), Instagram (@kendigronie) and GoodReads.

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