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.

A Conversation with Lori Benton

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes Christy-winning author, Lori Benton. Her novel, A Flight of Arrows (WaterBrook) is on the 2017 shortlist in the Historical Romance category. Please join us in welcoming Lori.

Today, we read about the what if question that inspired A Flight of Arrows, hear about her most recent TV binge (Bones!) and her print book preference – plus more!

October 1776–August 1777

It is said that what a man sows he will reap–and for such a harvest there is no set season. No one connected to Reginald Aubrey is untouched by the crime he committed twenty years ago.

Not William, the Oneida child Reginald stole and raised as his own. Identity shattered, enlisted in the British army, William trains with Loyalist refugees eager to annihilate the rebels who forced them into exile. Coming to terms with who and what he is proves impossible, but if he breaks his Loyalist oath, he’ll be no better than the man who constructed his life of lies.

Not Anna, Reginald’s adopted daughter, nor Two Hawks, William’s twin, both who long for Reginald to accept their love despite the challenges they will face, building a marriage that bridges two cultures.

Not Good Voice and Stone Thrower, freed of bitterness by a courageous act of forgiveness, but still yearning for their firstborn son and fearful for the future of their Oneida people.

As the British prepare to attack frontier New York and Patriot regiments rally to defend it, two families separated by culture, united by love, will do all in their power to reclaim the son marching toward them in the ranks of their enemies. – Goodreads


Interview Questions

INSPYs: What inspired A Flight of Arrows? A Flight of Arrows is the second book in The Pathfinders series (The Wood’s Edge is the first). Inspiration for the series came by way of an article I read about twins born to a multiracial couple. One twin was white-skinned, the other brown-skinned.

My writer brain seized on that and began asking a hundred what if questions. What if such twins were born to an 18th century couple of different races? What if the mother of these twins was a white woman, captured and adopted by an Iroquoi tribe as a girl? What if the white-skinned twin was in turn stolen from her and her Iroquois husband and raised by a white family? What if he grew up and only then found out the truth?

What drew you to write historical fiction? My answer to this, on the surface, is not at all profound. After several years of dealing with chemo fog in my early thirties, I came to the point where I was ready to write again but was no longer interested in the genres I’d written previously. I’ve always enjoyed reading stories set before the Industrial Revolution, where the characters lived closer to the earth than most of us do nowadays. So I began to think about historical fiction. About that time I happened to see the movie The Patriot (with Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger) set during the Revolutionary War in the Carolinas. I found myself mulling over the 18th century fashion of knee breeches and how much I’d fancy writing male characters who wore them. I Googled knee breeches, found they began to go out of style around 1800, and knew I’d need to set my story in the 1700s. Unbeknownst to me, I’d stumbled upon a treasure trove, as I’ve since discovered in nearly two decades of researching and writing about the 18th century.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

1. What are you watching?

I’m rewatching the 12-season murder/mystery series Bones. It’s almost made me brave enough to try my hand at writing a historical mystery. I’m also watching Tales By Light, a Netflix series on nature and photography. Both are inspiring.

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

I took my current reading pile out with me for a photo shoot early one morning last week. Pictured left to right: Maggie Bright by Tracy Groot, The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron, Story Genious by Lisa Cron, and The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout, PH.D.

Faceoff Questions:
  1. Print or Ebook? Print, always. I’ve never owned an e-reader.
  2. Early Bird or Night Owl? I’ll get up at 2am for a sunrise photo shoot hours away, but I can’t stay up late to watch a movie. By the time 8pm rolls around I’m thinking about sleep.
  3. Coffee or Tea? Some of both, but if I had to choose, coffee.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lori Benton was raised east of the Appalachian Mountains, surrounded by early American history going back three hundred years. Her novels transport readers to the eighteenth century, where she brings to life the Colonial and early Federal periods of American history. When she isn’t writing, reading, or researching, Lori enjoys exploring the Oregon wilderness with her husband. She is the author of Burning Sky, recipient of three Christy Awards, and The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn. Visit her online http://loribenton.blogspot.com.


Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs.com blog today, Lori. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight A Flight of Arrows.

A Conversation with Leanne W. Smith

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Leanne W. Smith. Her novel, Leaving Independence (Waterfall Press) is on the 2017 shortlist in the Debut Fiction category. Please join us in welcoming Leanne.

Today, we read about the inspiration for Leaving Independence (Louis L’Amour is involved), learn about her road to publication, and hear about her most recent TV binges – plus more!

Abigail Baldwyn might not be a widow after all.…

Ever since she received word that her husband, Robert, was killed in the Civil War, Abigail has struggled to keep her Tennessee home and family together. Then a letter arrives claiming that Robert isn’t dead, yet he has no plans to return. Desperate for answers, Abigail travels to Independence, Missouri, where she joins a westbound wagon train to find him.

Leading a company along the Oregon Trail isn’t part of Hoke Mathews’s plans. But then the former cavalry scout gets a glimpse of Abigail—so elegant compared to the rest of their hardscrabble wagon community, yet spirited and resilient. Through every peril they encounter—snakebites, Indian raids, fevers, dangerous grudges—his bond with Abigail grows.

Abigail knew this journey would test her courage. Now it’s testing her marriage vows and her heart, daring her to claim a future on her own terms in a land rich with promise. – Goodreads


Interview Questions

INSPYs: What inspired your debut novel, Leaving Independence? I have felt called to write from a young age, but like the fearful servant who buried his one talent, I kept trying to ignore it. Writing is a hard calling and I wanted to by-pass the difficulty. But story ideas kept bubbling to the surface. A few, like the story of Abigail Baldwyn, withstood the tests of time and my own cowardice.

It’s impossible to say when I first had the idea for this story. Over twenty-five years ago I saw a woman walking down the boardwalk of a western town. What inspired it? I don’t know…she just showed up and wouldn’t leave me alone. At some point you have to admit that a story is given to you as a gift, you’re the only one who can tell it in your unique way, and if you don’t get your brave on and put it out there, the world will never get to feel the blessing of your characters.

Leanne says of her novel, “About a year after I committed to seeing this story through to publication my youngest daughter and I flew to Kansas City, rented a car, and drove to Independence where we stayed at a bed and breakfast that became the inspiration for Mrs. Helton’s boarding house in the book. We arrived after dark and I was feeling apprehensive the next morning at the financial and time commitment I was making to this endeavor when Shelby and I drove out to our first historical sight for research and inspiration. We walked up a hill to read the first historical marker we saw and it said…Leaving Independence. This had been my working title for over a year. Felt like a real God-moment.”

As a teen, I read a lot of Louis L’Amour and know his influence shaped parts of this story, like Hoke’s character. In L’Amour’s book, Westward the Tide, the main character is Mathieu Bardoul, a French spelling. So I spelled Hoke’s last name of Mathews with one “t” as my personal tribute to L’Amour.

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

The most difficult thing for me is the fear of rejection…the fear of judgment. Once I got past the hurdles of signing with an agent, then a publisher, the process was a joy. I prayed a lot that God would control the parts I couldn’t…which were legion…and He did.

Doors started opening for LI at the same moment my personal life held some challenges. I signed with Jessica Kirkland, my agent, within months of my father being diagnosed with dementia. Then I signed with Waterfall, my publisher, during a period of his rapid health decline. I learned in October 2015 that the release date for LI was June 21, 2016. This would have been my parents’ fifty-third wedding anniversary, but my father passed away April 21, two months before my book’s debut.

This experience, along with our daughters leaving home in the same time-period, made me ultra-aware of how little I actually control in life, much less in setting a book upon the waters. I was forced…blessed, really…to leave the details in God’s hands, and everyone He sent me proved to be more wonderful than I could have imagined. He saw to it that I had the perfect editor and a beautiful cover, and He continues to send me kind reviews and affirmation.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

What are you watching? I probably watch more TED Talks and video clips for the classes I teach than anything else. My husband and I have never watched a lot of television but a few months ago someone told me about a Netflix series called Longmire. They said Walt (the sheriff) reminded them of Hoke, so I had no choice but to check it out. It’s the first show we’ve watched since Downton Abbey ended. We rent movies on quiet weekends. Last two we saw were Hidden Figures and Hacksaw Ridge. Enjoyed both.

What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? I made a commitment to read through the Bible this year, so it tops the list. I’ve actually been reading a lot of screenplays on my computer. Have been fascinated with screenwriting for years and recently audited a class. One of the best I’ve read is Hell or High Water.

Non-fiction books I’ve read recently include Story by Robert McKee, Save the Cat by Blake Snyder, The Road Back to You by Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile, and Presence by Amy Cuddy. Next on the list are Simon Sinek’s Leaders Eat Last, Timothy Keller’s Every Good Endeavor, and Flying Flak Alley by my friend Alan Griggs.

Fiction I’ve read recently includes Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, and Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys. Am currently reading My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout and Mark Twain’s Roughin’ It. Next on the list are Anne Patchett’s Commonwealth and The Devil’s Bible by my friend Dana Chamblee Carpenter.

Face off Questions:
  1. Print or Ebook? Prefer to hold real books in my hands, but e-books pack lighter when flying.
  2. Chocolate or Vanilla? (Ice Cream) Vanilla, with dark chocolate fudge sauce.
  3. PC or Mac? Mac. All the way.
  4. Coffee or Tea? Coffee in the morning; tea in the afternoon.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Leaving Independence is Leanne Wood Smith’s first historical novel. In addition to writing, she teaches for a university in Nashville, Tennessee, where she lives with her husband, two daughters, and a son-in-law. Leanne believes that when something calls to you, you should journey toward it. Visit her website at www.leannewsmith.com for inspiration in pursuing personal and career-related dreams.


Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs.com blog today, Leanne. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight Leaving Independence.

A Conversation with Julianna Deering

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Julianna Deering. Her novel, Dressed for Death (Bethany House) is on the 2017 shortlist in the Mystery & Thriller category. Please join us in welcoming Julianna.

Today, we read about the inspiration for Dressed for Death (during which its hero travels to a regency era party!), learn more about Julianna’s favorite sweets, and hear about her love of a certain sport – plus more!

ABOUT THE BOOK

Drew and Madeline Farthering celebrate their six-month anniversary by attending a fancy Regency era costume party. Drew is glad to see Talbot Cummins, an Oxford classmate, and his fiancée, Alice Henley, though many present seem worried about the couple. Everyone’s concerns are realized when, at the concluding grand ball, Alice dies of an overdose of cocaine. Tal refuses to believe she took the stuff intentionally, and Drew is determined to find out if her death was an accident or murder.

Drew is shocked and disillusioned when the police arrest Tal’s father and reveal that the man has been smuggling drugs into the country for the past twenty years. Reeling from the death of his fiancée and the revelation about his father, Tal begs Drew to find out what’s going on. Drew, now questioning his own ability to see people as they really are, does so reluctantly, not ready for the secrets he’s about to uncover–or the danger he’ll bring down on everyone he holds dear. – Goodreads

Interview Questions

INSPYs: What inspired the creation of the amateur sleuth Drew Furthering and his friends?

I have been a fan of the golden age of cozy mystery for a very long time. Authors like Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and Margery Allingham have always delighted me not only with wonderful mysteries to solve but fascinating period characters to solve them with and England in the first half of the twentieth century as a glorious backdrop. I’m also a long-time lover of the movies of the 1930s and ’40s and think black-and-white cinematography is vastly underrated. Besides that, being a devoted Anglophile and an unabashed word nerd, I am intrigued by the small but considerable differences between British English and American English. Given all that, what could be better than writing a series of cozy English mysteries set in the 1930s featuring a British hero and an American heroine?

What is your favorite and least favorite thing of writing a series about the same characters?

I love that I know my characters very well and how they are likely to react in any given situation. But I also love how they sometimes surprise me with what they say and what they insist on doing. I enjoy uncovering new layers to each character as time goes on. (I’m always sorry when I try to force them to do something just to make my plot work. They invariably get mad and stop talking to me.)

The hardest thing about using the same characters again and again in a series is trying to make sure I don’t repeat myself. I want each of them to grow as a person while still keeping his or her original personality. In real life, it’s very unlikely that one person or small group of people not employed by the police or the courts would be involved in even one murder case much less a new one every few months. I always want to find new things for them to do and new ways to involve them in the case at hand, and that’s never easy.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

1. What are you watching? Hockey playoffs! I’m an NHL fiend, and for me this is the most wonderful time of the year. I’m just sorry my Dallas Stars didn’t make it to the playoffs this year. Wait till next time!

2. What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? I’ve been on a Georgette Heyer binge for the past few months. I just finished The Quiet Gentleman, which I loved, and I’m now reading Cousin Kate. Fortunately for me, Heyer wrote a ton of Regency romances and, even better, Richard Armitage has read three of them for audio books. When I can’t sit and read, I can still listen. Be still my heart.

Faceoff Questions:

1. Chocolate or Vanilla Ice Cream? Yes, please. Okay, chocolate wins out, but only by a fraction of an inch. Both are fabulous.

2. Print or Ebook? Again, yes. I love print books most because I can actually “have” them. But, since I have text-to-speech on my Kindle, I have really enjoyed listening to e-books while I’m doing other things around the house. Win-win!

3. Dark Chocolate or Milk Chocolate? Uh, yes. Dark chocolate gets the tiniest edge here, but both are my favorite. Trying to keep away from them is the problem.

4. Coffee or Tea? Oh, boy, I can never just answer, can I? I have to say both and neither. I always drank iced tea (unsweetened) when it was hot outside and coffee (cream only) when it was cold. But I had to stop drinking both because they were affecting me badly. So now it’s just water or juice (which I love, too).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Julianna Deering is the creator of the acclaimed Drew Farthering Mystery series. She has always loved British history and is a particular fan of the writings of Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie. She graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas with a degree in business administration and spent several years as a Certified Public Accountant. She lives outside Dallas, Texas. For more information visit www.juliannadeering.com.


Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs.com blog today, Julianna. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight Dressed for Death.

A Conversation with Celeste Fletcher McHale

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Celeste Fletcher McHale. Her novel, The Secret to Hummingbird Cake (Thomas Nelson) is on the 2017 shortlist in the Debut Fiction category. Please join us in welcoming Celeste.

Today, we learn about the inspiration behind The Secret to Hummingbird Cake (it’s based on a true story!), get a glimpse of Celeste’s work space (and her cute writing companion) – plus more!

“Why won’t you just tell me what’s in that cake?” I’d been trying to get Laine’s recipe for years. We all had.

When all else fails, turn to the divine taste of hummingbird cake.

In the South you always say “yes, ma’am” and “no, ma’am.” You know everybody’s business. Football is a lifestyle not a pastime. Food—especially dessert— is almost a religious experience. And you protect your friends as fiercely as you protect your family— even if the threat is something you cannot see.

In this spot-on Southern novel brimming with wit and authenticity, you’ll laugh alongside lifelong friends, navigate the sometimes rocky path of marriage, and roll through the outrageous curveballs that life sometimes throws . . . from devastating pain to absolute joy. And if you’re lucky, you just may discover the secret to hummingbird cake along the way. – Goodreads

Author Interview with Celeste Fletcher McHale

INSPYs: What inspired The Secret to Hummingbird CakeThe Secret to Hummingbird Cake is a true story. I moved the actual time line around a little when I was writing it, but it is the story of me and my two best friends and an 18 month period in our lives.

Because it is a true story, I didn’t want to sugar coat the situations or the language in the book. I didn’t feel like whitewashing the truth would do me or anyone reading it any good. Some folks always follow the right path and that’s great. But some of us veer to the left or the right and others can sort of make us feel like we aren’t worthy of the love of God because of it. Nothing could be further from the truth. I wanted this book to send that message loud and clear. It isn’t God that moved away from us, it’s us that moved away from God and he will always accept us just like we are… even if some people don’t.

Celeste says of her work space, “It’s wherever I feel comfortable that day, but little Viloula is always by my side.”

What were some of the things that surprised you about the publishing process? I think what surprised me the most about the publishing process is how long it is between “the end” and release day. I have zero patience and it felt like I was five years old again waiting for Santa Claus.
Just for fun Questions:

1. What are you Watching? I generally turn my TV on the SEC channel and leave it there all day. I mostly watch sports and I don’t care what it is. If they are keeping score, I’ll watch it. LOL. I DO watch The Voice and the sitcom, Mom.

2. What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? My Sports Illustrated magazine comes on Thursday. I read it from cover to cover and then I’m done for the week. I honestly have very little time to read. I live on a working ranch and something ALWAYS needs attention. I use the time I would have to read…to write.

Face off Questions:

Print or Ebook? I want to hold my books. I don’t like a kindle.

Dark or Milk Chocolate? I’m not much of a chocolate fan, but if my mama puts a pan of biscuits on the table, y’all better get one before I see them ’cause I can eat half the pan. That’s why I have to run every morning. Hahaha.

Call or text? Definitely text!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Celeste Fletcher McHale lives on her family farm in Central Louisiana where she enjoys raising a variety of animals. Her hobbies include writing, football, baseball, and spending much time with her grandchildren. Website: fletchermchale.wordpress.com Facebook: FletcherMcHale Twitter: @FletcherMcHale


Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs.com blog today, Celeste. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight The Secret to Hummingbird Cake.

2017 Shortlists Announced

The day has arrived. We are ready to announce our 2017 INSPYs shortlists. 

We thank you so much for your continued support, especially in light of the 2017 changes as we strive to create a program that is considerate of the many wonderful novels written in this genre. 

Following multiple book deliveries plus multiple time zones, and juggling our respective schedules, the Inspy Awards Advisory Board is thrilled to (finally) announce the 2017 shortlist contenders. As each year does, another daunting task was placed before us to pick just 5 books in each category from a long list nominated by readers and bloggers around the world. After careful consideration and deliberation, the INSPYs Advisory Board is pleased to announce that the following books have been shortlisted in the 6th annual INSPY Awards. 

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE/ROMANTIC SUSPENSE 

Can’t Help Falling (Howard) by Kara Isaac
Her One and Only (Bethany House) by Becky Wade
Just a Kiss (Thomas Nelson) by Denise Hunter
A Twist of Faith (Southern Firefly Fiction) by Pepper Basham
You’re the One that I Want (Tyndale) by Susan May Warren

 DEBUT FICTION

Close to You (Howard Books) by Kara Isaac
Counted with the Stars (Bethany House) by Connilyn Cossette
Leaving Independence (Waterfall Press) by Leanne W. Smith
The Secret to Hummingbird Cake (Thomas Nelson) by Celeste Fletcher McHale
The Undoing of Saint Silvanus (Tyndale) by Beth Moore

GENERAL FICTION 

The Alliance (Tyndale) by Jolina Petersheim
The Feathered Bone (Thomas Nelson) by Julie Cantrell
Land of Silence (Tyndale) by Tessa Afshar
Long Way Gone (Thomas Nelson) by Charles Martin
A Portrait of Emily Price (Thomas Nelson) by Katherine Reay

HISTORICAL ROMANCE

A Flight of Arrows (Waterbrook) by Lori Benton
The Lady and the Lionheart (Mason Jar Books) by Joanne Bischof
A Heart Most Certain (Bethany House) by Melissa Jaegers
The Captive Heart (Shiloh Run Press) by Michelle Griep
The Ringmaster’s Wife (Thomas Nelson) by Kristy Cambron

MYSTERY/THRILLER

Conspiracy of Silence (Bethany House) by Ronie Kendig
Cold Shot (Bethany House) by Dani Pettrey
Dressed for Death (Bethany House) by Julianna Deering
If I Run (Zondervan) by Terri Blackstock
When Death Draws Near (Thomas Nelson) by Carrie Stuart Parks

LITERATURE FOR YOUNG ADULTS 

A Daring Sacrifice (Zondervan) by Jody Hedlund
Gilt Hollow (Blink) by Lorie Langdon
I’ll Be Yours (Sweet Pea Productions) by Jenny B. Jones
Siren’s Song (Thomas Nelson) by Mary Weber
Unblemished (Thomas Nelson) by Sara Ella

SPECULATIVE FICTION

Accelerant (Enclave) by Ronie Kendig
The Calling (Tyndale) by Rachelle Dekker
The Long Journey to Jake Palmer (Thomas Nelson) by James L. Rubart
Seasons of Glory (Blink) by Lisa T. Bergren
The Shattered Vigil (Bethany House) by Patrick W. Carr


Congratulations to all of the nominated authors and shortlist contenders! We now turn the job over to our 2017 judges to select a winner in each category. Winners will be announced June 28th.

Download Press Release here.

A Conversation with Zachary Bartels

INSPYs 2016-Zachary Bartels Feature

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

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


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

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

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

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

Amazon | Goodreads


AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH ZACHARY BARTELS

INSPYs: What inspired The Last Con?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

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

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

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


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

ABOUT THE AUTHORZachary Bartels

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

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

Author Website | Facebook | Twitter

A Conversation with Katie Ganshert

INSPYs 2016-Katie Ganshert FeatureAs we come down to the final hours before the INSPYs 2016 winners are announced (Tuesday!), today we welcome Katie Ganshert. A multi-genre author who made the jump to Indie and YA fiction last year, Katie’s novel The Art of Losing Yourself (WaterBrook Press) is on the 2016 shortlist in the General Fiction category.

Katie shares more on the inspiration of The Art of Losing Yourself, and the challenges/benefits of writing organically incorporated faith. Plus, she’s a Gilmore Girls fan!


Every morning, Carmen Hart pastes on her made-for-TV smile and broadcasts the weather. She’s the Florida panhandle’s favorite meteorologist, married to everyone’s favorite high Book - The Art of Losing Yourselfschool football coach. They’re the perfect-looking couple, live in a nice house, and attend church on Sundays. From the outside, she’s a woman who has it all together. But on the inside, Carmen Hart struggles with doubt. She wonders if she made a mistake when she married her husband. She wonders if God is as powerful as she once believed. Sometimes she wonders if He exists at all. After years of secret losses and empty arms, she’s not so sure anymore.

Until Carmen’s sister—seventeen year old runaway, Gracie Fisher—steps in and changes everything. Gracie is caught squatting at a boarded-up motel that belongs to Carmen’s aunt, and their mother is off on another one of her benders, which means Carmen has no other option but to take Gracie in. Is it possible for God to use a broken teenager and an abandoned motel to bring a woman’s faith and marriage back to life? Can two half-sisters make each other whole? – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads


AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH KATIE GANSHERT

What inspired The Art of Losing Yourself?

This doesn’t usually happen for me, but it was a passage of Scripture—from Ezekiel 37. It’s when the Lord gives Ezekiel a vision, and shows him a valley filled with dry bones. And then the Lord asks, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I was so very struck by the passage and the question, and of course, God’s response. So struck, I wanted to tell a story about God’s ability to breath the dead back to life. In the Art of Losing Yourself, that dead thing happens to be a marriage, a derelict motel, and a woman’s faith.

What are the challenges/benefits of incorporating faith into your story?

Well, for this book, incorporating faith into the story was relatively easy, as the entire theme revolves around the main character’s faith, or lack thereof. I think the biggest challenge is making sure the faith-element arises organically from the characters and the story, instead of making it this painted-on thing just because the genre demands it. The benefits are numerous! Namely, hearing from readers who have been encouraged in their faith after reading the story. And, of course, being encouraged in my own faith as I seek God and His truth while writing the story.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

What are you listening to?

Katie Ganshert TBR

Katie’s TBR pile.

Mostly, Bible kid songs. We have a Jesus Loves Me soundtrack that plays on repeat wherever we go because my daughter loves it and it’s good for her to try to sing familiar songs, as she has a severe speech delay. Music aside, I love audio books, and am currently listening to Kate Morton’s The Lake House.

What are you watching?

A conglomeration of things—nothing new. We don’t have cable, but we do have Netflix and Amazon Prime. Right now, I’m watching Gilmore Girls and when I’m in the mood for a laugh, The Office. I’ve already watched both.

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

(See Picture) I’m reading 19 Minutes by Jodi Picoult. It’s my first Picoult book and so far, I’m enjoying it. I’m also reading Forgotten God by Francis Chan. And up next is Becky Wade’s newest—Her One and Only.


Thank you so much for joining us today, Katie! We enjoyed learning more about the inspiration of The Art of Losing Yourself, and discovering what’s on your TBR.

ABOUT THE AUTHORKatie Ganshert

Award-winning author, Katie Ganshert, graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison with a degree in education, and worked as a fifth grade teacher for several years before staying home to write full-time. She was born and raised in the Midwest, where she lives with her family. When she’s not busy penning novels or spending time with her people, she enjoys drinking coffee with friends, reading great literature, and eating copious amounts of dark chocolate.

Author Website | Facebook | Twitter

A Conversation with Susan May Warren

INSPYs 2016-Susan May Warren Feature

Happy Saturday, INSPYs readers. Today we welcome the award-winning talents of Susan May Warren. Susan has been shortlisted in previous INSPY awards and this year, her novel The Wonder of You (Tyndale House) is on the 2016 shortlist in the Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense category.

Today, Susan shares about the inspiration of The Wonder of You as well as the most challenging factor of writing a closely-connected familial series. (Plus Ross Poldark makes a cameo.)


Mortified after her year abroad is cut short, Amelia Christiansen returns to Deep Haven, certain she isn’t brave enough to embrace the adventures she’s dreamed of. The last thing she Book - The Wonder of Youexpects is for the man who broke her heart to cross the Atlantic and beg forgiveness.

Heir to a European hotel dynasty, Roark St. John has trekked from one exotic locale to another, haunted by tragedy and the expectations that accompany his last name. Amelia is the first woman to give him a reason to stop running. He’ll do anything for a second chance—even contend with Amelia’s old flame, who is intent on sending Roark packing.

While one surprise after another leaves Amelia reeling, Roark’s continued presence only highlights the questions pursuing her. Like him, is she running from the life God has called her to? Could finding her place mean leaving home behind? – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads


AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH SUSAN MAY WARREN

INSPYs: What inspired you to write The Wonder of You?

This story, and in particular, the heroine, Amelia was inspired by my beautiful daughter Sarah!  Sarah signed up for a semester in Prague. . .but when she got there, she realized that she was really a Baggins at heart – she didn’t want to leave the Shire, aka, our small town, or at least the safety of Minnesota.  This became a soul-wrenching experience as I watched her wrestle with her fears versus her dreams of seeing the world.  It became the basis for the story question:  What happens when you discover you’re not the person you thought you were?  More, she had disappointed herself… What happens when you fail yourself?  We often deal with characters failing others – like their parents, or their spouse, but failing yourself can be a much more devastating experience.  Sure, a character might be able to forgive themselves…but what do they do with the pieces of their failure?  And what if they fail again?

On a personal level, what does failure tell you about yourself and how can it affect your entire life?  Knowing how to forgive yourself, and what to do next are important – if challenging – life skills, and Amelia has to learn how to combat her failures as well as her fears if she wants to go forward.  So, the title is a double-entre…we are stronger than we realize because God is at work, in us.  It’s the wonder of God in us…to produce an amazing result.

INSPYs: What was your most challenging factor in writing a closely connected six-book series?

The Christiansen family series is a spin-off of the best-selling Deep Haven collection, a collection of stories about the townspeople of Deep Haven, Minnesota, a tiny resort town on the north shore of Lake Superior.  The original series started with a book entitled, Happily Ever After, and grew to include six titles.  However, one family began to stand out and I decided their story needed to be told. I wanted a series about a family with adult children, learning what it meant to carry on the legacy of faith into their lives.  And I wanted to write a series that would really let readers dig into the family, feel like they were a part of their journey.  The biggest issue was how to create both a stand-alone story arc as well as a series story arc that would keep readers glued to the drama of the series. I discovered that I really enjoyed writing this kind of connected series, where the events in one book push the events in the next.  However, I’ve discovered that readers need to enter the series anywhere without being lost—and that can be difficult in a closely connected series. The Wonder of You was a bridge book between two epic events that happen to the family, and the challenge of this story was to carry the story arc while giving the reader a story that could stand on its own.  I think Roark and Amelia pulled it off brilliantly.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

+What are you listening to?

Pandora. The Chase Rice station (that I designed).  Contemporary country music.

+What are you watching?

Just finished season one of Poldark.  *sigh*

Photo: ITV

Photo: ITV

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

Just starting another fabulous Lori Benton novel:  The Wood’s Edge.  I’m a huge historical fiction fan. Okay, I’m just a huge fan of well written books, regardless of genre. 🙂

Thank you for having me!!


Thanks so much for joining us today, Susan. It was a pleasure to learn more about The Wonder of You and chat about your current read.

ABOUT THE AUTHORSusan May Warren

Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning novelist of over thirty novels. A five-time Christy award finalist, a two-time RITA Finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Carol Award.

A seasoned women’s events speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you!

She is also the founder of www.MyBookTherapy.com, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice.

Author Website | Facebook | Twitter