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.

A Conversation with Rachelle Dekker

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

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


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

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

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

Interview Questions

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

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

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

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


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

The Devil In the White City (Erik Larson)

Six of Crows (Leigh Bardugo)

Truly, Madly, Guilty (Liane Moriarty)

Big Magic (Elizabeth Gilbert)

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

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

Photo: CBS

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


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

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

A Conversation with Jolina Petersheim

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

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


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

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

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

Interview Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Photo: BBC

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

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


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

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

A Conversation with James L. Rubart

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Interview Questions

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

A Conversation with Kara Isaac

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

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


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

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

Interview Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

A Conversation with Dani Pettrey

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

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


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

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

Interview Questions

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

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

Gettysburg mass grave site


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

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

Dani’s office!


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

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

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

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

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

A Conversation with Kristy Cambron

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Faceoff Questions:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Spotlighting Beth Moore and The Undoing of Saint Silvanus

Today, the INSPY Awards spotlights best-selling author, Beth Moore. Her novel, The Undoing of Saint Silvanus (Tyndale) is on the 2017 shortlist in the Debut Fiction category.

Beth is busy travelling so conflicts prevented her from joining us, but her publicist kindly sent us some questions Beth answered for publicity purposes. Please join us in welcoming Beth.

Only God knew why Jillian Slater agreed to return to New Orleans on the news that her father had finally drunk himself to death. It’s not like they were close. She hadn’t seen him–or her grandmother, the ice queen–in almost 20 years. But when Adella Atwater, the manager of her grandmother’s apartment house, called and said Jillian’s expenses would be paid if she’d fly in for the burial, a free trip to New Orleans was too intriguing to resist.

What Adella didn’t tell her was that the apartment house wasn’t a house at all and, whatever it was, bore the dead weight of a long and painful history. As soon as Jillian meets the odd assortment of renters and realizes that her grandmother had no idea she was coming, she hatches a plan to escape. But the investigation into her father’s death quickly unfolds and Jillian is drawn into the lives of the colorful collection of saints and sinners who pass through Saint Silvanus. She soon discovers there is more at stake than she ever imagined. Who is behind the baffling messages and the strange relics left on the steps? Is it possible that her family is actually cursed? Or is it just this crazy old house that holds them all under its spell?

Jillian walks into a web of spiritual and personal danger borne out of her family’s broken history, and despite Adella’s wiliest efforts, only God himself can orchestrate the undoing of all that is going on at Saint Silvanus. – Goodreads


1. Beth, you are well known to millions around the globe as a Bible study teacher, speaker, and the author of nonfiction books including So Long, Insecurity. What made you decide to write your first work of fiction?

I was ambushed by the love of story from both sides of my bloodline. My mother all but ate books, and from the time I was six years old, my father managed movie theaters. My fate was sealed. I still love both forms of entertainment, but to this day, what I love best about a movie is not landscape or costume. It’s dialogue. It all boils down to words with me. Before I could write my ABCs, I’d cat-scratch pretend cursive all over Big Chief tablets from the Piggly Wiggly, playing like I was writing a book. Through the years of writing Bible study curriculum and nonfiction trade books, I’ve been drawn like a magnet to the stories of the men and women in Scripture that seemed particularly complex. David and Absalom, for instance. Miriam and Moses. I love narrative. I love imagining what these lives of faith were like away from the page and how these men and women in the sacred pages interacted with those in their sphere of influence. Sometimes those imaginations would turn into creative writings.

Way down deep in my heart I wondered if I’d ever try a novel. Bible study curriculum is my first love and keeps me busier than I can even manage, so I couldn’t imagine how the time would present itself. Still, that seed was down in that soil, where I figured it would always stay. One day in discussions about So Long, Insecurity, Karen Watson glanced across the table and asked out of the blue, “Hey, Beth, have you ever thought about trying your hand at fiction?” I felt the heat go to my face like someone knew something on me she wasn’t supposed to know. And I don’t know how else to explain it—it was like she tipped a cup of water right over that soil and that sleepy seed started waking up. I went through something really hard not long after that. Something I wasn’t

free to talk about. There at home, trapped in my imagination, a storyline began to sprout, green and gawky but with enough semblance of form, I kept at it. I couldn’t have imagined I’d ever keep writing it, let alone finish it.

2. The Undoing of Saint Silvanus is a unique title. Can you tell us who—or what— Saint Silvanus is?

Please hear this word through a wide but ever-so-respectful grin: Nope.

3. New Orleans is a fascinating setting for your novel. Why did you choose to place your first work of fiction in this particular locale?

When I was fifteen, my little brother and I, the only two kids left at home, took a grueling two-day road-trip with our parents to our cousins’ house in Florida for vacation. Houston reaches Florida by the long, skinny arm of Interstate 10, the only decent bicep of the trip being New Orleans. I have no idea what got into my father’s head, but he decided to trot the four of us right down Bourbon Street. We’d only recently moved to Houston from a small town in Arkansas, so we hadn’t even acclimated to crowds yet. I’m pretty sure he had no idea what he was going to walk his family into the middle of. I was not an innocent adolescent. Our family had dangled on the precipice of hell for several years. I would have told you I wasn’t naïve, but I’d never walked by a strip bar in my life. Not sure I’d ever driven by one. The pictures posted at the front doors were explicit and so disturbing that I couldn’t shake them out of my head for years. Dodging drunks, we finally made our way to Jackson Square past painters and sidewalk entertainers and palm readers. It was the wildest thing I’d ever seen.

Fast forward many years, and Keith and I would go back to that city for anniversaries and bask in the deep-fried goodness of New Orleans’s brighter side. Still plenty spicy. Just not as seedy.

Fast forward a few more years, and I was asked to teach the women of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church at their annual conference. I guess it was as close as I’ve ever come to love at first sight. That whole congregation accepted this white girl like I was one of them. To be loved and embraced by them is still one of the greatest honors and joys of my ministry life. We are blood kin in Jesus. My Bible study Breaking Free was taped in their auditorium. When my younger brother was transferred there for work, FABC also threw their arms open wide to him. He attended that wonderful, warm church for several years until he was transferred again.

New Orleans is second in my heart only to Houston. I’m not sure I can explain exactly why. I’ve had a complex relationship with it. But that’s just it. I’m somehow rarely drawn to simple relationships.

Is there anything you’d like to tell us about the novel that I haven’t asked?

I can only think of one thing right now and I’ll set it up by supplying the question.

“Beth, did you enjoy the process of writing a novel?”

Every single second of it.


Best-selling book and Bible study author Beth Moore is a dynamic teacher whose conferences take her across the globe. She is a dedicated wife with two adult daughters and three delightful grandchildren. Beth lives in Houston, Texas, where she leads Living Proof Ministries with the purpose of encouraging and teaching women to know and love Jesus through the study of Scripture. Beth is one of the best-known women in the evangelical Christian arena. The Undoing of Saint Silvanus is her first work of fiction.

Hope you enjoyed learning more about Beth and the inspiration behind her debut novel, The Undoing of Saint Silvanus.

A Conversation with Julie Cantrell

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

What are you currently watching?

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

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

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

Faceoff Questions:

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

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

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


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

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