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 Katherine Reay

INSPYs 2016-Katherine Reay

Our final week (before the INSPY Advisory Board announces the winners) of author interviews continues today with author, Katherine Reay. Katherine has been shortlisted in previous INSPY awards and this year, her novel The Bronte Plot (Thomas Nelson) is on the 2016 shortlist in the General Fiction category.

Today, Katherine shares about the inspiration of The Bronte Plot, and asks YOU for new TV show recommendations. Read on below.


Lucy Alling makes a living selling rare books, often taking suspicious measures to reach her goals. When her unorthodox methods are discovered, Lucy’s secret ruins her relationship with Book - The Bronte Plother boss and her boyfriend James—leaving Lucy in a heap of hurt, and trouble. Something has to change; she has to change.

In a sudden turn of events, James’s wealthy grandmother Helen hires Lucy as a consultant for a London literary and antiques excursion. Lucy reluctantly agrees and soon discovers Helen holds secrets of her own. In fact, Helen understands Lucy’s predicament better than anyone else.

As the two travel across England, Lucy benefits from Helen’s wisdom, as Helen confronts the ghosts of her own past. Everything comes to a head at Haworth, home of the Brontë sisters, where Lucy is reminded of the sisters’ beloved heroines, who, with tenacity and resolution, endured—even in the midst of change.

Now Lucy must go back into her past in order to move forward. And while it may hold mistakes and regrets, she will prevail—if only she can step into the life that’s been waiting for her all along. – Goodreads

Amazon ($1.99 e-book sale) | Goodreads


AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH KATHERINE REAY

INSPYs: What inspired the story of The Bronte Plot? 

The Bronte Plot came to me as a question while reading C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce. In that story, while asleep, Lewis travels to heaven where he witnesses souls traveling “upward and onward.” Decisions must be made and burdens relinquished if the “passengers” on this journey wish to remain in heaven. Wrapped within fantasy, Lewis introduces us to the ideas of free will, choice and consequence – as well as deftly portraying the strings pulling at our hearts and the nature of surrender. I began to ask, what could or would that journey look like on this side of eternity? And if someone did reach a point to make new decisions and lay down old burdens, what event or force might begin the process? Lucy entered the story first, with her red hair, passion for design and story – and a few other personality traits – but she didn’t complete it. I knew that such turning points can happen at any age and Lucy needed a companion, someone unlike herself yet able to understand. She needed a Helen. And so, with two women ready for change, The Bronte Plot began…

INSPYs: Who was your favorite character/storyline in The Bronte Plot?

I adore Helen. Her character became so complex, from the wild summer of her youth to the pressures that later defined her life. And to see her work to redefine and find herself again – and, in many ways, free her family – was exciting.

I also loved Sid. If I ever hire an interior designer, I’ll need to find him in the real world.

Katherine's favorite writing spot!

Katherine’s favorite writing spot!

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

+What are you listening to?  

To and from my daughter’s volleyball practice, we listen to audiobooks. We just finished The Book Thief – brilliantly narrated, by the way. We are now listening to The Screwtape Letters. At home, The Zac Brown Band is the most played Pandora station with Needtobreathe and Van Morrison close behind. Now… That said, Jimmy Buffet always makes a strong appearance on the back patio each summer.

+What are you watching?

I just finished The Night Manager, an AMC miniseries of the John le Carré novel. Wow! Incredibly tense and well done. Hugh Laurie is, as always, brilliant.

And now that Castle is over, I’m looking for recommendations. I need a new show! Please help…

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

I decided to pick up the two books on the floor and take a picture of the true mess that is my nightstand. It needs a little explanation. At present, I am reading The Blind Side, Prayer, The Screwtape Letters (I know, listening to it too… it’s research) and Self-Editing. The Nightingale has sat teasing me for six months because I want to get to it, but I need more time. I picked up the Moriarty ARC at BEA last month and hope to find time to read it this summer as well. And the Amor Towles? I picked that up at BEA too and pat it every now and then. His debut, Rules of Civility, was fantastic and I’m almost nervous to begin his second, A Gentleman in Moscow, because soon after I start that first sentence it’ll be over and I’ll have to wait five more years for another beautiful Towles tale. Oh… And Everybody’s Jane. Again research. I really do get the best research!

Thanks for inviting me here!


Katherine, thank you SO much for joining us! It was a pleasure to chat with you, and learn more about The Brone Plot.

EDITOR’s NOTE:  Some of my recent TV show favorites would be NBC’s Blindspot, ITV’s Grantchester and I’m currently watching the sixth season of TNT’s Rizzoli and Isles. What are you currently watching, readers?

ABOUT THE AUTHORKBR Headshot

Katherine Reay has lived all across the country and Europe and has just moved with her family to Chicago. She is a writer, wife, mom, runner, and, most randomly, a tae kwon do black belt. Her debut novel, “Dear Mr. Knightley,” is a contemporary story with a dash of Jane Austen and other nineteenth century writers thrown in for the fun of it. Her subsequent novels, “Lizzy & Jane” and “The Bronte Plot,” feature stories of hope, reconciliation, family, some seriously good food and travel. “A Portrait of Emily Price” will be released in November of this year. 

Facebook | Twitter

 

A Conversation with Mary Weber

INSPYs 2016-Mary Weber FeatureWe’re starting the first full week of June (where does time go!?) welcoming YA fantasy author, Mary Weber. Her novel, Siren’s Fury (Thomas Nelson) is a finalist in the 2016 shortlist in the Literature for Young Adults category.

Today we talk with Mary about the inspiration of Siren’s Fury, what she thinks of this underrated YA market and of course, question her about her TBR.


“I thrust my hand toward the sky as my voice begs the Elemental inside me to waken and rise. But it’s no use. The curse I’ve spent my entire life abhorring—the thing I trained so hard to Book - Siren's Furycontrol—no longer exists.”

Nym has saved Faelen only to discover that Draewulf stole everything she valued. Now he’s destroyed her Elemental storm-summoning ability as well.

When Nym sneaks off with a host of delegates to Bron, Lord Myles offers her the chance for a new kind of power and the whispered hope that it may do more than simply defeat the monster she loathes. But the secrets the Bron people have kept concealed, along with the horrors Draewulf has developed, may require more than simply harnessing a darker ability.

They may require who she is.

Set against the stark metallic backdrop of the Bron kingdom, Nym is faced with the chance to change the future.

Or was that Draewulf’s plan for her all along? – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads


INTERVIEW WITH MARY WEBER

INSPYs: What inspired Siren’s Fury?

Oh man, honestly? I’d have to say the darker parts of life. You know – the bits of the journey we each encounter that expose the ugly in our souls and just about wreck us.

(smiles) In that sense I’m not sure the book is so much “inspirational” as it is an examination of Nym’s “dark night of the soul.” It’s the idea that our choices, even with the best intentions, often lead us to broken places. Although, to me that very often IS inspirational… Because I’ve found those broken places can be the most holy spaces, where our walls are finally down and our hearts open enough to let the light of revelation in. 

INSPYs: As an author in the Inspirational YA market, where do you see this underrated (in inspirational) genre going? Ooh interesting question. Although I’m not sure I have an answer! Um…I’ll say I perceive it going in two directions simultaneously. I think we’ll see it continue to grow in the “traditional” inspirational vein—by that I mean Christian fiction, involving people and stories of faith, for young adults. But I also believe we’ll see a strong move toward more mainstream stories that focus on spiritual themes and values without using religious terminology or branding. Basically general market fiction that’s written from a spiritual worldview because the author happens to be a person of faith (which is actually already thriving if you look at many of the general market authors out there).

And both are important. I work with teens who only read Inspirational YA because that’s what hugely encourages them. And then I work with a host of others who won’t touch it because they’ve been so jaded by Christian culture and much of the hypocrisy therein. However, they will read a story that unashamedly talks about the relatable, raw experiences of life, especially if it allows them to process through it whilst offering hope. So I think it’s a matter of audience and authors and what their passion is to pursue.

But again, that’s just my two-cents. 🙂

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

+ What are you listening to? Halsey, Birdy, and Hillsong United.

+ What are you watching? Due to book deadlines, not much right now, gah! Although my husband’s got me into a discontinued show called “Person of Interest,” which has a very cool concept.

+ What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? These!! <3

Mary Weber Book TBR

Thank you for having me, lovelies!!!! <3


Thanks so much for joining us today, Mary! Great to chat with you about your thoughts on the YA market and your awesome taste in music.

ABOUT THE AUTHORMary Weber

Mary Weber is the award-winning author of the bestselling young adult Storm Siren Trilogy and an altogether ridiculously uncoordinated girl. In her spare time she plots taking over make-believe worlds through books, handstands, and imaginary throwing knives, sings 80’s hairband songs to her three muggle children, and ogles her husband who looks strikingly like Wolverine. They live in California which is perfect for stalking L.A. bands, Joss Whedon, and the ocean.

Author Website | Facebook | Twitter

A Conversation with Carrie Stuart Parks

INSPYs 2016-Carrie Stuart Parks Feature

As we press ahead with the wonderful INSPYs author shortlist interviews, today we have the pleasure of chatting with author, Carrie Stuart Parks. Her novel, The Bones Will Speak (Thomas Nelson) is a finalist in the 2016 shortlist in the Mystery/Thriller category.

Today we talk with Carrie about the struggles she dealt with while writing The Bones Will Speak, her perspective on the mystery genre, plus more.


Forensic artist Gwen Marcey has become the target of a serial killer who believes he’s been appointed God’s executioner.Book - The Bones will Speak

In Copper Creek, Montana, Gwen Marcey is struggling to put together her life after cancer and divorce. When her dog retrieves a skull of a murder victim and leads her to the victim’s grave, Gwen uses her forensic art ability to identify a serial killer. She is horrified to discover all the victims look like her fourteen-year-old daughter.

The murderer is a “lone wolf,” a member of the terrorist group Phineas Priesthood-and he has a score to settle with Gwen. Unraveling the tangled Christian Identity movement, where race-not grace-provides salvation, Gwen is in a frantic rush against time. She must use all her skills to uncover the killer before he can carry out his threat to destroy her and everyone she loves. – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads


INTERVIEW WITH CARRIE STUART PARKS

INSPYs: What inspired The Bones Will Speak

Although this book came out as the second in the series about forensic artist Gwen Marcey, it’s the book I labored on for almost nine years learning how to write. By the time I was done, I HATED this book! My mentor, Frank Peretti, was very patient!

As a forensic artist myself, I wanted to use parts of my old cases and weave them into a story. In the 1980-90s, the Aryan Nations compound was located in nearby Hayden, Idaho. My dad had a crime lab and was the Director of Law Enforcement for North Idaho College. Feelings ran high between the law enforcement community and the Aryans/skinheads parked nearby, ended up with my dad being shot and wounded by one of them. I worked with the FBI on the Phineas Priesthood cases-a violent offshoot of the Christian Identity Movement- during that time. Also about then was the Robert Yates serial killing cases, which I worked on. This book was a blend of those experiences.

INSPYs: What are the challenges/benefits of writing in the mystery genre?

Being discovered by readers!! Suspense/thriller/mystery readers are very picky about authors and view new authors with suspicion. I’m hoping readers of Iris Johansen, early Patricia Cornwell, James Patterson will find my books and enjoy Gwen Marcey. 🙂

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

+ What are you listening to? When I write? Just the sounds on the ranch, located in the mountains of North Idaho. Usually in the mornings it would be birds, occasionally wild turkeys or

Great Pyrenees puppy, Elsa, checking out Carrie's bedside reading.

Great Pyrenees puppy, Elsa, checking out Carrie’s bedside reading.

coyotes. And my dogs barking outside (I have a total of five Great Pyrenees and a bull terrier. I show my dogs when I have time.)

+ What are you watching? Deer, elk, or sometimes a stray moose wandering past the windows. Inside, two of my Great Pyrenees and Bull Terrier tussling around the house.

+ What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? I do a lot of research, so right now I’m reading about the history of the Nez Perce Indians, Nez Perce war, and American Indian Movement. Also stacked up about a foot high on my nightstand are the books from my fellow writers that I need to finish and write reviews for. Just finished Colleen Coble’s excellent “Twilight at Blueberry Barrens.”


Thanks for joining us today, Carrie! It was great to learn more about the in-depth process of creating The Bones Will Speak.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carrie Stuart ParksCarrie Stuart Parks is an award-winning fine artist and internationally known forensic artist. Along with her husband, Rick, she travels across the US and Canada teaching courses in forensic art to law enforcement as well as civilian participants. She has won numerous awards for career excellence. Carrie is a popular platform speaker, presenting a variety of topics from crime to creativity. 

Author Website | Twitter

A Conversation with Billy Coffey

INSPYs 2016-Billy Coffey

Hello. Today, the Advisory Board welcomes author, Billy Coffey. Billy is the author of novels, The Devil Walks in Mattingly and the upcoming novel There Will Be Stars. His novel, The Curse of Crow Hollow (Thomas Nelson) is on the 2016 shortlist in the Speculative Fiction category.

Join us in welcoming Billy as we chat with him about what inspired The Curse of Crow Hollow, discuss the challenges and benefits of writing speculative fiction, plus he shares what he’s currently binge-watching.


Everyone in Crow Hollow knows of Alvaretta Graves, the old widow who lives in the mountain. Many call her a witch; others whisper she s insane. Everyone agrees the vengeance Book - The Curse of Crow HollowAlvaretta swore at her husband s death hovers over them all. That vengeance awakens when teenagers stumble upon Alvaretta s cabin, incurring her curse. Now a sickness moves through the Hollow. Rumors swirl that Stu Graves has risen for revenge. And the people of Crow Hollow are left to confront not only the darkness that lives on the mountain, but the darkness that lives within themselves. – Goodreads | Amazon


INSPYs: What inspired you to write The Curse of Crow Hollow?

I grew up with stories about people along the Blue Ridge who, for myriad reasons, had all but left society. They lived alone and cut off in the mountains. Often these stories turned to legend, to the point where an old woman living alone in a hollow could be twisted by rumor and gossip to become a witch up to no good. Those old tales told to me served as the basis of a story about how fear of some generic Other can lead good people to do horrible things.

INSPYs: What are the challenges/benefits of wiring inspirational speculative fiction?

For me the challenge is to keep an air of realism in an unrealistic situation, or at least a highly unlikely one. The great majority of my stories all involve supernatural elements, but I try to keep those things in the background and the real focus on the characters. I’m not so interested in the speculative bit of my books as I am the ordinary people who are thrust into extraordinary circumstances.

The greatest benefit, I think, is linked to those ordinary people. Allowing characters to grow and change leaves open the opportunity for redemption. I’ve always thought a good novel is like a mirror we can hold to ourselves, revealing something we’ve never considered.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

  • What are you listening to?

American IV: The Man Comes Around by Johnny Cash.

  • What are you watching?

I’ve just recently begun re-watching all six seasons of Lost.

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

Nightstand Billy Coffey

I’m currently reading Charles Martin’s next novel for endorsement, which is as excellent a story as you would expect. I’m a huge fan of Borges. He’s so impossible to describe and his breadth of knowledge seems almost inhuman. And I never go to bed without reading something by Flannery O’Connor.


Thanks so much for joining us today, Billy. It was great to learn more about The Curse of Crow Hollow and read more about the behind-the-scene happenings in the pursuit of a story.Billy-porch-pic-1024x741

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Billy and his wife, Joanne, live with their two children in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. A product of his small-town locale, Billy counts as assets his rural authenticity, unwavering sense of purpose, and insatiable curiosity–all of which tend to make his front porch a comfortably crowded place.

Author Website | Facebook | Twitter