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

A Conversation with Cathy Gohlke

INSPYs 2016-Cathy Gohlke Feature

Good afternoon, INSPYs readers. We’re welcoming  author Cathy Gohlke today. Cathy is the author of novels like Saving Amelie, Promise Me This, and this year, her novel, Secrets She Kept (Tyndale) made the final in the 2016 INSPYs shortlist in the General Fiction category.

Below Cathy shares about the inspiration of Secrets She Kept, and gives us some insight into her favorite story to write in the two-person narrative of the novel.


The secret a mother was forbidden to share . . . the consequences a daughter could not redeem—but will risk everything in her attempt.Book - Secrets She Kept

All her life, Hannah Sterling longed for a close relationship with her estranged mother. Following Lieselotte’s death, Hannah unlocks secrets of her mother’s mysterious past, including the discovery of a grandfather living in Germany.

Thirty years earlier, Lieselotte’s father, ascending the ranks of the Nazi party, demands a marriage for his daughter to help advance his career. But Lieselotte is in love—and her beloved Lukas secretly works against the Reich. How far will her father go to achieve his goal?

Both Hannah’s and Lieselotte’s stories unfold as Hannah travels to Germany to meet her grandfather, who hides wartime secrets of his own. Longing for connection, yet shaken by all she uncovers, Hannah must decide if she can atone for her family’s tragic past, and how their legacy will shape her future. – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads


INTERVIEW WITH CATHY GOHLKE

INSPYs: What inspired Secrets She Kept? Secrets She Kept was conceived while researching WWII and touring Germany. I learned that WWII bred many deep secrets in families—secrets of good deeds unrewarded and secrets of evil deeds never discovered.

But I wondered, how did Holocaust survivors reclaim their lives and live beyond the tragedies of the war when anti-Semitism still existed? How did perpetrators and their families live with the horrors they’d inflicted? Were they sorry for what they’d done? Did they attempt to hide their wartime activities? Did they confess or try in any way to redeem the wrongs they’d committed? Is there atonement? How do Germans today reconcile what they or their nation did during WWII?

Those questions made me ask, too, how do we confront the far-reaching consequences of our actions or those of our family members?

Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch Christian, who, with her sister, father and many family members, helped Jews escape Nazi persecution during the war, inspired an answer in her book, The Hiding Place. I’ve been fascinated and convicted since my teenage years by Corrie’s courageous and triumphant faith, and the frank honesty of her journey.

INSPYs: Which character/story did you most enjoy writing about in Secrets She Kept? Lieselotte. During my research I walked Lieselotte’s paths in Berlin before and during the war, and through Ravensbruk Concentration Camp. I tramped through the rain from a train to the camp at Sachsenhausen and imagined what it meant to be Jewish or considered a political criminal, yanked from your life, taken away by train and thrown into prison . . . not just any prison, but one of terrible persecution.

Creating Lieselotte and imagining her life, the daring and courage it took to help Jews right under the nose of her Nazi loving father and brother, the grievous loss of her mother and the man she loved so dearly, and the terrible sacrifice she made for love of her daughter . . . I feel as if I know her, as if she and her journey are part of me.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

+ What are you listening to? “Favourite Wartime Songs—The Songs That Lifted a Nation’s Heart,” produced by English Heritage. It’s a wonderful collection of nostalgic and well-known British songs and dance music from WWII that I found at the Imperial War Museum in London. A note on the back of the CD case reads, “Tunes that we all remember from a time we will never forget.” Can you guess the period for my current wip? : )

+ What are you watching? My brother and sister-in-law introduced me to “Coalhouse at War,” a series filmed in Wales. I’m hooked! It’s a fascinating reality show about daily life in a Welsh coal town during WWII. Three modern-day families and a group of young men “drafted” to work the mines live, work and go to school just as they would have during WWII.

Men, women and children deal with blackout, rations, deprivations, evacuees from bombed towns, raising animals for food, air raids, Home Guard training, coal mining, the threat of invasion, dances and sing-songs for fun, weekly chapel, and all that went with life in those days. It is the only reality show I’ve ever seen that I would love to participate in—although I’m not keen on the idea of eating sheep’s tongue. : {Cathy Gohlke's Reading Table

+ What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? I’m rereading some of C. S. Lewis’s works, especially those things written prior to and during WWII. Many of his works were published or broadcast in different forms than the final books we have today. I’ve just finished reading Mere Christianity which is a compilation of his WWII radio broadcasts, The Problem of Pain, The Screwtape Letters, and am now reading The Weight of Glory. I’ve loved reading the Boxen stories he and his brother, Warnie, wrote and illustrated for fun as a children (inspired by beloved stories and illustrations of Beatrix Potter).

Daily I read my Bible. This year I’m enjoying Tyndale’s NLT and the new Tree of Life Version. Dwelling Places, by Lucinda Secrest McDowell is a favorite new devotional, as is Priscilla Shirer’s Fervent. Two wonderfully engrossing novels I’ve read and reread recently are Tessa Afshar’s Land of Silence and Carrie Turansky’s Refuge at Highland Hall.


Thanks so much for joining us, Cathy. It was a pleasure to learn more about Secrets She Kept, and which storyline was your favorite to write.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Cathy Gohlke Author-Photo

Cathy Gohlke is the two-time Christy Award–winning author of the critically acclaimed novels Promise Me This, William Henry Is a Fine Name, and I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires, which also won the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Book of the Year Award and was listed by Library Journal as one of the Best Books of 2008.

Cathy has worked as a school librarian, drama director, and director of children’s and education ministries. When not traipsing the hills and dales of historic sites, she, her husband, and their dog, Reilly, make their home on the banks of the Laurel Run in Elkton, Maryland.

Author Website | Facebook