Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Nancy Toback - I apologize for misspelling her name

I've been online ACFW friends with Nancy Toback for a long time. She's even been a copy editor for one of my books. Now I'm privileged to introduce her to you. We'll be featuring her second book. However on her first two books, she collaborated with another author, so this one is her first book as the only author.

Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

Interesting questions, Lena. I do recognize pieces of myself in my characters, but they sort of sneak in there. For instance, I’ve struggled with shyness all my life, and it’s not easy for me to write a bold heroine who speaks her mind. I have to make a conscious effort not to have every heroine blushing, especially when the hero gets close. I also see traits of family members and friends in my characters. I have the easiest time writing female friends who feel close enough to poke fun at each other, because that’s my friends and me in real life.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

Well, I’m not sure this is quirky, but it’s a bit odd. When I was a secretary, my Japanese bosses asked if I’d volunteer to be the first Caucasian to work as a kimono-clad waitress at their restaurant. (Because of immigration problems, there was a shortage of Japanese staff.) They decided that with my straight dark hair they could pass me off as at least part Oriental. I didn’t think twice before saying yes. What a fun adventure that turned out to be.

Sounds like fun. When did you first discover that you were a writer?

Before I could write, I loved making up stories. I’d tell my parents long tales about the people in my room—the ones only I could see. I’d give these friends names, throw them tea parties, and have conversations with them, to where my parents grew concerned. LOL Later, when I learned to write sentences, I’d pen corny, rhyming poetry and little stories. But I think what encouraged me most to keep writing, besides the fact that I loved it, was that my family and teachers enjoyed my stories.

Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.

My favorite genre is romantic suspense because there’s so much at stake as the romantic tension builds and the antagonist closes in. I also enjoy women’s fiction, chick lit, and cozy mysteries. Come to think of it, I can’t say there’s a genre I don’t like.

What other books have you written, whether published or not?

I coauthored Love Online with brilliant author Kristin Billerbeck. In the Fresh-Brewed Love [Barbour anthology] I coauthored An Acquired Taste with brilliant author and editor Susan Downs. Now I’m working on a follow-up story to Anna’s Journey, tentatively titled Adam’s Rib. I’m also writing a romantic suspense, because I find that suspense elements seem to work their way into all my romances, even when I try to keep them out.

How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

The only One who can keep me centered is the Lord. If I’m too busy for concentrated prayer, I’m too busy, and I quickly unravel. In God’s economy, the more time I spend in prayer and in His Word, the more productive I am. In the past three years, I lost my sister and my mom to cancer. I doubt I would’ve survived intact without the Lord’s strength, compassion, and mercy. We serve a mighty God.

Oh yes, we do! How do you choose your characters’ names?

Sometimes the character just looks like an Anna, or Jane, or Daniel. Sometimes I name the characters after family members and friends. I have changed a character’s name mid-story, because his actions didn’t fit his name anymore.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

I’m thankful to God for my three children (two adults, one teen). They’ve never been rebellious in a serious way, and turned out to be caring, compassionate people. My eldest son is married to a wonderful wife, whom I consider my daughter. And my grandson is my pride and joy.

I know what you mean. I have two grandsons, two granddaughters, one granddaughter-in-law, and soon will have a great grandson. If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?

I always wished I could fly, minus the plane. So, I’d be a bird. Not an ordinary bird, of course. I’d want to be an eagle.

What is your favorite food?

Pasta with homemade marinara or Bolognese sauce, and crispy seeded Italian bread. See what happens when you grow-up in an Italian-American family? What’s life without carbohydrates?

What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?

My problem and roadblock was and is my penchant for non-stop editing. (Oh, I can just hear Dorothy Clark and Lianne Lopes laughing out loud.) It’s still a struggle for me not to play the isn’t-there-a-better-word-for-this game. My critique buddies help keep me centered. I receive e-mail reminders from Dorothy and Lianne: Nancy, where’s the next chapter? I hope you’re still not editing that same chapter. You’re not, are you? I get by with a lot of help from my friends.

What would you like to tell us about the featured book?

Anna’s Journey is one of the first stories I ever wrote. I set the manuscript aside many times to start other projects, but my sister and my critique buddies kept encouraging me to finish Anna’s Journey and submit a proposal. Because they seemed to love the characters and story, I kept at it. I’m so glad I did, and that Heartsong Presents is open to newer authors. I got to see my first solo story in print.

Nancy, thank you for spending this time with us.

Readers, be sure to leave a comment on the interview for a chance to win a free copy of Anna's Journey.

There's still time to leave a comment on the interveiws by Annette Smith, Seye Oke, and Nikki Arana.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Nikki Arana - As I Have Loved You

We're talking to my friend Nikki Arana again. She has a new book release. And today, she's even color coordinated with the cover. Way to go, Nikki.

I just love your books. Why do you write the kind of books you do?

All of my books deal with social, political, and spiritual issues that we as Christians face today. My first book, The Winds of Sonoma, touched on illegal immigration. My second book, In the Shade of the Jacaranda, dealt with abortion. My third book, The Fragrance of Roses, dealt with the need to have more minorities donating to bone marrow registries. My newest release, As I Have Loved You, is about a single mom whose college age son gets mixed up with the wrong girl. The situation is complicated because the son has Attention Deficit Disorder. I write about issues to raise public awareness. My next book will be about the need for Christians to minister to Muslims.

Besides when you came to know the Lord, what is the happiest day in your life?

That would be the day I married Antonio. He is the perfect husband. We just celebrated our 31st anniversary, and he still treats me like we’re dating.

I know what you mean. James and I will celebrate 43 years together this year. How has being published changed your life?

Writing under contract has changed my life dramatically. In my other life, I was a very successful real estate broker. I worked eighty hours a week and received incredible financial rewards. I have had to let my real estate career go to give my writing the time that’s required to feel that I’ve given God my best effort. The spiritual rewards have been awesome. I know the Lord in a much deeper way than I did when I was running my life. I tell people I used to get up in the morning and ask God to come with me. Now I get up and tell the Lord I want to go with him. It is a totally different life.

What are you reading right now?

I read a lot of non-fiction. Right now I’m reading two books by Watchman Nee and lots of books about Muslims as I research my next book.

What is your current work in progress?

I am working on two books. A novel, Fear No Evil, about the need for safe houses for Muslim Background Believers. When a Muslim converts to Christianity it can cost them their lives. Christians need to reach out to those new believers and offer support spiritually, emotionally, and financially. My other book is non-fiction, Through the Eyes of Christ, Loving Muslims into the Kingdom of God. I am writing it with the Center for Ministry to Muslims. It informs the average/lay Christian how to reach out and evangelize the moderate Muslims living among us. It explains their culture and traditions and how to approach them in a non-confrontational way.

What would be your dream vacation?

My dream vacation would to be on an island alone with my husband for two weeks. The island would have beautiful trees and flowers. And vegetation that provided our food. The ocean surrounding us would be turquoise and so clear that you could see far beneath and watch the sea creatures. There wouldn’t be anything man-made except matches to light a fire, and a guitar so Antonio could play for me. That would be heaven on earth.

How do you choose your settings for each book?

My novels are character driven, and I am a minimalist. I rarely describe my characters and the setting does not play an important part in my stories. I nearly always use a fictitious town in California or northern Idaho for my settings because those are the areas that I am most familiar with.

If you could spend an evening with one person who is currently alive, who would it be and why?

In 2000 Dateline did a segment on a man named Robert Bogucki who rode his bicycle into the Great Sandy Desert of Western Australia. He wanted to learn whatever he needed to learn. So he went into the desert alone, with little food or water, and depended on God to preserve his life. He wandered for over a month without food or water and near death, but he encountered God. He was found exactly 40 days from the day that his food ran out. I would love to visit with him about his journey and what he learned. In the Dateline segment, he revealed very little of the spiritual revelations he received. The only thing he said directly was, “I had a few feelings of how much love God has for people. It was just incredible.” I attempted to contact him and actually talked to a friend of his and asked if I could interview him. But he never contacted me. This isn’t the kind of thing you pursue. If it is meant to be, it will happen.

I guess I missed that segment. I hope he contacts you. What are your hobbies, besides writing and reading?

I don’t really have hobbies but I have varied interests. Currently I am very focused on studying the Jewish culture and lifestyle as it was when Jesus lived. I study the Bible with a Messianic Rabbi, as it was written, in Aramaic and Hebrew word pictures. It provides a deeper understanding of many verses. I’m also studying Hebrew and Davidic dance.

I used to do a lot of Jewish dancing. It's a lot of fun and connects us with our Jewish heritage. What is your most difficult writing obstacle, and how do you overcome it?

Like many authors, sitting down and doing it can be a struggle. Also, getting the answers I need to make my books authentic can be frustrating. You have to depend on people you don’t know and who have no reason to help you except out of the goodness of their hearts. I have been extremely fortunate so far. God has provided me with just the person I need just when I need them for each of my novels.

What advice would you give to a beginning author?

Write the book God has given you. You have to write a book to learn to write a book so just get your words on paper and complete the manuscript. Then watch what God is doing and respond to it. He will open doors and shut them too. One of the biggest mistakes emerging writers make is sending their book out before it’s ready.

Nikki, tell us about the featured book.

The featured book is As I Have Loved You. Here’s the blurb.

Leigh Scott is a single mom who just wants the best for her only son, Jeff: a college degree and a good job. But when he starts seeing Jessica, a young woman with a troubled past and a questionable future, Leigh envisions all her best-laid plans going up in smoke. As Jeff spends more and more time with Jessica, Leigh sees her fears realized in Jeff’s dropping grades and bad choices. To top it off, Leigh finds her relationships with her parents, her brother, and a long-lost old flame getting more complicated. Will Leigh get through to her son in time? Or is there more to Jessica than meets the eye? This many-layered, emotional family saga will captivate readers as it shows them the peril of judgment, the need for forgiveness, and the gift of love.

Thank you for spending this time with us , Nikki. How can readers find you on the Internet?

Visit me at . And if you sign my guestbook between now and July 1 you’ll have a chance to win a free copy of the featured book!

Well, Readers, that's two chances to win a copy of the featured book. You could win one by leaving a comment on this interview.

Also check out the other open interviews with Annette Smith and Seye Oke.

Two More Winners

Christyjan, you won a copy of The Lazarus File by Donn Taylor. This book is at the top of my To-Be-Read pile.

AngieBreidenbach, you won the copy of Return to Me by Robin Lee Hatcher. I just finished reading this book yesterday. You'll love it.

Remember to leave a comment on the interviews by Annette Smith and Seye Oke. Two more interviews will go up this week.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

My First Book Trailer

Lisa Harris, one of the writing team on this book, created a trailer for us. You might need to click the start button more than once.

Seye Oke - My First International Interview

I met Seye through American Christian Fiction Writers, and I signed up for her newsletter on her website. I've enjoyed reading the newsletters and getting to know this Christian sister half a world away in Nigeria. I know a lot of us have received Internet scams from Nigeria. It's wonderful to meet a strong Christian woman author from that country. We've talked about the challenges she faces marketing her book. Please visit her web site to find out even more about her. The link is in one of the answers below.

Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

Basically I put myself into my books. I try to enter into the minds of my characters and walk in their shoes. I idealize what I would do if I were in their situation. I believe it makes the whole scenario more real if you become a part of the book in a way that doesn’t conceal the uniqueness of the characters. Often times, I put a lot of my ideologies and emotions into the lead character. I try to make her as real as possible. I also draw some circumstances and experiences from my personal experiences. I basically set the storyline in a real life situation and make every other thing fictional.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

Wow, honestly I try to be cool, calm and collected most times but sometimes I just goof like everyone else. I remember once when I was in secondary school we had a dorm party. The girls decided to give out awards. I honestly didn’t even think I would be nominated so you can imagine how excited I was when I heard my name among the nominees. When the presenter was about to announce the winner, the whole dorm just chorused my name and they all started to clap. I wanted to wait to hear the presenter say my name but I guess the applauding crowd got to me. I stood up from my seat and began the glorious walk to the stage to collect my award when the presenter corrected the erroneous belief and announced the name of the real winner which of course wasn’t me. I felt hot all over, smiled as diplomatically as I could and managed to find my way back to my seat, all the while praying the ground would open and swallow me. I have since learnt to wait for the last announcement before making the next move.

Wise counsel. When did you first discover that you were a writer?

I was sixteen; I was fresh out of secondary school and was bored to tears. I wanted to do something with my time that would be meaningful and would bring honor to God. I decided to seek His direction on which course my life should take. I remember I had been praying for a while, and then one evening a friend came to visit me. In the midst of our discussion I heard Him whisper in my ears “write a story.” Up until that moment I had not written anything more that my school essay and even that I didn’t think I did very well. It was God speaking to me so I obeyed. I picked up my jotter and wrote whatever came to my mind…and that road led me here.

Tell us the genre of literature you enjoy reading.

I love reading two kinds of books: Christian fiction and motivational books. Some other ones I read just to increase my knowledge and others I read out of curiosity.

What other books have you written, whether published or not?

I have written a couple of novels, short stories, and articles. Debbie’s Diary was my first self-published novel (2003). "Barrow Boy" and "Sleeping Bags" are short stories downloadable from my website. Bridge of Love, Prisoners of Hope and A Time to Heal are unpublished novels. I write a monthly Pen and Paper article for my site and a monthly newsletter for signed-up fans.

How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

I follow the principle in the book of Isaiah 30:15 “…In quietness and confidence shall be your strength…” I try, and I mean really try hard, to find time everyday to spend in quietness with God. That’s where I draw my strength to face the day, deliver on my job, and attend to my writing. In quietness, I find release for my soul and inspiration for the next steps. I have learnt to always put my confidence in God because I know that the one who called me is faithful and He is able to complete the good work He has started in me.

How do you choose your characters’ names?

Well I am an African and I live in Nigeria. Most of my works are set in the contemporary Nigerian world and so my characters have their names from the time and place. I add a little spice and twist to the names to make them unique. Most times the lead character has an English name in order to make that character cut across different regions of the world. The supporting characters have popular Nigerian names while other characters have unique African short form names. For instance in my new novel, Love’s Lie, the main character is Lovett. The supporting characters are Tade and Toju while other characters have names like Ada, Eno, Jide and Nina.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

I self-published my first book in the midst all the "can’t - do –can’t happen" talks. And for me this is the accomplishment I am most proud of because it made me realize that all things are possible. The whole process of self-publishing taught me more about making my dreams come through than all the books I have ever read put together. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing an idea through to completion. The whole idea of finishing is so divine and unexplainable. I am so proud of myself because I did it, at an early age, with very little funds, absolutely no prior experience, and great support from family, friends and God’s help.

If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?

Honestly rather not be an animal but if I were, I’d be a rabbit because they are very cute and cuddly.

What is your favorite food?

My favorite meal is Pounded Yam and Egusi soup. Pounded yam as the name implies is boiled yam, pounded and mould into a small ball. Egusi soup is made out of melon seed. This meal is a favorite of many people from the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria.

What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?

I guess my greatest writing roadblock was settling down long enough to start writing. I work as a management Consultant and that alone has a very demanding schedule. I have and am still teaching myself to write under a schedule whether I feel like it or not. With a schedule I have to write and honestly sometimes my first drafts aren’t usually admirable but once I start writing I eventually realize my mind settles down and allow the creative juices to flow.

What advice would you give to an author just starting out?

My only advice to any author just starting out is the same advice someone gave me many years ago when I just started out. He said to me, “write, write, write.” He told me to keep writing and not get bogged down with worries of how I would get them published. Now looking back on the years I realize he was right. Honestly I think writing is the hardest part, once you get that done, every other thing seems to fall right in place. Please keep writing no matter what, it will all work together for your good.

What would you like to tell us about the featured book?

Love’s Lie is simply the short form for Lovett’s lie. ‘Lovett’ is the main character in the book and the ‘lie’ is the central focus of the book. It is basically an intriguing tale about a well kept secret. It’s a story that addresses the issues of faith, family, friendship and forgiveness in a manner that everyone can relate to. The message in Love’s Lie is simply “take responsibility for your life.” The whole web of deception that was weaved between mother and daughter was done out fear and because all parties involved refused to take responsibility for their actions. The story takes a new turn when Lovett becomes a Christian and she decides to chart a new course for her life. She soon realizes it’s easier said than done when the consequences for her action threaten to destroy her faith, love and family.

Thank you, Seye, for this interview. It has given us insight into the lives of our Christian friends in other countries.

Readers, leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Love's Lie.

You can also still leave comments on Donn Taylor's, Robin Lee Hatcher's, and Annette Smith's interviews for more free books.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Annette Smith

I take great pleasure in introducing you readers to Annette Smith and her book A Bigger Life.

Thank you for meeting with us, Annette. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

It depends on the book. I always draw on my personal experiences. In A Bigger Life, there are four primary female characters. I’d say there’s a bit of me in three of the four.

The great thing about writing fiction is that I get to live vicariously through my characters. They are often more daring than me. They take more risks. They love with great intensity and live with great passion. What’s wonderful is that in the end, they, not I, are the ones who have to deal with the consequences of their choices. What a deal!

I know what you mean. What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

I went parasailing. Me, wearing Old Blackie, my full-coverage, middle-aged mom swimsuit, stood in line behind bikini-clad teenagers and twenty-somethings for the chance. It was glorious. And terrifying. Something I’m glad I experienced but that I’ll never do again.

I've often thought about trying it, but I probably won't this late in life. When did you first discover that you were a writer?

I’ve always loved to write. I was one of those weird kids who loved creative writing assignments in school. I even enjoyed research papers. But it wasn’t until I became an adult that I even thought about writing books. To me, writers were like rock stars or fashion models. There was no way that a normal person like me could become one. It was meeting my first real writer, Becky Freeman Johnson, that set me on the path to writing my first book. She encouraged me and showed me that normal people actually do write books.

I’ve since changed my views just a bit. I’ve yet to meet a normal writer. We all lean a bit to the left of center.

Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.

I love literary fiction. I especially love poignant, even dark stories, ones that niggle at my brain long after I’ve laid them down.

Yes, I love a book that stays with you. What other books have you written, whether published or not?

A Bigger Life
is my eleventh book, my fourth novel. My last series of novels was the Coming Home to Ruby Prairie series. My best selling book is my first, The Whispers of Angels, a book of scenes and situations gleaned from my work as a registered nurse.

How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

I require lots of alone time. When I don’t get enough I get cranky and out of sorts. I fill my soul with music. It affects my mood like nothing else. I have those certain CD’s that get me going, certain other ones that ease me down. I live in a beautiful part of Texas, right in the trees. The scenery outside my window calms and inspires me.

I also have an assortment of dear friends. Spending time with them reminds me of what’s important, people, not things. Being friends with a writer is not an easy thing. When I’m in the middle of a project, I’m pretty much unavailable. I’m more blessed by the grace they give me than they’ll ever know.

My best friend is like that, so when I'm finished with a hard deadline, we always go out together. How do you choose your characters’ names?

They just come to me. Very easily. I read the obituaries every day. I suppose that creates a storehouse of names that my subconscious draws from. Occasionally I’ll realize halfway through a project that a character’s name doesn’t fit. When that happens, I’m truly thankful for the Find and Replace feature in Word.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

My family. I’ve been married to my husband Randy for twenty-seven years. We have two fabulous adult children. I’m also extremely proud of my work as a hospice nurse.

If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?

A dog. What a life. Eat. Nap. Get scratches and strokes from people who love you. Take another nap. I can’t think of much else needed for contentment.

What is your favorite food?

Anything ethnic and spicy. The hotter the better.

What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?

The roadblock is still there. I just drive around it. Sometimes I plow over it. Occasionally I get stuck on high center. The truth is I struggle constantly with self doubt about my abilities. I fear folks will discover that I don’t write right. Writing is rewarding work, but it is excruciatingly difficult for me. I can’t say I enjoy the process, but I adore the results. No pleasure compares to hearing from a reader that my words touched their heart.

What would you like to tell us about the featured book?

Two years ago, prompted by my daughter’s insistence that I do something about my hair, I met Paul C. He was a straight hair stylist, the twenty-seven-year-old, single father of a three-year-old little boy whose mother had died only weeks before. While he did my hair, Paul shared bits and pieces of his difficult journey with me. During that two hours, in that unexpected setting, the two of us connected in a deep way. I left the salon that day so moved by his honest, poignant story I could not get home fast enough to put his voice to paper.

Since that time, Paul, with his shaved head and tattoos and I, a middle-aged, middle class, mainstream mom, have become friends. We communicate regularly. A Bigger Life is a novel inspired by him. While the book is fiction and in no way resembles actual events in his life, written in the first person male voice, the tone, spirit, and emotions are Paul’s.

A Bigger life is an unconventional story about imperfect people, about those who believe and those who doubt. It is an unflinching tale about terrible choices, devastating consequences and the amazing power of unconditional love. My hope is that readers of this book will be inspired to love with greater passion, to give mercy and grace more freely, and to see those around them with new eyes.

Sounds like a must-read to me. Readers, if you want to find out more about Annette and her books, go to .

And be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy. Also leave a comment on Donn Taylor's and Robin Lee Hatcher's interviews.

You don't want to miss meeting any of the special authors featured here. To make sure, sign up for FeedBlitz in the column under my picture. You'll be notified when there's a new post on this blog.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Two More Winners

Sherlyn won a copy of Widows and Orphans by Susan Meissner.

Carolyn W. won a copy of Veil of Fire by Marlo Schalesky.

E-mail me your mailing address so we can get your books to you.

Remember, Readers, leave comments on the open interviews for a chance to win a copy of the free book. After you've left a comment, be sure to check back to see if you are a winner. You can sign up for FeedBlitz in the column under my picture. You will receive notification of new posts to this blog.

Open interviews:

Donn Taylor
Robin Lee Hatcher

A new interview will go up tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Robin Lee Hatcher

I had the great pleasure of meeting Robin Lee when she was the keynote speaker at the 2003 American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) national conference in Houston. She was savvy and delightful. I'm happy to introduce you to her, too.

Robin Lee, tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

There are pieces of me in all of my characters and pieces of many other people I know or have met throughout my life. Two of my novels have borrowed heavily from personal life experiences (Beyond the Shadows and The Forgiving Hour), and yet the protagonists were not me but unique unto themselves. My characters become very real to me and react to situations in their own way, often times surprising me.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

I’ve thought and thought about this, and I can’t find an answer. I don’t think of myself as a quirky person. I’ve done stupid things and crazy things, but I guess quirky is in the eye of the beholder.

When did you first discover that you were a writer?

From the time I learned to read and write, I’ve been keeping journals, writing long letters, and telling stories on paper, but I didn’t think about writing professionally until just before my 30th birthday. I had a story rolling around in my head, an historical saga set before and during the Civil War. After a number of months, there wasn’t anything I could do except try to turn it into a novel. It took me almost nine months to write, and about a year after I began, I sold it to a small independent publisher. They went bankrupt a few months later, just after I finished writing the sequel. I sold both of the novels to Leisure Books the following year, and I haven’t stopped writing since. For nine years, I worked a full time day job and wrote evenings and weekends, but finally I quit my other job and made writing my vocation.

Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.

All kinds! I love the Bible and have made it a practice for a decade to read through the Bible every odd numbered year and read the New Testament three to four times in even numbered years. I love biographies and histories. I read several Christian living non-fiction books every year. I read novels on the NYT bestseller list (The Kite Runner was a huge favorite; others have been terrible disappointments. Most of the fiction I read is CBA fiction, and I enjoy women’s fiction, romance, mystery, some suspense (but of the milder variety). Oh, I love “gum shoe” novels about hard boiled detectives, preferably set in the 1940s.

What other books have you written, whether published or not?

Return to Me is my 52nd published work (I’ve never written a book that wasn’t published). Others include RITA winners Patterns of Love and The Shepherd’s Voice; Christy winner Whispers From Yesterday; Library Journal Best Book selection Catching Katie; and some reader favorites, The Forgiving Hour, Ribbon of Years, Beyond the Shadows, and The Victory Club. For a full bibliography, visit my web site at .

Readers, you'll want to check out her site. Now, Robin Lee, how do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

I’m not sure I have. As I answer these questions, I am in the midst of selling a home and buying another and preparing for the move. My life is in utter chaos.

Some things that keep me a little saner is to be in the Word daily, to stay in touch with my family and my dearest friends, and to be active in my church. I try to remember to have fun and not be a workaholic, easy to do when you work at home.

How do you choose your characters’ names?

Sometimes their names just come to me along with the idea for the book. Other times I have to go looking. Then I open Character Naming Sourcebook and start thumbing through it until the right name “hits me.” I always know it when I see it, a name that begins to flesh out my character.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

Being the mother of my two wonderful daughters. When I see the strong but tenderhearted loving women/wives/mothers they became, I know I did a few things right as a parent. I love being their mom and their friend and am so thankful that we live in the same area.

I know what you mean. Both of my daughters live in the same area as I do. Now let's try something lighter. If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?

A horse. There is nothing more beautiful and regal than a horse.

What is your favorite food?

I hate this question. I have way too many favorites – spaghetti, cheesecake, a steak cooked just right, fried chicken, and many more.

What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?

I am not analytical when it comes to my writing. I’m an intuitive writer. Plot is a four-letter word in my book. Trying to write a synopsis used to really frustrate me, but I finally learned to trust the voice inside of me. Plotting comes out of my characters. That’s how I create best. So I learned to relax and just let the characters tell me their stories. I enjoy the adventure more than way. And I have never turned in a novel that didn’t have a plot.

What advice would you give to an author just starting out?

Write something every day. If you finish one page per day, you’ll have a 365 page manuscript at the end of one year. You will learn more by writing a book – and then another and another – than you will from any workshop or how-to book. Not that I am against those things. But the experience of writing will be your best writing course.

What would you like to tell us about the featured book?

I was in a hotel room in Illinois, awaiting a television interview, when I “met” Roxy and heard the lines that became the opening of Chapter One of Return to Me:

"There exists a strange moment between sleep and wakefulness when dreams cease and realism remains at bay. That was when Roxy’s heart spoke to her.

"It’s time to go home.

"Roxanne Burke had given Nashville seven years to discover her. She’d offered her voice, her face, her fortune—and eventually, her body—but despite her desperate grasps at the brass ring, country music and stardom didn’t want her.

"Roxy was worse than a has-been. She was a never-was."

Somehow I knew right then that this was a story of the prodigal daughter (Roxy Burke) and her perfect sister (Elena Burke). Even more, I knew it would be an exploration of grace, a theme that runs through most of my novels but was more pronounced in this book. So you can imagine my delight when I read the RT review that said: “Rarely do we see such a clear picture of God’s grace as in this novel.”

That is really cool. Now, remind readers how to find you on the Internet?

My web site is There readers will find my bio, bibliography, excerpts, and much more. I also have my Write Thinking blog ( where I write about all sorts of things, from Bible studies to American Idol to my novel-in-progress to current events.

Robin Lee, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. I'm intrigued by the book and will move it to the top of my to-be-read pile.

Now Readers, leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Return to Me. You can still leave comments on Donn Taylor's, Marlo Schalesky's, and Susan Meissner's interviews.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Donn Taylor - No That's Not a Misprint

I met Donn through American Christian Fiction Writers. I'm hoping he'll be at conference this year, so we can meet face to face.

Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

Directly, very little: there’s no reason readers should be interested in me. On the other hand, my sympathetic characters act on the basis of deep ethical principles—sometimes specifically Christian, sometimes simply the ethics derived from Christianity. I’d like to think their approach resembles mine. However, some of my characters are given to puns and other wordplay. In that I confess their kinship to me.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

While in New Mexico, I visited Albu-quirky. Actually, I guess the quirkiest was collaborating with another faculty member (at a liberal arts college) in publishing a comic recital program with puns on composers’ names. Sample entries:

The Angry Bicycle………………GrrrrSchwinn
Noise on Loan…………………...Borodin
Policemen’s Territory…………....Copland
The Three Billy Goats…………...GrofĂ©

Most of our colleagues thought we were nuts. They were probably right.

When did you first discover that you were a writer?

I think I was about seventeen or eighteen. I entered college as a music major at age sixteen, but within two years the emotional expression of music wasn’t enough to satisfy. I discovered ideas--in both philosophy and literature--and it wasn’t long before I was trying to imitate the works I enjoyed reading.

Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.

First and always, the classics: Homer, Sophocles, Virgil, Dante, Ariosto, Spenser, Shakespeare, Donne, Milton, George Herbert, Tennyson. From the Bible: Ecclesiastes and Hebrews. In modern books: Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, Forster’s A Passage to India. In commercial fiction: Anything by the Western writer Ernest Haycox. Gavin Lyall’s The Wrong Side of the Sky. T. Davis Bunn’s The Book of Hours. Georgette Heyer’s The Unknown Ajax. Carol Umberger’s Scottish Crown Series, especially The Mark of Salvation.

It's interesting that now that I'm posting this interview, I'm deep into a study of Ecclesiastes. What other books have you written, whether published or not?

I’m still looking for my first contract with a national publisher. (The Lazarus File, a crossover novel, came through Panther Creek Press, a royalty-paying regional publisher in the Houston area.) I’ve written a historical that was set in Northeast Mississippi just after WW II and a contemporary suspense sequel to Lazarus. My current project is a light-hearted mystery. I’m gradually compiling enough poems of quality to publish a book of them.

How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

Christianity and an exceptionally happy marriage keep me in constant contact with the deepest eternal realities. With those as reference points, I don’t pay much attention to the ephemeral or the trivial.

How do you choose your characters’ names?

Sometimes by meaning, sometimes by sound. I have several reference books, and my file of the obituary pages from a professional military journal gives me a wide variety of American names. Most of the names in Lazarus are suggestive of the character: Sol (“the sun” < “of luminous faith”) for the heroine, the surname Daniel (“God is my judge”) for the hero, Ignacio (“burning”) for an envious villain, etc. I also have fun with place names. Ignacio lives in Malavispa (avispa = wasp). A smart woman entrapping an egotistical woman-chaser tells him her home village is Miraje (mirage): “A man of your quality must know of it.” And the entrapment takes place in the Bar Arenque Rojo (the Red Herring Bar). Why not? We might as well have fun while we write. There’s also passing reference to an exotic dancer named Kirsten Keinekleider….

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

There are two. One is that I’m honored to be married to the most talented and remarkable woman I’ve ever met. The other is that I served in two wars with the U.S. Army.

And we thank you for your service for our country. Now on a lighter vein, if you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?

I’d want to be a buzzard. That way I’d be able to stomach contemprary politics and television.

Too, too funny. Now what is your favorite food?

No contest: it’s Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream. (Blue Bell’s advertising slogan: “We eat all we can and sell the rest.”)

That is also my favorite ice cream. As a sidelight, we had an ice cream supper at church one July 4th. There was a long line of ice cream freezers on the tables. Several people left notes beside one asking for the recipe. One of our friends had filled his ice cream freezer with Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla. I got a big kick out of everyone wanting the recipe.

What would you like to tell us about the featured book?

The Lazarus File is a suspense novel about spies and airplanes in Colombia and the Caribbean: a CIA operative working under cover as a drug pilot…a Colombian woman of good family, threatened by industrial intrigue and kidnapping. Unwillingly thrown together, they discover a planned terrorist strike against both of their governments. Held captive and marked for death in a remote Andean valley, they have to find a way to prevent the terrorist attack. The protagonists are people who overcome personal desires and keep their promises even in threatening circumstances. And, at a critical time, one receives the peace that passeth all understanding. One secular reviewer, an ex-Marine, wrote: “Taylor…displays the rare ability to convey emotion without resorting to profanity and to convey passion without specifying body parts.” That review says much of what I hoped to achieve in the novel. The book is available through Amazon.

It is a very intriguing book. If you come to conference, please put the book in the bookstore.

Readers, our booksigning on Saturday, September 22 is open to the public. The event takes place from 1:30-2:30 at the Marriott Quorum near the Galleria in north Dallas. If you are within driving distance, you won't want to miss this opportunity to meet many of your favorite Christian authors. The conference bookstore will be open before the booksigning, so you can buy your books there, if you want to. Many of them will have special conference prices.

Many thanks, Donn, for spending this time with us.

Readers, leave comments on this interview for a chance to win a free copy. There's still time to leave comments on Susan Meissner's and Marlo Schalesky's interviews, too. I'm reading Veil of Fire right now. It's a very compelling read.

Winners, Lots of Winners!!

Tetwa won a copy of Bygones by Kim Sawyer.

The four winners of Carolina Carpenter Brides are Sheryl, Lacy J. Williams, Carolyn W., and Annette M. Irby.

All of you need to contact me with your mailing address, so we can get the books to you.

Readers, remember that there is at least one free book given away with each interview. You could be the winner if you leave a comment on the interview.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Marlo Schalesky

Kelly Willis at Glass Roads PR introduced me to Marlo Schalesky, and I believe you'll be glad she did.

Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

People often ask which of my characters is the most like me. My answer? None of them, and all of them. I base no character on myself, but they all reflect a little of me – my questions, my struggles, the issues that have shaped and molded me. In Veil of Fire, this is particularly true for the hermit in the hills. I may not have suffered through a physical fire, but just as the hermit questions God’s love, believes “I am Esau, unchosen, unloved,” so I too have struggled with those same feelings, doubts, and questions. I, too, have cried out to God, “Why don’t you love me?” For the hermit, it was a question born out of fire, abuse, and disfigurement. For me, it was a question that came out of failure, infertility, and miscarriage. So, in many ways, the hermit’s questions were my own, the answers mine, the external scars reflections of my internal ones, and in turn, I think, symbols of the scars of us all.

That is so true, Marlo. What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

I’ve never done a quirky thing in my life . . . uh, okay, so that’s a little fib. Actually, I do quirky things every day. I tie my shoes funny (if you ever meet me, I’ll demonstrate!), I can’t work unless my desk is cleaned off, and the other day I reviewed my New Testament Greek flashcards just for fun. Ugh. I know, that’s bad. And that’s just this week. Last week I lived up to the “tidy toad” moniker my husband gave me by cleaning out a dozen drawers, repacking some boxes, and of course, tidying up my desk . . . again. So, call me weird. But at least my desk is cleared off (can’t say the same for the rest of my house, after all, I’ve got four little girls running around making messes).

When did you first discover that you were a writer?

When I was thirteen years old, I wrote a poem on the bus on the way to school. It was about an old tree, forlorn and desolate, standing alone in a field. I read that poem at every recess, tweaked it, polished it, and for the first time, felt the thrill of how the written word can convey profound beauty. That day, I fell in love with writing.

Shortly after that, I told my mother (with all the angst of a newly-turned teenager), “I will just die if I don’t write!” So naturally when I grew up I decided to get my degree in Chemistry. And, oddly enough, I didn’t die. I enjoyed chemistry. But always that desire to write was with me, in the back of my mind, saying “Someday, someday.”

Someday finally came. I started writing articles for various magazines and putting out proposals for book projects. I thought it would be easy to get my first book published, but alas, it took years of writing and honing my craft. And more than that, it took giving up my dream entirely. For me, I had to come to a place in my heart where I didn’t have to write to be content. I had to let go of that strong desire born at thirteen years old and embrace God’s will for me whether that will included writing or not. Only then, only when my dream had given way to God’s, was I offered my first contract. Only when writing became worship could I do it the way God wanted it to be done. And I’ve been writing books ever since.

Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.

I love fiction of all kinds. I read fantasy and science fiction, romances and children’s books. I love Tolkein and Dr. Suess, Francine Rivers and Jim Butcher. You just never know what kind of story you’ll find me reading next! Sometimes I even read (gasp!) non-fiction. For that, I usually pick up one of Philip Yancey’s books, or maybe I’ll just spend some time reading the New Testament in Greek (I love that, as geeky as it sounds).

What other books have you written, whether published or not?

The Published Ones:
Veil of Fire (Fiction, 1890’s Minnesota), JUST RELEASED!! from Cook Communications
Only the Wind Remembers, Moody Publishers, 2003 -- Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Finalist (Fiction, 1911 San Francisco)
Cry Freedom, Crossway Books, 2000 (Fiction, 1740's Colonial America)
Freedom's Shadow, Crossway Books, 2001 (Fiction, 1750's Colonial America)
Empty Womb, Aching Heart, Bethany House Publishers, 2001 (Nonfiction, Infertility)

And I also have, stuck away in the back of a cabinet, my very first novel, still unpublished – an end times thriller (this was before the whole Left Behind craze) titled Tender Grows the Branch.

I loved your list of published works, Marlo. I have a series of novels set in the 1890s in Minnesota, too. They've been repackaged in a Barbour 4-in-1 titled Minnesota Brothers. So I'm really interested in that time period and place. How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

Four words: Starbucks. Venti. White. Mocha. Oops, doesn’t sound very spiritual, does it? But really, it is. Because if I’m having a white mocha it means that I’ve gotten away for a little while to write and to focus on God. For me, writing is an act of worship. It’s about getting in tune with God and trying to see as He sees and understand the things He’s trying to tell me.

So, getting some time away to write is also getting time away to rejuvenate, to take a few deep breaths, to stay sane. And, let me tell you, with four little girls (ages 7, almost 4, and twins who’ll turn 2 in a few months), there’s plenty of run, run, run around here! Between laundry, dishes, diapers, running two businesses (besides writing), and finishing the log home we just built, there’s lots of opportunity for crazy. But, a nice hot mocha, a few minutes of peace with no one hollering for “Mom,” and my laptop computer make all the difference.

How do you choose your characters’ names?

Ah, it’s different every time. For my next book (the one that will come after Veil of Fire), I dreamt the story, and the characters came to me complete with names. Very convenient. However, I’m usually not so lucky. For Veil of Fire, which is set in 1894 Minnesota, I looked through a book with Scandinavian names, closed my eyes and envisioned each character, then “tried out” the name to see if it seemed to fit. In the past, I’ve written books with Native American characters. For those, it’s been fun to search for names that mean something significant in the native language and find just the right one to match the character’s personality.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

Well, I thought about my degree in Chemistry and my Masters in Theology (which I just finished), but what I’m really most happy about is finding a wonderful, godly husband and, finally (after 11 years of infertility), having four sweet little girls. For most people, I don’t suppose getting pregnant and having a baby is an accomplishment, but for me, with difficult infertility treatments and multiple trips to the doctor’s office for unpleasant procedures, it’s not only an accomplishment, it’s something close to a miracle. So, am I proud of it? I guess so. But mostly, I’m just glad and thankful. :-)

If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?

Oh, I don’t know. I guess anything except a cat. My husband hates cats. :-)

What is your favorite food?

I love pepperoni pizza. But then, I’m also very fond of peanut butter MM’s, Coldstone ice cream, and chocolate covered donuts. Luckily for me, I don’t get these foods every day. I save them for special occasions.

What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?

Doubt and discouragement. And I never completely overcome it. But what helps is to remember that my writing is not a necessity, it’s an act of worship and of faithfulness. I only need to write the stories that God gives me. And I can only do my best. The rest is up to him.

I haven’t always felt that way. Our culture tells us to pursue our dreams, reach for the sky, dream big, nothing’s impossible if only you try hard enough. Sounds good. But for me, that philosophy was deadly. I was in bondage to my dreams of being a writer and needed to be freed. I needed to completely surrender those dreams in order to live God’s. It was like ripping out part of my soul. But it was worth it.

And the funny thing was, it was only after God broke me, only after he freed me from my own dreams, that they came true . . . on His terms. Out of blue, Crossway offered me my first book contract, and I’ve been writing books ever since.

What advice would you give to an author just starting out?

Don’t focus on publication! Instead, surrender. Follow God. Seek Him. And if He’s called you to this writing thing, then write the best you can. Study the craft. Hone your work. Remember that it’s an offering to Him, so focus on doing it well. Find the story that’s not only your passion, but His. And then, be faithful. Go to writers’ conferences, listen to advice, be humble. And rely on God to organize your time and priorities so that your family and friends will bless your writing and not see it as competition. And that’s the best you can do. After that, publication is up to God.

What would you like to tell us about the featured book?

Everything! But I’ll settle for just a few fun facts.

--Veil of Fire is based on a real historical event, the greatest firestorm in Minnesota history.

--The story focuses on a real historical mystery, the hermit in the hills, a person burned in the fire and unrecognizable. Who is the mysterious hermit?

--Cook Communications (my publisher) is running a summer special on the book, so readers can get it on the cheap for the first few months.

Marlo, thank you for spending this time with us. Your book is near the top of my to be read pile. I'll have to move it up. A review will appear in my July newsletter at my web site:

Readers, you can find out more about Marlo at: .

Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of this book.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Susan Meissner

I met Susan online through American Christian Fiction Writers. I'm happy to share this interview with you.

Susan, tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

All my main characters are amalgamations of everything I am, everything I’d like to be and everything I’m glad I’m not. Many of my characters’ fears are my fears. I try to step into the very flesh of the people I’m creating so that I can imagine what it’s like to live the life they are living. I would guess that many of my characters’ reactions to their troubles are what my own reactions would be if I were standing where they are standing.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

Taking an elevator when the rest of my “party” rode the escalator. I hate escalators. Especially the ones in airports. They’re too fast, too narrow and I’m carrying or tugging on too much. Getting on something that wants to amputate at the ankles? No, thanks. There are a few Midwest ACFW members who can affirm my quirky aversion to escalators.

I understand. I get on them very carefully. When did you first discover that you were a writer?

For a lot of us, I think this is something that someone else discovers about you before you actually realize it. I had a second-grade teacher who gave me a little red journal to put stories and poems in. I don’t recall her giving one to anyone else in my class, just me. I think it was because she saw something in me; a desire to write when there was no requirement for it, and perhaps raw talent. I’m so glad she did that. I still have that little red journal. The stories and poems inside its pages are pretty pathetic but whenever I come across it I feel like this is where it all began . . .

What a wonderful experience. Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.

I love books that take me places, where the writing is so powerful and rich time seems to stand still as you’re reading. I tend toward literary fiction but I also like a smart chick lit or expertly researched historical fiction. I’m also keen on well-written biographies, where the writing is true to life and the prose, exquisite and haunting.

What other books have you written, whether published or not?

I have five additional titles out with Harvest House, all stand-alones. They include Why the Sky is Blue, A Window to the World, The Remedy for Regret, In All Deep Places, and A Seahorse in the Thames. Widows and Orphans, released in October 2006, is my first true mystery. The second in that mystery series releases in January and I’ve a stand-alone, a chick litty piece, coming out next spring called Blue Heart Blessed.

A book club some friends of mine are in chose A Seahorse in the Thames as one of their selections. How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

Well, I think your sanity is not so much something to be kept as it is something to be handed over to Someone who loves you and is smarter than you. For me, that would be God. He’s the One who keeps me centered, and that means my relationship with Him has to be my foremost concern. I tend to bite off more than I can chew, and when I do that, I need to just realize I’ve done it, chew slowly, don’t talk with my mouth full, don’t shove anything else into my mouth and then learn from my mistakes so that I can go back to being a lady who knows her table manners. God has created me to be a gracious woman who doesn’t cram food into her mouth and I think He did that for my benefit and His glory. So the short answer is: 1. Chew your food slowly. 2. Shove nothing else into your mouth. 3. Don’t talk with your mouth full. 4. Take a smaller bite next time.

Sage advice all of us could use. How do you choose your characters’ names?

Sometimes I peruse the names of the spam email-senders I get by the boatload every day. Sometimes I peruse my baby name book. Sometimes I watch the credits of movies and pay particular attention to names no one probably notices, like the assistant to the assistant director’s assistant. I also look at obituaries. Is that morbid?

Some really new advice on names. What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

That I am in the ranks at all of published writers. I would never have guessed it. I actually don’t even like to take much credit for it because getting here seems more like a gift than a goal met. God has been incredibly nice to me.

If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?

A koala at the San Diego Zoo because they are cute, cuddly, everyone loves them and they are protected from predators, poachers and bad weather.

What is your favorite food?

Anything Italian.

What would you like to tell us about the featured book?

This book gets its title from that little verse in the book of James where we're told pure religion is to look after widows and orphans in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. In the story, my main character Rachael Flynn—who happens to be a lawyer—gets word that her ultra ministry-minded brother has confessed to murder. She is certain Joshua is innocent—that he is covering for someone—because her brother took this verse to heart as a teenager. He made an oath before God to live it out the rest of his days. Rachael is convinced Joshua is taking the fall for someone, but he refuses her offer to let her represent him. Widows and Orphans is the first in the Rachael Flynn Mystery Series. The second title, Sticks and Stones, released in January and the third, Days and Hours, in the summer of 2007.

The books will all feature Rachael Flynn and some of the other cast members of Widows and Orphans, but each title can stand on its own. Widows and Orphans is my first book to fall solely into the Suspense/Intrigue category. I’ve been an Agatha Christie fan since high school, so writing this series has been a thrill but also a challenge. With mystery writing, pacing is key and you have to throw in both clues to the truth and logical red herrings. I have new respect for veteran mystery writers. Spinning a tale that no one can guess the outcome of yet rings true in the end is a tall order. I had to stand on my tiptoes . . .

Susan, they all sound like wonderful books. Thank you for sharing about them.

Readers, here are three books to put on your must-read list. Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy.

Two More Winners

"The Writer Life" won a copy of When the Heart Cries by Cindy Woodsmall.

"Miss Reader" won Meeting Her Match by Debra Clopton.

Both of you need to send me an e-mail with your mailing addres.

You can still leave comments on Kim Sawyer's interview for a chance to win Bygones, also on the interview with the authors of Carolina Carpenter Brides for a chance to win one of four free copies.

After you leave comments, don't for get to check back to see if you are one of the winners. New winners are announced every week.

Happy reading!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Announcing the Release of Carolina Carpenter Brides

“Love connection, aisle 8. . .”

Brianna Griffith Needs to deal with ugly wallpaper in her new office, so she signs up for a how-to course at her local Home & Hearth Superstore. She never expected to run into Zach Wilson, an old flame from her college days. Will her bad decisions be fixed as easily as the wallpaper?

Kaitlyn Ferrer, an investigative reporter for Blue Ridge Sun, is writing an undercover story on the dating scene at the H&H. Her half-hearted efforts accelerate when she meets dashing Chris Taylor, who is also working “under cover.” It will take more than good words for these two clandestine overachievers to build an honest relationship.

When Valerie Bradford asks a Home & Hearth employee for assistance, she doesn’t guess that she will get more than she bargained for. Austin Hodges can’t believe what the feisty blond woman plans to accomplish by herself. Because of his profession, he knows how much help she needs, but for right now, his advice will have to do. Can God lead them through the misunderstandings they encounter toward a bright future together?

Gary Andrews works security at the H&H when Janice Jones begins working in the flowers and plants department. Soon her activities become suspect. He can have her arrested or try to save her from a life of crime when personal feelings and moral responsibility become entangled.

This Carolina superstore is buzzing with romance, but will love find a firm foundation to build upon?

Sometimes we are allowed a special privilege. One came my way when I became one of the authors of Carolina Carpenter Brides. The other authors are:

Janet Benrey brings a diverse business background—including experience as editorial director of a small press, a professional photographer, an executive recruiter—to writing and literary representation. With her husband, Ron, she has written seven Christian romantic suspense novels for Broadman & Holman, Barbour Publishing, and Harlequin Steeple Hill. Janet operates her own literary agency—Benrey Literary—that represents well-known writers of general and genre fiction and non-fiction books. Over the years, Janet has also been a writing coach and a marketing communications writer. She earned her degree in Communication (Magna cum Laude) from the University of Pittsburgh. She is also a graduate of York House College in Kent, England, where she studied commerce and languages.

Ron Benrey is a highly experienced writer who has written more than a thousand bylined magazine articles, seven published non-fiction books, and seven Christian romantic suspense novels (co-written with his wife Janet) for Broadman & Holman, Barbour Publishing, and Harlequin Steeple Hill. Ron is also an experienced orals coach who helps corporate executives give effective presentations. He holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a master’s degree in management from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a juris doctor from the Duquesne University School of Law. He taught advanced business-writing courses at the University of Pittsburgh, where he was a member of the adjunct faculty.

Yvonne Lehman - An award-winning author of 40 novels, was recipient of the Bookseller's Best Award in the Inspirational Category for her historical mystery, The Stranger's Kiss, presented at the 2002 Romance Writers of America convention in Denver. She is the founder of the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference and its director for 17 years until 1993. She is currently Director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, sponsored by Ridgecrest Conference Center in Ridgecrest NC. Yvonne is author of 40 novels including mainstream, inspirational romance, the White Dove series for young adults and the widely-acclaimed historical, In Shady Groves. She is recipient of numerous awards including The Dwight L. Moody Award for Excellence in Christian Literature; Romantic Times Inspirational Award (first in nation); National Reader's Choice Award, and Booksellers Best Award. Her novellas, which continue to appear on CBA's best-seller list, are included in such collections as Winter Wishes and Summer Dreams.

Readers, I'm sure you can see why it was a privilege to work with these people. And you will be recipients of four copies of the novella collection. The winners will be drawn from those who leave comments on the interview.

How did this collection come about?

Janet: We learned that women and men were using stores such as Home Depot and Lowes as safe places to meet one another. Take a class, meet a guy. Take a class, meet a gal. We loved the idea and the result was Carolina Carpenter Brides.

Ron: I wanted to try my hands at writing a romance to expand my range as a writer. When this opportunity came up with Yvonne Lehman and Lena Dooley, I jumped at the idea.

Yvonne: I think if was Ron Benrey who began to talk about people going to businesses for the express purpose of meeting someone of the opposite sex, including home building stores and that sounded like a great idea to me…I mean, to write about, not experience personally.

Lena: I believe Ron and I were the first two who discussed the possibility. When we asked the next two, both were willing. What a lot of fun it was to write!

What are you reading right now?

Janet: I’ve just finished reading Roberet B. Parker’s Pastime. I love Spencer’s witty dialogue and the "surprises" that Parker places into his books, taking his plots in new directions.

Ron: Anne Perry’s Breach of Promise, a good historical mystery set in Victorian England.

Yvonne: Ann Tatlock’s Things We Once Held Dear (one of the best books of 2006 according to Library Journal). Since I’ll be in Paris May 30 through mid-June, I’ll be reading Paris information and taking it all in.

Lena: I want to go with Yvonne. Actually, I'm always reading some book. I do reviews of most of the books on my my Shoutlife page - and in the newsletter on my web site. Right now I'm reading Jennifer Johnson's second Heartsong, Picket Fence Pursuit.

What other books have you written, whether published or not?

Janet and Ron: We have co-authored: Little White Lies BHPublishing Group, The Second Mile BHPublising Group, Humble Pie BHPublishing Group, Dead as a Scone Barbour, The Final Crumpet, Barbour, Carolina Carpenter Brides Barbour, Glory Be Steeple Hill June 2007 and Gone to Glory Steeple Hill, September, 2007.

Yvonne: See my website: – my recent one (#45), other than Carolina Carpenter Brides is By Love Acquitted.

Lena: All of my books are listed on my web site: My releases for this year are: Spinster Brides of Cactus Corner - April, Carolina Carpenter Brides - June, Montana Mistletoe - September, and Who Am I? - October.

How did collaborating with this team impact you?

Janet: It was fun working with the other writers. They have a good grasp of this market, which is new to me.

Ron: I’m used to collaborating with my wife, but this was different. We were free to write our own stories within certain parameters.

Yvonne: Great fun discussing what we’d do and how to incorporate the mention of other authors’ characters and events into our own.

Lena: I loved working with these three. All of them had unique ideas and were able to help each other improve our individual books.

How do you choose your characters’ names?

Janet: I try to imagine what they look like and search for names that fit both their ages and the time in which they live.

Ron: I find it’s hard to come up with the right name for a character. I’m never sure how I arrive at where I did, but it has to sound right.

Yvonne: Laurel Jones because “mountain laurel” is so prevalent here in the mountains and Laurel works with plants and in landscaping. Jones is non-committal. Marc Goodson because I wanted a name that didn’t conjure up an image, just be acceptable like “John.” “Goodson” because he’s a good guy.

Lena: Naming contemporary characters is easier than for historicals. I think about the person first, then try for a name that fits their looks and personality. With historicals, I do research into what names were popular when the person was born.

What did you want the reader to “get” from your story?

Janet: That it’s always possible to find love, even to renew a love, if one is open to it.

Ron: I never know what a reader will get from my story – I hope they’re entertained while they’re reading it and that I don’t let them down.

Yvonne: Be a “light” to the world, as Jesus tells us to be and to think about the Master Carpenter.

Why are you a member of American Christian Fiction Writers?

Janet: This is a vibrant and supportive group of authors who are truly trying to improve their craft.

Ron: I love to know what’s going on in Christian romance.

Lena: This organization provides a venue for connecting with other Christian authors, agents, editors. And the benefits available to members far outweigh the costs invoved. I'm really looking forward to the conference in September, so I can talk to my friends face to face.

Will you be at the conference in Dallas in September?

Janet: I hope to be

Ron: I'm not sure.

Yvonne: Haven’t planned to since I have my conference each May, will go to CBA, and direct a Novel Retreat in October.

Lena: I hope to be able to attend one of Yvonne's conferences or retreats one of these days. I've heard nothing but praise for them. I will be at the ACFW conference in Dallas. As the vice president of the local chapter, I'm helping coordinate some local support.

What is the best piece of advice you received as an author?

Janet: Rejection isn’t personal. Keep submitting.

Ron: Read.

Yvonne: Many years ago an editor said, “Your writing isn’t good enough.” I appreciated that and began to examine why it wasn’t and still try to learn and improve.

Lena: The only authors who sell are those who submit, and keep on submitting.

Janet, Ron, and Yvonne, thank you for visiting with us today. It's been a pleasure being involved with you on every level.

Readers, leave comments on this interview and on the other open interviews:

Kim Sawyer - Bygones

Debra Clopton - Meeting Her Match

Cindy Woodsmall - When the Heart Cries