Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Kathleen Y'Barbo

I'm pleased to once again spend time with my good friend Kathleen Y'Barbo. We're introducing her first trade-sized novel, Beloved Castaway.

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

Actually, I rarely write myself into my books. I do, however, borrow heavily from friends, acquaintances, people I stand behind in line at the grocery story, and just about anyone else I find interesting. So, beware!

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

What an interesting question. My Granny always told me that quirky is in the eye of the beholder. If pressed to choose, I would have to admit that I once ...no, I can’t tell that one.

I can't believe you did that to us. When did you first discover that you were a writer?

When I was 6. It was Valentine’s Day in Mrs. Carnahan’s first grade class and I realized the love of my life – a certain dark-haired boy named Dennis – deserved better than the run-of-the-mill Flintstones card. Thus, I created a heart-shaped masterpiece that required a paragraph devoted to my love for him. I’ll never forget my dad trying to keep a straight face while he helped me spell “My heart beats for you.” Sadly, the relationship didn’t make it past lunch, but my love of romance and a pretty sentence continues.

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

I love good writing of all kinds. Currently I’m switching between reading THE TIPPING POINT by Malcom Gladwell and Jane Orcutt’s ALL THE TEA IN CHINA. Some of my all time favorites are the classics: GONE WITH THE WIND, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, and A TALE OF TWO CITIES. Another favorite is AND THE LADIES OF THE CLUB, a book I read some 20 years ago that remains with me today.

Very eclectic tastes, just like mine. What other books have you written, whether published or not?

I have sold 29 novels and novellas as well as countless books and proposals that will never see publication.

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

’ve found sanity is overrated! Actually, I love watch the decorating shows on HGTV or a great old movie. Reading is always a great escape, although I never seem to find enough time to do it. Guess I’m watching too many episodes of HOUSE HUNTERS.

How do you choose your characters’ names?

Most times the characters tell ME what their names will be. I do have a list of names in a file on my computer and sometimes I will pull from that list. I’ve got a couple of names right now that are begging to have their stories told.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

My children.

And what wonderful children they are. If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?

My you ask the most interesting questions. I think I would have to choose a dog, specifically Leona Helmsley’s pampered pedigreed pet. I could certainly use the $12 million!

Couldn't we all? What is your favorite food?

My favorite food is Bananas Foster. Unfortunately, that delicacy is relegated to birthdays and the occasional treat.

Ah, yes, I remember when you introduced me to that wonderful delicacy. What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?

The worst problem I’ve ever had with my writing was getting out of the way and letting God do the work.

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

Never stop learning...A writer who thinks he or she has it all figured out is one who is likely nearing the end of his or her career.

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

BELOVED CASTAWAY was years in the making. I first proposed the book to Becky Germany in 2003. The lesson is never give up on the book of your heart.

Kathleen, how can readers find you on the Internet?

My personal site is www.kathleenybarbo.com. In addition, I am a publicist and also have a page on the Books & Such site at www.booksandsuch.biz.

Kathleen, thank you for spending this time with us. It was too short, but perhaps the readers have gotten a glimpse into you life and mind.

Readers, if you would like to win a copy of BELOVED CASTAWAY, remember that all you have to do is leave a comment on this interview.

You can still leave comments on these interviews:

Lynette Sowell, Carrie Turansky, Gail Sattler, Vasthi Reyes Acosta - A Big Apple Christmas
Miralee Ferrell - The Other Daughter
Irene Brand - Colonial Christmas Brides

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

'Tis the Season - Another Christmas Collection

Today, we're talking to the authors of A Big Apple Christmas.

Lynette Sowell

Carrie Turansky

Gail Sattler

Vasthi Reyes Acosta

Some of these authors have already visit on this blog, and we welcome them back. And you'll enjoy getting to know the others.

How did your story for the collection come about?

Lynette: I have always enjoyed novellas, and I really wanted to write a Christmas story. One of the most sparkling, beautiful, and romantic places at Christmas is New York City. A few years ago one November, I watched on TV when the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree arrived in New York. They usually tell where the tree comes from. That year, the 75-foot spruce in Rockefeller Center came from a widower in New England. The network showed the family’s pictures through the years, the yard, and their tree. And that’s when my idea began. What if a widow ends up having her tree selected for Rockefeller Center? And what if her daughter’s former college roommate lives and works in Manhattan, and the two women cook up an early Christmas gift to send Mom to the Big Apple? The story snowballed for me from there.

Carrie: My novella, Moonlight & Mistletoe, features a professional organizer who likes to control everything in her life. I wanted to contrast her with someone who seemed to be her opposite, so I chose to make the hero a carefree children’s poet. Thinking about their differences and their underlying similarities helped me develop the story. I live only about an hour from New York City, and I thought that would be a fascinating setting.

Gail: Actually the group had already thought of it before I joined, and then we brainstormed for individual story ideas.

Vasthi: Growing up in New York City, as a small Puerto Rican girl, I loved the fact that Christmas didn’t end Christmas day. I still had El Dia de los Reyes (Epiphany or Three Kings Day) to look forward to. We received gifts on that day as well. The night before Epiphany, tradition dictates that water and grass be left out to assist the wise men and their camels on their trip to worship the new born king. In return the three kings left a small gift. Curiously, I never worried about how they reached a fifth floor apartment. Santa Claus made it up there, why couldn’t they.

In addition, I have a collection of three kings’ figurines that is rivaled only by a good friend’s collection which fills a whole room. But not to fear, I’ll catch up. Anyway, when I think of Christmas in New York City, I think of Three King’s day and the story emerged from there.

What are you reading right now?

Lynette: Glory Be! by the Benreys; The Measure of a Lady by Deanne Gist; Death Benefits by Hannah Alexander.

Carrie: I am reading Siri Mitchell’s Moon over Tokoyo and loving it. I just finished Linda Windsor’s Wedding Bell Blues and enjoyed that too.

Gail: A manual on playing upright bass. (For those of you who don't know, Gail's a musician as well as an author.)

Vasthi: I’m always reading more than one book at a time.
Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez, a young adult novel that describes the fight for freedom from the dictatorship of Trujillo in the Dominican Republic.
Writing to Change the World by Mary Pipher.
The Restorer by Sharon Hinck. Loving it!

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

Lynette: This is my fourth novella for Barbour. Right now I’m working on my second cozy mystery due out next fall for Heartsong Presents: Mysteries, titled The Wiles of Watermelon. The first cozy mystery in my series, A Suspicion of Strawberries, releases in spring 2008. (I have no idea where the fruit theme has come from.)

Carrie: My published books include novellas in Wedded Bliss and Kiss the Bride for Barbour. I also wrote Along Came Love for Steeple Hill Love Inspired. I have four other completed books and one other novella that are unpublished.

Gail: Some Heartsong Presents, some Love Inspired books, other novella anthologies, and a few non fiction projects.

Vasthi: I’ve written two books of a three book series titled, Mangoes and Apple Pie, a contemporary adaptation of the Book of Ruth with Latino characters. It is not published, yet.

What is the hardest thing about writing a part of a novella collection?

Lynette: Sometimes when you’re starting, you’re not exactly sure how the package as a whole is going to come across to readers. Since our characters don’t even know or meet each other, we didn’t have the issue of continuity as in family or generational novellas—except we did have to keep track of the weather.

Carrie: The most challenging part is coming up with the ideas at first, especially if the stories are tied closely together. Allowing the other authors to help you brainstorm is great, but it takes time and patience to work it all out when you have different ideas.

Gail: Writing short. You still have to come up with a whole story, and get it out in only half the word count.

Vasthi: This was my first experience and the hardest thing was cutting out parts of the story that I really liked but weren’t necessary.

How did collaborating with this team impact you?

Lynette: I was happy to learn that according to Vasthi, I “got” New York right. I haven’t been there in about 18 years, but I loved the colors and variety of the city and its people. I enjoyed seeing how each of us brought a different perspective—Gail with her tourist, running away for the holidays; Carrie with her pair of city residents getting to know each other; Vasthi and her vivid Latina heroine; and my Gwynn and Theo, and older couple enjoying the season and falling in love.

Carrie: I enjoyed working with this team. Each author has strengths, and they shared those as we critiqued our stories for each other. Being able to ask Vasthi questions about New York was a great help too.

Gail: It was fun, and I feel I made some new friends.

Vasthi: Tremendously! I learned so much from my collaborators. I appreciated their honest critique and am a better writer because of it. A true blessing!

How do you choose your characters’ names?

Lynette: Sometimes, they just pop into my head. I’d heard the name Gwynn before, and it seemed to fit my mature heroine. Since she is from New Hampshire, I chose a French Canadian surname. Theophilus Stellakis seemed to fit a crusty Greek professor who walks to the university and picks up his paper at the newsstand every day. Of course Gwynn shortens it to Theo, much to his chagrin. Makes him feel young again.

Carrie: I look through a book of baby names, or I check on-line lists of popular names for the year my character was born.

Gail: The first names just come to me. Then I look in the big phone book to get ideas for last names.

Vasthi: I play with different names in my head until I find the one that feels right. Sometimes I’ll start a story with one name, knowing it’s not exactly the right one. When I find the right name I just replace it.

What did you want the reader to take away from your story?

Lynette: In this story, I wanted to capture the warmth of New York. Yes, it’s possible for a city to have a warm spot. Also, Gwynn had a very full life in New Hampshire. But her trip to New York allowed her to spread her wings and care for herself. Sometimes we women don’t do that enough.

Carrie: I hope Moonlight and Mistletoe will carry readers away for a few hours of relaxation and enjoyment. But I also hope they will be touched by my characters’ struggles and learn more about the issue of control and how faith can help us overcome our fears.

Gail: That God can and does work all things work together for good.

Vasthi: That trusting in God isn’t always easy but definitely best. And I wanted them to have a taste of what Christmas is like in a Latino home.

Why are you a member of American Christian Fiction Writers?

Lynette: It’s THE organization to belong to if you’re serious about fiction writing. I can’t begin to say how much I’ve had the opportunity to learn over the years, and all the mentors who’ve come across my path.

Carrie: I love ACFW! It is a great group of aspiring and published authors who are seeking to grow and serve the Lord with their gifts. I have learned a tremendous amount from being a member. There is so much encouragement and practical help in this group.

Gail: It’s a great group of writers whenever I need another writer to bounce ideas off, or just to talk about nothing to do with writing, and everything in between.

Vasthi: I met Carrie Turansky at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writer’s Conference and she encouraged me to join this fabulous group of writers. I am so glad I did! ACFW has been a lifeline of resources, support, teaching and fun.

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

Lynette: Keep reading. Keep writing. Keep learning.

Carrie: There is always more you can learn and ways you can grow and improve your writing. It is a never-ending journey.

I want to invite everyone to stop by my website, where you can read the first chapter of Moonlight & Mistletoe,” http://www.carrieturansky.com/ Just click on the cover of the book on the home page and it will take you to the Big Apple Christmas page.

Thanks, Lena. We appreciate you!

Gail: I’ve received lots of great advice, actually. The one that comes to me now is that a person’s ability to become a good writer greatly depends on one’s ability to glue one’s butt to one’s chair.

Vasthi: Write, write, write. The more you write the better you get.

Thank you, Ladies, for spending this time with us. I've really enjoyed it.

Now Readers, if you'd like a chance to win a free copy of this book, leave a comment. There will be 4 free books with this interview. Someone will win them. It might as well be you.

Today is a Special Winning Day

Especially for Shar Maclaren, who will receive Who Am I?

And for Jana, who won Mason's Link.

You both need to email me with your mailing address. The link is under my picture in the right column.

How can you win a free book? Just leave a comment on the interviews by authors whose books haven't been given away. Then come back to see is you won.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Miralee Ferrell

I really love to introduce debut novels. Today, you're going to meet Miralee Ferrell. Her first novel just released this month--The Other Daughter. By the way, Miralee, I don't know where you had this picture made, but I just love the flowers in it.

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

I’ve only written one novel to date, and would have to say there’s a mix of me in one of my main characters, but strangely enough, not in the wife, but the husband. I did a reverse of what might be expected, and of what was true in our marriage years ago. The husband is the strong, committed Christian, while the wife is struggling with not wanting to give up control and put herself under God’s authority. That was my husband and I, in reverse, but there is little else about the two main characters that reflected myself. The story did have it’s roots in fact, however, as we discovered my husband had a daughter he didn’t know existed, when she contacted us shortly after her eighteenth birthday. But the balance of the book is all fiction, with very little else that I could point to as an accurate depiction of my life.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

Oh…let’s see. I’d probably have to say (not writing related)… we owned two cougars…mountain lions, for a number of years. They weren’t taken from the wild, but were many generations in captivity. We got the male as a three-month-old cub, and the female was full grown, a rescued cat taken from a home where she was seriously neglected. They both became my husband’s babies, although I enjoyed them as well. The female didn’t like women or kids and bonded with my husband, but I took the male to work with me for a few weeks when he was a kitten, and we didn’t have a kennel built for him yet. I was selling newspaper ads at the time, and I’ll admit that sales soared during those few weeks!

When did you first discover that you were a writer?

I thoroughly enjoyed composition in high school and excelled at it, and have always been an avid letter writer, but didn’t pursue writing, as I got married after one year of college and started having kids a couple of years later, so no time. Two years ago, (with the kids long grown) I got a strong nudge from the Lord that I needed to return to writing, and see what I could do with it. I had three magazine articles published the first few months after I started, then decided to write a Christian novel. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, but had some excellent mentors who helped me in the process, and 15 month and a lot of work later, I had a contract for The Other Daughter.

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

I enjoy a wide range of genres. As a kid I loved reading Zane Grey, the old Nancy Drew books, Sue Barton nurse books, and as an older teen really got into the Gene Stratton Porter books (Freckles and Girl of the Limberlost, etc), as well as Harold Bell Wright, an amazing author. I still enjoy his work, and have added many Christian fiction writers to the list. I can’t begin to list them all, but to name just a few, Jan Karon, Francine Rivers, Linda Chaikin, Brandilynn Collins, Robin Lee Hatcher, and Alton Gansky. As you can see, there’s historical, mystery, suspense, and women’s fiction all mixed in there.

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

The first book I completed was a book about the journey the Lord brought my husband and I through, in our 35 yrs of marriage. I wrote it more for myself than anyone else, although it may be something my family will enjoy someday. It’s not just a book of memoirs, but one that contains teaching…it’s a mix of Christian living and true life stories. I’m currently finishing up the second book in the Homecoming Series, the sequel to The Other Daughter. It centers on Jeena, one of the secondary characters in the first book, and follows her through some very difficult times. I’m also working on a historical romance, with the heroine living on a horse ranch in the late 1880’s. Then I have a very rough outline of another women’s contemporary book that will be a stand alone, rather than a series. I’m probably the most excited about it, of everything I’m working on, as it’s a unique story idea that I’ve not seen done in fiction before. At least, nothing I’ve personally read….but that’s all I can tell you right now!

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

Right now, that’s been tough. As I’m writing this, I’m in the midst of the marketing for The Other Daughter, writing the sequel, building a new home where we’ve been heavily involved in the various construction phases, selling our present home and getting ready to move to the new one. I try to get to bed at a decent time, have at least an hour of quality time with my husband each day, snatch an hour once or twice a week for lunch with my daughter, and of course, spend time with the Lord. Church attendance is a must, and I lead intercessory prayer at our church too, which really helps keep me focused on what’s important in life.

Sounds like your hands are really full right now. How do you choose your characters’ names?

I have a list of names that I’ve compiled over the years, and I pour over it, trying to get a feel for the right one. Names are important to me, and I don’t want to just grab one and plaster it on a character. They have to be a reflection of what and who that person is…whether it be a gentle, soft name, a harsh or strong name, or one that speaks of joy or sadness. The husband in The Other Daughter is named David…not an uncommon name, but a man after God’s own heart…that said it all for me. I also try to choose names that would’ve been used during the time period they were born. My eight-year-old boy in my book is Josh, and that name was very popular about 8-10 years ago. I try to watch the trends in names, and keep those in mind, to help with the reality factor.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

I think I’d have to say raising two kids who both are serving the Lord, and both have chosen wonderful, Godly mates. I don’t think there’s any higher calling for a woman, than being a helpmeet to her husband and raising children who will move into the next generation with a heart to live for the Lord, and lead others to Him. The eternal impact of that accomplishment is hard to gauge, and we may not know till we reach heaven, what it truly means to have parented Christian kids. Mine mean the world to me, and I’m exceptionally proud of the decisions both of them have made in their lives.

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

That’s an easy one for me. While I’m an avid horseback rider and horse lover, I wouldn’t want to be a horse, and have a saddle on my back and a bit in my mouth. Nope, I’d choose to be a bald eagle for a couple of reasons. One, it’s protected, and while a few unscrupulous people might take pot shots at them, it’s rare. Two, they have the ability to soar higher than almost any other bird, and can float for hours on the updrafts, resting on the air currents and surveying the awesome terrain below. The freedom and peace that would bring…being away from the noise, stress and busyness of life, is something I can only dream of right now. If I’m not mistaken, I believe they also mate for life and are very loyal and protective of their mate, and I love that.

What is your favorite food?

Watermelon, hands down. I LOVE fresh fruit, and here in the Columbia River gorge we have an abundance of it. Watermelons are grown a couple of hours up the river at Hermiston, some of the best in the NW, local cherries (just up the road from me), peaches, nectarines, apples, pears, cantaloupe…the list goes on. I love summer and tend make fresh fruit one of my main staples.

I love fruit, too. When I was growing up in Arkansas, we ate watermelon a lot. Even had watermelon seed spitting contests. What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?

When I first started, I had a hard time with Point Of View. I had two very faithful people who kept pointing it out to me, and gave me examples of what I was doing wrong. I bought several great books on writing, and began to study…but not until after I’d written my first book. I wanted my voice to come through, without worrying too much about "rules"…after reading and learning, I went back and began to edit and make necessary changes, while still keeping my voice intact. I also struggle with getting ideas for new books, but am slowing getting my "over 50" brain turned on and tuned in to being creative again. I think it’s just taken time to get it out of the mothballs it’s been smothered in for so many years.

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

Join a good writer’s group, and if at all possible an online or local critique group. I’ve learned so much from both in the past two years. My current book has been helped and gently corrected by my crit group, and we four gals have a wonderful working relationship. Each has our own set of strengths that we bring to the group, and each has things that need to be strengthened, that we gain from the others. Never be too proud to ask for help, and by all means, don’t take a critique as personal criticism. You can only grow when you’re willing to hear the suggestions of others.

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

I’m tremendously excited about this book and the notice it’s gotten since the summary was posted online by my agent. As a result of her post, The Other Daughter was picked by a major motion picture studio to be reviewed as a potential family movie. At the time of this writing, the agent from the studio has read it, stated she really likes it, and is very interested in the possibility of obtaining an option. It remains to be seen if they make an offer, as there is some concern about the faith elements in the book, and whether the studio can accept them. With my publishers approval, I made changes that softened the faith elements, but didn’t do away with them altogether. It’s in the Lord’s hands, as He’s the one who brought the opportunity about in the first place.

I believe that the underlying message this book contains is one that most wives and mothers will relate to….the need to be in control of our family and circumstances, and the struggle to allow the Lord to be in charge, as well as the frustrations and dynamics that take place between Susanne and her husband David. I’d say that the most common response from my advance readers has been that they loved the characters. While it has a very strong plot, it’s almost equally character driven. I think the characters will come alive for the reader, and they’ll feel as though they’ve visited the little corner of the NW where the Carson family lives, by the time they’ve finished the book.

Miralee, thank you for spending this time with us. I can hardly wait to read The Other Daughter. I first became interested in this book, because the title is close to one of mine, The Other Brother.

Readers, you'll want to check out Miralee's web site:


Also, if you want a chance to win a copy of The Other Daughter, leave a comment.

There's still time to leave a comment on these interviews, too:

Bill Andrews - Mason's Link
Lena Nelson Dooley - Who Am I?
Irene Brand - Colonial Christmas Brides

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Irene Brand

Today, I'm introducing you to an author many of you might be familiar with. She's written Christian fiction for many years. I've enjoyed reading her books. Then we became online friends and met at conferences. I'm sure you'll love her and her writing as much as I do.

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

I believe that my Christian faith comes through in the characters I create. I’m conservative in my interpretation of the Bible, and I believe that shows in my books, for I use Bible quotations often. I try not to be “preachy,” but I like for readers to know whose side I’m on. To some extent, I believe all of our work is a composite of what has happened to us in life, but I don’t write about real experiences or real people, except in historical books.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

Quirk has several definitions, and to answer the question, I’ll use the following interpretation: “a strange and unexpected turn of events.” When I was 18 years old, I took a notion to research and compile the history of my father’s family – the Beards. My ancestors came from Scotland, settled in Virginia and then moved westward. Our branch of the family stayed in West Virginia. Others moved on to Iowa and Nebraska. My dad kept in touch with one branch of the family that moved to Nebraska, and he gave me names I could contact. Strange as it might seem, my husband of 51 years was one of the twigs/leaves on that particular limb of the family tree. We became pen pals when he was in Korea. When he came home, he took a vacation to Washington, D. C. stopped in West Virginia to see me, and the rest is history . . . .

I'm sure it's a wonderful history indeed. When did you first discover that you were a writer?

When I was about eleven years old, I read a book that inspired me, and I suddenly realized that I wanted to do for others what that writer had done for me. The next day, I started my first book. I don’t even remember the subject, how many pages I wrote, or what happened to that first scribbling. But from that day on, the desire to write stayed with me. I wrote poems for special occasions, plays which we presented at our church, and I wrote news items for newspapers.

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

I particularly like westerns, historical novels, mysteries, suspense. I tend to prefer books that are intermediate in length.

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

Colonial Christmas Brides, in which I shared authorship with Lauralee Bliss is my 43rd book, and I’ll refer blog participants to my website for the names of my published works. www.irenebrand.com Some of the books I’ve written, which haven’t been published, include a book on women’s prisons, a biblical novel, a historical novel in medieval Europe, some books on Colonial America, at least one book on the Civil War, and a few non-fiction books.

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

By constantly reminding myself that Christ is my Guide, Comforter, and Savior. One verse that I find meaningfully in this context is Matthew 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things (meaning food, drink, clothing) shall be added unto you.”

How do you choose your characters’ names?

I go to a website listing names that were popular in the era of which I’m writing. I skim through the telephone book for family names. I often choose names I see in the newspaper, or people I’ve met casually. For instance, a young woman waited on me in a department store. I noticed her name was Summer, and that gave me an idea. I created three sisters whose names were Spring, Summer, Autumn.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

I’ve been a member of the same Baptist church since I was eleven years old. During that time God has given me the privilege of serving Him in many capacities through the local congregation. I’ve worked with youth since I was a youth myself, and I have an exceptional rapport with our present young adults (20-30 years). I’ve been the treasurer for years, and I’ve played either the piano or the organ since I was sixteen. I’m not overly talented, but the Lord had graciously given me this field in which to serve. I hesitate to speak of my accomplishments, but when those accomplishments bring glory to God (as the above) and not to me, it’s okay.

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

A giraffe. I’m only 5’3” tall, and it would be nice occasionally to be able to look over the heads of other people and have a good view of the world.

I completely understand., since I'm not much over five feet tall. What is your favorite food?

I’m not a picky eater, and I like MANY foods. My stomach expects to be fed three times a day (6:00 a.m.; Noon; 5:00 p.m.) I’m a meat, potato, vegetable, salad cook, rather than a gourmet, so I suppose that is what I prefer. Pie is probably my favorite dessert, but I can’t choose a favorite out of the many I like to eat.

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

I passionately dislike writing the first draft. And there’s only one way to deal with it---just sit at the computer and write.

And I love the first draft. Isn't it wonderful how the Lord made us all so different, yet similar. What advice would you give to an author just starting out?

Do a lot of reading in the genre you want to write. And I have some adages (mottos) posted in my office that give some good advice. One is “Footprints in the sands of time are not made Sitting Down.” And I like the Chinese proverb. “To accomplish anything, keep seat on seat.” Perseverance is very important. I need to remind myself of these things constantly.

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

I co-authored Colonial Christmas Brides with Lauralee Bliss. The anthology consists of 4 novellas. Each of us wrote a novella on Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg, and each novella took place during the Christmas season.

I love to read books by Lauralee, too, so I'm sore this novella collection will be a wonderful read. Barbour published several Christmas books this year. I will read all of them in December. They help set the holiday mood in my house.

Thank you, Irene, for taking time to visit with us today.

Readers, leave a comment on this interview for a chance to win a copy of Colonial Christmas Brides.

And keep watching this blog. We've already featured a couple of Christmas books, but there are more to come.

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And the Winners Are. . .

Bonnie for Dangerous Decision

rebornbutterfly for Canteen Dreams

Contact me with your mailing addresses so we can get the books out to you. There's a link to my email under my picture in the right column.

There's still time to leave a comment on these two interviews:

Bill Andrews - Mason's Link
Lena Nelson Dooley - Who Am I?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bill Andrews

Today, I'm introducing you to Bill Andrews, author of Mason's Link.

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

This being my first novel, the genesis of the story centers around actual events which occurred in my early adulthood. The makeup of the protagonist, George Mason, resembles me a great deal.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

I turned to writing for fun after a 40-year career in financial management. What I wrote inside that career almost never received a wide audience. The turn took everyone by surprise, even me.

When did you first discover that you were a writer?

Even inside my financial management career, I wrote reports or project analyses or business plans or proposals to buy or sell businesses. None of that was supposed to look like fiction. Not until I finished the first chapter of this book, Mason’s Link, did I receive feedback from two readers. They wanted more. That’s when the realization set in. Maybe I could do this thing of putting words to paper, which people might want to read.

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

I’m big on historicals. Most of my library includes books on either WWII or the Civil War with a smattering of Revolutionary era books. Early in my life, I read westerns (Louis L’Amour) and si/fi (Issac Asimov). Up until ten years ago, I read a lot of John Grisham and Tom Clancy. I devoured the first three books by Jean Auel. I can’t remember her heroine’s name but I thought she was awesome.

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

In 2003, shortly after retirement, I self-published The Road from Caledonia to Canisy, a story that chronicled my father’s journey through WWII. I had only twenty-five printed because I assumed only my family would have an interest in his story. Turns out a wider audience of WWII vets and their children existed. A lot of people with a family member in the 22nd Infantry Regiment in WWII have asked for this book because of the accuracy and details included for the first 50 days after D-Day.

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

My major rule is not to worry about things not under my control. The exception to this rule is my wife, Marilynn. She’s not under my control but I worry about her nevertheless.

You sound a lot like my husband. How do you choose your characters’ names?

I try to look at the period during which the characters were born on the assumption that parents then would use names of people they admired such as heroes/heroines, movie stars or popular statesmen. Aside from my protagonist and his family, none of my other characters carry last names. I wanted them to feel to the reader like friends to the main family members. Rarely do people think of friends or neighbors by their full names. It’s always by first name; at least it is in the Deep South.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

Easy question. My family consisting of my wife, Marilynn, my three children, Wendy, Chris and Scott and my four grandsons, Austin, Andrew, Corbin and Camden. In Mason’s Link, the protagonist has the dream of being at Home (Heaven) way into the future surrounded by all his family. Such is my dream.

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

I think I would like to be a perpetual puppy. As such, I would expect to always be cuddly without the expectation of being house broken.

What is your favorite food?

Great question. Anyone who knows me by sight would guess I have many favorites. They would be right. I love Caesar salads, steak, fried chicken, shrimp and lemon icebox pie.

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

For me, I was too anxious to get my story on paper. The premise of Mason’s Link make’s a great story. I wanted to get it out. My editors who came from our local university ranks wanted me to get it out. Even with their careful help and advice, I fear many rookie writer mistakes still persist in the book. But did I say that the story was great anyway? My second fiction project will hopefully exhibit better craft. I have learned a great deal just following the threads on the ACFW loop. Every time someone brings up a writing question, I tell myself “That’s a great question.” I follow every answer. The Dallas conference was great not only from the standpoint of meeting the greatest group of Christians assembled anywhere but also from the points of the craft given freely to all of us. Think about it, the greatest writers in Christian Fiction were there cheering the rest of us newbies on with reckless abandon.

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

For a new writer in Christian Fiction, join ACFW. Nowhere else on earth does there exist such a supportive organization where skills of the craft are so profusely shared. My mistake was not realizing ACFW existed until I had already made the decision to self publish.

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

Did I say the story is great? I believe it is. All the readers who have shared anything about it with me say the same thing. Please remember, I am a rookie writer even at 64 years old and I did not know ACFW existed until the die was cast for this novel. It’s still a great story.

In this fictional account, the protagonist, George Mason, with the prodding of his grandson, discovers a long hidden link between two Souls enabling him to communicate with his first wife who passed away 35 years ago. He uses this link to begin the magical discovery of Heaven and what it’s like to live there. He agonizes over what to do with the discovery fearful of what his new life’s partner and the Church will feel about it.

When he dies, he faces the entry process into Heaven, part of which includes having to reconcile his past transgressions. Unknown to him, one event in his past puts his own Soul in jeopardy. You won’t find many other books where everyone dies.

How can readers find you on the Internet?

I have a website, www.billandrews43.com, still considered a work in progress. Slowly, content is being added.

Thank you, Bill, for spending this time with us. We appreciate your advice, and the book sounds interesting.

Readers, if you want a chance to win a copy of Mason's Link, leave a comment on this post. There's still time to leave comments on these interviews, too:

Lena Nelson Dooley - Who Am I?
Cara Putman - Canteen Dreams
Susan Marlow - Dangerous Decision

Saturday, October 13, 2007

An Interview with Lena Nelson Dooley

I always feel a little awkward when I do an interview of myself, but this interview is the first one in a series of books that are releasing in October, November, and December. The one in November was written by Lisa Harris, and the one in December was by Beth Goddard. I'll feature interviews with these two author friends in their months of release.

Why do you write the kind of books you do?

Because God is the author of romance. The Enemy of our Souls has stolen so much from us, and in society today, he has taken this God-given gift and perverted it so much. In my books, I want to show that a couple can have a real romance and the Lord will bless it.

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

There are several days that hold probably equal footing. The birth of my two daughters followed by the birth of each of my four grandchildren. To add to that, this year my first great grandson was born. These days show that God has a plan for tomorrow in our lives and families.

How has being published changed your life?

I could say that it has made me famous, but only in some circles. It has allowed me to enjoy doing what God created me to do—write and tell stories that touch people’s lives. Of course, it has also helped me get to know some of the most awesome people in the publishing world—other authors, agents, and editors. Some of my best friends now are in the writing world. The best thing is that they understand this need to express things in words, and they understand having people take up residence in my thoughts.

What are you reading right now?

I just finished Cindy Woodsmall’s second book When the Morning Comes—a wonderful book. Then yesterday I started Mary DeMuth’s Wishing on Dandelions. Since I loved her first book, I am glad to read the sequel. The last three before that were The Measure of a Lady by Deeanne Gist, Violette Between by Alison Strobel, and Frasier Island by Susan Page Davis. If you haven’t read any of these books, I highly recommend them. As I finish each book, I do a review on my Shoutlife page: www.shoutlife.com/lenanelsondooley

What is your current work in progress?

I’m working on a proposal for The Gift of a Son, a historical book set in Colorado in the early 1890s. I’m also trying to finish the manuscript for Beyond Redemption, a contemporary set in Texas. The first of November, I must start writing my contracted novella for Snowbound Colorado Christmas, a historical set in 1913.

What would be your dream vacation?

I love to go on cruises--all that getting waited on hand and foot. My husband and I have been on two in the Caribbean. My book Never Say Never came from those voyages. My husband and I want to go on the Alaska cruise some time. We’d also like to go to Hawaii. It’s very hard for me to choose just one.

How do you choose your settings for each book?

Usually, the stories determine the setting. I love to learn about places. Whenever I travel, I take pictures and notes and buy books about the area. That gives me lots of things to use in a book.

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

George W. Bush. I know a lot about him and his walk with the Lord. I’d love to have dinner with him, and I would hope that both my husband and Laura Bush would join us. I’d like to tell him how much I’ve prayed for him during his presidency and how much I admire him for the way he’s handled the difficult things the media has done to him. Being president of the United States opens a person up to all kind of critics. I'm thankful that he's continued to stand for his convictions no matter what critics say.

What are your hobbies, besides writing and reading?

Can eating chocolate be a hobby? Spending time with family is high on my list. James and I like to go to movies, when we can find one worth viewing. I also knit things for the homeless ministry. And of course, there's the travel.

What is your most difficult writing obstacle, and how do you overcome it?

Probably distraction. Many creative people are easily distracted, and I’m one of them. The only way I can overcome this is to spend time with the Lord and let Him help me keep on task.

What advice would you give to a beginning author?

Don’t be a lone ranger. Connect with other people who write the kind of thing that you do, especially authors who have been published as well as other aspiring authors. If you’re into fiction, I highly recommend American Christian Fiction Writers as a good place to connect with other authors of all kinds of genres. www.acfw.com Then don’t give up. Write. Write. Write. Learn. Learn. Learn. Submit. Submit. Submit.

Tell us about the featured book.

Who Am I? is the first book in a contemporary series set in Massachusetts. The other two books were written by Lisa Harris and Beth Goddard. Lisa’s book comes out in November and Beth’s in December. I’ll feature each of them on this blog. All of the books have mystery/suspense elements in them.

In Who Am I?, Leiann Hambrick finds out after her mother’s death that there are many things that have to do with her life that she didn’t know. There were lies that she believed to be truth. She goes to Massachusetts to meet a grandfather she never knew she had. After she gets there, dangerous things start happening to her. She wonders if someone is trying to kill her, and she doesn’t know who she can trust.

How can readers find you on the Internet?

I’m glad you’ve found me here. Check back octen. I also have a web site where you can read about all my books:


The website contains a monthly newsletter with a lot of interesting information about books, as well as reviews of books I’ve read that month.

I also have a site on Shoutlife, which I mentioned earlier. This is a Christian Internet Communtiy. Come over and meet lots of wonderful people.

If you'd like to win a free copy of Who Am I?, leave a comment on this interview. To be sure you don't miss any winner announcement or other author interviews, sign up in the right column for Feedblitz. The announcements will come straight to your Inbox.

It's Winning Day Again!!!

Janna won a copy of A Texas Christmas Legacy by DiAnn Mills.

Sarah, My Beloved by Sharlene Maclaren was won by Carolyn W.

Please email me your mailing addresses, so we can get the books out to you.

Readers, there's still time to leave comments on these interviews:

Cara Putman - Canteen Dreams
Susan Marlow - Dangerous Decision

Look for another interview this weekend.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Cara Putman

I've known Cara Putman for several years. We're both in American Christian Fiction Writers. Right now she is in charge of publicity and doing a wonderful job. I'm happy to help introduce her first book.

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

It really depends on the character. Audrey Stone, the heroine in Canteen Dreams, longs to find her place in the world. She wants to serve others but doesn’t know how to start. I can relate all to well to that. Dani Richards, the heroine in Double Image, is a reporter with a drive to win and get it right. She also doesn’t know how to back down. Again, characteristics I have. Then Hayden McCarthy, in my current WIP, is an attorney who’s had her world turned upside down. In the process she fights to find God again. I’ve had a similar season in my life this spring. Ironically, I started thinking about her and her story long before this season started.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

Hmm. This is a good question. Quirkiest thing would probably be knowing my husband was the man I would marry…quirky because I realized this five years before he did :-)

When did you first discover that you were a writer?

For me it happened in stages. From the time I was given a journal in third grade, I have loved to write. My journals were – and still are – often my way to communicate what is happening inside me to God. Then I met Colleen Coble two years ago and she encouraged the dream of writing. She called herself my midwife because I would email her with updates on how much or little I’d been writing. She smiled and kept encouraging me. Finally, when I got my first contract I thought, this might actually happen! But each day when I sit down to write, it’s a reminder that this is a dream God has blessed.

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

I’m all over the place. I LOVE a good suspense. Mary Higgins Clark, Lisa Gardner, Brandilyn Collins, Colleen, Wanda Dyson. I also enjoy historicals, particularly Tricia Goyer and Kim Sawyer. I just finished Defiant Heart by Tracey Bateman and really enjoyed it. Then there are those days I need to laugh. Kristin Billerbeck has a gift for chick lit. And Allie Pleiter and Sharon Hinck have touched my heart with tears and laughter with their Mom Lit books.

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

I have completed two books. Canteen Dreams releases this month from Heartsong Presents. Double Image is under consideration at another house. I also have two sequels to Canteen Dreams to write that are under contract, and my legal thriller proposal to finish.

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

Not very well. I’m a mom to two adorable kids, teach a summer class at Purdue, keep the house organized, run women’s ministry, etc. And it’s truly tough to balance it all. I try to take my schedule to God periodically and ask Him to help me determine what I should be doing at this time in my life. I’ve by no means arrived, but I strive to honor Him with my time and commitments.

My sister-in-law worked until she retired as an administrative assistant to one of the officers at Purdue. How do you choose your characters’ names?

For the historicals, I spend time on the Social Security Administrations website to see which names were popular in the 1920s. Sometimes I just know. Audrey and Willard are the h/h in Canteen Dreams. They are also my grandparents’ names. Since I’m borrowing a part of their romance, it just fit to use their names. Dani and Hayden have always been those names to me. I honestly can’t imagine them as anybody else. For others I’ve run through the Baby Name Survey book and other baby name books. The meaning of the names is very important. Danielle means God is my judge, and in Double Image, Dani is wooed back to God, so it fits on that level, too.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

Being married for 11+ years and being a Truman scholar. I think I was the first homeschooler to achieve that (Truman scholar, I mean).

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

A Horse. They are beautiful creatures and have an amazing ability to run.

What is your favorite food?

Pasta … all the time. I could eat it for just about every meal.

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

For me it’s that stage where you have the germ of an idea, but I’m not sure how to flesh it out. I’m there with my legal thriller. I have the foundation, the setting, the key characters. Now plotting enough of the story to sell it to a publisher. That’s the work. The writing itself is discovery. I enjoy that.

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

First, join ACFW (www.acfw.com). You will find a community of Christian writers (some published, some not) who will encourage you and help you learn the fundamentals. Then write. We call it bottom on chair time. You have to invest the time in the writing. Then have others read it. In that you will learn what’s working and what needs to be fixed. Then go to conferences like ACFW’s, so you can learn the craft while meeting industry professionals. Most of all pray. God can do amazing things when you let Him lead.

The same advice I give to new authors.

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

Every wondered what it was like in the early days of World War Two in American? In Canteen Dream I tell the story of a couple and a town in Nebraska. The couple learns how to serve in the home front war effort while falling in love. And North Platte pours out its love to more than six million service men and women between Christmas 1941 and April 1946. I often wonder if we would step up as communities to meet needs like that anymore. It’s a story of sacrifice that I find challenging each time I think about it.

Hopefully, readers will enjoy the romance, love the characters, learn a little something without realizing it, and be challenged to serve in new ways.

How can readers find you on the Internet?

My blog is The Law, Books & Life at http://carasmusings.blogspot.com. I also have a Shoutlife page.

Thanks so much for inviting me to join you, Lena. I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity.

And thank you, Cara, for spending this time with us. I can hardly wait to read Canteen Dreams.

Readers, leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of this book. You might want to check out these other interviews.

Susan Marlow - Dangerous Decision
Sharlene Maclaren - Sarah, My Beloved
DiAnn Mills - A Texas Legacy Christmas

There's still time to leave a comment on them for a chance to win a free copy.

If you don't want to miss any of these interviews with authors, or the notices about winners, sign up for Feed Blitz in the right column under my profile. Notification will come to your inbox.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Susan Marlow

Most of our interviews are with authors of books for adults. However, we have featured a couple who write for children. Today, I want to introduce you to another one--Susan Marlow.

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

Probably more than I should. My main character, Andi, is who I would like to be in another life. I share a lot of her traits: curiosity, righteous indignation, her love of freedom, and her spirit of adventure. I think living on a prosperous ranch as a kid with her own horse a hundred years ago would have been one of the most exciting things I could have done, even with the hard work involved.

The book already sounds interesting. What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

I guess it would be going after a coyote with a broom. My eight-year-old daughter came screaming into the house one morning after checking for eggs in the henhouse. A coyote had ravished the hens and had one in his mouth. I picked up the first thing I could find, a broom, and took off after him. I didn’t even think why a coyote was running around inside the city limits. Unable to chase him off, I returned to the house for a better weapon—a .22 pistol. I confronted the coyote in the front yard, where, with a hen hanging from his mouth, he just looked at me. At point blank range I shot at him—four times. I missed every time. Apparently disgusted at my lack of marksmanship, the coyote trotted off. We never saw him again, but the henhouse was a disaster.

Wow! Sounds scary. When did you first discover that you were a writer?

I wrote a poem at age nine called “The Reflection” that so impressed my third grade teacher that she posted it in the teachers’ lounge for all to see. The next year I had a teacher who introduced me to the fascinating worlds of outer space. I wrote a story called “Up to Mars” (sadly it’s lost), but I was forever hooked on story writing. After reading a good book, I’d imagine my own ending or different characters, or different plots, and I’d write them down. I shared them only with my younger sister Julie, who liked to write stories, too.

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

I like everything from science fiction to kids books; from action/adventure to suspense. If there are endearing, “real” characters and a meaningful adventure in the book, I’ll read it.

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

I have a number of hand-written, lovingly saved creations from my youth. A story about kids surviving the Tribulation (yeah, I should have thought of submitting it before Left Behind Kids came out. Sigh). I have stories about kids cast away on a deserted island and kids accidentally headed for the star Sirius on an experimental spaceship. I confess I have even written Star Trek stories from the time I was a teenager (when the show first premiered) until now. I know writers should write every day, but sometimes my current book project is just not flowing, or the ideas are not coming. Pulling out a write-just-for-fun Star Trek story really helps get the creative juices flowing for other, more significant book projects.

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

By keeping focused on the Big Picture—the eternal picture. It helps me to slow down and consider why I’m running. I take time to “be still and know…God.” Being still for me usually includes reading a good book that stretches my imagination (like Heaven by Randy Alcorn) or watching a DVD that allows me to explore strange new worlds (sci-fi) or go back to a favorite time in history (Anne of Green Gables).

How do you choose your characters’ names?

For my main character, Andrea, I wanted a name that sounded sort of high-class, since her family is rich, but because she’s a tomboy, I wanted her to have a boy’s name, hence “Andi.” I heard the name on an old western show once and said, “That’s it!” For my other characters, I use names from kids in my classes or from church or from young relatives. No one is safe from my name-gathering expeditions. Sometimes I break down and consult a baby name book. I have, however had one slight problem with naming a character. The antagonist in Dangerous Decision had five different names before I settled on the current one—Virginia. None of the others seemed to fit her. When I stumbled across “Virginia” it was another “That’s it!”

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

In writing: Hanging in there through several publishers who held my first book for a long time before rejecting it.

In life: Having a hand in influencing all four of my children to come to know Jesus Christ.

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

I’d be a kitten. They’re soft, cuddly, frisky, and climb trees very well! And they are easily contented with a warm fire to curl up in front of.

What is your favorite food?

Chocolate in any form—hands down.

I got some interesting new chocolate bars at the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Dallas. I'm enjoying them right now. What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?

Lack of self-confidence, and I still haven’t completely overcome it. However, my mentor, Colleen L. Reece, keeps encouraging (pushing is actually a better word for what she makes me do) me into doing all kinds of things—whether I want to do them or not. Everyone needs a cheerleader like that, and she certainly knows what she’s doing. Anyone with over 140 books sold has so much experience that I take a deep breath and say, “OK, I’ll try it.” I credit her with my success in getting my first book published in 2005.

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

Andrea Carter and the Dangerous Decision is the second book in the Circle C Adventures series. It continues the escapades of my well-meaning but impetuous 12-year-old heroine introduced in Book One, Andrea Carter and the Long Ride Home. The story opens with Andi nearly trampling her new teacher in a reckless, impromptu horse race down the main street of Fresno, California—not a good way to begin the fall, 1880 school term! The teacher has a long memory for “undisciplined hooligans” and expects Andi to quickly conform to his high standards of behavior for young ladies. Easier said than done. In addition, the teacher’s frail daughter, Virginia, gives Andi nothing but trouble. Every time Andi tries to do something right, it turns sour. Her troubles really start to multiply when an escaped convict bursts into the classroom. Now Andi must decide if she should deliberately walk into a dangerous situation to rescue the teacher’s mean-spirited, trouble-making daughter, who has been taken hostage.

Trivia fact: Dangerous Decision is actually the first book I wrote in the series. However, when I wrote Long Ride Home, it seemed to fit better coming before Dangerous Decision, so I switched them around.

Susan, thank you for taking this time with us.

Readers, you can find Susan on the Internet at:


. . .where you can read all about the other books in this series.

If you want to win a free copy of Dangerous Decision, leave a comment on this post. There are two other interviews you can still leave comments on for a chance to win a free book:

DiAnn Mills - A Texas Legacy Christmas
Sharlene Maclaren - Sarah, My Beloved

You won't want to miss any of the future interviews or announcements of winners, so sign up for FeedBlitz in the right column under my picture. You won't miss a thing.

First October Winners

Lee Franklin just won a copy of Bayou Justice by Robin Caroll.

Lilo's mom won Beginnings by Kim Sawyer.

You both need to email me your mailing address, so we can get these books to you.

And Readers, if you want to win a free book on this blog, leave a comment on the interviews by Sharlene Maclaren and DiAnn Mills.

Also, a new interview will go up later today.

Have a blessed weekend.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Sharlene Maclaren

I'm happy to once again welcome Sharlene Maclaren to our blog. She has a new release this month.

Shar, why do you write the kind of books you do?

I am a lover of both historical and contemporary romance, but I don’t care for mindless
romances, if I can use that word. I like a story that goes deep, strikes an emotional chord, takes the reader to another level, and challenges them to think about the story and how they might apply it to their own lives. When someone comes away from one of my books, I don’t want them to say, “My, what a great writer.” I want them so say, “Wow, what a great God.” I want to point them back to scripture, create in them a desire to step closer to God.

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

Oh, my goodness! (I can’t choose just one!) I’d have to say the day I married my sweetheart, which, by the way, was almost 32 years ago, is the single happiest day of my life. But raising two beautiful daughters, handing them over to two wonderful sons-in-law, and finally enjoying the fruits of our labors by way of a handsome 18-month-old grandson is another HUGE blessing.

Don't I know it? How has being published changed your life?

Since retiring from 31 years of teaching school and jumping headfirst into a “second career” – writing – my life has been busier than ever, but extremely rewarding and fun. Although I loved teaching right up to the very end, I actually think I’m more passionate about writing. The recognition has taken some adjustment. I’ve had radio/newspaper/and television interviews that have reached into the millions in terms of listeners and viewers. I’m positively humbled to teeny smithereens whenever I think about God using me in this way. I want nothing more than to bring Him all the glory and honor.

What are you reading right now?

Besides my Bible, I’m finishing the 8th book in Jan Karon’s Mitford series. I love her easy, humorous, down-to-earth manner of writing.

What is your current work in progress?

I just finished polishing off an old manuscript and preparing a proposal, completed my three-book historical set, The Little Hickman Creek Series, and am now working on research for my next series, which will have a West Michigan setting, 1900ish. Lots on my plate.

What would be your dream vacation?

Ooooh, weeee, take me to Hawaii! We thought we’d do it for our 25th, but a Mediterranean cruise took precedence, then we thought Hawaii for our 30th, but we wound up taking our kids and their spouses to a Tennessee mountain cabin. Now we’re saying the 35th for sure, but we’d also like to do the Holy Land, so who knows? Hawaii is still my dream, though.

Mine, too. How do you choose your settings for each book?

Through Every Storm has a suburban Chicago setting. Midwest is easy for me, since I live in West Michigan. My Little Hickman Creek Series is set in Kentucky, though, the reason being my daughter and son-in-law lived in the Lexington area for six years, and I absolutely fell in love with the landscape, the rolling hillsides, the miles of white wood fencing, the horse farms. It’s simply lovely country.

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

I would love to spend an evening with Beth Moore. She’s an amazing writer and speaker, so in love with her husband, her family, and her Lord. I’ve learned so much from attending her live conventions as well as her taped Bible studies. She’s funny, full of life and wisdom, and a real person who’s suffered heartache and trial and isn’t afraid to talk about it. If ever there was a woman of God, it’s Beth Moore.

What are your hobbies, besides writing and reading?

I’m not terribly athletic (like my dear, sweet hubby is), so I always say my favorite sport is shopping. One day I woke up on a Sunday morning and dressed for church. I noticed the muscles in my right arm were so sore—not my left, just my right. I told my husband about it, and we wracked our brains trying to figure out what I’d done the day before. Well, I figured it out. I’d been shopping for just the right dress, and it was that time of year when the clearance signs were everywhere! So, I marched from store to store to store. All day. How did I get a sore right arm? You know that fast, repetitive motion you do with your arm when you’re pushing clothes aside on those round racks? Well, I did it for five straight hours and got shopping arm. There are many other things I enjoy doing besides shopping, but for lack of time and space, I’ll save you the boredom of reading on.

What is your most difficult writing obstacle, and how do you overcome it?

I used to say writer’s block was my biggest obstacle, but I’m not sure it’s writer’s block as much as it is lack of direction. When I’m not sure where I’m going next with my story line, I come against a big, thick wall. Most writers call that writer’s block. I call it brain freeze. Stops me dead in my tracks. But as soon as the ideas start flowing again, and I’ve had some time to pray and think about where God wants me to go, my fingers start thumpin’ away on those keys and I’m back in the saddle.

What advice would you give to a beginning author?

DON’T QUIT! If you feel a passion to write, something nagging at you to sit down and put some words on paper, then you have the gift. Pursue it, nurture it, test it, train it, play with it, have fun with it, cherish it. And most important—pray about it! Then commit it to the One who gave it, and watch Him work through you.

Shar, tell us about the featured book.

Sarah, My Beloved is the second in my Little Hickman Creek series, but unlike many series, you don’t have to read the books in any specific order. Although the characters intermingle from one book to the next, the plots do not rely on each other to tell the story. They are stand-alone novels. The first in the series, Loving Liza Jane, released in April ‘07. “Sarah” releases in October ‘07, and Courting Emma, third and final book, will hit store shelves in March of ’08. Each tells a story of a woman living in Little Hickman, Kentucky, a ramshackle, dirt trodden settlement, in the years 1895-96. They are full of wit and whimsy and, of course, LOVE, but they’re not your everyday, predictable prairie romances, either. You might shed a tear or two, depending on how involved you become with each character; you might find yourself laughing aloud; or you might even sigh a time or two. As I said before, I enjoy developing an emotional dimension to all my characters, men and women alike, and as I said before, I want my plots to go deep. Because of that, there will be plenty of tension and conflict, enough, I hope, to make my readers keep the pages turning.

How can readers find you on the Internet?

I love hearing from my readers and always respond to anyone who writes. Here is my contact information:
Email: smac@chartermi.net
Web site: www.sharlenemaclaren.com
Blog: www.sharlenemaclaren.blogspot.com
Web site #2: www.shoutlife.com/sharlenemaclaren

I look forward to hearing from you! May God bless you with abundant HOPE and JOY.

Shar, thank you for spending this time with us today.

Readers, this sounds like a very good read, doesn't it? Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy. You might want to get your hands on the first book in the series as soon as you can, too.

There are three other interviews you can leave a comment on for a chance to win a free book:

Robin Caroll - Bayou Justice
Kim Vogel Sawyer - Beginnings
DiAnn Mills - A Texas Legacy Christmas

Two winners will be announced this weekend.