Thursday, July 08, 2021

IN SEARCH OF TRUE NORTH - Kathleen Neely - One Free Book

Bio: Kathleen Neely is a retired elementary principal, and enjoys time with family, visiting her two grandsons, traveling, and reading.

She is the author of The Street Singer, Beauty for Ashes, The Least of These, and In Search of True North. Kathleen won second place in a short story contest through ACFW-VA for her short story “The Missing Piece” and an honorable mention for her story “The Dance”. Both were published in a Christmas anthology. Her novel, The Least of These, was awarded first place in the 2015 Fresh Voices contest through Almost an Author. She has numerous devotions published through Christian Devotions.

Kathleen continues to speak to students about writing and publication processes. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers.

Welcome back, Kathleen. Why do you write the kind of books you do?

I write the kind of books I enjoy reading. I have never liked categorizing my books into genres. Women’s Fiction. Romance. Mystery. Etc. I know that my books will find more appeal to female readers, yet I’ve had a number of men read and enjoy my stories, particularly The Least of These with a male protagonist. One man who works with the homeless and was brave enough to admit his emotions, told my friend that he fought tears as he read it. I don’t claim to write romance, but always include a romantic element. It adds a nice flavor and is true to real life. I wouldn’t say I write mystery novels but any good work of fiction holds a little mystery. So, I claim the genre of Contemporary Fiction, yet this fall I’ll have a time-slip release that spans 150 years, delving into historic.

My work can also be classified as Christian Fiction, although I don’t set out to write a novel about faith. As a Christian, my faith defines everything I do. True faith is not something that can be compartmentalized. However, I allow it to enter my story when it’s appropriate for the plot. Otherwise, it feels forced and detracts from a good work of fiction. In Beauty for Ashes readers will find a more overt Christian message because the setting is an after-school ministry for teens, and because Nathan is in great emotional turmoil which naturally leads him to scripture. Regardless of whether my story includes a message of faith, I offer good, clean reads.

Here's a little insight into the writing of my latest novel, In Search of True North. I heard a man speaking about his adopted son and applauding the birthmother who made the difficult decision. From there, Mallory’s story emerged. What if the child grew up right within her family? What if she could never speak about giving birth to him? I imagined the growing bitterness. The helpless feeling that she had lost a part of herself. Writers look for an edge. Some details to add a bit of zing to the plot. What if the biological father didn’t know? What if he were now famous?  From there, In Search of True North began to take shape.  

Besides when you came to know the Lord, what is the happiest day in your life? I think I join many people in saying that both marriage and becoming a mother stand out as joyous and memorable events. Interestingly, In Search of True North addresses both issues. While I celebrate those anniversaries with joy, Mallory mourns her decisions.

How has being published changed your life? My life was already in the throes of change. I taught school before accepting an administrative position. I then served as elementary principal in two schools from 2001 to 2015. When I retired, I began to write earnestly. I can’t say that writing changed my life. I just shifted my energy and intellectual curiosity in another direction. I don’t consider myself famous just because my name is on a book cover. I’m blessed to be able to do what I love.

I so understand that. What are you reading right now? I am reading Rachel Hauck’s novel, The Memory House. A great thought-provoking book that spans decades. You can’t go wrong with a Rachel Hauck novel.

I love her books, too. What is your current work in progress? Arms of Freedom will launch in the fall. It is completed except for final edits. The timeslip novel takes place in both a contemporary setting and in the reconstruction years following the Civil War. Annie was pushed into the limelight as a pageant child. Charlotte was hidden. Yet both protagonists in the dual timelines share many commonalities. They lived in the same house; neither had a conventional childhood; both were denied the opportunity to be a child, to have friends, and to attend school. Both rebelled as they came of age. When Charlotte’s journals come to an abrupt end, Annie knew she must investigate to learn the rest of her story, even though her own life is falling apart.

I’m excited for this to launch. I think readers will enjoy Annie and Charlotte’s stories.

What would be your dream vacation? I love historic places so I’d be happy to tour most venues with significant history. I'd love to ride a gondola in the streets of Venice and to see the incredible architecture of Notre Dame, Sydney Opera House, the Louvre, and St. Basil’s Cathedral. Yes, I know that’s a lot of countries!

How do you choose your settings for each book? The setting needs to make sense for the story. In writing The Street Singer, I chose Asheville, North Carolina because of the artsy feel of the area. The Least of These is set in Pittsburgh because of my familiarity with the city. I’ve visited a homeless shelter there and know the city well. I set Beauty for Ashes in Greenville, South Carolina. I live in the outlying area and love the quaintness of downtown Greenville. You’ll also see Greenville in Arms of Freedom which will release in the fall.

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 Francine Rivers. The Mark of the Lion trilogy remains among my favorite fiction books ever. I admire her work and would love some insight into how God guides her ideas. Perhaps we could brainstorm together as I tap into some of her creative genius.

I love her writing, too. She was the speaker at the ACRW (pre ACFW) first national conference in Denver. Our conferences were smaller then. I had several God appointments with her where we visited. What a blessing! What are your hobbies, besides writing and reading? I love people so I enjoy time with my church friends and with my sisters. We have game nights and creative dinners. Sometimes we choose an ethnic cuisine and prepare a dinner with a theme. I love to visit my grandsons, ages 4 and 6. Nine hours travel is a challenge but we try to see them every few months. I also go to the gym three times a week to keep this aging body healthy.

What is your most difficult writing obstacle, and how do you overcome it? I write best when I am alone and undistracted. I had a few years of uninterrupted writing time and then a wonderful, terrible event occurred—my husband retired. It became difficult to carve out the time. I wanted to spend time with him and take advantage of the freedom to go places together; but I also wanted to write. I converted a spare bedroom to an office and forced myself to schedule writing time. I sometimes use a doorknob hanger that says Writing – Please don’t disturb.  My writing is a slower pace than it once was, but we’ve worked out the solution nicely.

What advice would you give to a beginning author? A wealth of resources wait for you. Mentoring authors, workshops, trade books. Connect with a local group. Join a critique group. Find what works best for your quest to improve. And as simplistic as it may sound—READ. I always write better when I’m reading a well-crafted novel. 

Tell us about the featured book. In Search of True North is a story about a mother’s love, yet it’s so much more. When 16-year-old Mallory discovered she was pregnant, her parents urged her to give the child up to her barren sister. It proved to be the hardest decision of her life. She lost more than just her son. It shattered family relationships. In Search of True North is about peeling back the layers of grief, learning to accept responsibility, and understanding that other people are fallible despite their good intentions. Healing takes a slow journey to reach the heart; twelve years in Mallory’s case.

I love that Mallory Carter is not a perfect, beautiful, too-good -to-be-true protagonist. She comes to us bitter, passive-aggressive, and insecure, always protective of the wall she built around herself. It takes a twelve-year-old boy to break through—not to mention a little help from his handsome uncle.

Please give us the first page of the book. Here is a sneak peek. Remember—this is setting the stage. The best is yet to come. 

Mallory Carter’s phone vibrated for the third time in the last hour. She stole a glance at the low buzz from the shelf under the counter where it rested. Dad—again. It must be important, but she couldn’t talk from work. She had no one to cover the register. Still, it was unusual to see a call from her dad’s cell phone. Tightness gripped her chest. Should she answer it? A customer entered, settling the decision. Her dad would have to wait. Her shift ended soon.

The high humidity brought beads of sweat to Mallory’s forehead as she called out the customary greeting. “Hello. Welcome to Cape Fear Emporium.” She tucked the phone away. She’d call him from home.

A middle-aged lady, her cropped hair sticky with sweat and clinging to her face, breathed a satisfied response. “Ahh. Air.” The relief would be short-lived. The air conditioner had difficulty cooling this space beyond seventy-six degrees.

She turned a friendly smile toward Mallory. “There’s not a hint of a breeze out there. It’s stifling. Is North Carolina always like this?”

Mallory could pick out the northerners every time. She cooled her face with an oriental folding fan as she answered. “May’s usually nice. This is unseasonably hot. Feel free to look around. It’s better than walking the boardwalk in this heat.”

Dozens of colorful T-shirts hung from a circular rack. The shelves held coffee mugs depicting the Cape Fear River, Wrightsville Beach, and the boardwalk. Seashell jewelry dangled from a rotating display. The ice cream typically drew people in, strategically located in the back of the store so they’d pass shelves filled with novelties that no one needed but most people bought.

How can readers find you on the Internet? I love to hear from readers. They can find me at:

Twitter -  

Thank you, Kathleen, for sharing this book with my blog readers and me. I’m eager to read it when I finish the contracted book I’m writing.

Readers, here are links to the book. - Paperback - Kindle

Leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book. You must follow these instructions to be in the drawing. Please tell us where you live, at least the state or territory or country if outside North America. (Comments containing links may be subject to removal by blog owner.)

Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.

The only notification you’ll receive is the winner post on this blog. So be sure to check back a week from Saturday to see if you won. You will have 4 weeks from the posting of the winners to claim your book.

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Carol James said...

Congratulations, Kathy. I have enjoyed everyone of your books, and I can't wait to read this one. Great interview!

Kathleen Neely said...

Thank you, Carol. I hope you enjoy Mallory’s story.

Lucy Reynolds said...

Congratulations! Would love to read. Blessings from WV.

CRYSTAL said...

Ccongrats to you.
Love book cover. Very intriguing and peaks my interest. Would lovve to read and review in print format.
Enjoyed reading the interview. I love meeting new authors and trying their books.
Mallory's story looks like a great read.
Hope I Win
Blessings from Crystal Stewart from PA in the USA

Diana Flowers said...

Sounds like a great story! Nice & angsty with romance, which is what I love! lol Thank you for the interview and the giveaway opportunity.

Diana in SC

traveler said...

Congratulations! This novel sounds captivating and emotional. Love to read this story. Anne in NM.

petite said...

Thanks for your wonderful interview and this beautiful book feature. Pearl - NM.

Lynn Brown said...

This sounds like a good read. A tough decision to make, especially at such a young age. Sure to be plenty of family drama involved. Thanks for the chance.

East Tx

Kathleen Neely said...

So glad to hear from everyone. I hope you enjoy reading Mallory's story as much as I enjoyed writing it. Drop me a line from my website ( and let me know how you like it. Better yet, leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, and BookBub.


Kay Garrett said...

Kathleen Neely is a new to me author, but one I'm hoping to get to know in the very near future. "IN SEARCH OF TRUE NORTH" sounds like a heart touching story that will pull on all you emotions. Exactly the type of book I love to read. Make me laugh, make me cry, make me angry - but make me feel through the words on the page in order to make it a fabulous read.

Enjoyed reading the interview and learning more about both author and book. The first page along with the book description has this book definitely on my TBR list.

Shared but hoping upon hope to be the very fortunate one selected to get a copy. Thank you for the chance!
Kay Garrett of Mountain View, AR
2clowns at arkansas dot net

Sharon Bryant said...

Enter me in your awesome giveaway!!
Conway SC.

Connie Porter Saunders said...

I can't imagine experiencing what Mallory goes through in this story. Thanks for sharing.
Connie from Kentucky

Patricia B. said...

I live in NE TN. Congratulations on the release of In Search Of True North. It sounds like it will be a story of growth and eventually peace. Take care and stay safe.

rubynreba said...

I would love to read Mallory's story. Thanks for the chance!
Beth from IA

Melissa M. said...

I'd love to read it. Thanks for the opportunity!
-Melissa from TN

Sunnymay said...

In Search of True North has a soul-searching premise and over the years, a finding of peace over the conflicted past. It looks like a read worthy of time spent getting to know the characters revolving around a child.