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.
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.
I’m excited for this to launch. I think readers will
enjoy Annie and
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
How do you
choose your settings for each book? The setting needs to make sense for the
story. In writing The Street Singer,
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
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.
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
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
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,
How can readers find you on the Internet? I love to hear from readers. They can find me at:
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.
https://amzn.to/3wux06G - Paperback
https://amzn.to/3ALjtv8 - Kindle
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