Welcome, Dana. Tell us
how much of yourself you write into your characters.
Readers who know me express
amusement to find pieces of me everywhere. I step into the shoes of each character
and imagine how I would respond to the story if I were them.
What is the quirkiest
thing you have ever done? I’m a pretty traditional person, but one year
when we went to a family camp I rode the zip line through the trees of Mount Hermon. I was terrified and exhilarated at the same
time. My husband was running on the ground underneath me with his arms
outstretched yelling, “Hold on, honey, hold on!”
When did you first
discover that you were a writer? There were a few hints over the years. First,
I wrote and illustrated a book about a dog in grade school. Next, in high
school, the English teacher gave my name to the local newspaper, The Arizona Republic and Phoenix Gazette,
to be teen correspondent for Phoenix Christian High. I enjoyed writing for them
two years of high school and another year afterwards on special assignments.
Finally, when I became an empty nester a young man encouraged
me to take the Manuscript Writing class at Glendale Community College.
The instructor was very encouraging. She invited me to join a critique group
with her, two romance authors who continued writing with me many years, and two
men writing manly books! This was when I first began to believe I could achieve
my dream of writing a novel.
Tell us the range of
the kinds of books you enjoy reading. I write Biblical Fiction, and it is
my favorite genre. I also enjoy many other time periods of historical fiction,
especially Regency, the American West, and stories about farmers, ranchers, or
settlers. I’m currently listening to a romcom by an author friend who writes
clean romance, and I’m enjoying it immensely. Women’s fiction is great. I enjoy
some, romantic suspense, but I’m picky.
How do you keep your
sanity in our run, run, run world? I remember that God is in control. I
bring my appointments before him and ask, “Do you want me to do this? If so,
order my time and give me strength.” My husband and I have a time of daily Bible
Study together, and we read through and discuss the Bible each year. I also
spend a lot of time in the Bible as I research my books.
How do you choose
your characters’ names? Since I write biblical novels, several names come
from the biblical account. I research other Hebrew names for meaningful names
for the character, or in some cases, the animal. In Whirlwind, the sequel to Rain, I named an eagle “Hevel” which
means “breath or vapor.” I enjoyed writing animals into both books, Elijah’s
ravens and a yellow dog in Rain, golden eagles and a war horse
What is the
accomplishment that you are most proud of? I’m proudest of our three grown
children, two daughters and a son, all kind, responsible, and thoughtful
adults. I’m also proud I have now finished two novels and am hoping to write several
If you were an
animal, which one would you be, and why? I love horses, but I’m pretty sure
I would be a sloth. I hope I’m not truly lazy, but I need a lot of quiet, am methodical
in my approach to things, and enjoy the occasional nap.
What is your favorite
food? I guess it must be Skippy Super-Chunk Peanut Butter, because I have
it for breakfast at least five times a week, nearly always spread over toast - my
husband’s homemade Dutch oven bread. Hmm. Maybe that homemade bread is actually
my favorite food. Toss-up!
What is the problem
with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
My greatest roadblock was lack of confidence. I didn’t think I could finish a
novel, nor that anyone would read it if I did. After various rejections, I decided
my book would never be published traditionally, and I didn’t have the will or expertise
to self-publish. I had just retired, my husband was recuperating from knee
surgery, and caring for him and the yard took all my energy. I decided to quit
trying to find an agent or publisher for Rain
. Perhaps quit writing entirely.
The next day I received an instant message from a stranger. She introduced
herself as Angela Ruth Strong, an author who, six years prior, had judged Rain
in the Oregon Christian Writer’s conference and loved it. Her publisher was
looking for biblical fiction, and Angela had recommended Rain
. She asked me to
query Mountain Brook Ink. About two weeks later, they offered me a two-book contract.
Tell us about the
featured book? My debut novel, Rain, tells the story of a
mysterious prophet (Elijah), a desperate youth, and a relentless queen during
the time of Israel’s
great drought. As Rain tells the story of Elijah confronting Ba’al worshippers in
it explores questions non-believers ask – such as, is there really a God? If
there is, can He be known, and does He get involved in our lives?
Rain was published in 2021 and finaled in The Christy Award.
This year it is a finalist in ACFW’s Carol Award.
Please give us the
first page of the book.
Aban paused when he saw the dried blood, even though he knew
time was running out. A smear stained the altar, flowing to a darker brown. He
gathered a corner of his tunic and tried to scrub it clean, but only a few
flakes fell away. He let his tunic drop. It would take water and a hyssop brush
to get in the crevices, and there would be more blood next sacrifice, but everything
in him wanted to erase the dirty stain.
His gaze swept over the bronze feet, the outstretched arms,
and the head of the bull. The god’s image seemed smaller somehow without the
holy fire burning at its feet. Although the other boys still slept, Aban
glanced swiftly around before he fell prostrate on the cool marble floor.
Outside, hinges moaned as the city gate opened. The other acolytes could wake
soon—no more time to delay.
“Oh, Melqart, beloved of our queen and protector of Israel,” he
whispered. “Tomorrow I take my public vows. I promise to serve you well.” He lifted
his head, hands clasped. The too-long sleeves of the coarse tunic caught his
gaze, and heat suffused his face. “Forgive the offense, my lord. I shouldn’t
appear before you in this common garment.”
He shouldn’t be here at all—not before he was elevated to
priest. But he had passed the Debir, seen it empty, and taken the opportunity
to speak privately with the god. He began to back away on hands and knees, then
paused once more.
“Have others sought you out? We all yearn to know the
secrets of power.” He listened, but for what? The god to speak? He held his
breath, but he only heard a rooster crow from a distant housetop. He paused,
then closed with the formal blessings that Melqart expected.
A few seconds later, he jumped out the rear window—the very
one he guarded during nightly rituals to keep freeloaders from climbing into
the temple. He stifled a curse when the ill-fitting tunic caught on the window
frame, tightening against the scars on his back. He loosed it with a yank. He’d
traded for the garment with one of the Israelite boys he taught to read—a tunic
of fine linen for this scratchy one smelling of sheep dung. The lad hadn’t
believed his good fortune. But the humble garb made a disguise of sorts. Aban
could walk the streets unnoticed, and today that was worth the price.
How can readers find you on the Internet? Drop by my website
at https://danamcneely.com, sign up for
my newsletter, and receive a free novella. The
Eyes of the Lord is a prequel to Rain.
Lena, thanks so much for
this opportunity to share a little about my writing and the book of my heart, Rain.
Thank you, Dana for
sharing Rain with my blog readers and
me. I’m on a tight book deadline, but I look forward to reading the book when I’m
Readers, here’s a link to the book.
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