Beth Ziarnik is a writer and speaker, celebrating the release of her first novel, a romantic suspense called Her Deadly Inheritance.
Janet: Welcome, Beth, and thanks for taking time to join us. Congratulations on your debut novel! So many firsts – contract, cover, holding the first copy in your hands… and more. We’ll have the cover art and full description at the end of this interview, but for now, what’s the story about?
Beth: Thank you, Janet, for inviting me. I’m so pleased to be here, and you are so right about those many firsts that go with a debut novel. But to answer your question, Her Deadly Inheritance is about a runaway daughter who returns to end the family lies—including her own—and ends up a killer’s next target.
Janet: Sounds like a gripping read. How about introducing us to Jill?
Beth: I’d be glad to. Jill Shepherd is the only child of a single mother. Shortly after Jill’s high school graduation and against her mother’s wishes, she runs away to find her birth father. Until then, she’d been told he was dead, and she’s desperate to know him. Three years later, she feels compelled by her new-found love for God to return to the house she inherited upon her mother’s death. She’s to make peace with relatives who would just as soon she’d remain “dead” as they believed the past three years.
Janet: Where did the story idea come from?
Beth: I watched one criminal after another become untouchable because of loopholes in the law, and asked myself, “What if someone murdered my loved one, and I found that the killer—for one reason or another—couldn’t be touched by the law and brought to justice?” What would I do? How would being a Christian affect how I went about trying to bring the killer to justice?
Janet: Deep questions, and writing is a great way to explore them. Her Deadly Inheritance is your first novel, but you’re an established writer and speaker. Would you share a bit of your background with us?
Beth: When I set out to write the novel, I had so much to learn. I studied books on writing and subscribed to writer’s magazines, went to conferences, and started a local Christian writers’ club. I facilitated a couple of local seminars and taught at other conferences and seminars around Wisconsin. That led to speaking to women’s groups, which I also love to do. The conferences led to articles published in devotional and other Christian magazines. On my way to novel land, I wound up writing two columns and about 450 published pieces. It’s been a long but rewarding process. And, yes, perseverance does pay!
Janet: Writers need huge amounts of perseverance! What do you like best about the writing life?
Beth: The opportunity to make a difference in the lives of women—through my stories, through writers’ and women’s events, and online. Other authors made a difference in my life. Even as a child, I dreamed that one day, I would write stories that would give readers the happiness the books I read had given me.
Janet: May the Lord continue to touch others through your words. Still thinking about writing, what do you like least?
Beth: Okay, now you’re asking me to tell on myself. What I like least … that would be those times when I have to dig myself out of the writer’s “doubt and despair” pit. I’m currently writing the follow–up to Her Deadly Inheritance, and sure enough, as I’m working, along come those doubts. “What makes you think you can pull this off again?” “No one will want to read anything you write!” “See, you’re stuck again! You’ll never be able to finish this story. And if you do, it won’t be anywhere near as good as the first one—much less better.” I hear this scenario is “normal” for writers. So, at times like that, it helps to remember what those who are enthused about Her Deadly Inheritance say. Besides, my characters insist on having their stories told!
Janet: I hear those “voices” too. Good thing our characters won’t let us quit! Is there a particular song or Scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?
Beth: Yes! I’m so glad you asked. It arrived written on an Easter card when I was twelve years old and has remained my life verse: “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7. Both my heroines and I often remind ourselves of this as we face life’s challenges—good or bad.
Janet: What’s the novel’s theme? Or what do you want readers to take away when they’re done?
Beth: That no matter what happens in life and no matter how bad things might look, we can trust God to make it come out all right, at the right time, and in the right way—if we love him, pray, and give him time to work out all things for good.
Janet: “And give Him time” – that’s such a good point! Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
Beth: First of all, be patient. Building your writing skill is a process. Keep working at it—reading and practising. If you’re willing to learn, receive critiques on your writing, and refuse to quit growing, you’ll be surprised at your progress from year to year.
Go to writers’ conferences and seminars where you can learn, network with others in the industry, encourage and be encouraged.
Bring to the Lord everything you do or intend to do on your writing journey. He knows his good plans for you and your talent. If you give him the chance, he will take you to the land of published works. It might not be in the way or the timing you envision, but you will be delighted when it comes to pass.
Janet: Thanks for these wise words, Beth. Now, onto lighter things: Cake or Pie? And what’s your favourite season?
Beth: Please excuse me, devoted cake fans, but for me, almost any kind of pie has an edge over cake. Though, come to think of it … my favorite cake is Boston crème pie. My favorite season? The one I’m experiencing. In Wisconsin, we have four vivid seasons, and I love them all. The crisp air and sparkling snow of winter. The soft breezes and gentle greening of spring. The vivid blooms and water sports and brat fries of summer. And the bountiful harvests and brightly colored leaves of fall.
Janet: What do you like to do to recharge?
Beth: Each year, I recharge with writer friends at the Green Lake Conference Center’s Christian Writers Center. We’re a small group of regulars who pray together, write, brainstorm, take walks on the gorgeous 1000-acre grounds, and enjoy five days of blessed fellowship and writing progress.
At home, I recharge during my morning’s prayer and Bible reading time with the Lord, by walking outdoors in the beauty of our country neighborhood, and while visiting with family or friends.
Janet: Tell us something you appreciate about where you live.
Beth: Wisconsin is beautiful—a feast for the eyes whatever the season. But what I love most is my neighborhood where we know each other, take time to get together, and look out for one another as needed. I often say I’ll never move because I couldn’t take my neighbors with me.
Janet: A neighbourhood like that is definitely worth staying in! I’ve never been to Wisconsin, but it sounds wonderful. Maybe someday… Thanks again for visiting, Beth, and all the best with Her Deadly Inheritance and your wider ministry.
Her Deadly Inheritance, by Beth Ziarnik
First a runaway. Now running for her life. Won’t Jill Shepherd’s family be surprised when she returns to Grand Island, Michigan to end their lies and scheme to have her declared legally dead? But when Jill exposes the mastermind behind her intended death, her family’s deception may kill any chance she has of remaining alive.
Clay Merrick may seem to be little more than a handyman restoring homes, but when the former Special Forces operative tracks a brutal killer to Jill’s historic house under renovation, he has most of the evidence he needs to bring the killer to justice … until Jill gets in the way.
When the killer sets sights on Jill as the next victim, it’s not just Clay’s mission on the line, but his heart.
A long-time and avid reader of romantic suspense, Beth Ann Ziarnik offers her first novel with all the twists and turns, cliff hangers and romantic tension she and readers have come to love. She is a co-founder of Word & Pen Christian Writers in northeast Wisconsin, and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. In addition to 450 published pieces (several included in anthologies), she is the author of Love With Shoes On, her ten-year devotional column about love in action and based on 1 Corinthians 13.
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