Category Archives: Interviews

Author Interview: Christine Dillon

Author Christine Dillon Christine Dillon was born in Australia but grew up in Asia. She now works in Taiwan as a Bible storyteller. Her book Telling the Gospel Through Story was voted 2013 Outreach Magazine Resource of the Year in Evangelism, and continues to inspire innovative and engaging Bible storytelling. Believing in the beauty and power of story prompted her jump into fiction. She loves reading, and keeps sane by cycling and swimming.

Janet: Welcome, Christine. Let’s start with some fun facts about you: Chocolate or vanilla? Coffee or tea? What’s your favourite season?

Christine: Vanilla. Tea. Any but winter.

Janet: As a Canadian, I’m curious what your winters are like, but I guess that’s another conversation! Tell us something you appreciate about where you live.

Christine: The incredibly generosity and friendliness of Taiwanese people.

Janet: Is there a particular song or Scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?

Christine: 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 – God chooses the weak to shame the strong … so that no one can boast before him. If you feel weak then you qualify to be used. Grow close to Jesus and learn to rely on his spirit and you will be used (but probably not in the way you’d expect).

Janet: “Not the way you’d expect” – that’s practically a given! Your website says you didn’t intend to be a writer. What got you started?

Christine: I wrote my non-fiction to save myself having to answer every question one by one. I wanted to share what God had taught me and writing it down was the best use of my time. For Telling the Gospel Through Story we also set up a Bible storytelling website (www.storyingthescriptures.com) and that has become a ministry in itself with 7 languages and growing.

Janet: Congratulations on the release of your first novel, Grace in Strange Disguise, in October 2017. Was moving from non-fiction to fiction easier than you’d thought, or harder?

Christine: Much, much harder. Part of my life is facilitating seminars and so non-fiction is relatively easy. It took me nearly five years to write two practice novels and then plan, draft and edit (? 30 times) the final novel. I chose Biblical for the practice novels because I am a Bible storyteller and I thought it might be less of a jump. There were so many times that I thought, “It’s ready” and then a professional would show me it wasn’t.

Janet: We’ll have a full description of Grace in Strange Disguise at the end of this interview, but would you give us a few hints now?

Christine: It’s an Australian story about a physiotherapist who has a ‘golden’ life. And she expects to because her father has always preached ‘trust Jesus and you’ll be blessed.’ But what happens when ‘golden’ disappears? How do you make sense of it? Where is God in such times and what is he doing?

Janet: You’re tackling some very real issues in this novel. Readers may not face the same situation as Esther, but struggles are part of life, and God doesn’t always work the way we want Him to. What do you hope readers will take away from Esther’s story?

Christine: That God can be trusted. If he allows us to go through tough times it is not because he doesn’t care or has gone to sleep. It is part of his sovereign plan.

I also want to challenge us to know our Bibles and be able to stand against the lies that our world tells.

Janet: We do need to knowing our Bibles! Because you’re a Bible storyteller, I wonder… is Esther’s name significant?

Christine: I don’t even remember why that name was chosen. But actually when I think about it there are some similarities to Queen Esther. Both had to stand up and show courage in front of strong men.

Janet: Where did the story idea come from?

Christine: I was having a ministry half day of prayer in about 2007 and suddenly two ideas for novels dropped into my head – titles, main idea and setting. I was horrified because I knew writing fiction would be incredibly difficult and doubted I could ever do it. But I wrote the ideas down in the back of my prayer diary and said, “Lord, if those ideas were from you, you’ll have to make yourself clearer and give me all the resources I need.”

Over the next years, two non-fiction books were traditionally published. The pressure to start writing fiction just grew, until in 2013 I gave in.

Janet: When God’s in it, we need to do it. Congratulations on persevering! Do you have a favourite character?

Christine: This is a bit like asking ‘which child do you love most?’ I like Esther once she’s matured a bit. But there are lots of minor characters I like. The two men, Rob and Paul – because they are like so many non-Christian Australians I’ve shared the good news with. I love the ‘mentor’ character, Joy for her wisdom and courage. And Gina, because she is like some of the best friends I’ve had.

Janet: What was the best part of the story to write?

Christine: I enjoyed writing Joy’s story although it was tough to edit because it was long. I also loved writing all the dialogue between Esther and her skeptical medical specialist and other patients.

Janet: You’ve lived in so many interesting places, it must have been hard to choose a setting for your novel. What made you decide on Australia?

Christine: I think the initial ideas had this one set in Australia and the other in New Zealand. It wasn’t really a deliberate decision.

Janet: Is there another novel in the works?

Christine: One of my editors said, “This isn’t one book this is one and a half.” It was only 5 months before publication and I didn’t think I had the energy to cut off one third of the book and write a new ending. But she was right and with God’s help it got done.

So at the moment I see two more in this series.

Then there is another idea that was given in that initial prayer time and then the two practice novels could be rewritten. I don’t want to see any further ahead than that!

Janet: That’s enough of a to-do list for now! How do you juggle writing with your other work?

Christine: With great difficulty! Like many people in paid Christian ministry I struggle to know where work ends and what time can be used for writing. My non-fiction was written in intense bursts in my free time. At the moment, I’m trying to carve out one three hour block in a week. It often takes me the first hour to ‘get in the swing’.

Janet: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Christine: Find experienced writers and LISTEN to them. There were so many times when I thought my writing was better than it was. It hurt to listen to some of the feedback and I nearly gave up several times but they were right.

There are also excellent craft books out there. Find a community of writers and ask for their best recommendations.

Janet: Thanks so much for taking time to chat, Christine, and all the best!

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Grace in Strange Disguise, by Christine DillonGrace in Strange Disguise, by Christine Dillon

Physiotherapist Esther Macdonald is living the Australian dream, and it doesn’t surprise her.

After all, her father has always said, “Follow Jesus and be blessed.” But at twenty-eight, her world shatters. Everyone assures her God will come through for her, but what happens when he doesn’t? Has she offended God? Is her faith too small? So many conflicting explanations.

Will finding the truth cost her the people closest to her heart?

For more about Christine Dillon, her books and ministry, visit http://www.storytellerchristine.com

Interview at Arts Connection

Recently I had the privilege to chat with Robert White of The Arts Connection about my devotional book, A Year of Tenacity. You’re invited to pop over and have a listen. Here’s the link.

Author Interview: Michelle Griep

Author Michelle Griep
Michelle Griep’s newest historical romance is a Dickens Christmas story called 12 Days at Bleakly Manor. Since A Christmas Carol is a regular part of the season in my home, I was eager to have a chat with Michelle and learn more.

Janet: Welcome, Michelle, and thanks for taking time to join us. Where’s home for you?

Michelle: The frozen tundra . . . er . . . I mean Minneapolis, Minnesota. I live in da ‘hood.

Janet: Most of your stories are historical… which time periods and locations most interest you? And what drew you to Dickensian England for a Christmas tale?

Michelle: I adore history and have a special affinity for England. Yep, I’d move there in a flash if I could. While I love the medieval period, you know, all those big beefy knights, I prefer to write during the 1800’s. As for locations, anywhere in England, really. Cities. Countryside. Doesn’t matter.
And if one is going to pen a Christmas tale, what better time than during the years of Charles Dickens?!

Janet: Definitely! Tell us a bit about 12 Days at Bleakly Manor.

Michelle: This story is a mix of Dickens’ Bleak House and Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Both are favorites of mine.

Basically I tossed bunch of quirky characters into a house in the middle of nowhere, gave them limited resources, and sat back to watch and see how they interacted. I figured if I was entertained, readers would be too.

And of course there are a few bruised hearts that need to be healed by the end of the tale.

Janet: Sounds intriguing! Do you have a favourite character? And what was the most fun part to write?

Michelle: Wow. That’s like asking me which one of my kids do I love best? That’s a tough one! Surprisingly, though, I had an affinity for Mr. Tallgrass. He just says whatever he darn well pleases.

The most fun character to write was Miss Scurry. Her pet mice are just so freakishly funny.

Janet: Pet mice… oh! What do you want readers to take away when they’re done?

Michelle: When someone hurts us deeply, it may not be intended as hurt as all. It’s always best to reserve judgement until you’ve had a chance to talk to that person.

Janet: That would solve a lot of problems, wouldn’t it? This is “Once Upon A Dickens Christmas Book 1” – can you give us a hint of what’s coming next?

Michelle: You bet. Book II comes out in September 2018. Here’s a blurb:

Innkeeper’s daughter MINA SCOTT will do anything to escape the drudgery of her life. She saves every penny to attend a finishing school, dreaming of the day she’ll become a real lady—and catch the eye of WILLIAM BARLOW, a frequent guest at the inn.

William is a gentleman’s son, a charming rogue but penniless. However, his bachelor uncle will soon name an heir—either him or his puritanical cousin. In an effort to secure the inheritance, William gives his uncle the impression he’s married, which works until he’s invited to bring his wife for a visit.

William asks Mina to be his pretend bride, only until his uncle names an heir on Christmas Day. Mina is flattered and frustrated by the offer, for she wants a true relationship with William. Yet, she agrees. . .then wishes she hadn’t. So does William. Deceiving the old man breaks both their hearts. When the truth is finally discovered, more than just money is lost.

Can two hearts survive such a deception?

Janet: Ouch! I hope you find a way to bring a happy ending! Any interesting research tidbits from Dickensian times?

Michelle: One of my favorite tales about Dickens is that he used to walk the streets in the wee hours of the night just to be amongst the people of London, those who were down and out. I walked some of those same streets last time I skipped across the pond, and it was easy to imagine him there, strolling about with his top hat and cane.

Janet: I see you’ve also co-authored a cozy mystery, Out of the Frying Pan. What was it like, working with a partner… and in a different genre?

Michelle: Working with my co-author was seriously the time of my life! Kelly Klepfer is a talented author in her own right. She came up with the plot and the characters, and then would simply tell me what scene to write.

Changing genres was a bit tricky for me. I’d never done a contemporary. Now and then she’d have to change the vernacular of one of my words.

Janet: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Michelle: Just four little words: FINISH WHAT YOU START! So many newbies get mired down in working and reworking part of a manuscript that they never finish it. Just finish the dang thing…then go back and edit.

Janet: Those are four wise words! Is there a particular song or Scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?

Michelle: Easy peasy . . . my all-time favorite verse that I keep tucked in a virtual back pocket is Nahum 1:7. “The Lord is good; a stronghold in the day of trouble. And he knows those who trust in him.”

Janet: Thank you. That’s powerful, and I can’t believe I’ve missed it all these years. Now, to the less serious: Coffee or tea? And are you a morning person or a night owl?

Michelle: Love coffee, but unfortunately it must now be decaf. And I’m neither an owl or a morning person.

Janet: What do you like to do to recharge?

Michelle: Love to read. Love to travel. Love to take my dog Miss Ada Clare (named after a Dickens Bleak House character, of course) on walks by the creek.

Janet: Tell us something you appreciate about where you live.

Michelle: Minneapolis is awful in the winter, but in the summer, wow. Lakes galore with tons of walking and biking paths.

Janet: Thanks for taking time to chat today, Michelle, and all the best with your new book. 12 Days at Bleakly Manor sounds like a good read.

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12 Days at Bleakly Manor, by Michelle GriepWhen Clara Chapman receives an intriguing invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home, she is hesitant yet compelled to attend—for if she remains the duration of the twelve-day celebration, she is promised a sum of one thousand pounds. That’s enough money to bring her brother back from America and reinstate their stolen family fortune. But is she walking into danger? It appears so, especially when she comes face to face with one of the other guests—her former fiancé, Benjamin Lane.

Imprisoned unjustly, Ben wants revenge on whoever stole his honor. When he’s given the chance to gain his freedom, he jumps at it—and is faced with the anger of the woman he stood up at the altar.

Brought together under mysterious circumstances for the Twelve Days of Christmas, Clara and Ben discover that what they’ve been striving for isn’t what ultimately matters. What matters most is what Christmas is all about . . . love.

For more about the author, visit michellegriep.com.

Author Interview: David Kitz

Author David Kitz, in centurion uniformDavid Kitz is an award-winning Canadian author and Bible dramatist, currently celebrating the release of his newest book, The Soldier Who Killed a King (a true retelling of the Passion).

Janet: Welcome, David, and thanks for taking time to join us. First, I have to ask: what exactly is a Bible dramatist?

David: To put it simply, I act out or dramatize the Bible. For example I have memorized the Epistle of James and present the entire book in costume, often in place of the Sunday morning sermon. I do something similar with fourteen Psalms. In the case of the Psalms, I play the role of David.

Janet: That must have an incredible impact on your own spirit and on those who hear you. Does being able to immerse yourself in the Bible scenes enrich your ability to bring the stories to life?

David: Absolutely. Sometimes we can read the Bible in a detached sort of way, after all it was written in a different time and in a faraway place. But these were real people who lived and experienced these events. Putting yourself in their shoes brings the Bible to life in a whole new way.

Janet: Tell us a bit about The Soldier Who Killed a King.

David: This book was born out of a one-man drama called “The Centurion’s Report” that I have been performing for about twenty years now. After doing this four-act play for a few years I realized that this drama could form the basis for a novel. 

Janet: Did connecting so deeply with the Roman soldier affect you personally?

David: Yes, it did. But even more significantly it affected my identification with the suffering of Jesus. It all happened in a rather mysterious or even mystical way. As my novel writing progressed, I eventually reached the point where I was describing the whipping Jesus endured from the Roman soldiers. At the same time I was diagnosed with a severe case of shin splints. My doctor said, “Things will get worse before they get better.” They did get worse—much worse. Over the next few weeks I wrote the chapters that detail the crucifixion. It was a descent into a personal place of extreme agony. The pain—my pain— kept getting worse until the point when Jesus died. But from that point on I started feeling better. In fact, I recovered rapidly. It seems I needed a taste of agony to make those chapters ring true.

Janet: Wow! God teaches in some unusual ways. What compelled you to write this story?

David: I believe that the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus form the pivotal event in all of human history. As believers we need to experience the personally transformative power of those events. The book is intended to take you there—to immerse you in that life-changing experience.

Janet: Observing with the centurion does bring readers into the story. Any interesting research tidbits?

David: I found Herod Antipas to be a perfect foil for Jesus. In character and conduct he is the polar opposite of Jesus. He’s an ambitious schemer seeking to regain his kingdom.

Janet: It was interesting how you contrasted them in the book. I’m assuming Jesus is your favourite character. Who do you most relate to?

David: Actually, I most relate to the centurion, Marcus Longinus. Maybe it’s because I have played his part so often over the years. He is awestruck by Jesus miraculous power, but quite uncertain what to make of this messianic figure.

Janet: What other books have you written?

David: I’m a rather eclectic writer. My children’s book Little Froggy Explores the BIG World was also a Word Guild Award winner. I have written a devotional study on the psalms entitled Psalms Alive! My literary agent is currently seeking a publisher for my book on the life of James, the brother of Jesus.

Janet: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

David: Don’t give up. This is a very tough business. Learn lots. Pray hard. Know your calling.

Janet: Is there a particular song or Scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?

David:  I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20).

Janet: From the serious to the trivial: Cake or Pie? And what’s your favourite season?

David: Pie by a country mile, and yes, I bake my own pies. Seasons? I like them all. Probably my favourite is a warm sunny day in fall with autumn colours ablaze.

Janet: What do you like to do to recharge?

David: Gardening.

Janet: Tell us something you appreciate about where you live.

David: Access to beautiful cycling trails.

Janet: Congratulations again on your new release, and I pray it impacts many people. Readers who want more can see my review of The Soldier Who Killed a King.

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A stunning story of Holy Week through the eyes of a Roman centurion

The Soldier Who Killed a King, by David KitzWatch the triumphal entry of the donkey-riding king through the eyes of Marcus Longinus, the centurion charged with keeping the streets from erupting into open rebellion.

Look behind the scenes at the political plotting of King Herod, known as the scheming Fox for his ruthless shrewdness.

Get a front-row seat to the confrontation between the Jewish high priest Caiaphas and the Roman governor Pontius Pilate.

Understand as never before the horror of the decision to save a brutal terrorist in order to condemn the peaceful Jew to death.

If you’ve heard the story of Passion Week so often it’s become stale, now is the time to rediscover the terrible events leading from Jesus’s humble ride into the city to his crucifixion. The Soldier Who Killed a King will stun you afresh with how completely Christ’s resurrection changed history, one life at a time.

Read an excerpt: kregel.com/fiction/the-soldier-who-killed-a-king/

Find more about the author: davidkitz.ca

Author Interview: Janice L. Dick

Janice L. DickJanice L. Dick is a Canadian author of Christian historical fiction, and she’s celebrating the recent release of her newest novel, In a Foreign Land.

Janet: Welcome, Janice, and thanks for taking time to join us. Let’s start with a few details to place your this book in context on the world stage. Where is it set? What’s the time period, and what are a few world events that would have happened at the same time?

Janice: Hi Janet, and thanks for this opportunity. My latest book is set in northern China between 1945 and 1951. WWII has just ended, China is in turmoil, and the ensuing civil war disrupts every corner of the land.

Janet: You’re a Canadian author, of Russian Mennonite descent, and family stories were part of your childhood. Have some of those anecdotes found their way into your fiction?

Janice: Oh yes. The stories I heard as a child at family gatherings were one of the reasons I started to write these historical fiction books. Some of my characters resemble certain of my forebears, either in character, experience, or both. Turning life into fiction is what I love to do.

Janet: Your In Search of Freedom series was to some extent inspired by a true story. How did that come about?

Janice: I had read about the escape of an entire Mennonite village in far-eastern Russia across a frozen river into China in 1930, and I wanted to retell it in fictional form. I was blessed to discover a little chronicle of the events, Escape Across the Amur River, which was written by participants in the 1940s. I inserted my characters into this milieu.

Janet: Do you have a favourite character in the series?

Janice: The main characters change from book to book, so it’s hard to have a favourite through the entire series, but Luise is my fav for book one, and Danny for book two.

Janet: I can see that. I guess we’ll have to wait and see who’s your favourite in book three. What do you want readers to take away from these books when they’re done?

Janice: The most important takeaway is that God is faithful, no matter what circumstances the characters find themselves in. This is also true in our own lives. The stories are just vehicles to show this truth.

Janet: In a Foreign Land is book 2 in this series. Could a reader start here without getting lost?

Janice: I hope I have written the story clearly enough for a reader to be able to find satisfaction at the end of the book, even without reading the first, and that references to former characters are informed enough to create a full picture. It’s a trick I didn’t get quite right in my first series, so I was mindful of it this time through.

Janet: It’s a tricky balance, to include enough but not too much. What do you have planned for the rest of the series?

Janice: The final book, Far Side of the Sea, is in process. The construction of the book will be somewhat different than the other two, which are written linearly, but I plan to connect it to the others as the final book of the series, tying up any loose threads.

Janet: I’m looking forward to it! In your research, what’s the weirdest bit of trivia you’ve picked up?

Janice: Maybe not weird, but definitely strange, was trying to gather information on post WWII China. That history was rewritten by Mao, and apparently, everything that existed before was destroyed. Even GoogleEarth comes up flat across the Amur River. So I had to dig deeply in order to offer a realistic setting. Thanks to my source for the second book (the man it was written about), I was able to piece together what I wanted to convey.

Janet: GoogleEarth is flat… thanks for making me giggle! Random question time… Chocolate or vanilla? And are you a morning person or a night owl?

Janice: There is only chocolate!

As to the next question, I got this apt description from Facebook and I concur: “I am neither an early bird nor a night owl. I’m some form of permanently exhausted pigeon.” Thanks to whoever made that up; I know I’m not alone.

Janet: Yup, I’m one of those pigeons too. Tell us something you appreciate about where you live.

Janice: Lots of space here on the prairies, lots of privacy on the farm, and four of our grandkids only a mile away.

Janet: That sounds idyllic. Thanks for visiting today. I’m looking forward to Far Side of the Sea – but no pressure!

Janice: Thanks again, Janet. (I put enough pressure on myself!)

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You can discover more about Janice Dick’s books at janicedick.com, as well as find some traditional Mennonite recipes. While you’re there, take a look at her blog posts for readers and writers.

In a Foreign Land, by Janice L. Dick

In a Foreign Land, by Janice L. Dick

Manchuria has been home to the Martens and Giesinger families ever since they escaped Soviet Russia in 1930. At fifteen years of age, Danny Martens and Rachel Giesinger are content with their lives, and with each other.

But the end of World War II changes everything. In 1945, the Soviets invade northern China, infiltrating the temporary vacuum of power, and repatriate all men who were older than twenty years when they fled the Soviet Union.

Robbed of home, livelihood and security, Danny’s family and friends move southward, trying unsuccessfully to acquire emigration papers.

Amid the difficulties, a ghost from the past stalks the Martens family in search of vengeance for previously hidden crimes. Danny struggles to honor his father’s wish to move his family out of the country, but all his plans are thwarted.

In desperation, Danny’s mother requests sponsorship from friends, Phillip Wieler and Jasch Fast, who emigrated to the States in 1932. In spite of their own struggles with personal and economic tragedy, the Wielers and the Fasts attempt to help their friends who are held captive In a Foreign Land.

This story is based loosely on memoirs of a survivor. It is the second book in the In Search of Freedom series. The first book is titled Other Side of the River.

Author Interview: Gail Kittleson

Gail KittlesonToday I’d like to introduce Gail Kittleson, who writes World War Two-era fiction.

Janet: Welcome, Gail, and thanks for taking time to join us. Your novels feature courageous women, who aren’t service personnel but who still find key ways to support their loved ones and to stand for truth. When I think of WWII stories, I think military and battles, but you’ve chosen to work with civilian women. What drew you to these stories?

Gail: It’s probably my tendency to feel more comfortable behind the scenes. A few World War II women made the limelight, but far more held things together back home or unseen on the streets of London at night.

Janet: Are these women similar to your readers today?

Gail: Eleanor Roosevelt, one of those Greatest Generation women in the spotlight during the war, quipped that women, like teabags, find out how strong we are when we’re in hot water. I believe that’s true no matter what the era.

Janet: I love it! Tell us a bit about the Women of the Heartland series.

Gail: Addie stars in the first book, In Times Like These. Her life on the rural Iowa home front certainly provides plenty of challenges, because her husband’s rather nasty. No, he’s just plain nasty. I’ve been told our characters must be multi-dimensional, but Harold’s a skunk through and through. The community, however, does acknowledge his strengths—he was a high school debate champion and football player. And his education rises above the normal farmer.

But he lacks in human kindness and understanding, and that’s where Addie’s challenge comes into play. Readers may get exasperated with Addie, because transforming from a shrinking violet into a woman who finds and uses her voice doesn’t happen overnight. Still, her story begged to be told, and a few readers have thanked me for not giving her an easy way out of her struggles. She’s REAL LIFE, and so are the wonderful friends who build her up. 

Janet: That’s a big transformation, indeed, and I hope Addie’s growth will encourage readers to persevere. Your newest novel, With Each New Dawn, is set in France. Was it a challenge to write a foreign setting?

Gail: My husband and I attended language school in Southern France decades ago and spent as much time as possible exploring the countryside. Little did I know I’d be writing a novel about the French Resistance in the future.

So yes, bringing up memories of the terrain challenged me more than Addie’s flat Iowa farmland, familiar to me from my youth. But it was also more fun, because it required research. Lots of it. And that research, of course, motivated me to pay another visit to the beautiful valleys of the Auvergne – my husband and I are contemplating that.

Janet: That sounds like an amazing trip. How do you do your research? Have you picked up any particularly unusual bits of trivia you can share?

Gail: Oh, where to begin? SO many bits of trivia. It never ceases to amaze me how the “muse” in my head starts searching to see if an idea might be valid, and discovers that yes, something like what I’d imagined actually did occur.

One example: at the outset, I knew only snitches and snatches about the Basque people of Southern France. Largely shepherds and farmers, they settled along the pilgrimage route of St. James. With their intimate knowledge of the back trails to the Pyrenees mountains on the Spanish border, it seemed logical for them to be of great use to the Allies.

They were. I discovered their key role in guiding downed Allied pilots to safety in Spain. From there, the pilots found their way back to England again. It’s impossible to estimate how these strong humble men (and some women) altered the course of the war.

As for your first question, textbooks on the war provide answers to many of my questions.  The wealth of online sources helps, too, as do personal stories of WWII survivors.

Books by Gail Kittleson

Janet: What do you want readers to take away when they’re done?

Gail: In both books, the heroine faces great odds. Addie’s enemy is visible and tangible. For Kate in With Each New Dawn, there’s the added dimension of unseen danger all around her. But she meets people who still maintain faith, even in the midst of the Waffen SS and its horrific atrocities in this area of France.

Both Addie and Kate find times when they feel they must borrow others’ belief that good will conquer evil. I believe we need that capacity today, as well. Sometimes our own personal pit threatens to swallow us whole, and crying out for help is all we can do.

I hope readers will take heart from Addie and Kate’s experiences, and realize, too, that even in the midst of life’s struggles, gifts abound.

Janet: That’s real life: in our darkest moments, we need others to hold us up. What got you started writing?

Gail: The need to express my feelings on paper got me started in the first place, when I was young. Discovering that writing lightened my load was the first impetus, but I wrote sporadically for a long time. I really had no huge desire to create fiction, but while writing a memoir, I led some groups through Julia Cameron’s marvelous book, The Artist’s Way. That led me to fiction.

Janet: Is there a particular song or Scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?

Gail: I love the song “You Are My All-in-All.” Even writing some of this song’s words brings a sigh of relief and joy. We don’t travel this road alone!

Janet: It’s a beautiful song, and knowing we’re not alone makes all the difference. Chocolate or vanilla? Coffee or tea?

Gail: Tea. And my characters love it, too. I can’t eat sugar or chocolate, so that sort of eliminates the first question—but I love the SMELL of chocolate.

Janet: And the smell of chocolate has no calories! Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Gail: Listen to advice from writers, agents, and editors. But at the same time, keep an ear out for what your heart says.

Janet: What do you like to do to recharge?

Gail: I don’t do enough in this area, admittedly. But walking often does wonders for me. Bike riding used to do the same, but I’ve shied away from it as I’ve aged.

Janet: Tell us something you appreciate about where you live.

Gail: I appreciate the quietness. Rural small towns offer decibels less noise, and I’d choose a serene walk in the country over a bustling city scene, hands down.

And I want to say thanks so much for having me visit, Janet.

Janet: It’s been a pleasure to chat with you, Gail, and to get to know you a bit. Blessings!

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For more about Gail Kittleson and her books, visit gailkittleson.com

Viking Historical: Interview and Giveaway

What do Vikings and present-day folk in small-town West Virginia have in common?Heather Day Gilbert

They both thrive in the head of award-winning author Heather Day Gilbert, whose fiction can immerse readers into either world. Heather’s newest Viking historical, Forest Child, released this month, and she’s offering a free ebook copy to a randomly-chosen commenter on this post. [Draw closed Nov. 25, 2016.]

Janet: Welcome, Heather, and congratulations on your newest release. In both of your genres, you create heroines we can relate to, strong yet vulnerable. Except for your novella, Out of Circulation, they’re each married women. How important to you is exploring the relationship dynamics this brings to each story?

Heather: Thank you for those kind words on my characters, Janet! Ever since I started writing novels, I’ve had a burden for writing about married women and their struggles. Married characters have just always been intrinsically interesting to me… all the way back to those Janette Oke books that featured them. I feel that married love is so much deeper and more powerful than dating love. When we’re married, we see each other at our worst, we sacrifice for each other, we grieve together… and yet if we do it right, our love grows even stronger because we are fully committed to each other.

Janet: So true, and since part of the reason we read about others’ struggles is to learn for our own, we should be seeing a lot more of this. Along with the relationship themes, your novels also involve a fair bit of action. Which aspect of the writing comes easier: the characters or the plots?

Heather: Definitely the characters. Then I have to plug them into a rough plot (my plotting is really loose and involves chapter highlights) and then ask myself what would this character really do in this situation?

Of course, with mysteries, you have to stretch it a bit, because if I were off chasing baddies and having showdowns with cold killers like Tess Spencer, I daresay my hubby would force me to stop my sleuthing “hobby.” Although Thomas Spencer tries to do this, he hasn’t quite succeeded.

Often, my characters surprise me with what they say and do. There is this line that Ref says to Freydis in Forest Child that I didn’t see coming, yet when I typed it, I knew it was exactly what he would have said. It was both brutally honest and quite vulnerable, and it made me mad, just as it did Freydis. (if you read it, try to guess which line that is—you might know, Janet! 😉 )

Janet: Forest Child is, what, your fourth novel in print? You’ve said this was the hardest novel to write – why so? And was it worth it in the end?

Heather: Hm. It’s actually my fifth in print (God’s Daughter, Miranda Warning, Trial by Twelve, and Out of Circulation preceded it). Yes, this was definitely the hardest one I’ve ever written, for several reasons. First, I had to build the simple Icelandic saga accounts of Freydis into a fleshed-out story. That involves matching up timelines, events, and even some wording. Vikings of the New World boxed set

Second, what Freydis did in the saga accounts was something so horrific, it took me over two years to really come up with reasons why a woman would be driven to such actions. I honestly prayed God would give me ideas about that, and He did. While the reason shocked me somewhat, I knew it was a perfect catalyst for her actions. Historically, Freydis was domineering, she was wild, she was a warrior, she was rude, and the list goes on and on. The true challenge was drawing this character so readers could empathize with her.

Finally, I had to  fully get into Freydis’ head because I write in first person present tense, which meant I had to be her for a while. I was kind of afraid her way of thinking might trickle into my own thoughts, but as I wrote her, I realized that in some ways, we were already similar. Acknowledging that was rather terrifying, but ultimately it turned into something that was freeing, for me and for her. So yes, I feel the angst of writing Forest Child was worth it and I know the story turned out exactly the way it needed to.

Janet: You did a fantastic job making Freydis both shocking and relatable. I think her inner vulnerability, which she didn’t even see at the start, made a strong connecting point for readers. And for me, even the worst of what she did seemed like a perfectly natural outflow of her character.

As well as vibrant characters who make realistic choices, how important to you is each novel’s setting?

Heather: In the Viking novels, setting is obviously crucial (from describing the Viking voyages to their foods and longhouses), so that requires a lot of research on my part. I wish I could visit the Viking locales in Newfoundland, Iceland, and Greenland, but I haven’t been able to yet. I do the best I can with photos and my imagination.

I have noticed that in every one of my books, there is a forest scene. I think it’s because I spent a lot of time in the woods growing up. My West Virginia mystery/suspense is really what I know, because I grew up in WV and I live here now. The ways of the Appalachian people, the winding mountain roads, the issues this state is having with drug addiction… all these things play into my contemporary stories. I don’t go into paragraphs of descriptive detail, a la Thomas Hardy (whose writing I love, BTW), but I hope I include enough description that my readers can see the books playing out like a movie in their heads, which is what some reviewers have said.

Janet: Your forest scenes feel alive to me, likely because the ones of my childhood are similar. Now, my favourite question: What might happen if Tess from your Murder in the Mountains series met the Viking heroines, Gudrid and Freydis?

Heather: Oh my word! I can’t imagine! Tess would probably get along okay with Gudrid, since they both had traumatic childhoods and they might have similar issues. But Freydis and Tess… boy, that would be a clash of the titans! Let’s just hope neither of them would be armed! LOL!

Janet: Could make for an interesting time! Heather, thank you so much for visiting today, and for these fantastic reads. The care you invest in your writing shows in the finished books.

Heather is offering one free ebook copy (epub or mobi format) to a randomly-selected commenter on this post. Entries close at midnight, Nov. 25, EST. To enter, scroll down to the comments field. Just for fun, share something you either know or wonder about the Vikings.

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Forest Child, by Heather Day GilbertViking warrior. Dauntless leader. Protective mother.

Determined to rise above her rank as the illegitimate “forest child” of Eirik the Red, Freydis launches a second voyage to Vinland to solidify her power and to demand the respect she deserves. She will return home with enough plunder to force her brother, Leif, to sell her the family farm in Greenland.

But nothing can prepare her for the horrors she must confront in Vinland… and nothing can stand in her way when her family is threatened.

In her race to outrun the truths that might destroy her, Freydis ultimately collides with the only enemy she cannot silence—her own heart.

Historically based on the Icelandic Sagas, Forest Child brings the memorable, conflicted persona of Freydis Eiriksdottir to life. This immersive tale is Book Two in the bestselling Vikings of the New World Saga.

AUTHOR BIO:

HEATHER DAY GILBERT, a Grace Award winner and bestselling author, writes novels that capture life in all its messy, bittersweet, hope-filled glory. Born and raised in the West Virginia mountains, generational story-telling runs in her blood. Heather is a graduate of Bob Jones University, and she and her husband are raising their children in the same home in which Heather grew up. Heather is represented by Rebeca Seitz and Jonathan Clements of SON Studios in FL.

Heather’s Viking historical novel, God’s Daughter, is an Amazon Norse Bestseller. She is also the author of the bestselling A Murder in the Mountains mystery series and the Hemlock Creek Suspense series. Heather also authored the Indie Publishing Handbook: Four Key Elements for the Self-Publisher. Find out more at heatherdaygilbert.com.

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Interview at The Romantic Side of Suspense

Have I ever regretted killing off a character? How do I connect with them, and why do I leave out the swear words?

Find the answers in my interview at The Romantic Side of Suspense: A Conversation withJanet Sketchley.

Guest Post and Interview

I’ve had a couple of recent opportunities to visit other sites recently. If you visit, be sure to check out the other posts. Who knows what you might find that you’ll like?

 

I used to post monthly at InScribe Writers Online, and it was fun to go back for a guest post to talk about what opportunities I see for serving God in my writing. Here’s the link: My Corner of the Vineyard.

Because I have a short story in one of Kathy Ide’s Fiction Lovers Devotionals (in 21 Days of Love), she interviewed me on her website. What are some treasured moments to do with writing? What Bible story do I wish had a different ending? Here’s the link: Treasured Moments.

 

Interview: Romantic Suspense Author Beth Ziarnik

Beth ZiarnikBeth 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.

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Her Deadly Inheritance, by Beth Ziarnik

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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