Tag Archives: author interviews

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.

===

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: H.C. Beckerr

H.C. Beckerr writes Christian science fiction. His recently-released novel, Shadow of Tunguska, is the second and final instalment in the Hill of Great Darkness series, “an epic sci-fi thriller that spans two millennia and two galaxies.”

Janet: Welcome, H.C., and please tell us a bit about yourself.

H.C.: Well, Janet, I’m just an old-fashioned farm boy from the midwestern area of the U.S. I grew up in a time where folks sent their children to Sunday School to learn about Jesus and learned the difference between right and wrong.

Janet: That’s not too long in the past, but we’ve sure seen changes. Are your novels set in the near future, or farther distant?

H.C.: The entire story line of Hill of Great Darkness/Shadow of Tunguska is set in the spring/summer of 2037. So, it’s just around the corner and, truthfully, the world isn’t much different then, than it is right now.

Janet: Twenty years from now! Where did the story idea come from? [May not need this one if you were inspired by those locations I ask about next]

H.C.: Here is where y’all will go…WHAT???? Believe it or not, the idea for this story came from The Davinci Code. Yup…. that book. I gotta admit, when I read TDC I was inspired by the writing style of Mr. Brown. Especially since I had just finished a Church History class at Brookes Bible Institute (now College) in St. Louis, Missouri.  I saw how the author took real history and ‘twisted’ it into a lie (a technique I call twistery). You see, fiction is always better when based on truth. And, in my case, I wanted to bring glory to God, not shame.

Janet: Fiction based on truth feels more real, doesn’t it? The Hill of Great Darkness books are science fiction and venture into space, yet they’re tied to real but mysterious locations on earth. What kind of research did that involve?

H.C.: That was the fun part. Book 1 is all about a location here in the Midwest known as Cahokia Mounds Historical Site, an area of earthen mounds built by the Mississippian culture between about eight hundred to twelve hundred AD. Somewhere in the latter years the entire culture disappeared without a trace. Sounds like sci-fi to me (or, as I like to call what I write; Chri-fi…Christian science fiction).

Anyway… Book 2 picks up three months after the end of Book 1. It really is not a sequel so much as the end of the story. I wanted to go somewhere else on Earth that would be just as much an enigma as Cahokia so I (more or less) immediately turned to the Tunguska Region of Siberia where, in 1908, some sort of cataclysmic explosion occurred. We are talking of a blast that was one thousand times bigger than Hiroshima. This event leveled over seven hundred square miles of deep forest. Now, there’s something to lie…um, I mean, write about!!!  

Janet: In your research, what’s the strangest bit of trivia you’ve picked up?

H.C.: That’s easy…. Cahokia Mounds at its zenith was a metropolitan area that was only equaled in size by Paris, France, which happened to be the largest city on Earth at that time.

Also worth mentioning is Lake Cheko in Siberia, which, according to eyewitnesses to the Tunguska Event, did not exist before that fateful morning in 1908.

That’s some cool stuff to think about!

Janet: Indeed! Now, your novels include strong female characters. Are they more difficult to write, as a male author?

H.C.: Not at all. The dynamics are individualized to the point that each character is a joy to create. And, if I may; the story itself is what allowed the characters to come alive. To be real.

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

H.C.:  That’s easy. Simone Sytte (that’s See-yet-tea). I don’t remember if I have shared this with you before, but Simone is a confluence of three people I have ‘met’. Her lineage as a Ugandan is from a young woman that I had taught alongside in a preschool class at my church. She was, if I remember correctly, from Kenya. I loved to hear her speak English with her deep African accent! Another person who is part of Simone’s soul is another lady from my church who was involve in our music ministry. A very strong Christian with the reality of not always being perfect. And…never hiding that fact. Thirdly… Simone’s physical stature is borrowed from a fictional character from (I know you’ve been expecting this) one of the Star Wars movies; Episode 2, on a planet where clones were being made into an army by a race of tall, slender aliens (and NO… I don’t believe in aliens. Ask me about that one sometime when you can afford the time…. Ha!).

Janet: Simone is my favourite character, too, as a reader, likely in part because she’s exceptional but not perfect – and she trusts Jesus even when there’s crisis all around her. Why is it important to you to include faith in your fiction?

H.C.: That’s probably the easiest question of all, Janet. My faith in the God of the Bible through His Son Jesus Christ is the only reason I write! I want to share the glorious hope of the Gospel message in any way I can.

Janet: Jesus used story, too! What got you started writing?

H.C.: Here is where you will get a laugh; In grade school!!! I can remember writing short little stories in 5th or 6th grade and selling them for a few pennies so I could get an extra half pint of chocolate milk… always an entrepreneur, LOL!!!!!!!

Janet: My friend, Kimberley Payne, would call you an authorpreneur. I love it. What do you like best about the writing life?

H.C.: Creating. That is the plain truth. To sit back, come up with an idea and start writing; all the while letting God have the reins to take the story where He wants it to go.

Janet: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

H.C.: I think the main driving force behind Hill of Great Darkness was the fact that I refused to one day find myself lying upon my death bed wondering; What if I had only just tried? If a person has an idea or the urge/dream to write… write! Don’t worry about whether or not it will sell. Don’t listen to naysayers…WRITE!!!!

Janet: Simple advice, and wise. We never know until we make the effort. Is there a particular song or Scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?

H.C.: I Can Only Imagine by Mercy Me. One day we will see our Savior face to face and I long/hope for Him to look at me and say, “Well done!” or…in the words of the President of the United States at the end of the movie Independence Day, “Not bad…not bad at all!!!

Janet: I love that song, too. And yes, one day… Now, from the profound to the superficial: Chocolate or vanilla? Morning person or night owl?

H.C.: C.H.O.C.O.L.A.T.E.  And not ‘white’ chocolate…I call that vanilla!  Morning or night, hmmm…that’s a tough one. Try getting back to me on that one after a gallon of coffee…

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

H.C.: Gotta say, the beauty of God’s world where I live. The midwestern United States has a beauty all its own and I am so blessed to live here. Not to mention the fact that I grew up going on picnics to the Cahokia Mounds Site. Always loved that place… the mystery and grandeur of it all.

Janet: What do you like to do to recharge?

H.C.: You know, even Jesus needed some down time to recharge! I like to hike and bike ride out in the great outdoors. There is something ever so precious about being alone with the Lord, outdoors in His creation! Then, there is also worship. Whether alone (in the aforementioned outdoors) or corporately with my brothers and sisters. Life is so good when you are in love with your Creator and God! Amen!!!

Janet: Amen indeed. Thanks for visiting, H.C., and sharing these behind-the-scenes details. All the best with your writing and with life!

===

Shadow of Tunguska, by H. C. Beckerr

Shadow of Tunguska: Hill of Great Darkness Book II presents the final chapters of a saga that weaves together the tale of the surviving crew members of the space craft Magellan as they wake up in a top-secret lunar base station. On Earth, tensions mount as the nation’s masses face a worldwide economic takeover. Meanwhile, a small contingent of American explorers braving the Siberian wilderness make a startling discovery at the site of the 1908 impact of an errant black hole.

Shadow of Tunguska website: shadowoftunguska.com

H.C. Beckerr’s blog: shadowoftunguska.com/blog

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!)

===

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!

===

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.

===

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.

Save

Save

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.

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.

===

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.

Connect with Beth Ziarnik:

Suspense Novelist Sara Davison

Canadian suspense author Sara DavisonSara Davison is the author of the romantic suspense novel, The Watcher, and the romantic suspense trilogy, Seven. She has been a finalist for three national writing awards, including Best New Canadian Christian author. Sara has a degree in English Literature from Queen’s University and is a member of The Word Guild, the largest organization for writers and editors who are Christian in Canada. She currently resides in central Ontario, Canada with her husband Michael and their three children, all of whom she (literally) looks up to. Her favourite way to spend the days (and nights) is drinking coffee and making stuff up. Get to know Sara better at www.saradavison.org and @sarajdavison.

Janet: Welcome, Sara, and thanks for taking time to join us. We chatted in 2011 about your debut novel, The Watcher, and I’m excited to find out more about your new novel, The End Begins. Would you tell us a bit about it?

Sara: Thanks for having me, Janet. I’d love to tell you a bit about The End Begins, Book 1 of The Seven Trilogy, which released on Sept. 1 as an ebook and releases in print on Sept. 15. Essentially the three books tell the love story of a Christian woman, Meryn O’Reilly, and Jesse Christensen, the army captain sent to her city to keep an eye on the believers after a radical Christian group claims responsibility for a series of terrorist attacks in Canada. Jesse is equally amused, intrigued, and terrified by the fiery Meryn. When she breaks one of the new, anti-Christian laws, he races against time to convince the authorities to show leniency to her, and to convince her that their love can overcome all barriers between them.

Janet: This is an uncomfortably believable plot. What do you say to readers who are beginning to fear this sort of thing happening?

Sara: It can be scary, witnessing the erosion of the freedoms we have always held sacred in this country, namely those of religion and free speech. And Christians do seem to be the one acceptable target of hostility (actually a good thing, because it shows that the world sees us as different from other religions). But it is far more encouraging and productive to view these developments as incredibly exciting, as the unfolding of God’s plan to bring all people and nations to the point where they must choose whether to accept or reject Jesus Christ. Persecution, while not necessarily something to seek out, would likely be the best thing that could happen to the church in North America as it very often serves to strengthen and unite believers, and draw them back to utter dependence on God.

Janet: Valid points! With a title like this, I have to ask if it’s an end-times series, or simply the end of religious freedom for Christians in North America.

Sara: I believe the two go very much hand in hand. Most biblical scholars and teachers agree that we are in the end times, and have been for a long time. The closer we come to the end, the more difficult it will become for believers. In fact, Revelation suggests that there will come a time when society believes the Christian church is dead, and will celebrate in the streets as a result. Of course we know this will not be the end of the church, that despite intense persecution, including the loss of religious freedom, the church will endure to the end.

Janet: Were you concerned that researching bombings and extremists might bring a visit from someone in law enforcement?

Sara: Ha! I am deeply aware as I conduct some of the online searches I need to conduct, that I am probably being red-flagged by CSIS. I won’t be a bit surprised if they show up at my door some day. I’m sure murder mystery writers face the same possibility of the police coming to question them about some of their research. It’s an occupational hazard, I guess. The great thing about being a writer is that all frightening or horrible things that happen to you are just fodder for the next novel.

Janet: What’s the novel’s theme? Or what do you want readers to take away when they’re done?

Sara: This goes back to the question you asked earlier, about what to say to readers who are beginning to fear what is happening to Christians in our society. The theme of all three books is that, whatever happens, however difficult or even deadly things become, believers will not have to face any of it alone. God will be there to help them through whatever they are facing and will give them the strength to endure. Story after story of believers facing persecution in other countries bears out the truth that, when needed, Christians will be given a supernatural strength and peace to carry them through. In fact, this happens to one of the characters in The End Begins, and it is definitely what I hope readers will take with them when they’re done reading the series.

Janet: “Whatever happens, Jesus will be there” is one of my key themes in writing, too. It’s a truth that makes all the difference. Of course we can’t face our fears on our own. We were never intended to, but sadly, we forget that! The End Begins was a RT Book Reviews’ Top Pick in August. Congratulations – what a great kick-off! What else has been happening around the book’s release?

Sara: Thank you. I was thrilled with the RT review, and humbled and grateful for all the other positive reviews and endorsements the book has received. I will be doing two, fairly informal, launches in October, as well as a blog tour. Of course I am also looking into various ways to promote the book through social media. Like most writers, self-promotion and marketing are not my strong suits, but I am committed to doing what I can to get the word out about these three books, and the publisher and my literary agency are promoting them as well.

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

Sara: I love writing suspense, but I’m a sucker for the romance too, so I did enjoy writing the scenes between Jesse and Meryn as their relationship developed. Probably my favourite scenes to write, though, were between Jesse and his best friend and commanding officer, Caleb Donevan. Jesse and Caleb grew up together and are like brothers, but the fact that Jesse is Caleb’s subordinate means they have to balance those two roles very carefully. It was a challenge to have them be able to slip in and out of their superior/inferior relationship and their best friend one, but from feedback I have received, they achieve this balance well. These scenes add the most humour to the book too, which is always fun to write, especially after creeping myself out with some of the other scenes in the books.

Janet: A little humour definitely helps readers recover from the tense parts! This is book one in your new Seven Trilogy. Without giving spoilers for The End Begins, what hints can you give about the rest of the series?

Sara: Jesse and Meryn’s relationship will continue to face challenges and serious ups and downs throughout the series. While book one portrays the gorgeous but deadly Scorcher as the female antagonist, a new enemy will rise up in book two, The Dragon Roars. Each book introduces new characters and storylines, but it is Jesse and Meryn’s story, and the love story of God and mankind, that will thread through all three books, concluding in book three, The Morning Star Rises.

Janet: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Sara: The absolute most important thing I always tell any beginning writers who will listen is to be teachable. I’ve written six books now and still learned so much through the editing process on The End Begins. It never ceases to amaze me how much you don’t know that you don’t know, especially when first starting out. The biggest mistake a new writer can make is thinking their work is good enough to go out into the world without having undergone serious, intensive editing by professionals. You aren’t doing yourself, the market, readers, or other writers any favours by putting out work that isn’t ready, and you may be doing serious harm to all of the above. Be patient. The journey is long but if you relax and enjoy it, instead of trying to take shortcuts, you will never regret it. Instead, you can look at everything you have produced and be proud of your efforts. Most of all, you will honour God if what you publish is excellent and the very best you can make it.

Janet: Well said, and so true! Tell us a bit about Sara the individual. What does life look like when you’re not writing? How do you like to spend your time?

Sara: I do a lot of editing work for people, especially fiction manuscripts, and really enjoy that. I love coaching/mentoring new writers especially. Apart from that, I try to spend as much time as possible with my husband, Michael, and our three kids. Our oldest son is leaving for college next year and our daughter in a couple of years so it feels like this time with them is so precious and fleeting. I don’t want to waste a moment of it. Michael and I are also deeply involved in ministry at our church and that takes up a lot of time. Any spare time I have I like to meet friends for coffee, read, watch the Blue Jays (huge fan!), and go to the movies.

Janet: Coffee or tea? And what’s your favourite season?

Sara: Coffee. Absolutely.  I recently found a mug that says, “I just want to drink coffee, create stuff, and sleep” which perfectly sums up my life.

My favourite season is fall, although there are aspects of every season that I like. I could never live in a place where the seasons didn’t change.

Janet: If you could go anywhere, to any time, what might you choose?

Sara: Mayberry in the 1950’s. Or at least the small town Canadian equivalent where everyone knows everyone and has a picket fence and a station wagon with wood panelling on the sides. I’ve always said I was born after my time. I love shows like Leave it to Beaver and The Andy Griffith Show because, although I’m sure it wasn’t as idyllic a time as we imagine, it does seem like the last age of innocence, in our part of the world anyway.

===

When your beliefs are at war, does love stand a chance?

The End Begins (The Seven Trilogy, Book 1) by Sara DavisonBookstore owner Meryn O’Reilly and Army Captain Jesse Christensen are on opposite sides of a battle. After a series of terrorist attacks in 2053, martial law has been declared in Canada and the military has taken over. When a radical Christian group claims responsibility, Jesse and his platoon are sent to Meryn’s city to keep an eye on the Christians and ensure they are not stepping outside the confines of the law.

Fiery and quick-tempered, Meryn chafes under the curfew and other restrictions to her freedom. Jesse is equally amused, intrigued, and terrified by her spirit. She could find herself in prison if she shows defiance to the wrong soldier, namely Lieutenant Gallagher.

Jesse watches out for Meryn when possible, although she wants nothing to do with him. His worst fears are realized when she commits a crime he cannot protect her from. Now they both face an uncertain future and the very real threat of losing everything, including their lives. With time running out, Jesse works feverishly to convince the authorities to show leniency to Meryn. And to convince her that love can overcome any barrier that lies between them.

The End Begins released Sept. 1 (digital formats) and releases in print on Sept. 15, and is available online or in print through your local bookstore.

For more about author Sara Davison, visit her website, Choose to Press On, or see the feature article on the Ashberry Lane site.

WritersOnReading

Writers are readers… or at least we should be. The WritersOnReading blog shares weekly interviews with writers, talking about the books they love. I was happy to chat about some of my favourites recently (Writer Janet Sketchley on Reading). Click the link to pop over and say hello, and do browse through the other interviews. You never know who you might find! This looks like a good site to bookmark or subscribe to.