Tag Archives: interviews

Interview: Carole Brown, author of The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman

The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman, by Carole BrownCarole Brown’s novel, The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman, released in October, and this is our chance to find out more about the story and its author.

Janet: Welcome, Carole, and thanks for taking time to join us. Your novel’s tag line asks “How far would you go to avenge your daughter’s murder?” Definitely an attention-getter! Caralynne Hayman is the grieving mother? Can you tell us a bit about what happened to her daughter?

Carole: I’ll be glad to. Caralynne Hayman, raised in The Children of Righteous Cain, a misguided, evil cult, was married to a man who abused her and considered her property. She never loved him, but birthed three daughters whom she loved with all her heart. When her oldest daughter is abused—and dies from it—by her brother-in-law, she knows she can’t let it go. She can endure the abuse for herself, but never for her daughters. She sets out on the path of revenge and having never been taught or experienced any sense of real Christianity, she succeeds to a certain degree.

Janet: So I expect Caralynne is dealing with anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness, etc. on top of the heavy sorrow. What other issues are stacked against her?


  • ŸThe leader of the group–Elder Simmons–sets strong limitations (to keep everyone in check from too much independence) especially on the women, who are given so many hours per month to use for visits, shopping, etc.  Because of her caring heart, Caralynne is always seeking ways to get around this to help her friends or to give her daughters an undocumented outing.
  • ŸElder Simmons and his group have their own lawman–a deputy sheriff–who overlooks certain crimes for “favors.” This encourages the outside law enforcement to ignore the group, thinking the deputy will call for help if and when needed. Unfortunately, this corrupt man doesn’t do that.
  • Being a naturally strong and independent woman has kept Caralynn alive although it’s also caused her to reap more abuse than normal. What the elders within the group call sassiness and slyness, Dayne (the minister and her champion) calls wit and smart thinking.
  • ŸPlus her own plot of revenge brings everything to a head.

I won’t reveal more right now as I don’t want to spoil anything for readers, but suffice it to say: Caralynne runs full tilt into almost more than she can handle and definitely more than she bargained for.

Janet: She definitely has a lot of things stacked against her! What genre is this story, Carole? And who’s your ideal reader?

Carole:  It’s women’s fiction with strong elements of suspense and romance. Women will enjoy it if they like novels with strong issues and plenty of suspense. But I’ve also received endorsements and comments from men who’ve enjoyed the book too. I’d say those who’ve gone through abuse, those who’ve known family and friends who’ve suffered from it, and/or those who have a sympathetic heart toward hurting people will find this book an excellent reading choice.

And just as an added encouragement: I’ve received reviews from those who’ve been hesitant about reading it because of the tough subject, but once into the book, find they can not put it down. Give it a chance! 🙂

Janet: Where did the story idea come from?

Carole:  My husband. We read and talk together over interesting tidbits of news items. When we read/heard about the cult in Texas some time ago, he came up with the idea of a woman who rebels against a cult. The plot developed from there.

Janet: You’ve written other stories as well. Is there a sequel to The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman in the works?

Carole: I think so. I don’t have a “for sure” title yet, only a working title which is “The Revenge of Elder Simmons.” J Here’s a blurb similar to what it will be about:

It begins with a baby kidnapping. Elder Simmons, the antagonist, will not let go. He is determined to wreak vengeance upon the MacFarlands, even if he has to do it from prison.

Cara and Dayne, now happily married, go through trials that will shatter their self-complacency and test their love. Dayne will be lied about and like Joseph in the Bible must hold steady for God’s timing. Cara has suffered hurts and abuse from her former marriage. With Dayne she thought everything would be smooth sailing. But when the lies surface, can she trust him, does she love him enough to stay strong for his sake? Will her mustard seed faith grow or be uprooted?

And while we’re talking about other stories, let me put in a quick plug for a mystery that is releasing this fall too. It’s called Hog Insane (and no, it’s not about pigs! J) It’s the first book in a series, introducing the characters Denton and Alex Davies and their Jack Russell, Taffy. A fun mystery that is very much different than The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman.

Janet: You’re a busy writer! You described The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman as “a passionate book, not for the weak hearted, but for those who want to be reminded, touched, and stirred.” What one key thing do you want readers to take away when they’re done?

Carole: Sympathy for the hurting. So many times we become impatient with those who we think of as ignorant or careless in “getting out” of abusive situations. Yet the people caught in these situations are caught in them by the brainwashing of either a single person, and family or even sometimes a religious (or nonreligious) group. The more the “leader” gains in power, the more he wants and strives to prevent any break in the system. The leader feeds his “subjects” on a steady diet of fear, accusations of lack of love and trust in their partner/leader, and/or the thought that the “subject” is failing in the right perception.

Janet: I’ve seen some positive early reviews. What has reader response been like for this book?

Carole: Excellent. It does deal with a tough subject but I honestly believe if those who are timid in approaching the subject in the book will read it through, they will realize the encouragement it provides. Perhaps it will even stir hearts to change their idea or thoughts pertaining to abuse or give a greater occasion for sympathy.

Janet: Caralynne and her struggle sort of upstaged you at the start of this interview. How about returning next week to introduce us to Carole Brown?

Carole: I can do that! 🙂

Janet: Great! In the mean time, readers looking for more can find an interview with Carole’s character, Caralynne Hayman, at Wordsmith Woman


The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman, by Carole Brown

A novel of hope shining through the darkness. Contemporary women’s fiction with strong elements of suspense and romance, of particular interest to anyone who has been abused or for those dealing with abusive situations.

Heaven’s Prey: the woman in peril

Today I welcome a very special guest to my blog. Ruth Warner has lived in my head for almost 20 years now, and I’m excited to introduce her to the world.

cover art: Heaven's Prey by Janet SketchleyRuth is the heroine in my novel, Heaven’s Prey—that’s her picture on the cover. She and her husband, Tony, are in their mid-forties. We’re chatting with Ruth today just before the novel begins, because (whispering so she won’t hear) she’s about to be abducted by an escaped convict.

Ruth (rolling eyes): How many times have you rewritten or edited my story now? I know what’s coming. But for the sake of people who haven’t read it yet, I’ll pretend it’s my first time through the plot.

Janet: Thanks. And for the record, I’m proud of how well you’ll handle everything that happens. I hope you’ll give our readers some things to think about. So… let’s back up to the Wednesday this all begins. It’s mid-June. And it’s pouring—heavy winds and rain off the Atlantic from a storm that’s tracked upward along the eastern seaboard of the US until it hit Nova Scotia, Canada.

Ruth: I work at Harrington’s Fabric Hut, downtown. What a drive to get home! The storm drains can’t keep up with so much water. I’ve already heard of a few streets being closed. Luckily I live on high ground.

Janet: So you’re home from work and probably soaked.

Ruth: Just got changed, actually. It was so nice coming home to chili in the slow cooker. The spicy smell met me at the door. My husband, Tony, was already here. He’s a principal at one of the local high schools, and his day ends earlier than mine. It starts earlier, too.

Janet: The last few years have been brutal. Can you tell us about that?

Ruth: We’ve been through a lot. Our niece, Susan, went missing in Toronto two years ago. She was in her early 20’s, just starting a nursing career. The police were already looking for a serial rapist-murder, and Susan was … one more victim for him. For us … Tony and I have no children. Susan was like the daughter we never had. It still hurts.

On top of that, the identity of the killer, when they caught him? Harry Silver, champion racing driver. My husband’s hero.

Janet: Healing hasn’t come easily for you, I know. What’s your biggest challenge right now?

Ruth: Prayer is what kept me sane. It’s been hard, but I’ve learned to forgive Harry Silver, and to pray for him. I thought it was about healing. That’s what Pastor John said. Nobody warned me I’d start to care about the man’s soul. Tony’s an agnostic. He thinks this is all in my head, and he’s so offended that I’d pray for Harry. I don’t want to hurt him, but I can’t stop praying, either. It’s—well, God wants me to do this.

Janet: Tony’s a real sweetheart, and almost as patient as my own husband, but he just doesn’t understand your relationship with God. You’re praying for him, too, and God can use those prayers.

Ruth: I can’t convince him, so I pray. And tonight … he won’t like me going back out in the storm for our weekly prayer meeting, but Harry recently escaped from prison. They have to catch him before he hurts anyone else, and he needs to know Jesus before he runs out of time. This burden is getting heavier, and it’s too much for me to carry alone. There’s power in group prayer. I just hope Tony doesn’t get too mad.

Janet: What’ll he do while you’re out?

Ruth: He has a woodworking shop set up in the basement, and he spends a lot of time there. Faith got me through losing Susan; carving is what helped Tony.

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

Ruth: The Psalms and the Book of Philippians were a huge help to me in the early days of praying for Harry’s victims’ families, and eventually for Harry himself. The verse that really hit home when I started praying for him was Ezekiel 3:18. Let me grab my Bible … here it is: “When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood.” That’s from the NIV.

I’ve been praying for God to prepare Harry’s heart, and to send someone to warn him. He’s done such horrible things—but God still loves him. He yearns for him. I know it from the nightmares that made me pray for him. You or I might write Harry Silver off, but God hasn’t.

Janet: To be honest, I have to admit I wish there were a limit, a point beyond which God would reject a cry for forgiveness. I struggle with the thought of people who commit crimes like Harry’s—or worse—being welcomed into the kingdom of God. But I love this magnificent God who is not willing that any should perish. His mercy is beyond understanding.

Ruth: It is, indeed.

Janet: Let’s move on to some lighter things. Coffee or tea? Cake or Pie?

Ruth: I drink both, but I’m a tea person. Earl Grey’s my favourite. As for cake or pie, it depends. If I’m baking, it’s pie. Blueberry is my specialty. If I’m ordering, cheesecake. There’s this spot in Halifax, Sweet Hereafter Cheesecakery, with over 100 varieties of cheesecake in their recipe book. You know you want to get one to celebrate the novel’s release.

Janet: I do indeed. And since Sweet Hereafter is a real place, I can indulge. So what do you like to do to recharge?

Ruth: I love working with fabrics. Quilting is my passion these days, and I’ve started a community quilting group at church. We have nine women, and one lone male, and we sell our projects to raise money for the children’s hospital. Tony said this was one church group even he could support, so he made us some wooden stands to display the finished results.

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

Ruth: Hmm … the ocean. Tony and I like to drive along the shore roads on lazy summer weekends. We watch the waves, stop in little shops, and just unwind. And sometimes after a storm like this one, we’ll go and watch the breakers coming in.

Janet: What’s the most surprising, fun or scary thing you’ve ever done?

Ruth: I’m pretty boring. The only unusual thing I’ve done is to forgive and pray for my niece’s killer. It’s been a quiet life, and I’m glad.

Janet: And I’m sorry for what’s about to happen, but you’ll discover that no matter where you go, Jesus will be there.

Ruth: That sounds ominous …


Janet Sketchley‘s novel, Heaven’s Prey, releases November 1, 2013 from Choose NOW Publishing. Feel free to tell your friends! For more information and a free sample chapter, see the Heaven’s Prey page.

Interview: Author Catherine Castle

Catherine Castle

Catherine Castle

Catherine Castle has been writing all her life. Before beginning her career as a romance writer she worked part-time as a freelance writer. She has over 600 articles and photographs to her credit under her real name, Catherine Hershberger, in the Christian and secular market. Besides writing, Catherine loves traveling with her husband, singing, and attending theatre. In the winter she loves to quilt and has a lot of UFOs (unfinished objects) in her sewing case. In the summer her favorite place to be is in her garden. She’s passionate about gardening and even won a “Best Hillside Garden” award from the local gardening club.

Catherine’s debut book The Nun and the Narc is available as an e-book from Amazon.

Janet: Welcome, Catherine, and thanks for taking time to join us. I like that expression, UFOs (unfinished objects). That could apply to my knitting, as well as your sewing!

Catherine: Thanks for hosting me today, Janet. I’m looking forward to my visit with you and your readers.

Janet: You write in so many different areas, including co-writing with your husband… before we talk about your new novel, The Nun and the Narc, I’m curious how you juggle such similar yet different creative outlets. Do you have a favourite?

Catherine: I once read that Stephen King writes on one book in the morning and a different one in the afternoon. I haven’t been able to do that, although I can write a blog and work on a book in the same day. Mostly, however, I do one thing at a time. I think it keeps my voice consistent. When I was doing freelance on a regular basis I set aside a day for that job and another day for fiction writing. Several of the plays my husband and I wrote were done in the evenings on business trips that I tagged along on, or we set aside one whole weekend to write a play. The verse muse for poetry hits whenever she chooses and I just have to stop and write what she tells me.  As for a favorite,  I think it has always been fiction, although I do love writing plays with hubby.

Janet: What’s the most exciting thing for you right now?

Catherine: The whole process of being a new author is very exciting, but I must confess I get very excited every time I check Novelrank and discover I’ve sold another book.

Janet: I can imagine! What’s your biggest challenge right now?

Catherine: I think I would have to say that dealing with all the social media stuff and self marketing an author has to do is my biggest challenge. I had pretty much mastered the blogging end of that before the book came out, but I was, and still am, woefully behind on Twitter and Facebook. Actually getting into the chair and writing is hard when you marketing is overwhelming you.

Janet: Tell us a bit about The Nun and the Narc.

Catherine: The Nun and the Narc is about a novice who gets kidnapped, along with an undercover DEA agent, when she tries to break up a drug deal between a young Mexican boy she has befriended while building houses in his village in Mexico. Scheduled to take her final vows when she returns home, her time in captivity with Jed Bond, the DEA agent, turns her life, and his, upside down.

Janet: It’s an unlikely match-up of characters, and I can see lots of potential for conflict—especially once romance enters the picture. Where did the story idea come from?

Catherine: Originally, I started the story as a contest entry, with a different heroine. She was a missionary. But the story wasn’t working for me until one of my critique partners suggested I make the heroine a novice. After consideration, since I knew a nun story would be a hard sell, I changed the heroine to a novice and the story took off.

Janet: With all that you’ve written so far, do you have a favourite character or story?

Catherine: I am rather fond of The Nun and the Narc and Sister Margaret Mary.  After all, who doesn’t love their first book? And the sister is full of spunk. However, I think my unpublished devotional—Lessons from Nature-A Gardener’s Devotional— might be my favorite work. That book has been described as having a lyrical quality to it, and the stories contained in the devotional book are very personal to me.

Janet: Okay, I’m going to ask a question I personally hate answering. Feel free to pass. What’s this novel’s theme?

Catherine: I don’t know about theme. Theme is hard for me to figure out, especially since I don’t go into a book thinking, “The theme is going to be…” But I hope after reading The Nun and the Narc readers will realize there are many ways to serve God, and you don’t have to be the foreign missionary who dedicates his or her entire life in order for your service to be important. Whatever good works we bring to the Lord’s service are important for furthering His kingdom.

Janet: In researching for The Nun and the Narc, what’s the weirdest bit of trivia you’ve picked up?

Catherine: I discovered there are Mexican drug dealers whose religious faith (which seems a bit oxymoronical to me considering their line of work) involves the adoration of Jesus Malverde, a 19th-century bandit regarded by many as the special patron saint of drug dealers. Who knew drug dealers had a patron saint?

Janet: Who knew, indeed! Your freelance articles have deadlines. Do you find that easier or harder than writing fiction and poetry?

Catherine: Books have deadlines, too, just longer. I had to face short, regular deadlines at lot when writing for the newspapers. I find non-fiction much easier to write than fiction, except for the interviewing process. Making sure you ask the right questions can make or break your article. For me, non-fiction is a bit like retelling a slew of information, which I got pretty good at. Fiction is much harder to me, since there are sagging middles, plot twists and all the good stuff we have to figure out on our own.

Janet: How do you keep your muse cooperative?

Catherine: The best thing I found to keep the muse cooperative is to think about your writing all the time. That trick came in handy once when I had the wrong deadline date in my calendar and the editor called and asked where my piece was. She knew I never missed a deadline and always had things in early. The 1000 word piece, which was due that afternoon, was written quicker than anything I had ever done. Had I not been thinking about that article for a while, it would have never made such a short deadline.

Janet: What got you started writing?

Catherine: I’ve always written. I was the student who loved the essay assignments, especially the ones that needed research. The more research the better! I wrote poetry, short stories, and my first romance as a teenager. I still have the romance and the poems.

Janet: Tell us what a typical day looks like.

Catherine: I don’t have a typical day. Deadlines drive my time in the office chair. When I’m on a tight deadline, everything else stops. Just ask the dust bunnies rolling around the house. I hate being interrupted when I’m deep into a character’s head.

Janet: Are you a writer who likes to immerse herself in details of the setting while incubating the story idea?

Catherine: I think I tend to run with the idea and do my research as questions arise. By looking at details of setting, or whatever research I might have to do, at the time the issue comes up I think it stays fresher in my mind while actually writing. I have discovered that I need to print out research details (photos, historical notes, whatever) and keep them in a notebook to refer back to.  I probably work this way because my first draft is often sparse, more like a play or movie script with mostly dialogue, then I go back and deepen the senses and setting.

Janet: What do you like best about the writing life?

Catherine: The actual act of creating a world, populating it with people and putting the words down on paper.

Janet: What do you like least?

Catherine: Oh, that’s easy—marketing.

Janet: What do your family think of your writing?

Catherine: For them it’s a natural part of who I am. I started freelancing regularly when my daughter was in middle school. She was the one who actually introduced me to one of my dearest friends, who was a writing teacher, by bragging that her mother was a writer. Dear hubby writes, too, so he’s all in when it comes to my career.

Janet: Is there another Nun and the Narc book in the works?

Catherine: I’ve had some readers ask if there is going to be more to Margaret and Jed’s story. I’ve been playing around with another story idea about Margaret Mary and Jed.  It’s not ready for discussion yet, though.

Janet: What has reader response been like for this book?

Catherine: Readers have loved The Nun and the Narc.  Most of my reviews, from readers and review sites, have been in the 4-5 range.  I did have a non-Christian leave a review on the book that says :

I loved this book. To be honest, I didn’t expect to, especially because in the forward, the author mentions trying to get it published as “Christian romance.” I’m not Christian and don’t enjoy books that preach to me. However, the premise was too intriguing not to give it a try… So, does the book preach? Surprisingly – shockingly, actually – it really doesn’t. It shares Margaret’s deep faith and her hilarious need to pray and confess even when bullets are flying, but it never seems too preachy or sanctimonious, even when Jed starts turning more and more toward Margaret’s God.

This was what I set out to do—write a book that even a non-Christian would want to read.  Her review was very gratifying.

Janet: That’s an amazing review, Catherine! I enjoyed the novel, too. You kept me turning pages. Is there a particular song or Scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?

Catherine: Isa. 40:31 is my favorite verse. “But those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” This verse is such a comfort knowing the Lord lifts us up. I love the imagery of soaring with His hands holding me.

Janet: I love that one too. What are some books you’ve read recently that have stood out to you?

Catherine: I read a huge amount of romance, and I’ll read most any sub-genre of romance. I like mystery, fantasy, sci fi,  and paranormal books. The Lord of the Rings series is one of my favorites along with C.S Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. I devoured those books as a youth. Interestingly, I also like non-fiction and have even been known to read dictionaries, especially the ones with odd words in them.

Janet: I’ve dallied in the occasional dictionary myself… What are you listening to?

Catherine: There’s nothing in the CD player now, but when I listen to music I like John Denver, Dolly Parton, Elvis, and gospel hymns.

Janet: What do you like to do to get away from it all?

Catherine: Garden, if I’m staying at home. My garden is my refuge. We like to go to Disney World for getaways.

Janet: Coffee, or tea? Morning or evening person? Plays or movies?

Catherine: Tea and coffee. Definitely an evening person, and for plays and movies, both. We have season tickets for our local college theatre group and go to the movies regularly.

Janet: Since The Nun and the Narc has elements of suspense, I’ll ask this: What’s the most scary thing you’ve ever done?

Catherine: I’m not much of a daredevil. I rode the Kings Island racer rollercoaster backwards once. It wasn’t as scary as I anticipated.

Janet: Maybe that will work its way into a novel someday. Thanks so much for taking time to let us get to know you a bit, Catherine. God bless you and make you a blessing to others—in every area of your life.


You can find Catherine Castle at her website, blog and Amazon author page, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
The Nun and the Narc, by Catherine CastleThe Nun and the Narc

After being on the lam with novice Sister Margaret Mary, undercover narcotics agent Jed Bond will never look at nuns the same way. May God help him.

Where novice Sister Margaret Mary goes, trouble follows. When she barges into a drug deal the local Mexican drug lord captures her. To escape she must depend on undercover DEA agent Jed Bond. Jed’s attitude toward her is exasperating, but when she finds herself inexplicable attracted to him he becomes more dangerous than the men who have captured them, because he is making her doubt her decision to take her final vows. Escape back to the nunnery is imperative, but life at the convent, if she can still take her final vows, will never be the same.

Nuns shouldn’t look, talk, act, or kiss like Sister Margaret Mary O’Connor—at least that’s what Jed Bond thinks. She hampers his escape plans with her compulsiveness and compassion and in the process makes Jed question his own beliefs. After years of walling up his emotions in an attempt to become the best agent possible, Sister Margaret is crumbling Jed’s defenses and opening his heart. To lure her away from the church would be unforgivable—to lose her unbearable.

The Nun and the Narca 2007 ACFW Genesis finalist and 2003 Dixie Contest second place winner, was released April 24 by Soul Mate Publishing and is currently available at Amazon. Plans to release it on Soul Mate Publishing, Amazon and Barnes and Noble later on in the year, and it will be coming out as a print book later in 2013. To read an excerpt go to Amazon.com.

Interview: Author Valerie Comer

Valerie ComerCanadian author and speaker Valerie Comer has a passion for natural food, faith and fiction. In addition to her website and blog, she contributes to at least four other blogs or websites, runs the To Write a Story site (where you can get a free writing course), and writes fiction with a green twist. Her novel, Raspberries and Vinegar, released this month.

Janet: Welcome, Valerie, and congratulations on your new novel!

Valerie: Thanks so much! I’m very pleased to have Jo and Zach’s story out in the wide world, seeking its fortune.

Janet: I like Jo and Zach, and I hope they’ll make a lot of new reader friends. Tell us a bit about Raspberries and Vinegar.

Valerie: It’s a contemporary romance, first in a series called Farm Fresh Romance, in which sweet and tart Josephine Shaw is on a mission to rid the world of junk food and chemicals by promoting local foods and sustainability. Problem is, the reluctant farmer-next-door thinks city life is the simple life.

Janet: I love the series tag line: Farm Lit with sweet simplicity and a bit of zing. What’s farm lit? Is it light humour like chick lit, or more serious?

Valerie: Farm Lit is in its infancy, so only time will tell what nuances the term will come to mean. For the time being, it’s any fiction that is rooted in contemporary farming, living with the growing seasons and in sync with the land. It includes memoirs such as Ree Drummond’s The Pioneer Woman, and Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Miracle.

My personal take in Raspberries and Vinegar is within a romantic tale with real, local food on one side and the modern compulsion with fast junk food on the other. And because Jo Shaw is rather opinionated and (perhaps) a bit insensitive to those who disagree with her, I tried to infuse the story with a light, humorous tone—and made sure other characters called her on her attitude from time to time.

Janet: In the wrong hands, Jo could have been overbearing and obnoxious, but you made her a character I could relate to and sympathize with. I think her regrets when she sees she’s overstepped make her human. She’s like the rest of us: she gets carried away by the things she’s passionate about. Where did the story idea come from?

Valerie: It came from my passion for real food. My husband and I live on a small farm where we try to grow the majority of what we consume—vegetables, berries, nuts, meat, and honey. What we can’t grow ourselves, we seek in our valley before buying elsewhere. We’re delighted to live where we can buy local organic grains and a wide array of fruits and vegetables.

Our adult kids are raising our granddaughters on real food as well. Watching them and their peers seek ways to get involved in the growing world of local food and farmers’ markets is where this series germinated.

Janet: This is the beginning of the Farm Fresh Romance series, right? So we’ll be able to follow your characters into other stories?

Valerie: Yes! While Jo is the focus of this first book, you’ll also meet Claire, a chef, and Sierra, a naturopath, as all three young women work together to build their farm. The second story is Claire’s, while the third novel focuses on Sierra. Throughout the series, the reader will get to experience some of the challenges of contemporary farming while enjoying the romantic nature of each woman’s individual story.

Janet: Jo, Claire and Sierra name their farm Green Acres. They’re too young to know about the classic TV show, but am I the only one with the theme music running through her head?

Valerie: You’re not the only one! I had it a few times, too. I guess I never did say how the farm got its name. I’ll have to make sure that goes in a later book.

Janet: You describe yourself as a ruralist, among other things. How does that look in your life?

Valerie: I discovered the word ruralist when I sought out the antonym of the word urbanite. I was simply seeking an unbiased term that referred to someone who didn’t live in an urban setting. Something that included farmers and ranchers but also embraced folks in small rural towns. I was appalled to discover the derogatory terms pinned on those who (obviously) weren’t sophisticated enough to crave the only satisfying option—life in a city.

I’ve never been a city girl and never felt the desire to become one. I cherish elbow room, mountains, valleys, lakes, wildflowers, streams, breezes, trees, and bird calls far more than shopping, museums, operas, or international cuisine.

Ruralist is simply a respectful term for those of us who live in the country. We’re farmers, but not all ruralists are. Still, all of us value the charms of a slower pace more connected with the seasons.

Janet: I like the convenience of suburban living, but it’s things like streams, trees and wind that refresh my spirit. You’re blessed to live in the country. Your author bio says in part, “Valerie and her husband of over 30 years live on a small farm in Canada with assorted cows, chickens, pigs, and bees. They grow much of their own food and preserve vast quantities by canning, freezing, and dehydrating. They are avid supporters of their local farmers’ market, where they sell honey from 75 hives of bees.” When do you find time to write?

Valerie: It’s a challenge!

Janet: What got you started writing?

Valerie: Because farming these days isn’t particularly lucrative, my husband and I have been forced to view it as a lifestyle choice more than as a family-supporting income stream. In 2001, shortly after we bought the farm from his parents, I landed a job at a small town flooring shop. My duties included everything in the store, while my two boss guys did all the measuring, quotes, and installations. Sometimes it would take me mere hours to set up several weeks worth of work for them.

It didn’t take long for me to crave something to do during quiet hours at work, and my boss guys were totally okay with it. They knew there was only so much dusting a gal could do (though I admit I could have done a bit more…) and allowed me space and internet access to work on writing.

For eleven and a half years, the majority of my writing time took place in my carved-out space at the back of the flooring shop around customers, phone calls, salesmen, and delivery trucks. During those years I wrote 11 novels, sold a novella to Barbour, and worked hard on my skills.

In November of 2012, the flooring shop closed and I moved my “office” into a spare room in our farmhouse. It is definitely more challenging to find writing time now that I’m at home, but now I’m addicted. I start by getting up at 6:30 Monday-Saturday to devote the first few hours to my current story or, now in August, to blog-hopping and marketing.

If it’s a rainy day, or Jim is haying, or busy with the beehives, or nothing on the farm is pressing, I’ll head back upstairs, but if the garden, grandkids, or hubby are calling, my office hours may well be closed for the day by mid-morning.

Janet: It took a lot of discipline to get to this spot. Enjoy it! In your research of all things green, healthy and creation-care-oriented, what’s the weirdest bit of trivia you’ve picked up?

Valerie: I don’t know about weird. We became beekeepers four years ago. I’d never given a lot of thought to their specific challenges before, but the bee population is struggling from pesticide use and commercial monoculture. Still, a high percent (some place it at 70%) of the foods we regularly consume require bees for pollination. It’s unbelievable to me that governments aren’t doing more to protect the bees. Some say that if bees disappeared, mankind would have about four years left on the planet. (Hmm, maybe THAT is the weirdest bit of trivia I’ve picked up…)

Janet: Sounds like the plot for a science fiction novel. And it’s incredible that there’s not more talk about what the declining bee population could mean to our food supply. Another question I wanted to ask you: Is there a particular song or Scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?

Valerie: I love I Thessalonians 4:11-12 (NIV): “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life. You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”

Definitely some are called to visibly lead, but it reassures me to know that it’s also biblical to be an introverted ruralist.

Janet: What do you like best about the writing life?

Valerie: I love that I’m doing something creative with my curiosity. It’s a reason to ask questions, learn things, and experiment. Perfect!

Janet: What do you like least?

Valerie: Probably how long it takes to write a novel. Maybe especially how long it takes to REwrite one!

Janet: Writers are told to read widely and voraciously. I think that’s one of the perks of the deal. What are you reading these days?

Valerie: I read a lot of inspirational contemporary romance… and historical if the author’s voice catches me. I read writing and marketing “how to” books as well as farming, gardening, and simple living guides.

Janet: Thanks so much for taking time to let us get to know you a bit, Valerie. May the Lord continue to bless you and make you a blessing to others—in every area of your life.

Thank you, Janet. I love your thoughtful questions. I’m thankful for God’s many blessings, including being here with you and your friends today.


Raspberries and Vinegar cover art

Sweet like Raspberries. Tart like Vinegar.

That’s Josephine Shaw for you: complex yet singleminded. Everyone in nearby Galena Landing, Idaho, has heard her opinions on simple, sustainable living, but what does she really know? After all, she and her two friends are new to farming.

Zachary Nemesek is next door only until his dad recovers enough to work his own farm again. Zach braces for the fall-out when the new neighbors find a mouse invasion but soon discovers Jo has everything under control. Is there anything she can’t handle? Surely there’s more hidden beneath all that vinegar.

Click to read a sample chapter of Raspberries and Vinegar.

A Farm Fresh Romance. This unique farm lit series follows the adventures, romantic and otherwise, of three college graduates who move onto a reclaimed farm where they plan to take the rural area by storm with their sustainable lifestyle and focus on local foods.

Buy Raspberries and Vinegar (includes links to various stores/versions)

Buy through Choose NOW Publishing (includes various links)

Connect with Valerie Comer via:

Interview: Janet Sketchley

question markNo, I’m not interviewing myself, although I do talk to myself at times…

But over at Where Writers and Authors Meet, I’m in the hot seat this week for a reader-directed interview: you ask the questions (deadline tonight) and I answer them. My host, Virginia Lori Jennings, will post the answers on Monday.

To join in, visit Come Ask Janet Sketchley Some Questions.

Kimberley Payne, author of Trees of the Book

Kimberley Payne is a versatile author and speaker who first visited this blog in 2011 to talk about her book, Fit for Faith. Kimberley has written for adults on such topics as fitness, faith, dreams and child abuse. Her newest project is a children’s activity book, Trees of the Book—Learning from God’s CreationKimberley Payne

Janet: Welcome back, Kimberley, and congratulations on Trees of the Book. I’ve been seeing some very good reviews. For those who haven’t met you, how about a quick introduction?

Kimberley: I am a wife and a mother of two teenagers, two cats, and lots of fish. I consider myself an amateur photographer who loves to take tons of pictures of nature.

Janet: Tell us a bit about Trees of the Book.

Kimberley: As an avid walker, I have a love and appreciation for nature, especially walking through the woods. I also like to read the Bible and found myself curious about the trees mentioned in scripture. At the time I started my research I was actively involved in children’s ministry in my church so wanted to share what I learned in an entertaining format for the children. I produced one-sheets to fit into the weekly bulletins and featured one tree a week for seven weeks. I collected these together and added facts about each tree with fun activities. And voila, I had the beginnings of this book!

Janet: It’s designed for children of what age?

Kimberley: Trees of the Book was written for children ages 7 to 9. It can also be used as a supplemental book to the Growth and Changes in Plants Curriculum for Canadian teachers in grades two/three.

Janet: Trees of the Book is more than a story or a book of facts. What led you to include educational activities?

Kimberley: I wanted the book to be entertaining – something children could not only learn from but have fun with.

Janet: Do you see yourself turning this into a series? Animals of the Book, Plants of the Book etc?

Kimberley: A series called Science and Faith Matters. Other books in the series will be about the Life Sciences, including animals of the Bible and the five senses.

Janet: I vote for Sea Creatures of the Bible! Trees of the Book sounds like a great resource for homeschoolers and Sunday School teachers. But it’s something that anyone could share with the child in their life, right?

Kimberley: Absolutely! Caregivers and grandparents could also share this with their little ones.

Janet: What is the primary benefit, above all others, that your potential reader will gain from reading this book?

Kimberley: It’s an easy and fun way to learn about the trees in popular Bible stories.

Janet: How is writing for children different than writing for adults?

Kimberley: To put all children in one group doesn’t work. There are many different levels, age groups and types of books you can write – from boardbooks to early readers to young adult. Although I really enjoy writing for children, I do find it much more difficult.

Janet: Tell us a bit about the process of working with an illustrator.

Kimberley: I wanted to give the illustrator, Esther, free rein with the book. I shared my ideas of what I wanted, but in the end I gave her artistic control. I wanted her to enjoy the process too. We’ve posted videos showing Esther drawing the illustrations on YouTube at AndFaithMatters channel.

Janet: In Trees of the Book, which tree is your favourite? And did you pick up any interesting or unusual tree-related trivia?

Kimberley: I love the palm tree. I have fond memories of vacations in the south with palm trees and I love the illustration that Esther provided. Originally when I started the book I thought there may be about 6 trees mentioned in the Bible. I was surprised that there are over 15 trees!

Janet: Fifteen trees… I can think of fig, cedar, palm (because you just said it), and Zaccheus’ sycamore tree. Now I’m stumped for the rest. Ooh, unintentional pun that I decided to leave in place! What do you like best about the writing life?

Kimberley: I love seeing my manuscript change into an actual book! To take an idea and work with it over the years to go from a MS Word document to a hardcopy sold on Amazon.com (and Amazon.ca) is way cool.

Janet: What do you like least?

Kimberley: Learning the ropes of social media and the amount of time that is needed to spend on marketing.

Janet: What are you reading these days?

Kimberley: I tend to rotate between fiction and nonfiction. Right now, I’m reading fiction books by local authors. I just finished reading After the Snow Falls by Carey Jane Clark.

Janet: What are you listening to?

Kimberley: I listen to my local Christian radio station 100.3. I usually stream it through my computer or listen to it on my car radio.

Janet: What do you like to do to get away from it all?

Kimberley: I love to hike in the woods, and take pictures of plants, animals and trees.

Janet: Okay, I always think this is a weird question, but it fits this interview so here goes: What kind of tree would you be?

Kimberley: That’s a great question! When I worked as a career counsellor I asked this of my clients to prepare them for weird interview questions. I suppose if I had to pick a tree I’d be a willow. As a child, I loved to grab hold of the long branches and swing around the trunk. It provided oodles of fun for me. 🙂

Janet: I’ve always had a special fondness for willows, too! Their trailing branches make little rooms. Thanks so much for taking time to let us get to know you a bit, Kimberley. May the Lord continue to bless you and make you a blessing to others—in every area of your life.

Readers can learn more about author/speaker Kimberley Payne at her website (Kimberley J. Payne), her Facebook page (Kimberley Payne, Author), and the AndFaithMatters YouTube channel. Kimberley also blogs at Science and Faith Matters.


Trees of the Book cover artTrees of the Book – Learning from God’s Creation

(available from Amazon.ca and Amazon.com)

Children’s Activity Book

Explore the Bible and learn from God’s creation. This entertaining and educational book offers children loads of fun. At the same time they’ll be learning about the Bible.

Inside its pages you’ll find:

  • Bible stories told from the viewpoint of the tree
  • Fast facts to help identify the specific tree
  • An activity to help reinforce the truth in the lesson
  • Challenging questions to support each story
  • Glossary and “People of the Bible” sections to define words which are highlighted in bold
  • Project suggestions to enhance your learning

This engaging and instructive book is a colourful introduction to trees, leaves and their corresponding Bible stories. It’s ideal for 7 to 9 year olds, for home or school use and classroom sharing in grades 2/3 to supplement the Life Sciences Curriculum on Plant Life.

[Amazon links are affiliate links for The Word Guild.]

Interview: Canadian author Violet Nesdoly, part 2

Welcome back to part 2 of an interview with Violet Nesdoly, multi-talented writer from British Columbia, Canada. (Click for part 1 of the interview.)

Janet: Violet, last week we talked about the varieties of writing that you do. That’s a lot of work! What would be the perfect writer’s lair for you?

Violet Nesdoly with her new novel, Destiny's Hands Violet: Janet, I have it! When we bought our townhouse in 2007, I laid claim to the largest extra bedroom as my office. I have two desks (one for the computer, one for longhand writing), lots of shelves, a file cabinet. All I need is a lair-fairy to clean it up for me, and to go through and shred all the paper I no longer need to keep.

Janet: A lair-fairy—ooh, I could use one of those too. How does it feel when someone tells you they’ve changed because they connected with something you’ve written?

Violet: As you can imagine, this is huge! One of the reasons I chose to spend my days writing is because the writing of others has made a big impact on my life. I can think of many times a book has brought me to tears with the sense that God is in the room right beside me. The thought that God the Holy Spirit can inhabit words so that they communicate across time and distance is one of the mysteries of life.

When someone tells me that my words have helped them connect with God in some way, I feel a snap of rightness (like when puzzle pieces fit together) and am immensely grateful that I can do this thing that has the potential to impact people for eternity. 

Janet: I like that “snap of rightness” illustration. Those are the satisfying moments that make a writer’s work worthwhile. What do you like best about the writing life?

Violet: The variety. The independence (being my own boss). The challenge to always become a better writer. The vast opportunities because of advances in technology. The fact that I can connect with people all over the world at minimal cost.

Janet: What do you like least?

Violet: Marketing and publicity. Building a ‘platform’ via the social networks. Blowing my  own horn. Knowing that I’m responsible for selling a lot of books. Want to really know? I wrote about it here.

Janet: What do your family think of your writing?

Violet: My family has been so supportive. My husband is the best! He subscribes to my devotions, and gets my back when he finds typos. In all the years I’ve been freelancing, my career has never been a substantial money-maker. But he lets me muddle on, not begrudging me the time or shekels. He even cooks!

Janet: You have a keeper! Let’s step back and meet your non-writing side. What’s the rest of life like?

Violet: My husband and I attend a wonderful church (Christian Life Assembly), and I also attend and have taught at our women’s Wednesday morning program, Women By Design. 

Visiting our daughter, son-in-law and grandkids (a three-hour drive away) is always a treat, as is driving into the big city to dine with our adult son in restaurants of his choosing.

Not to be missed, of course, is the daily hour-long walk hubby and I go for each morning that it isn’t pouring rain. 

Janet: What are some of your favourite things?

Violet: Our grandkids (three beautiful pre-schoolers). Walks in the beautiful outdoors. Bird watching. Identifying wildflowers. My camera. My Kindle e-reader. Scrivener. My New Spirit-Filled Life Bible.

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

Violet: My life passage is Philippians 4:6-7: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

A song that has impacted me hugely is “You and Me Alone” by Norm Strauss. Norm is a Canadian singer-songwriter (roots style) and there’s not a lot of his stuff on YouTube. I did write about this particular song on my personal blog way back in 2005. If you’re interested in reading the lyrics and a bit about how the song has impacted me, the article is “marker stone – part 1.”

Janet: That’s a powerful story (I had to read “marker stone – part 2” as well.) I’m glad God has kept you writing! What are you reading these days?

Violet: Since I got my Kindle e-reader, I have more books on the go at one time than ever! The last piece of fiction I read was August Gamble by Linda Hall (downloaded from Smashwords). I also recently finished With Burning Hearts by Henri J. M. Nouwen (that was in hard copy),  Heaven Is for Real by Todd Burpo, Collections From a Forest – Volume 1, a book of poems by Charlie Van Gorkom, and Journey on the Hard Side of Miracles by Steven Stiles. I’m somewhere in the middle of The Transforming Power of the Gospel by Jerry Bridges and Rumours of Water by L. L. Barkat.

Janet: What are you listening to?

Violet: I got my husband a Jason Crabb CD for Christmas (Jason Crabb: The Song Lives On – Southern Gospel). I discovered I love it too. Other favourites are The Journey, a project by Stuart Townend, A Way to see in the Dark by Jason Gray, and whenever I’m doing our household’s number crunching, I tune in to Grooveshark Radio, search Andrew Peterson and line up a list of songs by him.

Janet: A number-crunching playlist. That’s a new one. As long as you’re not playing “Mission Impossible” I won’t worry! What do you like to do to get away from it all?

Violet: Hawaii!! We went this January. What fun! We also love to travel in British Columbia and explore out-of-the-way places. I’m always scouting for more murals and funky public art.

Janet:  There are murals in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia too (hint, hint). Thanks so much for taking time to let us get to know you a bit, Violet. May the Lord continue to bless you and make you a blessing to others—in every area of your life.


Destiny's Hands cover art

Destiny’s Hands is available now in print and e-book. You can read the opening chapters of Destiny’s Hands (Kindle version).

You can also find Violet Nesdoly via her main website (previous link) and at the following blogs:

Interview: Canadian author Violet Nesdoly

Today’s visitor is Violet Nesdoly, from British Columbia, Canada. Violet, I often include links to your Other Food: daily devo’s blog, and I realized that’s giving my readers a limited view of who you are. Yes, you write insightful devotionals for adults (and for kids at Bible Drive-thru). But that’s only part of what you do.

I first heard of you as a poet. Care to give us a peek at that part of your life?

Violet NesdolyViolet: First, thanks, so much, Janet, for your support of Other Food: daily devos, and your interest in general.

As you mention the bits and pieces of my writing life, I’m more aware than ever that I’ve built my career the wrong way. Common wisdom is that you choose a subject or genre and become an expert in it. However, it seems I’ve become more of 21st century Renaissance woman, with fingers in lots of pies.

Now, to your question about poetry—I’ve always viewed it as a sideline. But what a fun sideline! My poetry-writing time is my time to play and experiment. Poetry provides the perfect outlet for my love of words and my philosophical bent. It gives me a way to express my enjoyment of nature and dovetails with my hobby of photography.

I’ve put together two poetry collections (available as books) and currently post original poems once or twice a week on my poetry blog  Violet Nesdoly/poems. In addition, I’ve had the satisfaction of seeing my poems published in a few other print and online publications (e.g. Prairie Messenger, Rejoice,  Good Times, Your Daily Poem, Utmost Christian Writers, qarrtsiluni).

I’m also part of a local poets’ group, the Matsqui, Sumas, Abbotsford Poets Potpourri Society (MSA PPS). I am the society’s website administrator and take part in regular readings, open mics and club projects. (Actually, keeps me pretty busy. Maybe it isn’t as much a of sideline as I thought!)

Janet: As well as your own poetry, you’ve written columns on the subject and served as Utmost Christian Writers International Poetry Laureate (2006-2008). And one of your blogs, Line upon line, is writing-related. Teaching seems to be part of your focus too.

Violet: The experience of being Utmost Christian Writers’ Poet Laureate was a huge honour and the wherefore of my second book. 

Writing poetry how-to columns has motivated me to study the craft. I still write a regular (four-times-a-year) poetry column for FellowScript. Writing it forces me to think about how the process of writing poetry works and how I keep motivated so I can pass these things on to others.

As for teaching in general, I guess I have a little of that in my DNA. I have a degree in elementary education and taught in the public school system for a total of five years. Actually, my writing for children has been largely educational too. 

Janet: You also review books at Blogcritics, write a personal blog promptings, and run another blog Murals and More, where you post photographs of murals and public art. Have I left anything out?

Violet: One more thing comes to mind: a little storefront at Constant Content. That’s where I sell content for the web.

Janet: What got you started writing in the first place?

Violet: I started writing when I was in high school. A paper that we got when I was a kid (The Western Producer) had a section called the Young Cooperators Club that published the creative writing of children and teens. To join you gave yourself a pseudonym and submitted writing to the editor of your age group. I got my first taste of publication there as “Nell.”

I didn’t write much for public consumption during my early adult years but the dream of becoming a writer never died completely. After my children were in school, I decided to revive it. At the end of 1995 I enrolled in the “Writing for Children and Teens” course at the Institute for Children’s Literature and  sold my first piece of writing—a Keys for Kids devotion—in March of 1997. I’ve been freelancing ever since.

Janet: And what are you working on now?

Violet: Around 2002 I got an idea for a Bible fiction story (book-length). Over the years I’ve worked on that project, mostly doing research. In 2009 I spent the month of November (NaNoWriMo) writing the story that was in my head. Last spring I worked on it some more and entered it in the Word Alive Press (WAP) free publishing contest.

I was surprised when it made the list of finalists (released in September 2011). Destiny's Hands cover artI have decided to self-publish that book (called Destiny’s Hands, a fictional rendering of the story of Bezalel, the head craftsman of the tabernacle and its accessories—Exodus). I have just finished doing a six-week edit of that manuscript and got it off my desk and into the hands of my editor at WAP  mid-March.

Janet: Congratulations on reaching the publishing stage! Destiny’s Hands is now available, and I’m looking forward to reading it. The cover is beautiful.

Here’s the link to part 2 of this interview with Violet Nesdoly.

Take Flight Progressive Interview

Author and social networker Patty Wysong started Take Flight as a way to encourage, inspire and connect bloggers. This week’s Flight is a progressive interview, and the questions have been a lot of fun.

Here’s my question, and my Take Flight blogging friends’ answers. Each blogger’s name is linked to her own blog. Follow the links and discover other intriguing questions… and answers.

Thanks for setting this up, Patty!

Question: In what way(s) have your characters rubbed off on you? (for the better, we hope!)

Diana Lesire Brandmeyer: I’ve learned that I really do appreciate living in 2012 not 1886 but I have learned to take things at a slower pace. I’ve come to enjoy making dinner more than before and am learning to use herbs and fresh ingredients. I take time to enjoy the small tasks like baking and planting.

Sharon Clements Srock: I think my characters have made me a stronger person, more determined to go for what I want. It’s hard to write about determined women and be a wimp.

Joanne Sher: I think my main character has taught me SO much about myself – and even given me some ideas on handling conflicts and such. She started out as, basically, me transplanted to Biblical times. She’s becoming her own woman as I “fix her up,” but writing about her has made me see myself more clearly. Weird, eh?

Yvonne Blake: I think it’s often the other way around for me. I tend to put a little bit of myself in each of my characters. (Sometimes, though, I give them traits that I wish I had the courage to show – ex. boldness to speak up and act without fear of what others may say.)

Valerie Friesen Comer: Interesting question, because I usually think of it the other way: what of myself do I put in my characters? By giving my characters traits that I see in myself, though, I can push the envelope to make them deal with it. This helps me explore the trait and hopefully find ways to deal with it in my own life as well. But don’t go looking too deeply into my characters to find my issues! The characters are always a blend of a bunch of people with other traits tossed into the mix.

Linda McQuinn Carlblom: My characters keep me young! They’re all children, none over 14 or 15, and they force me to think and speak like someone their age. I have to remember how I felt at their age and write that into the story. So I have a greater empathy for kids because of my characters.

Donna Winters: I seem to sympathize emotionally with my characters. If they’re having a bad scene, my husband says I’m irritable. I find their snappy dialog slipping into my real-life dialog. Poor Fred. He’s quite tolerant and forgiving. 🙂

Sharon Hoover: My characters have made me more reflective. To better write about an emotion … and be able to show the feelings … I’ve had to deeply examine my own heart and motives as well as be more attentive to those around me.

Patty Sargent Wysong: My characters have helped me see life and its situations differently from how I used to see things. There’s a whole new world out there when I look at things through the eyes of my characters and when I listen to their explanations of things, often it meshes with my view and gives me a clearer picture of what’s going on. Of course, that means I hear their voices in my head, too. They’re loudest when I’m doing the wrong thing. My cast of characters has made for some interesting times in my head, but they’re each leaving a mark on me, just like my living-breathing friends do.

Kristi Peifer: It’s sort of like acting … you delve into another person’s psyche and learn all about their feelings and their quirks. Some of my favorite characters have been the ones with snappy one-liners, but I’ve also learned from the tragic characters.

Christina Rich: My characters have shown me that it doesn’t matter what the world thinks as long as I’m following God.

Janet Sketchley (that’s me): Learning to understand my characters has taught me to think more about real people’s motivations and give them the benefit of the doubt. One of my characters has given me a new appreciation for Billy Joel and for peppermint tea. I was hoping her housekeeping tendencies would rub off instead, but no such luck.

What about you? Whether you’re a writer or a reader, tell us how fictional characters have rubbed off on you? 

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Interview: Sandra Orchard

Sandra OrchardSandra Orchard is a Canadian author of romantic suspense. She visited my blog last year to celebrate the release of her debut novel, Deep Cover (interview here), and she’s back to tell us about the next in the series. Welcome, Sandra!

Janet: Shades of Truth is the second in your Undercover Cops series, and although there’s a new hero and heroine, the story is set in the same small town. How is writing a series different than a stand-alone title? Did you know when writing Deep Cover that it would be part of a series?

Sandra: From the beginning, I’d hoped it would be picked up as a series. I deliberately created secondary characters that could move into the roles of hero or heroine in future books. I also introduced locations that I imagined future characters frequenting. The main difference in writing a series versus a stand-alone is that you need to anticipate people or things that you’ll want in place for the next novel. The challenge is keeping facts straight from one book to the next. I don’t want my sidekick with brown hair and eyes showing up in the next book with green eyes and red hair…unless of course she’s working undercover!

Janet: I notice that many Love Inspired authors produce two or three books in a year. Does working on a series make this easier, perhaps in terms of character or setting creation?

Sandra: I find it easier, because I’m already familiar with the locale and many of the characters, and the editor’s expectations.

Janet: One of the secondary characters in Deep Cover is a special needs adult. Shades of Truth is set in a young offenders’ detention centre. Do you have a personal interest in groups who tend to be marginalized?

Sandra: I have several friends with special needs children so, yes, they are definitely a group that is close to my heart. I became more compassionate to the plight of young offenders after listening to our pastor’s daughter share about her experiences working with the youth at a detention centre.

Janet: By writing these elements as an organic part of your stories, you give readers the chance to understand. Is there another personal connection in the series’ next instalment, Critical Condition?

Sandra: Yes, I suppose there is. Experimental and alternative cancer treatments play a role in the investigation. My mom had tried a number of experimental treatments and my critique partner who fought the disease for over twenty years had tried many alternatives as well as experimental treatments. I also have a friend whose mom travelled to Mexico to seek alternative treatment unavailable here. She died there alone.

Janet:  Those experiences leave a person sensitive to the needs of cancer patients and their families. I think it’s your inclusion of these heart-connections that make your stories so strong. Was it hard to convince your US publisher to accept a Canadian setting?

Sandra: No, Love Inspired (an imprint of Harlequin owned by Torstar) is actually a Canadian company, only its editorial offices are in New York. They are open to Canadian settings.

Janet: Very cool! I did not know that. Thanks for joining us today, Sandra, and all the best as you keep writing.


Shades of TruthBack cover summary:

Big-city detective Ethan Reed is working deep undercover at a Christian youth detention center. The kind of place he spent some harrowing time in as a kid. Ethan’s mission: ferret out who’s recruiting resident teens for a drug ring. He expects help from the lovely, devoted director of Hope Manor. But Kim Corbett won’t tell Ethan anything—even when she’s threatened and attacked. When Ethan discovers what Kim is protecting, his guarded heart opens just a bit wider. Enough to make this the most dangerous assignment of his career.