Friday, November 29, 2013

Interview with Elizabeth Goddard and Book Giveaway!

Elizabeth Goddard is an award-winning author of eighteen romance and romantic suspense novels, including the romantic mystery, The Camera Never Lies—winner of the prestigious Carol Award in 2011. After acquiring her computer science degree, she worked at a software firm before eventually retiring to raise her four children and become a professional writer. A member of several writing organizations, she judges numerous contests and mentors new writers. In addition to writing, she home schools her children and serves with her husband in ministry.

For a chance to win a copy of WILDERNESS PERIL, please comment below and leave your contact information. We'll draw from those who comment and pick one winner.

SS: How long have you been writing?

I've been writing forever, it seems, but for myself, for school, for friends. As an adult I wanted to write something. . .anything. But I was a busy career woman, so most of that writing was marketing literature and proposals. When I had my first child and stayed home that first year, I dabbled with writing a children’s story and sent that to a publisher. Of course, I didn't know what I was doing and promptly received a rejection letter, wishing me well on my search for a publisher. Ha! My daughter was eight years old, and I had two more children, before I found a writing path—I joined American Christian Romance Writers in 2001 (now American Christian Fiction Writers) and a critique group and started submitting a chapter a week. I was blessed to join a wonderful group of ladies and we are still friends today, all of us published. It would be five more years before I received “the call” or rather an email that an editor wanted to buy my story.  

SS: Do you write full time? If the answer is no, what else do you do? If you are a full time author, what other jobs did you have in the past?

What constitutes full time? I wonder. Is it forty hours a week, more or less? I consider myself relatively full-time, but I also home school my boys and that is full time. We are all working together. I write and blog and market while they are working on school, but my attention must be focused on them.

In the past I worked as a regional account executive for a software company and traveled the country, which I loved, and then I worked for a pharmaceutical company. I’m a bit of an entrepreneur and had my own business, too.

SS: Tell us about the moment you finally felt like a “real author”?

I’m still struggling to feel like a real author! I’m not sure how many books it will take for that to happen. No, seriously, I think I felt “real” when I held my first book in my hands, but then I had to write and sell another book, and then another. So the question is can I STAY a real author.

SS: Who has been your greatest supporter as an author? 

My husband, of course. I've met people along the journey that didn't have a supportive spouse and that makes it nearly impossible to succeed, to achieve the dream. I think he believes in me more than I believe in myself.

SS:  Why suspense? Do you write in any other genres? If so, what?

I write romance, too, and that’s almost always seasoned with suspense or mystery, and I have written a quirky cozy mystery, The Camera Never Lies, which was a 2011 Carol Award winner in the mystery category, but I love suspense, action and adventure. There’s just a tension there—whether it’s running from the bad guys are solving a mystery or trying to save the world—that isn't there in a straight romance. It keeps a person turning the pages until well into the night.

SS: How does your faith play into your writing?

Of course, I write from a Christian worldview, but I always pray that the Lord will put in the message He wants, and even if it’s just one person who reads and finds that answer or spiritual nugget she needed, then I know I’ve done my job.

SS: If you couldn't write, what else would you want to do?

Um. . I don’t know. That’s kind of like asking me if you couldn't breathe air, what else you would breathe. I’m a creative person, and might pursue my interests in art and music.

SS:  Tell us about your current release.

I’ve loved all the stories in my “Learjet repo man” books, but I think Wilderness Peril is my favorite and that’s because I love my hero, Rick Savage.

Here’s the blurb:

ON THIN ICE

Run off the road and left for dead, Shay Ridiker's only hope for surviving the frozen claws of the wilderness is pilot Rick Savage. The beautiful airplane mechanic came to Alaska expecting a routine repo, but a missing coworker and a crippled plane are just the tip of the iceberg. Now held captive by ruthless killers at a derelict gold mine, Shay needs Rick's protection more than ever. But Rick has shadows that follow him into the land of the midnight sun. With gunmen at their backs, can he be all Shay needs—a haven…and a hero?
 
SS: What is the main thing you hope readers remember from your story?

That we can overcome through Christ.

SS: What are you working on now?

Winter Wonderland is my 1920’s historical set in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It’s part of a novella collection, A Grand Tetons Sleigh Ride, I’m writing with Lynette Sowell. Then I’ll start on the second novella in the collection. I’ll be wrapping those up this month, and then starting on the first book in my next Love Inspired Romance series, which is a mountain rescue series set in Alaska. I’m very excited about this series, love the premise and love the characters.

SS: A tough question: Where do you want to be career-wise in five years? Ten years? 

I would love to continue writing for Love Inspired Suspense, but add to that, I hope to be writing romantic suspense for trade, as well.

SS:  Now let’s get a little personal. Name two things on your “bucket list” that you haven’t done yet.   

I’m strongly considering an Alaskan cruise for my upcoming 25th anniversary, so I could check that one off. I’d also love to spend a few years as a missionary in a third world country. Sounds a little crazy to be on the bucket list, right? But I can’t get that out of my head.

SS: Where can readers find you on the internet?

My website of course, which includes my blog: http://elizabethgoddard.com

It’s a new website and for the launch, I’m offering a $50 CBD gift card to one winner in the drawing. You have to sign up for my newsletter (on the website) to be entered.


I love connecting with my readers so you can find me at http://facebook.com/elizabethgoddardauthor

SS: Anything else you’d like to tell or share with us?  


Yes, I’m building a street team. If you enjoy reading my books can commit to leaving reviews in a timely fashion, I’d love to hear from you. Let’s talk. You can reach me on Facebook or my contact page on my website. 

WILDERNESS PERIL releases on Sunday! You can pre-order today. 

Thanks for having me. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Quaint Q & A for Writers and Readers

I've been tagged with a unique Q & A especially for writers and readers. Here are my answers, and I invite you to join the fun by responding with an answer to one of these questions. All respondents have a chance to win a signed copy of my January release, Frame Up. This Q & A is for writers, too, so I include my fellow Sisters in the invitation to respond and participate in the book drawing.

1. What's the one book or writing project you haven't yet written but still hope to?

One day I hope to finish my medieval fantasy series. My hero rocks, and his love interest will steal your hearts! The first book in the series, Kingmaker, is the book of my heart, but fantasy is a tough sell. However, the Lord will light the way at the appropriate time.

 2. If you had one entire day in which to do nothing but read, what book would you start with? (Any chance of that happening over the Thanksgiving holiday or the upcoming Christmas season?)

 Vanished by Irene Hannon is on my TBR stack. I'd have to go there first.

 3. What was your first writing "instrument" (besides pen and paper)?

 A PC that is now a dinosaur and extinct, but I sure gave it a workout!

 4. What's your best guess as to how many books you read in a month?

Difficult question. Some months I read 5 – 6. Other months I have no time to read any. Depends on where I’m at on deadline or with family and church commitments. During the three years I served as Senior Inspirational Reviewer for Romantic Times magazine, I read 12 – 15 books per month and wrote reviews about them.

 5. What's your favorite writing "machine" you've ever owned?

My laptop goes with me any time I travel, and I use it every day. It’s got loads of memory, which is so handy when you’re dealing with full length manuscripts.

 6. What's the one book you remember most clearly from your youth (childhood or teens)?

The Hobbit. That book entranced me from page one. I think my desire to be a writer was born with reading that book over and over again. Could I ever draw a reader into a fictional world so completely? Naturally, I had to move on into the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I also enjoyed Lloyd Alexander’s series that starts with The Book of Three. Loads of great imagery, wonderful characters, and deep themes. Madeline L’Engles’ A Wrinkle in Time was also a favorite, along with any of the YA books by C. S. Lewis. Oh, and I always enjoyed a good Encyclopedia Brown, Sherlock Holmes, or Nancy Drew story. Evidently, my favorite genres are fantasy and mystery/suspense.

This Q&A is interactive for writers and readers. Go ahead and respond with your unique answers to one or more of these questions.

Have a delightful day, and for our blog readers in the U.S., Happy Thanksgiving!


BIO:

 Award-winning author and writing teacher, Jill Elizabeth Nelson, writes what she likes to read—tales of adventure seasoned with romance, humor, and faith. Jill is a popular speaker for conferences, writers groups, library associations, civic and church groups. She delights to bring the “Ahah! Moment” to students as they make new skills their own. Her bestselling handbook for writers, Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View, is now available at http://amzn.to/IvQTkj. Visit Jill on the web at: www.jillelizabethnelson.com or look her up on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JillElizabethNelson.Author or Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/JillElizNelson. Her most release is Betrayal on the Border from Love Inspired Romantic Suspense. Her next book Frame Up releases in January 2014.

Friday, November 22, 2013

INTERVIEW WITH DANI PETTREY



Dani Pettrey is a wife, homeschooling mom, and author. She feels blessed to write inspirational romantic suspense because it incorporates so many things she loves--the thrill of adventure, nail biting suspense, the deepening of her characters' faith, and plenty of romance. She and her husband reside in Maryland with their daughters. Visit her website at www.danipettrey.com.
 
INTERVIEW WITH DANI PETTREY
 
S.S: How long have you been writing?
 
I’ve been writing for ten years. Seven before I sold my first manuscript and three since J

S.S: Do you write full time? If the answer is no, what else do you do? If you are a full time author, what other jobs did you have in the past?
 
I’ve been a homeschool mom for the last fifteen years. My oldest is now a junior in college and my youngest is a senior in high school.

S.S: Tell us about the moment you finally felt like a “real author”?

For someone reason, it took me until I held my third book in my hand. Something about having experienced that a couple times before, it finally hit home. I’m actually an author.

S.S.: Who has been your greatest supporter as an author? 

My mentor and friend, Dee Henderson. Dee took my under her wing about seven years ago and has supported, encouraged, and inspired me greatly.

S.S: How does your faith play into your writing?

It plays a great role, but I’d like to think in a natural way. Just as my love of adventure permeates the stories I write, so does my faith. My relationship with Jesus is part of every facet of my life; it’s only natural to be part of the stories I tell.

S.S: If you couldn’t write, what else would you want to do?

I can’t imagine not writing. Even if I never got published, I’d continue to write. It’s just a part of me. If I had to do something else for a living…Hmmm…I’d probably work in a bookstore with a really great coffee shop.

S.S:  Tell us about your current release.

 
Stranded is the story of Darcy St. James and Gage McKenna. It opens when Darcy’s friend goes missing from a cruise ship.

When Her Friend Goes Missing,
Every Minute Counts


Darcy St. James returns to Alaska to join a journalist friend undercover on the trail of a big story. But when Darcy arrives, she finds her friend has disappeared. Troubled by the cruise ship's vague explanation, Darcy uses her cover as a travel reporter to investigate further. 

The last person Gage McKenna expects to see during his summer aboard a cruise ship leading adventure excursions is Darcy. And in typical Darcy fashion, she's digging up more trouble. 

He'd love to just forget her--but something won't let him. And he can't help but worry about her as they are heading into more remote regions of Alaska and eventually into foreign waters. Something sinister is going on, and the deeper they push, the more Gage fears they've only discovered the tip of the iceberg.
 
S.S: Where did you get your inspiration for this book?

The inspiration for Stranded came while I was vacationing on a Mediterranean cruise with my family a couple summers ago. I enjoyed getting to talk with a few members of the crew each day as we ate breakfast and learning about their life aboard the ship. Add in a few news articles about people missing from cruise ships and my curiosity was piqued.

S.S: Stranded takes place primarily at sea. Were there any challenges writing a story set in one locale?

It was an interesting change from my last novel, Shattered, which took place in a number of states as well as British Columbia. I found it a challenge to keep the setting fresh and intriguing, as well as the pacing moving at a fast clip. I really enjoyed finding new ways to keep the tension high.

S.S: What is the main thing you hope readers remember from your story?

God can heal our hurts, no matter how old or deeply entrenched. He’s the only One who can.

S.S: Who is your favorite character in this book and why?

I love Gage. Something about him just tugs at my heart. I think it’s because of the hurts he’s been through and the amazing heart he has. He’s always looking out for others, always there to lend a hand, and, of course, he’s got my husband’s sense of humor.

S.S: What are you working on now?

I’ve just finished revisions on the fourth book in my Alaskan Courage series. Silenced will be a May 2014 release. Here’s a sneak peak:

A relaxing day of rock climbing takes a disturbing turn when Kayden McKenna’s route leads her to a face-to-face encounter with a dead climber. Is it a terrible accident or something sinister? When the case is handed to the overburdened sheriff, he turns to Jake Westin. With Jake’s past now revealed, he’s ready to use his talent for investigation again-–but he could never prepare for where the case will take him.
Kayden and Jake soon realize that the death was no accident. And worse, it seems the killer is on to them. When strange things begin happening in Yancey, Jake is terrified that once again his world may put someone he loves in danger. But the truth is far worse than he could ever imagine.

S.S:  Now let’s get a little personal. Name two things on your “bucket list” that you haven’t done yet.  
 
Snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef or gone on an African photo safari.

S.S:  What is the silliest thing you have ever done? 

I won an indoor mock rodeo competition when I was twenty. Instead of bulls, we rode hoppy balls. Definitely the silliest thing I’ve ever done.

S.S.: Where can readers find you on the internet?

On my website: www.danipettrey.com
Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/danipettrey
Twitter: www.twitter.com/danipettrey
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/danipettrey

S.S.: Anything else you’d like to share with us? 

Just how much I admire this wonderful group of ladies. Thank you so much for having me.
 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Research


Research is a word that invokes different connotations and emotions depending on what you’re researching and where you are in your research.

For instance, if I’m at the beginning stage of my novel, I’m excited to dive in, thinking of everything I’m going to learn. Or if I’m in the middle of my research I might feel overwhelmed with all the information I need to read before I can start writing—and I’m eager to write, so I’m a frustrated writer. If I’m near the end, I wonder if I’ve done my homework. If I’ve done enough research, or if I need to keep reading. Inevitably, I’ll continue to research as I write, because I can’t know what questions will pop up until I’m in the story.

Regarding “research” Merriam-Webster says this:
1 careful or diligent search
2  studious inquiry or examination; especially :  investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws
3  the collecting of information about a particular subject it could

As precise as the definition is, it still leaves so many questions. But those questions boil down to one.

How much research is enough?


I wonder if NASA ever asks this question, but of course for them, it’s all about the budget. And space. . .well, really, the required research is infinite.

For the writer it’s all about time and energy. More often than not, we learn far more about our subject than is ever required to write the story. Haven’t you read a novel where the author shared too much of his or her research?

In addition to reading various books and articles on the internet about my topic, I also try to connect with experts, and if it’s a geographical region I’m researching, I try to speak with people familiar with the region, or have them read the book. That, in addition to researching every single fact—the weather, the flora, the animals, the people, the architecture, the dialect.

I mean. . .EVERYTHING.

On this one thing, you can’t research too much.  

In fact, I usually don’t use any element in my story that I haven’t already found in my research.
But even so, we’re only human and we make mistakes. And sometimes what we've written is construed as a mistake when it’s not. For instance, witnesses to a car accident will see the events differently. People who live in a town, will experience the town differently. If I wrote about the town I grew up in, I’m sure at least one person would challenge my information.

A good friend shared that a reader once wrote a letter telling her everything she had gotten wrong in the town where she grew up. The town was fictional, created solely from the author’s imagination.

I’m excited to soon be diving into researching and writing on four mountain
search and rescue stories set in Alaska—the last frontier. To me it’s everything beautiful and natural and wild, and I can’t wait to be there with my characters. To create my proposal, I've already connected with an avalanche specialist and the president of a mountain rescue organization. I have all my books lined up.

But in the meantime, I already have a book set in Alaska and it releases this December. Wilderness Peril is the sequel to Treacherous Skies and Riptide. I have an interview on Suspense Sisters the last Friday of November, so I’ll share more about Wilderness Peril then.

Two things I want to make you aware of in case you don't already know.

1) I’m starting a street team. If you enjoy my books and think you might be interested, read the details HERE.     

2) The month of November, I’m giving away a $50 CBD card and a copy of Wilderness Peril to one winner of a drawing. To enter the drawing, you must sign up for my newsletter. You can find the sign-up at my website.

Blessings!
Elizabeth


Monday, November 18, 2013

Suspense in the Life of a Writer...

All of us here write suspense or mystery.  We love to spin stories that will--hopefully--keep the reader turning the pages, eager to find out what happens next. I can remember telling tales from an early age...riding my horse with friends  back in Minnesota on warm, moonlit summer nights, watching bats swoop through the still air--more shadow than substance.  Perfect inspiration. And, like  campfire ghost stories that became scarier with each telling,  the stories I'd start to tell were enough to scare me.  Eerie, laden with menace, of those creatures that go bump in the night.

Well, I didn't end up trying to write like Stephen King, and in fact I put those thoughts of writing aside when I went to graduate school and then became a clinical dietitian.  Not exactly a suspenseful life.  :)   But then...a lifetime of being an avid reader somehow morphed into a desire to write.  I'd grown up enjoying stories with unexpected twists and turns, with escalating suspense and danger.  Little did I know that the writer's life may not include danger as a matter of course, but it can certainly include a measure of suspense.

When you first made your way into the world after high school or college, did you have a fair idea of what you wanted to be when you grew up?  Many of us end up modifying that first grand plan--we may start one type of career and then end up doing something completely different.  That's true for most writers, too.  We start a career, or perhaps spend years as a wife and mom before the vision of becoming a writer takes hold.  Nora Roberts and Debbie Macomber both talk about following that very course.

But for most writers, the course is not necessarily smooth.  The barriers can seem insurmountable--even the process of simply finishing a first manuscript.  There are countless aspiring authors that may make it to Chapter Three. But finishing three or four hundred pages that actually tell a story in a cohesive way is a truly daunting task.  And then, the suspense begins.  Where do I send this story--which agent would be right for me?  What publisher will give it a chance? Will I get a call today, or tomorrow?  Will an acceptance letter be in my mailbox --or email inbox--today?  Or never?

For a lot of aspiring authors, years can roll by as rejections pile up and the dreams start to fade.  One of my favorite old workshop tapes from writers' conferences was titled something like "I've been writing for five years without a sale. Now what?"  It was given by a group of speakers who went on to become best selling authors.

It takes faith, and determination to keep trying for that first sale...and later, takes courage to try to do something new and different. And the suspense continues.  A nurturing and wonderful editor may retire.  What then?  Will the next one like my work, or not?  A publishing house may fold--or be gobbled up by another house, which can shake up the whole status quo for its authors.  Trends in the market come and go.  The perfect match of a  wonderful editor and publisher can mean great things for an author's future--though what may happen around the next bend is anyone's guess. A poor book cover, poor back cover copy, or poor distribution can help send an author's career into a downward spiral.  There are no long term guarantees in this business--there is no promise of a steady future and a gold watch on the day of retirement. Though now, with the rise of indie publishing, many authors are taking the reins of their careers and finding wonderful new ways to succeed.

But that very level of uncertainty, the suspense of not knowing what will happen in the future, is part of what makes the writing life exciting, and fresh--a chance to work hard, a chance to re-invent one's self, and a chance to seek new horizons. 

Here at the Suspensesisters blog, you'll be seeing some small changes that will keep us fresh and new and interesting as well.  We are so happy that you are here! And we love to hear comments from all of you who stop by.

Wishing everyone a happy and blessed Thanksgiving, and safe travels wherever you might go,

Roxanne Rustand

Friday, November 15, 2013

CAUGHT IN A BRAINSTORM




By E.E. Kennedy

Of all the ways to make a little money, writing mysteries is about the “funnest” way I can think of. (I’m quoting a grandchild here.) Through my characters, I get to live in houses I’ve only dreamed about, visit places I’ve longed to go and have adventures that this home-loving sissy would never dare attempt; that, and many other things. On the flip side, I’m required to come up with elaborate mental puzzles and encounter villains I’d probably never meet in real life. And even that is kind of fun.

Right now, I’m putting finishing touches on the third book in my Miss Prentice mystery series, Murder in the Past Tense. Another neat thing about writing is I get to re-visit times in my life that I really enjoyed. One of those was when I was in summer stock theater as a teenager. In MPT  (the book’s nickname—that’s how they do it in the writing biz), Amelia reminisces about her teen years when she did the same. It’s fun to see familiar characters in phases of their lives, and this time, the reader also meets a teenage Lily Burns (nee McKindrick) and a scruffy, sarcastic young hippie wannabe in the form of Gil Dickensen, or “Gilly,” as Amelia calls him. I had a romp planting little clues to their future relationships. (Hint: they aren’t star-crossed lovers at this stage.) The story doesn’t stay in the past, however, and a mystery begun years ago follows the characters into the present, where it puts them in real danger.

As soon as I’m finished editing and formatting, which should only be a day or two now, I’ll get back to thinking about the next book in the series, number four, with the working title, Incomplete Sentence.

Those of you who are familiar with the series probably have noticed that the titles reflect my main character Amelia’s calling as a high school English teacher. Coming up with related titles is another enjoyable aspect to this mystery writing gig. My sister, who taught college English and I, who subbed in high school, got together and came up with a treasure trove of possible titles. Here are just a few that I hope to someday weave into the Prentice saga: The Village Idiom, Ending with a Preposition, and  To Brutally Split an Infinitive.

But that’s all in the future. Right now, I need to concoct a story that matches up with the title. I’m what is called a Pantser, which is the opposite of an Outliner. (The term comes from the expression, “by the seat of the pants.”) For the past several books, I’ve just sat down and written—then re-written, then added something and re-written again, then torn out whole hunks of story and streamlined the whole thing into a novel. It’s a kind of scary way to do things, but it fits my haphazard personality. I’ve never been good at outlining, even in English class, when I was required to. I tended to write my paper or essay first, then come up with an outline to fit what I’d written, just to satisfy the teacher. Is there anyone else out there who has done that? I feel sure there must be.

Instead of an outline, I do think I need a plan, which will be in the form of a list of items, aspects and issues I’d like to incorporate into the story. If you hate spoilers, you may want to stop reading here, because I’m going to show how I come up with stuff and it might spoil the surprise. Then again, if I’m careful, it might not!

The title is Incomplete Sentence, which fits the idea I have for the story. A few years ago, I saw a TV movie called The Unicorn Killer. It was the true story of a self-styled guru and media darling who charmed the intelligentsia of the Northwest US and even claimed to have come up with the idea for Earth Day. He was, essentially, a con man who used long words. Everything went swimmingly until his live-in girlfriend went missing. About a year later, her decaying body was found in a trunk in the guru’s apartment. Though he was about to be tried for an incredibly gruesome murder, people came out of the woodwork to offer character reverences for this man, and he was released on bail until trial, which he never attended, because he skipped out. He was found guilty in absentia and sentenced to life. Years later, he was located in France and after some legal wrangling, returned to the US to serve his sentence.

I mean to take elements of this sad tale and fictionalize them into unrecognizability while stirring in a little bit of Hitchcock’s chilling film, The Lodger, in which a landlady suspects that her tenant might be Jack the Ripper.

In my story, the Chez Prentice, Amelia’s B&B, has several new guests. Could one of them be the Something Killer? (I haven’t come up with an entertaining nickname for the guy yet.) A high school girl has been murdered. Could she be the Something’s victim? There are several young girls of Amelia’s acquaintance who might be at risk: Crystal and Courtney, the lovely Gervais twins; Serendipity Shea, Yvonne LaBombard and even perhaps Melody Branch, Vern Thomas’s current girlfriend. 

I’ve come up with a unique way some of the younger characters can communicate with each other, but that’s one part of the story I’m not going to reveal. Needless to say, it involves something technological, which is a new and unknown quantity to Amelia, who only recently got her first cell phone.

Alec has launched a new project having to do with his passion, cryptozoology. Amelia is keeping her educational hand in by occasionally substitute teaching while baby Janet spends time with either Lily or with Hester at the B&B. Vern is still being a problem, but Melody is working on him, and I think he may eventually have an epiphany of some sort. I’m not sure what Gil will be doing during all this. Of course, Lily Burns will in some way tangle with Housekeeper Hester Swanson and Marie and Etienne LeBow, co-owners of the B&B.

Writers like to make use of their own life experiences, and since I had a memorable late-night automotive encounter with a very sturdy deer, I’m thinking of heaving that into the mix, also perhaps including having someone suffer with a bout of pneumonia.

Years ago, my mother (a sweet Southern lady to her very toes) read that author Jacqueline Suzanne wouldn’t show her own mother her books, because they were too racy. My mother said (and it has echoed in my mind, down through the years), “Hmph! I’d like to see one of my girls write something not fit for me to read!”

After all my efforts, gentle reader, the story must entertain you. And that’s my ultimate goal: to write an entertaining story I wouldn’t be afraid to let my mother read.

Friday, November 8, 2013

INTERVIEW WITH CRESTON MAPES


 
 
Creston Mapes is the author of the inspirational thrillers Fear Has a Name, Nobody, Dark Star, and Full Tilt. A journalist, copywriter, and editor, he works from his home-office in Atlanta for some of the nation’s top media companies and nationally-recognized corporations. Creston has ghost-written seven non-fiction titles and his early years as a reporter inspire many of his novels.

INTERVIEW WITH CRESTON MAPES
 
S.S: How long have you been writing?

I have written professionally since graduating from college (Bowling Green State University) with a degree in magazine journalism  back in 1983. I started learning about the craft and writing fiction/novels in 1999.

S.S: Do you write full time? If the answer is no, what else do you do? If you are a full time author, what other jobs did you have in the past?

Yes, I have always written professionally for a living. I began as a newspaper reporter and photographer, then became a corporate copywriter, then a creative director. I went out on my own to become a freelance writer 22 years ago and write for large corporations, colleges and ministries. I’ve also completed six novels and seven non-fiction titles.

S.S: Tell us about the moment you finally felt like a “real author”?

I would have to say it was when my agent phoned me and asked if I was sitting down—this was in about 2004. We had been shopping one novel and the publisher asked for a 3-book series. This was my first contract and I will never forget that moment. I’d been trying for five years, so the phone call brought tears to my eyes. Also, the moment my first book arrived at my doorstep—that was quite thrilling. Same as when I saw my novel in stores for the first time. Nothing quite like that feeling of accomplishment—because such an extensive amount of work goes into each book.

S.S.: Who has been your greatest supporter as an author? 

That is a tough one. For me, this has been quite a solitary journey. I guess my biggest supporters would be my family, several close friends, and the agents and publishers I’ve had the honor of working with—and my fans. But again, so much of this journey is simply work done alone. It requires a great deal of fortitude, faith, discipline—and tough skin.

S.S: How does your faith play into your writing?

I was not a Christian until I was almost 30, so I have a lot of experience living life on both sides of the fence. So, in my novels, I can write realistically from an unbeliever’s viewpoint and from a believer’s viewpoint. I drank a lot back then, experimented with drugs, did a lot of dark things—therefore, I can write about such things with emotion and accuracy. My books throw the reader in the middle of thrilling circumstances, which are lived out by both believers and unbelievers. Hopefully, the stories are thrilling and thought-provoking for any fiction lover.

S.S: If you couldn’t write, what else would you want to do?

I always thought I would make a good Realtor, because I like people and would enjoy listening to them and helping them find just the right home. Although I know I wouldn’t like the hours!

S.S:  Tell us about your current release.

Fear Has a Name is a thought-provoking thriller about Trenton City Dispatch reporter Jack Crittendon, who is working on a story about a pastor who has disappeared, leaving his family and church to take his own life.

At the same time, it is the tale of a man named Granger Meade, who was bullied as a boy and unwanted by his religious zealot parents. When Granger sets out to find the only person who ever cared about him, he finds her happily married to no other than newspaper reporter Jack Crittendon.

To steal a bit from our marketing materials: “It was more than a break-in. More than a stalking. It was personal. When a stalker targets his family, journalist Jack Crittendon must uncover who the person is and what his motives are—if he is to protect the ones he loves. It will lead Crittendon into a world of behind-closed-door secrets and faith gone awry…Each move Crittendon makes weaves him tighter and tighter into a web of lies, greed, hypocrisy, sin, and danger.”

S.S: Where did you get your inspiration for this book?

As a kid, I always hated bullies. I guess I may have been bullied a little at times, but many kids got it much worse. I’ve always had sympathy for the underdog, kids who were overweight, extra shy, or not physically attractive by the world’s standards—and those who were bullied. This book takes a close look at the life of a man who was bullied and unwanted. Although Granger Meade is the clear antagonist in the story, I try to give the reader a glimpse of his life, his youth, and why he turned out he way he has—which is very bad and dangerous, indeed.

S.S: What is the main thing you hope readers remember from your story?

There are several things. 1) Try not to judge a person until you’ve worn his or her shoes; 2) Bad, difficult, trying, unthinkable circumstances DO happen to Christians; 3) Fear is a part of life, but God wants us to throw all of our worries onto him, even those unthinkable trials; 4) No one is beyond God’s reach.

S.S: Who is your favorite character in this book and why?

Let’s put it this way, my favorite character to create and write about was the antagonist, Granger Meade. He was bullied terribly as a boy and unwanted by his parents. Although he does some dastardly things, I wanted to create sympathy for him, because of the way in which he was raised.

S.S: Who is your least favorite character in this book? Why?

Probably Andrew Satterfield, an associate pastor and germ-freak who wants to oust lead pastor Evan McDaniel, because the latter struggles with dark bouts of depression. In fact, it is Satterfield’s disapproval of Evan that ultimately contributes to the pastor taking a large quantity of medication with him in order to take his own life.

S.S: What are you working on now?

I’m really excited, because we are just putting finishing touches on books two and three in this series. Poison Town releases Feb. 1, 2014, and Sky Zone releases June 1, 2014. Each book involved reporter Jack Crittendon and his family, colleagues, and friends. So we have been working long and hard on getting this 3-book series ready to launch book-after-book, right in a row, in order to satisfy our hungry readers!

S.S: Any writing goals you still hope to achieve?   

My goal is to become one of the top-selling fiction writers in the business. But I take it a day at a time and try to see what God wants me to do next. If I quit with six novels, I would be very happy with that.

S.S:  Now let’s get a little personal. Name two things on your “bucket list” that you haven’t done yet.   

I’ve seen most of our great country, but have not been to the Pacific Northwest. I have always had a longing to visit Portland and Seattle, and also Canada.

My book Nobody has been optioned as a major motion picture. I would love to see my novels make their way to the big screen—with quality.

S.S:  What is the silliest thing you have ever done? 

I accidentally drank from a communion cup in which you were only supposed to dip. It was my most embarrassing moment, by a long shot.

S.S: What is the hardest thing you have ever done?

Starting my own freelance writing business 22 years ago was a big step of faith. Writing each of my six novels has also been monumental, because writing fiction doesn’t come easy for me.

S.S.: Where can readers find you on the internet?
 



S.S.: Anything else you’d like to share with us?  

Just that I am glad to be here and appreciate it very much. Readers, give any of my books five pages and I hope you will be sufficiently quarantined. Blessings gang.
 
If you'd like to win a copy of Creston's book, Fear Has a Name, leave a comment. We'll draw a winner on Monday!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

MYSTERY VERSUS SUSPENSE


By
Nancy Mehl

I started my career writing mysteries. After the release of several mysteries, an editor asked me to change a mystery proposal into a suspense proposal. My Amish mystery morphed into Mennonite suspense. That first book was titled SIMPLE SECRETS. From there five more novels followed. From time to time, I’m asked to explain the difference between mystery and suspense. In my opinion, the line separating the two genres is much thinner than most readers believe.

 Mystery has a simple definition. Something happens and no one knows why it happened or who did it. The main character, who can be a professional or an amateur, must find the answer through a series of clues. In other words, a mystery is a puzzle. The solution must be solved through the clues the writer inserts in the story. And the reader should have a chance to solve the mystery. Mystery readers don’t like ambiguous clues that lead nowhere or don’t make sense. They are trying to solve the problem along with our fictional sleuth.

So, what is suspense? Just like in a mystery, something happens and a solution must be found. However, in suspense the reader may actually know “who” and even “why” from the very beginning. Think “Die Hard.” In the beginning of the movie, we knew who the bad guys were and what they were trying to achieve. Our hero’s job was to stop it. One other aspect of suspense is that the solution will come through an event, not a clue. So the hero must use his wits to overcome evil, but usually the evil is known.

However, sometimes suspense crosses the mystery line. Think of a suspenseful book or movie that saves a surprise for the end. The reader may know “what” the hero is fighting, but the real bad guy may turn out to be someone the hero considered a friend. Someone the reader or viewer doesn’t expect. There weren’t any clues to follow so the surprise is just a…surprise. Although still technically called suspense, something hidden until the end is actually one of the aspects of mystery.

Although I write suspense, there is always a healthy dose of mystery in my novels. I love to combine the two, and I’m blessed to have publishers that allow it.

Speaking of suspense, I want to announce my newest novel, GATHERING SHADOWS. It releases in April and is the first book in my new Finding Sanctuary series. I’m really excited about this novel. Here’s a synopsis:

Wynter Evans, despite her current position as a promising young reporter for a television station in St. Louis, Missouri, has never gotten over the disappearance of her brother nine years ago. But when she stumbles across a photograph of a boy with an eerie resemblance to her missing brother during an assignment to investigate unusual places in the state, she can't pass up the chance to find out what may have happened. Under the cover of research for her job, she sets out for the place where the photograph was taken: the primarily Mennonite town of Sanctuary.

Upon her arrival, she meets Rueben King, the town's handsome young mayor, and together they begin to uncover long-held secrets that could not only tear the small town apart but also change everything Wynter believes about her own life. As the truth of her family's past hides in the shadows, it soon becomes clear someone will stop at nothing to keep the answers she's searching for hidden forever--even if the cost is Wynter's very life.

And here’s a look at the cover of GATHERING SHADOWS.
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I know April is several months away, but if you’d like to win a copy of GATHERING SHADOWS when it comes out, leave a message, along with your email address, and I’ll pick a winner on Friday.

 

 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Ideas and themes and topics, oh my!

Recently I was doing some research for a new book and came across an article that made me flinch when I read it. I was actually researching law enforcement and terror threats. What I found was that some extremists are actually considering surgically implanting bombs in their stomach cavities and then detonating them when they are inside the building or near their target. Yes, it’s depraved, yes, it goes to show you how demented some people are. And how committed to a cause—a lie—some people can be. And how deceived these poor souls are. It breaks my heart.

And yet, I couldn’t help wondering, could I create a story around that? Of course I could.

Could I use that to somehow insert a theme of forgiveness so that characters and readers could see God at work? Of course.

So I started to think. (I know, scary, right?)

But I started to realize that good CAN come from bad. God shows us that over and over. With Joseph’s kidnapping to Jonah’s disobedience. Good came from those things. God was able to use jealousy and disobedience to bring about his sovereign plan.

Do you have a circumstance where all looked lost, yet you saw God working in the end?

If you write, how do you get your ideas for your stories?

If you’re reader, what are some things i.e. topics, themes, etc, that you like to read about?





Friday, November 1, 2013

INTERVIEW WITH RENE GUTTERIDGE


Rene Gutteridge is the award-winning and best-selling author of twenty novels, including the beloved Boo Series and Heart of the Country, her novelization release with director John Ward and Tyndale House Publishers.  Her recent suspense titles include Listen, Possession and the award-winning Seven Hours project Escapement.  She's been published by Bethany House, Tyndale House, WaterBrook Press, Thomas Nelson and B&H and novelized the successful motion picture The Ultimate Gift. She has teamed again with screenwriter Cheryl McKay for the romantic comedy Greetings from the Flipside from B&H and is releasing her new suspense title, Misery Loves Company from Tyndale in 2013.  Her romantic comedy with Cheryl McKay, Never the Bride, won the 2010 Carol Award for Best Women’s Fiction.  Her upcoming literary projects include the novelization of the motion picture Old Fashioned with Tyndale House Publishers and filmmaker Rik Swartzwelder.  Her movie SKID, a comedy, is due out next year.
 
INTERVIEW WITH RENE GUTTERIDGE
 
S.S: How long have you been writing?

Pretty much my whole life.  Before I could write I was always telling a story somehow, either with Barbies or Matchbox cars or whatever.  Very early on I took an interest in movies and reading too.
 
S.S: Do you write full time? If the answer is no, what else do you do? If you are a full time author, what other jobs did you have in the past?

I do write full time now.  Before that I worked in ministry for many years.  I was the Director of Drama at our church, so that was incredibly fun and taught me invaluable lessons about writing.  I would write two different skits a week and I could immediately assess how I was doing by audience reaction.  I’m so fortunate to have had that experience.

My first job was at The Gap.  It was ridiculous because I spent every dime I made on the clothes there, so I realized I shouldn’t be working in retail at the age of 15.

S.S: Tell us about the moment you finally felt like a “real author”?

There have been so many.  And I think writers (at least this writer) need to constantly be reminded we are writers, just for our own sanity because it is such a challenging occupation to the soul and the self-esteem.  I remember getting a name tag that said, “Rene Gutteridge, author.”  That was cool. I remember the first time I went to ICRS.  My editor was walking me down for my book signing and I saw this long line wrapped around the hallway and I said to her, “Oh, Jerry Jenkins must still be signing,” because I knew he was before me.  And she said, “Rene, that’s for you!”  I was stunned.  Recently I had a prominent trade magazine start off a review that said, “Veteran novelist Rene Gutteridge…”  And it just floored me.  I had re-read it.   I had to remind myself that twenty books have gone by.  But I can still distinctly remember that first one like it was yesterday.  And I think there is always a part of my heart that will feel like a novice.

S.S.: Who has been your greatest supporter as an author? 

Definitely my husband.  He’s seen the highs and lows and every time I think that maybe I shouldn’t do this or I lose faith in myself, he is always there to pick me up and encourage me.  I actually have many family and friends who support me so I feel very fortunate in that regard.

S.S:  Do you write in any other genres? If so, what?

I do. I am a multi-genre writer, so I also write comedy, romantic comedy and contemporary drama. I also have done a number of novelizations, which are books based on movies. And I’m a screenwriter.

S.S: How does your faith play into your writing?

I come to every book with a Christian worldview, so that is always engrained into every story, but it is always a challenge to weave the simplicity and complexity of the Christian faith into a novel.  For me, it requires asking the hard question.  It requires not having all the answers.  It requires me to have faith in the process of storytelling, and I have great faith in it.  I think of stories as these living, breathing things that take us by the hand and help us through our lives in big and small ways.  I’m amazed at all the various letters I get from readers and all the different ways one story touches them.  I’m amazed by how a story meets a soul and together they do this sort of dance and then leave each other.  It has always fascinated me.

S.S: If you couldn’t write, what else would you want to do?

I’d probably be involved in filmmaking in some way. I also love to paint and draw, but doubt I could make a living at it.  I love photography too.  I’m not sure what I would do, but I think I would be able to find something that’s meaningful to me. 

S.S:  Tell us about your current release.

Misery Loves Company is about a disgruntled author who kidnaps his number one fan.  It’s a spin on Stephen King’s Misery, which is one of my all time favorite books.  There’s of course a twist and many, many turns as well.  I loved spending every moment with these characters.  They were endlessly interesting to be with.

S.S: Where did you get your inspiration for this book?

Definitely from King’s book, but also I wanted to explore with these characters a journey to a God that is hard to understand at times, a God that allows suffering and immeasurable grief.  These two characters come together and must dive deep to understand how to go on after loss.

S.S: What is the main thing you hope readers remember from your story?

Well, that is the thing that is mysterious about novels—everyone comes away with something different, so I hope that this story, these characters, will plant themselves deep into readers’ hearts and minds and that they’ll allow them to stay awhile.

S.S: Who is your favorite character in this book and why?

I’m very partial to Patrick Reagan, the bestselling novelist who is either a psychopath or a savior.   

S.S: Who is your least favorite character in this book? Why?

I don’t dislike any of them.  They serve their purpose for me so I can’t blame them for being stupid/evil/worthless.  I made them do it, after all.

S.S: What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on a new novelization called Just 18 Summers.  I have another one called Old Fashioned that will be out next year too.  I’m working on a new comedy with my rom-com writing partner, screenwriter Cheryl McKay.  And also crafting a new suspense idea that I’m very excited about!

S.S: Any writing goals you still hope to achieve?   

I actually achieved a really big one this year. I wrote a screenplay that was produced and is now in post-production.  It’s a small indie film called SKID, based on one of my novels, but I’m really excited about it and it was a dream come true.  From the beginning, I set out to be a screenwriter and then life happened and novels happened and that’s what I’ve been doing for fifteen years.  But screenplays will always be a vital part of my dreams and goals.

S.S:  Now let’s get a little personal. Name two things on your “bucket list” that you haven’t done yet.   

I am oddly not a bucket list-maker.  All the really cool experiences I’ve had I don’t think I would’ve dared to even dream about.  I guess I have a few things I want to do.  I’d like to spend a few weeks on the east coast, exploring all of New England.  And maybe, if I’m being honest, write a TV disaster movie.  I love those things.  I’m a closet disaster movie watcher.  They can get awfully cheesy, but I’m pretty sure I’d know what to do when the 10.9 earthquake hits.

S.S:  What is the silliest thing you have ever done? 

On purpose?  Probably nothing on purpose.  I’m awfully silly by accident though.  I do weird things like forget to put the mug under the Keurig before I hit the glowing blue button.  My mind is usually going a thousand different directions and less than half of those are in rooted in reality, so my life gets pretty silly pretty often.

S.S: What is the hardest thing you have ever done?

I think recently it was making this movie SKID.  Wow.  It was grueling, from sun up to sun down.  It was high stress and every day there was at least one major problem to solve.  But the adrenaline of making the movie kept me going.  It was one of the highlights of my life. 

Getting my first book published was hard too.  You just need that one person to believe in you, and it finally happened, but for awhile, when you’re toting your books and ideas around, you’re pretty sure you stink to high heaven.

S.S.: Where can readers find you on the internet?

www.renegutteridge.com  Or www.facebook.com/ReneGutteridgeAuthor

S.S.: Anything else you’d like to share with us?  

Thank you for having me!
 
Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Rene's book, MISERY LOVES COMPANY!