Wednesday, September 9, 2015



Over the past several years I’ve written nine Mennonite-suspense novels. The last one, RISING DARKNESS, will release in November. I loved writing these books, and I know some readers have enjoyed them as well. But eventually, all good things must come to an end. Adjusting genres can also mean saying good-bye to characters who have become dear friends.
As authors, we’re asked many times about our characters. Are they based on people we know? Do we include parts of ourselves in them? Most of the time, the answer is “Yes” to both questions. It’s hard to create believable characters if you don’t understand something about them. But what happens when you’re faced with a character far removed from your own experiences? At that point, we must go to other people for help. Hopefully, it will bridge the gap between our own first-hand knowledge and the personalities we present between the pages of our books. An example would be the invaluable assistance I received from Judy Unruh, Alexanderwohl Church Historian in Goessel, Kansas. She spent quite a bit of time answering my questions about Conservative Mennonites. She got me through all of my Mennonite-based books, and I will always be grateful to her.

One of the most important aspects of creating characters is realistic dialogue. As you can imagine, this came into play through my Mennonite characters, many of whom had German backgrounds. In addition, learning the correct terms for clothing, etc., added quite a bit to the research I had to do. The other day, while working on my new series, I came face to face with the knowledge that my world was changing in a big way. I burst out laughing when I realized that instead of trying to use words and phrases suitable for my previous plain and gentle Mennonite characters, I was attempting to write dialogue for urban gang members. A lot different than what I was used to! Although I doubt seriously that I will approach any gang members for help with pithy words and phrases, once again, I will have to step outside my own head and ask for help. I’m afraid my middle class Kansas upbringing didn’t prepare me for the gang culture.

I love writing, and I enjoy delving into the lives of interesting and different characters. Especially when the voices in my head lead me into exciting new experiences and introduce me to people I wouldn’t normally meet in my day to day life.

By the way…anyone know a friendly gang member I could interview? LOL!

Nancy Mehl


  1. I know of no gang members personally (thank you, Lord!) but I really enjoyed your post! :)

  2. Wonderful post. I would be lying if I said I was NOT disappointed to learn Rising Darkness will be the last. You're right in saying the characters become friends. And more than once I've found myself wishing I could find a town like any one of the towns you've made so real in your books. However, I'm looking forward to what's in store next. I'll do everything I can to spread the word. Love your books. :)

  3. Nancy, I know exactly what you mean about characters becoming real. This must be even more likely when you do a series, with the same characters coming around again and again. For your new series, I might suggest you use the music from West Side Story or Guys and Dolls as background for your writing.

    1. Hmmmm. I could play "I Feel Pretty" in the background during the raid on a drug house. On second thought... ;)

  4. I know some ex-gang members from church ... but knowing how New Zealand gangs work probably won't help you!