Friday, July 31, 2015

INTERVIEW WITH MARY ELLIS



Mary Ellis has written twelve award-winning novels set in the Amish community and several historical romances set during the Civil War. Her latest, Midnight on the Mississippi, first of a new mystery series, Secrets of the South, is set in New Orleans. Before "retiring" to write full-time, Mary taught school and worked as a sales rep for Hershey Chocolate, a job with amazingly sweet fringe benefits. Mary enjoys traveling, gardening, bicycling and swimming, and lives in Ohio with her husband, dog and cat. You can learn more about Mary by visiting her Website or her Facebook Page.
 
INTERVIEW

What do you do when you’re not writing?  


I run around like a headless chicken trying to catch up with “life.” In all seriousness, I lose myself for days while writing, stopping only long enough to throw a non-gourmet meal on the table, walk my dog, and sleep. Then suddenly I notice the garden has more weeds than flowers, there is no food in the house, and all our clothes sit in piles on the basement floor. I’m not an untidy person, so I work like a dervish until caught up. Then I curl up in my chaise with a book…a mystery, of course.

How did you choose the genre you write in?  


Mysteries and romantic suspense is the genre I started out in. After two published books, I changed to Amish fiction and wrote twelve books before giving historical romance a whirl. I enjoyed writing those genres very much. But since mysteries are what I like to read, it was natural for me to come back to them.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?  


I try not to read reviews of my books, but every now and then I’m curious. One reader said my book An Amish Family Reunion had so many characters that it was tough to keep them straight and she finally gave up. I had to laugh. After all, what did she expect? It was an Amish reunion and they have big families. The best compliment came from a reader who said my book changed her life. A character had solved a problem by taking a certain path, a problem that my reader was experiencing herself. There could be no better compliment than that.

If you could go back in time and do something differently in your writing career, what would it be?  


I believe everything happens for a reason. Each “misstep” we take is actually setting the stage for future growth and improvement. So the only thing I would change is not worrying about the future so much. In the early years of my career, I used to check lists and compare myself to others, or fret that this article or interview wouldn’t measure up. God has the future capably in His hands. If I would have remembered that more often I could have saved myself many sleepless nights.





What Lies Beneath the Black Water of the Bayou?

Hunter Galen, a New Orleans securities broker, suspects his business partner, James Nowak, of embezzling their clients’ money, but he’s reluctant to jeopardize their friendship. After James turns up dead, Hunter realizes his unwillingness to confront a problem may have cost James his life.

Nicki Price, a newly minted PI, intends to solve the stockbroker’s murder as she establishes herself in the career she adores. As she ferrets out fraud and deception at Galen-Nowak Investments, Hunter’s fiancĂ©e, Ashley Menard, rubs her the wrong way. Nicki doesn’t trust the ostentatious woman who seems to be hiding something, but is the PI’s growing attraction to Hunter—the police’s only suspect—her true reason for disliking Ashley?

As Hunter and Nicki encounter sophisticated shell games, blackmail, and death threats both subtle and overt, danger swirls around them like the mysterious dark water of the bayou. Only their reliance on faith and fearless determination give them hope they will live to see another day. 


Mary is giving away a copy of MIDNIGHT ON THE MISSISSIPPI! To enter, leave a comment, along with your contact information. U.S. and Canada only, please.






Thursday, July 30, 2015

ASK THE SISTERS!







This week's question was asked by Beth Nagy! Beth's won a $5.00 Amazon coupon to spend on any book she wants! Get in touch with us, Beth, so we can send you your coupon. 



Here is her question: How do you decide on characters? Are they a composite of people you have known or admire/dislike?

 
Cynthia Hickey: I usually have a thought, see a picture, or hear something that triggers a story idea. Then, I think, "Who would be the perfect character for this story?" All of my characters have bits and pieces of me, my family, and my friends. Villains might have some of a person who annoyed me at the time I was designing the story cast :)


 

 Marji Laine: That's a good question! I've toyed with getting a tee-shirt that says, "Be nice or you'll wind up the villain in my next novel." I've never actually based anyone on a real person, though. I do pull snatches of experiences from my life or things I've seen as I'm creating depth in my character, but I usually start with hair models. I know that sounds crazy, but I look online for a person who has nearly the same hair style and eye color that I'm picturing in my head, then I build a life for them.
 

E.E. Kennedy:  In the first book in my mystery series, I patterned a character after somebody I didn’t like very much when we were teenagers and made them the villain. (Of course, I was sure they wouldn’t recognize themselves.) However, more recently, I became re-acquainted with them online and realized that they had grown into a very nice person. There’s a lesson in there, somewhere.

Another character, Vern Thomas, was only supposed to be a young cab driver, rating about two paragraphs, but as I wrote the story, he almost demanded to be an important part of it. At his insistence, I made him the nephew of an important character and he is in all four of the Miss Prentice Cozy Mysteries.

I’ve heard that fiction writers often find that their characters seem to take on a life of their own. I can tell you, it’s true!

Nancy Mehl: I think our characters have to be born from who we know. Many times, they include quite a bit of our own personalities. To create characters readers can understand, we must understand them as well. Of course, I’ve written about serial killers. That doesn’t mean I know or truly comprehend serial killers! LOL! But I do understand anger, selfishness, fear and greed. I can draw from those emotions to give life to my “bad guy.”

Our best characters are those who strike a chord with our readers. I try to get into my characters’ heads before I add them to my story. That way, readers can quickly identify with them. Once they have a clear vision of the characters, they can relax into my story.

  
Would you like the ask the Suspense Sisters a question? If so, leave it in the comments section below, along with your contact information! You could win a gift card to Amazon - or a book from a popular suspense/mystery author! 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

What's hot...in romantic suspense!


Susan Sleeman on the Suspense Zone has highlighted four HOT new releases in romantic suspense for July. If you want to read a blurb about these books, please hop on over to Susan Sleeman's amazing website at www.thesuspensezone.com.




Monday, July 27, 2015

THIS WEEK ON THE SUSPENSE SISTERS!






From Suspense Sister Marji Laine:

Reviewer Brittany McEuen is reviewing FIREWALL by DiAnn Mills. I've been anticipating this review. I can't wait to see what Brittany thinks about this exciting book.


Make sure you click over to the REVIEW PAGE now and check out her thoughts!


 




On Tuesday, Dana Mentink will share WHAT'S HOT in inspirational suspense and mystery! 








 On Wednesday, we'll hear from Suspense Sister Cynthia Hickey!






On Thursday, the Sisters will answer a question submitted to us by Beth Nagy! Beth asks: How do you decide on characters? Are they a composite of people you have known or admire/dislike? 

For submitting her question, Beth has won a $5.00 gift card for Amazon!
 


                                    
                                
                                    And on Friday, our special guest will be author Mary Ellis! 

 





She'll talk about her book, MIDNIGHT ON THE MISSISSIPPI. 








                 
                   GET READY FOR A GREAT WEEK ON THE SUSPENSE SISTERS!!!! 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Interview with Award-Winning Gayle Roper and Giveaway



Today Suspense Sisters welcomes Gayle Roper!

Gayle is the award-winning author of more than forty books. She has been a Christy finalist three times for her novels Spring Rain, Summer Shadows, and Winter Winds.

Gayle is giving away the ebook of Seaside Gifts, which will be available in mid-August. Be sure to leave your contact information to enter the drawing.

And now for the interview.


SS: Where did you get the idea for Seaside Gifts, your current release?

GR: The answer to this question is a resounding I don’t know.—with qualifications. Ideas are such elusive things. Some you can trace. Many, perhaps even most, you can’t. I knew I wanted to set another book in Seaside, my fictitious Jersey shore town and the setting of five previous books. No ideas involved beyond I think I want to do another Seaside book.

But why the owner of a gift shop on the boardwalk? I don’t know. Why a cop? Well, Rog did appear in Shadows on the Sand, and it seemed a good idea to give him his own story. He was handsome, intelligent, and (the all important ingredient for a romantic suspense) single.

But where did the story premise come from? Where did the idea for the crime come from? I’m not sure. Maybe I read something or saw a movie or TV show that contributed. Or—and here’s a thought!—maybe I prayed about it.


SS: Tell us about your main character.

GR: Nan Patterson has been working for a prestigious women’s magazine for several years and doesn’t really like her job. She sticks with it because it’s a good job, it keeps her near her boyfriend, and she has no idea what else she wants to do. Then her boyfriend dumps her, and her dissatisfaction with life and her job in particular increases. She prays and prays. Enter that wonderful fictional device: the inheritance. Great-Aunt Char leaves her Present Perfect, the boardwalk gift shop with the apartment over it.

One problem solved. Nan can leave the magazine. Another problem created. Her parents consider running the gift shop slumming after the glamorous job in NYC. Nan develops a backbone she didn’t know she had. She stands up to her parents, proving herself competent and independent, the picture of a satisfying character arc. That she meets Rog in the course of needing the police proves she made a great choice with her move to Seaside.


SS: Is there a spiritual message in your book? If so, what is it?

GR: Nan receives what she comes to call grace-gifts. Over the course of the story she learns to give grace-gifts where badly needed but not expected. Grace, that free giving of something good that isn’t deserved, deepens her character as a woman and as a Christian. This grace-giving is of course modeled after God giving us Jesus, salvation, life.


SS: What are you currently working on?

GR: I’m writing a novella called Seaside Dreams about a first grade teacher in Seaside who dreams of having any family but her own. She meets Dane, the UPS guy, who delivers a mis-addressed package to her home. He takes her to Thanksgiving dinner at his parents’ where she meets the family she always wanted.

Can Dane and Kelli find happiness together and solve the mystery of the mis-addressed package? Can you guess the answer? But the fun of genre fiction, in this case romantic suspense, is learning how everything works out in each story even though you know the ending (the hero gets the heroine, the bad guys get caught) from the first page..


SS: Tell us three things about yourself that would surprise your readers.

GR: Though I’m primarily a novelist, my non-fiction book, A Widow’s Journey: Reflections on Walking Alone, won the Golden Scroll as Non-fiction Book of the Year. How cool is that?!

I went on my first bus trip, something I was fearful of as an introvert who would be trapped with lots of people all day, and surprise, surprise, enjoyed it a lot. I did spring for a single room so I’d have some time to be alone.

I like flower gardening as opposed to vegetable gardening because you don’t feel guilty when you don’t pick the flowers.


Thanks so much for joining us today, Gayle! And don't forget, readers, to enter the drawing for her upcoming release, SEASIDE GIFTS! Simply comment and leave your contact information.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

ASK THE SISTERS!






This week's question was asked by Debbie Wilder. Debbie's won a copy of E.E. Kennedy's book, MURDER IN THE PAST TENSE! If you have a question for the Sisters, leave a comment, along with your contact information. We'll pick a new question next week, and you could win a mystery or suspense book from one of the genres best authors!

Here's Debbie's question: How did you become interested in writing suspense novels? Were there specific books or series that you read that piqued your interest?


Dana Mentink

I'm a big mystery lover which got me started writing that genre and suspense was a natural next fit. It's what I love to read so most of the time I've got my nose in a mystery/suspense novel.
Elizabeth Goddard

I've read widely my whole life but I found I enjoyed reading books with the suspense element because I didn't want to put them down. Then when I sold my first story in 2006, I naturally put in mystery and suspense  and I guess it just comes naturally to me. As far as books that piqued my interest, decades ago I got caught up in reading Bodie Thoene's WW II series, which to me was historical romantic suspense. Her series inspired me to write for the Christian fiction market.

Marji Laine

Growing up as a quasi latch-key kid, I had some of the greatest tutors of their time: Perry Mason, Columbo, Ellery Queen. And the teachers kept coming: Jessica Fletcher, Dr. Mark Sloan, etc. Yes, I watched a lot of television and mysteries were my favorite.

And I inhaled books: Trixie Belden mysteries, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew. By the time I was in high school, I'd graduated to Mignon Eberhart, Agatha Christie, and my favorite, Phyllis A. Whitney. I was floored when I read my first Christian mystery suspense! I hadn't known that was even a genre! Finding something that touched my heart and intrigued me all at the same time made want to jump right in and start writing!

Cynthia Hickey

LOVE to read anything where the characters I've come to care for are in danger. I want a page turner. Something that keeps me on the edge of my seat. I want to see justice done in a world that often has a skewed version of justice. I love James Patterson. Someone once told me to write what you like to read.  So, I chose to write suspense.
 


 Nancy Mehl

I devoured Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys when I was a child. From there I went to Agatha Christie and the Sherlock Holmes’ books. I also remember watching Murder, She Wrote. At the time, I’d never seriously considered being a writer. But as I watched Jessica Fletcher, I began to see myself following in her footsteps. (Without the trail of dead bodies behind me. LOL!) After getting a confirmation from God, that I really was called to write, I jumped in with both feet and have never looked back!

Our thanks to Debbie for her awesome question. Now, what would you like to ask the Suspense Sisters?
 








Wednesday, July 22, 2015

HOW TO WRITE ABOUT MURDER AND STILL BE A CHRISTIAN




                                                   By E. E. Kennedy
I write mysteries, primarily because that’s what I like to read. One day, as I like to tell it, I ran out of Agatha Christies and decided to write a book that I’d enjoy, hence the cozy mystery series that bears my name. “But how,” I’ve been asked, “can a Christian write about murder?”
My first response is generally that my stories are about justice, rather than killing. The murder of another human being is an affront to God’s most precious creation and earthly resolution, in the form of apprehension and punishment, is required.
“But how do you get Christ into it?” In describing my Miss Prentice series, I generally point out that while not actually evangelistic; the books are definitely written from a Christian point of view. In some way, I am trying to give readers a window into the world of an average person who is doing her best to live a Christian life.
Amelia, my main character, is a middle-aged high school English teacher who struggles with a number of issues, for instance, the abrupt deaths of her beloved parents from cancer. In recalling these events, Amelia is comforted by remembering how her mother responded to the ordeal with faith and love. These Christian influences are subtle themes throughout the stories.
Amelia is a loner simply by circumstance, but her life soon changes after an uncanny encounter with a corpse in  Irregardless of Murder. I was interested to notice in a review of this book (on Goodreads) a Christian reader objected to an untruth that Amelia uses in order to deflect the attention of her gossipy friend, Lily. (Okay, she tells a white lie.) Of course lies, even white ones, are wrong, but while Amelia is an inspired and caring teacher, she’s also a highly flawed human being who slips up on a regular basis.
Though she may present herself as the picture of rectitude, Amelia has plenty of faults. In Irregardless of Murder, she’s sharply impatient with an innocent student. Later, she looks on the villain with anger and unforgiveness. In Death Dangles a Participle, she is highly judgmental and inwardly hostile to a student’s mother. She also thoroughly dislikes the school principal, but only we, the readers, are privy to this attitude. In Murder in the Past Tense, we see the teenage Amelia display pride and a good deal of adolescent narcissism.
In Incomplete Sentence, Amelia displays a fault that I, myself, have struggled with. I call it “OICFI Syndrome; Only I Can Fix It.” Though she is passionate in her longing to come to the aid of an elderly man, Hugh, who reminds her of her father, when all is said and done, she is totally helpless to deal with the ruthless villain.  However, as Scripture says, “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” It’s only when she acts on what God is teaching her through His Word that she finds a way out of the danger.
These books seem to walk a fine line between Christian and secular literature. I’ll never forget the time I was at a mystery conference in DC, signing books, when a woman bought her copy forward and said, “When I read in the bio that you were a born-again Christian, I almost didn’t buy the book; but I read it, and it’s okay.” I’m not sure what danger she feared from my profession of faith, but she apparently absolved me of the sin of possible offense. We parted friends.
I’m glad she was worried. I don’t want to be so secular that these books have no “salt,” as Scripture calls it. But I also want to be “winsome” as well, another admonition in the Bible, presenting the Christian world view in a loving way.
When it comes to sex and violence, I have a rule of thumb that I use. Would my own (late) mother like it? I remember one day when she read an article about the author Jacqueline Susann (who wrote the spicy Valley of the Dolls). “It says she’s too embarrassed let her mother read her books,” my own mother said, “Imagine that!” That’s my personal standard: That it wouldn’t have made my mother, who adored mysteries, blush.
Ways to get your Christian message across can come up naturally in a story. One of my favorite moments in Irregardless is when Amelia is confronted by the villain--who clearly is trying to kill her--and has to make a decision based on faith:
“You rotten--” Vile, hateful, blasphemous names for [the villain] bubbled up from my throat. I swallowed them. I was determined that those wouldn’t be my last words on earth. This stemmed from my distaste for those scenes in movies where someone is about to die and screams a foul word. How would a believer feel when suddenly in the Presence of God with such words on his lips? For a Christian, these are the times when you find out what you’re made of.
In a review of the same book, The Drood Review of Mystery (unfortunately now defunct) made approving note of the fact that Amelia prays when confronted by certain death. “There are no atheists in foxholes,” they quoted.
So in fiction, as in life, this is how you witness. Respect your readers. Become a friend to them. Deliver quality entertainment that leaves them satisfied. Do your best for them. A pastor gave me a good way to look at it: “Make a friend, be a friend, then win a friend to Christ.” 
 
E.E. Kennedy is the author of the Miss Prentice Cozy Mystery Series, about a high school English teacher, set in the Adirondack region of NYS. The titles include: Irregardless of Murder, Death Dangles a Participle, Murder in the Past Tense, and in February of 2016, Incomplete Sentence. They are available at all online bookstores, in both e-book formats and paperback.