Friday, January 29, 2016

Interview with Valerie Hansen by Cynthia Hickey

Valerie Hansen’s basic nature is to enjoy every day to the fullest – and try to not take herself too seriously. J. 

 She married her high school sweetheart and they raised two great kids before leaving California to pursue their dreams of a rural lifestyle on an old, eighty acre farm in the Arkansas Ozarks.

So far, Valerie has over 50 books to her credit.  Besides doing extensive research, she has plenty of interesting experiences to draw upon. Ready? Veterinary assistant, teacher’s aide, volunteer fire department dispatcher, Emergency Medical Technician, bank worker, professional artist, store clerk, bookkeeper, 4-H leader, Sunday school teacher, gospel singer/songwriter, winning quiz show contestant, dog trainer, college extension-class instructor, and antique restorer. She’s built dulcimers and a psaltery, laid bricks and tile, designed stained-glass windows, roofed a house, decorated store windows for the holidays, helped pour cement, raised fancy guinea pigs and finches, driven a long-haul moving van, and was once the proud owner of twenty-three Newfoundland dogs at one time. Don’t try that at home!

Although has written for all three Love Inspired lines, her main focus is on mystery and suspense.

When did you decide to pursue writing and eventually publication?
I was turning 40 and trying to decide what to do when I grew up. J A chance came to enroll in a college extension class that I thought was about writing. It turned out to be more about writing for the romance market and at the time publishers were eager for mss. I was published by NAL in less than a year.

What is your writing process like?  Do you write daily?  Are you a plotter or a pantster? 
I work best under pressure. (except for headaches and knots in my neck!) so I really push once I get a contract and have a deadline. I have been known to wash windows or clean the fridge rather than sit down at my computer to write. I sell via a synopsis and opening chapters so I have to plot. That doesn’t mean I have to stick to my original ideas, though.

What is your favorite part of the writing process?  Least favorite?
Writing a synopsis is the worst torture possible, other than maybe having a root canal. Once I get past the middle of the book I’m writing I can hardly type fast enough to keep up with my brain. That’s awesome!

What is one of the most interesting things you’ve discovered in your research? 
Oh, my. I love it all. Everything interests me at one time or another. The research I did on American Indians – yes, Native Americans – taught me so much I kept stopping to marvel. I even got fan mail from other tribes after that first historical, FRONTIER COURTSHIP, was published. However, because I get so tied up in insisting that every detail be accurate, I can’t write history fast enough to suit my publisher. So I’ve been asked to focus on contemporary suspense – which is really my favorite.

Please tell us about your latest release.

SMALL TOWN JUSTICE is set in my fictional Ozark town of Serenity, Arkansas. I love to revisit that place and its quirky citizens. This time, it’s about a cold case from Jamie Lynn Henderson’s childhood that changed her life forever. Now that she is back, trying to find the truth, she is in mortal danger and the only person who can really help doesn’t believe her. Yet.

Who or what inspired this special story? 

I have a soft spot in my heart for kids who are caught in the middle of adult dramas. I worked in an elementary school for many years and some of those true stories broke my heart. It’s nice to be able to right a few imaginary wrongs, even if it’s only on paper.

Is there anything else you would like to share?  What will you be working on next? 

I’m currently working on 3 things at once, all Love Inspired Suspense. The first of the next books is DANGEROUS LEGACY, also set in the Arkansas Ozarks and coming in July 2016. Then there is SEARCH AND RESCUE, Rookie K-9 Unit series, book #6 in August. Readers will want to catch the earlier ones, beginning with Terri Reed’s book #1 in March 2016. Then, to wrap up that year, I’m doing a Christmas novella with Lenora Worth. She’s a real joy to work with and a great friend.

Can you tell us something about yourself that few people may know?
Hah! Since I started using Facebook as a blog there isn’t a lot that’s unknown. is personal, up to a point. Looking back, everyone will see how much I’ve learned and how far I’ve come in the past couple of years. I can actually cook, now! Without having to hold my nose to eat it. J

What is your most treasured possession?
Memories. Without a doubt. After that, my constant, loving companions who happen to have four legs and fur.

If you had to leave your house suddenly, what is one thing you would grab, other than family and pets?
The flash drive with my mss on it! There is no way I could ever bring myself to start creating all that again. Photos are safe in digital storage or I’d take those, too.

Thank you so much!  Where can readers find out more about you and your books?
Pretty much everywhere. I have an Amazon author page,  my website, Facebook times 2,,  and Love which will probably have launched by the time you read this. In other words, Google me or look for Love Inspired. You can’t miss!

Thanks for this opportunity,  Val

Please leave a comment for 1 of 3 print books given (good in US and Canada)

Thursday, January 28, 2016


This week, Mary asks: “Hi, my question is, do you write according to book trends or follow your heart and interests?”

For submitting her question, Mary won a $10.00 gift card from Amazon!  
If you have a question for us, leave it below. You might be our next winner! You could win a book by one of today’s top suspense/mystery writers – or a gift certificate to Amazon! (Questions submitted without contact information won’t be considered.)


I write in the genre of medical suspense because I have the expertise and interest to do just that, so yes, my writing is affected by those factors. Further, given the slowness of the traditional publishing process, what is popular now may not be in a year when my completed manuscript (which took me eight months or so to write) becomes a book. That time is shortened for self-publication, which is another question entirely. Meanwhile, my suggestion for authors is not to chase the curve of book trends. You’ll never catch up.

Richard Mabry

I write what I enjoy. That might or might not fall into trends, but if it ever does, it's only by chance.

Marji Laine

I write what I want to write and what my readers want to read. I tried writing to a trend once, and it was a lot of work. I want my writing to be fun. If I'm enjoying writing the story, then my readers will enjoy reading it.

 Cynthia Hickey

I started out writing mainstream mystery. My idea (and I stress thewords my idea) was to reach out to an unsaved world through fiction. I sold some books to small publishers, but after finally telling God I’d write whatever He wanted me to write, I got my first major contract – for inspirational cozy mystery. After a while, I became convinced that God wanted me to stay on the inspirational side of the industry. My mysteries turned into Mennonite-themed suspense. (Don’t ask. I still don’t quite understand that! LOL!) Now I’m starting to write inspirational law enforcement-themed suspense. My publisher allows me to work my mystery side into my stories, so I’m exactly where I want to be. I still love pure mystery, but suspense allows me to tackle tougher subjects like child abuse, etc.

If I’d dug my heels in and had been determined to stick with mainstream mystery, I would have missed out on a lot! Giving your writing to God can be exciting!

Nancy Mehl

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Authors get slammed for a lot of different things, but if you want to really send readers over the edge, get your facts wrong! Describe their hometown incorrectly, misspell something, mess up a historical reference, and watch out! When the attacks come, and they will, all you can do it tuck your tail between your legs and run away! (After many apologies.)

Of course some complaints are valid, and we should take those seriously. However, some are not. Here are examples of two criticisms I received over particular books:

One comment had to do with my book, Blessings in Disguise. Set in the real town of Sugarcreek, Ohio, one lovely lady wrote a letter stating how much she hated my book because, “Nothing like that ever happened here.” Sigh. Writers may use your location, but unless you live in a place like New York City (where everything has happened!), we may have to create plots that don’t necessarily reflect reality. There’s a difference between fiction and a historical reference book.

Here’s another comment I received by a reader of one of my Road to Kingdom books who felt I didn’t know anything about Mennonites: “I once visited a Mennonite church and it wasn’t anything like this!” Uh, yeah. It wasn’t Conservative Mennonite, dear.

These comments may seem silly, but almost every author with some sales behind them have gotten similar complaints. So…what kind of research is important  when writing a book? What should we be careful about?

Names: When bringing up real people, be sure to get the names right. Nothing irritates people more than seeing their name or the name of an historic figure misspelled.

Places: If you’re writing about a real place, be sure to portray it as accurately as possible. With Blessings in Disguise, I had view online pictures in an attempt to accurately portray the town since I’d never been there. A trip to Sugarcreek showed me where I was right – and where I was wrong. Thankfully, I didn’t make any huge mistakes. When I decided to include actual places, like the Honey Bee Café, first I contacted the owner, asking her questions about the café and the people who worked there. She was happy to help me. Of course, when I visited, it really gave me a better picture of the café, even allowing me to put the Honey Bee in the middle of a mystery in book 15. I’m writing book twenty-two now and am in correspondence with the curator of a museum. I’ll work with her to get my facts straight. No place for guesses when it comes to real locations!

History: This can mean world history, U.S. history, or even the history of a town. History is set and can’t be changed. You can make up things that happened in the past, but you can’t change events set in stone. For example, if your character served in World War II, make sure you know enough about that war to write about it. And if you mention when a certain building in a town was constructed, make sure you have your facts straight. Even though most of my books contain towns created out of my imagination, I always set them near real cities. I’m careful to research those cities and towns so that I don’t misrepresent them in some way. 

Science / Medical: Using poison? You’d better know what you’re doing. Research poisons, don’t just make something up. I have a reference book of poisons. Has your main character had an accident? Is he ill? Make sure you describe his injuries or sicknesses accurately. I have a doctor friend in Wichita who answers my questions in these situations. 

Disabilities: Please, please, please handle these situations with respect. Don’t throw in a disability as a plot device not knowing anything about the condition. I included a character with Down Syndrome in one of my books. I researched the condition carefully. Thank God I did. I received a letter from a reader whose uncle had Down Syndrome, and his name was the same as my character’s! My portrayal meant a lot to this kind lady who even sent me a picture of her uncle Drew. I treasure that photo. 

Practices and beliefs: My reviewer friend might not have understood Conservative Mennonites, but it’s important for writers to present different groups with accuracy, whether certain denominations or certain people. Good Amish writers do a lot of research so they don’t represent these gentle people incorrectly. 

Professions: Be careful when you step into a world you’re not used to. For example, my new series, Defenders of Justice, will debut toward the end of this year. I have characters that are U.S. Marshals and another character who is a police officer. I have a retired U.S. Marshal and an active officer as consultants. I wouldn’t want to misrepresent the brave men and women who defend us. Getting it right in these situations can bleed into all kinds of details. Firearms, procedures, and even personal feelings. We all know law enforcement has been under fire lately. I wanted to explore the effects of recent events in the lives of LEOs. (Law enforcement officers.) Even though I could guess, I’d rather hear it directly from those who live it every day. They can certainly tell me more about their personal experiences than I can glean from my imagination.

I’ve tried to name several areas where research is important when writing a book. Can you think of anything else? Have you ever lost interest in a book because the facts were wrong? Leave me a comment and share your experiences. I’ll give away a copy of my upcoming book, FATAL FROST, from my Defenders of Justice series. You’ll have to do two other things to win. Leave me your contact info (your entry won’t be considered if you forget this!). You’ll also have to have a lot of patience since the book won’t be out until November!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Hot new inspy suspense!

Monday, January 25, 2016


Here comes another great week on the Suspense Sisters!

From Marji:

Don’t forget to check out our book review page. Find out what great titles are available in inspirational suspense and mystery!

On Tuesday, Dana Mentink will share What's Hot in Inspirational Suspense and Mystery! 

On Wednesday we’ll hear from Suspense Sister Nancy Mehl!  

Thursday we'll answer a question from one of you! This week, Mary asks: “Hi, my question is, do you write according to book trends or follow your heart and interests?”

Mary’s won a $10.00 gift card from Amazon!  

If you have a question for us, leave it below. You might be our next winner! You could win a book by one of today’s top suspense/mystery writers – or a gift certificate to Amazon! (Questions submitted without contact information won’t be considered.)

Friday, Cynthia Hickey interviews Valerie Hansen! Don’t miss this interview!     

That’s what’s happening this week on the Suspense Sisters! Don’t miss a single day. Sign up through email so you’ll get updates in the exciting world of inspirational suspense and mystery!

 The Suspense Sisters! We love books!