Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Heart Most Certain by Melissa Jagears | New Novel News

A Heart Most Certain
by Melissa Jagears

Published: Augusts 2, 2016
Publisher: Bethany House
Purchase:  A Heart Most Certain

Lydia King knows what it's like to be in need, so when she joins the Teaville Moral Society, she genuinely hopes to help the town's poor. But with her father's debts increasing by the day and her mother growing sicker by the week, she wonders how long it will be until she ends up in the poor house herself. Her best chance at a financially secure future is to impress the politician courting her, and it certainly doesn't hurt that the moral society's president is her suitor's mother. Her first task as a moral society member—to obtain a donation from Nicholas Lowe, the wealthiest man in town—should be easy . . . except he flat-out refuses.

Despite appearances, Nicholas wants to help others but prefers to do it his own way, keeping his charity private. When Lydia proves persistent, they agree to a bargain, though Nicholas has a few surprises up his sleeve. Neither foresee the harrowing complications that will arise from working together. When town secrets are brought to light, this unlikely pair must decide where their beliefs—and hearts—truly align.

Get to know Melissa...

What are the names of your pets? If you don't have any, what would you name your pets?
We have two animals, a cat and a dog. The cat is my daughter’s that she got when she was a toddler. He’s a yellow tabby and she named him Sunflower. Since that’s a rather feminine name, we call him Sonny. The dog is a stray, but he didn’t eat our chickens, so we kept him. Our daughter named him Mickey. Since we don’t have television, and she’d never seen Mickey Mouse before, I have no idea where she got the name, but thankfully it was more masculine than Sunflower.

Do you have a nickname? Care to share?
My nickname is Izzy Bee. When I was in junior high, a friend of a friend called me that and I turned around and asked her if that’s what she was calling me, and she said, “Yes, you’ve been answering to it for weeks now.” And I said, “Well that’s not my name.” But evidently I had indeed been answering to it for weeks because plenty of people were already calling me that, and it stuck. You can tell who my older friends are, because they call me Izzy. It’s very odd to hear my husband introduce me to people as Melissa.

Which of your characters do you secretly have a crush on?
Out of all my heroes so far, Nicholas in my new release A Heart Most Certain is definitely my crush. He’s the richest hero I’ve written, has a mansion, is very well read, has a huge library, compassionate, fastidious, tall, dark, and handsome with a great smile. Though he’s a bit tough on the outside, he’s soft on the inside. He’s like a combination of Mr. Darcy and the Beast from Beauty and the Beast. What’s not to love?

 Connect with Melissa: http://melissajagears.com/

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Dana Mentink {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about Dana...

Dana Mentink is a two-time American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award winner. She is the author of over thirty titles in the suspense and lighthearted romance genres. Her suspense novel, Betrayal in the Badlands, earned a Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award and she has also been honored with a Holt Medallion Award. She is pleased to write for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense, Harlequin Heartwarming and Harvest House. Besides writing, she busies herself teaching third grade. Mostly, she loves to be home with Papa Bear, Yogi, Boo Boo, a nutty terrier, a chubby box turtle and a feisty parakeet.

Connect with Dana...

Website: www.danamentink.com  
Blog: https://dmentink.wordpress.com 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dana.mentink
Twitter: @danamentink
You Tube Channel: https://youtu.be/GW6d8JKY_-I
Purchase: Fetching Sweetness

Get to know Dana...

You and Writing

Hey, all! Thanks for chatting with me today! Writing has always been my passion and it invades all aspects of my life, it seems. In addition to writing books, I teach third grade so I spend a good deal of time discussing the nuts and bolts of writing with my young peeps! Words have power, I tell them, so use them wisely. I love writing because it is a way to reach across miles and sometimes continents and touch other people. My aim it to inspire and encourage folks that they are deeply loved by God, no matter what their life circumstances or the wacky troubles we all seem to get into.

Your Writing

This three book dog series for Harvest House has been a complete joy for me to write. I'm naturally quirky and comic and is there any more joyful protagonist to write about than an exuberant dog of dubious ancestry? There definitely were some low points along the way, however. During the period I wrote this series, we lost our beloved elderly Nala. She was absolutely the most neurotic German Shepherd in the universe, petrified of everything from flies to brooms, and we loved her profoundly. I grieved as I wrote the first book, Sit, Stay, Love, and it took a long time for me to be ready to adopt another dog. Fetching Sweetness kind of bridged the gap for me, reminding me of the mischief, mayhem and merriment that a dog can add to our lives. That led us to adopt Junie, twelve pounds of trouble in a fur coat! Fetching Sweetness explores an issue that is on my mind often. How do I know if I'm following God, or my own desires? It's the central question the hero movie mogul Rhett Hastings asks himself as he tries to right a terrible wrong from his past. The heroine, Literary agent Stephanie Pink, embarks on her own zany mission to find an author's missing dog and in the process she will wrestle with her God-given purpose as well.


People ask me quite frequently if I have any advice for beginning writers. Since I'm all about encouragement, here are my top three tips for those looking to bust into this nutty world of fiction writing.

1. Read, read and read. You cannot write well if you do not read. Read the genres you love, and those you don't. Read for pleasure and then read to look at the author's craft. It's crucial.

2. If you want to make writing your business, treat it like one. Set a schedule and word count and keep to it. If you treat it like a hobby, it's going to remain a hobby, and that's perfectly okay, but if you want it to be your life's work, you have to start thinking of yourself as a writer and writers are working pretty much all the time on one story or another. Writing for a living is basically running your own small business.

3. Stick to it. Writing is a discouraging endeavor. The thing that keeps you going is that voice inside, that God prompting that makes you put your head down and plow on, in spite of bad reviews, rejection letters and mean Twitter comments. I've gotten plenty of all of these, believe me. Be mad for a day, rant and rave, grumble to your hubby, friends, relatives and fellow writers, drown your sorrows in a gallon of fudge ripple ice cream. Then put it behind you and keep going.


Of course, writing is a craft which requires constant improvement, so I attend writing conferences when I can. It's tricky with my teaching schedule, but the best thing about conferences is the networking. I love meeting other authors because it's such a solitary business and it gets me out of my cave. At conferences, all the writers emerge, blinking, from their dark caves and actually attempt to make conversation. It's hilarious and lots of fun.

What? What's that you say? August is National Lemon Meringue Pie Day???? Stop the presses. I am a sweets fanatic and pie is way at the top of my list. Really, I never met a dessert I didn't like, except maybe marzipan. If you want to know my naughty junk food writing snack, you'll have to go to my YouTube channel to find out. I refuse to put it in writing in case any of my third graders or their parents may stumble across it. If they are reading this blog...I love BROCCOLI FLORETS. There. That should be a safe answer for an adult role model!

Thank you so much for having me, Emilie! You are so sweet to include me! God bless!

Enter to win a copy of Fetching Sweetness below!
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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

ACFW Bound | 2016

It’s time! It’s time! Time to leave for Nashville TOMORROW! I am SO excited (if you couldn’t already tell) to be heading off to the ACFW Conference. If you don’t know what it is, check out their website for more details.

What I'm looking forward to…

Writer fellowship 
This is by far the best part of ACFW – connecting (and reconnecting) with fellow writers! Okay, and also fan-girling over my favorite authors! Nothing beats talking about plots, appointments, books, and the unique struggles and joys of being a writer with other writers. Plus my dear friend Steffani (who’s like a sister to me) is coming for the first time this year!

It is easy to get “down” when you find yourself writing alone. Coming together for a conference like ACFW’s is fantastic because we remember that we are not alone. I always walk away from a conference like this bursting with new ideas for books and new inspiration and excitement to meet my goals!

Learning & Refreshment
No matter if you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, a conference like ACFW is perfect for learning new things about your craft as well as coming away refreshed. There is something magical about staying up late talking about fictional people with your writing friends only to wake up the next day itching to write!

Headshot sessions
I have over 40 headshot sessions schedule for this conference and I am beyond excited! I love all aspects of the conference, but my sessions hold a special place in my heart because, for 15 minutes out of the day, I get to connect with other writers and make them smile (well, that’s the hope hehe).

Um, ACFW is just crazy fun! ‘Nuff said.

How you can pray…

I leave tomorrow to drive to Nashville from Dayton so prayers for safety would be great!

Pitches & Nerves
I’ll be meeting with editors to pitch a book series and I am just a tad bit okay a lot nervous! Prayers for peace at the time of the appointment as well as clarity of thought so I can actually explain what my series is about would be great :D

Genuine connections
I see the ACFW Conference not only as a “means to an end” (like a book contract) but as a means to establishing genuine relationships with fellow writers. It’s easy to get caught up in the business side of things sometimes but, to me, ACFW is more about building true friendships than anything else. I’d love prayer for “Divine Appointments” from the Lord and the courage to step up and be outgoing when needed.

Follow my adventures: 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/emiliehendryx/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/createexploreread
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/eacreativephoto
Newsletter: Sign up HERE to receive my follow up conference newsletter and a chance to win a $10 Amazon giftcard ;-)

If you’re attending the conference what are some things you’re looking forward to? If you are a reader, what author would you “dream” of meeting?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Christy Barritt & Christine Meunier | New Novel News

by Christy Barritt

Published: August 9, 2016
From: Waterfall Press
Purchase: Disillusioned

Nikki Wright is desperate to help her brother, Bobby, who hasn’t been the same since escaping from a detainment camp run by terrorists in Colombia. Rumor has it that he betrayed his navy brothers and conspired with those who held him hostage, and both the press and the military are hounding him for answers. All Nikki wants is to shield her brother so he has time to recover and heal. But soon they realize the paparazzi are the least of their worries. When a group of men try to abduct Nikki and her brother, Bobby insists that Kade Wheaton, another former SEAL, can keep them out of harm’s way. But can Nikki trust the man who broke her heart?

Get to know Christy...

If your book became a movie, who would you cast for your main characters? 
Jessica Alba as Nikki White and Chris Evans as Kade Wheaton.

Who is your favorite secondary character?
One of the characters in this book is named Marti. She was also in Dubiosity. She runs a ministry for migrant workers on the Eastern Shore of Virginia and is a conspiracy theory nut. I really like writing about her!

What are the names of your pets?
I have three dogs: a standard sized Australian shepherd named Rusty, a mini-Aussie named Sparky, and a Maltese named Molly.

Connect with Christy: http://www.christybarritt.com/ 

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B and B
by Christine Meunier

Published: August 17, 2016
From: Self-Published
Purchase: B and B

Things are changing…

Ben likes his life at Happy Trails. As a trail guide on a property in Australia he doesn’t have to work hard to make friends. All he needs to do is make sure his clients are safe on their horses and have an enjoyable ride.

Ben can manage that. He loves that he can work with horses all day, every day. The humans are an added annoyance but he only has to deal with them in short bouts.

The new cook hired for the farm looks like she could be a complication. Ben is averse to change and he is certain her arrival means change.

Brooke knows the trial position as cook at Happy Trails is a blessing. She needs a job to support herself and her daughter – the fact that she can cook for an income is an added bonus.

If she can just avoid the interest of trail guide and jokester Jake, she’ll be fine. After all, she isn’t interested in a new male in her life. She just wants to focus on her daughter and make a future for them.

Get to know Christine...

Favorite season?
I love spring! Plenty of flowers, new growth, baby animals, sunshine and lots of time to be outdoors!

If your main characters were animals, what would they be?
Can I get even more specific than just saying horses? Brooke is a very sensitive character and being a redhead, I would have to say that she is chestnut in colour, but a Quarter Horse as they are a very sensible, dependable breed.

Benaiah is tall, broad and dark haired, so I’d have to say he’d be a brown or black warmblood.

What are you reading right now?
The Bible, A Promise for Ellie by Lauraine Snelling, Black Beauty by Anna Sewell and The Further Adventures of the $700 Pony by Ellen Broadhurst.

Connect with Christine: 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Heather Blanton {Writer Wednesday}

Yes...I realize it's no longer Wednesday. I figure by now you, dear readers, have come to expect the unexpected with my posts! Well, the good news is that I'm moved into my new apartment (introduction and story post coming soon!) and the even better news is that I now have Internet! Woohoo! Thus, my Writer Wednesday post was moved gently over to Thursday for this week.

Enjoy getting to know Heather...


A little bit about Heather...

Heather Blanton is the independent bestselling author of several Christian Westerns, including the Romance in the Rockies series, which has sold over 40,000 copies. Intrigued by the concept of three good sisters stranded in a lawless Colorado mining town, a few notable Hollywood producers have requested the script for her first book in that series, A Lady in Defiance. Heather’s writing is gritty and realistic. In fact, her books have been compared to AMC’s Hell on Wheels series, as well as the legendary Francine Rivers book, Redeeming Love.

A former journalist, Heather is an avid researcher and skillfully weaves truth in among the fictional story lines. She loves exploring the American West, especially ghost towns and museums. She has walked parts of the Oregon Trail, ridden horses through the Rockies, climbed to the top of Independence Rock, and even held an outlaw's note in her hand.

Connect with Heather...

Website & Blog: www.ladiesindefiance.com
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3108115.Heather_Blanton
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/heatherfreyblanton
Twitter: https://twitter.com/heatherfblanton
Purchase:  A Promise in Defiance

Get to know Heather...

You and Writing

Why do you write? 
I started writing when I was five, back in the dark ages when television consisted of three channels. To combat boredom after my favorite cartoon went off for the day, I continued the story in my head. My mom typed it up for me. I’m still mad about a few of her totally unnecessary editorial changes, but I have forgiven her.

Professionally, I went into marketing, communications, and journalism, and put writing on hold until 1999. My sister Susan passed away then from breast cancer and I started my first story, A Lady in Defiance, as a way to cope. She inspired the character of Hannah. However, my computer crashed six months into the manuscript and I lost everything. Talk about a sign from God saying “Wait.”

I started the story again in ’07 and it nearly was published by a major Christian publisher. When they rejected the project at that final, fabled “contract meeting,” I self-published it. A Lady in Defiance went on to sell over 40,000 copies to date. I guess that was what God had me waiting on: His plan.

Your Writing

Do you have a favorite character in this work? If so, why? 
Naomi is my favorite character because she’s a lot like me: a project under construction. Taming the mouth and the emotions doesn’t come easy for me, but God is patient. Naomi is farther along toward her perfection than I am.

What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with? 
There is a theme in all three of the Defiance books. In A Lady in Defiance, the theme is let go and let God. In Book 2, Hearts in Defiance, I want readers to know no matter where you go, no matter what you’ve done, no matter where you try to hide, you are not beyond God’s love. And Book 3, A Promise in Defiance, is a reminder that choices have consequences, even for the redeemed, but God gives us the strength to survive them.

We're your characters easy to pin down or did you discover them along the way as you wrote the book? 
The characters usually come to me in one scene and then I have to figure out what the story is that they’re trying to tell me. Literally, I have written every story starting from one scene. In A Lady, the whole thing started with the scene of my hero and heroine chopping wood together. With Hearts, I saw the Indian attack first. With A Promise, well, I saw one of my characters dying at the end and I had to write the entire book around that climactic, emotional scene.

What was one thing (or character) that surprised you while writing this book? 
Delilah. She is based on a wretched historical madam by the name of Mary Hastings, a woman fit for the Roman Empire she was so decadent. I wanted to really dislike Delilah, but as I wrote and told about her love for Logan, her abandonment and perceived betrayal, I found all kinds of sympathy for her. She is the one character in the book whose choices have consequences far beyond her own circle…and she’ll have to live with them. But if she allows Christ’s love to heal her wounds, she may be the person with the most awesome testimony.

What’s your favorite snack while writing? 
There’s this magical bean called coffee—elixir of the gods. A brain food. It makes me feel like a truly great writer … then the caffeine wears off.


How long did you write before you got published?
For. Ev. Er. At least it felt like forever. I acquired an agent for A Lady in Defiance in 2011. He got the book all the way to the “contract meeting” at a major Christian publisher. In the meantime, I had self-published the book with a goal of selling 200 copies for my Relay for Life team. The publisher wound up turning me down, while my book was taking off on Amazon! To date, this first book has sold over 40,000 copies.

My agent urged me to write a stand-alone sequel, but I just couldn’t do it. Readers were very specific with their reviews—they wanted more of Charles and Naomi. I prayerfully and carefully considered going Indy. It was a tough call, but I don’t have any regrets. I can say with great sincerity I write for the reader, not an editorial committee at a publisher. Personally, I think that’s why my books are so highly rated.

What’s your encouragement for younger writers aside from “keep writing”? 
We hear this a lot, but dig deeper. Is there something else that helped you? Read, read, read books in your genre and craft books. Then take what you learn in the craft books and become a mad scientist—use your knowledge to dissect, or reverse engineer, the books you read. You’ll start recognizing nifty little things like beats, character arcs, and POVs, to name a few.

Are you a Panster or Plotter? 
I am a bit of both after initially writing only by the seat of my pants. The more I outline, the more I like it. Who knew? Writing down at least your major beats is like drawing a roadmap, to quote screenwriter Zena Dell Lowe. You definitely get to your destination quicker with a little planning.

What did you learn along the path to publishing that you’d care to share as encouragement? 

I say that a person should chase his dreams but be open to a little redirection from God. He knows the plans He has for you and He doesn’t make mistakes. If you’re called to write, if the stories haunt your dreams, then write. Don’t give up until God shuts the door in your face. And remember, this may only be a pause. I took several years off from writing fiction before I came back around to writing my first novel.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, have a favorite artist or playlist to share? 

Silence. I must have complete silence (whacks the whip on desk). No noise. No interruptions. The stories play like movies in my head and sometimes I feel like the signal is pretty fuzzy (especially when my boys are riding dirt bikes outside my window). If I can’t get quiet, I try again later or answer emails.

How do you grow in your writing craft? 
I’m a very humble writer and I feel strongly that I haven’t “arrived” yet, as far as being at the top of the craft. I read, study, and dissect every story that comes across my path. This can mean spotting the formula in a romcom, recognizing the hero’s journey in a book, or guessing at a character’s arc.

How do you balance your writing life with “real” life? Any tips or tricks to share? 

There is no balance. At least for me. We’re always out of groceries, the laundry is always stacked up, and my house is always dirty. Yes, I said it. My house is dirty. No wonder I write fiction. It’s my escape.

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Have you ever attended a writer’s conference? If so, which one(s) and what were most helpful about it? 
I am a huge flag-waving, autograph-seeking fan of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. This is a fabulous event with some of the finest writers, agents, and editors in the country in attendance. It has repeatedly impacted my career and writing in very positive ways.

Apparently, August 15th is National Lemon Meringue Pie Day (who knew?). What is your favorite dessert? 
Popcorn. Think about it, popcorn is the perfect snack for those who crave food that satisfies the need for carbs and salt, and which will keep you busy longer than a bowl of cereal … and not put so many calories on your hips.

What are you currently reading? 
I just finished Francine Rivers’ The Last Sin-Eater and now have some historical non-fiction I will be tackling for a mail order bride story coming this fall!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Carrie Stuart Parks | New Novel News

When Death Draws Near
by Carrie Stuart Parks

Published: August 2, 2016
From: Thomas Nelson/HarperCollins Christian
Purchase: When Death Draws Near

Gwen Marcey takes death in stride. Until she’s faced with her own mortality.

Forensic artist Gwen Marcey is between jobs when she accepts temporary work in Pikeville, Kentucky—a small town facing big-city crime. But before Gwen can finish her first drawing of the serial rapist who is on the loose, the latest witness vanishes. Just like all the others.

Gwen suspects a connection between the rapist and the “accidental” deaths that are happening around town, but the local sheriff has little interest in her theories. When her digitally-obsessed teenage daughter joins her, Gwen turns her attention to a second assignment: going undercover in a serpent-handling church. She could get a handsome reward for uncovering illegal activity—a reward she desperately needs, as it seems her breast cancer has returned. But snakes aren’t the only ones ready to kill. Can Gwen uncover the truth—and convince anyone to believe her—before she becomes a victim herself?

In a thrilling race against time, When Death Draws Near plunges us into cold-case murders, shady politics, and a den of venomous suspects.

Get to know Carrie...

What’s one thing you must have/do in the morning?
Coffee. Gallons of coffee.

What actor/actress would play you if your life was a movie?
I’d love to say Sandra Bullock. But I’m afraid it would be Kathy Bates. That’s okay-we’re both cancer survivors. :-)

What are the names of your pets? If you don't have any, what would you name your pets?
I co-own a bunch of Great Pyrenees with my dear friend, Kerry Woods. Five of the dogs live with me, five live with her. I also have a Bull Terrier.
  • “Rogie” Champion Joker Mystery Ryder of Skeel
  • “Papa” Joker Hemingway of Skeel
  • “Winnie” Joker Always a Winnie of Skeel
  • “Gertie” Joker O’Keefe of Skeel
  • “Elsa” Sanchor Masterpiece JokerSkeel
  • “Tassie” Apex Aragon Tassie Devil of Skeel (Bully)
There are a bunch of feral cats without names :)

Carrie has been gracious enough to give away a copy of her book as well as a sketchpad and pencils for the "budding artist"! Enter below:
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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Bill Higgs {Writer Wesday}

A little bit about Bill...

Bill Higgs is a recovering academic, former broadcasting engineer, and avid storyteller. He also admits to being a nostalgic baby boomer with a keen interest in how things from the past can teach lessons for the present. He lives in Kentucky with his wife, author Liz Curtis Higgs, and their two cats. Eden Hill is his first novel.

Connect with Bill...

Website: http://www.billhiggs.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorbillhiggs
Twitter: https://twitter.com/authorbillhiggs
Purchase: Eden Hill

Get to know Bill...

You and Writing

Tell us a little bit about yourself and writing...

How did you start writing? 
While I had written academically (a doctoral dissertation) and a few technical articles (as a one-time broadcast engineer), there were stories banging around in my head. Eden Hill started as a short story, and just got out of hand.

What has kept you writing?
Over the years since I began Eden Hill, I often wondered if I would ever finish. The story became something of an addiction. I suppose I finished the book because I was deep enough into it that I wanted to know how it would end!

What or who is the biggest influence in your writing?
Probably Garrison Keillor, who mastered the art of telling deep truth through humor. His writing also taught me the power of simplicity, that life in a small town could have a huge impact on those of us who wish to uncomplicated our lives.

Why do you write?
I’ve always considered myself more a storyteller than a writer, but certain stories need to be told through the written word. And as the son of an English teacher and the husband of an author, I suppose I had little choice.

Your Writing

Let's talk about your book...

Why did you write it?
I was thinking one day about the “gas wars” of the early sixties, when service stations would undercut each other to gain a competitive edge. This usually ended up harming both businesses, and possibly causing one to fail. Success came at a price.

My grandfather worked at a local auto dealership which had a couple of gasoline pumps (rare today), and his job was to pump the gas. He became a powerful role model. He preferred to live his life simply, defining success differently.

I came to the realization that there was a story in his life and example, one that exemplified Gospel truth.

Do you have a favorite character in this work? If so, why?
Interestingly, my favorite character has become Reverend Eugene Caudill. While our protagonist Virgil T. Osgood is the central character, the good pastor undergoes as much change throughout the story. He becomes embroiled in the conflict by choice, and learns something of his inner struggles in the process.

Was there a passage of scripture you came across or used while writing it that you’d like to share?
The Parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37. If not before me in printed form, it was always in my mind.

What’s the theme? How did you come up with it?
While some have identified the central theme as the Parable of the Good Samaritan—and that’s certainly a strong thread in the novel—I was striving for something broader. Namely, where does our ambition and striving for material success come into conflict with Biblical values? (tweet this)  This is subtler, and perhaps more timely in our present culture.

What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?
For one who takes the name of Christ, being a good neighbor is not optional. It’s what we’re called to do, and we’re richer for it.

What was a challenge you faced while writing it?
Other than the challenge of time, which is always present, the biggest hurdle was getting a grip on the pervasive and compelling striving for success that our culture honors. It’s everywhere, from graduation speeches to television commercials. Get ahead, we’re told.

I often wondered while writing Eden Hill if I would be able to avoid the definition of success so often assumed by writers: sales numbers, awards, accolades, and the like. I suppose I’ll find out.

What did you learn while writing it?
Writing is at the same time both difficult and transformative. If an author takes as a premise that one can live a practical life along Biblical principles, then the writing has to follow. So does the author’s life. Can it be done? Yes, and I’m trying to get there.

Is there a funny story associated with writing the book?
As I was growing up, my parents often patronized the local Gulf service station in my hometown, which offered three grades of gasoline, tires and belts, and general service. The owner was an affable fellow who went by the name of “Poochie.” It was not until after the manuscript was completed that I learned his real first name was “Virgil.”

Another interesting thing concerns the book’s cover, which features a baby blue 1953 Chevrolet with a white visor, presumably driven by our antagonist, Cornelius Alexander. When the art director showed me the sample cover, I went wild. I’d tried to find such a photo, to no avail. When I asked where he was able to find the image, he said the car belonged to his aunt, and he’d driven over to her house and snapped the picture in her driveway.

I was so blown away by the photo, I changed the story to have Cornelius drive a ’53 instead of the ’55 so the story would agree with the cover!

Did you get to do any fun research for the book?
I think it was all fun. Having spent some time as an academic, poring over scholarly journals and arcane university publications, it was a pleasant change to research old Life, Pageant and Coronet magazines, television shows, and general culture from the 1950s and early 1960s.

We're your characters easy to pin down or did you discover them along the way as you wrote the book?
I had a vision for most of the main characters, especially Virgil, but the others tended to pick up nuances and quirks along the way. It was something like seeing an out-of-focus image; I knew, for example, that Arlie was wearing overalls and a gimmie cap, but I didn’t see the baling wire and chewing tobacco until I moved in closer.

What made you choose the setting for the book?
Arguably, the Fabulous Fifties ended in 1963 with the assassination of Kennedy. The era was, until then, an optimistic time, when we all felt as though things were getting better. We were beyond “duck and cover,” and ahead of Vietnam and “tune in, turn on, drop out.” I wanted a simpler nostalgic period for the backdrop, where the national story would not trump the local one. I suspect those who write Amish romances are striving for much the same thing, but in a contemporary setting.

What's the most random thing you had to Google for the story?
“Mark Eden bust developer.” No contest.

What was one thing (or character) that surprised you while writing this book?
I originally introduced the character of Sam Wright as more comic relief than anything else—sort of like Otis in the Andy Griffith show. He was a target for the other characters to bounce off. But in spite of his eccentricities (some would say, as Gladys did, “half blind, whole nuts”), he spoke truth. And Biblical truth can come from unlikely places.

What’s your favorite snack while writing?
Whoever invented pretzel nuggets with peanut butter inside deserves an award. Addictive.

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Let’s talk about your writing life....

How long did you write before you got published?
Part of my story is that I worked on Eden Hill for over 25 years before it finally found a home. I often joke that it was contemporary when I started, but historical by the time I finished.

What’s your encouragement for younger writers aside from “keep writing”?
At writer’s conferences or in magazines that cater to authors, we often hear or read something like “Write to Sell!” I suppose I could have taken that as a goal, but I’m not sure Eden Hill would have been better for it. Rather, make your writing a personal project. I found that my best motivation was to set my own standard high, and try to write to that.

How many rejection letters did you get before being accepted by a publisher?
I have a collection (including one from the person who was later to become my editor!). I suspect my agent has a pile as well.

Are you a Pantser or Plotter?
Pantser, definitely, although I often have some concluding goal in mind.

What does your writing process look like?
It’s ugly. Eden Hill was written in fits and spurts over a long period of time. A couple of times, I’d swear off writing for several months at a time, only to have to reread what I’d written to familiarize myself with the characters and story again. I tend to go over the story in my head before committing it to words on a page. Unlike some, I have found I can write almost anywhere, from the kitchen table to a quiet cabin in the woods somewhere.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of the writing process?
My favorite part is when a new story line or character quirk pops into my head. I love the little internal backs-and-forths in my mind, and then writing it down. The least favorite part—and I suspect many authors would agree—is the promotion and mechanics involved in publication. Sometimes I think the unpublished author may have an easier go of it.

How long did it take to publish your first book?
From its inception as a short story about 1988 to publication in 2016, twenty-eight years! From the acceptance by a publisher to its place on bookstore shelves, about eighteen months.

What did you learn along the path to publishing that you’d care to share as encouragement? Corny as it sounds, I learned to be patient (not a natural virtue for me). It also helps to be flexible, as the publishing world is changing constantly. I’ve also had several strokes of good luck along the way.

Where do you find inspiration for your story/characters?
I simply look around, and in the case of Eden Hill, drew on my memories of quirky real life characters from my past. Maybe it’s just me, but I look at a scenario, say a young man on a skateboard being pulled by a huskie (actually happened), and I want to know all the story behind it. And if I can’t find out (I couldn’t), then I make up a logical if screwball back story.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, have a favorite artist or playlist to share?
I tried this once, and found I couldn’t concentrate on anything but the music. Having once worked in radio where I was bombarded with music eight hours per day, I may have fried the part of my brain that can separate music from the little story voices in my head.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors for writing and/or publishing?
I’m convinced that Eden Hill was picked up by both my agent and publisher because it was something different, and not another prophetic-apocalyptic-end-times-thriller. Strive for that uniqueness, and your manuscript may just float to the top in the sea of “me-toos” on an editor’s or agent’s desk.

Are there any books or resources you could recommend to younger writers looking to grow in their craft?

I’m currently working through (again) the classic The Writer’s Journey, by Christopher Vogler. Also on my desk, and frequently consulted, is James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure. Two different approaches, but they play nicely together.

How do you grow in your writing craft?
I try to balance my reading between contemporary authors, and the classics (just read Moby Dick again—too much of an “info dump” for a modern reader). Still, I learn something from both. I’d also mention the place of spiritual growth for any author who writes from a perspective of faith. As one’s faith grows, so does one’s motivations and literary expression.

How do you balance your writing life with “real” life? Any tips or tricks to share?
It helps to be married to another writer, who “gets it.” As any author can attest, the demands of writing, particularly after publication is achieved, can be severe and straining on relationships. Time apart from writing must be intentional, something not easily learned. Yet we try, and we’re a happier couple (and probably better writers) for it.


Have you ever attended a writer’s conference? If so, which one(s) and what were most helpful about it?
I’ve attended the former Christian Writers Guild conferences (where I was fortunate enough to connect with my agent), as well as American Christian Fiction Writers. ACFW was extremely helpful in terms of the craft of writing. One of these days, I hope to attend the conference at Mount Hermon, which I’ve heard is extraordinary.

Apparently August 15th is National Lemon Meringue Pie Day (who knew). What is your favorite dessert?
A couple of years ago for my birthday, my daughter-in-law made me a chocolate peanut butter cake—three full layers and frosted with pure sugar heaven. Best dessert ever, bar none!

What are you currently reading?
I usually have several books going at once. I just finished The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, by Jonathan Gotschall (good material, but skeptical in terms of faith), and Walter Isaacson’s biography Steve Jobs is about half-done. I’m several chapters into Small Victories by Anne Lamott.

Emilie here:  Thank you so much for this great interview Bill! I'm excited to have you on the blog and, readers, make sure you check out his new book! Enter to win as well, but if you don't win - hop on over and pick up a copy!