Dani Pettrey is a wife, mom, grandma, and the author of Cold Shot, the first book in the Chesapeake Valor series, and the Alaskan Courage romantic suspense series, which includes her bestselling novels Submerged, Shattered, Stranded, Silenced, and Sabotaged. Her books have been honored with the Daphne du Maurier award, two HOLT Medallions, a Christy Award nomination, two National Readers’ Choice Awards, the Gail Wilson Award of Excellence, and Christian Retailing’s Best Award, among others.
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, where they enjoy time with their two daughters, a son-in-law, and a super adorable grandson.
Connect with Dani...
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/DaniPettrey Purchase: Cold Shot
Get to know Dani Pettrey
You and Writing
Tell us a little bit about yourself and writing...
Why do you write?
I have always loved the power of story and spent my growing up years daydreaming, reading mysteries and watching Scooby Doo. I took journalism, English, and creative writing classes in college, but never really truly thought I’d be able to write a novel one day. I got married and had two beautiful daughters and set my love of story on the back burner. Oddly enough God used a bout with a serious illness to bring it back to the forefront. Following my illness I had a long recuperation period and I spent my down time reading. Being immersed in stories brought back my passion for storytelling. I started slowly as I was a homeschooling mom, but during my free moments I started studying the writing craft. I joined writing organizations, attended workshops and read a ton. After a year or so of simply studying the craft I attempted my first manuscript, and then another and another. Seven years later, God graciously allowed me the opportunity to meet my editor Dave Long at an ACFW conference and Bethany House purchased my debut novel Submerged.
During my writing years God also blessed me with an amazing mentor—Dee Henderson. There are no words to describe the elation I felt when she offered to take me under her wing. She was and still is my favorite Christian fiction author. Her stories have impacted my faith and life greatly. It has been an absolute honor working with her and an even greater honor to call her friend. She has by far had the greatest influence on my writing life. Not only is she an amazing writer, but a lovely person. Having someone I respect so deeply to bounce ideas off of, to talk me off a ledge, and to provide thoughtful feedback is an abundant blessing.
Emilie here: I am a Scooby Doo fan too! And isn't it amazing how the Lord uses events--sometimes the traumatic ones--to show us a new direction He wants us to take. And how amazing that you and Dee are BWF (haha, this is a term my friend Natalie came up with meaning "Best Writing Friends"). I fell in love with Dee's writing with her Uncommon Heros series!
Tell us a little bit about your book...
Did you get to do any fun research for the book? Researching the Chesapeake Valor series has been an absolute blast. In some ways it’s like seeing my state for the first time. When you live somewhere you get comfortable going to the same places and you don’t always visit the tourist spots, but those spots are typically what make your state unique. I’ve taken time to visit all the places I’d bring a friend who’d never visited the area before. I’ve learned things on private tours I didn’t even know about my state. For example, did you know that Camden Yards warehouse (where the Orioles play) is the longest, continuous building east of the Mississippi? If you stood it on end, it’s only five stories short of the Empire State building. I’ve also taken time to revisit my favorite spots and places pivotal to the stories. For Cold Shot I visited Gettysburg, Ocean City, Baltimore, Fells Point, and St. Michael’s. Having a photographer hubby comes in very handy. I have lots of photos and video clips I’ll be sharing for readers to get a great feel for the area Griffin and Finley live in.
Emilie here: Oh, that is amazing! The same thing motivated me for my current work in progress Thorn. I mean, how could I live in DC and no be inspired???
What made you choose the setting for the book?
I chose the Chesapeake Bay region for the setting because it’s where I live. I thought it would awesome to get to share my backyard with readers. I live in such a diverse area. We head south a half an hour and we’re in Baltimore, a half hour north and we’re in farm land, a few hours east and we’re at the beach, and a few hours west and we’re in the mountains. It’s such a small yet diverse and beautiful state. I love living in Maryland and along the Chesapeake Bay in particular. I’m super excited to be able to share the state I love with readers. To show them the places I enjoy grabbing a cup of coffee and where we go for a nice night out on the town. I view it as inviting readers to join my characters and me for a hometown visit.
Emilie here: *Waves* from DC :D
What's the most random thing you had to Google for the story?
How recently a body or remains have been found at Gettysburg National Military Park. You’d be surprised.
What’s your favorite snack while writing?
That’s an easy one. Coffee and chocolate. My absolute favorite is coconut milk hot chocolate with a shot of espresso and a midnight swirl Godiva dark chocolate. Yum! Needless to say most days it’s just a regular cup of Joe and a few dark M&M’s.
Emilie here: Um, now I need to go make hot chocolate...
Let’s talk about your writing life...
What’s your encouragement for younger writers aside from “keep writing”?
What really helped me was reading other authors. I read a ton of novels across multiple genres. I studied how the authors introduced characters, how they described the setting, and I took time to figure why I liked certain characters and not others. It helped teach me the craft in a very, hand’s on and visual way. Then I took that knowledge and started praying for God to guide me in my writing, to help me write my own unique stories and find my voice He created for me to shine through. Another thing that really helped me was learning that not every way was the right way for me. I heard numerous authors speak and I had to learn to take what resonated with me and was helpful and apply it, and then leave the rest. We all write differently. God made us all unique. There is no one ‘right’ way. (tweet this) If the idea of plotting gives you hives like me, don’t do it. If writing from the seat of your pants freaks you out, take time to outline. Find what works for you.
Emilie here: Oh my - just YES to this whole paragraph. I've found it's easy to find a number of influences (whether people, books, speakers etc.) but I need to be uniquely Emilie. Anything else will be fake and forced.
How many rejection letters did you get before being accepted by a publisher?
I don’t have an exact number, but I’d guess at least thirty-five, possibly as many as fifty. Writing is not for the faint of heart. (tweet this)
What does your writing process look like?
A hot mess. Seriously. I don’t plan. I have to sit and just let ideas percolate a lot and then I sit down and just see what flows. I write all my first drafts long hand (yes, I’m crazy), then I type them all in, editing as I go, and then I rewrite like a gazillion times. I have sticky notes all over the place with ideas and lines of dialogue, and pictures posted throughout my office. I’m such a visual person. I need to physically see my characters. But it’s the process that works for me. Not smoothly mind you, but it works. Or at least it’s allowed me to write six novels in the past four years. Pretty sure all the credit goes to God :)
Emilie here: My face was like this :O By hand!? Wow! That's awesome but proof again that everyone's process is unique!
Do you listen to music when you write? If so, have a favorite artist or playlist to share?
I’ve found I can’t listen to music while I write my first draft, but I can while I revise. I created soundtracks for all my novels and listen to that books soundtrack while I’m revising it. Cold Shot’s soundtrack includes songs by Phillip Phillips (what were his parents thinking?), The Fray, Phillips, Craig and Dean, Third Day, Hillsong United, etc. As you can see a wide variety.
How do you grow in your writing craft?
I still read a lot, I attended writing conferences and workshops, I get feedback from authors I admire, I adore my editors and learn so much from them, and most importantly I pray a lot. It’s all in God’s hands.
Emilie here: Such a great reminder to pray! I've been convicted of that regarding my own writing too and it's so refreshing know that we are not alone in this!
What’s your most memorable (good or bad) Valentines date or gift? My husband and I have spent two Valentine’s weekends in the hospital. Definitely the most memorable. We’ve decided we don’t do Februaries well.
What are you currently reading?
I’m reading Names Above All Names by Alistair Begg and Sinclair Ferguson. Great book/study.
Thanks so much for hosting me, Emilie.
Emilie here: Thank YOU for being on the blog today! I really enjoyed your interview and I'm sure my readers will too! And thank you for offering another copy of Cold Shot to my readers. Hey, if you didn't win last time, maybe you will this time ;-)
I had Candace Calvert on the blog last week talking about her new release Step by Step and we've got a winner!!!
Kelli Jo Calvert
Congrats Kelli! Contact me using the "Contact the Thinker" form to the right of the blog :)