Best-selling Christian historical fiction author, Jenny Knipfer, shares her books, inspiration, thoughts on life and writing, and book reviews. Purchase Jenny's books, read her blog, or listen to encouraging podcasts, highlighting the life of a writer.
It was my pleasure to recently connect with Wisconsin author, Naomi Munch. I love meeting authors, especially ones from my home state. We set up an author interview, and I read one of Naomi’s most recent books, The Black Rose. Below is my review, a bit about Naomi, and the interview.
My Review: The Black Rose
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Twin sisters, Corianne and Jesilyn Beaumont, look alike but inwardly are vastly different. Envious of her sister, Jesilyn schemes to steal the affections of Cori’s beau, Clay. With such a betrayal heavy between them, Jesi runs away.
In a northern Wisconsin town riddled with men used to rough living, broke and desperate Jesi considers selling the only thing she has left—her self-respect. But her path crosses with Paul Winter, a man of God who ministers to the local lumberjacks. He and his sister, Marie take Jesi under their wing.
Cori lets go of the man who once held her feelings. Her eyes open to a young man, Jamie, acquainted with her family. The two grow closer, and Cori begins to wonder if what her sister had meant for harm might actually turn out for good.
Will the growing friendship between Paul and Jesi bloom into something more? Will Cori set aside her bitterness toward Jesi to embrace a healthy future for herself with Jamie? Will the sisters forgive each other and be a family once more?
Christian romance and historical fiction readers will be caught up in the sisters’ saga and eagerly anticipate their final chapters. Musch strings readers along with just the right balance of tension and resolution to create a picturesque, romantic story, filled with faith and second chances.
I enjoyed reading a book set in my home state of Wisconsin, in an area I’m familiar with. I gladly recommend The Black Rose and would be happy to read more of Musch’s books.
About Naomi in her own words:
I am author/writer, Naomi Musch. I was born and raised in central Wisconsin but have made my home for many years in Wisconsin’s pristine north woods, where my husband Jeff and I live as epically as God allows near our five young adults and passel of grand-children. Amidst it, I write about imperfect people who are finding hope and faith to overcome their struggles, whether the story venue is rich in American history or along more contemporary lines.
In between my novels I’ve worked as an editor for a small press, a staff writer for an EPA award-winning newspaper, a ghost writer, and I’ve published dozens of magazine and internet articles for the encouragement of homeschooling families and young writers. I currently belong to the American Christian Fiction Writers and the Lake Superior Writers. I meet weekly with my local writers’ group the Upper St. Croix Writers. (Come join us sometime!)
Besides writing, my biggest joys are loving on my grandchildren, encouraging homeschoolers and young writers, gardening, camping, taking walks in the woods, and fellowshipping with friends. If you’re a grandparent too, you might enjoy some encouragement from my grandparenting page.
Interview with Naomi:
Which author has inspired you the most?
Oh, goodness…there have been so many. As writers, our voices are formed by a conglomeration of what we’ve read, who we are, and what we believe. I think, possibly, Bodie Thoene had the most profound effect on me in my early years as to what I’d hoped for my writing to become. I went on to be influenced by everyone from Charles Dickens and Agatha Christie to Francine Rivers, Laura Frantz, and most recently Joanne Bischof.
What first prompted you to write fiction?
I’ve been writing fiction since I was ten years old. I knew then that I wanted to be an author someday.
Why did you choose to write in the genre of Christian Historical Romance?
I’ve always leaned toward a romantic thread, however I discovered just a few years ago that most of my books would be called “historical” rather than “historical romance”. I’ve had to learn how to make the romance the main drive in the story, and even still it often isn’t. From my angle, when I’m writing, I’m being driven along by themes and plot, and then the characters come to life.
How did your publishing journey begin?
I sought traditional publishing for a long time, procrastinating when I should have submitted more aggressively, and then coming up against the need for an agent to get into bigger houses. In 2010 I decided to jump on the e-book bandwagon and submitted to a small, respectable press with only the promise of an e-book and no paperback. Times changed, and that press eventually started publishing in paperback. They published eight of my novels. When that press closed their doors eight years later, I started reissuing those books independently under the banner of Long Lake Books. Also in 2010, I wrote a novella called Heart Not Taken as part of an online challenge and because I needed something I could finish and gain closure on while I worked on my longer work. When I was through, I really liked the story and submitted it to Black Lyon Publishing and they published it. Since then, I’ve published traditionally with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas/Smitten, gained an agent, signed two more contracts, and continue to explore my path as a hybrid author (someone who is both traditionally and independently published).
What advice would you give other authors seeking to publish their work?
Study the craft, and keep studying the craft, especially making sure you understand story structure. As to trends and styles, they change. Keep learning. When your book is finished and self-edited a few times, don’t rush to publication unless your story has been thoroughly edited by an experienced editor. When you start submitting, learn the rules, keep them, and be persistent. Don’t quit.
When writing, what do you find the most challenging? The most rewarding?
Beginnings are the hardest for me. Finding my way into a story and knowing that this is the hook—the place where it should start. The most rewarding is feeling that I accomplished the spiritual and emotional purposes for the book, and then hearing back from readers that they loved the story or read it a while ago and are still thinking about it.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not busy writing?
I love hanging out with my family. I have seventeen grandchildren, and we are a busy bunch! I also love gardening, camping, reading, and watching old movies.
What are you working on now?
I have several irons in the fire. I have two books releasing in 2022. One is a novel with Smitten/LPC (a sequel to my Selah and Book of the Year finalist, Mist O’er the Voyageur). The second is a novella called Not for Love in Barbour’s Lumberjacks and Ladies collection. They’re only releasing a month apart, but thankfully the editing calendar is spread out.
Meanwhile 1) my agent is shopping a 1920s Wisconsin Northwoods novel, 2) I’m editing a WWI novel, and 3) I’m about midway into a WWII home-front novel. The bummer is that I have two other story ideas I can’t wait to get into, but I have to finish these first.
What do you want readers to take away from your books?
A riveting emotional experience and a look at God’s Grace that will touch them in a deep way.
What ten adjectives would you use to describe yourself?
Tired! Lol! It seems like that’s been the case lately. Intentional Grandma, wife, friend, writer, homeschool advocate, content, outdoorsy, purposeful, and opinionated (she says sheepishly).
Here’s where you can connect with Naomi online. Newsletter subscribers get a free short story. Coming in March, subscribers will receive a free novelette as well.
My last book in the By the light of the Moon series, Harvest Moon, is on a blog tour with The Coffeepot Book Club. This is an excerpt of the blog post of what inspired me to write Harvest Moon.
“Harvest Moon came about because of a question: what is Maang-ikwe’s story? When I neared the end of writing my third book, Silver Moon, in my series, By the Light of the Moon, I felt like I needed to go back and revisit my character, Maang-ikwe, “Loon Woman”, who plays an essential role in the life of her niece, Jenay, my main character in Ruby Moon. Maang-ikwe’s story came up incomplete for me and she’s my most favorite character, so, of course, I had to tell her story.”
I’m almost ready to reveal the cover of my upcoming book, In a Grove of Maples, first in the Sheltering Trees series.
In 1897 newly married Beryl and Edward Massart travel more than one thousand miles from Quebec to farm a plot of land in Wisconsin that they bought sight-unseen. An almost magical grove of maples on their property inspires them to dream of a real home built within the grove, not the tiny log cabin they’ve come to live in.
Misunderstandings and tempers get the better of them when difficulties and troubles arise. Just months after they wed, Edward leaves pregnant Beryl in the midst of the coming winter to tend the farm and animals while he goes to be a teamster at a northern Wisconsin logging camp.
Will Beryl and Edward walk into the future together to build their house of dreams in the grove of maples, or will their plans topple like a house of sticks when the winds of misunderstanding and disaster strike?
I’ve already had a lot of interest and am looking forward to getting the start of this series into the hands of readers. If you like to read and review books, I am offering the book to my newsletter subscribers and to those in my Facebook group. Visit my JOIN MY AUTHOR TEAMpage to subscribe or join the group.
Today, I am very happy to featureNew York Times Bestselling author, Lauren Willig. I read the three books pictured above and enjoyed them immensely. Last year, Lauren saw one of my pictures and reviews of her books that I had posted on Instagram, and we connected. I was thrilled when Lauren agreed to do an interview with me for my blog.
My Review of Lauren’s latest book, All the Ways We Said Goodbye, that she co-wrote with Karen White and Beatriz Williams
Rating: 5 out of 5.
1914: The start of WWI positions Aurelie, French heiress and holder of a national relic, to spy for the resistance, leaking out bits of information she overhears from the German officers who have acquisitioned her family’s castle. With her mother at the Ritz in Paris and her father trying to keep his estate afloat, Aurelie’s ties to her parents waver. Eventually, her heart leads Aurelie down a much different path than she imaged—straight into the arms of German officer, Max von Sternburg.
1942: Marguerite “Daisy” Villon delivers much more than books to her grandmother at the Ritz. Sickened by her husband’s involvement in rounding up and shipping out Paris’s Jewish population, Daisy befriends forger and spy, Legrand. In a secret section of a local bookshop, they collaborate for the underground resistance to provide Parisian Jews with forged identity papers and passports. However, Daisy cannot untangle her heart from Legrand’s, endangering them both and all whom she holds dear.
1964: With the death of her husband recently behind her, Barbara “Babs” Langford goes in search of her suspicions—that her husband had been in love with a spy of renown, La Fleur, whom he met in Paris in the 1940’s. Babs’s search for the legendary spy coincides with lawyer, Andrew “Drew” Bodoin’s. Through the romantic atmosphere of Paris and a little help from a woman Babs meets at the Ritz, Drew and Babs form much more than an investigative alliance.
Is there a future of Aurelie and Max? Can Daisy and Legrand keep up their cover and their romance, while diverting watching eyes? Will Babs set aside her past bonds to embrace Drew, who loves her unapologetically and unconditionally?
Which of the three women, Aurelie, Daisy, and Babs—whose lives have revolved or evolved through the doors of the Ritz—will say a permanent goodbye to the love of their lives?
Readers of historical fiction, historical romance, and women’s fiction will be drawn into the stories of Aurelie, Daisy, and Babs, and find them sparkling and intriguing slices of drama that beautifully tie together to form a charming, cohesive novel.
What was your favorite book as a child? What is your favorite novel as an adult?
As a child, I was captivated by E.L. Konigsburg’s A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver, a retelling of the life of Eleanor of Aquitaine by her closest companions as they all sat around on clouds waiting to see if there were finally enough lawyers in heaven to argue Henry II’s way in (I know, I know, it sounds weird—but it was hilarious and fabulous.) I immediately wrote a sequel from the point of view of Eleanor’s favorite horse, and thus my career as a historical fiction writer began.
As an adult, I have a revolving shelf of favorites, which vary wildly, from Robin McKinley’s fantasy novels to Angela Thirkell’s 1930s British social satire to Georgette Heyer’s Regency ballrooms. But if I had to pick just one, it might be Dorothy Sayers’s Gaudy Night, the third of her Harriet Vane and Peter Wimsey mysteries, in which Harriet returns to her Oxford college as an adult and has to grapple with the issue of whether one can have both a mind and a heart.
Who is your greatest inspiration?
Elizabeth Peters, aka Barbara Michaels, who went on writing, in multiple genres, under multiple names, well into her nineties. I only hope I’m half so prolific!
When did you start writing fiction?
When I was six, I announced that I was going to be a writer when I grew up. Being rather stubborn, I stuck with it, and produced scores of manuscripts all through my pre-teens and teens and so on. My first book came out when I was twenty-six, a full twenty years later.
What set you on the path to publishing?
I got very lucky. I’ve learned that in this business, it’s as much about serendipity as talent. I’d intended for my first book to be a vast, intensely researched 17th century epic, but while I was busy avoiding writing my 17th century dissertation in grad school, I wrote a madcap romp for my own entertainment, a swashbuckling spoof compounded of the British comedy Blackadder, Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel, and Julia Quinn’s Regency romances, with a modern chick lit frame story (about a disgruntled American graduate student researching her dissertation in London). It was meant purely for my own amusement and that of my close friends, but one of those close friends passed it to a friend of hers, who happened to be an agent—and the next thing I knew, I had a two book deal! (My first month at Harvard Law, but that’s a whole other story.)
If you could offer five tips to other aspiring authors, what would they be?
Ignore advice. What works for other people may not work for you. Just write and write and let yourself experiment and learn by trial and error.
The market changes on a dime. Write what you love, not what you think is selling, because what’s selling may change by the time you’re done with chapter two.
That being said…. Read. Read broadly. Read as much as you can in your own genre and beyond. Read the books everyone is talking about and the books you want to read just because you want to read to them. While I don’t believe in writing to the market, I do believe that if you’re reading the books that are hot right now, you’ll be in sync with the spirit of the times—because we are what we read.
Don’t worry about the saggy middle. All middles are saggy. Just fight your way through it and revise it later.
Don’t worry about publication until you have a finished manuscript. There’s time enough to figure out how to get it published once it’s written. In the meantime, just concentrate on making it the best book it can be—and enjoy the experience of being with your characters and making this story your own!
How does writing with two other authors work, in the books you co-wrote with Karen White and Beatriz Williams? If you each take a character, which did you write in All the Ways We Said Goodbye?
Although we live in different places, we always get together to outline the book. Over a marathon three days, we’ll develop all the characters and plot out the whole book, chapter by chapter. Only once we’ve come up with the whole story do we each “claim” a character. Then we retreat to our separate parts of the world and write round robin, each of us reading the last two chapters before we write our own, so we blend our voices and have continuity vis a vis symbolism and imagery and all that fun stuff.
As to who wrote which character… my lips are sealed! We’ve vowed we won’t tell. We didn’t originally intend to keep it a secret. We’d assumed our individual voices are so strong that it would be immediately apparent to our longtime readers. But when our editor sent the wrong edits to the wrong authors with our first book, The Forgotten Room (and then our readers started guessing wrong, too!), we realized that we’d accidentally done something different and new and created a unique “Team W” voice. So we made a pact not to tell—and now we deliberately plant red herrings in the book to try to confuse people about who might have written what!
What new books are coming up?
My next book, Band of Sisters, hits the shelves on March 2nd! It’s based on the true story of the Smith College Relief Unit, a group of determined Smith College alumnae who charged off to France at the height of World War I to bring humanitarian aid to French villagers right behind the front lines. The villagers had been left in terrible straits by the German army: wells poisoned, homes destroyed, plows broken, able-bodied men and women sent off to work camps in Germany leaving only the very old, the infirm, and the very young. The Smithies dug right in, braving the mud, German shells, French bureaucracy, and recalcitrant livestock to rebuild homes and lives, bring medical care and food, and teach children who had known only war to sing and play again. It’s an incredible story, and I am so excited to bring these forgotten American heroines back into the historical narrative!
Please share five to ten adjectives you would use to describe yourself.
And currently entirely Exhausted
Thanks so much for having me here! If anyone would like to know more about me or my books, please do come visit my website at www.laurenwillig.com, or my Facebook author page at www.facebook.com/LaurenWillig– or just come join me at the Band of Sisters launch party on March 1st! You can find all details on the Events page of my website.
Thanks, Lauren so much for taking the time to connect with me, my followers, and hopefully new readers!! Many blessings to you in your career as an author. J
For those of you who follow my indie writing and publishing journey, I would like to introduce you to my editor, Sara Litchfield. I became connected to Sara through another writing friend. She did a sample edit on the prologue of Silver Moon for me, which I thought I’d polished sufficiently, and made some adjustments that made the scene better. It’s amazing what a well-trained editing eye will catch. My gratitude goes out to her for uncovering the stumbling blocks and mistakes in my writing.
Sara has edited Silver Moon, Harvest Moon, and did another proof for me for Ruby Moon. I am happy to have her on board for my next series, Sheltering Trees. The first in that series, In a Grove of Maples, is complete and awaiting formatting and cover design.
Not just an editor, I can also call Sara a friend. She has encouraged me numerous times throughout my writing process and answered all the questions I’ve tossed her way. It has been a pleasure getting to know Sara. In addition to being a skilled editor, she is also a published author and a talented photographer. From the photos she shares on Instagram, I have discovered that she’s adventurous, likes to travel, has strong friendships, enjoys cooking, loves her Beagle, Gypsy, and has an artist eye for details.
Living in picturesque New Zealand has given her many opportunities to capture scenes of the landscape through her camera lense. Below is a sampling of a few of the stunning shots she’s taken.
Sara holds to these values in her business, Right Ink on the Wall, and I can see them in her personal life as well.
From her website:
HOPE is at the heart of everything we believe at Right Ink On The Wall. Our mission is one of encouragement. We want people to write ink on the wall of the world. And we want to help you make the right mark.
INSIGHT – We address the deeper meaning and the bigger picture. We look at connections and creativity in context.
ENGAGEMENT – We care about your work and words. We explore and engage with your concept, your story, your meaning.
ENCOURAGEMENT – We edit in a positive spirit of support. We endeavor to be precise but not prescriptive, to lift but not limit.
ATTENTION – We give close and careful consideration to detail. Craftsmanship enables clear communication.
JOY – We never want to forget the beauty and excitement of letting words out into the world. Writing ink on the wall is fun and so is playing with the words there.
I have not read this book, but it sounded good and am happy to share about it here. I have it on my “to read” list. Being a part of the Coffee Pot Book Club is a pleasure, and I have discovered so many wonderful historical fiction books through the club.
Following is information about the book, The Bridled Tongue, by Catherine Meyrick, the tour, and an excerpt from the book. Enjoy!
Alyce Bradley has few choices when her father decides it is time she marry as many refuse to see her as other than the girl she once was–unruly, outspoken and close to her grandmother, a woman suspected of witchcraft.
Thomas Granville, an ambitious privateer, inspires fierce loyalty in those close to him and hatred in those he has crossed. Beyond a large dowry, he is seeking a virtuous and dutiful wife. Neither he nor Alyce expect more from marriage than mutual courtesy and respect.
As the King of Spain launches his great armada and England braces for invasion, Alyce must confront closer dangers from both her own and Thomas’s past, threats that could not only destroy her hopes of love and happiness but her life. And Thomas is powerless to help.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue.
As Alyce rose from the table following the evening meal in the hall, her father said, ‘Come, sit with me.’
She followed him to the settle at the fireside and sat staring into the flames of the small fire crackling against the chill of the evening.
‘I said last week I would seek marriage offers for you.’
‘No!’ Alyce sprang up from the seat, her voice carrying across the room.
The servants clearing the table paused and watched.
‘If I am of no use in this household, I will find a place elsewhere.’
‘What ails you, girl?’ her father said, impatient. ‘All women want marriage.’
‘I will not marry Robert Chapman.’ Her worst days with Lady Faulconer would be as nothing compared to life with Chapman.
‘Pah!’ He scowled at her. ‘You would do well to learn humility—good women are led by their parents.’
She stared back at him—he did regard Chapman’s offer as worthy of consideration.
‘You said I would have the final say.’ Alyce’s voice creaked. ‘I would rather die than marry him.’ What evil had she done in life to earn such a living hell?
‘His is not the only offer.’ He patted the seat beside him. ‘Sit down.’
Alyce gripped her hands tight in her lap, her knuckles white. Who did he have in mind? Some aged man with grown children who would despise her?
‘Thomas Granville is interested too.’
She let go her breath. ‘Ah, his interest would be the dowry.’
‘He does want a wife. He needs someone to help his sister—her health is failing. From what I know of him, I doubt he would marry for money alone. And remember, all good marriages involve property and all parties try to make the best they can of it. Granville insists you agree to this marriage.’
‘How kind—a willing lamb to the slaughter.’ Alyce knew she was being unfair to Granville. Many men would not care. And, she suspected, he was a far better man than common rumour suggested.
‘And Robert does not care whether I am willing or not.’
‘Robin has much to recommend him. He is diligent and hardworking and knows the business well.’
‘And, in expectation of inheriting your business, the dowry would be much lower. Does the fact I despise him count for anything?’
‘Solid marriages can be built from inauspicious beginnings.’ Her father frowned. ‘What do you want, a love match?’
‘I am not a fool, Father,’ Alyce said bitterly. ‘I would like honour and respect. Even a mutual liking. And the freedom to make my own choice.’
‘Such freedom would be fine if you had plenty to choose from.’
Alyce drew a sharp breath. It was hardly her fault she had spent her most marriageable years in what amounted to exile.
‘Look,’ his voice softened. ‘Who has freedom in this life? Most of us do what we must. Love is no basis for marriage. Hard decisions need to be made. View marriage as a business decision—weigh the pros and cons. Love can grow later.’
‘So it must be Thomas Granville? He is charming, but word is he has debauched hundreds of women. The wife of such a man would have no peace of mind.’
‘God-a-mercy, girl. It is idle chatter. He is unmarried—you cannot expect a man to live like a monk.’
‘Women are expected to.’ All went to church. All heard the exhortations to continence. Nowhere did it say that these applied only to women. ‘St Paul said—’
‘I do not want to hear what St Paul said,’ her father raised his voice over hers. ‘We live in the world as it is where it is an entirely different matter for women, as you well know.’
‘And if I do not accept his offer?’
‘What future is there for you? In service for the rest of your days, a dependant in someone else’s household. When your mother and I are gone, where would your home be then?’
‘I could stay here…’ She knew she could make a useful place for herself if only given the chance.
‘Alyce. Have sense. As a single woman, even with wealth, you would be prey to every foul-tongued rumour-monger. They would have you a witch, a whore or worse.’ He leant forward, his palms spread on his thighs. ‘You must want a home of your own, children, a husband to keep you safe.’
‘In a perfect world—’
‘The present world is all we have. You have no choice but to consider these offers and decide on one.’
‘Can we not wait? You said we would take our time.’
‘And risk no one else offering?’
‘You think so little of me?’
He jerked his head. ‘If what is offered is good enough, grasp it. If you wait, hoping for a green girl’s dream, you will end up with nothing.’
Alyce, her lips pressed tight, rose from the bench.
‘Think on it tonight and tell me your decision on the morrow.’
‘My decision? It appears you have made it for me,’ Alyce said as she moved towards the stairs.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Catherine Meyrick is a writer of historical fiction with a particular love of Elizabethan England. Her stories weave fictional characters into the gaps within the historical record – tales of ordinary people who are very much men and women of their time, yet in so many ways are like us today. These are people with the same hopes and longings as we have to find both love and their own place in a troubled world.
Catherine grew up in regional Victoria, but has lived all her adult life in Melbourne, Australia. Until recently she worked as a customer service librarian at her local library. She has a Master of Arts in history and is also an obsessive genealogist. When not writing, reading and researching, Catherine enjoys gardening, the cinema and music of all sorts from early music and classical to folk and country and western and, not least of all, taking photos of the family cat to post on Instagram.
Part of the fun about being an author is meeting other authors. I recently read Desire of the Heart, by Anne Perreault. I connected with Anne and Facebook and enjoy her friendly and encouraging spirit. Following is my review, where to get her books, and an author interview. Enjoy!
Rating: 5 out of 5.
On vacation in Yellowstone National Park, Cady Jackson and her cousin, Ashely, take in the spectacular sights, but when an accident occurs, Cady gets carried away, literally, by two handsome men.
Unused to the attentions of the opposite sex, ultra-conservative Cady keeps the “hounds” at bay. However, Ashley falls quickly for Clint, a western cowboy, and is tempted to set aside her tight morals the cousins were raised with.
Ranger Grant McClintock, one of her rescuers, checks up on Cady after her accident, and Cady lowers her guard enough to get to know him. Grant, bearing a grief he thought he’d never recover from, finds his heart drawn to the feisty, natural beauty Cady exemplifies. As their hearts grow closer, family tensions and a tragic accident threatens to separate them.
Will Cady and Grant trust in God’s timing and purpose for their future? Will the opposition, guilt, and misunderstanding from Cady’s family be great enough to split Grant and Cady apart or only serve to draw them closer together?
How will Ashley react when her world tips upside down? Her story continues in book two in the Yellowstone series.
Desire of the Heart is an unusual, Godly tale of true love within boundaries and rising above the past to embrace the future. Readers of Christian Romance and Christian contemporary fiction will be pulled into the story by the growing feelings of Cady and Grant and their desire to submit their lives to God. A good smattering of adventure and suspense awaits readers as well.
Perreault has a way of making the characters and the challenges they face real and is skilled at crafting individual, unique traits for her characters, which make them stand out from the crowd.
Although I don’t usually read romance or contemporary Christian fiction, I enjoyed this sweet, well-crafted tale and can easily give it a five-star rating.
What sparked your interest in writing Christian Fiction?
That would be the desire to show God’s love and presence with us in good times as well as bad. I want to be a light when I’m writing. I’m sure that there is a ton of other genres I could explore but it wouldn’t be me. I’m a Christian. I want to lift other Christians up. I want to encourage my brothers and sisters not to give up and let this life overwhelm us. I want to show a way to God, make Him a personal God, which is what He is to me.
Which authors have inspired you the most?
I would have to start with Ronie Kendig. She’s a MASTER storycrafter. I identified with her because she had a similar background as I had. She traveled a lot as an army brat, lived in different countries with her army husband. And her fiction books on Military Working Dogs really caught my attention. She also homeschooled her kids and started writing when she was still schooling them. I identified with her characters and loved how she can write the darkness in us and still bring out hope. Because of her own courage to write, I was inspired to give it a go also.
I’ve also been encouraged by Tessa Afshar’s writings. Her beautiful words and similar background (again) drew me to her. She grew up right across the sea from where I spent my teens, a place where I consider home. She’s from Iran, and I lived in Dubai. That kind of spark an interest. She also lives one town over from where we used to live in Connecticut, although I didn’t know that at the time. I’ve met her in person and she’s a riot and has the ability to bring God into the story like nobody I had ever met. Her book, Pearl in the Sand, brought me to tears and worked a lot of things inside me. When I read her books, it’s like I know I’m going to learn something about myself and my relationship with God.
I’m so blessed to have found Tamara Leigh. She writes amazing medieval romance that even my husband enjoys. Her messages are often deep and her words… ooooo… they make me want to wrap them around me and just savor. She’s become a mentor and friend to me.
Recently, I have been studying an author named Susan May Warren. I came across her books about a year ago and couldn’t stop reading anything by her. The way she brings out the emotions in her characters without forcing it, the way she expresses them so beautifully has been an inspiration to me. I’ve been so blessed to sit at her feet and absorb so many of her pearls of wisdom through her online writing courses. It’s helped me grow so much as a writer.
My first mentor was an author named Patricia Bell, who came along side me when I was ready to chuck it all. She introduced me to all the bells and whistles and is a wonderful friend and mentor even now.
All these women are important to me as a writer. They have contributed so incredibly much to my courage to be an author as well as to my craft.
Favorite fiction book? Bible verse?
I would have to say Pearl in the Sand is my favorite. I re-read it often. My favorite Bible verse… 1 Jn 4:18 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”
Please tell us about your publishing journey and why you chose to self-publish.
It began with the prodding of the Spirit. I hadn’t planned on ever being an author. I was a wife and mother, homeschooling my kids. My life was pretty full. But I’m not one of those people to shy away from a challenge. God issued it to me when I was done writing a story for my daughter. It had taken me a long time to write it. At the time, I felt I was qualified to bring her a story that would encourage her in her walk with Christ. I had always been a storyteller.
I was sitting in our library, writing ‘The End’ when I asked, “That was fun. Now what, God.” Of course it was a rhetorical question. One does not actually expect the Lord to whisper into ones heart, “Write the story.” I was stunned, first of all. Then, I laughed. And once I had come to my senses, I plugged my ears (like that would help) and said, Nanananananana… not listening. I knew which story God wanted me to tell, write. I wasn’t going to because it was a very personal story, one that had stayed with me for 30 odd years and had been my crutch, until Christ became my Savior. I wasn’t going to go back to tell that story. Over the next couple of months, I asked the Lord to please show me that He was the one guiding my thoughts and that this journey wasn’t of my own desire. He showed me over and over again in little things. Until that neon sign was waved in front of me, I still didn’t believe it.
It was at a woman’s retreat with out old church from CT. I wasn’t even supposed to be there that year. We had no money and I knew that if God wanted me to go, He’d have to make a way. He sure did, and I went expecting to hear from Him. I did. I walked into the chapel for our first speaker, whose topic was… wait for it… Write your story. The rest is history. I took 4 years in which I wrote and wrote like a mad woman. I would average a 100K novel a month. I have over 40 books that still are waiting to be published.
My publishing story was more… difficult. It seemed that once I was ready to have someone else read my first book, Skating for Grace, the one that started it all, I approached a friend to see if it was even good enough. She immediately handed it to someone who ran a publishing company. I was NOT ready for that! But it gave me a huge jolt of adrenaline when this publisher called me to tell me that she wanted to publish this book. I was on cloud nine and floating until she told me that it would be around $4,000 to publish one book. I nearly passed out and then I was angry. I remember the conversation between me and God went something like, How dare You put me on this road and then yank it out from under me?
The Lord was not at least bit offended or surprised but gently guided me to self-publish. I loved it. He provided me with my editors, my graphic designer (my daughter, who still does my covers for me), and then I was off. And the books sat on Amazon. I rapidly published 3 books and thrummed my fingers on the desk. Nobody was reading them.
Two years ago, I was once again at the same retreat and I went for a specific reason. I had decided that the place that started it all, was going to be the place where I ended it. I was tired. I was disappointed in what I had done. I had a few readers, but nothing to write home about. God knew. When I came back home, I was flipping around the internet and came upon a group for writers. I have no idea how I got there. Suddenly, my eyes were being opened to this thing called promotion and marketing. I met my first author friend through another freak accident. She was so entirely wonderful and encouraging… I learned soooo much from her that first year.
The rest… well, that is still being written by the Lord.
Your latest series is set in YellowstoneNational Park. Why did you choose that setting?
I didn’t consciously set out to write a story set at Yellowstone. I love animals and wildlife. I’ve always been so intrigued by wolves and the way nature has put them into place. When you think of wolves, you think Yellowstone. I also wanted to write a story for my daughter, a story based on her character. I had written something for my boys, why not her? The thing about my daughter is, she loves to travel. She and her cousin took a trip alone to Scotland a few years ago. All alone.
So, I thought, hey, why not have two cousins travel to Yellowstone. I have to say that my niece is NOTHING like Ashley, Cady’s cousin from Desire of the Heart. Both my daughter and niece are these lovely young women of God, with this smile that’ll melt your heart. And that was how I wanted Cady to be. I wanted her to be sweet and a bit naive in the ways of the world. Oh, disclaimer… My husband and I are NOT like the parents in that story. Just needed to clear that up. We have taught our children to wait for the one God has chosen for them, to wait for intimacy. But NOT like the parents in that story.
So, I set this adventure Cady was on at Yellowstone because, come on… we have to meet Ranger McYum. This is the nickname one of my readers had chosen for Grant McClintoch.
What five tips would you share with other indie authors?
Don’t isolate yourself, thinking you can do it alone. Find a community of like-minded authors who will help you in your journey.
Don’t push it. You will know when it’s your time to publish. I didn’t publish my first book until I was in my 40s. It’s okay. There’s a season for everything.
Pray often and pray hard. This will be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. When you’ve published that first book, you’ll bawl like a little child because you’ve done it.
If you’re writing to honor God, if you want to encourage your brothers and sisters in Christ, know there will be attacks from the enemy. It happens to me all the time when I head to publishing. I have surrounded myself with a team that prays for me during that time. It’s helped so much!
It’s a MARATHON, not a sprint. If you expect to publish your first book and have a thousand readers, you might want to start your marketing way, way, way before the book comes out. You will gain readers… slowly.
What do you desire for readers to take away from your books?
What are you working on now?
I’m working on two things. My next book is supposed to be out in March… YIKES! I’m now going over our first edits because, remember, I’ve written this book about 4 years ago. It’s already gone through one set of edits by my amazing editor. It’s slow going because I’m still in that publishing rush of book 3 in the Yellowstone series, which released December 31. I love getting reacquainted with more beloved characters. This one, called Finding Courage, has some very intense scenes and I’ve been working through them to perfect them. There is also part of me that wants to rewrite the whole ending, so I’m working my way through to that part. It’s been fun.
I’m also working on writing a descendants of Yellowstone book. It’s very slow going since I have to focus on Finding Courage first. But there are moments when I just need to sit down and write something original or else I get a wee bit stressed. Writing is stress release for me.
What is your favorite thing to do, besides writing?
Honestly, my favorite thing to do is to write. But I know I have to have a life. I love being with my family. Our youngest and our daughter still reside with us and I love hanging out with them. I love to travel again. My parents and cousins and aunts and uncles all live in Germany still and I was slated for a visit in 2020. ‘Nough said. My passport expired in the middle of everything and I can’t get a new one, since the German Consulate was closed down form most of the year. Besides, I’m not going into Boston right now, thank you. Other than that, I love watching movies and TV shows with a good story-line and interesting characters. And I love to read, although I’ve really not been able to read as much as I like.
What ten adjectives would you use to describe yourself?
What’s an adjective? I’m kidding, I’m kidding. I know it’s something describing a person, place or thing… No? Okay, I’m just playing with you. Here we go: Outgoing Energetic Humorous Kind Happy Ambitious Competitive Helpful Warm Sensitive
Thank you so much!
Thank you, Anne for being my guest author on my blog today! Many blessings to you as you continue to bless others with your well-crafted and inspirational stories.
For those of you who don’t know me well, I thought I would introduce myself and tell you a bit about me.
I’m a wife, mom, and grandma. My sons are in their twenties, and my grandson will turn three this year in June.
I’m a follower of Jesus. My faith journey has taken many twists and turns over the years. Currently I’m in a quiet place where I’m pouring out the things I’ve learned on the page. These insights shape my characters’ thoughts and thus my stories.
Stories are important. The influences in my life have come through the people in my life but also the stories that I’ve read. Truth is often more palatable and relatable in a tale. I think that’s one of the reasons Jesus taught in parables.
In the past I worked as a children’s librarian and a floral designer. I loved both jobs, which fed my creative side and my love for books. I’ve enjoyed many creative pursuits over the years but find writing the most fulfilling. Now I am disabled and self-employed. I’ve taken up the pen, or the tablet, I should say, since traditional writing and typing is very difficult for me.
Undertaking this writing/author journey as an indie author scared me, but I forged ahead anyway. A friend sent me a quote a while ago by Dr. Susan David that spoke to me—“Courage is not an absence of fear. Courage is fear walking.” This author journey has been more challenging than I thought it would be, but I’ve had lots of encouragement along the way from friends and family and also new friends and authors, who I’ve met on social media.
Why I write:
The words are in me. I’ve written since I was a child and kept journals for years, but it wasn’t until some hard patches in life hit that I found how necessary and healing writing was. When at my worst physically and I could not hold a pen due to my MS or work on a computer or tablet because of headaches, my heart nearly broke. I felt like I was going to explode if I couldn’t get my thoughts out via some avenue. Thankfully, my health improved enough that I could keep a diary on my iPad. Being able to write helps me manage the emotional process of living with multiple sclerosis and also allows me the freedom to create stories. I’ve written seven novels so far and one novella, four of which are published with three more books planned for this year and God willing, three more for next year.
What I do when I’m not writing:
Read, machine quilt, color, make jewelry, or take care of my many green and blooming houseplants and miniature gardens.
Favorite color: Green—all shades, red is my second favorite.
Favorite book: Jane Eyre – What can I say? It has it all.
Favorite food: soup – I love to make and eat soup, especially a favorite family recipe for Belgian chicken stew that my mom called chicken bouja.
Favorite drink: Tea!! My day is not complete without several cups of tea. Technically, most of which are herbal infusions. I’ve started blending my own teas too from ingredients that I’ve grown. Sometimes I drink decaf black or green tea.
Favorite movie: It’s a Wonderful Life. Jimmy Stewart is my favorite old-school actor. I think I’ve seen every movie he was in. I cry every time Harry says, “To my big brother, George, the richest man in town.” If you don’t know, George (played by Jimmy) contemplates suicide because of a dept. An angel is sent to help set him back on the right track. Harry calls George rich because of the many friends and family who care about him and help bail him out of his terrible circumstances.
Thanks for reading and getting to know me better. Tell me something about you. 😊
Drawing helps Lina process life and becomes a way for her to record the horrific way she, her family, and other Lithuanians are treated as they are herded into train cars like cattle and shipped off to the frozen tundra of Siberia.
Lina, her brother, Jonas, and her mother strive to stay alive, together with people of the work camp they come to stay with. Almost beyond hope, they grasp for every scrap of food and build shelters from their surroundings, like animals to survive the cold, but many succumb to the inhabitable conditions.
Will Lina and her family survive to tell of their horrendous experience or will they be among their countrymen and women, whom Siberia and the military forces against them have beat into submission?
This beautifully rendered, tragic tale steps out of the pages of little-known history to touch the hearts of readers with hope in the harshest of conditions and the inhumane cruelty of those in political control. Between Shades of Gray is a memorial to those who survived and those who lost their dignity and their lives.
Readers of historical fiction, coming of age fiction, and historical, young adult fiction will be transported back in time to witness the courage of Lithuanians during the ethnic purging of Stalin and Hitler, around the time of WWII.
Have you read this book? What historical fiction book have you enjoyed so far this year?
With the new year comes an eagerness for changes in our lives. We make resolutions, set goals, and instill fresh mindsets. I’ve finally taken the time to establish an inventory of what’d I’d like to see change in my life during this year. An importance for setting aside some of the ruts I usually find myself in springs up in me. I desire my life to be cleaner and more free, both inside and out. Let me tell you about the five areas I want to concentrate on and why.
As a Christian my faith is an integral part of who I am. Every pattern of thinking and action stems from the health of my walk with God. I’ve chosen to deepen that connection this year with a commitment to begin my days with prayer and reading the Bible. It’s been a goal of mine to read through the Bible in a year, and this year I’m going to do it! Prayer helps me focus on thankfulness, what’s truly important, and allows me to release my burdens.
By far, my biggest challenge in living with MS is not my physical disabilities but the inner frustration those tend to produce. Not being able to do simple tasks like put my socks on, unaided, stand at the sink and wash the dishes, cook a meal, cut my meat up, write, button a shirt, and countless other things aggravate me. But I can’t waste my days being constantly frustrated. I want to release it and be content, despite my obvious deficiencies.
When I choose to be grateful first, my mind doesn’t dwell on the things I don’t have or can’t do. I cultivate an abundant life, rather than a depleted and defeated one. Gratefulness keeps me from being envious, jealous, and greedy.
I’m hardest on myself, not kind or gracious enough. I need to be conscious of the words I say, regarding my person and lift myself up instead dragging myself down. This keeps light frustration from leaking into harmful behaviors and emotions.
I wish to be more intentional with each day and focus on establishing: a schedule that’s not too demanding, healthy relationships, finding joy in the journey, and room for myself to simply be and breathe, not pressuring myself to produce something.
There. That’s a start. Everyday I plan to think over these goals and send up a prayer for help in implementing them.
How about you? What changes do you wish to see in your life in this new year?
Thanks for reading! Blessing to you in this new year, J