Friday, December 29, 2006

Christmas Update


I'm dreaming of an MP3 player...

Just kidding. But I did get one! Now I can listen to tunes while I work out. Hey, any motivation is good motivation, right? =)
I hope everyone had a very merry Christmas! I can't believe 2007 is almost here. Our Christmas was indeed very blessed. My precious husband gave me a beautiful necklace, by the same jeweler that designed our wedding rings. The necklace is silver and inside a silver pendant are three stones - my birthstone, and the birthstones of the two little girls I sponsor through World Vision. Okay, all together on 3! 1...2...3... AWWWW!! Hubby did good! =)
Here's a picture of me and my sweetie before church on Christmas Eve morning. (isn't he adorable?)

I really enjoyed Christmas Eve falling on a Sunday this year. It somehow seemed extra special. Did anyone else feel that way? Something about singing Christmas hymns together in church on Christmas Eve morning, hearing the sermon of the Christomas was just a wonderful experience.

Speaking of wonderful experiences, I encourage everyone to run, not walk, to see the movie The Nativity. What a moving, vivid example of the Christmas Story! I literally cried throughout the majority of the movie. It was so emotional, seeing right in front of you the events you've heard described all your life. Four stars, two thumbs up, the whole shebang. PLEASE see it! It will change your heart.

From my family to yours,
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, &
A Happy New Year!

Friday, December 22, 2006

And the winner is...

We have winners!!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the interview and giveaway with our beloved Deb Raney! We both truly appreciate the support from her faithful readers!

Here are the contest results: (drumroll please)

The winner of the ARC of Remember to Forget is...

Cindy Woodsmall!


The winner of the newly revised, expanded edition of A Vow To Cherish is...

Marie Raney!

Congrats to our two winners! Please email me your mailing address to

Please check back regularly on my blog for more fun updates, contests, interviews and giveaways starring your favorite authors!!

Don't forget to visit Deb's website at

God bless you, and Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Interview & Giveaway with Deb Raney!

I was recently given the honor of interviewing one of my favorite authors, Deb Raney! And not only that - but she's giving away a copy of the newly expanded and revised "A Vow to Cherish" AND an ARC for her upcoming release, "Remember to Forget."

Betsy: Thanks for joining us today, Deb! So, tell us - when did you first feel the call of God on your life to write Christian fiction?

Deb: I think He planted a seed the summer I was 11 or 12 and read all the Little House on the Prairie books. I remember the author used the term “Providence”––capitalized. My mom told me that meant God, so I saw my hero, Laura Ingalls Wilder, giving credit to God and that touched something inside me. That summer, I tucked away a dream of someday writing a book. I “dabbled” in writing throughout my life, but it wasn’t until I was 38 years old that God said “It’s time to write that book now and here’s the story I want you to tell...”

Betsy: Wow - how wonderful! Of all your published books, which would you deem your "favorite" or maybe the "most fun" to write?

Deb: I didn’t used to name my favorites — too much like asking which of our four children is my favorite! ;) But now that I have almost 15 books under my belt, a few have risen to the top as stories I think are my best: A Vow to Cherish, because in writing it, I believe I discovered how to use my gift. Beneath a Southern Sky, because of the way God put His hands over mine on the keyboard to write the ending. And A Nest of Sparrows because the research overwhelmed me and brought me to my knees before God saying “I can’t DO this, Lord! I cannot!” And He gently whispered, “Yes, you can, if you give it to Me first.” I did, and as always, He was more than faithful. As for the most fun to write, that was definitely Playing by Heart. I giggled my way through that book, amazed that I was actually writing a bit of humor. I’m NO comedienne, but I sure had fun with that story!

Betsy: That's great! Deb, tell us a little about your own personal spiritual journey.

Deb: I was raised on a farm in Kansas, the oldest of five in a wonderful, warm, loving family. But when I was 17, I gave in to the desire to be “popular” and chose to live on the wild side for the next year of my life. But watching my parents, who were every minute walking the talk, I knew I wanted what they had, and that to do so would require turning away from my popular friends and taking a stand. God met me at that place of repentance, answered a couple of prayers in amazing ways (including putting my sweet husband in my life, and later blessing us with four incredible children, even after doctors said I wouldn’t be able to conceive). I’ve never looked back. And God has proven Himself faithful again and again in my life, even through tragedy and heartache. I’m in it for the long haul. :)

Betsy: That's fantastic. Your novel, "A Vow To Cherish" was made into a movie, right? What was that experience like? How involved were you?

Deb: Yes, it was. My husband and I got to attend the Hollywood premiere of World Wide Pictures’ A Vow to Cherish in 1999. You can see a few photos here: It was an amazing experience for this little Kansas farm girl, but I must admit when we got back home and I stepped off the plane in Wichita, I wanted to kiss the ground of my dear Kansas! :) As for my involvement in the making of the film, it was pretty much zilch. I was “consulted” on a couple of issues via my editor, was promptly ignored by the filmmakers ;) and as a courtesy, was sent a script of the screenplay, which changed drastically by the time the film premiered. But because World Wide Pictures is the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s film company, I was confident that my story would not be altered in any way that distorted the message of my story or the faith of my characters. Many changes were made to translate a rather “internal” story to a more visual one, but I’m very happy with the resulting film, and am told that many people have come to Christ, marriages have been healed, and others have recommitted their lives to Him as a result of watching the film. I’m honored and amazed to have been a small part of that production. The movie is now available on VHS and on DVD in 7 languages and plays regularly on certain cable stations (or so I’m told...we don’t have cable.)

Betsy: How exciting! Where was the idea for "A Vow to Cherish" born?

Deb: Around the Raney supper table one night in December 1993. Some family friends were dealing with the wife’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and we were talking about it with our then-teen and pre-teen children. They started sharing tales of their friends’ grandparents who suffered from Alzheimer’s, and that caused my husband and me to recall how God had placed us, as newlyweds, in jobs in the occupational therapy department of a large Jewish nursing home in New York. There we worked with many patients with dementia (at that time, Alzheimer’s was only diagnosed after an autopsy) and I realized that God had placed me right in the midst of “research” for my first novel almost twenty years before I would write one word of it.

Betsy: What was it like doing the revisions and expansions for "A Vow to Cherish"?

Deb: It was very interesting! I thought I was only going to fix some of the writing mistakes I’d made as a first-time author, and update the medical information (since much has changed in Alzheimer’s treatment and research in the twelve years since I first wrote the novel). But what I discovered when I got into the rewrite was that my characters—professional Chicago suburbanites—did not own cell phones or computers! Quite realistic for the early 90s when my story was originally written, but not at all for this 21st century. So I ended up adding 7,000 words to my original manuscript and bringing my past characters into the future, which is now their present. ; )

Betsy: Deb, describe for us one of your typical writing days.

Deb: Well, as someone once said, there’s no such thing as a typical writing day. But on the days that all goes well, this is what my life as a writer looks like: I’m up around 5 or 5:30 to have my devotion time, answer e-mail and get my desk cleared off and ready for the day. Around 7, my husband and I read the Bible together and spend time in prayer. (My husband is MUCH more disciplined than I, so this is one part of every day I can depend on.) Once my husband and daughter are off to work and school, I shower and straighten up the house, put on a pot of coffee, light some candles, choose some “mood music” for whatever scene I happen to be writing, and dig in to the ol’ wip. Often I’ll take my laptop out to the deck, to a chair by the fireplace, or to the bar counter in the kitchen for a different perspective. And if I’m on deadline and there are too many distractions at home, I might hop in the car and go write in a coffee shop, bookstore, bed & breakfast, etc.

I try to write about 1,000 words a day, but as I get closer to deadline, that gets upped to 2,000 or more. It’s a wonderful feeling when momentum kicks in and the words are flowing. Once the initial research (which can involve reading books, traveling, interviews, online searches, reviewing magazine clips, etc.) is done, I tend to research the smaller things as I go. I’ve tried to break myself of the habit, but it just seems to be the way I work best. For instance, the other day I wrote 300 words and came to a place where I needed some information on how grain elevators mix feed. So I stopped writing, called a local business and interviewed the boss before going back to my computer. I ended up with my 1000 words, plus another idea for the plot.

The goal is to meet my word quota by the time my family is home for the evening, but when I’m on deadline I usually end up going back to my studio around 9 and I’ll write sometimes until midnight or later. (But only on deadline. Ordinarily I’m in bed by ten, and read until eleven.)

Because I do quite a bit of speaking and teaching at writers conferences, my “writing” day is sometimes taken up preparing for a speaking event or packing for a trip. But I enjoy that aspect of my career greatly...sometimes more than the writing part, to be honest. : )

Betsy: Who are some of your own favorite authors, and why?

Deb: Oh, that’s a tough one! There are SO many. I prefer reading contemporary novels, so if I could only choose five authors in the CBA, it would probably be contemporary novels by James Scott Bell, Robin Lee Hatcher, Roxanne Henke, Angela Hunt, and Lisa Samson. Oh, oh, and I almost forgot one of my all-time favorite authors, Robert Elmer. The Duet and The Recital are just amazing! For historicals, I love Tamera Alexander (who also happens to be my critique partner), BJ Hoff and Ann Tatlock (some of my favorite books of Ann’s are probably classified contemporary, but are set in the recent past—1930s-1970s). As for secular writers, I enjoy Elizabeth Berg, John Grisham, Jan Karon, and Kristin Hannah.

Betsy: That's a great list! So, what can Deb Raney fans look forward to reading in the near future?

Deb: "Remember to Forget", my first novel with Howard Books/Simon & Schuster will be out in just a few weeks—set to release February 6! This is the first of the Clayburn Novels series, set in a small Kansas town like the ones I’ve lived in and loved. I’m excited about this series and think my readers will really enjoy the books. The novels in this series have even a bit more romance than some of my previous women’s fiction, and while they deal with serious topics and explore issues of faith, they have a more lighthearted feel to them.

Betsy: Is there one piece of advice you'd like to give aspiring authors out there today?

Deb: Keep writing. Many, many bestselling writers have two or four or sixteen unpublished novels sitting in their closets. Those books were not wasted...they were practice! And in the world of writing, as with any other craft, practice makes perfect. Hone your skills, study the craft, read other acclaimed writers. Above all, persevere, realizing that “overnight success” rarely happens overnight.

Thanks so much for inviting me to this conversation, Betsy. Great questions and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit. Oh, and I invite any of your blog readers to drop by my Web site at for a tour of my writing studio, a peek at my wonderful family, and lots of talk about writing and authors and all things book-ish!

Betsy: Thank you for joining us, Deb! This has been fantastic. I can't wait to read your new release next February!

To sign up to win a FREE copy of Deb's expanded "A Vow To Cherish" OR the ARC for "Remember to Forget", leave a comment to this blog and tell me which is your favorite of Deb's current books. The drawing will be held Friday, December 22nd!


Friday, December 15, 2006

And the winners are...

Congratulations to the winners of the Take Flight giveaway!

1. Malia
2. So Many Books (I'm sorry, I don't know your real name!)
3. Deborah
4. Georgiana
5. K. Michelle

Please contact me via and give me your mailing address, so I can ship you your book. Congrats! I know you're going to love the devotionals as much as I have...

God bless! Check back here next week for another giveaway/interview featuring Deb Raney!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Contest & Giveaway with Robin Jones Gunn!


I will be giving away FIVE brand new copies of Robin Jones Gunn's recent release "Take Flight", courtesy of Multnomah Books, a Division of Random House, Inc. "Take Flight" is a devotional book Robin co-wrote with Cindy Hannan. It is designed for women, and even more importantly, for Sisterchicks!

To enter the contest, leave a comment to this blog. In the comment, tell me which Robin Jones Gunn book is your favorite and why. On December the 15th I'll have my sweet husband draw names (to keep it fair!) The first five names he draws wins a free copy of "Take Flight", postage paid!

You don't want to miss out on winning this book! Enter now! If you don't win, here's a link to buy the devotional. And just in time for Christmas!

Look in my blog archive to read a recent interview with Robin Jones Gunn herself!

Friday, December 01, 2006

A Miracle in the Flesh...

Last night was seriously one of the worst nights I've ever experienced. I was sitting at Sonic, drinking a diet coke and waiting for my kickboxing class to start when I get a phone call from my husband. Our dog (a black lab named Samson) was out.

He stays in the backyard (he's 90 lbs and our house is on the small side!) and it had never been a problem before. He had jumped the fence one day several months back but we rearranged some things and it was fine. But he had never gotten out and not come back. Our neighbor had called my husband informing him that he'd been missing for some time, because they had already been combing the neighborhood, calling for him.

I skip kickboxing, my husband skips his night class, and we go home and start to search. Last night was a wind chill factor of around 20 degrees. The weather was miserable, yet my husband walked around town (not just the neighborhood - but TOWN) for literally four solid hours, blowing his training whistle. I rode around with my sister for awhile, hollering out the car window, while my mom did the same in a different neighborhood.

No sign of Samson. Every time a dog barked my heart would skip a beat, but it wasn't ever him.

I cried for four hours, literally. Samson is a dog, yes, but no matter how cheesy this sounds, he's like a child to us. He and my husband have this really special bond, and if Samson didn't come home, it was going to cut deep, possibly beyond repair. I was a wreck. But I kept praying.

Last night was a faith journey. I kept thinking "God knows where Samson is. Why won't He show us where?" I finally pushed away the doubts and prayed that God would not only bring Samson home safely but that God would do it in a way that was nothing short of miraculous. "God, show off." I prayed through my tears.

Around 8:00 my dad and I made signs on bright orange poster board and hung them all over town with my phone number. At that point, we were hoping someone had seen Samson wandering around, taken him in, and would call us when they saw the sign. I was trying so hard to have faith and not think of the hopelessness of the situation. My writers imagination was about to do me in. Meanwhile, my husband is still walking the streets miles away, whistling and calling. And my heart was breaking.

At 10:00 we gave up. It would be up to God. My husband was already home, and my dad was taking me home from hanging up the signs. We paused at the stop sign at the corner of my street and my dad said he wanted to pray with me, outloud. So we pulled over and prayed. I thought at that point my tears were used up but they kept falling! My dad prayed and asked God for a miracle. He told God that we had done all we could and ultimately, only God could bring Samson home safely. He prayed that God would put Samson in our driveway when we turned the corner and went to my house. He said "We don't want to not have this because we didn't ask." At those words, my faith started burning, literally burning deep within my heart. I could feel it, stretching, growing. It gave me this fiery hope like nothing I've ever experienced. There we were, two Christians, praying together and agreeing in God's name, and believing in the impossible.

We pulled up in my driveway. No Samson. I tried to not be disappointed. God doesn't always give us what we ask, when we ask for it. I knew that. So we go inside, my dad gives my weary, worn out husband a hug, and said "We'll have good news tomorrow. Don't worry." We force smiles and nod, and my dad leaves. I lock the door, then turn toward the kitchen, when my husband is searching for a painkiller. He's so exhausted! Mere seconds after the door closed behind my dad, a sudden pounding scared us half to death. Someone was beating on the front door. I flung it open (yeah, I know, should've looked out the peephole first) and my dad and Samson were on the front walk. Right there. I saw Samson and screamed. Loud. My husband almost fell over. My dad was actually jumping around, almost as much as Samson. He was right there. Safe. Happy. Fine.

A miracle in the flesh.

My husband and I fell on the ground with Samson, hugging and kissing him. We were totally covered in dog drool, sitting on the frozen ground, our front door wide open at 10:15 at night, but it didn't matter. Samson was home. God had given us the impossible, because we believed.

The even stranger part was that Samson wasn't that cold. It was literally freezing last night, for hours. When it's chilly outside, Samson's fur gets cold on the outside. He wasn't cold at all. He was clean. No mud, no dirt, nothing.

Personally, I think God beamed him from whereever he was to our driveway, kinda like He did to Paul after Paul witnessed to the eunuch in the book of Acts.

Either way, we brought Samson inside, fed him, and loved on him for a good half hour. Then my husband fixed the fence outside where he had escaped and we put him in his doghouse, with his warm hay.

And checked on him during the night like we would a baby! =)

This morning he was fine, nestled in his hay, looking pretty worn out.

A happy ending. A miracle. A faith booster if I've EVER seen one. Glory to God. He deserves ALL the credit for this one.

Here are some pictures from last night.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Interview with Rachel Hauck!

Rachel Hauck has created a winner with her fun and inspiring, newly released novel "Lost in Nashvegas"!!

I was given the honor of interviewing this sweet woman today!
Thanks for joining us, Rachel. Tell us, how was the idea for "Lost in NashVegas" born?

Rachel: Actually, my agent called me with the idea of country girl chick lit, and she suggested making the heroine a songwriter. I happily agreed. *Choke* I knew nothing about songwriting. I had a lot to learn, but it was very fun.

Betsy: What message do you hope to convey to readers through "Lost in NashVegas"?

Rachel: Don't let fear chain you down or rule over you. Go for your dreams. God's love truly does cast out ALL fear. All fears.

Betsy: Your recent chick lit novel "Georgia On Her Mind" got rave reviews! Was the success of that story a surprise?

Rachel: Great question. There's a part in all writers that hopes every book will be a smash. So, I was pleased, but also after editing the book so many times, I was really tired of the character and I felt reviewers would see her as I saw her after 6 or so edits. Made me a tad nervous. But my editor at Steeple Hill is fantastic and I trusted she knew what she was doing. And, she did.

Betsy: Do you ever incorporate personal experiences into your stories, or are they truly all fiction?

Rachel: All stories have some element of personal truth, or experience. Exaggerated of course. For Lost In NashVegas, I drew on my own experience of unreasonable "what if" fear. The kind that hits you out of nowhere and knocks you for a loop. I know the power and truth of God's Word in overcoming.

Betsy: That's amazing! So, what hobbies do you have outside of writing?

Rachel: Hobbies? Um, what's a hobby? I am involved in several ministries, and I love to watch college football. Go Buckeyes!

Betsy: Rachel, what are some of your personal favorite books? The ones you would read over and over?

Rachel: I've read the Little House Books a dozen times. I love them. I'm really not a read over and over type of reader.

Betsy: When did you first feel the call of God on your life to write?

Rachel: When I was ten or so, I thought I wanted to write. Then I wrote a poem for my 4th grade class. It was really good, surprise, and my dad picked up on it and told me for the rest of my life, "you're a writer, Rachel."

Betsy: How inspiring! Rachel, what stories are you working on now that readeres can look forward to?

Rachel: I just finished Diva NashVegas which comes out in the Spring, and am working on a new book set in the Carolina low country.

Betsy: Will there be a sequel to "Lost in NashVegas"?

Rachel: Diva is sort of a sequal. There is a different heroine, but Robin from Lost In NashVegas shows up.

Betsy: Great! What words of advice can you give to aspiring authors today?

Rachel: Don't give up. You'll never achieve your dream if you give up. Also, keep working the craft, and read, read, read!

Betsy: Thank you so much, Rachel! We appreciate you stopping by!

Read more about Rachel and her books at her website! Check it out today at

Monday, October 23, 2006

Interview with Brian Reaves!

Brian Reaves has constructed an intriguing novel, complete with nail biting, heart pounding suspense and achingly realistic characters in his new book Stolen Lives. This is a quick read, folks! You won't be able to put it down - and when you finally do, you'll be begging for more!

Betsy: Welcome, Brian! Tell us, what gave you the idea for Stolen Lives?

Brian: I read about an accident on I-20 right outside of Birmingham (the actual scene of the crime in my novel). The trucker pulled over onto the car and ran over it with the trailer. No one was killed, but I found out later the report had it listed as the car’s fault. Basically, that they’d swerved under the trailer themselves. That started me along a wild line of thinking: What if the family had been killed? What if the father had been driving behind and seen it happen? What if he were a computer programmer and able to get revenge without ever being caught? It was all downhill from there.

Betsy: What schooling/experience do you have with computers that enabled you to write such a realistic story, right down to the details?

Brian: I deal with computers on a daily basis. I’m in charge of several intranets and WANS, and I’ve had my share of computer virus problems. I’ve seen a lot of wild things viruses can do, and I’ve researched them. I also talked to a lot of “white hat” hackers (the good guys who try to stop the “black hat” hackers from destroying people’s networks) and their work is really fascinating. Through a lot of reading, researching, and yes, even trying a few things out myself, I found the things that worked in the real world and I put them in the book.

Betsy: The plot for Stolen Lives is such an intricate maze of detail, surprise and secret identity. Did the plot come to you all at once, or did you have to sit down and really work at it to get it right?

Brian: I had the basic concept for the book early on, but the plot developed itself while I was writing it. I’m not one who sits down and plots every single breath a character will take before he starts writing a story. I’m that other guy…the one who buckles into the roller coaster and just sees where the ride will take him. I love the spontaneity that type of writing allows, and the plot twists really do come as a surprise even to me sometimes.

If you could see how I’d originally pictured the ending, you’d understand. I thought I knew how it would end, but as I spent time writing and developing these characters I saw places the story could go that would add depth to everything. I followed several of those trails and found (in my opinion) a stronger ending.

Several people have commented on how there really aren’t any heroes or bad guys in Stolen Lives; it’s just two guys confronting each other in their own ways. This is exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted the reader to decide who they were cheering for. Honestly, are there really any obvious bad guys in our life? Not often. Most of the time there are people we don’t like, but in their version of life we’re the bad guys. So who’s to say who’s right or wrong. This approach to the story has led to some interesting discussions over the past few weeks as people have presented who they consider the “good guy” of the tale. I prefer to think it was a clash between two guys with faults—just like you and me.

Betsy: Awesome. When did you first realize you were called to write?

Brian: I’ve always dabbled in it for years, but I think when I hit 30 I realized this could be something I did professionally. I wrote my first self-published novel then. It took three years to complete and publish because I was really a perfectionist with it. It’s so funny to me now because I look back on the story and see so many things I would change (and probably will someday). Three years later to the day, Stolen Lives came out. The problem I have now is so many ideas and not enough time to write them. God gives me story concepts (our Father is so creative!), and most of the time they become short stories, with the really juicy ones getting stuck back for novels someday.

Betsy: Good deal! So what "do's" and "don'ts" can you share with aspiring authors today?

Brian: Don’t give up. Publishing takes a while, and it may take a couple of novels before you get picked up by a publisher or agent. Stay with it!

Keep writing while you’re waiting for that “big break.” Don’t waste time in limbo. If a publisher loves a novel you’ve written, it helps to show other manuscripts finished as well. It doesn’t mean they’ll take those too, but it shows you’re serious about writing.

Go to a writer’s conference if possible. I go to the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference, and it’s where I met my agent and my publisher. There are less expensive conferences, but the key is to get to one. It opens doors not available otherwise. The editors and publishers at the conferences are there to talk to you about your manuscript, whereas sending them unsolicited to the publisher will usually just have them returned unopened.

Have someone read your story that won’t be afraid to be honest with you about what works and what doesn’t. While nobody likes to have their stories ripped to shreds, you need truthful feedback in order to make your story the best it can be. Maybe you love a particular scene or character, while your reader finds it distracting or unnecessary. Look at it truthfully and cut if need be. But remember: you are the one who ultimately needs to be satisfied with your story. Take advice, look at your story with a critical eye, and then make your own decisions.

And be ready for rejection. Hundreds of people submit manuscripts every year, but only a handful ever gets published. If you get a spot in there, it’s a blessing from God. If not, be patient and don’t quit. As long as you keep improving, the door will open for you someday.

If all else fails and you love your story enough, don’t be afraid to self-publish it. The internet is a wonderful place that allows every author an equal chance to get their story out there. There’s no shame in self-publishing. It shows you believe in your story. And you never know what doors God will open through your book.

Betsy: Great advice, Brian. Tell us - what was it like holding your first published novel in your hands, hot off the press?

Brian: Words can’t express that moment. When I pulled the envelope out of my mailbox, I cradled it in my lap until I could get into my garage. Then I reverently opened it and just sat staring at it for a long time with a huge grin on my face. At that moment, I accepted it had really happened.

A few weeks later I went into my local Family Christian Store and found a copy sitting on their shelves. I stood there smiling and called my wife to drive down and see it for herself. I took pictures of it sitting on the shelf. Finally the manager came over to see if everything was all right. It gave me the opportunity to introduce myself, but I wondered what he was thinking.

I still remember the exact spot I was at when the editor at River Oak called to tell me they’d accepted the manuscript and were going to publish it. I pulled over because I didn’t want to take a chance of losing the cell phone signal, and we talked about the book for about twenty minutes. I drive by that spot every day on my way to work, and it never ceases to make me smile.

Betsy: That's so exciting! I would feel the same. Can you share a little of your testimony or personal faith journey with us?

Brian: I was raised in church. I thought I was serious about God, but there was a time in my teen years when I pushed a little harder than necessary sometimes. I never went wild with drugs or anything, but I wasn’t as close to God as I should have been. As I got older my relationship with God matured, and He’s proven Himself faithful time and again. God never ceases to amaze me.

Betsy: That's so awesome. Brian, what do you like to do in your spare time, outside of reading and writing?

Brian: I enjoy playing the guitar and piano, and I love to watch classic movies. Alfred Hitchcock is my favorite director of all time. His movies told an incredible story and kept people enthralled.

Betsy: Who are a few of your favorite authors?

Brian: Dean Koontz is my all-time favorite author and the man I’d most like to meet. Ray Bradbury has stirred my imagination more with his stories than anyone else. As far as Christian fiction is concerned, Eric Wilson, T.L. Hines, and Frank Peretti are all incredible storytellers and I’m hooked on everything they write. Another fresh voice who’s an incredible writer is Katie Cushman, whose first novel will be released next fall.

Betsy: Can't wait to check that out! Well, what other stories do you have in progress right now that readers might look forward to?

Brian: I just finished another novel starring Ian Richardson. It’s a supernatural thriller this time out, and not a cyber-suspense story. It’s my personal favorite story I’ve ever written, as it allows both Ian and Levi to do some serious soul-searching about what they believe and why.

I’m currently working on two novels at once. One is very exciting for me because it’s a concept that’s never been done in Christian fiction before. I don’t know how easy it will be to find a publisher willing to take a chance on it right now, but I know the market for Christian speculative fiction is slowly taking shape. The other novel is a final one with Ian. It allows me to complete his story (for now) in a way I’m really happy with.

In the midst of all this, I’m still working on my second TimeSlip novel. It’s been on the back burner for a while, but I keep adding to it as I can and hope to have it finished soon.

Betsy: Well, all I can say is, keep 'em coming! Thanks for joining us today, Brian!

For more information on Brian Reaves or his novels, check out his website at

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Interview with Allison Pittman!

Allison Pittman is a talented writer with a gift for heartfelt, moving novels. Her characters come alive on the page and sweep you up into a whirlwind of grace, love, and mercy.

Betsy: Thank you for joining us today, Allison! The plot for Ten Thousand Charms is so original and moving. What inspired you to create this story?

Allison: I’ve always had a fascination with history, and I love looking at 19th century photographs. I saw a picture of a group of prostitutes who worked in a frontier brothel, and I was struck by the utter emptiness in their eyes, and reading about them, I got a glimpse into their desperation. These were women who had very little choice in their lives, but I see women today who live with the world at their feet who have the same sense of emptiness—they’re just in color.

Betsy: Oh wow. Well, I just love Gloria's sass and confidence throughout the story. Even if she felt unsure in a situation, she managed to play it off until she figured it out! Did you have fun developing her character?

Allison: Gloria was an absolute blast! In fact, I don’t think of myself as having created a story as much as having created a character who sort of forged her own plot! I love the whole chick-lit movement, and I wanted to indulge myself and dabble in that genre in places. Plus, I knew the spunkier Gloria was, the less melodramatic her story would be. She’s a tough girl who’s led a tough life—it wouldn’t be fair to have her go all soft and sappy just because she happens to have a big strong man around. I must say, too, that there were moments in the story where she surprised even me!

Betsy: Haha! That's great. Sadie was my favorite secondary character in the story. Do we get to read more about Sadie and her life in another book? I understand there are sequels in the works. Can you tell us more about those?

Allison: The second book, Speak through the Wind is due out in March, 2007, and yes, it tells Sadie’s story. The title of the series is “Crossroads of Grace” and the idea of the crossroad is key. The red-roofed brothel is the meeting ground for Gloria, Sadie and Biddy, and each book tells each woman’s story. Speak Through the Wind begins with Sadie as a very little girl in New York City and tells how she eventually came to work at a brothel in Wyoming. The interesting aspect of the series is in the intersection of the characters. There are scenes in the second book that are in Ten Thousand Charms, but we’ll see them through Sadie’s point of view, which gives a completely new perspective.

Betsy: Oh, I can't wait! Allison, when did you first know you wanted to write?

Allison: I can’t remember ever not writing. Even before I was fully capable, I would dictate stories to my mother to write for me. When I was three, I even asked her to write my “I am running away from home…” notes. But the serious, passionate, professional pursuit came on about 10 years ago, and was really a slow dawning as I realized I wasn’t really doing anything productive for my Lord here on earth, and writing was the only real talent I seemed to possess.

Betsy: How inspiring! Growing up, what were some of your favorite books to read?

Allison: My favorite Christmas present EVER was my set of Little House on the Prairie books. I read them over and over and over and over. I loved the idea of living on the frontier—Laura Ingalls Wilder was my hero. She still is. Back then I adored her for plucky spirit, and I envied the world she lived in that would allow her to have such rich experiences. Later, I studied her writing—so rich in detail, yet so simple in truth. Even today, on a rainy afternoon, I love to pick up These Happy Golden Years and spend an hour with my favorite romance!

Betsy: Can you share a bit of your personal faith testimony with us?

Allison: I have always been in church. When I was four years old I asked my mother if I could get baptized. When she asked me if I knew what it meant to get baptized, I said, “Yes! It means I can vote in the business meetings!” She suggested I wait. Theoretically, I was saved when I was eight—with a full understanding of sin and redemption—but I don’t think I had any real appreciation for the Gospel until years later. Maybe not until I was grown, married, and a mother with a responsibility to raise her own children in Truth. In fact, since the moment of my salvation, I’ve lived a series of reinforcements. Just recently, at the death of my brother about a year ago, I experienced for the first time a true, concrete understanding of what it means to have eternal salvation. I experienced such peace knowing my brother was safe with Christ—it was tangible.

Betsy: That is so amazing. What great inspiration. Do you write full time, or do you have other jobs and responsibilities, too?

Allison: As of today, I write full time. What a fun luxury! While I was writing Speak Through the Wind, I was teaching full time, and we all nearly went insane. For the third book, our entire family took a step out on faith and I resigned. God has so blessed that act of obedience! Of course, I still have the responsibilities of being a wife and mom to my three boys, but caring for them is much easier now!

Betsy: What is your advice to aspiring authors today?

Allison: Read, read, read everything you can. Surround yourself with language and absorb it. Study the craft of writing—read books, go to workshops, break down the novels that you read and see the logic behind the authors’ choices. Finally, don’t write what you know. What you know is probably boring. Write what you wish somebody had told you.

Betsy: Great advice! What an interesting spin. So, tell us - what is your favorite part of being an accomplished author?

Allison: First of all, being called an accomplished author! But really, nothing is better than having somebody tell you they loved your book. I love being a part of their lives, having created something for their enjoyment. I even enjoy it when a reader is mad at me for something I allowed to happen to a character in a story—that sort of connection is priceless. I like making the world a little bit smaller.

Betsy: Thank you so much for visiting with us today, Allison.

Check out Allison's website today at

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Interview with Jill Nelson!

Jill Nelson, new author of the To Catch a Thief series, has created a unique and fun filled story brimming with intense, interesting characters and heart-pounding suspense that will leave you guessing until the very end!

Betsy: Welcome Jill! Thanks for joining us today. What inspired you to write Reluctant Burglar?

Jill: A literal dream. I woke up one morning, all tense, after a dream about a woman who had sneaked into someone’s house to return a genuine painting in place of the forgery that was on display. I didn’t know much about her except that she was an expert at what she did, and if she was caught, disaster would strike many people. That bit of back-story is on my web site. What’s not there is the wrestling authors do to make impossible scenarios plausible. What occupation could I give my heroine that would make thievery honest? And what situation would she need to face to put her in the dire dilemma of my dream? The answers that came to me are found in Reluctant Burglar.

Betsy: Wow, that's great! I understand there are two more books coming up in this series. Can you give readers any hints or tidbits of what is to come?

Jill: The action of Reluctant Burglar stays primarily in Boston—home stomping ground to museum security expert Desiree Jacobs and FBI agent Tony Lucano. But in Reluctant Runaway, we head for Albuquerque, New Mexico, to investigate stolen Native American artifacts and a missing young mother. Did post-partum depression drive the woman to run away, or was she snatched by a sinister cult? Runaway comes out next March. For Reluctant Smuggler, next August’s release, we go south of the border to Mexico, where Desi and Tony take on a drug lord involved in a deadly art for drugs scheme.

Each book explores a different genre of art. Burglar focuses on the European masters, Runaway looks at American and Native American artists, and Smuggler spotlights Hispanic art. Plus there is a spiritual thread distinct to each title. Burglar is a story illustration about learning to trust God’s higher knowledge, rather than our own wisdom and understanding. Runaway digs into generational consequences to our choices—for good or for ill—as well as how to discern truth in a deceitful world. Smuggler conveys the essential role of hope in the well-being of our human spirits.

Betsy: They all sound great! Can't wait to read the rest! Jill, when did you first feel the call of God on your life to write?

Jill: I can’t say I was consciously aware of a “call” when I penned—er, penciled—my first novel in sixth grade. It was a mystery with a ridiculous plot, but I finished. I’ve come to learn that actually completing a book, regardless of its quality, is a huge watershed in a writer’s life. Next, I tried my hand at writing articles, essays, short stories, and poetry, and had many things published. I even achieved a Bachelor’s degree in literature and creative writing, but I still can’t say I recognized a “call” to go with the gift. In fact, free-lance writing pretty much died out of my life for many years when my four children were little. But kids grow up, and so do their mothers—spiritually speaking—and that moment of answering a recognized call came about six years ago. I started writing again, and I haven’t stopped since. Now I’ve had the joy of holding my first published novel in my hands and sharing that moment with God alone. When my box of author copies for Burglar arrived, none of my family was at home, so it was just me and Jesus. We had a hoppin’ good time!

Betsy: I bet you did! So what advice or "lessons learned" can you share with aspiring authors today?

Jill: Finish what you start. Then go on to write something else—and finish it. Then finish the next one. Too many incomplete manuscripts hibernate in desk drawers. During the process of all this starting and finishing, let better writers than you look at your work and tear it up. Then go ahead and put it back together again, another step improved, and keep on writing. If this middle-aged mom from deep rural Minnesota can achieve her dream, no one should ever say never. With God, all things are possible. I write Mark 10:27 on every book I autograph.

Betsy: What was the most fun scene for you to write in Reluctant Burglar?

Jill: I had a blast with the interplay between Desi and her best friend Max, and the constant grinding of rough edges between Tony and his partner, and of course, the delicate dance of emotions and trust issues between Desi and Tony. But as far as any one scene goes, I think it’s the one where Desi returns to her hotel room after her dumpster episode, and Tony gets such a charge out of her Bugs Bunny pajamas and the hair that looks like she “dried it standing sideways in a gale force wind.” Then his amusement turns to despair when he realizes she’s still not going to come clean with him about the trouble she’s in. For those reading this interview who haven’t read the book, don’t get the wrong idea about a scene in a hotel room between unmarried protagonists. Other people are there. That whole room crackles with emotion. Everyone is at odds with each other.

Betsy: And it was a great scene! I can easily see this novel series becoming a movie one day! What are your thoughts on that idea?

Jill: The entire To Catch a Thief series is written cinematically. My primary intention is to offer readers good, clean, fun fiction, but I chose a cinematic approach because today’s movie-going society finds the style both appealing and palatable. For me, it’s also fun to write. Would I like to see Reluctant Burglar and the others as movies? Oh, yeah! Very appropriate that a move-buff heroine like Desi should have her own films. LOL. Whether this happens or not, God will arrange in His time. I’m at peace with that.

Betsy: What are some of your favorite books to read over and over?

Jill: The Bible (I suppose that one goes without saying.)
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers and her Mark of the Lion series
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkein
The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis
Color the Sidewalk for Me by Brandilyn Collins
A book that I doubt I’ll have the time and endurance to tackle again, but which made a major impact in my youth: The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Alyosha became something of a role model.

Betsy: All great choices! Can you share a little of your own personal faith journey with us?

Jill: I made a commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior at Bible camp when I was eleven years old. I wish I could say I stayed faithful to that commitment from then on. My upper high school and college years got rather rocky. Bad choices and rebellion sent my life careening in a direction that could have been fatal many times over. But God was faithful, especially when I wasn’t. His hand stopped the enemy’s plans again and again. I see that now. At the time, I was blind. He maneuvered the course of events so that I got out of the orbit of a certain group of friends. That same year at age 23, I returned my heart to him. I wish I could say that it stayed there. Again, things happened, and instead of continuing to trust God, bitterness made my heart cold. I felt like I had fallen asleep spiritually. But in the fullness of time, at the right moment, the Holy Spirit quickened me again. There is a sense now that enough of the arrogance of my youth has been cut away that I won’t again cease depending on Him. And He has given me the desires of my heart in so many ways. Sharing His love through a career as a novelist is only one of them.

Betsy: That's amazing. Thank you so much for visiting with us today, Jill!

Check out Jill Nelson's website at

And hurry to bookstores TODAY to buy "The Reluctant Burglar", Book 1 in the To Catch a Thief series!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Interview with Creston Mapes!

Creston Mapes' rock-n-roll series "The Rock Star Chronicles" is simply amazing. He has created an incredible plot, thrown in a ton of page turning suspense, and topped it all off with deep, rich characters. "The Rock Star Chronicles" is definitely one of my new favorite series! Check out Creston's books on his website at TODAY!

Betsy: Creston, did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

Creston: No. Not until college. However, looking back on my youth, I now realize that becoming a writer was in my blood. I was not a great student in school, but I could always score well on essays and writing projects. Even if I didn't know the subject very well, somehow, I could always make my answers sound "right."

Betsy: What prompted the idea for Dark Star & Full Tilt?

Creston: Growing up, I loved rock 'n' roll. I was in the KISS Army and a big fan of Foreigner, Queen, Bowie, and the like. So, as a professional writer, when I felt God prompting me to try fiction writing, I began to ask "What if..." in a lot of different scenarios. One of those scenarios was: "What if a mega-popular, millionaire rock star got in serious trouble with the law? What if that person was totally discontent? What if he was getting letters from a girl in Kansas who said she was praying for his salvation and for his millions of fans to become Christ-followers. What if he had a personal psychic who traveled with the band? What if, in the midst of all this, he got charged with first-degree murder?" So, the novels were just a series of "what ifs" from my past interests....things of which I was very familiar.

Betsy: The main character in the series, Everett Lester, is such a
realistic character. His struggle with drugs and alcohol, as well as the pressure from being famous, really strikes a chord with readers. Did you have to do a lot of research to get that inside view of the rock star world?

Creston: You're right, Betsy. People are hugely intrigued by movie/tv stars and recording artists. That's one of the reasons I'm so excited about these novels. Because, honestly, I think they are appealing to anyone...the Christian and the non-Christian. The stories are intriguing enough to carry anyone away into a suspense-filled dream-world, I hope. As far as research goes, I read books about all kinds of rock stars, from Bob Dylan to Ozzie Osbourne. But I'd had plenty of first-hand experience as well, going to an array of concerts in Cleveland, Ohio(today's rock 'n' roll hall of fame), as a boy, playing loosely in some makeshift garage bands, being backstage at bar concerts, and reading every word in the most popular rock magazines, like Cream and Circus.

Betsy: Wow! Well, I really enjoyed the strong spiritual theme behind Dark Star & Full Tilt. There is an intense, yet not overwhelming, salvation message that is not found in a lot of Christian Fiction today. What made you decide to go that route?

Creston: Thanks for your kind words. What's happened to me, Betsy, is my life has been transformed, literally. I used to drink extremely heavily and
get involved with a lot of the debauchery that comes with it. When God saved me and allowed me to become born-again at the age of 28, I wanted to share with the world what Christ has the power to do, and that is to literally change lives. Turn them upside down. Make people new. Resurrect the dead. I'll tell you, for me, at least, this fiction writing gig is extremely difficult. There is no way I would want to do this work if I wasn't doing it for the glory of God and to help other people find Him. That's why I do it. And it has been a sacrifice.

Betsy: That's amazing. Have you heard back from any readers that were influenced positively by reading your books? What do they say?

Creston: They say some heart-warming things. Here are some recent emails I've received:

Let me start by saying I am a Christian who has been praying for a
crack addict I had met through a friend at church. He was doing well
(had become a follower of Jesus), but fell "off the wagon" and is now
sitting in jail awaiting trial for assault, robbery and cocaine
possession charges. He's recommitted his life to the Lord and I have
been visiting him 2x a week for the past 4 1/2 months, taking him all
the Christian books I can find. I just finished Dark Star and can't
wait to take it to him tomorrow! I may even head to the bookstore
today for the sequel!! Thanks so much for sharing this gift God has
given you.

My husband has always been an avid reader, I just became one. We
couldn't put the books down. I read both books in less than 2 days.
They really drew us in within the first few pages. We really enjoyed
reading them and hope that you do a third book that revolves around the
Lester family. My husband and I were both heavy metal lovers until God
really spoke to our hearts about our music. These books really hit
home for us. Thank you for writing them. We look forward to reading
more of your work. It hit me that these two books could be an
inspiration to my husband and I to maybe try our hand at writing a
book.God Bless you always

I ran across both of these books in Ft Worth. I saw "Full Tilt" and,
being a fan of music, this cover caught my eye immediately! I just
wanted to let you know that I have not enjoyed reading anything as much
as I have these two books. I grew up in a house with rock 'n' roll
everywhere. I still enjoy the music, but I have become much more
discerning about what I listen to. The realism of these books is
amazing! I read both books in about 3 days. Will there be anymore of
the "Rock Star Chronicles" in the future? I hope so! I became a fan of
Christian fiction about 10 years ago when a co-worker let me read "This
Present Darkness" by Frank Peretti.I can honestly say these 2 books
rank among my favorite books I have read in many years. I believe God
will reach many people with these books. To a fan, this will connect
like no other books on the market will.

Creston, I wanted to let you both know I just finished Full Tilt over
the weekend. I loved it. I find myself driving to errands and I’m
thinking back to Everett and Wesley …reviewing what all happened to
them in my head as if they are real people! Now that’s the sign of an
awesome book. Thanks for the life messages that were in both books. I
am hoping to pass them on to one of my co-workers who is in her early
20s and not a Christian. Thanks for the great books!!!

Hey Creston, My name is Audrey. I'm a 21 years old and living it up in
Kansas.Number one in my life is Christ and music is right afterwards.
So, it goes without saying Dark Star appealed to me. I finished Dark
Star about five minutes ago and had to jump on my computer to e-mail
you! Thank you for such an edifying christian novel. I read A
LOT! But I usually vere away form fiction because I feel like if I'm
going to spend my time reading I want it to really deposit something in
me. I don't really wanna feel my time and mind with fictional stories
when I could be putting the Word or good edifying christian living
material in my head. This fiction book delievered!!!!!!!!!!!! Im so
pleased I pick this book up! You've re-instilled faith in me that
fiction can still deposit a seed of faith in ones heart. Your story has
encouraged me to be more bold in my faith and I desire to step out in
faith like Karen did. I'm also thankful I read Dark Star after the
sequel was written, now i don't have to wait:-) Now i just gotta find
it....Always keep your writting Christ centered. Maybe someday, i'll
have written a book that is being sold right alongside yours. God Bless
brother! Keep using your talents for Him!

Betsy: That's really something. What is the story behind your own faith? Can you share a bit of your testimony with us?

Creston: I grew up going to church every Sunday in Ohio, but at home, during the week, our family didn't open our Bibles. I started drinking and smoking at a very early age, about 14 or so. My friends and I dug a hole in the
ground in the woods, where we buried a box, which we tarred, and stored our beer in. I loved concerts and the whole rock 'n' roll scene and played quite a mean air guitar. Then, off to college I went, partying all the way. And it was the same after college; I lived for the weekends. At one point in my career, I was changing writing jobs, and I took on a very high-pressure position in Atlanta. It was during a client visit to Fort Lauderdale that I had what I call kind of an "out of body" experience, simply from all the pressure of my work, and the pressure I used to put on myself: worry, anxiety, etc. When I got back from the trip, I went to see a doctor. He said I was stressed out and suggested I take some medication for it. That's when I remembered all I had learned during all those Sundays in church. I needed God. So, we started going to church. I was baptized several months later. And, by His grace, He's been drawing us closer and making us more like Him all along the journey.

Betsy: What a testimony! Thank you for sharing. Can you tell us a little about your upcoming novel, Nobody?

Creston: My publisher sent me to Las Vegas over the winter and I spent three days there doing research for my third novel, Nobody, which will be out in 2007. It is a psychological thriller about a remarkable homeless man, a selfish reporter, a mysterious bank account, a dirty Las Vegas cop, a murder, and a young lady who is trying to make sense of it all. The message in the book is what I'm most excited about. There is a poem by a man named Samuel Shoemaker, called I Stand at the Door. It's about a man who becomes too involved in the church and forgets about the people outside the church...the unsaved. Those searching for The Door. (Jesus Christ) That's the whole theme of the book. It's about a man who loses his wife in a plane crash, turns to the church, gets WAY too enamored with the church and pleasing man, and finds himself in the infamous "church bubble."

Betsy: Sounds so intriguing! So, is there any writing advice or tips you'd like to share with aspiring authors?

Creston: Yes! Read books about the craft of writing and do what they say by practicing and writing a lot. Also, develop a TOUGH skin. There is a
ton of rejection in this business. In addition, pray a lot before going down this road. Is it what God wants for you? Or, do you just want to become famous and have your name on a book? Reflecting back and looking deep inside myself, I think that was part of my motive in writing fiction. I hate to admit it. But pride is an ugly, deceptive thing. I hope I'm over that now. I still battle the pride thing at times. But I've had time to think this thing through and leave it all in God's hands. Now, He's driving and I'm just along for the ride.

Betsy: What can readers look forward to, other than the upcoming release of Nobody? Any more interesting works on your desk right now?

Creston: I've started book three in "The Rock Star Chronicles" and, if there's enough interest, we'll do that book. There's another one that's been
burning in my soul for many years about a very hot and controversial topic. I hope to get to that soon.

Betsy: Sounds great! Thank you so much for visiting with us today, Creston! It's been an honor.

Dark Star placed third in the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year Contest in the suspense category! Check it out today!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Violet Dawn

Brandilyn Collins' "Violet Dawn" is a truly amazing novel. It is book #1 of her new Kanner Lake series. Warning: read with the lights ON and maybe also with a stuffed animal or two under each arm! =)

Brandilyn has concocted an intriguing suspense story. Not only is there enough action and "hold your breath" moments to make it a page-turner, but there is a warm and cozy feeling when reading about the small town and its people. It feels like a place to call Home, and Brandilyn mixes murder and mystery with a sweet community that everyone wants to be a part of!

Go out and buy "Violet Dawn" today, and join the family of Kanner Lake.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Interview with Robin Jones Gunn!

Betsy: Robin, let me first say thank you so much for visiting with me today! It's a true honor. I have to start with my personal favorite of your books - the Glenbrooke series. When you started writing the first book in the series, Secrets, did you have the slightest idea they would become as popular and loved as they are?

Robin: No! It was a definite shock. I was invited to write the first one about eleven years ago when Multnomah was setting up a line of inspirational romance. It was supposed to be just one book to fit into the line. It did well, so the publisher asked if I would do another…and another. (laughs) In my imagination, the characters were linked together by this imaginary town of Glenbrooke. When I finished all eight books, they made it into a series of its own. The books have actually had three different covers on them in all.

What was interesting was that the editor on the project kept saying the books just didn’t fit the format for romances, and that they needed to be made into a formula. I failed in fitting into the formula as they wanted me to, but it was truly to the benefit of the books in the end. They just told the story.

Betsy: My favorite in the series will always be Whispers, mainly because of the impact it had in my life personally. If you had to pick just one, what would be your favorite in the Glenbrooke series?

Robin: I, too, love Whispers, mainly because of the Hawaii setting. I just love Hawaii! But I really enjoy the essence of what happens in Whispers, where Terry has that all too common sense as a woman that there is no hope for her. However, she finds opportunity in her relationships and with God. The book shows that He is at work, even when we don’t see His hand. I love being reminded of that.

Betsy: I also really enjoyed Gardenias for Breakfast, an excellent story, though slightly different than your usual style. What inspired you to write Gardenias for Breakfast?

Robin: I took a trip with my daughter when she was almost twelve. She and I drove from Oregon to Louisiana and during that road trip it seemed that she and I were figuring out how we were going to relate to each other as mother and daughter. We were going to visit my ninety-two year old grandmother, like in the story.

When I was writing Gardenias for Breakfast, I hadn’t figured out all the angles on my mother/daughter relationship and I wanted to write a book where I could just make some imaginary characters and see how they handled the changes. In general, it was a book that I needed to write, on a personal level, because I was at that stage of my life in trying to figure out those pieces. I needed to put everything out there and look at it, even if it didn’t tidy up all the answers or give a specific direction.

Betsy: That's really amazing! I think that book gave insight to a lot of mothers and daughters alike. The Christy Miller series were also a big hit. Teens everywhere devoured them. I understand they are being released in hardback now?

Robin: Yes! It’s really been exciting. There are now four hardback volumes, three books in each one. This has opened up so many doors, because now the books are being placed in public libraries. It’s challenging to put a paperback in a library because you can only have them checked out so many times before they fall apart! Both the Christy Miller and Sierra Jenson series are now available in four volumes, each with three books in one.

I have been receiving so much mail from young girls that found one of those Christy Miller books for the first time and after reading them, realized that they hadn’t really given their lives to Christ. They realized that this was what was missing. I look back and think those books were written so long ago, but are still having such an impact!

People have asked if I had to update and redo certain areas of the book to incorporate today’s technology, and I did a little, but overall, we chose to keep the story the way it was and keep the focus on the friend relationships and the closeness between them. That’s what truly remains from generation to generation. It seems like every book is a surprise in some way!

Betsy: That's great! Well, your newest series, Sisterchicks, are perhaps some of the funniest books I’ve ever read! The amazing thing about them is that they appeal to such a variety of ages. When a new one is released, my grandmother, my mom, and myself all fight over who gets to read them first! Can you tell us how many more books in the Sisterchicks series there will be?


Robin: We’re taking it book by book, and the one that just came out, Sisterchicks in Gondolas, is going to be followed by a different sort of Sisterchick book, which will be released in October. It’s a devotion book, called Take Flight! I prepared that book with one of my own Sisterchicks, Cindy. We wrote it because we kept hearing from readers, asking for advice on what kind of material would be helpful for them to meet with another friend and open up discussions about the Lord, and discover what God is doing in their lives together. A lot of women were also wanting something fresh for their quiet time, so we looked at that and thought, ‘hey, this is a real Sisterchick thing – bible study and devotions together!’ We decided to make our own and make it specific to Sisterchicks! I think that’s going to be a great encouragement to a lot of women!

Betsy: I can't wait to see it! I understand that several of the adventures the characters in Sisterchicks stories experience are real life experiences of your own? Can you tell us about that?

Robin: Yes! It’s true! (laughs) When I started writing the Sisterchick books, the first one, Sisterchicks On the Loose, is very loosely based on an adventure I had with my best friend Donna. About fifteen years ago, she and I went to Finland. We loved to tell the stories about the sauna and all the crazy things that happened there.

When I started writing the Sisterchicks books I wanted to start with a real life adventure, and from there it grew to other adventures…like Hawaii. We lived in Hawaii for a while and I truly love it there! It was the easiest book to write. After that, my editor and I were actually given a cruise to Mexico, so we went and I wrote about the sombreros. We signed up to have massages and I had some kind of a seaweed body wrap and my entire back broke out – just like in the book! After that, the publisher suggested giving me a travel budget and sending me to some of these places for my stories! So, I actually got to go to New Zealand and Australia and Paris and Italy. It was a writer's dream! The crazy thing was that I would go to these places, and wild and wacky things would just happen!

I was preparing recently for another research trip and I asked a friend to go with me. She was excited at first and then thought “wait a minute, Robin…crazy things happen to you on these trips! I don’t know if I should go!” (laughs) For example, the scene in Sisterschicks Say Ohh La La where the taxi cab drove off with the luggage - that actually happened to Ann and I! I just show up and these things happen.

Also, about the Sisterchicks series - Five years ago my father had a stroke, and I traveled ten times to be with my parents that year. It was a 1,000 mile trip each time, and it was a really difficult season in my life. Every time I’d get on the plane I’d take a book with me and I’d start reading and they always ended up being these intense stories, where characters had difficult life situations. I could hardly finish the book each time, because that was my life! I wanted a book that would give me hope and encouragement and be a gentle voice during my rough experiences! I experienced that for a whole year and looked for books that would fill up my emotional well. Back then, laughing was such a bonus. That was all just before the Sisterchicks books were written. It played a big part in the development of that series.

I knew I wasn’t the only woman going through difficult times and needing encouragement. Where are the books that give us lightheartedness, fill up our emotional wells, and cause us to walk away with a sigh and a sense of realization that God is in control? I think there is a challenge for writers to come up with interesting topics or intriguing plots, and the burden to write at a more poignant, intellectual level…yet, at the same time, there is space on the market for books that are gentle and uplifting and sort of just come alongside and ease you through the difficult times. I never would have planned that or set out to say “I’m going to write these kind of books” but that’s what happened. That’s what I needed at the time.

Betsy: Robin, your books are always such a breath of fresh air. They’re fun, funny, inspiring, and yet, realistic. A reader can be certain by the time they get to the end of a Robin Jones Gunn novel they will have been deeply moved in some area of their life. I know that’s true for me. Do you get a lot of emails or letters from readers, describing similar experiences in their lives? How does that make you feel?

Robin: I’m constantly amazed and so humbled. The Christy Miller books are translated into Portuguese and doing well in Brazil. I am actually going to Brazil in November and I am invited to speak at four large youth events! It is so amazing to think that God chose to use these stories and fictional characters that become role models for teens in another country. As I’ve been preparing for this trip to Brazil and getting these events lined up, I can’t stop thinking of His goodness and plans!

When I was a teenager I wanted to be a missionary, and thought that was the best way for me to serve God, to go into these remote places in the world to tell those people about God’s love and His son Jesus Christ. As my life rolled out, God kept closing doors in that area and it was obvious that he had other plans for me than to go live in Zimbabwe. (laughs) I look back now and He’s fulfilled that desire in my heart and revealed to me that I am a missionary. But it is not me going to these remote places of the world, its my books! And now I get to go and catch up with them! That is so amazing to me because we don’t understand how powerful it is to be obedient to God and what He's asking us to do. So often we have such a bigger picture in a mind, or we get stuck with a sense of loss when things don’t work out and we lose our focus. We think “I thought I was going to do this or be this” yet God knows our hearts' desire. I never thought I’d be a writer. I never set out on that path and one thing just led to another, and here I am! It is so clear that God’s hand has been on this all along!

So when I receive mail and hear back from readers, it makes me laugh the happy laugh of “this is You, God!” For example, the situation involving a young woman who is going to be my translator in Brazil. When she was thirteen years old, she read the first book in the Christy Miller series, Summer Promise, in English and gave her to life to Christ. Later, she ended up working for the publishing house and being the translator for Todd and Christy “The College Years! She translated those books and now she’s going to be my interpreter. It’s truly amazing to see God’s hand at work.

Betsy: Wow. That really is awesome! Well, Robin, the pictures on your website,, are so hilarious! It seems like you tend to have fun no matter what you’re doing, or where you’re going. That upbeat attitude is reflected in your books, and I believe that is a huge part of what makes them so unique and creative! Can you tell us a little bit about your hobbies? What do you do when you’re not hard at work on another best selling book?

Robin: I don't know if this is really considered a hobby, but I love long conversations! I met a woman the other day for lunch and it filled me up! We had this long, wonderful conversation and that is so rare in today’s time! I think in our society we’ve forgotten how to do that! The Europeans still know how to linger over a meal and bring up deep topics and discuss uncomfortable things. They can still speak honestly, and cause your heart to break open right there on the table, through tears or laughter. It’s a lost art, truly, and sometimes when I sit down to write a book, I imagine the audience as being that one friend across the table. I feel that “okay, we have this time set aside for this conversation” and in a book, of course, it’s a one sided conversation (laughs) but it is still that feeling of “I’m going to open my heart and shine light on what’s there. Some things need to be picked out and thrown away, but other pieces need to be lifted up!” That’s important. That’s sort of the Sisterchick type of experience, when we have friends on that level and can share that vulnerability with each other. So, I love connecting with people!

And I love to travel and experience new things. Being able to have those kinds of conversations with people in remote places of the world has been extraordinary. It feels like that’s the eternal stuff. That’s what we’ll have in heaven – the time to tell our stories and together be amazed at what God has done. I also love to be outside and observe the seasons and what God has created.

Betsy: How do you handle the joy and stress of managing a household, writing full time, promoting your books, and being a wife and mother?

Robin: I don’t know that I do it very well! (laughs) Each season seems to change and just when you figure something out, there is a new rhythm that comes along. When our kids were small, I had to find time to write and so I’d get up really early in the morning, at three a.m, three days a week and I’d write from three to seven in the morning. During that time, the dog never barked, the phone never rang, it was quiet. At seven, I would have been able to be productive, and by then, everyone else was getting up and I had to switch into the role of being a mom and wife and housekeeper. I think with each season it has changed but what has remained the same is the fact that time to write does not magically appear in any schedule! It has to be carved out and protected. Over the past twenty years, that is the one question I hear the most from beginning writers. They can’t find the time to write. They want to write, and they know what their story is but they get frustrated that other people in their lives aren’t stepping back and making that space for them. Writing is a sacrifice. But the sacrifice needs to be mine, as a writer. I need to be the one to give up something. Watch less TV at night and get to bed earlier, and therefore be able to get up earlier the next morning and write. Things like that. You can give up hobbies or groups or clubs or volunteer projects. Bottom line is, you have to make that time to write. It doesn’t happen automatically.

Betsy: That's great advice, Robin. What other tips do you have for aspiring writers out there today?

Robin: I think that there is a lot of power in staying focused. One challenge with writers is that if you’re creative enough to write you probably have an imagination that is always spinning. So, for a writer to get anything done, that power in being focused has to be understood and honored. That means a beginning writer can not focus on the discouragement of criticism and rejections and competition. It’s easy to get that victim mentality. You have to step away from that entirely and into this place of being focused and being obedient to whatever it is that God has called you to do. I‘ve been doing this for twenty years now and I still have this challenge of “oh that’s another idea”! Keep a journal going all the time with ideas to come back to. But once you’ve made the commitment to work on a project, and put your hand to the plow, don’t keep looking over your shoulder, or you’ll get wobbly lines! Once you know what it is that’s burning in your heart, discipline yourself and be focused and obedient to whatever that is. Discipline and obedience are very hard for creative people, we like our freedom and ideas! But to get the work done, there must be the training that comes from that discipline. For many writers, it’s learning what it is that has to be sacrificed and realizing that you can’t do it all. Instead, think what can I do? And what can I give up? Writing is a lot of work. It never gets easier. Even after twenty years, you still have to force yourself to focus! And work to shape and craft those words. Respect the gift that’s been given to you.

Betsy: Is there one thing you would tell new authors NOT to do?

Robin: I think where I’ve gotten stuck is when I get disappointed, like when a book idea didn’t go anywhere, or a book didn’t sell well. Don’t get bogged down in the disappointments. There will be a lot of them! Don’t be shocked by your failure. Learn from it and go on. Had I understood that years ago, I would not have wasted so many hours in pity parties! The gift and the calling as a writer don’t go away. Even in the face of obstacles and all of the disappointments, you’re still gifted and called to be responsible to use your imagination and use your words. I’ve seen more beginning writers take one step forward, and then boom – they freeze, sometimes for years! They are not using their imagination and their words. They get stuck. And that cannot be. There has to be that step of maturity that says “okay, move on.” There’s part of a verse in Romans 9 that says “the gift and the calling of God are irrevocable”. The chapter as a whole is referring to being called into the body of Christ, but that one part stuck out to me and I wrote it on a card and kept it on my desk for years, because I wanted to remember not to get stuck! A bad review can’t take away the gift or calling. Nothing changes the fact that I am gifted by God to use words and I know I am called by God to tell stories. Writers need to understand it is a gift – it is not anything you did, it is all God! Writers would be so much more productive if they grasped that at the core.

My friend Sandra Byrd, a mentor for the Christian Writers Guild, once said to me, “They’re not rejection letters. They’re redirection letters!” I really liked that. It means it’s just not the right time and place!

Betsy: That is so encouraging! Can you tell us what’s on your desk right now? What can readers look forward to in the years to come?

Robin: I just finished writing a Christmas novella that will be published in 2007 by FaithWords. It is called Finding Father Christmas, and is set in England. I met yesterday with the woman in England who read the book and helped me get some of the British parts accurate. While we were talking, she got all teared up about the end of the story. It gave me such hope! She was supposed to just critique the book, but there was this place in the story where her heart really connected to our Heavenly Father and the realization that He has His hand on her life. I came away from that feeling that there is so much we don’t understand! We put the words on paper and we never know how it will touch somebody. I got really excited about this novella, because I think it will perhaps draw in an audience who don’t normally sit down to a full length novel. It opened up a whole new realm of possibility! And I’m also really excited about the upcoming devotional book, Take Flight, because it is going to be a great tool for women to connect on a genuine level. Nothing really happens until we get real and open our hearts. Take Flight is designed to help relationships with women along those lines. After that we’ll see! Lots of ideas! (laughs)

Betsy: Thanks for sharing with us today, Robin!

Read more about Robin Jones Gunn and check out her latest books at

Monday, September 11, 2006

Interview with Eric Wilson

The Best of Evil is one of the most intriguing novels I've read in a long time! Eric Wilson, author of Dark to Mortal Eyes and Expiration Date has brought another amazing tale of suspense and forgiveness in this must-read novel.

Betsy: Eric, The Best of Evil is a fantastic suspense, with deep, realistic characters the reader can instantly relate to. How do you best relate to the hero of the story, Aramis Black? Similarities? Differences?

Eric: I'm tall, skinny, dirty-blond, without tattoos or any in my past. Both my parents are still alive. And I hate Froot Loops. In those ways, I'm really nothing like Aramis. My editor told me, though: "I see Aramis Black as Eric Wilson on steroids." I laughed. What he meant, I think, is that Aramis has many of my same struggles to understand God's forgiveness and grace in the midst of pain from the past. He is cynical, somewhat sarcastic, but underneath he has a heart to care for other people.

Betsy: He's truly a great character. In the story, Aramis co-owns and manages a coffee shop. Do you have any experience working in the coffee industry? Reading those scenes, I could almost smell the freshly ground beans!! You really took me there.

Eric: Wake up and smell the cofffee, as they say. I'm glad those scenes worked for you. If you were here, I'd serve you up a great latte. Yes, for four years my wife and I owned and operated an espresso shop called "Espresso Yourself," back in Oregon. Those customers were some of my main supporters while I wrote DARK TO MORTAL EYES, my debut novel. They bought our drinks. They listened to my ideas. We talked and prayed together. I miss them a lot.

Betsy: I bet that was a really great experience. And what a fun name for a coffee shop! Well, Eric, your bio mentions that you've been a youth pastor before. What was that like? Have any of your experiences with the church helped to give you fresh insight into your stories and characters?

Eric: I youth pastored for five years. I love teenagers. I still do. They are full of ideas and energy and zeal. As I started raising my own children, the time conflict (and lack of income) became a real burden on our family and so I resigned. My experiences in church have given me positive and negative insight for my stories. I've seen the reality of God's love. I've also seen the damage that can be done in his name. My stories always include characters who are on the fringes of faith, trying to understand God in an honest light while dealing with the junk they've seen perpetuated under the religious guise.

Betsy: That's really amazing. As writers, we're truly inspired by everything - and sometimes nothing! So, what are you working on writing right now?

Eric: I'm waiting for word from my agent on what book is wanted next. I have three more thrillers planned for the Christian market. I have two specific nonfiction titles in mind. I have a series I want to do for the secular market, one dealing with the dead and the undead in creative, but very biblical ways. The Christian market is not ready for it. Plus, I want it to reach nonbelievers and cause them to view Jesus in ways that go beyond tradition and religion.

Betsy: That all sounds really awesome. You are indeed busy! I can't wait to see what you have in store for readers next. As a writer, do you always have a dozen different plots racing through your mind, or do you settle down and focus on one story at a time?

Eric: My mind is always racing with ideas. When it comes time to write a story, I have to funnel those down into one focused stream. Usually, within a story, I'll be surprised at a few of the other ideas that slip through into the main idea. Oftentimes, I'm amazed at the motifs that will be connected by seemingly unconnected thoughts. It's a very organic process, growing and branching off on its own.

Betsy: Good point. Well, let me assure you, Aramis Black is one of my new favorite characters! First of all - his name. So intriguing - one can't help but be a hero with a name like that! What made you decide to give Aramis the burdens of his past and with forgiveness? Did you invent the plot or the character first?

Eric: I loved the name Aramis Black. As soon as I settled on it, the whole series came to life in my mind. I decided to drop him and his muddied past into the streets of modern Nashville. I wanted to show that Music City is not only the stereotypes that most people have in mind. I also wanted to explore some of the rich history in this area, including mysteries of the past. As for the burdens in Aramis's past, those are the heartbeat of the story to me. They define his struggle to become a new man in Christ. He tries to break free, but the past comes roaring back in an unexpected way, putting his new commitment to the test.

Betsy: You did a great job incorporating all of those aspects into your story. It made me want to pick up a history textbook and find out more! Eric, I understand the sequel to The Best of Evil is planned to be released in Summer 2007. Can you give the reader any hints as to what will happen to Aramis next?

Eric: The sequel to The Best of Evil is already in the publisher's hands. The title is A Shred of Truth, and it'll have some real surprises for fans of Aramis Black. In fact, I was surprised by a few things myself. The book opens with Aramis's brother tied to a statue in Nashville. He has initials carved into his back. Soon, Aramis is led on a wild-goose chase through his own past to discover the truth behind the attacker's intentions and the truth of God's forgiveness versus God's judgment. It's a bit darker, a bit faster-paced, than The Best of Evil. Along the way, though, Aramis finds some very bright rays of hope.

Betsy: Wow, very exciting. I'm getting chills just thinking about it! I can't wait! I've just added you to my list of favorite authors. Who are some of your favorites? Which ones have inspired you over the course of your writing career?

Eric: I've been an avid reader since I was a little tyke. My favorite authors have moved from C.S. Lewis to Robert Ludlum to Dean Koontz. I love literary novels. I also love well-rounded thrillers. I was inspired early on by Lewis's THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, later by Ludlum's THE BOURNE IDENTITY, and recently by John Dalton's HEAVEN LAKE. There are some amazing authors out there. I would love to see some of the new authors in Christian fiction get more notice. Most of the advertising dollars go to the established names, while talented newcomers fall by the wayside.

Betsy: What lessons did you learn along the winding road to publication? What can you share with us?

Eric: Never give up. Try not to turn bitter. Write and write and write. Read books on the craft of writing and try to sharpen your talent. Be kind and honest in your dealings with those in the industry--no matter what else happens, that editor or reviewer is your brother or sister, a future citizien of heaven. Oh, and stop talking about writing and actually write. Let God's love and truth flow through your story, but don't sugarcoat life's struggles. This publishing process moves in slow motion, from the author's perspective, so be very patient and understanding. Oh, and did I mention: WRITE!

Betsy: (laughing) Got it! So what is the one piece of advice you'd give to aspiring authors out there right now, other than to keep writing?

Eric: Dig deep into your own heart and let your words flow from your own passions and pain. There are very few original ideas. What makes your story original is your perspective, your style, your approach. Don't try to be like someone else. Be who God has created you to be. When you've actually finished a book (instead of just talking about finishing a book), start knocking on doors and see what happens.

Betsy: Great advice, Eric. Thank you so much for the interview!

Read more about Eric and his characters at!

And don't miss The Best of Evil - released in bookstores September 19th!