Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Interview with Novelist, Attorney, and Pastor Randy Singer

By Jeff Reynolds

Today, I have the privilege of interviewing my favorite author. Randy Singer has ten novels out, and his eleventh, Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales, is due out this May. Also in his portfolio are the novella The Judge Who Stole Christmas and a couple of non-fiction works he'll describe in the interview. Does an accomplished author like this have a day job? No. He has two, which are also mentioned below.

I've read his first nine novels as well as his novella. My favorite is The Cross Examination of Oliver Finney (recently re-issued under the title The Judge). One of the best Christian novels I've read is Self-Incrimination. Not only is the story great, but he takes the challenge of telling it in the first-person from a female perspective and having the protagonist of an earlier novel play the role of antogonist.

Jeff Reynolds: Randy, first it's an honor to interview you. If memory serves me correctly, you were a lawyer for the North American Mission Board (Southern Baptist). That sounds like an interesting position. What was it like, and how did that experience prepare you both for your literary career and your current day jobs of litigation lawyer and teaching pastor?

Randy Singer:
For several years I had the privilege of serving as the lawyer for the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and as an Executive Vice President. NAMB’s mission was to help Southern Baptist Churches start new churches and share the gospel in North America. I worked with some of the most dedicated Christians I have ever known, both at the National and State levels. When you are part of something that big, there’s never a dull moment!

One of the greatest things about that job was seeing God work in diverse ways. From cowboy churches to hip urban churches and everything in between, it was great to see the different ways churches were adapting to their culture in order to share the gospel message with credibility.

Being around some of the best evangelists and apologists anywhere helped me understand a few things about our culture as well. For one thing, God showed me the power of story. At first, I wanted to write an apologetics book. As a lawyer working at a mission board, I thought I could come up with a unique perspective. But as I started writing that book, I discovered that everything I was saying had already been said by people smarter and more eloquent than me. Then God showed me how reasoning and logic will often fail to penetrate the defense mechanisms that people have built up. But stories go straight to the heart. One day, as I was flying in an airplane and the person next to me had his nose stuck in a novel (probably to avoid talking to me) I realized that he would spend twenty or thirty hours absorbing the worldview and philosophy conveyed by the author of that novel. That’s when God called me to be a storyteller and to share the deeper truths in life through novels.

My work at NAMB also helped prepare me for my dual jobs as a litigation attorney and a teaching pastor at Trinity Church. The heroes of the Southern Baptist Convention are the many bi-vocational pastors who do what Paul did–work in a secular pursuit and at the same time pastor a church. Among other things, this allows those of us who are bi-vocational to stay in touch with people who never darken the door of a church and reach them in ways that we could never do if we were only pastors. I also had a lot of experience with church starting at NAMB and this helped prepare me for my job as the first teaching pastor at Trinity Church, a place where I have been serving for the past six years.


JR: A subject that's discussed in writer circles is the preferred method of writing: Plotting/Outlining versus Seat of the Pants/Blank Page. Which approach do you use? Or does it vary from story to story?

RS:
I am a very committed plotter/outliner. Before I begin drafting my books, I will typically have a twenty-page outline and a very clear vision for the twists and turns in the story, including the ending.

However, now that I’ve concluded eleven novels, I realize that the final version of the book seldom looks much like that twenty-page outline I put together at the beginning. Does that mean I’m going to start writing by the seat of the pants? Not on your life! If nothing else, the outline gives me a security blanket and allows me to write with a direction in mind. You might find this shocking, but as a lawyer and pastor I tend to be somewhat verbose. If I didn’t have a detailed outline with an ending in sight, I think my books would be 800 pages. They are already on the long side so I’d better stick to the plotting approach.

I’ve found that many times I will write the book from the original outline until I get about two-thirds of the way through and then I’ll throw in a plot twist which changes everything. This makes it harder for the readers to predict the plot twist because I didn’t even know it was coming myself when I wrote the first two-thirds of the book. My perfect ending is a twist that catches the reader by surprise but still seems “fair.” The worst ending is something that catches the reader totally by surprise but feels like an ambush because it came out of left field and there were no clues or foreshadowing along the way.

JR:  One thing I enjoy about your novels is the development of your antagonists, like "Ichabod" in Directed Verdict, Irreparable Harm, and The Judge Who Stole Christmas and Mitch Taylor in Self-Incrimination. How do you create such interesting characters?

RS:
  Thanks for the encouragement. I work hard at developing three-dimensional antagonists. For each story, I will actually construct an entire biography for my antagonist. What made him/her that way? What motivates him/her? What redeeming qualities does he/she have? Etc. I’ve found that hardly anybody starts out in life just trying to be evil. In his/her own warped view, the antagonist usually believes that his/her actions are justified.

Most of that biography will never make it into the book but it helps keep the character consistent and realistic.

I also work hard to make my antagonist at least equal in terms of cunning, force of will, discipline, etc. to my protagonist. Even better if my antagonists have superior traits so that my protagonists can be the underdogs.

Next, I’ll have my antagonist do something that is admirable or noble. As a lawyer, I’ve learned that even the most despicable people have moments of honor.

Finally, I will go through the entire book once I have the first draft written and read it (and rewrite it, if necessary) from the POV of the antagonist. What would he/she be thinking here? What would he/she know here? How would he/she react?

JR: At this moment, you have eleven published novels. Which one was the most enjoyable to write? The most frustrating? The most rewarding?

RS:
This is a really tough question. It feels like: “Which of your children is your favorite?”

But since the Fifth Amendment doesn’t apply to author interviews, I’ll try to answer.

The book that was probably the most enjoyable (i.e. easy) to write was False Witness. It was my fifth novel and the first time I took the pressure off and quit trying to evangelize readers and just allowed myself to tell the story. The main character was based on a former friend of mine who had been in the witness protection program and had led a very colorful life. Writing that character was easy. There were also law students and a crusty old law school professor and a cool black lab—all of which are familiar parts of my life (I’m the crusty old law professor). The settings were Atlanta and Las Vegas, two interesting cities. That story came easy to me and to this day most people say it is the hardest one of my books to put down.

The most frustrating is probably a two-way tie. The Cross Examination of Oliver Finney and my most recent book, Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales, both stumped me. For both, I thought I had the plot all figured out at the beginning but really struggled to bring it all together in the end. I can distinctly remember during The Cross-Examination of Oliver Finney having such severe writer’s block that I had to get away from my normal patterns of life and go to the city that was the setting for the book, stay in a hotel away for about a week, and go for long walks and runs until I could work through everything in my mind. I isolated myself from everyone until I figured it out.

About halfway through my most recent book, Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales, I called my publisher and said that the book just couldn’t possibly work. It was time to move on to the next book instead. Karen Watson, my editor, talked me down from the ledge and told me to keep working on it. I'm very grateful because I think it’s turned out to be one of the strongest books I’ve ever written. It eventually came together and I look back on it now and find it hard to believe that I was ready to quit on this book.

The most rewarding book is always your first book, isn’t it? For me, Directed Verdict is when I learned that I really could write a novel and that people might actually read it and enjoy it.

But that book is now being surpassed by the one I’m currently working on. The Advocate will be released in time for Easter, 2014. That story is proving to be the most challenging and rewarding experience I’ve had as a writer. I tell people that I was born to write this book.

JR: There are additionally some non-fiction works in your portfolio. Could you tell us about them? How did your fiction experience influence your non-fiction writing and vice versa?

RS:
One thing I’ve learned is that both fiction and non-fiction are ultimately about storytelling. There is a reason that Christ taught in parables. Our brain is hardwired to respond to stories and our hearts are drawn to them. A good non-fiction book captures truth through real-world stories.

One of the non-fiction books I co-authored with my friend, Bob Reccord, is the book Made to Count. As leaders at a mission board, we were advocates for the biblical principle that laymen and laywomen are just as “called” as those who surrender their lives to full-time ministry. Made to Count is the story of men and women who share the Gospel in all kinds of ways (through their occupations, in their neighborhoods, etc.) outside the walls of the church. In church life we sometimes inadvertently treat those called into full-time ministry as the true spiritual giants and others as second-rate. Bob and I wanted to tell about the heroes that minister beyond the bounds of traditional ministry. For example, the book starts with a man who cleans port-a-johns for a living and includes those serving Christ in a number of secular professions including, believe it or not, lawyers!

I also wrote the The Cross Examination of Jesus Christ because I was intrigued by Christ’s confrontation with the lawyers of his day and what those confrontations teach us. The book contains a number of my personal experiences that I use as examples for how Christ can work in the most unlikely among us.

JR: One subject I find interesting both in regards to writing and to life in general is mentoring. Who would you consider your writing mentors? Also, you undoubtedly have had opportunities to mentor as an author, a lawyer, and a pastor. Any advice for us in either mentoring others or being mentored?

RS:
I've had wonderful mentors in all areas of my life, including ministry, my law practice, and writing. Four Christian authors who welcomed me to Christian fiction and have been very helpful along the way are: James Scott Bell, Angie Hunt, Brandilyn Collins and Robert Whitlow.

Mentoring others is one of the highlights of my life. I presently have a group of about 15 young men that I mentor on Sunday evenings. I’ve also had the awesome experience of mentoring high school boys who don’t have fathers in their lives. These young men become like sons to me and seeing them succeed in life and grow closer to the Lord is its own reward. Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to see my latest surrogate son play football at the college level which has been a fun experience for a guy like me who was too small and too slow to have that kind of career.

JR:  A common denominator/thorn-in-the-flesh your three responsibilities have in common is research. Does your research in one field ever light a spark in one of the other two?

RS: 
Great question. Many of my novels are sparked by real-life cases. God has given me a very interesting, diverse and challenging case load at my firm. Many lawyers end up doing the same kind of mundane cases week after week and year after year. However, I’ve had the privilege (I guess you could call it a privilege) of being involved in in some of the most unbelievable cases you could possibly imagine.

And usually, somewhere in the middle of a case, I’ll say to myself, “This would be a great novel but nobody would believe it!”

When a lawyer prepares a case for trial, there’s an enormous amount of research that goes into that subject matter. As novelists, we are taught that we write best those things we know the most about. For me, it’s a natural thing to let my real-life cases bleed over into my fictional ones.

For example, a little over two years ago I represented the daughters of Hamilton Somerville in a high-profile case where we sued their step-mother for poisoning their father. I learned more about evidence for modern-day poisoning cases in the context of that litigation than I could have learned as a writer doing months of research. Another example is a case I tried arising out of a school shooting. That case formed the basis of my book The Justice Game.

Readers often respond to authenticity in the stories that we tell. Nothing makes a story more authentic than basing parts of it on real-life events that we’ve lived through—actually experiencing many of the emotions and traumas of our main characters.

JR:  My guess is that your pastor's heart carries over into your legal and literary duties. What are your greatest burdens/concerns, and how do they motivate your preaching, writing, and litigating?

RS:
My overriding concern is for those who have never experienced salvation through Christ. Each of my messages on Sunday, and each of the books I write, are designed to help people take another step on their spiritual journey. Many of my books are designed to raise important spiritual questions and allow the readers to sort out the answers on their own. I’ve learned not to “preach” in my books. If people want to hear me preach, they can come to my church. My books should just tell a story that will entertain and, hopefully, point subtly toward some spiritual truth.

I’ve built a law firm on the principle that we should minister to our clients both by seeking justice for them and by being open to their spiritual needs. When people come in my door, they are frequently going through the biggest crisis in their lives. They need someone who will be a loyal advocate and not judge them. And yes, they need someone who will fight hard for justice. But they also need someone who will level with them and tell them the truth about the reality of what they are facing, both legally and sometimes spiritually. I hope that I can provide all the above.

JR:  I am grateful that you took the time for this interview considering how full a plate you have. What should we look forward to on the publishing end? And if we visit your church, what will you be preaching on?

RS:
As I mentioned in response to a previous question, I think that my next book may be the most important book I’ll ever write. It’s called The Advocate and it’s a first-person account of the two most important trials in the history of the world–the Trial of Christ and the Trial of Paul in front of Nero. Of course, many brilliant scholars have studied, dissected and reconstructed the trial of Christ in the past two thousand years. But we know very little about the trial of Paul in front of Nero. The Advocate is being written from the perspective of Theophilus, the court-appointed advocate for the Apostle Paul and a man who was an advisor to Pilate during Christ’s trial. My hope is to bring these two epic events alive in the context of this story.

At church from now until Easter I’m preaching on the final seven days of the life of Christ. Easter is my favorite day of the year and I’ve seen God do some incredible things during this season of Lent.


JR:  Thank you for your time and may the Lord Jesus Christ bless you.

RS:
  Jeff, thanks for asking me to do this interview and for your very thoughtful and insightful questions. I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of interviews but your questions were unique and very insightful. Bless you!

*    *    *    *    *

You can learn more about Randy Singer at his web-site, http://www.randysinger.net

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Giveaway and Interview with Traci Hilton

I have the pleasure of introducing Traci Hilton. Traci writes cozies like I do. We both write for www.cozymysterymagazine.com where all things are cozy. So if you like cozie mysteries come on over and visit us. Today we'll be talking about Traci's new book "Good, Clean, Murder." She has graciously offered a free ebook to one person. The book is will not be released until March 2nd so the winner will have to wait a few days for their copy. Without furthur ado let's learn more about Traci.

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Interview Questions/Sleuths and Suspects Blog

  1. Tell us a little about yourself.
When I was a kid I had the totally ambitious dual goals of being an author (I specifically wanted to write books like Beverly Clary’s or the Sweet Valley High series) and a missionary. As far as missionary-ing goes my sole vision was of a hut on stilts in the jungle where I sat at a desk writing update letters by the light of a camp lantern.
I’ve never lived in a hut on stilts, and I don’t write middle grade novels, but I feel like God has really given me both of my dreams come true, first the missions dream through time I spent overseas in high school and at Bible School, and now my dream to be a novelist.

  1. Tell us about your most recent book/or the book we are focusing on.
March 2nd is the official release date for my newest book Good, Clean, Murder. I channeled quite a lot of my missions zeal and a little of my Bible School era into it. Jane Adler is the main character and she is a sold out Christian whose one goal is to get herself to the 10/40 window to be a missionary. Unfortunately, she faces a series of hard-to-swallow realities shortly before her graduation, including that she might not be ready yet for the big time. And, of course, there is the little matter of the murder she finds herself in a position to help solve.

  1. What are a couple of your favorite books and what are you reading now?

I’ve been devouring the Reboot Series by C. L. Ragsdale. For complete disclosure, C L accepted a review copy of Good, Clean, Murder, so I decided to check out her books. The first in her series was so great—a character driven story with a mystery that harkens to Scooby Doo stories, while offering a deeper, longer running mystery that flows through all of the books. The series was such a delightful surprise that I contacted C. L. again and offered to make her new book covers.
I am sure all of that breaks some arms-length rules about reviews and recommendations etc. But the Reboot Files are charming, and the freedom of the indy writer is to make decisions based on their heart instead of worrying about what their publisher might think.

As for favorite books, that list is so long! I’ll just say that right now my favorite mysteries are The Rumpole stories by John Mortimore. If I can be half of the writer he is by the time I retire my keyboard I’ll retire with a glad heart!

  1. What are you working on now and can you give us a little peek inside it?
I’d love to give you a sneak peak of Good, Clean, Murder! And this is the first sneak peak I’ve posted, so you all are very lucky.
Jane tucked her lemon-Pledge-soaked dust rag back in her apron pocket and moved on to the laundry room, the chemical citrus wafting away with her. She needed to strip the beds and get the laundry going if she was going to get out to her next house on time. On her way past the laundry room, she grabbed a hamper.
Then she stopped. Monday was laundry day. Laundry day and payday. The envelope full of cash was always pinned to the bulletin board with her directions. That envelope was supposed to buy her books today. Standing still with the hamper on her hip she debated. Stop now, call Pam, and ask for directions and money, or just keep working? The laundry would take two hours, whether she was paid or not, so she moved to the master bedroom. She could call Pamela after she had the first load in the machine.
Jane pushed open the bedroom door with her hip.
In a smooth set of motions perfected over her two years as a housekeeper, she set the hamper down, grabbed the end of the comforter and pulled all of the bedding off the bed. Then she looked up to grab the pillows.
Bob was still in bed.
“I am so sorry!” she whispered. She backed away from the bed.
Bob hadn’t seemed to notice her.
Heat rose to Jane’s face. What a complete moron! She should have knocked. She could have given him the chance to wake up a little. She looked away from the bed, waiting for him to speak.
He didn’t say anything.
In fact, Bob hadn’t moved a muscle when his covers had come flying off him. Surely, if a big guy like him had moved, she would have noticed.
She stepped back to the bed.
Bob was very still, and his face was pasty.
Jane’s heart thumped against her ribs, like a small, hard fist.
Bob was not well.


  1. What advice would you give authors who are on their own journey to publication?
To paraphrase everyone’s favorite blue fish: Just keep writing! No matter who you want to publish with, or what type of stories you write, the only way to have a full and satisfying career as a writer is to write, write, write! Sometimes I feel like an “overnight success” because I had a lot of luck a couple of years ago with my first book, but the hundreds of pages of unpublishable drivel I had created before that book are a reminder to me that I got here the same way every other writer does: by writing a lot!

  1. Do you have any books or websites that have helped you with your writing that you could share with us?
I have such a great slew of mentors in my life…if I were to link to everyone you guys would never have time to write! So for today, I’ll say check out Randy Ingermanson’s site http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/ to grow as a writer and Rusell Blake’s site http://russellblake.com/ for everything production and promotion related.

  1. Please let us know where we can find you on the web.
I would love to have all of you join me for the Good, Clean, Murder Launch Party! You can sign up for it here: https://www.facebook.com/events/534590179908800/ I’ll be giving away prizes like really good coffee, cute coffee mugs, and books, books, books! You can also catch me at http://www.tracihilton.com
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Traci Tyne Hilton is the author of The Mitzy Neuhaus Mystery Series, and one of the authors in the The Tangle Saga series of science fiction novellas. She was the Mystery/Suspense Category winner for the 2012 Christian Writers of the West Phoenix Rattler Contest, a finalist for Speculative Fiction in the same contest, and has a Drammy from the Portland Civic Theatre Guild. Traci serves as the Vice President of the Portland chapter of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association.
Traci earned a degree in History from Portland State University and still lives in the rainiest part of the Pacific Northwest with her husband the mandolin playing funeral director, their two daughters, and their dog, Dr. Watson.
More of Traci's work can be found at http://www.tracihilton.com

HOW TO ENTER FOR A COPY OF TRACI'S BOOK:
1) BE A FOLLOWER OR BECOME A FOLLOWER
2)FOLLOW BY EMAIL
3)TELL US IF YOU'VE READ A COZY BEFORE OR/ASK TRACI A QUESTION.

HAPPY READING!





Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Interview with Matthew Horn, Author of Nothing Good is Free


Author Matthew Horn


TELL ME MORE ABOUT YOUR NEW RELEASE. IS IT A SEQUEL TO THE GOOD FIGHT

Nothing Good is Free is the second book in The Good Fight Series and is the sequel to The Good Fight.  It continues Jeff’s story now that his mentor, Jim, is dead.  He tries to search out information that may lead him to why Jim strayed as he did near the end of his life.  He also struggles on his own with the same conflicts Jim did such as holding together a job and his home life.  His girlfriend, Brooke, takes a much larger role in this book.  In fact, their romance is a central them. 

WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE CHARACTER IN THE NOVEL AND WHY? 

In this book I gave the persistent detective, Martell, a starring role alongside Jeff.  I think it’s probably a tie between the two for my ‘favorite’, but it was a lot of fun writing Detective Martell in this way for the first time.  He’s caught in a tight spot knowing the identity of the vigilante even as the entire police department is doing their very best to catch Jeff.  In fact, because of Martell’s history with Jim and because of his new relationship with Jeff, the police want to use Martell as the face of their new campaign to catch the vigilante.  It’s a really fun ride and watching the way Martell balances trying to keep his own job along with trying to help Jeff is really engaging.

Cover Shows a Chalk Outline of a Body


HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE YOU, ON AVERAGE, TO COMPLETE A NOVEL? 

For me, it’s all over the map.  The first book I ever wrote (currently unpublished) took a little over 3 months.  It is almost 700 pages, and the editing was atrocious because I wrote it too fast and was too new to writing.  Nothing Good is Free took around six or seven months to complete and is only about 200 pages.  That of course doesn’t count the editing time at the publisher.  I always have several ideas going at once and am finding as my writing career progresses that I put more and more effort into each and every book.  I’m sure I’ll get to the point where it may take a full year to get a manuscript exactly where I want it to be before going to the publisher. 

WHICH ACTORS/ACTRESSES MOST CLOSELY PHYSICALLY EMBODY THE WAY YOU ENVISION YOUR CHARACTERS? 

This is a great question and honestly is one I think about a lot.  At the beginning of The Good Fight, Jeff is just finishing up college.  He’s a tall, thin kid, kind of dark, and I imagine him with very piercing eyes.  I’m not sure who Hollywood has to offer.  I have often thought that Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) might work as a Jeff now that he is older.  The problem is that it’s hard to know any Hollywood personality well enough to think that they might have the morals and personal conviction to play someone like Jeff. 

WHAT WOULD BE YOUR MAIN CHARACTER’(S’) THEME SONG(S)? 

For me, that’s an easy one.  The 80’s hair band “Triumph” sang a song called “Fight the Good Fight”.  The message is wholesome, and inspiring.  I also have a bit of a soft spot for that kind of music.  My wife’s not a big fan, but what can you do?

WHAT SPECIAL RESEARCH, IF ANY, DID YOU NEED TO CONDUCT TO WRITE YOUR LATEST RELEASE? 

Researching this book was the most fun I’ve had yet.  At one point, Jeff needs to break into a Mercedes.  I wanted to be as realistic as I could and it turns out (using Google of course) that you can find all sorts of research papers from across the country reviewing the proper equipment and techniques to break the cars electronic security system.  The trouble wasn’t researching; the trouble was trying to write it into terms that were even vaguely understandable. 

I also frequently use mapping websites to try and better understand the area I’m writing about.  I know and love the Chicago area that the book is based in, but I try to describe things exactly as they are to enhance the reality of the writing. 

Lastly, a lot of research goes into the gear that Jeff and his new counterpart, The Red Vigilante, use during their missions.  Sometimes explosives are involved, weapons, defensive gear or armor and everything they wear and use is real.  It’s a lot of fun.



Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Unbreakable by Nancy Mehl

A few years ago I read my first Nancy Mehl book. I'm so excited to welcome her to Sleuths and Suspects today.

Nancy Mehl lives in Wichita, Kansas, with her husband Norman and her very active puggle, Watson. She’s authored fourteen books and is currently at work on a new series for Bethany House Publishing. The first book in her Road to Kingdom series, “Inescapable,” came out in July of 2012. The second book, “Unbreakable” released in February of 2013.
All of Nancy’s novels have an added touch – something for your spirit as well as your soul. “I welcome the opportunity to share my faith through my writing,” Nancy says. “God is number one in my life. I wouldn’t be writing at all if I didn’t believe that this is what He’s called me to do. I hope everyone who reads my books will walk away with the most important message I can give them: God is good, and He loves you more than you can imagine. He has a good plan for your life, and there is nothing you can’t overcome with His help.”

Readers can learn more about Nancy through her Web site: www.nancymehl.com or her blog www.suspensesisters.blogspot.com. She is also active on Facebook.






Nancy, how did you get your start writing fiction?

I started writing in my forties. Two things kicked off my decision to give writing a try. The first was an inspirational message I heard about finding your destiny, and the other, believe it or not, was the television series, Murder, She Wrote! I realized that more than anything, I wanted to be Jessica Fletcher. LOL!







Were you an avid reader as a child? What did you read?

Absolutely. I’d check out four or five books from the library and read them at night with a flashlight, under my covers! I couldn’t get enough.
I loved Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, The Bobbsey Twins, and anything with a touch of mystery in it.



What part of a writing career do you find most difficult?

Finding time to get everything done. Writers spend time doing a lot of other things besides writing. Authors are expected to promote their books, write blogs, and connect with readers. I do really enjoy getting to know my readers, but a lot of the other busy work gets me down sometimes.



What’s your favorite genre of writing?

Mystery first. Then suspense. I love what I’m writing now because my publisher encourages my mystery side. I get to combine both genres and that makes me happy.


Please tell us five random things we might not know about you.

I just became a grandmother for the first time! Aidan Jackson Mehl was born on Christmas Day. So, my new name is…Nana!

I’m a huge Doctor Who fan. In fact, one of the characters in Unbreakable, Ebbie Miller, was patterned after the tenth Doctor, David Tennant.

Although I’m writing Mennonite fiction, I’m not Mennonite. I have a lovely friend who is a Mennonite church historian in Goessel, Kansas. Judy Unruh keeps me on track. (Thanks, Judy!)

So far, all of my books have been set in Kansas. But the new series I’ll be writing for Bethany House will take place in Missouri.

Why?

Because sometime in 2013 my husband and I (and Watson) will be moving to Missouri. My son, his wife, and my new grandson live there. It will be a little bittersweet to change settings, but I look forward to doing some research in the “Show Me” state.

I love animals. All of our pets have been rescued. I’m a big believer in adopting animals that need to be rescued.

Who is the most fun character you ever created?

Well, I love Hilde Higgins, hairdresser for the dead. She is featured in my Curl Up and Dye mysteries. But I think my all time favorite is Ruby Bird. She ran a cafĂ© in my Ivy Towers series. Ruby was eccentric, loud (she couldn’t hear well), and she didn’t suffer fools gladly. I adored her! Still do.

Do you have a favorite book you’ve written?

You know, I just can’t pick one. Do I pick one of the cozies that helped a woman get through chemo because it made her laugh? Or the Harmony book that had a character with Down Syndrome? A woman wrote to tell me that the character reminded her of her uncle Drew who’d passed away. My character’s name was Drew, btw. Or what about the book that made another reader turn her life back to God? Those kinds of reactions mean more to me than any story ever will.

Does your faith affect your writing? How?

Absolutely. I pray over every book before I start and ask God what He wants to say through my story. I believe He uses fiction to touch people. Every book is dedicated to Him first.

Would you tell us about your current book release UNBREAKABLE?
UNBREAKABLE is the story of Hope Kauffman, a shy, quiet girl who lives in the Mennonite town of Kingdom, Kansas. When churches and people of faith are attacked in the county, the residents of Kingdom have to decide how to protect themselves. The core belief of the Mennonite faith is nonviolence, but will sticking to this doctrine put them in danger? Hope is engaged to a man who refuses to take up a weapon to defend himself – or anyone else. But another man Hope is drawn to makes a different choice. Hope’s heart is as divided as her hometown. Before the end of UNBREAKABLE Hope’s faith will be tested as her life hangs in the balance.

Where did you get your inspiration for UNBREAKABLE?

I started thinking about the Mennonite belief in nonviolence, or passive resistance. Mennonites believe it is right to resist evil, but they do not believe it’s right to resort to violence to obtain their goals. I began to wonder what would happen if a Mennonite town was attacked by violent men. Would everyone respond the same way? How much would the citizens of Kingdom risk in order to stand by their convictions? UNBREAKABLE was born from these questions.

What is it about your lead character that will make your readers care about her/him?

Hope is the kind of person who isn’t satisfied to accept what others tell her. Once she begins to question her church’s beliefs, nothing stops her from searching for the truth. She is incredibly honest and true to herself.


What is the main theme or spiritual message of this book?

The main theme is that we can disagree on doctrine but still love each other. There are some tenants of Christianity that shouldn’t be compromised. But there are others that aren’t so clearly defined. In UNBREAKABLE I tried to present two sides of an issue without demonizing brothers and sisters who chose different paths of faith.


Would you share with us what you are working on now?

I’m just starting a new series for Bethany House. It’s Mennonite-themed romantic suspense, but this time, it will be set in Missouri. I look forward to new locations to research. It should be fun.


Nancy is willing to give away a book if we get twelve comments from people not related to this blog. Be sure to leave us your comments.

Nancy, thanks so much for visiting with us today.










Saturday, February 2, 2013

Interview with Susan Lyttek


Susan Lyttek


WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO START WRITING?

I always told stories. Perhaps that comes from having an editor for a father and a librarian for a mother. I wrote my first poem at five and my first story at six. I kept writing during all my growing up years. After I came to Christ, I sacrificed all my earlier writing to the Lord and waited on him. After three years, he gave writing back to me and my aim since has been to write to glorify him.

WHAT AUTHORS HAVE INFLUENCED YOUR WRITING STYLE?

I don't know. I read quite a bit. As far as the mysteries go, I adored the Finny's Nose series by Dana Mentink. I also love C.S. Lewis' works and the depth of Dostoevsky. I will read just about anything that Bryan Davis or Stephen Lawhead write, too.  

Homeschooling can be Murder cover - a dog, colored pencils, paper clips, a hand, and a soccer ball are shown on a colorful cover


TELL ME ABOUT YOUR LATEST RELEASE.
  
Army wife and homeschooling mom, Jeanine Talbott finds herself in an impossible situation—she would rather ignore her husband’s transfer orders and stay put.  So she lets James pick out the new house and move their goods while she slowly wraps up the life she’s come to love. 

As she pulls up to their new residence, she discovers her darling bought a charming fixer-upper with rather unexpected neighbors—a Civil War graveyard full of them.

As the family, including kids Justin and Josie, gets settled in Gentle Springs, strange noises come from the cemetery.  Then, James goes TDY (temporary duty assignment) to California.  While he’s gone, their dog, Jelly, escapes the yard and finds a fresh body in the cemetery.  Suddenly, the Talbotts have two mysteries on their hands: who killed the treasure hunter, and what secret was he trying to unearth at the tomb of town hero, Captain Cooperton?

HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU SPEND IN RESEARCH BEFORE YOU WRITE A STORY?

Because of the historical mystery, about a month. I also did research as I wrote to confirm whatever details I was using.

With a fantasy novel that I'm currently working on, I've already done about six months of research because it starts in Italy in the 15th century and I knew only the basics about the time and place when I started. Not now!

HOW DO YOU LIKE TO SPEND YOUR TIME WHEN YOU'RE NOT WRITING?

I read a lot. I like puzzle videogames way too much. I attend tae kwon do classes with my teenage sons--both to be with them and to stay fit. We always find new audiobooks to listen to on the drive to/from classes. I enjoy tinkering in the kitchen with new recipes and/or ingredients. When I want to work with my hands, I do crewel embroidery.

HOW CAN READERS CONTACT YOU AND/OR LEARN MORE ABOUT YOU AND YOUR WRITING?

They can go to my website: sajlyttek.com. They can also keep in touch with me on my Facebook author page: Susan A. J. Lyttek