Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Interview and Book Giveaway with Nancy Mehl

by Jeff Reynolds


For those unaware, I'm officially a former ACFW member, due 100% to time and direction I'm heading overall, 0% due to the organization. One thing I really enjoyed about my three years there was being part of the suspense loop, hosted by author Nancy Mehl. Nancy, who happens to be my victim ... er, interviewee this month, has just released her eighteeneth book which we'll give away (see below).

This is not Nancy's first visit to Sleuths and Suspects; she had the privilege of being interviewed by Jackie Layton last year. If you want to go back and read Jackie's good interview, it's at this link: http://sleuthsandsuspects.blogspot.com/2013/02/unbreakable-by-nancy-mehl.html

Jeff Reynolds:  Welcome back to Sleuths and Suspects, Nancy. In your previous visit, you mentioned you started writing in your forties. What did you do prior to then, and how does that background relate to your writing?

Nancy Mehl: 
Before that, I worked as an Underwriting Director for a Christian radio station. I edited the station’s newsletter, so that helped some. To be honest, the thing that contributed the most to my writing was all the reading I did. I started reading as a child, always having a book nearby. I could read four or five books at a time. I’d even stay up all night and read with a flashlight under the covers!

JR:  My favorite movie line of all time -- since I was a kid -- is the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz saying, "Some people go both ways." I think you can relate to another line from the same movie: When Dorothy tells Toto "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore." Would you like to tell us about your move to Misery ... I mean Missouri? What do you like about the new locale and what do you miss? And do you happen to have a dog named Toto?

  No dog named Toto, but I have a Puggle named Watson.  LOL! We loved our home in Wichita and left behind wonderful friends that I miss. Our decision to move was because we wanted to be near our son, our daughter-in-law, and our grandson. The things I love here? Being near our family, of course. I also adore the scenery here. The house we’re renting backs up to trees and we have a lot of visitors. Birds, squirrels, rabbits, deer – and we even spotted a fox! Now that we’ve experienced this, we know it’s what we’ll look for when we’re ready to buy a house. I haven’t regretted this move for even a second. 
JR:  Besides having a new state of residence (the state I most frequently reside in is Confusion), you have started a new series. Would you like to tell us about your latest release?

NM:  Gathering Shadows is about Wynter Evans who is a promising young reporter for a television station in St. Louis. But even a bright future doesn’t take away her pain over the disappearance of her brother nine years ago. So when she stumbles across a photograph of a boy with an eerie resemblance to him, she can’t pass up the chance to track him down. With research for work as her cover, she sets out with one of the station’s photogs for the place where the picture was taken: the town of Sanctuary.

Almost as soon as she arrives, she meets the town’s handsome young mayor, Rueben King, and together they begin to uncover long held secrets that could tear the small town apart and change everything Wynter thought she knew about her life. As the truth of her family’s past hides in the shadows, it’s clear someone will stop at nothing to keep the answers she’s searching for hidden forever—even if the cost is Wynter’s very life.

JR:  I believe this new set of stories is your fourth series. Could you tell us about the other series, and the connections between your current books and your previous work?

Actually, Finding Sanctuary is my fifth series! The first two (Ivy Towers and Curl Up and Dye) were cozy mysteries. They have a very direct connection to my other two Mennonite-themed series (Harmony and The Road to Kingdom) because they’re all set in small towns. The charm and hometown theme continues through each and every series. 

JR:  Last visit, you mentioned you like writing both mystery and suspense. One book I read -- Writing Killer Fiction: The Funhouse of Mystery and the Roller Coaster of Suspense by Carolyn Wheat -- pointed out that the two genres are completely different and that true hybrids are rare. Are you a mystery writer who works some suspense in your tales, or are you a suspense writer that includes a mystery? And while you're at it, are you more of an outliner, or are you a blank pager?

  Wow. Some great questions. First of all, I have to disagree about the difference between suspense and mystery. Most suspense contains mystery. With suspense we may actually know who the bad guy is from the beginning (think Die Hard), but the mystery lies in how the hero will overcome evil. Some suspense (think Shutter Island) has a twist at the end. Mystery usually ends the same way. The differences? Suspense uses events to propel the plot forward while mystery uses clues. I combine clues and events to craft my plot. Although an event is used to present the climax (and solution), I also sprinkle clues throughout the story. That way mystery fans have the chance to figure out what’s going on before I reveal the solution.

As far as your question about what kind of writer I am, I would have to say that I’m a mystery writer who works suspense into my novels.

I try to outline, but so far, I’ve never followed one single outline yet. My characters tell me where we need to go, and twists in the plot present themselves that are usually much better than my previous ideas. I always go with my characters and the inspiration that comes as I write.

JR:  Even though there are Mennonite themes in your book, you're not Mennonite yourself. (Maybe a Womennonite?) What have you learned about that denomination? How does it compare with your upbringing/home church, and how has it affected your Christian life/philosophy?

  No, I’m not Mennonite. Even when writing about Old Order or Conservative Mennonites, I create characters that choose to dress conservatively and wear prayer coverings because they want to. Not because it’s the right thing to do or because it’s some kind of regulation. I just can’t support that belief, nor can I encourage it in my writing. We are under grace, not law. I can’t, and won’t, write anything that encourages bringing back regulations and laws when Jesus gave his life to bring us into His wonderful grace.

As far as learning from the Mennonite faith, my answer is a resounding yes. When researching their beliefs of non-resistance (some call it pacifism), I saw some things that readjusted my thinking. I’ve always been against the death penalty. I know many good Christian people disagree with me, but personally I can’t understand how we can support the law (that we’re free from), and say killing is okay when Jesus told us to forgive. Reading about the Mennonite beliefs that emphasize turning the other cheek reinforced my opinion about this teaching.

JR:  You have had the privilege of hosting the Suspense loop for the ACFW. What have you most enjoyed about that? How has it helped your writing and other areas in your life?

I like the contact with other suspense writers, but I would like to get more conversations going. Maybe we’re all too busy writing. And that’s a good thing! 

JR:  On your latest blog, you have pictures of some birds (I also love birds, especially Cardinals, Blue Jays, Laughing Kookaburras and Tawny Frogmouths -- the former two appear at our feeder; we need to go to the zoo for the others). Besides birdwatching, what hobbies do you have? How do they overlap with your writing?

  I love finding antiques, and I collect signed books. Right now, since we’re renting, most of my things are in storage. When we finally buy a house, all my books and collectibles will get to come home! I also enjoy several good TV shows. After an entire day of writing, it’s hard for me to read more words so TV relaxes me and gives my mind some rest. My favorites are Dr. Who, Castle, The Black List, 24, and The Middle. 

JR:  Thank you for your time, Nancy. How can we keep in touch with you, your writing, etc?

  My Web site is: www.nancymehl.com. I also have a newsletter that is located at: www.nancymehl.blogspot.com and work with several other authors on a great blog called The Suspense Sister at: www.suspensesisters.blogspot.com. I’m very active on Facebook with a personal page and a Fan Page. I love to making new friends, so everyone’s welcome!

Thanks for allowing me to be a part of Sleuths and Suspects, Jeff. God bless you!

Jeff to the readers: Now is the chance to win a copy of Gathering Shadows. Here is the way to do it:

  1. Leave a comment.
  2. Include your e-mail address (e.g. auntdotkahm(at)ant(dot)com)
  3. A question to answer: Have you moved from one state to another, and how has that impacted your life? (Or are you like me, spending you life in the state of confusion?)


  1. What a great blog post and interview!!
    Yes I have, when my parents decided to move cross country. From California to Florida. To be near my only living grandparents. I don't remember much about the move since was only six or seven.

  2. To answer the question, I have lived in the great state of Texas my entire life. I grew up in one town, but being married, with a family has evolved into living in about six different towns. Each one has offered something different, but all teaching how to depend upon God. My first mission trip was to Juarez, Mexico while living in Childress. I never would have gone to China three times to teach conversational English in classrooms if it weren't for the gererosity of First Baptist Church, Spur.

  3. Yay! Good to see Nancy on here!

  4. 1. I have never moved from one state to another. Just a North Carolina girl. But I have traveled around a little.t
    2. Nancy Mehl is a good writer and one whose books I thoroughly enjoy reading.
    3. My email..... godleyv [at]yahoo{dot}com

  5. I have always lived in N.C.I would love to live in TN.But I will probably always live in a state of confusion.jackie_tessnair{at}yahoo{dot}com

  6. We moved last some from IL to PA. What a culture shock to go from the midwest to the east coast (we now live near the NJ state line). The lifestyle and mindsets are certainly different. We also left behind everyone that we knew when we moved. So, we feel much like an island still.

    I love mystery and suspense so I would l love to win this book! My email address is thejorns at gmail dot com.

  7. Great interview! I moved at age 16 from a suburb of Chicago to a small town in the mountains of NC. Can we say culture shock! However, 20 years later I am proud to call NC my home.


  8. Not entering the contest, but I wanted to comment that at nine, my parents divorced and I moved from Fullerton, California (part of Orange County, five minutes from my mentors Goofy, Dopey, and Eeyore at Disneyland, close to Knott's Berry Farm, Movieland Wax Museum, and an Alligator Farm in Buena Park to Skull Valley, Arizona -- as large as it sounds. No, it wasn't a one room school house. It was two (not counting kitchen and library). Mrs. McCall taught 1st to 3rd grades, Mr. McCall taught 4th to 6th. Jr. and Sr. high bussed to Prescott (I left SV before then). Add to that the fact I went from being the only child at 9 to being with my grandparents and their five or so foster children.