She has offered to give away one print book to a fortunate winner. Please leave a comment below with your email address. We have to have ten comments from Continental US folks.
Nancy, tell us a little about yourself.
Except for a couple of years in Arizona, I’ve lived in Wichita, Kansas my entire life. My parents divorced right before I went into the fifth grade. My brother, Dan, and I lived with my mother.
I grew up in church, but unfortunately, it was a very legalistic church that didn’t teach about the grace or power of God. I was baptized when I was around twelve years old, but I didn’t understand the real meaning of the cross until I was in my early twenties. A friend of my mother’s gave me some books by Hal Lindsey. The first couple of books were really interesting and began to open my eyes to the world of the Spirit. Then I read “The Liberation of Planet Earth.” I still remember where I was when I made the decision not to finish it. Every chapter seemed to have the same message – that Jesus Christ went to the cross, took our sins on Himself, and that we could exchange our sinful life for His righteousness. You see, my church only asked if you believed Jesus Christ was the Son of God before you were baptized. (Of course, even the demons know this is true!) As I meditated on the seemingly repetitive message in the book, realization suddenly struck me. Salvation was more than acknowledging who Jesus was, it was accepting His work on the cross for me. Accepting a new life. Giving up my life of sin and taking on His life of righteousness. That night, when I got home from work, I knelt down on the floor and made the “great exchange.” From that moment, my life has never been the same.
It took many more years for me to find out that God had a plan for my life – that I was called to write books. Now I’m happily following that call. I love my life!
Tell us three things about you that would surprise your readers.
- I’m really a hermit… Well, almost. I could stay home for weeks and never leave my house. I enjoy being around my friends, it’s just hard to get me to do too many things away from home.
- I’m a huge Doctor Who fan. Love, love, love that show!
- My family was once quite wealthy. We had the very first microwave oven in Wichita (called a Radar Range back then) and the largest private pool in town. Of course, when you’re a child, that doesn’t really mean anything to you.
What did you like to read as a child? Is there a book that still brings pictures to your mind?
Well, I loved Nancy Drew. Read every single book in the series. I also loved Charles Dickens. Had an entire collection of his stories and can still remember the depth of the characters he created. When my son was in school, I donated the collection to his school. One of these days, I intend to buy another set for myself.
What is your favorite genre to read now?
Mystery and detective fiction. I also love Ted Dekker and read a lot of his books.
As a child or teenager, did you ever dream of being an author?
I don’t think I did, but I spent quite a bit of time writing. Mostly poems. It wasn’t until I was forty-five that I began to suspect I was called to be an author.
Why do you write and who is your target market?
I write because I truly believe God has called me to do so. Although my publishers would probably say my target audience is female readers between twenty and sixty, my target is geared toward anyone who needs to discover that God loves them and has a good plan for their lives. Too many Christians are living below the life God has for them. I try to present God as a good God who wants to bless them and help them to be everything He created them to be.
Tell us about the journey to getting published.
My very first contract was with a small publisher that did business in my home town. Although I had great hope for that situation, in the end, I had to pull my rights back because of certain serious problems. My first major contract was for a cozy mystery book club. My agent told me a publisher was looking for proposals and helped me to prepare one. I wasn’t supposed to hear back from them for at least two months, but two weeks after we submitted the proposal my agent called to tell my they’d accepted “In the Dead of Winter,” the first book in my Ivy Towers’s mystery series. That was my hang up the phone, jump around the room and scream at the top of my lungs moment! LOL!
Now I’m writing Mennonite-themed romantic suspense even though it was never my plan. A cozy mystery proposal with an Amish backdrop turned into “Simple Secrets,” the first book in my Harmony series. Currently, I’m working on a new Mennonite-themed suspense series called “The Road to Kingdom.” The first book in this series, “Inescapable,” was just released. The second book, “Unbreakable,” comes out in February. I’m surprised to find myself writing in this genre, but I love it! Most Amish/Mennonite novels are historical romances. My books are contemporary with a good dose of suspense along with a touch of mystery. A different spin on the genre and a lot of fun to write.
How many years did it take to sell your first book?
As I said earlier, my first sale wasn’t published by the publisher who bought it. I’d been writing for about five years when that took place. After that I sold several books to smaller publishers, but a sale to my first big publisher took about eight or nine years.
What was your biggest obstacle?
Me! I had so much to learn. It took me a while to find my voice and learn how to get my story across. Of course, no one knows everything. Becoming a good writer is a process, and I’m still learning. I have a great publisher that provides excellent editors. They’ve taught me so much. Authors should always be improving. I want to be the best I can be. Growing takes humility and patience.
How many books do you have published?
I’ve had thirteen books published. There are ten currently available.
What are you working on right now?
I’m getting ready to go over galleys for my second “Road to Kingdom” book. Then I’ll be doing rewrites on the third book, yet unnamed. I’m starting on a proposal for a romantic suspense novel that isn’t Mennonite while I wait on a new contract.
Where do you get ideas for your books?
I never know how to answer this question. It sounds flippant to say that ideas just pop into my head, but they do. There have been a few times I got an idea through something in the news or from other sources, but I’ve never been at a loss for inspiration.
How do you choose names for your characters?
Sometimes they just come to me. Other times I look in a book I have that has names divided by ethnicity. I’ve also gone to the phonebook a few times!
Do you put yourself into your main character, or do you find yourself borrowing from family or friends as your characters develop?
Both. But I tend to believe that almost all fictional characters carry aspects of the author’s personality. Otherwise, how could we understand them enough to write about them? The exception may be serial killers. My husband hopes I don’t understand them too much! LOL!
In three words describe your style of writing.
Suspense. Mystery. Faith.
Are you a plotter, a pantser, or somewhere in between, and can you elaborate on your answer?
I’m a pantser with a plan! LOL! I usually start out by the seat of my pants. About halfway through I start plotting out the rest of the book. Rarely do things go the way I plot, however.
What are your favorite themes to write about?
Besides giving my readers a good dose of suspense and mystery, I always try to include a character that must come to grips with the goodness of God and His plan for their life. Too many Christians are living lives of wandering generalities. God has an individual plan for each of us, and His plan includes blessings and joy. I want to point my readers toward that realization.
Share something about your day-to-day life that might help a reader to feel as though they know you a little better.
Well, I usually get up early to pray and read the Bible. Then I watch Joyce Meyer’s program on TV while my puggle, Watson, snuggles with me in my recliner. After that, my husband and I drive to a nearby park and walk. When I get home, my writing time begins! I keep either a hot cup of coffee or a cold glass of Constant Comment tea by my side the rest of the day. Is that TMI? LOL!
What would you be doing if you weren’t writing?
Good question. Probably working in social services. That’s what I did before I started writing full time.
Does your faith affect your writing? How?
Oh my, yes. Faith is the most important thing in my life. Everything I write is soaked with my faith in God.
Do you have a favorite scripture? If so, why is it your favorite?
I think different scriptures apply to certain situations in our lives so I love all of them. But I guess if I had to pick one that means a lot to me, it would be Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” When we really grab hold of this truth, our lives change. Everyone is important to God, and everyone has a special place in the Kingdom.
Have you won any awards with your writing?
Yes, I won the Carol Award for mystery in 2009.
What is the bravest thing you have ever done?
Being an author takes a lot of bravery! LOL! As far as being physically brave, I once jumped into a truck that had crashed into a tree. The engine was racing and smoke was pouring out of the engine. I was afraid it would catch fire. Everyone else, including several men, just stood around and stared. I turned off the engine and then helped the driver out. He was extremely drunk. I stayed with him until the ambulance arrived. I guess it was brave, but to be honest, I couldn’t have done anything else.
Then there was the time I let a full-grown Siberian tiger lick my cheek. But that’s another story. LOL!
If you could travel to anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
More than anything I want to take a cruise to Alaska. I want to see the Northern Lights and watch whales swim past the ship.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us? Maybe a writing tip or advice for aspiring authors?
I’d like to tell aspiring authors to be patient and never give up – IF they’re certain writing is what they’re called to do. I think there are a lot of writers trying to get published who aren’t fulfilling their real calling from God. It’s important that we find the plan God has for our lives and seek to fulfill it. Trying to live someone else’s life just because you think it’s cool won’t bring happiness or contentment.
Where can fans find you or your books on the internet?
My books are available in many places, but the top three are probably ChristianBook.com, Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
Thanks, Nancy, for joining us today and letting us get to know you a little better.
Thanks, Sherri, for having me on your blog!