Author Interview

Tuesday talks-Interview with Penny Zeller

I’m excited today to have Penny Zeller here for an interview.
Penny is a multi-published, award-winning author of inspirational books. It’s such a pleasure to have you with us.

Thank you for having me as your guest, Kristena! It’s great to be here.

Tell us a little about yourself and how you were raised.

I am a homeschool mom of two teen daughters and have been married to my husband and best friend for 26 years. I am also a group fitness instructor and a volunteer ministry liaison who connects needs with ministry resources. My passion is to assist and nurture women and children into a closer relationship with Christ.

I was raised, along with my sister and brother, by two wonderful parents in a little farming town with several aunts, uncles, and cousins nearby. My grandparents lived down the road. Family get-togethers were a blast with all of us, and I still remember the table Nanie (my grandma) had in her little kitchen that stretched from one end to the other to accommodate us all for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.

While I grew up in a moral home, it was not a Christian home. My sister and I did attend Sunday school and youth group periodically at a small Baptist church, and sometimes my grandparents took us to a variety of different Christian churches on Sundays.

God was planting seeds in my life along the way via my pastor’s wife, Marge, my Aunt Kerry, and my sister Becky, who came to Christ several years before I did. It wasn’t until church camp when I was 16 that I surrendered my life to Jesus. I rededicated my life to Him at the age of 27.

Today, my mom is a huge influence in my life. Her strong faith and love for Jesus in the midst of being wheelchair-bound due to an accident is such an inspiration to me. She is a faithful prayer warrior, a loving mentor, and an example of a Titus 2 woman. It has been so awesome to see her grow in her faith as an older adult.

What’s your favorite genre to read and write? Who’s your favorite author?

My favorite genre to write is romance. It’s also my favorite to read.Today, I have multiple book projects going at once and spend a lot of my time in the mid-to-late 1800s and early 1900s. I’m also venturing into contemporary romance novels, which is a super-exciting new path God has been prompting me to take. In addition, there’s a romantic suspense novel percolating around in my mind that will someday make it to paper. 

Hmmmm. My favorite author? I can’t name just one, but two of my favorites are Robin Lee Hatcher and Terri Blackstock. There are many others, but to sum it up, my favorite authors are those who are not afraid to allow their faith to shine through in their writing.

What age did you realize you loved books? When did you start writing?

I have loved books from as far back as I can remember. My mom read to me often when I was a child, and in first grade, I won second place in my class for most books read. Books continue to be an important part of my life, and my husband and daughters all join me in a love for books.

At seven-years-old, I was bitten by the writing bug, and began penning stories about a dog’s adventures. For a writing assignment, I wrote my own second grade Bible story commentary of sorts for “kids.” In fourth grade, my fictional stories were published in homemade wallpaper-covered cardboard books. A poem published in a national magazine and a Young Author’s Award sealed the deal, and thus began my dream of becoming an author. In high school, I wrote stories where my friends were the main characters. Their excitement in reading each new chapter held me accountable.

Tell us about this book.

Freedom’s Flight, which is one of nine novellas in Barbour’s The Underground Railroad Brides Collection, takes place in Tennessee in the 1850s.When she discovers the handsome Reverend Matthias Sorenson assisting runaway slaves, can Annalise Van Houten convince him to allow her to help? Or will mistrust prove fatal for all involved?

Freedom’s Flight is the second novella I have had published in a Barbour series. (The first was Love from Afar in The Secret Admirer Romance Collection). Joining with a group of other Christian authors is an experience like none other. I formed wonderful friendships and camaraderie with my fellow authors during this venture.

What did you learn about yourself through writing it? I realized anew how fascinating the Underground Railroad is. So many put their lives on the line to assist slaves in their quest for freedom. I also learned that I’m going to enjoy writing that suspense novel I referenced above, because Freedom’s Flight contains a bit of suspense. J

Do you normally use an outline for the books you write, or do you just start with a few ideas?

I am an edge-of-the seat writer and don’t use an outline for my fiction books. However, I did have what might qualify as a distant relative of an outline for my nonfiction book 77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference.

For my fiction books, I actually “watch” my ideas at night as though watching a movie. Yes, usually when I should be sleeping. J  I watch the ideas play out in my mind and hope that I can rewrite them like I saw them. I find myself excited to discover what happens next. As one who is a visual learner, I get my ideas from things and people I see. My daughters, one of whom is also a writer, are accustomed to one of my favorite phrases: “characters – characters everywhere!” Because really, characters and ideas are all around us.

Is there a special place you like to write?

I love to write in the home office my husband designed for me for my birthday several years ago. It has my computer and printer, a nice desk with drawers, a small fireplace, several book shelves, and my elliptical. I can see directly out the large window for when I need to take a break and daydream.

What was something that surprised you in the way this book unfolded?

Whenever I write a book, I’m always excited to see what the characters learn and how they develop throughout the book. To writers, characters are real people. We think about them constantly, wonder how they would react in certain situations, and watch as they grow in their faith and overcome obstacles from the start of the book to the end.

What advice would you give a new author?

God calls us all to do different things for His Kingdom. If He has called you to write, seek His guidance. Never give up, even when you feel like it or when someone has unkindly criticized you. Seek to please and honor Him in whatever you write, whether it be for the Christian or secular market; whether it be fiction, nonfiction, poetry, song lyrics, or a screenplay. Find a mentor and be open to ideas and suggestions from one who’s “been there, done that.” One final note, join forces with other Christian writers. After all, we are all working for the same Boss.

What project are you working on now?

I am currently working on a new contemporary romance novel.

Where can we find your books?

My books are available wherever books are sold – online or in your favorite local bookstore. Online bookstores include Amazon, Christian Book Distributors (CBD), and Barnes and Noble.

Where can we find you online?

My website is www.pennyzeller.com. I blog on a variety of topics including movie reviews, growing in the Lord, funny anecdotes, etc. at www.pennyzeller.wordpress.com. In addition, you can find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pennyzellerbooks/ and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/PennyZeller

Thank you for joining me today. There is a lot of interesting information here.

Thank you again, Kristena, for the privilege of being your guest!

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