Tuesday Talks Interview with Rachel Fordham

We have the pleasure of welcoming back Rachel Fordhum today. She’s here to tell us more about herself and her second book in the Azure Springs saga. Welcome Rachel. Tell us a little about your husband and kids.

I’m married to my favorite guy in this whole world. We’ve been married 15 years (the time has flown by). I always wanted lots of kids and luckily he was on board with that. We planned for four and ended up with six. We also foster so the number of people that call me mom is subject to change. My kids range in age from 3-13. I have five boys and one girl. It’s always, always, ALWAYS loud around my house.

What’s you’re a book from your childhood that you can still remember reading?

Where the Red Fern Grows. I bawled through that book! My husband had never read it so when we were dating we read it together and we sobbed. I’d read a page and be crying too hard to read on so he’d read and then he’d be crying. It was bad! My oldest kids have read it now and it makes my heart happy knowing they felt all the feels too.

How did you know you were a writer?

I think I was always a writer but I didn’t know it. As a kid I wrote little stories but I thought published authors were more sophisticated or better trained than me. I was too ordinary a person to be an author! But it was in me. I’d watch a movie and spend a half hour after analyzing it for plot holes. I’d go to bed and rewrite the ending to make it more satisfying. But it wasn’t until 2014 that I actually decided to try writing. Even then I had no goals of publication. I told no one but my family that I was going to try. Once I did I realized ordinary people could write books and haven’t stopped (except when life required I did) since.

Tell us about this book.

Yours Truly, Thomas is the story of Penny a clerk at the dead letter office who yearns for something more. When she starts finding letters from Thomas to his true love she decides to make it her mission to put the lost missives into the hands of their rightful owner. Things don’t go exactly as planned but I think they work out pretty well in the end.

It’s a standalone novel but features several characters from The Hope of Azure Springs.

What did you learn about yourself through writing it?

So far this has been the hardest book for me to write. Normally the story just flows for me. This writing experience was a wrestle to get it write. I changed things, big things, over and over. Even when I turned it in the edit requests from the publisher were bigger than other edits I’d done. There have been moments of doubt as I trudged through the writing of this book.

I learned about perseverance! Hopefully it’s a lesson I only have to learn once.

Do you use an outline when you write, or do you just start with a few ideas?

I researched the dead letter office prior to starting the first draft of this book. I didn’t have this plotted out beforehand. I knew I wanted the dead letter office and a reason to go to Azure Springs again. The rest just kind of happened.

Is there a special place you like to write?

I’d love to write outside more but truthfully most of my writing is done on my couch after the kids are tucked in bed.

What was something that surprised youin the way this book unfolded?

 I was surprised and intrigued by the dead letter information I found. I was sad I couldn’t include even more trivia in the book. I think I’d love reading peoples mail for a living! I was also surprised by the ending and grateful it all came together. I’d wondered for a while there if I was going to be able to explain a few mysterious things that happen.

What advice would you give a new author?               

After writing this book I’d say don’t be afraid of lots of drafts and big edits. Let the change requests sit before you decide they won’t work. This book went through lots of major changes and I truly believe the end product was all the better because of it.

What project are you working on now?

My 2020 release with Revell is the story of a teacher in the Dakotas. I really love this book and can’t wait for you all to read Agnes’s story.

I’m also playing around with a women’s fiction project that’s kind of a “heart story”. I’m a foster parent and decided to fictionalize (heavily fictionalize) some of the experiences I’ve had. At this point I don’t know what that stories destiny will be but penning it has been a powerful experience.

Where can we find your books?

Anywhere books are sold!

Tuesday Talks-Interview with John Grebe

Today we Have John Grebe with us. John holds a Masters of Divinity from Biblical Theological Seminary in Hatfield, Pennsylvania. He is a member of the Order of Corpus Christi; a community that aims to live out the values of Mercersburg Theology in everyday life and supporting one another in a life of common prayer and contemplation He’s also been a personal friend for many years.

Welcome John, tell us a little about yourself and how you were raised.

I would describe myself as a Christian mystic that values growing closer to God while helping others grow closer to God in the process. I am a member at Wentz’s United Church of Christ, where I am an elder and one of the adult Sunday School teachers. My personal interests include, reading, writing, nature photography, turtles and enjoying large amounts of Chinese teas, especially darker oolongs and puerh. I grew up in Norristown, Pennsylvania (around an hour outside of Philadelphia), as the oldest of three brothers.

From a young age my parents stressed the importance of education, which helped to build my lifelong learning mindset.

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

My reading is divided between Christian books, history and classic fantasy/folk tales. When it comes to Christian books I tend to focus on books with an emphasis on spiritual formation. I do not have a favorite author to say as I read widely to take in a diverse range of viewpoints. Still, I’d say George MacDonald stands out to me at the moment for two main reasons. First, he was the inspiration and literally mentor to both C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien’s fiction and religious works, which I enjoy. Second, my book was inspired by George MacDonald’s Unspoken Sermons series, where he wrote sermons even though he lacked the opportunity to preach them from the pulpit. I approached my book from the mindset of writing a sermon series on prayer.   

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

I cannot remember a time in my life that I did not love books. Growing up there were books in the house as my parents valued my having access to books as a child. The first time that I started writing (that was not required for school) was in middle school. Since then, it was a bit of an on and off process, which included numerous attempts at blogging, and a few short stories.

Tell us about this book.

Pray As You Can, Exploring the Diverse Nature of Christian Prayer, grew out of an adult Sunday School class that I taught at my church. Basically, I was getting frustrated at the bad job that way too many churches handle prayer. Mainly only teach about the importance of prayer and why one should have an active prayer life but not actually spend the time to teach people how to pray. I believe that the biggest barrier that most Christians have when it comes to prayer, is rooted in unrealistic expectations. The most common unrealistic expectation about prayer is thinking there is a right way to pray. When there are many different ways to pray and different people will naturally connect with different forms of prayer. Thus, one should simply ‘pray as you can’ and not be concerned about the different types of prayer that do not connect them with God in a meaningful manner.

What did you learn about yourself through writing it?

The main thing that I learned about myself when writing my book was the importance of finding the right genre of writing that fits who you are as a person. Previously, I had large visions initially for an epic allegorical novel and then a collection of short stories. Looking back the main reason why these failed was because I was trying to produce something that was not natural to who I was as a person, as compared to Pray As You Can, which flowed more naturally out of who I am as a person and my passions. 

Do you use an outline when you write, or do you just start with a few ideas?

It really depends as I normally use outlines in two main situations. First when I feel a rush of ideas that I want to record for when I have the time to expand them into sentences. Second when I feel stuck. I started the book with a list of topics that I wanted to consider including in the book. Some of the ideas easily flowed into chapters and others were a complete bust. Most of them were somewhere in the middle where I wrote the various sections over a period of a week or so.

Is there a special place you like to write?

No, I do not have a set special place to write. The closest thing to a special place to write that I have would be the cloud, as I value flexibility and real time backup. The ability to work on my writing wherever I am is very empowering to me. I used a mix of Standard Notes (a secure cross platform notetaking app) and Word Documents in Dropbox so I can always access my latest draft regardless of where I am. I also always a small homemade loose-leaf pocket-sized notebook with me. The reason behind it is that I wanted to cheap notebook to prevent any hesitation in writing down any ideas that I commonly encounter with more expensive notebooks. As I find that good ideas and insights require time and reflection so one needs to be ready to capture them when they come up. I am not kidding as I literally wrote sections of my book in my pocket notebook when I was in waiting rooms. 

What was something that surprised youin the way this book unfolded?

 Not really, nonfiction books tend to be very straightforward without that many surprises. I had a simple goal of writing material for my adult Sunday School class on prayer. I ended up with a manuscript that was easy to edit into a book fit for publication for a general audience.

What advice would you give a new author?               

Get in the habit of carrying a good pen and a cheap pocket (or purse) sized notebook with you at all times. The good pen is so you have a comfortable and reliable tool to write with. The cheap notebook is so you don’t hesitate to write down any ideas you get. I feel that the more expensive of a notebook one has the more selective one is in writing down things in it which is counterproductive when it comes to writing. Good ideas and insights require time and reflections so one needs to be ready to capture them when they come up during the day. 

What project are you working on now?

I am in the early stages of planning my next adult Sunday school class. If it goes well there is a good chance that I will also be adapting it to book format for a wider audience.

Where can we find your books?

My book can be found on Amazon, in both paperback and Kindle format.

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!

Tuesday Talks-Interview with Janice Cole Hopkins

Janice Cole Hopkins

Today we’re going to be talking to the wonderful Janice Cole Hopkins. If you’ve ever read one of her books, I know you’re as excited about this as I am. Hi Janice, and welcome!
Tell us a little about yourself and how you were raised.

I grew up in Wilkes County, North Carolina, and my parents came from even deeper into the Appalachian Mountains. Six of my novels are set in this region. I got my bachelor’s degree in history with a minor in English and a master’s degree in the teaching reading from Appalachian State University. I was certified to teach in 12 different areas.

I learned to love stories before she could read, started reading at age five, wrote my own stories in third grade, and had published poetry by eighth grade. I taught in Wilkes and Stanly County Schools. As a teacher, I mainly wrote for magazines, because they didn’t take as much time, but I always wanted to write a historical novel. After I retired early from teaching and became my mother’s caregiver, I wrote my first novel. I’m still writing and have 16 novels published with more on the way.

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

I like to read Christian romance. All my books don’t fit the romance category, but they all have some romance in them in varying degrees. I have many favorite authors –Karen Witemeyer, Tessa Asfar, Francine Rivers, Lynn Austin, etc.

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

I already loved stories when I started to school, but really learned to love books when I began my education. I started writing my own stories in third grade.

Tell us about this book.

Deceitful Matters is a contemporary, romantic mystery set near Winston-Salem, North Carolina. In it, Amy Duncan and Seth Conners are just starting to connect in high school when Seth was arrested, Amy’s parents died, and everything changed. They don’t see each other again for ten years, but now someone is trying to make sure they never become too serious about each other again. Who would do such a thing, and will their love growing survive, or will they be torn apart permanently?

What did you learn about yourself through writing it?  That I liked writing mysteries better than I thought.

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

I’m pretty much of a pantster and don’t do a lot of formal planning. However, before I start writing I have lived with the characters for months, sometimes years. I have watched scenes play out in my mind, much like a movie. I know the setting, plot, and characters well and vaguely where it will end up. I write, like I read, to see what happens, and it’s a lot of fun. In the process, I keep asking myself what needs to happen to produce the needed situations and results. So, I do a lot of planning, but most of it’s in my head.

Is there a special place you like to write?

I like to write in my home office on my larger computer where I have most of what I need at hand. However, I also write on my laptop while traveling and promoting.

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

I was actually well into the story before I knew who the culprit would be. I had set it up so that it could have been several individuals, although I knew it would be one of three.

What advice would you give a new author?

Read extensively in your genre before you begin, learn all you can, keep learning, and then be persistent.                                                   

What project are you working on now?

I have just published two novellas for Kindle which are realistic, Christian rewrites of fairy tales set in the Middle Ages. My next goal is to combine the two and publish a print version. I’m also working with a producer to put my Christian non-fiction book, On the Road to Jericho, on audiobooks.  I have just finished the rough draft of a novel set in 1962, and it’s in the cooling stage before I begin the first edit. In addition, I’m starting to do my final read-through of a historical western trilogy.

Where can we find your books?

They are on most online sites, bookstores can order them for you, or you can order them directly from me (see the top bar on my website for more information https://janicecolehopkins.blogspot.com/). All my profits go to a scholarship fund for missionary children.

Tuesday Talks-Interview with Mike Garrett

Today we have the privilege of speaking with Mike Garrett. He is an internationally respected book editor and previously published author. Mike first ventured into Christian writing by drafting humorous scripts for church dramas. Innocence Denied is his first Christian novel.
Welcome Mike, Tell us a little about yourself and how you were raised.

I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, raised by wonderful parents. They were God’s first blessings to me.  I attended Woodlawn High School, the setting of a major Christian movie a few years ago, WOODLAWN.

I still live in the area with my wife Sharon. My two adult children, Leslie and Wade, live nearby, and they have blessed me with five amazing grandchildren, all age three and under. That’s enough to keep me busy for quite a while!

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

For secular fiction I enjoy Harlan Coben, who always hooks me on the very first page and holds my interest throughout. For Christian fiction it’s Terri Blackstock.

At what age did you realize you wanted to write? When did you start writing?

When I was just an infant I loved to sit on my grandmother’s lap and listen to stories about her childhood.  I knew early on that I would enjoy telling stories of my own. The earliest that I remember writing my own stories was in grade school when I created my own comic character and crudely drew comics to pass around the room.

Tell us about this book.

Innocence Denied is the story of a fugitive on the run but not like you might expect. An unbelieving woman falsely arrested for murder flees unjust prosecution with the aid of a devout Christian man, a complete stranger. Both of their lives change forever as they follow the path that God has chosen for them.

Have you been published previously?

Innocence Denied is my first attempt at Christian fiction. My secular novel, Keeper, was published almost thirty years ago. It sold out its initial printing and was optioned for a movie.

How was writing a Christian novel different from your secular fiction?

This time there was no profit motive and no desire to be in the spotlight or advance my career. I did it solely to serve God. This one is for Him, not me. I can’t even take credit for it. It’s His story—He just chose me to be its vessel.

I originally wrote it with the intention of self-publication because I knew that it didn’t fit the mold of most traditional publishers. It’s a love story but not a romance; it has elements of suspense but isn’t a suspense novel. It’s difficult to classify.

When I finished the novel, I felt God prod me to investigate commercial publication but found little initial success. My own literary agent didn’t like it, and I couldn’t get any other agents to even look at it. I was about to give up when God led me to CrossLink, a Christian publisher with a more broad approach to publishing, and they saw the merit in my work. CrossLink and I were a perfect match, and the whole thing came together.

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

I don’t outline every detail in advance, but I have a strong knowledge of the direction I’m going and where I’ll end up. I think outlining, even a vague, general one, can be quite helpful. After all, you’re not just a writer when you’re sitting at the keyboard; you’re a writer whenever you have the freedom to think. With story developments in mind in advance, even when you’re stuck in traffic or sitting in a waiting room, you can plan what you’ll write at your next opportunity.  Planning ahead will make you more productive at the keyboard.

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

 My characters took on a life of their own. I reached a point in the story where they almost took over and  directed me to the end. It’s important not to force yourself to stick to an outline. Don’t let it restrict you; only allow it to guide you.

What advice would you give a new author?               

Ask yourself, “Who are you writing for?” If you’re only writing to please yourself, you may never be published. Keep a diary instead. To become a published author, you should write with your reader in mind. Writing is communication. How can you communicate without readers?

Where can we find your book?

Innocence Denied is available at Barnes and Noble:





and even in Australia at: