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Monday, August 11, 2008

Two Interviews and even more book giveaways!

Congratulations to Angela who won a copy of one of Mary's books. For today, we're posting a double interview with Nancy Mehl and Sandra Moore. Be sure and read all the way to the end to find out how you can win copies of their books!

First of all, I'd like to welcome Nancy to KMIS.

What was your initial reaction in finding out you sold your first book? In other words, tell us about. . .THE CALL

The thrill of selling your first book is something you never forget. I thought I’d arrived. I was an author and nothing could stop me. I was wrong. When that sale collapsed, I was devastated. I went from the mountain top to the valley in one fell swoop. I thought my writing career would never recover. But of course, I was wrong about that, too. I look back now and thank God that relationship didn’t go forward. I might still be churning out books through that same small publisher instead of having the chance to write for Barbour. My journey with them has been amazing, and I am very grateful for it.

By the time I got “the call” from my agent about the contract for Barbour’s new cozy mystery book club, I was in a place where I could appreciate it and realize what an amazing opportunity I’d been given. I really consider that moment “the call.” It has changed my life. (And yes, there was a lot of whooping, hollering, and happy dancing in the Mehl household when I got off the phone!)

Tell us some of the background behind the ideas for your stories and about the story itself.

My “Ivy Towers Mystery Series” was born from the creation of a town where I’d like to live. I’m a snow nut. Winter Break, Kansas is a place where “snow comes early and leaves late.” It snows more in Winter Break than anywhere else in the state. I added an old bookstore with a fireplace and a cat. Then I surrounded my protagonist with quirky but lovable characters – people I’d like to know. The story evolved from there.

Ivy Towers is a young woman who thinks she knows what she wants. She is busy creating her own identity. But a trip back to Winter Break, where she spent many happy moments in her childhood, challenges everything she believes. She learns that God really does have a plan for her life and it isn’t the one she has been struggling to mold herself into. I think there are many people who are doing the same thing. They are afraid to find out what God has for them, but the truth is, until they do, they will never find true happiness and fulfillment. God has given each of us gifts and callings. We are designed to fulfill them. When we do, we find our joy, our peace and our purpose.

Through this series, Ivy solves more than one murder, discovers true love, and most importantly, finds herself. And it all comes from surrendering to God’s plan. I used Jeremiah 29:11 as a scripture basis for this series. “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.”

In “Bye, Bye Bertie,” the second book in the series, Ivy finds an old treasure map. Her curiosity leads her to search for the treasure, but what she finds turns out to be much different than anything she could have ever anticipated. By the end of the book, Ivy’s life changes, as do the lives of several other people in Winter Break.

I find in my own writing that I often grow alongside my characters, especially spiritually. Is there a character who you relate to and who made an impact on your life?

I think as writers we project something of ourselves into every character we create. When we flesh out a problem or dilemma through their lives, sometimes we’re really working on our own personal situations.

I think the one person who really touched me the most was a character who never actually appeared in any of my books. Bitty Flanagan was Ivy’s great aunt. She was a very special woman, and although she is killed before Ivy ever arrives in Winter Break, she still lives in the hearts and minds of those she loved. They remember her goodness, her compassion, her forgiveness, and her godliness. In fact, even after her death, her wisdom still speaks to people. And the good things she did are recounted more than once by people who knew her. I hope that someday when I’m gone, I will leave behind a legacy like that.

What is the number one thing you've learned from your writing journey?

To trust God. It’s His journey. I’m just along for the ride. It was after I put my writing career in His hands that it began to prosper.

Any future plans for your writing you'd like to share? Any specific dreams you'd like to accomplish in the area of writing?

Well, I’m very excited about an omnibus edition that Barbour will release in December. Titled “Cozy in Kansas,” it will contain the first three Ivy Towers mysteries. I’m also busy writing a new series about a woman who has a very unusual job. The “Curl Up and Dye Mysteries” will release into the Heartsong Presents: Mysteries! book club next year.

As far as specific dreams, as I said, it’s in God’s hands. I’d like to get some contracts for books outside of the book club, and I would like to write some suspense. I’ve also always wanted to write some Frank Peretti/Ted Dekker-styled novels, but so far, that hasn’t been the way things have gone. It’s important to me not to push myself down a path that isn’t mine. So, we’ll have to see what happens. I also would love to write a YA book that reveals the true spiritual battle taking place today for our young people’s hearts and minds. But again, that dream is in God’s hands. He may have someone else set aside to do that.

My biggest goal in life is to finish MY race, and to stand before God someday knowing that I did everything He’s called me to do.

Well said, Nancy. Because I know there are many aspiring writers out there, can you share any tidbits of wisdom on getting published, especially from someone who has just broken in?

Yes! First of all, learn your craft, learn your craft, learn your craft! Writing a book isn’t just throwing words on paper. Take workshops, classes, join a good critique group, and listen, listen, listen. Too many writers are running around thinking they know how to write. And unfortunately, there are some publishers out there who will publish authors who aren’t ready. If you jump too soon, you may never achieve your dream. Stay away from unprofessional publishers. I think one of the best things you can do is to find a great publisher, one that has good promotion and distribution and publishes what you want to write. Study their books. Find out what they’re looking for.

Too many times, I hear writers proclaim that they don’t care what publishers want – they are going to write whatever they feel like writing. 99.9% of the time, writers like this will never be published. Trust me, once you’re well known and established, publishers will be willing to take more of a chance with you. But when no one knows who you are, it’s best to offer your dream publisher something that fits their list.
The last and most important thing is this: If you really believe you’re called to write – then write. Never, never, never give up. If bad reviews or criticism come, learn from them and keep going. If you can’t take some of the “downs,” you’ll never experience the “ups.” I had every reason to give up – several times. But I decided I just wouldn’t – no matter what. I’m certainly glad I hung in there.

Any writer's resources you could recommend?

Sure. “Stein on Writing” and “How to Grow a Novel” by Sol Stein. Also, “Revision and Self-Editing” and “Plot and Structure” by James Scott Bell. In addition, “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers” by Browne and King. And one book every writer should have: “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White.

One other thing: Buy books from writers you like. Study them. Look at how they handle dialogue, description, and narrative. Look at how they “show” scenes and emotions instead of “telling” them. Almost every time I do this, I learn something new.

Thanks for stopping by, Nancy! Be sure and check out her website as well as her cool site with lots of author interviews called Mainly Mystery.

And for a bonus, Nancy is giving away, not one, but two book for this weeks drawing, so be sure and leave a comment now for the chance to win copy of book one in her series, In the Dead of Winter, AND book two, Bye Bye Bertie.

Now for a second interview of the week, let's welcome Sandra Moore.

Sandra, what was your initial reaction in finding out you sold your first book? In other words, tell us about. . .THE CALL

I wasn’t home! Seriously. Susan (Downs) left a message on my answering machine. Isn’t that a serious bummer? She did get hold of me later, of course, and when I heard the words from her “mouth” (hey, we were Instant Messaging) I went out on our back deck and gave such a loud victory holler that our neighbors came running thinking something terrible had happened.

Tell us some of the background behind the ideas for your stories and about the story itself.

I dabbled, mostly writing historical for the simple reason that I love to read them, and was quite content to remain in that genre, until. . . I heard two things. One, the agent to whom I’d submitted a proposal for a historical commented how much she enjoyed my spunky, mature women characters. Second, I heard Barbour was going to launch a line of cozy mysteries.

Now, I love mysteries. Hard core mysteries. But I also love to laugh. After a bit of debate I told myself, “Self, you can do this. Just marry a spunky mature woman with a man who is her direct opposite, and stir in a good dose of mystery.” Hardy and LaTisha Barnhart were born, but we’re not talking newborns here. You see, LaTisha has bunions, and Hardy’s missing quite a few teeth, but they’ve been married almost four decades and are madly in love with each other. And that element was especially important to me. To show a rock solid marriage of two people with two very different personalities who have learned give and take in their relationship.

Then I added in the mystery element and the suspects. And this is what I came up with:

When LaTisha discovers the body of her former employer, Marion Peters, her bunions tell her something is afoot. When she becomes a suspect, the ante is upped, and she is determined to clear her name and find the real culprit.
She’s burping Mark Hamm’s bad cooking to investigate his beef with Marion. . .getting her hair styled at a high falutin’ beauty parlor to see what has Regina Rogane in a snarl. . .playing self-appointed matchmaker between the police chief and a prime suspect. . .and thinkin’ Payton O’Mahney’s music store lease might be the reason he’s singing out of tune when discussion of Marion’s murder arises. LaTisha’s thinking she just might use the reward money to get her bunions surgically removed. But she’s got to catch the crook first.

What is your typical writing day like?

Not pretty. Oh, you mean what does the DAY look like. Right. Uh, I rise at 5:00 am and get to work immediately on e-mail, followed by hours upon hours of slaving away on my manuscript until finally turning in at midnight. How did that sound? Pretty good? Do you think Susan is reading this?


In that case. . .I don’t have a typical day. I do, however, have a set word count that I try to reach before quitting time each day. This way I can write either in snatches or long stretches, depending on my daughter’s homeschooling schedule, and still make my goal for the day--usually 2500 to 5000 words.

Any hints on helping other writer’s find time to write?

It’s a lost cause to FIND time, you really have to commit to MAKING time.

Name a couple authors who have influenced your life.

Mary Higgins Clark for her early mysteries and B.J. Hoff for her powerful historical. MHC taught me that tight writing is a matter of good word choice and knowing your character(s) intimately, while B.J. Hoff showed me how to pen a character people will fall in love with. (Writers beware: Never end a sentence with a preposition. They’re just not words you end sentences with.)

What’s your favorite part of writing a cozy mystery?

I have an absolute blast writing the scenes between Hardy and LaTisha. I just never know what zingers they’re going to launch at each other. But I always know how to bring them together in heart and soul.

Any future plans for your writing you’d like to share? Any specific dreams you’d like to accomplish in the area of writing?

I’m working on a second cozy mystery series, as well as several manuscripts that are historical romances, so I’d like to contract these, but I’d also like to write a mainstream mystery. I even have an idea and working title, which is the first step for me.

To see news of my progress with these stories, readers can visit me at my website I update it frequently and almost always have a contest going.

Sounds like a fun read, doesn't it! If you want a chance to win a copy, leave a comment and we'll add you to the drawing.

Thanks, ladies! Keep up the great work with your writing.


Blogger Elizabeth Ludwig said...

Great interviews, ladies!

Nancy, how devestating for you to have your first sale collapse like that. I, for one, am SO glad you kept writing! (grins)

3:41 PM  
Blogger Southern-fried Fiction said...

If none of you have read Murder on the Ole Bunions yet, you're in for one fantastic read! :D Sandra has a fresh voice, totally her own adn not like anyone else! Personally, I can't wait for the next book: When Polly Dent Loses Grip.

6:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great interview, Nancy.

8:02 PM  
Blogger NancyMehl said...


Thanks so much for the interview! It was fun. I love KMIS and happy to have been a part.

God bless,


9:40 AM  
Blogger NancyMehl said...


Thanks so much for the interview. It was fun. I appreciate KMIS and am happy to be a part of this great site.


9:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Nancy and Sandra for sharing your writing journeys. I've been writing fiction off and on for a number of years. I keep getting off track with the demands of life. Your interviews were both inspiring.

I appreciate Nancy's advice about finding a dream publisher, studying the books they publish and then writing something with that publisher in mind.

I appreciate Sandra's testimony of writing a set number of words each day no matter what comes up and working it around those life demands.

I know Sandra from Penwrights and actually met her at the ACFW conference a couple of years ago. (Sandra, if you're reading this, "Hi").


10:32 AM  
Blogger NancyMehl said...

Yikes! I tried to leave one comment but didn't think it went through. So I went back and tried it again. Now there are two!

I'm not senile...really! LOL! Maybe I'm just thanking Lisa twice because there are two interviews.

Yeah...that's it. (Grin)


1:17 PM  
Blogger Ausjenny said...

I loved both these stories. I love the whole line.
I have yet to read Bye Bye Bertie but loved the first book and have it on my shelf waiting for a read (thinking of taking a couple on my trip with my)

7:16 AM  

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