Author Interviews

Interview with Lynn Austin

Happy mid-October everyone! Today, I’m excited to share more behind-the-scenes with Lynn Austin and her latest release, Legacy of Mercy! I hope you enjoy this interview and be sure to snag a copy of Legacy of Mercy if you haven’t already!

Legacy of Mercy released on October 2nd and will be the first sequel you’ve ever written. What made you decide to write a sequel?

My readers decided for me! I received many, many letters from them asking if there would be a sequel to “Waves of Mercy.” The main character, Anna, is only in her twenties and is a new Christian, so when she decides to return to Chicago and marry her fiancé at the end of the book, readers wanted to know what happens next in her life. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to explore what happens next for Anna, too. She has just discovered who her birth mother is, so naturally she’ll want to learn more about her. She’ll also want to solve the mystery of who her real father is and what became of him. What if he is still alive? Lots of material for a story here, especially when the other people in Anna’s life try to discourage her investigations.

You are known for writing multi-generational books and Legacy of Mercy is no exception. What intrigues you about writing in this style?

I enjoy creating women’s personalities from various eras and exploring how the roles and opportunities changed for women from generation to generation. I find it very interesting to see how the choices one generation makes has an influence on each generation after them. It causes me to be more thoughtful in the way I live, knowing that my children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren may be impacted by my life.

Which character in Legacy of Mercy do you identify with the most and why?
I would have to say I identify the most with Geesje DeJonge. For one thing, she is about the same age as I am, and has lived long enough to be able to look back through the years and analyze them. She is in a position to see all of the ways and times when God carried her through—something we usually only see in hindsight, not when we’re going through the difficulties. I’m at the same stage in my life, and I can see God’s faithfulness to me in spite of the many times I questioned His wisdom.

When you sit down to write a story, do you know how it is going to end? Describe your writing process. How do you stay disciplined and not get distracted?
I never know how a story will end when I start writing. I rarely even know what comes next when I’m writing a chapter! I begin with the historical setting, and as I’m doing my research, my characters usually begin to take shape in my mind. I flesh them out by developing resumes for them so that they become real people in my mind, with backgrounds and personalities. Then I figure out where to begin the novel and simply make up the plot as I go along. If I’m surprised then the reader will be surprised.

My deadline keeps me disciplined. I know that if I write a certain number of pages a day, I’ll finish the book on time. I also know how very hard it is to write well when I’m behind schedule and a deadline is looming. Wanting to avoid that last minute panic keeps me disciplined on a daily basis.

As for distractions—there are so many! Over the years, I’ve had to learn when to put the book aside and enjoy a pleasant distraction (an old friend who has come to town, an afternoon with my husband), and when there’s no value in the distraction and it will only make the writing process harder.

Did anything surprise you about the Legacy of Mercy story?
Yes. One of the main characters ends up in an impossible situation, which put me in an impossible situation as I tried to figure out what to do! But I just kept writing and the dilemma untangled in a very natural but surprising way. (You’ll see when you read it!) Also, the ending surprised me—a lot! I hope that all of my readers who asked for a sequel are pleased with it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

For many years, Lynn Austin nurtured a desire to write but frequent travels and the demands of her growing family postponed her career. When her husband’s work took Lynn to Bogota, Colombia, for two years, she used the B.A. she’d earned at Hope College and Southern Connecticut State University to work as a teacher. After returning to the U.S., the Austins moved to Anderson, Indiana, Thunder Bay, Ontario, and later to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

It was during the long Canadian winters at home with her children that Lynn made progress on her dream to write, carving out a few hours of writing time each day while her children napped. Lynn credits her early experience of learning to write amid the chaos of family life for her ability to be a productive writer while making sure her family remains her top priority.

Extended family is also very important to Austin, and it was a lively discussion between Lynn, her mother, grandmother, and daughter concerning the change in women’s roles through the generations that sparked the inspiration for her novel Eve’s Daughters.

Along with reading, two of Lynn’s lifelong passions are history and archaeology. While researching her Biblical fiction series, Chronicles of the Kings, these two interests led her to pursue studies in Biblical Backgrounds and Archaeology through Southwestern Theological Seminary. She and her son traveled to Israel during the summer of 1989 to take part in an archaeological dig at the ancient city of Timnah. This experience contributed to the inspiration for her novel Wings of Refuge.

Lynn resigned from teaching to write full-time in 1992. Since then she has published 27 novels. Eight of her historical novels have won Christy Awards for excellence in Christian Fiction: Hidden Places (2001), Candle in the Darkness (2002), Fire by Night (2003), A Proper Pursuit (2007), Until We Reach Home (2008), Though Waters Roar (2009), While We’re Far Apart (2010), and Wonderland Creek (2011). She was inducted into the Christy Award Hall of Fame in 2013. Fire by Night was also one of only five inspirational fiction books chosen by Library Journal for their top picks of 2003, and All She Ever Wanted was chosen as one of the five inspirational top picks of 2005. Lynn’s novel Hidden Places has been made into a movie for the Hallmark Channel, starring actress Shirley Jones. Ms Jones received a 2006 Emmy Award nomination for her portrayal of Aunt Batty in the film.

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Book Reviews, Fiction

Lady of a Thousand Treasures by Sandra Byrd | Book Review

I’m all about trying out new authors and expanding my reading horizons, BUT I also love having my go-to authors, where I know each book I read will be (and is!) simply fabulous, entertaining, and always added to the bookshelf. Sandra Byrd is one such author and her latest, once again, did not disappoint.

Lady of a Thousand Treasures brings about a fascinating piece of history – the wealthy and their love and obsession with artifacts. I found it fascinating that so much of history was stored in houses and mansions of the rich. I loved how Byrd brought that to life and how that played out in society.

Plus Byrd knows how to write a romantic thread – never over the top, but always oh so fabulous. I definitely recommend adding this to your list, I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Who is one of your go-to authors?

(Thank you to Tyndale Publishers for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

ABOUT THE BOOK:
Miss Eleanor Sheffield is a talented evaluator of antiquities, trained to know the difference between a genuine artifact and a fraud. But with her father’s passing and her uncle’s decline into dementia, the family business is at risk. In the Victorian era, unmarried Eleanor cannot run Sheffield Brothers alone.

The death of a longtime client, Baron Lydney, offers an unexpected complication when Eleanor is appointed the temporary trustee of the baron’s legendary collection. She must choose whether to donate the priceless treasures to a museum or allow them to pass to the baron’s only living son, Harry—the man who broke Eleanor’s heart.

Eleanor distrusts the baron’s motives and her own ability to be unbiased regarding Harry’s future. Harry claims to still love her and Eleanor yearns to believe him, but his mysterious comments and actions fuel her doubts. When she learns an Italian beauty accompanied him on his return to England, her lingering hope for a future with Harry dims.

With the threat of debtor’s prison closing in, Eleanor knows that donating the baron’s collection would win her favor among potential clients, saving Sheffield Brothers. But the more time she spends with Harry, the more her faith in him grows. Might Harry be worthy of his inheritance, and her heart, after all? As pressures mount and time runs out, Eleanor must decide whom she can trust—who in her life is false or true, brass or gold—and what is meant to be treasured.

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Book Reviews, Fiction

Legacy of Mercy by Lynn Austin | Book Review

I can’t remember the last time I wanted a sequel more, than after reading Lynn Austin’s Waves of Mercy. I’m so glad so many people requested more to Anna’s story and even more so that Lynn wrote one!

I thought the sequel went along well with the original story line and characters’ personalities and actions. I enjoyed what Lynn did with the story and the historical lane she took readers through. I loved getting to connect again with Geesje and Holland, Michigan. Austin also touches on different themes that are just as important today. If you’re a fan of Lynn Austin and historical fiction, don’t miss out on this one!

(Thank you to Bethany House for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

ABOUT THE BOOK:
Having returned to Chicago, young socialite Anna Nicholson can’t seem to focus on her upcoming marriage. The new information she’s learned about her birth mother continues to pull at her, and she hires Pinkerton detectives to help her find the truth. But as she meets people who once knew her mother and hears stories about the past, Anna soon discovers that some secrets are better left hidden.

At the same time, unflattering stories about Anna are leaked by someone who would love to see her disgraced and her engagement broken. And as Anna tries to share her faith with her society friends, she understands that her choice to seek God’s purpose for her life isn’t as simple as she had hoped.

When things are at their darkest, Anna knows she can turn to her grandmother, Geesje de Jonge, back in Holland, Michigan. Geesje’s been helping new Dutch immigrants, including a teen with a haunted past, adjust to America. She only hopes that her wisdom can help all these young people through the turmoil they face.

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Book Reviews, Fiction

What Blooms From Dust by James Markert | Book Review

With a hints of magical mysteries, James Markert’s What Blooms From Dust brings the Dust Bowl alive in a unique and intriguing way. The characters, the small town of Nowhere, the mysterious happenings, and the redemption of a city all make for a story that kept me hook and connected to each of the characters.

I admit, every book I read on the Dust Bowl makes we want to drink 10 gallons of water and shower 57 times, but that’s the sign of a good book. The vivid details bring to life a part of history that affected so many. Plus there were a few more facts I learned about the Dust Bowl that I didn’t know before (like the fact that it was caused by people not understanding how to farm the land).

If you enjoy historical fiction, be sure to grab this book. If that’s not your go-to genre, I think it still might be worth a shot.

What books do you enjoy about this piece of history?

(Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

ABOUT THE BOOK:
“The closer he got, the brighter that red became. It was a rose—a rose that had no earthly business growing there, right in the middle of all that dust.”

Just as Jeremiah Goodbye is set to meet his fate in the electric chair, he is given a second chance at life. With the flip of a coin, he decides to return to his home town of Nowhere, Oklahoma, to settle the score with his twin brother Josiah. But upon his escape, he enters a world he doesn’t recognize—one that has been overtaken by the Dust Bowl. And the gift he once relied on to guide him is as unrecognizable as the path back to Nowhere.

On his journey home, he accidentally rescues a young boy, and the pair arrive at their destination where they are greeted by darkened skies and fearful townspeople who have finally begun to let the past few years of hardship bury them under the weight of all that dust. Unlikely heroes, Jeremiah and his new companion, Peter Cotton, try to protect the residents of Nowhere from themselves, but Jeremiah must face his nightmares and free himself from the guilt of his past and the secrets that destroyed his family.

Filled with mystery and magic, this exquisite novel from award-winning author James Markert is a story of finding hope in the midst of darkness and discovering the beauty of unexpected kindness.

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Book Reviews, Fiction

Shadow Sister by Katherine Scott Jones | Book Review

I’m so excited to share this book with y’all! I’ve been a fan of Katherine for quite some time now and am thrilled her second book is out for the world to read! It’s a beautiful story and one worth sharing. I had the opportunity to endorse it and I mean these words just as much as I did when I wrote them:

“A beautiful story of family, love, and hope, Shadow Sister is a refreshing tale of one woman’s journey through loss and heartache to redemption. Jones’ ability to create real characters and places will leave you wishing you could roam the streets of Bolivia. It will also open your heart to the marginalized and those serving them. I was left inspired and encouraged. I definitely recommend this book!”

(Thank you to the author for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

ABOUT THE BOOK: When a vintner’s daughter travels to Bolivia to scatter her estranged sister’s ashes, she unravels secrets that test her devotion to home and make her question whether truth is worth the cost of forgiveness. Bittersweet and bold, Shadow Sister explores the mysteries of the human heart and the bond of unquenchable love.

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Book Reviews, Fiction

Formula of Deception by Carrie Stuart Parks | Book Review

Oh book reviews – sometimes you’re hard to write!

This one wasn’t a hit for me. After thinking on this for a while, I figured out what missed the mark: The book had too many lines cast out. There was the personal drama Murphy was going through, the mysterious prologue, the current crimes she was helping to investigate, and more as the truth was ultimately revealed. While there were some intriguing bits, it started to lose its credibility towards the end. I also thought some developments were rushed and that always makes it hard for me to connect with characters.

I admit, I often compared this to Gwen Marcey’s stories (the main character in Parks’ previous novels), and it didn’t match those reading experiences (which is a hard thing to do because I LOVE those novels and Gwen is hilarious).

So, while the history was interesting, this one didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

(Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

ABOUT THE BOOK: An artist hiding from an escaped killer uncovers one of World War II’s most dangerous secrets—a secret that desperate men will do anything to keep hidden. After the murder of her twin sister, Murphy Anderson changed her name and appearance and moved to Kodiak, Alaska, to avoid the press and publicity. But when local authorities discover she’s an artist and request her help in drawing a dying man’s memories, she unintentionally ends up in the limelight again—and back in the killer’s crosshairs.

The deathbed confessions of an Alaskan hunter have Murphy drawing the five bodies he discovered on remote Ruuwaq Island ten years ago. But what investigators find has them mystified. Evidence suggests that the bodies were deliberately destroyed, and what they uncover in an abandoned Quonset hut from World War II only brings more questions. As one by one the investigators who were at the hut die, Murphy knows there is something much darker at stake. What happened on this island during the war? And who is willing to kill to keep its secrets buried?

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Book Reviews, Fiction

A Rumored Fortune by Joanna Davidson Politano | Book Review

“You can tell the quality of a man’s soul with one look at what he creates, for what he’s poured into his creation has come from within.” Notebook of a viticulturist

If you’re a fan of Inspirational historical romance, then you need to have Joanna Davidson Politano on your radar. I absolutely adored her debut novel, Lady Jayne Disappears, and in her sophomore novel, Politano once again brings an intriguing plot to readers.

There were plenty of plot twists throughout and to the very end. With reminders of the way God will work in any situation, readers who relish strong faith themes and romance, will enjoy seeing Tressa’s journey and faith grow throughout the novel.

Who is an author you’ve recently become a fan of?

(Thank you to Revell for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

ABOUT THE BOOK: Tressa Harlowe’s father did not trust banks, but neither did he trust his greedy extended family. He kept his vast fortune hidden somewhere on his estate in the south of England and died suddenly, without telling anyone where he had concealed it. Tressa and her ailing mother are left with a mansion and an immense vineyard and no money to run it. It doesn’t take long for a bevy of opportunists to flock to the estate under the guise of offering condolences. Tressa knows what they’re really up to. She’ll have to work with the rough and rusticated vineyard manager to keep the laborers content without pay and discover the key to finding her father’s fortune–before someone else finds it first.

Award-winning author Joanna Davidson Politano welcomes readers to Trevelyan Castle, home of the poorest heiress in Victorian England, for a treasure hunt they’ll not soon forget.

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Book Reviews, Fiction, Nonfiction

Some Recent Book Recommendations

While it might take me a minute or two to get to these books, I thought it would be fun to pass along some recent books recommendations sent my way to you guys as well, especially since I sometimes take a while to read them. It happens no?

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.

We are not quite novels.
We are not quite short stories.
In the end, we are collected works.

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died; his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history; and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island—from Chief Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward him; from Ismay, his sister-in-law, who is hell-bent on saving A.J. from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who persists in taking the ferry to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, he can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, though large in weight—an unexpected arrival that gives A.J. the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J., for the determined sales rep Amelia to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light, for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.’s world. Or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming.

The Day the Angels Fell by Shawn Smucker
It was the summer of storms and strays and strangers. The summer that lightning struck the big oak tree in the front yard. The summer his mother died in a tragic accident. As he recalls the tumultuous events that launched a surprising journey, Samuel can still hardly believe it all happened.

After his mother’s death, twelve-year-old Samuel Chambers would do anything to turn back time. Prompted by three strange carnival fortune-tellers and the surfacing of his mysterious and reclusive neighbor, Samuel begins his search for the Tree of Life–the only thing that could possibly bring his mother back. His quest to defeat death entangles him and his best friend Abra in an ancient conflict and forces Samuel to grapple with an unwelcome question: could it be possible that death is a gift?
Haunting and hypnotic, The Day the Angels Fell is a story that explores the difficult questions of life in a voice that is fresh, friendly, and unafraid. With this powerful debut, Shawn Smucker has carved out a spot for himself in the tradition of authors Madeleine L’Engle and Lois Lowry.

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
A deliciously funny novella that celebrates the pleasure of reading. When the Queen in pursuit of her wandering corgis stumbles upon a mobile library she feels duty bound to borrow a book. Aided by Norman, a young man from the palace kitchen who frequents the library, the Queen is transformed as she discovers the liberating pleasures of the written word.

The author of the Tony Award winner The History Boys, Alan Bennett is one of Britain’s best-loved literary voices. With The Uncommon Reader, he brings us a playful homage to the written word, imagining a world in which literature becomes a subversive bridge between powerbrokers and commoners. By turns cheeky and charming, the novella features the Queen herself as its protagonist. When her yapping corgis lead her to a mobile library, Her Majesty develops a new obsession with reading. She finds herself devouring works by a tantalizing range of authors, from the Brontë sisters to Jean Genet. With a young member of the palace kitchen staff guiding her choices, it’s not long before the Queen begins to develop a new perspective on the world – one that alarms her closest advisers and tempts her to make bold new decisions. Brimming with the mischievous wit that has garnered acclaim for Bennett on both sides of the Atlantic, The Uncommon Reader is a delightful celebration of books and writers, and the readers who sustain them.

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull
“What does it mean to manage well?”
From Ed Catmull, co-founder (with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter) of Pixar Animation Studios, comes an incisive book about creativity in business—sure to appeal to readers of Daniel Pink, Tom Peters, and Chip and Dan Heath. Creativity, Inc. is a book for managers who want to lead their employees to new heights, a manual for anyone who strives for originality, and the first-ever, all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation—into the meetings, postmortems, and “Braintrust” sessions where some of the most successful films in history are made. It is, at heart, a book about how to build a creative culture—but it is also, as Pixar co-founder and president Ed Catmull writes, “an expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible.” For nearly twenty years, Pixar has dominated the world of animation, producing such beloved films as the Toy Story trilogy, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Up, and WALL-E, which have gone on to set box-office records and garner thirty Academy Awards. The joyousness of the storytelling, the inventive plots, the emotional authenticity: In some ways, Pixar movies are an object lesson in what creativity really is. Here, in this book, Catmull reveals the ideals and techniques that have made Pixar so widely admired—and so profitable.

As a young man, Ed Catmull had a dream: to make the first computer-animated movie. He nurtured that dream as a Ph.D. student at the University of Utah, where many computer science pioneers got their start, and then forged a partnership with George Lucas that led, indirectly, to his founding Pixar with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter in 1986. Nine years later, Toy Story was released, changing animation forever. The essential ingredient in that movie’s success—and in the thirteen movies that followed—was the unique environment that Catmull and his colleagues built at Pixar, based on philosophies that protect the creative process and defy convention, such as:

• Give a good idea to a mediocre team, and they will screw it up. But give a mediocre idea to a great team, and they will either fix it or come up with something better.
• If you don’t strive to uncover what is unseen and understand its nature, you will be ill prepared to lead.
• It’s not the manager’s job to prevent risks. It’s the manager’s job to make it safe for others to take them.
• The cost of preventing errors is often far greater than the cost of fixing them.
• A company’s communication structure should not mirror its organizational structure. Everybody should be able to talk to anybody.
• Do not assume that general agreement will lead to change—it takes substantial energy to move a group, even when all are on board.

What’s a book you recommend?

Book Reviews, Fiction

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes | Book Review

“But perhaps bravery meant entering into a storm you already knew would destroy you.”

Y’all know I can’t resist historical pieces – throw in some fantasy and I’m 100% in. Fawkes by Nadine Brandes was creative, engaging and kudos to trying something not often seen with historical events in novels. Geared towards the YA audience, I still enjoyed the characters, the pacing and how she would work in the fantasy elements.

It also made me want to do a deep dive research into King James and the entire Guy Fawkes history. That’s one of my favorite things about reading historically based stories – it opens up a piece of history I might not have thought about before.

“It is those who dream of the impossible who end up defying the very word.”

If you enjoy history or fantasy (or both, like me!), then be sure to check out Brandes’ latest release. Also, that cover? LOVE IT!

Is there a historical event you’d like to see retold?

(Thank you to Thomas Nelson for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

ABOUT THE BOOK: Thomas Fawkes is turning to stone, and the only cure to the Stone Plague is to join his father’s plot to assassinate the king of England.

Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th-century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death.

But what if death finds him first?

Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did it. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.

The plan: use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Igniter King.

The problem: Doing so will destroy the family of the girl Thomas loves. But backing out of the plot will send his father and the other plotters to the gallows. To save one, Thomas will lose the other.

No matter Thomas’s choice, one thing is clear: once the decision is made and the color masks have been put on, there’s no turning back.

Book Reviews, Fiction

Thirst of Steel by Ronie Kendig | Feature

I’m so excited to share about Ronie Kendig’s latest Thirst of Steel! It just released yesterday, so be sure to grab your copy! I’m a bit behind on all the things, so more to come on the book, but didn’t want to miss the chance to give a shout out to the fabulous Ronie and Tox!

ABOUT THE BOOK: Dismantled centuries ago, the sword of Goliath is still rumored to thirst for its enemies’ blood. Cole “Tox” Russell only wants to begin his life with Haven Cortes, but he must first complete a final mission: retrieve that sword and destroy the deadly Arrow & Flame Order.

The AFO, however, is determined to claim the sword. Wielding their father’s life over Tzivia and Ram Khalon, they threaten to expose Ram’s long-held and dangerous secret while demanding Tzivia locate the sword. With the Wraith team slowly being torn apart, things only worsen when Mercy Maddox, a new operative, emerges with the stunning news that the sword is tied to both Ram’s secret and a string of unsolved serial murders.

Tox, Ram, and the others are forced to set aside fear and anger to focus only on the enemy. No matter the cost, Wraith must stop or take the enemy down with them.

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads