Romance Writer Jenna Mindel

If you could sit on a panel with three famous authors, who would they be?
Debbie Macomber – because her story to publication is so inspirational and she’s one of the nicest people. Stephen King – because we’re talking Stephen King here! And Charles Dickens. I’d learn a great deal listening to them!

Which of your characters (or character types) is the hardest for you to write?
Always the heroines. They give me the most grief figuring out what they really want and why.

What part of publishing makes you want to tear out your hair?
The push to be involved in social media – I’m way behind when it comes to techie stuff. But learning!

What’s the best thing anyone ever said about your writing?
Two things – That they can’t put the book down. That’s one of the best compliments.
And then the other is making a real connection with a reader. One of my books, Season of Dreams, was set on a working cherry farm. A woman wrote me a letter to say that it brought back fond memories of when her and her husband had a cherry orchard and she appreciated the chance to relive those experiences as her husband had since past. I’m deeply honored by that.

What do you wish people knew about the writing business?
That it doesn’t just happen. There’s a lot of work that goes into each book an author writes. Hours of research, thought processes, continued learning and edits go into a novel.

Jenna Mindel lives in Northwest Michigan with her husband and their three dogs. She enjoys a career in banking that has spanned over twenty-five years and several positions but writing is her passion. A 2006 Romance Writers of America RITA finalist, Jenna has answered her heart’s call to write inspirational romances set near the Great Lakes.

Inspirational Writer Delores Christian Liesner

If I could sit on a panel with three famous authors, who would they be?
O’Henry, , Grace Livingston Hill, Lucy Maud Montgomery – O’Henry for his mastery of short story mystery with a tinge of humor and often surprise culprits, Grace Livingston Hill – prolific writer after WWII. Wrote from age 12 to 80+. I’ve got 106 of her books so far. LM Montgomery – mistress of character study – wrote Anne of Green Gables.

Which of my characters or character types is the hardest for me to write?
I’ve written a little fiction, but the majority of my characters are real. The ones most difficult to write about are those I know too much about and those most like me. It is challenging to look at a difficult spirit or personality through God’s eyes instead of my own.

What part of publishing makes you want to tear out your hair?
The book proposal which is actually more of a business loan proposal and marketing plan. It must prove from several marketing points of view why the world needs my book, what is similar and different about it from competitors and what market it will reach and what I will do to help accomplish that. In simplest terms the author must convince publisher why they should put faith in me and my project and invest thousands to produce my book, marketing it and my personality.

What’s the best thing anyone ever said about my writing?
I actually save the compliments for those days when the enemy whispers in my ear that I am wasting my time: For today I choose this one because it confirms both sides of the calling I feel I have been given: To glorify God by ministering to others (putting hands and feet to my faith). “I am in awe of what God is doing in my life, thanks to your influence.”

What do I wish people knew about the writing business?
Just that – it is a business – the writing part is enjoyable because it’s that something that you cannot stop doing, but… In addition to writing you have to look at it as a business: Business Plan – Goals –Taxes – Receipts – Marketing Plan – etc. Author Gayle Roper told me first thing is to get a group of prayer backers. Trust me – she was right – we writers need a lot of prayer!

Life is all about stories, and Delores credits her Native American heritage with her gift of storytelling.

The curiosity of a toddler, the energy of a teen and the goal from the title of Gordon Mote’s song – Don’t Let Me Miss the Glory equals one hyper-grandma. “Too blessed to be depressed” is a signature response that is also a self-reminder to daily count those blessings. Among those blessings are a treasure of a husband, Ken, three children, eight grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

When she is not at the computer writing you might find her in the study reading a few of the books stacked there, or in the living room, reading a few of the books stacked there, or just before falling asleep, reading a few of the books stacked… well you get the picture. She is also caregiver for an elderly parent, and active at their church, First Evangelical Free Church.

Historical Writer Christine Elizabeth Johnson

If you could sit on a panel with three famous authors, who would they be?

Assuming the authors could be living or dead: C.S. Lewis because his wisdom and incredible ability to blend story with faith inspired me early on to write, Nora Roberts because I love her no-nonsense approach to writing, and Susan May Warren because she can explain the writing process in a way that makes sense to me and because she just sparkles with life. With those panelists, I wouldn’t have to say one word!

Which of your characters (or character types) is hardest for you to write?

Each character has a unique and fascinating story that I find very compelling. Well, except for babies, but then they don’t speak. After that, very young children would probably be the most difficult. They can play a crucial role, though, especially in romances.

What part of publishing makes you want to tear out your hair?

Those unexpected, rush deadlines. For some reason, they often show up at the least convenient time, like when I’m heading off on vacation or when company is visiting. Thankfully, that seldom happens. There have been a couple times, though…

What’s the best thing anyone ever said about your writing?

That the book kept them up way too late. That’s pretty much the best thing you can say to an author. Secondly, because I can seldom stop at one of anything, when a reader tells me that a story impacted her life. That is so knock-your-socks-off humbling.

What do you wish people knew about the writing business?

That it takes a lot of hard, hard work. Granted, God has placed a few writing jewels on earth for whom a story rolls out of their head with relative ease, but for most of us it takes a lot of studying and even more work. Before the first book is published, a writer puts in thousands upon thousands of hours learning the craft and the market. I liken it to getting a master’s degree. The work doesn’t stop once he or she publishes. In some ways it increases. A reader might skim through a book in a few hours, but it took the writer months and months (sometimes years) of work to pull that story together.

Christine is a small-town Michigan girl who has lived in every corner of the state’s Lower Peninsula. From a young age, she knew she wanted to do something in the arts. After trying her hand at music and art, she returned to her first love – story. She feels blessed to write Christian fiction and to be twice named a finalist for Romance Writer’s of America’s Golden Heart® award.

When not at the computer keyboard, she loves to hike and explore God’s majestic creation. Her heart is in women’s ministries, especially women’s Bible study, and she loves to facilitate small group study in her church or online at Women’s Bible Cafe, where she is blessed to co-lead a small group. These days, she and her husband, a Great Lakes ship pilot, split their time between northern Michigan and the Florida Keys. You can visit her on Goodreads, Twitter or Facebook.

Mystery Writer Peg Herring

If you could sit on a panel with three famous authors, who would they be?
I’ve shared the mystery stage with the likes of Laurie King and mother-and-son team Charles Todd, and I was once on a historical panel with the great Margaret George. They were all very positive experiences. If I could choose a dream panel, I might ask for Michael Connelly, Sara Paretsky, and Louis Bayard. Though they have very different writing styles, I think they’re wonderful at what they do.

Which of your characters (or character types) is the hardest for you to write?
Before starting the Loser Mysteries, I should have thought about how difficult it was going to be to write three books with a protagonist who doesn’t like to talk! Loser, the protagonist of Killing Silence, Killing Memories, and Killing Despair, was a challenge to write, but she turned out to be very compelling for readers. Her limit of thirty words per day made it tough for her to become an investigator, and I did a lot of counting in each chapter. Of course she thinks a lot more than she says, and she does get better over the course of the three books.

What part of publishing makes you want to tear out your hair?
The not-getting-rich-and-famous part, maybe? Getting noticed is difficult. Think about any bookstore you’ve ever entered: How many books were in it? Then imagine how many books have come and gone from there over the years, and add in how many books that bookstore never carried, probably never even heard of. Having a huge variety of choices is great for readers (and I’m one of those), but the sheer number of books currently available makes it hard for any author’s work to emerge from obscurity. No matter how well we write what we write, most of us will never become famous—much less rich!

What’s the best thing anyone ever said about your writing?
I enjoy any compliments people are willing to give, but specific ones are the most memorable. “I loved your book” is great, but recently a reader sent an honest-to-goodness card in the mail that listed the characters she likes best in one of my series. She even gave examples of things they did she found endearing.Even a criticism I once got was a compliment in an odd way. Two readers had an argument on Facebook about whether my character Barb would have obeyed a gunman’s command to drive to a remote spot. They decided she was too strong to meekly do that, and while I disagree (Anyone outside an action movie who gets a gun stuck in her back is going to do what she’s told), I was amused that they “knew” how a fictional character would have reacted.

A reviewer demonstrated that she “gets” my Sleuth Sisters series by commenting that each sibling contributes to solving the mysteries. None of them is the “bad” sister who always messes things up. They each have their strengths and their foibles.

Another time someone said, “I didn’t guess the ending of (my historical) Poison, Your Grace, but thinking back, I should have. You gave me everything I needed to know to figure it out.”

Comments that reveal that readers see my characters as real, that they understand the themes I try to highlight, and that they appreciate the work I do to concoct puzzles that mystery lovers can delight in. Those are the best things people say about my work.

What do you wish people knew about the writing business?
Every job in the world is more difficult to do well than it appears to outsiders, and writing is no exception. Often I hear, “I’ve got a book idea in my head. I just need to write it down one of these days.”That “just” is the sticking point. Ideas are a dime a dozen (though good ones are hard to come by). Writing it down is the hard part, and writing THE END doesn’t mean you’re finished. You must edit, rewrite, and edit again many times before a book is any good at all. You need to get suggestions from readers, editors, and experts who don’t know you. (Your friends and relatives want you to be happy more than they want to be book critics.)

Most people simply don’t have the desire to work on a book until it’s truly polished. Perhaps the hardest part of all is recognizing that point where you want to be done with it but know in your heart it isn’t quite ready yet. That’s when a real writer goes back to work.

Peg Herring is the award-winning author of three series: The Loser Mysteries, The Dead Detective Mysteries & the Simon & Elizabeth (Tudor) Mysteries as well as stand-alones that offer readers Strong Women and Great Stories. She lives in Michigan.

Non-Fiction Writer Tedd Galloway

If you could sit on a panel with three famous authors who would they be?

I would rather be a fly on the wall. Anyway, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Francis Schaeffer

Which of your characters, or types, is the hardest for you to write?

Currently it is female characters. I have to do a lot of thinking and memory utilization when developing the character.

What part of publishing makes you want to tear your hair out?

Authors seeking traditional publishing fight a huge battle. First, an agent is almost required. Securing an agent is difficult, to the extreme. The agent needs to secure a house and the process takes many months. In some respects Indie authors are not looked upon the same as those who publish with a traditional house. The Indie world is changing the perception as many authors who had traditional publishers are using the Indie route for many reasons.

What is the best thing anybody ever said about your writing?

I couldn’t stop reading it and when I was done it changed my life.

What do you wish people knew about the writing business?

It is solitary confinement with minor periods of freedom, all self-imposed.

Tedd Galloway is the author of A Mother’s Heart Moved the Hand of God. The early releases of the true story received five star ratings from online outlets.

He was born in Trenton, Michigan, and attended school in Riverview, Michigan. He completed high school at the Northeast Michigan city of Alpena. Almost forty years ago he met and married his wife, Donna. He is the father of three daughters and the grandfather of three. In 1979 he was ordained into the ministry. He has served in seven churches and is the current pastor of West Adrian Community Church. His passion and gift is the communication of the transformational power and love of God. Morgan James Publishing is planning an early spring release of his compelling true story, A Mother’s Heart Moved the Hand of God. He is currently writing adult novels based on life events and redeeming relationships.

Mystery Writer Zachary Bartels

If you could sit on a panel with three famous authors, who would they be?

Moses, St. Paul, and John Calvin. (What? You didn’t say they had to be alive.) Oh, fine. I’ll go with Stephen Lawhead, Chuck Palahniuk, and Gordon Korman.

Which of your characters (or character types) is the hardest for you to write?

Spineless women. They exist in the real world and I suppose that means they should show up in fiction, but not in anything I’ve ever written. I’m surrounded by awesome, strong, independent-type women every day, and that’s pretty much all you find in my books. Even the villains (like La Bella Donna in The Last Con and Isabelle in 42 Months Dry) have a certain admirable indominability about them. Anything else would be kind of boring from my perspective.

What part of publishing makes you want to tear out your hair?
The part where I bleed words onto the page for a year, then work with the editors for another year to create the best book possible, and then see that the bestsellers lists are full of ghostwritten celebrity memoirs and whatever trendy thing has replaced vampires. That doesn’t sound bitter, does it?

What’s the best thing anyone ever said about your writing?

Upon first reading my stuff, quite a few people have compared it to Frank Peretti’s writing, which is high praise from where I’m sitting.

What do you wish people knew about the writing business?

No matter how good a writer you are, you’re more likely to win the Powerball than you are to make it huge on your first or second book. When my agent was shopping around my first manuscript, she told me that the publisher who contracted my debut novel was more interested in my fifth book than my first or second. Building a readership is easier with a major publisher than it is when you go it indie (which I’ve also done), but it’s still a long, hard, sometimes discouraging process. If you’re not down for that, save yourself the grief.

Called “the suspense author everyone is talking about by Family Fiction Edge magazine, Zachary Bartels is the author of critically acclaimed supernatural thrillers. An award-winning preacher and Bible teacher, Zachary has been serving as pastor of Judson Baptist Church in Lansing, Michigan, for ten years. He enjoys film, fine cigars, stimulating conversation, gourmet coffee, reading, writing, and cycling.

His debut novel, Playing Saint, has been called an “intrigue-filled thriller  (Library Journal) and “a page-turner from the very beginning . . . gripping and realistic (RT Book Reviews). His newest book, The Last Con (HarperCollins Christian Fiction, 2015) has met early positive reviews. He lives in the capital city of a mitten-shaped Midwestern state with his wife Erin and their son.

Suspense Author Susan Froetschel

If you could sit on a panel with three famous authors, who would they be?
My favorite panel is one with plenty of good laughs and candor about society’s challenges and hypocrisies. So let’s say Mark Twain, Jonathan Swift and Dorothy Parker. I would laugh, listen and learn. And wouldn’t it be great if Stephen Colbert could be the moderator?

Which of your characters (or character types) is the hardest for you to write?
Perhaps Zahira in my most recent book, Allure of Deceit – an intelligent, beautiful woman who grew up in Afghanistan. An aspiring physician, she attended medical school in Moscow, returning home to care for her ailing father. Trapped by war, Islamic rules on inheritance, and an arranged and loveless marriage, she cannot finish her education. She along with an eccentric husband live in a remote compound. Nearby villagers do not trust Zahira or her foreign education. She is ostracized, and rumors swirl that she an abortionist. In her village, lies are a form of self-defense, and Zahira is a participant in one that haunts her for the rest of her life. From the start, this strong-willed character had a mind of her own and refused to cooperate with my original plot. The story is better because of her.

What part of publishing makes you want to tear out your hair?
Publicity. A book should speak for itself, but authors must convince busy readers to give their story a chance. It’s hard to “blow one’s horn” and convince anyone that any one book should stand out among the numbers being published each year. Readers and writers are fortunate when they discover one another and a special connection.

What’s the best thing anyone ever said about your writing?
It’s moving when strangers express appreciation for a story and suggest it’s useful for understanding others and living their lives. Most memorable – a young mother who said she felt relief after reading Fear of Beauty and realized she did not have to stay in an abusive relationship; a young teen who read Interruptions and expressed amazement about how often teachers might label children and how he could resist those labels; and the many who have read Allure of Deceit and could find more similarities than differences with those in a remote Afghan village. One review of Allure of Deceit that gave me chills was written by Si Dunn: “In this well-written, intelligent, engrossing thriller, the road to hell definitely is paved with good intentions. Some Americans with ‘do good’ desires blunder into a culture they do not understand – rural Afghanistan – and create one hell of a mess as they attempt to offer ‘help’ that most of the Afghans do not want, need, or, in many cases, even comprehend.”

What do you wish people knew about the writing business?
The business requires lots of hats. A willingness to sit alone and plan characters and their stories, then put the words to paper; the flexibility to read drafts multiple times and consider revising every aspect of a story; working with a team of editors and proofreaders and deciding which advice we might pursue; and finally, sitting back and learning from the editors, cover artists, reviewers and readers who develop their own interpretations of our stories.

Susan Froetschel is the author of five suspense novels, most recently Fear of Beauty and Allure of Deceit, set in rural Afghanistan. Her books are about parents and children who risk their reputations and lives by questioning policies and beliefs in their communities that others take for granted. Fear of Beauty was a finalist for the 2014 Mary Higgins Clark Award from Mystery Writers of America. The book also won the top mystery/suspense award from the Military Writers Society of America and the youth literature award from the Middle East Outreach Council. She is managing editor for YaleGlobal Online and lives in Michigan. 

Mystery Writer Elizabeth Buzzelli

If you could sit on a panel with three famous authors, who would they be?
Emily Dickinson (she wouldn’t say much), Ernest Hemingway (He’d glower and clam up), and P.D. James, who would be so erudite and compelling a speaker I would sit in awe.

Which of my characters are the hardest to write?
Hmmm . . . my murderers–because I don’t like them much and wish I didn’t have to talk to them at all.

Which part of publishing makes me tear my hair out?
Probably editing. I don’t like it. I wish every word I wrote rolled out with perfect syntax and spelling—but they don’t.

What do I wish people knew about the writing business?
How truly difficult it is. Whenever someone tells me they would write books,too: “if only I had the time,” I want to ask them if they have a lifetime to study writing; a lifetime to write novels that fail; a lifetime to find good agents and good publishers; a lifetime to develop a readership -then, and only then, will I talk about writing a novel with them.

Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli moved to the shores of a little lake in northwest northern Michigan and never looked back. She lives, sometimes uncomfortably, with the crows and bears and turtles and finds her material in the villages and forests that surround her. With degrees from Macomb County Community College, Oakland University, and the University of Michigan, she now teaches creative writing at Northwestern Michigan College and at writers’ conferences around the country.

Her novels include: Gift of Evil (Bantam), Dead Dancing Women, Dead Floating Lovers, Dead Sleeping Shaman, and Dead Dogs and Englishmen (Midnight Ink).

Elizabeth is also fascinated with the craft of the short story and hers have appeared in The Creative Woman, The Driftwood Review, Passages North, The MacGuffin, Quality Women’s Fiction (Great Britain), and elsewhere. With a grant from the State of Michigan she also created short stories that have been produced onstage as well as being read on NPR. Her essays have appeared in magazines and books and newspapers, and she writes book reviews for The Northern Express, an alternative newspaper in Traverse City, Michigan.

For many years she taught in the International Women’s Guild summer program at Skidmore College and appeared as a moderator and panelist at writing conferences. Her fascination with all things murderous began with a love for puzzles of all sorts, which was handed down to her by a mother who devoured mysteries. Sometimes playful, sometimes deadly serious, her books reflect a wide interest in women’s lives and futures.