I discovered Janet Ferguson's books years ago and have followed her for several years since. She writes beautiful stories of love and hope, set in gorgeous places. If you haven't checked her out before now, you can try out one of her stories for free. Grab The Art of Rivers as her gift along with her newsletter.
Here's the link https://dl.bookfunnel.com/yt91p8u5qo
And be sure to check out this fun interview to learn more about Janet and her stories.
Janet, I've read most of your stories, and they're gorgeous. Where do you come up with your ideas?
Thank you so much for the kind words. I know without God, there’s no way I could write a novel. To Him be the glory.
My ideas usually just drop in on my mind. Again, I believe it’s a God thing. Someone might say something, or I’m in a certain setting (like the beach), and an idea pops up.
I know you have stories set in Mississippi where you're from, but also Georgia (loved visiting St. Simon's again through your book), and now Wyoming. How do you choose the best place to set a story?
Other than the first series that was set in Oxford, Mississippi, which I have been to many times, I was actually in the setting when the ideas came. I love to travel. I see God so clearly in nature away from my everyday busy life. In that quiet, the ideas have room to grow.
Can you imagine turning what could be deemed a tragedy into something good? Guest author Jennifer Arrington did just that, and I am in awe of her ability to take a bad thing and turn it to good. You're going to love this interview!
You grew up in South Africa, but now live here in the USA. What are some of the things you miss from being over there?
I miss the windows-open lifestyle!
In Johannesburg, South Africa, we didn't have extreme temperatures like August in Florida or February in Minnesota, so our windows were open most of the year. When I went to college in the US, I was constantly in trouble for opening my 7th-story dorm window! My favorite time of year in Florida is what I call "windows-open weather."
I also miss what I perceive was a simpler lifestyle. I'm unsure if this still applies since I was 18 when I left, but birthdays, Christmas decorations, house décor, table settings, weddings, outfits, even make-up – it was all minimalist. Someone living in South Africa will have to chime in and tell me if things are still like this. It seems so based on my friends' Facebook posts, but I may simply have minimalist friends.
What do you hope readers learn about South Africa from your book?
I want readers to experience the country's beauty – that's why there are descriptions of God's Window, the drive down Van Reenen's Pass, and the South Coast beaches. My good friend Gillian (if you've read The Counting Tree, you've met her namesake!) recently sent me pictures of their travels along the Garden Route, the coastal drive that includes Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, and the Storms River. The images call to me, and I need to return and experience it all again.
Conversely, I want readers to know the history of apartheid and how it stained the beautiful landscape with an evil perpetrated against millions of people. It's surprising to me when I encounter young people who don't know this history.
Okay, ya'll, I don't read many mysteries, but I do love me some mystery authors. Especially this one. Deborah (or Debbie, as I call her) Sprinkle is on of my Scrivenings Press family, and she's so fun to hang out with. I think you're going to love getting to know her more today too.
What made you choose to write mysteries? Do you have a specific type of mystery you prefer over another?
I grew up reading English mysteries. My mom loved them and so that’s what I read too. Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham and Ngaio Marsh who were collectively called the Queens of Crime. As I got older, I branched out to other authors, but I still gravitate to British mysteries.
I don’t care much for what’s called hard boiled or noir. They contain too many graphic details and bad language for me. I like the ones that take some brain power—that aren’t so easy to figure out.
Are any of your characters based off of real people in your life?
There are a few who I have written with a certain person in mind, but I don’t make the character exactly like he or she. I take characteristics from this one or that one and mix them together to make an interesting character.
I have one character I based off one of my favorite TV detectives. You’ll have to read my books to see if you can guess which one it is.
Today, I'm introducing you to one of my publishing family. Debbi Migit has some really neat stories to tell, and I think you're going to enjoy getting to know her. Make sure you read all the way to the end to learn more about her newest book, releasing this month.
Debbi, congrats on the release of the third book in your series. What made you start writing mysteries?
I wrote my first mystery in 7th grade. Every day I sat by the window in math class staring at an abandoned house across the railroad tracks. I wrote a story about thieves using the house as a base to move stolen merchandise. They placed an old flower pot on the right side of the front porch and when they had items to sell, they moved the pot to the left to alert their buyers. Hopefully, my plotting has improved since then!
I know you live in Illinois, so why did you choose to set your series in Montana?
I wanted to write a contemporary story set near an abandoned gold rush town. When I discovered Bannack. Montana, I knew I was home. Dillon, Montana is a real town about thirty minutes down the mountain from Bannack. I anchored the fictional town of Justice between those two places. The more I learn about Montana the more I would love to live there. I’ve always been a cowgirl at heart and mountains are my happy place. I’m hoping to visit the area soon, for research, of course 😊
Can you imagine wearing a corset? Which side of history do you think you'd land on? Author Heather Wood is here with us today, chatting about these things and more. Her books sound so good, so be sure to read all the way to the bottom to find out more!
Heather, you weave your love of history into your beautiful Christian stories. What is it about history that draws you to it?
I love history because I love sociology and learning about where the ideas and customs of our culture came from. Everything had an origin, from the ways we think about ourselves to the ways our cities are laid out to the words we use. Who started it? Did they know that the choices they made would be an influential part of culture a hundred or four hundred years later?
Another reason is because the complexity of human history helps me to appreciate the complexity of our own times better. People 180 years ago were as concerned about the direction of their culture as we are, and oftentimes two now-revered leaders "back then" had opposing ideas and good people followed each of them. Those kinds of things bring me perspective and comfort in navigating the era where God has placed me.
Your stories are all woven into one family saga, right? How hard was it for you to keep track of all the characters and plotlines after writing several books?
Yes, I have one published series, and it's all about one family and their friends. There were times when I was plotting the later books when I realized something I'd said in a previous book had written me into a hole, or the situations I wanted to write for my characters were going to be impossible. It actually made my writing more creative and my plots less expected. Since I now had a puzzle to figure out to get the timelines to line up just so or have a character at a place I hadn't planned, I was able to take the stories directions that even I hadn't seen coming.
Y'all, I seriously can't say enough good things about my publisher, Scrivenings Press. And one of my favorite parts is how much we feel like a family. We support each other, cheer each other, answer questions, and get to know each other through monthly meetings even though we live all over the US. One of the newer authors I've been getting to know lately is Mary Pat Tedder. Her first book looks like a lot of fun, just like she is. Read on to find out more.
Mary Pat, congratulations on your first release. I know it's set at a gym, so I'm curious. What made you choose that as your setting?
Hi, Amy! I’ve had a gym habit for a long time…it really helps with this “sittin’ on my rear” writing job. So one day when I was at the gym, praying about where to get started, I felt like the Lord whispered into my spirit that I could use a gym as the backdrop for my story. I guess it fell into that “write what you know” philosophy. But it helped with the fear factor—I knew about gyms, so writing about one seemed like a doable step.
All three of the books in your new series will feature a brave veteran re-entering civilian life, right? What made you choose that theme?
Two of the books and a novella feature veterans. In the fourth and last book of the series, the main character is a policeman who had a difficult adjustment from civilian to police life. Overall, my inspiration came from my son, who deployed during the war with Afghanistan. When he returned, his re-entry into civilian life wasn’t easy. While his PTSD was not severe as some, it was still traumatic for him and those who loved him. It took a while, but he recovered and is doing well. He even helped me write a short story about Afghanistan to use as a prequel for the series.
That's amazing. I'm so appreciative for his service and glad you could turn that bad experience into good.
Today, I'm thrilled to introduce you to another of my editing "babies." And the author behind this beautiful book, The Decision. Christina Rost is such a fun person to get to know, and I'm already looking forward to her next book because I enjoyed the first so much. I think you're going to enjoy getting to know her today too.
Christina, congratulations on your first book release!
What made you choose to start and end it in a place like Uganda?
I grew up learning about missionaries in my church and anytime there were stories about missionaries in Africa I was totally enthralled with their story. As I wrote The Decision, I hoped my readers would have their interest piqued about the area and their hearts would be moved to pray for the mission work that goes on not only there but around the globe.
I know your husband used to be in the Air Force. Are there locations you guys lived that might show up in a future novel? Any locations you'd hate to write about?
Yes! We lived in Hampton Roads, Virginia, and England, and they are both included in my upcoming novel Best Seller.
I cannot think of an area I’d hate to write about. Even the places where we were stationed that I didn’t particularly enjoy are a part of who I am, so I’d be open to considering them at some point in a setting.
Today, I'm thrilled to introduce you to a brand-new author. I was blessed to be her content editor for her first book baby, which released last week! I think you're going to love getting to know Lori DeJong as well as learning about her story.
Lori, congrats on your first release! How long has it taken you to get to this point in your writing career and are there any lessons you can share with us that you learned along the journey?
Thank you so much! This has been a long-time dream come true. I actually started writing a couple of years before I joined a national writers’ organization in 2002. That’s when I realized writing was more than putting words on paper. It’s a craft that has to be studied and honed. I learned a lot over the next several years. Then in 2009, my husband was laid off and we went through a long time of upheaval trying to get back on track financially. God showed up in big ways during that trial by fire, but one of the things that was laid aside was my writing. I didn’t start up again until late 2019 and joined ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) in January of 2020, just before Covid closed everything down. I was stunned at how different things were in the writing world after being away for so long and decided I would spend that first year back educating myself. The silver lining of Covid was that many conferences, workshops, and writers’ retreats were held virtually, and at a much lower cost, so I was able to learn a lot. It was in an online writers’ course that Love’s True Calling was born. I honestly never planned to write it. But by the time I was through with the course, I really loved this story and felt compelled to write it. It went on to win the Scrivenings Press Novel Starts Contest in 2020 and the ACFW Genesis Award for Romance in 2022. The biggest lesson I think I’d share is to never give up. Never. I wish I could get that decade back that I didn’t write, but it was always in the back of my head. I think I always knew I’d get back to it.
Having been blessed to be your content editor, I know your story better than some others. What inspired you to write a second-chance romance, a romance where characters have been separated for a while and then brought back together?
Thank you for all the valuable feedback you gave me as my content editor!
For this online course I mentioned above, I had to come up with a character and their motivation, then plot a novel based on why they want (motivation) what they want (goal). That’s how I came up with Harper, who was motivated by her need for validation. But being a romance writer, I needed a guy, so that’s how Wyatt came to be, who’s motived by the need for atonement for the guilt he carries at not being able to prevent a tragedy in his youth. I wanted these two to have a history that they bring with them into the story, so I made them childhood best friends whose paths took drastically different directions as they grew older. The first scene in the book is the first time they’ve seen each other since a heartbreaking event that happened eleven years before.
Your characters work in a really neat organization that helps youth develop a greater faith and stronger relationships when they might not fit in otherwise. Is this based on a real organization? Where did you get the idea?
I was a YoungLife leader in college, so ConnectUP in my books (series of three) is very loosely based on that, only much smaller. It’s a student ministry not connected to any one church or youth group that focuses on kids that don’t necessarily know Jesus personally and may be looking in all the wrong places to find their value.
I know you're working on your second and third books in the series. Can you give us any sneak peeks?
Sure thing. Book Two, Love’s True Home, (June 2024) is Ally and Zane’s story. She yearns for roots in American soil after being raised on several different foreign mission fields while he craves adventure, especially if it involves a foreign mission assignment. As they work together to launch more ConnectUP clubs, they start to fall in love. But when he finds his place in a foreign mission, she has to decide if she shares his calling or has to walk away to let him be all God wants him to be.
Book Three, Love’s True Measure, (June 2025) tells the story of Hunter and Shannon. She was raised in a wealthy family by a workaholic father and a mother who put her value in their position. Shannon knows her true value lay in who God says she is, not in her family name and works in ConnectUP as a ministry volunteer. Young, bright, attorney Hunter Cavanaugh considers his status to be the measure of who he is as a man. Suddenly the guardian of his fourteen-year-old half-sister, his 80-hour work weeks become a thing of the past. He’s grateful when his pretty neighbor steps in to help him with his grief-stricken sister, and he finds himself curious about the things Alexis is learning at ConnectUP about Christ. But when he’s tasked by his superiors to do something less than ethical with the promise of all he’s worked so hard for, will he measure his worth by man’s standards or God’s? And will Shannon be able to leave the ghosts of her past behind to help a young girl seeking her own value in a new world?
What is it about romance that made you choose that as your genre to write?
I love a happy ending. It’s honestly that simple. But that’s also the challenge in writing romance. A reader of romance knows when they pick up a book pretty much how it’s going to end. At least that the characters will end up together even if they don’t know how. It’s the “how” that the writer has to make interesting. The journey the characters take from the beginning to their happily ever after has to be compelling enough to keep the reader engaged. And hopefully pick up your next book.
Your book deals with a few tough topics, like alcoholism, abuse, suicide, and even the loss of a child. It definitely put me through all the feels. Was it hard to include such hard topics in the more lighthearted setting of romance?
It was. Teen suicide is epidemic in this country. Wyatt’s own experience with this is what’s compelled him to minister to kids, to hopefully help them find their way to a God who values and loves them without question or condition. Teenage abuse is also more common than most people realize, with young girls being abused by their boyfriends and not knowing how to get out. That’s Harper’s backstory. Those were really the only tough topics I’d planned for the book when I plotted it out for my online course. But as I started writing, the characters revealed new things to me that deepened their motivations and colored the way I wrote them. I love when that happens, though. As a discovery writer (fancy speak for writing by the seat of your pants), there are often times my characters will reveal something in the middle of a scene that I didn’t know beforehand.
Last but not least, can you please share with us one fact about yourself that very few people know?
Hmm. This one’s difficult because I’m a pretty simple person. And kind of an open book (pun intended). So I’m not sure if there’s anything very interesting. Haha! The only fun fact that comes to mind is I was the baseball announcer at my small college back in the early 80’s. It was kind of a big thing at the time because I was the first female announcer they’d ever had, put me in the school paper and everything. That’s my only claim to fame, I guess, and it really was only about 15 minutes. Haha!
Thank you so much for the opportunity to interview with you, Amy!
I haven't read Shannon Sue Dunlap's new book yet, but it's definitely on my TBR list. It sounds like so much fun, and today, I am thrilled to get to know Shannon a bit more too. See what you think about this new-to-me author and her books. Be sure to read all the way to the end to find out how to get one of Shannon's stories for free.
Your new story revolves around a mayoral election. What made you choose politics for your romcom?
I don’t consider myself very political and hope readers won’t be wary of the election setting. I’d created the adorable town of Sweetheart for an indie romance called Decoy Valentine. In that story, Lanette Johnson, the mayor’s opinionated wife, played a prevalent role. After I’d finished the book, I was going about my normal life when a question occurred to me. What if Lanette got mad at her husband and decided to run against him for mayor? That’s all it took. It was too hilarious a setup to ignore.
Your characters are a small-town girl and a big-city guy. Which one do you think you're more like? Or are you comfortable in both places?
I’m big-city all the way and relate to my hero Ryan’s ignorance of the small-town pace.
In case you didn't know, Scrivenings Press is my publisher, and the company is more like a family in many ways. Needless to say, I'm always excited to meet/get to know another Scrivenings author. Ellen Withers is one I actually got to meet in person last fall when she came to Nashville for the Christy Awards. I'm also blessed to be her content editor for a novella coming out later this year. Needless to say, I'm more than excited to introduce her to YOU now. Because obviously you'll love someone I already love, right? Read on.
Ellen, congratulations on the release of your first novel! What is one of the biggest things you’ve learned through the process of getting this book published?
I’ve learned so many things, but the most important is being grateful to God for blessing me with a publisher, editors and the other authors of Scrivenings Press who have helped me get this book published. I’m also so grateful for the support of my friends and family who share my excitement at being a published author.
You’ve chosen to write a mystery. What is it that draws you to that genre?
I grew up reading Harriet the Spy and Nancy Drew mysteries and found them fascinating. I’ve lived my life with a strong sense of right and wrong. Mysteries usually put all the pieces together and allow us to cheer when the bad guy gets caught. I love the complete collection of Sherlock Holmes and anything written by Agatha Christie. Even my insurance career involved solving mysteries, such as How did this fire start? How did this collision occur? Who was at fault?
This is a place for me to tell you about what I'm writing, talk about the process or where some of my ideas came from, or even have other authors come in and talk about their books.
Authors I Love to Read (in no particular order)