I’ve been reading alot in January and it is reflected in my second author interview in so many weeks. I love to share author stories and I hope you love reading them.
Today I am welcoming Beth Ann Ziarnik to Writer’s Patchwork. We met at The Write-to-Publish Conference a few years ago where she won a publisher’s award at the banquet with her debut novel Her Deadly Inheritance. I’m so excited about its recent release. I enjoyed the story and the creative way you told it. Click to read my review.
Below is the a little taste of the story for those who have not read it yet.
First a runaway. Now running for her life. Won’t Jill Shepherd’s family be surprised when she returns to Grand Island, Michigan to end their scheme to have her declared legally dead? But when Jill exposes the mastermind behind her intended death, her family’s deception may kill any chance she has of remaining alive.
Clay Merrick may seem to be little more than a handy-man restoring homes, but when the former Special Forces operative tracks a brutal killer to Jill’s historic house under renovation, he has most of the evidence he needs to bring the killer to justice … until Jill gets in the way.
When the killer sets sights on Jill as the next victim, it’s not just Clay s mission on the line, but his heart.
Beth, I’m thrilled to have you visit with me today. Let me take your coat. Watch out, don’t trip over the pile of shoes near the front door. Come, join me in the kitchen for coffee and Danish.
Thank you for inviting me, Cindy. It’s great to be here. Oh, is that lemon-centered Danish? My favorite! How did you know? <G>
It’s such an honor to have you take time from your busy promoting schedule to share with my readers some of the background story to Her Deadly Inheritance.
Let me start out Q & A with a question all my readers want to know. Where did the idea come for Her Deadly Inheritance?
The idea first germinated while I was reading yet another wonderful romantic suspense—even then my favorite genre. I wondered how the faith of Christian heroes and heroines might affect the choices necessary in the difficult circumstances of a romantic suspense. From there I took the basics—isolated and exotic location, frightening suspense, the falling in love of two unlikely people, etc.—and started praying and asking myself, “What if?” Jill and Clay and pieces of their story started to form. I wrote those short scenes and chucked them into a folder until I finally had enough to see a story emerging.
Tell me, how did you come to choose Upper Michigan for your setting?
I live in northeast Wisconsin and was looking for an island for my novel’s setting, one that was somewhat remote and exotic. Eureka! I found it in The Grand Island Story by Beatrice H. Castle. The location had everything I needed. My husband and I made two trips to Munising and Grand Island MI to research the setting. Forest ranger David Worel and a few other local people were kind enough to help. We loved the community and its old-fashioned Fourth of July celebration. I just knew I had found the right place and time for Jill and Clay’s story.
Why renovating houses as the backdrop?
I needed a reason for Clay to be there and interact with Jill while they fell in love. I’m also an architecture addict and cheer on the restoration and upkeep of grand old historical homes of any era. So I borrowed Mark Twain’s Connecticut home, tweaked it a bit for my story’s purposes, and plopped it about half way up Grand Island’s east side over Trout Bay. I think that’s called literary license because the truth is: (1) There’s never been a house at that location, and (2) no one ever built a Victorian mansion on the island. You can go to the location on the Grand Island, but you will not find Jill’s house or any evidence of it. That element of the story is pure fiction on my part.
Besides visiting The Grand Island what other research did you do? I always like to know how other writer’s build their story world.
In addition to reading Mrs. Castle’s book and visiting the community to experience the story’s locale, I interviewed an officer at the sheriff’s department to find out how they might process a case such as the death of Jill’s mother and how quickly they could access the scene on the island. I also interviewed a couple of island residents about life on the island. I read everything I could about the history of the area and took pictures. I researched both Jill’s career as a genealogist and Clay’s as a restoration contractor, even interviewing a local restoration contractor. I made an online tour of Mark Twain’s house and collected articles and pictures so that I could better “walk” through the house as if I were there. Lots more because every aspect of a novel will have some research connected to it in order to make the story and its setting come alive.
Describe the personalities of your two main characters Jill Shephard and Clay Merrick. Did you model them after anyone in particular?
Though they are totally themselves, Jill has bits and pieces of me in her, and Clay has bits and pieces of my husband Jim in him. Jill’s tendency to be frightened yet bulldoze through her fear to a desired end is a little like me. So is her relationship with God. Clay’s steady purpose, his faithfulness, his muscles and love of family and playing ball are like Jim. As a matter of fact, the spectacular catch he fields in the ballgame scene is Jim’s. I saw my husband do that amazing thing! But truly, I had to write about Jill and Clay and observe them to come to know them. I never had anyone in mind as they developed.
What do you hope readers take away from your story?
I hope readers see that loving someone isn’t a walk in the park. It takes work and sacrifice but is so worth the effort. I also hope they will come to realize that if they obey God and give him enough time, he will make difficult situations come out for good in the right way and at the right time.
How long did it take from conception to publication?
Oh, boy! Her Deadly Inheritance was a long time in the making. The idea first occurred to me forty years ago. Romantic suspense wasn’t even on the Christian publishers radar screen back then, and I had a long way to go to learn the skills for writing fiction. I spent my early years being published in magazines and newspapers with articles and news stories. I also had twelve years of being just this side of wheelchair or bed-ridden with Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome. Not much happening then. But the dream and the story never went away. Then about six years ago, I decided to get serious. I focused entirely on the novel, working hard to acquire the needed skills, endlessly writing and rewriting and polishing. I started meeting editors and agents at conferences and sending out proposals. As close as I seemed to come to breaking through, nothing happened until the summer of 2013 when agent Jim Hart declared he loved my novel and wanted to represent me. Surely the Lord was at work! A year later, my novel won a big award during the Write-to-Publish banquet, and six months later, Rowena Kuo at Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas offered a contract to publish my book. It took about a year to edit and polish a novel to bring it to its best. Meanwhile, other important preparations were in the works. But on January 2 this year, Her Deadly Inheritance released.
What have you learned along the way to publication that you can pass on to new writers?
- No matter how tempting, don’t quit. Believe in yourself and the dream God put in your heart. Keep working at your craft, building your skills for storytelling.
- Join a local Christian writers group—start one if you have to. I did. Join online writers groups, too. You will grow much faster as a novelist if you do. I love ACFW where I take monthly classes taught by professionals (free with the membership) and make friends who help me and whom I am blessed to help.
- Go to Christian writers’ conferences seminars where you can learn more than you ever dreamed. Where you will make dear writer friends and meet editors, publishers, and agents. Again, where you will both help others and be helped.
I was very intrigued by the number of endorsements you have in the front of your book. Endorsements from noteworthy authors. Tell us how you managed to get them.
They all offered. These friends whom I’ve made down through years of going to conferences and seminars were almost more thrilled than I was when my dream came true. But they are also professionals whom I could count on to tell the truth.
Do you have any other projects in the works you would like to tell us about? Is there a sequel to Her Deadly Inheritance?
Jill and Clay’s story will continue for two more books, though each story can stand on its own. Yes, I’m putting them through two more horrendous suspense experiences that will threaten their lives and challenge their growing love to the breaking point. I am loving the writing of the second novel even more than the first, if that’s possible. <G> For this one, I borrowed the Pabst Mansion and it location in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where Jill will meet her birth father face-to-face for the first time. But her long-time dream of a loving relationship with him turns into a Christmas nightmare she and Clay could never have foreseen.
You mentioned you wanted to do a giveaway. So, readers, leave a comment to be put in the drawing. You have time to make a comment either here or on my Facebook page. Please share this blog with your friends so they can enter the contest too or pick up a copy at their favorite bookstore.
The winner will be contacted by me for email information to pass on to Beth. We will announce a winner on Friday.
More About Beth
A long-time fan of romantic suspense, Beth Ann Ziarnik offers her first novel with all the twists and turns, cliffhangers and romantic tension she and readers have come to love. She is a co-founder of Word & Pen Christian Writers in Northeast Wisconsin and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. In addition to her 450 published pieces (several included in anthologies), she is the author of Love With Shoes On, her ten-year devotional column about love in action and based on 1 Corinthians 13.
Currently, you can find her online at:
If you would like to receive this blog in your email? Please sign up in the right hand column. Thank you.