Tag Archives: author interview

Author, Author! — Kathi Macias

19 Oct

During the ICRS last July in Atlanta, I had the pleasure of talking with Kathi Macias about her books and the writing life.  Here are a few highlights:

By The Book:  What is your writing schedule like?

Kathi Macias:  I am a writer that likes a schedule.  I write at least 5 days a week and am up at 5 in the morning to begin.  I put in an 8 hour day and try to write 5000 words per day.  In addition to writing fiction and non-fiction books I am a contributor to periodicals such as Crosswalk.  (Kathi has a background in journalism.)

BTB:  Tell us what you are working on now.  

Kathi:  I have a 3 book series in the works.  (Deliver Me From Evil is now available.)  The series focuses on human trafficking and follows the life of a young woman sold into the sex trade by her own parents at the age of 6.  There is also a parallel story set in Thailand.  Human trafficking is a difficult subject and not usually depicted in Christian fiction.  But my publishers, New Hope, wanted me to pursue the topic.  I also talked to a reporter in southern California who had investigated the activity in an area called The Reeds.  Although not a Christian, he told me to do it.

BTB:  Your previous series for New Hope, the Extreme Devotion series was very powerful.  What was your inspiration?

Kathi:  In Hebrews 13, we are told to remember those in prison, as if we are charged with their care and their release.  I thought about what I would do if I had a family member imprisoned for his belief in Christ.  I met with resistance from publishers that liked the concept, but didn’t think readers would like the books.  I had written non-fiction for New Hope and was approached to write fiction for them as well.  That’s how I got the stories out.  (New Hope is the publishing arm of the WMU.)

BTB:  What have been readers’ reactions?

Kathi:  I have a lot of teenaged fans.  One 17 year old girl said that after reading No Greater Love (book 1 in the Extreme Devotion series) it made her want to live a noble life.

BTB:  What is your Beyond Me foundation?

Kathi:  Beyond Me is an annual award given to someone that is behind the scenes.  Someone who lives beyond themselves. The 2011 award winner is Yvonne Ortega, someone who ministers out of her own pain.

Thanks so much to Kathi for talking with me.  I will be reviewing her newest book, A Christmas Journey Home, on October 26th.

Kathi Macias is a multi-award winning writer who has authored more than 30 books and ghostwritten several others. A former newspaper columnist and string reporter, Kathi has taught creative and business writing in various venues and has been a guest on many radio and television programs. Kathi is a popular speaker at churches, women’s clubs and retreats, and writers’ conferences, and won the 2008 Member of the Year award from AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association). Kathi “Easy Writer” Macias lives in Homeland, CA, with her husband, Al, where the two of them spend their free time buzzing around in their new ride: Al’s 2005 sunburst orange Corvette. Here latest releases are Deliver Me From Evil and  A Christmas Journey Home.

Author, Author! — Jay and Beth Loecken

18 Aug

One Family. One Purpose. One Passion.

Passion to Action is one ordinary family’s tale of pursuing an extraordinary dream. It’s a story about asking big questions, seeking answers every day, and along the way discovering a big faith.

What happens if you make a dramatic change? How does God sustain you in your new life? What will the people around you say? Find out for yourself what happens while reading about the journey of Jay and Beth Loecken. See just how far God takes them in their desire simply to serve -as a family- in soup kitchens, community projects, and churches across America.

Through the story of the Loeckens, see how God leads us to places we’d never imagine, be inspired to better live from your life’s passion, and find the courage to turn it to action.

Passion to Action: How God Uses Ordinary People in Extraordinary Ways by Jay and Beth Loecken

Guideposts Books/September 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8249-4857-3/256 pages/hardcover/$19.99

(From The Passion To Action website)

Beth and Jay Loecken and family — 

Our dream of hitting the open road and traveling the country in an RV began in the early years of our marriage. With the busyness of life, our dream never became a reality.  In July 2007, our family had the privilege of going to Africa on a life changing mission trip. When we returned, we wept as we realized all that we had in comparison to the African people. Our country host, Paul, shared his powerful testimony of growing up in the slums. As he spoke about the importance of having a dream, we realized that we had let our dream die. We decided to earnestly seek God to see if this dream was from Him. Over several months, God spoke to us through prayer and His word and we believe He has truly led us on this adventure. Read more about how we decided to travel full-time by clicking here.


While in Atlanta at the ICRS, I had the opportunity to sit down with Jay and Beth and talk to them about their ministry, book and future plans.  Here are some of the highlights:

BTB:  How scary was is it to sell everything and head out on the road?

Jay and Beth:  It wasn’t so much scary as it was exhilarating!   And though it was huge to let go of the security of a job and home, we know that God has us in His hand.  The more we step out, the easier it is to trust God.

BTB:  What do you miss most while on the road?

Jay and Beth:  We spent some time staying in a friend’s house and discovered some of the things we didn’t know we missed — having more than one toilet, privacy, sleeping in or staying up late.  (When you have a family of 6 living in an RV, everyone goes to bed and gets up at the same time.)  But we are so grateful to get to do what we are doing.

BTB:  Where do you see yourself in 5 years?  Still on the road?

Jay and Beth:  We hope to have a ministry center in Denver that can serve as a home base for us and a place for others to come to study and grow.  Our dream is to have an old fire house — enough room for groups to come in and for us to park the RV.  We still see ourselves traveling and ministering all over the country.  In the short term we are working on a small group study that we will self-publish. The study will emphasize community development principles, joining hands in service and service with dignity.

A Big Thank you to Jay and Beth, a couple with real passion that translated itself into action!

(I received an ARC of Passion to Action from B&B Media Group.)

Author Interview/Book Review: Brandilyn Collins & Over The Edge

15 Aug

Torn from the front lines of medical debate and the author’s own experience with Lyme Disease, Over the Edge is riveting fiction, full of twists and turns—and powerful truths about today’s medical field.

Janessa McNeil’s husband, Dr. Brock McNeil, a researcher and professor at Stanford University’s  Department of Medicine, specializes in tick-borne diseases—especially Lyme. For years he has insisted that Chronic Lyme Disease doesn’t exist. Even as patients across the country are getting sicker, the committee Brock chairs is about to announce its latest findings—which will further seal the door shut for Lyme treatment. 

One embittered man sets out to prove Dr. McNeil wrong by giving him a close-up view of the very disease he denies. The man infects Janessa with Lyme, then states his demand: convince her husband to publicly reverse his stand on Lyme—or their young daughter will be next.

But Janessa’s marriage is already rocky. She’s so sick she can hardly move or think. And her  husband denies she has Lyme at all.

Welcome to the Lyme wars, Janessa.



Brandilyn Collins is a best-selling novelist known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense®. These harrowing crime thrillers have earned her the tagline “Don’t forget to b r e a t h e . . .” ®  Brandilyn’s first book, A Question of Innocence, was a true crime published by Avon in 1995. Its promotion landed her on local and national TV and radio, including the Phil Donahue and Leeza talk shows. Brandilyn’s awards for her novels include the ACFW Book of the Year (three times), Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice.

Brandilyn is also known for her distinctive book on fiction-writing techniques, Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors (John Wiley & Sons). The Writer magazine named Getting into Character one of the best books on writing published in 2002.

When she’s not writing, Brandilyn can be found teaching the craft of fiction at writers’ conferences. She and her family divide their time between homes in the California Bay Area and northern Idaho.

My Impressions:

Brandilyn Collins is known for her Seatbelt Suspense brand, and her newest novel, Over The Edge, will certainly make you strap that seatbelt tight!   Janessa McNeil is the wife of famous Lyme researcher Brock McNeil.   After three weeks of the flu, Janessa gets a bizarre phone call.  The caller claims to have infected her with Lyme and wants her husband to recant his previous statements that Lyme is not a chronic disease.  What begins as a bizarre incident escalates to full-scale stalking and a life or death race to identify the stalker and get a diagnosis for the illness that has Janessa in its grips.

Collins used her own struggles with chronic Lyme as the inspiration for this novel. The obstacles that Janessa faces to get both a diagnosis and appropriate treatment were Collins’ own.  The author’s experience brings an even higher level to the suspense in Over The Edge.  The Lyme wars are brought into focus. And while the book is a fascinating look at the Lyme wars, it is also a great twisting and turning suspense that will keep you guessing and gasping to the end.  Besides the mysterious caller, Janessa must face an increasingly hostile and abusive husband.

Over The Edge is a perfect book club pick.  There is so much to discuss — from the Lyme controversy, to Collins’ own experiences, to the solving of the whodunit — Over The Edge will keep you reading and talking into the night.

Highly Recommended.

While at the ICRS in Atlanta in July, I had the opportunity to talk with Brandilyn Collins.  Here are the highlights.

BTB:  Where do you get the inspiration for your stories?

Brandilyn:  True crime stories are the biggest inspiration for my novels.  Of course Over The Edge was inspired by my experience with Chronic Lyme, but day to day experiences can trigger an idea.  One evening while in my hot tub with my husband, I got the idea for the opening scene of Violet Dawn.  I thought, a body could be dumped in a hot tub and no one would be the wiser!  I also have people coming to me with ways to kill people!  A repairman even gave me his take on the perfect murder!

BTB:  What type of research do you do?

Brandilyn:  After writing so many novels, I have a base of knowledge to draw from.  But I will call on experts to get specifics just right.  My next book is set in a fictional small town in Mississippi.  I traveled there to research the setting.

BTB:  What is your next book?

Brandilyn:  My next book is set in the fictional town of Amaryllis set in real life Jasper County, Mississippi.  In this small town there have been several unsolved murders and the newest one has just happened.  Three women are sure they know who the killer is, however, their suspects are three different men.  The novel is titled Gone To Ground.

Thanks to Brandilyn for sharing with me.  To find out more about her story and to get more information about Lyme, click on the following:  My Healing and About Lyme.

Gone To Ground — Amaryllis, Mississippi is a scrappy little town of strong backbone and southern hospitality. A brick-paved Main Street, a park, and a legendary ghost in the local cemetery are all part of its heritage. Everybody knows everybody in Amaryllis, and gossip wafts on the breeze. Its people are friendly, its families tight. On the surface Amaryllis seems much like the flower for which it’s named—bright and fragrant. But the Amaryllis flower is poison.

In the past three years five unsolved murders have occurred within the town. All the victims were women, and all were killed in similar fashion in their own homes. And just two nights ago—a sixth murder.

Clearly a killer lives among the good citizens of Amaryllis. And now three terrified women are sure they know who he is—someone they love. None is aware of the others’ suspicions. And each must make the heartrending choice to bring the killer down. But each woman suspects a different man.

(I received Over The Edge from B&H Publishers in return for an honest review.  The opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Author, Author! — Robert Whitlow

4 Aug

Robert Whitlow is a film-maker and a best-selling author of eight legal thrillers. He is also a contributor to a short story The Rescuers, a story included in the book What The Wind Picked Up by The ChiLibris Ring. In 2001, he won the Christy Award for Contemporary Fiction, for his novel The Trial.

His debut novel, The List, was made into a movie starring Malcolm McDowell.

In 2010, Whitlow’s second novel, The Trial, a film based upon Whitlow’s Christy Award Winning book The Trial, and directed by Gary Wheeler, was produced as a movie. The screenplay for the movie The Trial was written by Mark Freiburger. The movie starred Matthew ModineNikki DeloachRobert ForsterClare Carey and Bob Gunton [1]

Robert Whitlow is also a practicing attorney and lives in North Carolina.  (From Wikipedia)

Robert Whitlow stands at the top of the list of my book club’s favorite authors.  We have read and discussed all of his books, except two:  The List (which some had already read, but we watched the movie) and Water’s Edge (because it has just come out).  I had the opportunity to sit down with Robert and his wife Cathy at the ICRS last month.  Here are some highlights of our talk.

BTB:  What is your writing schedule and research practices?

Robert:  Because I still practice law, I tend to write in the evenings and sometimes on the weekends.  I like to keep time open for my family though. When deadlines are coming close, I will spend much more time.  As to research, my legal experience helps with that aspect of my writing.  I will do research on the places in which the books are set.  Water’s Edge is set in northwest Georgia, an area we lived in for some time.  I also did research on Ponzi schemes for Water’s Edge. But, generally I have very little actual research hours invested in each book.

Kathy:  He is very disciplined in his writing schedule.

BTB:  Of all your books, which one is closest to your heart?

Robert:  My first book, The List and  my book Jimmy are what I call “inspired books”, books I had to write.  Writing Jimmy had a huge impact on my life.  Following the publication of Jimmy, my daughter gave birth to my grandchild who has Downs Syndrome.   My other books I believe are “sanctified imagination”.

BTB:  Jimmy had an alternate ending published online, why?

Robert:  I presented the publisher with both endings and they choose the ending to be published in the book.  A movie version of Jimmy is also currently in the works.

BTB:  Are the movies adapted from your books different?

Robert:  I am involved in the whole process of producing a movie.  The movies become independent works from the book on which it is based.  For The Trial, the focus was on healing from grief, so parts of the novel that were not integral to the focus were not included.

BTB:  What is your newest book, Water’s Edge, about?

Robert:  A young lawyer on the rise in Atlanta is faced with the death of his father, also an attorney. He has to deal with all the issues involving his father’s death, including the closing of his law office. In the novel, the young lawyer has to go back to his roots in order to find purpose in his life.  I have used Jeremiah 6:16 for this book (The Lord said to his people: “You are standing at the crossroads. So consider your path.  Ask where the old, reliable paths are. Ask where the path is that leads to blessing and follow it. If you do, you will find rest for your souls.”  But they said, “We will not follow it!” NET)

BTB:  Can you tell us about the novel you are currently working on?

Robert:  The first draft of my newest novel is due August 1.  It will be a standalone featuring a High School student faced with an unplanned pregnancy.  The year is 1974, the year of the Roe v. Wade decision.  The action then jumps to a point in the future.  It will be a very emotional story.  (Robert shared a little more about the book, but Kathy very wisely advised I not tell too much!  Let’s just say, you won’t want to miss this one when it is finished.)

A Big Thank You to Robert and Kathy for speaking with me.  

My Husband’s Impressions:

Copies of Water’s Edge were snapped up quickly at the ICRS, so the publisher, Thomas Nelson, sent me a copy of to read and review.  Unfortunately that copy was snatched up too — by my husband!  Brian is a huge fan of Robert Whitlow and was eager to read Water’s Edge. Because it was his birthday, I let him. Here are some of Brian’s thoughts about the book.

It kept me wanting to read more and more.  The main character, Tom Crane, has a set view on what success is, until he returns to his hometown and to the law practice of his dead father.  He runs into all kinds of people around town who tell him what a success his father is, something he has a hard time believing since he has bills and back taxes to take care of.  His uncle is also was a great character.  A retired preacher, he is often awakened at night to pray for the issues Tom is facing.  And the prayers, often unknown to Tom, impact the direction that Tom goes.  The scripture the uncle quotes is very relevant and applicable for the day to day.  Probably the best book Robert Whitlow has written.”


(I received Water’s Edge from Thomas Nelson.  The opinions expressed by my husband are his alone, no coercion from anyone, including me!)

Author, Author! — Deborah Raney

3 Aug

DEBORAH RANEY is bestselling novelist whose books have garnered multiple industry awards including the RITA Award, HOLT Medallion, National Readers’ Choice Award, Silver Angel from Excellence in Media, and have twice been Christy Award finalists. Her first novel, A Vow to Cherish, shed light on the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. The novel inspired the highly acclaimed World Wide Pictures film of the same title and continues to be a tool for Alzheimer’s families and caregivers. Deborah is on faculty for several national writers’ conferences and serves on the advisory board of the 2500-member American Christian Fiction Writers organization. She is at work on her 21st novel, and her recent Hanover Falls Novels series is published by Howard/Simon & Schuster. Deb and her husband, Ken Raney, enjoy small-town life in Kansas.

While at the ICRS in Atlanta last month, I had the opportunity to talk with Deborah Raney.  What a warm and friendly woman Deborah is!  Here are some highlights from our talk.

BTB:  Tell us about your debut novel, A Vow to Cherish.

Deborah:  A Vow to Cherish really is the story of my heart.  And it was a big surprise that it did so well and was made into a movie.  To have a debut novel do that well was wonderful and unexpected.  (From Wikipedia — A Vow to Cherish (1996), drew national attention to the pervasive impact of Alzheimer’s disease on a traditional American family. The book was later developed into a movie that was released in 1999 by Billy Graham‘s World Wide Pictures.)

BTB:  Your novels are relational.  How do you create such realistic characters?

Deborah:  Tamara Alexander is my critique partner.  We have learned to trust each other and to accept the needed criticism while working on a novel.  I have other readers as well, and I often have those who have a connection with my characters’ backgrounds to keep the emotions and even the language true.

BTB:  What was the inspiration for the Hanover Falls series?

Deborah:  The tragic fire in South Carolina that took the lives of 9 firemen was my inspiration.  I wanted to explore how the survivors and families of such a tragedy would respond and cope.  I had the idea for the homeless shelter prior to my church’s participation in a similar project.  I started volunteering, but was very clear from the start that I was doing some research for my book.

BTB:  Do you still volunteer at the homeless shelter?

Deborah:  I do.  But unlike the community of Hanover Falls, the churches in our community are very supportive of this ministry.  About 50% of the churches have volunteer teams.

BTB:  What projects are you currently working on?

Deborah:  The re-writes for the 3rd Hanover Falls novel, After All are due August 1.  That book will be released in April, 2012.  It will feature Susan Marlowe, the director of the homeless shelter and fireman’s widow, and Pete, the Fire Chief.  I have a contemporary novel in the Love Finds You series also coming out — Love Finds You In Winterset, Iowa.  And I am working on a book for Summerside’s new series, When I Fall In Love.

A very Big Thank You to Deborah Raney for taking the time to talk with me. 

You can read my reviews for Almost Forever and Forever After, by clicking on the titles.

Author, Author! Jeff Dixon

27 Jul

During the ICRS, I sat down with Jeff Dixon to talk to him about his novel The Key To The Kingdom and life in general.  Here are highlights of our interview.

BTB:  Why did you write The Key To The Kingdom?

Jeff:  I have always loved everything Disney and have admired the ability that Disney has to tell a story.  I wanted to know how they did it, so I sat down with one of their Imagineers to find out.  In the story of The Key To The Kingdom, Grayson Hawk is faced with the disappearance of his friend and also a huge mystery surrounding Disney World.  I wanted to explore how far he (or anyone) would go to save someone they love.

BTB:  Have you had any complaints about the story?

Jeff:  So far Disney has not said anything about the use of Disney World as the setting of the story.  The one complaint I hear  most often is from readers who don’t like that the main character, Grayson Hawkes (Hawk), lies in the book. Because he is a pastor, readers feel he should act better.  But pastors are just as flawed as “regular” people and should be portrayed that way.  I don’t mind the criticism in my writing or my ministry because it makes me better.

BTB:  Are there any more novels out there featuring Hawk?

Jeff:  We are in the talking stage for another book.  There is lots of story untold about Hawk’s background and his future endeavors.

BTB:  Tell me about your ministry.

Jeff:  I am the “Transformational Architect” for Covenant Community Church in Lake Mary, Florida.  Our church works hard to partner with communities in our area to be an influencer; to be on the inside of decisions made, not on the outside.  We have also embraced technology, so we are a large free streaming resource for people all over the world.  We have a small local congregation, the church itself seats around 250, but we have a large global audience.

BTB:  What project are you working on now?

Jeff:  We are in the development stage of  Christmas Dreams which will be a fully inclosed, immersive amusement park for terminally ill children and their families.  We have the property in Christmas, Florida and have some funding. When it is finished, “Christmas Dreams” will give children and their families a “last” Christmas to spend together — anytime of the year. One feature will be Santa’s house.  Each child will have the opportunity to spend time with Santa. He will read the child’s favorite book and then with the parents’ permission will tell the child the about the first Christmas.  (For more information, visit the website at christmasdreams.org.)

Jeff has a lot of passion for what he does, whether it is writing, pastoring his church, or working on Christmas Dreams.  A Big Thank You to Jeff for talking with me.