Kristi Ann Hunter’s Debut Book Sweeps RWA & ACFW Awards

Kristi Ann Hunter
graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in Computer Science but always knew
she wanted to write more than code. The power of stories and their ability to
bring people together has always enthralled her. Kristi is an RWA Golden Heart
contest winner, an ACFW Genesis contest winner, and a Georgia Romance Writers
Maggie Award for Excellence winner. She lives with her husband and three
children in Georgia, where she divides her time between family, church, and the
pursuit of the next perfect story.

What sparked the story
for this novel?
When Miranda appeared in A
Lady of Esteem
I knew she wouldn’t meet the love her life in any way that
was conventional. I also knew that she needed to learn that she was stronger
than she knew. That meant her story needed a very unusual man and a rather
uncommon situation. Thus A Noble
Masquerade
was born.
Share a bit of your
journey to publication. Was it short or long?
While it felt like eons while I was living it, comparatively my
road to publication was a rather short five years. Because my ability to write
a query is, shall we say, lacking, I turned to contests for exposure. The first
few years gave me great experience and advice and I put everything I’d learned
into writing A Noble Masquerade. The
book did extremely well, winning both the RWA Golden Heart and the ACFW Genesis
awards and gaining the attention of an editor at Bethany House. The rest is,
well, beginning as the first book in the series has only been out a few days.
What would you do if
you didn’t write?
That’s hard to say. I spent nearly a decade in corporate
information systems writing code and working with databases. Before I began
writing, though, we started a family and decided it was best for us if I stayed
home with the children. So if I weren’t writing, I guess I’d be a little more
on top of the laundry and actually remember to make dinner.
What makes you
struggle as an author?
Time management. Juggling life and writing drives me nuts. Good
thing all the best writers are a little bit crazy.
How do you handle it?
I signed a contract with a deadline. That lights a fire under
anyone. I also am blessed with an enormously supportive husband who makes sure
I have the time to do what God has called me to do.
Have laptop ~ can go anywhere

Where do you write: In
a cave, a coffeehouse, or a cozy nook?

Anywhere and everywhere. I have a
laptop that goes with me almost everywhere. I’ve written at dance class, the
back corner table of Chick-fil-A, the car pool line, the church lobby, the
kitchen table, the treadmill, the floor of my kids’ bedroom, and even, on
occasion, I’ve sat at my desk.
Do you prefer the
creating or editing aspect of writing? Why?
Before I started working with Bethany House I would have
absolutely said the creating. I hated editing so much that instead of doing
major revisions I would simply rewrite the thing. I do not recommend this. It
is rather time consuming.
However, after working with some really amazing editors, I’ve come
to appreciate the process of cutting and shining the diamond. The finished
product is very satisfying.
Do you consider
yourself a visual writer? If so, what visuals do you use?
I am a very visual writer, but I’m also an audible writer. I have
pictures on both the wall and my Pinterest board that represent characters,
scenes, ideas, clothes, and setting. When I’m in the very beginning of a book’s
creation, though, I rely heavily on music. Themes, characterizations, and plot
lines are often inspired by different songs. I’ll put together a playlist and
go back to it whenever I feel stuck in the story.
What are your top 3
recommendations for a new writer?
  1. Write. I know too many new
    writers that spend all their time studying writing and never actually
    write. Forget everything else until you’ve actually managed to put a
    complete story on paper. Don’t worry, it’s going to suck, but at least
    you’ll know you have it in you to put a story onto the page.
  2. Get to know writers that are
    beyond you in their careers. If you’re a complete newbie, make sure you’re
    rubbing shoulders with those who’ve been around a while. If you’re
    starting to pursue publication, spend some time getting to know published
    authors. Not only does this keep you motivated to move forward, you learn
    valuable lessons about the next phase of your career.
  3. Remember that God made you to
    be you, not me or any other author in existence. Your stories, voice,
    style and path to publication will not be the same as anyone else’s and
    that’s okay. In fact, that’s a good thing. 
Then what 3 things
would recommend not doing?
  1. Do not ignore the industry
    and how it works. The first thing I did in serious pursuit of a writing
    career was attend a conference and pitch my book. The conference was in
    October and I wondered if they’d love it so much they’d fast track me and
    I’d be giving books for Christmas presents. Try not to hurt yourself
    laughing over that one. 
  2. Do not think you
    instinctively know how to write. I came across that submission from that
    first conference the other day and I about died remembering how proud I
    had been. I had so much to learn about the craft of writing. There’s still
    more to learn. Never assume you know how to write and have nothing to
    learn.
  3. Do not spend your time on
    things that don’t advance your goal. Do you want to be a blogger? Then by
    all means, devote your time to making amazing content that can be spread
    around the world through your many social media contacts. Do you want to
    be a novelist? Make time to write the novel! You can’t do that if you’re
    blogging 500 quality words every day. 
What’s next for you?
The next book, of course! Miranda’s sister, Lady Georgina has been
getting in everyone’s way, but it turns out she has a powerfully motivating
secret for doing so. All her well-laid plans may be for nothing if she keeps
running into the one man that could ruin everything.
I’m also doing a lot of things to try to get out and meet some of
my readers. I adore my readers. If you live in or near Georgia, check out my
webpage to see some of the events you can come meet me at.
A Noble Masquerade

Lady Miranda
Hawthorne acts every inch the lady, but inside she longs to be bold and
carefree. Entering her fourth Season and approaching spinsterhood in the eyes
of society, she pours her innermost feelings out not in a diary but in letters
to her brother’s old school friend, a duke–with no intention of ever sending
these private thoughts to a man she’s heard stories about but never met.
Meanwhile, she also finds herself intrigued by Marlow, her brother’s new valet,
and although she may wish to break free of the strictures that bind her,
falling in love with a servant is more of a rebellion than she planned. 

When Marlow accidentally discovers and mails one
of the letters to her unwitting confidant, Miranda is beyond mortified. And
even more shocked when the duke returns her note with one of his own that
initiates a courtship-by-mail. Insecurity about her lack of suitors shifts into
confusion at her growing feelings for two men–one she’s never met but whose
words deeply resonate with her heart, and one she has come to depend on but
whose behavior is more and more suspicious. When it becomes apparent state
secrets are at risk and Marlow is right in the thick of the conflict, one thing
is certain: Miranda’s heart is far from all that’s at risk for the Hawthornes
and those they love.

Michelle Griep ~ Off the Leash

Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. She seeks to glorify God in all that she writes—except for that graffiti phase she went through as a teenager. She resides in the frozen tundra of Minnesota, where she teaches history and writing classes for a local high school co-op. An Anglophile at heart, she runs away to England every chance she gets, under the guise of research. Really, though, she’s eating excessive amounts of scones. Follow her adventures at her blog WRITER OFF THE LEASH or visit michellegriep.com, and don’t forget the usual haunts of PinterestFacebook or Twitter
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes, except for a short
season when I kicked around the idea of becoming an astronaut. Two problems
with that, though. First off, I hate science and math, both of which are
slightly necessary to succeed in an aerospace career. Secondly, it was a total
deal breaker when I found out that astronauts don’t actually wear cool Lt.
Uhura uniforms.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
I’d be running a B&B
in England. Near a castle. On a moor. With Mr. Rochester as my neighbor. Wow.
Did I mention I’m an out-of-the-closet Charlotte Bronte fan-a-maniac?
Why do you write?
Because being a
pirate is frowned upon and I’m pretty sure no one will pay me to eat brownies
all day. There’s also the simple matter of quieting the voices in my head by
capturing them onto paper so I can have some peace.
What does your family think about your crazy career
choice?
My husband knew I was
certifiably insane when he married me, so no problem there. As for my kid, my
oldest son thinks it’s great but only reads audio/technical textbooks. My
second son reads my rough drafts, cutting out scenes that are too sissy and/or
adding in some sweet moves to my fight scenes. My oldest daughter is too busy
fixing her hair to notice that I write. And my youngest daughter is pretty sure
Hollywood will make blockbuster movies of my stories, and can I please get her
into a starring role?
What’s your favorite part of the writing business?
What’s your least favorite?
I’m not going to lie . . .
getting paid for penning down my daydreams is sweet perk. 
My least favorite writerly
chore is marketing. There’s a reason I’m not a salesman. I stink at it.
After becoming a published author, what surprised
you the most?
The freak magnet effect.
When people hear I’m a published author, suddenly I’m their BFF. I’m convinced
that 99.9% of the population is wannabe-writers with not only novel ideas, but
entire epic trilogy tales.
What event, writer, or book has most impacted your
writing life?
My critique partners.
These gals are ruthless. They’re cute when they wear their cheerleader costumes
but my-oh-my…my head’s been on a platter many times over for lazy writing or a
sagging plot. These writing buddies are always there for me whether I’m riding
the crest of victory or weeping from rejection. I couldn’t play this game
without them.
What are 3 things about yourself that might
surprise your readers?
I can dance a mean polka.
I hate fruit. Yes, really. No, I don’t even like strawberries. And I’m a
recovering Trekkie. Old school, that is, none of this New Generation nonsense.
What’s one piece of writing advice that’s most benefited you as an
author?
Buy the book Self-Editing
for Fiction Writers. Go ahead. I’ll wait. This is one book you need to have on
your shelf.
What do you struggle
with most, as a Christian Fiction writer? How do you overcome it?
One of the biggest traps to snap it’s sharp jaws into a writer’s neck is
measuring yourself up against sales numbers. It’s a constant battle to remind
myself that my immeasurable worth is found in what Jesus did on the cross, not
on having my name in the #1 slot of the New York Times Bestsellers.
How much of yourself is in your characters?
There’s a piece of me in
every character—even the villains. Not that I have a split personality, mind
you, but this phenomenon is pretty universal amongst writers. In fact, I’ve got
a favorite quote from John Milton that sums it up quite nicely:
“For books are not absolutely dead things, but do
contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul was whose
progeny they are; nay, they do preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy and
extraction of that living intellect that bred them.”
But sometimes your heroes are a shade on the dark
side. Why?
Most heroes are too good to be true. I like to dress mine in
unpredictability. Someone who’s not necessarily safe to be around but always has his loved one’s best
interests at heart and will put his head on the chopping block to save them if
need be. This reminding you of anyone? The same could be said for Jesus. I hope
readers make that connection, subconsciously at least. Heroes are not always
what we expect them to look like on the outside.
What type of books do you write?
 
The kind that keep you
awake late into the wee hours, heart pounding, curious to find out what’s going
to happen. And long after you’ve read the last page, stories that won’t leave
your mind for days. But if you simply mean genre, then historical. My latest
release is BRENTWOOD’S
WARD
. Here’s a blurb:
There’s none better than NICHOLAS BRENTWOOD at
catching the felons who ravage London’s streets, and there’s nothing he loves
more than seeing justice carried out—but this time he’s met his match.
Beautiful and beguiling EMILY PAYNE is more treacherous than a city full of
miscreants and thugs, for she’s a thief of the highest order . . . she’s stolen
his heart.
Available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook
formats at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other
fine booksellers.
Why write this book? What was the inspiration?
What attracted my interest
as an author was an old newspaper advertisement put out by Henry Fielding, the
founder of the Bow Street Runners. It encouraged the public to send a note to
Bow Street as soon as any serious crime occurred so that “a set of brave fellows could immediately be dispatched in pursuit of
the villains.”
I wondered about those “brave fellows” and what kind of
villains they might come up against, and thus was born Nicholas Brentwood.
Parting comments?

Go for the dark chocolate. It’s healthier.

Debut Author Ruth Trippy Reveals Character Inspiration

Ruth Trippy was born in western Michigan to a Dutch family with
values similar to the Victorian era she loves. She left home to teach high
school language arts in Florida where she explored her love of apologetics. She
also worked as Public Service Director for a radio station in Ft. Lauderdale.
Ruth and her husband reside outside of Atlanta, Georgia, and have two grown
children. 
Some say a writer is born and others say
anyone can learn. What do you say?
Both make
up the equation, I think. There has to be some kind of spark, or intelligence
or sensibility that is a gift. But then the real work begins: learning the
craft of writing. A few writers are like Mozart. They get an idea in their
heads, write it down and it’s beautiful from the get go. Most are like
Beethoven. They struggle to express their idea, reworking it many times, then finally—it’s
beautiful.
Was there
a specific ‘what if’ moment that sparked your latest release story?

When I
read George Howe Colt’s The Big House
and learned what characterized Boston Brahmins—and recognized many of the same traits
in my family members—the character of Edward Lyons took off, because I knew him.
Do you
have a full or part time day job? If so, how do you balance your writing time
with family and work?

I teach
piano part time, have since I was fifteen. But balance—what’s that? I’m
constantly looking for the perfect “lifestyle” where I feel all warm and cozy
and inspired. Simplifying my life—again and again—has helped. Mental outlook is
key: Sarah Young’s Sept. 3 devotional in Jesus
Calling,
depending on God, is wonderful.
Did
anything unusual or funny happen while researching or writing this book?

Unusual,
yes. My childhood nemesis provided inspiration for the character Loydie, the
mischievous boy. During a Michigan winter, “my” Loydie made me walk in a deep
ditch covered with ice. I was terribly afraid, not knowing when the ice would
break. Years later I saw him at a high school reunion. We mended our fences,
and he looked forward to reading this novel. As a high school basketball coach,
he was in great shape, but a few months ago died suddenly from a heart attack, before
the novel was released.
Do you
consider yourself a visual writer: If so, what visuals do you use?

I don’t use
visuals in the normal sense. My “visuals” are people and settings from my past
and, of course, others are completely made up, but all expand to have a life of
their own as the story develops.
What is
your writing MO? Are you a plotter, a pantster, or somewhere in between?

Somewhere
in between. I know where the story is generally headed, but as I continue to
research while writing, new information will suggest another character or scene
or additional layer. Often while I’m having my time with the Lord in the
morning, something will pop into my head for the story and I quickly jot it down
on a post-a-note. I figure it’s from the Lord!
Have you
discovered some secret that has helped your process for writing?

I read
before I go to bed each night, usually fiction, because it feeds me
emotionally, “fills the well,” which is a big part of writing. Then I trust the
Lord to help me draw from that well the next day.
What are
your thoughts on critique partners?

The right
critique partners are invaluable; we all have our blind spots that need to be detected,
especially someone like me whose writing background was “spotty.” My novel is a
better book not only because my critique partners are savvy, but I worked hard to
keep them entertained!
Do you
prefer the creating or editing aspect of writing?

Editing!
I’d better, because I do so much of it. In fact, I think of myself as a
Rewriter—rather than a Writer. I feel a great affinity with Beethoven’s
painstaking method of working.
What’s the
most difficult part of writing for you – plotting, setting, characterization?

How about
all of the above. Every once in a while I get an idea and the words just flow. Also,
I’m not a writer who can lie down on the couch and dream up the next scene. I
get as far as the opening and then my mind goes round and round on a merry-go-round.
Like the Israelites who had to put their feet into the water for the Red Sea or
Jordan River to part, I have to physically put pen to paper or type words into
my computer before a character or scene starts developing.
What’s
your strength in writing (characterization, setting as character, description,
etc)?

Hmm. I
don’t think I have a strength, it all comes so hard. However, I do have a fire deep inside of me—a moral
premise—that I hope comes out as my characters live their story. I write
intuitively, often not knowing what I’ve really
written, how it’s coming across to a reader. Only recently, when I read a
couple of random passages of SOTR did the Lord allow me to see it as someone
reading it for the first time. This was encouraging after feeling in the dark about
my writing for so long.  
Where do you write: In a cave, a coffeehouse, or a cozy attic nook?

I have this lovely study where I do most of my work. However, when I get “creative,” papers and books start piling up Everywhere, and it doesn’t look so lovely any more.

Did you
have any surprising discoveries while writing this book?

Yes, the
color red and its many shades kept cropping up: the red leather of Tennyson’s
book of poems, the deep red roses at a dinner party, the dusky pink of Celia’s
dress. I finally saw that it was Edward Lyons’ favorite color so let it blossom
in the story.
What’s the
best writing advice you’ve heard?

Be
persistent. Don’t give up. After years of writing, I was given the Persistence
Award at a writing conference. That was years
ago. And finally now, I’m published.
Do you
have any parting words of advice?

Be willing
to learn from others, even when you think your scene, chapter or manuscript is
polished to a wonderful sheen. Writing can be a humbling business. Now I’m glad
I wasn’t published when I thought I was ready—that I had to wait, was forced to
keep growing. My son, a virtual non-reader, read The Soul of the Rose and expressed with wonder in his voice, how real the characters were. A reaction like
that made the waiting worthwhile. 
  
Soul of
the Rose

“And the soul of the rose went into my blood…”
This line from a Tennyson poem captivates young Celia Thatcher,
who supposes every woman’s heart hopes to be that rose that enchants a man.
Celia is searching for her own sense of hope after the tragic
death of her closest friend. In 1876, she starts life afresh by taking a job in
a Massachusetts bookstore. There she soon catches the eye of not one but two
men: the elite but unkempt Edward Lyons and the charming law student Charles
Harrod. One is hiding from his past and from God. The other promotes a
religious belief Celia had never before considered. Both leave Celia wondering
if either is right for her.
When one of her suitors is accused of murder, Celia is
challenged with a deeper choice: should she follow her heart or her faith?

Discovering the Story Question

Patty Smith Hall has been making up stories to keep herself occupied since her parents forced her on boring Sunday drives into the Georgia countryside when she was too young to stay home by herself. Now she’s happy to share her wild imagination and love of history with others, including her husband of 29 years, Danny, two smart and gorgeous daughters, and a yorkie that she spoils like a grandbaby. She resides in North Georgia.



Discovering the Story Question

Anyone watch the television show, ‘Castle?’ It’s one of my favorites but for those who’ve never watched, it revolves around best selling mystery author Richard Castle as he shadows NYC homicide detective Kate Beckett, investigating murders while searching for the killer of Beckett’s mother and fighting their growing feelings. 
The reason I bring it up is that in their season finale, the unthinkable happened–the lead characters took their friendship to the next ‘level.‘ 
So as the ending credits rolled, my husband asked the inevitable question–after four seasons, had the show had ‘jumped the shark,‘ following the example of another detective show, ‘Moonlighting?’ I’m pretty sure my answer surprised him.
An empathic no! The reason why? While ‘Moonlighting’ was based solely on the sexual tension between the two leads, ‘Castle’ has a story question that has yet to be answered. 
Some of you may be wondering what I mean by a story question. For writers, it is the one internal goal or question that can’t be achieved/answered until the very end of the series or story. It’s that driving force behind our stories, the motivation that pulls our characters toward an unavoidable change or a necessary resolution. 
Two Truths of the Story Question
For me, at least, there are two absolutes when developing your main characters internal motive or goal. First, the motivation needs to be strong enough to pull your character through every high and low of the story. And the stronger, more emotional detailed this motivation is, the more your characters evolve trying to obtain it, the more your readers will be vested in the story.
Let’s go back to ‘Castle.’ In this series, the story question isn’t ‘will they or won’t they?’ That’s the easy way out, and once the question is answered, there’s nothing to keep viewers tuning in or readers turning the page. No, the story question for the series revolves around finding the killer of Kate Beckett’s mother before they kill Kate. Yes, the two leads have a more intimate relationship now but it doesn’t answer the story question. In fact, it complicates it, giving way to even more conflict. Sounds like a pretty good motivation to get me (and every other Castle fan) to tune in next fall. 
The second truth about story questions is that it shouldn’t be answered or changed halfway through the  story. Think about it–how annoyed would you be if you are invested in a book, pulling for the characters and they reach their main goal midway through the book. 
Or worse yet, their motivations change midstream. What a breach of trust! That’s why its so important for we as writers to spend some time discovering what really drives your character. Do character charts. Find out what their basic selfish need is. 
To do so will help create a strong story that will stay with your readers long after they turn the last page of your book.

Hearts in Hiding

Engineer Edie Michaels loves her life—she has a good job, close friends, even a chance at romance with former soldier Beau Daniels. But she could lose everything if her secret comes out…that she’s the German daughter of a devoted Nazi.

And when her father sends spies to force her loyalty, everything Edie values is at risk.

Time in a Nazi POW camp changed army medic Beau Daniels. When he discovers a letter of Edie’s written in German, he can’t help his suspicions. Is she truly the woman he’s started to love? Or has she been the enemy all along? With Nazis on Edie’s trail, the pair must fight for truth, for survival—and for love.

Available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon and Walmart.