Author Interview and Giveaway Winner

Rachel Heffington At long last, I’m here to present an interview with Rachel Heffington, author of Fly Away Home. I’ll also be announcing the giveaway winner. So fasten your seat belt and we’ll be off!

What gave you the idea for Fly Away Home?
The idea came from a piece of flash fiction I wrote (“How About Coffee?”) that wouldn’t get out of my head. I wondered about the characters, their lives, their motives. All that wondering finally made its way into a defined plot that wouldn’t leave me alone till I’d explored all its nuances. 🙂

Are any of the characters real historical figures?
None of the main characters (though it’s a well-known fact that Gregory Peck IS Wade Barnett in looks), but historical pop-culture figures are mentioned, and in one particular chapter of the book, you get to rub elbows with the Nelson family of The Ozzie and Harriet Show as well as actress Priscilla Lane and her husband.

What is the most interesting fact or story you uncovered while research for Fly Away Home?
Probably the existence of The Stork Club. I hadn’t realized that there really was such a centralized, well-documented site of celebrity relationships. Every famous person in the 40’s and 50’s visited the Stork Club; researching for the scenes there was so much fun…I was even able to view a video tour of the “Golden Room” from the 1950’s that had been part of a TV spot. Quite fascinating!

What are some of the challenges and rewards of self-publishing?
The challenges are the fact that you are a newbie and you are on your own. I am so blessed to have a lively group of fellow indie authors who have helped make the debut of Fly Away Home a rousing success, but the marketing and publicity side of things is entirely up to you as the author. And that is after you have already gone through the mess of design/formatting/editing. The rewards, though, are that you get to direct your career; I don’t have to write historical romance that is exactly like everyone else’s historical romance because it sells; I have the privilege to write in whatever genre I like. Also, on a terribly shallow level, I get higher royalty percentages than I would as a traditionally published author.

What message would you like readers to take away from this book?
The measure of success is not defined by your salary, your career, or how high you’ve gotten on the corporate ladder. God has a definite plan for your life and it might not look exactly the way the world tells you it ought to look; but it will be fabulous.

Do you have any final comments?
I am so thankful for the opportunity to visit here on Leah’s blog and I hope I may get to know you all better. If you would like to learn more about Fly Away Home, come visit my blog; we have such jolly times!

Thanks so much, Rachel! I’m sure everyone enjoyed the interview. And now, the winner of the Fly Away Home giveaway is…

The Aspiring Illustrator

Congratulations! I’ll be sending you an email to get your mailing address so you can get your copy of Fly Away Home. Hope you enjoy it! For those of you who didn’t win this time, but still want to read the book, the kindle version of Fly Away Home is currently on sale for $2.99 on Amazon. It’s a good price, and supporting a homeschooled author is always a special addition to a purchase. 😉 Enjoy!


Author Interview: Aubrey Hansen 2

Aubrey Hansen So, it’s been a while since we had an author interview on Leah’s Bookshelf. I’m pleased to welcome Aubrey Hansen back for a second interview, though. She first joined us in January 2013 for an interview about her book Peter’s Angel. Please join me in welcoming her back for an interview about her book Red Rain.

What gave you the idea for Red Rain?
Strangely, I can still remember the exact moment I got the initial inspiration for Red Rain. I was at a park, swinging (swings are the best piece of playground equipment ever invented) and watching the bus barn across the street. I studied the rows of yellow school buses and thought… Wouldn’t it be just awful if they made us go to public school? (I was, of course, happily homeschooled at that point.) The idea for the opening scene, with the buses and forced government schooling and vocal Mr. Dass, came to me, and it remained almost exactly the same through all the revisions of the book. Eventually I mushed that idea together with an other idea I had–of a girl going to Mars with her father and getting into trouble with DNA-based security systems–and the first draft of the book was born.

There’s something about seeing a bunch of school buses that always makes me appreciate being homeschooled. Glad I’m not the only one!

Do you have a favorite character? Why or why not?
I’m not sure that’s a fair question to ask an author! I was always partial to Ephesus’s role in this book. His storyline had a lot of drama and emotion–even though a lot of it went on “behind the scenes” in back story that never actually made it into the book since the entire story was from Philli’s POV–and he’s a big brother character, which have always been favorites of mine. But, truth be told, I have a thing for Stanyard. But, that’s more relevant to the sequel…

What was your favorite scene to write?
Pretty much any of the scenes that involved Philli being emotional with her brother or father. 😉 Those were the easiest scenes to write, and many of them needed little revision. As is the case with many of my books, this one started with a disconnected jumble of scenes. What’s unusual about this book is that many of those original disconnected scenes carried through the revisions nearly verbatim. The pinnacle scenes, the ones I drew my initial inspiration from and built the book around, changed very little during the writing process.

What was the hardest scene to write?
The “wrap up” scenes after the climax. I’m still convinced they’re not quite right, as some of my reviewers would agree. Thankfully, it hasn’t deterred said reviewers from asking for a sequel!

What can readers learn from this story?
There are a couple of morals woven into the story, which is actually one of the book’s weaknesses. Being my first book, I think I tried to take it in too many directions. That said, the main moral is one many of my readers didn’t pick up–contentment. I’ve had many reviewers say they felt the ending was dissatisfied because (spoiler!) Philli ended up back where she started, in the concentration camp. The “problem” of the oppressive government wasn’t solved. That was actually my entire point. The moral of the story was to trust God in any circumstances–to do what was right even if it didn’t get you out of the concentration camp.

Do you have any closing thoughts?
Let it go! (And I don’t mean that as a reference to the beautiful song from Frozen.) Red Rain is my first book, and in some ways, it shows. But my readers, even though they were willing to point out the problems, still wanted more–and that’s how we should be with our writing. Your first few books will not be perfect. But enjoy them for what they are, take pride in your strengths, learn from your weaknesses, and keep writing!

Thanks so much for the interview, Aubrey! Does anyone else have questions or comments for Aubrey?

Author Interview: Aubrey Hansen

Girl SilhoutteToday Aubrey Hansen is joining us to answer a few questions. Just to let you know, the girl in this picture is not Aubrey. It’s a stand-in picture so you have someone to look at. 😉 Enjoy the interview.

What gave you the idea for “Peter’s Angel”
Once upon a time, Peter’s Angel was actually my attempt to salvage a LEGO fanfic I’d written years ago. It was one of my earliest works, but I thought the plot and characters had potential, so I wanted to “recycle” them into something original I could publish. It took many drafts and revisions to get the story into the shape it is now, but, believe it or not, that’s how it started! As for where I got the idea for the original fanfic, I have absolutely no idea. (Interesting tidbit–the original fanfic was actually futuristic sci-fi.)

What is the most interesting fact or story you discovered while researching for this book?
Oh, that’s a tough question. I’m fascinated by the era as a whole, and there’s so much to discover in history. Recently however I have begun delving more into the life of Aaron Burr, and I’m utterly intrigued by the drama and excitement of his enigmatic adventures. It almost makes me sad that my “altering” of history in Peter’s Angel involved killing Burr off!

Do you have a favorite character from “Peter’s Angel”?
I love them all except Peter. And sometimes Mariah gets on my nerves. But to be more specific, Edwin has long been my cherished favorite, until just recently when I started favoring Mark. Don’t tell Edwin that–he’s been through enough heartache and doesn’t need to add rejection by his author to his list of woes!

What are some of the challenges and rewards of self-publishing?
Self-publishing is driven by instant gratification and control. Unlike traditional publishing, where an author is dependent on and answers to a publisher, self-publishing is completely within the hands of the author. The only person you’re depending on or waiting for is yourself. If you’re willing to take control and push yourself, nothing stands between you and a self-published book. By the same token, then, self-publishing puts all the weight of creating a quality product on the author. Cover design, editing, formatting, and so on are all your responsibility. You can’t just focus on the writing; you have to think like a publisher, marketer, and more. It can be very time-consuming, and I’m still learning how to manage it all.

What message would you like readers to take away from this book?
I have no earthly clue. To be honest, I don’t know all the themes and messages that Peter’s Angel may present. My goal with writing this book was not to present a message but to explore my own thoughts. Some reviewers have noted that the narrative of the book is littered with characters asking questions; that’s me talking, asking questions, expressing doubts, and giving no answers. Peter’s Angel was a personal journey in which I explored themes that were pressing on my heart–criminal justice, suicide, romance, and others. I don’t know all the answers; as such, it’s up to the reader to decide for themselves what they believe.

There is one message, however, that I hope will shine through when the tale is done: “There is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few.” (1 Samuel 14:6)

Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?
Writers always harp about how much we appreciate reviews of our books, but there’s one element people often overlook when writing (and requesting) reviews–detail! A good review of a book is detailed and specific. Don’t just tell us that you loved it (or hated it); tell us why! I say this not only as a writer, but also as a reader. As a writer, I need to know what people liked or disliked about my books so I can build on my strengths and learn from my mistakes. As a reader, I want to know what to expect. Why is this book worth my time? Tell me why and sell me on it!

If you have any questions or comments for Aubrey, leave her a comment!

Author Interview: Hannah Mills

Hannah MillsHi everyone! Sorry to be a bit late with today’s post. I had a lot of school to do and didn’t turn on the computer because I didn’t want to get distracted. Anyway, here’s an interview with author Hannah Mills, who also happens to be a good friend of mine. Enjoy!

What gave you the idea for Plague of Darkness?
The idea came from the character of Teague. I liked him so much that before I was even halfway through “Called”, I decided that I simply had to explore Teague’s backstory and give him his own book.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Honestly, I think the most difficult part about the writing of this book was keeping it consistent with what he shared of his past in Called. If you can avoid writing books out-of-order, do! It’s a lot harder than one would realize.

What is one personal lesson you learned from writing this book?
Strength of will. I’ve always been a stubborn person, but Teague has a stronger will than I do, and helped me realize how strong and resilient one can be under incredible pressures.

What have been the pros and cons of self-publishing?
The biggest pro has been getting to do my own cover designs. The cons are that right now, I don’t have the know-how or time to really market my books.

Are you working on any new books?
Yes! I am currently working on Hosanna House, a contemporary novel. It’s going through a lot of editing after placing 2nd in a novel contest. I’m really excited about it, and can’t wait to share it with the world.

Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?
Readers, have high standards. Don’t settle for poor writing. Some amazing books are out there, and well worth your time. Writers, keep reading– and read high quality fiction and non-fiction. If you are not a good reader, chances are you won’t be a good writer. And also, be patient with yourself. It’s neat to look back at my old writings and see how much I’ve improved. It just takes time, practice, and a willingness to learn.

Thanks for the interview Hannah!

Author Interview: J. Grace Pennington

J Grace PenningtonThe next author in our lineup of homeschooled authors is J. Grace Pennington, author of Never which I reviewed last Friday. Please join me today in welcoming her for an interview.

How did you chose the story line for Never? What was your inspiration?
It started out as many of my novel ideas do–with a smattering of various disconnected elements that I wanted to get into one story together. I had the idea of the “never” theme, the idea of the mystery, the mines, the western setting, and some other things, and I pulled them together into a single plot with a lot of planning and a little inspiration from some favorite books and movies.

How much research did you do for this story?
Not very much! The element I researched most was probably the mines. I looked up everything I could find in our encyclopedias about coal mining, and talked to some people I knew who had visited or toured old coal mines. Other than that I just researched small elements as they came into the story. Firearms, sleepwear, tobacco usage, etc. Just enough to keep the story fairly period-accurate.

What message would you like readers to take away from this book?
Basically to never give up. Life is often hard, even if most of us don’t have to get worked half to death in a torturous coal mine. Things are tough, bad things happen, and sometimes we feel an awful lot like just letting go of what’s right. But we have a Source of strength that will never fail us, and so we can choose to hold to our principles no matter what the cost. That’s what I wanted to show. Hope in the midst of darkness.

Tell us about your experience with self-publishing. Why did you chose to self-publish?
Self-publishing is definitely a lot of work! I choose it because it offers a lot more control. Everything stays in the hands of the author, which is ideal in many ways, it just requires lots and lots of work. With this, my second book, I had someone to help me with part of the process, a designer who formatted it, designed the cover, and helped me proofread. That made it significantly less hard, even though it was still fairly stressful. I definitely recommend getting help if you can, even if it costs you something, but keeping the control in your own hands seems wise to me, if at all possible.

Are you working on any new books?
Yes! Right now I’m working on the next few books in my young adult science-fiction series “Firmament.” The second book will hopefully be out later this year, and the third book is about halfway finished, while the fourth is just past the outlining stage. I also have another book, “Implant,” which I hope to publish later in the year.

Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?
They say to write what you know. Some people interpret this to mean you can only write about the lifestyle that you live, and experiences similar to those you’ve actually been through, but I don’t think that’s the case. While I’ve never lived in the Old West, never solved a murder mystery, and never once been coal mining, I think I did write what I know in this story. I may not have experienced mining, but I’ve experienced darkness. I may not know mystery-solving, but I do know fear. I may not have had to survive through torture and starvation, but I have had to cling to hope when I felt weak and hopeless inside. I think these are things we can all relate to, on some level. And I hope that readers are able to take something away from it that can help them on their journeys.

Thank you for having me on your blog, Leah!

Thank you for joining us, Grace! If anyone has questions for Grace about Never, writing, self-publishing, her other books, etc. feel free to leave them in the comments section!

Author Interview: Molly Evangeline

Molly EvangelineLast Friday I reviewed The Pirate Daughter’s Promise. If you haven’t already done so, go comment on that post for your chance to win a free copy of the book. Today, author Molly Evangeline is here for an interview. Please join me in welcoming her.

What gave you the idea for The Pirate Daughter’s Promise?
All I used to write were horse stories until I saw The Fellowship of the Ring as a teenager. That was the first step that started me in the direction of writing action/adventure type stories. A year later, I saw the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie for my fifteenth birthday and fell in love with the idea of pirates and sailing. The plot for The Pirate Daughter’s Promise developed shortly after that.

How long did it take for you to write this book?
I wrote the first three or four chapters as the story was developing, but hit a snag and set it aside for about three years. My love for pirate stories resurfaced again with the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie so I pulled the story back out. Once I got into it, I wrote the remaining chapters in about two and a half weeks.

Tell us about your self-publishing experience. What has been the best and hardest thing about self-publishing?
It took a long time to really settle into self/indie publishing. When I first chose to self-publish The Pirate Daughter’s Promise it was because I had no idea how to get into traditional publishing and I was impatient. Now it’s a decided choice, and I don’t think I’d ever choose traditional publishing even if it was offered to me. The best thing about it is the control and the potential to actually make a living off it. I am a very do-it-yourself type of person. I typically spend over a year actually writing a book, and when I put that much effort into something, I want to see it to the end so I know I’ll be 100% happy with it. And the fact is, if you’re trying to do this as your job, indie publishing is much more profitable than traditional publishing, but it all depends on your ability to market and sell books. That’s where the hardest part comes in. Marketing is something you have to work very hard at, especially if it’s not something you’re good at. It takes a lot of time and effort that you would much rather spend on the actual writing process. But, if you’re doing what you love, it’s all worth it in the end.

What person has influenced your writing the most?
Definitely my mom. She is a writer too, and if she had not been writing while I was young, I may never have tried it myself. It was also her decision to homeschool me that played a huge part in where I am now. All that extra time I had to devote to writing, and imagining, and improving my skills was invaluable. A homeschool lifestyle also gave me the DIY attitude I needed to pursue self-publishing and setting up my own indie publishing company. I also have to point to J.R.R. Tolkien as the second most influential person in my writing. Discovering The Lord of the Rings when I was thirteen was a turning point for me. That’s the first time I realized writing was what I wanted to do with my life, and his stories still have a huge effect on what I like to write today.

Are you working on any new stories?
I am right in the middle of writing a new young adult fantasy series called Ilyon Chronicles. It’s the biggest project I’ve ever undertaken. It will be six books (unless something drastic happens along the way and a seventh book pops up). I started the first book, which turned out to be the longest book I’ve ever written, in June 2011, and I am now just about finished with book two. It’s set in a medieval/ancient Rome type setting with a tyrannical government and dealing with some issues we have now in modern society, so it’s full of action/adventure as well as many spiritual, emotional, and physical struggles. I’ve never been so close to or related so much to my characters as I have this group. I’m only a third of the way through the series and I’ve already laughed and cried and experienced incredible highs and lows with them.

Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?
I am beyond excited to share Ilyon Chronicles. I have a ton of work to do before that can happen, but every day I’m working hard to get there. There’s something special about this story. The things God has been showing me and the way He’s guiding me through all the little details is amazing. This story is so far above anything I’ve ever done before, and I can hardly wait to see what readers think and what God does with it. I’ve already set up a website for it,, and have an active Facebook page, I try to keep it updated often with where I am in writing the series, and occasionally post little snippets of the story.

Thanks for the interview, Molly! Readers, do you have thoughts or questions about anything Molly said?

Starting The New Year

book spinesHello everyone! I just want to update you on the schedule for this month. Last month I focused my book reviews on Christmas stories. This month I’m going to be reviewing books written by homeschooled authors. Four young ladies will be joining me here to talk about their books. Even better, two of them have agreed to offer a free copy of their book for a giveaway. Here’s the list.

Week One: Molly Evangeline, author of The Pirate Daughter’s Promise
(with book giveaway)
Week Two: J. Grace Pennington, author of Never
Week Three: Hannah Mills, author of Called and Plague of Darkness
(I haven’t decided which one to review)
Week Four: Aubrey Hansen, author of Peter’s Angel
(with book giveaway)

I am really excited about this lineup. I hope you’ll join me in enjoying these girl’s books. We’ll kick off with a review giveaway of The Pirate Daughter’s Promise tomorrow.

Author Interview: Chuck Black

On Monday I posted a review and giveaway of Sir Bentley and Holbrook Court. Tomorrow is the last day to enter the drawing to win a signed copy of Sir Bentley, so make sure you leave a comment on the giveaway post!

Enjoy today’s interview with author Chuck Black.

How long has it been since you started writing the Kingdom books?
I began writing the Kingdom Series books in 1999. I started with Kingdom’s Edge, the third book in the series. My inspiration for writing that first book was to find a way to help my children get excited about their faith, and to help them understand the spiritual warfare that the Bible talks about so often. The story of Jesus was the best place to start. All of the other books, including the Knights of Arrethtrae, flow out of Kingdom’s Edge.

Do you have a favorite book out of the Kingdom Series or Knights of Arrethrae Series?
That is a difficult question to answer. I like different books for different reasons. Kingdom’s Edge because it was my first and purest work. It felt as though God specifically gave it to me to write. Beyond that I don’t think I could pick one of the Kingdom Series books over the other. For the Knights of Arrethtrae series, it would probably be a toss-up between Sir Dalton and Sir Quinlan with the other four coming in a close second :).

Tell us about your journey from self-publishing to traditional publishing.
I self-published four of the Kingdom Series books because I did not want to take the long and usually unfruitful path to traditional publishing. We stumbled into a market in the homeschool community with the books that gave us an indication that there was a real need for a series of wholesome, exciting, Christian novels. After five years of watching the interest and the sales double each year, I came to a place where I was exhausted and could not keep up with the growing demand for the books. That is when I asked God to really bless the books, if it were within His will to do so. A few months later, Multnomah Publishing signed on for the books and we expanded the series from four to six books. Once those proved to be successful, I signed another contract with Multnomah for the Knights of Arrethtrae series. It has been an unusual journey all testifying to God’s hand working it all out.

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
I would encourage aspiring authors to read a lot and to learn the techniques of their favorite authors. For example, how does the author develop the characters, is the story plot driven or character driven, how does he handle dialog, and how much detail is necessary to make a scene feel real. I would also recommend getting the book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. It is an excellent resource for beginning writers. Finally, I recommend practicing your writing and having people give you honest and objective feedback. Before I decided to print 500 copies of Kingdom’s Edge, I printed five copies under a pen name. I then asked people for feedback. Be prepared for both the positive and the negative feedback and then adjust. Constructive criticism is the best tool for learning, if the receiver is willing to accept it.

Do you have any new books in the works?
Actually, I just signed a contract for a trilogy with Waterbrook Multnomah. I can’t give too much a way but it will be a modern-day spiritual warfare series. I’m excited about it, and I pray that God will use it to inspire people to serve Him with all heart, soul, mind, and strength!

Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?
The central theme of all of my books is this…God is looking for hearts that are completely devoted to Him so that he might strongly support them (2 Chronicles 16:9). Find your passion for God through the talents and abilities He has given you and then say “yes” to the call and the adventure He has waiting for you. It will be the thrill of a lifetime…I guarantee it!

My website is and if anyone would like to write to me, I can be reached at kingdom[at] Thank you for the chance to share my heart with your readers.

Thank you for this wonderful interview, Mr. Black!