You haven’t had to wait long for this promised interview. For my review of Kaydie you can read my May 7 post, but now I am delighted to introduce Penny Zeller (image below on the right), author of Kaydie.
Penny Zeller is the author of several books and numerous magazine articles in national and regional publications. She is also the author of the humor blog “A Day in the Life of a Wife, Mom, and Author” (www.pennyzeller.wordpress.com). She is an active volunteer in her community, serving as a women’s Bible study small-group leader and co-organizing a women’s prayer group. Penny devotes her time to assisting and nurturing women and children into a closer relationship with Christ. Her passion is to use the gift of the written word that God has given her to glorify Him and to benefit His kingdom. Kaydie follows McKenzie in Montana Skies, her first series with Whitaker House. When she’s not writing, Penny enjoys spending time with her family and camping, hiking, canoeing, and playing volleyball. She and her husband, Lon, reside in Wyoming with their two children. Penny loves to hear from her readers at her Website, www.pennyzeller.com.
Penny, welcome to my blog. As we begin this interview the first question on the agenda is: Besides when you came to know the Lord, what is the happiest day in your life?
Hello, Lynn! It’s great to be here. The happiest days of my life were the day I married my husband and the times we became parents to our two daughters.
I like your priorities. Now, your most recent book is Kaydie, which is Book 2 in your Montana Skies Series and was just released last month. Can you please give us a brief synopsis?
I am thrilled about the release of Kaydie. A short synopsis is as follows:
For the first time in years, Kaydie Worthington Kraemer can breathe easily. Although she is still haunted by memories of her abusive husband, Darius, she takes comfort in knowing the man is dead. Staying with her sister McKenzie and brother–in–law, Zach Sawyer, at their ranch, Kaydie is still wary of men, especially now that she has another life inside of her to protect. As she looks forward to her baby’s birth, she builds a protective wall around herself that won’t be easy to tear down.
Ranch hand Jonah Dickenson views his boss, Zach, like a brother. He does not, however, envy Zach’s new role as a husband. Deserted by his mother at a young age and forever despised and rejected by his own father, Jonah has few close relationships. But there’s something about Kaydie that draws him to her and makes him question his decision to remain a bachelor.
When Cedric Van Aulst, an old friend of Kaydie’s, comes to town, an unforeseen prospect of marriage arises. Cedric is someone Kaydie trusts. Will she settle for a safe union with him, or can she trust God to guard her heart and her life in the arms of Jonah?
Cindy Sproles produced a fantastic book trailer for Kaydie, which can be viewed athttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vwihs6rsqDk
Is there any person who has been a strong influence in your writing journey?
When I was in second grade, my teacher, Mrs. Vernon, encouraged me to never stop writing stories about Jesus (I began my writing career rewriting Bible stories and publishing them in homemade cardboard books).
In addition, my husband and children have been strong supporters of my writing. As far as influencers or mentors, I would have to say authors Sharlene MacLaren and Amanda Cabot have been wonderful mentors to me.
When you were a child did you have a favorite book or books?
I was an avid reader as a child. I loved Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mysteries and read every copy of those books I could get my hands on!
This is funny and not something I have shared much, but beginning when I was 10 or 11 years old, I also loved the romance stories in the back of “Good Housekeeping Magazine.” In those days, the stories were wholesome and I would sneak outside with my mom’s copy into our playhouse to read. I loved the stories because they would have pictures of the characters drawn by an artist with a little tidbit under each picture, such as “Lydia thinks she’ll never love again – that is until James unexpectedly walks into her life…” I laugh when I think of those early days reading those stories. I suppose I have always been a romantic at heart!
Have you ever felt like giving up? When did you finally believe in yourself so you can say “I am a writer”, or did you never doubt your calling?
I definitely have felt like giving up. As a matter of fact, I can think of two times when I was determined to “throw in the towel.” Once was when I was a beginning writer and writing magazine articles. The second was a couple years in my career.
I have loved to write since I was in second grade. In the year 2000, I quit my full time job in a field of social services to stay home with my infant daughter. It was then that my passion for writing was rekindled. I began with writing magazine articles, and in 2003, had my first book published.
Why do you write the kind of books you do?
Writing is my ministry, and I pray daily that the path of writing that I have chosen in life will glorify the Lord. I am in constant prayer for wisdom, guidance, and that my books would be life-changing – that they would bring others to the Lord or closer to the Lord. I have chosen Psalm 19:14 as my life verse: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”
Do you have a favorite Genre to both read and write?
Historical romance is my favorite genre to write, followed by contemporary romance. In third place would be nonfiction, which I also enjoy writing as well. As for reading, I would have to say my favorite is historical romance. There’s something neat about being able to pick up this genre and escape into a simpler time.
What process do you go through when writing and perfecting a story?
I first write the story as it comes to me. Usually, I have thought about the story beforehand and have “watched” the scenes unfold in my mind, as though it was a movie. Secondly, I have an editor friend who goes through all of my work before I submit it to my publisher. After my editor at the publishing house goes through it, we talk on the phone about any changes that might need to be made. I then go back and make those changes. I am blessed to have a wonderful editor at Whitaker House!
There is a lot of work that goes into writing and perfecting a story. I remember before I was a writer, I used to wonder why it took so long for the sequel of a book to be released. Now I know! *grins*
What method do you use to keep track of your writing ideas?
Good question, Lynn! Let’s see…I have several file folders, each one labeled with the book idea. I then include any pages I have written in that folder.
What inspired you to write McKenzie and Kaydie: The first two books in your Montana Skies Series?
My family and I were in a car accident a couple years ago where I suffered neck and leg injuries. During that time period of seven months, I was also hit with back-to-back bacterial infections. Because of the injuries and illness, I was pretty much homebound and my active athletic lifestyle suddenly became limited. I look back now and praise God that He gave me McKenzie, as well as two other manuscripts (another historical and a contemporary) I wrote in that seven month period of pain and illness. God took what was a difficult time for me and turned it around to something positive that can be used for His Kingdom – taking the time to write the books that I had always wanted to write.
He has since healed me and I pray daily that the path I have chosen in life will glorify Him.
Wow! That reminds me of an incident in my own life, not nearly as dramatic, but through it He led me to write something very meaningful. What prompted you to write about the Montana Territory?
Our family has traveled extensively through Montana on road trips. We have visited two well-preserved ghost towns, which provided me with so much inspiration! I love the scenery and the history of Montana and couldn’t wait to base my characters in that setting.
How long did it take you to write Kaydie? Did you have to do any research?
It took me a couple of months to write Kaydie. I did do some research, mostly online, but because I had already researched and written McKenzie (Book One in the series), the research time wasn’t as extensive. For Kaydie, the setting was in the same town and in the same year as McKenzie, thereby making research easier. 🙂
Good planning. 🙂 Did you find any part of the story difficult to pull together?
Actually, yes. Halfway through writing Kaydie, I came to a stopping point – a type of writer’s block if you will – where the words didn’t come nearly as easily as they usually do. I prayed about how to proceed and I felt God say to me “wait on Me.”
I’m glad I heeded God’s guidance because when I stepped out in obedience and didn’t try to force the words, but instead waited on Him by putting Kaydie aside for a time, something amazing happened. When I revisited Kaydie, the words began to flow again at a pace I could barely keep up with. More than ever, I now continue to fully submit to the Lord – and fully rely on Him – for the words and the direction of every aspect of my writing.
Did you, or do you ever, write a little of yourself into any of the characters? Do you have a favourite?
I take bits and pieces of different people and write them into my characters. I do think there would be bits and pieces of me in characters too 🙂 For example, Kaydie is very sensitive, which would be one word I would use to describe myself.
As for a favorite character, I really can’t name just one. They are all different and special in their own way. My goal is to make the characters as realistic as possible and allow them to face struggles, as we all do.
How did you go about finding an editor? A publisher? An agent?
I’ll start with the easy question first…I’m different than a lot of authors because I don’t have an agent, per se. I consider my agent to be the Lord.
For my books, I have had four different publishers. It’s been different in how I found each of those publishers, but for my Montana Skies Series (Kaydie, McKenzie, and Hailee), I actually found the listing for Whitaker House, my publisher, in the Writer’s Market book. After much prayer, I submitted a query letter to the editor. She responded with a request for the manuscript. I was ecstatic! Writing Christian historical romance has always been my goal (even though I have enjoyed the nonfiction and the children’s fiction book I wrote as well). When she accepted the manuscript and contracted me for a series of three, I was so humbled and honored!
That’s interesting. I consider the Lord to be my Editor-in-Chief, hadn’t thought beyond that. How do you find time to write when you are busy with life?
Prioritizing is for sure my most difficult writing obstacle. To be honest, Lynn, I’m still working on figuring how to effectively do just that! *grins*
But really, I think prioritizing is one of the biggest challenges of being a writer, especially since I work from home and have a family. I have posted my writing hours on my office door, not so much for visitors, but for myself. It reminds me that if I don’t set time aside for my writing, it will be spent doing a host of other “necessary” things.
I have to be deliberate about putting aside time for my writing. I work while my children are in school and then quit for the day when they come home. My husband and my children are my main ministry, so they are the most important. I also do a lot of volunteer work. In order to keep my priorities in perspective, which is critical, I spend a lot of time in prayer seeking God’s guidance in using my time wisely.
How do you consistently write? Do you have writing goals – daily? Weekly? Monthly? Long range?
I am currently working on a second historical romance series set in the post-Civil War era. I have written the first book and am now working on the second one. I also have several other standalone books in the works.
I commit my time each morning to the Lord and write as He prompts me. Some days, I write 6,000 words. Other days, it’s 2,000 words. Some days, I don’t get the chance to work on my current book at all because I am spending time doing marketing projects. There is a lot of marketing that is done with the release of a book!
You mentioned having another book in the making, can you give us some insight on what it’s about?
I just finished the third book in the series, Hailee, which is scheduled for release later this year. Here’s a little teaser about what’s to come:
Times in Pine Haven have changed over the past few years. The town has doubled in size and Montana has become a state. Bethany Ethel is now the older sister to spunky seven-year-old twin brothers who find great delight in providing trouble for the new teacher, Miss Hailee Annigan. The Sawyers have added to their own family with daughter, Chloe; and Lucille Granger continues her antics as the town busybody.
Faith. Love. Hope. Forgiveness. This recent installment of the Montana Skies Historical Romance Series explores all four in the continuing saga of a peek into the lives of those who call Pine Haven their home.
I’m also working on a historical romance series that takes place in the Post-Civil War Era. I’ve finished book one in the series and have started writing book two.
Your ‘fluency’ amazes me, Penny! Is being a writer/author all you had hoped or thought it would be? Any advice for hopefuls?
I am blessed to be an author. It has been a dream of mine since I was seven. It is hard work and takes perseverence, but I feel it is worth it.
When I meet a reader or fan face to face, I love to chat with her about what she envisions herself doing for God’s Kingdom and how can I pray and encourage her in that pursuit. If she is pursuing her dream as a writer, I tell her that one of the most important things to remember in being a writer is that if God has called you to do it, He will guide you every step of the way.
I would advise her to give her writing to the Lord and to not give up! I speak from experience when I say that when He closes one door, He opens another (much better) one.
I offer more suggestions for sticking with writing on my blog at www.pennyzeller.wordpress.com.
Great advice! Where can readers purchase a copy of Kaydie?
Kaydie is available everywhere books are sold, including Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Kaydie-Montana-Skies-Penny-Zeller/dp/1603742174/ref=pd_sim_b_1
Where can fans find you on the internet?
I love to connect with my readers at my website www.pennyzeller.com,
my blog www.pennyzeller.wordpress.com,
on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pennyzeller, and
Do you have any parting comments?
I would like to thank you, Lynn, for having me here, and also thank my readers for their support and encouragement. I couldn’t do it without you.
Thank you, Penny, for this very inspiring interview. I wish you continued success in your journey with words to the Glory of God and for the blessing of your fans.
Readers, I hope you have enjoyed getting to know more about Penny Zeller. Penny and Whitaker House ( http://www.whitakerhouse.com ) are donating a copy of Kaydie to one of you.
If you would like a chance at winning a copy of Penny’s book simply post a comment here on my blog, telling what you most enjoyed in the interview. Enter only once, please. I will put the entries into a basket and at 9:00 pm (8:00 EST) on May 18 my husband will draw out the winner’s name. I will contact that person for his/her mailing address. If I do not get a reply by 8:00 pm EST on May 21 we will select another name – so check back!
Thanks for reading this interview, and … Creative Musings! 🙂