Interview by Brock Eastman
Featuring Second Chance Amish Bride
Caring for her late cousin's young kinder is Jessie Miller's duty—even if it means seeing their father again. Years ago, she thought Caleb King might be her husband—until he met her cousin and Jessie's dream was cut short. Laid up with a broken leg and a demanding dairy farm, Caleb needs her.
But Caleb wants no woman around…and not reminder of the wife who abandoned her family before her death. Especially since he fears Jessie will throw a wrench in his plan to remain a single dad. She's gentle and kind, and if Caleb isn't careful, she may be just what his little Amish family needs.
Brock: How did you come up with the idea for this series?
Marta: I really wanted to do a series of books about siblings who had all been affected by a single traumatic event in their family. It turned out to be the three King brothers, and I loved exploring the different ways each of them had reacted and how each of them found love and hope for the future.
Brock: Tell us about the main characters. Who are they? What makes them unique?
Marta: Jessie Miller is a single Amish woman who has given up the expectation of love for herself but who finds contentment in helping others, including her nieces and nephews. She is gentle and loving but also very firm in her belief as to what's right for the children in her care, even when her belief runs counter to their father's opinions. Caleb King has reacted to the abandonment of first his mother and then his wife by distrusting women, and he's convinced he can raise his two young children on his own. But when disaster strikes he's forced to accept the help he doesn't want, and in doing so, he begins to learn that only through forgiving the past can he find the future he wants for his family.
Brock: Give us one fact about each main character that no one else knows.
Marta: Jessie cherishes the memory of a single afternoon spent with Caleb, more than half in love with him before she realizes he only has eyes for her cousin. Caleb can never let anyone know that beneath his anger and lack of forgiveness for the wife who deserted him and their children, he harbors the deep guilt that it might have been his fault.
Brock: In three words, what is this book about?
Marta: How about three phrases? This book is about forgiving the wrongs of the past, learning to trust God in the present, and gaining hope for a brighter future.
Brock: Do you outline the entire book before starting, or do you write as you go and let the characters take control of the story?
Marta: The very idea of letting the characters take control makes me nervous. I always plan my stories in advance, but I leave enough freedom to take advantage of the serendipitous scenes that seem to pop up when I'm writing.
Brock: How do you believe this story relates to the lives of readers?
Marta: I think most of us who have lived for a few years have experienced being let down by someone we love, and most of us have felt guilty about things left undone and wrong choices made. If it speaks to a few people who are struggling with these problems, then I'll have done what I set out to do.
Brock: What is your favorite genre to write for?
Marta: Since I write both romance and suspense, my favorite genre varies. When I'm in the midst of accounting for all the clues, secrets, and hidden motives of a suspense plot, I tend to think longingly of the more character-driven romances. And when I'm writing my way through the middle of a romance and trying to find new ways of making emotion come alive, I get lots of ideas for suspense! I guess a writer is never really satisfied!
Brock: How many books are planned for this series?
Marta: The Brides of Lost Creek series is planned for three books, although there may be other stories in the future that take place in Lost Creek.
Brock: Any certain research required for the book, or is it all from your imagination?
Marta: Writing about the Amish always takes research, but since I have known Plain People for most of my life, much of the research has already been done. Even so, questions often come up in a particular book that send me off on a search for an answer.
Brock: How do you strike the right balance in your book?
Marta: I try to thread the romantic relationship in my books with the protagonist's inner and spiritual issues. I find that one will influence the other, sometimes in ways I don't expect, or perhaps a moment of understanding in one relationship will become reflected in the main romance plot.
Brock: Why did you choose to focus on a male protagonist?
Marta: In this particular series, I give fairly equal weight to the male and female protagonists, but I began this story with the hero, because he is the one with the critical problem that kicks off the action of the story.
Brock: Yeah, makes sense. Are you working on the next book in The Brides of Lost Creek series?
Marta: I have already written the second book in the series, although we're still discussing possible titles. I typically alternate between writing a romance and writing a suspense.
Brock: Can you give us a hint at the next book in the series?
Marta: The next book in the series is about Daniel, the brother of the hero in the first book. All three brothers were greatly affected by the fact that their mother deserted the family when they were young, and so each story shows how a particular brother comes to a resolution of that past relationship.
Brock: Do you plot or outline the entire series before you begin writing, or do your books take on lives of their own? Or is there a combination?
Marta: When I begin a series, I typically sketch out the general opening situation of each book, since I want to be sure I haven't repeated myself in any way. The books are connected through the characters and the setting, and so I need to have a good handle of those characters as they are presented in each book. Then I begin with the first book and write a detailed synopsis of that story.
Brock: How much leeway do you gives yourself with facts in a Historical Romance?
Marta: Since I'm writing Amish fiction set in Pennsylvania, I work very hard to be sure that every custom or event I'm describing is accurate to a Pennsylvania Amish community. The fact that some traditions and customs vary from one church district to another gives me a certain amount of leeway in deciding what those are for my fictional community.
Brock: Where do you like to write?
Marta: My family knows that I can write anywhere, at any time. In the car, sitting at the airport waiting for a flight, on vacation…wherever. I learned that when I started writing while my kids were young, and I had to write while waiting for kids to finish rehearsals, practices, lessons, etc. It was good training, but my favorite spot is in my recliner with a laptop in front of me and a hot cup of Earl Grey tea on the table next to me.
Brock: Are you a full-time or part-time writer?
Marta: Full-time, in the sense that I don't now have another job. However, I do try to pace myself, so that I always have time for grandkids, church work, and fun with my husband.
Brock: Yep. As authors, we have to keep adjusting writing to our lifestyles. And that brings us to our next question. How long does it usually take you to write a single book?
Marta: I usually plan on three months for a shorter book and four months for a longer one. However, life happens, and sometimes the schedule becomes skewed. I find that working steadily, even for a short time each day, keeps my mind in the book, so that I'm never really away from it.
Brock: What is your "how I got published" story?
Marta: I had long wanted to write, but I finally started actively trying to be published when I was working as a Director of Christian Education. I read so many of the short children's stories that were published to illustrate a Biblical theme that I began to wonder if I could do that, so I tried. To my considerable surprise, my first story sold on its third excursion into the world. I earned the magnificent amount of $16, and after that, there was no turning back. I owe a great deal to that first sale to Story Friends magazine!
Brock: What was your favorite book as a teen or child?
Marta: When I was a child I read anything and everything, especially all the Nancy Drew books, but the book that stayed with me to be read and re-read was Little Women. Everything about it touched me emotionally, and I still love it.
Brock: In what ways does your faith impact how you approach writing?
Marta: I have always, from those first children's stories for Sunday School magazines, had a spiritual truth that was at the heart of each story. Even when the story is not openly inspirational, that germ of truth is a part of it.
Brock: Love it when God works through your writing like that. Amazing, truly amazing! Favorite place to vacation?
Marta: I love to travel, but the place that is most relaxing for a vacation is at the beach. Or on a cruise ship!
Brock: Nice! Sounds fun! Favorite season?
Marta: Spring. I love watching the appearance of each sign of spring from the earliest bulbs through the perennials.
Brock: Do you have a particular drink or food you consume when you write? Like coco, raspberry tea, animal crackers?
Marta: Stash Double Bergamot Earl Grey tea and shortbread cookies.
Brock: Do you have a favorite Bible verse?
Marta: Now we see in a glass darkly, but then we shall see face-to-face. Now we understand in part, then we shall understand fully, even as we are fully understood.
Brock: Favorite pasta dish?
Marta: I'm partial to my own homemade manicotti, although I'll happily eat anyone else's if offered.
Brock: What do you hope for your children and grandchildren?
Marta: That they grow to be loving individuals, reflecting Christ to everyone they encounter.
Brock: Certainly a wonderful goal to strive for. What's coming in the next year for you in publishing?
Marta: The next book in my romantic suspense series will be out in November, and the next book in the Brides of Lost Creek series will be out in May, 2018. Also next year, the first seven of my Pleasant Valley Amish books will be re-released in mass market, so I hope they'll reach a brand new audience.
Interview by Ashley Eastman
Featuring Fatal Mistake
Each day could be her last…
Tara Parrish is the only person ever to survive an attack by the Lone Wolf bomber. Scared and emotionally scarred by her near death, she goes into hiding with only one plan–to stay alive for another day. She knows he’s coming after her, and if he finds her, he will finish what he started.
But not if he can help it.
Agent Cal Riggins has had only one goal for the past six months–to save lives by ending the Lone Wolf’s bombing spree. To succeed, he needs the help of Tara Parrish, the one person who can lead them to the bomber. Cal puts his all into finding Tara, but once he locates her, he realizes if he can find her, the Lone Wolf can, too. He must protect Tara at all costs, and they’ll both need to resist the mutual attraction growing between them to focus on hunting down the bomber, because one wrong move could be fatal.
"Serial killers, romance and bombs, oh my! Fatal mistake is a thrill ride from page one. Hop on, strap in, and prepare to be entertained!"
- Lynette Eason - bestselling, award-winning author of the Elite Guardians series
Ashley: What was your inspiration for writing the White Knights series?
Susan: The White Knights series was born during the six weeks I spent with FBI agents at the FBI Citizen’s Academy. I saw the agent’s incredible hearts for helping others. I also saw how that heart for others motivated them and also how it took a toll on them. When things turn ugly and law enforcement professionals can no longer control the situation, making them unable to provide the needed help, they take it harder than most people.
I thought about how a group of agents on a special team that deploys to particularly difficult situations might behave if they couldn’t provide help. Then I wondered how being a Christian might impact their actions and knew I had to put their faith to a test. To challenge these agents, I had to find really BIG problems that they couldn’t simply use their tremendous skills and abilities to solve on their own. I wanted them to realize they couldn’t rely on their own strength and training, but must turn to God and each other for help, only then could they succeed on the job and in life.
Since the team is a Critical Incident Response Team, I needed to look at news headlines to see the type of incidents these agents might respond to. For Fatal Mistake I chose a serial bomber who has struck so many times and escaped capture that the agent in charge of the investigation has learned he can’t bring in the bomber on his own and the reader sees him struggle with this realization.
Ashley: Tell us about the main characters. Who are they? What makes them unique?
Susan: Tara Parrish is your everyday woman who is faced with an extraordinary challenge. At first she runs from the seemingly insurmountable problem, but then digs in and starts to fight back. I think this is how many of us first face a challenge, and that the reader can easily see themselves in her and can imagine being in her shoes.
Cal Riggins is an FBI agent whose past lost of a person close to him has left him driven with the need to protect others. In Fatal Mistake that pushes him beyond reasonable limits to find the Lone Wolf bomber. And when God doesn’t respond in Cal’s timing, he takes things into his own hands. I know I do this at times and I’m sure readers do, too, and can relate.
Ashley: Give us one fact about each main character that no one else knows.
Susan: Tara grew up on a farm. As a child she wanted to be a farmer just like her father. That ended when her parents were killed in crash.
Cal must live in Washington D.C. for his job, but he secretly wishes he could live in the boonies somewhere without any neighbors and lots of land surrounding his home.
Ashley: In three sentences, what is this book about?
Susan: How about three phrases? Serial killer. Terrifying bombs. Learning to trust God through it all, even when all seems lost.
Ashley: Sad truth right there. It seems like we trust God the most during tough trials in our life. Do you outline the entire book before starting, or do you write as you go and let the characters take control of the story?
Susan: Though I at first I didn’t use outlines, after writing a few suspense books with intricate details that needed to be kept track of and resolved, I decided I would spend a lot less time rewriting if I started to outline. So I created my first outline and have never looked back.
Ashley: How do you believe this story relates to the lives of readers?
Susan: Well, hopefully none of the readers will ever experience a bomb, but they can identify with Cal and Tara as they struggle with trusting God and others. They both must learn to trust God and leave the outcome up to Him. And, isn’t that the core of faith and something we all struggle with at times?
Ashley: Sure is. What is your favorite genre to write for?
Susan: Suspense, particularly romantic suspense is my favorite genre to not only write but to read as well. I love the combination of fast paced action. The mental challenge of figuring out who the bad guy is and a healthy dose of romance combined with all of it.
Ashley: How many books are planned for this series?
Susan: There are six members of the White Knights team and each book features one of the team members so there is potential for six books.
Ashley: Any certain research required for the book, or is it all from your imagination?
Susan: There was a tremendous amount of research required about bombs and FBI investigative procedures for this book. I found myself being very interested and yet terrified at what I discovered about bombs, as you can easily obtain items needed to create a bomb.
Ashley: How do you strike the right balance in your Romance Suspense book?
Susan: I try to balance romance and suspense equally. I have the riveting, move along at a fast pace suspense, then I slow it down with character issues and romance. It seems to balance quite well in my opinion and readers often confirm that for me.
Ashley: Are you working on the next book in the series?
Susan: The next book is called Kill Shot and it is completed and will release in February 2018
Ashley: Can you give us a hint at the next book in the series?
Susan: Sure. Here’s the back cover copy.
Some fears haunt you forever….
As the ballistics and weapon’s expert for the FBI’s special task force nicknamed the White Knights, Rick Cannon has known the Department of Defense was developing self-steering bullets. Rick feared these smart bullets–which have one hundred percent accuracy that can turn even a novice into a lethal sniper–would eventually end up in the hands of the wrong people. But since the ammunition was still in the development stage, he figured they had plenty of time before that happened. He was wrong. Dead wrong.
Until they become reality.
When a homeless vet is killed with a smart bullet, it’s clear that the ammunition has been stolen, and the Knights are called in to find the thief and stop the killings. But they aren’t the only ones desperate to find the killer. Therapist Olivia Dobbs is well known for her success in counseling military veterans with PTSD. When she discovers one of her clients moments after he is murdered, she becomes both the FBI’s prime witness, and suspect.
Despite the mutual attraction that immediately sparks between them, Rick can’t–no he won’t–let Olivia interfere with his investigation. But when the sniper trains his rifle on her, Rick must recall all the skills he learned as a Marine sniper to make sure the next bullet fired isn’t a kill shot that takes Olivia out.
Ashley: Were any scenes or characters cut from the book? Can you give an example?
Susan: I had a scene where Tara and Cal visit the FBI forensic lab in Quantico but had to cut it due to word count. In prep of writing authentic FBI stories, I attended my local FBI Citizen’s Academy and graduated in 2016. The academy was a combination of classroom lectures, firearms simulator, shooting hand and long guns at the FBI shooting range with agent instructors, and blowing up and disarming bombs with their bomb experts. I loved every minute of the academy and am still a member of the alumni group. I hope to visit FBI Headquarters in D.C. in December along with a visit to Quantico where FBI agents train.
This academy inspired me to not only write about my White Knights, but to share details with readers that are authentic and convey the incredible integrity, compassion, and caring that FBI agents possess. This scene accomplished all of that. I loved sharing details like the biovestibules that serve as airlocks to keep contamination to a minimum, and the sheer magnitude of the 500,000 square foot building with over 500 employees all devoted to crime scene analysis. I think this allowed me to convey the big job the FBI crime scene employees have to do and the cost of crime in our country. Who knows, maybe the scene will be resurrected and modified for another book in the White Knight series.
Ashley: Where do you like to write?
Susan: I have rheumatoid arthritis and I often have painful joints so I mostly write sitting in a comfy recliner to minimize the pain. I have a view out over our backyard and my garden, and I am a gardening fanatic, so that is a very inspiring view for me. Of course, at times the garden calls to me, and I can’t resist so I go out there when I should be writing. But these little trips out into God’s beautiful world also helps me work out story problems, too.
Ashley: Are you a full-time or part-time author/writer?
Susan: I am a full-time writer. I had six books release this past year. If I didn’t work full-time, that wouldn’t have been possible. It was barely possible as it was. So far, I only have two books and two novellas releasing in 2017, which is a much more manageable schedule.
Ashley: How long does it usually take you to write a single book?
Susan: After I have plotted the book and written a synopsis, which can take weeks, I can get the rough draft written for a trade-length book like Fatal Mistake in a month. But my rough drafts are very rough, and what then follows is months of editing. During this time I work on editing the book, then set it aside and come back to it several times so I see it with fresh eyes. So all in all, I’d say it takes about four months to complete the book.
Ashley: What do you hope readers take away from the White Knights series?
Susan: Hope and trust in God. Simple as that. No matter how bad life can seem there is always hope. My wish is that the characters’ struggles resonate with the reader, and they can see the characters work their way out of a problem and move into the light of hope by trusting in God. Then the reader can see anything is possible, and they, too, have reason to hope.
Ashley: When did you realize you wanted to become a writer?
Susan: I always wanted to write a book but like many people today, I was too busy to sit down and do it. Then I was struck with a chronic illness, and I was forced to sit for long periods of time. A type A personality, I couldn’t sit and do nothing so I started writing. As the disease progressed, I had to quit my job and I had more and more time to write. Soon I was writing full time and actively pursuing publication.
Ashley: What was your favorite book as a teen or child?
Susan: As a child I didn’t have a favorite book, but I can tell you the Nancy Drew mystery series was my all time favorite series to read. I couldn’t wait until the latest book came out.
Ashley: What are your hopes for your future as an author?
Susan: I hope to continually improve my craft and hope to continue writing for publication as long as I can. I love writing and am so blessed that God has given me the opportunity to have this career.
Ashley: In what ways does your faith impact how you approach writing?
Susan: My faith impacts my writing in that it is so woven into who I am that it slips into my books without me even realizing it. I recently wrote my Agents Under Fire series which is a clean read series for the general market not the Christian market, and I discovered that I couldn’t write a single book without making my characters believers.
Ashley: Coke or Pepsi?
Susan: Neither. I can’t drink carbonated beverages so my choice of drink is water. Okay, fine, I do drink like a zillion cups of coffee in the morning.
Ashley: Soft shell or Hard Shell tacos?
Susan: Funny you should ask. I was a soft shell taco person all the way, but lately I had a craving for hard shells, and so we had them last week. It reminded me that when I was pregnant with my first daughter, I had such bad morning sickness that I was constantly sick. The only food I could keep down were tacos and they had to be hard shell tacos from Taco Bell.
Ashley: Favorite place to vacation?
Susan: Honestly, I haven’t had a vacation in years as we have spent every moment of free time the last two years remodeling our house, and I would vacation just about anywhere if given the opportunity.
Ashley: Favorite season?
Susan: Spring/early summer is my favorite time of year for two reasons. We live in rainy Oregon. It’s a beautiful area of the country because of all the rain, but almost daily rain from October to July is a bit much. So when spring arrives so do sunny days, which signal the beginning of gardening season. Over the winter, I spend days drooling over seed catalogues and pictures of my veggie garden from the prior year. Coming up with a new plant rotation, buying fertilizer and seeds, and dreaming of the veggies I’ll harvest. And then spring arrives and yes…finally, I can get outside in the sunshine and dig in the dirt and I am a happy girl!
Ashley: Do you have a particular drink or food you consume when you write? Like coco, raspberry tea, animal crackers?
Susan: When I am struggling to get words on paper for a rough draft and my late afternoon slump arrives, peanut M&Ms provide much needed brain power. LOL
Ashley: Do you listen to music while you write? If so what are some examples?
Susan: I never used to listen to music when writing, but lately I found that it helps me concentrate. Right now I often listen to oldies like Art Garfunkle’s Breakaway album or the Best of Bread.
Ashley: Is there anything about yourself that might surprise your readers?
Susan: 1. I once recorded radio commercials for a company I used to work for. It was so odd hearing my voice on the radio.
2. I once raced a turtle. I grew up in Turtle Lake where we held annual turtle races so it doesn’t seem as odd as it sounds, right?
3. I used to play trumpet. Not only in high school and college, but as an adult I also I played at church for years.
Ashley: How you create characters and are they are based on people you know?
Susan: Characters aren’t based on people I know, per se, but are from a lifetime of watching and studying people. I have a degree in psychology and have always been fascinated with what makes people do what they do, so putting together character traits to form a unique and complex person is really enjoyable for me.
Author: Evan Angler
Series Title: The Swipe Series
Readability Age Range: Recommended for grade 6 and up for content
Genre(s): Science Fiction
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Year Published: 2012
Would you rather take a single oath of allegiance to your government or disregard the pledge and fall into a life of poverty and neglect? It seems like a simple decision, right? That’s the choice Logan Langly and all other Americans have to make on their 13th birthday. If Logan was any other twelve year-old on the dawn of his thirteenth birthday, he would be excited to finally receive his mark and begin his true journey into life, but Logan has one issue: when his sister Lily went to receive her mark, she never returned. Aside from his fear of turning out like his sister, Logan becomes nervous for a different reason: he discovers he is being watched. As the new school year begins in the town of Spokie, Logan encounters Erin Arbitor, the daughter of a government agent for the Department of Marked Emergencies or DOME. Erin doesn’t like Spokie, and wants to leave as soon as possible. She discovers information about a markless man named Daniel Peck, who seemingly kidnaps 12 year olds before they can take the oath. His next target? Logan. In a series of events, they try to find Peck and turn him in. However, as time passes, Logan suspects that Peck is actually be trying to help him and that the system he grew up under may contains dark secrets.
The Swipe Series is written in a manner that makes you relate to the characters and their situations, almost as if the world we live in is heading in the same miserable direction. This book reminds you not to blindly follow your leaders, but to question what powers you allow your government, and to make sure to pay attention to the ever-changing world we live in. I enjoy Swipe each time I read it. There are some darker elements such as disrespect and prejudice. I found the series a unique take on the biblical end times, each installment edging closer and closer to Jesus’ return.
The Swipe Series is a fresh new take on Christian fiction. It has all the action and dystopian feel from current popular fiction, and if it was sitting on a shelf, you might not even see the difference between it and your average teen fiction. However, unlike most other teen series, it maintains the censorship and standards most parents desire for their young readers. I first read through the series when I was in middle school. It has all the action, plot twists and thrilling scenes to keep you up reading all night. Whether you’re looking for a good read to finish off the summer or just something to keep the kids occupied during a long car ride, this could be your next favorite series.
Christian Beliefs/Non-Christian Beliefs:
In an era dominated by apocalyptic fiction, there is one clear truth- The prophecies in Revelations will eventually come to light. The Swipe Series focuses on a world where corruption and socialism are accepted and the populace is being cruelly deceived into receiving what could be considered the mark of the beast. Aside from the frightening, realistic truths, remember that this is written for tweens and young teens and isn’t written to scare you into paranoia. It is a simple work of fiction to encourage and guide you to question the decisions you make so lightly, and to live in a way to prepare for Jesus’ return. It is a definitive reminder that we are in the world but certainly not of it.
In a dystopian future after a major war, the American government decides to consolidate society into two groups: those who are committed to following the new authorities, and those who become outcasts. The system is simple: on your thirteenth birthday, choose allegiance and be rewarded with social security along with the ability to pay for food and necessities. Those who pledge an oath of allegiance are given a mark to bear on their arm, this mark acts like an ID and credit card rolled up into one. With it, you can purchase groceries or check in at events, but without it, you lack the freedom to gather food or make a decent living.
With this new government comes some disrespect, from markless against the marked authorities and the reverse clearly seen as well.
Kids in a group playfully wrestle and punch each other sometimes aggressively.
Phrases like “Screw it up” or “Sucks” are used occasionally, some name calling “Tightwad; cheapskate; misers; stingy skinflints” etc. is thrown around. One character talks in a clearly prejudiced way against the markless.
Living under a Corrupt authority, The Christian Response to Non-Christian Leaders, Prejudice
There is some disrespect against some authorities including sneaking out at night. Erin hates Spokie and regrets her father’s choice to bring them there. Unsure of who he can trust, Logan becomes lonely/depressed in the midst of his paranoia.
Jesse is a Writing and Editing Major at a Small Christian College in Kansas where he is a freshman. In His Free Time, He Enjoys Reading, Writing and College Theater.
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