Chatting with Author Jessica Nelson

Today I’ve invited Jessica Nelson, author of Love on the Range, to join us to answer some questions about how she creates her characters. First let me introduce you. I first met Jessica online after she was contracted by Love Inspired and then in person at last year’s ACFW conference. She’s a sweetheart.

  In keeping with her romantic inclinations, Jessica married two days after she graduated high school.

She believes romance happens every day, and thinks the greatest, most intense romance comes from a God who woos people to himself with passionate tenderness.

When Jessica is not chasing her three beautiful, wild little boys around the living room, she can be found staring into space as she plots her next story. Or she might be daydreaming about a raspberry mocha from Starbucks. Or thinking about what kind of chocolate she should have for dinner that night.

…Is it any wonder her boys are wild?!

Jessica, thanks so much for joining us. Could you tell us a little about your research into the early days of the FBI? 

Sure! I have NO FBI experience *grin* But when I worked at the bank years ago, several good-looking FBI agents worked in our upstairs office, which triggered my interest long before I wrote this book.
At my first writing conference, I spoke with a well-known, kind agent who pointed out that he thought the name Striker sounded like the CIA, which he didn’t think had started at the time of my book. He was right. So I stuck with the FBI which was formed around 1909.

I played on the FBI website, read their history, and discovered the Mann Act of 1910. I took a bunch of liberty with this law but it really did exist due to some moral hysteria (or so certain writers claim). Whatever the case, there really were instances of women being transported for immoral purposes, and The Bureau of Investigation became somewhat involved with it (though little history of actual abductions). It’s fascinating. 🙂

How do you come up with your characters? 

How do I come up with my characters? I honestly used to think I just made them up as I wrote. But now, four manuscripts in, I’m starting to see some real similarities in my heroines to people in my life.

For example, Gracie is the heroine in Love On The Range. Curious, emotional, and verbose, I thought she was a work of fiction.

After refining the story, I asked my mom to read it. And cringed. It suddenly hit me how similar my mother and Gracie are. I certainly didn’t mean to model her after my mom, but no one in my family can deny their similarities.

Characters are thrilling to create. Hopefully in the future my muse will abstain from writing family members into my romances.

Your Turn: Are you a writer? If so, how do you think up a character? If you’re a reader, who is your favorite character? What is it about him or her that snagged your loyalty?  

Giveaway: Leave a comment for a chance to win my gently read copy of Love on the Range 

Connect with Jessica at:


Opposites Attract, but Can it Last?

Last week, I read debut Love Inspired Historical novelist, Jessica Nelson’s Love on the Range and thoroughly enjoyed it. I had no idea that the FBI had already been formed at the time of WWI, which was enough of a hook to pique this romantic suspense reader’s interest. Add to that the undercover angle–a topic dear to my heart–and you’ll keep me reading into the wee hours. Not to mention that I’m a sucker for a hero in a cowboy hat. ~grin~

Today I’d like to chat about one of the questions from the back of the book, but first…the overview.

Any other socialite would view being packed off to a remote
Oregon ranch as a punishment. But Gracelyn Riley knows that this is her opportunity to become a real reporter. If she can make her name through an interview with the elusive hero known as Striker, then she’ll never have to depend on anyone ever again.

Rancher Trevor Cruz can’t believe his secret identity is being endangered by an overly chatty city girl. But if there’s one thing he knows, it’s that Gracie’s pretty little snooping nose is bound to get her in trouble. So he’ll use her determination to find “Striker” to keep an eye on her…and stick close by her side.

Jessica did a great job of characterizing her brooding hero and her chatty naive, but endearing, young heroine. Trevor Cruz has a sad past. The son of a prostitute and a father who never had a kind word for him, he doesn’t believe in a God of love. While the heroine, a joyous believer, comes from a privileged, upper-class, Bostonian family and has never faced crises in her life…at least not at the beginning of the story. She’s traveled West to both escape the scourge of the influenza epidemic and to secure her independence by proving her mettle as a reporter.

But she soon discovers that life in the hot, barren plains is much different then she’d imagined and perhaps not a life she could embrace. Whereas Trevor loves the open range. 

Your Turn: Given their vastly different backgrounds, do you think a romantic relationship like theirs can last? What common values do you think create a satisfying, lasting relationship?

This week I’ll be giving away my gently read copy of Love on the Range to one of the commenters on today’s or Wednesday’s blog. Check back Friday to see if it’s you.

Fun Friday – Book Giveaways!!!

Thank you to everyone who joined our conversations this week.
The winner of the signed copy of Highland Hearts is “Jennifer” (whose husband was injured). 
Please email me your mailing address and I will get the book to you. 
If you’re in the St.Catharines area, Saturday, March 24th, stop by and say hi to Eva and I at Heritage Christian Bookstore in the Grantham Plaza. 
We’ll be signing books between 1 and 3 pm. We have more prizes to giveaway!!
for a chance to win Deep Cover
Friday (today) is the last day!
The following bloggers are generously giving away a copy each of Shades of Truth, stop by and leave a comment for a chance to win, or feel free to pass on the news: 
I wish you all a fabulous weekend! 

Meet the Author of Highland Hearts

On Monday, we talked about Highland Hearts. Today I’d like to introduce you to its author, fellow Canadian, Eva Maria Hamilton.

I “met” Eva online soon after she signed her first contract with Love Inspired Historical, but it wasn’t until she made a comment on my Facebook page about wanting to visit the African Lion Safari, too, that I realized she lived near me.

In fact, she lives less than an hour away. As fellow newbie LI authors and fellow Southern Ontarioians, we became fast friends.

Last Saturday we even held a joint book signing together!

I asked her a few questions so we could all get to know her a little better.

What do want your readers to take away after the last page?

I want readers to take away the message that where there is love, anything is possible. If something is that important to you, never give up.

We talked about some great examples of that on Monday’s blog. Would you share with us a favorite character from a book you have read?

Here’s one from childhood – Ralph from The Lord of the Rings. Despite personal injury or rejection Ralph never backs down from his beliefs or his integrity. He is a leader not a follower.

Sounds like he might have inspired your hero. Could you share with us something that the enemy could have used to hurt you in some way, but God turned it around for good?

I had a truly horrible pregnancy. Without getting into detail I was in constant pain. A complete invalid. However I didn’t let that depress me. I dealt with it the best I could. And being unable to walk or even move much and thus stuck in my house I started writing. And that has turned into a blessing. I’m now a writer for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Historical line and loving every minute of it.

Wow, I had no idea! It always amazes me how God can turn our trials into triumph.

Do you have a life and/or a ministry verse (or for this book)?

The verse that resonates throughout Highland Hearts is Song of Solomon 2:10-13.
“My lover spoke and said to me, ‘Arise my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me. See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come. The cooing of doves is heard in our land. The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.'”

Is there anything I didn’t ask that you would like to add?

Right now I am working on a proposal for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Historical line that is also set in 18th century Scotland.

To find out more about Highland Hearts and connect with me online please visit my website at where you can also view the book trailer I created. If anyone is interested in reading the first scene from Highland Hearts please follow this link: 

Here’s Eva’s official bio: Eva Maria Hamilton spent years studying people from all different areas of academia and brings that understanding of the human condition into each of her written pieces. An advocate for lifelong learning, Eva Maria Hamilton studied in both Canada and the United States, earning a diploma in Human Resources Management, a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, an Honors Bachelor of Arts Degree in History, and a Master of Science in Education.

Your Turn: Could you share something that the enemy could have used to hurt you in some way, but God turned it around for good?

On Friday’s blog I will announce the recipient of the signed copy of Highland Hearts, chosen from those who left comments Monday or today, so be sure to check back.

Highland Hearts – Character Discussion & Giveaway

Today we’re going to talk about the hero in Eva Maria Hamilton’s debut Love Inspired Historical, Highland Hearts.

I read the book last week. What a treat! Here’s a brief description before we chat: 

Logan McAllister survived years of indentured servitude in America to reach this moment. Now he’s returned to Scotland, ready to redeem the secret promise from Sheena Montgomery’s father—that five years as a servant would earn him Sheena’s hand in marriage. But when he arrives home, he learns that Sheena’s father has died, his contract has been lost…and Sheena is engaged to another man.

Sheena has spent the past five years trying to forget Logan, the man who abandoned her with no explanation. She won’t listen to his protests that he loves her—has always loved her. It’ll take more than empty promises to win her back…and to prove that his highland heart is hers forever.

I greatly admire this hero. Logan loved Sheena so much that he was willing to do anything to gain her father’s permission to wed her, even selling himself into what amounted to slavery.

And although I hate that he never told Sheena why he was leaving Scotland, I admire the kind of integrity it took to honor her father’s conditions rather than divulge the secret to the woman he loved, a woman he could have trusted to not betray to her father that she knew.

So here’s our question for discussion…and this week, I’ll be giving away a signed copy of Highland Hearts to one of our participants so don’t be shy!

Your Turn: When have you challenged yourself and pushed yourself to your limit to accomplish something important to you? Did you succeed? Was it worth the effort?


if you haven’t felt challenged in this way, what kind of circumstance might drive you to push yourself to the limit to achieve your desired goal?

Author Interview – Linda Ford

I had the privilege of meeting fellow Canadian author, Linda Ford, a few years ago at an American Christian Fiction Writers’ Conference. Then our paths crossed again in 2010 when her flight to another ACFW conference had a connection in Toronto, and we actually ended up on the same plane one seat in front of the other!

I remember that year well, because it was my first conference as a contracted author! Linda was already writing for Love Inspired Historicals so our paths crossed often that weekend at various meet and greets.

She’s shared much writing wisdom with me since, and was an awesome supporter of my debut launch.

Since I used a question from her latest release, The Cowboy Tutor, on Monday’s blog, I invited her to share how she came to write the series. Take it away Linda…

I’m not sure what got me started on the idea of these stories. My brainstorming file suggests I was concerned with the circumstances of young women during the Depression.

Here is a bit from that file:
Mrs. Morgan has 3 lovely daughters who seem destined to be spinsters due to the lack of suitable single men. Most of them have been whisked away to relief camps or ride the rails looking for something better than what the Depression offers. But Mrs. Morgan isn’t about to stand by and see her daughters denied the joys of marriage and a family. So she devises a plan…

I’ve always had an interest in the Depression, partly because my parents and grandparents lived through it. I heard of the challenges they faced and saw how they’d learned to adapt. I also did human interest articles for a newspaper and interviewed a number of seniors. They all told stories of strength, heroism and inventiveness in dealing with the Depression. I know they probably didn’t look back at the time as ‘the good old days’. But I loved the feeling I got of people who faced incredible odds with humor and came out as victors.

I’ve learned some interesting tidbits in my research.

First, in Canada we also call it the Dirty 30s (because of the violent dust storms.) I thought everyone was familiar with the term but my editors weren’t.

Paper was expensive so used carefully and as many ways as possible. Letters were written across the page then the page given ¼ turn and more words written across the original. I found it almost impossible to read.

Groceries came wrapped in brown paper, tied with string. The paper was folded carefully and used over and over. The string was added to the ball kept in the kitchen drawer and rationed for use.

I grew up on the prairies and have lived most of my life in an area that was deeply affected by the Depression. In fact, we don’t have a county, we are called the Special Areas. Most of the land is owned by the government and leased to farmers and ranchers. Before the Thirties, many settlers came to the area and broke a few acres.

But then the rains failed to come. The land dried up and contributed to dreadful dust storms. The settlers walked away leaving the banks with unpaid mortgages and loans.

The government bailed them out and took over ownership of the land. The people of the area still face many of the same challenges of the Dirty Thirties.

As my family drove along the various roads there were many empty farm sites. Some were only an empty cellar but there were leaning barns and weather-worn houses. I never saw any of these without wondering what had happened to the people who once owned them.

I would get lost in imagining their struggles, their disappointment, and lost dreams.

Sandra again, thanks so much for visiting with us today, Linda. I enjoyed having a glimpse into your creative process, and the extensive background work and research that contributed to the story’s realism.

Your turn: Do you have any questions for Linda?

Faith in Times of Crisis

Title links to blurb

This past week I read The Cowboy Tutor, a Love Inspired Historical by fellow Canadian author Linda Ford. It’s the first of a three book series, releasing January to March, about how a mother helps her three daughters find husbands during the Great Depression.

I have never read a Linda Ford book that I haven’t liked, and this book was no exception. I read it in one sitting, staying up until 1:30 am to finish it!

From a family of three sisters myself, I enjoyed watching the interplay between the three vastly different personalities. But what resonated with me the most was how firmly the heroine believes that God will see her through every crisis in her life.

She works hard, extremely hard, to keep her family together and from losing their home. Considering the world’s current economic situation, our faith is increasingly being challenged by similar crises.

Your Turn: These characters lived during the Great Depression. Times were tough. What similar challenges are you or people you know facing today? How have these strengthened, or made you question, your faith?

Did you live through the depression or hear stories passed down from parents and grandparents?

I remember many stories my grandmother used to tell, and to this day I have a difficult time parting with clothes or fabric that could be recycled into quilts for the day when we can’t afford heat…of course, considering we live in a drafty old farmhouse and keep the thermostat at 63F most of the day, it’s little wonder!

Unlawfully Wedded Bride – Character Interview

I have the pleasure of introducing to you to a young debut author with Love Inspired Historicals, Noelle Marchand, and her endearing heroine.

Noelle Marchand’s love of literature began as a child when she would spend hours reading beneath the covers long after she was supposed to be asleep. Over the years, God began prompting her to write by placing ideas for stories in her head. Eventually, those stories became like “fire shut up in her bones” leading her to complete her first novel by her sixteenth birthday.

Now, at the age of twenty-two, that fire of inspiration continues to burn. Her first published novel, Unlawfully Wedded Bride, will be on store shelves October 2011. She is currently working on her fourth novel.

Noelle is a Houston-native who will graduate from Houston Baptist University. She is currently a senior double majoring in Mass Communication with a focus in journalism and Speech Communication. She has gained writing, editorial, and publishing experience by working for HBU’s student newspaper. 
Kate O’Brien is the heroine of Unlawfully Wedded Bride and I’ve asked her a few questions…
1) Your younger siblings, Sean and Ellie, have hinted to me that you may be a bit of a workaholic. Is that true? What do you usually do for fun?
I think Sean and Ellie are exaggerating a bit. I just do what has to be done to keep our farm going. If that means I work hard then I work hard. As for fun…I guess I haven’t thought about that much since my parents died. Although since Nathan Rutledge arrived I guess you could say things have become more fun if that means exciting and unpredictable.
2) When did you first realize someone is trying to kill you? Describe how you felt?
Someone’s trying to kill me? Don’t be silly. Is this another rumor started by Mrs. Greene or Andrew Stolvins? If so, I can tell you it isn’t true.

3) What made you choose Peppin, TX as your home? Can you tell us a little about the place?
Well, my family moved to Peppin from Illinois when I was just a child. It is a small town with a very close-knit community. Everyone knows what everyone else is doing almost before they do it. It can be a bit disconcerting at times but good because we all look out for each other.
4) How did you meet Nathan Rutledge? What did you think about him the first time you met?
I met Nathan Rutledge when he showed up at my farm claiming to be my husband. I admit I thought he was handsome. I also thought he was slightly delusional until he showed me the marriage certificate then I saw him in an entirely new light. After all, he gave up his former life as a rancher to marry me and help me with the farm. It was a nice if unnecessary gesture. I may miss him just a little after we get the annulment and he goes back to wherever he came from.

5) Showed you a marriage certificate?! How could you possibly think it was real? You’d have to sign it. 

I had. In a moment of desperation when I realized that I needed a husband to get a loan from the bank and save the farm, I’d signed an absentee affidavit. But then I decided to try to find a less drastic way to go about things and never intended to send it. Except Sean found it and sent it off. 

6) What are your strengths and weaknesses?
My strengths are that I am a strong, determined, independent woman. My weaknesses… well, some have said that I’m too strong, determined and independent for my own good.

7) What do you value above all else?
Family. My siblings mean everything to me. I’d do anything to keep us together and protect my parent’s legacy.
8) What do you admire about the hero?
He isn’t afraid of hard work. He makes Sean and Ellie laugh. He is also very kind.
9) Why could you never see yourself ending up with the hero?
I’m pretty sure I don’t need a hero. In fact, I’m positive I don’t. I’ve been doing pretty well by myself.  I’m not interested in depending on a man so I guess that’s why I couldn’t see myself with him.
10) What’s your greatest fear?
My greatest fear is letting my parents down by not taking care of my siblings. I’ve been doing my best to provide for them. If I’m honest, I’m afraid that won’t be enough.
11) What is the one thing you would never do?
Work at the Red Canteen Saloon. My former beau (if you can call Andrew Stolvins that) has offered me a position several times. I would never accept it.
12) If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I have a bit of a temper. I suppose it would be nice to be a bit more level-headed. 
Thank you Kate for visiting with us today. 
If you’d like to read Kate O’Brien’s complete story, look for Noelle’s book in stores this month. 

Kate O’Brien can’t believe her ears. She’s been married, by proxy, to a man she’s never met, thanks to her young siblings’ meddling! Kate offers her “groom” room and board at her farm until the annulment is granted—nothing more. After all, what else could this predicament be but a blunder that needs fixing?
Nathan Rutledge arrives on Kate’s doorstep, seeking a fresh start—with a family that needs his help more than Kate will admit. The shadows in both their pasts will be no match for a bright new beginning. But first, he has to convince a woman frightened of love to throw caution to the Texas wind… 
If you’d like to learn more about Noelle and her books, visit her online at:

American Christian Fiction Writers Conference – ACFW

 I’ve been having so much fun meeting old friends and making new ones that I’m afraid I haven’t taken many photos. Internet access is also difficult, but here are a few that I’ve managed to download. Later, I want to add a cool photo I took of The Arch emerging from the fog behind the state building. Tracie Peterson gave the opening address yesterday…very entertaining. Hopefully, later I’ll get a close-up picture. I’ve gained notoriety for locking my roommate out (long story), but Brandilynn Collins had fun roasting me from the platform. Now, just about everyone knows my name!! And my books in the conference bookstore have sold out!!!

View from the hotel window. It has 18 floors–massive.

I met Ashley online a few months ago and we’ve had a wonderful time getting to know each other in person.

If you visit my FB page, you’ve seen this pic of Patty Smith Hall , Ruth Logan Herne, and new Love Inspired Historical  author Sherri Shackelford admiring my grand daughter’s photo. 😀

with Jessica Nelson whose Love Inspired Historical debuts in October

Kelly Ann Riley (LIS) Merrilee Whren (LI) Myself and my critique partner Vicki Talley McCollum sharing a quiet lunch between the early bird session Thursday and opening worship time