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Interview with Dani Pettrey

Dani Pettrey is a wife and homeschool mom who resides in Maryland. She writes about hair-raising adventure including scuba diving, cave-diving and heli-skiing. When it comes to her own personal adventures, she is a bit more sedate but still enjoys hiking, canoeing, and wave-jumping. At the top of her list of favorites is dark chocolate.

Why did you choose to write nail-biting romantic suspense?
Because it incorporates so many things I love—the thrill of adventure, nail biting suspense, the deepening of my characters’ faith, and plenty of romance.

Knowing that Silenced is in a series of books, where did the idea for it come from?
The inspiration for Silenced primarily came from the characters themselves as they grew and developed through the earlier books in the Alaskan Courage series. It’s been so much fun watching Kayden’s apprehension of Jake fade and be replaced by deep and abiding love. Unfortunately, a killer stands in the way of their happiness.

With the various occupations represented in your books as well as the many adventurous activities your characters are involved in, what kind of research do you do or have you done for your books? Trips? Experiential trips?
I do a lot of research, but I adore it. I often find I need to force myself to stop researching so I can actually sit down and write the book. It definitely helps that the research I get to do is so much fun. For example, I’ve ridden in a police patrol vehicle, attended the Writer’s Police Academy, gone rock climbing, taken scuba diving lessons, and rafted class IV rapids, all in the name of research.

What type of theme or message do you hope readers will take from this book?
I never start out with a message in mind. I write the story and enjoy discovering what the message is going to be. For Silenced, God really summed up its message by bringing Isaiah 43:19 to mind: See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

God can take a dry, parched land and fill it anew with living springs. He can take the hard parts of life, the heartaches and suffering, and bring fresh beauty and purpose out of it.

How did you start writing?
I have always loved daydreaming and making up stories. I dabbled with creative writing growing up, but set it aside. It wasn’t until after the birth of my youngest daughter and a bout with a serious illness that I really felt God stirring me to start writing again.

I started very slowly and simply spent time reading novels, seeing how they worked, analyzing why I fell in love with certain characters and not others. A number of years later, I attended my first writing conference, and that’s when I knew I seriously wanted to pursue writing. I joined a writer’s group and devoted regular time to the craft. Around that time, I was also blessed with an amazing mentor who really shepherded me in the craft and writing life. I wrote for a number of years, entered contests and applied the feedback I received. It’s all a process. Looking back I can see God’s hand and timing in it all.

How do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
My faith plays a great role, but I’d like to think in a natural way. Just as my love of adventure permeates the stories I write, so does my faith. My relationship with Jesus is part of every facet of my life, it’s only natural to be part of the stories I tell.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
God’s gentle guiding and timing. I believe God placed the love of story in my heart, and He took that love and shepherded it, spurring me to write, and to trust Him in the timing (not always easy for an aspiring author :-) ).

With your homeschooling responsibilities, how do you juggle or find time to write?
As hard as it is for me to believe, my youngest graduated in May and is headed for college this fall so I’ll no longer be homeschooling. It’ll definitely be an adjustment after fifteen years, but I now watch my grandson two days a week so I imagine I’ll still be juggling time. I’ve found setting a dedicated time or page count to accomplish for the day to be very helpful. I wrote at the kitchen table as my girls did their work independently. I wrote at soccer practice and at swim lessons. Learning to be flexible on one hand and diligent on the other is the key—not that I ever came close to perfecting that.

Do you have your own writing space? Describe where you write.
My office is in the sunroom off our kitchen. I love it. It’s so full of light and cheery. I have my desk for when I’m working on the computer and a small sofa for when I’m working on my first drafts, which I always write long hand. And, of course, I have the absolutely essential coffee station in place.

What advice do you have for aspiring romantic suspense writers?
My advice for all aspiring authors is to:
1) Read and write consistently.
2) Never give up on your dream.
3) Seek God’s guidance and rest in His timing.

For romantic suspense writers in particular, the best thing you can do is learn to balance both aspects of the genre well—romance and suspense. They are two different threads but they should weave together perfectly. It’s definitely a difficult balance to achieve.

What other parting words do you have to share?
I love connecting with fellow writers and readers. Hope you’ll drop by my Facebook Page and say hi.

Thanks for sharing with us, Dani Pettrey!
Thank you so much for having me!

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