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Interview with Pat Nichols

Pat Nichols believes dreams can come true … no matter how long it takes! Read on to discover her encouraging path to publication and the message she hopes readers carry away from her debut novel.

Tell us about the inspiration for your debut novel, The Secret of Willow Inn. How did you decide on the characters and their struggles?
While writing my first two manuscripts, a story about two strangers whose lives intersect tumbled around in my mind and grew from an inkling to a full-blown synopsis. Emily Hayes emerged as an aspiring author facing challenges I was experiencing as a new writer. Rachel Streetman surfaced as a woman who abandoned her childhood dream to act and settled for a corporate career to fulfill her father’s wishes. I live in an Atlanta suburb, thus it made sense to choose the city as Rachel’s home. I wanted Emily to live in a small fictional town that would provide an array of quirky characters and become the centerpiece for a series. Sadie Liles, a convicted killer, emerged as the town’s adversary.

Since you write for women, primarily, what is it you hope women take away from your book?
Only God—not our background, circumstances, or failures—defines who we are at the core.

When did you get the nudge to start writing? And how did you respond? Was writing something you had always wanted to do or did it catch you by surprise?
Although the desire to write was a tiny seed planted years ago, it didn’t take root until our God daughter lost her battle with addiction. Her passing compelled me to write a story based on her life, but with a happy ending. That unpublished manuscript served as the catalyst that watered the seed until it flourished and launched my second career.

What was the hardest part about writing a novel?
The most difficult task I face as an author is creating a chapter-by-chapter synopsis before writing the first paragraph. I began my career as a panster, but quickly discovered the benefit of plotting. Although my synopsis changes as the story evolves, it keeps me on track and forces me to flesh out weak chapters.

How many more books will there be in the series?
Book two is completed and scheduled for release in January, 2020. I am writing book three and aiming for a 2021 release. The Mitford series inspires me to continue the series far beyond three books. How many? That depends on Emily, Rachel, Sadie, and Willow Falls.

How do you balance writing with your other interests and activities?
I’m still working on it.

What were you most excited to check off your travel bucket list?
Thanks to a ton of airline and hotel points I’d accumulated in my corporate career, my husband and I completed our retirement bucket list by traveling to two dozen countries and our favorite US destinations. We have a world map with blue push pins marking every city we’ve visited.

Your website states: "It's never too late to follow your dream." Why is that message so important to you?
I believe dreams are inspired by the unique talent God gives to each of us. Yet, far too often life gets in the way and diminishes, even buries the seeds He plants. I began pursuing my dream at the ripe young age of 68. During the three-year journey to my first publishing contract, I studied the craft, wrote, re-wrote, and re-wrote again. Now I have a new item on my bucket list—write at least one novel a year until I wake up one morning and forget how to type or God takes me home. I’m counting on the latter happening first.


Lisa Bartelt is a child of the flatlands fulfilling her dream of living near mountains in Pennsylvania. She loves reading, writing and listening to stories—true ones, made-up ones and the ones in between—preferably with a cup of coffee in hand. Wife, mom of two, writer, ordinary girl, Lisa blogs about books, faith, family and the unexpected turns of life at

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