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Interview with Penny Zeller

In your latest release, Kaydie, you tackle the difficult topic of marital abuse. What led you to tackle such a difficult topic and what are you hoping readers will learn from this book in regards to abuse?
It always amazes me how God inspires and uses us to write about things that can touch the life of another. I once worked as a caseworker in a branch of social services. While I didn’t deal directly with victims of violence, I did see the end result of it in many of my cases.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, “one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.” I am thankful that more awareness has been brought to this atrocity and I wanted to give hope to any woman in an abusive marriage. God does care and He is there to be a refuge – an ever-present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1).

In the 1800s, there was nowhere for a woman to go if she found herself in an abusive marriage. Her choices were limited. The story of Kaydie takes place in 1882. While Kaydie felt so alone and helpless at times while being married to an abusive man, she sought the Lord through prayer. Though she didn’t yet have a personal relationship with Him, she did know that God would hear those prayers and that He would help her. God is not unaware of what goes on in the world He created and His heart breaks at the painful experiences His children go through at the hands of another. In Psalm 139 we are told “before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.” God knew Kaydie’s choice in a husband had led her to a life of manipulation and abuse, and He loved her, cared for her, and protected her and her unborn child.

I also wanted to show throughout the pages of Kaydie that wounds from an abusive marriage do not heal overnight and there is no “quick fix.” Such painful scars from the physical, emotional, and mental turmoil take time to overcome. But with God’s unconditional love and help, revealed through the people He placed in Kaydie’s path, she would ultimately find peace and healing.

I would also like to mention, that while the subject of domestic violence is a difficult one, the story of Kaydie does not include any graphic descriptions and can be enjoyed by adults and teens alike.

<em>Kaydie was the second book in your Montana Skies Series. Did you find it easier or harder to write this book than the first book of the series (McKenzie)?
McKenzie was actually easier to write because of the details surrounding how the book came to be. I wrote McKenzie (and two other fiction manuscripts) while healing from seven months of injuries sustained in a car accidents, coupled with back-to-back bacterial infections. God took what was a difficult time for me and turned it around to something positive that can be used for His Kingdom – me taking the time to write the books that I had always wanted to write.

Kaydie took a bit longer than McKenzie and was harder to write because 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.

Where do you most often gather inspiration for your stories?
I am a visual person, so seeing photographs of settings and time periods for which I write is extremely helpful to me. My family visited well-preserved ghost towns in Montana as I prepared to write the series, which was also a great inspiration.

Reflecting back, what do you think was your biggest hurdle to overcome when first seeking publication?
Truly believing that God really did want to use my words to touch the lives of others was one of my biggest hurdles. Yes, that’s what I wanted to do, but was that was God had planned for me? Yes, I had previously written nonfiction, but women’s fiction (especially historical fiction) was my passion and my dream. But was that His will? I spend a lot of time in prayer before writing each day.

What are the current challenges you face in balancing writing time with any of your other responsibilities?
Prioritizing and making time for everything! I never realized it before I began writing, but being an author is a fulltime career. I have to be intentional about setting aside time and setting goals or my writing can easily take a backseat to the other “necessary” daily chores of being a wife, mother, and volunteer. Because I work from a home office, I have to be intentional also about allowing the answering machine to “field” calls and be realistic about time management. Effective prioritizing has been a huge learning experience for me!

Has your own faith grown with the effort of getting your stories onto paper and into readers’ hands?
My faith has definitely grown with getting my stories onto paper and into readers’ hands. For one thing, I am more dependent on God. I want to make a difference with my words for His Kingdom and for His glory. My faith has also grown because throughout my books I infuse Scripture. I’ve had to become even better versed in God’s Word.

What do you hope your readers come away with after reading one of your stories?
I hope after reading my novels that readers will be reminded of the power of God's love, redemption, hope, and forgiveness. I want them to catch a glimpse inside my characters' lives and see that God can and does change hearts. In addition, I hope my readers will take away from my books the importance of depending on God and putting our full faith and trust in Him. As Psalm 46:1 tells us 'God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.' What a reassuring promise!

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career?
I recently received a phone call from a friend whose grandmother is hospitalized in serious condition. She's an elderly woman (in her 90s) who isn't doing well healthwise and she doesn't know the Lord. Her family has been praying for her and trying for years to witness to her.

My friend told me that her grandmother requested the other night that a book be read to her. I was humbled that out of all the books she could have chosen, she requested McKenzie. I pray that something of God's Word that I have written in my book would help to soften this woman's heart toward Jesus and pave the way for her family to again tell her about God's eternal gift for her. It is times that like or when readers write to tell me how my books had an impact on their lives that are such great moments and make it all worthwhile.

Any parting words?
I would encourage beginning writers to pray that you will use the gift for the written word that He has given you to glorify Him. Ask that He direct your path and give you wisdom and guidance. You will be amazed at how God can, and will, use you! Thank you, Suzanne, for the interview, and thank you ACFW, for providing such an amazing organization and allowing me to be a part of it!

I love to connect with others on my
blog, (A Day in the Life of a Wife, Mom, & Author)
on Twitter at, and
on Facebook at

Thanks for sharing with us, Penny!

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