Two-time ACFW Carol Award finalist Kelly Irvin is the author of the critically acclaimed Amish of Bee County, Bliss Creek Amish, and New Hope Amish series. Her newest release is Beneath the Summer Sun, the second novel in the four-book series Every Amish Season from Zondervan Publishing. Her work has also appeared in four Amish anthologies, An Amish Market, An Amish Summer, An Amish Christmas Love, and An Amish Christmas. Kelly is a retired newspaper reporter and public relations professional who lives with her husband in Texas. They have two children, two grandchildren, and two ornery cats.

Visit her at www.kellyirvin.com

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Welcome to the blog, Kelly. I’m delighted that you’re here today. Congratulations on your recent release, Beneath the Summer Sun.

What is the message you hope readers will take away from Beneath the Summer Sun?

That God is with them in even the most difficult of circumstances. Jennie suffered in her first marriage and she feels guilty at her secret sense of relief as she heals after her husband’s accidental death. She has to learn to trust her own feelings and dare to take a second chance on love. I hope readers who’ve been in similar situations will take heart and know that their suffering and affliction can be used for good in the future. The verse at the beginning of the book sums it up: “See, I have refined you, though not as silver. I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. (Isaiah 48:10)

Oh, what a powerful verse. Such a great message.

What will you remember most about writing this book?

Without any spoilers, I can share this much: when I submitted the one-page synopsis to my Zondervan editor for each of the four books in this Every Amish Season series, I was sure that Jennie, the heroine of Beneath the Summer Sun, would make a certain choice. By the time I finished writing the book, she’d made a completely different choice. I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer (I don’t outline) so I don’t always know what will happen. This one surprised me. I love it when that happens. It makes the creative process so much fun.

Ah, now I’m really intrigued to find out what happened! 😉

Without giving too much away, can you share a favorite scene or quote from the book?

Jennie stopped breathing. Her lungs protested. She didn’t want to move, not even to let them expand and contract. Silly snake facts spouted by her son Micah when he wanted to make her shiver presented themselves. Snakes can’t sweat so they avoid the afternoon sun. They take naps during the day and come out when it’s cooler and dark. This one would likely stretch at least four feet long, not including its rattle. Its skin glowed brown and golden with a darker stripe down the back.

Jennie’s mouth went dry. Her stomach chose that moment to heave. The hot dog did not want to stay down. Purple spots dotted her vision.

“Cottonmouth?” Nathan whispered. He stood motionless at her side. “Poisonous?”

“Rattler.” She tried to speak without moving her mouth. “Rare here, but you see them. Obviously.”

“Don’t move.” His voice barely audible, he took one step, stopped. “I’ll grab Francis and we can hightail it out of here.”

“Nee. You’ll startle him and he’ll holler.” Her fear of snakes might be big, but her fear of one of her children being hurt was greater. She searched the ground. Not a single rock big enough to dispatch the viper. “Don’t. Move.”

Leo could help. If anyone could help it would be Leo. He’d know what to do.

He was a man who never flinched. He’d been through the worst. Since that terrible day, he’d taken everything in silent stride.

She turned slowly, carefully, tiptoeing at first, ridiculous as it must look, and then ran.

Her sneakers sank into the rich, dark soil, impeding her progress. The scent of sweat and grass and dirt assailed her nose. She needed to run, faster, faster. Gott, help me. I know we’re not on the best of terms, but please, Gott, help me.

Leo had the reins in his hands when she reached the fence. She slammed to a halt. “Help. Snake. Rattler. Francis.”

He dropped the reins and reached behind the buggy seat. A long, lean, deadly looking brown rifle emerged.

Rifle in hand, he hurtled over the fence like a boy half his age. His straw hat plummeted to the ground. His legs were much longer than Jennie’s, but fear and adrenaline that tasted like metal on her tongue propelled her in his wake.

Leo slowed, slowed some more, halted, then stepped forward with a balance and ease that spoke of a much smaller man. He raised the rifle, took aim, and sent the snake on its way in an explosion of sound that made Jennie jump even though she knew it was coming. The acrid smell of gunpowder filled the air and burned her nose.

With a blood-curdling scream Francis rolled over, hopped to his feet, and ran straight into Jennie’s open arms. She scooped him up and hugged him hard, despite the urge to take him to the woodshed for a “talk.”

Danki.” She spoke the single trembling word to Leo but let her gaze encompass Nathan. He was willing to do more. He simply hadn’t known what to do. “Francis thanks you too.”

A spark of something indefinable in his amber eyes, Leo nodded and set off across the field, his rifle slung over his shoulder, his gait loose and easy. Taking it in silent stride, just the way she knew he would.

That’s great. Thanks for sharing!

What’s something you learned through entering in writing contests?

That there is a plethora of good books being published right now. It’s so encouraging to see the improvement in inspirational fiction in terms of craft and storytelling in the last fifteen years. I’ve also learned that judging is subjective and it’s important not to compare or let contest results shake your confidence in your writing. Because there is so much good writing, it’s tough to final, let alone, win a major contest. It’s not only or most important way to judge your writing. The most important thing is how readers respond to it.

Can you share a piece of writing advice that has made a difference in your career?

About 12 years ago I had a 15-minute mentoring appointment with Texas novelist DiAnn Mills. She gave me three pieces of advice I immediately implemented. Join American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). Go to writing conferences where you can get your work in front of editors and agents. Join a critique group. This advice brought me into contact with industry experts and I was able to hone my craft. I had two great critique partners for several years. I’ve been to every ACFW national conference except one for the last 11 years. It’s great advice today for any writer who is writing inspirational fiction.

That’s wonderful advice, thank you.

Is there anything else you’d like to add? Any upcoming projects you can share with us?

I was thrilled to announce recently that I have signed a 2-book contract with Thomas Nelson to write romantic suspense novels. The first novel, Tell Her No Lies, will debut in January 2019. I love writing Amish romances and will continue to write them, but romantic suspense was my first love. My first two books were romantic suspense novels set in my adopted home of San Antonio, Texas. Writing in two genres will keep me fresh in both. I’ll start writing the second book in January.

Congratulations! We’ll be watching for the new releases. Thanks so much for joining us today, Kelly. May the Lord bless you and your stories.

GIVEAWAY!!

Kelly has graciously offered to give away a copy of Beneath the Summer Sun. Enter below and it could be YOU! ;)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks for entering! Contest is open only in the U.S. and ends February 16, 2018.  The winner will be notified by email. Happy Reading, everybody! 😉