Penny’s most recent book, McKenzie, was released in September 2010 by Whitaker House and is the first in the Montana Skies Series. Her second book in the series, Kaydie, is a touching book of trust and God’s provision, and is scheduled for release in April 2011.
She loves to connect with her readers at her website www.pennyzeller.com, blog www.pennyzeller.wordpress.com, on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pennyzeller, and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Penny-A-Zeller/96391560959?ref=ts
Her latest book is titled McKenzie and is the first in The Montana Skies Historical Romance Series. Here is a short blurb:
Desperation to rescue her younger sister from an abusive husband prompts McKenzie Worthington to run away from her stately Boston home as a mail-order bride for a rancher in the rugged Montana Territory.
Desperation also prompted Zachary Sawyer to post the ad for a bride, and he eagerly awaits the woman God has chosen for his wife.
When they meet, McKenzie tries to keep her distance, but she can't help feeling attracted to Zach and his selfless ways. What will become of her plan to annul the marriage when she finds her sister?
Why did you become a writer…was it a dream of yours since you were younger or did the desire to write happen later in your life?
I was bitten by the writing bug at age seven when I began writing Bible stories in my own words. (I suppose you could call it grade-school commentary!) My second grade teacher, Mrs. Vernon, encouraged me to continue writing about Jesus. In fourth grade, I began to write fiction stories about a dog named Muffie and her adventures, as well as, other short stories neatly composed in homemade wallpaper-covered cardboard books. I loved telling stories at a young age and enjoyed sharing those stories with my sister and cousin. In fifth grade, I won in the Young Authors contest at our school and had my first poem published in a children’s magazine shortly thereafter. My parents bought me my first typewriter (ok, I’m dating myself!) when I was 10 years old. I would sit and type up stories on that electric gray typewriter for hours on end.
In November of 2000, I gave my writing to the Lord. I quit my full time job with a social service agency to stay home with my infant daughter. That was the start of my writing career, beginning with numerous magazine articles in national and regional publications. My first book, a children’s book about food allergies was published in 2003. I am humbled that God has called me into a ministry of writing. I speak from experience when I say that when He closes one door, He opens a (much better) one and I firmly believe that if God calls you, He will guide you.
Years later, my inspiration continues to come from the Lord and I pray daily that the path I have chosen in life will glorify Him. I get ideas from the Scriptures often and I build my book around certain biblical themes, such as, forgiveness and redemption. My Christian characters pray and seek God for direction. And as a writer I am in constant prayer for wisdom, guidance, and that my books would be life-changing – that they would bring others to the Lord or closer to the Lord. Writing is my ministry, and I have chosen Psalm 19:14 as my life verse: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”
What was the inspiration for your latest work of fiction?
My family and I were in a car accident a couple years ago where I suffered neck and leg injuries. During that time period of seven months, I was also hit with back-to-back bacterial infections. Because of the injuries and illness, I was pretty much homebound and my active athletic lifestyle suddenly became limited. I look back now and praise God that He gave me McKenzie, as well as two other manuscripts (another historical and a contemporary) I wrote in that seven month period of pain and illness. God took what was a difficult time for me and turned it around to something positive that can be used for His Kingdom – taking the time to write the books that I had always wanted to write. He has since healed me and I pray daily that the path I have chosen in life will glorify Him. I think that’s why Jeremiah 29:11, which says, “’For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” is so close to my heart.
Where do you go to do your research?
I do a lot of research online, but also at our local library. I also include Scripture in my books and spend a lot of time in the Bible allowing God to guide me to the glorious words from His Book that I should include in my novels.
Are you currently working on any new book projects?
The second book in my Montana Skies Historical Romance Series is set for release in April 2011. Below is a short blurb: For the first time in years, Kaydie Worthington Kraemer can breathe easily. Although she is still haunted by memories of her abusive husband, Darius, she takes comfort in knowing the man is dead. Staying with her sister McKenzie and brother-in-law, Zach Sawyer, at their ranch, Kaydie is still wary of men, especially now that she has another life inside of her to protect. As she looks forward to her baby's birth, she builds a protective wall around herself that won't be easy to tear down.
Ranch hand Jonah Dickenson views his boss, Zach, like a brother. He does not, however, envy Zach's new role as a husband. Deserted by his mother at a young age and forever despised and rejected by his own father, Jonah has few close relationships. But there's something about Kaydie that draws him to her and makes him question his decision to remain a bachelor.
When Cedric Van Aulst, an old friend of Kaydie's, comes to town, an unforeseen prospect of marriage arises. Cedric is someone Kaydie trusts. Will she settle for a safe union with him, or can she trust God to guard her heart and her life in the arms of Jonah?
(A side note: readers can read the first two chapters of Kaydie in the back of McKenzie).
I am currently working on Book Three in my Montana Skies Series, which will take fans of the series into the lives of more Pine Haven characters and a glimpse at the main character’s chance for love in an unexpected place! I am also starting a new series that takes place in the Civil War era.
Do you have any advice for beginning writers on how to write a book? Do you have any advice for them regarding promoting that book once published?
For those writers wanting to write a book, I would encourage them to pray for guidance, write in a genre similar to what they enjoy reading, find a mentor, join a writing group, and begin by writing magazine articles and/or short stories.
Promoting your book is the hardest of all – I always say that after the book is published is when the real work begins! It’s critical to set up a web presence – design or hire someone to design a website for you, open a Twitter account with your book’s picture as the background, and open up an account on Facebook and also a fan page. Shoutlife is a Christian Facebook of sorts and is also a great promotional tool that allows you to blog, post your book’s photos on the site, and post events. A blog is very necessary and free ones are available through Wordpress or Blogspot. Also, join a local writing group and/or an online writer’s group, such as ACFW and become a member of online groups, such as acfwyahoogroups where you can gain much benefit from networking. Plan to do giveaways on your blog and on the blogs of others. Networking is important for promotion. Find bloggers who interview/review books and ask if they would interview you or feature your book on their site. I have found that some of the nicest people to work with are bloggers! Plan to do some book signings and other events around your community. One final note, join forces with other Christian writers. After all, we are all working for the same Boss!
What’s your writing schedule like? When do you find time to write?
I think this is one of the biggest challenges of being a writer. Our lives are so busy and to add a writing career on top of that is nearly impossible at times. I have posted my writing hours on my office door, not so much for visitors, but for myself. It reminds me that if I don’t set time aside for my writing, it will be spent doing a host of other “necessary” things. I have to be deliberate about putting aside time for my writing. I also work while my children are in school and then quit for the day when they come home. My husband and my children are my main ministry, so they are most important. I spend a lot of time in prayer seeking God’s guidance in using my time wisely. Keeping priorities in perspective is so important.
How have your friends and family received your career as an author? Are they supportive?
I don’t know what I would do without my husband, Lon, and my daughters. They are incredibly supportive of me, as are my friends. In order to succeed in the writing ministry, family and friend support is imperative.
Penny, thank you for stopping by today…I enjoyed our conversation!