Multi-published author Kerry Johnson recently stopped by my blog to share some about her writing life.
What did you want to be as a child (and did that dream come true)? I love animals, so initially I wanted to be a veterinarian. But once I realized that involved blood, surgery and animals being scared of me, that didn’t stick. I had always loved books and reading, and I spent a great deal of my childhood in the Connecticut woods talking to myself. Making up characters and acting out as them. Creating dialogue in my mind, then pretending to be those characters. I remember feeling like a weirdo until my late teens, when I read about another author doing that…having conversations with her characters. Finally, it clicked that I just might be a writer. My degree is in English education, but I didn’t begin seriously writing stories until my early thirties, when my boys were past the toddler age. So yes, I’d say my dream of making up characters in stories came true.
What’s the hardest part of writing romantic suspense? The crime element tends to trip me up as I write the first draft. I don’t watch a lot of crime movies and shows, and making myself more familiar with law enforcement procedures and rules has been a must. I’m grateful for CPs (critique partners) and editors who have helped with that. I also don’t plot much (I’m more of a pantser, when authors just make it up as we go), and nailing down the villain’s motives can be tricky, too.
How do you pick the location/setting of your romantic suspense novels? In my current series, I chose a location we visited a few years ago on a family vacation then fictionalized it. The tunnel in Tunnel Creek Ambush is based on Stumphouse Mountain Tunnel in Walhalla, S.C. My first book, Snowstorm Sabotage, took place in a ski resort after we visited one a couple years ago. When I go to a place and really connect to the physical environment, then my imagination goes into overdrive imagining a crime here, and the people involved in the crime. My next series will be set in a beautiful National Forest that we visit every summer (my husband’s family has a cottage there).
What’s the weirdest way someone has died or been killed in your novels? In Tunnel Creek Ambush, one of the bad guys jumps from a second story window in the dark, trying to get away from my hero. Unfortunately for him, he lands on a sharp metal fence spire in the backyard garden area. The fence wins.
About Kerry Kerry Johnson has been conversing with fictional characters and devouring books since her childhood in the Connecticut woods. A long-time member of American Christian Fiction Writers, she’s a seven-time Genesis contest finalist and two-time winner. Kerry lives on the sunny, stormy west coast of Florida with her family, a lazy boxer and a temperamental sun conure, and way too many books. She loves Jesus, long walks, all creatures great and small, and iced chai tea. Her first book with Love Inspired Suspense, Snowstorm Sabotage, released September 2021. Tunnel Creek Ambush releases April 25, 2023.
Tunnel Creek Ambush Danger lurks in the shadows…and a police dog is keeping watch.
Officer Jasper Holt never thought he’d see his high school girlfriend, Kinsley Miller, again—much less become her protector. But when the wildlife biologist returns home for her aunt’s funeral, she’s attacked twice in a matter of hours. With his K-9 partner at his side, the single father will protect Kinsley with his life. But can they uncover the reason behind the assaults…before the next strike becomes the last?
On this episode of “The Romantic Side of Suspense,” I’m talking with Elle E. Kay, who lives on a hobby farm in Central Pennsylvania with her husband, three dogs, and many farm animals. She’s a born-again, Bible-believing Christian who keeps perennial gardens and enjoys the wildflowers strewn about her property. The wildlife who visit the property are a joy for her, but nothing beats the excitement of a kid being born to one of her many goats. Shadowing Stella was Elle’s debut novel. Elle also wrote for the multi-author Lawkeeper series and has released three contemporary romances with a suspense/mystery thread in that series. She also released four historical romances. The Billionaire’s Reluctant Bride was her first book in the multi-author Blushing Brides series. She recently published a book for another multi-author series, The Heroes of Freedom Ridge. Elle is also working on a romantic suspense novel with ties to the Rattlesnake Roundup in Noxen, Pa. She writes children’s books under the pen name, Ellie Mae Kay.
“Starting with my debut, I’ve put a couple of farms scenes in my book,” Elle says. “[My farm and its animals] are in my books a lot. … [To write,] I sit on my screened porch in fall, spring and summer because I can look out over the acres and enjoy the animals. That’s my favorite go-to place to write. In the winter, … I usually sit on my couch to write.”
A Heart to Redeem by Judith McNees — Chris Morgan is the black sheep of the family. He’s leaned into the title, finding as many ways as he can to distance himself from his perfect parents and siblings. When he receives shocking news that rocks his perception of his sinful lifestyle, he needs help. Fast. Brandi Blakely knows exactly what kind of person Chris is. When he comes to her begging for help, she agrees to marry him with one caveat. The marriage will have an expiration date. As the two work together to get custody of the little girl he has just learned about, lines blur, and hearts become involved. Brandi refuses to let Chris in and shatter her fragile heart. When tragedy strikes, can Chris hold onto the tenuous changes he’s made, and can Brandi let go of the ugly scars from her past to see herself as a new creation in Christ? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)
Hidden in her Heart by Milla Holt — Desperate to get away from her dysfunctional family and avoid the heartbreak of seeing Noah marry another woman, Eden left her hometown, dropped her infamous last name, and built a new life for herself. But when her little sister gets in trouble and pleads for Eden’s help, she doesn’t hesitate to go back. Six years after his fiancée dumped him at the altar, Noah has found fulfillment running the youth ministry in his father’s church. When a young man under his pastoral care gets a girl pregnant, Noah’s there to give guidance and support. He’s not prepared to run into the expectant mother’s sister, his former best friend Eden, who ghosted him years ago. Friendship deepens into attraction as Eden and Noah unite to protect the teen couple from Eden’s parents’ headline-seeking schemes. But twice-bitten Noah has thick walls around his heart, and Eden has forgotten how to trust. Will they miss their chance to build a life together? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)
After the Shadows by Amanda Cabot — A brighter future awaits—if she can escape the shadows of the past. Emily Leland sheds no tears when her abusive husband is killed in a bar fight, but what awaits her back home in Sweetwater Crossing is far from the welcome and comfort she expected. First she discovers her father has died under mysterious circumstances. Then the house where the handsome new schoolteacher, Craig Ferguson, and his son are supposed to board burns, leaving them homeless. When Emily proposes turning the family home into a boardinghouse, her sister is so incensed that she leaves town. Alone and broke, her family name sullied by controversy, Emily is determined to solve the mystery of her father’s death—and to aid Craig, despite her fears of men. The widowed schoolmaster proves to be a devoted father, an innovative teacher, and an unexpected ally. As they work to uncover the truth, they just may find the key to unlock a future neither could have imagined. (Historical Romance from Revell) Beyond Wounded Hearts by Cynthia Roemer — They were North and South ~ Faithful and Faithless. After suffering disabling burns during the fall of Richmond, Adelaide Hanover awakens in a hospital alone and destitute, escalating her already stanch hatred for Yankees. When the Union soldier who freed her from the rubble begins paying her visits, she wants nothing to do with him … or his faith. Yet, his persistent kindness penetrates her resolve and forges a much-needed friendship. But after a dangerous man threatens Addie, she flees Richmond, intent on solving the mystery to her aunt’s dying wish before he does. Haunted by a tragic failure in his past, Corporal Luke Gallagher takes Adelaide’s plight on as his own. Though his strong beliefs collide with his growing feelings for her, he offers his family’s home as a place to convalesce. Adelaide’s initial rejection, followed by her sudden willingness to accept his benevolence, hints there’s more to the decision than a mere change of heart. When trouble follows her, endangering her safety, as well as his family’s, Luke must lay his life and his convictions on the line to save them. (Historical Romance, Scrivening’s Press) Confessions to a Stranger by Danielle Grandinetti — She’s lost her future. He’s sacrificed his. Now they have a chance to reclaim it—together. Wisconsin, 1930—While fleeing for her life, Adaleigh Sirland’s rescue of a child introduces her to a family who provides her safe harbor. When her identity comes under threat of exposure, she must choose between running once more or helping the man who teaches her to hope again. First mate David Martins is intrigued by the mysterious woman taken in by his grandmother, but she wrestles with a troubled past. When his estranged father is arrested for murder, can David put aside his own struggles in time to discern which secret threatens Adaleigh before it kills them both? Welcome to Crow’s Nest, where danger and romance meet at the water’s edge. (Historical Romance, Independently Published) Dreams of the Heart by Penny Zeller — Sometimes the hardest battles take place in the heart. Poverty and abuse at the hands of her drunkard father leaves Hannah Bane trapped and alone. Without hope, she prays for a miracle just on the off-chance God will hear her. Will the handsome new deputy, who seems to be watching her every move, be Hannah’s one chance to escape the only life she’s ever known? For as long as he can remember, John Mark Eliason has wanted to be a deputy sheriff. When a job opens in the nearby town of Poplar Springs, he eagerly accepts, but finds his greatest mission won’t be tracking down criminals and bringing justice to the ruthless Wyoming town, but saving a beautiful young woman he barely knows. Will an unexpected answer to a difficult situation show how love can endure—and even thrive—in an unconventional situation? Or will fear and uncertainty keep two hesitant hearts apart? (Historical Romance from Maplebrook Publishing) Maeve’s Pledge by Linda Shenton Matchett — Finally, out from under her father’s tyrannical thumb, Maeve Wycliffe can live life on her terms. So what if everyone sees her as a spinster to be pitied. She’ll funnel her energies into what matters most: helping the less fortunate and getting women the right to vote. When she’s forced to team up with the local newspaper editor to further the cause, will her pledge to remain single get cropped? Widower Gus Deighton sees no reason to tempt fate that he can find happiness a second time around. Well past his prime, who would want him anyway? He’ll continue to run his newspaper and cover Philadelphia’s upcoming centennial celebration. But when the local women’s suffrage group agrees that the wealthy, attractive, and very single Maeve Wycliffe acts as their liaison, he finds it difficult to remain objective. (Historical Romance from Shortwave Press)
Mystery: Scream Blue Murder by Susan Page Davis — An old photo, a twister, and a friend being stalked…A tornado rips through town, and Campbell McBride and her dad take shelter. Afterward, they try to help others who were hard hit, and a body is discovered in the debris of a cottage near their friends’ home. Was the man dead before the twister struck? The owners of the ruined cottage hire True Blue Investigations to help identify the victim and find out how he got on their property. Meanwhile, among the volunteers, Campbell meets her mother’s old school friend, Jackie. It seems Jackie married her mom’s former boyfriend—and now she has eyes on Campbell’s widowed father. (Mystery from Scrivening’s Press)
Lost in Wonderland by Tabitha Bouldin — If you make a deal with evil, be prepared for the consequences. When a metal dragon kidnaps Alice, Hatter gathers the troops and charges off to rescue her. If only things were so uncomplicated. In the Ivory Kingdom, they find upheaval of the worst kind and all heading to civil war spearheaded by a man known as the Bandersnatch. Turmoil and the terror of fighting against a giant wolf, the Bandersnatch is bad enough, but when the Ivory Queen’s secrets are exposed, Hatter and Alice face off in a battle of wills and points of view. How can Alice trust a woman who deceived them? Why can’t Hatter see the bigger picture? If they don’t reconcile their differences, more could be at risk than the Ivory Kingdom. More questions than answers bombard them in their quest for truth and freedom for all. Who is stealing children? What dark secret overshadows the Ivory Kingdom? Can they avoid the Bandersnatch’s clutches? And most important of all, who can they trust? (Speculative Fiction from Celebrate Lit Publishing)
From Chaos by Karen Randau — When Kelsey is forced to flee from her ex-husband’s family with secrets she can’t risk revealing, she finds herself in a situation more dangerous than ever before. With no one else to turn to, Kelsey and her friend Greg must outwit their pursuers or risk becoming victims themselves. From Chaos is the second book in the Peach Blossom Romantic Suspense series, and it follows the riveting journey of two people with very different backgrounds and soul-crushing experiences. If they overcome the unbeatable odds they face together, they’ll come out of it stronger and more committed to each other. (Thriller/Suspense/Romantic, Independently Published) Out of the Ashes by Melanie D. Snitker — He thought it was just a structure fire. As a firefighter, Bryce Keyes is no stranger when it comes to running into a burning building. What he didn’t expect was coming face-to-face with the woman he loved years ago. Getting her out safely is one thing, but when it looks like she was the arsonist’s target, Bryce realizes he can’t just let her walk away again. Especially not while her life is in danger. She’s desperate to escape. For Megan Bristow, returning to Destiny, Texas was about saying a final goodbye to a dysfunctional family and the memories she’s tried hard to bury. She planned to go in, help her mother tie up loose ends, and get out again. When someone makes an attempt on her life, Megan realizes those loose ends are only the beginning of a tangled web, and she’s been drawn right into the center of it. They’ll have to put the past behind them. Only by working together will they be able to figure out who’s hunting her and why – before it’s too late. (Thriller/Suspense/Romantic, Independently Published) Under Fire by Lynn H. Blackburn — USSS Special Agent Zane Thacker has landed his dream assignment protecting the president of the United States. When the president plans a fundraiser at the exclusive estate of a political supporter in Raleigh, Zane is thrilled to be working again with Special Agent Tessa Reed, his best friend–and the woman he desperately wishes could be more. Though Tessa almost lost everything, she battled her demons and came out on the other side healthy and healed. But when her role as the liaison between the Raleigh office and the president’s protective detail wrenches her past back into the present, her greatest failure threatens to come to light. Zane refuses to let Tessa go through this alone. But can he stand by the woman he loves and protect the president from a mounting threat at the same time? Sparks fly as award-winning romantic suspense writer Lynn H. Blackburn closes out her Defend and Protect series with this explosive tale of secrets kept, lies exposed, and relationships restored. (Thriller/Suspense/Romantic from Revell) Yosemite Firestorm by Tanya Stowe — A raging forest fire isn’t the only threat…When an act of arson claims the life of a hiker, Yosemite Park Ranger Livy Chatham is the only witness—putting her right into the path of determined criminals. Only rock climber Hayden Bryant can protect her from the killers destroying all evidence of their crimes. But can Livy and Hayden outrun the danger that’s as hot on their heels as the fires blazing through Yosemite? (Thriller/Suspense/Romantic from Love Inspired (Harlequin))
Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:
A Divine Romance by Ifueko Ogbomo, The royal decree that couples this unlikely pair will make or break the history of an ancient empire. (Biblical Romance)
Brooke by Ronie Kendig, Prioritizing career over family cost Brooke Metcalfe Mulroney everything—her relationship with her siblings, her marriage, her children. (Thriller/Suspense/Romantic)
During this episode of “The Romantic Side of Suspense” podcast, you’ll hear from X authors about their romantic suspense books available this month. Here’s the list of authors and books for March 2023, with the book’s release date if not available now.
Multi-published author Elle E. Kay recently stopped by my blog to share some about her writing life.
Why did you start writing romantic suspense novels? One night I was sitting there on my computer and just started writing a story. Before I knew what was happening, I had the first 15,000 words of my debut novel. Before that I had written a non-fiction book, a guide to living with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and a children’s book.
When do you find time to write? I’m a binge-writer. I may go months without writing much and then write an entire novel in a few weeks. Writing is my full-time job, so I have time to devote to it, but I have trouble with a regimented daily word count. Instead, I focus on other aspects of my author business when I’m not writing including reading novels by authors. It’s great that I can consider that work.
How do you connect with your characters? Most of my characters have bits of me in them. For instance, Emily in Grave Pursuits is from the town where I grew up. Amanda, a character in my work-in-progress is a legal secretary, which was one of my first jobs. But I don’t stop with locations, employment or hobbies, I give them my insecurities, my past hurts, and my faith. A part of me ends up in most, if not all, of the characters I write.
What’s the weirdest way someone has died or been killed in your novels? In Shadowing Stella, a man dies in a mine shaft from carbon monoxide poisoning, and then there is a mine collapse that kills two more people.
How do you research ways to kill someone for your books? Experience. Just kidding. I’ve watched a lot of true crime shows and they help, but I always have to research details to make sure I get it right. One of these days someone is going to look at my internet history and see research on poisons, bombs, and how to get away with murder and they’re going to lock me away somewhere.
Where do you get the inspiration for your plots? Brainstorming. I’ll start with an initial idea that comes to me, and then I brainstorm to fill in the rest of the details. For example, for Grave Pursuits, I knew I wanted to write a story that revolved around boulder field. The initial working title was Buried by Boulder Field, so I took that premise and built characters around it. My current work-in-progress, Rattlesnake Roundup has a connection to the town of Noxen where they hold an annual Rattlesnake Roundup. I wanted to incorporate that event into the book, so I built a story around that.
About Elle E. Kay Elle E. Kay is a Christian romantic suspense author based in Central Pennsylvania with her husband, three dogs, and many farm animals. She loves watching the wildlife that frequent her property. Shadowing Stella was her debut novel and she completed the Endless Mountain Series with Implicating Claudia and Chasing Sofie.
Elle also writes contemporary and historical romances as part of the Lawkeeper series, including: Lawfully Held, Lawfully Defended, Lawfully Guarded, Lawfully Taken, Lawfully Given, Lawfully Promised, and Lawfully Vindicated. The Billionaire’s Reluctant Bride and The Bodyguard’s Fake Bride are her contributions to the Blushing Brides series. Elle’s third book in the Heroes of Freedom Ridge series, Inspired by the Hero, was released in October 2022. All 18 books in the series can be read for free on Kindle Unlimited.
Her latest book, Grave Pursuits, is the first in a romantic suspense series set in Pennsylvania state parks. Elle is also working on a romantic suspense novel with ties to the Rattlesnake Roundup in Noxen, Pennsylvania. Under the pen name Ellie Mae Kay, Elle writes children’s books.
Grave Pursuits Vanishing without a trace—the hunt for justice begins.
Join Emily Davis, a park ranger on a suspenseful and romantic journey in “Grave Pursuits.” When a hiker goes missing in the peaceful Hickory Run State Park, what starts as a routine search quickly turns into a desperate race against time as Emily discovers a skull and finds herself targeted by a dangerous serial killer.
With the case grabbing national attention, Emily turns to her high school sweetheart and seasoned detective, Wade Brunner, for help. Together, they embark on a thrilling adventure, putting their faith and love to the test as they navigate the sinister secrets lurking in the park.