Today’s Coffee of Choice: Iced Mocha, Dani’s Favorite
Today’s Scripture: ‘For I know the plans I have for you’ — this is the Lord’s declaration — ‘plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.’ – Jeremiah 29:11-12 (HCSB)
I’m so excited to have one of my favorite new authors, Dani Pettrey, with us on today’s Coffee Talk! Not only does she conjure up entertaining, fast-paced reads like found in her first romantic suspense novel, ECPA bestseller Submerged (Bethany House 2012), but she is also a dedicated wife and homeschooling mom.
Like myself, Dani is always in search of the perfect iced mocha and loves to indulge in dark chocolate. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two teenage daughters, and, when she’s not writing, she can be found sharing her thoughts in the notes section of her website www.danipettrey.com. While working on edits of the second book in her Alaskan Courage Series, Shattered, Dani took a break to share her writing secrets with us.
Tell us about your writing journey. When did you start? How long was it until you found your niche? What has it been like to publish your first novel?
Dani: I have always loved daydreaming and making up stories. I dabbled with creative writing growing up, but set it aside. It wasn’t until after the birth of my youngest daughter and a bout with a serious illness, that I really felt God stirring me to start writing again.
I began slowly. I spent a lot of time simply reading novels, seeing how they worked, analyzing why I fell in love with certain characters and not others. I actually started off thinking I’d write historical novels because I’m such a history buff, but discovered it wasn’t the right fit. It took me a couple of years and two practice manuscripts (which will never see the light of day :)) to really ‘find my niche.’ I spent time in prayer, asking God what type of story He wanted me to tell and was greatly pleased to discover it was exactly the type of stories I’m most passionate about—those filled with romance, mystery and adventure.
It has been an incredible journey, and seeing Submerged in print is an absolute joy. I’m so touched that readers are enjoying Cole and Bailey’s adventure.
You say on your website that you love to travel. How has this love transferred to your writing?
Dani: I do love to travel. I love seeing new places, learning about different cultures, and discovering new things. I think this transfers to my stories via my characters, particularly in their love for adventure.
I’m fascinated by the Russian history you included in Submerged. What is your research process like when you write? What has been the most unusual resource you have discovered so far?
Dani: Thanks! So glad you found it fascinating. I did too. 🙂 I think that’s a huge part of the research process—loving what you are doing, being fascinated by what you are learning. I adore research—so much so that I often have to make myself stop and actually write the book.
I typically begin by making a list of all the areas I’m going to need to research. For Submerged the list included: Alaska, Russian history, cave diving, and search and rescue among others. I start by scouring the Internet for resources. I try to find a wide variety—books to get from the library, books to purchase, blogs that cover my particular area or career, etc. I set aside several weeks to really devour the information. I highlight key passages and piece together a research file that I’ll continue to refer to as I write the story.
Since I’m not a plotter, I often have areas of research that pop up as the story unfolds. If the story is really flowing, I’ll write it out and then research before my next draft. If the research will change the course of the story, I’ll take a break and research before proceeding.
Hmm. Not sure on the most unique resource… I suppose anything I experience firsthand. To really discover what rock climbing was like, I learned to rock climb. I guess that counts. 🙂
What would you say keeps you sane in the midst of the demands of a writer’s life?
Dani: Time with God. I try to start each day with quiet time and Bible study. It’s amazing to me how time with the Lord can start your whole day off right, though why should I be surprised by that! 🙂
I’ve also been blessed with an amazing mentor. She’s shepherded me not only in my craft, but in the writing life. She always says, “You have to live a full life to be able to write a good story.” I try to remember that. I enjoy time with my family, going for hikes, having coffee with my girlfriends. Life is a balance no matter what you do. Finding that balance is hard and often takes readjustment, but praying about where God wants you investing and focusing your time is key. Unfortunately I’m not always the quickest learner, so I’m exceedingly grateful for God’s patience. 🙂
What is one piece of encouragement you would give to the Christian writers who follow this blog?
Dani: Keep writing. It sounds trite, but it’s very easy to become discouraged. Writing can be a solitary endeavor and there are many obstacles along the path to publication, but if God has placed the love of story on your heart then write for Him. You just may be amazed what He does with it. 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing, Dani! Your mentor, Dee Henderson, was one of my favorite authors to read when I needed a book to unwind with in college. I can’t wait to experience your next story, and I wish you the best with your writing journey. I know you’re going to go far!
Since I’m such a fan of Dani and what she’s writing, I’m going to give away Submerged to someone who comments on this blog post. A random winner will be announced one week from today. Happy commenting!