Penny Zeller is the author of several books and numerous magazine articles. She writes the humor blog “A Day in the Life of a Wife, Mom, and Author” (http://www.pennyzeller.wordpress.com/ ), is an active volunteer in her community, serving as a women’s Bible study small-group leader and co-organizing a women’s prayer group. Her passion is to use the gift of the written word to glorify God and to benefit His Kingdom. She devotes her time to assisting and nurturing women and children into a closer relationship with Christ. When she’s not dreaming up new characters for books, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends and camping, hiking, canoeing, gardening, and playing volleyball. 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.
I want to welcome Penny to Janet's Treasures today! I'm so glad you're here to share a bit about yourself.
Hello, Janet! Thank you for inviting me to your blog. It’s great to be here!
How long have you been writing and when was your first book published?
I have been writing since I was in second grade and rewrote Bible stories from memory from what I had learned in church. (I suppose you could call it Second-Grade Commentary!)
My first book, titled Hollyhocks about a bug with severe food allergies and dedicated to my nephew, Seth, was published in 2003.
What advice or tips do you have for writers who are just getting started?
I am humbled how the Lord has placed me in a mentoring position for new writers. I love to chat with a new writer about what she envisions herself doing for God’s Kingdom and how can I pray and encourage her in that pursuit. I tell her that one of the most important things to remember in being a writer is that if God has called you to write, He will guide you, one step at a time.
In November of 2000, I gave my writing to the Lord. I quit my fulltime job with a social services governmental agency so I could stay home with my infant daughter. That was the start of my career, beginning with the magazine articles. I would advise a new writer to give her writing to the Lord and to not give up! I speak from experience when I say that when He closes one door, He opens another (much better) one.
A side note: I offer a host of writing helps on my website http://www.pennyzeller.com/ and at my blog http://www.pennyzeller.wordpress.com/, where I also include a short article about 11 steps to sticking with writing.
Has anything surprised you about being an author?
That the hardest work comes after the book is published!
Tell us how you come up with characters.
I have a very overactive imagination, so coming up with characters is one of my favorite parts about the writing process. My characters are a potpourri of many different people. I love to people-watch, so this gives me a great resource. For example, I will take the hairdo of the woman in the mall, the nose of the woman in the airport, the eyes of the woman in church three rows up, and maybe some personality traits of two or three people I know as acquaintances. I combine all of these attributes into one person to develop my characters.
What is a typical writing day like for you?
I drop my children off at school, then come home and the work begins. In between laundry loads and other household duties, I write scenes, edit, do interviews, answer emails and phone calls, and dream up new characters!
How long does it normally take you to write a book?
It varies. For my two nonfiction books, it took about nine months each. However, for my fiction books, the time has been shorter in most cases. I wrote McKenzie in three months, which is about average for me. The shortest time ever for writing a book for me has been six weeks and that was for the first book in my next series, set in the Civil War era. I have a lengthy contemporary novel I am working on that has taken several years because of the intense research involved due to the subject matter. I know that in God’s timing, it too will be completed!
Where is your favorite place to write?
I love to do my writing in my home office by the fireplace next to the big window.
What is your favorite genre of Christian fiction?
Historical romance definitely tops the list. However, I do enjoy reading contemporary Christian romance as well. A dash of humor tossed in makes it an even more enjoyable read!
What are you reading right now?
I am reading and studying First and Second Timothy in the Bible.
What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
My family would laugh at the thought of me relaxing! My husband fondly refers to me as his little hyper Chihuahua. I’m a high-energy sort of person…I love to go for speed walks, exercise, and spend time with my family. I also enjoy camping, hiking, canoeing, and attending Christian rock concerts. All of these things are relaxing to me, as well as sitting on the front porch, with my legs propped up and delving into God’s Word…with a glass of lemonade, of course!
What is your favorite movie?
I definitely can’t narrow it down to just one. I have many favorites – pretty much anything that is wholesome (preferably a romantic drama or romantic comedy!) Some recent ones I’ve watched that I thoroughly enjoyed were The Christmas Card, Though None Go With Me, Hidden Places, Duma, The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry, and Clancy.
What 3 things would you rather not be without?
My faith, my family, and my health.
If you had the time and the money, what would you like to do?
I would build a new Christian school in my town, start a diaper ministry for new moms, purchase flying lessons and an airplane for my husband, and take my family on a wonderful vacation to somewhere warm! If I had any money leftover, I would buy a few cute outfits. I have a slight addiction to cute clothes. *grins*
How can readers and fans contact you?
I love to hear from my readers! I can be reached through the following:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Penny-A-Zeller/96391560959?ref=ts (Facebook page)
Thank you, Janet!
My Review of "McKenzie":
McKenzie Worthington was born into a rich, sophisticated, well to do family in Boston. She is the middle daughter of three. She is used to having everything done for her by servants. Her parents are hoping for her to marry one of her own kind. McKenzie is used to beautiful clothes, tea parties, balls, etc.
Zachary Sawyer is a rancher. He loves God with all of his heart. He lives in a small town in the Montana Territory. His home is rather crudely built, according to some standards. Old, worn out blankets cover the windows. Zach works hard on his ranch. He has been praying for a wife, someone to share his life, his dreams, and his young adoptive son with.
Thanks to a nosey store keeper, Zach runs ads in several newspapers across the country advertising for a mail order bride. Back in Boston McKenzie is desperate to find her younger sister, Kaydie, whose abusive husband took her across the country away from her family. Kaydie has written a few letters to McKenzie, the last of which she mentioned being in and around Montana Territory.
McKenzie sees Zach’s ad for a mail order bride and decides to answer it. She sees it as the perfect way to find her sister. She will go there, marry Zach, find her sister, then her and Kaydie will both return home to Boston where she will have the marriage annulled. Sounds like the perfect plan until she gets there and finds Zach to be a very kind, gentle, loving man. His son, Davey, falls in love with his new Ma. The towns people accept her with open arms. All of this begins to change her heart and ruin her plans!
What will McKenzie do? She wasn’t supposed to actually have feelings for these people. She wasn’t born to live like this, she was born to live in high society.
Penny did an excellent job of writing her characters! They come alive on the pages! Her descriptions of the surroundings are so vivid you are there! This book is definitely one I will want to read again! And the sequel, Kaydie, is coming out next year! Can’t wait for that one.
If you would like to be entered in the contest to win a copy of this wonderful book, please leave a comment, with your email address! No email address, no entry! A winner will be announced on 11/17/10.