Author Interview with Penny A. Zeller

Get to know Penny…

I am the author of several books and numerous magazine articles. I also write a humor blog A Day in the Life of a Wife, Mom, and Author, am an active volunteer in my community, serving as a women’s Bible study small-group leader, co-organizing a women’s prayer group, and co-founding The Sisters in Christ Community Girls Night Out. My passion is to use the gift of the written word to glorify God and to benefit His Kingdom. I devote my time to assisting, encouraging, and nurturing women and children into a closer relationship with Christ. When I’m not dreaming up new characters for books, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and camping, hiking, canoeing, gardening, and playing volleyball. For more info, visit her website.

Let the conversation begin!

What initially drew you to writing?

I was bitten with the writing bug at age seven when I began writing Bible stories in my own words. My second grade teacher, Mrs. Vernon, holds a special place in my heart – it was she who encouraged me to continue writing about Jesus. In fourth grade, I began writing fiction stories about a dog named Muffie and her adventures, as well as other short stories composed in homemade wallpaper-covered cardboard books.

In 2000, I quit my job with a social services agency to stay home with our daughter. It was then I dedicated my writing to the Lord and began writing regularly for national and regional publications.

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.”

Tell us about the book you’re working on.

The second book in my Montana Skies Series, Kaydie, is set for release this month, and I just finished the third book in the series, Hailee, which is scheduled for release in September. Here’s a little teaser about what’s to come:

Times in Pine Haven have changed over the past few years. The town has doubled in size and Montana has become a state. Bethany Ethel is now the older sister to spunky seven-year-old twin brothers who find great delight in providing trouble for the new teacher, Miss Hailee Annigan. The Sawyers have added to their own family with daughter, Chloe; and Lucille Granger continues her antics as the town busybody.

Faith. Love. Hope. Forgiveness. This recent installment of the Montana Skies Historical
Romance Series explores all four in the continuing saga of a peek into the lives of those who call Pine Haven their home.

I’m also working on a historical romance series that takes place in the Post-Civil War Era. I recently finished book one in the series and have started writing book two.

What advice would you give young writers?

God calls us all to do different things for His Kingdom. If He has called you to write, seek His guidance. Never give up, even when you feel like it or when someone has unkindly criticized you. Seek to please and honor Him in whatever you write, whether it be for the secular or nonsecular market; whether it be fiction, nonfiction, poetry, song lyrics, or a screenplay. Find a mentor and be open to ideas and suggestions from one who’s “been there, done that.” One final note, join forces with other Christian writers. After all, we are all working for the same Boss!

Are your characters completely fictional? Or do you base them off real people?

The characters in my fiction books are a potpourri of many different people. I love to people-watch, so this gives me a great resource for characters. 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 book was the easiest to write? Hardest?

I would have to say the easiest book to write was McKenzie because of the way it came about. 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.

The hardest book, and the book that took the longest to write was my second book, Wyoming Treasures. I interviewed 38 people – many of whom had experienced The Great Depression and World War II firsthand. I met some amazing people, many of whom are no longer with us. The book that required the most research was my most recent nonfiction book, 77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference: Ideas and Activities for Serving Others. For this book, I researched statistics and spent a lot of time in God’s Word correlating the Scripture verses with each project and the “Up for Discussion” questions at the end of each chapter.

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