Interview & Contest: Shelley Shepard Gray


shelley_shepard_grayJen: Today we welcome Shelley Shepard Gray to Romancing the Book. Shelley, will you share a short bio with us?
Shelley: Shelley Shepard Gray writes Amish romances for Harper Collins inspirational line, Avon Inspire and historical romances as Shelley Gray for Zondervan. Her novels have been Holt Medallion winners and Inspirational Readers Choice and Carol finalists. Shelley’s novels have appeared on both the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists.

To date, Shelley’s novels have been highlighted in the Philadelphia Enquirer, Washington Post, Time Magazine, and USA Today. She has also been interviewed on NPR as well as numerous regional radio stations.

Before writing romances, Shelley lived in Texas and Colorado, where she taught school and earned both her bachelor’s degree in English literature and elementary education and later obtained her master’s degree in educational administration. She now lives in southern Ohio and writes full time. Shelley is married, the mother of two young adults, and is an active member of her church.

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Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Shelley: My newest release, A Christmas Bride In Pinecraft is the last book in this year’s Amish Brides of Pinecraft series. The book’s heroine is Beverly Overholt, who has been an important character throughout all four books. The novel opens with Beverly discovering that her inn has been robbed. Scared and feeling very alone, she calls the one man she’s always been able to count on, her boss, Eric Wagler. To her surprise, he takes the first plane down to Florida to help her set the inn to rights. What follows is not only their romantic journey, but a secondary storyline focusing on two brothers who are living in a difficult situation. This book exemplifies everything I love about Christian romance-how faith can transform lives in so many ways.

Here’s a short excerpt:

At Eric’s urging, she’d given herself a week’s vacation. She’d wanted a little time to sleep late, shop, and relax before the next round of guests arrived for Christmas. Taking a week off had sounded like a wonderful idea, especially since she knew how full the inn would be the rest of the month. But now she wondered why it had ever sounded good at all.

Why had she ever thought she needed a break in the first place? If she’d had guests, no one would have dared to come inside. Her mind continued to race. Or, had someone been watching the inn? Had they known it was empty? It was such a disconcerting thought that she couldn’t bear to dwell on it.

“Good to know.” Officer Roberts punched something into his phone. “We’ll do our best to find those responsible, ma’am. But in the meantime, when you’re ready, we’ll need you to walk through the inn and tell us what’s missing.”

He continued on about fingerprints and motives, police reports and pawn shops, but none of what he said made much sense to her. Not that it mattered. Beverly was done listening. She really couldn’t take anymore. Someone had ruined her livelihood. She felt as betrayed as she had when she’d discovered her fiancé had fallen in love with her best friend all those years ago.

Taking a deep breath, she tried to push those thoughts away. This wasn’t the time to revisit those painful wounds.

“Are you going to be all right?” Zack asked. “Do you want me to get you a glass of water or something?”

“I’m fine,” she said at last and tried to mean it.

Because she had no choice.

“Your insurance should cover the damage,” Zack said quickly, as though not having to worry about the financial repercussions would ease her mind. It didn’t. Insurance money could not replace the most valuable thing stolen from her today: her sense of security.

But Beverly nodded anyway. “Jah. I imagine it will.”

“Do you want me to call Eric for ya?” Leona offered. “I don’t mind.”

She looked at Leona and shook her head. “Nee. I’ll do it.”

“Who’s Eric?” the officer asked.

Beverly said, “He’s the owner of the inn.” But in truth, he was more than that. During the last few months, he’d also somehow become the best friend she’d ever had.

She only hoped when he heard her news that would still be the case.


Jen: What what age did you discover writing? Tell us your call story.
Shelley: I didn’t start writing until I was 28 or 29. I started writing while I was teaching sixth grade. I wrote for fun and never expected to be published. My best call story is when I sold my first book to Harlequin American Romance (under my maiden name, Shelley Galloway). My first book for them, Cinderella Christmas, was being reviewed by editors there for three years. Over that time, I revised it 5 times! When my agent called me with the news (at 11:00 am on a Tuesday) I burst into tears. Nothing has ever felt so sweet.

Jen: Are you a plotter or pantser?
Shelley: I try to be a plotter but I’m basically a pantser. Because I’ve been doing this so long now, I need that thrill that comes from being a pantser. I love that moment when something unexpected happens in my novels!

Jen: Do you have a writing routine?
Shelley: I do. I write full time, and try my best to write 10 pages a day, six days a week. I usually start writing in the morning. It’s a great feeling to have my pages done by two or three o’clock.

Jen: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest? Most rewarding?
Shelley: The most challenging aspect is always revisions. I always need them! I also can’t keep a timeline straight. So that is extremely challenging. The most rewarding is either writing Chapter 1 or The End. : )

Jen: How do you come up with characters names?
Shelley: Because I usually write about the Amish, I rely on The Budget. That’s the Amish and Mennonite Newspaper. Every month, scribes from all over the country share what has been happening in their church district. It’s terrific to read and also the best place to gather names, since the Amish only have a few surnames that can be used. For my historicals, I have a couple of baby name books that I use.

Jen: What’s next for you?
Shelley: Next month I’ll be celebrating the release of Whispers in the Reading Room, one of my 1893 Chicago historical romances. I’m very excited about January, too! A Son’s Vow will be published! A Son’s Vow will launch my ninth series with Avon Inspire. It is my 30th book for them!

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