Monday, August 23, 2010

Everyone Gets Excited When the UPS Guy or Gal Comes to the Door!

Penny Zeller is the author of four books and numerous magazine articles. She is the author of the humor blog “A Day in the Life of a Wife, Mom, and Author” ( ) She 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 that God has given her to glorify Him and to benefit His Kingdom. She considers her ministry to be women and children and 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.

SKC Welcome to A Pen for Your Thoughts, Penny, and that is exactly what we hope to get from you. Your thoughts from your own heart.

Before we start talking about your writing endeavors, however, I’d like to talk about who you are away from your desk. Tell us a little about the lady next door, meaning you.

PZ Hello, Shirley. I love A Pen for Your Thoughts and am honored to be here! I am the wife of one, the mother of two, and the author of four books. I’ve also written numerous articles for national and regional magazines on the subjects of health, fitness, inspirational, and children and family articles. My number one ministry is my children and raising them for the Lord. I have wanted to be a writer since I was in second grade, and I have a passion for bringing real-to-life characters to life in my books.

SKC Now, let’s hear about that new book of yours, McKenzie. You must be so excited.

PZ. I am so excited about McKenzie! There’s just something so thrilling about holding the finalized product in your hands, and, of course, exercising self-control when the UPS guy comes to deliver your books!

The book opens with McKenzie Worthington desperate to rescue her younger sister from an abusive husband. She runs away from her stately Boston home as a mail-order bride for a rancher in the rugged Montana Territory. Desperation also prompted Zach Sawyer to post the ad for a bride, and he eagerly awaits woman God has chosen as his wife. When they meet, McKenzie tries to keep her distance, but she can’t help feeling attracted to Zach and his selfless ways. The question of the day is…what will become of McKenzie’s plan to annul the marriage when she finds her sister?

You know, Shirley, one of the things I love most about McKenzie is the humor aspect. I love to infuse humor into my fiction and place delightfully silly characters within the pages amongst the more serious characters. Readers will discover one of those characters in Lucille Granger, the mercantile owner. After McKenzie and Zach, I’ve been told by some readers that Lucille is their favorite character.

SKC. I'm sure it sounds good to a lot of people reading this now.  Great premise.
Almost everyone has had some sort of inspiration to draw them to writing a particular story. What was your inspiration for this book?

PZ I love historical Christian fiction and especially the 1800s era. My first love is fiction (although I do enjoy writing nonfiction as well). When the Lord gave me the idea for McKenzie, it actually surrounded interesting circumstances. 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.

SKC. Jeremiah is so full of wonderful nuggets, isn't it! Do you have other works contracted with any particular publisher, and if so, are you free to tell us about them? And tell us also how long it take you (on average) to write a book, from first word to putting it either in the publisher’s slush pile or hopefully into their hands?

PZ McKenzie is the first book in the Montana Skies series contracted with Whitaker House. The second book is set for release in 2011 and is titled Kaydie. I’m excited also for Kaydie’s release as it is such a touching book of trust and God’s provision. There is also a third book in the series, which is currently under development. I recently started a second Christian fiction series (not yet contracted) with characters during the Civil War era.

The time it takes me to write a book varies greatly. I have written a first-draft manuscript in as little as two months. To the other extreme, there’s a contemporary manuscript I’m working on that I’ve been working on for the past three years since it’s so involved and touches on so many aspects of life. For the two nonfiction books I’ve written, it took me nine months for each of those. I give each book to the Lord and ask that He would have me complete it in His time.

Once the manuscript is accepted, so many exciting things begin to fall into place over the next approximately a year period (although some publishing timetables are closer to two years). You’ll be asked to do some revising and the publisher will work on editing and refining your manuscript. The cover is designed (one of the most thrilling parts of the process!) and you are asked for bio and dedication information. You’ll work closely with your assigned editor, the author liaison, and the publicist to present the best possible book. Your mind will be filled with ideas for marketing, book signings, and who you can ask for an endorsement. There’s never a dull moment in the publication of a book. An important thing to remember: the process doesn’t end when the manuscript is completed – it begins!

SKC What do you enjoy least about writing, Penny? And most?

PZ There’s nothing I don’t like about writing, as I love it all – it’s my passion. However, I would have to say my least favorite thing is revising. The thing I enjoy most about writing is building the characters and their personalities so they will come alive in the reader’s mind. For example, I love writing dialogue and thinking about how each character would react in each scenario. The creation of the characters is so exciting because I love the newness and freshness of the ideas God gives to me.

SKC I think I already know the answer to this, but I'll ask it anyway. Do you ever get any ideas from the scriptures? If so, tell us about some that have jumped out at you. And if not the scriptures where are other places you might look for ideas?

PZ I do get ideas from the scriptures often and I build my book around certain Biblical themes, such as, forgiveness, redemption, etc. My Christian characters pray and seek God for direction. Speaking of seeking direction…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 a 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.”

SKC: We all need those life verses, don't we.  Here at A Pen for Your Thoughts, we look forward to the opportunity afforded us to possibly win a copy of authors' new books. Thank you for offering yours too, Penny. If you were to meet a reader or fan face to face, what might you ask her or him?

PZ When I meet a reader or fan face to face, I love to chat with her about what she envisions herself doing for God’s Kingdom and how can I pray and encourage her in that pursuit. If she is pursuing her dream as a writer, I tell her that one of the most important things to remember in being a writer is that if God has called her to do it, He will guide her through it. 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 her 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.

SKC Thank you and thank you for being here with us for the next few days. Tell us where we can find your books and you on the web.

PZ McKenzie can be purchased anywhere books are sold, including Amazon at  and Christian Book Distributors at  

I love to connect with my readers through my website at or at my humor blog “A Day in the Life of a Wife, Mom, and Author” at  I’m also on Twitter at  Facebook  and Shoutlife  

Thank you so much, Shirley, for having me here. May God bless you as you continue to spread the word about Christian fiction.

Readers and writers, here is your challenge question to reflect on and share with us for the next few days. I will draw the winner of Penny's book from the responses that come in. Don't forget to include your email address.

As strictly a reader,what do you envision yourself doing that's different in your Christian walk today in one year?

As a writer also, where do you envision yourself being in the next three years and how will your writing play a part in that?  

Congratulations to Nancy Farrier  of Apple Valley, California. The book is soon on its way to you! And thank you so much for your participation in A Pen for Your Thoughts.


  1. Thank you for a good interview. I've never heard about this book. I am looking forward to reading it. And I like the cover.
    I am sometimes a writer. I figure in three years, I'll probably still be sitting at my computer writing and hoping and reading more books. And finding stuff in my bible too that helps me along the way.
    Janice Ian

  2. I like the look and sound of your book. I love to read. I hope in a year I will still be healthy. Thanks for the opportunity.
    Betty Fimple
    Windsor, CA

  3. Hi Janice! Thank you for your kind words about "McKenzie."

    I really want to encourage you regarding your writing. I think the most important thing is to give your writing to the Lord in prayer. Then, join a writing group either online or one in your town and try to attend a writer’s conference and network with other writers and learn from those who have succeeded as authors. I encourage you to write for your church bulletin or your local newspaper to continue to gain experience. God has a plan for the words you write so please continue writing and don't give up! (And I would love it if you would keep me posted on how your writing is going!)

  4. Hi Betty,
    It's nice to hear from you! Thanks for your kind compliments about my book.

    Tonight during my time with the Lord I prayed that you would be healthy in a year as well. Good health is such a blessing.

    May you have a blessed week in the Lord.

  5. Sounds like a good book. Sign me up for your drawing please. Oh. I only take one day at a time. So I don't think a lot about tomorrow. It never turns out like I expect anyway.
    Nice to meet you.
    Thanks Shirley for the interview.
    Lulu Ann B.

  6. Hi Lulu!
    Thank you for your comment. It's nice to meet you too! What you said reminded me of that verse in Psalm 90:12 that says "Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." That is awesome that you take one day at a time.

  7. I am a catholic christian and I love the sound of your book. I would like to be included in this. In the next few years i plan to join lots more writing groups to help me.
    Sandee Buxtom
    Monroe, Wisconsin

  8. Penny, this sounds like a wonderful book. As a writer, reader, and Christian, I hope to be right where God wants me in three years. That means not going off in the direction I might want to go, but waiting for His direction each and every day. Loved the interview.

  9. Hi Sandee,
    Nice to hear from you! Writing groups are a great way to help you further your writing plans. May God bless you on your writing journey!

  10. Good Morning, Nancy. I love your comment - it's one of those quotable quotes! I, too, pray for God's guidance each and every day and for His will to be done in my life. Thank you also for your kind words about "McKenzie."

  11. I love to read, and this story sounds like something that I would really enjoy. I've always enjoyed stories about mail-order brides. They seem to have a little something extra that keeps you intrigued.