I was making the rounds at a local author meet-and-greet at the library. I was gathering business cards, bookmarkers, and other marketing material as I went from table to table where each author was displaying their work. Hands full, I grabbed a few more bookmarkers from one of the last tables where the author was already busy talking to someone else and headed out. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized that this local author was a Christian and fellow homeschool mom, which I found intriguing.
I took a chance and shot her an email asking if she’d be willing to get together for coffee. I knew it was a long shot; she is a busy author with deadlines. But Dani Pettrey graciously agreed to get together to discuss writing, books, publishing, and homeschooling. As a writer and homeschooling mother myself, I had lots of questions about how she balanced her love of writing with the rest of busy-mom-life.
Dani Pettrey is the author of the Alaskan Courage series for Bethany House. Submerged, Shattered, and the newly released Stranded follows various members of the McKenna siblings as they solve mysteries, struggle with faith, encounter romance, and chase adventure. Dani agreed to give Ungrind readers a peek into her life as an author and share where her inspiration for writing comes from.
Tell us when you first discovered a love of writing?
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 a bout with a serious illness many years ago that I really felt God stirring me to start writing again.
How do you find inspiration for your plots?
I find it everywhere: movies, song lyrics, news articles, even a simple word. For example, the inspiration behind Submerged came from watching a movie about cave divers; the inspiration behind Shattered came from a passing comment a friend of mine made about her son’s recent surgery. I just never know what may trigger an idea. Once I have an idea, comes the fun part … running with the “what if’s?”
Do you know how the whole story will turn out before writing, or does the story reveal itself to you as you go?
It definitely reveals itself as I go. I’m not a “plotter.” I have a general premise and a very rough feel for my characters when I sit down to write. The fun for me is seeing how it all unfolds.
Your stories have a lot of action in them that includes skiing, diving, and rock climbing. Do you know how to do all these sports yourself, and if not, how do you research in order to write convincingly about them?
I’ve been skiing and rock climbing. I took the diving certification classes, but found I felt too claustrophobic. Fortunately, I love research and enjoy spending time learning about all the adventures my characters encounter. I love research so much, I often have to stop myself and force myself to sit down and write. But I definitely have an adventurer’s heart and I think that really helps As far as research goes, I read a lot of first person accounts and adventure handbooks. I also find watching movies involving the sports or documentaries on the sport or the athletes to be extremely helpful. I’m such a visual person so anything and everything visual helps me feel more apart of my characters’ worlds.
What can readers expect from your newest book, Stranded?
Stranded is an action-packed romance set aboard an Alaskan cruise ship. Here’s a summary:
When her friend vanishes from a cruise ship, reporter Darcy St. James isn’t satisfied with their explanation that she simply left her job of her own accord. Something isn’t lining up, and Darcy believes the only way to find the truth is to put herself in Abby’s position. Within days, Darcy learns her friend wasn’t the only person to disappear mysteriously. Last summer, a woman vanished under almost identical circumstances. Gage McKenna has taken a summer-long stint leading adventure excursions for the passengers of various cruise lines that dock for a few days of sightseeing. He’s surprised to find Darcy working aboard one of the ships, investigating a troubling report. Something sinister is going on, and the deeper they dig, the more Gage fears they’ve only discovered the tip of the iceberg.
What spiritual impact or theme do you hope readers will take away after reading a Dani Pettrey novel?
There are so many things in this world vying for our attention, but wholeness, true healing, redemption and renewal can be found in Christ alone. I hope that’s what readers take away when they read one of my novels. Each book has its own theme, but they all fall under the amazing grace of our Lord.
If you could share one piece of encouragement or advice to an aspiring writer, what would it be?
Write. I know it sounds trite, but it’s true. You need to learn to be disciplined early on. To spend the hours writing and reading and learning. A lot of people want to write a book. Few actually do it. And, secondly I would say never give up. If writing is your passion, follow it. God created that love and hunger for the written word in you. It’s His gift to you and when you use it, you give a gift (your words, your heart) back to Him.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not busy writing?
I love spending time with my family. I enjoy hiking, spending time at the beach, swimming, reading (of course), watching romantic comedies, and frequent trips to the coffee house.
Would you share some of your own favorite books or authors?
Absolutely. My favorite authors include Dee Henderson, Terri Blackstock, Sue Grafton, Jane Austen, and Karen Witemeyer. Some of my favorite books are Dee’s entire O’Malley series, Terri’s Predator, Sue’s Alphabet series, and Karen’s Short-Straw Bride, Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes and absolute favorite of all time is Pride and Prejudice.