Congratulations to the winner of last week’s Author Spotlight, LORI PAYER. Please email info {at} suzannewoodsfisher {dot} com to claim your prize.

Welcome Kellie Coates Gilbert, author of A Reason to Stay, to Author Spotlight! Keep reading to find out how you can enter to win a copy of Kellie’s latest release.

Gilbert_KellieIntroduce us to you as an author: When did you get bit with the writing bug? How would you describe your writing style?

I barely remember a time when I didn’t have a book in my hand. My tiny hometown of Carey, Idaho had no library, no bookstore. The bi-weekly bookmobile provided the only avenue to books . . . that, and my Gram, who spent a lot of her Social Security checks on books for her granddaughter with an insatiable appetite for stories.

I grew up on a sheep ranch in southern Idaho, a business my family had been in for generations, never dreaming I’d ever see my own name on a novel. I left home to attend Boise State University and spent most of my adult years pursuing a sensible legal career, raising two boys, and learning to be happily married.

But God heard the quiet prayers of a woman who dared to dream big and ask her Lord for the outrageous. In early 2011, I signed my first book contract. Today, I am living my fantasy. I live in Dallas with my husband. I work from home, writing novels. Often by the pool. Can life get any better?

My current series – the Texas Gold collection – offers four highly emotional stories set in the four metropolitan cities of Texas. Each features a strong female protagonist who exhibits strength and dignity after she finds herself in a life-changing circumstance.

Tell us about your new release:

A Reason to Stay is the third release in the Texas Gold Collection and will be available on October 6.

Here’s the story blurb:

As an investigative reporter and the host of her own TV talk show, Faith Marin works to expose the truth for her viewers. But in her personal life, she’s anchored her world with firm boundaries in order to hide a family history she’d like to forget. By contrast, her husband Geary’s life is an open book. An easygoing pro bass fisherman, Geary is the ultimate family man—and his overbearing relatives don’t know the meaning of boundaries.

Faith and Geary haven’t been married long when their differences start to derail their tender relationship. Surely love shouldn’t be this hard. While Faith considers whether divorce is the only answer to their issues, tragedy strikes. With her life in the balance, she finds that the one she has been shutting out may be the very one she cannot bear to lose.

My stories often pull ideas from courtroom cases I’ve worked on or stories in the news. A Reason To Stay is no different.

In early 2011, I watched with the rest of the country as news media reported on the terrible shooting that left Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords fighting for her life. Like so many, I followed her painful journey to healing and prayed for her recovery.

Ms. Giffords’ story hit very close to home.

While I was not a victim of a shooting, years back I suffered a stroke, the result of a brain bleed that required multiple cranial surgeries and a protracted hospital recovery. I personally knew some of what Gabby faced and my heart was broken for her.

A Reason to Stay is a very personal story. Not only does Faith Marin face a brain injury and the subsequent struggles to recover, but her real fight is in keeping her marriage intact.

This past summer, my husband and celebrated thirty-five years of marriage, a landmark in a journey marked with opposition. Looking back, I know that we only made it by the grace of God.

Over the course of our years together, both of us had to make a decision. I’m grateful we chose to stay.

How can readers connect with you online?

I invite everyone to visit my website, which includes links to all my social media accounts. Readers will also have the opportunity to sign up for my newsletter. Another way to watch for future releases is to follow my author account on Amazon.

Anything new for you on the book horizon?

The final release in the Texas Gold collection will be out next summer. What Matters Most features a political plot and is set in Austin.

What book have you reread the most?

My all-time favorite novel is Same Sweet Girls by Cassandra King. This gifted novelist created a cast of female characters who became my dear friends. For days after I closed the last page, I moped around missing them. I’m lucky I can pick the book up again and again . . .

Right this moment, what does your office look like?

Ha – my author copies of A Reason to Stay just arrived and so my office is stacked with boxes. In the morning, I plan on cooking bacon and eggs for my sweet man before I ask him to cart all those boxes to an upstairs closet. (Bacon always equals bribery in my house!)

What’s your favorite writing snack?

I indulged in a Vitamix blender last year and my favorite “desk side” snack is a smoothie made of frozen chunks of honeydew melon, frozen green grapes, a dash of apple juice and fresh mint. Tastes like a mojito cocktail without the rum. Love, love, love! (and good for me!)

Can a person make a living as a writer?

Oh, yes! I left a legal career with a very nice salary and have been writing full-time since 2012. Today, there are so many options available in terms of publishing choices and ways to connect with readers. If an author is willing to take risks, work hard and smart—there are opportunities galore for success!

What are your biggest distractions?

I love my readers! While nothing compares to nestling in and burying my mind in an unfolding story, I have to admit I’m often distracted by social media and the desire to “chat” with all the wonderful book loving folks out there!

What is the role and importance of an agent?

Speaking of agents, one of my best career moves was to partner with my agent, Natasha Kern. No one works harder than this woman to represent her clients with excellence. I am blessed to have her by my side.

What is the smartest writing advice you ever got?

I believed the publishing industry professionals when they told me not to publish before I was ready—to wait until I’d really learned the craft. Today, it is so tempting (and easy) for an author to indie publish and even have some success. But I truly believe this industry works a lot like a savings account with compound interest. Giving in to the desire to see your work out in the marketplace can give immediate satisfaction but may rob you of a long term sustainable career. I see books every day that make me shake my head . . . the authors have not taken the time to learn their craft and it shows in their stories (and likely their sales.)

A Reason to Stay Book CoverI made the decision to write novels in 2004. I never submitted to an agent until 2010—a long six years later. But after that, I sold every manuscript she ever submitted on my behalf. Few authors can say they’ve never had a rejection (at least not yet *winks*) In addition to conferences, workshops, critique groups, craft books etc. I also had a mentor, a multi-published author who was willing to invest in me. She used to tell me she was like a dentist: I had some good teeth, but she was there to drill down on the bad ones and yank out anything that decayed my story. No doubt, those years were painful at times, but I am not sorry I submitted myself to that process and waited to publish until my skills were at a high level.

And I’m still submitting to that learning process, still attending workshops, listening to teaching tapes, reading and diagraming great books to see what works and why. That effort is so worth it!

Who’s your favorite character you’ve written so far?

I love Barrie Graeber in my debut novel, Mother of Pearl. I so relate to her lionhearted attitude when it comes to her child, even in light of rugged circumstances that would send most women to bed with the covers pulled over their heads.

Describe yourself in one word:

Tigger. (No Eeyore attitude allowed inside this head!)

Are you an introvert? Extrovert? In-between?

I adore people. That said, I’m an introvert. In order to recharge my juices, I must get away and spend time alone. I love to think, ponder, wonder about the deep things in life.

If your house were on fire, what one thing would you save?

Ugh … hard question to answer. After a couple of practical things like important papers and my laptop, I’d probably grab my Gram’s bible with its worn leather binding and frail handwritten notations inside. My favorite? She underlined Jeremiah 29:11 and wrote my name beside the verse with my date of my birth.

What drives you to succeed?

The unwavering belief that I have extraordinary value and am loved unconditionally . . . even if I fail. I also know that I am extremely gifted and that the God who made me delights to see me go for it without fear.

I have a sign in my office: She Thought She Could . . . So She Did. While that may seem arrogant to some, I don’t think so. God gets all the credit for any good inside me and any good thing I do.

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Kellie Coates Gilbert is a former legal investigator and trial paralegal, and the author of A Woman of Fortune and Where Rivers Part. Gilbert crafts her emotionally charged stories about women in life-changing circumstances in Dallas, Texas, where she lives with her husband. Learn more at www.kelliecoatesgilbert.com.

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