By Deena Adams
Help me welcome Cozy Mystery author, Shaen Layle, to the blog this week. I met Shaen through another online writer friend, and I’m excited to introduce you to her and her books.
Shaen has generously offered a hardback copy of her recent release, Secondhand Chances, to one person who comments on this post by May 4, so don’t miss out!
Now, let’s get to know Shaen!
Welcome to the blog, Shaen! Tell us a little about yourself and your family.
My family is one of the dearest blessings of my life. My husband, Danny, is an artist who owns his own graphic design business, and we have two rambunctious-but adorable!-little boys who are eight and four. The boys have a creative streak like Danny and I do and love drawing, playing music, reading, writing, and inventing. It’s a good thing we all get along so well because we spend tons of time together, since Danny and I both work from home, and we homeschool the boys! A big future dream we have is to travel the US together in an RV (well, okay… it’s my dream. I’m still convincing Danny).
Sounds like a fun, busy family life. And traveling the US would be fabulous! Share with us why you decided to write suspense/mystery novels.
It’s kind of a funny story, but I didn’t really choose to write mystery novels in particular. I was still writing and trying to find “my genre” when Guideposts kindly offered me an opportunity to write a cozy mystery for one of their continuity series, Mysteries of Martha’s Vineyard.
I wrote that first book for them, and I’ve never really looked back! I love writing about tight-knit communities, quirky characters, and putting together puzzle-like plots!
What a fun genre to write! On a more serious note, how do you incorporate Christ and hope into your writing?
It may sound odd, but I don’t always start out a story thinking, this is my message, here’s what I specifically want to say. There are stories that start that way, certainly, but for a lot of my writing, I like to let the characters breathe a little and wander around on the page.
Before long, I start to figure out what I’m really struggling to say through them.
My current work-in-progress, a book for Guideposts’ Miracles and Mysteries of Mercy Hospital, took me one hundred pages to discover that the true message of the novel was that while people can support us when we’re struggling, God is the only one who can truly heal our hearts of deep wounds.
That’s a great theme. Let’s talk research. How long do you spend on research before you begin writing the book?
It depends. My cozies typically take a lot of research because I’m usually being presented with a brand-new setting with which I have to have a certain comfort level.
The last book I turned in took place in Savannah, which I had thankfully visited years earlier and had a frame of reference for. But for other stories, I spend a lot of time doing virtual “walks” on Google Maps or watching tour guide videos on YouTube.
Technology is a great tool for writers, isn’t it? I’m curious what your writing space looks like.
Pretty Spartan! I get super distracted by visual clutter, so I try to keep my desk to the (mostly) bare basics: my binder of research and notes, my reading glasses and blue light glasses, headphones, a cup full of pens and colored highlighters.
I also include a couple of special items that just make me smile, like photos of my family, some cute drawings from my boys, and cards I’ve received from some dear readers who have also become good friends.
How wonderful to have readers become friends. God is all about us developing relationships, right? What did the Lord teach you through the writing of Secondhand Chances?
Secondhand Chances was an important book for me, as it was my first solo full-length novel.
When I first started working on the book, I was very optimistic and excited. I felt like I was bubbling over with ideas. Then I hit the dreaded middle (also referred to by frustrated writers as “the muddle”) and started to lose steam.
I had several weeks of extreme writer’s block and creative fatigue, something I had never really dealt with before and hopefully, won’t deal with to that extent again. I realized that I had to let God carry the book. I simply couldn’t do it on my own, no matter how much my control-loving, Type A personality wanted to!
With every project since then, He’s been so good to guide me and keep me from getting overwhelmed by the creative process.
I can relate to that Type-A personality, control thing. How do you balance writing with your other life and family obligations?
Very carefully, lol! To answer the question a little more seriously, I make use of a lot of tools that other people do, I’m sure. I’m a planner by nature and follow a fairly rigid weekday routine. This includes my Bible study time, time to walk or work out, time to get my boys ready for the day and get their schooling done, time to write/edit, etc.
The day doesn’t always go as planned, so I sometimes have to adjust, but time-blocking like this is the best way I’ve found to stay on top of things.
My husband (who also works from home running his graphic design business) also shares responsibilities with me, and we try to be flexible when one of us has a deadline approaching. He’s a big part of how I can manage to do what I do on any given day (and hopefully, he feels like I support him in the same way!).
With so much to juggle, blocking time is a necessity for sure. And you have to work in time to read, right? Who is your favorite fiction author?
Oh, my, what a tough question! That’s like asking who my favorite child is! Can you ever just pick one?!
That said, I adore Lisa Wingate for her stellar writing combined with thought-provoking plotlines, Amanda Dykes for her lyrical use of language, and Nicole Deese for the sweet and moving stories she creates.
Other favorites include Janine Rosche, Elizabeth Byler Younts, Jolina Petersheim… you see, I could go on all day 😊
You mentioned a couple of my favorites. Besides posting comments on your website, how can your readers and fans support you?
They can find me online and continue the bookish conversation there! I love chatting with readers and try to post regularly on most of my social media channels. (Links below with bio).
Also, can I mention reviews? One of the kindest things you can do for an author you support is to leave thoughtful reviews of their books on sites like Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, etc. Those reviews are worth their weight in gold, believe me!
Yes! Review, review, review! Any last words for your readers?
Thanks so much for your support, I appreciate you all, and (I have to give my signature sendoff!) keep reading! Thank you, Deena, for hosting me on your blog today!
It’s been a pleasure getting to know you, Shaen. Thanks so much for sharing about yourself and your writing through this interview. May God continue to bless you as you write for Him.
Join the conversation. Do you enjoy reading cozy mysteries? Can you relate to Shaen’s struggle to let go of control and leave everything in God’s hands? As a reader, do you enjoy connected with authors on a personal level?
Don’t forget to leave a comment by May 4 to be entered into the giveaway for Shaen’s book!
Secondhand Chances by Shaen Layle
Click the book cover for the Guideposts purchase link.
As the much-anticipated date approaches for the double wedding of Elizabeth to John and Mary to Bill, the Classen sisters are trying their best to get everything just right. While Martha deals with the picky wedding cake baker, who just can’t seem to make up her mind, the sisters receive a flurry of incoming mail.
To their delight, most of it consists of congratulations and RSVPs for the wedding ceremony. However, one letter in a bright red envelope stands out…an anonymous poison pen letter demanding that the sisters vacate their home and store immediately.
At first, the sisters think they are the sole targets of the letter writer, but as the days pass, they soon discover they aren’t the only ones in Bird-in-Hand who have been receiving hostile mail.
In the flurry of trying to uncover the anonymous letter writer, old suspicions are raised and long held grudges are unearthed. Can the Classen sisters solve their latest mystery before two of them say “I do”?
Shaen Layle is a USA Today Bestselling author who writes inspirational cozy mystery from her home in the Midwest, where she lives with her artist husband, Danny, two rambunctious, but adorable, little boys, and their shelter pup, Violet.
Trained as a literary novelist, and with a decade of librarianship under her belt, she loves discussing all things bookish with readers on her website and on social media.
Please share this interview on social media to help promote Shaen and her books!
If you missed last week’s post, Five Must-Read Contemporary Christian Novels, find it here.