This week I would like to introduce Christian author Rebecca Carey Lyles, author of the heartwarming Kate Nielson series. Rebecca grew up in beautiful Wyoming and currently resides in Idaho with her husband, Steve. She writes in a warm, flowing style that puts her readers into the heart of vividly stunning locations alongside engaging characters facing what most would deem insurmountable obstacles. Elements of Christian love, faith, hope and trust expertly woven into riveting action produce stories that will keep readers turning the pages.
Her Kate Nielson series proves that fact as the books follow the life of a young woman from the confines of the Pennsylvania State Penitentiary to a fresh start at Wyoming’s Whispering Pines Guest Ranch. The stories feature romance and marriage to the owner’s son, even as she takes a defiant stand when evil remnants of her past catch up with her.
In addition to her fiction series, Rebecca also writes nonfiction and serves as an editor and mentor for aspiring authors. She and her husband host a lively and entertaining podcast, “Let Me Tell You a Story,” which can be accessed through a variety of podcast providers as well as her website:
She has several other projects in the works which, along with her complete bio, you can read about at:
Rebecca kindly agreed to an interview, which follows below.
SK: Tell us a little about yourself (background, hobbies, special interests).
RCL: I love the West! I grew up in Wyoming, met and married my husband in Colorado, and then moved back to Wyoming, where we raised our three children. Shortly after the last child left home, we moved to the Southwest (Arizona) and now reside in the beautiful Northwest (Idaho).
In addition to gorgeous vistas, the West offers friendly people, wide-open spaces and wonderful opportunities to explore the outdoors—hiking, biking, skiing, snowshoeing, camping, kayaking… The list goes on. I’ve enjoyed all the aforementioned activities, but the last couple years, I’ve mostly snowshoed in the winter and hiked in the summer with friends and family. My year-round exercise includes walking and yoga/Pilates classes. I also like to read (no surprise!), cook healthy stuff and hang out with other authors. Funny how we can talk books and plots and characters for hours on end.
SK: What made you feel you wanted to be a writer?
RBC: As you know, writing seems to be in the blood or the genetic makeup of certain individuals. I’ve always enjoyed putting pencil or pen to paper, even when writing those dreaded high school essays. I wish I’d listened when my English/Lit teacher encouraged me to major in journalism…
But I was determined to attend a small Denver Bible college that offered only a handful of degrees, none of them related to journalism. Yet, that school was a great experience. It grounded me in Biblical truth and connected me with wonderful lifelong friends, including a certain cute guy named Steve, who eventually became my husband.
After graduation, I worked a variety of jobs, most of which were secretarial in nature. And then, almost as soon as our first child was born, I decided the literary path was more to my liking and something I could work at during naptime.
SK: How did you choose the genre you write in?
RCL: Looking back, I think I felt compelled to write faith-based fiction because I’d read so many less-than-stellar Christian novels. That was years ago, so I’ll be quick to say the market now offers a host of high-quality fiction books for all levels of readers.
SK: Where do you get your ideas?
RCL: When I started writing my first novel and the first book in the Kate Neilson Series, “Winds of Wyoming,” my heroine was a young woman who wanted to move west—because the West is best (smile). As you can see, that was a rather weak premise. Took me fifteen years and multiple writing classes and seminars, how-to books and magazines, contests (with judge feedback) and critique groups to deepen the story.
And then came the night I was driving home from a Bible study at an Arizona women’s prison. Looking out across the flat dark desert, I had a revelation—the protagonist needed to be an ex-inmate. I’d met so many sweet women in prison who were flawed, just like I am. And, just like me, they longed for a do-over. My heroine, ex-inmate Kate Neilson, would move from Pennsylvania to Wyoming to “reboot” her life, not realizing her past would follow close behind.
In that first book, I wanted to honor prisoners’ humanity through a romantic suspense story. In the following books, “Winds of Freedom” and “Winds of Change,” I used the same characters to show that human trafficking is a tragic problem in America as well as overseas. My current series, which I hope to finish by late spring/early summer, delves into religious cults and their deceptive, manipulative, totalitarian practices. Despite the tough topics, every series has a happy ending (smile).
All that to say…I tend to tackle current issues. However, the idea for the first story in the “Passageways” anthology came to me in the middle of a Kohl’s Department Store. Kinda crazy, but it was a fun story to write.
SK: Do you work with an outline, or just write?
RCL: Over the years, I’ve used several methods, one being Randy Ingermanson’s famous Snowflake Method. And over the years, I’ve learned I’m not an outliner, I’m not a plotter, I’m not a pantser (who writes by the seat of his or her pants). I’m a discoverer. For the cult series, I’ve read books, watched documentaries, interviewed ex-members and immersed myself in that world, disgusting as it is. I have pages and pages of notes and a general idea of where I’m going with the plot. But I’m always open to discovering the next scene, which oftentimes veers from my intended path—or the direction I assumed the story would go.
Some people say they write the ending or at least know the ending to a book before they write the beginning and the middle. I think I can safely say I have never known the ending of any of my novels until I was almost there. I always aim for that “happily ever after,” but I don’t usual know how it will materialize. In a sense, I’m discovering the story right alongside the reader.
SK: Did any particular author or book influence you, either growing up or as an adult?
RCL: I loved “Heidi” because it’s a wonderful tale about a girl who’s sent to live with her grandfather in the beautiful Swiss mountains. Then there was “Christy,” a young woman who moved to the Smokey Mountains to teach. Notice a theme here? A book about a girl reporter’s adventures also intrigued me and helped spark the writing gene. Sad to say, I don’t remember the title.
In my twenties, “The Grapes of Wrath” captivated me during a Colorado blizzard (nothing better than having a good book to read when you have a legitimate excuse to stay home). Filled with beautiful writing, complex characters, heartrending challenges and a believable storyline, that book taught me about an important time in history I knew very little about. In addition, I learned the power of story is in the details.
One more—my last job in Wyoming involved working for a man named Chuck Box. At that time, his writing career was just beginning to take off. Written under the name C.J. Box, his many novels about a Wyoming game warden are now international bestsellers. Chuck is known for his amazing descriptions of the West. I recently heard him being interviewed on a podcast. He said description is not about the vistas but about the details. When I want to enhance my own portrayals of the West, I open a C.J. Box novel for inspiration.
SK: Your book titles (Winds of Wyoming, Winds of Freedom, Winds of Change) evoke images of living free in an unspoiled and wide-open territory; but winds also bring storms and uncertainty. What inspired these titles?
RCL: I’m impressed with your insight into the titles, Sandra! What inspired the series titles? All that you wrote above. Some parts of Wyoming are known for wind, and I experienced plenty of it growing up. At times, the wind was helpful. When I walked the four or five blocks to school, the wind would blow me there, almost lifting me off my feet. But it was an ever-moving barricade on the return trip. I’d struggle all the way home, leaning into the wind. Before backpacks came along, an armful of textbooks served as ballast to keep me and my classmates from being blown to Nebraska.
Back to the book titles—winds are rarely constant. They come and go, blast and change course, cleanse the air or stir up dust devils, irritate or sooth, heat or cool, knock down or lift up. Metaphorically speaking, a fiction author’s job is to hit their characters with gusts that blow them off-course and then show their struggle to regain equilibrium.
For interested readers, the series has a prequel titled “Winds of Hope.” All four books are available at a reduced rate in a “Kate Neilson Series” boxset that’s available everywhere digital books are sold.
SK: How do you market your work? What avenues work best?
RCL: Wow, I wish I had a good answer. For a time, Facebooks ads were the moneymakers. And then it was Amazon ads. Now, BookBub is the place to inspire readers to click the “buy now” button. The end result is that the best way to sell books is to write more books. Some people can whip out four or five books a year and develop a huge backlist (mine is growing at a much slower rate, but it’s growing). Series are good because readers who like the first book in a series are likely to purchase the others. Social media enables authors to connect with readers, some of whom will share our book news on their sites.
SK: What has been the toughest criticism given you as an author? What has been the highest compliment?
RCL: Toughest criticism? Hmm. In the series I’m working on now, a beta reader who proofed book one said the second book needs more description and emotion because the protagonist comes across as plastic. Yikes! Back to the drawing board…
My highest compliment is when readers say, “I stayed up all night reading your book!” or “I didn’t get a thing done today because I couldn’t put your book down.” Warms an author’s heart, for sure.
SK: Will you have a new book coming out soon?
RCL: I’ve written two-and-a-half novels of a three-book series set in Montana called “Prisoners of Hope” about a young woman trapped in a religious cult. The titles are “Shattered Dreams,” “Tangled Truths” and Tattered Veil.” My goal is to show how easily we can become ensnared by controlling groups and how hard it is to escape a cultic world. As I wrote above, I hope to publish all three books in late spring/early summer.
SK: What advice would you offer aspiring authors?
RCL: Read, read, read to get a feel for tension, motivation/response sequence, structure and flow. Write, write, write to get a feel for pulling thoughts out of your head and arranging them in logical order on paper (or computer screen).
SK: Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?
RCL: Thank you, Sandra, for inviting me to be a guest on your blog. Great questions! And, a big thank-you to those who encourage me to keep writing. If you enjoy or profit from an author’s books or articles, consider telling him or her. Writers don’t need ego boosts. We need to know our hard work is valuable, that it inspires, informs, entertains or educates our readers.
If you enjoy listening to stories, check out the podcast Steve and I host. We call it “Let Me Tell You a Story” and feature a wide variety of authors and stories (real and imagined) plus fascinating interviews. http://beckylyles.com/podcast.html
Amazon Author Page: https://tinyurl.com/y6kldx32
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