Meet Debut Novelist Dani Pettrey

Award-winning author Dani Pettrey writes stories that give her readers the thrill of adventure, glimpses of far off places, and plenty of romance. After a highly successful run on the Contest Circuit, she received a three-book contract from Bethany House in December. Her debut novel, Submerged, will hit shelves in the summer of 2012.

Dani loves traveling. She’s been to some amazing places, including Hawaii, Greece, Spain, the Amalfi Coast, . . . and there are many more she hopes to visit in the future. And while she’s not quite up to sky-diving, cave diving or heli-skiing like her characters, she and her family love hiking, canoeing, wave jumping, and a ton of outdoor adventures a little further down on the risk scale.

Dani’s First Sale

I was delighted when I saw the announcement of your First Sale on the American Christian Fiction Writers loop. A three-book sale to Bethany House is an awesome way to launch your career as a published author. Congratulations!

Some writers have a hunch The Call is coming their way. Others are stunned. Which were you? How did you react to the news?

Thanks so much, Keli.  Well, I knew the book was being presented for contract that day, but I had no idea what the outcome would be. I was so nervous about it that I distracted myself the best I could by taking my daughters rock climbing. When I returned home that afternoon, there was a wonderful email waiting for me. I was absolutely ecstatic!

And now for the backstory. Please give us a recap of your writing journey before that life changing call came.

I had been writing for a number of years, entering contests, working with an amazing mentor, trying to hone my craft. I finished Submerged just prior to the ACFW conference. I hadn’t been in a couple years, but I really felt led to go. I signed up last minute and put in for appointments with the editor and agent I really hoped to meet with. Since I registered so late, I didn’t get appointments with either. But God has a way of working things out.

My first night at the conference I attended a Late Night Chat for Bethany House. I spoke with Dave Long afterwards and he graciously allowed me to send him the first three chapters. A couple weeks later, I got an email from him requesting the full manuscript.

You’ve had four months to absorb the amazing news. If we could peek inside your head via some internal monologue, what might we hear these days?

I’m still on cloud nine to be perfectly honest. It still doesn’t seem real. I’ve finished revisions on Submerged. My amazing editors made the process a truly wonderful experience. I feel so very blessed. Now I’m working on Book Two.

Dani’s Days Cruising the Contest Circuit

You were a Contest Circuit veteran in your pre-published days, taking top honors in many prestigious contests for unpublished writers, including two finals in the ACFW Genesis contest and one in the Daphne du Maurier. Why did you decide to enter contests, and what did you gain from that experience?

I entered contests for several different reasons. First, I thought it would be a great way to gain helpful feedback. Secondly, I figured it would be a good way, however small, to gain experience working on a deadline. Thirdly, I hoped to get my work in front of editors.

The 2011 Genesis calls went out last week? What tips would you offer those who finaled on how to make the most of their experience as a finalist? What encouragement would you offer those entrants who didn’t receive a call?

I’d love to extend my congratulations to all the finalists. It’s a huge honor. My best advice is to take the comments they find helpful, that they believe will strengthen their story and their writing, and really see how they can apply it to their work.

For those that didn’t final, I know it’s disappointing. I’ve been there numerous times. Take a step back and just let the comments sit for a while; spend time doing something you enjoy. Then go back and look at the comments afresh. If multiple judges are pointing out the same thing then it’s probably an area you’ll want to address. If you repeatedly get comments that your description needs strengthening then commit yourself to strengthening that area not just in the opening chapters but throughout your entire manuscript. If only one judge points out that your characters are unrealistic and all the other judges compliment your characterization, chalk that up to one person’s opinion.

The Inspiration Behind Dani’s Stories

What sparks your story ideas? A person? A place? A newspaper headline involving a grisly murder, perhaps?

It really differs with each story. For Submerged, I watched a movie about Cave Divers and thought, ‘I wonder what type of person would do that for a living?’

Your romantic suspense romances include adventure, extreme sports, and exotic locales. Are your characters thrill-seeking experiences based on yours?

I wish! I would label myself ‘moderately adventurous.’ I enjoy hiking, rock climbing, white-water rafting, windsurfing…pretty much your average adventure stuff. My eldest daughter, on the other hand, is an extreme adventure girl. She’s the one attempting 180’s on the terrain park her first season snowboarding. She’s like me amplified.

Dani’s Characters

What aspects of a character do you feel are the most important to have nailed before beginning a story?

I’m a very visual person so I like to have a grasp on their physical characteristics before I start. I like to know their profession and where they’re at in life.

How often do your characters hijack their stories and take them places you never dreamed of going?

I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer so I start with a very basic idea of my characters and a premise and go from there. It is so much fun seeing the characters grow and flesh out as the story progresses.

Of all the characters you’ve written, which one is your favorite, and why?

Oooh, hard choice. I guess I would have to say Bailey Craig, the heroine in Submerged. I can really relate with her struggle. Looking for wholeness outside of Christ is always going to let you down.

Dani’s Debut Novel

Please tell us about Submerged.

A sabotaged flight. Two murdered divers. A single clue—a grainy image of sunken treasure

Dive Rescue Captain Cole Mckenna’s never worked a case like this, but who he’s working with may prove more dangerous than the assignment.

It’s been a lifetime since Bailey Craig mangled his heart. Now she’s back in Yancey and he needs her expertise in Russian Studies to track down the treasure before it’s too late.

The clock is running, the body count is rising, and the killer is closing in.

Let’s Learn a Little More About Dani

Cake, cookies, or pie?

Doesn’t matter as long as it’s chocolate.

What were your favorite and least favorite subjects in school?

My favorite subjects were English and photography. My least favorite was math.

If you could be the spokesperson for any product on the market, what product would you choose to enthusiastically represent?

Trader Joe’s Midnight Moo. Best chocolate syrup ever! I use it in my iced mochas in the summer and my hot chocolate in the winter.  (Have I mentioned I love chocolate and coffee?)

Forget about soft sounds like babbling brooks, gentle showers, and warbling birds. What is your favorite loud sound?

Crashing waves.

In your humble opinion, what is your best character trait?

My family would say stubbornness, but I prefer to call it perseverance. 🙂

Dani’s Question for You

If you could meet any literary character, who would it be and why?

Dani’s Drawing

Dani has generously offered to give away a $20 Starbuck’s gift card.

To enter the drawing, just leave a comment for Dani by April 18th and enter your email address when prompted during the comment process.

On April 19th, I will hold the drawing and post the winner’s name here as well as in a comment and will contact her/him via email to get a mailing address.

Congratulations to Jay Witherspoon, winner of Dani’s drawing.

Note: Offer void where prohibited.
Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.

Learn More About Dani

Visit her website ~

About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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93 Responses to Meet Debut Novelist Dani Pettrey

  1. Sandi Winters says:

    Dani –

    I’m so happy for you!!! You have worked hard for this – I definitely say perseverance!! Can’t wait to get my hands on SUBMERGED! Miss you!

  2. Rick Warner says:

    My wife loves Starbucks, so I hope I win the drawing. I am looking forward to reading Submerged when it comes out. Congratulations on the book deal and good luck!

    • Dani says:

      Thanks, Rick. Good luck in the drawing! Really hope you enjoy Submerged when it’s available! I’ll be posting a lot of Extras about it on my website in the months leading up to it’s release.

  3. Jim Pettrey says:


    Your faith,talent, dedication and hard-work have brought you a wonderful blessing. Through your work you will be a wonderful witness to Him

    Pop Pop

  4. Dani, I remember meeting you at the ACFW Conference and am so THRILLED for your news of a contract! Congratulations!!!

    Boy are you a kindred spirit in the chocolate and coffee department. 🙂 Now adventure? My idea of adventure is changing a smelly diaper. My husband did talk me into zip lining one time and I’ll admit I loved it. Not sure I’ll graduate to rock climbing any time soon though. 🙂

    • Dani says:

      Hi Sarah,

      Thanks so much!
      I really enjoyed chatting with you at ACFW. Hope you and yours are doing well!

      Zip lining is great. You’ll definitely have to try rock climbing!
      But I truly believe parenting is the biggest ADVENTURE of all 🙂

  5. Jodi says:

    What an exciting time for you Dani!! You have enough energy for all of us!
    Hope your book does very well. 🙂

  6. Kristen Grispino says:

    Hi Dani –
    Came to this link through an email your husband sent me (we used to work together) – congratulations on the contract and I can’t wait to see/read your book!

    I have to admit that a fictional character I’d LOVE to meet would be Archie Goodwin, from Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series (I’m thinking Nero would be tough to meet, given his perspective on women!). Archie is just so clever and funny, seems like it’d be a blast to meet him. Sadly the closest I ever will get was the short-lived A&E Nero Wolfe series… but at least I’m able to rewatch them!

    • Dani says:

      Hi Kristen,

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read my interview!

      I’ve never read the Nero Wolfe series. I just Googled it and it sounds fabulous. I love mysteries! I’ll definitely have to check out one of his books. Any recommendations on which to start with?

      • Kristen Grispino says:

        Sequentially in order of writing, the one to start with is Fer-de-Lance; however, part of what I love about Rex Stout is that even though the situations outside of Nero’s brownstone house in NYC change time periods, the people inside for the most part remain unchanged.

        And, Rex Stout was equally superb (in my opinion) whether it was a full-length novel or a short story. There’s just more enjoyable Nero/Archie interaction in the full-length novels. 🙂

        This is probably where I confess that I am such a huge fan of his work that I have literally combed used book stores in at least 5 different states until my home library has all known Nero Wolfe books. I guess the good news is that this bodes very well for your 3 book contract – plenty of room in the house left, all I need is more bookshelves!!! *grin*

        • Dani says:

          Thanks, Kristen. I just ordered a copy online. Can’t wait to read it! I’m always on the look out for a good mystery.

          Trust me I understand about the home library. Mike can attest to it. I’m the same way. I’ve got all of Sue Grafton books, even though I listened to half of them on audio. Just something about having your favorite books on your shelves.

          Thanks again for the recommendation 🙂

  7. Doretta Davies says:

    Dani! You used to go to Fork Church! I’m Doretta, Delindas sister.. This is so cool that you got published! Cant wait to read it!

    • Dani says:

      Hey Doretta!!!! It was so fun seeing your comment here. Thanks for reading the interview. Hope all is well with you and yours 🙂 (Say hi to Delinda for me)

  8. Hi Dani, sorry to weigh in so late. I love the premise of Submerged … I am a lover of romantic suspense and your’s sounds so great 🙂

    A not well known or even loved character of JD Salinger is the character I would most love to meet … Seymour Glass … from Nine Short Stories and Franny and Zoe … weird and true … the other fictional character I have pretended to be for years is Hercule Poirot from Agatha Christie’s novels. Both these men are of course brilliant and live in their own world … just like me 🙂

    I look forward to reading your books. All the best.

    • Dani says:

      Thanks so much! Hope you’ll really enjoy Submerged.
      I love reading romantic suspense and I love writing it.
      Cool character picks. LOVE Hercule Poirot. I’m a big Christie fan.
      Have you ever read Rex Stout? He was just recommended to me—sounds like some fabulous mysteries.

  9. Diane Wylie says:

    Congratulations again, Dani. As a critque partner of yours, I always knew that you would reach your goals and now you have. The sky’s the limit!

    Good luck with Submerged and the rest of the series!

  10. Beth Badorf says:

    Great interview and gorgeous picture! We’re so thrilled for your book deal. I personally am smiling thinking of you opening up the package with your first published copies of Submerged inside! Whoo hoo! It’s so cool that one of my son’s former writing teachers is a published author. We’ll have to schedule a book reading at the pool this summer. “Come and hear published author, Dani Pettry read a chapter from her new novel. Book signing to follow.” : )
    Many blessings to you and your family!

    Under the Mercy,

    • Dani says:

      A book reading at the pool…..I love that 🙂
      Thanks so much for your enthusiasm! What a great group of ladies I get to share every Monday with.

  11. Katie Sawicki says:

    WOW, Dani! I am so excited for you I can hardly contain myself!! I can remember sitting in your living room many times reading over different ideas for novels that you had and dreaming about getting you published and now it has happened! Your book sounds awesome and I can’t wait to read it! I’m still in shock that I will be reading your work in a book… it’s so awesome! I am in the middle of reading The Secret Garden to my 2nd graders so, I think I would like to meet Mary and experience her life on the English moor. I would also love to see the secret garden and so would my 2nd graders! They are actually going to design their own garden… cool huh! Anyway, congratulations and I hope to talk to you soon! How can I get a copy when it comes out?
    Love, Katie 🙂

    • Dani says:

      Hey Katie Girl!!!! Thanks so much! I remember those days fondly 🙂
      You were always so encouraging and so fun to brainstorm with.
      Submerged will be released Summer 2012. It’ll be available in bookstores and online. I’ll announce its release via my website ( when it’s on sale. Hope you’ll really enjoy it.

      Hope we can catch up soon!

  12. Gen Ryan says:

    Wow Dani, congrats! Can’t wait to read “Submerged” now. Love your photo!

  13. Pete Turner says:

    Congrats Dani, I’m the woodcarver who carved your Nativity. Mike told me about your success, he’s one proud husband. Good luck with your book!

    • Dani says:

      Hi Pete,

      Wow! You are so talented! I love my Nativity set so much I’m leaving it out year round in my living room. Thank you so much for crafting something so beautiful.

      Mike and I both enjoy Clive Clussler. He writes some great adventures!

  14. Pete Turner says:

    Oops almost forgot I’m a huge Clive Clusser fan!

  15. Teri says:

    Congratulations Dani ! I think this will be a wonderful opportunity for you and I’m glad to know you are a Christian writer. I wish you much success and look foward to seeing your book on the bookstore shelves….I will definitely buy one. God Bless !

  16. Congrats, Dani! It sounds like an awesome story.
    As far as meeting a fictional character, this response may surprise you: I always wanted to go off adventuring with Dorothy Gale — not the movie version, but the plucky little girl who adventured her way through L. Frank Baum’s Oz books. With Baum’s first 14 books in the public domain, I’ve been contemplating the idea of writing a novel exploring what kind of person Dorothy would be now: Well over 100 years old but still looking like an 11 year old kid.

  17. Thanks, Dani — I’ll write it someday, once some of these other writing projects settle down!

  18. Jill W says:

    Congratulations, Dani! I can’t wait to read Submerged, you hooked me. 🙂 Ahhh, the message from your Pop Pop made me smile. What a lovely message.

  19. Faline says:

    Dani, looking forward to reading your book! Very excited for you and proud of you. Your success is well deserved. Nice interview. Love you!

  20. Maria Miner says:

    What an accomplishment! What a way to use your God given talents — and perseverance! Truly looking forward to reading your first novel.
    Enjoyed your interview, and even after all our talks, I still learned more about you.
    What a blessing – give thanks!

  21. Keli Gwyn says:

    Thanks to everyone who stopped by to learn more about Dani and her debut novel and to those who left a comment for her.

    I’ve (finally) held the drawing for the Starbuck’s gift card Dani so generously offered as a prize. My apology for the delay. The tardiness was all my doing, not Dani’s.

    The winner of the drawing is Jay Witherspoon. Congratulations, Jay! I’ll be in touch.

  22. Dani says:

    Congratulations, Jay!!!! Thanks for visiting my interview. Enjoy the Starbucks 🙂

  23. Dani says:

    Just wanted to thank everyone for visiting my interview! I really treasure all the comments. Thanks so much!

    Hope you’ll visit my website and blog and keep in touch!


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