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. Keli Gwyn says:

    Welcome, Dani! It’s great to have you as my guest. The readers of your books will be in for a treat, I’m sure, because from what you’ve said, they’ll “join” your characters on some amazing adventures. Sounds like the kind of stories that will cause readers to lose sleep because they can’t stop reading and turn out the light.

  2. Beth Vogt says:

    A sabotaged flight. Two murdered divers. A single clue—a grainy image of sunken treasure.
    Wow–you had my attention with that hook! Submerged sounds like a great read. Congrats on your three-book deal with Bethany.
    Now to go find some Trader Joe’s Midnight Moo.


    • Dani says:

      Thanks, Beth! So glad you liked the blurb. I had a blast writing Submerged. The research on my hero’s profession alone was so much fun.

      Hope you enjoy the Midnight Moo. LOL

  3. Dani says:

    Thanks for having me, Keli. You made my first interview experience a really great one 🙂
    I really enjoy a mixture of romance, adventure, and suspense. Hope my readers will too!

  4. Cheryl Wyatt says:

    Dani, this story sounds wonderful…exactly the kind of book I love. I am SO thrilled for you and for Bethany to have scooped you right up! You are an outstanding writer and you have worked beyond hard for this. Super, duper congrats!


    • Dani says:

      Thanks, Cheryl. You are such a sweetheart! You’ve been such a source of inspiration to me. Always encouraging, always ready to help others, always full of Christ’s love.

  5. Cheryl Wyatt says:

    Great interview! Love the blog.

  6. Stephen Leininger says:

    Congrats Ms Dani! Can’t wait to read them!


    • Dani says:

      Thanks, Stephen. I’ll make sure you get one 🙂
      Miss seeing you every week. Hope you’re still working on the story.

  7. Joe Wilson says:


    I look forward to reading your books. Great interview.


  8. corefoundations says:

    Fantastic! Course the best thing about this book deal is that I get the “ride” with you!


  9. Gordon Moe says:

    Classy photo, very nice interview, and great sales pitch for “Submerged”.
    I am looking forward to actually seeing the book and maybe trying some Moo with the Starbuck’s coffee I hope to win.
    I wish you every success with this terrific opportunity and all the others to come.



    • Dani says:

      Thanks, Dad. I’m sure you’re not at all biased. Thanks for checking it out.
      Yep, the Midnight Moo is awesome with Starbucks coffee. I make iced mochas at home all the time with it. Guess I know where I get my love of coffee 🙂

      Love you.

  10. says:

    Dani – I love stories that empower the female spirit…. I will look forward to reading your book…and BTW i would like to meet Atticus Finch ….To your success!!

  11. Lisa DeBerry says:

    Hi Dani,

    Submerged sounds amazing!! Can’t wait to get my hands on it. I’m craving something chocolate now 🙂


  12. Jonathan Moor says:

    Congratulations on getting your books published! I’m looking forward to reading them! 🙂


    • Dani says:

      Thanks, Jonathon! Really hope you enjoy them all. Submerged will be out Summer 2012, with two more novels to follow in 2013.

  13. Andy Moor says:


    What a wonderful blessing! Wishing you the best on your first publication; looking forward to many more successul writing endeavors.

  14. Jen Jordan says:

    OK, I have to admit when my friends talk about all the books they are reading I think, HOW do you find time to read!? Surely I will make time for this one! Already have an Adirondack beach and chair picked out for the release. Well done girlie-pal 🙂 !!!!!!!

    • Dani says:

      Thanks, Jen. I’m so happy it will be a summer release as it takes place in the summer. Beach reads are always so much fun! Thanks so much for your support!

  15. Rebecca Booth says:

    The clock is running, the body count is rising, and the killer is closing in! This sentence has me hooked to read SUBMERGED!

  16. I loved getting to know you better through this interview. I can’t wait to read the book!

  17. Scott says:

    I like that she’s obviously worked her way up the hard way, and is inspiring others! Her book sounds exciting, and I can’t wait until it comes out!

  18. Sherrinda says:

    Goodness…do you model too? You are beautiful!

    Congratulations on the sale! A three book deal is HUGE! Thanks so much for sharing your story!

    Hhhhmmm, a literary character. Of course, Mr. Darcy comes to mind, in the male category. I’m thinking maybe Jane Bennett for the female. Such a strong character.

    • Dani says:

      Hi Sherrinda! Thanks so much!
      It’s funny…I was torn between Mr. Darcy or Elizabeth Bennett. Guess we are both Austen fans. 🙂
      I chose Elizabeth because she’s so spirited and witty. Jane is a great pick too! Now, I’m thinking it’s time to read P&P again. I re-read it every year or so.

  19. Sharon Eberle says:

    Dani: Congratulations! What great news for you and your family. Hope the book is a rousing success.


    • Dani says:

      Thanks, Sharon! It’s been a really exciting time. Now it’s back to hard work on Book Two (tentatively titled Suspect).

  20. Jay Witherspoon says:


    Congratulations on your book deal and good luck with sales later this year! Mike is a great promoter of you and your books and will help keep the books flying off the shelf! I look forward to buying a copy of SUBMERGED from Mike for a little beach reading this summer – got to follow “the rest of the story” to find out where that darn Russian treasure is and how it got there!

    Good Luck,

    • Dani says:

      Hi, Jay!

      Mike is definitely my biggest fan 🙂

      Thanks so much for stopping by and checking out my interview. Hope Submerged will be a great beach read for you. I really appreciate your support.

  21. Camille Potvin says:

    Loved the interview, how cool!! Great job!! I so can’t wait till I see your books in the stores, I’ll be the first in line for the autograph.

    • Dani says:


      Thanks so much for your enthusiasm and support!

      Keli did a great job with the interview. She made it such a wonderful experience.

  22. Mike Pettrey says:

    Best selling author – (top 10 list for sure I know it); even more beautiful inside than out (no small task if you look at how beautiful you are above); the most perfect Home-Schooling Mom on the planet and the love of My life – It is good to Me – Everything about you makes me love you more each day!!! I have no idea what I did to deserve such a blessing, but I thank God every day for that “First Dance” so many years ago now. It makes my heart so full to see you smile so much as you begin your career. What a journey it will be!!!!!!
    All My Love
    Johnny 🙂

    • Dani says:

      Thanks, Johnny 🙂

      I’m equally blessed!

      I can’t even begin to express how much I appreciate your support—all these years you never gave up on me. You kept saying ‘one day.’ Still amazed it’s all happened, but you knew it all along. What would I have done without you?
      So extremely thankful I get to share the journey with you!

      Oh, and perfect homeschooling mom? The kids will have a good laugh at that one, but bless you for saying it 🙂

  23. Martin Swing says:

    It was great learning a bit more about you and the path to this opportunity. Congratulations on your success to date and I am sure we will see a lot more in the future. Hopefully by now Mike has communicated that since you used my first Daughter’s name, Bailey, in SUBMERGED, that you have to use my second daughter, Taylor in your second book.
    I look forward to getting my copy later this year.

    • Dani says:

      Hi, Martin!

      I’ll definitely put Taylor into my second book 🙂 I’m working on Suspect now and know just the character for it.

      I used to babysit a little girl named Bailey way back when and have loved the name ever since!

      Thanks for checking out the interview and really hope you’ll enjoy Submerged.


  24. Wendy says:

    Dani! Congratulations! I loved meeting you at ACFW. I never knew what came of you and your book(s)! And now I do. What a major score. I was an English lover, math hater, too.

    And here’s my favorite line from this awesome interview: Looking for wholeness outside of Christ is always going to let you down.

    So cool to see you here!
    ~ Wendy

    • Dani says:

      Hey Wendy! It was great meeting you at ACFW. Thanks for stopping by.
      You’ll have to let me know what’s going on with you. I know you were getting very close. Love to hear what’s happening.

  25. Pamela Dudish says:

    I am so excited for your success! If i can – I will be pre-ordering on Amazon as soon as available! Hurray for books # 1, 2, 3, and all those in the future!

    • Dani says:


      Thanks so much for your excitement!!!! I’ll definitely post the information on my website as soon as they are available for pre-order.

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