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.
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.
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?
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 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 ~ www.danipettrey.com