INTERVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Author Kathleen Neely

by | Apr 19, 2019 | writing

Hello, readers. I am welcoming back to the blog an author who visited a couple of months ago – author Kathleen Neely. She has a new release to share and a giveaway opportunity! So, let’s tune in with Kathleen and find out what she’s got for us today.

Welcome back, Kathleen! Can you tell us a little about your newest release?

Beauty for Ashes is a story about living with guilt, recognizing its far-reaching consequences, and seeking redemption. Novelist Nathan Drummond carries a secret for ten years, one that gripped him with panic attacks at the thought of it being revealed. Vowing to never forget the cost of his sinful folly, he journals. With his fear of discovery, he burns each journal entry, keeping the ashes hidden in a jar.

When he’s forced to move back to his hometown, Nathan comes face to face with his past. He begins to write a novel that parallels the events of ten years ago. He begins to see the cost of his sin and realizes it will cost him the only woman that he’s ever loved. 

Beauty for Ashes blurb:

Nathan Drummond’s actions at the age of eighteen had devastating consequences. Writing became therapeutic, leading him into a successful career as a mystery writer. With seven novels to his credit, Nathan is rapidly becoming a household name. 

Family responsibilities force him to return to his home town , pushing him too close to painful memories. Although he’d intended the living situation to be temporary, Nathan didn’t count on falling in love. 

As guilt threatens a return of panic attacks, Nathan begins to write a novel paralleling the tragic event from his youthful folly. Will the novel be seen as a work of fiction, or will it expose his secret? 

Wow. I’m interest in piqued. What was the inspiration for Beauty for Ashes?

I read Water from My Heart, a novel by Charles Martin, one of my favorite authors. When I finished that remarkable novel, I knew that I wanted to write something with a similar theme, living with guilt, seeing its far-reaching effects, and seeking redemption. My novel is a different story, different plot, setting, and characters, but the over-arching theme is the same.

I do like this theme – one of my favorite tropes.

Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer?

I think that characterization is one of the most important elements of writing a novel. Authors need to dig deep down inside their characters, show what drives them, how they think and feel. I recently read a novel that gripped me. When I finished, I realized the simplicity of the plot. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t a deeply orchestrated story line. I lived it through the well-written characters.  

James Scott Bell writes about this quite a bit. He believes the plot should be simple enough to explain in a couple of sentences and simple enough for most anyone to grasp. It truly is the characters that set it apart and, in the end, drive the story. Great advice!

Do you have a favorite time of day to write What about a favorite place?

Writing a book takes a long time. For me, it’s the better part of a year. It’s important to be comfortable. I like natural light. When the house is empty and quiet, I move from my office to the kitchen table, right beside a big double window. That’s where I work best. When I can’t claim that spot, I hide away in my office. My desk is beside a window, but light is more hampered by trees and my Camellia bush.

I like this perspective – “writing a book takes a long time…it’s important to be comfortable…” I don’t often put that much thought into my writing sessions. But I will from now on.

Can you tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.

Readers will encounter an urban ministry, details about basketball and the NBA, dyslexia, and classical violin.

Nathan finds himself volunteering at an urban afterschool center working with teens. He tutors and mentors a dyslexic teen. They share a love for basketball.

Angie, an employee at the center, plays classical violin. I had the assistance of a first chair violinist from a major symphony orchestra as part of my research.

That’s quite a bit! Great tidbits!

Do you have any current projects you’re working on? Care to share?

I’m doing on a story about a mother’s love. After a teenage pregnancy, she gave her baby up. Twelve years later, she has another chance to be part of his life. Until the unthinkable happens. That’s all you get. Sorry. No spoiler alert.

Thank you so much for your time, Kathleen, and for sharing about your process. Now, readers, let’s dive intoBeauty for Ashes !

Beauty for Ashes

Enjoy an ExcerptE

Nathan picked up their sandwiches at the counter while Angie found a booth. He slid in to join her. They made small talk, avoiding the obvious conversation. The question hung heavy. Did they have a chance at a relationship? Nathan found his heart and his brain at war with each other, knowing his brain would win. It felt like a knife to his heart. How ironic. He had saved a woman from her knife wounds but couldn’t stop his own from bleeding. 

Angie dabbed at her mouth. “Carlos probably won’t be returning to the center. His Aunt Rosa told me she plans to take them to live with her. She has two children and was frightened to do it when his father was a threat. If his mother agrees, they will move in with them.” 

Nathan finished his sandwich and pushed his plate to the side. “I hope he doesn’t have to go back to the house for anything, even after they clean it up. It would be way too traumatic.”

When they finished their sandwiches, they stood and walked toward the door. Angie reached for Nathan’s hand, turning her eyes toward him. Coffee brown with fringed lashes, flecked with light. The eyes that he froze on his TV screen. Could he really walk away from her?  “Is your car still at the center? Shall I take you there or home?” he asked.

“Yes, it’s there, but I’m weary. Would you just take me home? I’ll ride in with Elizabeth in the morning.” 

Nathan turned onto her street and parked in front of her house. “Is Elizabeth home?”

“No.” Angie raised her eyebrows with a slight smile. “She’s with her friend.”

Nathan opened his car door. She stopped him. “I’m fine, Nathan.”  He ignored her and walked around to open her car door. Angie walked beside him, fishing her keys out of her pocket. When they reached the door, he took the key from her and unlocked the front door.  They entered in the darkness until Angie reached the light. “I never expected to be this late or I’d have left lights on.”

Nathan glanced up toward the porch. “You should have motion-detector lights here. OK if I check your house out? Your dad would want me to.”

“Yes, worrywart.” But pleasure glowed from her eyes. “Shall I make us some tea?” 

He should check the house and leave. There was no good that could come from spending any more time with her. After a prolonged pause, he nodded. “Sure.” As Nathan did a quick walk-through, another irony hit him like a boulder. He was walking through Ramón Garcia’s home. This is where he’d lived, laughed, loved his wife, raised his daughter. And now, ten years later, the man who killed him walked through his home. Nathan returned to the kitchen. 

“No monsters under the beds?” Angie teased as she reached the mugs. 

“Nope. All clear.” Only me.  They carried their mugs to the living room. He should have chosen the chair, but Angie sat on the sofa and looked up at him with those doe eyes. None of this was her fault. They had started something, and he owed her more than a brush off. He sat beside her and placed the steaming mug on a coaster before moving an arm behind her.  “Angie, it was wrong for me to kiss you. Wrong to care for you as much as I do. There’s no possibility of a future for us. I know you don’t understand the reasons, but please trust me on this.” 

“Why don’t you just tell me the reasons? How can I trust you when I don’t know? You said it’s something in your past, but I don’t care about your past. I care about the man sitting here with me today.”

“You can say that because you don’t know everything about me. If you did, you’d probably hate me.” 

She raised her hand and laid a curved palm against his cheek. “I could never hate you, mi amor.” 

Mi amor, my love. It was Nathan’s undoing. He pulled her close and held her as he had done at the crime scene. Only now, she was the strong one, and he needed a place of respite. Her hands went around his neck, buried in his hair as she cradled his head against her. Her lips touched his cheek, and he turned to meet them. The kiss deepened, leaving him breathless.  “Oh, Angie,” he whispered against her. 

She stepped back and tilted her head so she could see his face. Her eyes twinkled. “Nathan, here’s the wonderful thing. You have a mysterious secret in your past, but that is past. You say we cannot have a future together, but the future’s not here. Today is not the past or the future. It’s the present, so it’s our time together.”

Her words brought a curve to the sides of his mouth. “Yes, it is. But what does that make tomorrow? Isn’t that the future?”

“Yes, but here’s the beauty. When it arrives, it will then be the present.”

He suppressed a chuckle. “And next week?”

“It’s also the future that will soon become the present.”

He allowed the smile to grow. “Angie, Angie. Always the optimist. Are you ever a skeptic?”

“Not if I can help it. What good does it do? We can choose sorrow or joy. I choose joy.”

He leaned in and kissed her again.  She held her face inches from his. “Nathan, do I make you happy?”

He rested his forehead against hers. Had he ever really been happy before Angie? He’d had accomplishments that pleased him. He had enjoyment playing basketball. But those were temporary— superficial feelings that didn’t touch the heart. Angie awakened something deeper that had been missing. “More than anyone ever has.”

“Then choose joy, mi amor. Choose joy.”

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More About the Author

Kathleen Neely resides in Greenville, SC with her husband, two cats, and one dog. She is a retired elementary principal, and enjoys time with family, visiting her two grandsons, traveling, and reading.

She is the author of The Street Singer and Beauty for Ashes. A third novel, The Least of These, will be released in May, 2019. Kathleen won second place in a short story contest through ACFW-VA for her short story “The Missing Piece” and an honorable mention for her story “The Dance”. Both were published in a Christmas anthology. Her novel, The Least of These, was awarded first place in the 2015 Fresh Voices contest through Almost an Author. She has numerous devotions published through Christian Devotions.

Kathleen continues to speak to students about writing and publication processes. She is a member of Association of Christian Fiction Writers.

Connect with Kathleen and her books

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Kathleen is offering a digital copy of Beauty for Ashes to one (1) winner, chosen by Rafflecopter. Please follow the directions on the Rafflecopter below to enter.

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