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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Spotlight on Nancy Mehl and In the Dead of Winter


Nancy Mehl's novels are all set in her home state of Kansas. Although some people think of Kansas as nothing more than flat land and cattle, she believes they really are quite interesting. Nancy is a mystery buff who loves the genre and is excited to see more inspirational mysteries becoming available to readers who share her passion. Her "Ivy Towers Mystery Series" combines two of her favorite things – mystery and snow. Unfortunately, the past several winters have been pretty dry. She enjoys writing fiction because she can make it snow as much as she wants!

Nancy works for the City of Wichita, assisting low-income seniors and the disabled. She also spends time with her volunteer group, Wichita Homebound Outreach. She lives in Wichita, Kansas with her husband of thirty-five years, Norman. Her son, Danny, is a successful graphic designer. He designed covers for several of her previous books.

by Nancy Mehl
Published by Barbour Publishing / Heartsong Presents Mysteries


College student Ivy Towers reluctantly returns to Winter Break, Kansas to settle the estate of her late, great-aunt Bitty Flanagan, owner of Miss Bitty's Bygone Bookstore. Bitty's fall from a library ladder seems suspicious to Ivy, and items are missing from the store. An anonymous note confirms Ivy's worst fears. Someone in Winter Break murdered Aunt Bitty. But why? Ivy and her former boyfriend, Deputy Sheriff Amos Parker, search for the truth about Bitty's death and discover dark secrets that are worth killing for. As harsh winter weather rages all around Winter Break, another storm brews deep in Ivy's heart. Everything she believes will be tested, and in the end, she will discover that love lurks in the most unexpected places.

Buy Your Copy Today!

In the Dead of Winter will be available on Amazon sometime this month. For anyone who is interested in purchasing a copy, you can e-mail me at nancymehlbooks [at], and I will notify you when it's available.

One important note: Cozy in Kansas is already available for preorder on Amazon and on Cozy will contain the first three Ivy Tower mysteries: In the Dead of Winter, Bye, Bye Bertie, and For Whom the Wedding Bell Tolls. It will be released in December.


1. What gave you the inspiration for this your story in this anthology?

Believe it or not, I think it began with frustration over the lack of snow one winter. My agent told me Barbour's new mystery book club was accepting proposals for cozy mysteries. So I sat down at the computer and started typing. I created a place in Kansas where it snowed more than anywhere else in the state. A place where "winter comes early and stays late." Truth be told, Winter Break, Kansas is my perfect town. The place I'd live if it existed. The rest of the story evolved from there.

2. How much of your own experiences influenced your characters? What aspects became traits that are theirs and theirs alone?

I truly believe authors transfer some of their own traits to their characters. To create characters with depth, you must be able to understand them. Some authors who craft particularly villainous individuals may not admit to this, but all of us have had selfish motives and desires in our lives. Perhaps we would never go to the extent our antagonists go – but we understand the drive behind their deeds.

In reference to In the Dead of Winter, I related to Ivy in many ways. Her desire for a simpler life in a small town is mine. Her attraction to old Victorian houses comes from me, along with her enjoyment of books. Her love for God and her desire for justice stems from me. Unfortunately, her nosiness and impatience are mine also. One of my friends said that when she read In the Dead of Winter, she just envisioned me as Ivy. Nice to hear since Ivy is in her twenties and I'm in my...(cough, cough).

As far as traits that belong to my characters that are not mine: I would never tackle a one pound cheeseburger like the one made by Ruby in Ruby's Redbird Diner. (Maybe one half now and one half later!) I find a pound of meat a rather unsettling proposition. Also, I think Ivy is a little braver than I am. She spends time alone in a funeral home because it's the only place where she can use a computer. I don't think you'd ever find me doing the same thing. When she hears a noise, thinking someone is in the mortuary who shouldn't be there, she tries to escape out the front door. I would either be crouched in a fetal position inside a locked room – or passed out on the floor – making myself a much easier target!

3. What themes exist in In the Dead of Winter that you hope the reader sees? Are there any themes that weren't overt but developed as the story progressed?

There are a few things. First of all I want everyone who reads my books to come away with something more than a good story. I certainly want them to enjoy themselves and get away from life for a while, but I also want to let them know that God loves them. In the Dead of Winter is about a girl who discovers that God has a plan for her life. And even though it looks different than the life He has for her parents, she finds out that it's just as important. God has a plan for all of us. To me, one of the saddest things in life is to find someone who feels like a "generality" instead of a "specific" – someone who has a purpose. We all have "the mark of the high calling" to achieve. We're all important to God. Whether we feel purposeless or whether we've cut God out of our future with our own plans and purposes, it’s important to bring our lives and lay them down at His feet, asking Him to put us on the "ordered path" he has for us. Our true fulfillment lies in this.

Also, there is a theme of forgiveness in my book. Forgiveness is the greatest gift you can give yourself. Forgiving others and forgiving yourself will set you free to be everything God has called you to be. Holding on to resentment, jealously or self-pity will stop you in your tracks. These things are life-killers. The idea of forgiveness did tend to grow as the story progressed, even though I did plan to address it. In the end, it became very important to the plot.

There is one truth that I have determined to always make a theme in everything I write. It is the fact that God is good. In In the Dead of Winter, Pastor Taylor says over and over, "The goodness of God gives me strength." It's important for everyone to know God for who He truly is. This is where our strength and our comfort come from. There is an unfortunate perception in the world (and in some parts of the church) that God is going around giving people diseases or taking loved ones from them. This is absolutely false. God is a good God. He is loving, kind, and merciful. He gave His most precious gift to a sinful world to bridge the gap between sin and holiness. He has made it clear that His love never changes, and it is to be trusted above everything. I've promised God that I will never, ever write anything that compromises that truth.

4. What were your most difficult parts to write? Your favorite?

Actually, I enjoyed writing all of it. It's the editing that gets to me! When I find that I've repeated words or used the same non-verbal actions ten times in one scene – I get very frustrated. In one part of the story, I had Ivy touching people so often, she appeared to be in need of some kind of counseling!

In the Dead of Winter was my first cozy mystery. My other books had more suspense. In cozies, humor is a part of the story. I had a blast trying out my "funny side, not only in dialogue but in creating quirky characters. I've had more fun writing these cozy mysteries than anything else I've ever done.

5. When is your next book coming out and what is the story?

Bye, Bye Bertie has already been released to the book club. It will available to the public in six months. In Bertie, Ivy finds a map she thinks will lead to a treasure. Instead, she finds something much different. Also, Ivy and Amos (the local deputy sheriff) will take an important step in their relationship. And a new character will be introduced. Someone who has been missing a long, long time. Can't say anymore because it will give the plot away!

There are two more in this series, For Whom the Wedding Bell Tolls, and There Goes Santa Claus.

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Thank you, Nancy, for being in the spotlight with us.

Readers, leave a comment for your chance to win a FREE autographed copy of In the Dead of Winter.

If you wish to comment but don't want to be entered, say so when you post. Make sure you also leave your email address (name at domainname or that it's available for viewing in your blogger profile. Wouldn't want you to miss out on winning a book. :)

And if you want to make certain you don't miss anything, check the box that says 'email follow-up comments to:' when you leave a comment and they'll be sent to the email address associated with your blogging account. That way you'll be notified of any comments and will know when I announce the winner.

This week, the contest is open to US/Canada residents only.

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Elizabeth Ludwig said...

Great interview, Nancy. Can't wait for the rest of the books in this series!

Darlene Franklin said...

How nice to meet someone else who thinks winter may be the best season of all!

In the Dead of Winter is a great book, everyone. Sign up and enjoy.

Frances said...

Great interview, Nancy. We must be 'kindred spirits' as I'm one of those nutty people who love snow, too.

I'm going to take Bye Bye Bertie to the hospital with me. Can't wait to read it.


Unknown said...

No need to enter me in the contest. I've read In The Dead of Winter and loved it. Same as Bye Bye Bertie. Can't wait for Wedding Bells.

Kimberley Woodhouse said...

In the Dead of Winter is indeed as amazing book - Nancy is wonderful!
I'll help spread the word!

Carolynn said...

Please enter me, i would love to read the book, thanks!

windycindy said...

Hi, I love anthologies. Please sign me up because this one sounds very good! Many thanks, Cindi

Cherie J said...

Enjoyed the spotlight and would like to be entered in the drawing.


Susan said...

Nancy, you're an editor's joy as well as an all-round great gal. Thanks for writing such FUN cozies. I can't wait for the next Mehl series to come across my desk.
(No need to enter me in the drawing. I've got a few copies already. But I am STILL WAITING for an autographed one!)
Your Mysterious Mystery Editor, SKD

NancyMehl said...

Thanks to all of you for your wonderful comments. I feel blessed to know you.

And Susan, I would be happy to send you signed copies of every single book I write. You helped to put them in print! YOU are every writer's dream editor. I don't even have words to tell you how special you are to me - and I should - since I'm a writer! LOL!


tetewa said...

I'd love the chance to read this one!

SmilingSally said...

I'd like to be considered to win this book.

haras w said...

Please enter me for the contest please. I would love to read the book.

Carole said...

I love cozy mysteries and would love to read Nancy's book. Thanks for the interesting interview and chance to win a copy.

cjarvis [at] bellsouth [dot] net

Tiffany Amber Stockton said...

We have a winner from this drawing and that is:


Congratulations! I've emailed you for your mailing information so we can send out your book.

FIVE other winners are announced today. Check out the spotlights from Robin Jones Gunn forward through Pat Casiello and Kathie Clare.

As always, thank you for your continued support.