Check This Out: The Mo & Dale Mysteries by Sheila Turnage

Today on the blog, I am thrilled beyond measure to have one of my favorite authors—the one and only Sheila Turnage! I’ve mentioned her in this post, this one, and others.

She is here today to talk about her middle grade mystery series, the Mo & Dale Mysteries, which began with the Newbery Honor-winning Three Times Lucky (click here to read a synopsis). In September, it will end (sob!) with The Law of Finders Keepers. Penguin Random House is the publisher of this series. Trust me. You will want all of them.

 

 

Sheila is represented by Margaret Riley King at WME. Her editor/publisher is Kathy Dawson of Kathy Dawson Books (which is the imprint for the last three books of the series). Now, let’s talk to Sheila!

El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Sheila: I grew up on an NC tobacco farm, and live there today with my husband Rodney, a dog named Callie, and way too many chickens, guineas and ducks. Well, I guess that’s more than four, even after I left out the goats.

El Space: Three Times Lucky won the Newbery Honor in 2013. How has winning this award been a game changer for you?
Sheila: Winning a Newbery Honor was huge for me. Honestly, at the time, I had no idea HOW huge. Thanks to that award, I get to visit schools all over the US and talk to kids about my books and about writing. Plus Three Times Lucky is published all over the world, which is just amazing. It astounds me to think of my mystery involving two best friends—Mo LoBeau and Dale Earnhardt Johnson III—being read by children in China, or Sweden, or . . .

The Newbery Honor was huge for my heart, too. It’s an amazing feeling, hearing your name called and walking out in front of all those librarians to accept that award. And it’s an incredible acknowledgement of a lifetime of work.

2657El Space: Mo and Dale are some of the best kid characters I’ve read on this side of To Kill a Mockingbird. In fact, all of your characters (Harm Crenshaw, Miss Lana, the Colonel, etc.) are well realized. What were the inspirations behind Moses, Dale, and their town—Tupelo Landing? Which character, if any, is like you? Least like you?
Sheila: Wow, thanks for the compliment!
Honestly, Mo’s just one of those characters who shows up, and starts whispering her story in your ear, if you know what I mean. She was just THERE one day—vivid and sassy and tender. And wearing those plaid sneakers. And Dale kind of grew into whatever space Mo left vacant, I think. They’re a great team.

Of course the voice is rural North Carolina—which is where I was born, and live. I’ve been hearing the poetry of that language all of my life. And readers hear it in Mo’s voice, too.

As for Tupelo Landing, there are lots of small towns in rural North Carolina, and they’re the inspiration for Mo’s and Dale’s little town. If you come to visit, you’ll find tiny towns scattered all along our many rivers and streams. The waterways used to be avenues of commerce. They’re not now, but those great towns are still here—sleepy and slow.

I think I’m a blend of Mo and Dale, probably. I’m more like Dale when I’m writing a lot. And more like Mo other times. I hope I’m least like Mo’s arch enemy—the very stuck-up Anna Celeste Simpson, aka Attila Celeste. Actually, I’m pretty sure I’m the least like her. Which is a relief.

El Space: Yes! Of the books in the Mo and Dale Mysteries, which was the most challenging book to write? Why?
Sheila: Each one presented its own challenges. But in many ways, The Law of Finders Keepers was the hardest to write, maybe because I knew it was the last and I was grieving as I wrote it. I wanted to write a book that was strong enough to end the series on. I think I’ve done that, so I’m happy with it. But honestly, it was hard on my heart. I’m going to miss Mo, Dale and Harm. All of them, really.

El Space: I will definitely miss them! What mystery books or shows, if any, inspired you as you created this series? Did you always have a certain number of books in mind for the series? Why or why not?
Sheila: When I was a girl I loved reading the Hardy Boys and so I guess they inspired me, in a way. I’ve always liked books with cliffhangers, and lots of action—and that’s what I write.

I really didn’t start out to write a series. I wrote Three Times Lucky as a standalone, and things unfolded from there. Each book is designed to be read as a standalone, or in sequence.

For kids who’ve read only Three Times Lucky, and want to know whether Mo ever finds her Upstream Mother—well, all I can say is the Desperado Detectives take up the case of Mo’s long-lost mom in The Law of Finders Keepers. Mo’s fans won’t want to miss it.

El Space: I have been waiting to find out! In rock, paper, scissors, what do you usually go for the moment you hear, “Rock-paper-scissors”? Seriously, which one? Why?
Sheila: Rock! I’m suspicious of scissors because they’re so snippy. And I get tired of using paper all day. . . .

El Space: What will you work on next?
Sheila: Thanks for asking! I’m already working on a new middle-grade book for my publisher/editor Kathy Dawson (Penguin Random House). It’s set in Eastern NC again—this time on the Outer Banks, near the Graveyard of the Atlantic. I’m having fun with it, and I hope readers will too!

El Space: Sheila, thank you for being my guest!
Sheila: Thanks so much, Linda! You rock! (paper-scissors)

Looking for Sheila? Her website’s under construction currently to add her latest book. So, you can find her at her author page on Facebook.

You can find the Mo & Dale Mysteries at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wonderful bookstores near you. But one of you will win a copy not only of the first three, but a pre-order of the fourth, The Law of Finders Keepers, which is available on September 11. Comment below to be entered in the drawing. The winner will be revealed on Monday, August 13.

Book covers courtesy of Sheila Turnage and also Goodreads. Author photo by Rodney L. Beasley. Guineas from animal-wildlife.blogspot.com. Newbery honor medal from somewhere on Pinterest. Rock-paper-scissors image from dramafever.com.

Check This Out: A Father for Bella

Today on the blog, I’m pleased to welcome your friend and mine, the wonderful Jill Weatherholt. Many of you know her through her blog, which you can get to by clicking here. Jill is here to talk about her second Love Inspired romance book, A Father for Bella, which made its debut on July 17. Click here to read a synopsis of the book. One of you will win a copy of this very book.

  

Jill is represented by Jessica Alvarez. Let’s talk to Jill!

El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Jill: 1. I once won a limbo contest while vacationing in Key West during spring break.
2. I have a fear of escalators.
3. When Derek and I first met, I asked him if he and his twin sister were identical.
4. When I work a jigsaw puzzle, I keep the box face down.

El Space: So lovely to see your second Love Inspired book. The cover is absolutely adorable! When you wrote Second Chance Romance [which you can get here], did you know that you were going to write Faith’s story, or were you leaving a second book open to inspiration? Please explain.
Jill: Thanks! I love what the art department did with the cover for A Father for Bella. They completely surprised me, but in a great way. No, since Second Chance Romance was the first book I’d ever written, I didn’t know at the time if I was capable of writing a second book. Obviously God had a different plan for me.

El Space: Yes! I love the setting—an inn in Virginia. Please tell us how you decided on that setting.
Jill: I’m happy you enjoyed visiting Whispering Slopes. Although I currently live in Charlotte, NC, I was raised in Virginia and it will always be home to me. The Shenandoah Valley, which lies between the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and the Allegheny Mountains to the west, is my favorite area in Virginia. I love the quaint small-towns sprinkled throughout the valley which make for perfect fictional settings that the Love Inspired books provide.

El Space: How is Faith like you? Different from you?
Jill: My heroine, Faith, and I are similar in that we struggle with certain fears. She’s protective over her daughter, Bella, and I’m the same with my loved ones. Like myself, Faith doesn’t open herself up to someone until she’s gained their trust. Our main difference is she has a child and I don’t have children. If I did and I were in the same situation where I’d lost my husband and my daughter’s father, I couldn’t see myself withholding photographs or other memories from my child, like Faith did.

El Space: How did you come to write for Love Inspired?


Jill: Writing for Love Inspired was a result of a last-minute contest entry. In March of 2015, I heard Harlequin had a blurb-to-book contest where the winners could possibly be offered a contract. I opened an old NaNoWriMo project titled, “Capture the Dream,” that had been sitting on my hard drive since 2010 and decided to enter. From April until July, I advanced through the stages of the contest, rewriting a horrible draft that ultimately became my first published book, Second Chance Romance. It was truly an experience I will never forget and one that I loved sharing with Derek. From the beginning, he’s been so support and encouraging. As you know, writing under contract can be quite stressful. I have my moments where I’m not the most pleasant person to be around, but he loves me despite my occasional meltdowns. And that’s why I dedicated A Father for Bella to him.

El Space: I enjoyed getting to know Joshua, the hero of the story. Thinking of your own books and the books to which you’re drawn, what are the ingredients of a good hero? Why?


Jill: When I created Joshua’s character, I wanted a man who had a wounded past and struggled with trusting women. Since his wife had left him for another man, I journaled a lot from his point of view in order to connect with his pain and the feelings of abandonment not only because of his wife, but also his father. When he’s in a position where he and Faith have to work together to keep the inn open, he realizes he’s developing an attraction for her, but he must resist, because he equates relationships to heartache and suffering. I love a hero with protective instincts, so I enjoyed developing the relationship between Joshua and Faith’s daughter Bella, too.

El Space: You also write stories for Woman’s World magazine. Why is a happy ending important to you?
Jill: Yes, over the years I’ve probably submitted twenty or more short stories to Woman’s World, all resulting in rejections. Finally, last December they bought a story inspired by my mother. I recently sold another that will be published in late August, also inspired by my mother. I have so much fun with these stories. There’s definitely a formula that the magazine looks for, but once I come up with an idea, I can usually get it written in a couple of hours. I can’t imagine ever writing anything that didn’t have a happy ending. At my day job, I see and hear a lot of the not-so-happy things that take place in and around my city, so as a writer and a reader, I need to feel good at the end of a story.

El Space: What will you work on next?
Jill: Currently, I’m working on book three, also set in the Whispering Slopes community. I also plan to continue submitting stories to Woman’s World magazine as well as venturing into writing women’s fiction.

Thanks, Jill, for joining me on the blog!

If you’re looking for Jill, you can find her on her website, blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

A Father for Bella can be found at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Wal-Mart, the Harlequin Love Inspired website, and Christianbook.com. But one of you will find a copy of this book in your mailbox just for commenting. This giveaway is U.S. only though. Sorry. The next giveaway will be international, however. Look for that interview next week. Winners to be announced on August 13. 

Author photo courtesy of Jill Weatherholt. A Father for Bella cover from Goodreads. Second Chance Romance cover courtesy of Jill Weatherholt. Jigsaw puzzle image from pixabay.com. Shenandoah Valley map from virginiashenandoahvalley.com. Woman’s World image from magazineline.com. Hero image from pluspng.com. Love Inspired logo found atbestreads-kav.blogspot.com.