Today, I'm excited to host my first-ever author interview on The Second Sentence! My guest is J. Grace Pennington, whose Western mystery novel Never releases today.
About the book: Travis Hamilton never expected to be a killer. One day he was studying to become a schoolteacher in the little western town of Spencervale, and the next he was sentenced to ten years hard labor in the Dead Mines outside town—from which few return alive.
Ross Hamilton is no detective. But when his brother is convicted of murder, he has no choice but to abandon his ranch and do all in his power to find out just what happened the night of the killing, and who is really responsible.
Neither brother is prepared to be stretched and tested to his limits and beyond by an adventure that is much bigger than either of them ever imagined.
But in the next few days, they will be. The only way to survive is to never compromise.
Click here to buy Never on Amazon Kindle, and here for the paperback edition.
Grace, welcome to The Second Sentence! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I'm excited to be here!
I'm twenty-two years old, the oldest of nine, a homeschool graduate,
Christian, and a lover of all things story. I've been writing since I
was five years old, but only started getting published this past year.
First a short story in a magazine, and then my first novel in early
summer. Now I'm self-publishing my second novel, and it's been an
amazing process so far! I also enjoy reading, music, watching movies,
hanging out with friends, family, and my horse, and eating dark
Can you share a little about what gave you the initial idea for Never?
Which came first, the idea to write a mystery, or a Western, or both?
It was always a Western in my mind—somehow that was never a
conscious decision. I had the idea of a way to powerfully
communicating the message of never giving up, no matter what, and a
few other ideas, including the idea that it would be about two
brothers, one of whom would be trying to solve a mystery. It may have
been because of the mining aspect that my mind turned automatically to
Western, I'm not entirely sure.
What kind of historical research did you have to do? Did you enjoy it?
I didn't do very much. I'm familiar with the trappings of the Western
genre from watching a ton of b-westerns in my teens, so I only
researched some of the bigger aspects—mainly the mine, and how it
would be built, and how the actual mining process would be. I
researched guns a little bit, and also whipping. Basically, whenever
a fairly large plot element came around that I wasn't sure about, I
did a little research. And yes, I tend to enjoy research, especially
when it gives me cool plot ideas or unexpected details.
What was your favorite part of the writing process for this book?
Honestly, my favorite part of the writing process was writing Travis's
half of the story, and my least favorite was writing Ross's! I had a
hard time relating to Ross throughout the story, and during NaNo I
dragged through his scenes and felt that they were incredibly boring.
Whereas I would look forward to Travis's scenes, and found him
incredibly easy to empathize with, and they flowed quite easily.
This is your second self-published novel. What went into your decision
to self-publish in the first place?
My dad suggested it to me when I was younger and started talking about
wanting to get published, explaining that self-publishing would leave
me more control over the various aspects of publishing and marketing,
even if it would be more work. My family is pretty big on
entrepreneurism, so it fit with that very well.
Do you enjoy reading Westerns and/or mysteries yourself? If so, what
are some of your favorite books/authors in those genres?
I've actually never read any Western books, though I've seen many
Western films—mostly b-movies from the forties and fifties featuring
Roy Rogers. I've also seen some memorable bigger Westerns, like True
Grit, Shane, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and a few more. I
have, however, been reading mysteries almost since I learned how to
read, starting with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys when I was little,
graduating to Sherlock Holmes when I was older, and now getting more
into Agatha Christie and Ellery Queen. Sherlock Holmes is definitely
my favorite, though I admire Agatha Christie's intricate plots and
twists. Another mystery that I very much enjoyed was The Red House
Mystery by A. A. Milne.
You've previously published a science-fiction novel, and I understand
you plan to continue that as a series. Do you think you'll write any
more historical fiction in the future?
I imagine I will, though I don't have many concrete plans. Although
science-fiction is my main genre, I want to branch out a lot, and I
have some vague ideas that are historical in nature. The most
concrete is the possibility of a Civil War alternate history that a
friend and I want to write someday. I also have multiple abandoned
historical fiction novels and novellas, and though I have no plans to
finish any of them, you never know. It all depends on what my
imagination can cook up, and where God leads.
Thank you for having me at The Second Sentence, Elisabeth!
You're very welcome! Thank you for visiting, and the best of luck with Never!