Debut Author Spotlight: Dani Pettrey

Name: Dani Pettrey

Book: Submerged

Current Home: Maryland

Job (when not writing): Homeschool mom 

Author Icon: I’ve been inspired by so many writers, but if I had to pick just one, I would definitely say Dee Henderson. She’s a phenomenal story teller and such an inspiring person.

How many manuscripts do you have hidden under the bed?: Two under the bed and two more that may still see publication one day :)

How long did it take you to sell your first book?: From the first thought of "maybe I’ll write a book" to contract was seven years.

Can you give us a rundown of writing Submerged?

The concept for Submerged and the entire Alaskan Courage series all stemmed from a movie I watched about cave divers. I found it fascinating. I kept thinking, Who does something so highly skilled and dangerous for a living? I’ve always been intrigued and a little in awe of adventure and extreme athletes. So, I decided to write a series about people who pursue adventure for a living. I started with cave diving, since that was what initially sparked my interest. I continued researching various adventure sports and soon the entire McKenna clan appeared — each sibling with their own area of expertise. Once I had the family and their professions, I needed the perfect location. I did some research and chose Alaska, not only for its beauty, but because it is ripe for adventure and there is an inherent level of danger if you aren’t properly prepared. Not being a "plotter" I sat down with the idea of the characters and the location in mind and just started writing. It was thrilling how quickly each sibling came to life and how the story started to unfold.

The easy part for me were the characters. They quickly took on a life of their own and it has been such a joy spending time with them. The challenging part for me was balancing the technical research with a fast moving pace. I wanted to be as technically accurate as possible, but still wanted the story, and particularly the action scenes, to move at a fast clip. Finding that balance was challenging.

Your heroine, Bailey, has quite a troubled past. What prompted Bailey's bad girl behavior and what led to her maturation?

Bailey longed for acceptance, to know that she mattered and that she was loved. Unfortunately, as is often the case, she looked for it in all the wrong places. Instead of finding fulfillment, she ended up broken and empty. I really struggled with this as a teen, and I think it is why my heart aches for young girls struggling with this today. I know what it’s like to be lonely, to long for acceptance, to feel inadequate. I’ve been there and so has Bailey. It took Christ coming into my life for me to see the worth and wholeness I have in Him.

Bailey becomes a Christian in college and it turns her life around, but unfortunately, she’s still living in bondage to her past. When her aunt dies, she has no choice but to go home and face that past head on.

Returning home to set her deceased aunt's affairs in order, the last thing Bailey is looking for is love. But then she reunites with Cole. What about this hero gets your heroine's attention?

Cole and Bailey have a past and, like it or not, its still got a strong hold on her. Seeing Cole resurrects a wealth of emotions — a surprising mix of good and bad. She’s tried to forget him, but Cole has proved unforgettable. She finds his confidence extremely attractive. She’s always worried what others think, but Cole is totally at ease in his own skin. He knows who he is and what he’s about. He’s strong, breathtakingly handsome and fiercely protective of those he loves. He works hard, but beneath it all is the soul of a surfer. He knows how to enjoy the outdoors and life to the fullest.

While seeing Cole is the last thing Bailey thought she wanted, he just might be exactly what she needs.

And for Cole, what is it about Bailey that he never forgot?

Cole has never forgotten the vibrant and beautiful Bailey he knew before her downward spiral — the Bailey he still believes exists beneath all the pain and the bravado. He longs to see her set free from the chains of her past and to see the real Bailey shine through.

While they are falling in love, your characters are also dealing with a murder investigation. How did you balance out the romance aspects with the suspense?

Lots of rewrites LOL!

Actually, rewrites are a big part of my writing process. I tend to write in layers. I get the first draft down and then sit back at look at the story at the heart of it all. Then I set to work. I consider my first drafts my fun, creative part and the rewrites the work. As I shape my second draft, I try to pay particular attention to the romance and suspense threads. I want both to be equally strong and both to weave together naturally. It’s a definitely a balancing act, but a very vital one. 

Your story takes place in small town Alaska. How did you create such a realistic setting?

Visiting Alaska is a dream of mine, but I haven’t made it there yet. Creating a realistic setting really came down to two things: a ton of research and a good dose of imagination. I started by reading a wide variety of research books — travel guides, diaries, and history books. I devoured travel blogs and watched all the movies I could find filmed on location there. I looked at hundreds of photographs and really let the images soak in before I set to work creating my fictional town of Yancey. While Yancey is fictional, the McKennas travel to various place in Alaska and I truly hope I did the gorgeous State justice. It’s simply a breathtaking place. I’ve got my dream trip all planned :)

We know that this is the first in your Alaskan Courage series. Can you tell us a bit about book number two?

Book two of my Alaskan Courage series is titled Shattered. It’s Piper McKenna’s story and it will be available in February.

Do you have more questions about Dani Pettrey and her writing process? If so, let her know in the comments below. And be sure to stop by RT's Everything Inspirational Page for more genre coverage!