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Excellent storytelling, accurate historical reporting, and gritty, persevering characters

The Story behind His Guilt by Shelley Shepard Gray

I’m please to welcome Shelley Shepard Gray. It’s great to have her along. Her most recent release is His Guilt. Here’s a little more about the book:

Will a man wrongly accused of assault be convinced to return and stay in the Amish community he left? Find out in His Guilt, the next book in Shelley Shepard Gray’s The Amish of Hart County series. Neeta is one of the few people in Hart County who doesn’t believe Mark is guilty of hurting anyone. Just when Mark starts to believe a new life is possible, a close friend of Neeta’s is attacked. Once again, everyone in the community seems to believe he is guilty. Will Mark be able to find the attacker before Neeta becomes his next victim?

Shelley, can you tell us a little more about the story behind this story?

As much as I try to write a detailed outline and synopsis before I begin each book, I never get very far. Instead, I have a rather convoluted writing process. It works for me, but it is messy-and I imagine for most people-rather exasperating. For some books, like HER SECRET, the first novel in the Amish of Hart County, my writing process goes fairly quickly.  I finish the book with time to spare and feel more or less pleased with the novel the whole time I’m writing it.

This didn’t happen with HIS GUILT.

My first drafts are usually made up with a whole lot of short chapters. I write ten pages a day and clip along at a good pace. Then, during the second and third drafts, I add details and check for discrepancies. While writing this novel, I kept moving the scenes around. And adding characters. And then cutting them…and then putting them back in the book. For a while, I didn’t think it was ever going to get done!

Maybe it’s because I knew that the characters I was choosing to write about were complex, had complicated back stories and didn’t always make the best decisions because of that…especially the hero of the novel, Mark Fisher.

The reader discovers during the first couple of pages that Mark has a past, and that they’re a lot of rumors spinning around about him, too. This makes him wary and gruff and untrusting. Excellent qualities for a character! Difficult qualities for the hero of a novel! <g> I found myself getting frustrated with him more often than not.

However, like Waneta Cain, the heroine in the novel, I didn’t give up on Mark. I enjoyed how Waneta’s teasing and needling softened Mark’s shell, and eventually allowed all the other characters to witness both his outstanding character but also his faith.

I love having multiple storylines in novels, and while I did struggle with Mark and Waneta’s romance a bit, I thoroughly enjoyed writing about Lora and Eddie’s relationship. Lora Weaver’s character echoes Mark’s in many ways. She’s still struggling for acceptance and to find her place in the community. I loved that she finds her own happily ever after with a very surprising man.

When I at last finished the novel just days before it was due to be turned into my editor, I realized why I have adopted the writing process that I have.  It allows me to go on the journey with my characters. They surprise me, intrigue me and yes, sometimes even frustrate me.  But I end up loving them in spite of their imperfections.

I hope you will feel the same way about HIS GUILT. It’s filled with a lot of characters who are hoping for a better future, and just happen to be surrounded by someone who is causing a lot of danger and havoc in Horse Cave, KY.

Shelley Shepard Gray is a “New York Times” and “USA Today” bestselling author, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time HOLT Medallion winner. She lives in southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town’s bike trail.

Find out more about Shelley at

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