Vanessa Riley holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering and a masters in industrial engineering and engineering management from Stanford University. Yet, she is also on a mission to help the world “fall in love with powerful Regency heroes and heroines who battle for peace with a flintlock revolver and a prayer.”

Despite her technical side, Vanessa is no stranger to creative writing and journalism, having served as national publications chairperson for a large student-run organization; as editor-in-chief of Engenuity, a Penn State student magazine; and as assistant editor-in-chief for her high school newspaper.

Vanessa is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, and a wife and mom.

Your career choices are quite diverse! Which came first, your desire to write or your decision to pursue engineering? Is there a way in which they compliment each other?

Great question. I was always very good at math and science, and fascinated by gears and how things work. Sorry, Mom, for taking apart the stereo. I put it back together with fewer parts than it had. (It still worked, thank goodness).

Yet the need to be creative was there too. Knitting, sewing, crocheting, writing, making things. I think I used creativity as an escape.

How does your faith play into your work?

It weighs heavily. I grew up Southern Baptist. We cut our teeth on the King James Version of the Bible. The poetry, structure, and beauty of the verses still influence me. I try to add at least one of the stories as a theme in each of my books.

Has God ever provided an unexpected “detour” in your life that turned out to be positive?

When it was time to select a graduate school, I had my heart set on staying at my undergrad institution, Penn State. I was comfortable there and wasn’t ready for change. My advisor was the greatest, and I loved doing research for him. To show all my friends and my mom I had considered every option, I went to visit a few other universities. When I hit Stanford’s campus, I knew this was where God wanted me to be. A week after I accepted Stanford’s offer, all the reasons for staying at Penn State evaporated. My treasured advisor took another job at a different university. I would’ve been left high and dry. A year later, I met my husband of seventeen years at Stanford. Best detour ever. Listening to God’s nudging us out of our comfort zone is the greatest lesson any person can possess.

Let’s talk about your debut novel, Madeline’s Protector (Pelican Books, April 2013). Please tell us about it.

Sure, Madeline’s Protector is a story about two people who shouldn’t have met but are thrown together in adverse circumstances: murder, suspicion, and a hailstorm of bullets. The hero, Justain Delveaux, Lord Devonshire, saves Madeline St. James’ life, but in doing so he compromises her and is forced to marry this stranger.

Can they learn to trust each other in order to stop the threats still waging against their family?

Where did you get the idea for the story?

It was a dream I had in high school. I wrote it up as a short story, but then let the idea lay dormant until a few years ago.

As a working mom, how do you find time to write? What’s your best tip for organizing/compartmentalizing your different responsibilities?

The best time for me is from 11:00 p.m. to about 2:00 a.m. The house is quiet. I can slip into my imaginary world and write until I slump over onto my laptop. The best tips are to schedule your time and to set goals. When you schedule your time, it makes each activity important. Anything that is important will be given its proper due in your life if you purpose to set time aside for it. You will see things get accomplished. Setting attainable goals is very important. If I say, I want to write 500 words this day or 8,000 words this week, I have created a measurable goal. Now, I can assess how well I’m doing or even give myself a treat. Chocolate anyone?

A few fun questions…

When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?

If the words aren’t flowing, on a pollen free day I’ll rock on my porch and sip tea. This helps to calm things down in my head and give me clarity. Chocolate is my favorite comfort food. Everything is better with dark chocolates and toasted almonds.

This website features musicians as well as writers. Do you have musical, as well as literary, talent?

I’m not musical, but I love songs. I love the words they choose, the emotions they convey.

If you were a song, what kind of song would you be?

If I were a song, it would be opera with movements of tragedy and love triumphing at the end.

In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?

I am the mysterious woman behind the dark glasses watching everyone, trying to figure out what makes him or her tick.

I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.

I had a bowl of sea monkeys. I loved those guys, for all three days of their life.

Thanks, Vanessa! It’s nice to have you as a guest at DivineDetour.

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For more information about Vanessa, visit

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