Dani Pettrey is a die-hard thrill seeker: heli-skiing, cave diving, storm kayaking—if it’s extreme, she’s there. Or so her website would have you believe.
In reality, these are just some of the wild adventures embarked on by the characters in Pettrey’s bestselling Alaskan Courage novels—a series about five siblings who own and run an Alaskan adventure outfitting company.
“The McKennas were all raised to live life to the fullest and at the same time to always help those in need,” she says. “They are a loving family full of distinct personalities, but since their folks died years ago, they are all each other has.”
For the past six years, the McKennas have become an integral part of Pettrey’s family as well, which is one of the reasons she has mixed emotions after completing the fifth—and final—installment in the series, SABOTAGED, due out this month.
The Alaskan Courage saga ends with the story of family troublemaker and professional snowboarder, Reef McKenna, who is paired up with childhood friend Kirra Jacobs to track a musher who has gone missing during the famous Iditarod race. Together they—along with the entire McKenna family—must stop a shadowy villain set to unleash one of the largest disasters Alaska has ever seen.
“I hope readers experience a great adventure full of romance, suspense and danger,” Pettrey says. “I also hope they find SABOTAGED a satisfying ending to the Alaskan Courage series.”
While Pettrey has moved on to writing the first novel in a new four-book romantic suspense series and is enjoying getting to know these fresh characters, she admits she teared up a little when she finished writing SABOTAGED.
“The best part of writing a series is getting to spend so much time with the characters,” she says, struggling to come up with her favorite McKenna hero. “I love Cole’s protective nature, Gage’s humor, Reef’s passion, Kayden’s strength, and Piper’s compassion.”
She has also enjoyed submerging herself into a world that caters to her love of the outdoors and her sense of adventure without compromising her personal risk-taking limits, which are far less extreme than those of the McKenna siblings. And while she loves travel, Pettrey admits she has yet to visit the real-life setting of her Alaskan Courage series, though it’s certainly on her bucket list.
“Once I knew I had this family and that they owned an adventure outfitting company, I knew I needed to find a great location for a wide range of adventures—everything from cave diving to heli-skiing to rock climbing,” she says. “I also wanted a location that provided an innate element of danger—a place of extremes.”
Turns out, Alaska proved perfect for the bullet-dodging, high-speed car chasing, treasure-hunting adventures Pettrey likens to those found in well-loved flicks such as Indiana Jones, Romancing the Stone, and National Treasure.
Pettrey says films likes these often provide inspiration for her work. In fact, the idea for the McKenna characters came from watching a cave-diving movie with her family.
“I find people who pursue such risky adventures fascinating, and I thought, why not write a series about them?” she says.
The individual stories typically stem from a “what if?” premise, followed by research, and then, by Pettrey’s own admission, a “very rough, messy, and incomplete” first draft.
“When I finish the first draft, I let it sit and then read all the way through, making notes, and then I let it sit again, “ she says. “After I feel I have a good idea what the story should look like, I do more specific research, and then I write my second draft. The third draft is what I send in to my publisher. I’m a ponderer. I need to let the ideas mesh and percolate.”
A perhaps apt self-assessment for the self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur, who is still on the hunt for the perfect Iced Mocha, and confesses that strong, black java fuels her creative process. Well, that and a bowl of homemade trail mix—almonds, dried cranberries and Ghirardelli chocolate chips. Yum!
Dani Pettrey is a wife, mom, grandma, and the acclaimed author of the Alaskan Courage romantic suspense series, which includes her bestselling novels Submerged, Shattered, Stranded, and Silenced, and upcoming release, Sabotaged. Her books have been honored with the Daphne du Maurier award, two HOLT Medallions, a Christy Award nomination, two National Readers’ Choice Awards, the Gail Wilson Award of Excellence, and Christian Retailing’s Best Award, among others. She feels blessed to write inspirational romantic suspense because it incorporates so many things she loves—the thrill of adventure, nail-biting suspense, the deepening of her characters’ faith, and plenty of romance. She and her husband reside in Maryland, where they enjoy time with their two daughters, a son-in-law, and a super adorable grandson.
To learn more about Dani, please visit her website.