Author of the Month: Rhona Weaver

By Susan L. Peterson

“A Noble Calling,” Rhona Weaver’s debut novel, tells the story of rookie FBI agent Win Tyler, a farm boy who played football at the University of Arkansas and who was raised in the Baptist church. The book transports the reader to the stunningly beautiful but dangerous setting of Yellowstone National Park, where Tyler must face his own moral dilemmas as he helps park rangers unravel a plot involving anti-government extremists, a murderous assassin and a self-styled prophet who has twisted the faith that Tyler holds dear.

“Write what you know about” is advice often given to writers. So, readers of Weaver’s novels may wonder just how a woman from Arkansas is able to write such convincing crime fiction about an FBI agent working in Yellowstone. In fact, it was Weaver’s own life experiences and relationships that have provided her with the means to write about these topics and intertwine them into award-winning crime fiction novels.

Weaver grew up on a farm near Batesville, Ark., and received her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts from the U of A. Her first real job was in Washington, D.C., where she learned about political dealings by working for Senators Dale Bumpers and Kaneaster Hodges. Returning to Arkansas, she worked at Winrock Farms before establishing her own real estate appraisal business in Little Rock in 1985.

It is no surprise that her writing offers vivid descriptions of geographical surroundings, demonstrating her love of the land. In her 35 years as an agricultural real estate appraiser, she was often the only female working in a male-dominated world. She appraised a variety of unusual properties, from marshes to plantations, some up to 300,000 acres in size. For a time, she was the only female swampland appraiser in the U.S.

As for the setting, Yellowstone National Park is a favorite place for Weaver and her husband. In fact, the photos on her book’s covers were taken by them. They first visited the park in 2006 and have made many return trips to show off the park and its wildlife to family members and friends.

Weaver has a strong Christian background. In early 1991 while still working full-time, she founded The Shepherd’s Ranch Ministry for at-risk children, where hundreds of Arkansas children benefited from encouragement and educational enrichment. She worked there through 1999, when she had to merge The Shepherd’s Ranch with another nonprofit due to her health issues. Even today, she remains very close to some of her “kids” and their children.

Regarding her knowledge of law enforcement and crime issues, she has a ready expert on hand. Her husband, Bill Temple, worked as Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Arkansas during the final stages of his 31-year FBI career. He provides valuable advice and insights into legal issues and “what if” situations. If he doesn’t know an answer, he can put her in contact with someone who does.

After 35 years in real estate, Weaver knew she was ready to try something different. At the office one day in October 2014, she just started typing, and before she knew it, she had the first chapter written. When her assistant and best friend, Suzie James, read it, Suzie told her, “This is what you need to do.” Weaver credits this friend for pushing her to complete her book. “Later, when Suzie was in the hospital, I’d walk into her room and she’d ask me, ‘Is it finished yet?’” Weaver said. When Suzie passed away from her illness, Weaver dedicated the first novel to her.

The book was finally completed in June of 2016, but then the process of publishing began, and she optimistically sent it off to the 20 top crime fiction agents and publishers. Unfortunately, their rejections were more than disappointing. Most publishers asked her to remove all the religious elements, saying that would not sell. One even suggested changing Tyler’s gender, telling her that a female FBI agent would increase sales. In the end, she realized if she wanted to publish her book, she would have to do it herself. She turned to a hybrid publishing company, and “A Noble Calling” went on sale in August 2020.

Due to COVID-19, there was very little fanfare. Despite this, the book has sold in the thousands and has garnered multiple national and international awards, including the prestigious Bill Fisher Award for Best First Book in Fiction by the Independent Book Publishers Association and The Christy Award Finalist for Best First Novel, just to name a few.

Weaver’s second book in the FBI Yellowstone Adventure Series is “A Sacred Duty,” published in May 2022. The book is described as both a fast-paced thriller and a heartfelt story of loss, trust and grace. Agent Tyler must find a missing Russian geologist in Yellowstone, and solving the mystery involves traveling to eastern Russia. Already, this mystery has a long list of awards, including 2023 Grand Prize for Fiction (Next Generation Indie Book Awards).

In discussing her writing, Weaver says her intent is to honor the everyday hero: the park rangers, FBI agents and other first responders who often put their own lives at risk. And she wants her readers to be entertained by the story, to learn things they didn’t know, to think through moments of deep meaning and to sit back and smile when they read that last page. Weaver says she’d love for the books to motivate readers to go looking for their life’s victories and find a little adventure along the way. She has developed quite a fan base, and the books’ Amazon reviews are stellar. Accuracy in her writing is of utmost importance to her. She was thrilled when a senior FBI official who read her work wrote to say that her books were the most realistic portrayal of the profession he had ever read. 

Her writing process is somewhat unorthodox. She writes the first chapter, then the ending, then fills in the middle. “That way, the story writes itself. Sometimes, I’m not even sure who the bad guys are until they reveal themselves.”

She and her husband live in west Little Rock in a home perched high on a hill with a wonderful view. They are active in Asbury United Methodist Church, where Rhona is a Sunday school teacher. They enjoy traveling, attending Razorback games, caring for their two rescue cats and tending the flower garden.

Weaver enjoys speaking to book clubs, library groups and civic organizations to discuss her books and the writing and publishing process. She believes that we all have a story to tell and that Southerners are natural storytellers. She is in the process of completing the third book in the series, which is set in the Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks. That novel, which is yet untitled, should be published in late summer. Her books may be purchased from any online retailer, at local bookstores, and wherever books are sold. Visit for more information.

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