BIO: Jana Kelley is a Texan who hardly ever lives in
Texas. Raised in Southeast Asia, Jana developed a love for cross-cultural
living early in life. Her love for writing came soon after. Jana returned to Texas to attend .
She and her husband married a month after she graduated and by their second
anniversary, they were living in a remote African town. After thirteen years
living in Africa and the Middle East, Jana, her husband, and their three boys,
moved to East Texas Baptist University Southeast Asia where they currently
Side By Side is my first fiction title. The character that is most like me was the character I had the hardest time writing. Unfortunately, she is one of the main characters! It was not until I could let go of her a little and let her be different from me that writing her character flowed more easily. So I guess the answer is that, at the beginning I wrote a lot of myself, but as I tweaked the manuscript, I wrote less of myself.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
I used to live in a country that required an expensive permit to take personal videos of anything outside my home. I wanted a video of our neighborhood to show my family. I emptied a Kleenex box and put my camera inside. Then I cut a hole in the front of the box for the camera lens and I taped the box to my dashboard and drove through my neighborhood. It worked great, but I felt pretty quirky!
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I wrote my first “book” when I was six years old, before I’d even learned to spell correctly. I had a notebook called “My Fan Book” (pronounced “fahn”, as in “fun”). I filled it with horrendously spelled poems and stories. I have written journals, poems, and stories steadily since then. In 2008 I sent a story to a small writing competition and won. That was the first time I realized perhaps I was writing stuff that other people would actually enjoy reading.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I like missionary biographies because of the challenges and cultures that the people face. I like historical fiction because that’s the only way I will remember history. I love travel books and books about women living in foreign countries because I also travel and live in other countries. A fiction or nonfiction book that is going to teach me about culture, countries, history, or people, while also entertaining me, is a book I will enjoy.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I do not lead as fast-paced a life as most of my friends in
America. Why? Because I don’t live there!
That’s one thing I love about living overseas. I have discovered that I feel
more in control of my schedule in Asia and Africa than I do in America. I
enjoy activities more fully when my life is not crammed with them. This is
important enough to me that I actually say no to things that are good but not best and I’m becoming quite good at that! I find it helpful to ask
the Lord what are the activities He wants me to be involved in each week, and I
put those on my calendar. I try to stay true to those commitments and say no to
things that conflict or take away from what I know to be the most important
activities in each day.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
Side By Side has a lot of Arabic characters. I have always loved the name Halimah so that’s what I named the main character. For the other Arabic names I looked them up on the Internet and chose the names that I know would be common names for the country Side By Side is set in. The American names just came to me. I was not as attached to the American names as I was to the Arabic ones. One time I did a Facebook poll for the last name for my main character. That was a lot of fun!
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
I’m still a new author so Side By Side is the accomplishment I am most proud of in my writing life. But I have to say here that I can almost visibly see God’s hand in the whole process, so I honestly do not feel like this book is something that I can take credit for. Side By Side is a written version of God’s grace and faithfulness in my life.
If you were an animal, which one would you be and why?
I would be a cat. Cats have a fantastic, yet dry, sense of humor. They can be a quiet presence in the room, but can also let everyone know they are around if they choose to do so. They are smooth and silky and graceful. I’d be a short-haired cat though. I’d hate all that long hair to get caught on my rough tongue.
What is your favorite food?
I choose savory over sweet every time. My all-time favorite food is chips & salsa. I’ll eat it as a meal if I can. But if I have to actually choose a main dish, I’ll choose Lebanese food. Hummus and stuffed grape leaves are to die for!
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock and how did you overcome it?
My biggest problem was the lack of time. I was homeschooling when I began to write the first novel. The main thing that kept me going was a strong drive to accomplish the task. Where there is a will there is a way, right? So I asked my kids to give me one hour of alone time after school was over. Unfortunately for me, this is the one hour that would otherwise have been my nap time! So for at least one hour a day, I secluded myself in my bedroom with my laptop and I wrote. As I began to see progress, I got more inspired and my routine became easier.
Are Muslims scary to you? Have you ever thought about what life is like for a Muslim woman? Side By Side is the story of two women who live in a Muslim country. One is Muslim and one is Christian. This novel is based on true events. The reality may surprise you!
Please give us the first page of the book.
“You’re moving to . . .
Sudan.” Mia put
the last dinner plate in the dishwasher and then joined her mother at the
“I’ve heard they have a lot of orphanages.” Her mother’s cheery voice squeaked a little higher than usual, as if she were forcing the words out.
South Sudan. North Sudan
is a different country altogether.” Mia willed her voice to remain calm. She
had to be patient. This news was a lot for her parents to take in.
“And you say you’ll live in . . .
Khartoum. That’s the
capital city.” Mia wondered how Michael was doing with her father in the living
room. She absently twisted a blonde curl between her fingers and looked at her
mother’s strained face.
“That can’t be right, honey. I’ve read about
in the news. That’s where the terrorists are. It’s a dangerous place. Ask
Michael again. Maybe you misunderstood.”
“Mom, Michael and I made this decision together. I don’t need to check with him. He will be working as the project manager at the head office in
Khartoum as well as in the displacement camps
just outside of the city. A lot of families who had to escape war-torn areas in
Sudan moved to Khartoum. They live in
these camps as refugees.”
“Tell me again why it has to be
Mia had to hand it to her mom for at least trying to understand. “Kellar Hope Foundation is an organization that helps families all over the world.
Sudan is just one of them.”
How can readers find you on the Internet?
I love to connect with readers! You can find me at www.JanaKelley.com From there you can connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, email, and you can get information on Side By Side and my other books.
Thank you, Jana, for sharing your new novel with me and my blog readers. I have a number of close friends who are missionaries is various foreign countries, so I will love reading Side by Side. I’ve bee privileged to go on over a dozen short-term mission trips into
Readers, here are links to the book. By using one when you order, you help support this blog.Side By Side - Christianbook.com
Side by Side, a Novel - Amazon
Side by Side, A Novel - Kindle
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