I'm pleased to have my friend Janice Thompson back on the blog with her first Summerside Press book. Welcome, Janice. What are some of the spiritual themes you like to write about?
I enjoy writing about flawed people. People who make mistakes. Lately, I’ve been writing about people who “get ahead of God.” I tend to do this a lot, and my characters do, too! I want readers to know that we’re all hopelessly flawed, but we have a God who loves us, in spite of our shortcomings. Readers will also notice another (major) theme in my stories, of late. I’ve been writing about weddings. . .a lot! Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that my four daughters, who are all in their late twenties, all got married over the past five years. (Writers are taught to write what we know. . .and I know weddings!)
What other books of yours are coming out soon?
I’m so excited to share the news about my upcoming Revell series: WEDDINGS BY BELLA. It’s pure romantic comedy—probably the funniest stuff I’ve ever written! The first book, FOOLS RUSH IN, is set to release next month! It’s a crazy, quirky story about an Italian wedding planner who has just taken over her family’s wedding facility. Bella (who is 29 and still single) is hosting her first themed wedding—a Boot Scoot’n Texas extravaganza. Only one problem. She doesn’t know anything about country western music and needs a deejay who does! The Lord provides exactly the right deejay, but there are a few bumps in the road to get him there!
The second book in the WEDDINGS BY BELLA series is titled SWINGING ON A STAR. In this story, Bella is coordinating a medieval/Renaissance wedding with a major Hollywood star as the best man. Talk about a paparazzi nightmare!
The third book is titled IT HAD TO BE YOU. In this final story, Bella is coordinating a 40th swing wedding, complete with a swing band. This series has been a blast to write, as you might imagine. Lots of room for antics! And perhaps you’ve already noticed that each book is actually a song title. Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin play a huge role in these stories. Folks who love good music, good food and great themed weddings will love the WEDDINGS BY BELLA series.
If you could spend an evening with one contemporary person (not a family member of yours), who would it be and why?
Lately, I’ve been really intrigued by Matthew West, the Christian singer. His song THE MOTIONS has stolen my heart. I think I would like to hang out with Matthew for a couple of hours and pick his brain. Ask him a few questions about how he came up with the song. Then ask him to pray with me about my work, so that I don’t ever find myself going through the motions in my writing life.
How long have you known that you wanted to be novelist?
I wrote my first book in 6th grade. No kidding! I’d read every Bobbsey Twins book and needed something else to read, so I used those characters to craft a story of my own. In high school I wrote a dramatic piece for a school production. Then, in college, my father and I wrote a screenplay, which was later made into a movie (Liar’s Moon). After that came several musical comedies for the stage.
I didn’t actually write my first “real” novel (DUTY TO DIE) until 1996. It was published in 2000. As you can see, my road to becoming a novelist was long and winding! If you don’t mind another plug here, DUTY TO DIE was based on the premise that the so-called “right” to die would eventually become the “duty” to die, if we weren’t careful. The book dealt at length with the “slippery slope” our country has been on since the 60’s. Never has this been more apparent than in recent weeks as our politicians contemplate the health reform bill. If your readers haven’t already read DUTY TO DIE, I would encourage them to pick up a copy (used) at amazon. It’s been out of print for years, but the story is hauntingly true to reality.
What can you tell authors who have been receiving only rejections from publishers?
Get used to it? Seriously, the rejection goes on and on, long after you have a book published. When you get your copy edits and the editor wants to pick apart your baby, it’s a form of rejection. When you get a letter from a person who didn’t like your published book, it’s a form of rejection. Rejection is a part of life. We have to learn to live with it and learn from it. Don’t let it weaken you. Make all of life’s rejections serve to make you stronger.
Such excellent advice. Tell us about the featured book?
I’m so excited to share about LOVE FINDS YOU IN POETRY, TEXAS (Summerside Press), which was written under the name Janice Hanna. (I should add that several of my books are now being written under my maiden name. I’m doing this as a tribute to my father, who passed away a couple of years ago.) This book, in many ways, represents my own journey as a writer. I conceived the idea for this historical romantic comedy in 2007 while I was in a wheelchair after a terrible accident. (Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? To write a comedy while going through a tragedy? But that’s how the Lord works in my life!)
The story is about a paid matchmaker in the tiny town of Poetry, Texas. For those who don’t know, Poetry is east of Dallas, near a town called Terrell. In 1904 only 200 people lived in Poetry (approximately).
My heroine, Belinda Bauer, works at the local mercantile with her aunt and cousin. She is hoping to “grow” her little town into a place of grandeur like nearby Dallas. To help God along in the process, she takes on the role of marriage broker (paid matchmaker), bringing countless women to the town to marry the men-folk. Only one problem. . .many (if not most) of her matches turn out to be mis-matches! Most of the women end up marrying the wrong men!
There’s one local man who’s particularly unhappy with her bumbling attempts: Georg, the town barber and her childhood friend. She just can’t seem to find his perfect match, though it’s not for lack of trying. Could it be that the Lord has someone else in mind for Georg? Someone who has been there all along, perhaps? In the end, Belinda learns some very “poetic” lessons about life, love and happiness. She also learns that the Lord didn’t really need her help, though He managed to take her bumbles and use them for His glory. (Can I get an amen?)
I had the time of my life writing this story. Many times, Belinda has to ask herself if she’s gotten ahead of the Lord. I know what that feels like, and I’m sure many readers can relate, as well. More than anything, I loved the light-hearted nature of the story. Those who know me know that I’m a light-hearted sort of girl. Perhaps it’s because I’ve faced so many challenges/obstacles in my own life. I need the humor to lift my spirits. And isn’t it wonderful how the Lord uses humor to heal us? He’s done that in my life so many times!
I'm intrigued. Please give us the first page of the book.
Poetry, Texas, 1904
“Belinda, I don’t want to hurt your feelings. Truly. But what in the world has possessed you? A marriage broker? Do you really think you’re...you’re...”
Belinda Bauer felt heat rising to her cheeks as she waited for her cousin to finish the question.
“...q–qualified?” Greta said at last, looking more than a bit dubious.
After drawing in a deep breath, Belinda dove into her rehearsed speech. “One does not have to be married in order to arrange marriages,” she explained. “These days, a good match is simply a matter of business. And science.”
“Science?” Greta did not look convinced. “What is so scientific about falling in love and getting married?”
Belinda gave a brusque nod and continued on undeterred. “In a town such as this—filled with lumbermen and farmers—women are in short supply. Elsewhere, women bow their knees at night, clutch their hands together...”—here Belinda dramatically clasped her hands as if in prayer—“and plead with the Almighty for husbands.”
Greta paled. “Yes, but what does that have to do with you?”
“I will make it my job to reconcile the one with the other. With the Lord’s help, of course.” Belinda released her hands, triumphant.
Surely Greta would see the good in this. And, in time, so would the others in the little town. After all, her goal to civilize the quaint town of Poetry, Texas, was a fine one. Once the women started arriving, the place would begin to blossom, possibly rivaling nearby Terrell. Or maybe—Belinda’s excitement grew as she thought about it—maybe even Dallas. Yes, once proper ladies started arriving, the area would become quite citified.
“You make it sound so...simple.” Her cousin paused to tie an apron around her broad waist, just as she did every morning before Poetic Notions, the town’s mercantile, opened. “But if finding a mate is really as easy as you say, then why, with men surrounding us on every side, do you and I remain unattached?”
Belinda swallowed hard and then chose her words with great care as she reached to straighten several jars on a nearby shelf. “I cannot speak for you, of course.” She turned to grasp her cousin’s hand and gave it a sympathetic squeeze. “To be quite honest, I do not understand why some handsome fellow hasn’t marched in here and swept you away to a life of marital bliss. You, of all people, would make the perfect wife and mother.”
“Thank you.” Greta let out a little giggle, and her cheeks turned pink.
Belinda released a sigh as she contemplated her own situation. “But I do believe, after much prayer on the matter, that I can answer the question about myself.” She stood straight and tall, taking full advantage of her height. “I have come to the conclusion that I was born for a greater purpose.”
I can't wait for my copy to arrive. How can readers find you on the Internet?
Readers can find me at my website: http://www.janiceathompson.com/. There, they can learn about these books and many more!
I spend a lot of time on facebook, and readers can link up to me there at http://www.facebook.com/jhannathompson?ref=name.
My Shoutlife page is another place to connect:
My book review blog (Double Booked) can be found here: http://doublebookedjanice.blogspot.com/
Finally (and this probably won’t come as a great surprise) I write on the subject of wedding planning for The Examiner, an online newspaper. Readers can find my wedding-themed articles online at: http://www.examiner.com/x-9237-Houston-Wedding-Planning-Examiner
Thank you, Janice, for spending this time with us.
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