Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Most of my characters are like my children—part of me but also their own unique person. Some of my characters have some of my mannerisms, or physical traits, or some of them have traits I really wish I had. For example: my heroine, a teacher, is an excellent planner and extremely organized. Though I am a teacher, I can only fantasize about being organized! With the exception of just a couple characters that were specifically written for someone else, my characters are all different parts of me. When my readers get to know all of my characters, hopefully they’ll feel like they’ve gotten to know me, too.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
This was the hardest question and now I’m a little concerned that either, a) I’m super boring and never do anything quirky, or b) I’m super quirky to the point of it seeming normal. Hmmm. I’m sure my sisters could fill a page for you with all of the crazy stuff we did as kids . . . and then my husband would certainly be happy to add his $.02 with my more recent quirks. One thing that comes to mind is the time that I dressed up as Princess Jasmin, long black wig and all, and went Trick or Treating. Not too quirky? I was 20-years-old, single, and childless. Yeah. Moving on.
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I’ve been writing since I was in grade school. My first story was about a boy who befriends an Indian chief and together they capture a burglar who breaks into the boy’s house. I was (and still am) a slow reader with a very active imagination, so I didn’t do a lot of reading as a child, but I was always making up stories. I wrote my first novel when I was in junior high and another one in tenth grade. I took a break from it while I was in college and gradually returned to it after I got married eleven years ago. I’ve been writing—and working on honing my craft—ever since. I discovered that I was a writer at a young age, but didn’t know I could do anything with it until just a few years ago.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I really love any book that tells a wonderful, compelling, enthralling story that captivates me from page 1. Some of the authors on my TBR stack are: Kaye Dacus, Tamara Leigh, Michelle Sutton, and Kristin Hannah. I tend to lean toward the type of fiction I write—Christian Women’s Fiction with a hint (or more) of romance. Of course, my very favorite book of all time is the Bible. Charlotte’s Web takes the second place ribbon.
Charlotte's Web is a long way from Christian Wiomen's Fiction. What other books have you written, whether published or not?
Does my little story about the boy and his Indian friend count? Ha! Ha! As I’ve already said, in middle school I wrote my very first a book, and now I can’t even remember the title, but I do remember what it was about. Then, in high school, I wrote a suspense novel titled The Dark Side of the Mountain. I wrote it long hand in spiral bound notebooks. My friends would read it and write their names in the margins where they left off. That’s a fun memory for me. After that though, I had a lot of starts and stops. I honestly didn’t know if I could finish another book. I originally wrote The Heart’s Journey Home for the mainstream market, but after I finished it I didn’t have that feeling of a great accomplishment that I thought for sure a writer should experience. After stewing over it for several weeks—and being prompted by the Lord many times—I decided to rewrite it for the Christian market, and now I’m very pleased. In addition, I’ve already begun plotting out the next book in the series, The Heart’s Lullaby.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
Sanity? What’s that? Ha! Seriously, sometimes I don’t feel very sane. Sometimes I feel like I try to do too many things well—being a wife and mother, a teacher, a writer, a friend, and, most of all, a devoted Christian—and end up not doing any of it well. That’s disheartening. But when I get down, my family and friends always know just what to say and do to lift my spirits. They keep me sane . . . mostly by making me laugh. I laugh a lot with my family and friends. Laughter is a wonderful medicine for any ailment, including momentary insanity!
How do you choose your characters’ names?
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
I am most proud of my two little girls—Alison (8 years old), and Olivia (5 years old). My heart just bursts with pride as they reach every milestone. They’re both doing well in school, both LOVE reading (YES!), and they both already love the Lord (Double YES!!). In many areas of my life I feel, you know, just average, but when I look at my two girls, I know I’ve done something really, really special. I could win the Nobel Peace Prize and I would still be most proud of being their mother.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
If I was an animal, I think I’d be a guide dog because they are gentle, loyal companions, and I get great satisfaction from helping people in need.
What is your favorite food?
This is the easiest question on the interview! My grandma’s spaghetti is my very favorite food. Grandma was married to an Italian so she had lots of practice making an authentic spaghetti dish. My husband’s bar-b-que is a close second. Great, now my mouth is watering!
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Time! I’m the wife of a very supportive, wonderful man, the mama of my two beautiful girls, the teacher to a classroom of third graders, and an active church member. So, yeah, time is a big issue. I try to combat this potential roadblock, by creating and sticking to a routine that includes a block of time carved out of every day just for writing. Usually this is after my girls are in bed, and for right now it works well because my creative juices flow all day long and, most of the time, by 8pm I’m just itching to write.
What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
Well, I’m a fairly new author myself so I can really only say what I’ve done that has helped me to grow and become a better writer. The very best thing I did was to get involved with my local writer’s group. A writer’s group and/or critique group are people who support you, who understand everything you go through as a writer—they’ve either been there, are there, or will be there—and they’ll give you the constructive criticism you need to grow as a writer. I had to grow a thick skin. It not easy getting critiqued on something you poured so much of yourself into, but the ideas and opinions of someone more experienced than you are really one of the most valuable tools you can have as a new writer so learn to embrace it. And, really, above all else, just have fun!
Tell us about the featured book?
The Heart’s Journey Home is a story about life, love, loss, and finding love again. It’s a story about how faith can lead you home . . . though it may not be on the path that you expect. Here is a brief synopsis:
Three years after Kate Sterling's heart was shattered by the unexpected death of her husband, she packs up what is left of her life and moves back to Harvest Bay, Ohio, with her young daughter. She soon discovers that her sleepy hometown has changed—and that she has been given a second chance at love. But, is God leading her to a love linked to the past . . . or to one who will walk with her into the future? Which road will Kate take on The Heart's Journey Home?
The Heart’s Journey Home is very special to me, and I hope and pray that whoever reads it will be as touched as I was writing it. I believe that many of the scenes were Spirit-led because of the way it flowed and the way I felt as I wrote them. This is NOT my biography, but I come from a blended family and my Daddy went home to be with the Lord nine years ago, so in many ways writing this book was an emotional release for me. I pray that my readers can sense even a fraction of that emotion.
Please give us the first page of the book.
Kate Sterling leaned against the door of her cobalt blue Explorer and sighed heavily. This morning had come quickly, too quickly. She had always loved the Fourth of July, but now Independence Day took on a whole new meaning.
Kate’s brother-in-law, Nathan, buckled her six-year-old daughter, Madeline, into her booster seat and came around the front of the vehicle to join Kate. “She fell back to sleep.”
“That’s good. I have a feeling this is going to be a long trip for us.” It was only an eight-hour drive from her home in Nashville, Tennessee, to Harvest Bay, her Ohio hometown situated on the bank of Lake Erie. Kate had made it a dozen times with Madeline as her only companion.
This time, though, they wouldn’t be coming back.
He leaned against the Explorer shoulder to shoulder with Kate and crossed his arms. “I’m really going to miss Maddie.”
A thick lump of sorrow lodged itself in her throat, but she forced her words past it. “She’ll miss you, too. We both will.”
“Don’t start doubting yourself. You’re doing the right thing.”
How can readers find you on the Internet?
My website is: http://www.jenstephens.net/
Jen, thank you for spending this time with us.
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