Wednesday, February 24, 2010

THE HEART'S JOURNEY HOME - Jen Stephens - Free Book

I love introducing debut authors. Today, it's Jen Stephens. Welcome, Jen. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

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?

Most of my characters come with their names. Sometimes I know my character before I know their name but eventually it comes to me and is sort of like a “Oh, so that’s your name” moment. Occasionally, I’ll have a secondary character that I have to search for a name so I get the baby name book out or use the website, but that doesn’t happen very often. I’ve explained it this way: my characters are to me as an imaginary friend is to a child. You just know them—name and all.

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:

Jen, thank you for spending this time with us.

Leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book.

Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.

The only notification you’ll receive is the winner post on this blog. So be sure to check back a week from Saturday to see if you won. You will have 6 weeks from the posting of the winners to claim your book.

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Readers, here's a link where you can order the book. By using this link when you order, you'll be helping support this blog.


Abi said...

Oh, yes, please add me to this drawing. Thanks

ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

Becky Copeland said...

Jen is an amazing person. Grow up with her. Please add me to this drawing. Thanks

Mackenzie said...

This sounds like a wonderful novel, and Mrs. Stephens gave a great interview! :) Even if I don't win it, I'll be sure to check this book out!

Judyg said...

I have had this book on my list of ones I want to read so I am excited about the chance to win a free copy! Thanks for the interview and the chance to win the book!

Casey said...

Looks good, please enter me. :)

Trinity Rose said...

Wonderful interview and looks like a great book.
Please enter me.
Trinity Rose aka Wanda

Anonymous said...

Looks like such a wonderful book. Please enter my name in your draw. Thanks.

Jen Stephens said...

Thank you all so much for your interest in The Heart's Journey Home! It was very fulfilling to write and I hope it'll be just as fulfilling for you to read!

Buukluvr81 said...

This book sounds absolutely wonderful! Please enter me in the drawing!

Blessings and hugs,

Jason said...

Top notch lady and a great novel. Great interview too. :)

Esther said...

Ohh, please enter me in the drawing. Thanks! Esther

sharon54220 said...

Another great review. I would love a chance to win. It definitely sounds like a great book.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting......would love to read it. Please enter me. Thanks!!!

Megan said...

Lovely cover! Sign me up please!

Thanks Lena!

Ps. Hope you are having fun away from home :)

Robyn said...

The Heart's Journey Home sounds like a wonderful book. Please add me to the drawing.

Thanks, coolestmommy2000 at gmail dot com

IdahoMarla said...

Please add me to the drawing for a copy of The Heart's Journey Home. I am always on the lookout for a new name in Christian literature and I enjoyed reading about Jen Stephens. I thought the interview was fun!

Simply Stacie said...

Please count me in.

simplystacieblog at gmail dot com

Julia said...

Love reading how authors get their ideas. Please enter me. Looks like a good read.


Jen Stephens said...

Thank you all for stopping by and reading this interview! Good luck in the drawing!!!

gahome2mom said...

I always enjoy reading your reviews. Thanks.

Merry said...

The Heart's Journey Home sounds like a touching story. Please include me, thanks!


Linda said...

Oh the pain of losing a spouse. I have been spared so far. My neighbor just lost his wife. Sad. Please add me to the drawing. Thanks.
desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

kristen said...

Great interview!
Please enter me

Sheila Deeth said...

Sounds a lovely novel, and a really nice interview. Thanks.

Jen Stephens said...

@Linda, I, too, have been spared that pain. I can't imagine the heartache of losing your spouse or the insurmountable feat of figuring out how to live again. I hope I've conveyed well enough.

Thank you all for your kind words! I hope you like this book!

Brenda said...

Please count me in! dancealert at aol dot com

Debbie Jackson said...

I'm entered!

Anonymous said...

fantastic interview with a fantastic lady!

bthunter3 said...

Jen, I am so proud of you!!!

Sarah R said...

Sounds interesting. Please enter me in drawing.

Cindy W. said...

I would love to win a copy of your book "The Heart's Journey Home". Thank you for the opportunity.

God Bless you,
Cindy W.


Jen Stephens said...

Thank you so much for you kind words! Good luck in this drawing! I hope you like the book!

Terry said...

Hi Jen, Cassie D. Ground is one of you characters. She's my niece,and we miss her deeply. Thank you for allowing her to be in your book. Please enter me in you drawing. God Bless you!

Jen Stephens said...

@Terry, one of my favorite things about this book was being able to honor two people that made a difference in the lives of others. I'm so glad to have been able to do this for everyone who knew and still loves Cassie and Dan!

Laura J said...

Please enter me! Thanks!

Memawof2boys said...

Would love to win a copy! Thanks!


Anonymous said...

would love to read this book...thanks for the opportunity


Anonymous said...

What a neat lady! The book sounds good, too. Count me in. :-)


Marla said...

Definitely sounds like a book I would really enjoy reading. Please enter me in the drawing. Thanks!

The Bookworm said...

Thanks for the chance to win another book!

Nancye said...

I would LOVE to win this book! Thanks for the chance,

nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

Cíntia Mara said...

I loved the way Jen introducing the 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.

Many times, the things doesn't go as we plan, but they always go as God plans.

Please, enter me in your draw.
God bless you!