Friday, May 22, 2015

SIDE BY SIDE - Jana Kelley - One Free Book

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 East Texas Baptist University. 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 Southeast Asia where they currently live.

Welcome, Jana. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
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.

Tell us about the featured book.
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?”

“Yes, Mom. Sudan.” Mia put the last dinner plate in the dishwasher and then joined her mother at the kitchen table.

“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.

“That’s 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?”

“Yes. 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 Khartoum 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 Sudan.”

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 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 Central America.

Readers, here are links to the book. By using one when you order, you help support this blog.
Side By Side -
Side by Side, a Novel - Amazon
Side by Side, A Novel - Kindle

Leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book. Please tell us where you live, at least the state or territory. (Comments containing links may be subject to removal by blog owner.)

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 4 weeks from the posting of the winners to claim your book.

If you’re reading this on Goodreads, Google+, Feedblitz, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, or Amazon, please come to the blog to leave your comment if you want to be included in the drawing. Here’s a link:


Deanna Stevens said...

Wow... this sounds so interesting! Very interesting post today. thanks for a chance to win a copy of your book :)
dee from NE
dkstevensneAT outlookDoTCo M

Anna Weaver Hurtt said...

I've heard good things about this book! Please drop my name in the hat. Thanks for the giveaway! :)

Anna Weaver Hurtt from FL

Melanie Backus said...

Thank you for a great interview, Lena, and thank you for the giveaway!

Melanie Backus, TX

sm said...

I was born and raised as an MK in Nigeria, a Muslim country. I would enjoy reading this book. sm CA wileygreen1(at)yahoo(dot)com

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a fascinating book this sounds to be very interesting. I would love to have a chance to read it.
Deanne from Pennsylvania


Anonymous said...

This sounds like a great book! Shelia from Mississippi

Mary Preston said...

What a fabulous idea for a book. The subject matter is timely.

Mary P


Library Lady said...

If I win your book, "Side by Side", I will give it to the Church Library, after reading it first.
Janet E.

Mama Cat said...

This sounds interesting! Have seen various reviews, but not the same as seeing it from the POV of the author. Thank you both for the opportunity to win!

Phoenix, AZ

Sharon Richmond Bryant said...

Enter me in your great giveaway can't wait to read this book!!
Conway, SC.

Trixi said...

Definitely a book I want to read, I've seen it on other blogs and it sounds really good! Thank you for the interview & giveaway!

Anonymous said...

Oooh sounds good!
J.C. -Indiana-

Samantha said...

It sure sounds like an awesome book!
I would absolutely love to read it. It seems to me that this kind of books is really important nowadays!

Thanks for the opportunity!

Samantha in Qc, Canada

Deana said...

This sounds like a very interesting book. it will be a great book to read and then pass on to my church library for others to enjoy. Thanks for the opportunity to win this book. I'm from Texas.


Granny's Attic said...

I have not read any of Jana's work yet, but it sounds right in line with a book I am currently reading about missionaries in an Islamic African country who become infected with ebola. lisajcowell(at)cs(dot)com in Ohio.

Deana said...

My email is