Dear Readers, I’m
thrilled to introduce you to the first book in Dennis Jernigan’s Chronicles of
Bren series. When we were raising our children, James and I sang in the church
choir. Many of the songs we used were written by this man. I really love his
music. He also came to our church back then more than once. He’s been part of
my Christian music heritage, and his life testimony is powerful.
Welcome, Dennis. Tell
us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
In Book One of The Chronicles of Bren, Captured, I saw myself as
the protagonist - the main character - Lee/Leonolis. It is very allegorical to
my life in many ways. As a young man, I was often bullied but as I grew into
manhood - and especially as I came into the understanding of who God made me to
be - I was able to overcome so many obstacles in my life. This is how I wrote
the character in Captured. Once a victim but eventually victorious!
What is the quirkiest
thing you have ever done?
It may not be quirky, per se, but I have been working on a
building a fantasy adventure land for my grandchildren. I have several acres of
woods where I have built a campground and cleared almost 3 miles worth of
trails. Each trail will be named for a grandchild. My goal is to fill this
fantasy land with statues of creatures like lions, dragons, unicorns, etc. At
the entrance will be 2 stone lions. After a few feet down the trail they will
come to a stop sign. Below that stop sign will be another sign that reads “Stop
here. Put down your logic and put on your imagination…and proceed.”
That sounds awesome. When
did you first discover that you were a writer?
My first introduction to writing came in the form of music.
To express myself musically helped me develop the craft of writing in general. In
college, I wanted to declare my major as a song writer, but was not allowed
into that degree program because they saw no potential in me. I have since had
over 400 songs published! As I grew into my gifting to write, the next natural
step was to write a book. I was approached by a book publisher due to my song
writing. My first book was a devotional book called A Mystery of Majesty which went on to sell in excess of 12,000
copies and win an Angel Award. Now, one of my life verses is Psalm 45:1 which
says “My tongue is the pen of a ready writer…” My belief is that if I am ready
to write, God is ready to pour out material to write about!
That is so true. That
verse is one of my life verses, too, but mine is mostly Christian fiction, not
music. Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I love biographies and autobiographies like The Hiding Place by Corrie Tenboom. I am
drawn to allegory. Some of my favorite books are Hinds Feet On High Places and Mountains
of Spices by Hannah Hurnard. I have read The Chronicles of Narnia to my
children through the years. In addition, I read to my children the entire
Little House series by Laura Wilder.
Hinds Feet On High Places is my favorite classic allegory. How do
you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
Since I have a singing/speaking career, we travel many
weekends during the year. My wife and I live in the country on the farm where I
raised my children. When my mind is overwhelmed with writing or I just need a
break from work, I walk outside my barn (where my studio is) and go fishing at
one of my ponds. Sometimes, I go walk in the woods to clear my mind and refresh
my soul. I spend time worshiping the Lord in song. I LOVE being with my
grandchildren so I spend as much time with them as I can. Keeps my soul focused
on the important things rather than the urgent things.
How do you choose
your characters’ names?
I base each character’s name on the meaning. In fact, before
I write the name I think of the meaning then find a name that contains that
meaning. Often, I will derive a name from the Latin word with the desired
meaning…especially when writing in the fantasy genre.
What is the accomplishment
that you are most proud of?
Several things come to mind. My wife and I have been married
for over 32 years. We have raised 9 children together. We are about to be
grandparents for the 8th time. Even though I have songs that are sung literally
all over the world via the church, my greatest accomplishment is my family.
Everything I write is to leave a legacy for them…for generations to come.
If you were an
animal, which one would you be, and why?
I’ve never been asked that before! The first thing that
comes to mind is an eagle. I often imagine myself with the ability to fly!
What is your favorite
Popcorn, hands down! Just ask my children!
What is the problem
with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Being told I had no potential as a song writer was a major
blow to my very identity. The way I overcame it was through my faith. I came to
a point of being so convinced of who God made me to be that it affected every
aspect of my life. My worldview changed overnight and I became convinced God
would give me a song a day if I would listen…if I was ready! That attitude
carried through to authoring books. I’ve released several devotional books
designed to lead people to understand their identity in Christ. My autobiography
was released a couple of years ago and continues to do well. In addition, I
have authored several children’s books and am currently finishing up a fourth
fantasy novel featuring my grandchildren as the main characters. Writing is
simply fun and empowering and allows me to go anywhere and do anything my
imagination affords me!
Tell us about the
The Chronicles of Bren, Captured, is my story told in allegory.
The word Bren means “tears.” Even though I have gone through much pain in my own
life, I have also enjoyed quite the adventurous journey in the process. This
story begins the saga of Lee. Life is rough for this young man. Bullied and
teased and constantly on the lookout for those who would antagonize him, he
does not start the journey well. Yet, through a series of events, he finds
himself falling into another realm. In this realm he has a new name and, rather
than being bullied, finds he is a prince - the son of a king! Even in this
realm, he finds himself in danger, taken captive by the resident evil lord of
the realm. Though in his previous life he felt no hope for rescue, in the land of Bren he finds that his father - the high
king - is laser-focused on finding his captured son. What ensues is a tale of
many twists and turns, fantastical characters, and the discovery of magical
gifts. I wrote the book to encourage young people (from 10 years of age to
110!) to pursue their destiny and to discover the reason and purpose of their
existence…no matter how rough their reality may be.
Please give us the
first page of the book.
LEE PICKS A FIGHT
Lee picked himself up from the ground, as the boys who had
just delivered his latest humiliation—yet another pummeling—walked away mocking
him. At least this time he would come away reasonably unscathed. Last time he
had walked home with a black eye and a bloodied nose. The embarrassment and
shame he had had to endure for almost two weeks of school had taught him to be
quick to block the punches to his face. This time he would have the weekend to
at least ice the swollen lip he now wore and bring it back to its normal size
and shape before school began again on Monday.
Leon Jennings was about to turn thirteen, but for all he had
already endured in life he felt much older. Born into a farming family and
expected to work the farm, Lee (as his folks called him) found the work easy
enough. Every morning at 6:00 a.m. his dad would call up the stairs, “Lee! It’s
time to get up! The cows won’t milk themselves!” Dragging himself from his
slumber, he’d somehow manage to dress himself in the dark so as to not wake his
three little brothers who shared the attic bedroom with him. Traipsing out into
the predawn morning, he would go out into the pasture and find the two old Guernsey cows and herd them to the barn. Once there, he
would put some feed in the stall and guide the first cow in. Once he had gotten
all the milk he needed, he turned her out to the holding pen where the cow’s
calf was kept so the baby could have her turn. Then he would drive in the next
cow and go through the process once again.
Lee’s dad was a good man. Hardworking and silent most of the
time (and stern in his discipline), he kept Lee busy. “Idle hands are the devil’s
workshop,” he always said. Lee loved his father and, being a sensitive boy,
often hoped he would hear his dad say something to him besides just giving him
his next chore list. He really looked up to his dad.
But Lee and his dad couldn’t have been more different than
night and day.
The boy was quite adept at drawing and spent hours (when he
could squeeze time in on weekends between chores and schoolwork) drawing images
conjured by his dreams. When he wasn’t drawing you could find him playing the
old upright piano that had belonged to his grandmother Jennings. Lee’s mom had recognized his
musical abilities quite early on. It was she who had traded some of her
handmade quilts to purchase back the old piano from the elderly neighbor lady
who had bought it years before. On his twelfth birthday, she had surprised him
with that old piano and he had spent hours losing himself in its vast array of
magical tones, improvising and making up tunes that went hand in hand with the
adventures he had envisioned for himself from the time he could remember.
Although at first glance Lee seemed to be different than the other country boys
he was raised with, at heart he was every bit as passionate and every bit as
strong as they were . . . just in a different way, a way they could not seem to
When Lee had gone to school, he lapped up every art lesson
and ached when he had to go on to spelling or math. By the time he was in fifth
grade, the other boys began to take a somewhat less than well-intentioned
interest in Lee’s artwork. The day the other boys discovered he played the
piano was one of the worst days of the boy’s life. (Incidentally, it also didn’t
help matters that he was skinny as a rail and had big ears). Innocently, Lee
had assumed others would appreciate his talent and be as encouraging as his
folks had been. But he was wrong.
One day during the morning recess break, Mr. Tillman, the
music instructor, had heard that Lee could play the piano. Asking him to please
meet him in the auditorium, the teacher asked the boy to play something for
him. As Lee began to play one of the tunes he had made up, one of his
classmates was at the door listening. Having heard Mr. Tillman ask Lee to meet
him in the auditorium, the boy had assumed Lee was in some kind of trouble and
wanted to check it out for himself, hoping to find yet another reason to tease
Lee. This discovery would prove to be a goldmine for the boys.
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