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Writer’s Window: Jen Stephens

Monday, August 30, 2010

Congratulations to Amee, who won the drawing for Nancy Mehl’s book from last week.

I’ve known Jen Stephens for several years now—she’s a member of my local writing group, Middle Tennessee Christian Writers. It’s been so much fun to see Jen go through the process from unpublished to published, and to see the reception her debut novel, The Heart’s Journey Home, has received.

Jen has graciously offered to give away a signed copy of The Heart’s Journey Home to one lucky commenter. Deadline for getting into the drawing is Friday. When you leave your comment, be sure to indicate whether or not you want to enter the drawing! (No need to include your e-mail address in your comment, just make sure it’s correct when you sign in to leave your comment.)

The Heart’s Journey Home

Three years after the unexpected death of Kate Sterling’s husband, she moves back to Harvest Bay, Ohio, with her young daughter. She soon discovers that things have changed in the sleepy little community she grew up in. When she suffers another devastating loss, she finally understands that the One who loves and cares for her has given her 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?

What do you like best about being a writer?

      It sounds super simple, but I just love telling stories that may move people or maybe just entertain them for a while.

What do you like least about being a writer?

      It’s pretty scary to me to have my creation, my baby, out there for anyone to develop an opinion about. It really hurts when someone says something negative about something I worked so hard on. I don’t like that part. I also become frustrated that I don’t have more TIME to write. Time is always a big issue for me.

Pop, Soda, or Coke? What do you call it, and what’s your favorite variety?

      Pop and my favorite is Diet Dr. Pepper. Yummy!

Describe your favorite pair of shoes.

      Kaye, I’ll tell ya, shoes are my LEAST favorite thing in this whole wide world! I have incredibly flat feet with bunions which require me wearing orthodics. Seriously, I hate my feet and anything that goes on them but if I had to pick a favorite pair, I’d have to say my New Balance walking shoes because they’re really comfortable and they’re white with hot pink accents. Anyone who knows me knows I love pink, but an added bonus was that this particular pair was part of the Lace Up for the Cure collection and a portion of the sales of this collection goes to the Susan G. Komen foundation.

What’s the most fun/interesting/crazy/scary/unique hands-on research you’ve done for a book?

      In The Heart’s Lullaby, which is what I’m currently writing, many of the scenes take place on a farm with horses. I know nothing about how to care for a horse, let alone how to ride one. So just recently I took my girls to a local farm and spent a lot of time with the horses. The owner gave each of my girls a riding and grooming lesson while I asked a TON of questions. It was a very, very fun day!

Candles. We all have them. But do you burn them? What scents are your favorite?

      Yes, I burn candles, particularly from late fall to early spring. There are very few things cozier than the glow of a few candles. My favorite scents are the nutty ones. Also, vanilla or coffee.

Have you ever re-gifted something someone’s given you?

      I’m quite sure I have, but I can’t think of a particular example right now.

If you were to write a novel about what your life would have been like if you’d become what you wanted to be at eight years old, what kind of character would the story be about?

      This sounds odd, but it probably wouldn’t be much different than it is right now. When I was 8, I wanted to be an author and a mama. As I got older I was told that I really needed to choose a different career path because I’d never make any money at writing. So I became a teacher! Isn’t that the funniest thing?! Sorry I don’t have a more interesting answer like maybe, I don’t know, an astronaut that discovers a new planet which supports human life and eventually everyone on Earth leaves for this newer, better planet . . . all except for this one lonely little orphan boy . . . yeah, I’m pretty boring.

What makes you happy?

      Well, the very first thing that pops into my head, obviously, is when my girls are happy. Their laughter is just the sweetest sound to me. I’m happy when I’m doing special things for other people and, likewise, I’m happy when someone does something thoughtful for me—something as simple as emptying the dishwasher or fixing me a cup of coffee. I’m happy when the words to my stories flow and I get in “the zone.” I’m happy when my students really get a concept I’m standing on my head (not literally) to teach them. The simplest things in life make me really happy.

What makes you nervous?

      Oh, geez, where do I begin? Tornadoes and flying. They don’t just make me nervous. I have recurrent nightmares about both. Another thing that makes me nervous is being a parent! Every time my girls get sick or hurt I get a little knot in my belly and I steer them away from anything that might be remotely dangerous. Sometimes interstate driving and big crowds make me nervous. The more my mind has a chance to wander, the more things I become nervous about—a disadvantage to a vivid imagination.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

      Back when I was first starting to pursue writing for real, I met author and speaker, Ramona Richards. She taught me about POV and instantly it was like going from seeing in black and white to color.

What’s your biggest dream for the future?

      My biggest dream for the future is to see both of my girls become mamas because I know then they will really understand how much I love them. I really would love to write full time one day, but just to be able to keep writing and keep getting my stories into people’s hands would be a dream come true. And, of course, I have the same dream as every other American: to be debt free!

Tell us about what you’re currently writing (or your newest release, or both).

      Well, I’ll start with The Heart’s Journey Home, which was just released this past February. It’s 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. 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 passed away nine and a half 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.

      The second book in the Harvest Bay Series, The Heart’s Lullaby, is scheduled to be released in May 2011. It’s about two things I care deeply about—children and our United States military:

        After two years of trying without success to have a baby, Elizabeth Truman’s world is turned upside down when she learns that her husband may already be a father. Amy Beauregard arrives in Harvest Bay with her ten-year-old son and a lot more baggage, convinced that God has long since abandoned her. Through a strange twist of fate, Elizabeth and Amy are drawn together in a way neither could have imagined, and heavenly healing begins to take place. But will their renewed faith be strong enough to withstand another devastating blow? Or will The Heart’s Lullaby be left unsung?

Where can people find out more about you/connect with you online?

——————————————————————–
Jen Stephens grew up in a small Ohio town where she developed a passion for writing at an early age. She participated in Young Authors contests in grade school, wrote her first novel in high school, and wrote dozens of poems and short stories in between. She majored in elementary education with a concentration in English and the humanities at the University of Toledo.

Jen lives in the Nashville, Tennessee, area with her husband and two beautiful daughters. She teaches third grade at a Christian school and is very active with the youth in her church. A member of Middle Tennessee Christian Writers, American Christian Fiction Writers, and Nashville Christian Writers Association, she writes in her “spare” time. Her first novel, The Heart’s Journey Home, released in February 2010. The second book in the Harvest Bay series, The Heart’s Lullaby, is scheduled to release in May 2011.

34 Comments
  1. Monday, August 30, 2010 12:25 am

    I can’t wait for the Heart’s Lullaby to come out. Jen has such love and compassion for others. It shows up in her writing, and readers can “feel” it. I believe that’s what makes her characters so real. I like a book that makes me so comfortable with the characters that I feel as though I could step right into the story and feel at home. That’s how I felt with The Heart’s Journey Home.

    By the way, I like your fun questions, especially the ones about candles. Autumn is on the way, and that means bonfires, campfires and candles. (My family keeps the matches hidden because I just enjoy watching a flame.) Vanilla and hazelnut happen to be my favorite scents too! (Makes me think of Gatlinburg. I always take a candle with me when I go so that I can relax and read!)

    Like

    • Monday, August 30, 2010 8:10 am

      I’m actually heading over to Yankee Candle today or tomorrow to sniff all the new fall flavors and pick out a few new scents for the season!

      Like

  2. Monday, August 30, 2010 6:18 am

    Love the interview! I’ve really been wanting this one. Please enter me in the drawing!

    Like

  3. Maureen Timerman permalink
    Monday, August 30, 2010 6:28 am

    Yes please enter me. How wonderful that the farmer let your daughter work with the horses!!
    Maureen

    Like

    • Monday, August 30, 2010 8:12 am

      I need to find out what farm that was—I took riding lessons my junior and senior years of high school (it was a choice between that and continuing with voice lessons—and I was the kid who’d thought for several years I was going to go to college to become a racehorse trainer!). So I’m jealous Jen got to do this and tickled for her girls that they got to spend time around horses.

      (And you’re entered in the drawing.)

      Like

  4. Monday, August 30, 2010 7:30 am

    No need to enter me in the drawing. I’m jealous as I would love to be in a writing group with both you, Kaye, and Jen! Although I’m sure I would be dreadfully embarassed to share. Scratch that I would love to meet either of you 🙂

    Jen, I so know what you mean about being a parent making you nervous. Its hard not to think about the “what ifs.” I need to constantly pray about them. And I hate crowds, too. Great to “see” another interview with you, Jen!

    Like

    • Monday, August 30, 2010 8:16 am

      That’s the great thing about our group—we don’t do anything that would make anyone uncomfortable. We’re focused on learning about the craft and industry of writing. Critique partnerships have grown out of the group, but other than one time a year when everyone gets a chance to get feedback from other members on their Genesis/contest entries—which is completely voluntary. And we have a lot of fun together!

      Like

  5. Leah permalink
    Monday, August 30, 2010 7:53 am

    This book sounds really good!
    I’ve never read any of Jen’s books, so please enter me!!

    Like

  6. Cassie Gish permalink
    Monday, August 30, 2010 9:48 am

    I haven’t heard of this book before either but it sounds really good. Thank you for interviewing Jen and always introducing us to new authors! I love finding more books to read!! Please enter me in the drawing too 🙂

    Like

    • Monday, August 30, 2010 12:15 pm

      I always love featuring new authors, especially those I’ve seen go through the process from “aspiring” to “published.”

      Like

  7. Monday, August 30, 2010 10:05 am

    Yet another author to add to my growing list of authors I haven’t read yet! Jen, your books sound great. And things that make you nervous? Move over and pass the chocolate and the blanket to go over my head. I’m the same way. I can IMAGINE more horrible things than would ever happen. Fortunately, deep in my heart, I KNOW that! 🙂 Please enter me!

    Like

  8. Judy Migliori permalink
    Monday, August 30, 2010 12:07 pm

    I would love to win a copy of The Heart’s Journey Home. Please enter me too. Thank you Kaye for this interview. I went to the author’s web site and to my delight she included all kinds of great downloads for busy teachers. My daughter is a first year teacher and I’ll share this web site with her.

    Like

  9. Bones-->Brittany permalink
    Monday, August 30, 2010 1:27 pm

    I really would love to get a copy of her book!! It sounds wonderful 🙂

    Like

    • Monday, August 30, 2010 1:29 pm

      Welcome, Brittany. You’re entered into the drawing.

      Like

  10. Monday, August 30, 2010 4:15 pm

    Diet Dr. Pepper ~ you must be a wonderful woman. 🙂

    I would love to enter for the book too. 🙂

    Like

  11. Monday, August 30, 2010 5:23 pm

    Whew! I just got home from school to find all of these beautiful comments waiting for me! Thank you all so much! Kaye, I will most definitely get you the info to the farm. Pics of our day are on my FB page. The horses were so beautiful and gentle! Judy, I am thrilled that your daughter might be able to use some of those websites! The first year is tough. Tell her to email me if she needs anything, okay? Julia, Kaye is absolutely right! We have the best group! Everyone is so friendly and helpful! I think Teresa can second that! I know I’ve learned so much from Kaye and the others but the best part is the way we all support each other and PRAY for each other. It’s truly been a huge blessing! So if you’re ever in the neighborhood on the second Saturday of the month, make sure to drop by! :o) Jolanthe, is there any other drink? Man, I could really use one right now! :o) Thank you all again for the sweet comments! And good luck in the contest!

    Like

  12. Tuesday, August 31, 2010 3:21 pm

    Hey Kaye and Jen!
    Great interview! I know you’re from the north now, Jen. Pop. That’s what I grew up calling it too. Lost it somewhere along the way. Kaye, I already have a copy of the book so don’t enter me in the drawing. Hope ya’ll are having a wonderful Tuesday.
    Carie

    Like

    • Tuesday, August 31, 2010 3:54 pm

      Yeah, well, the real funny thing is that when I go north to visit everyone tells me I talk like a southerner! I guess I don’t belong anywhere! Boo hoo hoo! :o)

      Like

  13. Tuesday, August 31, 2010 5:00 pm

    I would love to be entered to win this book. I haven’t had the opportunity to read it yet but I followed along with the comments on the book club and decided this one is a must read.

    Thanks and God bless – wonderful interview too!
    Jan Marie

    Like

  14. Tuesday, August 31, 2010 5:40 pm

    Jan Marie, you’ve just my night! thanks so much! I hope you like it!

    Like

  15. Wednesday, September 1, 2010 12:26 am

    Missed the book club. Would love to win your book!
    Please enter me. Thanks.

    desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

    Like

  16. Thursday, September 2, 2010 7:55 pm

    Lovely interview Jen and Kaye. Jen, both books your spoke about appeal deeply to reading on emotional issues that make us feel the character’s pain. I hope to read both of them Please enter me in this great giveaway and thanks Kaye for providing the chance. About being nervous mothers, that really never ends. With 8 children between my husband and I (his-mine-ours) ranging in ages 51-32, we never get over worrying about them still. LOL It’s a hard habit to break…and I don’t really see why it needs to be broken. It’s all about LOVE! I’ll be waiting to see who wins this wonderfully written book…..and I hope it’s me!

    Sharing God’s Love,
    Barb Shelton
    barbjan10 at tx dot rr dot com

    Like

    • Thursday, September 2, 2010 8:22 pm

      Amen, Barb! It’s all about LOVE! Thank you so much for your kind comments! I hope you enjoy The Heart’s Journey Home! The Heart’s Lullaby is set to release exactly 8 months from today! Yea!!! Good luck in the drawing!!!

      Like

  17. Thursday, September 2, 2010 8:38 pm

    I’d love to win a copy!

    Like

  18. Thursday, September 2, 2010 8:39 pm

    What a fun interview this was and loved the questions that were asked and the answers given.

    I would love to read the book so plese enter me in the drawing.

    Blessings,
    Jo

    Like

  19. Sheri permalink
    Thursday, September 2, 2010 9:24 pm

    The Heart’s Journey Home sounds like a great read! Thanks for the chance at the giveaway.

    Sheri

    Like

  20. Friday, September 3, 2010 11:16 am

    Kaye – you ask the most intriguing questions. Love it!

    Jen, looking forward to reading your books and getting to know you even better at SH. Your honest, unpretentious answers to Kaye’s unusual questions reveal you to be a very likable person.

    Like

    • Friday, September 3, 2010 12:27 pm

      Thanks, Lynne! I hope I’m likable though I know people who would argue that – my 3 sisters and my husband on occasion, for example especially early in the morning! :o) Of course, my girls would likely argue that around 8pm when it’s bedtime! :o) I’ve learned the hard way, though, that the best way to have a friend is to BE a friend. That’s been my motto. And I just prefer to be an open book – Kaye knows that! – just lay it all out there, and hopefully you’ll still like me! One of the best quotes I’ve ever heard is: a best friend is someone who knows everything about you and likes you anyway! I look forward to getting to know you, too, through our SH family!

      Like

  21. Lourdes Montes permalink
    Friday, September 3, 2010 2:04 pm

    Great interview thanks.

    Like

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