Salut! Today is super special, G&Lers. Today, we have Jenifer Jennings with us to answer some questions. Who is Jenifer? She’s a talented author I’ve had the pleasure of working with in Inkwell Imaginings—Jacksonville, NaNoWriMoed with, and allowed to yell at me frequently when I’m drastically off track.
Jenifer’s recent book, The Hope Chest, has just graced Amazon.com with its shiny new presence, and begs to be read!
Let’s greet Jenifer! Hi, Jenifer. Thanks for being on G&L today. =]
JJ: Thank you so much for having me. I am honored to be here.
G&L: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
JJ: I’m a wife and mother who found out that I love to write. I wrote poetry in High School as a way of expressing myself, but never really did anything with it. When I got into college, I found out that I was good at writing “believable” stories and actually enjoyed doing so. Over the past two years, I have really found my voice and passion for being a novelist. Now, most of my time is spent being a wife and mother, but I am learning to carve out more time to be a novelist.
G&L: Where did you get the idea for The Hope Chest?
It makes me smile to think about that and the best way I can explain is to say the idea came out in a very round-about way. NaNoWriMo was coming up and I had a plan to work on a current novel I needed to finish. I was scrolling through Facebook one night and saw this picture of a chest from one of my friends who runs an antique thrift store. When I saw it, I thought about a lecture from a class I took in college. My professor had asked the women in the class if they had a hope chest and, since I had never heard of one, he went on to explain to me what it was and the tradition of passing them down from mother to daughter. I loved the idea, but brushed it off as “something people use to do.” When I saw the picture on Facebook, it got me thinking about the concept of a hope chest and my brain made a connection between that tradition and the story found in Exodus about the Ark of the Covenant. I thought, “Hey, wouldn’t that be cool, if the guy who made the Ark made a hope chest for his daughter?” That began the story in my head and that was all I needed to start writing.
G&L: How long did it take you to write the book, from your initial outline to the publishing process?
JJ: I love to say 13 days, but really from start to finish it was more like two months. The idea hit me about two weeks before NaNoWriMo and so I took those two weeks to research and plot. Once NaNo started, I finished the first draft in 13 days. I did a few revisions before ending up with the final product sometime in the middle of December.
G&L: Is there any particular author or book that has influenced your writing, style, or genre, either as a child or an adult?
JJ: It’s kind of been a progression of sorts. My favorite book growing up was Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. I think I’ve read that book fifty times. I love how real the story felt and every time I read it, I could see myself right there in the story. Several years ago, a friend gave me a book called Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, which really got me into writing stories based on Biblical accounts. More recently, I received all of the books in the Love Comes Softly series by Janette Oke. I really enjoy the lessons that are taught behind the story and try to incorporate that into my stories. And, of course, my KJV Bible, which never ceases to inspire me. God uses it to remind me that He created me to write. The feeling of knowing your purpose is very rare and it amazes me to think I can feel that any time I sit down to write.
G&L: Can you tell us a bit about The Hope Chest?
JJ: Basically, it is a story that follows a hope chest from the time it is built back in Biblical times by the guy who built the Ark of the Covenant. It travels around the world, being passed from generation to generation, until it reaches modern times and falls into the hands of a woman who personifies our current world. She loves all things shiny and new, and hates “old fashion” heirlooms.
G&L: What was your favorite part to write and why?
JJ: Believe it or not, I really enjoyed writing the modern time at the end of the book. My other stories have all been set in Biblical times so, at first, I was nervous about writing in a modern setting. When I sat down to write it, it was actually freeing! I didn’t have to worry about not saying things a certain way. For example, in my ancient time stories I don’t use words like “lunch” or “noon.” When I wrote the last couple of chapters in The Hope Chest, I didn’t have to worry so much about that because I could use those words. Plus, as I was plotting out The Hope Chest, Professor Ivory Taylor became my favorite character. When I fall in love that quickly, their story dents to flow faster and more clearly than if I try to force a character to talk to me.
G&L: Are you working on any other projects right now that you’d care to share with us?
JJ: I hope to be able to say that I am always working on more novels. Yes, I do have other projects going right now. I have a trilogy that I have been working on for a few years about Rebekah, whose story is in Genesis. The Hope Chest interfered with finishing Book 2 last year. Now, another story, Crimson Cord, is threating to take precedence in my plan to finish the Rebekah Trilogy before moving on. Crimson Cord is about Rahab, the harlot, in Joshua.
G&L: What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What was the best compliment?
JJ: That’s hard, because my writing hasn’t really been outside of my circle far enough to have tough criticisms yet. I know the day is coming when I will hear some tough criticisms, it just hasn’t happened yet. Editing can be very hard on a writer and I did have a tough time with the very last revision, because I was just ready for the process to be over and my book to be out there. So, it was hard to hear that things still needed to be fixed.
The best compliment is a tie between: 1) when I heard my critique circle giggle as they read one of the last chapters of The Hope Chest. I always wish to be a fly on the wall when people read my writing to see the pure reactions on their face. And 2) my husband actually read The Hope Chest through, twice. There has only ever been one book, The Last of the Mohicans by James Cooper, that he has ever read cover to cover. That was a huge compliment. Plus, he said he actually enjoyed reading it!
G&L: Do you have any advice to give aspiring writers?
JJ: 1) Write because you love it. If you write to please others or because you think you are going to make ANY money, DON’T write. Yes, you might make money and yes, people might like your writing, but you will never be satisfied if you are doing it for any other reason than you love to write.
2) Get involved in a good writing group. Don’t just show up either, really get involved. I can honestly say if it weren’t for Inkwell, I would not have found my passion and definitely would not have a novel out there in the real world. After going to my first Inkwell meeting, I went home and wrote twice as much in the following week as I had that entire year.
G&L: Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers or those who have/will buy your book?
JJ: Thank you. I can never say it enough or in enough ways. Time is very precious and if someone is willing to use some of their time to read my writing, I am beyond grateful and humbly awed by the fact.
One man’s simple gift touches several generations. A father’s love and passion mingle to create a wedding gift for his daughter like none had seen before: a Hope Chest. Descendants are blessed to receive the gift through the years. That is, until the chest is passed to a modern day woman who hates heirlooms and loves everything new. A professor of Quantum Physics wants nothing to do with the old box that her mother treasured. Yet, with the help of a co-worker, they discover the Hope Chest has more to offer than even the creator intended. Buy it now on Amazon!
Jenifer Jennings is a novelist. She makes her home in Jacksonville, Florida with her loving husband and young son. Accepting Christ when she was seventeen, she strives to show His love to the world through writing; when her toddler allows her time to do so. Check out her Blog!