Jennifer Sienes

For over a year, I’ve been featuring author interviews on my website. It’s been fun and interesting getting acquainted with each of these ladies—learning where they draw inspiration, how they create their characters and plot lines, how long they’ve been writing, and a number of other details. Everyone has a story.

As unconventional as it may be, I’m going to take this opportunity to interview myself. And it has nothing at all to do with my Because Fiction article coming due in two days (with no inspiration as yet.) Nope. Not at all.

Tell me, Jennifer, what would you say is the definition of success as an author?

Great question! I’ve actually pondered this often over the last few years. I got the writing bug when I was about twelve. As I got older, and the dream took shape, I thought I’d become famous and make lots of money like Danielle Steele or Nora Roberts. This is what is called living in fantasyland. My first piece of advice to anyone who wants to be an author but still needs to make an income—don’t quit your day job. Seriously. Most writers never make more than minimum wage, and that’s after they grow a fan-base.

As my faith walk has grown, I’ve come to learn that everything I have—and I mean everything—is by the grace of God. My purpose in this life is to do whatever He calls me to and glorify Him in the process. So, if anything I write touches a heart or two, that is success. A visiting pastor we had said this regarding serving the Lord, “You gotta throw all your chips in. No holding back, and no wavering.” It’s a day-by-day decision to walk in obedience and leave the results up to God.

How many books have you written, and which is your favorite?

I’ve written about twelve books. Two were what I call throw-away books—they were written before I’d ever even walked into a writing workshop or joined a critique group. The next six were listed as women’s fiction/romance and are the entirety of the Apple Hill Series—three novels and three novellas. The next two, Night Songs and A Sojourner’s Solace were the first two books in my new Bedford County Series, which is southern fiction/romance. I have another novella (These Simple Gifts) and a novel (Shadow Dancing) along with a Christmas Castle Collection novella (An Irish Christmas Heart) at my publishers awaiting edits.

So far, my favorite book is Night Songs, although there is a close tie with Shadow Dancing. After writing women’s fiction for so long, I was ready to take a walk on the fun and flirty side. I thoroughly enjoyed writing Night Songs, because having moved to Middle Tennessee four years ago, I was able to infuse it with my new southern roots. It’s also the first of my novels to be recorded for an audiobook, which is in the works right now.

Tell us about your first published book.

My first published book was Surrendered, although it was not my first completed novel that was published. Stay with me, and I promise to unravel that little puzzle. I wrote Providence (Book 3 in the Apple Hill Series) three times before I was ready to release it to my publisher. It was dark, because it was inspired by my brother’s suicide. As I went through the grieving process, that novel changed along with my heart. The second novel I wrote was Illusions, which was Book 2. It was inspired by my daughter’s near-fatal car accident and recovery from traumatic brain injury. By the time I got to Surrendered, I’d lightened up quite a bit. In fact, I’d say it’s romance rather than women’s fiction. So, when my publisher asked me to submit whatever book I thought was ready for my first publication, that’s the one I gave her.

The inspiration for Surrendered came from a side character I’d written in Providence. My critique group loved Tess O’Shay so much, they asked if she’d get her own book. By the time I’d rewritten, Providence, Tess had been written out of it completely. But her character wasn’t so easily forgotten. She became a real person to me, and I had to let her have her own story.

What is your next book about?

My next novel is Shadow Dancing, Book 2 in the Bedford County Series. The Christmas novella, These Simple Gifts, comes out before—in November. Shadow Dancing is about accepting God’s sovereignty even when it seems an impossible feat. I fell in love with the main characters (Bekah and Mitch) and the journey they took after a devastating tragedy. Sounds dark, doesn’t it? Well, it kind of is, although I tempered it with humor, great family dynamics, and always romance. Just because a couple is married doesn’t mean the book can’t have some good, old-fashioned romance.

Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share?

I’m actually working on three pieces of southern fiction right now. I have a summer novella (yet to be titled) that needs to get to my publisher asap, a Christmas novella due in November, and Book 3 in the Bedford County Series due in April. Sounds like long way off, but it’ll be here in no time. I’m excited about writing them all, although I’m super excited about Book 3. I wanted to title it Picket Fences, but it turns out that title has been taken. It’s a marriage of convenience story turned on its head with three kids, a suspected murder, and lots of mishaps. Such a difference from where I started with women’s fiction.

From where do you draw inspiration for your stories?

At first, inspiration came from real life tragedies that I lived through. I was afraid I’d need to experience more in order to develop more novels. Fortunately, that has not been the case. I’ve received inspiration from other people’s lives, taking a what if question and turning it on its head, and even from Scripture. As I said earlier, everyone has a story. All we need to do is keep our eyes open and use a little creativity to give it a life of its own.


Susan K. Beatty

Being Rumpled Up in Your Mind

“I don’t think secrets agree with me, I feel rumpled up in my mind since you told me that,“ said Jo rather ungratefully.

Who doesn’t love Jo March in Little Women? This was Jo’s response to Laurie when he told her about Mr. Brooke’s keeping Meg’s glove. Jo, who has no trouble speaking her mind, struggles with what this secret means for her and her sisters’ futures. She doesn’t want Meg to get married. She likes the status quo.

If Fiona, in my book, The Fragrance of Violets, had read Little Women, I’m sure she would have agreed with Jo about secrets. Her mother tells her a secret that changes everything about what she believed about who she was and the relationship with her alleged father.

Her mind was definitely rumpled up. More than rumpled. The secret differed from the one in Little Women. It was an earth-shattering, soul crushing one. Because the secret involved others whose lives it would also change, it complicated her struggle.

Jo and Laurie ran pell-mell down a hill to work off the “rumple.” Fiona often went for a run when she was angry, but she didn’t deal with this secret in the same way. Instead, she had two people, her best friend and her boyfriend, who were godly encouragers and could share biblical wisdom.

The bottom line was, regardless of the secret, or maybe because of it, she had to forgive. With following the Lord’s admonition to forgive others because of how much He had forgiven her, she could deal with it and find peace.

Not that it would be easy for Fiona or for us. But I’m thankful the Lord goes through all circumstances with his people.

Do you like secrets? How do you deal with heartbreaking, life-changing news? Do you have loved ones and friends you can turn to for biblical counsel? Of course, the Word is there for us, regardless. But it’s a blessing to have people around us who can challenge and encourage us. Just like Fiona.

What’s that you say? I didn’t tell you the secret? I know. That would be a spoiler. I hope it doesn’t rumple you up in your mind.