Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance, and the authors visiting my blog answered them! This week, I am so happy to have Jennifer Chastain as my guest! Anyone who lists the Little House on the Prairie Books as their childhood favorites is already my friend, but it’s kinda cool that her father moved to North Carolina to work for IBM – which is where my husband worked around the same time. Small world! I hope you enjoy her interview as much as I did. Read on to see how you can enter to win a copy of her latest release!
Tell us a little bit about yourself. I’m always a little hesitant to talk about myself. I am extremely reserved, most would say, introverted. Okay, I’ll say it, I’m shy! Always have been. But once I find my kindred spirits, we’re friends for life.I was born in New York State, and we lived in a small dairy farming community until I was 16 years old. The town had only about 2000 people, so you knew everyone, mostly, and everybody’s business. Which is one of the drawbacks of a small town. We had a public library, and I would ride my bike down there a couple of times a week to check out books. I remember one time, the librarian said to me, “since you read so much, I think you’d like…” and then she proceeded to introduce me to a slew of different writers.
When I was 16, my dad worked for IBM and his job transfer landed us in Charlotte, NC. Talk about a culture shock! From a small town up north to a huge city in the South! Over the years, I’ve come to love my adopted state and I met and married my husband here. My hubby is a native Charlottean. Let me tell you, there are not many folks around who can say that anymore.
We’ve been married now for 26 years – it’s been a roller coaster, that’s for sure. We were even host parents to three amazing international high school students for 5 years. It was tough at times but with lots of love and prayer, we had the joy of seeing these young men blossom.
I wouldn’t be here now without the love, support, and prayers of my family. My hubby has been very supportive in my writing journey.
We also have a black rescue cat, CJ, which is short for Captain Jack. How he got his name is a whole other story!
I’m a member of ACFW, ACFW-NC and Novel Academy/My book Therapy. Being a published author has been one of my greatest accomplishments and all these organizations have been instrumental in my development as an author. I look forward to publishing more books in the future.
Tell us about your current release. My current release is a sweet, marriage of convenience story. It takes place during Christmas time and is set in the small, fictional town of Providence, NC.
Forensic Accountant, Meredith Mitchell’s life is in a shambles. Her mother needs a lifesaving transplant, Mom’s medical bills have bankrupted Meredith’s meager savings, and she’s sold everything of value, but it’s still not enough. To make matters worse, she’s now tasked with discovering accounting errors for a new client—none other than Nathan Rutledge—the same man who gave her a broken heart for Christmas eight years ago.
Confirmed bachelor, Nathan Rutledge shut his heart to romance when he was forced to break the heart of the only woman he ever truly loved. Now, with his father’s retirement from the family conglomerate, the torch has been passed to him. But there are two problems—first, he needs a wife in order to take over the family business. Second, someone has been embezzling company funds. With the pressure mounting, and time expiring to find both a wife he can trust and the thief, Nate needs a Christmas miracle.
Meredith wants to run. Nate wants the chance to right his wrongs. So, naturally, when he proposes a modern-day marriage of convenience, she balks at the idea. But he desperately needs a wife, and she really needs the money he offers. Is this the answer to her prayers? Or will this mutually beneficial arrangement re-open old wounds that can’t be healed?
With all those characters in your head screaming to get out how do you write fast enough to get it all down? This is an extremely accurate description of what happens to me! I tell people all the time that I have all these ideas and characters in my head, begging for my attention, screaming, and vying for attention, wanting to tell me their story. I can’t get them all down fast enough, but when I do have a new story idea, I write it down in a notebook with their name, age, and occupation. And then tell them that they have to wait patiently until I have time to interview them. I probably have another 4 or 5 stories that are on the back burner right now, but since I’m under contract right now, I have to work on those stories that are contracted. Every once in a while, these new characters will pop up while I’m vacuuming or doing laundry with a new idea. That’s why I keep my phone handy so I can jot down any ideas on my Notes app.
How do you push past the fear of your writing being average and be bold enough to sell it to a publisher (or agent or audience if you self-publish)? Such a great question. I’m always fearful that the publisher or agent won’t like my stories. I’m human and those doubts and fears creep in at the most inopportune times. But you know what? That’s when I have to push past that fear, give it to the Lord and know that I’m putting my best work in front of a prospective publishers and agents. I’m always working on improving my craft, reading books on writing, attending a conference or a webinar. I write every day, and no matter how bad the words are on the page, I can always go back and edit. I also have several author friends and they give me honest feedback.
What inspired you to start writing, or did you always want to write? What made you take the plunge and finally do it? (I’m combining these two questions) Another great question. I’ve always loved to read and about 25 years ago, God nudged my heart to start writing. I was like Moses, I said, “who am I? I can’t do this. I don’t have the skills.” I then devoured everything I could get my hands on – Janette Oak, Lori Wick, Dee Henderson, to name a few. I also discovered Susan May Warren, Denise Hunter and Rachel Hauck a little over ten years ago and I fell in love with these new to me Christian authors and their style of writing.
Then, about seven years ago, God nudged me again. I talked it over with my husband and told him everything I would to do in order to prepare to write. Thankfully, he was on board the entire time. And when God said, “What about now? Will you write?” I said, “okay, Lord, I’ll do it. But you’re going to have to help me because I don’t know what I’m doing.” He has. He’s been with me the entire time.
Do you have your plotline and character development already laid out before you begin writing a book, or do they develop as you write? Oh yes, I always make sure I have a plotline and character development already laid out. First, I have to interview the characters. I use DiAnn Mills questionnaire she uses – it’s over 15 pages long but it is in-depth, and I really get a feel for my characters and what makes them tick. I also take the Myers-Briggs personality assessment and the Love Languages questionnaire. My next step is to use Susan May Warren’s SEQ – you lay out their flaws, biggest dreams, fears, the lie they believe, their dark moment. Finally, I use the Lindy Hop (also from Novel Academy) and I plot out the entire story. Once I know who the characters are, plotting the story is much easier, because you are actually in the minds of your characters. Sometimes, though, a character might do something that’s not plotted, but that’s okay, as long as the action or event makes sense and moves the story along.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers? My advice would be to Pray for God’s guidance.
Write every day, even if it’s just a few sentences. Find a writing prompt of the day and write a paragraph on one topic. Write in a diary, write a blog post, etc.
Read. Read during your breaks, at lunch, whenever you have free time. Read in your genre, but outside your genre as well. I love contemporary romance, but every once in a while, I’ll read YA, women’s fiction or a mystery. Reading sparks your creativity.
Attend a conference. There are still a lot of conferences that are being held virtually and are relatively inexpensive.
Find a critique group. Word Weavers is an excellent place to hone your writing skills.
Join a writing group. For me it’s the NC chapter of ACFW and my virtual group of writers at Novel Academy.
Read books about the writing craft and social media. But don’t get sucked into the dark hole that is social media. This is a lesson I’ve had to learn. Post your content, I use a scheduling APP, and then respond as needed. I try not to look at my social media accounts more than 30 minutes a day.
Who were some of your favorite authors as a child? (Book series, maybe?) Oh wow, I had so many growing up. I loved The Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Louisa May Alcott was another favorite and I read all of the Nancy Drew mysteries that were available at my small public library. I also read Jane Eyre when I was around 11 years old, which is one of my all-time favorite books.
Here is where you can find Jennifer online:
Jennifer is giving away a copy of The Mistletoe Contract to a reader! See below how to enter to win: