Last week I reviewed a new book from Abingdon Press called The Pastor's Wife, by Jennifer AlLee. Today I am back with an interview with Jennifer and the opportunity to win your own copy of this great book!!
To read my CFBA review you can go to the posting dated February 17, 2010. And then come back here to read an interview with Jennifer and sign up to win a free copy of The Pastor's Wife.
I really enjoyed reading this book so much, and know you will too!
I am very pleased to welcome author Jennifer AlLee to A Writer's Journey for an interview. After you have read the interview, be sure to leave a comment, telling about a pastor's wife you know. If you don't know a pastor's wife, tell about a woman you look up to. You don't need to mention names if you prefer not.
On Saturday, February 27, 2010, a name will be chosen from among those leaving a comment to be the winner of The Pastor's Wife. So be sure to not miss leaving that comment and a mention about a pastor's wife you know at the bottom of the interview!
Jennifer, welcome to A Writer's Journey.
Q: Give us a little preview of The Pastor’s Wife.
A: Maura Sullivan never thought she’d see Granger, Ohio, again. But when circumstances force her to return, she must face all the disappointments she tried so hard to leave behind; a husband that ignored her, a congregation she couldn’t please, and a God who took away everything she ever loved.
Nick Shepherd had put the past behind him. At least he thought he had, until the day his estranged wife walked back into town. Intending only to help Maura through her crisis of faith, Nick discovers his feeling for her never died. Now, he must face the mistakes he made and find a way to give and receive forgiveness.
As God works in both their lives, Nick and Maura start to believe they can repair their broken relationship and reunite as man and wife. But Maura has one more thing to tell Nick before they can move forward. It’s the thing that finally drove her to leave six years earlier, and the one thing that can destroy the fragile trust they’ve managed to rebuild.
Q: What made you want to write this book?
A: I served as a church secretary for many years which definitely gave me a unique perspective on the lives of a pastoral family. I worked at two different churches. One was a large denominational church, the other much smaller and non-denominational. But the lives of the pastors were quite similar. There’s always another meeting to go to, or one more person that needs counseling. People feel very possessive about their pastors. This usually manifests itself in positive ways, but sometimes it crosses a line. You have to watch out for that. And the pastoral family faces challenges no one really thinks about. They basically live in a glass house and are expected to be active members of every church activity, whether they’re interested in it or not.
When I was working on the original concept for this novel, I thought about the pastors’ wives I’ve known over the years. They’ve handled themselves with amazing grace under pressure. But what if another woman couldn’t? What if a young woman thinks she knows what she’s getting into, but the reality of losing who she is and becoming a “pastor’s wife” is more than she can handle? What if some other tragedy pushes her over the edge? Would she run? And what would happen if she had to return to the scene of her heartbreak years later? All those questions eventually became The Pastor’s Wife.
Q: Have you always wanted to be a writer?
A: I’ve always wanted to be something creative. I went through stages where I wanted to be a photographer, a singer, an actress… but I’ve always been writing. I was that kid in school who wrote a novella when the assignment was only to write a short story. I wrote my first novel during my senior year in high school and finished the second one in college. Neither one were very good, but they were good learning experiences. And I still have both of them packed away in a box.
Q: Beside The Pastor’s Wife, what else have you published?
A: Early in my writing journey, I sold a few short stories. Later on, I had the honor of being recommended for a project at Concordia Publishing House. My pastor at the time writes for them and he thought I’d be good for a book of skits they were putting together. I did that, which led to other projects including writing for their My Devotions series. To date, I’ve written over 100 devotions. My first published book is The Love of His Brother, a contemporary inspirational romance for Five Star. You can read more about it on my website.
Q: What’s your writing process like?
A: When I started out, I was a 100% seat-of-the-pants writer. That means I’d sit down at the computer with just an idea in my head and let it all unfold from there. But over the last few years, I’ve become a little more strategic in my approach. When you submit a proposal to an editor, you have to provide a synopsis of the entire book, from beginning to end, whether you’ve finished writing it or not. While I used to hate it, I’ve now come to appreciate the process. It forces me to think things through so that when I do sit down to write, I don’t spend as much time wondering what comes next. But I'm still quite fluid. If the story changes course in midstream, I go with it.
Q: How do you come up with your ideas?
A: Ideas are everywhere! The hard part is knowing which ones will become great books. I tend to start with something I’m familiar with. In my first novel, The Love of His Brother, I set the story in Montana because, at the time, it was the only state I’d been to other than California. With The Pastor’s Wife, I started with my knowledge of ministerial families and church operations. So I start with a nugget of familiarity and then I start pushing it around, asking “what if this happened?” The questions layer one on top of the other, and pretty soon I’ve got a plot.
Q: What advice do you have for new authors?
A: From a craft standpoint, there are two things you can do to become a better writer: read and write. Read books about the craft of writing and read other books in your genre. But don’t stop there. If you write sweet romances, stretch yourself and pick up a thriller. If you write historicals, try out a sci-fi or fantasy novel. Great writing is great writing, regardless of the subject matter. You can learn a lot by reading broadly.
For personal well-being, I would encourage every writer, no matter what stage you’re at, to have a support system. This includes belonging to a writer’s organization. I’m a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, which has been a huge blessing to me. Through it, I’ve cultivated friendships with other writers, including my best friend who is also my critique buddy. It’s great if your family supports your writing, but trust me, you need to have people you can go to who “get” you.
Q: You have a unique last name. Why is it spelled with a capital letter in the middle?
A: AlLee is my married name, so it’s really all my husband’s fault. The origin is French, and it’s morphed quite a bit over the years. Part of the family spells it like I do. Another part uses two lowercase “el”s. And a third rebel faction spells it with the capital “el” and an accent mark. I know it can be quite confusing. But it sure looks nice on a book cover when they get it right!
Q: You grew up in Hollywood. How did that happen?
A: My grandparents met on the vaudeville circuit. Grandma was a dancer and my grandfather was a concert violinist from Hungary: Duci deKerekjarto (how’s that for a last name?) Duci immigrated to make his mark in Hollywood, which is how our family ended up there. He remained friends with another Hungarian performer, a Shakespearean actor named Bela Lugosi. (Yes, the original Dracula.) Bela died before I was born, but my mom remembers sitting on his lap and calling him Uncle Bela.
My own minor brush with fame came on the day I was born. Michael Landon Jr. and I were in the same hospital nursery in neighboring basinets. My Aunt Karen nearly passed out when she realized proud father Michael Sr. was standing at the window next to her!
Q: What do you do for fun?
A: I’m a TV/movie junkie. My tastes cross genres, but I tend to like weird stuff. My favorite current TV shows are LOST, Flash Forward, Lie to Me, and Bones. Recent favorite movies are the new Star Trek, UP, and The Blind Side. Of course, live theatre is the best, but it’s so expensive that I rarely go. A few months ago my son had to do a review of a live production for his drama class, which was the perfect excuse to see Phantom of the Opera. Man, that first blast of music in the overture gave me chills. I wanted to jump right out of my balcony seat and onto the stage to join them.
Don't forget to leave a comment and a sentence or two about a pastor's wife you know.
Jennifer can be reached through her website: website - http://www.jenniferallee.com/ or her blog - http://jenniferallee.blogspot.com/