I am so excited to have Jennifer Erin Valent be our August Featured Author. I first heard of her back in November 2010 when Carmen picked her book, Fireflies in December, for our January 2011 Book Club. After the first sentence in that book, I was hooked. We ended up reading the entire series for our Book Club and the highlight of our July 2011 meeting (Cottonwood Whispers #2) was having a conference call with Jennifer. It was so amazing to talk to her and ask her questions about her book, her writings and her life. We were all thrilled! One member was so impressed, I think she told everyone she knew about these books. I asked her to write a little something for this post, here is what Zu wrote:
“Jennifer Erin Valent has a gift for making you long for the leisurely days of swimming holes, tire swings and sweet tea. However, that longing for days of old must be tempered with the remembrance of the brutal hatred and fear that existed, and sadly still does.
As the WFBC Book Club was getting ready to read Book Two, Cottonwood Whispers, I checked out, Fireflies in December, my first introduction to Jessilyn Lassiter. From the opening line, “The summer I turned thirteen, I thought I’d killed a man… ” I was hooked! In fact, as I devoured the book and had to wait for my turn to check out Cottonwood Whispers, I started thinking of all the things I wanted to ask Ms. Valent starting with “How do you come up with such fantastic opening lines?” Imagine my joy when she agreed to call us during our book meeting and I was actually able to ask her that very question. In fact, when I finished the last page of Catching Moondrops, the final and very satisfying finish to the series, I emailed Jennifer to ask her if it was as hard for her to say goodbye to the characters as it was for me.
I am thrilled that Jennifer Erin Valent has agreed to be part of our featured author book giveaway and I urge you to get your hands on Fireflies in December, Cottonwood Whispers and Catching Moondrops. Go ahead, it’s ok… get lost in this satisfying coming of age story of Jessilyn Lassiter. PS…Follow Jennifer Erin Valent on Pintrest for glimpses into the inspiration of the character and setting.” Zu
Jennifer Erin Valent is the 2007 winner of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest and 2010 Christy Award winner for Fireflies in December. She lives in central Virginia, where she has worked as a nanny for nearly twenty years. A lifelong resident of the South, her surroundings help to color the scenes and characters she writes.
Jennifer, we are so thrilled you agreed to be our featured author this month and I know there is some very blessed person out there who will win your autographed book, Fireflies in December, and fall in love with the series.
When did you know you wanted to write?
I dabbled with it some as a kid, but it was never a passion, just a hobby. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-20’s that I started to consider it more seriously. I started out writing children’s stories then tried my hand at non-fiction articles. But it was when I finished my first novel that the bug really hit. Typing THE END on that first children’s story was a rush, but there was nothing like putting the finishing touches on the novel. That made me realize I was meant to do this.
Do you have a favorite place to sit down and write? Can you share a picture of your fav writing site?
Nowadays, I always write at my desk. When I first started to write, I used a laptop literally as a laptop… and my chiropractic bills will tell you why I don’t do that anymore. So it’s got to be at the desk. Ideally, it’s a beautiful breezy day with the window open and a mocha on the table beside me. If we’re going full-on dream writing space, it would be oceanfront with the sea air drifting through the screen. Talk about inspiration!
Was Fireflies in December your first book? And what inspired you to write it?
No, the first novel I ever wrote was a romantic comedy that I STILL hope will get out to readers someday. In fact, I’ve written 3 ½ novels with those same characters. They still live on my computer, but one day I hope to see them sitting on shelves.
As for general inspiration, I’ve always had a very active imagination. I could daydream with the best of them, so I had plenty of stories percolating inside my head for years. Once I decided to really give genuine effort to trying to write some down, it just made sense. The particular inspirations for the romantic comedies were the brilliant screwball comedies of the 1940’s. For example, consider Cary Grant and Irene Dunne in The Awful Truth… the books are based on that type of staccato dialogue and wacky characters. Tons of fun to write!
How did you come up with the title?
The title Fireflies in December was not original to the story. I started out with no title. In fact, the first sentence of the book was the official name of the Word file for quite some time. I eventually got to thinking about the charm of fireflies and ideas of how I could incorporate them in the title. The title really came from a desire to find the right one to match the feel of the story, and the conversation between Jessie and her dad was the perfect place to weave it all together.
How much of the book is based on fact?
There are no elements of the story that are specifically based on any actual events; however, I did research the time period and events that had happened in history to lend credibility to it. My rule of thumb for this story was, “Could this really happen?” My research gave me the basis for how I felt things could pan out had these people really encountered these events in depression-era Virginia.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I very much hope it encourages readers to live rightly even when so much wrong is around them. I have always had a fascination with bullies, on both a large and small scale. Whether it’s a school bully, a mafia boss or a dictator—what makes a large group of people put up with the nonsense of one dominant personality? Were the masses to rise up against the one, surely the masses would win. So what I tend to address a lot in my books is the good winning out over the bad; solitary individuals making the choice to stand firm and knowing that with the Lord’s help, anything is possible. I’m a justice-seeker by nature, and so is Jessilyn, the main character in these books, and I wanted her to stand out as someone who will do what needs to be done no matter the cost.
What books have most influenced your life?
Undoubtedly, the Bible takes the top spot by far. It’s what I base my life on. I turn to the Word of God for answers, guidance, wisdom… it’s all in there. Also, I’ve been very impacted by Phillip Keller’s A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23. This book explains the shepherding references found in that passage so that we can better understand the word pictures. It really opens your eyes to how much the Lord loves us and cares for us.
What are you reading now? And who are your favorite authors? If you are like me I have a lot of favorite authors!
Right now I’m reading Butterflies in the Garden by Maureen Lang. I’m not very far in, but I’m really enjoying it so far. My favorite author in Christian fiction is Julie Klassen. I’ve read every one of hers and eagerly await each new release. I’ve also enjoyed Tim Downs’ Bug Man series and Eva Marie Everson’s books, as well. And I’ve long ago gone through all of Victoria Holt’s and Helen Macinnes’ books. When an author is no longer writing, it’s so sad when you’ve reached their last title!
Are you working on another book and can you tell us about it? I hope one comes out soon, because I totally loved this series and I’m looking forward to more great books from you.
Thank you! That’s so wonderful to hear. I am nearing completion on another novel that is unrelated to the Calloway Summers series, although we don’t have any publication plans… yet! This story is set in Virginia in the late 1940’s and follows a young abused war-widow on her journey to find her identity outside of being a battered wife. But her struggle is complicated when she is faced with the decision of whether or not to defend her former mother-in-law against an abusive relationship of her own. I have really grown to love these characters and have learned a lot while walking in their shoes. Hopefully we will have some good news to share soon.
It’s been awhile since you published this series, what have you been doing since then?
I still work as a nanny, a career I’ve been in for twenty years now and still love. I’m so blessed to have two jobs that I enjoy so much. I have still been writing in the meantime, but some tendonitis issues have kept me from being as active at the computer. It’s been a relief these last few months to be back at work without physical complications.
What are your hobbies, besides writing?
I like to eat! What can I say? I wouldn’t call myself a foodie, but I do enjoy trying new restaurants. I have a wonderful mother and some fantastic friends that I enjoy getting out with to shop, chat, eat, drink coffee… those are some of my favorite times. I also love watching ice hockey (huge Pittsburgh Penguins fan!) and I picked up figure skating in my early twenties. Unfortunately, I don’t get on the ice as much as I used to, but I still love the sheer freedom of gliding around out on the rink.
Do you have any pets?
No, but I grew up with a Shetland Sheepdog named Tammy that I adored. She was like my furry little sister.
Is there anything else you want to share with our readers today?
I love interacting with readers. Writing is such a solitary venture that getting a chance to see the books through the eyes of others is a unique experience. I try to actively participate in conversations on my Facebook page and also have a public Pinterest board that readers can contribute to so we can see their personal vision about the characters and settings in the books. Pinterest has been a great place for me to make my vision of the books come alive, so I also have a board that takes a walk through Jessilyn’s world as I see it and one that provides recipes I think would have come from Miss Cleta’s delightfully-scented kitchen. If anyone reads the books and wants to join in the conversations, please feel free to stop by.
Jennifer, thank you so much for taking the time to share yourself with us through this interview. We have certainly enjoyed getting to know you better. I want to share with our readers your sites in cyberspace, so they can connect with you themselves. I know I enjoy your Facebook posts and looking at your boards on Pinterest! Just click on the underlined links and you will be directed to Jennifer’s sites.
The giveaway starts today, August 1, 2013 and ends on August 10, 2013. A winner will be randomly selected on August 11, 2013 and notified by email.
- You must be 18 years or older and be a U.S. resident.
- Leave a comment in the comment section at the end of THIS post. One entry per person.
- We will randomly compile a list of everyone who made a comment and will draw a name. We will then notify you by email giving you further instructions to collect your free book. DO NOT include your personal mailing address in your comment for security reasons.
- If we do not hear back from you in 5 days, we will draw another winner.
- Please allow 2-3 weeks for book delivery.
- If you win the book it would be really great if you could come back to this post after you have read it and tell us what you thought about the book.
Next Month – September 2013 – our Featured Author will be Denise Weimer and we will be giving away an autographed copy of her book, Sautee Shadows.