This month's spotlight is on Biblical-historical-fiction-author, Jenifer Jennings. She is one of my favorite people! We met through our affiliation with the writing critique group, Word Weaver's International. However, we worked together prior to attending meetings as we'd agreed to beta read for each other. I discovered first-hand that she was both a great writer and a Bible scholar. I am blessed to personally know this beautiful woman and her delightful family. Put your hands together and welcome to the author's stage, pure synergy—Jenifer...
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
The journey to being a writer was such a gradual one for me that I don’t really recall a moment that I said, “I should be a writer.” In school, I enjoyed language arts above my other subjects, but never so far that it was all I thought about. After I encountered Jesus at the age of seventeen, I started to write poetry to work through some things I was dealing with. When I got halfway through college, I started writing about a few places in the Old Testament that seemed to time jump too much for me. I wanted to know more about specific events so I would research and brainstorm about possible explanations. After I got married and had my son, I found a local writers group that was forming near me. I was a stay-at-home with a young one and decided it would be something fun to do that would get me out of the house. The leader was awesome. She took me under her wing and pushed me to grow and challenge myself. One year, she encouraged me to try NaNoWriMo; National Novel Writing Month which is a yearly challenge in which you write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. We spent two months working on research and outlines. Then I sat down to write my novel and ended up meeting the goal of 50,000 words in only 13 days. When I told my leader, she encouraged me to try my hand at self-publishing it. So, I did and that got me hungry to keep writing. I found I really enjoyed writing. It was my personal way to connect to God and by diving deep into His word I found His peace and creativity to keep producing more stories. I wrote a short story that was accepted in an anthology with a traditional house. When it was published, it was such a thrill. Unfortunately, that house closed so I decided to stay with self-publishing. With each book, I invested in learning more and expanding my business. After only two years, I started making a profit and gaining a following so I just pressed harder into using my author business to honor God.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Each project can take a different amount of time. The average for me to write the first draft of a book from beginning to end is about 3-4 weeks. That time relies heavily on spending weeks beforehand researching and outlining and life not going sideways during the writing time. I will then work on as many drafts as I feel needs to happen before moving on to editing. Most of the time I’m working on two projects at once. One that is either in the outlining or writing stage and another that is in the formatting or marketing stage. I believe balancing both sides of my brain helps with not getting burned out. If I don’t feel like I can be creative one day, I will switch and do something more analytical on the other project. This gives the creative side of my brain a rest so I can try again another day. This is my personal process that has been developed over the years that works for me. I tell writers to do whatever works for them. Not everyone can produce content that quickly and that’s okay. You should never measure your creative process against someone else’s.
What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I’m a stay-at-home mom and writing is my full-time job. So, if it’s an ideal week of writing, I will spend 4-5 days writing for about 5-6 hours a day. Typically, I can write about 1,000 words an hour. So, in a great week, I can knock out 20-30,000 words. The other days of the week are spent setting up social media, marketing, or working on my newsletter. If it’s not an ideal week, I may only get 2-3 days of writing for about 2-3 hours a day. With each season comes unique challenges. I’ve learned to go with the flow and try not to get frustrated or work against what’s going on. Taking a step back and figuring out a way to adjust and adapt my writing time to the season I’m in has helped tremendously with my mental and spiritual health. I can recognize a lot quicker now when things start changing that I need to take that break and come up with a new plan. It’s not always easy and sometimes it may take a day or so for me to let go of my expectations and realized that God remains in control and that if I’m trying to honor Him, He will see to it that I have what I need. One of the greatest things about being a full-time self-published author is that I do have control over my own schedule. If I need to make changes, then I make them.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
My most interesting writing quirk would be that I always write my last chapter first. Most of the time, I work heavily on my outline before I write so I always know where my story is going. I write the last chapter first so that if I get stuck along the way, I can refocus back on that last chapter and head toward that ending. I do leave some wiggle room in my stories because my characters often surprise me with information along the way. But, for the most part, I know where they will end up so I can write that last scene before the rest.
Where do you get your information and inspiration for your books?
The Bible is my inspiration and the bases for all my information. I strive to keep the Biblical account as my foundation and keep any fictional aspects in line with that foundation. After that, I work with recognized commentaries and a Bible software program called Logos to understand the historical and cultural context of the stories. After those two layers, I sprinkle on fictional pieces to fill in the blanks. I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Ministry and before that I studied Psychology. Those two learning paths help me get into my character’s head and lives which I hope come across on the page. I always want to show my readers that the people in the Bible were real people living in real places dealing with real issues. I want them to come alive for my readers just as much as they do for me while I’m studying about them.
When did you write your first book?
The first book I ever finished was a novel called, “The Hope Chest” which was originally written and released in 2011. That was my NaNoWriMo novel that I wrote in 13 days. The first book I ever started and (finally) finished was my novel, “The Stranger” which I began writing in 2007, but not published until 2020.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
When I’m not writing, I’m usually spending time with my family. We love playing games or going out to eat. Sometimes I’ll be in the yard planting flowers or help my husband with a house project. When I’m not doing any of those things, I am either crocheting or reading. I enjoy making crochet projects to give to others. I’m also a reader at heart, so when I get free time, I enjoy reading a new book.
What does your family think of your writing?
My husband supports me a great deal. He, my mom, and my brothers were all so supportive when I first started writing. They built me a writing desk, invested in my business so I could buy inventory to go to my first couple of book-signing events, and my husband would take shifts with our children to give me time to write. My kids think it’s pretty cool that I’m an author. They enjoy telling people their mom writes books, but they just know me as Mom so it’s just what I do. They all encourage me and find ways to support me even now.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
The thing that surprised me the most was all the work that was waiting for me after I wrote a book. I was so naive when I first started this writing journey. I had no idea about multiple drafts, edits, marketing, formatting, cover design, publishing…there was so much beyond simply writing the first draft. But just because there was a lot didn’t mean I couldn’t learn. I tell aspiring writers each step of this journey can be looked at as Time vs Money. If you don’t have lots of money, be prepared to spend a lot of time learning. If you don’t have a lot of time, be prepared to spend a lot of money. I enjoy learning new parts of creating books though. With each skill I learn, it feels good to have a bigger hand in my business. I also try my best to pour into other writers. To me, if I help someone else on their journey, it brings better quality to the market. I’ve never been one of those people who withhold help or see other writers as my competition. I’m very open to helping fellow writers with all aspects of the author business because I’m so grateful to those writers who poured into me.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
To date, I’ve published a total of eleven books. I have a Spiritual Collection series that has four books: a devotional, a collection of short stories, a collection of Biblical short stories, and a collection of poems. Then I have my Faith Finders series which is a six-book series featuring different women from the Bible including; Puah (from Exodus), Miriam (from Exodus), Rahab (from Joshua), Bathsheba (from 2 Samuel), Mary of Bethany (from the Gospels), and Lea (who is a fictional wife of Timothy from Paul’s letters). Recently, I’m working on a new three-book series called The Rebekah Series which features the life of Rebekah from Genesis. Each one becomes my favorite as I write it, but if I had to pick just one as my top favorite it would be “At His Feet.” Studying the Gospels and ministry of Jesus was so wonderful and sharing that through the eyes of Mary of Bethany has been such a gift.
Do you have any suggestions to help others become better writers? If so, what are they?
Yes. If you want to become a better writer, invest in learning your craft. Even as long as I’ve been writing and with as many books as I’ve self-published, I still spend time learning. That looks different for everyone, but it could include being part of a writing or critique group, taking classes at a college or online, reading writer help books, or connecting with successful authors in your genre and picking their brain just to name a few. Learn and keep on learning. Also, know what your core value is in your author business. Life will get crazy and there will be points along the way where you may lose your way or want to give up. Having a core that you can go back to and remember why you write will help with those times.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they have to say?
All the time. I love hearing from readers. A lot of time it’s from my newsletter subscribers replying to my emails letting me know how timely what I shared was for them. Sometimes it’s them sharing with me what’s going on in their lives so I can pray for them. Sometimes it’s followers reaching out to ask me writing questions. I love interacting with readers and hearing what God is doing in their lives. I also have an active ARC team that reads and reviews my books for me. So, I eagerly wait to hear from them about upcoming releases and what they think before the general public gets to read my stories. My favorite thing to hear is when someone gets done with one of my books and they tell me they went back to the Bible to read and/or study the Biblical account for themselves. That is one of my main goals and it warms my heart every time I hear it.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about yourself?
Just that I’m a normal person doing what God has called me to do. I believe He has placed something inside each of us to help build His kingdom and writing is what I believe He gave to me to do.
Most people struggle to find a good book that will provide spiritual encouragement from a biblical worldview. Jenifer offers Christian Fiction novels that explore the lives of characters who learn to trust God with their struggles; so that you can enjoy hours of reading pleasure and be challenged to trust God with your next step of faith.
Jenifer is a wife and mother first, though writing is her soul's desire. She takes Biblical accounts, weaves in historical research, and adds a dash of fiction to create stories that encourage readers.
With a degree in Church Ministry from Trinity Baptist College and an active member of Word Weavers International, she is always learning. She is married to the man of her dreams who reminds her everyday what real love feels like. Together, they are raising two amazing children who keep them laughing.
YouTube: Jenifer Jennings
Jenifer! I’m so sorry this response is so delayed! It is always a blessing to have you share. You are a wealth of knowledge and inspiration. We adore you and your books! -Katherine November 6, 2020
Thank you, Katherine. This was a wonderful opportunity to share more about my writing life. May God continue to use you and bless you. -Jenifer September 1, 2020