Coffee with Jennifer Sienes

Good Morning Readers,

Its pretty damp outside this morning so join me at my second favorite place in my house – the dining table. expect to have a dog at your feet under the table and a cat trying to snuggle in your arms. I’ll do my best though to keep him in his spot. The tea kettle is hot, but I also have Single serve coffee waiting for you.

Today, I have Jennifer Sienes visiting to talk about about her new book, Mayhem and Moonlight, what inspired the story as well as any advice she might have for aspiring writers.

Welcome to Back Porch Reads! Thank you for joining me, Jennifer. It is so lovely to chat with you. You are a bit of a regular around The Back Porch, so today, I’d like to talked to you about your writing journey.

What inspired you to start writing?

Since I could remember, I’ve been a voracious reader. It would seem a logical leap from that to writing, but that’s not necessarily the case. Avid readers tell me all the time they have a great idea for a book, but they could never actually write one.When I was around twelve, I got it into my head that I was going to be a writer. It isn’t what inspired me, but Who. I truly believe the Lord put that dream on my heart, even if I wasn’t exactly following Him at the time. My parents were my absolute champions—especially my mom. She truly believed in me, which helped me to believe in myself. Sadly, she died of leukemia before that dream came to fruition.

 Oh, sis, I am so sorry to hear that. Our mama’s are so special to us. Especially when they are our biggest cheerleaders. And I agree, when one has a certain level of passion for some thing, it can only be a God thing even if we don’t know who he is yet.

How long have you been writing?

Aside from short stories, class assignments, and fits and starts, I didn’t seriously try writing a book until after my children were born. Nothing much came of it because I hadn’t learned the craft yet. Everything I wrote seemed one-dimensional and trite. So, I went after the other dream I had and became a teacher. Then when my daughter was in a car accident which resulted in a coma and traumatic brain injury, I took catastrophic leave from that job for several months to take care of her. During that time, I completed my first book. That was twenty years ago. I stuck it in a binder and went back to work when Nikki was able to return to school. That was the beginning of a very long, hard season. When I came out of it, I was given the opportunity to quit teaching and write full time which is what I’ve been doing for about 20 years.

 I read a quote the other day that said “many writers are born out of tragic events” or something along those lines. It’s amazing how God uses those moments to propel us into something beautiful and inspiring to others. I’m glad your daughter recovered though and I must say you have definitely learned the craft well. There isn’t a single one of your books I don’t enjoy.

Since you have been writing, and teaching, for so long, what advice would you give a new writer or someone just starting out?

Learn the craft and become part of a tribe. Don’t try and do it all on your own. Writer’s conferences, good books on the craft of writing, and a supportive critique group are invaluable. Although it’s wonderful to have supportive family and friends, we all need people in our corner who will tell us the unvarnished truth. And most of all, don’t give up. Once I quit teaching to write full time, it took me almost ten years of writing diligently before I received my first book contract—and I had a well-respected literary agency backing me for part of that time. This is not a destination—it’s a journey. Maybe it’ll be a quick journey, but more than likely, it’ll be long and windy, full of ups and downs. That’s just how God shapes us to be who He wants us to be.

Amen! I couldn’t agree more. As an author who started out doing things the hard way, I wish that advice had been given to me sooner. Like before pushing send on that first book – yuck.

Speaking of mistakes, what is the most difficult part about writing for you?

I admit that I’m not very creative when it comes to plot development. I know writers who can spin a story quick as a lick, but it takes me a lot of time and prayer to develop something worthwhile. Once I have the bones of a story planned out, it goes much faster, but the beginning is always a struggle. And believe it or not, coming up with a title is very challenging. I think Mayhem and Moonlight was titled Book 3 until I was almost finished writing it. I’ve had completed novels sit on my computer for weeks while waiting for the title to come to me.

Oh, those initial plot lines. They can be very difficult to come up with especially if you’re not completely inspired. but, everything is in God’s timing so I am sure that when he’s ready for you to write that book, he makes it happen.

Well, are you working on anything at the present you would like to share? 

I have started on Book 1 (not yet titled!) for a new Southern fiction series. The inspiration came from hearing the train horn wailing in the distance every night while I laid in bed. There is something romantic and nostalgic about the railroad, and I wanted to explore that in this contemporary romance series. As I’m answering this question, I’ve only completed the first two chapters of the book, but the ideas are coming fast and furious, which is a good sign. I don’t think it’s coincidental that a friend of my husband’s worked on the railroad his entire career. I only had to mention I wanted to do this series, and he handed me six books on the history of the railroad. He will be an invaluable source for my research.

 That is amazing. I look forward to reading that. I live a block from the train tracks and it’s a pain except for at Christmas time. The train that was used as the model for the Polar Express (The 1225) is housed and used every year in my town. I turn into a five-year-old little girl every time I hear that whistleblower. I also spend a lot of time at the train depot a couple of towns over for book events. It might be fun to take a train ride up here and maybe do a signing with us. I’d love to see you again.

Thank you again, Jennifer, for joining me today. I hope this tour blesses you. I look forward to seeing you soon. 

       

      Readers, please be sure to keep reading and enter the giveaway. 

      About the Book

      Book: Mayhem and Moonlight

      Author: Jennifer Sienes

      Genre: Christian Contemporary Romance, Women’s Fiction, and Southern Fiction

      Release date: April 16, 2024

      Left at the altar holding the bill, a boatload of college debt, and piddly librarian salary has her praying for a miracle.

      Lillian Murphy takes her life verse from a book title—A Series of Unfortunate Events. Could be it was on account of her jumping into things without first dipping a toe in to test the waters that landed her in such a position. A cozy, cardboard box would suit her just fine if she could find a way to heat it, but she’s hoping the good Lord will do some better. She’s done dreaming of happily-ever-after – She’d settle for just debt- and drama-free.

      Luca Giordano knows the minute he lands in Shelbyville, Tennessee with his three young boys that he’s in over his head. Leaving the pain of his past behind, he’d also left his parents—and they’d done the heavy lifting. All his charts, graphs, and scheduling expertise isn’t enough. What kind of a productivity expert is he if he can’t be…productive? What he needs is a part-time Mary Poppins to swoop in and fill in for his gargantuan gaps—and Librarian Lillian seems the perfect solution.

      But when Luca’s past converges with the present—and Lillian’s the catalyst—everything he loves most is at risk. How will a free spirit and fusspot find a way to happy ending?

       

      Click here to get your copy!

       

      About the Author

      Award-winning author Jennifer Sienesholds a bachelor’s in psychology and a master’s in education but discovered life-experience is the best teacher. She loves Jesus, romance, and writing—and puts it altogether in inspirational women’s fiction. Two of the three novels in her Apple Hill Series (set in Northern California) were inspired by actual events. Her Southern fiction Bedford County Series is set in Tennessee where she now resides with her real-life hero (and husband).

       

      More from Jennifer

      I’m often asked where I draw inspiration for my stories. It was easy when I was writing the Apple Hill Series, because the Lord took me through a long season of loss ripe with emotional angst and faith building. So, two of the three novels in that series were inspired by actual events I lived through—my daughter’s traumatic brain injury and my brother’s suicide. Not exactly the stuff of happily-ever-afters. But being a romantic, I’m a sucker for a happy ending. It took quite a bit of spiritual growth and creative ingenuity (she says tongue-in-cheek) to be able to move past the pain and find the blessings for my characters. Proof that God uses every tear for our good and His glory.

      The story behind Mayhem and Moonlight came from a friend of mine. Annie. Not long after I met her (at my release party for Night Songs) she told me about how she and her husband Peter came to be together. Annie was a school psychologist who had been left at the alter years before. Peter was a single father of three boys whose wife passed away from cancer. Annie loved children but was past her child-bearing years, so she was as enamored with Peter’s three boys as she was by the man himself. Inept in the kitchen, she shared many hysterical culinary malfunctions with me, including how she almost burned the house down on more than one occasion.

      Main character Lillian was also inspired by an actual person—my daughter Nikki. Yes, this is the same daughter who suffered a near fatal car accident and went through months of rehab for traumatic brain injury. What a sweet thing to be inspired by her when she was dealing with a disability and again years later with master’s degree for library and information science—just like main character Lillian. That’s how our good God works, though, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

      But of course, a romance needs a protagonist, and Lillian’s is Luca Giordano—single father to three young boys (just like Annie’s Peter) and a productivity expert in serious need of help. It wasn’t until after I started fleshing out ideas for this book that I’d even heard of a productivity expert. It was through one phone conversation with old friends who told me their son had written a book titled Winning the Week: How to Plan a Successful Week, Every Week. I could’ve never imagined purchasing this book to show support to my friends would lead to the inspiration I needed for Luca’s career.

      And guess what? Using the techniques laid out by authors Demir and Carey Bentley helped me become a more productive writer, too! It was a win-win.

      Once I got to know the characters, I let them loose in my imagination and had to race to keep up with them. That’s when I know my writing is in conjunction with the Lord. I literally cannot make this stuff up. I pray you will enjoy reading Mayhem and Moonlight as much as I did writing it.

      Blog Stops

      Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, May 21

      Stories By Gina, May 22 (Author Interview)

      Holly’s Book Corner, May 22

      Sylvan Musings, May 23

      Texas Book-aholic, May 24

      Locks, Hooks and Books, May 25

      Artistic Nobody, May 26 (Author Interview)

      She Lives To Read, May 27

      For Him and My Family, May 28

      For the Love of Literature, May 29 (Author Interview)

      Lakesidelivingsite, May 30

      Beauty in the Binding, May 31 (Author Interview)

      Karen Baney Reviews, May 31

      Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, June 1

      Back Porch Reads, June 2 (Author Interview)

      Happily Managing a Household of Boys, June 3

      Giveaway

      To celebrate her tour, Jennifer is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon gift card & a copy of the book!!

      Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

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