Find a Christian store

Interview with Jayme H. Mansfield

Can you imagine people in their 80s trying out online dating? Do you think it's possible for someone to find love again after their spouse of 50 plus years dies?

Wouldn't this topic make an interesting, unique novel, especially if you added in there that the widow's daughter was the one who suggested her mother try finding a connection via the Internet in the first place? How about if the book that comes from this idea is inspired by a true story? Seasoned by Jayme Mansfield is just this kind of novel!

The main characters in Seasoned are Essie and Lou, who are based on author Mansfield's mom, Janet Hanna, and Janet's nearly twelve-year companion, Frank Romano. After the spouses of Janet and Frank passed, Mansfield says it was then "with some prodding" that her mother agreed to go on eHarmony for a month-long trial.

"I was her 'ghostwriter' of sorts as she’d let me know when she received an inquiry, we’d read and respond, sharing lots of laughs in the process."

Little did Mansfield know, but her mom had been exchanging emails with a man across town who also simply wanted to meet someone for companionship and nothing more. The author says she'll never forget the phone call when her mom asked if she thought it was safe for her to meet a gentleman for coffee at 10 a.m. at Starbucks.

"Like the saying goes, the rest was history. The date with the extremely handsome, Italian, and retired Army colonel progressed to lunch the same day, dinner the next, and a following decade filled with traveling the world, attending concerts, social gatherings, and the blending of our extended family with his."

The author says many of the innuendoes, personality traits, themes of patriotism and family, and even setting elements are based on the real-life people. However, the predominant plot is fictitious, and fortunately, the tragedies and conflicts grew from Mansfield's imagination.

Online dating has been around for a while, but there seems to be a lot more failure stories than matches made in Heaven. Did Janet first try finding a companion through church, volunteer work places, rec groups and so on?

Mansfield says after her father died, her mother did continue a very busy social life, participating in a wide range of activities, including joining a widows' group. However, Janet found that a great deal of time was spent lamenting loss instead of desiring to fill the later part of life with new adventures and interactions.

"For my mother, she wasn’t seeking to marry or find a replacement for my father. Instead, on online dating, there was a commonality among participants in pursuing a positive and meaningful relationship with another interesting, perhaps lonely, human being."

Some people may wonder if "typical romance novel readers" would truly be interested in reading a love story about octogenarians. Mansfield says some of the initial conversations with a few publishers were indeed about their concern that the protagonists might be too old. However, come to find out, the elderly couple has made the story that much more relatable and appealing.

"I can't begin to tell you how many readers have either experienced a similar late-life relationship, hope or wonder if they could, or have a parent in the elderly age group faced with the loss of a spouse, or now, enjoying the company of another. Even the younger readers (in their thirties), find the story endearing and speak of their grandparents' marriages. I am a big believer in breaking convention, and I believe readers desire more real-life scenarios than what may appear more 'safe' or glamorous."

Speaking of breaking convention, even though Seasoned is put in the contemporary romance genre, and Mansfield's first two books were labeled historical romance novels, Mansfield says her publisher and agent often scratch their heads at to what genre Mansfield writes.

"I suppose I should clarify something. I don't consider myself a romance writer, but instead an author who can't help but include a love story within the context of the plot."

She says a few years ago she attended a presentation by famous author Nicholas Sparks, and Mansfield recalls him saying he doesn't write romance, but instead love stories. She said his clarification helped define her writing focus.

"With that being said, Chasing the Butterfly and Rush are both historical novels that contain meaningful and moving love relationships. Seasoned is contemporary women's fiction based upon a most beautiful, real-life love story."

The love story in this novel isn't the only part that's based on real-life. Lou in the book was in the military and he had a son in the military – which holds true for Frank. Mansfield says as the manuscript for Seasoned unfolded, she asked Frank to complete an interview for her. At that point, they dug deeply into not only details and descriptions, but the emotional and mental elements of serving the country over the course of three wars.

"As you can imagine, I have a tremendous amount of respect and gratitude for people like him. My oldest of three sons graduated from West Point a couple years ago and is stationed in Germany. I wrote most of Seasoned with the proud, yet ominous feeling of concern for his future military involvement. Those deep-seated thoughts, emotions, and even prayers are the bedrock of my writing. Characters, plot, setting … those things can be fictitious, but the themes and even the voice, are very real in each of my books."

One particular thing Mansfield wants readers to take away from reading Seasoned is that love knows no age, and she hopes this novel will be a reminder and inspiration about that. She also hopes that if one is provided the opportunity to love again, one should be courageous enough to do so.

"Regardless of our season, God created us to love and be loved. Seasoned is a story of hope, forgiveness, and God’s glorious grace – gifts to embrace regardless of life’s circumstances."

Often readers will ask about the faith component in Mansfield's novels, but the author says truly it isn't planned or written in – themes such as forgiveness, redemption, perseverance, and grace – these just grow out of the characters' trials and tribulations.

"To be honest, I travel alongside my characters, and together, we navigate life's journey with the Lord's direction. Also, because faith is an integral part of who I am, my stories must be God-honoring and speak His truth – for me, that is the greatest honor of writing for Him."

As far as an ongoing theme or subject for her novels, that will depend upon the book, but Mansfield says a common thread will always include the transformative power of art. It's no wonder she feels this way about art, as she is not only an author, but also a painter.

She has owned and instructed from her Piggy Toes Art Studio in Colorado for over 25 years. This business began as a hand-painted furniture business, with an emphasis on pieces for children (hence the name). After moving into a home with a large, studio area, the company morphed into art instruction, and she has been doing that ever since. Occasionally, those who gather to paint in the studio are Mansfield's immediate family members: her husband, James (who she says is "really quite good"); her three sons, Ian, Adam, and Graham; and her mom, Janet, who Mansfield says until Parkinson's, she was a regular attendee and a "star student" of Mansfield's classes.

Teaching has been in the author's blood for a very long time, as prior to instructing at her studio, Mansfield was an elementary school teacher for 20 years, with an emphasis on language arts. She has now returned to teaching in schools: she teaches Art Education at a Christian K-12 school, and then Creative Arts and Art Appreciation at a Christian university.

"Even though I’m feeling my age and teaching is hard work on all levels, I am blessed to be nearing the end of my career at places where I can pray, praise, and hopefully glorify God."

Mansfield may retire "for good" this time from teaching, but seems like she'll continue her author career for quite a bit longer, as she already has several future novels in mind. Her current WIP, Portrait of Deceit, falls into the contemporary fiction category, and it's about art forgery. The gist of the story is whether a half truth is really a lie, and as one’s life unravels like layers of an onion, are we really who we think we are?

After that, Mansfield plans to write another book falling into the contemporary women's fiction category. The Lesson will be based upon diverse relationships and navigating through life for nearly three decades with a small group of Mansfield's close-knit educator friends.

Ideas for other novels include a handful of historical pieces, such as a prequel and sequel to Chasing the Butterfly, and a historical inspired by Mansfield's grandmother.

"She was a gun-slinging, larger-than-life woman in a man's world, and owner of the once largest turkey ranch west of the Mississippi. I'm feeling a need to satisfy my inner cowgirl!"

For an author who loves art, teaching, and participating in outdoor activities such as skiing, hiking, camping, and riding horses, sounds like these future book ideas are right up Mansfield's alley. So, giddy-up, lady! Giddy-up!


Melinda Freeland wrote her first "novel" at age 8 about Mr. & Mrs. Texas Toast, and their struggle to get off the plate before someone ate them. Today, Melinda writes fiction you can relate to—about humans—and their real struggles, not only in relationships, but also with understanding and trusting God. Love, Texas – Population 2 is her debut Christian contemporary romance novel. It was inspired by Melinda's reunion with her first love, her life as a small-town reporter, and her faith journey. Melinda lives in Texas with her handsome husband, two great kids, and her lovable Pug. She'd love to connect with readers at and on social media @authormelindafreeland and @melindafreeland.

For more great interviews, visit our Author Interview Archives.

ACFW Members, click here to apply for an author interview!

Developed by Camna, LLC

This is a service provided by ACFW, but does not in any way endorse any publisher, author, or work herein.