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Interview With Jennifer AlLee

From the moment of her birth, Jennifer AlLee seemed destined for life in entertainment and the arts. And now, with her second book, The Pastor’s Wife, set to release this month with Abingdon Press, the dream appears to be well on its way to reality.

Jennifer, you’ve been rubbing shoulders with the arts from the very beginning. It’s quite a story! Give us a glimpse of those early experiences and then explain how your brush with the entertainment industry has influenced your writing.

Until I was ten, my family lived above the Utter McKinley mortuary on the corner of Hollywood and Argyle, just one block away from the famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine. Not your typical childhood home, to be sure.

My grandparents met on the vaudeville circuit. Grandma was a dancer and my grandfather, Duci deKerekjarto, was a concert violinist from Hungary. 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 (the original movie 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.

I've always been around people who place great value on the creative arts. I'm very fortunate that my writing ambitions weren't looked down on as frivolous or a waste of time. My mom and grandmother encouraged me to expand my imagination and follow where it led.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?

There are two significant, game changing moments for me. The first (which I hate to admit) was when my husband gave me an ultimatum. He'd listened to me talk about the book I was writing for years, but he was seeing very little progress. One day, he finally sat me down and gave me a time limit: either finish your book by then, or else we'll sell your laptop and you can get a job at Target. I know that sounds harsh, but what you have to understand is that my husband is a very loving, gentle man. He's also pretty blunt. While I wish he'd phrased it a different way, he did give me the kick in the pants I needed to finish the manuscript that became my first published novel.

The second event was joining ACFW. I was pretty clueless when I sold my manuscript but I knew I needed a website. So I looked at some other author sites to get ideas. That's how I stumbled on ACFW. I checked the organization out, joined, and quickly discovered how much I still had to learn! But what a wonderful place to do it. I've met people through ACFW I never would have met otherwise. I can't say enough good things about this group.

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?

My biggest challenge is procrastination. I'm a stay-at-home mom and writer, so my schedule is relatively flexible. It's all too easy for me to put things off. It helps if I make some sort of a schedule for myself, and I'm a huge fan of To Do lists. The mere act of crossing things off makes me feel like I'm being productive.

And how do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?

My faith is what makes me the kind of writer I am. When I first began writing back in high school, I aspired to be a secular romance writer. It wasn't until the mid 90s when I spotted the then-new Steeple Hill Love Inspired line in a drug store that I realized someone was publishing Christian romances. Since then, I've discovered all the great Christian publishers and authors out there. It thrills me no end to be part of the group.

When writing a new story, faith (or lack there of) is a part of every character, just like eye color, personality, etc. My hope is to weave a spiritual thread throughout each book that is subtle, but recognizable. I'm a firm believer that the best way to share our faith with others is to live it, and I try to do the same with my characters. I let them live their faith.

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career?

Selling my first book, The Love of His Brother. It was a small book for a niche publisher, but it was the catalyst I needed to see myself as a real writer. After that, my entire mindset changed. Writing went from being something I wanted to do, to being something that I DO.

Who/What spurs you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?

I'm motivated by a lot of different things. The performer in me wants to share my creative endeavors with the world (even if it's just my own tiny little personal world). As a wife and mom, I want to do something that makes my family proud. And as a Christian, I see my writing as how I fulfill the Great Commission. I may not physically go into all the world, but my books and devotions can. Through them, I can share the hope and love of Christ with people I'll probably never meet.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?

I'm a pretty lean writer. I don't rehash a lot of things. I'm not going to have the heroine lost in thought for the fourth time about why she and the hero can't be together. Also, since I write contemporary stories, I try to keep my tone fairly light and conversational. When you're reading one of my books, I want you to feel like you're spending time with friends.

Finish this question. The best writing advice I’ve ever received is …

Just write the book! I read a version of that in Stephen King's book, On Writing, and I've heard it reiterated by more people than I can say. But for me, it's the key to being a productive writer. Once I've got an imperfect first draft done, then I can polish it to perfection. But if I try to edit as I go, I'll spend six months on the most beautiful four chapters you've ever seen. Sadly, I speak from experience.

Any parting words?

Thank you, Michele, for the interview. It was great fun! And thanks so much to you, readers, for taking time to hang out with me today. I'd love to catch up with you in cyberspace. Besides my website, here are a few of the places you can find me:

personal blog -
group blog -
Facebook -
Twitter -

Thanks for sharing with us, Jennifer!

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