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Interview with Jennifer AlLee

Jennifer AlLee was born among the stars in Hollywood, California (the baby in the next hospital bassinet was Michael Landon, Jr) and lived the first ten years of her life one block away from the famous intersection Hollywood and Vine. She continues to be fascinated with the arts, writing numerous short stories, dramas, and plays, and being active in church drama ministries. Her latest novel, Last Family Standing, releases this month from Abingdon Press.

Where did the idea for Last Family Standing come from? A few years back, I was watching Chopped (a cooking competition on the Food Network). One of the contestants was talking about how she had been adopted but had never met her birth mother. Part of the reason she wanted to be on the show was that she hoped her birth mother would see her and be proud of her. As soon as I heard that, the light switched on and I was on track to writing Last Family Standing.

What was one challenge you faced while writing Last Family Standing?
When I was a young woman, I became pregnant and made the decision to give my baby up for adoption. My challenge with Last Family Standing was to use just enough of my personal experience without going overboard. Also, I didn’t want to make it sound like I thought I knew how Jessica, the adopted woman in the story, thought or felt. That’s one reason I decided to write the book in first person. Because, while I’m intimately acquainted with the experiences of a birth mother, I wouldn’t want to presume to guess how an adopted child felt about the whole thing.

Often, we desire to teach a lesson in and through our writing, but we as writers also learn something. What was one thing you learned while writing Last Family Standing?
That I’d be my own worst enemy in a survival TV competition! Seriously, the character of Monica is more like me than any other I’ve written. There were a few times when she reacted to something that I realized it was exactly how I would react. It was rather enlightening.

What is one thing you hope readers will take with them after reading Last Family Standing?
That being a family encompasses so much more than just blood relations or legal ties. Whether it’s that special best friend who lives down the street, or the woman who is like a mother to you, family is all about what’s in the heart.

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities? Can you share any tips you’ve discovered to cope with these challenges?
I’ve found that I need to keep a detailed calendar of deadlines, blog visits, and other writing and marketing tasks. But I can’t have an electronic calendar. It’s got to be on paper where I can pick it up and see the entire month at a glance.

Who/What spurs you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?
I love it when a story takes off on its own. The idea can come from anywhere. It might be something I see on TV, or a life experience, or an interesting tidbit I come across on the Internet. But when that seed of an idea takes form and starts to grow, then branches out in unforeseen directions… that is a truly wonderful thing. Those are the days when I can’t tear myself away from the keyboard!

What’s one resource (book, person, blog etc.) that’s had the most impact on your writing career?
There are two people who’ve had a huge impact on my career. One is my agent, Sandra Bishop. She’s the one who points me in the right direction and gives me so much valuable advice. The other person is Lisa Karon Richardson. Lisa and I met each other at the first ACFW conference that either of us had attended and immediately bonded. She is the sister of my heart and my comrade in writing. We’ve coauthored three books together and have had some unforgettable exploits. I wouldn’t be the author, or the person, I am today without her.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
I tend to write about pretty serious subjects, but I do so in a style that is fairly light and quirky.

Do you have a favorite hobby aside from writing?
I love playing tabletop games. Some favorites are Settlers of Catan, Flux, Dominion, and Agricola.

What are you currently reading?
I just started reading The Fault in Our Stars. I have a feeling this is one time that I definitely want to read the book before seeing the movie.

Any parting words?
Thanks to everyone for stopping by today! I love to hear from readers, so don’t hesitate to contact me. Besides my website, you can find me at, on Twitter (@JenniferAlLee) or my Facebook author page (

Thanks for sharing with us, Jennifer!

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