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Interview with Jennifer Sienes

Jennifer Sienes has loved books for as long as she can remember. The first chapter book she remembers reading was A Room for Cathy by Catherine Woolly, published in 1956. It wasn’t new when she read it, she says, but there was something magical about getting lost in a story that has stayed with her ever since.

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Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
I believe most significant to my publication journey has been my relationship with Jesus Christ. When I first dreamt of being a writer, I had a different picture in my mind of what that should look like. It was all about me. But the Lord puts His desires on our hearts, and it’s truly all about Him. How can I glorify Him, serve Him, and shine a light on the saving grace of Jesus Christ? It has changed who I am and my relationship with Him. Without that, I couldn’t write anything worthy of reading. Without Him, I wouldn’t be published at all.

What led you to choose the genre in which you write?
I always thought I’d write romance. I certainly read a lot of it from the time I was a young adult. Then life happened. I went through a long season of pain and loss. My daughter was in a near-fatal car accident resulting in traumatic brain injury, my husband of 23 years walked out on me, my mother passed away too young after a three-year battle with leukemia, and my brother, who was significant in bringing me to Christ, committed suicide. I believed the Lord wanted me to use the pain and grief in stories that would connect with, and minister to, other women who needed hope in the light of their own tragedies. Thus, I decided to write women’s fiction.

Who/What spurs you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?
My true belief that this is a path I was called to spurs me to write. Sometimes, I think it would be fun to kick back and just enjoy this season of life, but I don’t think that would honor God. My first two books were inspired by tragedies in my own life—my daughter’s TBI in Illusions and my brother’s suicide in Providence. I didn’t write their stories, but I used them to build on. I worried that I wouldn’t have any more ideas after that unless more tragedy visited me. I’m thankful that’s not true. A character or setting will come to mind, and the story grows from there.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’d have to say I’m somewhere between a plotter and pantser. I would panic if I didn’t have structure set in place before I started writing a story, but I also leave things open enough for characters to show up unexpectedly. Because they always do. Most often, they will also play a significant role in the storyline. I don’t want to be so set in how I think the story should go that I don’t allow the Holy Spirit room to work. His work is always so much better than mine!

What is your writing routine? Any quirky habits or must-have snacks?
I try to write four full days a week. Monday through Thursday. But if I have a deadline or get interrupted to do something that has to take priority, I will also write on Fridays and Saturdays when necessary. No quirky habits and no must-have snacks. I’m kind of boring, I suppose. One thing I always do is break for lunch with my husband. He’s retired, and our lunch together is something we both look forward to every day.

How do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
Every morning, the first thing I do is get my cup of coffee and spend an hour or so with the Lord. I read Tabletalk, a couple of devotionals, and a few chapters in the Bible. I write in a prayer journal, because it’s the only way I can keep my mind from drifting. Often, when I read a scripture, it’ll play right into whatever project I’m working on. The novel I’m finishing up now, Shadow Dancing, book two in the Bedford County Series, was inspired by a devotional my husband shared with me one morning. I cannot write main characters who do not eventually surrender or recommit their lives to Christ. There is usually a struggle between their sin nature and obedience to the Lord. But always, the Lord wins out.

What message do you hope readers take away from this book?
Hope. There is so much heartache and pain in the world, and I want my readers to see that there is always hope. When we feel as if our lives have completely fallen apart, God is there to catch and redirect us if we put our faith in Him. Always.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?
In the spring, summer, and fall, I love to be outside in the garden. I also love crafting—cards, wreaths, knitting, sewing. I’m learning how to play the piano, so I try and practice as much as I can. I love to spend time with family and friends, hiking and antiquing. I’ve always wanted to make a dollhouse, and my husband just surprised me with a building kit, so I’m hoping I will carve out some time to put it together.

What books are on your nightstand right now?
Admittedly, I cannot read in bed. I’d be asleep in five minutes. I’ll sit down and read for an hour or so before dinner instead. I am reading a book to review for Celebrate Lit’s Blog Team right now—Treasure Atop a Mountain by Tonya Matthews. I’m also reading Live Not By Lies by Rod Dreher and Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan.

What tips or words of advice would you give new writers?
Learn the craft. Attend writer’s conferences, join a critique group, read from successful authors. One of the best books on structure I’ve ever read is Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. I go back to it with every book I write. Don’t give up. If you truly believe this is what you want to do, you have to believe in yourself and keep writing.
Pearl Fredericksen lives on the beautiful west coast of Canada, where she enjoys photographing the scenery and writing about her favourite places. She also loves to read and post reviews to spread the word about good books. Her little dog, Bear, sits under her desk to keep her feet warm while she writes. He's very cute, and you can see him in quite a few photos at

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