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Interview with Jennifer Wright

Jennifer Wright recently released her debut novel If it Rains. A personal encounter with a dust storm inspired her to write the story. Says Ms. Wright, “My family and I moved to New Mexico shortly before my daughter was born in 2014. I spent many hours rocking her in her second-story bedroom, staring out at the open desert behind our home. One particular day, I watched in horrified fascination as a dust storm approached our house.”

“Stretching at least a mile into the air, it blocked out the sun and enveloped every structure as it passed,” she goes on to say. “Having been born and raised in the Midwest, I’d never experienced anything like it—and thus my fascination with dust storms began. I devoured every book and film I could find about the Dust Bowl, and If It Rains was woven together from the amazing tidbits of history I discovered.”

Ms. Wright’s background is in journalism, and she spent about a year working for local news before deciding that lifestyle and workplace culture simply wasn’t for me. Fortunately for readers, her passion for writing lingered, and she began dipping her toe in fiction writing back in 2012.

She wrote and queried two novels with no success before writing If It Rains and finally landing an agent in 2018. The manuscript was out on submission for over six months before starting to gain some interest. Ms. Wright shares, “The funny thing is that this novel was not explicitly faith-based at its inception; it took my agent saying, 'Hey, I detect some serious faith themes just under the surface. I believe pulling those to the forefront will do a lot in strengthening the story.' And she was right! Enhancing those elements did wonders and, within a month, I had two offers of publication on the table.”

Offering advice to fledgling writers, she says, “Never underestimate the know-how a good agent and/or editor can bring to a story!”

When asked how journalism differs from fiction, Ms. Wright states with enthusiasm, “Well, I can tell you right off the bat—writing fiction is way more fun! Journalism can be a bit heavy and politically-charged. My time in the field certainly weighed on my spirit in a way I knew was unsustainable in the long run.” She does feel that the skills I learned in journalism school and in the newsroom are the same ones she brings to the table as a writer of historical fiction, saying “Detailed and meticulous research is a must, as well as a natural curiosity for the world around you (including the past).”

As with most authors, Ms. Wright must juggle daily responsibilities with her writing career. She says, “It has definitely been a struggle for me, especially as a debut author, transitioning from 'Writing is my hobby' to 'Writing is my job.' Now that I have deadlines, commitments, and engagements, I have to make writing a non-negotiable priority, which has been a huge change for my children and my husband.”

Her family is very supportive and the timing is such that her children have both reached school-age. She now has almost eight hours during the day in which to write and/or do other things around the house. She is fortunate that she’s an early riser; before the rest of her family gets out of bed, enabling her to get in a daily work-out and spend some quiet time with the Lord. She says, “Those two things do wonders in terms of helping me juggle all the hats I need to wear during the day.”

A childhood book that means a lot to her is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz which is why it features prominently in If if Rains, but her absolute favorite childhood book is Charlotte’s Web. Ms. Wright reminisces, “It was the first chapter book I ever read all on my own, and it was the book that truly opened the door to all the other books that came afterwards. I still have my original copy!”

Writers often admire other authors, and if Ms. Wright had the chance she would have coffee with F. Scott Fitzgerald. She says, “I’ve always been an avid reader, but The Great Gatsby was the first book where I fell in love, not just with the story, but with the writing itself. The masterful and beautiful way he used language was like nothing I’d ever read or experienced before. I’d love to know what books *he* read that helped him develop those skills as a writer. On top of that, I find the Roaring Twenties such a fascinating time in history. I’d want him to tell me everything about it.”

As a debut author, her advice to other not-yet-published writers is “Read, read, read. Read everything you can get your hands on. If you find a book you particularly love, dissect and study it to discover what works form-wise or stylistically about the book. And most importantly—don’t give up. Publishing can be brutal, and it is definitely a long-term game. I wrote for over ten years and have two “failed” novels sitting on my shelf. There were many, many times I wanted to give up. Keep writing, but also keep seeking the Lord’s will. I can’t count the number of times I cried out in prayer to Him when things got too hard…and yet I knew He was telling me to keep going. It was His strength that got me to where I am today. Lean on Him, listen to Him, and rely on Him during this process, however long or short it might be.”


Linda Shenton Matchett is an author, speaker, and history geek. A native of Baltimore, Maryland she was born a stone's throw from Fort McHenry and has lived in historic places all her life. Linda is a member of ACFW, RWA, and Sisters in Crime. She is a volunteer docent and archivist for the Wright Museum of WWII and a trustee for her local public library.

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