Sunday, January 12, 2014

Q&A with Jennifer Beckstrand




Tell us about your newest release.  


My next Amish romance series, The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill, is about an elderly Amish couple who try to find suitable mates for their grandchildren. What could be more fun than throwing two young people together to see if sparks ignite? Huckleberry Hill, the first book of the series, comes out in January of 2014.
In Huckleberry Hill, Lia Shetler is resigned to being a spinster. So she’s helping her pretty, spoiled sister Rachel secure the perfect husband–Moses Zimmerman. But the more Lia sees of Moses’s gently teasing ways and quiet understanding, the more she wishes he could be hers alone. Now both will need the kind of miracles only faith and courage can bring to finally reach for a lifetime of happiness.
Charlotte Hubbard calls Huckleberry Hill, “A delightful cast of characters in a story that overflows with Amish love and laughter.”

What makes your story special to you?

 My mom is the perfect grandmother: loving, fun, energetic, and convinced that her grandchildren can do no wrong. When I first developed the concept for the Huckleberry Hill series, I was enchanted with the idea of a well-meaning Amish mammi who meddled in her grandchildren’s lives. I have always cherished my strong family ties, and faith and family are core values of the Amish. What a fun topic for a story!

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?  

When I was younger, I had no aspirations to be a professional writer. I have a degree in mathematics and had an interest in statistics before starting a family. As a young mother, amidst diaper changes and soccer games, I discovered my love for writing as I wrote Christmas updates and PTA newsletters. After my fourth daughter was born, I had trouble sleeping at night, so I would lie awake and make up stories. I wrote one of those stories down and loved every minute of it. That’s how my writing career was born. 

What is a typical writing day like?  

I try to write 10,000 words a week. A typical writing day involves four to five hours of intense writing segments. I make an hour-by-hour schedule, set the timer for one hour at a time, and write as fast as I can. This keeps me from wandering around the house looking for food or surrendering to a nap on the couch. Even if I am not sure what to write, I start typing. The ideas usually flow once I put in the effort to get myself into the chair. As long as my fingers are busy, I can usually stay awake. Although even on good writing days, my son often comes home to find his mother sprawled on the couch trying to steal a few minutes of sleep. I spend about four hours a day writing, three or four days a week.

I have found that if I ponder and contemplate and stew, ideas will come (if I am awake) and a great plot or character will speak to me. The advantage of being a task-oriented, stay-at-home mother is that many of my daily jobs allow ample time for musing. I ruminate while puffing on the treadmill or running a vacuum over my carpet. I still do a lot of brainstorming right before I fall asleep. My best thinking is done in the shower—I’m notorious for long showers for which I apologize to my dad. (He had six daughters, and long showers were his pet peeve.)
Food has always been a big distraction for me. If I can’t think of something to write, I get out of my chair to search for a Twinkie. Setting the timer on my writing has helped that problem quite a bit.

Do you have an interesting writing quirk or habit? 

I must have complete silence in which to write. I find it almost impossible to write when anyone else is in the house or music is playing in the background. Also, I prop two dishtowels beneath my wrists to keep them from hurting while I type. This has been an effective low-tech solution to wrist pain.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned as a published author?

How much work is involved in the writing process and also in self promotion. Navigating all the different social media avenues is mind-boggling.

What authors or friends influenced you in helping you become a writer?  

My biggest support has been my very enthusiastic husband who encouraged me from day one and never let me doubt that I could do this. Jane Austen’s works have brought me so much pleasure over the years. I’ve always wanted to emulate her.

What does your family think about your career as a published author?  

Everyone, especially my husband, is thrilled about my success. My older sister is still my beta reader and critique partner. My oldest son claims that four years ago I promised him I would build him a tennis court if I made a hundred thousand dollars on my first book. I do not remember any conversation in which I promised to build him a tennis court, but he is eagerly awaiting my next royalty statement.

Besides writing, what other interests do you have? I have six children, so most of my spare time revolves around my family. I attend lots of tennis matches, soccer games, and choir concerts. I am an avid reader. If you come to my house and I’m not writing or playing with grandchildren, I’m probably reading or doing a crossword puzzle. I also love to sing, direct musicals, and put on Shakespeare plays in our community. And believe it or not, I love cleaning my house. (I really appreciate a clean bathroom, especially when mine are dirty.)

Can you tell us about what’s coming up next for you writing wise?  

Three Huckleberry Hill books will be out in 2014. Huckleberry Hill comes out in January, Huckleberry Summer releases in June, and Huckleberry Christmas will hit bookstores in October. Three more Huckleberry Hill books are in the works for 2015. Anna and Felty Helmuth have a lot of grandchildren!
I am also in the process of writing an Amish Christmas novella for Christmas 2014.

How can readers connect with you online?  

You can learn more about me and my books by going to my website at jenniferbeckstrand.com or on Facebook at Jennifer Beckstrand Fans.

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