Jennifer Hudson Taylor writes Medieval to contemporary inspirational fiction set in Europe and the Carolinas. She couldn’t decide which historical era she liked best, so she decided to try several of them. In fact, an agent once told her that she didn’t think Jennifer knew what she wanted to write. Her response was, “Of course, I do, historical Christian fiction.” So what did she write next? A contemporary.
One weekend at a writer’s retreat, author Camy Tang urged Jennifer to decide upon her brand. The only thing Jennifer could imagine at that point was a big cardboard box with walls on each side. But Camy and Jennifer brainstormed and came up with a common thread that could be linked throughout all of Jennifer’s books—the Carolinas and Europe. Those are the places Jennifer loves and are the ones about which she writes.
Jennifer’s debut novel, Promised Blessings*, a Scottish Medieval, is due to be released in May 2010 from Abingdon Press.
*Update as of 2/26/09. The title of Jennifer’s novel has been changed to Highland Blessings. See post here.
•Jennifer, I was excited to read the announcement of your first sale on the American Christian Fiction Writers loop last October. My excitement, however, was nothing compared to what you must have felt. I love hearing authors share what it was like to receive The Call. Where were you when it came? How did you react? With whom did you first share the wonderful news?
Actually I was waiting in line at the drive-through at Arby’s on my lunch break during work. I got so excited I had to pull out of line and park so I could talk to my agent coherently. I started actively pursuing publication at 25. My goal was to be published by the time I turned 30.
I had been taught that I could do anything I set my mind to do, and as long as I didn’t give up, I would achieve something. I was too naïve to realize I had set a goal that would be in God’s timing, not mine. So, when I turned 30 with no contract, I grew extremely depressed and felt like a failure.
The Call came seven years later on my 37th birthday. It was the best birthday present God had ever given me. I knew in my heart that only He could orchestrate something so cool. And it was a personal message that He had not forsaken me. Since I had originally set my birthday as a goal, He chose that day to give me my gift.
•Your journey to publication began years ago. You worked on a series of manuscripts, one you’d begun when you were only twelve. But six years ago, you stopped writing for a three-year period. You started writing again in 2006, but your stories went in a new direction. What was it that caused you to put fingers to keyboard again? And what have you been working on since?
Actually the book I began at age twelve, I picked back up and finished it at 24. I had the nerve to pitch it to a Berkley editor at the ’96 Romance Writers of America® conference. Being young can make us bold and courageous.
I wrote three more manuscripts before my husband quit his job in 2002 and decided to start a fire safety business. It threw us in financial ruin, and I had to go back to work. My family needed me, and writing was a waste of time since I wasn’t getting anywhere.
I withdrew from everyone—family and friends. We were embarrassed and ashamed. The one thing we did do right was to seek God. I made the decision that I would never write another thing that didn’t glorify Him. In 2005, a woman from church prayed that God would give me the desire to write again.
Six months later, I was in Borders browsing the Religion section when I found Kathleen Morgan’s Embrace the Dawn, a Scottish medieval. I couldn’t believe there was such as thing as a Christian Scottish Medieval. I rushed home and tried to retrieve my old Scottish Medieval, but I had deleted all my files and thrown all my hard copies away. I finally found a Windows 95 disk with the old version of that manuscript and had to reformat it line by line.
In 2006, I converted two secular manuscripts to Christian fiction. In 2007, I wrote two new manuscripts, completing a total of seven manuscripts. Two of them won awards in the ACFW Genesis Contest that year, and I signed with Terry Burns at Hartline Literary Agency.
•Seven manuscripts! What an accomplishment. I see on your Web site that you write in five areas. Would you give your visitors a quick overview of the various series you’re working on? Does one of the stories or series stand out as a favorite?
Currently, I’m working on Beloved Liberty, an 1810 South Carolina historical, which I hope will be the first of a trilogy. I recently revised Faith Endures, an 1815 English Regency the first of another trilogy.
Right now, I only write the first book of a series and plan the others. If I can’t sell the first book, I’m wasting my time on the others unless an editor wants to buy them, but I might write a synopsis and the first three chapters so my agent can shop the proposal around.
A classic example is my contracted book. My editor bought it as single title, but I’ve planned a sequel to it. If she isn’t interested in buying the sequel later, before I write it, I’ll change the character names and re-title it and shop it around to other editors. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about this industry, it’s that I’d better be flexible.
•Were you surprised when your Scottish Medieval, Promised Blessings, was the first story Terry Burns, your agent with Hartline Literary, sold? And please tell us what your debut novel is about.
With the economy the way it is, I am surprised that I sold anything as a debut novel. I just know it was God’s timing for me, which makes it even more of a miracle based on my long journey.
Promised Blessings is set in Scotland in the year 1463. It’s due to release May 2010 from Abingdon Press. Bryce MacPhearson kidnaps Akira MacKenzie to honor a promise he’s made to his dying father. While Akira’s strength in the Lord becomes a witness to Bryce, a series of murders leaves a trail of unanswered questions, confusion, and a legacy of hate between their clans. Soon it becomes apparent that Akira’s life is in danger. Bryce must look beyond his pain and seek the truth in his heart, while Akira must forgive, so that a simple promise can turn into God’s bountiful blessings.
•You say you’ve had to rely heavily on the Lord at times and want to glorify your Creator in your writing. What are some of the biggest struggles He’s helped you through, and how do you work what He’s taught you into your writing?
My daughter was born with a life threatening seizure disorder. She would stop breathing, and my husband would perform CPR on her. We had six minutes to get oxygen to her brain to prevent brain damage. The first year he performed CPR on her eight times.
It was at this time that we came face-to-face with our human limitations, for this tiny precious life that had been given to us to care for. I believed in God and prayed to God, but I had never really relied on Him like I did at this time. Before, I had always prayed about something, and then did my very best to make it happen. Not this time. I couldn’t fix my little girl. I couldn’t save her. Only God could. I pleaded with Him to save her life. We both did, many times over.
This experience is what birthed my contemporary, By His Plan. I believe this story will sell to the right publisher at the right time. I feel it will benefit someone out there. It was the other entry that won an award in the Genesis Contest.
In By His Plan, Michael Miller’s daughter is dying and the child he had with Nicole Somers in high school could be the only matching donor to save her through a bone marrow transplant.
Michael is a changed man, relying on a faith that Nicole doesn’t understand. The past tumbles forward with renewed hope and birthing new faith. Then unexpected tragedy strikes. If this is God’s plan, how will they endure it?
•As I did my research for your interview, I marveled at all you’ve accomplished. You’re also a wife and mother of a child with special needs, and you work full-time. Not only that, but you participate in five blogs and you started and serve as president of the Carolina Christian Writers chapter of ACFW. How do you do it all? Is there a Wonder Woman cape hiding in your closet?
If there is, I need to find it. Maybe it will inspire more energy in me. I’m no longer afraid that Celina will die from a seizure if I go to sleep at night. God has answered our prayers and healed her. So, I get more sleep than I used to. She went off her seizure medication at age three and hasn’t had any unprovoked seizures in 10 years. Her last febrile seizure was at age five. She’s now 11 and does have some delayed development, ADD, and Sensory Integration Disorder, but these she will outgrow.
I struggle with managing my time, but with God’s grace, I’m able to do it—and not always without complaint. But I’m working on that. I admit that I’m praying for a miracle that will allow me to stay home and write full-time. Maybe God will have mercy on me and give me that miracle soon.
•And now a question just for fun. I saw a link to a wealth of genealogical findings on your Web site. As you’ve conducted your extensive research, I’m sure one or more of your ancestors have stood out. If you could be whisked back in time to interview one of your forebearers, who would you choose and why? What would be your most pressing question? And—since many of the site’s visitors are women who wonder about such things—what would you wear?
Let’s see … I think I’d like to go back and meet my Morgan ancestors from Glamorgan, Wales at the Tredegar House, and of course, I’d wear a ball gown to one of their magnificent balls.
It’s been great having you as my guest, Jennifer. And now, in closing, is there a final comment you’d like to make or a question you’d like to ask?
I’d like to know if any readers here would read a Scottish Medieval Christian romance? If so, is there anything about that time period or country that intrigues you?
Learn More About Jennifer
Visit her Web site: www.jenniferhudsontaylor.com
Visit her Blog: http://jenniferswriting.blogspot.com
Follow her on Twitter
Leave a Comment for Your Chance to Win!
I’ll choose a winner from those who leave a comment for Jennifer on 2/5-6 (and include an email address when prompted, which I don’t share), and will post the winner’s name 2-7.
Teri Wilson won and gets to choose from:
A handmade beaded necklace or
A wooden plaque that reads: and they lived happily ever after . . .
You could also win a First Sale Scrapbook!
If you’d like to have a chance at winning a First Sale Scrapbook created by your blog hostess, Keli Gwyn, leave a comment on any post between now and February 28. Make sure to include your name and email address when prompted if you want to be entered in the drawing. (Your information will not be shared.) Click red link above to see samples of covers and pages.
On March 1, Keli will choose one person who will have her choice of five covers on an 8×8 inch, twenty-page scrapbook in which s/he can document that long-awaited first sale. The pages will cover various milestones including The Call, signing the contract, receiving the first advance payment and holding your “firstborn” in your hands.
(No scrapbooking skills required. You just add your photos and journaling.)