Share a little bit about yourself. Married with kids? Empty nester? Do you work full-time and write when you can squeeze it in?
I have been married for almost 32 years to the same wonderful guy I fell in love with in college. I have six children. The four oldest are girls and I have two boys at the end.
And share something about your writing. What’s your genre(s), your areas of interest…
I write Amish romance. I love romance in general and love to dream up wonderful stories.
How did you get started writing? Did you have a dream of being a published author?
You know how about four kids into your life you suffer from chronic insomnia because you can’t stop wondering what you forgot to do that day—like hug your child or go to the bathroom? That is basically how I started my writing career. One night, a few months after the birth of my fourth daughter, I lingered on my pillow unable to sleep and decided to make up a story. A romantic story, because, really, it’s the only kind worth reading. It took me 15 years to finish my first romance.
After you started writing seriously–how long was it before you were published?
It took about six months from the time I really started writing as a career before I had a contract with a publisher. It was very exciting!
Aside from a cup of good, strong coffee, what helps you get all of your “brain cylinders” firing so you can write well? Do you have any favorite places and routines when you write? How many hours a day do you spend writing?
I do a lot of sitting at the computer, staring at the blank screen, hoping by sheer will that words will come to me. The problem is that when I sit still for more than a few minutes, I invariably fall asleep. I have tried to correct this weakness by snacking while sitting at the computer, which leads to another, weightier problem. As long as my inspiration is flowing and my fingers are flying, I can usually stay awake, although, even on good writing days, my son often comes home to his mother sprawled out on the couch in the family room trying to steal a few minutes of sleep. Ideas don’t come easily to me, but I have found that if I ponder and think and contemplate and stew, my muse will wake up (if I am awake) and a great plot or character will speak out. 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 or taking a shower. I am notorious for long, indulgent showers—my guilty pleasure. I do my best thinking in there. (My apologies to the green movement. But I do recycle!) I spend about four hours a day writing, three days a week. The rest of the week is hit and miss, and I am very slow.
What has been the biggest help to you in the journey to publication? Writers’ conferences? Writing groups? Your mom as your first draft reader?
Writers’ conferences have helped me develop my craft and find agent contacts. I read a lot, and they say reading is the best thing someone can do to improve writing skills. Finding the right agent was also essential. I am not in a writing group because I don’t feel it is the best use of my time, but I know many people love them. Honestly, the two biggest helps have been: 1. My sister, who has a Phd. in English and critiques everything I write, and 2. A little book titled “Self Editing for Fiction Writers.” It is an amazing book about the basics of craft.
Is the “writer’s life” what you thought it would be? (Explain your answer)
It is so much more work than I thought it would be. Sometimes the ideas WILL NOT come and there is all this pressure to get something done. The writing is challenging enough, but the promotion and marketing are mind-boggling. I still don’t have even a fraction of it mastered.
What do you least like about being a writer? Most like?
Least: Promoting myself. Most: I love reading something I’ve written the day before and saying, “Hey, this is really good!” Sometimes I surprise myself.
What advice would you give to new writers?
Let a lot of people read your work and listen to their suggestions. You don’t have to take every suggestion to heart, but every reader has something to say. Do whatever you need to do to hone your craft. All the marketing in the world is no substitute for a well-written book.
How can readers find you and your books?
My books are available online and wherever Inspirational books are sold. You can learn more about me and my books by going to jenniferbeckstrand.com
Jennifer Beckstrand is the RITA nominated and award-winning author of the Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill series. She loves writing about the plain Amish life and the antics of Anna and Felty Helmuth. She and her husband live in Utah and have four daughters and two sons.
Be on the lookout for Jennifer’s upcoming release, Sweet as Honey (June 28)!