Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Jessica Keller Visits the Mine This Holiday Season

In today's digital age, most of us can "meet" our favorite authors via some form of social media. I actually "met" Jessica Keller via Facebook when I enter a giveaway for one of her books. And I've been a fan ever since so I'm thrilled to introduce her to our Diamond Mine readers (and good news for all of you, Jessica's giving away a book here--keep reading for how to enter to win).

Here's a little more about Jessica: 

A coffee drinker, avid reader, and chocolate aficionado, Jessica Keller writes both Romance and Young Adult Fiction. As a child, Jessica possessed the dangerous combination of too much energy coupled with an over-active imagination. This pairing led to more than seven broken bones, countless scars, and even more story ideas. Jessica holds degrees in both Communications and Biblical Studies. She lives with her family in the Midwest. 

You can connect with Jessica in any of the following ways:

Huge thanks to Jessica for taking some time away from family and friends during the holidays to spend with us (she was even sick over Thanksgiving and had to miss out).

 SW: Your website states you are a semi-professional fangirl. Who or what do you fangirl over?

JK: The real question is, what don’t I fangirl over? I’m a pretty devoted reader of young adult fiction and am constantly fangirling over the heroes (and anti-heroes) in many of those books. But I fangirl over classical literature just as easily (looking at you Sir Percy, Mr. Thornton, and Henry Tilney). I fangirl my favorite authors too. Basically, when I love something, I’m pretty passionate about it and have a hard time not talking about whatever that is to anyone who will listen. So to whoever invented the term fangirl, I owe you one.

SW: Of your extensive list of previous jobs (zookeeper, librarian, camp counselor, horse wrangler, and finance clerk), which was your least favorite? Most favorite? Any great war stories from those jobs?

JK: There are good and bad aspects of all my previous jobs but I can honestly say I enjoyed the experiences I had during all of them. I also believe that many of the jobs and responsibilities I had during my younger years shaped me into a hard worker, which has helps shape my career and life even to this day. War stories? I can’t even share the name of the horse I was working on because his name carries a swear word in it (should have told me something…). While in the position of horse wrangler I had him out in the field and he got spooked and bucked. I was tossed in the air and caught by his hooves on the way down before he took off. Broken ribs, arm, and messed up hip joint later – I army crawled back to the barn because I couldn’t walk. However, I saddled up the next day and led a trail ride because there was no one else around to do it.

 SW: As an author of both young adult and sweet romance, what would you say is the most challenging aspect of writing in multiple genres?

JK: More than anything, juggling my time trying to build audiences for both readerships has been the most difficult part. I love writing in multiple genres and want to continue to do so. I believe the creative mind is like any muscle and only gets stronger when used differently – but having the time for everything … that’s where I struggle.

        SW: What items do you have to have on hand when writing?

J     JK: Music and a drink (doesn’t matter if it’s water, coffee, tea, or hot chocolate – as long as I have something close). I make playlists for every book I write and have certain songs that I play while writing specific scenes or chapters. Music draws so many emotions into writing that I don’t believe I’d be capable of taping into without it playing in the background.

      SW: You collaborated with five other authors for a boxed book set that was released in time for the holidays (Mistletoe Memories: Six New Inspirational Holiday Romances). How was this process different from being the only author involved with a release? What is your story in the collection about?

JK: The Mistletoe Memories collaboration was a riot because, first and foremost, I’m friends with the other authors. We all agreed on something (the idea of Christmas memories playing an important role in our stories) and then all wrote our own stories. Promoting a bundle is easier than when you’re on your own because you have the power of six authors talking instead of feeling alone while you wave a flag about your book release.

My story in the collection launches a new novella series I’m working on set in the small town of King’s Cove, MI. The story is titled It Was You and is about Natalie Rhodes returning to King’s Cove after saying she never would. Tanner Avery was her ex-boyfriend’s  best friend in high school. He always had a secret crush on Natalie and he’s not about to miss his only chance to convince her to stay in town for good.

            SW: I love Christmas stories any time of year. Since we’re discussing holiday stories, will you share a favorite gift, memory, or family tradition with us?

      JK: One of the family traditions that my husband and I started after we got married was to put together boxes for Operation Christmas Child every year. It’s a ministry through Samaritan’s Purse where you pack a shoebox full of items for a child across the globe who wouldn’t have received a gift otherwise. For many of these children it’s the first time they are receiving a gift in their life. The gospel message is shared with them when they are given their shoeboxes as well. Our daughter is now old enough to understand the tradition and helps us pick out items to send in the shoeboxes and joins us as we pray for the children who will receive our gifts.

      SW: Share with our readers a little more about Goose Harbor and your newest release, Apple Orchard Bride. I know this story is close to your heart.

JK: For anyone who is a fan of the show Gilmore Girls, my editor has often referred to Goose Harbor as the Star’s Hollow of Love Inspired. Goose Harbor is a picturesque tourist town found on the shores of Lake Michigan in the state of Michigan. Spunky and eccentric townspeople are the backbone of the town and they have a festival for every occasion – down to a Lost Sock Ball where they all donate socks that have lost their pairs to a widow in town who likes to knit them together into outfits she wears. That’s Goose Harbor in a nutshell, the people are loving and accepting and community focused.

Apple Orchard Bride features Jenna Crest and Toby Holcomb, two characters who have been on my heart for long time. The character of Jenna walked into my mind at least twelve years ago now, long before I ever started seriously writing. Jenna lived a sheltered life until her mother died and then she tried to become what she thought everyone wanted her to be, which ended up causing her to be badly burned in love. Toby was her best friend growing up but they drifted away in adulthood. Now circumstances have put them back into each other’s paths – but a lot of life and hurt has happened and from the get-go, it looks pretty difficult to overcome their past together.

    SW: Oh, I LOVE stories about best friends reuniting and finding love. Goose Harbor is a fictional town, but if someone asked your advice of where to vacation in this area, what are your top three suggestions and why

     JK: While Goose Harbor is fictional, I make no secret on the fact that it’s very heavily inspired by the very real towns of Saugatuck, Douglas, and Holland, Michigan. I’d say if someone wanted the “Goose Harbor” experience they’d just have to head to those three!

      SW: Many of your books are published through Harlequin’s love inspired label. As a reader, I love the note to readers the authors leave at the end of these books. Do you usually have an idea of what this is going to include before you write the book or does it come more as a process as you learn about your characters while writing the story

      JK: I always know the theme of the book I’m writing before I set out and write it and the theme always ties into the Dear Reader letter at the end of the book, but the funny thing about writing is that the process usually changes the way that the theme comes through in the book. My characters are always surprising me so I can’t rule out things changing before a book is completed! I don’t write my Dear Reader letter until after the first round of edits from Harlequin are done and I’ve had time to think and pray over what I’m going to say first.

             Apple Orchard Bride

Hometown Reunion 
When Toby Holcomb becomes guardian to his cousin's daughter, he goes from hard-living bachelor to father without a clue. One thing he can do is give Kasey a stable home. Returning to Goose Harbor, he takes a job at his childhood friend's apple orchard. But Jenna Crest isn't ready to forgive him for his past mistakes. Desperate for sweet Jenna's help in raising his little girl, Toby vows to make amends to the woman he wronged so many years ago. Suddenly, he and Jenna and young Kasey are feeling more and more like a family. But convincing Jenna he's a changed man will take all the love in his heart.

      Now for the details I promised you at the beginning of the post. Jessica is generously giving away paperback copies of Apple Orchard Bride to two of our readers . How do you enter? Simple...leave a comment below. Tell us about your favorite holiday tradition (or something you loved about this Christmas) and be entered to win. Be sure and leave a contact email so we know how to reach you.
***Fine print: we must have FIVE comments with unique email addresses for the contest to be valid.

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