Thursday, December 1, 2022

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Jennifer Chastain

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Jennifer Chastain

LM: Welcome! Congratulations on your upcoming release Targeted for Elimination: Lethal Intentions. The book is quite different from your debut novel The Mistletoe Contract. What made you decide to jump into romantic suspense?

Jennifer: Thank you for hosting me today on your blog! This is a great question. I thought I’d try to write in another genre as I was feeling a little “stuck” so to speak. My romance books just weren’t coming together, and I was questioning whether I should be writing. I knew the Lord called me, but that dreaded “writer imposter syndrome” was dogging me. I’d read some advice from other writers that said if you’re stuck, try a different genre than what you normally write. I love edge-of-your-seat adventures with a romantic element thrown in. Romantic suspense stories are fast-paced, and they make you want to keep turning the pages to see what happens next. I love trying to figure out who the villain is in these types of stories. But the one thing about suspense is, you, the reader, still care about the characters. You want to see them succeed.

I started reading Lisa Phillips Last Chance County series for the Sunrise Publishing open auditions. When I wasn’t chosen for the series, I was a little crestfallen, to be sure. But I realized that wasn’t the path I was supposed to take. It was then that the Lord opened a different door for me. I submitted this story, Targeted for Elimination to Anaiah Press and they loved it. In fact, the editor mentioned that romantic suspense was my genre. Who knew? LOL. It was when I stepped out of my comfort zone that the doors have been thrown wide open for me to write more romantic suspense. In fact, the publisher liked this story so much, they asked if I could make this into a three-book series, and of course, I said yes! Seriously though, I love the genre and I’ve struggled with writing romance but when I add that suspense element to the story? The stories seem, to me at least, to be easier to write. My imagination can take unexpected turns when I’m writing a romantic suspense storyline.

LM: What was your inspiration for the story?

Jennifer: A couple of years ago, I saw a news story about an ATF agent who died while undercover.
Pixabay/Roberto Lee Cortes
Some of the details were vague, even suspicious, while other information just didn’t add up. I started to ask “what if”? questions. What if he really didn’t die? What if he had to go on the run? Who would have turned on him? Those types of questions. The more questions I asked, the more the story started to come together in my mind. I wanted to give this man his happily ever after.

LM: What research did you need to do for your story? Did your paralegal certification influence your writing?

Jennifer: I had to do a little research on the type of gun a federal agent would use. I’m a member of the Crime Scene Writers email group, so they were a great resource to ask detailed questions concerning weapons. Then I had to research the Hawai’ian islands, the types of foods, foliage, and cultural items. I downloaded pictures of landmarks on the Big Island. I Googled a lot of the information because I was writing this story during the middle of Covid and no one was traveling. Fortunately, one of my writer friends, Tammy Karasek, vacationed on the islands for many years. She and her family were even thinking about moving there. She gave me a lot of insight into certain terminology and foods. For example, flip-flops. Hawai’ians do not call them flipflops but “slippas”. A minor detail but one that was important to maintain the authenticity.

As to my paralegal certification, no, I don’t believe that training factored or influenced my writing, other than you must be succinct when writing a lot of these action scenes.

LM: How did you come up with your characters? Do any of them have traits of you?

Pixabay/David Mark
Jennifer: Well, I had a vague idea who my hero was, but I didn’t have a name. One Saturday afternoon, Point Break was on, so I changed the channel and watched. I wanted my hero to be like Keanu Reeves’ character—a rule-follower who also knew he had to bend the rules to gather evidence against the bank robbers. But Jack Spencer, my ATF agent, is also a little bit of an adrenaline junkie, adventurous, something I’m not. Jack is a fusion of Magnum PI, Point Break, and Steve McGarrett from Hawaii Five-O. My heroine, Maggie Coleman, who is an ex-Army medic, is feisty but also insecure. I wanted her to have a stressful occupation but also one where she’d be an asset to Jack. She’s also struggled with being accepted all her life.

Both characters have high-stress, high-energy careers, and they must always keep their guard up. But when they are in the middle of the conflict they’re facing, all their defenses and layers are stripped bare. Ultimately, they must rely on God and trust each other for their survival.

I think there are traits of me in both characters, but I’ll let y’all try to figure that out. I don’t want to give away all my secrets!

LM: What do you do to prepare for writing?

Jennifer: I start with a deep character profile. I usually have a vague idea as to who my characters are, their occupations, what they look like, etc. I’ll sit there and pray over these characters. I’ll search for a picture online of what I think my characters look like, and copy them into Scrivener. I’ll also take the Myers-Briggs test as if my character were answering the questions. I’ll even use the Five Love Languages test too. Once I’ve done all this, I use the Lindy Hop and SEQ (Story Equation) from Susan May Warren/Novel Academy and the Enneagram. I’ll fill out the SEQ, the lie they believe, their greatest dream, their main flaw, etc. Once all this is done, I can plot out the book using the Lindy Hop method, i.e. their life, inciting incident, noble quest, the detours in their path, etc. Once I have my characters fleshed out, it makes plotting so much easier. I can usually plot the book in one or two short sittings. But all the background information usually takes me at least six to eight weeks.

LM: What is your favorite aspect of writing?

Jennifer: I love plotting a new story! In fact, I have four or five story ideas on the back burner right now. But I also love writing that new story and figuring out who my characters are, and what their reactions would be in certain situations.

LM: What is one thing you wish you could do?

Jennifer: I would love to retire, stay at home, and write full-time.

LM: What advice do you have for fledgling writers?

Jennifer: I’d like to remind those starting out in the publishing business of the famous quote from
Winston Churchill, “Never give up!” The publishing world is tough. But if God has called you and you know in your heart you are supposed to be an author, then write well. Learn all you can. Attend conferences either online or in-person. Read craft books. Find a writing community with like-minded individuals who not only can encourage you but sharpen your skills. Find a writing partner to bounce ideas off. And I’ll say it again, don’t give up. Grow a thick skin because rejection will come. But learn from the rejection. If an agent or editor asks you to change your story or gives you advice on how to improve, read it, and pray over the changes. Be open to what those with more experience have to say about your writing and your story.

LM: Where can folks find you on the web?

Jennifer: You can find me here:
Twitter: @JenniferCwrites
Sign up for my newsletter to receive a free short story:

Targeted for Elimination: Lethal Intentions

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He’s a man on the run.

Undercover ATF agent Jack Spencer has been running away his entire life. His last assignment has him questioning who he really is, what he believes, and who he can trust. When his cover is compromised, and he’s injured, he must disappear in order to survive.

She wants a fresh start.

After five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, ex-Army medic Maggie Coleman wants a quiet life, one without emotional trauma. The peace and serenity of the Hawai’ian Islands is just what the doctor ordered. Then Jack crashes into her life, taking her on a rollercoaster ride into the unknown. 

Now, they’re running for their lives.

Maggie and Jack flee the Islands only to find their every move is anticipated. As the days wear on, they form a bond that transcends their situation, and they must learn to depend not only on each other, but God as well. When they finally reach the safe house in the mountains of Montana, Jack and Maggie hunker down and wait for reinforcements. Before help arrives, Maggie is kidnapped, and Jack has only one option—offer himself in exchange. Failure is not an option. Because if he does, they both stand to lose more than just their budding relationship.

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