Today I have the great pleasure of introducing you to Jennifer Uhlarik, a wonderful historical romance author. If you are into reading the novella collections that are so popular right now you might already recognize her name. Now I get the joy of giving you a glimpse of the person behind those delightful stories. At the end of the interview, check out your chance to win a copy of one of the novella collections she has a story in.
Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has finaled and won in numerous writing competitions, and been on the ECPA best-seller list numerous times. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers and lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, college-aged son, and four fur children.
Ready to go beyond the blurb? You’ll be glad you took the time to get to know her.
Sweet or Unsweet Tea?
J.U.: Sweet! Like…REALLY SWEET. Cavity-inducing sweet! Anything else is just colored water. 😉
Crystal: A true southern girl, no doubt! Love the, “Anything else is just colored water.”
Beach Vacation or Mountain Getaway?
J.U.: I live in Florida, so beaches are prevalent. I’d prefer a mountain getaway. It feels far more exotic to me!
Crystal: We just got finished vacationing in your area. Definitely a great place to visit, but I can see getting tired of the beaches.
Homebody or Love to Travel?
J.U.: Can I say both? When I’m home…I want to be home in my comfy clothes and chilling with those I love. But I adore traveling too—from planning the trip to sightseeing and hitting all the museums and historic sights each new place has to offer. I guess you could say we’re go-go-go on vacation, and stay-stay-stay at home. LOL
Crystal: Ha, sounds like home might be more relaxing. 😉
Morning Person or Night Owl?
J.U.: Hmmm. This is a hard one. I’m somewhat both. I wake usually around 7:15 in the morning, but I’ll stay up until midnight most nights—and 2 AM if I’m really flowing in my writing.
Crystal: I’d put you in the night owl category then! People who enjoy being up before 6:00, those are the crazy morning people. 7:15 sounds reasonable to me.
Bookmark or Dog-ear Pages?
J.U.: I’m strictly a bookmark girl! My husband is a dog-ear guy. I cringe every time he turns down a corner, and I have to resist screaming, “STOP, you animal!”
Crystal: I just cringed right along with you. Eek!
The Writing Journey
What is the hardest part about being an author? What is the easiest?
J.U.: The hardest part of being an author for me is balance. I can be very one-track-minded, so when I’m writing, everything else gets ignored. That’s great for the word-count, but my husband likes to eat each evening, and we often have errands to run, or the house needs cleaning. So keeping all the parts of my life balanced tends to be really hard!
The easiest thing is dreaming up new characters to write about and new adventures for them to experience. It seems I have far more story ideas than I have time to write them.
Crystal: Clean houses and meals aren’t really necessary, right?
What are your “have to haves” when it is time to write?
J.U.: A bottle of water or two, a pad of paper and my favorite pen, a blanket to cover my legs, and my dog Gracie. She is my “helper dog,” and she races me to my writing room each day, ready to get to work! (Her version of work is napping on her dog bed in the corner while I slave away at the keyboard, but she makes for good company for those long, lonely hours).
Crystal: I love that you have a writing buddy. She sounds adorable.
What is your favorite Bible verse?
J.U.: Luke 1:45—Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.
This verse came to my attention one Christmas season years ago when I was waiting for a promise from God to come about in my life. I’d been through a tough divorce, was raising a child alone, and God had promised me that if I would seek Him first, that there was another (better) marriage in my future. From the first time I heard that verse, it became a lifeline to me as I waited on God’s promise to come true, and even after I was married, I’ve hung onto that verse for each new promise God gives me.
Crystal: I love that story and seeing how God does bless those who believe what He has said.
First Love Forever Romance Collection
Heartfelt Echoes by Jennifer Uhlarik
1875—Virginia City, Nevada: A short, urgent letter mentioning his childhood love, Millie Gordon, forces deaf Travis McCaffrey to turn to his estranged birth father for help rescuing the woman he can’t forget.
Crystal: I just have to say, I absolutely LOVE Travis and Millie. Of all the novellas I have ever read, I think they are my favorite.
What drew you to create deaf characters?
J.U.: Wow! I am humbled that my characters are your favorites! Thank you. What an honor!
Travis and Millie are characters that appeared in a previous novella, Mountain Echoes, which I wrote for the Courageous Brides Collection. In that story, Travis was a 12-year-old boy who’d lost his hearing the year before. The heroine of Mountain Echoes, Hannah, crossed the Sierras by stagecoach to pick him up and transport him back to San Francisco to attend the California School for the Deaf. I brought Millie into the story in one of the last scenes of Mountain Echoes, one of Travis’s new friends in his new environment. So when I learned the theme of the First Love Forever collection, they were the characters that came to mind. There was already a foundation laid for their romance, and it was simply a matter of them telling me how they were separated.
Beyond having a “history” with Travis and Millie, I have always loved sign language. During my teens, one of my best friends had a sister who was deaf, so I was exposed to sign language and the deaf culture a little through their family. I guess something stuck from my experiences with them because I have known for a long time that I would like to write a story about a deaf character. It was a challenge, making sure I didn’t write any sounds into that story, but I love a good challenge.
Crystal: I didn’t realize there was another story with Travis and Millie. I will definitely have to check that out. I love how you used the experience of your friends to create a story that others might not have been exposed to otherwise.
I especially loved how Millie had gone through a surgery that affected her. From my own research, that detail was so true to life.
Who or what inspired you to create Millie the way you did?
J.U.: I can credit Millie’s surgery and its effect on her to a wonderful group of friends who helped me brainstorm this story. When we got the word that Barbour Publishing wanted the collection, I had, at most, a synopsis that was roughly a paragraph long, and it may have been only a sentence. As I got to thinking about the story as I’d envisioned it when I wrote the very brief description, I realized that it had some flaws, and I would need to restructure some things. Fortunately, I was headed to the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and signed up for the brainstorming class. In that class, the eight participants each discussed the respective stories represented in the group, and someone threw out the idea of Millie having had a surgery…and the effect it had on her. As soon as the idea was put out, we all knew it was a must for this story. So I can credit Lynette’s brainstorming class—and particularly Patty Smith Hall, since she’s the one who put the idea out there to begin with.
Crystal: How wonderful to have such a wonderful group of people to help you brainstorm.
This novella collection is about First Love Forever. Most people I know dream of finding one person to love and cherish for an entire lifetime, but marriage can be tough.
What is the best piece of advice for marriage you have ever heard?
J.U.: This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. As I mentioned above, I went through a divorce and spent a decade as a single mom before I found love again. God was gracious to me and brought me my Dave—my best friend who is funny, kind, giving, and amazing in so many ways. He makes marriage seem easy (though, no…no marriage is truly easy—at least not all the time. Marriages take work, but when you’re with the right person, the work doesn’t seem so hard).
When Dave and I were planning our wedding, our pastor made an offhand comment during a planning meeting that both Dave and I immediately locked onto. The pastor said, “Marriage isn’t about finding the right person. It is about being the right person.” As soon as the words crossed his lips, we each immediately recognized that our marriage needed to be more than expecting our other half to meet our every need or make us happy all the time. Rather than being self-focused, we needed to have the outlook of “how can I make his (or her) life easier? What does he (or she) need from me now?” Sure, we falter from that at times, but by and large, we’ve had eleven years of marital success by living by this principle—thinking of our other half before ourselves.
Crystal: Beautiful, wonderful advice. It is something I hope many take to heart.
Fun Question of the Day:
If you could spend the day with any author you wanted (past or present), who would it be?
J.U.: I think I’d have to say Louis L’Amour. It was his books that made me fall in love with the western genre. He was a wealth of knowledge about the west, history, and so much more. It would’ve been quite a dream to meet him and listen to the stories he had to tell of his various adventures and experiences in life.
Want to learn more? You can find Jennifer on the following:
Alright, beloved readers, it is the time you all have been waiting for! This time I am giving the winner a copy of Of Rags and Riches Romance Colletion if in the contiguous U.S. or an e-copy of Oregon Trail Romance Collection if not. Just comment below AND use the Rafflecopter link below to enter. Entries are open Tuesday 12 AM (EST) 4/17/2018 and close on Monday, 4/23/2108, at 11:59 PM (EST). Winner will be announced on the First Love Romance Collection Review the next day.
*Legal Jargon: No Purchase is necessary. This contest is open to all readers in the world, 18 years and older who are legally allowed to participate in such a giveaway as allowed by their local laws. The Write Call does not exchange prizes for reviews. Reviews are appreciated, but not required.*