Monday, April 28, 2014

Author Spotlight: Jennifer Beckstrand + GIVEAWAY - US & Canada


It is an honor to welcome Jennifer Beckstrand to The Power of Words this week! Jennifer loves to write Amish fiction and is beginning a new series called "The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill" with the book we are featuring today, Huckleberry Hill. She has also completed a series called "Forever After in Apple Lake," which you can learn more about here.

After reading Huckleberry Hill, I am so glad to have discovered Jennifer and her writing. (See my review here.) She has a great sense of humor that shines through in her writing (take note of her Ferris wheel story), and it has been a joy to get to know her through the interview process. Jennifer has graciously offered to share a copy of Huckleberry Hill with one of you; contest details are at the bottom of this post. Now sit back and enjoy your visit.


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Q:  Jennifer, share a little about yourself and your family. Do you write full time?

        I grew up the second daughter in a family of six girls. My oldest sister introduced me to Jane Austen, and I’ve never looked back. I’ve been married for almost 30 years, and my husband is my biggest fan. He checks my sales numbers way more than I do. I have six children. My first four children are girls, and I thought I would follow in my mother’s footsteps until I had my two boys at the tail end. Once all my girls were out of the house, I had to come to peace with the fact that the long periods of silence in our house do not mean that my boys are mad at me or don’t love me. They just don’t say much.
        I love music and theater. I often coax my family to sing together in church or other events. (For my youngest son, who hates being in front of people, this is a particular trial.) I have been known to organize and direct the neighborhood youth in productions of Shakespeare.
        I write 10,000 words a week. Sometimes this takes part-time hours, sometimes full-time hours. I always take time off “work” to play with my two grandsons.


Q:  What is writing to you?

Probably deep down at the core of writing for me is the absolute delight of creating two characters and helping them fall in love. I love the romance, and I love happy endings. I won’t read a book or watch a movie if the ending isn’t happy.


Q:  What are three things that most people don't know about you?

I have a degree in mathematics. I do the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle every week. I once played one of the ugly stepsisters in “Cinderella.” It may or may not have been type casting. J


Q:  I loved one of your recent blog posts where you wrote about an experience that truly frightened you. You've just got to share that with us, Jennifer!

LOL! If you only knew how many humiliating experiences there have been… I am one of those people who has absolutely no sense of adventure. None. I don’t like to travel. I hate to camp. I shun public restrooms, most especially toilets that don’t flush. I avoid getting into cars with teenage boys when they are driving (this is difficult when you have to teach them how to drive). I don’t like to try new foods, new hairstyles, or the new Alpine slide at the local ski resort. The thing I am the most terribly, horribly, irrationally afraid of is heights.
 
        A few years ago, I made a dreadful error in judgment. I decided that it would be great fun to ride the Ferris wheel with my family at our local amusement park.
        When you are on the ground looking up, the Ferris wheel doesn’t look so scary. It doesn’t go fast or sway dangerously side-to-side, and when it is the only ride the entire family wants to go on, your judgment gets cloudy.
        By the time our spacious Ferris wheel car was twenty feet above solid ground, I started to panic. I wondered, quite justifiably, why by any stretch of the imagination I thought hanging a hundred feet in the air sounded fun. I grabbed the nearest bar for support and held on until my knuckles turned white and then blue. My family chuckled loudly, which only served to make me laugh hysterically and bawl in panic, both at the same time. The wheel made a full revolution, and as we passed the attendant, I yelled, “Can I get off?”
        That very nice young man took pity on me and stopped the ride so I could disembark. Tears streamed down my face, and my children had the nerve to make fun of me. As I walked away, I heard the attendant ask my kids, “Is that your mom?”
        “No,” came the reply.
        My heartless children still mock me about that experience. I’m writing them all out of my will.


Q:  Tell us about The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill series and the inspiration behind it.

        The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill has been called “Amish romantic comedy.” The series is about a pair of Amish grandparents, Anna and Felty Helmuth, who are bent on helping their grandchildren find true love in their little community of Bonduel, Wisconsin. What could be more fun than throwing two young people together to see if sparks ignite? And who would ever suspect two elderly Amish folks of mischief?
        I think the concept of Huckleberry Hill started with the idea of two irresistibly loveable grandparents, Anna and Felty, who only want what’s best for their grandchildren. They are a little like my own parents and are the embodiment of a married couple who have been through the ups and downs of life and still are very much in love.


Q:  Today we are featuring book #1 of the series, Huckleberry Hill. Describe this story in 5 adjectives.

Endearing, funny, romantic, feel-good, romantic (yes, I said “romantic” twice. There’s kissing, and there’s a barn, and there’s kissing in a barn. What could be more romantic than that?)


Q:  I don't imagine I was the only reader particularly drawn by the beautiful cover. Were you pleased with it, and were you at all involved in the process?

I LOVE my cover. My publisher always asks me what I think should be on the cover. Huckleberry Hill is exactly the cover I envisioned—only better.


Q:  I thought one of your story's strengths was its rich characterization. Tell us about some of your favorite characters. What was it like to write about such an irritating character as Rachel?

        Anna and Felty are definitely some of my favorite characters. I think they are the grandparents everybody wishes they had. One of my favorite lines describing Anna is, “Her blue eyes twinkled persistently, as if every day were Christmas.” She’s that kind of grandma, or mammi, as they say in Deitsch. Felty is a little bit like my dad. He just goes with the flow but isn’t afraid to set someone straight if they need it. Another favorite character is Sarah Beachy, the midwife. Sometimes her brutal honesty can seem abrasive, but in a tough situation, there’s no one you’d rather have in your corner. And of course, I think Moses and Lia are adorable.
        I enjoyed writing Rachel, the girl everybody loves to hate. I tried to make her motivations as believable as possible so that she wasn’t just a caricature. I even felt a little sympathy for her at the end—but just a little.


Q:  What are some aspects about Huckleberry Hill that you particularly enjoyed writing?

        This was really a fun book to write. One of my favorite things was exploring the relationship between Anna and Felty. They’ve been married for over sixty years so they’ve learned what love really means. While they recognize each other’s faults and foibles, they would never hit each other over the head with them.
        Anna’s cooking adventures were super fun to write. I’m not a very good cook, so I could really relate to Anna’s desire to cook something edible.


Q:  Did you have a primary spiritual theme, and what do you hope readers will take away from this story?

        One theme of Huckleberry Hill is gratitude. Felty and Anna experienced great tragedy in their lives, and they realized that the only way to get through it was to thank the Lord in all circumstances. When Lia, my heroine, looks for reasons to be grateful, her whole outlook changes.
        Another idea I wanted to highlight is that even though we often look on outward appearance, God looks on our hearts. Lia has been told all her life that she’s not good enough. I love the moment when she finally realizes that she deserves to be loved.


Q:  What's on the book horizon for you, Jennifer? Will we see any of these characters again?

Oh, yes. Anna and Felty have sixty-four grandchildren and ninety-six great-grandchildren. There are plenty of matches to be made! Huckleberry Summer, the next book in the series, sees Anna and Felty trying to match their reckless and rebellious grandson Aden with well-behaved, obedient Lily Eicher. But Lily’s stern dat might have something to say about that. In Huckleberry Christmas, due for October release, young widow Beth insists that she’ll never marry again. Anna and Felty try to convince her to give Tyler Yoder a chance.


Q:  What are some ways we can support and encourage you, both personally and as an author, Jennifer?

        How very nice of you to ask! You’re always welcome to come to my house and clean a toilet or mop my floor. J These days, those pesky little chores don’t get done very often.
        Seriously though, if you sign up for my newsletter on my website, you will get updates on book releases, reviews, and giveaways. I love it when people like me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter. Once a month I host a blog with seven other Amish authors (on my website) where we tell hilarious stories about our lives and our writing.
        And I love to hear from readers. I can’t tell you what an uplift it is to get a note from someone who enjoyed one of my books. People are so kind, and book readers are the best people out there.


Q:  Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

Thanks for the chance to be on your blog, Carole. It’s been a blast.
 
Here are the links where you can find me:
http://www.jenniferbeckstrand.com
Twitter: @JenniferBeckst1
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jenniferbeckstrandfans

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GIVEAWAY

To enter the Huckleberry Hill contest, simply leave a question or comment for Jennifer, along with your e-mail address in a safe format. And I'm always glad to have new followers on my blog and "likes" on my Facebook page, The Power of Words Reviews.

Contest ends at midnight on Saturday, May 3. Winner will be chosen by Random.org and announced on Monday, May 5. Due to postage costs, US and Canadian addresses only.

68 comments:

  1. You've done it again Carole!This was such a wonderful interview and the author sounds just awesome in the explaining of her feelings about the book that is featured.I also love the cover which helps it to be more appealing to me.I am looking forward to reading her books.

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    1. Paula, it was the cover that initially drew me to this book. So colorful and I love the expression on her face! Of course, I enjoy Amish fiction, so it doesn't take a lot to draw me. It's always good to see you here, Paula.

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    2. Thanks, Paula. I am obviously very fond of the cover. :) Hope you enjoy!

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  2. Loved the interview! I found myself giggling more than once.
    Jennifer, I love the loyalty your kids showed during the Ferris wheel incident...haha. :)
    I grew up in a family with four girls. My parents wanted a boy so bad...Maybe they should have tried one more time. :)
    Thanks for the chance to win this book. It sounds really good, and I love the cover.
    jennismith1983(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. I thought the Ferris wheel story was a hoot, Jennifer S! While I can't stand rides with fast drops or round & round sideways motion, I love the Ferris wheel!

      I've also got to tell you that a family I think the world of in my church had five daughters before their son was born. I often wondered how long they would have tried!

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    2. I think my kids feel it is their duty to keep their mom from making a fool of herself. One time I was walking in the halls of the junior high with my daughter and I started doing a little dance to the music playing from the PA system. My daughter whispered in that desperate tone of a humiliated teenager, "Mom, stop. Don't do that. Mom. Mom. Stop!" I don't dance in public anymore. And I try not to walk funny either. :)

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  3. I just finished reading a series of 6 Amish books and enjoyed them very much. "Amish romantic comedy" makes it sounds like a fun book I would enjoy!!!
    pbclark(at)netins(dot)net

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    1. You sound like a true fan of Amish fiction, Ruby!

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  4. I haven't had the opportunity to read any books by this author, but I sure hope to soon! Amish Christian fiction is my favorite genre. Thanks for sharing your funny story!
    susanlulu@yahoo.com

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  5. I would love this book for me, my daughter and 80 year old aunt. Looks like a sweet romance!

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    1. How great to make it multi-generational, Diane! And it's so good to see you here.

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  6. This sounds GREAT!!! :) I'm SO glad I found it on Fiction Addiction! :) I hadn't heard about it until then. I REALLY like the messages and what you hope readers take away from the story! I'd love a chance to read this. I've wanted to read one of your books for a while now Jennifer and after what you said about seeing these characters again I'm jumping at the chance to start with them at the begining! :D

    Thank you for the interview and giveaway. :)

    Blessings, Amada (pronounced: a.m.a.th.a)
    amada_chavez{AT}yahoo{DOT}com

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    1. Amanda, the girls at Fiction Addiction work so hard to help promote giveaways and I'm glad you discovered Jennifer and her writing. Please subscribe to my blog by e-mail if you're interested in occasional interviews & giveaways, as well as reviews. And thanks for sharing your thoughts with Jennifer.

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    2. They do!!! I love them and there blog! There are so many great giveaways I find there that I never find out about otherwise! Thank you! I will subscribe! Interviews and Giveaways are a couple of my favorite things! ;)

      Hugs, Amada

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    3. Thanks, Amada! I hope you enjoy my books. Hooray for Fiction Addiction!

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    4. :D Thank you Jennifer! :) You come up with great plots!

      Blessings, Amada

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  7. Carol, I would like to tell you that I loved getting to know you, and the cover of your book is beautiful. I to also am afraid of hights.
    Do you have a special place were you like to write?? Also do you have a favorite kind of bible verse??

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    1. I write on my home computer in my family room. One of my favorite Bible verses is Isaiah 49: 15, 16: Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.

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  8. I forgot to give my email address
    oh.hello.hiya@gmail.com

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  9. As a mom of only sons, do you think it is easier to raise boys or girls?
    This was an awesome blog post. I enjoyed every minute.
    Karen
    sweetnessnlight(at)comcast(dot)net

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    1. That is a good question. I have always heard that boys are easier to raise, but each child was so different. Each had their own challenges and strengths. But honestly, I felt like my girls were easier because they actually talked to me. At least I knew what was going on with them. :)

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  10. Thanks Jennifer for sharing yourself with us, it's always nice to know the author when I am ready the book, I can picture you now avoiding cleaning the toilet just like I do but I don't have the excuse of being an author.
    Jnut1@yahoo.com

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    1. LOL. Toilets are definitely one of my least favorite chores.

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  11. Love learning more about you. And love the cover on your book.
    seraphinangel7(at)aol(dot)com

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  12. Loved the interview, Sounds like some very fun grandparents. I love spunky people (old or young). And I too love the cover.
    LsnLjohnson at aol dot com

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    1. Thanks, Juanita and Marilyn. I am so happy with the cover.

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  13. This was a very informed interview. I always enjoy reading about the authors that I am reading, and what brought them to being a writer.

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  14. Jennifer writes a great book! I am a huge fan!

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    1. Gail and Sonja, did you want to enter the drawing? Just checking!

      Sonja, have you read Jennifer's earlier books? I certainly want to read them when I can find time.

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    2. I have two left to read! I wouldn't mind being entered and give the book to a good friend.

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  15. Hello Carole. Thanks for having Jennifer. She is a sweet person. I had the good luck to get to meet her in person. Loved her right away. Hope to get to see her again. I am with her on some of the rides. I never had a problem with the Ferris wheel but with the Roller Coaster. And, for sure the ones they have now days. And, Jennifer I would have threatened mu kids if they laughed at me at a time like that when they should be showing us pity. HUH?? Thats kids for you. Loved your interview. Especially the part about the toilets. Don't think that's what Carole meant. LOL I need to start winning some of these books to donate to my Library so others can meet you. Thanks for the give-away. Maxie mac262(at)me(dot)com

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    1. Maxie, I love your thoughts and appreciate that you shared with us. I would love to be around Jennifer in person because she has the best sense of humor! I've already said I believe she could make it in the world of comedy. I hope you do win books from time to time because the library is a great way to introduce others to Jennifer's writing.

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    2. Maxie,
      You are so kind. It was such a pleasure meeting you in Houston. I usually get the last laugh with my kids. I tell them it is a mother's job to embarrass her children.

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  16. Hi Carole! I am new to your blog and Jennifer is a new to me author. :) I have to admit it was the word Huckleberry and cover photo that drew me in. I love romance, love comedy and together make for lots of fun. I don' think I've come across Amish romantic comedy so I am interested to read Jennifer's book for that reason alone. And the character on the cover is holding a pie...I mean pie? How can you go wrong? ;) Thank you for the chance! :) bunnysmip (AT) gmail (DOT) com

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    1. It's good to see you here, Mippy! I have to agree that the pie, as well as the whole cover, drew me also.

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    2. Pie is my favorite dessert!

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  17. Where do you find you inspiration? It looks like it will be a good book. Thanks for the chance to win a copy. My email address is saritawhite at gmail dot com

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    1. I always think of a conflict first and then develop my characters around the conflict. I do a lot of thinking in the shower. I tend to take very long showers. :)

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  18. Wonderful interview. I haven't ever read Jennifer's work, but look forward to reading this series as it all becomes available. She sounds charming and I am so glad you introduced her to us. cindybazzy at gmail dot com

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    1. Sara, I find most Christian fiction very moving and can't help but wonder where authors find their inspiration.

      Cindy, often knowing an author makes their books come alive, and that is the case with Jennifer. I'm glad she gave me the chance to introduce her!

      So glad you and Sara dropped by!

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  19. I live in Lancaster County, PA and love reading Amish fiction. Thanks for the giveaway!

    Doreen
    priviesandprims[at]yahoo[dot]com

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  20. Delightful interview! I was wondering if you have any Amish roots in your family?

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    1. Kc, thanks for visiting, and be sure to leave your e-mail address if you'd like to enter the drawing.

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    2. No Amish roots but some great Amish friends in PA. Wonderful, salt of the earth people.

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  21. I would love a chance to win Jennifer's book.

    Jennifer, are you a plotter or a pantser in your writing approach?

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    1. I'm more of a pantser. I always develop the characters and a rough plot outline, but then I like to see where the scenes take me. :)

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  22. I like the Amish plus humor combination; laughter does indeed make everything better!

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    1. Lollipops and Shnife, thanks for dropping by and getting to know Jennifer. Be sure to leave your e-mail addresses if you want to enter the drawing.

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  23. I loved reading this article and believe that Ms. Beckstrand sounds like an incredibly interesting writer!! (And Amish novels are the best!) :)
    sherrigoedker{at}hotmail[dot]com

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  24. Great interview. Looking forward to reading Jennifer Beckstrand's new book. I love reading Amish books and Jennifer has written some really good ones. Thank you for the chance to win a copy of this Huckleberry Hill.
    kmgervais(at)nycap(dot)rr(dot)com

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  25. I would love to win a copy of Huckleberry Hill by Jennifer Beckstrand. What a great author. She came to our bookclub over a year ago and we had a wonderful time. Thank you Jennifer.

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  26. Thanks to all of you who are enjoying Jennifer's interview and leaving comments.

    Be sure to leave your e-mail address in a safe format if you want to enter the drawing. I'm missing addresses from the following:
    Gail Fuhlman
    Kc Hertz
    Lollipops
    Shnife
    Scott Holje

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    1. Scott Holje's ema[l address is mascot38@q.com. Is that what you wanted or did you want a mailing address

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    2. Just e-mail. Thank you so much!

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  27. Great interview.how long did it take to write Huckleberry Hill and Huckleberry
    Summer ? I am looking forward to reading Huckleberry Hill and Huckleberry
    Summer.Please enter me in contest.Thank you for the opportunity to win.I enjoy reading your books.augustlily06(at)aim(dot)com..Have a wonderful week.

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  28. Thanks for entering me in your giveaway. I very much enjoyed reading your interview. Even if I don't win, I will be buying this book for my church library.
    Janet Estridge
    von1janet(at)gmail(dot)com

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  29. What a fabulous interview, Carole. What fun to meet a new author. I will definitely be searching for her and liking her on facebook. I've never read anything by Jennifer, but will certainly be putting these books on my wish list.

    Please enter me in the drawing for her book.

    Carol Dyer

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  30. Way to go Jennifer!! I am so happy that things are going so well. You are amazing. I would love to win a copy of your book! You know where I live :)

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  31. Amish fiction is my favorite genre to read. I havent read an Amish romantic comedy yet, so Huckleberry Hill sounds really interesting to me.
    marypopmom (at) yahoo (dot) com
    Maryann

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  32. I love that Carole pulled your personality out. You are so down-to-earth and delightful, as I've come to know you personally. I'm also impressed she didn't shy away from asking you about the spiritual side of your stories and characters. Your stories are wonderful, Jennifer. Can't wait for the next one! Thanks for sharing, especially about the ferris wheel. I'd never have pegged you as afraid of anything.

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    1. Harley, it so good to hear from someone who knows Jennifer personally and I appreciate your comments so much. Thanks for dropping by.

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  33. I really enjoyed this interview--it is always fun learning about the authors before (or after) reading their books. I LOVE the idea of including comedy in an Amish book and I look forward to someday meeting these grandparents. Please add me to your drawing Carole--thanks for the opportunity it's!
    Vicki
    vmarney at hot mail dot com.

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  34. Loved the interview! So funny, yet so heart warming. I love to read about the authors of the books I am reading. So good to know that most are Christians, wives, Moms, chaperone's, home room mother's, Scout leaders, etc just like the rest of us! Anxious to read your work, Jennifer and thanks for the opportunity to enter the giveaway.

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  35. Ferris Wheel no way but when my boys were little we rode a ski lift,in the warm weather,to the top of the mountain. The middle one was in the lift with me and I was busy trying to calm him down. When he got to the top he said he was not riding back down so he and one of my other sons and I walked down the mountain. I never have flip flops on but,you guessed it,that day I did. Was in so much pain that by the bottom I told my husband I needed Motrin and Coca Cola like now and never again. Would love to win your book.

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  36. Yvonne Anderson When is your next book coming out Read Huckleberry Hill but looking forward to next one . Enjoy your books about Amish . They make you see that they were from Christian families and have same problems we do

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  37. Love her books . Looking forward to next book when will it be out

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  38. Congratulations to our winner, Maxie! I sent you an e-mail and hope you enjoy Jennifer's book.

    Jennifer, getting to know you through this interview process is going to make your writing come alive even more! Having you here has been a pleasure, and I hope we can do this again.

    Thanks to all of you who entered and left comments for Jennifer. I hope all of you will discover the joy of her writing, and come back here for book reviews and future giveaway interviews.

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