Greetings from Sarah Sundin in California, where I’m processing the wonderful time I had at the online West Coast Christian Writers Conference last month. I had the absolute joy of serving on the conference leadership team with my good friend Jeanette Hanscome—who is our lovely guest today! A multi-published author in a variety of genres, Jeanette has some exciting news.
Welcome, Jeanette! Please tell us about your new project.
I just signed a contract to write two novels for Annie’s Fiction as part of their Rose Cottage Book Club series. It’s work-for-hire, and Annie’s created the cast of characters and the story world, but I couldn’t be more thrilled. The series takes place on Nantucket. It centers around a book club, most of the characters are knitters, crocheters, and quilters, and one of them owns a bookstore. It’s a perfect fit for me. Getting this contract felt like confirmation that fiction is the right path for me right now. In a way it also felt like God’s way of saying, “You have my permission to write something fun.”
I’m so thrilled for you, and I can’t wait to read this novel! Your most recent book is very special—what inspired you to write Suddenly Single Mom?
My last book, Suddenly Single Mom: 52 Messages of Hope, Grace, and Promise, is a devotional memoir based on my experiences as a newly single mom who had the extra challenge of being visually impaired and unable to drive. It allowed me to share all that God had done during one of the darkest seasons of my life. I wanted to tell other overwhelmed single moms, “You can do this. If I can survive, so can you. Not only will you get through this, but if you cling to God, He will use it in ways that surprise you. Your life might even be better than before.” It’s still exciting to get notes from women who were helped and encouraged by it.
I love that! What surprised you the most during the writing of your book?
When I started writing Suddenly Single Mom, I knew it would be hard—that I would have to relive everything and open up about things that my family and close friends didn’t know about. I knew it would be scary to have the book out there, but that this was my opportunity to minister to women who felt alone and often misunderstood. Two things surprised me. The first was that it ministered to women who were not single moms and had never been through a divorce. One friend said my book helped her be more sensitive to single parents and those going through the pain of divorce. That touched me so deeply! Another friend got a free copy at a retreat and read it because she knew me. While reading it, she experienced a loss and found that the book helped her through the grief. These notes reminded me that we never know how God will use our stories.
The other surprise didn’t feel good at the time, but I am now thankful for it. Reliving the events that inspired Suddenly Single Mom opened other wounds as well—things I’d never dealt with. I knew God had used the experience of writing the book as part of my healing process, but it took a long time for me to realize my need to heal from the “Why am I crying about this?” things that came up. A few months after my book came out, I recognized that I needed counseling and started working with an amazing Christian therapist. The healing journey has been long but worth it.
And I know the Lord will use that journey in your books—a very good reason to enjoy writing. Do you have another reason you love writing?
One of the many things I love about writing is that it helps many of us find our voices. It has done that for me. I can share things through stories or blog posts that I might struggle to share out loud (at least at first). Lately, I felt motivated to start writing fiction again after a long break from it. Doing that freed me to write about something that I’d been hesitant to put out there as nonfiction. In many ways, writing makes me braver.
Speaking of being brave, why did you decide to write fiction again?
Before the pandemic, I was working on a memoir that I thought might be formatted as a devotional like Suddenly Single Mom. Then three weeks of shelter-in-place stretched to three months and six months, and I just couldn’t go to the place that writing that memoir required. I started playing around with an idea for a novel and felt my creativity waking up in a way that it hadn’t for a long time. My agent and I had agreed that fiction would be a good focus for me, so I set aside the memoir. Actually, I might eventually turn some of those stories into fiction.
I’d love to see that! So tell us—what is one thing about writing that you wish non-writers knew?
I love writing, but I also think the writing life is romanticized. In movies, writers scribble away in journals, type a manuscript in what looks like a few days, send it off, and immediately find a publisher. It leads the rest of the world to believe that, once a struggling author overcomes what is blocking her tortured brain and finds her inspiration again, the path to publication falls into place overnight. Non-writers have a hard time understanding that writing is hard work, and that it isn’t always fun. It is wonderful and rewarding, but it is also a job that requires discipline and perseverance. Sometimes we have to force ourselves to stay in front of the computer. Sometimes it takes years for our hard work to pay off, and most of us have other jobs in addition to writing. Writing has actually deepened my respect for all arts-related career that look like play time.
So true. What do you read for pleasure? What are you reading right now?
I am usually reading at least three books at once. Right now I’m reading Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody, Finding God in the Margins: The Book of Ruth by Carolyn Custis James, The Gift: 12 Lessons to Save Your Life by Edith Eger (a sequel to The Choice, which is one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read), and Cynthia Ruchti’s novel Afraid of the Light. As you can see from my list, I have eclectic taste in books. Every year I need at least one middle grade and YA novel fix, so I’m open to recommendations. I figure I have a lot of catching up to do after being a reluctant reader as a child. Low vision made reading difficult, so I hated it until I was about ten. Then my grandma started reading to me out of her old copy of Anne of Avonlea, my best friends gave me A Little Princess, and another friend introduced me to Anne Frank’s diary. Now I have to weed out my bookshelf twice a year, so I’ll have space in my bedroom to sleep.
All of us readers can relate. In addition to organizing our space, we all need to organize our time in this 24/7 world. How do you stay disciplined and meet your deadlines?
In addition to living in a 24/7 world, I live in a multi-generational home. My younger son is in his first year of community college, which is virtual, and we live with my parents, who are getting older. Before COVID, I had to discipline myself not to say yes to every invitation to hang out with my sisters and go to Target. Now I have to balance my work with other people’s needs and the distractions of all that’s going on in our world. I find that it helps to stay connected with writer friends who will pray for me. One friend and I talk every Monday night and end every call with, “So, what is your goal for this week?” That accountability is so helpful!
What’s your favorite bookstore—and why?
I love old bookstores. When my friend Julie and I went to England and Scotland in 2019, we spent about an hour in an old bookstore in Edinburgh. I overheard an elderly guy talking on and on about an interesting fact he’d read about World War II. When I paid for my book, I noticed that he’d parked himself on a stool beside the cash register and was talking the cashier’s ear off. Then he picked up his cane, stood up on his wobbly legs, and said, “Well, I better get on home now.” He turned to a college-aged employee and asked, “Shannon, would you be a love and walk me to the bus stop?” She said, “Certainly,” dropped what she was doing, took his arm, and walked him out. I got the impression that he did the same thing almost every day: showed up with something on his mind, bought nothing, talked and talked until he was ready to “get on home,” and asked Shannon or one of the other staff to walk him to the bus. That’s my favorite kind of bookstore. One where locals hang out and feel at home. We have fewer and fewer of those all the time, but when I find one, I want to stay forever.
What a wonderful story! Jeanette, you have so many interesting hobbies and an adventuresome spirit about trying new ones—please share about this.
I must be a creative through and through because all of my hobbies and passions involve crafts or the arts. My favorite pre-pandemic activities were singing with the worship team and seasonal choir at church and in a community chorus. I am also a knitter and crocheter, love creative lettering, and enjoy making things with essential oils (body butter, roller balls, room sprays…). When COVID brought singing to a halt, I was so sad, so I started drawing and trying other forms of lettering. That’s when I realized, “Wow, I’m an artist. Who knew?” Then I discovered an online ballet-based movement class and fell in love with that. I find that I’m at my best when I’m being creative. I also need to move my body. So if this goes on much longer, who knows? I might take up Irish dance or oil painting (even though I don’t see in color) or find a way to combine the two.
That I want to see! And I have no doubt that you could make Irish painting-dancing a thing. Thank you so much for sharing with us, Jeanette!
To learn more about Jeanette’s books, please visit Jeanette’s website.
Writing for Him,