Blog Archive

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Learning from Writers Conferences: Interview with Jan Elder

You've now released two novels, but let's go back to the beginning. When did you start writing your first novel?
Great question! My lifelong desire to be an author blossomed in the fall of 2009, just after I turned fifty years old. I figured if I was ever going to start that “great American novel,” now was the time. I began Love, Lies, and Fireflies during National November Writing Month (NaNo) a really cool idea designed to jump start a writer’s creative juices. 

After that auspicious start, I joined a local writers group, attended local and regional writer’s conferences (I would highly recommend the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference) and joined ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers.) 

How many rewrites did you do?
As to drafts? Gracious! This poor thing has been through so many incarnations, it’s hard to tell, but I’m guessing I re-wrote certain passages a dozen times. Obtaining really good critiques from authors who know the craft, as well as hiring two terrific editors proved to be invaluable investments. 

Did you ever want to give up writing your first book? 
Not exactly, but a one point, I did have to let it sit for a few months because I was tired of looking at it!

How did you go about finding your publisher? How many submissions did you go through?
I thought this book was finished in 2012, but after attending the conferences, I realized that it still needed a lot of work. I hired Dr. Dennis Hensley, director of the Professional Writers program at Taylor University and editor extraordinaire, and he helped me to perfect the craft. A true learning experience, not just a revamping of the book. 

In 2014, I felt like it was finally really ready. I went back to the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and met with Paula Mowery of Prism Book Group. She liked my pitch and invited me to submit the entire manuscript. A contract soon followed, oh happy day!

Who encouraged you along the way?
My mother, sister, and brother are also published authors. Talk about a good support group! My husband was also instrumental in cheering me on. He bought me a new laptop and allowed me time to write even though that meant he ate cereal for dinner many a time. 

Are you active with any writing groups? 
At the moment, I host an ACFW writers group in Williamsport, MD, and a nicer, more supportive group of people you will never meet. We keep each other on task and lavish each other with encouragement.

How long does it take you to write a book?

It took me two years to write the book, two years to revise it, and it will be two years since the time I signed the contract with Prism until the novel will reside in my hot little hands. 

How do you write? 
As to writing style, I am a “pantser” which means I just run with it when I write. I’m as surprised as the reader as to what’s going to come next and land on the page.

The problem with that, though, is that there are often rabbit trails that don’t go anywhere so extra editing is needed to cut out the parts that don’t fit and add in the parts that make it complete. I did spend a lot of time developing my characters, though—what they thought and felt, what their personality types and backstories were. But outlines? They make me nervous.

What are some of the more difficult aspects of writing a romantic suspense novel?
Love, Lies, and Fireflies began as pure romance. Then it morphed into a suspense novel when Didi O’Brien’s ex-fiancĂ©, Kevin Cabot, insisted on having his own point of view. He was way more complicated than I had originally envisioned, so I let him develop into the person he wanted to be, much to Didi’s dismay. Then to my surprise, my hero, Jake Montgomery, decided to show up out of the blue!

What do you know now about writing/publishing now that you wished you had known sooner?
I would have connected with other Christian authors sooner. And I would slap down my pride and realize that it truly does take a village to write a book. I am eternally grateful for all of the help I received when I looked for it.

What type of publicity does your publisher expect you to do to promote your book?
I have a website, I do guest blogs, tweet, etc. My publisher just asks that we do the best we can and gives us some direction. Promoting is hard for this little introvert, but I am privileged to work with Prism. Not only do I promote myself, but my fellow Prism authors. We work as a team.

What are you best tips for using social media effectively?
Don’t promote. CONNECT. Post other writers’ work more than your own. Retweet other people’s tweets. Work as a community, especially in the Christian world. We are not in competition with each other. We are a group of soul’s whose goal is to reach this world any way we can.

What other books do you have in the works?

While this book was going through its various stages, I kept writing. I have two novellas already published by Pelican Book Group, Manila Marriage App, and A Semi-Sweet Christmas with another book in the hopper there called A Semi-Sweet Summer. Later this year, my new Christmas novella will be released called Moostletoe, published with a group of four other stellar authors – a “boxed set” on Amazon called Frosting and Flurries. I’m very excited about that one, too, since it’s the start of a series set in northern Maine in the fictional town of Moose Creek.

Are there any other notes you’d like to add?
It’s never too late to start writing. My mother finished her last book at age 90!

Thanks, Jan! If you'd like to learn more about Jan's writing, here's some links to get you started...
And the link for her newest book:


  1. Thanks, Christine, for having me on your blog. Lot's of fun. You are much appreciated!

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks, Christine! The cover was done by Joan Alley at Prism.

  3. I'm grateful to participate in that wonderful writers' group Jan mentioned. She leads gently and effectively. I love our writers' group!

    1. Thanks, Tawn for commenting! We are indeed an uncommonly wonderful group and I'm grateful to be a part of it.

  4. Love the interview! Jan, your journey to publication was quite the ride. You're right, it takes a village.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Delia. And the ride continues... Grin.