of Coldwater Revival
by Kevin Lucia
Nancy Jo Jenkins Interview
"The ground that separates Christianity from the world is no longer a wide, well-defined expanse, it’s an indistinguishable mark hidden beneath tall grass." -- John Aubrey Anderson
Nancy Jo Jenkins is a southern girl and was born in Texas, where she’s lived her whole life. Family has remained a strong influence in her life. Perhaps it was her family background that precipitated the writing of Coldwater Revival. She remembers many get-togethers where love and laughter flowed like honey, but where there was sometimes a bit of “scrapping” going on, as well.
She taught grade school (special education and second grade) for twenty-one years, and absolutely loved working with children. Now she has beautiful grandchildren to dote on.
Kevin: When did you first decide you might like to become a writer?
Nancy Jo: I’ve been a storyteller all of my life. But about 10 years ago the idea to write the stories in my heart grew from just a thought to a burning desire. However, life “got in the way” and I did not begin writing until about six years ago.
I see in your bio that you spent many years teaching – as a middle school English teacher myself, I can appreciate that! – did you ever find inspiration in your students for creating characters?
I believe that all of my characters are compositions of people I know and have known, including myself, and the students I’ve taught. From them, I surely must have recalled facial expressions, moods, body language, strengths and weaknesses of personality, etc., which made their way into my characters.
You taught second grade and special education. What was the subject area you liked the most? (I could be wrong, but I’m guessing English – this novel has the polish that smacks of someone with a literary background!)
Although I have no literary background, I do have a profound love for great literature, poetry, and the beautiful way words can be put together in a sentence to express thoughts of the heart. The subject I most enjoyed teaching was Language Arts and Reading, because I knew that if my students read well, it would open the door to all the others subjects they would have to learn. I read to my students aloud twice a day, allowing them to hear the flow of language, and vocabulary words they had yet to learn. My students fell in love with stories and with poetry, especially the Shel Silverstein books.
How much research was necessary for Coldwater Revival? I’m guessing, living in Texas, you drew off your life experience to create the Falins?
I did draw from stories I heard in childhood concerning my grandparents and their rural way of life. Knowing I had to be historically accurate, I traveled to Brenham, Texas and Galveston Island three times, gleaning information and facts, touring historic homes and museums, studying maps and old newspapers, watching films, reading books about the history of Galveston and the Hurricane of 1900. I drove about the city, marking locations, reading about historical sites, taking pictures and reading plaques. I sat on the beach for hours, soaking up everything about the ocean and wildlife that flourished there. Because Emma Grace and her family were well-read, I, too, had to learn about the planetary system, Robert Peary’s expedition to the North Pole, myths and literature, and a dozen other things mentioned in the book. I also did internet research and referred to the Etymology dictionary often. I also sought professional guidance concerning iron-working, ranching, and the sportsman’s ways of hunting and fishing.
Any Irish in your family background? The “brogue” comes through very authentically in this novel.
How did you guess? My grandfather was Irish (surname – Collins). Most of his 13 children had the ruddy complexion and sandy-blond hair referred to in the Falin family. But the brogue in my story came from my imagination, and from reading Irish dialogue in books and hearing it in movies.
What was your first break into the writing world?
It was in 2004, at the Mt. Hermon Christian Writers Conference (near San Jose, California). I had submitted 25 pages of Coldwater Revival to an editor and an agent to read. Both gentlemen asked me to send them all I had written on the book (which was 109 pages at the time). I later received calls from both men and within a few weeks was offered an agent contract and a publishing contract for my novel.
What’s the most challenging aspect of writing “Christian Fiction”?
To protect the sensibilities of all of the body of Christ when we write. We authors must take special care to write with a delicate touch when it involves coarse language, sexual matters and specific beliefs. What might be innocent to one believer might not be to another. We have to portray realistic scenes, believable characters, and authentic dialogue without offending our brothers and sisters in Christ. This is a most difficult thing to do, especially when our books deal with real-life situations, such as rape, incest, abortion, etc.
Any musical inspirations that help you write?
I love to play the piano and compose songs – mostly love songs to God. Sometimes, when I’m tired of writing or “stumped” and can’t get my sentences moving, I’ll stop and play the piano for a while. It always helps me refocus on Jesus. It reminds me I’m writing for Him. And I get to worship at the same time.
Recently, some studies were done (I’m not sure by who, honestly) that showed most readers of fiction, Christian Fiction in particular, are women. Why do you think this is?
Perhaps it’s because men are more apt to be watching or participating in sports, or working on hobbies. I love to read stories because it gets me out of my own little world, and most Christian fiction has a satisfactory ending. Not being a man, it’s difficult for me to know the reason men choose other outlets for their leisure time.
What's your next project?
I’m almost ready to submit a proposal to my agent for my next novel. It is set in the hills of Tennessee in the late 1800’s. It is the story of a young woman who is searching for love, and has been since the death of her mother. I won’t reveal any more story plot, but I will tell you that the book is filled with conflict and deep, deep emotion. I believe it has a beautiful and heartwarming ending.
Do you see the Christian fiction market changing any time in the future? Where do you think it’s headed?
Christian fiction has changed drastically during the few years I’ve been writing. Readers can find sci-fi, fantasy, suspense, westerns, Chic and all the other “lits”, plus historical, contemporary and any genre they desire within Christian fiction. I believe Christian fiction will continue to improve and flourish. More of our stories will be seen on TV and in movies, plays, and hopefully, stock the shelves of public, private and church libraries, as well.
Who are some of your favorite authors/writers? Which one would you say has been your biggest influence?
Number One - Francine Rivers (Mark of the Lion series) – She glorifies the Father by writing about miraculous happenings that only He can bring into a life.
Leif Enger (Peace Like A River) – He showed us that you can write “outside the box” and make it work. I love his incredible vocabulary, storyline and characters.
Lavyrle Spencer (secular fiction) - She does extensive research for her historicals, and writes beautiful descriptions and strong characters.
Morgan Llywelyn (Lion of Ireland) – Her stories about Ireland are rich in history and beautiful prose.
What’s your advice to aspiring writers?
It’s the same advice I’ve heard many times at conferences and writers workshops: Write the story that is in your heart. Write your passion. Don’t follow the latest trend in writing. Ask God to reveal the story that He put in your heart, and then ask Him to show you how to write it. He’ll do it.
Here’s my “fun question”. If a movie was made, based on Coldwater Revival, what actors would you have as the lead roles?
I LOVE this “fun question”, Kevin.
Papa (Roan Falin) – Mel Gibson
Mama (Annaleen Falin) – Jessica Lange
Emma Grace Falin – Evangeline Lilly (Kate on the TV show, “Lost”)
Tate Fletcher – David Carr, quarterback for the Houston Texans – professional football player, not an actor, but that’s who Tate looks and acts like.
Gavin O’Donnell – Heath Ledger
Elo Falin – Josh Hartnett
Granny – Shirley
Lucia Kevin Lucia writes for The Press & Sun
Bulletin and The
Journal. His short fiction has appeared in Coach’s
Midnight Diner, The Relief Journal, All Hallows, Darkened
Horizons Vol. 3 & 4,
NexGen Pulp Magazine Issues 1 & 4, From the Shadows, Morpheus
Bohemian-Alien, Shroud Publishing’s horror anthology, Abominations,
Tyndale House’s inspirational anthology Life Savors. He’s
writing a novella for Shroud Publishing’s upcoming novella series, The
Hiram Grange Chronicles. He resides in Castle Creek, New York, with his
wife Abby, daughter Madison and son Zackary. He teaches high school English at
Catholic Central High School
in Binghamton, New York; and is finishing his Masters of Arts in Creative Writing
at Binghamton University. Visit him at his website and