Character Interview from Love, Lies, and Fireflies by Jan Elder

How about you introduce yourself by providing the basics?

Thank you, Linda, for having me on your blog today. My name is Jake Montgomery and I’m a middle school teacher in central Maryland. I live in a little town in the country where just last week I spied a possum in my garbage can. With babies! Nothing much cuter than a baby possum. I grew up in Baltimore so I love it here—all this peace and quiet soothes my soul.

The last year’s been tough, though. I’ve been out of commission, really just sort of withdrew from life when my fiancée died. Got angry at God, angry with myself, the whole bit. I know there’s a grieving period and that’s healthy. But I guess you could say I was wallowing. I didn’t know what else to do. Thirty is way too young to pack it in, don’t you think? After a while, I had what I would describe as a “defining moment.” I wanted to live again and enjoy life. And then, praise God, Didi came into my life, but more about that later.

Are you athletic?

I used to be. I was fortunate to get a tennis scholarship at the University of Maryland. I’d even squeaked (and I do mean squeaked) into the international top hundred list. I was pretty proud to see that number 98 next to my name. And then I did a dumb thing… staircases and tequila straight up just do not mix. Last time I did that darn fool thing! I had to switch to getting a degree in education. I still play some tennis for fun, though, to keep in shape.

Did you always want to be a middle school teacher?

Not exactly, but it seemed like a good fit at the time. Most days I love being a history teacher. Looking at our past can teach us so much about the future. I also coach several sports and working with the kids fills me with joy. There are limits, though, as to how much teacher can do for their students. And of course, we are forbidden to talk about God. Those limitations bring me down. These kids need to know that they are loved unconditionally by a God who sees them and knows them through and through.

Are you a pet person?

I have a cat by the auspicious name of Lucille Ball ‘O Fun. Yes, she has red hair and no, I didn’t name her. I didn’t plan to bunk with a cat—not that I’m against them mind you—but it worked out for the best for both of us. The day I woke up and found her wrapped around my head in earmuff fashion, I figured she could stay. Or rather, if you want to know the truth, she’s a very discriminating Siamese, so I guess I’m lucky she deigned to stay with me!

Talk about your favorite setting for a date. (or favorite way to court a woman)

I’ve never been much of a ladies’ man. Kinda shy I guess, so I’m going to go with the tried and true. Nice dinner, good conversation, a bouquet of flowers, you know, thoughtful things that let a woman know she’s special.

Since I was a little rusty in this area after Victoria died, I tried asking a few of my friends for advice. Can you believe they said I should just take a woman out for coffee and then not call her for a few days? What’s this world coming to when a man can’t even spring for dinner?

What attracts you first to a woman?

I know it might sound cliché, but I do believe the eyes are the windows to the soul. I like a woman who isn’t afraid to show what’s in her heart—one who’s emotions are reflected on her face and in her features. No game playing.

Are you talking about a particular woman?

You betcha. Didi O’Brien…Didi well, I can read her like a fortune cookie and that’s a good thing. I always know where I stand and I don’t have to guess if I’m pleasing her. And talk about sweet! Yes, that’s a good description of her. Sweetness and light. With Didi, the glass isn’t just half-full. It’s filled to the brim and overflowing. I am a lucky man.

Love Lies and Fireflies

BLURB

Didi O’Brien is engaged—at least she was an hour ago. Now she’s not so sure. Her fiancé, the suave Kevin Cabot, has just revealed that he’s been unfaithful, and he’s not the least bit sorry. Reeling from the betrayal, with her plans for a happily-ever-after life in doubt, she prays for direction. The answer comes as a complete surprise. God has someone better in mind.

Middle school teacher, Jake Montgomery, is struggling with some issues of his own. Sadly, a year previously his fiancée had been killed in a car crash. Battling anger and despair, in a mountain-top experience, Jake wrestles with the Almighty, and is ready to live again. In his youth, he’d felt an unmistakable call to the ministry but, like the prophet Jonah, since then, he’s been running hard in the wrong direction.

Through a crisis of faith, and glimpses of mercy, Didi and Jake find each other. But can they find the strength to resolve the many obstacles that conspire to keep them apart?

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EXCERPT

“But, Kevin, I don’t understand. What do you mean you went out with another girl? What girl?” Didi O’Brien’s swiped at eyes brimming with tears.

Kevin sipped his single malt. “Her name’s Mindy, and she relocated here from the Midwest a few months ago. She’s a Pilates instructor at my gym.” He squirmed in his chair and shrugged. “Look, she’s just a kid of twenty-four, and she doesn’t know anyone here in the area.”

Stomach churning, Didi shoved her dinner away, barely noticing when the sauce from her beef bourguignon splashed onto the white tablecloth. She swallowed, words refusing to come.

Kevin continued in a monotone. “It’s not like I planned it. I was just being a nice guy and showing a stranger around town. You know, being neighborly. Believe it or not, she’s a real nut for baseball, and last night the Nationals were playing the Cardinals….”

“You took her to a baseball game? Last night?” Didi managed to squeak out the words despite the block of granite in her throat.

“Oh, come on. Stop getting so defensive here. You don’t even like baseball. When I saw her last Friday….”

“You went out with her last week, too? On a Friday?” Didi’s voice started out shaky but managed to rise over the conversational hum of the other diners.

“Shhh. Pipe down. Don’t go getting all ‘female’ on me.” Kevin picked up his fork and speared a green bean almondine. “So what if we’ve been to a baseball game, the museum, and had coffee a few times? Last Friday, the Smithsonian had this cool special exhibit on the life of Roberto Clemente. You probably don’t know this, but he’s a Hall of Famer who won the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1966. He led the league in batting average.”

“Have you slept with her?” She had to ask, though she didn’t really want to know the answer.

Kevin didn’t deny it. Instead, he growled, “So what if I did? I told you it’s not serious. Plus, you had some ridiculous church thing going on last Friday, so you weren’t available.”

Her breath caught as she lowered her voice. “That’s hardly the point, Kevin. Did you tell her you’re engaged?”

“Why would I?”

“I’ll take that as a no. Do you love her?”

“Of course I don’t love her, and I’m getting tired of this tête-à-tête. I knew you were going to overreact. Mindy’s a cute kid from Dubuque who needed someone to show her around, and now you’re getting all weird on me, when I was only being considerate.”

Glancing down at his Rolex, Kevin huffed out a sigh. “Maybe we should talk about this after you decide to behave like an adult.” He flagged down the waiter and signaled he was ready for the check. “I decide to be honest, as a courtesy to you, and you put me through a Spanish Inquisition.”

With a hot flush pricking her cheeks, Didi slipped out of the booth, storming toward the exit. She refused to hear any more of his flimsy excuses.

Dodging the other patrons leaving the restaurant, Didi sprinted across the asphalt to her car. She fell into the driver’s seat, jammed her key into the ignition, and zoomed out of the parking lot. She had to get away from that man! On autopilot, she drove through town, barely remembering to stop at the stop signs. Leaving Chez Monte Carlo far, far behind, she headed to the safety of home.

She came to a fork in the road. In no mood to dally, she chose the shortcut home, veering left onto Deer Hollow Road.

Bad decision.

She drove way too fast, but right now, she didn’t care. Sliding on shallow gravel down the first steep hill, she missed the deep ditch on the right side of the road by a narrow margin. Instead, she slammed into a mud-drenched pothole, skittered sideways, and careened toward an ancient oak.

Stamping hard on the brake, she yelped as the car jarred to a halt. Maybe she did care after all. “Please, Jesus, help me get home in one piece. And if Kevin’s still on the road, crash him into the biggest tree you can find!”

Deer Hollow, slippery and dangerous when wet, was rarely her route of choice. Now she remembered why. She shoved her two-door coupe into gear and edged her way toward home. The tires slowed, but her mind raced in circles like an Olympic speed skater. In one tortured hour, her balanced world had been tipped topsy-turvy. She closed her hands tightly around the steering wheel, desperate to make it home before this crazy country lane tore her little red car apart.

With great caution, Didi drove down a steep slope, eased over the one-lane bridge, and rounded a curve. She’d nearly made it to the end of the road when a rabbit darted in front of her. She had just enough time to wrench the wheel hard to the left to avoid it. She braced herself for that horrifying “thump-thump” announcing she’d killed one of God’s furry creatures, then sighed with relief. Missing the bunny was the only happy event in what was otherwise a thoroughly rotten evening.

A cavernous empty space grew in the pit of her stomach as waves of fury crashed over her. Heat crept up her face and tears trickled from her eyes. Why did she always cry when she was mad? Kevin’s announcement had left her reeling. With her adrenaline surging from the near bunny-cide, Didi breathed in and tried her best to calm down. She pulled to the side of the road and stopped the car before she did something stupid. Resting her head on the steering wheel, she slumped deep into her misery. After this terrible night, did she have a clue where her life was going? The uncertainty was unnerving.

A dreary, gray sky hung heavy with unshed moisture. Sheets of rain had drenched the area for three days straight, and another whopper of a storm had been threatening for the past few hours. As she headed again for home, the first drops came splashing and splattering down. Great. Just great. As if to match her mood, wicked forks of lightning streaked across the sky, static electricity crackled in the air, and the rains crashed down with a vengeance.

Didi breathed a quick prayer her car would start and turned the key. Her trusty vehicle purred to life on the first try, even with 138,567 miles and an oil filter that should have been changed a thousand miles ago. She patted the dash and glanced up to the sky. Thank you. Tonight, she would have crawled the three miles home in the driving downpour rather than call Kevin Francis Cabot, a.k.a. The Rat, to come and rescue her.

How could he do that to her? Didn’t she deserve better?

The problem was…she loved him. Until an hour ago, she’d have sworn he loved her, too. What was wrong with her that he’d wanted someone else?

She didn’t want to think about it, didn’t want to try and understand it tonight. With a heavy heart, she banished the conflicting thoughts from her mind and pointed her car toward home.

Jan Elder

Jan is an inspirational romance writer with a passion for telling stories other women can relate to on a deep level. She strives to write the kind of book that will strengthen the reader’s faith, while also providing an entertaining and engrossing love story. Love, Lies, and Fireflies is her third novel. The book delves into weighty subjects such as betrayal, suicide, lost dreams, and the magnitude of God’s mercy and grace. The reader is introduced to a loving and forgiving Lord who walks beside us in our daily lives.

Besides writing romance, she enjoys the occasional hazelnut cappuccino as well as tuning in to Turner Classic Movies. Always an avid reader, she devours books voraciously, both Christian and secular. She was born a cat-lover and all books will, no doubt, feature a feline in some way or another.

Happily married for thirteen years to loving (and supportive) husband, Steve, the two live in central Maryland along with Jamie (a chubby black and white tuxedo cat), and Shu-Shu (a willowy tortoiseshell cat). On the weekends, Jan and Steve comb the nearby countryside in search of the perfect ice cream flavor.

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