Tell us a bit about you and your background.
I was born in a Washington D.C. hospital, but I grew up in Montgomery County Maryland, directly north of D.C. Montgomery County is often on the top ten richest counties in the country…and I’m not…so I keep moving north and west where life expenses are a little more reasonable. I currently live in Hagerstown, MD. If you look on a map, I reside close to that skinny little part, the gateway to beautiful Western Maryland.
As to writing, when I hit fifty (five years ago), I figured if I was ever going to get serious about writing an actual book, I’d better start. Now, I don’t think I could stop writing if I tried.
Is your writing style planned or freestyle?
I’m a Pantster all the way (I write by the seat of my pants.) I tend to write as if I’m reading the story and I’m just as surprised at what my characters do as the reader. The very thought of outlining makes me cringe. However, since I’ve now realized how much I love writing novellas and there are fewer words to play with, I do makes some chapter notes so I don’t jump down too many rabbit holes and have to backtrack.
Have you traveled to any locations that appear in your books?
In 2009, I was finally able to visit my brother in the Philippines—my first trip to a third world country. He’s lived there for over thirty years as a missionary/seminary professor/church planter. In writing the book, I rolled back my memories of this amazing country and took off. Having a reliable source of information (my brother) and mental pictures in my mind helped tremendously. I used the seminary where my brother works, as the inspiration for the seminary in MMA. I even somewhat patterned my hero after my brother (except my hero, Timothy Flynn, is taller—grin.)
Manila and vicinity is a bizarre and striking mix of wealth, beauty, and friendliness existing side by side with extreme poverty. What I loved the best by far was the unreserved graciousness of the Filipino people. I could see why my brother chooses to live there. What broke my heart was thinking of how much I have in this world in the way of possessions and how much I take for granted as a typical American. I’m so glad I went because it changed the way I think about life.
Can you share a tip about what you do when you get stuck in creating a story?
When I get stuck on a plot point, I brainstorm with my local writers group. I’m the Maryland Coordinator for the American Christian Fiction Writers group, and listening to others ideas gets my creative juices flowing. I’ve also found that it’s good to stop writing in the middle of a chapter and sometimes even in the middle of a sentence. That way my subconscious work all night on how to finish the thought. Some of my best ideas are formed deep in the dark of night.
Describe a normal writing day (or period, if you have other employment obligations).
Since I have a full-time job, I write late at night or on the weekends. I write on my laptop while sitting on the couch in my living room, feet crossed up under me, a cat or two plastered to my side. My husband is generally watching TV while playing on his computer, and we often converse back and forth concerning the show or an article he is reading. In between all of that noise, I come up with plot, characters, and dialogue (he’s great at helping me with male dialogue.) I’ve tried writing when it’s quiet, but it doesn’t work as well. Weird, huh?
Are you a pet person? If so, what do you have?
I am most definitely a cat person and every book I write will have a cat in there somewhere. When I became an adult, and I started acquiring cats, I decided to name them by the alphabet. So far, I’ve lived with the following feline companions, usually two at a time: Abby, Becky, Christy, Dixie, Emily, Fannie, Ginny, Holly. My current cats are: Ivy (also known as Miss Ivy Lu Shu-Shu), and Jamie Lynn (the “Lynn” so people know she’s a girl). Next cat up? I’m waffling between KiKi or Kimmy. And how does my husband feel about this? He wanted no cats, I wanted four, so we compromised with two. He’s a good guy (and Jamie is really his cat although he will deny it).
It all began as a lark. Shay Callahan’s life was just fine, thank you, but when the seemingly misogynistic missionary, Timothy Flynn, places an advertisement for a wife in a Christian magazine, she decides to give it a whirl and sends in the five-page application. Why not? After all, she’s not currently seeing anyone, and this man truly needs to be taught a lesson.
Finding out she’s Dr. Flynn’s pick of the litter, Shay hops on a plane and flies to The Philippines. The strategy is to jet in, enjoy an exciting two-week vacation, and jet out again, all at his expense. Instead, her plan backfires. The handsome missionary man is not what he seems, and the foreign land has far more to offer than she could imagine.
Embark on a tropical adventure with Shay that challenges everything she believes.
Jan Elder is a Christian romance writer with a zeal for telling stories other women can relate to. She strives to write the kind of book that will strengthen the reader’s faith, while also providing an entertaining and engrossing love story.
Happily married for twelve years to loving (and supportive) husband, Steve, the two live in central Maryland along with Jamie (a tuxedo cat), and Shu-Shu (a tortoiseshell cat). On the weekends, Jan and Steve comb the nearby countryside in search of the perfect ice cream flavor.
Connect with Jan Elder:
Jan is giving away a print or PDF copy of Manila Marriage App to one lucky person who leaves a comment in response to the following questions:
If you could visit any country in the world, what would it be, and why?
Manila Marriage App is a delightful take on the old “mail-order bride” theme, whisking readers to the lush, tropical locale of Manila, Philippines, and tackling stereotypes, assumptions, and learning to know what makes someone tick. The heroine is the real deal—someone you can relate to—and the hero, well, he’s more than she assumes. Sweet romance, and lots of wonderful details about Manila that reminded me of the stories my own missionary friends have shared about their time in the Philippines.
Excerpt of Manila Marriage App
Taking a deep, stabilizing breath, I strolled into the room. Behind a massive teak desk sat the man I’d come to meet. The photo he’d emailed me didn’t do him justice. Not by a long shot. If I’d been the obvious sort, my jaw would have dropped to the floor. And drool. There’d be plenty of drool.
He stood as I entered the room, cool gray eyes raking over me. His bio had told me he was a tall man, but the head shot hadn’t captured the aura of authority he projected. Mister-too-important-to-pick-me-up didn’t say a word, although that intense stare roamed my face with apparent disbelief. Perhaps he was confused as to my shabby state, but he didn’t have to be rude.
We glared at each other. In fact, he examined me as if he were judging a heifer at the county fair. If he were testing my mettle, I was not going to be the first one to blink. With a heavy sigh, he shook his head, loosened his lips, and said the words I least expected. “Miss Callahan, you’re blonde.”
Words spilled out of my own mouth before I could filter them. “Whoa, nothing gets past you does it, Dr. Flynn?”
“In the picture you sent me, you were a brunette.”
Well, he had me there. Before last Tuesday, I had been a brunette. Light brown, but still brown. I straightened my spine. “Hey, I didn’t go platinum or anything. The appealing color you see before you is called Golden Latte. Two measly shades lighter.” Huffing, I pushed my long mane behind my ears hoping no remaining traces of peas were visible. “And what am I doing justifying my personal color preferences to you? It’s my hair.”
He kept staring at me. “Putting that issue aside, you’re also not…how shall I put this? You’re…you’re not what I expected. You’re way too…”
“I’m way too what?” My chin rose, as did my ire.
“Oh, never mind,” he mumbled. His head hung down and, I swear, his feet shuffled. That was unexpected. Was he arrogant or bashful?
Either way, still standing in the doorway, I’d had enough of this strange exchange. Since he didn’t seem to know how to greet me like a decent human being, I’d give him a demonstration. “Okay, let’s try this again. Dr. Flynn, I presume? I’m Shay Callahan. You know, the woman you ordered with a ‘keen mind, and a rational outlook on life’?”