Welcome, today we are talking with Jennifer J. Coldwater! I would like to thank you for taking time out of your busy writing schedule to answer a few questions. First, let’s delve into who you are. Some of the questions may be untraditional but you’d be surprised at what readers connect to, and sometimes the simplest ‘I can relate to that’ grabs their interest where nothing else can.

Can you share a little something about Jennifer J. Coldwater that’s not mentioned in your bio on your website?

Great question! My bio mentions my current pack of dogs, but not the fact that I have been a dog foster mom for years. During quarantine, I fostered seven dogs in a row while they waited to find their forever homes. Now that my own family includes four rescue mutts, I don’t have room to foster. I really miss that connection to the animal rescue community—and all those sweet pups! (Adopt, don’t shop!)

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing since elementary school. I used to write short stories in a spiral-bound notebook when I was little. What I would give to find those notebooks now! I do have some of the stories I wrote in middle school and high school. Believe me, I’m better at it now.

What have you found most challenging about it?

The most difficult part of writing a novel was believing I could. I was the only thing standing in my way all this time! The rest has been a delicious challenge. Once I finally sat down to write “Holland, My Heart”, it came pouring out of me.

What does writing do for you? Is it fun, cathartic, do you get emotional?

Writing has long been a hobby because of all three of these things. It’s cathartic because it’s both fun and emotional. I laugh with my characters and cry for them. I used to read interviews with authors and think they were making that up. Having experienced it with Holland (and now with Grace, the protagonist of my second novel), I see the truth of it. When I finally let my characters do the work, they crack me up sometimes! And break my heart.

Describe what your writing routine looks like. Are you disciplined with a strict schedule or do you have to be in the mood?

When I’m teaching (I teach middle school and high school), I definitely have to be in the mood to write. I have so many projects going at once, it’s difficult to sit down and write very often during the school year. But if the mood strikes? I can be up until 2 or 3 a.m. writing and happily get up for school the next day. During school breaks, I’m more disciplined. I get up to write first thing in the morning when my schedule allows it.

Did you go into writing thinking that it would be a hobby or a job?

I write a lot in my working life (nonfiction, blog posts, articles, etc.), so I guess I thought of writing contemporary romance as a hobby. But now that I’m into it, it’s all I think about! I can imagine a time when I’ll want to do this kind of writing full-time.

What inspires you?

Reading is probably my greatest source of inspiration: I read fantasy, science fiction, lots of contemporary romance (as you can imagine). I love to read young adult literature—especially LGBTQIA+ fiction for teens. I was such an awkward teen; I am inspired by reading about young characters who know themselves.

Let’s move on and give readers some insight into your personal life.

 What are your pet peeves?

It’s not so little as a pet peeve—I abhor cruelty of any kind. I have been known to intervene on behalf of a puppy being dragged by a careless kid and to intervene on behalf of a scared kid being bullied by a careless adult. It drives my friends and family crazy that I won’t let cruelty go unaddressed..

 Who is your hero?

Twice I’ve been rescued by firefighter-paramedics.

The first time, I was 18 and t-boned in an intersection. The first responders used Jaws of Life to extract me from my totaled vehicle. I was in and out of consciousness, but I managed to memorize the name of the guy in the back of the ambulance with me so I could write him a thank you note when I got better.

The second time, I had a weird list of symptoms that added up to no one knowing what was wrong with me until a paramedic said, “You look just like a friend of mine who threw a clot.” He was right—I had a dozen blood clots in my left leg and two in my lungs. I’m not sure I would’ve survived if he hadn’t pointed the emergency doctors and me in the right direction.

All that is to say, firefighter-paramedics are my heroes.

Give us one thing on your bucket list.

Staying in one of those over-water bungalows in Fiji is my #1 bucket list item.

What would readers find surprising about you?

I’m weirdly uptight about things my characters are completely comfortable with. Words they use I would never! Things they do I would never talk about. *wink* My friends make fun of me because I’m such a prude. And yet, I write kissing books!

If you could go to heaven, who would you visit?

These are such great questions! If I could go to heaven, I’d want to do what I do in most new situations. Go around and meet as many people as I can. I’d want to gather stories from everyone up there. Maybe heaven needs an historian?

Now that our readers know who Jennifer J. Coldwater is let’s get down to the business of your book, Holland, My Heart, which is already receiving rave reviews on Amazon!

That’s flattering! Thank you.

Please tell us a little bit about, Holland, My Heart.

Holland is a 27-year-old business badass who has taken a year off while she grieves the sudden loss of her husband and brother-in-law. (His wife Ximena only took a few weeks off work. How dare she be more stable than Holland?!)

Her mother-in-law Naomi introduces Holland to Kai, the CEO of a corporate consulting firm (think a started-in-his-dorm-room PwC or Ernst & Young but with an eye to making corporations better citizens of the world). Both Holland and Kai are smitten at first sight; however, their age difference (she’s half his age plus seven years, absolutely reasonable, he thinks) and her grief stand in their way.

Not to be deterred, Naomi gives them another little push when she asks Kai to hire Holland. Holland brings the heat to Kai’s company and his heart until he takes her on their first date—to Palermo, Sicily. Whirlwind much? Yup, complete with the fallout thereof.

Holland, My Heart was the greatest labor of love. I fell in love with Kai the moment I met him—he definitely came to me fully formed with his own sense of humor, career path, dreams, tattoos…! It took a little more time for me to get to know Holland. She needed to be complex—a young widow who meets someone with real potential. Her relationship with her mother-in-law and her sister-in-law really helped me find Holland.

What was your hardest challenge writing this book?

My struggle with this book was about marketing Holland, My Heart more than any other aspect of its creation. I went back and forth for a long time about whether to be upfront about the biblical origin of the story—now that I’m here and she’s published, I cannot fathom having kept that a secret. I’m very proud of Holland’s roots in the Book of Ruth. I’m glad I followed my heart. 

What kind of research did you have to do?

My research for Holland, My Heart started with the Bible. I used Sefaria.org: A Living Library of Jewish Texts Online.

Since writing Holland, My Heart, I have added listening to the chapters read in Hebrew at Mechon-Mamre.org. (I wish I’d thought to look for it when I was writing my first novel.)

Anyway, after I was very comfortable with the Bible story and the structure of Ruth, I researched the other aspects of the contemporary romance novel. I found my journalism training useful in this part of the writing process. For example, I read several Forbes and Fortune magazine articles about the paths and successes of young, female CEOs so my descriptions of Holland would be relatable. I also read up on corporate consultants to make sure Kai’s company felt believable. For the travel (and especially the meals), I spent a lot of time looking at hotel websites, cafe menus, and flight plans. If you plan to travel to Mexico City, Palermo, or here to LA, I’ve got you covered!

What in your opinion makes good chemistry between your leading characters?

The chemistry between Holland and Kai comes from my absolute obsession with both of them. I think Kai is the smartest, funniest, most attractive man—and I’m equally smitten with Holland’s brains, wit, athleticism. When they are making googly eyes at each other, it’s really me being all schmoopy and romantic at them.

Holland, My Heart, is book one in a collection of contemporary romance novels based on the stories in the Hebrew Bible. Very interesting! Can you tell us more about this?

Yes! Loosely based on the Bible book of Ruth (but with f-bombs, drunken confessions of adoration, and a spicy sex scene), Holland, My Heart is the first in a collection of biblical women’s stories retold as contemporary romances. I’m currently writing Hannah’s Song (based on 1 Samuel 1-2) with an eye toward Deborah (both a prophet and a judge), Eve (yes, that Eve!), and the five daughters of Zelophehad (who raised the case in Numbers of a woman’s right to inherit property). I’ve never said this publicly before, but I’m saving A Woman of Valor (Proverbs 31:10-31) in the back of my brain. Since high school, I’ve carried the actual page of Proverbs 31 from my onionskin Student Bible in my wallet. As of now, I want to write these other books first. Practice makes progress—I want to do Eshet Chayil justice.

Any other works in progress?

Maybe? I jot down notes about a sequel to Holland, My Heart every once in a while. My family and friends have all but begged to find out what happens for Ximena, Holland’s also widowed sister-in-law. I love those characters very much, so it’s a strong possibility that I’ll write that some day.

Any advice for aspiring authors?

People think I’m kidding when I say that not one word of this book would have made it to the page if it weren’t for A.J. Hackwith’s The Library of the Unwritten. I’ve read horror novels that were less terrifying than her vision of what can happen when we don’t write what is in our hearts. I shudder to think of where I’d be if I hadn’t happened upon her novel. Anyone who has ever thought about writing should read that book.

Final words?

Thank you so much for this opportunity. Great questions!

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