About the Author...www.junemccraryjacobs.com.
About the Book...A classic holiday story filled with faith, service, and a dash of romance.
When her student, six-year-old Mary Noel, survives a car accident over Thanksgiving break, Amber and her new friend, Paul, are determined to cheer her up during the holidays. But Mary Noel’s most painful injury is the loss of her dog. The more withdrawn Mary Noel becomes, the more Amber and Paul need a miracle—a miracle that requires the entire community’s help.
"What's happened?" Amber asked.
"One of your students was critically injured in an accident."
Amber let out a squeak. "Who?"
Welcome June! It’s a pleasure to have you at Crafty Booksheeps! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi, Laura. Thank you for hosting this interview to allow me to share with your readers. I’m pleased to be here.
My debut novella, ‘A Holiday Miracle in Apple Blossom,’ was the winner of Cedar Fort Inc.’s 2013 Holiday Tale Contest and was released on October 8th, 2013. I am also a sewing designer, blogger, book reviewer, and freelance technical editor. I was a Kindergarten and first grade teacher for many years.
When I’m not writing or designing, I enjoy spending time with my husband, visiting museums and historic homes, walking through parks and botanical gardens, reading, sewing for charity, quilting, hand-embroidery, and cooking.
What inspired you to write A Holiday Miracle in Apple Blossom?
My main goal was to write a story that would touch people and remind them of the true meaning of Christmas—love.
The setting needed to be locale with a lot of snow. I chose to set the story in fictional Apple Blossom, Vermont, even though I’ve never visited that state. Being a Californian since age six I don’t have a lot of personal experience with snow. I’ve never made or even seen a snow angel in person, but I’ve heard others talk about their memories or making them as a child and all the fun they had doing so. I looked in some children’s books to find illustrations of snow angels and read a few children’s stories about them.
I loved being an angel in our church’s Christmas pageant for a few years when I was young, so I decided to write a story about a little girl who loved angels—snow angels, singing angels, anything to do with angels. The little girl I imagined developed into Mary Noel in this book. I wrote a couple of chapters about her accident and injuries and how it affected her parents emotionally and financially. Then I set the book aside to work on other projects.
A few weeks later when I saw the call for submissions from Cedar Fort Inc. for their 2013 Holiday Tale Contest, I decided to finish my ‘Mary Noel’ novella and submit it to the contest. This was the first writing contest I’d ever entered.
The heroine, Amber Kellen, is a first grade teacher who is new to the community. I taught first grade for many years, so I felt I could write about this character, the teaching profession, students, and daily happenings in a first grade classroom with confidence. The hero, Paul Watkins, is a carpenter in honor of my Grandpa John who was a skilled carpenter in Mississippi and Louisiana after World War I in the early and mid-twentieth century.
We’ve all heard the news reports about and/or experienced the skyrocketing medical costs for hospital care. I decided to make the story include a community project with the area families working together to help one of their own families suffering from financial stress. After those things were set, I began the writing and editing cycle until I felt the book was ready to submit to Cedar Fort.
Have you always enjoyed reading Christmas novels and did you imagine yourself writing a Christmas novella of your own?
Yes, I have always loved reading Christmas novels and Christmas non-fiction. I especially enjoy Christmas craft, sewing, and quilting books. The colors are so cheerful and vibrant. I also like reading books about holiday entertaining and holiday cooking and baking.
One of my favorite fictional holiday stories is actually an old children’s story titled, ‘The Story of Holly & Ivy’ by Rumer Godden and originally published in 1958 in Ladies Home Journal Magazine. It’s a beautiful, touching story about a girl and a doll. I used to read this story aloud to my class each year, and it became a favorite of the boys and the girls. They used to beg me to reread it after the holidays.
I’ve had a vision since I was twelve years old of being a published author one day. I don’t think I necessarily had a goal of writing a Christmas story. Upon reflection, with my affection for all things Christmas it seems like a natural progression for me to write a book about the holiday season.
Do you have any favorite Christmas traditions? What about Christmas movies?
I do have a lot of favorite Christmas traditions. One of my favorite things to do is to drive around to see the lights and decorations other families have set out for the rest of us to enjoy. We also enjoy visiting historic homes decorated for the holidays in period décor. Some of my favorite decorations were at the magnificent Hearst Castle, the Stanford Mansion in Sacramento, and the Meux Home in Fresno.
I like to sew for charity causes ahead of the holidays to make someone’s Christmas morning a little brighter. Each year I read as many Christmas novels as I can fit into my schedule. I have two different versions of the ‘Nutcracker Ballet’ on DVD that I love to watch every holiday season. I also enjoy my version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ starring George C. Scott. I listen to lots of sacred and secular Christmas music. My favorite Christmas hymn is ‘O Holy Night’. My favorite secular holiday song is ‘Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons’ sung by Glen Campbell.
Did you face any challenges in bringing this story to life when writing? What were some of the joys in bringing it to life?
One of my greatest challenges was to have the confidence needed to write a manuscript and send it off to the contest! As I mentioned earlier, this was the first writing contest I had entered. From the time I read the call for submissions for the contest until the deadline, I had maybe eight weeks, so the tight timeframe became a challenge.
Another challenge was having the faith to continue writing the manuscript when the story stalled out in my mind. I gave myself a lot of pep talks and was excited when I finally hit the send button to submit my story.
There have been many joys in bringing the stories of Mary Noel, Amber, Paul, and the townspeople to life. I was able to incorporate many of my own childhood Christmas memories in the book, such as the Christmas Eve service at Amber and Paul’s church. I enjoyed figuring out how they would organize the fundraiser and describing how everything looked on that very special day. I loved writing about the sweet courtship and proposal between the two main characters. I mostly enjoyed sharing my thoughts with readers in the hope they would enjoy the story and be inspired by the messages of love, kindness, and compassion running throughout the book.
One of my favorite things about Christian novels is the Biblical message that is weaved into the lives of the characters. Is there something special that God taught/showed you while going through the process of writing A Holiday Miracle in Apple Blossom?
God revealed Himself to me in a special way while I was writing this story by helping me to get back in touch with the true meaning of Christmas. I reconnected with the idea that shopping, decorating, entertaining, and gift-giving are not essential to celebrating and honoring Christmas. Pure, authentic, genuine love make this season blessed.
I really love the cover of your novella! Did you come with the general idea of how you wanted it to look?
Thank you for your kind words about the cover. I have received a lot of compliments on the cover from friends, family, readers, and reviewers. I can’t take any credit for the beautiful design. All credit goes to the designers at Cedar Fort Inc. I did submit a form with the physical descriptions of the main characters and the setting for their reference. When I received a proof of the cover I was so stunned by its romance and simple beauty, I got tears in my eyes.
Since this is your debut novella, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?
I have a lot to say on this subject.
Be genuine, and write what makes you happy. Your work is your gift to readers, and you’re the only one who can write your message. I believe your writing is a reflection of who you are, so don’t compromise your beliefs and integrity to make sales.
Don’t take reviews and criticism too seriously. If I let every rejection or unkind word I’ve received over the past few years affect me, I’d never have had any sewing projects or this novella published! Be true to yourself and always do your best. This is all you can ask of yourself.
Try to learn from every rejection/failure or challenge. I’ve learned so much from the editors of my sewing designs and my writing over the years. Weigh what these professionals say, and decide for yourself if the advice they’re sending you will help or hinder your creativity. Most of them likely have more experience than you, and you can benefit from their wisdom.
Some other practical tips and resources for aspiring writers are included in my blog post from September 2013 found at: http://www.junemccraryjacobs.com/resources-for-writers/
What’s next for you in the writing world?
Write now (pardon the pun), I’m polishing my first full-length novel. It’s a contemporary inspirational romance set in Northern California. I’m also working on a humorous contemporary romance set in Montana and New Orleans involving two very different personalities.
Lastly, where can readers find you online?
--My website and ‘Writing and Sewing’ blog can be found at: http://www.junemccraryjacobs.com. I write about books, book reviews, textile shows, museum exhibits, and sewing tips there with a new post each Wednesday. The first Wednesday of each month (and sometimes additional times throughout the month) I post free patterns and instructions for one of my original-design sewing or crafting projects for readers’ use and enjoyment.
--My Author’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/June-McCrary-Jacobs/153549754836128. If you Like my Facebook page you’ll receive automatic notifications of new postings and the free projects, etc.
--My Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/June-McCrary-Jacobs/e/B00E7YV522
--My Goodreads Author Page: http://www.goodreads.com/June-McCrary-Jacobs
--My Email Address is: email@example.com
I invite all of your readers to connect with me online. I enjoy hearing from readers about their experiences with my book, their writing goals, and their sewing and crafting adventures.
Thank you, once again, Laura, for spending some time with me on your fantastic blog. I wish you and your family and your followers a blessed holiday season filled with joy and love.
All my best, June
Cedar Fort is generously giving away an ebook copy of June's novella A Holiday Miracle in Apple Blossom to one winner (ebook in PDF, ePub, or .mobi format)! Enter in the widget below! Ends 10/30 1:00 am EST (open INT)!