Monday, September 29, 2014

Interview with Jenny Glazebrook

I'm so pleased to welcome my guest this week. Jenny Glazebrook is now publishing her Aussie Sky Series, which includes six novels about an unusual and lovable ex-circus family. Each novel focuses on a different member of the horse-crazy Clements family, their struggle to fit into everyday Aussie life and their relationship with God.

I had the opportunity to read each of these novels a few years ago, when they were still manuscripts, and I was hooked! Each of the Clements siblings is so distinct from the others, with their own unique challenges. One evening, I even chose to miss a social night with friends because Jenny had just emailed me the next installment of the Aussie Sky series that afternoon. Having already read a few of the earlier ones, I knew I had to get my priorities right. I'm so happy to see these wonderful stories coming out in print, and enjoyed asking Jenny these questions. 

1) How long did it take you to write the series from start to finish? Did you have a concept of each sibling’s story from the outset, or get fresh ideas as you worked?

Am I allowed to be difficult? I could say 20 years or I could say a couple of months. It was 20 years from when I started the first story to when I wrote the final chapter of the last one; but a couple of months of time snatched whenever possible over those twenty years to actually sit there and type the
The idea for the first book began when I was a teenager. I began jotting down scenes and ideas in my high school study. But after school, study and work and another story I was writing took precedence. It wasn't until I stopped work and was expecting my first child that I found 3 weeks to put together all my ideas and write Blaze in the Storm from start to finish. My son Micah was then born and had special needs so I focused on him. After my daughter Merridy was born a few years later, also with special needs, I wrote the next four books (along with four in another series) over a year, in whatever spare moment I could find. It was life-saving to have that outlet. Returning to the books was like returning to old friends who had continued to grow and develop in our time apart. Once my daughter Clarity arrived, and then Amelia, I had no spare time at all and the children became my only focus. I wrote the last book in the series when Amelia began pre-school. I write very quickly and ideas just flow once I start, so it's a matter of having time to write. And with Amelia beginning school next year, I now have time to finally get these books out there!
Cover of Blaze in the Storm
I didn't have a concept of the stories from the outset. Each story began with a character becoming alive in my mind. Once I started writing, the stories took on a life of their own. First I wrote about Blaze and Bonnie, then began wondering why Blaze's sister was so spiteful and contrary. As I wrote Beauty's story, I wondered what would make her brother Prince abandon his own child, and whether there was anything of significance behind Misty's clumsiness ... and so the stories developed. I never have a plan or a plot worked out before I begin writing. This is probably against all the rules, but I love the adventure and being surprised by my characters and the things that happen to them.

(I agree that writing is a wonderful outlet and love your 'pantser' approach. It's a clear sign that the characters lived and breathed for you, as things simply happened to them, and you were the one with the pen catching up.)

2) I love the circus theme running through your series. The nomadic and unusual lifestyle of this talented family shines through. Is this something you already knew about, or did you research? If so, how did you begin to know where to start?

I have to admit I'm a bit slack with research. Research takes time and I don't have a lot of that so I work mostly on imagination. I went to the circus once as a child and I loved it. I saw the circus people and the caravans they lived in and my imagination sprang to life. This particular circus was looking for a handyman and I asked my Dad if he could take the job so we could join the circus. We didn't as Dad already had a business and was very involved in the church he and Mum planted in town, but being an animal lover I daydreamed about it. I also became aware of an ex-circus family who became Christians and this fueled my imagination. This, and reading Enid Blyton's 'Galliano's Circus' stories as a child was my most extensive 'research' on the subject.

(A lady after my own heart. The aspect you mentioned is one of my favourite parts of contemporary fiction.)
3) What can you share about your main characters, Blaze and Bonnie, in the first book, ‘Blaze in the Storm?’

Bonnie is based on a girl I went to school with. She was very talented and seemed to have it all together. She was very likeable but openly challenged me about my beliefs if they didn't make sense to her. It got me thinking, what would it take for her to believe there was a need for God in her life when her life seemed so perfect? (Incidentally, we are very good friends now and she believes in God after having lived longer in this broken world – she feels honoured that I dedicated this book to her.)
Cover of Heart of ThunderBlaze is another 'What if?' character. I was thinking about how God chooses to use us, but certainly doesn't need us. And I thought, what if God revealed Himself to someone who had no Christian background, no real opportunity for discipleship through a church, and no one but God to teach them?

Blaze is a result of that line of wondering. However, I was kind enough to allow him some theology books to help him along the way : ) His circus background is in there to make him exotic and a bit quirky just to add to the mix.

4) I have to ask, do you have a favourite character overall? They are all so well rounded, not only the Clements siblings but also each of their romantic interests.

Glad you like them – I'm quite fond of them myself : ) Whichever character I am writing about at the time is my favourite. However, Rachel in 'Clouds of Prayer' is the one I relate to the most. She is quiet and thoughtful with self-esteem issues – very much like I was as a teenager and young adult. Like me, she was brought up in a Christian family but came to a point of realising that no matter what she had done, no matter what her background or how 'good' she tried to be, it was only God's grace and forgiveness through Christ that could make her worthy of a friendship with Him.

5) What gives you a heart for young adult females and makes them your target audience?

It was in my teen/young adult years that I went through the most heartache but also the most joy. It was when God revealed Himself and His love to me. In my experience, young adults are at a point where they can make decisions they will regret for the rest of their lives, or choices that will lead them into a life full of purpose and hope. They are developing a sense of identity and looking for direction. I long to see them come to know Jesus as their Saviour and closest friend so that they can live their lives to the full and be whole. It's also a very exciting time of life, going through so many changes and with so many choices to make... so many opportunities!

6) To write such a good series, you must have a love of books and stories. Is this something you’ve grown up with or did you acquire it? Can you mention a few authors who have inspired you?

I had a fascination for words from as young as I can remember. I still remember my first school reader, 'The Flea'. I loved the flow of the words, the clever idea of it and the way the words came to life. I grew up without a television and so reading was what I did. Mum had over 200 Enid Blyton books, the Trixie Beldon series, Anne of Green Gables series, Laura Ingall's Wilder's books, most of Janet Oke's books, and many many more. We had a room of books we called our Library.
Jane Austen is one of my favourite authors and I loved studying her work in High School. In my late teens I discovered Lori Wick and admired her imagination and ability to bring characters to life.
However, I found her very American, so in my early 20's I started looking for Aussie Christian writers.

I found Meredith Resce, Mary Hawkins and .... you! I love how real your characters are, the clever plots, the humour in them and most of all the profound thoughts and ideas. Finding Meredith, Mary and yourself and the fact that you were Australians writing quality Christian fiction gave me hope that one day I could also be published as an Australian Christian author. This inspired me more than anything else. So to now be invited to share about my books on your blog is an absolute honour and dream come true. Thank you.

(Wow, I've got to say that if finding us was a catalyst to keep you writing these books which I enjoyed so much, the benefit was definitely returned. I love the thought that writers may keep inspiring each other with our stories. Jenny, it's been great talking to you, and learning more of the insight which went into this series.)

Jenny is offering a copy of 'Blaze in the Storm', the first novel in the series, to one randomly chosen visitor who may care to leave a comment on this post. If you are anything like I was, you will find it impossible to stop at the first.

Jenny Glazebrook is the published author of Stilling the Storm and Nobody Hugs Rod Green. Jenny was a finalist in the 2013 Caleb Awards and has her own website. She has a passion for Australian Christian writing and a desire to encourage other writers.
Jenny studied at Tahlee Bible College and now lives with her husband and four children in Gundagai.


  1. I have enjoyed reading these books while editing. I think Prince is my favourite character so far.

    1. Hi Lynne,
      I liked Prince too, and the way things finally worked out for him (without giving away plot spoilers)

  2. I got my copy on the weekend but have to wait until I know I have time to finish it before I get started!

    Jenny, as well as a great writer and friend, is also a big supporter of other Aussie Christian writers and a committee member for the upcoming Christian Writers' Conference. Go Jenny!

    1. Hi Susan,
      Yes, you'd better wait because once you start, you won't want to stop. She certainly has a way of making us feel for characters.

  3. Thanks Jenny and Paula for a wonderful heartfelt interview. You have me intrigued and keen to start reading these books. The fact that they have horses as well as great characters and adventure in them certainly adds to the attraction :)

    1. BTW I just went to add Blaze in the Storm to by Goodreads To-Read list but could only find Stilling the Storm. I'll just have to add to the list in my head.

    2. Hi Jenny, yes, add it to your list :)
      We'll keep an eye on GR too, as it may just be slow getting added.

  4. Great interview, ladies! Your series sounds wonderful, Jenny. You must be so proud seeing it all come together after so many years in the making.

    1. Hi Andrea,
      It's great to think that after all that time, she all six with their cover designs, just waiting to go.

  5. Wow, Jenny - I'm in awe of how quickly you write, as well as the number of books you've authored! Even with four children (I have four myself), you don't make excuses, but use the little time you have to create your different characters and their worlds. I'm always on the look-out for new Christian fiction - both to read myself and to give as Christmas gifts to my nieces and nephews - so I'm excited to have found a great new series. Well done! :)

  6. Hi Sandra,
    They are a great choice for young adults, and also for mums like us :)
    It's very encouraging to think of Jenny using her time to quietly write this series, and now she's reaping the harvest.

  7. Hi everyone,
    The winner of 'Blaze in the Storm', drawn randomly, is Sandra Peut. Congratulations Sandra :) Jenny and I will be in touch.