Fireflies in December, Calloway Summers Series #1Fireflies in December, Calloway Summers Series #1
Jennifer Erin Valent
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"The summer I turned thirteen, I thought I killed a man."

So begins the story of Jessilyn Lassiter, a young girl whose world is torn apart the summer of 1932. When Jessilyn's best friend, Gemma, loses her parents in a tragic fire, Jessilyn's father vows to care for her as his own, despite the fact that Gemma is black and prejudice is prevalent in their southern Virginia town.

It doesn't take long for the Lassiters to attract the attention of a local band of Ku Klux Klan members, who make increasingly violent threats on Jessilyn and her family.

As she struggles to navigate a complex world of first crushes, loyalties, and betrayals, Jessilyn ultimately discovers what it takes to be a bright light in a dark world.
     


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Jennifer Erin ValentJennifer Erin Valent is the 2007 winner of the Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest. A lifelong resident of the South, her surroundings help to color the scenes and characters she writes.  She has spent the past fifteen years working as a nanny and has dabbled in freelance, writing articles for various Christian women’s magazines. She still resides in her hometown of Richmond, Virginia.

Favorite Verse:  Philippians 4:6,7(NIV): "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

 

What is your favorite Bible verse?

Philippians 4:6,7(NIV): "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Those verses always remind me that the Lord’s peace is sufficient for any problem.

What prompted you to become a CBA author?

The Lord. That may sound cliché, but I truly had no aspirations toward being a writer until I felt Him leading me in that direction. Being part of the CBA was never in question for me. If I was going to write, I was going to write Christian books.

What inspired the concept for Fireflies in December? 

The South, really. I had written romantic comedies first, and I decided out of the blue that I wanted to write a Southern drama, which is something I’d always enjoyed. Once I got started, the idea of addressing prejudice in the South came very naturally as I have always been amazed by the depths of racial prejudice in Southern history.

 

How did you create the setting?

Living in Virginia all my life made it easy. Though I’d always lived in the suburbs, I’d seen enough of rural life to have a good picture in my mind. Road trips down rural routes showcase a lot of homes that I could see the Lassiters living in, and I’ve certainly endured enough sweltering Virginia summers to make readers feel the heat.
How long did Fireflies in December take you to complete?

It took me about six months to write the first draft, and then I did one fairly major rewrite after that. This was a story that developed pretty smoothly throughout.


Do you have a favorite character in Fireflies in December?  Why?

I love Jessilyn. Her spunk and loyalty endear her to me, and I can just picture her standing there with her hands on her hips giving someone a hard time. If I was her mother, though, I might think differently. But I also have a great fondness for her father. He has a quiet but bold godly confidence that I admire.
How much research did Fireflies in December take?
I had already been interested in the subject matter for a while, so I had a good starting point. Then I read some non-fiction books about the Ku Klux Klan and did a bunch of online research. I also watched some great documentaries that not only educated me but also put some pictures in my head about what life was like at that time.

What was the most interesting fact that you learned while writing Fireflies in December?

I saw a lot during my research about how deeply rooted the Ku Klux Klan was at times in history. I always knew that there were “respected” members of society involved, but I hadn’t realized just how deeply that poison had spread into government and law enforcement.

 

What are some of the challenges you face as an author?

 
Most of my challenges are creative ones. It’s difficult to just sit down and be creative. It’d be nice if there was a handy switch, but since there isn’t, I’ve spent many hours just staring at the screen, waiting for ideas to come. Oh, and I hate writing bios!

What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?


I love that I have a legitimate outlet for my imagination! And I’m also thrilled to be able to minister to people through my books.


What is your writing style?   (Do you outline?  Write “by-the-seat-of-your-pants?  (Or somewhere in between?)


I can’t outline. To me it stifles my creativity. I definitely just sit down and write, and that very often means I have to go back and add in or change material to suit the twists and turns that develop as I go along.

Do your characters begin to take on a life of their own as you write?


Absolutely! They’re really responsible for developing the story. Everything that happens in life affects people differently, so once I plug the characters into certain situations and have them react accordingly, I figure out a little bit more about them.


What other new projects do you have on the horizon?

  
I’m nearly through with the sequel to Fireflies In December, and I also hope to write a third novel in the series.


Who was the person who influenced you the most with your writing?

 
I’d say a lot of people did. My writing is an amalgam of so many things – people I know, people I’ve read about, characters I’ve seen in films. Writing in first person as I like to do, my narrative is as inspired by different characters as my dialogue is. So many people, real and fictional, can be credited with influencing my novels.

 

What advice would you give to a person trying to become a fiction writer? 

To me, there are two very important aspects to creating good fiction: good characters and good storylines. I don’t think either can stand alone. If you have a great plotline but less than compelling characters, nobody cares about the plotline. What’s the big deal if a main character disappears under mysterious circumstances if nobody cares about that character? The same holds true in the opposite direction. Great characters who have nothing to do are incredibly boring. Any of us could be bored by life. Why read about it?

What message would you like your readers to take from Fireflies In December?


That as Christians, we are responsible to represent Christ to the world, to light up the darkness. I think there’s a bit of an apathetic feel to the Christian walk in our society, and yet this is a period of time when we desperately need to be willing to stand strong for the truth.

What is your greatest achievement?

Getting published. The writing part was a piece of cake compared to landing a contract. But really, it’s the Lord who achieved it for me.

 

What is your goal or mission as a writer?

To write to inspire, encourage and bring a smile to people’s faces. Professionally, I’d love to dip into different styles of writing and relate to different people and age groups.

What do you do to get away from it all?

What do I do, or what would I do? What I would love to do is run off to the beach for a few weeks. Everything feels better to me there. But what I usually end up doing is curling up with some chocolate and a good movie.

 

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