|Just Between You and Me|
Jenny B. Jones
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Maggie lives life on the edge, seemingly unafraid of anything. But the image she so carefullyconstructed is coming undone.
Maggie's job as a videographer takes her around the world. She tells people's stories, especiallythose of impoverished children. That's when she feels most alive, like she's making the worldbetter.
But when a secret from her past resurfaces, Maggie gets a call that sends her home. Her daddesperately needs her help. Her estranged sister has run off, leaving 8-year-old Riley in his care.She returns reluctantly, hoping to help her neice. There she reconnects with Cooper--a onceawkward and shy, now handsome, veterinarian. Her feelings skyrocket when she's with him, butshe's afraid if she shows him her true self, he'll reject her.
An honest, hilarious journey that will transform Maggie--if she just learns to trust more and fearless.
Jenny B. Jones writes Christian Fiction with equal parts wit, sass, and untamed hilarity. When she’s not writing, she’s living it up as a high school teacher in Arkansas. Since she has very little free time, she believes in spending her spare hours in meaningful, intellectual pursuit such as watching E!, going to the movies and inhaling large buckets of popcorn, and writing her name in the dust on her furniture.
Favorite Verse(s): Isaiah 43: 1-3 …”Do not fear for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you.
And then I love the portion in verse four where God says, “Because you are precious in My sight and honored, and I love you.”
Our Interview with Jenny B. Jones
What is your favorite Bible verse?
I have a life verse, but the last year, I’ve branched out to have a “season” verse. Right now the fear theme is very present in my brain, and it’s portions of Isaiah 43. This helped shape Just Between You and Me and helped me personally during the creation of the book. Writing a book is always a tiny bit scary and intimidating. And when I say tiny…I really mean totally, majorly, super big time. I have a section of Isaiah 43: 1-3 in a frame next to my computer where I write. Great motivation and encouragement.
…”Do not fear for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you.
And then I love the portion in verse four where God says, “Because you are precious in My sight and honored, and I love you.” I could just repeat that over and over. It would make a lovely tattoo. ; )
What inspired the concept for writing Just Between You and Me?
Not too long ago my editor and I were talking about the general pulse of the nation right now. People are anxious, concerned about their jobs, their homes, their food bills. We discussed how nonfiction isn’t the only way to provide encouragement, a message, and a fresh word from God. From that conversation we decided to create a book based on the idea of fear and it’s effect on a life. I was fascinated with the single question: What makes a Christian any different in her response to the storms of life? Are we different? When things fall apart, as a Christian, do I stand out as someone who reacts any differently than someone who doesn’t have Christ to cling to? The main character, Maggie Montgomery, was born from those ideas.
What made you choose to go from writing YA fiction to Adult CBA fiction?
I haven’t jumped off the YA boat. I love it too much. But I also love romantic fiction for the big girls, so the chance to do women’s fiction was too good to pass up. It’s been a lot of fun. And I think at the heart of it, the basics are the same in my books whether I write for teens or thirty-year-olds. Girl has problems. Girl struggles with her faith. Girl reacts with self-depreciating humor. Girl surrounds herself with motley crew of personalities. Girl eats lots of Ben and Jerry’s. Girl finds boy who she can’t stand. Girl realizes she can’t live without boy. Girl seeks God’s will. Happy ending and a little bit of kissing.
Is any part of Just Between You and Me factual?
I think I really related to Maggie Montgomery’s life in terms of letting fear be something that shapes your path. Who doesn’t relate? One of my favorite quotes is “What would you do if you knew you wouldn’t fail?” I have a list that could wrap around the room. But that doesn’t mean I follow through and go for the majority of the things on that list. I think the majority of the world lives life in the safety zone. Taking a chance is scary and threatening. We all like safe. But Christ was far from living safe. He was a walk-on-water kind of guy. He expected those around him to have that same get-out-of-the-boat attitude. And I know that’s where the true reward is—for me and his kingdom. I want to be a Peter, getting out of the boat. At least trying.
I think everyone can relate to the fear aspect of the book. In Just Between You and Me, there are deciding moments where choosing the safe route versus the fearless path can change everything. Studying for the theme of this book has really convicted me that when we get to heaven, Jesus is gonna be like, “And how many times did you get out of the boat for me?” I’m really hoping this won’t be one of those moments I have to stare at my feet and try to distract him with a question like, “So, um, Jesus…Mets or Cubs?”
It’s quite an honor to have your book chosen as one of the Women of Faith novels! How did you find out yours would be one of the selections?
My lovely editor Natalie gave me the good news. It is a huge honor, and I’m so excited about it. Women of Faith is such a great ministry, filled with awesome speakers, comediennes, and singers. If you ever need a powerful dose of God, get yourself to a Women of Faith conference. You will not leave the same. And then bring a big purse to fill up on books, of course.
How did you choose the location for the setting?
The story starts out in Chicago because Maggie is a self-created big city girl. She comes from a small town in Texas, but got out as soon as she got her high school diploma and pretty much never looked back. So far all of my books have been set in a small town. I’m from a small town, and I love the instant community the setting implies in a book. In this book, Ivy, Texas is a place where everyone knows their neighbor, their neighbor’s business, and what color of underwear their neighbor wears (by checking the clothesline, of course). I think when you have a small town in a book, it becomes just another character and an integral part of the story.
How long did Just Between You and Me take you to complete?
Six weeks. Long story, but it was a God opportunity to be given the chance to write this book. But it was a short turnaround, and thus the reason I lived, ate, and breathed Isaiah 43. Of course, I also lived, ate, and breathed McDonald’s and Chunky Monkey. All of that should explain my graduation into a new size of jeans.
I have never written that fast before in my life. It was truly God because I wrote way beyond my capability in terms of pages per day. I would frequently bust out singing “I’m counting on, I’m counting on God. . .” (Which totally scared my neighbors.) Though it was impossible, I was trusting God for a miracle. And at the end of the six weeks, we had Just Between You and Me.
What is the symbolism for the title Just Between You and Me?
A few things. It’s about how when it comes down to it, life is about you and God. When you get it right with him—really right, then he shows you how to make it right with all the other people in your life. My main character, Maggie, has lived a life on the outer fringes, afraid to let anyone get close to her. And as a believer, that even includes God. She trusts and loves him with her mind—but does she truly trust and love with her heart? If she can surrender it all, then she could open her heart to love those around her. Maggie could look at quite a few people in the book and say, “This is just between you and me.” There are no relationships not affected by her lifestyle she’s built outrunning her fears.
Do you have a favorite character in Just Between You and Me? Why?
I think that would be Riley, Maggie’s ten-year-old niece. She was the most fun to write. She’s also battle scarred and in many ways old for her age. She’s had to be. As a child abandoned by her mother, Riley’s lived in survival mode, and that includes her mouth as a defense mechanism. I’d like to think she brings some humor to the book—as well as Maggie’s lacking mothering skills. Riley misses nothing and tries to talk her way out of everything. She is trouble. And isn’t trouble always fun? Um, at least fictionally speaking.
How much research did Just Between You and Me take?
Maggie’s sister has some mental issues that I researched. Maggie’s love interest is a small town vet, so I had to talk to some people in the know about animals. But mostly I just poured over my Bible. That sounds really pious, but when you have six weeks to write a book for an issue the entire world is enduring, you kinda find yourself utterly dependent on God and anything He might have to say. Especially when you feel like such a tiny voice to bring such a big message.
It’s funny, when I started writing this book, things concerning fear and specific Bible verses or stories I was using would jump out at the most random places. TV, movies, the pastor’s message that week, a song played repeatedly, something a friend would say. I couldn’t get away from the concept of fear if I wanted to. It got to the point where I’d be with a friend, and they’d pick up on it. “That song reminds me of your book!” or “Did you hear how many times the preacher said fearless Sunday?”
What was the most interesting fact that you learned while writing Just Between You and Me?
I think in church we learn how fear is wrong. It’s a sin. So we feel terrible and less-than when we fear, and sometimes that alone can stop us from pressing on. But we’re human. God knows our weaknesses. He’s the perfect one. We don’t have to be. When I get scared or hesitant, God doesn’t look down and say, “Wow. That shocks me.” He knows our hearts, knows how we think and operate. I do think we need to get in the Word, proclaim the Word, reject the spirit of fear, and begin creating lives that are impenetrable by fear. BUT until we get to that great place of freedom, we are called to simply push through it. And that’s where many of us turn back. I don’t have to conquer the mountain every time. Right now, I want to work on not turning back at the first tough spot way before I can even think about the tip of that peak.
What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
Doubt, fear, anxiety, lack of time, eating too many fries, my rear end becoming one with my office chair, lack of ideas, eating an entire box of Fruit Loops in one sitting, Facebook dependence, forgetting to exercise for months at a time, too many cheeseburgers, not enough sleep, too much Twittering, overflowing litter box, underperforming brain. Other than that, no challenges at all!
Honestly, writing is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It does not flow from my head like wine from the mountain tops. But I don’t know that a day goes by that I don’t mentally pinch myself and have a “Am I really doing this? Thank you God!” moment. I feel so blessed to be doing what I have dreamed of doing since I was a small child. Especially since Blue Bell ice cream has never accepted my application for ice cream taster.
What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?
I love hearing from a reader that a book brought her to Christ. I love it when a kid reads one of my YA books and finds herself in it. I’m a teacher by day, and last year I had a student stop me in the hall. She had been in some group homes, and a counselor had given her the Katie Parker series. She told me that she liked reading about Katie—she was real to her. She wanted to know who Katie was because she had been left by her parents too and knew what it was like to be alone. It’s so easy to get caught up in the pressures of writing. Sometimes there’s just not enough time to think beyond the page you’re on. But emails and conversations from readers always bring you back for a moment. This is a ministry. It’s God work. And when I’m chained to my computer, I don’t feel like I’m making any difference to anything except eating more than my share of Jolly Ranchers and Fritos. But a reader can remind you that a book made a difference, and that’s what it’s all about.
And I love to make people laugh. By choice and lack of talent, I’m not a deep person. I want to show people that God is funny, that life is funny, and there is much to laugh at. I want to provide a break and escape, as well as a message. I love what I do and am grateful and in awe that anyone beyond my own family would pick up one of my books.
I also love writing “The End.” Two best words in my life. Snow day would be second. Calorie free third.
What were your favorite books as a child?
I ate Golden Books for breakfast. As a wee little child, I would read them constantly. My favorite one was called Susie’s New Stove (I think!). It was a book from the 1950s and had a story and recipes that little Susie tried out. I would read it over and over. The ironic thing is I grew up to avoid my own stove like it’s a leper. Golden Book needs to update the book and call it “Susie Has the Mexican Restaurant On Speed Dial.”
Later when I started school, I would devour the Berenstain Bears. They were like fuzzy Huxtables.
Do your characters begin to take on a life of their own as you write?
Yes, definitely. In one book I wrote, the character ended up with the wrong guy. Well, he was the right guy, but not the one she was supposed to end up with. Sometimes the story just shapes itself. And the funnier or quirkier a character, the more real to me, and the more I enjoy writing that character. I’ve found that I have to have at least one oddly funny character in the book for me to be interested myself.
What other new projects do you have on the horizon?
In November, I’m So Sure, the next book of A Charmed Life, my new YA series comes out. It’s about Bella Kirkwood, a teen New York socialite who is forging a life as an amateur, yet fashionable super sleuth in Oklahoma. I am currently writing a stand alone women’s fiction novel and am really excited to get into that. Lots of things going on. It’s a great time to be writing Christian fiction. I love it.
Who was the person who influenced you the most with your writing?
I think my teachers. I had lots of awesome teachers, but only one who knew I wanted to be a writer. He always pushed me, encouraged me, and told me to go for it. In the small town I grew up in, you didn’t dream too big, so for someone to tell me to run after my dream of being a writer was huge.
And reading other Christian fiction writers has been a big help. When I read Kristin Billerbeck’s What a Girl Wants, life changed. I had been feeling led to write Christian fiction, but it still didn’t seem like me. When I read that novel, I thought, “This is hilarious! This smacks of reality! This is occasionally sarcastic. Where do I sign up?” Before I read Billerbeck, I didn’t really think my irreverence had a place on the shelves of the Christian bookstore. So grateful to the writers who have made Christian fiction what it is and opened doors for the rest of us.
What message would you like your readers to take from Just Between You and Me?
I want readers to know whether their stresses are large or small, they are not alone in their fears. And that God sees and understands, and more than anything he wants them to take that step out of the boat where he waits, hand outstretched. And all we have to do is keep our eyes on him and continue hanging on. Easier said than done, I know. Boy do I know. But I want the best from God, and that requires a life of boldness and taking risks—getting uncomfortable. In the book, Maggie Montgomery has plenty of reasons to keep living the safe life. But that’s just not where God wants us. We are called to step out of the boat, even if we have to bring that fear with us. It’s about pressing through. The deeper we press in, the closer we are to him. And that’s where things get good.
What is your goal or mission as a writer?
Honestly, my first priority is to entertain and make the reader laugh. If there’s no entertainment value, then they won’t continue reading and will completely miss out on anything God had to say to them in the book. So for me, it’s imperative that the joy factor is there. I want people to read the books and say, “That was a good time.” Not to say that I always succeed at that, but 320 pages of a good time is the goal.
What do you do to get away from it all?
I think we’ve established that I eat. Apparently a lot. I also like to travel. This summer I traveled with some friends to Ireland and Scotland. Last year was Hawaii. It’s so good to just leave town—or the country—and soak up a new culture and not think about writing. And when I’m not thinking is usually when a new idea hits me. I also see a lot of movies. I was watching Confessions of a Shopaholic and trying to escape the fact that I had to quickly come up with a book that would become Just Between You and Me. And as I’m watching the movie and completely on autopilot, the story of Maggie Montgomery and her family began to play in my head.