Highland SanctuaryHighland Sanctuary
Jennifer Hudson Taylor
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When chieftain heir Gavin MacKenzie is hired to restore the ancient Castle of Braigh, he discovers a hidden village of outcasts who have created their own private sanctuary from the world. Among them is Serena---a comely lass who captures Gavin's heart. But will her deadly past---along with a treacherous enemy---sabotage their future?
     

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Jennifer Hudson TaylorJennifer Hudson Taylor’s fiction has won awards in the American Christian Fiction Writers' Genesis Contest and has appeared in numerous national publications, such as Guideposts, Heritage Quest Magazine, Everton’s Genealogical Publishers, and The Military Trader. Jennifer graduated from Elon University with a B.A. in Journalism. When she isn't writing, Jennifer enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, researching her own family history, and reading. She resides with her husband and daughter in the Charlotte area of North Carolina.

Favorite Verse: Hebrews 11:1 Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.


 

 Our Interview with Jennifer Hudson Taylor


 

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

Here are a few things you won’t find in my bio: I’m from Greensboro, NC, and southern to the core. I like sweet tea. By the time I was 12, I began to wonder if my nickname was “Honey”.  I’m a little unconventional as I do very little cooking and cleaning—that’s hubby’s job. After being exposed to some of my cooking, I think he likes it that way. So I stick to computers, history books, and research. I do like to cross-stitch when I get the chance. I like to garden, but my allergies don’t like it, and I don’t do well with keeping plants alive, so I settle for going on long walks to enjoy everyone else’s beautiful gardens. I’ve even resorted to planting fake plants in my yard, but the sun faded the pretty colors. For those of you who may be chuckling at me, they still lasted longer than living plants and they don’t attract bees! We have one wonderful daughter for whom I dedicated my most recent novel, Highland Sanctuary.

What is your favorite Bible verse?

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

How did you get started as a CBA writer?

This is an interesting question. I started out writing mainstream fiction about 15 years ago. I grew up as a Christian, but I didn’t think there was enough Christian readers in the market for me to make a decent living as a full-time writer, so I went after the ABA market, especially since I didn’t know Christian fiction existed. I ran like Jonah, determined to do my own thing.
 
I would go to ABA conferences and find myself sitting at luncheon tables with editors from Tyndale and Steeple Hill. I had nothing to pitch to them. When it became apparent that I wasn’t going to become published, I quit writing for 3 years. Yes, I can be THAT stubborn.
 
During this time our family went through some serious struggles with finances, layoffs, an unsuccessful business venture, etc. Our daughter had some medical issues. We dug our heels into our faith, searched the Word ourselves (prior to this we only listened to sermons in church, but didn’t read it for ourselves). We prayed like crazy and our relationship with God changed. We came to know Him intimately.
 
A lady at church prayed God would give me the desire to write again. Six months later, I discovered Christian fiction in a Borders bookstore. I went home inspired and converted one of my manuscripts to Christian fiction. It won an award in the ACFW Genesis Contest a year later. Within another year Abingdon Press offered a contract and it became my debut novel, Highland Blessings.

 

How did you come up with the concept for Highland Sanctuary?

My daughter was born with a life-threatening seizure disorder that caused her to stop breathing, and she would need CPR each time. We had medications. I began to think about what it would be like if we lived in a time when there were no hospitals, no medications, no one to understand her problems. This is when Serena Boyd was born in Highland Sanctuary.
 
How much of your personal experience is tied up in the books you write?  Do you have a Scottish background?

Very little in Highland Blessings, although I will say that Akira MacKenzie’s personality is a little like me. I can be headstrong, but compassionate. The opening statement in Highland Sanctuary came from my mother when I was born. She had a difficult childhood and eloped with my father at age 16. Nine months later I came along and she said, “Now I’ll have someone who will REALLY love me.”
 
The rest of the first scene resembled my daughter’s seizures and I was Evelina as her mother. I do want to say that I have a very supporting husband, unlike Devlin Broderwick, but I needed a villain.
 
What is the symbolism for the title Highland Sanctuary?

Sometimes we look to other people and things to provide us security and sanctuary, such as jobs, spouses, parents, teachers, pastors, worship leaders, nice homes, pretty yards, vehicles with all the safety features, etc. Yet, we need to let go, stop worrying and just live—be free in Christ—He is in our hearts and everywhere we go and in everything we do. He IS our sanctuary.
 
In Highland Sanctuary, Serena and her mother believe her secret is safe as long as they’re able to hide Serena’s seizures from the rest of the world and they stay hidden in the sanctuary of the small Village of Outcasts where she’s accepted. Eventually, her secret is discovered and she’s no longer safe. Only the ultimate sacrifice will save her, much like the sacrifice Christ made for everyone of us.
 
Yes, I do have a Scottish background. My mother’s family were Scottish Quakers. My father’s family were Scottish Presbyterians, as well as English and Welsh.
 
Do you have a favorite character in Highland Sanctuary? Why?

Serena Boyd. She is much like my daughter—shy, but with an inner, spiritual strength that people may not always see, but when it shines boldly, we’re pleasantly surprised.
 

How much research did Highland Sanctuary take?

A lot. I had to research the history of the Catholic Church and the relationship between the Church and the Scottish monarchy. I needed to know what people believed about seizures in 1477, medical procedures, trials and executions. I needed to know about the area of Caithness, Scotland, the landscape, trees, flowers, the sea, seasons, and temperatures. I also had to research the layout, foundation, and how castles were built and restored.
 
What is the most interesting fact that you learned while researching and writing Highland Sanctuary?

How much of the English language was not yet in existence. There were so many words I wanted to use, but couldn’t.

Is this a series? If so, what is the name of the series?

Right now, there are only the two books Highland Blessings and Highland Sanctuary, but there are other characters I’d like to write about such as Leith MacKenzie.

What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
 
I still work a full-time job and my heart longs to write full-time. As a result, I feel like I never have enough time to do the things I want to do or just relax.

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

I love the research and the ability to be creative, to write stories that touch hearts, and hopefully change lives for God’s glory.

What clubs or organizations are you involved with helping with your writing?

American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America.

What do you do to keep your writing fresh and improve on it each time you write a book?

I read other books and blogs. I also pray for God’s guidance in my writing and career.

Are there any other new projects on the horizon?

Yes, I have two novellas coming out with Barbour Publishing in Jan and Feb 2012. The first is Highland Crossings, four short stories in one volume by four different authors following the generations of a family from Scotland to colonial North Carolina. The second is the Quakers of New Garden, also four short stories by different authors following the generations of a family from NC to IN from 1808 to present day.


 


 

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