Welcome to the blog, Janyre. I’m so excited to have you here today. Congratulations on your recent release, Shadows of the Mind’s Eye. Everything about this story draws me in – the title, the cover, the plot. I can’t wait to read it!
Can you tell us what first sparked the idea for this novel?
This story actually began while talking to my grandparents over a glass of lemonade. My U.S. History professor had given us an assignment to talk to family about the Depression and/or World War II. Until that point, I’d had no real concept of what the war was like, either for the soldiers or their families back home. I guess I’d thought that the greatest generation slid back into life and easily became the loving people I knew my grandparents were in their 70s. When I discovered that wasn’t the case, I wondered how they had survived the fear and drastic changes.
Even though the book idea started with wondering how my grandparents’ marriage survived the pressure of war, the book isn’t biographical. So, I needed a setting other than my grandparents’ hometown. For the characters that I was building, I needed a small town. When one of my good friends told me she had an entire book of stories from her family in Arkansas, I jumped at the chance to read first-hand history.
Amongst the Hughes family stories, I acquired the basis for Dovie May and Hot Springs, Arkansas—home to the largest illegal gambling racket in the country.
Well, I don’t have to tell you that mobsters and illegal activity are an excellent backdrop for a story with a bit of suspense. The book The Bookmaker’s Daughter by Shirley Abbott confirmed that Hot Springs mobsters operated with full permission of the authorities. In Shirley’s stories, I also discovered the foundation for Charlotte Anne’s father. All of which gave me a location and a cast of characters that could stoke Sam’s fears and make everyone (including the reader) wonder whether or not he was crazy.
Wow, I love hearing how you connected your story to history. That’s fascinating! And I love picturing you with your grandparents, learning more about their lives over a glass of lemonade. What a special conversation to share.
What will you remember most about the writing process for this book?
The tale of putting this story on paper was not at all what I expected and honestly I’m not sure I would voluntarily go back and do it again.
There have been long stretches of my life where I was all too familiar with debilitating fear. I still have occasional flashes from my childhood, the rush of adrenaline causing my pulse to pound and hands to shake. I was terrified to have kids, to be the one responsible for their physical/mental/emotional wellbeing. The last thing I wanted was for them to have the same problems I had. But, as one of my characters Dovie May says, “The best place for miracles is where we don’t fully believe, where our believing has run out.”
My husband, Chris, and his family, as well as my good friend, Sarah De Mey, and my mom (who worked hard to get help), have been amazing role models for me as I navigate what it looks like to raise emotionally healthy kids. And my family and I were doing quite well.
Until in about eighteen month’s time, I had a major medical issue requiring surgery, my daughter tore her ACL, my son had recurring pneumonia, my husband had spinal surgery, the docs thought I had lupus, and then to cap it off, my daughter became increasingly ill. After months of visiting doctors to find out why my thirteen-year-old daughter was experiencing increasing abdominal pain, she collapsed at school. What followed was a living nightmare. Doctors found her abdominal cavity full of a fungal infection that quickly went septic. That was the first time we almost lost her. She was hospitalized seven times over a few months’ time and the doctors had no idea what caused her illness.
Months later, she’d lost more than forty pounds, and both she and I were wracked with nightmares, an inability to drive anywhere near the hospital, or be in a room with needles. To this day, I can’t smell rubbing alcohol without my body responding with panic.
On paper she should not have survived, and I can’t describe the immense fear that comes from the Pediatric ICU or a parade of doctors. My girl is doing great now, and she is one of the toughest kids I know. But boy does she have a soft heart for other kids who are suffering, and I can fully understand why someone might struggle with faith in a loving, all-powerful God.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I was a little more than halfway through finish Shadows in the Mind’s Eye when my girl got sick. I don’t know that I could have done justice to my characters until I’d found the path to hope after my daughter had walked out of the hospital for the last time.
I’m enormously grateful for EMDR, my therapist, and the grace of God that much of my fear is gone.
Oh my goodness, I’m so glad to hear your daughter is doing better now! And that God is healing your heart. I’m so sorry for everything your family had to face. You’re right, Dovie May’s quote is so true. I’ve talked to many authors who seem to face very hard challenges while writing a book. I can’t help but think God is drawing them (and us) to lean more on Him. So thankful He carried you through!
Can you tell us about a recent story you read that really inspired you?
I’m currently reading The Lost Book of Eleanor Dare by Kimberly D. Brock. It’s this fabulous book that is the author’s imaginings launched from real historical nuggets about the 1585 lost colony of Roanoke, whose citizens vanished without a trace in the early American settlement. It’s the story of Eleanor’s descendants during the 1940s and is such a gorgeous story about the relationship between mothers and daughters.
I think because my girl is so close to leaving the nest, the themes are really sticking with me and making me more purposeful in my interactions with my kiddos.
That sounds so good! Being a mom myself to two little girls, I especially want to check it out. I don’t even want to think about them leaving the nest just yet though! 🙂
Which character from any book would you like to be for a day and why?
Is there a book character that can sit and read books all day, have food delivered on request, and have not much happen? I’m only half kidding. I think I would like to be Meg in Patti Callahan’s Once Upon a Wardrobe. Not only does she get to meet and hang out with C. S. Lewis and his brother, she’s smart, kind, and deeply loved.
Haha, that sounds like a perfect day! 🙂
I hadn’t heard of that book, but I just looked it up and it looks amazing! I’m adding it to my TBR pile. 🙂
What is something you’re looking forward to this summer?
I’m looking forward to taking time off work to spend time with my kids. My oldest will be a senior in high school next year so I want to soak up every second I have with her. And my youngest is such a delight to be around. Michigan is one of the best places to be in the summer. We have fantastic beaches and water everywhere. I’m hoping to go up to the Upper Peninsula and kayak around the Painted Rocks National Lakeshore.
That sounds like a lot of fun! I love to go kayaking! 🙂 Hope you enjoy lots of wonderful moments with your family, Janyre.
Thanks so much for joining us today. Is there anything else you’d like to add? Any upcoming projects you can share with us?
I’m in a novella collection along with Deborah Raney and Amanda Wen titled O Little Town. It releases in September.
All three stories are based on a town just a little south of me in West Michigan. I fully admit to strong-arming the other two into the location so I could write about the Japanese bombs that landed all across the western US falling as far east as Michigan. You read that right. WWII Japanese bombs in Michigan. Here’s a quick description of the whole book:
In the sleepy small town of Mapleview, Michigan, Christmas is always something special. In this charming collection of romance novellas, join three generations of Mapleview residents longing for love–and finding it–during the most wonderful season of the year.
Want to pre-order? You can do that over here: https://www.amazon.com/Little-Town-Romance-Christmas-Collection/dp/0825447488/
Wow, I never would have guessed that about the Japanese bombs. I love learning about history through fiction!
And I love that you’re doing a collection with Deborah and Amanda. Can’t wait to read it! Have a great summer!
Janyre has graciously offered to give away a copy of “Shadows in the Mind’s Eye”. Enter below and it could be YOU! 😉
Thanks for entering! Contest is open to US residents only and ends May 31, 2022 . The winner will be notified by email. Happy Reading, everybody!