Jennifer Dornbush is a writer, speaker, and forensic specialist creating stories that shed light on the dark places of the human experience. Her artistic creations are bred from a very unsheltered childhood as the daughter of a medical examiner whose office was in her home.
Jen investigated her first fatality, an airplane crash, when she was eight years old. From there she gathered a decade of on-sight experience in death investigation and 360 hours of forensic training through the Forensic Science Academy.
As a forensic specialist, she has consulted with TV writers on network and cable TV shows. Jen’s forthcoming feature film God Bless the Broken Road is slated for release in 2018 in conjunction with a novel by the same name, which was released last month.
Jen and her husband reside on the West Coast.
What started you on a writing path?
The writing path was born in me. I was that child who was creating plays and forcing my sisters and friends to play the parts. I knew by the time I was in third grade I was going to be a writer. I wrote my first “book” when I was in fourth grade. I had my first professional newspaper article published at nineteen.
God had a calling on my life and gave me this gift. Once I discovered that, I tried to nurture it and care for it the best I could. I’m still trying to do that. Our purpose here is to be best stewards of the gifts we have been given. I think I’ll always be trying.
Just as all good novels include a plot twist, the Author and Creator of our lives often writes in a twist that ultimately blesses us more than our original plan. Have you ever experienced such a “Divine Detour”?
Absolutely. One of the biggest divine detours in my life is that my husband and I have not been able to have children. The detour of infertility is a burden we didn’t expect we’d ever face. You get married and you think, of course, we’ll have children. We were (and are) very healthy and there was nothing to indicate we should not be able to procreate. No matter how many doctors, specialists and things we did to coax a pregnancy, it just didn’t happen.
Infertility becomes a very big wounding… one in which adoption or more extreme measures like IVF can not fix as easily as most people believe. Infertility is really it’s own suffering to bear and sort through. It led to a good decade of depression and sorrow in my life. We kept asking God, why He wouldn’t give us the gift of biological children? We still don’t know the answer to that question, but we do know His love was always present during this detour.
He has blessed us is so many adventures, relationships, and lessons that we would have not experienced if He had put us on the traditional path of children. We came to embrace that God has a specific, unique, and beautiful calling on each life and each marriage—and in our case it does not look like the rest of the world. This can be a lonely path to walk sometimes, but all along the detour He has provided us with this unflappable peace. We can better weather the other detours of life because we have been exercising faith and it’s become a solid fixture of our foundation.
Let’s talk about your new book God Bless the Broken Road (Howard Books, June 2017). Please tell us about it.
God Bless the Broken Road is a heartwarming story about a grieving army widow who finds her way back to her daughter, her faith, and a new love.
Amber Hill never imagined she would find herself a war widow and single mom. She feels robbed and is angry at God, and she doesn’t know how to help her nine-year-old daughter Bree through her grief. Where, Amber wonders, are the Sunday dinners, the picnics, the bike rides, the time together they should be enjoying as a family? Instead, Amber is left with a folded flag and an empty heart.
Cody Jackson has a death wish. Or at least that is what his manager thinks, as Cody pushes his race car and his luck in every race. Is he hiding something, or just daring God and other racers to end the path of destruction he finds himself on as he rounds the last turn? When Cody encourages Bree to join in a Derby car race for local youth, she finds a way to channel her grief into something good—and she likes that her mom and Cody are starting to become friends—or maybe something more.
Cody invites Amber and Bree to see him race, but as they watch Cody narrowly escape a devastating crash, she realizes she can’t lose another person in her life. It’s better to be alone than feel that type of grief again. But when Amber hits rock-bottom, she cries out to God and asks for help. With her faith, her life, her family, and her heart hanging in the balance, Amber is forced to decide between the broken road she knows so well and trusting that God will provide a new path. Based on the Rascal Flatts song, God Bless the Broken Road is a moving, heart-stirring story about the power of faith to change a life. The movie version is coming 2018.
What led you to write this story?
God Bless the Broken Road (GBBR) actually began as a feature film script three years ago. My friend and director, Harold Cronk, who is best known for the God’s Not Dead movies, called me one fine summer evening. He pitched me the seed of the idea and asked what I thought? I said I thought it sounded like a solid story. And then he asked if I wanted to write it with him. Of course, I said yes.
We finished the first draft of the script on Christmas Eve, 2014. Over the course of the next year we refined it while the producers rallied the funds. In the spring of 2016 Harold shot God Bless the Broken Road.
A few months earlier, as we finished the script version, I talked with the producers about penning a novel version. They thought it would be a great idea. So my agent, Julie Gwinn, put a pitch together and while we were filming I quickly wrote the first three chapters. Within two weeks Julie had procured a couple contracts. We happily chose Simon & Schuster. I spent last summer scribing the novel and here it is a year later. The film version is also “in the can” as we say and will be releasing in 2018.
A few fun questions…
When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?
A good sharp cheese and rice crackers. I also love apples and almond butter. And a good piece of dark chocolate. I always have these on hand. They’re healthy and I can grab them quickly with little prep time.
What Bible passage or story best describes your personal journey of faith?
For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. ~ Jeremiah 29:11
I have clung to this promise since high school. It’s such an encouragement when life sets you on detours.
In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?
I’m more like that free spirit gal who has a lot of different kinds of friends. She is very grounded, but she also thrives on adventures. You might find her working in her community garden one day and riding around on a Vespa in Tuscany the next.
I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.
We have two adorable dachshunds, Tessie and Sedona. They are sisters and very different from each other. Tessie is a quiet, reserved queen. Sedona is our busy body extrovert. They pretty much run the roost.
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For more information about Jen, visit her website and/or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. View the God Bless the Broken Road movie trailer.
To purchase God Bless the Broken Road, the novel, log on here: