Jennifer AlLee spent her childhood living above a mortuary in the heart of Hollywood, California. Now, she writes novels and savors life’s quirky, unpredictable journey—one she says that includes ‘places God has taken her, and places she took herself that God pulled her out of.’
Her latest release, Last Family Standing, joins her best-selling novels, A Wild Goose Chase Christmas, The Mother Road, and The Pastor’s Wife.
Jennifer and her family reside in Las Vegas.
How early did you want to be a writer, and what sparked your writing journey?
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was little. I used to write all kinds of poems and short stories. I wrote my first novel in high school (it was dreadful) and my second novel in college (not much better). Then I sold a short story to a magazine back in 1983. After that, I had a few anecdotes printed in Readers’ Digest, wrote over a hundred devotions for Concordia Publishing House, and sold another short story. But it took me twenty-seven years before I finally sold a novel. Now I have nine published books to my credit, which still amazes me.
Detours in life can be frustrating—kind of like plot twists in the stories we write—but the outcome is often more intriguing than our original plan. Can you tell us about a “detour” that changed your life for the better?
The biggest detour of my life is getting divorced after twenty-one years of marriage. I’m not going to say that’s made my life better, but it has made my life different. Over the last year, I’ve seen new things unfold that I never expected. I’m fifty years old, and sometimes it feels like I’m starting my adult life all over again. It’s an exciting and scary prospect.
How does your faith play into your work?
My faith is a big part of me, so it naturally shows up in everything I write. I believe the best way to share your faith is to live it, so that’s how my characters generally approach their faith. It’s quiet, but it’s strong.
Let’s talk about Last Family Standing (Abingdon Press, September 2014). Please tell us about it.
Last Family Standing is very close to my heart. When I was a young, single woman, I became pregnant. After lots of soul-searching, I decided to give up my baby for adoption. For years, I’ve wanted to write something about the experience, in part to honor my daughter and her parents. Finally, the idea of LFS came to me.
Here’s a bit about the book:
Every family has drama . . . but it doesn’t usually play out on national television.
Twenty-five years ago, Monica gave up a baby girl for adoption. Now, the thing Monica didn’t dare hope for has happened: Jessica has reentered her life . . . and wants to meet her. There’s just one catch: the reunion must happen on a reality TV show. Though Monica has hesitations, she’s willing to swallow her pride—and a few other unsavory items—if that’s what it takes to connect with her daughter.
Between the unpleasant surprises of nature, the awkward tension with other cast mates, and her desperate attempts to do or be anything remotely athletic, Monica quickly learns that reality bites . . . hard. It all might make for good TV, but it isn’t very helpful in building relationships. As she stumbles through challenges and faces buried emotions and regrets, Monica wonders if she can be what her daughter wants and needs—and is that more than just a teammate? Can Monica and Jessica ever really be the Last Family Standing?
God often uses our work to teach us something. What did you learn (about life, faith, and/or even yourself) in the process of writing this book?
This is something I already knew, but writing the book reinforced it: That even though my life might not play out the way I expected it to, that doesn’t mean it can’t be even better than I imagined it. God’s always able to turn things around.
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?
When I’m blocked, I either reach for Mike & Ikes, or 100 Grand bars. It depends if I feel fruity or chocolatey! To tell you the truth, I try to keep a supply of both of those in my desk drawer. I know it’s terrible, but I consider them brain food. When it comes to celebrating, my favorite thing is to go to a buffet where I have a nice selection of things. That’s all kinds of fun.
This website features musicians as well as writers. Do you have musical, as well as literary, talent?
I don’t know if you’d call it talent, but I do love to sing! If there’s a song playing and I know the words, I’ll sing along.
If you were a song, what kind of song would you be?
I’d be one of those great story songs, the kind that builds and gets super-emotional. Similar to I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables, only without the sadness.
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 the mysterious woman behind dark glasses. Upon first meeting me, I’m quiet, almost shy, and very innocent looking. But the more you get to know me, the more you realize that old saying about still waters is true. Those closest to me have seen my more boisterous, adventurous side.
I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.
I have a great pet story. When I was two years old, I got a Chihuahua named Tinkerbell. Tink was my buddy and was very protective. When I was about three, a man tried to kidnap me from our apartment, but Tinkerbell ran after him and bit him in the ankle. He dropped me and Tink chased him down the stairs and out of the building. Then she came back to make sure I was okay. She was a great dog!
Little Jennifer with Tink.
Thank you, Jen! It’s a pleasure to have you as a guest at DivineDetour.
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For more information about Jennifer, visit her website.
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Wow, Jennifer, interesting family stories and great inspiration. I love the one about Tink! On a serious note, I applaud you moving forward in your life, glad you see a whole new life ahead of you and are ready to embrace it. Blessings to you, and to you as well, Kathy.
Thank you, Elaine! Blessings right back to you.