Jennifer L. Wright has been writing since middle school. She eventually earned a master’s degree in journalism at Indiana University, but it took only months at the job for her to realize that writing fiction was much better for the soul and a lot more fun.
A born and bred Hoosier, she was plucked from the Heartland after being swept off her feet by an Air Force pilot. They’ve spent the past decade traveling the world and, every few years, attempting to make old curtains fit in the windows of a new home. She currently resides in New Mexico with her husband, two children, a grumpy old dachshund, and a guinea pig named Peanut Butter Cup.
What started you on your writing journey?
I started writing pretty much as soon as I started reading. My parents live in a different state, and I recently visited them at my childhood home. In their basement, I found short stories I’d written dating back to elementary school, some of them filling entire notebooks. I always knew I wanted to be a writer, but for the longest time, I thought that would entail a career as a news reporter. I received my master’s degree in journalism and worked in both print and radio journalism before I became a novelist.
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”?
I mentioned how I worked as a journalist for a short time; by “short time,” I mean only six months—that’s how long it took for me to realize God was telling me this particular field wasn’t right for me. I felt a bit lost after losing my childhood dream, and I kept asking God to show me where I was supposed to go next. When my first child was born, I became a stay-at-home parent, and I soon began to get that itch to write again but felt God directing me toward fiction this time. I wrote on and off for about ten years while raising my two kids before I was finally picked up by a publisher. Becoming a novelist was not something I had planned on doing, but I am so grateful to God for leading me to a place where I can still pursue my passion for writing in a much healthier and family-friendly work environment.
Let’s talk about your new book, The Girl from the Papers (Tyndale, August 2023). Please tell us about it.
The Girl from the Papers is an homage to the “public enemy” days of the Great Depression, based loosely on the lives of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. It focuses on Beatrice Carraway, who is struggling to hold on to her dreams amidst the poverty of West Dallas, and her relationship with Jack Turner, whose own failed dreams have led him to a life of crime. Sucked into a whirlwind of stolen cars and daring heists, the pair see their names and statuses grow as their crimes are soon front-page news in papers across the country. Their thirst for fame, however, is not easily quenched, and when Jack begins seeking bigger and more risky payouts, Beatrice starts to worry her dreams―and her future―will end up going down in a hail of bullets.
How was it inspired by the legend of Bonnie and Clyde?
I stumbled across the story of Bonnie and Clyde while doing some research on the Great Depression for my first novel, If It Rains. What struck me the most was the tragedy of the tale—not just for their victims but also for Bonnie and Clyde themselves. Both were raised in Christian homes and, by some accounts, even prayed nightly together. The foundation of faith was there, but the lies and appeal of the world became too big for them to overcome. They ended up making terrible choices that doomed themselves and several innocent victims. My mind couldn’t help wondering, What if . . . What if they had made different decisions? What if they had repented from a life of crime rather than clinging to it to the bitter end? What if they had sought humility rather than the world’s esteem? And, on a deeper level: Is there ever a point at which a person is too far gone to be saved?
And from those questions, The Girl from the Papers was born.
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?
I love Mexican food! Give me some chips and salsa as well as a big plate of cheese enchiladas—Christmas-style, of course, because I live in New Mexico—and I am happy as a clam. I don’t know that there has ever been a time I have turned down Mexican food. Ever.
What Bible verse or passage best describes your journey of faith?
This is such a hard question! There are so many verses that I cling to but, as far as one that describes my journey of faith, I think I’d have to go with John 6:60-69. In this passage, Jesus is teaching His disciples some hard truths, and the Scripture says that “from this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him” (verse 66). Jesus asks the Twelve if they, too, will desert him, and Simon Peter answers, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (verses 68-69).
There have been times in my life when my perceptions or beliefs have “bumped up against” the teachings of Jesus. Likewise, there are times I have struggled with doubts. But, when it comes down to it, my question is very much like Simon Peter’s: If I were to abandon my faith in Jesus, to whom would I go? He alone has the words of eternal life. He alone is the Holy One of God. Those verses have stopped me many times during my faith journey and forced me to examine myself. If I’m having an issue with a hard teaching in Scripture, the problem isn’t Jesus; it’s me. Because He is God, and I am not. Remembering that—and thinking about where I’d be without Him—has kept me walking alongside Him during those times when I’ve wanted to quit.
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 am definitely the little girl trying to walk in high heels, although I think I fake being the strong female lead quite well! I’m a military spouse so I’ve had to grin and bear many, many hardships over my husband’s Air Force career (I had to be a single parent for the first six months of my first child’s life, for example), and I think those experiences have given me the appearance of a strong, independent woman. On the inside, however, I often feel like a child playing at being a grown-up!
I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.
I bought my kids a guinea pig for their birthday two years ago, and it has morphed into a full-on obsession—for ME! We now have three of them, and they are definitely more my pets than my kids.’ I snuggle with them while I write, dress them up in costumes, and wrap them inside my hoodie to take them for walks. If you follow me on social media, I guarantee you’ll see pictures of them at least once a week, if not more.
Thanks, Jennifer! It’s great to have you as a guest at Divine Detour.
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