For today’s Sunday Dinner, I invited Jennifer Q. Hunt. Jennifer and her husband live in a 100-year-old house in northwest Georgia, where she homeschools their four children and spends hours researching random topics that somehow come together to make unforgettable stories.
Sunday Dinner is a traditional (noon) meal served after church on Sundays. Whole families, including extended family, would gather over a large meal to celebrate a day of rest. Multiple cultures enjoy this Sunday Dinner tradition. In my experience, I know it from both my Midwestern farm family as well as my Italian-American family. Now, I’d like to bring Sunday Dinner virtually to you. So, pull up a chair as we invite various guests to join us each week!
Without further ado, please tell us something interesting readers would enjoy learning about you.
I’ve been telling stories since I was old enough to speak. My mother wrote a story I dictated when I was three years old, and at five I created my first “book.” As the oldest of four siblings, I used to entertain the younger ones with long stories that continued one piece at a time for weeks.
Can you tell us about your latest novel?
Through Thorny Ways
With secrets dating back two generations, will Wisteria House unite or destroy an already-fractured family?
Shrouded in scandal and secrets, Arilee Rutledge’s family is as tangled as the thorns surrounding their unwelcoming antebellum mansion. When her brother Davis returns from the Great War, she hopes they will make a new start after a season of devastation. But Davis is haunted by their younger brother’s death and his wife’s committal to the state asylum; while he loses himself in his work, Arilee continues raising his children. Determined to control at least one area of their lives, the siblings hire a former acquaintance to restore their dilapidated home.
Thrown from a carefree boyhood into the horrors of trench warfare, Adam Harrison is broken yet matured by his experiences. He takes a job updating and repairing Wisteria House, not only to pay his way through medical school, but in hopes of winning the woman he has long admired. A startling discovery plunges them all into a series of events revealing dark mysteries and shaking their already-uncertain future.
Can the thorns of grief, pain, and regret ever be cleared from their troubled hearts?
Can you provide a definition for Family Saga Fiction?
I don’t know if there is an official definition, but for me, it’s a series where multiple generations are featured and the various storylines all intersect and intertwine.
Why did you choose to write a story about a family through the generations?
I’ve always been fascinated with family genealogy. One generation makes a decision that affects everyone who comes after them. Most of us in the United States are here because somewhere back, one generation or ten, an ancestor decided to leave their home and come here. The reason they came and when they came and where they settled still impacts their descendants today. And that’s just one decision. Whom each person marries, their walk with God and dedication to Him—all of these don’t just influence an individual, but a community and those who come behind them. It’s often hard to see that in our own lives, but fiction can give a bird’s eye view that reminds us of how our lives are connected to those before us and those who come after us.
What research was required to set a series in multiple time periods?
A lot. 😊 With my first series, Sorrow and Song, the prequel book is in 1895, and the final book ends post WW2. I had to research four different time periods, with occasional forays into the even more distant past.
My current series is set in the 1920s, but the family is unraveling a mystery from the Civil War and Reconstruction. So, I definitely had to look into that era to create authentic letters and situations.
Do you write a family tree from the beginning, or does it develop with the series?
With my first series it developed, and that was a bad idea. Now I start with one.
Were resources easy or difficult to find on these topics? Do you have a favorite resource?
Every book I write, there’s one or two pieces of information that are just an absolute pain to find, but also there are things I research that are so fascinating I wish I could incorporate much more in the story than a mention. Google Books is really helpful, as well as interlibrary loans. And there are many source documents online now. Probably the most fun is when I get the chance to connect with a small-town historical society or special preservation group. Those folks are always happy to find someone who wants their knowledge!
What is one piece of your research that you couldn’t include in the book, but wish readers could know?
In Through Thorny Ways, a character has diabetes and needs insulin to live, but insulin was in the very beginning stages of development and not readily available. I wanted to include so much more than I could about the incredible process of the discovery and manufacture of insulin.
I also did a lot of research about the state mental institution at Milledgeville. This was particularly interesting to me because my great-grandmother was a patient there. But in the end, it didn’t play as much a part in the book as I had first thought, though I was able to set a few scenes there.
Do you have another book in the works? What can you tell us about that book?
I’m currently working on All Now Mysterious, the second book in the Wisteria House series. It features a “real life” bad guy who was a KKK leader in the 1920s, the rise and fall of the Klan in that era, and the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925. Plus, the development of the Atlanta airport and the next piece of the Civil War era mystery. If all this sounds very random, it is, but somehow, it’s all fitting together into a cohesive story.
Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I write distinctively Christian fiction. This means far more to me than just the absence of objectionable content such as swearing and sex. It means the inclusion of Biblical truths and how they work out in a person’s life. The characters in my stories wrestle with hard things and deep issues. They don’t get all their questions answered. Their “happily ever afters” are tempered with sorrows and struggles. But through the story they experience God and His Word in their lives in some sort of transforming way.
The afternoon is slipping away, so we have to draw the stories to an end. Jennifer, thank you for joining us today!
If readers would like to purchase a copy of Through Thorny Ways where might they be able to do so?
Find it here.
If readers would like to learn about you or your other books, how might they find you online?
Please visit jenniferqhunt.com to sign up for my newsletter and stay in touch!
Over Sunday Dinner next week, I’ll be joined by my nine co-authors as we talk about the novellas that make up Holiday Menace. See you then!