I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree J.B. Hawker to talk with me about her book, Vain Pursuits. J.B. was born and raised in rural Northern California. After twenty years serving small churches from Alaska to South Dakota as a pastor’s wife, she returned to her California roots to start over as a single business woman, speaker and author. She has published many articles on faith and ministry. J.B. has three grown sons. Her oldest, the father of her three beautiful granddaughters, lives in northern Italy, where J.B. visits as often as possible.
As Jonna Hawker Turek, J.B. is an inspirational leadership trainer and conference speaker and has published the book Power for Women’s Ministry Leaders.
Hello, Jonna! Congrats on a second B.R.A.G. Medallion and thank you for chatting with me today. Please tell your audience how did you discover indieBRAG?
I stumbled across it when doing an Internet search and submitted my first book, Hollow, on a whim. I forgot about it until learning many months later that I had been honored with the BRAG Medallion. What a thrilling surprise that was. You can imagine how excited I am to be recognized, once again.
Please tell me about your book, Vain Pursuits.
Vain Pursuits is the second book in the Bunny Elder series. It begins a year or two after Hollow ends. Bunny has gone to live in Idaho with her older sister, Linda. Linda’s husband suffers from a terminal illness. Following his death, she suggests a trip to Italy to find an authentic Neapolitan crèche for her collection of nativity sets. While Bunny and Linda tour Italy in pursuit of the Christmas miniatures, they unknowingly become the target of a group of smugglers who mistakenly believe the sisters have stolen some of their contraband. The local color is from my own visits to romantic Italia, from a tourist’s viewpoint.
Tell me a little about Bunny Elder’s sister, Linda.
Linda is a retired nurse who has spent the last few years caring first for the sisters’ elderly mother, then for her own ailing husband. She’s ready for a bit of self-indulgence. Linda is petite, like Bunny, but with a striking silhouette, ala Dolly Parton. Linda practices yoga, a skill which comes in handy more than once during this Italian adventure.
What is one of the challenges that Bunny faces?
Bunny’s biggest challenge is always trying to be faithful to her beliefs, in spite of her natural inclinations. Her soft spot for childhood sweetheart, Max, gets her into more than one testing situation, and, like many Christians, she often fails, but keeps trying.
Could you please share an excerpt?
The severely blonde flight attendant wrestled impatiently with her serving cart while making halting progress along the narrow aisle between banks of cramped gray seats in a Lufthansa Airbus high above the Atlantic Ocean. Turning from side to side she grimly dealt out pre-packaged dinner trays to the restless passengers. Although her icy pale hair and crisp blue uniform remained unruffled, the stewardess was obviously near the end of her tether from long hours of forced congeniality with the fretful mass of economy-class passengers assigned to her care.
A creased and crumpled, though still dignified, elderly man, inching back to his seat from a thoroughly disheartening visit to the claustrophobic restroom, inadvertently blocked the attendant’s forward progress. Peremptorily rapping the old fellow’s shoulder, she hissed sharply with Prussian authority, “You must not block the aisles! Return to your seat, immediately.” With a gasp, the man recoiled, stumbled and landed without ceremony in the soft lap of a petite middle-aged woman. Mortified, he attempted to scramble to his feet, but the serving cart bumped him back onto his startled seat mate.
The old gentleman creaked stiffly to his feet as soon after the flight attendant’s passing as possible, trembling with humiliation and repressed rage.
“Please excuse me, madam. I am so terribly sorry. Have I injured you?”
The man addressed his fellow victim in very slightly accented English as he attempted to regain his composure.
“Oh, no, not at all. I’m fine. Really. Don’t worry about it. That certainly wasn’t your fault. Brünnhilde’s assault would have done in a lesser man, I assure you. You are lucky to have survived.” Bunny Elder replied with a wry smile, as she straightened her khaki skirt and pushed a lock of graying blonde hair back into place behind one ear.
“Yes, well, it would appear there are reasons why this particular airline was never touted as part of the ‘friendly skies.’ Thank you for being so gracious. My name is Parma, by the way, Anthony Parma.”
“I’m pleased to meet you, Anthony. I’m Bunny.”
“Bunny?” Parma raised an eyebrow as he asked.
“Oh, that’s just a nickname, really. My given name is Leveline, I’m afraid. I’m Leveline Elder on my driver’s license, but when I have a choice, I’m just Bunny.”
“I’m pleased to meet you, Mrs. Elder.”
“Yes, well, I am pleased to meet you…Bunny. Again, I apologize for the unfortunate nature of our meeting. I hope you enjoy the rest of your trip.”
“Thanks. You too,” Bunny replied as Parma squeezed his way into the window seat a few rows back. “Well, that certainly perked things up, Linda. I didn’t expect to have charming men falling into my lap when you invited me on this trip,” Bunny addressed the diminutive dark-haired woman beside her, Linda looked up from the book she was reading, blinking her startlingly blue eyes as though just waking from a dream.
“What are you talking about, Bunny?”
Bunny could not believe it. Her older sister had not even noticed all the commotion going on mere inches away. Linda had been engrossed in reading for most of the ten hours they had been in the air. While Bunny was struggling to find a comfortable sitting position, attempting to do the blood-clot-prevention exercises promoted by the in-flight magazine, praying not to crash, frantically studying her Italian-English dictionary, resisting the urge to visit the nasty airplane toilet, trying vainly to sleep and worrying about the jet lag ahead, like any rational modern air traveler, Linda was oblivious to it all, lost in one romance novel after the other….
What do you like best about writing cozy-suspense-adventure stories?
I love to be able to imagine myself and people I’ve known in these exciting situations. It lets me play out alternate lives where I am myself, but with all the “extras” I’ve always dreamed of. In my next book, my lead character has a gift for languages, something I’ve always wanted. My oldest son’s wife and his daughters are Italian, and I struggle with the language, but my “something extra” me would be fluent.
Where in your home do you like to write and what is your process?
Against the advice of sleep experts, my office space is in my bedroom, with my desk in front of a window looking out on sky and trees. However, I also write on a laptop, a couple of different PC’s and an iPad, keeping all my files in my Dropbox folders. I have a full-time outside job, so most of my writing is done early in the morning or on weekends. I’m a morning person, and I’ve tried to work in the evening, with dismal results, but occasionally I will wake in the middle of the night to jot down plot points before I forget them. Like most writers, I’m composing in my head almost all the time. I outline each book, work out characters’ biographies, etc. before beginning, then I plunge in. Every few chapters I go back and re-read and edit before going forward. This helps me with continuity and recharges my creative juices when I hit a wall.
Who designed your book cover?
Once again going against expert advice, I designed it myself. [Warning: don’t try this at home] When I was starting out, I used the CreateSpace themes, but I have recently tweaked all the Bunny Elder series covers to give them a unifying format. It was hard work, and frustrating at first, but I’m learning to use the free graphics applications, Gimp and Paint.net, and am starting to enjoy the cover design process. I was a commercial art major in college, so it’s nice to flex my rusty talent using modern technology.
What are you working on next?
I’ve just begun the eleventh chapter of the second book in my First Ladies Club series. This one is called The Body in the Belfry. The series focuses on a group of pastors’ wives in the small fictional coastal town of Bannoch, Oregon. They are women from diverse denominations, cultures, ethnicity and ages, but all love the Lord and their pastor husbands. Each book will feature a different member of the club and a new suspenseful adventure. I’m having such fun including vignettes based upon my own experiences in small church parsonages all around the western USA.
Do you stick with just genre?
I stick with Christian fiction, because anything I write will naturally have a Christian world view. My first book was a true mystery, as is my work in progress. The others are Christian Suspense/Thriller. When I published it, I didn’t describe my first book, Hollow, as Christian Fiction, supposing in my naiveté that anyone would know it was a Christian book, since the lead character was a pastor’s widow, but I had some critical review comments about “too much religious content” and “pretending not to be Christian fiction” and that convinced me to be very clear when categorizing my books. I write inspirational books and articles under my married name, Jonna Hawker Turek, but my fiction is not written to evangelize, although all the books have unashamedly Christian leads whose faith influences their lives.
Where can readers buy your book?
I publish through KDP for Kindle format and Draft2Digital for the other eBook readers, so you can order from Amazon, Kobo and Barnes and Noble, or any of the digital outlets. My print copies are on Amazon and can be ordered from most book sellers.
Thank you, Jonna! It has been a pleasure chatting with you.
It’s been my pleasure, too, Stephanie!
Author blog: The Works of J.B. Hawker
Book landing page
Jonna’s weekly inspirational blog, Power Walking with Jonna
A message from BRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview J.B. Hawker who is the author of, Vain Pursuits, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Vain Pursuits, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.