Welcome to the online home of Audra Jennings, a book publicist and crafter. Here I share about both. I hope you'll find books you'll want to read and crafts you will want to order. I live a rather boring, single life. At times I would like to think I am humorous. In the past, blogging about current seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette were a big part of the blog. I'm giving that up though. I just can't handle it anymore.
“God must be in prison, because that’s where so many people seem to meet him.”
with William Sirls,
Author of The Sinners’ Garden
“God must be in prison, because that’s where
so many people seem to meet him.” Gerald “Rip” Ripley speaks from experience,
having been there himself. Now he is not only trying to put the past behind him
and move on with the future, he’s trying to help the others in his life do the
same. In The Sinners’ Garden (Thomas Nelson/December 17, 2013/ISBN: 978-1401687380/$12.99), William Sirls
shares some of his own hard-learned wisdom, writing more of himself into the
character of Rip than he would sometimes like to admit.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit
about your new book, The Sinners’ Garden and
specifically what the garden represents to you?
is The Reason [my first book], The Sinners’ Garden is a story of
forgiveness and second chances that takes place in a small town in southeast
Michigan. Like the characters in the book, we are all given second chances,
actually a lot more than that, and the “garden” that shows up overnight behind
an abandoned steel mill is the physical manifestation of the source of that
forgiveness…or is it?
Q: Most of your characters in The Sinners’ Garden seem to dwell in the
past with the exception of Rip who put his past behind him after prison. Was
there a reason behind that?
all the people in the book, Rip’s character represents the greatest
understanding of what someone needs to do to put their past behind them,
regardless of anything that has happened in that past.
Q: Why do you think people in
general have such a difficult time putting their past and their mistakes behind
It’s okay to make mistakes. What isn't okay is when we let what happened yesterday, ruin today. Divorces,
break-ups, that thing you said to your boss, that job opportunity you blew, the
time you didn't spend with your kids… it, too, goes on and on. But regardless
of how long you dwell on something, or how quickly you can let something go and
move on, the fact remains that we all make mistakes, and Rip’s character
He also knows that God gives us
choices. He gives us a choice, and with any choice comes the possibility of
choosing unwisely. And with many of those unwise choices often comes a great
deal of pain. But you don’t have to live in the past. The only thing you can do
about the past is learn from it. You aren't defined by your past. Today is a
new day to make a fresh start.
You've heard it all before? Of
course you have.
But Rip tries something different.
He considers both past and future mistakes to be opportunities to
demonstrate his faith. As Max Lucado puts it in his book, It’s Not About Me, Rip knows that,
“Your faith in the face of suffering cranks up the volume of God’s song.”
Rip also wants to share with that
whether suffering is caused by our own hands or someone else’s, we should
allow our past and future disappointments to be opportunities to show our faith
in God. Then we should watch as our faith sets forth an inspiring example that
will draw others to God. What single greater thing could we possibly do?
Q: You are very transparent about
your own life and time in prison. What truth does Rip’s line “God must be in
prison, because that’s where so many people seem to meet him” hold for you?
is one of those experiences I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy, but at the same
time, there are few things that I would trade the experience for, because from
a spiritual standpoint, it gave me the opportunity to slow down and realize
what is important. I think it’s unfortunate that so many of us get into daily
routines that don’t include time for God. We wake up, take a shower, eat
breakfast, kiss the kids goodbye and head off to work. Then we come home, eat
dinner, kiss the kids goodnight, and then head off to bed in order to rest up
and do the same thing all over again the next day. Just like a little kid being
put in “timeout,” God knew what was missing from my life and even though I
always had time for Him, He made sure I had a little more of it.
Q: What lessons do you feel God
taught you during your incarceration?
though I always had the time, prison gave me a little more of it to read the
Bible, pray, spend time with other Christians, and most importantly, it allowed
me to develop the patience to sit back and really watch what happens as you
develop a relationship with God.
think too many new Christians expect to hold their hands up and watch manna
immediately fall from the sky. It doesn't work that way. I would tell a new
believer to be patient, develop your faith, and then really pay attention to
everything that happens in your life. Before you know it, you will see things
that can only be Him. In my case, as my faith became stronger and stronger, I
learned valuable lessons involving grace, forgiveness, serving instead of being
served, and a big one for me was realizing that the world doesn't revolve
around William Sirls.
that came down to was once I put God at the center of everything, it was
amazing how the pieces of my life began to come together. Before long, I became
increasingly anxious to share some of the things I learned, but at the same
time, I didn't want to come across as some jailhouse lunatic, so I figured my
best way to share these lessons was to sprinkle them amongst characters in my
Q: How much of you is the character
of Rip based on?
like to say “a little bit.” Those that
know me like to say “a lot.”
Q: Have you witnessed a modern day
I am living and breathing proof of what can happen when we use the gifts God
has given us for our own glory instead of for His. Fortunately, I am also proof
of His endless grace and forgiveness. The fact that He can turn someone like me
around is a miracle that can happen with anyone.
Q: As a Christian author, do you
feel a responsibility to provide more than simply a great story to readers? Is
there a specific message you hope readers walk away with?
think all authors want to entertain readers, but as a Christian author with a
checkered past, it’s extremely important to me that readers not only enjoy the
book, but walk away from the story feeling closer to God. I want to present
Christians in a favorable light without shoving “religion” in anyone’s face. I
think it would be great if readers that enjoy the book would pass it on to
friends of theirs that are “on the fence” with their faith or even
non-believers. Don’t get me wrong, there is no substitute for the Bible, but it
would be great if one of my stories could create dialogue between friends that
could break that sometimes awkward ice … that “bible” or “Jesus” conversation
that too many of us are uncomfortable having with those that we care about, but
still haven’t been saved. Once that ice is broken and some meaningful dialogue
is under way, hopefully that conversation leads to the Bible, and then to that
special sacrifice that was made for all of us.
Q: You originally planned to
self-publish your first book, The Reason,
but Thomas Nelson picked up your book and published it at the last minute. How
did that happen and what advice would you offer to aspiring authors?
I think about this, I shake my head. God has been too good to me. I’m fortunate
to have missed the need to hunt for an agent or ever submit my manuscript to a
traditional publisher, yet still ended up working with the biggest Christian
publisher in the world.
had originally planned on self-publishing The
Reason, and a few months before the self-published version of the book was
going to be released, was pretty comfortable with the story and decided to
print 100 advance copies to create a little buzz. I then contacted some of the
biggest churches in the country and asked if they had any avid readers who
would be interested in reading an advance copy of the book and then maybe
provide me with feedback. Once I had
permission, I included a letter with each copy sent. In the letter, I
introduced myself and provided my phone number and email address, and also
mentioned I would greatly appreciate it if the reader would let me know what
I didn't hear anything for a month or so, and I was expecting, at tops, maybe a
half a dozen responses. Beyond getting any general feedback, I also wanted to
identify recurring themes or concerns readers had so that I could make
revisions before the final version of the book was released.
I received my first email from a woman out west that said she enjoyed the book
and couldn’t wait for it to come out. It
was an awesome feeling. And then I received a phone call from a woman that ran
a church bookstore, wanting to know how they could buy it. Before I knew it, we had around 250 responses
from men, women, teenagers, and ministers, sharing how the book affected them
in ways that I couldn't believe, and these responses were so heartwarming that they literally changed the reason I want to continue to write.
one of those advance copies we made ended up on the desk of a receptionist at
Thomas Nelson, and it was her response to the book that resulted in it being
passed on to their fiction team. Just before we were to release the
self-published version of The Reason,
Thomas Nelson picked up the title along with a request for me to write two
additional titles. Once again, God has been quite good to me, and I couldn't be
terms of advice for aspiring authors, I’m sure they've heard it before, but the
best advice anyone can give about getting better at writing is to write a lot
and read a lot. Also read before you write, as it greases the wheels and gets
you in the mood. When you have writer’s block, write about your writer’s block.
Just like anything, the more you practice, the better you will get. I haven’t taken any writing
classes, gone to conferences, or worked with writers groups, but I do have a group of reader friends I
show my work to that I trust to tell me what I need to hear, instead of what I
want to hear. Also, if you are writing fiction, try writing your ending first,
that way your characters have targets to hit. Before you know it, they will be
telling you what to do.