If you’re a country music fan, you’re probably familiar with Rascal Flatts’ song, “God Bless the Broken Road.” I am excited to have Jennifer Dornbush visiting today to share her new novel with us, one which began with that song. I think you’ll be intrigued by this one, too. Before we visit, though, here’s a quick peek at the story.
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God Bless the Broken Road is a heartwarming story about a grieving army widow who finds her way back to her daughter, her faith, and a new love. Amber Hill never imagined she would find herself a war widow and single mom. She feels robbed and is angry at God, and she doesn’t know how to help her nine-year-old daughter Bree through her grief. Where, Amber wonders, are the Sunday dinners, the picnics, the bike rides, the time together they should be enjoying as a family? Instead, Amber is left with a folded flag and an empty heart.
Cody Jackson has a death wish. Or at least that is what his manager thinks, as Cody pushes his race car and his luck in every race. Is he hiding something, or just daring God and other racers to end the path of destruction he finds himself on as he rounds the last turn? When Cody encourages Bree to join in a Derby car race for local youth, she finds a way to channel her grief into something good—and she likes that her mom and Cody are starting to become friends—or maybe something more.
Cody invites Amber and Bree to see him race, but as they watch Cody narrowly escape a devastating crash, she realizes she can’t lose another person in her life. It’s better to be alone than feel that type of grief again. But when Amber hits rock-bottom, she cries out to God and asks for help. With her faith, her life, her family, and her heart hanging in the balance, Amber is forced to decide between the broken road she knows so well and trusting that God will provide a new path. Based on the Rascal Flatts song, *God Bless the Broken Road* is a moving, heart-stirring story about the power of faith to change a life. The movie version is coming 2018.
Welcome, Jennifer! Let’s start with some fast favorites. What is your favorite:
Animal: The Dachshund.
Movie: Gone With The Wind.
Vacation: Northern Italy.
Ice Cream: I’m a more of a gelato person. I love stracciatella (vanilla with shavings of dark chocolate!).
That sounds yummy! What inspired you to write God Bless the Broken Road?
God Bless the Broken Road (GBBR) actually began as a feature film script three years ago. My friend and director, Harold Cronk, who is best known for the God’s Not Dead movies, called me one fine summer evening. He pitched me the seed of the idea and asked what I thought? I said I thought it sounded like a solid story. And then he asked if I wanted to write it with him. Of course, I said yes.
We finished the first draft of the script on Christmas Eve, 2014. Over the course of the next year we refined it while the producers rallied the funds. In the spring of 2016 Harold shot God Bless the Broken Road.
A few months earlier, as we finished the script version, I talked with the producers about penning a novel version. They thought it would be a great idea. So my agent, Julie Gwinn, put a pitch together and while we were filming I quickly wrote the first three chapters. Within two weeks Julie had procured a couple contracts. We happily chose Simon & Schuster. I spent last summer scribing the novel and here it is a year later. The film version is also “in the can” as we say and will be releasing in 2018.
Wow! How exciting to have had a part in all of that! What do you hope your readers take away from this story?
Many things, I hope.
When we were writing the script, the top two take-aways we kept in mind were first, that God is always with us, even if we don’t feel like He is or aren’t seeking Him actively. He is always there and He is always providing us with amazing blessings, even when/if we don’t acknowledge them. One of the keys to healing and hope on our broken roads are to turn our gaze to Him so that we can start to recognize Him along the path. When we turn to Him and humble ourselves, He can start to guide us and shape our brokenness into blessing.
The second take-away that was important to us as we wrote this story is community. My signature hash tag is #ConnectContributeBelong. I’m huge on the importance of building actual, physical, community (not just having virtual community). We don’t have to travel our broken roads alone. God has given us friends and family to lean for support and encouragement. This can make a huge difference when we are going through trying times. I think so many people suffer from depression and suicide because they think they are alone. Mother Theresa said the greatest poverty we have today is the feeling of loneliness because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.
So many people feel like this. They feel alone. The feel that no one understands or cares what they are going through. What a travesty. It’s so simple to be there for someone. You don’t have to be a professional counselor or therapist to help someone heal from a wounding. Sometimes the very best thing is to just to take a moment from your day to pause, listen, and lend a hug or word of encouragement.
On the flip side, if you are traveling a broken road it can be difficult to let people into your pain. We see this in GBBR in the character of Amber, who lost her husband in Afghanistan. It takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable and ask for help. But here’s the secret… people love you and want to help you and be there for you. Amber eventually hits bottom in order to find this out and finally surrenders. It’s at that moment when her life starts to really find hope and redemption.
Needing to be loved and cared for is not a sign of weakness, it’s the way we humans need to relate to one another to build real and lasting communities. By the way, building community this deep requires that you get off social media, look up from your phone and have actual human contact! Just sayin’….
So true. We seem to be losing our connections (and communication skills!) at a worrisome rate! What are you reading right now?
Mother Angelica by Raymond Arroyo
Hunter: Awakening by Nicholas Arriaza
Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton
Run with Horses by Eugene Peterson
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
Christy Miller Books 4-6 by Robin Jones Gunn
That’s quite a list! Can you give us any hints about what you’re working on now?
I was recently hired to create a TV pilot for a new series called On The Grid with a company here in LA. It’s set in the world of sex and human trafficking and features a strong, international female protagonist. It’s right up my alley and covers some very dark territory, which I love because my personal tagline is “shedding light into the dark places of the human experience.” So. that’s exactly what we hope to do with this project. I say “we” because TV Writing is very collaborative. I’m working with three producers all helping to develop the story and the eventual series.
My agent also just sold a two book mystery series of mine to Crooked Lane. We’re still working on the title, but it’s a murder mystery set in a small town and the protagonist is a female doctor and coroner’s daughter who returns back to her small town to help her estranged father, the town medical examiner, who has just suffered a heart attack. She ends up getting “sucked” into using her forensic skills she learned as a girl to solve a murder and she reunites with her high school sweetheart, who is now the town sheriff. In this series I draw from my own experiences being the daughter of a medical examiner whose office was in our home.
You don’t sit still much, do you? 😉 The TV series sounds pretty intense! And the mysteries sound intriguing, especially knowing your own experiences play into the story. If you could offer a word of encouragement to an aspiring author, what would you say?
I have about a billion words… but I’ll just offer my top three.
1) Thank people who help you. Help others. Gratitude rules. And it keeps the ego in check. Being an ungrateful, ego-maniac does not earn you points or make you look cool or in control.
2) Always put your best foot forward. Don’t waste people’s time by giving them shoddy work – be seen as a quality creator.
3) Above all persevere. Don’t discount the little impacts and little projects. They lead to bigger impacts and bigger projects! Think long term. Run the marathon. Never. Give. Up. Never.
That’s great encouragement. Thanks so much for taking the time to visit with us, Jennifer!
Your turn! “Gratitude rules” in life, too. What’s one thing you’re thankful for today?
Jennifer is a writer, speaker and forensic specialist creating diverse range of stories that shed light on the dark places of the human experience.
Her story creation is bred from a very unsheltered childhood as the daughter of a medical examiner whose office was in her home. She investigated her first fatality, an airplane crash, when she was 8 years-old and from there gathered a decade of on-sight experience in death investigation and 360 hours of forensic training through the Forensic Science Academy.
The stories she creates stem from the unique range of human experiences. Because of her background, she does not shy away from telling stories about tough circumstances and how characters choose to deal with them. Jennifer’s characters encounter light in their darkness… redemption where none seems possible… and bits of levity to sweeten the journey.
Wanting to share her love of forensics with other storytellers, she scribed non-fiction work, Forensic Speak: How To Write Realistic Crime Dramas, published by Michael Wiese Productions, hailed as a north star to creating authentic crime dramas.
As a forensic specialist she has consulted with TV writers on network and cable TV shows. She regularly leads seminars and webinars on forensics and crime fiction and has taught screenwriting on the high school and university level and mentored new writers.
You can connect with Jennifer online:
Sign up for her newsletter and YouTube channel: www.jenniferdornbush.com
Facebook: Jennifer Graeser Dornbush https://www.facebook.com/jennifer.graeserdornbush
Instagram: Jennifer Dornbush https://www.instagram.com/jenniferdornbush/
Twitter: @JGDornbush https://twitter.com/JGDornbush
‘God Bless the Broken Road’ Giveaway:
Jennifer has generously offered to give away a signed paperback copy of God Bless the Broken Road. Giveaways are subject to the Giveaway Policy.