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Have you read a story recently where the main character has a disability of some kind? I have enjoyed several stories where one of the characters was an amputee or was deaf. Dancing in the Rain, the new novel by Eileen Rife and Jennifer Slattery, introduces us to a blind character and the struggles she faces. I’m happy to have Jennifer visiting today to share more about this story! Before we begin, let’s take a quick peek at the back cover.
On the verge of college graduation, Loni Parker seeks employment as a music teacher, but no one will hire her since she’s blind. Or so she thinks. To take her mind off her troubles, her roommate invites her to spring retreat at Camp Hope in the gorgeous North Carolina mountains.
Unbeknownst to Loni, Michael Ackerman, the director, is an ex-con responsible for the accident that caused her blindness. When Loni warms up to camp and wants to return as a summer counselor, Michael opposes the idea, which only makes Loni want to prove herself all the more. Though she doesn’t expect to fall for the guy. Still, her need for independence and dream of teaching win out, taking her far away from her beloved Camp Hope . . . and a certain director.
Camp director Michael Ackerman recognizes Loni instantly and wants to avoid her at all costs. Yet, despite the guilt pushing him from her, a growing attraction draws him to the determined woman. She sees more with her heart than the average person does with his eyes. But her presence also dredges up a long-buried anger toward his alcoholic father that he’d just as soon keep hidden. When circumstances spin out of control, Michael is forced to face a past that may destroy his present.
Welcome back, Jennifer! What inspired you to write Dancing in the Rain?
This novel was my co-author Eileen’s brainchild. She came up with the plot elements and setting, and I came in closer to the end and am largely enjoying the fruit of all her hard work. Her parents worked at a church camp while she was growing up, which led to a lot of special memories for her and impactful relationships. As a result, the power of relationships comes out very strong in this story, and her personal experience with camp life really helped this novel come alive!
It sounds like an intriguing premise! Do you have a favorite character from this story? Why is this character your favorite?
I admire Loni, a strong, courageous overcomer, greatly, but I’m most drawn to Michael, the novel’s hero. Though I’m not a felon, like him, I have a past I’m not proud of, and one I tried to hide for a long time. And like him, I found freedom once I learned to stop hiding and truly live in grace. Praise God there’s no condemnation in Christ Jesus, and in Him, our most painful and shameful stories can lead to our greatest ministries!
I love that He is able to work all things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28)! Who is your favorite secondary character in this latest novel, and do you think you’ll include that character in a future story?
As I mentioned, I love Loni and her determination to overcome personal obstacles. That said, I think her second roommate, Bridget, with her love of history, would make an intriguing story character. In Dancing in the Rain, she stumbled upon an antique wedding gown, which was a lot of fun as I found my wedding dress, also antique, at a thrift store. I’m fairly certain the lace was hand sewn, and the gown fit me perfectly, as if it had been made specifically for me. Unfortunately, I lost that dress in one of our family’s many moves …
Maybe I should have my husband marry me again, so I can find another dress.
I’m not sure I’d want the stress of another wedding, but maybe the special dress part… 😉 Do you have personal experience with any of the events in your story, and if so, could you share about that?
Eileen and I passed this story back and forth so many times, revising, tweaking, and rewriting, I can’t remember which elements came from whom, but in it, we have a rock climbing experience, and that’s something I’ve done before. Which is crazy considering I’m terrified by heights, but nearly ten years ago, my family and I began climbing. We started at a local indoor gym about 45 minutes from where we lived at the time. That’s where we learned to “belay” one another, also known as hold one another’s ropes.
Eventually, we took our climbing outside. There was an area in Arkansas, about five hours south of us, where you could camp, hike, and climb. I don’t remember what it was called, but it was a pretty popular climbing site.
One weekend, we went to meet up with a climbing group we’d joined. We arrived before everyone else and set up camp. Sometime after nightfall, we overheard, coming from a neighboring campsite:
Random guy one: Who’s over there?
Random guy two: Some old couple.
At the time, I wouldn’t have considered myself old, but by the next afternoon, when we attempted to hike to the climbing site, let alone begin climbing, I certainly felt every one of my years to their full extent.
That little hobby lasted maybe two years, and I have to say, I never overcame my fear of heights.
Just getting out there and doing as much as you did is impressive! What do you hope your readers take away from this novel?
I hope this story especially resonates with those dealing with deep hurts fighting their way to forgiveness, and I hope in Loni and Michael, they see the freedom and healing that can come when we choose to forgive.
Forgiveness can be a tough decision. What are the greatest blessings and challenges of working so closely with another author?
Eileen and I have worked together as critique partners on numerous novels prior to this one, and we’ve always enjoyed interacting. We have very similar passions and theological bents; we both have a heart for missions, whether that be abroad or across the street, and we love seeing women find deeper levels of freedom. It’s been a joy working more closely with her on this novel; I feel I’ve gotten to know her even better and that our relationship grew stronger. It was also fun seeing our different writing voices side by side and page by page.
We’d love to know a little more about you personally. What is your favorite:
Writing snack? Almonds or peanut butter
Beverage? A decaf vanilla latte
Animal? Giraffe (?)
Movie? The Greatest Showman
Vacation destination? Colorado mountains (where I’m at currently, as I type my answers to this interview ☺)
Ice cream flavor? Blue Bunny Peanut Butter Party
Aside from reading and writing, what hobbies do you enjoy?
Running (sort of. Don’t press me on this one. Ha!), enjoying coffee with friends, and reading.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you most like to go?
Spain or Greece with my adult daughter, just the two of us. I’d love if my husband joined us also, but he refuses to travel outside the US.
What a fun girls’ trip that would be! Thanks for taking the time to visit with us, Jennifer!
Your turn! Have you faced a fear like Jennifer did while rock climbing? Were you able to conquer it?
More about Jennifer:
Jennifer Slattery is a writer and international speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and other writers across the nation. She’s the author of six contemporary novels and maintains a devotional blog found at http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com. She has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, (http://whollyloved.com) she and her team partner with churches to facilitate events designed to help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband. Connect with her on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte) or Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/).
Dancing in the Rain Giveaway:
Jennifer has graciously offered to give away an e-copy of Dancing in the Rain. Giveaways are subject to the Giveaway Policy.