BEHIND THE WORDS: Author Jennifer Diebel Pens a ‘love letter’ to Ireland in Latest Release

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Jennifer Deibel, A Dance in Donegal

Welcome, tell us a bit about yourself. Where you’re from, where you live? Do you have one of those day-jobs?

Thank you so much for having me! I am so excited to be here!

I am an Arizona girl born and raised—then spent almost 10 years in Europe. We are now back in the Phoenix area where I live with my husband and our three kids. By day, I am a seventh grade English teacher, which means I spent my days with hundreds of gloriously awkward teens/pre-teens, and it’s amazing. If I can’t write full time, it’s the next best thing!

How long have you been writing?

I have been writing in some form or another my whole life. It started out as daily diary entries as a kid, and morphed from there. In high school, I wrote a short story that was so horrible. I think my main character’s name changed twice and her eye color never stayed the same. But I loved it. I remember a descriptive writing piece we had to do my junior year that was so much fun—but none of my friends agreed.

In college, my first English professor told me I should consider pursuing a career in writing, but I had my sights set on a much higher- paying job. Then, changed my major to education. I know, I laugh, too.

I first started writing A Dance in Donegal about 16.5 years ago when I was pregnant with our first baby. Once she was born, though, it sat for years and years. I finally started writing more seriously shortly after my son was born about ten years ago. I heard about this new parenting blog, The Better Mom, that was starting up and looking for contributors. I auditioned and was accepted. Ruth, the gal who runs it, suggested I start a blog so readers would have a place to find me if they liked my articles. That’s when my first website started, and I picked Dance back up again.

Briefly describe your writing day.

More often than not, my writing time takes place in the evenings when I go sit at a coffee shop while my older kids are at youth group, or during my twice-monthly writers group meetings. The rest of it happens in the fringes—minutes stolen here or there.

On my most ideal writing day, there’s coffee aplenty, I have a quiet place all to myself where I can let the creativity flow. This summer, however, the bulk of my second book was written at the dining room table with my kids running all over around me, stopping to help fix lunches, or referee arguments, or help them find something to do other than watching Studio C sketches for the umpteenth time.

Tell us about your latest release?

A Dance in Donegal truly is the book of my heart—a story I’ve carried in my soul for over a decade. It’s a love letter to Ireland, her people, her language, and her landscape. Here’s a brief description of the story:

All of her life, Irish-American Moira Doherty has relished her Irish mother’s descriptions of her homeland. When her mother dies unexpectedly in the summer of 1920, Moira accepts the challenge to fulfill her mother’s wish that she become the teacher in Ballymann, the homeland village in Donegal, Ireland.

After an arduous voyage, Moira arrives to a new home and a new job in an ancient country. Though a few locals offer a warm welcome, others are distanced by superstition and suspicion. Rumors about Moira’s mother are unspoken in her presence, but threaten to derail everything she’s journeyed to Ballymann to do. Moira must rely on the kindness of a handful of friends—and the strength of an unsettlingly handsome thatcher who keeps popping up unannounced. While Moira learns to trust Sean and his intentions, she struggles to navigate a life she’d never dreamed of . . . but perhaps was meant to live.

Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?

Most of them are fictitious, but there are a couple who are inspired by real-life people I got to know when we lived in Donegal. Namely, Bríd, who runs the Guest House Moira stays in when she first arrives. Bríd is inspired by an incredible woman named Maire who runs a charming B&B in the village of Derrybeg, which is the village Ballymann is inspired by.

The rest of the cast of characters are original, but also influenced by the wonderful, colorful, vibrant people I met and knew in our years in Ireland.

Would you share one detail from your current release with readers that they might not find in the book?

There is a castle in the story—Glenveagh Castle. It is a real place, and is quite stunning with breathtaking gardens, situated right on the lake, Loch Veagh.

Glenveagh Castle is the subject of much discussion, around which rumors and suspicions abound—particularly about Moira’s mother and her role there. Well, many people do not know that real-life author John Knowles wrote his novel A Separate Peace from one of the bedrooms there.

Who has been the most difficult character for you to write? (Any of your books)

Without a doubt, the father of the heroine in my second book (due out from Revell in February 2022). He is devious and proud, but he also loves his family and would do (and does) anything for them. I find it very tricky to write him in a way that shows his true colors, but also let his better qualities shine through—when he chooses to let them.

If you could be one of your characters for a day which character would it be? Why?

As cheesy as it might sound, I’d love to be my heroine—Moira. Just to be able to go back and experience Ireland for the first time again would be amazing. To rediscover the beauty and history of such an amazing country; to fall in love with her people all over again…yes. My heart aches to be back there every day, so to relive it all through her eyes would be amazing.

What’s next?

I am working on finishing up book two right now! It is a standalone, but shares some aspects with Dance in that it is set in Ireland in 1920. So, it includes sweeping landscapes, a hearty and colorful cast of characters, and heart-warming romance. But that is where the similarities stop.

This book has an English heroine who moves to Galway and becomes an apprentice at a jewelry shop that invented the famous Claddagh ring. I am absolutely loving this story and these characters! I can’t wait to share them with you all!

All writers are readers. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?

I have to say, every author I’ve ever read has influenced me in some way. But, the two who have most directly influenced the way I write would be Liz Curtis Higgs and Julie Klassen.

Higgs can weave drama, history, romance, heartache, charm, and the hope of the Gospel like no other. I have read her Scottish trilogy at least five times—and I cry every time. The way she marries the Scottish history, landscape, and culture greatly inspires and encourages me as I write an Irish setting.

Julie Klassen’s romance is unparalleled. She brings human emotion to the page in a way that I could only hope to achieve. I love how she brings the setting to life, and lets us in on the characters’ joy, pain, heartache, etc. in a way that we really experience life through them.

If you could have dinner with any writer living or dead, who would it be and why?

Oh goodness, I honestly don’t know how I can answer this. There are so very many writers whom I respect and admire so greatly. I think I have to say Janette Oke. She’s such a pioneer in Christian writing, and her book A Gown of Spanish Lace was the first Christian novel I ever read.

If you could ask your favorite author a question what would it be?

I’d love to ask Liz Curtis Higgs if we could sit down over tea and shortbread and talk all things Scottish/Celtic, and ask her if she could only ever write one more fiction story, what would it be and why.

Do you have a secret talent readers would be surprised by?

If we are talking actual talent, I can sing. I used to lead worship for our church in Flagstaff, Arizona many, many moons ago. I loved it, and I miss it greatly!

If we are talking “stupid human trick” talent, I can use a flashlight to turn myself into a human jack-o-lantern. It’s truly unforgettable.

Your favorite go-to drink or food when the world goes crazy!

Coffee is always close at hand. Typically, I keep it pretty simple with an Americano and a splash of almond milk.

When I’m really feeling the pressure, I go for some good dark chocolate, or a decadent piece of cake.

But, when the going really gets tough, I have to reach for a steaming cup of Lyons Gold Blend tea with a generous helping of milk. I don’t know what makes Irish black tea so amazing, but there’s nothing else like it in the world. Even self-professed tea haters enjoy it. And tea snobs really love it! If you haven’t tried it, do! You won’t be sorry.

What is the one question you never get asked at interviews, but wish you did? Ask and answer it.

I used to work for a literary PR firm, so my job involved writing interview questions for our authors. However, being a debut author, I am new to being on this side of the conversation. It’s such a surreal experience! So, I can’t point to a question I never get asked in interviews, but I do know I absolutely love connecting with people. So, one question I love to answer is:

How can readers connect with you?

I’m so glad you asked! Readers can connect with me through social media—I’m most active on Instagram (@jenniferdeibel_author). I also have a private reader’s group on Facebook, where I can interact with people more closely than I can on my author Facebook page (facebook.com/JenniferDeibelAuthor). In the readers group, we chat, share book talk, and they get all the bookish news and opportunities first! The group is called Books & Tae: Jennifer Deibel’s Reading group.

Lastly, I have a newsletter I send out roughly every month (sometimes I skip a month, because, life.). My Newsies also get first dibs on any new information about my books, first chance to sign up for launch teams, exclusive giveaways, etc. People can sign up for that here: http://eepurl.com/c3x7FT

Take a look at Jennifer’s latest release A DANCE IN DONEGAL

All of her life, Irish-American Moira Doherty has relished her mother’s descriptions of Ireland. When her mother dies unexpectedly in the summer of 1920, Moira decides to fulfill her mother’s wish that she become the teacher in Ballymann, her home village in Donegal, Ireland.

After an arduous voyage, Moira arrives to a new home and a new job in an ancient country. Though a few locals offer a warm welcome, others are distanced by superstition and suspicion. Rumors about Moira’s mother are unspoken in her presence but threaten to derail everything she’s journeyed to Ballymann to do. Moira must rely on the kindness of a handful of friends–and the strength of Sean, an unsettlingly handsome thatcher who keeps popping up unannounced–as she seeks to navigate a life she’d never dreamed of . . . but perhaps was meant to live.

Jennifer Deibel’s debut novel delights the senses, bringing to life the sights, sounds, smells, and language of a lush country and a colorful people. Historical romance fans will embrace her with open arms.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jennifer Deibel is a middle school teacher and freelance writer. Her work has appeared on (in)courage, on The Better Mom, in Missions Mosaic Magazine, and others. With firsthand immersive experience abroad, Jennifer writes stories that help redefine home through the lens of culture, history, and family. After nearly a decade of living in Ireland and Austria, she now lives in Arizona.