Jennifer is a writer, speaker and forensic specialist creating diverse range of stories that shed light on the dark places of the human experience. As a forensic specialist she has consulted with TV writers on network and cable TV shows, and 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. 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 sign up for her newsletter and YouTube channel at: www.jenniferdornbush.com. Jennifer can also be found on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.
Tell us about your releasing book.
I was in Michigan during the filming of the movie in May, 2016, when we got the offers on God Bless The Broken Road. I was giddy. I remember I was alone in the house where I was staying and I did a little dance. Then I called my husband, who was in Los Angeles. After that I immediately told the film producers. We were all pretty excited! After the excitement settled down, reality set in. I quickly phoned my good friend, Travis, who is a college friend and seasoned novelist and said, “Travis, help me. How do you write a novel?”
A year later, I was releasing a book. I held a book release party on June 9th in Hollywood. Over 75 of my amazing friends and family attended. The film’s director and one of the producers were there. I was able to have four of the key film actors come and participate in the book reading. My dear friends did the catering, photography, and book selling. As a first time novelist, I felt so blessed to have so many people supporting me and the story!
There will be a big premiere and party when the movie releases next year. Those are always fun to attend because you get to see the audience reactions to your film.
Where do you get your ideas for your books? What sparked this story?
God Bless The Broken Road actually began as a 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 is also “in the can” as we say and will be releasing next year.
Did anything strange of funny happen while writing this book?
Strange or funny… I dunno if this was either of those, but when we got the contract we were almost done filming the movie. At this point, the book was due in two months. I had only written the first three chapters. And I had only written one practice novel before. I was feeling such pressure! As soon as the film wrapped, my husband and I jumped into the truck to drive from Michigan back to Los Angeles. I spent the entire 33 hour drive on my laptop writing God Bless The Broken Road through America. I didn’t finish the novel, but I made some serious headway!
Did you always want to be a writer?
Yes. Always. The writing path was born in me. I was that child who was creating plays and casting my sisters and friends to play the parts. I knew by the time I was in third grade I was going to be a writer. I wrote my first “book” when I was in fourth grade. I had my first professional newspaper article published at 19. God had a calling on my life and gave me this gift. Once I discovered that, I tried to nurture it and care for it the best I could. I’m still trying to do that. Our purpose here is to be best stewards of the gifts we have been given. I think I’ll always be trying to be a better steward.
I have many depending on my mood and my schedule. On quiet days when I need to concentrate and break story, I hunker down on my couch or my kitchen table. When I need to get out of the house and feel “professional”, I go to my “big girl” office in a building in Santa Monica that overlooks the city and reminds me why I’m here. There are stories to be told to the world! So, get busy telling them, Jennifer! Sometimes I just need a noisy coffee house where I can feel anonymous, yet still connected to humanity. Last Tuesday, a juice shop in Los Feliz was my office for about an hour.
Of all your characters, which was your favorite and why?
Patti Hill is by far my favorite character. At first she comes off rather brusque and unsympathetic, but later we get to learn where her pain is stemming from. In the story we see Amber make dramatic changes, but it’s Patti who I think takes the boldest and biggest arch. You’ll have to read it to see if you agree with me or not!
Share a few of the techniques you learned that changed the way you write.
These are a mix of resources and advice that have helped me.
- When stuck or blocked—research, take a walk, or refresh with a shower. These never fail me.
- Best book for those initial outlining stages when you’re breaking story
- Done is better than perfect.
Now for the fun: Tell us 3 things your readers might not know about you.
- In college I held a job for three years that required me to gut and dress chickens.
- I know how to change the oil in my car.
- I did my first death investigation case when I was eight.
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.