I had the pleasure of serving on Mary Pat John’s launch team for her debut novel, Countin’ On Jesse. It was special to me because Mary Pat and I critiqued for one another back in 2019 on the ACFW critique loop when we were both newbies and didn’t have a clue what we were doing. I’m excited to share her interview with you, and I hope you’ll consider supporting her.
Commenting on this post is a simple way to encourage Mary Pat, and it also enters you into a giveaway for her book! Be sure to drop your comment below by October 3 for a chance to win an ebook of Countin’ On Jesse. (US winner only)
Welcome, Mary Pat! Let’s start off by going back to your childhood. What did you want to be when you grew up?
Reading was probably my favorite activity as a child. I remember telling my mom that I wanted to be a “famous” author when I grew up. I set that dream aside to teach school, but now I’m back at it. It’s been a blessing to pursue my dream, but I no longer care about the “famous” part. LOL.
How cool that you wanted to be an author even then. What genre do you write and what inspired you to write that particular genre?
I write inspirational contemporary romance. I read in different genres, but if there’s not a good love story, I always feel like something is missing. And the research aspect of historical fiction seemed daunting.
I agree about the historical research! If using a real location, one aspect of a historical novel that would require lots of research is the setting. What is the setting of your story? Is it a real location or fictional? Tell us about it.
Countin’ On Jesse is set in the fictional town of Valiant, Texas. The town where I live now is Victoria, Texas. Valiant has similarities to Victoria. It isn’t what we think of as a small town but not a metroplex like Houston or San Antonio either. Valiant is located on the map in approximately the same place as Victoria, but I kept the larger surrounding cities the same.
Sounds like a good way to do it. What is the premise of Countin’ On Jesse?
Countin’ On Jesse is the story of two people who fall in love during the quest of accreditation for the gym where they both work. Jesse and Brenna wrestle with debilitating emotions, outside forces, and their own desires to find victory.
We can all relate to debilitating emotions at times. What do you hope your readers take away from Countin’ On Jesse?
First, it’s okay to ask for and receive help when you’re faced with overwhelming circumstances. Our perceptions can be misleading. And lastly, God delights in giving second chances.
Amen! How do you incorporate Christ and hope into your writing?
I pray and ask God that Christ be on every page, whether it’s the words or what’s between the lines. So far, my main characters have been Christians with flaws. The arc usually involves an issue they’ve struggled with, but perhaps been unsuccessful in overcoming.
In Countin’ On Jesse, Jesse struggles with anger and Brenna struggles with letting go of the past. I firmly believe these types of negative emotions can get the upper hand and wreck a person’s life as easily as issues we think of as much bigger.
I want readers to know that our emotions are something God can handle.
So true, Mary Pat. Which character in Countin’ On Jesse was easiest for you to write and why? Which character presented the biggest challenge?
I’m surrounded by men with streaks of Jesse (bossy and intense, but also contrite and gentle) so he was easy to write. Brenna, not so much. I had a really difficult time getting to know her. After umpteen drafts where honest critters would tell me that Brenna was coming across as a pretty girl and not much else, I finally figured her out. She’s a sweetheart but not a pushover. It took a while to make it happen on paper.
Getting to know the characters is a process, isn’t it? What was the hardest scene to write?
With Countin’ On Jesse, it was a toss-up. A lot happens in the first three chapters, and one scene had loads of action. It took a long time to get that right. Toward the end of the book there’s a fight scene, only I had no idea how to write it. Beloved critter, David Parks, who now resides in heaven, was a huge help.
David was such a sweet soul and would be cheering for you today. He’s definitely missed. What is one of your favorite quotes from Countin’ On Jesse?
“‘As nuts as I am about Brenna, God wants me to love Him more. Pastor Mike zeroed in on that one. What if I don’t get what I want? What if we can’t get around this no-dating rule? Will I still love Him then?’”
This one’s a favorite because Jesse touches that place we all face. Will we still love God if we don’t get the desire of our heart?
Oh, man, I’ve wrestled with that question many times, including while pursuing publication the past few years. What advice would you give an aspiring author?
Don’t give up. Writing/publishing is a long game. Plan to spend a few years learning the craft, the technology, and the marketing aspects of the industry. Then a few more…
Yes, I had no clue what I was in for when I started this journey in 2018. It’s been much more consuming than I ever imagined. What does a typical day in your writing life look like?
A couple of days a week, I work all day, but the other mornings, I do some type of exercise. I try to set appointments in the mornings as well. Afternoons are hard-fast reserved for writing. I check email and social media and answer the most pressing ones.
If I have a column due that week, I write the first draft on Monday. Once that’s done, I move on to whatever my current WIP is and work on that for 2-3 hours, more if I’ve got a word count goal to meet. I wrap the day up by answering more emails and responding to social media posts in the evenings.
It’s more than a full-time job, right? Do you enjoy marketing and social media? Which platform are you most active on?
The more I learn about marketing and social media, the more I like it. I had to decide if I was going to sell books as opposed to just having an expensive hobby, I’d have to learn how to market and improve my social media skills. I’m on Facebook and Instagram. It’s a doable way to raise awareness for your books beyond friends and family.
Another aspect of this publishing gig I was clueless about. LOL What’s next from you?
Countin’ On Jesse is book one of the Romance in Valiant series. Lovin’ On Red, book two, is now in the editing process. It’s the story of Rory, Jesse’s accountability partner, and his love interest. I’m working on books three and four now. Book three is a “tweeny” novella featuring two minor characters from books one and two, and book four is…well, that one is still under wraps.
It sounds like you have lots to keep you busy! I look forward to watching your journey continue to unfold and celebrating each milestone with you. Thanks so much for being on my blog.
For a chance to win an ebook of #CountinOnJesse by @marypatjohns, check out her interview and comment there by 10/3. (US winner only) #amreading #giveaway #contemporaryromanceTweet
Join the conversation. Do you agree with Mary Pat’s statement that a book without romance is missing something? What are your thoughts about a hero who struggles with anger issues? Does that make him more relatable to you? Which social media platform do you most engage with authors on?
Be sure to comment below by October 3 for a chance to win an ebook of Countin’ On Jesse! (US winner only)
Countin’ On Jesse by Mary Pat Johns
Click the book cover for purchase link
Peeps’ gym owner Jesse seeks accreditation. Accountant Brenna wants to help Jesse reach his goal. They’re a great team, but can she count on him when trouble strikes?
Accountant BRENNA MCKINLEY only wants what’s best for Peeps, the wildly popular gym in Valiant, Texas. But when money goes missing, and she’s the obvious suspect, will she be able to clear her name or face criminal charges? Keeping her dream job matters, but falling in love with her boss isn’t part of the plan. Neither is the creepy guy stalking her.
Young veteran JESSE JACOBS manages and co-owns Peeps, an exercise facility in Valiant, Texas. He needs help to gain accreditation for the gym, and his new accountant is all in. But is she who she seems? Too bad he’s falling for her like a man with no parachute. When the pressure builds, PTSD renders him moody and volatile, risking everything he loves.
Mary Pat Johns’ writing career began once she retired from years of teaching speech and writing. She’s written devotions for an online publication and had short stories published by Chicken Soup for the Soul. She currently writes a biweekly faith column for the local newspaper. Countin’ On Jesse is her debut novel, and she’s hard at work on the rest of the Valiant series. God put it in her heart to tell stories of brave veterans and their reintegration into civilian life after suffering the traumas of war. As she kept writing, her focus generalized to include ordinary people who learn how to move forward after devastating events.
Her writing has a strong spiritual thread since she considers a return to faith in God the solution for what ails the civilized world. She lives in South Texas with her husband and their two dapple dachshunds. Her grown children and five grandchildren are useful sorts who keep her grounded with her reading/writing obsession. You can find her at the gym, at her computer, or reading a good book. Countin’ On Jesse placed second in inspirational contemporary romance in the TARA contest. It was also a finalist in the Crown and the Maggie contests for unpublished authors.
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