Jennifer Uhlarik — Author Spotlight
Today we welcome Jennifer Uhlarik back again as she answers some tough questions about her writing process and a sneak peak at her latest novella, Mountain Echoes.
Do you have a dedicated place to write, or a nook or corner of a room, or the kitchen table?
I am blessed to have a whole office dedicated to my writing. It contains a small desk and comfy office chair, a two-drawer file cabinet to store my research notes and other important papers in, two big bookcases with hundreds of books I use for research purposes, and a couch where I can sit and read or just relax while I think through plot problems. Oh, and we can’t forget the dog bed in the corner. That’s very important, since I usually have at least one, if not both dogs with me when I write. Three walls are a dusty blue, and one wall is a deep midnight blue, and the artwork hanging on the walls are oil paintings done by my husband’s aunt. Unfortunately, the room is a bit torn up at the moment, as we had a leak in the bathroom that is on the other side of the wall, and it ruined my carpet and bookcases. We’re in the process of replacing everything now, or I’d let you see a photo of the space. L
How did you get started writing?
I think writing has always been in my blood. I have photographs of myself as a young toddler with pencil and paper, scribbling away. Then there are the fond memories of sneaking out of my bed at night when I was about five years old and “writing” books about earthworms and other creatures (I use writing loosely, since they were more pictures than words at the time…). But I didn’t really understand my desire to write until I turned twelve. That was about the time when playing pretend with my friends was no longer cool. My friends were getting more into makeup and fawning over the cute boys at school, and I still wanted to play all my made up games. So when a friend of mine announced to me that she was writing a novel, I had a solution to my problem. Rather than acting out the fun stories rolling around in my head, I just had to write them down! And I’ve been doing so ever since—working on my high school literary magazine in college, majoring in writing in college, and keeping myself sane as a single parent by staying up after I put my son to sleep, just so I could have a few hours to write.
What is your “go to” routine that helps you get in the mood to write? Special beverage? Music? Etc.
I don’t usually get busy writing until early-to-mid-afternoon. By then, I’ve done my exercise for the day, gotten showered, and had lunch. I’ve had a bit of time to talk with my husband and do a few things around the house. So once I’m feeling settled enough to write, I kiss my hubby, grab a bottle of water, and call my dog Gracie to “come be my writer dog!” Once she bounds into the room and my other dog, Jake, decides if he is going to “help” or not, I settle into my chair and put on my headphones. I can’t write to music—it’s too distracting to me. But I’ve recently discovered that the sounds of rain and thunder from a white noise player help tremendously to drown out the distracting noises and help me focus my mind on the task at hand. So with sounds of a rainstorm pattering in my ears, I read the last scene I worked on to catch the flow of the story, then slip into writing the next scene.
First Page of Mountain Echoes
Virginia City, Utah Territory—late October 1862
Lord, I wish he’d brought the boy last night.
A quick tug in Hannah Rose Stockton’s chest stopped her frustrated pacing on the Pioneer Stagecoach Company’s porch. She shot a glance heavenward. “Forgive me. I have no right to be upset when Dr. Tompkins was attending to a dying patient, but would You please make sure he gets the child here before the stage leaves?”
She sat on a wooden bench and scanned the street, burrowing deeper into her cloak to ward off the pre-dawn chill. The hulking silhouette of the empty Concord stagecoach stood a few feet away and silent buildings lined the street. All was still.
She’d been honored to be chosen by the principal of the California Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb and Blind for such an important journey—to pick up their newest student, twelve-year-old Travis Alcott. However, the boy would likely be frightened about leaving his home. She needed time to befriend him, earn some trust before they boarded the stage for the three-day journey to San Francisco.
The door to the dimly lit office opened, and her dour silver-haired traveling companion, Edwina Jamison, leaned out. “Hannah Rose, please come inside. It’s hardly proper for a woman to sit alone outside at this time of day. Besides, they will have our breakfast ready shortly.”
Hannah chafed at Mrs. Jamison’s use of her middle name. Papa had been the only one to call her Hannah Rose, though she’d taken to calling herself that in order to draw on his strength and wisdom. It wasn’t worth correcting the woman. “I’ll be in momentarily. I’d like to pray before the day begins.”
“God can hear you just as well inside as out, child.”
Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen, when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has won five writing competitions and finaled in two other competitions. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers and lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, teenaged son, and four fur children.