An Interview with Jenifer Carll-Tong

Welcome to a new series on! I decided it was time to pay it forward but didn’t know how. I don’t have any free books to give away. Nor do I have editing skills someone would covet.

So The Five Question Interview was born! Its mission: to give back to the writing community one interview at a time. Without further adieu, let’s learn a little bit about
Jenifer Carll-Tong.

Jenifer Carll-Tong is the author of historical Christian romances. She is a graduate of Boston University’s College of Communication. Jenifer lives in Michigan with her handsome husband, three beautiful daughters and two lazy dogs. She also has three adult children who have left the nest, but not her heart. When she isn’t writing kissing scenes between devilishly handsome heroes and strong, independent heroines, you might find her napping or wearing sandals in the snow. You probably won’t find her cleaning her house. Unless company is coming over.

And Now The Interview

You write historical romance and host the Christian Indie Writer’s Podcast.
With a stigma that sometimes comes with the romance genre, how do you balance the two?

I’ve been reading Christian romance most of my life. I think I was about 12 years-old when my Grandmother bought me my first Janette Oke book. Wynn Delaney became my first literary crush and I was hooked! So, for me, it was never difficult to balance romance and Christianity in my novels because I believe that the best romances, in the real world or in fictitious worlds, have God in the center of them.

My story ideas always begin with two flawed characters who have their own spiritual journeys to travel, then they meet, and their romantic journey becomes entwined with their spiritual ones. I believe that’s how it is in real life. God has a purpose for each one of us, and along the way we encounter others in pursuit of His will as well. And sometimes, love happens in the middle of that pursuit.

When did you see a need for the podcast?
How did it come about?

The podcast was my idea to begin with. I had been mulling the idea around for a while, but never thought the other ladies would agree to it. When I began my journey as an author, I struggled to find resources and communities that were from a Christian perspective. Through our local NaNoWriMo group, I met a couple of Christian writers, and they met a couple of Christian writers, and we came together as a writing group. Over the next couple of years, our group learned a lot, from each other, from various secular author resources, and from some good ol’ trial and error.

There were many times that we would have deep discussions about writing and publishing that would end with me thinking, “Gosh, I wish we had a way to share this with others.”

So, when Jamie announced that she and her family were moving hundreds of miles away, I threw the idea of a podcast out there. I thought it was not only a brilliant way to stay in touch across the miles, but a way for us to encourage other Christian writers.

At first, my idea was met with some skepticism. I mean, who were we to host a podcast on a subject we were still learning ourselves? But then we realized that was exactly why we should do it. We were right there with our potential listeners, in the trenches, working our way toward publication. So, we jumped in and it has been a wild ride. There are technical difficulties and other struggles, but overall, I’m really proud to say I’m a part of the Christian Indie Writers’ Podcast.

I am a Pittsburgh Pirates fan. You are a Tigers fan.
If you had to give up baseball or chocolate, which one could you not let go?

Over a year ago, I gave up sugar. I still have chocolate occasionally that is sweetened with Stevia or some other natural sweetener, but it is a rare occasion. Having said that, I could never give up my Tigers. I watch nearly every game on TV, but there’s nothing like sitting in Comerica Park, munching on a Coney dog, and watching Christin Stewart hit a grand slam (yes…I was there for that game! You can see it in my Instagram highlights!)

When did you start writing?
Is it a long time love or a later-in-life development?

I’ve been writing my whole life. My mother still has the ‘novel’ I wrote in 4th grade about a little girl and her horse Buddy. But it wasn’t until about three years ago that I finally made the decision to make writing my career. My husband began working third shift and it was hard on my family.

My girls barely saw him since he left before they returned from school and was asleep when they left in the morning. I questioned God as to why we had to go through this. Then I read a Bible study that basically said, “It isn’t the trials we go through, it’s what we do with those trials that matters.”

I realized that as tough as it was with my husband away from us most of the day, it did afford me an opportunity that I hadn’t had before…time alone. The evenings that I would have otherwise spent with my husband became my writing time. And God blessed that time, and I am so grateful for that.

What do you read when you go on vacation?

What’s a vacation? Just kidding. I read a lot anyway, but my choices are always the same…romances. Christian and sweet romance, historical or contemporary, it doesn’t matter to me. It’s what I enjoy reading, which is probably why I enjoy writing it as well. Some of my favorite authors are Janette Oke, Karen Kingsbury, Kari Trumbo, Sariah Wilson, Kristi Ann Hunter…I could go on for a while if I just took a look at my Kindle.

I like to give new, indie Christian authors a try whenever possible, too, but they are kind of hard to find. In a way, I feel like Christian Indie authors are still forging a new frontier in the self- publishing world. It’s an exciting position to be in and I’m enjoying every minute of it!

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