I love finding an author whose voice is a breath of fresh air, and Jan Elder is one of those. I also have the privilege of having met Jan twice and can confirm she is delightful and every bit as sweet as the chocolates in the shop that’s at the center of her latest novella, “A Semi-Sweet Summer.”
The story begins when Cassidy returns to her hometown in Maryland to move into her late sister’s home and bring her dream of a high-end truffle shop to fruition. Unfortunately, just minutes after arriving, there’s a pitch invasion as a cow from her neighbor’s farm comes to “visit” Cassidy’s front yard. Then you mix in the fact that the cow’s owner is her unrequited High School love, Hunter. Boom – we are off to the races.
The thing about Jan’s books that I love most is the combination of likeable characters, creative circumstances, humor and scriptural truth. Fans of Lori Wick will also love Jan Elder. Instead of a straight review, I thought it’d be fun to hear from Jan herself. So I began by asking…
Where did this idea come from, because building a story around opening a chocolate shop seems very creative?
We live in a small city in the western part of Maryland, and wanted to set the story in a fictional town quite like ours. Not only do we have dairy farms with cows galore (a major part of the story), but also the second largest city in Maryland, Frederick, is only a half hour away so we also have some cosmopolitan elements with both Washington DC and Baltimore only an hour away.
The idea of a chocolate truffle shop came when I wandered into a store selling truffles that were ARTWORKS! Why not put something elegant and refined in a small town where everyone can enjoy such delights?
I bet the research was “sweet?”
Yes, I “had” to revisit that upscale chocolate shop, The Perfect Truffle in Frederick. Owner Randy Olmstead spent a whopping three hours telling me all about the intricacies of making the finest chocolate. And THEN, he let me choose twelve truffles to take home. Seriously delicious!
Here’s the website in case you just want to drool at the photos:
This book weaves several big themes – love and loss, humiliation and restoration – how much planning do you do to make sure those themes are clear and then resolved?
A Semi-Sweet Summer is a “new adult” novella, part of Pelican Book Group’s Pure Amore line. A large part of this book harkens back to my teenage years, my thoughts swinging to a boy I had the biggest crush on in school. He was three and a half years older and was definitely in the “elite” segment of our church youth group. Sorry to say, I followed him around like a puppy, learned all of his favorite foods, his chosen hobbies, etc. I try not to think I actually stalked him, but I was very aware of his presence, and searched for ways to be near him.
In A Semi-Sweet Summer, I tried to transfer some of that raging angst into fodder for Cassidy’s discomfort in finding her unrequited love living right next door.
As to planning a resolution, when I write, I’m a seat-of-the-pantser, so I just write what springs to mind. Often, I’m probably just as surprised as the reader as to what ends up on the page. I did want to get Cassidy and Hunter together at the end, but I tried to put myself in her place, and came up with something that would make me happy if I were her, and went from there.
And finally, how do you decide upon the spiritual content? That must be a big responsibility.
For this particular book, Pelican Book Group’s Pure Amore line has some very specific criteria with “emotionally-driven tales of youthful Christians who are striving to live their faith in a world where Christ-centered choices may not fully be understood… The hero and heroine exhibit traditional Christian values but also should be three-dimensional and therefore exhibit flaws as well as virtues.”
With the guidelines in mind, I fashioned a story that dredged up a lot of my own past, searching for the flaws in my characters as well as the triumphs. I pray the themes, as well as the abundant romance, will touch every reader in some way.
You can find “A Semi Sweet Summer” here…
And I’d also recommend checking out more of Jan’s books here…