Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Interview with Jennifer Dornbush, author of God Bless the Broken Road

Welcome Jennifer Dornbush to the blog! She's been here before with a lovely devotional but today, she's here to answer my questions about her debut novel, God Bless the Broken Road.

She's also offering you a chance to win her book! Details about the book giveaway contest are toward the end of her interview.


Interview with Jennifer Dornbush, author of God Bless the Broken Road:

Alexis: Tell us about the inspiration behind your book, God Bless the Broken Road. What is this book about?

Jennifer: God Bless the Broken Road is a heartwarming story about a grieving army widow who finds her way back to her daughter, her faith, and a new love. 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. 

Alexis: What do you want your readers to remember the most about this book?

Jennifer: The book actually started as a movie script that I co-wrote with Harold Cronk. When we were writing the script, the top two take-aways we kept in mind were first, that God is always with us, even if we don’t feel like He is or aren’t seeking Him actively. He is always there and He is always providing us with amazing blessings, even when/if we don’t acknowledge them. One of the keys to healing and hope on our broken roads are to turn our gaze to Him so that we can start to recognize Him along the path. When we turn to Him and humble ourselves, He can start to guide us and shape our brokenness into blessing.

The second take-away that was important to us as we wrote this story is community. My signature hash tag is #ConnectContributeBelong. I’m huge on the importance of building actual, physical, community (not just having virtual community). We don’t have to travel our broken roads alone. God has given us friends and family to lean for support and encouragement. This can make a huge difference when we are going through trying times. I think so many people suffer from depression and suicide because they think they are alone. Mother Theresa said the greatest poverty we have today is the feeling of loneliness because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.

So many people feel like this. They feel alone. The feel that no one understands or cares what they are going through. What a travesty. It’s so simple to be there for someone. You don’t have to be a professional counselor or therapist to help someone heal from a wounding. Sometimes the very best thing is to just to take a moment from your day to pause, listen, and lend a hug or word of encouragement.

On the flip side, if you are traveling a broken road it can be difficult to let people into your pain. It takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable and ask for help. But here’s the secret… people love you and want to help you and be there for you. Needing to be loved and cared for is not a sign of weakness, it’s the way we humans need to relate to one another to build real and lasting communities. By the way, building community this deep requires that you get off social media, look up from your phone and have actual human contact! Just sayin’….

Alexis: Why is Amber, your story’s heroine, angry at God? How does God respond to her anger?

Jennifer: Amber is angry because she doesn’t understand why God would take her husband away and leave her daughter fatherless. God responds steadfastly. He is always there for her, but she just can’t see it. Eventually Amber hits rock bottom and finally surrenders. It’s at that moment when her life starts to really find hope and redemption.

Alexis: Tell us about Amber’s nine-year-old daughter Bree. What’s her favorite cupcake flavor? How deep is her bond with her Mom? How is she handling the aftermath concerning the death of her dad?

Jennifer: Bree’s favorite cupcake flavor is pink. I don’t know what pink tastes like, but Bree LOVES pink. Bree also loves her mother and wants to be close, but she feels distant from her because of how Amber is handling her grief. She gets angry at her mother for “not being any fun anymore.”

Alexis: If you were a professional grief counselor and you could step into your story to walk Amber and Bree through their heartache, what would you say? 

Jennifer: Ironically, Amber has many grief counselors who step into her life during this story. They all tell her the same thing… “God is with you in your pain. Go to Him. Lean into Him. And let your friends and family help you carry the burden.”

Alexis: In what ways does God work behind the scenes to fill Amber’s empty heart with His Love?

Jennifer: A million ways… But Amber just can’t… or won’t see it right away. She’s very stubborn and has to learn through hard knocks. (Don’t we all!) But in the end, the main way God works through her is the character of Nelson, a man from Darren’s army unit. I won’t spoil it, but Nelson ends up playing a HUGE role in Amber’s transformation.

Alexis: Cody Jackson is the hero of this story. What’s he like? Describe his look, personality, heart, and the reason why he has a death wish.

Jennifer: I wouldn’t say Cody is the hero of this story. Amber is our true hero. When Harold and I wrote the original script of this story, we were very insistent that we didn’t want to create the kind of story where boy saves girl. We wanted the real love story to be between Amber and God. God’s persistent love for Amber (via a very impactful intervention from an unsuspecting character) is what saves Amber.

However, Cody is a strong catalyst in Amber’s transformation. He plays a pivotal role in that he awakens Amber’s heart and mind to things she needs. Cody is country-boy handsome, has a genuine smile, and is a total gentleman. But he has his own demons to fight. He has a death wish because he’s impatient. He wants to reach his goal of being a professionally competing stock car driver – now! And at any cost. This gets him in trouble over and over.

Alexis: What does Cody love the most about being a racecar driver? Why?

Jennifer: He likes going fast. Makes him feel alive. He’s a visceral person. He acts on instinct. This keeps getting him in trouble in the track.

Alexis: Why is it important to Bree for her Mom and Cody to be friends?

Jennifer: Cody gives Bree a new lease on life when she joins Cody’s go kart club. Bree can see the goodness and lightness in Cody and she knows her mother needs that kind of influence in her life right now.

Alexis: Who notices first that love is in the air between Cody and Amber? What made the sparks fly?

Jennifer: Cody. Definitely Cody. Cody has his eye on her from the first time he spots her across the church parking lot! Amber isn’t really ready to try love again until the very end of the story.

Alexis: What role does Cody’s daredevil tendencies on the racetrack and Amber’s guarded heart play in their love story?

Jennifer: There’s a scene where Cody gets Amber to drive his race car on the track. It’s the first moment of “fun” Amber has had in a LONG time. This playful moment is the catalyst that starts to break down the wall around her healing heart.

Alexis: In what ways does Cody’s walk with God grow as this story progresses?

Jennifer: When Cody steps into Clarksville, we learn he isn’t really the church going type. But his mentor, Joe, insists that he attend church with him and sets Cody up leading a kid’s ministry. As Cody starts to get involved, the church community becomes an important part of his new life. His walk with God is directly related to becoming involved in this new community of Christians. I think that’s how it happens for a lot of us. We find God along with finding friends who love and serve God. The devotion of our family and friends to their faith can often become an inspiration for our own personal growth and relationship with God.

Alexis: Share how your book became a movie. When can we see it in theaters?

Jennifer: God Bless the Broken Road (GBBR) actually began as a feature film 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 version is also “in the can” as we say and will be releasing in 2018.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Jennifer! Do you have any closing comments?

Jennifer: “Turn left and drive fast!” (This will make a lot more sense if you’ve read the book!)

Author Bio: Jennifer is a writer, speaker, and forensic specialist creating a diverse range of stories that shed light on the dark places of the human experience. 

Her story creation is bred from a very unsheltered childhood as the daughter of a medical examiner whose office was in her home. She investigated her first fatality—an airplane crash—when she was 8-years-old and from there gathered a decade of on-sight experience in death investigation and 360 hours of forensic training through the Forensic Science Academy.

The stories she creates stem from the unique range of human experiences. Because of her background, she does not shy away from telling stories about tough circumstances and how characters choose to deal with them. Jennifer’s characters encounter light in their darkness… redemption where none seems possible…and bits of levity to sweeten the journey.

Her feature film, God Bless the Broken Road, is slated for release in 2017 in conjunction with the novel released on June 6, by the same title published by Simon & Schuster.

Jennifer has several crime-drama series being developed for television and a bilingual kid’s show, Team Abuelita, in production with Baby First TV.

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.

As a forensic specialist, she has consulted with TV writers on network and cable TV shows. 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.

Sign up for her newsletter and YouTube channel at

Blurb for Jennifer's book: God Bless the Broken Road is a heartwarming story about a grieving army widow who finds her way back to her daughter, her faith, and a new love.

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.

Buy Jennifer's book on Amazon and AudioBooksNow

Watch the movie trailer for God Bless the Broken Road,

Connect with Jennifer:
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Enter this book giveaway contest for your chance to WIN a copy of this book by filling out the entry form on the Rafflecopter widget below: 

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  1. This book will go on my "to be read" list. :-) Thanks for the info.

  2. God has blessed many broken roads in my life. One road that was a difficult travel was my breast cancer in 2005. God blessed me through the whole experience, through family, friends and great doctors. God's presence was known the whole time. :-)

  3. Putting this book on my to read list. I can relate to the subject. God has turned my broken roads of my life into blessings.

  4. Alexis and Jennifer, thanks for sharing your conversation. I love this truth that God is always with us for good, and that we need community. Somehow I'd missed that there's racing in the book... it's just moved higher on my wish list! Slight tangent... Jennifer, do you know the song, "God Bless the Broken Road," by Geoff Moore?

  5. The incident that first comes to mind happened a couple of years ago. I had a bad fall that resulted in a broken right elbow, a broken left wrist, and a tooth jammed into my gum where it could no longer be seen. It was a difficult time, but by God's grace and loving care from my family, I navigated that time and am mostly healed now. This is a new author and I would love to win a copy of this book. I have added it to my wish list.

  6. He is working on my broken road. He is reminding me that He has to be enough. Nothing or no one can filled the void only God can and does.

  7. Fascinating. I always love hearing the behind the scenes stories.

  8. Your stories are so encouraging and hopeful!!! God never fails to be there for us, even when we don't feel like we can see or feel or hear Him! Blessings and prayers to all of you! Pray for each other! Be there for each other!! xoxo

  9. Janet.. is that the original version by Moore? We were basing this on the Rascall Flatts version. They've been very supportive of our film.


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