People always ask me how I was inspired to write my books – namely the “Southern Fried Sushi” series, which makes an odd combination of Japan and the American South. I’ve included quirky characters like Becky, who can’t use good grammar to save her life but has a heart of gold – Kyoko, the Japanese-American Goth chain-smoker who cries over cheesy ’80s movies – and the main character, Shiloh, a misplaced, sharp-tongued Yankee who finds herself stuck in Redneckville far longer than she ever thought possible. It’s a weird mash-up, I’ll admit. So where did it all come from?
How do writers find inspiration for their books?
Merriam-Webster defines “inspiration” like this: “The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, esp. to do something creative: ‘flashes of inspiration.’
That’s great, but where does it come from?
Where do any of our creative ideas come from?
For me, as a wife, mom, and writer (in that order) – and most lately, awkward pregnant woman staggering around the house and trying not to run into furniture – it comes from three places.
First, it comes from who we were. When I sat down to write “Sushi,” never imagining in a million years that my pitiful little manuscript would see the light of an editor’s desk, I was drawn to the memories I’d stored up over the years. I’d been living in Brazil for years – perhaps too many years – and I was homesick. Simple as that. I missed crab apple trees of my native Virginia, the Blue Ridge Mountains, grits, and simpler small-town folks in simpler places without the urban sprawl and rush and bustle and crime of Brasilia’s capital (3 million). In a word, I missed home. It’s not that I wanted to move back to my hometown, but I missed it.
I even missed Japan, where I’d lived two years before moving to Brazil – and met my Brazilian husband. I missed the tidy subways (no trash, no litter), the vending machines of hot noodle soup and chilled coffee, and the ubiquitous cups of steaming green tea.
We pass through places that become part of us, and glittering remainders always stay, suspended in a half-awake state, just beneath our skin. Those shining particles are who we were, and they are powerful reminders of where we’ve been.
And these make great stories.
Second, inspiration comes from who we are now. If I had not ventured away from rural Virginia and dabbled in Japan and Brazil and culture shock and halting Portuguese and loneliness and homesickness and mistakes, I would not be the person I am today. I would not have the same eyes to see, to remember, to feel and ache over familiar memories, and I would not carry within me the same memories and wounds; the same blessings and realizations of what makes life.
We can’t appreciate the past without the present, and we can’t pull together a greater story without pulling together the pieces of our current world.
The way we live, the people we have chosen, the decisions we have made all culminate in stories. Life stories, fiction stories. Weaving bits and particles of the past with the present, and creating a new reality. This is the reality I found when I sat down to write “Southern Fried Sushi“: the person I am now coming face-to-face with the person I once was, and all the painful collisions along the way.
To recreate that awkward and sometimes humbling walk in fiction was not only a catharsis of sorts, but – mixed with humor – it helped me see the whole process from a different perspective.
And third, inspiration literally means “to affect, guide, or arouse by divine influence.”
I don’t believe this “Divine influence” is an accident, a coincidence, or a myth. Throughout my life I’ve always seen the footsteps of God as He has guided me, spoken to me, and led me through difficult times and showers of joy. I’ve walked through times of silence and times of doubt, but His presence has always been with me, as powerfully as the pillar of cloud and fire that guided the Israelites through the desert.
Life can be awfully desert-like at times. Both in fiction and in real life.
But just as the God of the Bible split rocks to pour out water for thirsty sojourners, so He has done for me. My husband and I have faced incredible obstacles -family problems, fertility problems, the health of our dear little son Ethan. But we have made it through the desert with God and found an oasis beyond describing on the other side.
For inspiration by God, you see, is not just for us – it’s for all who read the work that comes from His promptings. The miracles found in my life and transported, albeit somewhat differently, to the pages of my fiction are not just mine – they are for all who believe, all who thirst. The twists and turns that bring unexpected radiance and joy – a slant of sun that allows us to see life differently – are for passing on to you, the reader, for your own thoughts and ponderings. Your own miracles.
Your own inspiration, in your own way.
Southern-fried or not.
Jennifer Rogers Spinola lives in Belle Fourche, South Dakota, with her Brazilian husband, Athos, and three-year-old son, Ethan. She has lived in Brazil for nearly eight years and served as a missionary to Japan for two years. Jenny is the author of Barbour Books’ “Southern Fried Sushi” series (first book released October 2011!) and an upcoming romance novella collection based on Yellowstone National Park (also with Barbour Books).
Jenny is an advocate for adoption and loves the outdoors, photography, writing, and camping. She has previously served as an ESL teacher, a middle- and high-school teacher, and National Park Service volunteer. Jenny has a B.A. in English/journalism from Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina and has worked as assistant copyeditor for OnSat Satellite & TV Guide and as a staff writer for the Southern Baptist International Mission Board and two other Baptist newspapers.
Title: ‘Til Grits Do Us Part by Jennifer Rogers Spinola
Southern Fried Sushi Book Three
Publisher: Barbour Books
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Romance, Mystery
Length: 320 pages
Shiloh Jacobs is planning her wedding without family, without money, and without a clue—and trying to make a go of small-town Southern life. Until she stumbles on an unsolved case about a missing woman that makes her run in the opposite direction—right into the would-be killer’s web of plans. In the midst of sorting through her tragic past and strained relationships, Shiloh finds herself on the run from a madman—and hoping she can make it to her wedding alive.