About the author***
Raised in a United Methodist household, Jennifer J. Coldwater was asking questions about God and religion as early as first grade when she received a red-letter Bible from a pastor. Jen was fascinated by (confused by, worried about, asking her parents why) the words of Jesus were written in red ink.
As she grew older, that search for knowledge led Jen to wonder about translation: how and why are there so many different versions of the Christian Bible? In her early 20s, Jen bought a Jewish Publication Society Tanakh because she was obsessed with how much research went into that translation of Hebrew and Aramaic into English.
Because it was the closest thing she could find to a career in questioning, Jen started teaching English, journalism, and creative writing at a public high school in San Diego, California in the late ‘90s. She continued to read about Judaism (Yitzchok Kirchner’s “The Art of Jewish Prayer”, “To Life: A Celebration of Jewish Being and Thinking” by Harold S. Kushner, a revisiting of the Chaim Potok novels I read in college) while she developed her career and taught her students.
One sad summer in the early aughts, Jen lost her father to pancreatic cancer, divorced her husband, moved to Los Angeles, and started a new teaching job at a large private high school. One of Jen’s first acts as an Angeleno was to reach out to the American Jewish University in search of a conversion course. In the absence of her beloved father, and seeking comfort after all that loss and change, Jen felt it was time to follow her heart to Judaism.
As she was wrapping up her conversion coursework and fulfilling the personal commitment requirements of the process, Jen was granted a teacher-exchange trip to Israel with her dear friend and rabbi. Jen asked her rabbi if she thought Jen should “finish converting quickly before our trip”—the rabbi was wise enough to laugh at her and advise she not rush into anything. Jen traveled to Israel full of questions, and at Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, she found so many answers.
Yad Vashem is designed to change lives. No one can witness the atrocities suffered by six million Jews and not be moved. As a teen, Jen toured Dachau on a class trip. She taught “Night” by Elie Wiesel to her English classes. She took a teacher seminar at Holocaust Museum LA. Jen thought she was prepared to visit The World Holocaust Remembrance Center. She was not.
Among the many things Jen learned at Yad Vashem was the term “righteous gentile”. As the tour guide told stories of the Righteous Among the Nations, Jen listened intently with tears streaming down her face. While she obviously is not Righteous, Jen lives her life as an ally and an advocate for the Jewish people.
A small sliver of that allyship and advocacy is embodied in this collection of contemporary romance novels. To learn more about Jen, visit jenniferjcoldwater.com.
BREW Question: Did you love reading books when you were little? Why or why not?
Author’s Response: Reading has been my favorite hobby and pastime since I was very little. I love escaping into a novel.
BREW Question: At what age did you start reading books? What were your best memories of that time?
Author’s Response: The first library book I remember checking out was Maurice Sendak’s “Some Swell Pup”–an instructional picture book to teach children how to care for a puppy. I recently bought a copy at auction and I was blown away by it. Now, I fear I’d categorize it as tl;dr but when I was a little kid, I read every word.
BREW Question: What was the first book you loved reading? Why?
Author’s Response: I’m sure I loved reading before I read Madeleine L’Engel’s “A Wrinkle in Time”; however, I never felt transformed by a book before I met Meg Murry and Charles Wallace. If I close my eyes now, I’m in that kitchen with a storm raging outside, Fortinbras barking, the smell of hot cocoa. This book not only sparked an abiding love of science fiction and fantasy, but also it was the first time I really identified with a character. When I see TikToks of little girls excited and empowered by seeing a Black mermaid or a Colombian main character with curls and glasses, I get so emotional. That’s how I felt reading awkward, loving, unlovable (in her mind), brilliant Meg.
BREW Question: When did you first think about writing your first book? Why?
Author’s Response: After a painful end to a decade-long romance, I found myself compelled to write about love and loss. I also found myself (like so many others) confined to my house with only my roommate and our four rescue dogs for company. I’ve been writing since elementary school: short stories, long poems, creative nonfiction. Suddenly, I had motive, opportunity, and means.
Early in the pandemic, I tried several times to put words to paper with only frustration to show for it. A friend named Arlys Avery mentioned she was starting work on a young adult retelling of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” (it’s called “Kissing Owen Darcy” and is due out in November 2022!). A lightbulb went off for me—I saw in an instant the genius of using an existing framework to tell my story. Where better to start than the Book of Ruth?
The first draft of Holland, My Heart flowed out of me. I wrote 50,000 words in a just few short weeks.
BREW Question: What was the greatest obstacle you’ve encountered when you were writing your book? What made you overcome it?
Author’s Response: Together with my friend Arlys Avery (who was revising and editing “Kissing Owen Darcy”), I enrolled in an online course at The Write Practice called 100 Day Book. I spent fourteen weeks uploading 6,000 words at a time for feedback and critique from coaches and other writers. After the inspired firehose that was my first draft, this class slowed me down in a most productive way. Each week, I used all seven days to revise, edit, craft, and proofread a chapter. At least twice, I found plot holes that forced me to go back to a previous chapter and revise there as well.
Additionally, I learned (more than a two-decades-plus veteran should admit to!) about writing and editing while reading and reacting to my classmates’ work. My best classmates (good at giving and receiving feedback and advice) were a mystery writer and an epic fantasy author—delightfully unexpected sources for such useful feedback on my contemporary romance novel.
BREW Question: What pieces of advice can you give aspiring authors? What worked for you?
Author’s Response: Not one word of “Holland, My Heart” would have made it to the page if it weren’t for A.J. Hackwith’s “The Library of the Unwritten”. I’ve read horror novels that were less terrifying than her vision of what can happen when we don’t write what is in our hearts. I shudder to think of where I’d be if I hadn’t happened upon her novel. My best piece of advice for aspiring authors is to read “The Library of the Unwritten” and then get your story out of Hell’s library by writing it immediately.
BREW Question: Who are the authors or what are the books that had the greatest influence on your own writing? Why?
These are the ten most recent rom-coms I’ve read… Well, not really ten. Because three on this list are multiples. Nothing like multiples, amirite?
“The Chameleon Effect” written and read by Joe Arden
“The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy” by Megan Bannen (this is maybe rom-com adjacent, but I just loved it)
“Meet Me in the Margins” by Melissa Ferguson
“Beef Cake” by Jiffy Kate
Violet’s Story collection by Rachel Morgan (not-so-much rom-com as sweet love story wrapped in adventure)
“Maggie Moves On” by my new hero Lucy Score
The Winston Brothers (my second time through the entire series!) by Penny Reid
“Book Lovers” by Emily Henry
“Beach Read” by Emily Henry
“P.S. It’s Always Been You” Parts 1, 2, and 3 on Audible by Lauren Blakely
Some of my favorite authors are on this list. These women (+Joe) have inspired me in ways I cannot measure. I loved all of them.
BREW Question: What are your current or future writing plans? What can readers further expect from you?
Author’s Response: My research starts with the Bible. I use Sefaria.org: A Living Library of Jewish Texts Online. After writing “Holland, My Heart”, I added listening to the verse read in Hebrew at Mechon-Mamre.org. (I wish I’d thought to look for it when I was writing my first novel.)
For “Unbreak My Heart”, I’ve been reading and writing about chiasmus; my plan is to write the novel in a chiastic structure.
After I am very comfortable with the story and the storytelling of the Bible verses, I research the other aspects of the contemporary romance novel. I find that my journalism training is useful in this part of the writing process. For example, for “Holland, My Heart”, I read several Forbes and Fortune magazine articles about the paths and successes of young, female CEOs so my descriptions of Holland would be relatable. For “Unbreak My Heart”, I’m currently researching how world-famous bands like Coldplay and Arcade Fire—as well as solo artists like Camila Cabello and Alessia Cara—craft songs, plan and execute extensive tours, and deal with fame. For “My Dissent”, I plan to interview and shadow a Los Angeles female judge.
Still in the early stages of planning, I’m looking forward to looking into a mistaken identity trope (a two-person love triangle) for “My Temptation”. And for “My Father’s Daughters”, I want to do a deep dive into grief and loss, building on lessons I learned while writing “Holland, My Heart”.
Holland, My Heart: A sexy, love-after-loss, age gap, billionaire workplace romance (Published Oct. 4, 2022, ISBN: 9798848738339)
Unbreak My Heart: An emotional, problems-in-paradise, witty, sexy romance with a love triangle twist (Coming April 2023)
My Dissent: A sexy enemies-to-lovers courtroom rom-com with a clairvoyant heroine (Coming Fall 2023)
My Temptation: A forbidden love, forced proximity, sexy, witty two-person-love-triangle romance (Coming Spring 2024)
My Father’s Daughters: A sister’s best friend—with a best friend’s sister subplot—sexy, witty romance (Coming Summer 2024)
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2 thoughts on “Meet our Author: Jennifer J Coldwater”
[…] My Heart” by Jennifer J Coldwater is November 2022’s BREW Readers’ Choice Award […]
That’s one fascinating life story, I’ve always found interesting the stories of people who convert to a religion so different from the one they were raised in. And I apppreciate that the author highlights the importance of research in the process of writing. I’m not sure all readers are aware of the amount of “invisible” work that goes behind great books.
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