A Conversation with Jacquelin Thomas, Author of The Ideal Wife
Q. You start off The Ideal Wife with a scripture passage from Esther 1:8–12. Why did you choose this particular passage and how does it relate to the story?
A. There isn’t a whole lot on Queen Vashti in the Bible, but she inspired me to write The Ideal Wife. The scripture reference sets the tone for the story. Here is a man proud of his wife’s beauty and he wants to show her off to the men in his court, much like Lawrence does with Jana. Only Lawrence takes it a step further—he wants his wife to sleep with other men.
Q. Y our novel discusses the difficulty women might face when trying to juggle a modern marriage and their faith. What inspired you to write a novel that addresses such an issue?
A. I was inspired by Queen Vashti, but also by conversations I’ve had with other women. There are women who want to know just how far to go when it comes to satisfying their husbands, and hopefully this novel will spark open conversation between couples.
Q. Forgiveness plays a big part in The Ideal Wife. Was this intentional? What message are you trying to convey to your readers?
A. I think forgiveness comes into play in any Christian novel, but yes, it was intentional. In order to move forward with your life, you have to forgive past hurts. If you don’t, you run the risk of bitterness setting in.
Q. You wear so many hats as a writer—romance author, Christian fiction author, young-adult author. How do you decide what to write next? What are the differences, if any, in writing for different genres?
A. I love writing, and God has given me so many stories I find it’s hard to keep up at times. I love romance and I’m married to my very own Hero, so writing romance is just a celebration of love. With writing Christian fiction, it’s more of a ministry for me, and with YA, I have a heart for teens so I wanted to write books that spoke to their issues. There really isn’t any difference between them as I always strive to tell a good story. The teen books are geared toward ages twelve to eighteen. None of my books have profanity or graphic sexual situations.
Q. Can you walk us through your writing regime? Do you have a set outline that you follow, or do you go where the narrative takes you?
A. I write from an outline, which changes from time to time, but for the first draft, I tend to keep it close to my initial notes. The rewriting phase is when I really flesh out my scenes and let the characters tell me where to take the story.
Q. How important is it to incorporate your faith into your work? What does your faith bring to your life?
A. It’s very important as my writing is a gift from God. I didn’t just decide to be a writer—it is what I was born to do, and I truly believe this. God wants us to use our gifts to glorify Him and that’s what I want to do. Without Him, none of this would be possible.
Q. What would you like readers to take away from The Ideal Wife?
A. That it’s important to search the Word of God for yourself. You can’t just lean unto someone else’s interpretation of what the scriptures say. People will twist scripture to suit their purposes. If you’re doing something that is not in the will of God, He will convict your spirit.
Q. What can we expect from you next?
A. My next book will be a modern-day adaptation of Samson and Delilah’s story.
A Conversation with Jacquelin Thomas, Author of Split Ends
Q. You’ve written for both teenagers and adults. Does your process change from one to the other? Is there one audience you prefer writing for?
A . I love writing for both audiences, and it’s interesting that my audience as a whole seems to read both genres. I have adults who read the YA books and teens reading my adult books. The process is the same—only the mentality of my characters changes.
Q. Kylie’s friends are always pitching in to help each other. Do you have your own “B.F.F. club”? What are your best friends like?
A . I don’t have a lot of best friends, but the ones I have are wonderful! They know who I am and they still love me.
Q. Mimi tells Kylie that “having each other’s back is part of the B.F.F. code.” What would you consider to be your basic rules of friendship? If you were writing a B.F.F. code, what would be in it?
A . My rules would be: 1. Be honest with each other. 2. Know each other’s faults and love each another in spite of them. 3. Have each other’s back unless it’s something illegal and/or immoral. 4. Show yourself worthy of their trust.
Q. You deal with some serious issues in Split Ends, such as panic disorder, homelessness, and abuse. What kind of research did you do in writing those scenes? How do you find the right balance between getting a message across and entertaining your readers?
A . I actually suffer from panic disorder, so I know from experience how anxiety can cripple you. I’ve volunteered to help the homeless and have heard their stories of how they ended up on the streets. I don’t just set out to entertain my readers—I also want to educate them on real life, but not to the point of beating them over the head with my message. I want readers to pause for a moment and just consider what is going on, and how it relates to their experiences or of those of someone they may know.
Q. What made you decide to make the transition from writing traditional romance to writing with Christian themes?
A . It was my relationship with God. He has always been a part of my life, and so it was natural to include Him in the world I created for my characters.
Q. Miss Marilee feels that she has been blessed so she can bless others, and puts a lot of emphasis on service, without expecting anything back. Is there someone who was there for you at a time when you really needed it?
A . Jesus said that He came to serve and not to be served. This is His desire for us as well. I’ve found true contentment whenever I’m helping others. I’ve had many angels in my lifetime—people who reached out to me when I needed them and I believe in paying it forward.
Q. Kylie and Miss Lucy use a lot of unusual expressions, like calling chicken the “gospel bird” (page 64) or saying a boy couldn’t “hit a lick with a snake,” (page 94) to mean that he wasn’t ambitious. Are there any regional or family expressions you use that your readers may not have heard before?
A . I’m from Georgia, so the expressions in the book are the ones I grew up hearing.
Q. Who are your favorite writers? What do you read for fun?
A . I love mysteries and especially books by James Patterson, but I also love historical fiction, and read a lot of historical romance as well as most authors writing in the Christian fiction genre.
Q. Throughout the novel, the characters refer back to the Bible. Do you have a favorite passage from scripture? What is it, and why?
A . I guess it would be Habakkuk 3:17–19, because it talks about how Habakkuk lost everything, but he continued to rejoice in the Lord because God is his strength and has equipped him to endure trials and tribulations. I believe that we find out what we’re really made of when we go through hardships. Oftentimes, we feel life isn’t fair and we pout, but another way to look at our struggles is this: The harder the struggle, the more faith God has in us. He knows just how much we can bear, so when life gets rough, just know that God is there cheering you on, because He knows that you can make it through! He just wants you to realize it, too, and trust that He’s already worked it out.
Q. Your previous novel, Hidden Blessings, was made into a movie. If Split Ends were a movie, are there actresses you picture for any of the roles?
A . Divine: KeKe Palmer (True Jackson, VP; Akeelah and the Bee) Kylie: Erica Hubbard (Lincoln Heights) Mimi: Sahara Garey (Akeelah and the Bee; That’s So Raven; Everybody Hates Chris) Rhyann: Kiely Williams (The Cheetah Girls)