“Devon’s debut, Bend Toward the Sun, is a gorgeous love story full of lyrical writing and raw emotion. I fell in love with these two broken characters who begin to heal one another. Definitely, an author to watch!” – Jennifer Probst, New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author, of Our Italian Summer
If you’re looking for a book to take with you on your end-of-summer vacation, Bend Towards the Sun is definitely a book you’ll want to check out. I recently had the opportunity to chat with Jen about her debut novel and get an inside look at her inspiration, which of the main characters she felt the most connection to, and a little teaser about the book she’s writing now.
When did you first come up with the storyline for your debut novel, Bend Toward the Sun?
To pass time on a flight home from a work trip in 2014, I wrote a single scene in a notes app on my phone: a man and a woman slow-dancing at a wedding reception. Something was keeping them from being together, but they were really, really into each other. I wanted to explore what that would look like, and what two people in that situation would talk about. A version of that scene still exists in the final version of Bend Toward the Sun!
At what point during the writing process did you come up with the title?
The title Bend Toward the Sun came from my editor Alex Sehulster. My original title didn’t convey romance well enough, but I was reluctant to let it go. Now, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect title for this story. I also belatedly realized that the original title was a giant spoiler for an important plot point late in the book!
Did you plot out the novel before you started writing, or did you just see where the characters took you?
I’m an obligate plotter. For each project, I have chapter outlines in Scrivener, a spreadsheet of story beats, and I keep a whiteboard covered in sticky notes with scenes written on them so I have something tangible to move around. I have a lot of admiration for authors who can just free-write without all that overhead.
Tell me about the research process for the novel, and one of your most interesting finds during your research.
It was really interesting to learn that Pennsylvania has a similar environment for growing wine grapes as Galicia, the area of northwest Spain that Gia (the Brady matriarch) is from. I decided the book would take place in Pennsylvania and that Gia was Galician at completely separate stages of planning the novel, so it was a delightful coincidence.
Where is your favorite spot to write?
I really wish I had a whimsical answer for this, but as a mom of three with a full-time day job, my most productive writing is done on a lap desk in my living room recliner, starting at 4:30 in the morning. Great for my creativity, terrible for my back.
Of the two main character’s storylines, which one did you feel the most connected to as a writer?
In terms of personality and family background, I’m definitely more Harry than Rowan. My family isn’t large like the Bradys, but I have very supportive, loving parents, and I’ve always been a bit of an idealist about love and life—to the point of being naïve (and maybe a bit self-righteous) at times.
What scene between Rowan and Harrison was the most fun (or) hardest to write?
Any time there are multiple Bradys on the page is always extra fun for me to write. The dinner scene near the end of the book where poor Harry is so tormented and angry, but his family is simply carrying on with their merry, chaotic conversation; that one was a joy (sorry, Harry!)
Who are some of your favorite fellow authors?
Nora Roberts’ Bride Quartet was what brought me into contemporary romance after reading only historical novels for a few decades, so Nora is a perennial favorite. I will always love the 90’s historical giants I grew up reading (problematic plot points notwithstanding); Jude Devereaux, Judith McNaught, Julie Garwood. A few of today’s favorites are Sarah Hogle, Kate Clayborn, Kennedy Ryan, and Sally Thorne. They each have such distinctive voices.
What are you looking forward to the most about meeting your readers in person?
After being mostly alone with these characters and this world for eight years, what I’m most looking forward to is simply sharing it with other people. Rowan and Harry will finally exist somewhere other than only in my imagination.
Now that your first novel is published, are you currently working on your next novel?
My next book is in the works right now. It’s a second-chance romance starring two characters from Bend Toward the Sun who are even more angsty than Rowan and Harry. If I did my job right in my first book, readers are going to be hungry for their story.