Books have the ability to transport us into other worlds. They can bring us joy, comfort, knowledge and hope. When one of our favorite books is made into a television show or movie, it’s a chance to see the characters and plots we love in action.
Local author Jenny Hale, who has penned over 22 novels, with another coming out for Christmas, has entertained us for the last 10 years with stories created by her imagination and put down on paper. Jenny didn’t start out to be a best-selling author. “I wasn't one of those people who grew up wanting to be an author, but I’ve always gravitated towards the written word,” she says. “I'm creative in a lot of ways, and writing was just one outlet for me. I was on staff at my high school newspaper and I wrote poetry in high school for fun, but the idea of writing novels didn't really occur to me until adulthood.”
When it did, she was a busy wife and mom with two young boys and a career as an elementary school teacher. “I needed a break at the end of the night, so when my kids went to bed, I would write,” says Jenny. “I read books all the time, so I thought I could write one. The first time I tried, it was awful and never saw the light of day! So I went back to reading and that's when I started to teach myself how to do it.”
Jenny placed her first book, Coming Home for Christmas, with a digital publisher in London and from there it soared in the charts. Nina Weinman, a screenwriter for Hallmark, was looking for a Christmas book and noticed it. She took it to a Christmas party and passed it around to see if everyone else liked it. They absolutely did. So amazingly, the first novel she ever published was turned into a Hallmark movie. The second one chosen by Hallmark was Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses.
Jenny describes her style of writing as very down-home, relaxed, heartwarming, and friendly. She wants people to feel hope as they’re reading. “There's never really a villain. The conflict is more about two good people wanting two different things.”
Ideas come to her in many ways. “Living near Nashville, whenever I go to a songwriter night, I really want to have my laptop with me because sometimes the pathway just opens as they’re telling their stories and singing their songs. Sometimes it can be the simplest thing. There was this lady in a coffee shop who spilled something right on her chest, and she was frustrated while wiping it off. I grabbed onto that persona and in that moment created a character. I love making and building up these characters, and making sure the guys are swoon-worthy,” she says, laughing.
Living in Franklin with her husband, two boys, and a labradoodle, some of her books have been set locally. It Started With Christmas takes place in Leiper’s Fork and The Memory Keeper is set in Franklin. "I also have a couple of Christmas books that are set in a fictional town in the mountains of Tennessee.”
Hale is originally from Southern Virginia, so a lot of her books also take place in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. “Growing up, that's where we went on vacation all the time. I have some set in Richmond too, which was about 20 minutes away from where I lived.”
In addition to writing, Jenny also enjoys the publishing side of the industry, and in 2020, she started her own publishing company, Harpeth Road Press, which focuses on romantic fiction. It was named after the Harpeth River that flows around Nashville. “I wanted to be in on the marketing and the cover design and branding, and, as an author, I couldn't do that with a traditional publisher.” She now publishes her own books as well as other authors’ works.
The Memory Keeper was her first book published under Harpeth Road Press, and The Magic of Sea Glass was just released in March under its label. The book is about an event planner who loses her fiancé and can't seem to go on with her career or the life she'd built with him. So she makes an impulsive decision to sell her half of the business and spend the summer in the Outer Banks. There she helps take care of an old inn along with its elderly owner. What she doesn't expect to find is a story hidden away in a string of sea glass that will change her life forever.