"A terrific debut, and so very timely. With smart writing and compassion, Klepper offers us a look into the hearts of two women: a Syrian immigrant hoping to find a home in the USA, and the volunteer lawyer whose work brings a second chance at life not only to her client, but to herself as well." -- Julie Lawson Timmer, author of Mrs. Saint and the Defectives
"Unbroken Threads delivers an honest and intimate portrayal of the American response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis. By turns harrowing and heartwarming, it's a powerful and important novel that book clubs and discussion groups will relish." -- Amanda Skenandore, author of Between Earth and Sky
An Interview with Jennifer Klepper
Jennifer Klepper’s debut novel, UNBROKEN THREADS, was published on August 21st, 2018 by Adept Publishing.
Question - Please describe what the book is about.
Jennifer Klepper - Jessica Donnelly’s life is beginning to unravel. When the attorney turned stay-at-home mom tentatively volunteers to represent Amina Hamid, a woman seeking asylum, Jessica must learn an unfamiliar area of the law. Soon, rising opposition to Muslim immigration and unexpected prejudices put her relationships on shaky ground.
Amina fled Syria with little more than memories that now fight against the images splashed on the news. Seeking a secure future and freedom from guilt and grief, she must learn to trust others amidst the reality of fear and hate.
To find stability, Jessica and Amina will both need to harness their own strengths, which may lie in connections that transcend generations, cultures, and continents.
Q - Where did you get the idea?
JK - I started writing a character who was at a crossroads in her life and had to reconnect with her past in order to find her place in the present. At the same time--in the real world--I was watching the news and seeing thousands of displaced people fleeing their homes and their countries. It seemed natural (and appropriate) for my character to look at how she connected to what was going on around her and to have a deepening awareness of her place not just in her family but in greater society as well.
Q - What’s the story behind the title?
JK - When I signed my publishing contract, my publisher informed me that my original title ("Reclaimed") had to go. It wasn't until I was well into edits that "Unbroken Threads" came to me, partly as a result of specific items in the book, but also because of the underlying theme of the value of relationships and the durability of connections across generations, cultures, and continents.
Q - Tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.
JK - Unbroken Threads is about more than an asylum case—it's really a story about relationships and family and the fact that we don't (or shouldn't) live our lives in a silo. Jessica is at a crossroads in her own life. Reconnecting with her past and building a relationship with Amina are both reminders that we don't go through this world alone, and we shouldn't live our lives as though we do.
Q - Tell us about your favorite character.
JK - Jessica's teenaged son, Conor, intrigues me. He's at that age where he's a complete pain in the ass (as teenagers are prone to be), but it's because he's trying to figure out who he is and simply can't be bothered to figure out how to be an engaging participant in the conversations going on around him. I suppose it's relevant to note that my own son is Conor's age right now (though I wrote the book a few years ago). It's a thrilling age, with so many possibilities, and I'm both envious of those possibilities and relieved I don't have to go through that phase again.
Q - If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?
JK - I'd like to spend the day with Jessica's law school friend Bronwyn. She's an extroverted, take charge, lift up your friends, and make things happen kind of woman. While I like to take charge, lift up, and make things happen (I'll set aside the extrovert part—I'm not that), sometimes I just need someone else to tell me what we're going to do and then lead me down that path. I think Bronwyn's path would be a whole lot of fun.
Q - Are your characters based on real people?
JK - My goal when I write is to create characters who are realistic and relatable. As such, the characters in Unbroken Threads are informed by my interactions with friends and family and strangers, but no character is based on a real person. I can say that when I needed names for some of the women in Jessica's book club, I posted on my Facebook Author Page that the first few responders would have their name in my book. So, while the book club members aren't based on real people, they do have my real friends' names.
Q - How long did you take to write this book?
JK - Some of this book was years in the making, but only in rumination form. From pen to paper, it took three years to get the book written, edited, and published.
Q - What kind of research did you do for this book?
JK - My main research focused on events in Syria and the asylum process in the U.S. I am mindful that I am not an expert in these areas, which are ever changing--particularly in the past few years, but I can say I learned a lot and gained great empathy for the victims of the Syrian war and great appreciation for the efforts of organizations and individuals who work to provide assistance.
Q - What did you remove from this book during the editing process?
JK - A lot of words that end in -ing.
Q - Are you a plotter or a pantser?
JK - I would expect myself to be a plotter—I'm a total planner and to-do lister in the non-writing world. Just ask anyone who knows me. But when it comes to creative writing, apparently plotting is not my thing. Pantsing is how I can be creative, so I go with that.
Q - What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?
JK - Puzzles, knots, and sticky points. I love it when I have to work through what seems like an unsolvable question of how to get from point A to point B in a story. The aha! moment is immensely satisfying.
Q - What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?
JK - I have a bit of a focus problem. I need to move around, think about other things (not the book), get distracted by an email, etc. It's possible this is part of my "process" and I should just accept it!
Q - Can you share your writing routine?
JK - I fantasize about having a writer's office, with a comfy chair, walls lined with books, and a gorgeous view. Oh, and a cat. I'm so envious of all the writers and their pictures of their cats by their keyboards. Unfortunately, I don't have a writer's office and my husband is allergic to cats. So, I make do by grabbing a spot on the couch next to my somewhat cat-like dog and trying to achieve daily word count goals that I can never quite reach.
Q - Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?
JK - If I get stuck, I like to go for a walk and think. I count that as writing, especially because I always end up solving the problem that got me stuck in the first place or realizing something important about a character or the story.
Q - If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
JK - Take a copyediting class.
Q - Do you have any writing quirks?
JK - I edit using pencils. But not just any pencils. I prefer my pencils round (not hexagonal) and fat (like kindergarten crayons). I like them sharpened to a fine point. I don't need an eraser, since I prefer to draw a line through discarded thoughts. While I wouldn't say I use "luxury" pencils (I'm not even sure what that means), I do have some fancy pencils my sister gave me for my birthday and some I purchased at a charity auction.
Q - Tell us about yourself.
JK - I have two kids, a dog, and a husband. We live in a forest and love to take advantage of the outdoors. I do a lot of volunteer work, with a focus on children and families in my county. I've been a court-appointed special advocate with CASA for 10 years.
Q - What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
JK - Kayak, walk, run in the woods, read. One of my favorite things is to make kettle corn and watch old movies with my daughter.
Q - Share something about you most people probably don’t know.
JK - I signed up to run a 10K trail race three days before my book release date, without ever having run a trail race (or a 10K) in my life. I'm not quite sure what got into me.
Q - What are you working on right now?
JK - I'm writing a new novel that is unrelated to Unbroken Threads. It's inspired by something my husband and his friends did in college, though my novel has a cast of women instead, and their experience takes quite a different turn than my husband's did.
Q - What’s your favorite writing advice?
JK - Read. Read. Read.
Jennifer Klepper’s Biography
A Midwest native, Jennifer made stops in Dallas, Charlottesville, and Boston before settling for good in Maryland. While she has an appreciation for the expansive beauty of the plains states, she hopes never to live landlocked again.
Jennifer attended Southern Methodist University and the University of Virginia School of Law, her law degree guiding her through the worlds of corporate law, tech startups, and court advocacy for foster children. She is an ardent consumer of podcasts and books that challenge her with compelling and unfamiliar topics. When she’s not writing, she’s crossing things off a neverending to-do list and hoping to catch that next sunset. Jennifer lives near Annapolis with her husband and two kids.
Links to Jennifer Klepper
Facebook: @JenniferKlepperAuthor (https://www.facebook.com/JenniferKlepperAuthor/)
Instagram: @jennifer_klepper (https://www.instagram.com/jennifer_klepper/)
Twitter: @jenklepper (https://twitter.com/jenklepper)