Jennifer Dornbush is a bit dazzling when you first meet her. Then you find out she’s a specialist in death. Whoa. And she knows how to investigate crime scenes and has consulted on TV and film dramas. When I met Jennifer, it was over breakfast at a conference far from home. All I knew at first was we were both Californians. Then I became fascinated at her specialty and have watched her career and books with great interest. As a resilience expert, I really connected with how she doesn’t back off from exploring challenging characters with tough circumstances in her stories and screenplays. And her latest book is coming out as a movie in 2018! She’s giving you a behind-the-scenes peek at her inspiration as part of the #LetResilienceArise guest blog series.
The Most Resilient Story Ever!
By Jennifer Dornbush
Early on in my writing career, I had a writing mentor in Hollywood who told me that writers tend to write about the same thing over and over and over. She encouraged me to discover which story archetype best embodied my beliefs and build my stories from there. She said it would save me time from trying to re-invent the wheel, and it would always give me a core theme to lean on.
It was genius advice. But at the time, a bit over my novice head. And quite honestly, I was determined that MY storytelling was going to be wholly original.
Of course, it’s not. And, of course, she was right.
It didn’t take me long to realize that the story I tell over and over and over is that of the Prodigal Son. I love this story so much. I’ve told it as a thriller, a mystery, an historical drama, a children’s book, and now an inspirational romance. Even after 15 years of noodling on this story, I still find it holds fresh meat for me to chew on.
If you are looking for an example of resilience, take a good gander at the parable of the Prodigal Son. The resilience of every family member in this story is noteworthy.
There’s the older brother, “the good son,” who stays at home with his father. He never rebels like his brother, but he ends up feeling slighted and bitter. Maybe you feel like that brother? You done everything right and along comes a situation that leaves you feeling cheated, unloved, or unappreciated. But before you go sinking into despair, the Father wants you to know, “Hey, I’ve always loved you. I’ve been with you all the time. And all my blessings are yours. So, go ahead, dig into them. See what you can find.”
And then there’s the Prodigal Son. The prideful one who took his inheritance and went out to party for a couple years. He blows everything and crawls back begging for forgiveness. That kind of repentance is steeped in strength and courage! Maybe you feel more like this Son? Life has given you some shifty, unfair, downright awful things. Maybe some of them you had a part in? Maybe some of your own bad choices caused this? You were exhausted, alone, ashamed, unworthy, and overwhelmed. But now you are turning your life around. This is resilient behavior, my friends!
Let’s not forget Father of the Prodigal Son who, despite everything his son has put him through says, “My son, I love you. Let’s be a family again. Come to the table and feast!” Maybe you feel like this parent who has endured years of angst, wondering, worrying, and hoping about some troubling situation. But guess what? Victory is on its way! Resilient people never give up. The Prodigal Father didn’t. And you won’t either!
My newest release, God Bless the Broken Road, is a total Prodigal Daughter story. But I didn’t fully realize this until my Facebook Message exchange with an old friend from Phoenix. She had just grabbed a copy of my new book and wanted to let me know what she thought.
Her: I’m enjoying the book, but I am arguing with Amber (my protagonist) throughout!
Me: Haha! Love it!
Her: It’s been a while since I had this reaction.
Me: That warms my heart.
Her: I have to admit, it’s a love-hate relationship. She ticks me off and I want to stop reading. But at the same time I have to read it to see when she is going to get it and let God work.
Me: So true… she was a tough character to write. She’s very stubborn! Like the prodigal son.
Her: Good way to say it. I probably get mad because I have had to swallow my pride many times in the last year.
Ah ha! Amber is a prodigal daughter. I had done it again… without realizing it! Here’s what happens to Amber… (I promise, no spoilers!)
Amber Hill is a young war widow who has suffered the loss of her husband, Darren, in Afghanistan and is now raising their young daughter, Bree. Two years later, Amber finds her life spiraling down into depression and doubt. Much like the Prodigal Son, Amber turns her back on God, her church family, and her faith and insists on doing things her way.
Over the course of the story many people try to come to her aid– her friends, the pastor and his wife, her boss, and her mother-in-law. Her heart begins to thaw a little when she meets a new friend and race car driver, Cody, who starts to awaken her spirit again. But then she soon determines it’s too dangerous to get close to him. He might die in a car crash. She can’t take that.
Just as Amber’s life hits rock bottom, she experiences a surprising twist in the road when Private Nelson, a war veteran from Darren’s unit, reveals something to Amber that helps her see that her road is not as broken as she thinks it is. Like the Prodigal Son, she returns to God her Father and begs him to forgive her. Amber finds that God is quick to restore the tears she has shed, the loss she has experienced, and the bad decisions she has made. She is welcomed back into to the “feast table” of her family and community. And her life begins anew.
The Prodigal Son story is God’s love story to us. His faithful endurance and persistence to love us will never end. And that’s a story I will tell over and over and over.
Jennifer is a writer, speaker and forensic specialist creating diverse range of stories that shed light on the dark places of the human experience.
Her story creation is bred from a very unsheltered childhood as the daughter of a medical examiner whose office was in her home. She investigated her first fatality, an airplane crash, when she was 8 years-old and from there gathered a decade of on-sight experience in death investigation and 360 hours of forensic training through the Forensic Science Academy.
The stories she creates stem from the unique range of human experiences. Because of her background, she does not shy away from telling stories about tough circumstances and how characters choose to deal with them. Jennifer’s characters encounter light in their darkness… redemption where none seems possible… and bits of levity to sweeten the journey.
Her feature film, God Bless the Broken Road is slated for release in 2018 in conjunction with the novel released on June 6th by the same title published by Simon & Schuster.
Jennifer has several crime drama series being developed for television and a bi-lingual kid’s show, Team Abuelita, in production with Baby First TV.
Wanting to share her love of forensics with other storytellers, she scribed non-fiction work, Forensic Speak: How To Write Realistic Crime Dramas, published by Michael Wiese Productions, hailed as a north star to creating authentic crime dramas.
As a forensic specialist she has consulted with TV writers on network and cable TV shows. She regularly leads seminars and webinars on forensics and crime fiction and has taught screenwriting on the high school and university level and mentored new writers.
Sign up for her newsletter and YouTube channel at: www.jenniferdornbush.com
GBBR Novel Synopsis:
God Bless the Broken Road is a heartwarming story about a grieving army widow who finds her way back to her daughter, her faith, and a new love. Amber Hill never imagined she would find herself a war widow and single mom. She feels robbed and is angry at God, and she doesn’t know how to help her nine-year-old daughter Bree through her grief. Where, Amber wonders, are the Sunday dinners, the picnics, the bike rides, the time together they should be enjoying as a family? Instead, Amber is left with a folded flag and an empty heart.
Cody Jackson has a death wish. Or at least that is what his manager thinks, as Cody pushes his race car and his luck in every race. Is he hiding something, or just daring God and other racers to end the path of destruction he finds himself on as he rounds the last turn? When Cody encourages Bree to join in a Derby car race for local youth, she finds a way to channel her grief into something good—and she likes that her mom and Cody are starting to become friends—or maybe something more.
Cody invites Amber and Bree to see him race, but as they watch Cody narrowly escape a devastating crash, she realizes she can’t lose another person in her life. It’s better to be alone than feel that type of grief again. But when Amber hits rock-bottom, she cries out to God and asks for help. With her faith, her life, her family, and her heart hanging in the balance, Amber is forced to decide between the broken road she knows so well and trusting that God will provide a new path. Based on the Rascal Flatts song, God Bless the Broken Road is a moving, heart-stirring story about the power of faith to change a life. The movie version is coming 2018.
Connect with Jennifer and preview the movie:
Author Website: www.jenniferdornbush.com
Facebook: Jennifer Graeser Dornbush https://www.facebook.com/jennifer.graeserdornbush
Instagram: Jennifer Dornbush https://www.instagram.com/jenniferdornbush/
Twitter: @JGDornbush https://twitter.com/JGDornbush
GBBR Audiobook link: https://www.audiobooksnow.com/author/jennifer%20dornbush/
GBBR Movie Trailer link: https://vimeo.com/191227455
What is the Let Resilience Arise series all about?
Elizabeth Van Tassel is a wildfire survivor who lost every possession and her home in 2007. Since that time, she’s been cultivating fiction and nonfiction projects of her own to inspire kids and adults alike with her lessons. But she’s also developed a wonderful network of amazing authors in all different genres and professions who have compelling stories to boost you or perhaps a friend you know who’s struggling with a similar challenge. Subscribe to this blog (on the home page HERE) for these articles and a monthly newsletter to come to your email or stop by again for more amazing stories. Also have your teens and tweens check out their own page and posts HERE. Want to share your story with others or have Elizabeth share hers with your group? Contact Elizabeth HERE and she’d love to discuss bringing lessons of hope and new beginnings to your group too.