JenniferLawson-Zepeda's personal story is truly a romantic tale with tragedy, injustice, and a couple's deep devotion to one another.
In 2006, after living in Mexico for nine years, the couple was forced to flee, suddenly, after the cartel violence escalated there, leaving them fearing for their lives. After two of their friends were murdered, Jennifer Lawson-Zepeda drove her husband to the U.S. border where they requested asylum for him.
From 2006 to 2009 the couple endured three years of separation, as her Salvadoran husband's asylum application wove its way through the U.S. immigration system to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Before his case was reviewed and a decision was made, her husband was deported, leaving Mrs. Lawson-Zepeda fearing for his life. She moved him from El Salvador in the middle of the night to Nicaragua, where they believed he would be safe.
In February 2010, her husband walked into the Managua office to extend his tourist visa and apply for asylum and was detained. Mrs. Lawson-Zepeda didn't hear from him for nine days while he was held incommunicado by the Sandinista cadre. She contacted Nicaraguan Human Rights Agencies, the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees, and the Salvadoran Embassy, earning his release.
The couple now lives together in El Salvador where Mrs. Lawson-Zepeda writes novels, paints and spends time recovering her lost years with her husband.
Q: What type of characters do you like to create?
A: I love strong willed characters with flaws; women with a deep understanding of independence, but who suffer human frailties that most of us deal with and aren't superwoman. Characters who make amazing and ridiculous decisions under the worst of situations. Everyday men who cover their loss by masking it with macho stupidity sometimes.
Q: What motivates you to choose your unusual settings?
A: I grew tired of the suburban or chic city apartment backgrounds a long time ago. I've chosen to place my characters in settings I feel are a bit more dramatic; such as Anastasia's illegal garage conversion house in the heart of Los Angeles's skid row district. It adds to the suspense. I make these settings cozy by giving my character a knack for decorating on a shoestring, so that become a place others would want to live if they were on a budget.
Q: Why do you write romantic suspense?
A: Romance and suspense have a way of complimenting one another, and heightening the reader's experience with both. Suspense heightens the tension in the story and romance provides characters with dimension who hold the reader's interest.
Q: What do you like to read?
A: I love classic romance! Gone with the Wind, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice all appeal to me because the scenes are etched out and the characters are fully developed. I am a sucker for the romantic stories of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Honore de Balzac's work. I also love poetry by Pablo Neruda.
Q: What do you think defines your style of writing?
A: As a Latina, I inject my culture into my work through scenes in Latin American countries, Latin American foods and Hispanic characters living in the U.S. I would like to think I also write characters who people recognize and relate to; scenes that people can visualize and feel; and hope I add tension with believable but unusual characters and props. I'm hoping my style reminds people of some of the old classic romance novelists with a modern twist.
Q: What is your writing day like?
A: I wake around 5:30 a.m. and write until 10:00 a.m. At which point I deal with my household needs. I usually resume writing around noon. I write in a schizophrenic manner where I work on whatever chapter plagues me at the time, so I revise constantly as I write. I generally put in a full day of writing, ending sometime around 5:00 p.m., at which point I put it all down and enjoy my time with my husband.
Q: What brought you to writing romance?
A: I didn't think of myself as a romance writer, initially. I saw myself more mainstream. But I realized my writing always revolved around a romance framed by suspense. I belonged to a writer's site and asked what made a writer a romance writer. I realized Anastasia and the Cuban fit that definition perfectly.
Q: What is your dream writing project?
A: I am working on it now and its nearly complete. Coffeeman is my latest novel written about the coffee growing industry of El Salvador. It involves the history of the country, politics, and a whirlwind romance between an American Human Rights worker and the son of one of the elite families of El Salvador, whose history is steeped in corruption and death squads. The research behind this book and my time in El Salvador interviewing real life survivors of the civil war, reading about the history of El Salvador and visiting locations has made this project fascinating.
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[BookStrand Romantic Suspense] After her husband disappears and is presumed dead, feisty, American-born socialist Anastasia spends two months in El Salvador searching for his body, returning to Los Angeles o MORE...