Category Archives: Jennifer Rogers Spinola

Guest Blog: Inspiration by Jennifer Rogers Spinola

People always ask me how I was inspired to write my books – namely the “Southern Fried Sushi” series, which makes an odd combination of Japan and the American South. I’ve included quirky characters like Becky, who can’t use good grammar to save her life but has a heart of gold – Kyoko, the Japanese-American Goth chain-smoker who cries over cheesy ’80s movies – and the main character, Shiloh, a misplaced, sharp-tongued Yankee who finds herself stuck in Redneckville far longer than she ever thought possible. It’s a weird mash-up, I’ll admit. So where did it all come from?

How do writers find inspiration for their books?

Merriam-Webster defines “inspiration” like this: “The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, esp. to do something creative: ‘flashes of inspiration.’

That’s great, but where does it come from?

Where do any of our creative ideas come from?

For me, as a wife, mom, and writer (in that order) – and most lately, awkward pregnant woman staggering around the house and trying not to run into furniture – it comes from three places.

First, it comes from who we were. When I sat down to write “Sushi,” never imagining in a million years that my pitiful little manuscript would see the light of an editor’s desk, I was drawn to the memories I’d stored up over the years. I’d been living in Brazil for years – perhaps too many years – and I was homesick. Simple as that. I missed crab apple trees of my native Virginia, the Blue Ridge Mountains, grits, and simpler small-town folks in simpler places without the urban sprawl and rush and bustle and crime of Brasilia’s capital (3 million). In a word, I missed home. It’s not that I wanted to move back to my hometown, but I missed it.

I even missed Japan, where I’d lived two years before moving to Brazil – and met my Brazilian husband. I missed the tidy subways (no trash, no litter), the vending machines of hot noodle soup and chilled coffee, and the ubiquitous cups of steaming green tea.

We pass through places that become part of us, and glittering remainders always stay, suspended in a half-awake state, just beneath our skin. Those shining particles are who we were, and they are powerful reminders of where we’ve been.

And these make great stories.

Second, inspiration comes from who we are now. If I had not ventured away from rural Virginia and dabbled in Japan and Brazil and culture shock and halting Portuguese and loneliness and homesickness and mistakes, I would not be the person I am today. I would not have the same eyes to see, to remember, to feel and ache over familiar memories, and I would not carry within me the same memories and wounds; the same blessings and realizations of what makes life.

We can’t appreciate the past without the present, and we can’t pull together a greater story without pulling together the pieces of our current world.

The way we live, the people we have chosen, the decisions we have made all culminate in stories. Life stories, fiction stories. Weaving bits and particles of the past with the present, and creating a new reality. This is the reality I found when I sat down to write “Southern Fried Sushi“: the person I am now coming face-to-face with the person I once was, and all the painful collisions along the way.

To recreate that awkward and sometimes humbling walk in fiction was not only a catharsis of sorts, but – mixed with humor – it helped me see the whole process from a different perspective.

And third, inspiration literally means “to affect, guide, or arouse by divine influence.”

I don’t believe this “Divine influence” is an accident, a coincidence, or a myth. Throughout my life I’ve always seen the footsteps of God as He has guided me, spoken to me, and led me through difficult times and showers of joy. I’ve walked through times of silence and times of doubt, but His presence has always been with me, as powerfully as the pillar of cloud and fire that guided the Israelites through the desert.

Life can be awfully desert-like at times. Both in fiction and in real life.

But just as the God of the Bible split rocks to pour out water for thirsty sojourners, so He has done for me. My husband and I have faced incredible obstacles -family problems, fertility problems, the health of our dear little son Ethan. But we have made it through the desert with God and found an oasis beyond describing on the other side.

For inspiration by God, you see, is not just for us – it’s for all who read the work that comes from His promptings. The miracles found in my life and transported, albeit somewhat differently, to the pages of my fiction are not just mine – they are for all who believe, all who thirst. The twists and turns that bring unexpected radiance and joy – a slant of sun that allows us to see life differently – are for passing on to you, the reader, for your own thoughts and ponderings. Your own miracles.

Your own inspiration, in your own way.

Southern-fried or not.

Author Bio:

Jennifer Rogers Spinola lives in Belle Fourche, South Dakota, with her Brazilian husband, Athos, and three-year-old son, Ethan. She has lived in Brazil for nearly eight years and served as a missionary to Japan for two years. Jenny is the author of Barbour Books’ “Southern Fried Sushi” series (first book released October 2011!) and an upcoming romance novella collection based on Yellowstone National Park (also with Barbour Books).

Jenny is an advocate for adoption and loves the outdoors, photography, writing, and camping. She has previously served as an ESL teacher, a middle- and high-school teacher, and National Park Service volunteer. Jenny has a B.A. in English/journalism from Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina and has worked as assistant copyeditor for OnSat Satellite & TV Guide and as a staff writer for the Southern Baptist International Mission Board and two other Baptist newspapers.

Jenny is a member of Emmanuel Baptist Church, American Christian Fiction Writers, International Christian Fiction Writers, and has a Goodreads page. Visit Jenny’s website for more info.

Title: ‘Til Grits Do Us Part by Jennifer Rogers Spinola
Southern Fried Sushi Book Three
Publisher: Barbour Books
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Romance, Mystery
Length: 320 pages


Shiloh Jacobs is planning her wedding without family, without money, and without a clue—and trying to make a go of small-town Southern life. Until she stumbles on an unsolved case about a missing woman that makes her run in the opposite direction—right into the would-be killer’s web of plans. In the midst of sorting through her tragic past and strained relationships, Shiloh finds herself on the run from a madman—and hoping she can make it to her wedding alive.


Filed under Guest Blog, Jennifer Rogers Spinola

Review: ‘Til Grits Do Us Part by Jennifer Rogers Spinola

Title: ‘Til Grits Do Us Part by Jennifer Rogers Spinola
Southern Fried Sushi Book Three
Publisher: Barbour Books
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Romance, Mystery
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+

Review Copy Obtained from Publisher Through NetGalley


Shiloh Jacobs is planning her wedding without family, without money, and without a clue—and trying to make a go of small-town Southern life. Until she stumbles on an unsolved case about a missing woman that makes her run in the opposite direction—right into the would-be killer’s web of plans. In the midst of sorting through her tragic past and strained relationships, Shiloh finds herself on the run from a madman—and hoping she can make it to her wedding alive.

The Review:

‘Til Grits Do Us Part is a wonderful ending to Jennifer Rogers Spinola’s compelling Southern Fried Sushi trilogy. Shiloh Jacobs is in the middle of planning of her wedding to Adam Carter when she begins receiving flowers and eerie messages from an unknown admirer. What, if any, is connection between Shiloh’s stalker and the unsolved disappearance of Amanda Cummings twelve years prior? Will Shiloh uncover her stalker’s identity before it is too late?

As in the previous novels of the Southern Fried Sushi trilogy, Shiloh Jacobs is a superbly developed, complex character. She continues to grieve her mother’s death and she is still dealing with her guilt at resisting her mother’s attempts to reconcile before her death. Shiloh’s relationship with God is a work in progress and her faith in Him continues to grow. She is also determined to sell her mother’s house and leave Staunton behind following her wedding to Adam.

All of the delightfully quirky but lovable secondary characters from the preceding installments make guest appearances in ‘Til Grits Do Us Part. Shiloh and fiancé Adam learn valuable lessons in the art of compromise as they occasionally butt heads as Shiloh tries to uncover her stalker’s identity. Shiloh’s close friend Kyoko remains a steadfast and loyal presence in Shiloh’s life and their interactions are quite funny. Becky proves to be invaluable to Shiloh as they plan Shiloh’s wedding on a shoestring budget.

The mystery aspect of ‘Til Grits Do Us Part is brilliantly executed. Ms. Spinola does a masterful job keeping the stalker’s identity a closely guarded secret and I was genuinely surprised when the culprit was revealed. There are also many twists and turns in the investigation into Amanda Cummings’ disappearance.

‘Til Grits Do Us Part is an entertaining and thought-provoking novel and Jennifer Rogers Spinola beautifully wraps up all of the various storylines. The ending of Shiloh’s story is absolutely perfect and I greatly enjoyed every installment in the Southern Fried Sushi series.

Read my reviews of the previous novels HERE.


Filed under 'Til Grits Do Us Part, Barbour Publishing, Christian, Contemporary, Jennifer Rogers Spinola, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Southern Fried Sushi Series

Like Sweet Potato Pie by Jennifer Rogers Spinola

Title: Like Sweet Potato Pie by Jennifer Rogers Spinola
Southern Fried Sushi Book 2
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational, Fiction
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: A+ and a Recommended Read

Review Copy Obtained from Publisher Through NetGalley


Witness as Shiloh’s new life in Virginia crumbles around her. The house she inherited from her mother is much more than a place to live—it represents Shiloh’s changed life and what little financial security she has. But her half sister is contesting their mother’s will and the IRS is threatening to take it for back taxes. She’s also discovering God’s ideal when it comes to love and romance. When Mr. Right shows up will she recognize God’s hand or let circumstances and prejudices blind her heart to the love of her life?

The Review:

Like Sweet Potato Pie by Jennifer Rogers Spinola is a beautiful and compelling novel about faith, friendship and family. Picking up where Southern Fried Sushi left off, Shiloh Jacobs’ newfound trust in God is tested almost immediately. With her half sister Ashley demanding half of her mother’s estate and unexpected visits from people from her life in Japan, will Shiloh revert to her old ways? Or will she continue to put her trust in Jesus?

Shiloh is a wonderfully developed realistic character. Her wry sense of humor carries her through some of her more difficult times as she deals with the various financial and emotional issues in her life. She is surrounded by a circle of close knit and loving friends who have become her family. While she embraces her new Christian life, her relationship with God becomes tenuous when she is faced with adversity.

Shiloh continues to miss Japan and she is still working towards her goal of leaving Virginia. Her insistent belief that her life is not in Virginia sometimes clouds her judgment and blinds her to the possibilities that are before her. There is more of a romantic element to Like Sweet Potato Pie as Shiloh and Adam become closer and take steps to get to know one another. Miscommunications arise between them when Shiloh takes action in certain situations before she knows all of the facts.

Like Sweet Potato Pie is an engaging story with appealing characters and an engrossing plot. Jennifer Rogers Spinola brings life in the South vibrantly to life in this faith based novel. A strong sense of family and deep Christian beliefs make it a must read for anyone who enjoys Inspirational fiction.

Read my review of Southern Fried Sushi HERE


Filed under Barbour Publishing, Contemporary, Fiction, Inspirational, Jennifer Rogers Spinola, Like Sweet Potato Pie, Rated A+, Recommended Read, Southern Fried Sushi Series

Southern Fried Sushi by Jennifer Rogers Spinola

Title: Southern Fried Sushi by Jennifer Rogers Spinola
Southern Fried Sushi Series Book One
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc
Genre: Inspirational, Fiction, Contemporary
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B

Review Copy Obtained from Publisher Through NetGalley


Ride the rollercoaster of Shiloh Jacobs’s life as her dreams derail, sending her on a downward spiral from the heights of an AP job in Tokyo to penniless in rural Virginia. Trapped in a world so foreign to her sensibilities and surrounded by a quirky group of friends, will she break through her hardened prejudices before she loses those who want to help her? Can she find the key to what changed her estranged mother’s life so powerfully before her death that she became a different woman—and can it help Shiloh too?

The Review:

Jennifer Rogers Spinola’s debut novel Southern Fried Sushi is a delightful story about finding faith, friendship and ultimately, forgiveness. Shiloh Jacobs’ return to the States to attend her mother’s funeral and settle her estate proves to be a turning point in her life. In rural Virginia, Shiloh discovers the true meaning of Southern hospitality when perfect strangers generously and selflessly open their hearts and homes to her.

A dysfunctional and often neglectful childhood culminates in a long standing estrangement between Shiloh and her mother. Rejecting her mother’s attempts to mend their strained relationship, Shiloh maintains both an emotional and physical distance as she builds a new life as an AP reporter in Tokyo. Shiloh’s arrival in Staunton, Virginia is a tremendous culture shock for the sophisticated and career oriented young woman. She discovers her mother’s dramatic transformation from the depressed and rather flaky mom of her childhood to a woman who had finally found peace, happiness and a deep faith in God.

Confronted by the Christian beliefs and values of her newfound friends, Shiloh attempts to understand their unwavering faith in God. Her simplistic view that all prayers should be answered is challenged as she witnesses her friends’ struggles with heartbreaking losses. She learns many valuable lessons in the importance of forgiveness, and she slowly opens her heart to God and invites Him into her life.

Southern Fried Sushi is a beautifully written novel with a vibrant and colorful cast of characters. The Christian faith is exquisitely demonstrated through heartwarming friendships, people who trust God in all circumstances of their lives, and the true meaning of forgiveness.

Jennifer Rogers Spinola is a powerful new voice in Christian fiction. I am eagerly anticipating Like Sweet Potato Pie the second novel in the Shiloh Jacobs trilogy.

This review was originally posted on The Reader’s Roundtable.


Filed under Barbour Publishing, Contemporary, Fiction, Jennifer Rogers Spinola, Rated B, Southern Fried Sushi, Southern Fried Sushi Series