A daughter of American missionaries, Jeanette Windle grew up in the jungles and small towns of Colombia, now guerrilla hot zones. Jeanette graduated from Prairie Bible College in Three Hills, Alberta. In 1985, Jeanette and her husband Martin moved to Bolivia to work with a nondenominational Christian mission organization. While her husband served as director, Jeanette worked with women and children at risk in varied regions of Bolivia.
Jeanette’s first book, Kathy and the Readhead, was a group of stories based on her life growing up at a Missionary Kid Boarding School. This was followed by the six books of the Parker Twins Adventure Series, a young adult mystery-suspense series set in a multi-cultural background, and a teen novel Jana’s Journal.
Her first major adult political/suspense novel, CrossFire (2000), was set against background of the counter-narcotics war in Bolivia she was witnessing firsthand, This was followed by The DMZ (2004), set in the guerrilla zones of Colombia where she grew up, and FireStorm (2004) the sequel to Crossfire. These were published all by Kregel Publications.
Betrayed (2008), set in the background of Guatemala’s fifty year civil conflict, was released by Tyndale House Publishers. Veiled Freedom (2009), set in Afghanistan, was a 2010 Christy Award finalist and 2010 Christian Book Award finalist. Her newest book, Freedom’s Stand (2011), is the sequel to Veiled Freedom. It was released in June, and was nominated AWSA (Advanced Writer Speaker Association) 2011 Golden Scroll Novel of the Year.
Jeanette and her husband Marty moved to Miami in 2000, and to Lancaster, PA, in 2006. Jeanette speaks and travels extensively both in the U.S. and internationally, and serves as consulting editor and mentor to developing writers in the U.S. and abroad. She is currently president of Lancaster Christian Writers.
I had a chance recently to ask Jeanette a few questions.
Kristen: You have been to many countries over the years. If you could visit one country you haven’t been to before where would you go?
Jeanette: Actually, I have many countries on my ‘bucket list’ to visit someday, so it is hard to nail it down to one. If you’d asked a few months ago, I’d have said Israel, a country I never expected in my lifetime to have opportunity for visiting since I usually only travel for ministry. But God opened the doors beyond all my expectations to spend 12 days in Israel just this last spring. So I would have to narrow it down to my current top five: Greece, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Indonesia and Democratic Republic of Congo. The last two are because of ministry partnerships there, so it is NOT a coincidence that the others are all beautiful tropical islands. Growing up in Colombia and Venezuela, I was privileged to vacation on the Caribbean, which gave me a taste for tropical beaches.
Kristen: Your books contain Americans getting into some pretty scary and dangerous situations overseas. What is the scariest or most dangerous situation you have been in yourself while in another country?
Jeanette: The scariest situations are truly ones on which I’d rather not dwell. Racing along an Andes mountain cliff in a bus with my four small children and a drunk driver behind the wheel. Thieves coming over the wall at night in Sucre, Bolivia, while my husband was on a trip, leaving myself and kids barricaded in the main house and a single female missionary barricaded in her apartment at the rear of the property. I LOVE heavy steel doors and thick bars on windows. A knife being held to my six month old son’s throat. Accidentally finding myself witnessing a drug deal while on a walk–and having to get out before being noticed. The usual pickpockets, riots, strikes, road blocks where local law enforcement are far more frightening than any guerrillas could be.
So I’ll share the scariest one that was my own fault. My husband was again on a trip to mountain and jungle churches in Bolivia, leaving me with our three preschoolers (my life in our early ministry days) when a column easily ten feet wide of army ants headed up our short, concrete driveway towards our tiny, colonial-style house (600 square feet built around an unroofed central courtyard). With no husband to call and three small children to protect, I had to think fast. My five year old eldest son helped me as I splashed the column thoroughly with kerosene. I did make sure he went inside the house before tossing a match. I had no idea kerosene could explode so thoroughly! It did incinerate the ant column along with my bangs and eyelashes. It was truly a miracle I didn’t kill myself and leave three babies stranded until my husband came home.
Kristen: Do you have a work currently in progress?
Jeanette: I am currently writing what will be my next political/suspense novel set in the Ituri rainforest of northeast Democratic Republic of Congo, tentatively titled Congo Dawn.
Kristen: What kind of books do you like to read yourself, and who is your favorite author?
Jeanette: Perhaps as consequence of a life spent in so many countries and cultures, I can honestly say I have no favorites, whether foods, colors, countries, cultures, etc. I hugely enjoy the fabulous variety with which God has endowed this planet, and that includes literature as well. I will read anything of any genre as long as it is superbly written. Much depends what I’m currently writing. A few months ago my nightstand was filled with books related to Afghanistan, where my last two novels, Veiled Freedom and Freedom’s Stand, take place. Now for the same reason, it is filled with non-fiction and fiction related to the Congo, setting of my current WIP. I read several books a week and enjoy all the most recent best-sellers as well as re-reading or discovering classics. Because I read so quickly and am constantly out of reading material, I LOVE having other readers inform me of a book they have loved and which I’ve yet to read—so feel free to send me recommendations.
But here are a few of my top choices: When it comes to inspirational reading, the beautiful prose of Max Lucado and Philip Keller and the meditative profundity of A. W. Tozer, Andrew Murray, Brother Lawrence. Chaim Potok (The Chosen, The Promise) is a novelist who impacted me in sharing his passion for El Shaddai, Torah and his Jewish heritage in mainstream fiction as Christians so often hesitate to do. Fredrick Forsyth (Hunt for the Jackal, Odessa Files) and Leon Uris (Exodus, Armageddon) whetted my appetite for tight suspense interwoven with thorough political research. In other areas, I’m an eclectic reader, so have enjoyed the gamut of great writers in every genre:
1) historical fiction: M. M. Kaye, Kenneth Roberts, Leon Uris; Elizabeth Goudge: The Dean’s Watch and her Pilgrim’s Inn series.
2) political/suspense: Frederick Forsyth, Tom Clancy, John Grisham, Alistair McClain, Robin Cook;
3) science fiction: J.R.R. Tolkien, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Patricia McKillip, Robin McKinley, C.S. Lewis;
4) mystery: Agatha Christie, Mary Higgins Clark, Mary Stewart, Madelaine Brent, Georgette Heyer;
5) romance: I must say I’m still a sucker for a good Georgette Heyer, though all mine were tattered years ago;
6) westerns: Louis L’Amour is the only one I read, but he is good enough to convert even a non-Western fan.
And so much more!
I have enjoyed getting to know Jeanette through her books and through Lancaster Christian Writers. Having Read Veiled Freedom and Freedom’s Stand, I have begun to go back and read her earlier works. I just finished Crossfire and am anxious to start it’s sequel Firestorm. Having several friends who are missionaries in Bolivia, it has been interesting to get a feel for the culture through these well written stories. Only an author who has been there is going to be able to so visibly bring across images like this one from Crossfire:
And the smell! It settled over the car in an overpowering wave as Doug ushered the new passengers into the back seat. Sara had never been at close quarters with the particular odor of the Bolivian campesino–a combination of infrequent washing, hand woven wool, no deodorant, and hours spent walking under a tropical sun–and she had to bite her lip to keep her nose from wrinkling with distaste.
God has definitely brought Jeanette through many life experiences that make her uniquely able to bring us the so many wonderful stories she writes. I hope you will consider picking up one of her titles for your next read.