Interview: Ellen Senechal, Author of The Whispers God Gives

A couple months ago, I got the chance to read The Whispers God Gives. I’d not had the best experiences with teen devotionals (and I’m not even teen anymore), but this book blew me away! If you’d like more in-depth comments about the book, check out my review, but long story short – this is a wonderful, Christ-honoring devotional that doesn’t just skim over life’s difficulties. This devotional addresses real problems – and shows that the Lord is our Refuge through it all!

So, today, I’m honored to have the author of this lovely devotional on the blog today. I love Ellen’s story, and she is just such a sweet sister in Christ who is wise beyond her years!


Interview

VH: Hi, Ellen, and welcome to the blog! I’m so excited to have you join me today.

ES: Hi Vanessa! Thank you! I’m very excited to be here. 🙂 

VH: Tell me a little bit about your writing journey. When did you first start writing?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, practically since I first learned how to spell. Even when I was younger, I was serious about publishing. Sadly, I hardly ever finished my work, and looking back, quite a few of the stories I did finish weren’t realistic. Between a girl in the 1800’s eating Oreo cookies to a man proposing to a lady without even knowing her name, my work was pretty cringey (but also comical . . . I tell people about these stories now hoping it’ll make them smile). Thankfully, my writing has improved with age, although I definitely still make my fair share of mistakes. But that’s what the editing stages are for. 🙂

VH: What’s the hardest part about writing for you?

ES: Probably waiting on God to give me the words and inspiration I need. I tend to be someone who wants to get things done on my own timetable, but I find that He blesses my work more when I wait for and rely on Him to lead me . . . even if it feels like it takes a while.

VH: Who are some of your favorite authors? What authors have deeply influenced your writing?

ES: Susan K. Marlow, author of the Circle C Adventures series, is hands-down my very most favorite author. God has used her and her books in mighty ways in my life. I’ve written fan fiction for her and edited/proofread some of her books. She’s always been an encouragement and a support to me in my writing journey. In fact, I probably would not be pursuing my B.A. in English now with the intention of becoming a professional editor if it weren’t for her. 

Two more of my favorite authors are Alex and Brett Harris, authors of the book Do Hard Things (an absolute must-read for teens!). Alex and Brett may not have necessarily influenced me in my writing, but they have really challenged the way I live out the remainder of my teenage years.

VH: What’s one of your best pieces of advice for an aspiring author?

ES: Pray. Pray about everything – pray for your content, your words, your inspiration, your steps into the publishing process . . . and ultimately, pray that God will use your work to bring Him glory. And then (also very important) expect Him to answer your prayers, because He always does…sometimes in ways you would never even expect.

VH: I think it’s so amazing you wrote and published a devotional while you’re still a teenager. When did you first start writing these devotionals, and did you think you would publish them in a book someday?

ES: Aw, thanks, Vanessa! It was truly through God’s strength alone, because if I had listened to my flesh, it might have been several more years (if ever) before The Whispers God Gives was published. 

It all started when my mom suggested the idea of a devotional book for teen girls to me. “Think about it, Ellie–a devotional for teens written by a teen,” she said. “It would be a bestseller.” I nodded and promised to try, but my heart wasn’t into the project. So, when my first attempt at writing a devotional book fell flat, I had no issue pushing it away. 

Only a short while later, however, God showed me He had different plans in store for me. I was thrown into a harder season of life that left me drained, frustrated, and hurting. Desperate to find healing, I took a 40-day Internet fast and buried myself in God’s Word. And it was during that time that God really pressed the idea of a devotional book on me and granted me the inspiration I needed so that I could pour heart and soul into writing it. A couple months later, The Whispers God Gives was complete (well, almost . . . the Epilogue was actually added a year afterwards, right before publication). I knew from the beginning that I wanted to publish this book, but I wasn’t sure how.

VH: At what point did you realize you wanted to publish? How did you decide to go indie?

ES: I wanted to publish from the very beginning, before I was even halfway through writing The Whispers God Gives. I submitted my proposal to a few publishing companies but each one turned me down . . . one publisher took eight months to tell me, “Sorry, but your book isn’t quite what we’re looking for right now.” I knew God wanted me to get my book out there, though, so I prayed and decided to forge ahead with self-publishing. I hired an editor and planned my release date for April 21, 2020, exactly one year after my return to the Internet. Now, I am glad I went indie.

VH: Were there any discouragements along the writing/publishing process? How did you deal with them?

ES: Yes, like I said above, I faced rejection from publishing companies and the mark of a red pen on my manuscript. Waiting eight months to hear back from a publisher only to have them tell me “No” was discouraging. Later, I ordered the proof copy of my book from Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), and it was fine. But when I went to make it available on Amazon.com, they informed me that my cover had an issue uploading. So, I did not get the print copies exactly when I would have wanted to. Also, I published my book around the start of the COVID pandemic, and the subsequent lockdowns squashed many of my initial plans for marketing. But through it all, God was continuing to grow me and using these discouragements to teach me that He is sovereign over every detail of my life and I have to have full dependence on Him. 

VH: Tell me a little bit about The Whispers God Gives!

ES: There’s a quote that says if you want to read a book that doesn’t exist, you have to write it yourself. That’s essentially what I hope to have done with The Whispers God Gives. 

Prior to and during the time that I was writing my book, I searched for existing good, solid devotional books for teen girls on the market and the results surprised me. It should not be so hard to find a devotional book to which any teen girl can relate, whether she’s 13 or 19 (or any year in between), homeschooled or public schooled, and that focused on real, everyday issues teen girls face in a compassionate, understanding way that always pointed back to Christ . . . right? Apparently not. I wondered how many girls and their parents were disappointed by this.

As I was healing from a broken friendship at the time, I knew how important it was to me to have someone who truly ‘got’ what I was going through. The same applied to any other problem I may have been dealing with, such as letting the past go, doing my chores without complaining, etc. I wanted to be real with my readers about my struggles and what God was teaching me through them. Since I was still a teenager, I hoped that they would find my words to be especially meaningful and encouraging.

The devotions in my book are short, each taking no more (and probably less) than five minutes to read. I liked to use real-life stories to help hit every message home (e.g., my baby sister clutching a soggy pretzel and refusing to let go is like us holding on to our past and therefore not fully embracing all God has planned for us in the future). Reviewers have said the content in my book is clean enough to hand to a younger child and relatable enough to hand to older women as well as teens. It has blessed my heart so much to witness how God has used this book in others’ lives.

VH: What do you hope readers will take away from your writing?

ES: My earnest hope is that readers will walk away from The Whispers God Gives filled with a renewed sense of assurance that God can and does work through all things for our good and His glory.

VH: What do your upcoming projects look like?

ES: Right now, I’m keeping busy with college classes, but I would love to at some point write another devotional book, and/or maybe complete my first Christian fiction novel. But we’ll see where the Lord leads 🙂

VH: Thanks for coming on the blog and chatting with me!

ES: It was my pleasure! Thank you again for having me!


About the Author

Ellen Senechal loves Jesus, her awesome family of eleven, and her sweet tabby kitten Shalom. Currently she’s a dual enrollment student at Regent University. When she’s not stressing over the latest assignment that’s due, you’ll probably find her reading a book, jogging with her younger sister, or typing on her computer . . . all while listening to a crazy amount of contemporary Christian music. She published The Whispers God Gives: A 30-Day Devotional Book for Teen Girls when she was fifteen.

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