Art Beat: Q&A with author Jennifer Bardsley

Winter doldrums got you down? Add a little sunshine to your life with Jennifer Bardsley’s newest Sand Dollar Cove book series.

Jennifer Bardsley

Jennifer Bardsley settled in across from me with a Tumeric Latte for a Q&A about her new Sand Dollar Cove book series.

If you’ve already read the first two books (Postcards from the Cove and Photographs from the Cove released Feb. 15) you’ll recognize the drink; she uses it as an easter egg in each of the novels. It will also make an appearance in the third book; Notes from the Cove will be released March 20.

I devoured the first two and cannot wait for this next book. Bardsley shared that it is her favorite in the series. The three books are a sweeping, emotional women’s fiction set in the fictional setting of Sand Dollar Cove, which was inspired by Ocean Shores, Wash.

Bardsley’s publisher, Bookouture, offers readers a free Sand Dollar Cove short story. Readers can download Finding Love in the Cove here.

EM: How did you get into writing?

JB: I’ve lived in Edmonds for 18 years. I used to be a teacher and when my son was in preschool, I started a blog called “Teaching My Baby to Read.” It was educational resources I knew as a kindergarten teacher to help preschoolers to learn how to read.

I loved blogging. I knew I wanted to write but I couldn’t get a literary agent. It’s similar to being a musician or an actor; you need an agent to hit it big. It’s really hard to get an agent.

At that time, the Everett Herald had the weekly Herald that came every week in addition to the daily Herald. I sent a pitch to them and they said, “This is just what we were looking for.”

So I had to write something like 10 columns in one week. My mother-in-law came to watch my kids and I had to go in for an interview. I didn’t even own clothes for an interview. I was totally mommed up.

I got hired for the Herald and I started on Mondays. After a month, it was so popular they moved it to Sunday. I was there for 11 years.

My newspaper column helped me get my agent and my agent helped me get my first book deal, which was Genesis Girl. That was back when Young Adult fiction was so hot: Hunger Games, Divergent, Twilight. Those were all enormously popular.

Everything in publishing is always feast or famine. I followed that trail as far as it would go and it kind of dried out.

My agent suggested “Why don’t you try writing adult.” Steamy romance is not in my wheelhouse, so I wrote sweet romance.

I wrote Sweet Bliss on a whim. I got the idea at the civic center on the Fourth of July during the fireworks. It was one of those things where you see everyone you know everywhere. I thought “What if I wrote a book like that?”

My writing friend Penelope Wright, who works in the Edmonds-Woodway High School library, helped me research the best angle. We were like, “What if it was a single-dad romance?” and then she was like, “What if it was a single dad with a BABY romance?”

She reads everything and critiques everything I write before I give it to my editor. I do the same for her. She has a wonderful bestselling Dystopian Fantasy series called The Queen Trials.

EM: Why did you set the book in a fictional Ocean Shores?

JB: I have been creating fictional towns all over Washington. I did Edmonds in Sweet Bliss, Kingston in The History of Us and Mount Vernon in Talk of the Town. (Talk of the Town also features a Facebook moms group similar to the Edmonds Moms group Bardsley moderates). That was really fun to write.

I was always really fascinated by the backstory of Ocean Shores. They thought Washington gambling was going to be legalized so it was a boom town. And all the canals. When you drive through Ocean Shores, you’re like, “Why are all these canals here?”

All of my books look like sweet romances, but they’re based on Urban Development and the high cost of real estate. Ocean Shores is dealing with that, especially after the pandemic with remote workers and Airbnbs. It’s really changing things. That’s always the evil character, the high cost of housing.

We’ve been there many times, but the most recent time was when I was researching “The History of Us. In The History of Us, they drive around the Olympic Peninsula looking for gold coins, so we did a trip there so I could research and write it accurately. It gave me the idea that “oh, it would be fun to write something here.”

EM: Postcards from the Cove featured Aerial Yoga. Did you take a class as a part of your research?

JB: Yes, I did! Right above Bindi Yoga was a yoga studio called Flight Room. It closed while I was writing the book.

While I was writing this, I had torn my calf muscle and was unable to walk for almost three months. There is a big focus in the whole series about being mobility-challenged and how that impacts everything.

EM: What is the most unique or interesting thing you’ve done as research for your books?

JB: I had to study snakes. I also interviewed Dr. Kathryn Webb at IRG Physical & Hand Therapy – Edmonds about therapy for osteoporosis. That was heartbreaking for me because my grandma had osteoporosis and, like Cheryl in the books, she could only sleep in a recliner.

When I was talking to Kathryn, she was telling me about all these therapies they can do for osteoporosis now. I don’t know if that wasn’t available to my grandma or if she just didn’t choose it. That was really shocking that her life could have been better if she had chosen that.

I ask all the weird questions on Edmonds Moms. “What is it like in Ocean Shores when it snows?” for example.

EM: I love quirky elderly characters. In Postcards from the Cove the entire senior center plays a role in the plot development. The protagonists, Hannah and her sister Mary, have a sweet friendship. The two love interests, Guy and Steven, are dreamy. Where do you get character inspiration?

JB: I always try to include older characters in my book because so many of my readers are 50-plus. I know that because so many retirees have Kindle Unlimited and a lot of my readers use Kindle Unlimited. I love including those characters. Notes from the Cove has a lot of fun older characters, too.

On the research trip we did when we went to Port Angeles, we went to Poulsbo. Poulsbo has an adorable senior center on their main drag. It looks like a gingerbread house. It was the inspiration for the Senior Center in the series.

The movie theater in Photographs from the Cove was inspired by the Edmonds Theater. In that book, Steven was a fun character; I don’t know where I got the inspiration for him. He was really socially awkward but adorable. I know a lot of people like that, but I won’t name names.

EM: Who are some of your favorite writers?

JB: I love Carolyn Brown. She writes small-town romances set in Texas and Oklahoma. I just read this author, Sharon M. Peterson. She lives in Longview, Wash. She wrote this book called “The Do-Over.” It was so funny!

It is about a plus-sized woman who has to stand up to her whole family and she finds true love. She has an emotional support fish. It’s hilarious. The whole thing is her anti-New Year’s resolutions. She’s not going to lose weight. She’s not going to try to do better at her job. She’s not going to please her mother. It’s really funny.

She [Peterson] is also published by Bookouture (the publishing group for the Sand Dollar Cove series) and Carolyn Brown was published by Montlake (another publisher Bardsley works with). I try to read the authors that my publisher is publishing so I can get to know them.

Writers don’t have coworkers. You’re totally on your own, so the more support you get, the better.

EM: You are so involved in the community. You moderate Edmonds Moms and you mentioned being a Girl Scout troop leader. How do you make time for your writing when you have all these hats you wear?

JB: I’m also the secretary for the Meadowdale High School sports booster club, even though I know nothing about sports!

It’s a lot easier now that both my kids are teenagers. When they were little, I’d even write during my son’s 30-minute guitar lesson or my daughter’s swim lesson. At one point, I felt really bad about this: Barclay Shelton (Dance Centre) had a parents’ watch week, and I was in there on my keyboard because I had a deadline.

EM: What can readers expect from the next book in the series, Notes from the Cove, featuring Brittany’s story?

JB: This is one of my most favorite books because it features a 45-year-old main character, like me. That’s very rare in publishing. Publishers almost never want to publish romances with older characters.

This is the first book I’ve been allowed to write under contract with a 45-year-old main character. It was really fun to write a Gen X love story. No one from [Bookouture] London told me to change her age or anything. They were completely supportive.

There is a lot of Gen X music that plays an important role. There’s also a single dad with a daughter, as the love interest.

EM: Anything else you want to mention?

JB: I have a Facebook page that’s really fun and I have a reader group on Fridays where I give away free books.

If any high-school English teachers want to have an author and talk for free about how to get involved in publishing, I’m happy to do that. I’ve never been able to do that at my children’s schools, because they refuse to let me, but I’ve done Author Talks in Utah at high schools and middle schools.

The last book from Sand Dollar Cove will be released March 20. You can preorder it here.

— By Elizabeth Murray

(Photo by Brittany Gross)

Elizabeth Murray is a freelance writer thankful to call Edmonds home. When she’s not busy wrangling her two kids (and husband), you can find her playing ukulele. She can be reached at

  1. How terrific to hear the backstories of your writing life! Your “can do” attitude is an inspiration for those persons wanting to eke out time to write in the midst of Life! Best wishes for your continued success.

  2. Great job, as always, in profiling our local writing community here in Edmonds. I always enjoy hearing the backstory behind different artists/musicians/writers, so this was a fun interview to read.

  3. I often tout Edmonds as the regional hub for visual arts and the performing arts, but I really must also include literary arts. All three work to keep this a special place in the arts world. Kudos to Jennifer Bardsley for being an important part of the Edmonds arts scene.

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