J. A. (Jennifer) Nelson grew-up in Culver City, a suburb of Los Angeles, California. Her childhood home stood a few blocks away from MGM Studios, Culver Studios, and Desilu Studios. She blamed her abysmal math grades on periodic late arrival at school: streets often were blocked by the studios’ camera and film crews. Math issues aside, the creative forces in the coastal breezes inspired Jennifer. Reading and writing were her “bag.”

Jennifer’s earliest gum-scraping bite at the apple of success was the feedback she received from an executive reader at 20th Century Fox about a double-length script that she and her best friend had written and submitted for the t.v. show M*A*S*H.

This is great! Better than many of our episodes of the last two years. Wish you’d sent this sooner. We just wrapped the final season and are in post-production.

Sooner? Not likely. Jennifer and her buddy were 15 years old at the time. However, that bite of apple hid some nourishing seeds. For Jennifer, it was the encouragement and joy of conceiving and writing something big, complex and fun.

The idea for Jennifer’s debut novel, A Man of Honor, or Horatio’s Confessions, came as she watched the film Hamlet, by Kenneth Branagh. The prompting question came not in battalions but as a single spy: What is Horatio thinking?

While in the midst of a two-decade career at the National Archives of the United States, Jennifer filled her evening and weekend hours, sometimes in the company of her spouse but too often (as any honest author will confess) writing and submerged in research, in this case: about the Shakespeare play, the legend of Hamlet, and every detail about life in medieval Denmark and France.

As Jennifer wrote A Man of Honor, or Horatio’s Confessions under the pen name J.A. Nelson and in 2019 founded her publication imprint, Quill Point Press, she fed her passion for learning about literature and history. Yes, yes…degrees in cultural studies (BA, Occidental College and MA, The George Washington University) buttressed her research methods, but travel across Europe was Jennifer’s inspiration.

Visits to specific locations in Denmark and France that are depicted in her book. Ancient marketplace towns. Churches and temples. Fields and monuments. Museums. Taverns. Palaces and castles. Collections in libraries and archives. Hardly least, the people. Innocent souls, wandering through Jennifer’s line-of-sight, had no idea they were modeling or being “copied and pasted” to populate a writer’s fictional scenes.

In 2020 A Man of Honor, or Horatio’s Confessions won several prestigious awards among American independent publishers.

  • Finalist, Literary Fiction, 14th Annual National Indie Excellence Awards
  • Notable Indie, Top 100, Best Indie Book Awards, Shelf Unbound
  • Silver Medal: Best First Book, Fiction – Independent Book Publishers Association
    Silver Medal: Best Cover, Fiction – Independent Book Publishers Association

Jennifer—J.A. Nelson—is writing her next novel in the same home in Northern Virginia, married to the same patient gentleman who is not surprised that another book is in the works.


To help kids and their parents learn to enjoy reading, and to benefit from the life-altering skills and confidence that can come with literacy, please consider joining Jen in giving to Reading is Fundamental or to your literacy charity of choice.

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