Christian Living

ChurchWatch 04/16/10

Francine Rivers: Her Mother's Hope

Join me for a conversation with popular Christian fiction author, Francine Rivers.

Tell us about your current work, Her Mother's Hope.

Francine RiversRivers: I have just completed the second in a set of two books about mother-daughter relationship over four generations.  This was intended to be one long novel dealing with the different ways generations have lived out their faith – but became so long it needed to be divided.  Her Mother’s Hope  was released on March 16, 2010.  Her Daughter’s Dream will follow in September.  There are numerous family and personal details woven into both books and I plan to share those things on my blog.

You may find out more about my new book and more by visiting my web site at www.FrancineRivers.com.

Read an excerpt of Her Mother's Hope

How did you get started as a writer?

Rivers: From the time I was a child, I knew I would be a writer.  Because I didn’t know what I would write, I majored in English (emphasis in literary writing) and minored in journalism (emphasis on who-what-when-where-why).  My parents had always been non-fiction readers.  Rick’s family loved all kinds of books – and lots of fiction.  Mom Edith loaned me novels and I loved them.  On a dare (from Rick) I decided to write a combination of my favorite genres and wrote a “western-gothic-romance”.  Romance novels were booming in the general market, publishers were on the look-out for new writers.  My first manuscript sold and was published. 

I was hooked!  I followed with eight or nine more (of what I call my B.C. (before Christ) books).  They are all now out of print, are never to be reprinted, and are not recommended.

When I turned my life over to Jesus, I couldn’t write for three years.  I tried, but nothing worked.  I struggled against God over that because writing was my “identity.”  It took that period of suffering “writer’s block” to bring me to my senses.  God was trying to open my eyes to how writing had become an idol in my life.  It was the place I ran to escape, the one area of my life where I thought I was in complete control.  (Hardly!)  My priorities were all wrong and needed to be put right.  God first, husband and children second (we had three children by then) and third -- work.  I prayed God would change my heart.  My love for writing and reading novels waned and my passion for reading and studying God’s Word grew.

Rick and I began hosting a home Bible study.  I began working with Rick in his business.  The children came along and played in the office, hiding in the shipping popcorn. Writing ceased to matter.  I was in love with Jesus and my husband and children. God never stops with the transformation process.  We began studying the book of Hosea, and I sensed God calling me to write again – this time a romance about Jesus’ love for each of us.  Redeeming Love was the result.  It is the retelling of the Hosea story, set in Gold Rush-era California. After I turned it in, I wasn’t sure whether I would write anything more.  I had so many questions about what it means to be a Christian, how to live for God, different issues that still haunted me.  I felt God nudging me toward using my writing as a tool to draw closer to Him.  I would ask my question, create characters that would play out the different viewpoints and seek God’s perspective.   I began work on A Voice in the Wind.  Writing has become a way to worship the Lord through story – to show how intimately He wants to be involved in our lives.

Which is your favorite book of those you’ve written?

Rivers: My favorite book is Redeeming Love.  It was my first as a born-again Christian, my statement of faith, and the most exciting year I’ve spent writing anything.  I felt God’s presence throughout the months of work, as though He were telling me His story through thousands of Scriptures as well as explaining the inner heart-ache and quest of each “my” characters.

Which book was the hardest to write and why?

Rivers: The Atonement Child was the most personal and difficult to write because I had to face my own abortion experience.  Added to the considerable research I did, and women who shared their experiences with me, I went through an intensive post-traumatic stress Bible study for post-abortive women at our local pregnancy counseling center.  Reliving all aspects of my abortion decision and experience was excruciating – but healing.  After twenty-six years of being imprisoned by guilt and shame, I was free through the power and love of God. 

Though the book was the most heart-wrenching to write, it also proved to be the most life changing.  I’ve received countless letters from other post-abortive women and have learned my experience is not unique.  Our nation is filled with wounded men and women.  The character of Hannah is based on my story, Doug is based on Rick’s, and Evie is based on my mother’s.

Which character is your favorite?

Rivers: My favorite character is Michael Hosea from Redeeming Love.   He is like Jesus – the lover of my soul.  I have another favorite:  Hadassah from A Voice in the Wind.  She is the kind of Christian I want to be.

Christian fiction continues to boom.  What would you like to see happen in the field?

Rivers: I want to see Christian fiction speak to the hard and real issues that tear people’s lives apart.  We need writers who are willing to ask the hard questions and go through the soul-searching and agonizing to find answers – and present these stories with skill that surpasses the general market.  Some of the greatest works or art and literature were rendered by Christians.  I believe God is at work in these areas now.  

I would also love to see more Christian stories make it to the big screen and into the world of television, and to have the Christian worldview presented fairly.  Much of what comes out of “Hollywood” appeals to the basest side of mankind and crushes the spirit. Right now, with war and a failing economy, people are hungry for stories that inspire them, lift them and give them hope.  People need to know there are solutions and we can have peace and an abundant life -- even in the midst of trials.

What is your goal or mission as a Christian writer?

Rivers: I want to whet the appetite for the real thing:  the Bible and a personal relationship with Jesus.  I try to weave Scripture throughout the story so people receive the Word and see what it might mean in their lives – how the Lord is present and real and passionately interested in each of us.  He is not an idea.  He is real, all-powerful, all-knowing, the embodiment of love, deeply involved in our existence, and He created each of us for a purpose.

What advice would you give to a new writer?

Rivers: Write what you need to read.  Write from your heart and write truth.  Sometimes it hurts to peel away the layers of self-deception and see ourselves in the mirror, but it will also draw us closer to Jesus.  And your work may minister to others struggling with the same issues.  Read the Bible every day so that it will flow naturally into the story.  Study the Bible from beginning to end.  It is the most exciting reading in the world. It is also alive – and will help you recognize when you are entering into sin and need to realign yourself with the Lord.  Keep your focus on Jesus.

Where do you get your ideas for your plots?

Rivers: Almost every story I have written since becoming a Christian has come from a question that regards a struggle in my own faith walk. The plot centers around the different ways that question can be answered by “the world” – but the quest is to find God’s answer. Here is a list of my novels with the questions that started each story:

A Voice in the Wind:  How do I share my faith with unsaved family members and friends who have no desire to read the Bible or hear me talk about my faith?

An Echo in the Darkness:  How many times are we called upon to forgive people who hurt us deliberately -- and (in many countries) would like to see us dead?

As Sure As the Dawn:   How do you deal with anger – especially when there is “good” cause?  What is “righteous anger” and how does it look?

The Scarlet Thread:  What does “sovereignty” mean in man’s relationship with God?  If He is in control of everything, what does that say about the bad things that happen to people?

The Atonement Child:  Is there complete forgiveness and restoration for a woman who has aborted her child?  Does abortion have any effect on the woman and the man involved in the crisis pregnancy?  Does it impact people around them?  (This was my most painful and personal book because I needed to face and deal with my own abortion experience.  The character of Hannah is based on my story; Evie is based on my mother’s.) 

The Last Sin Eater:  What is the difference between guilt and conviction?  This book came out of The Atonement Child.  What I learned:  guilt kept me imprisoned for years.  Conviction sent me to my knees before the Lord where I received forgiveness and experienced His love and grace.

Leota’s Garden:   Are abortion and euthanasia connected?  Is euthanasia merciful or an act of murder?  This novel also came out of my work on The Atonement Child.  While studying the abortion issue from all sides, I realized the arguments for abortion are exactly the same as those for euthanasia.  While going through a post-abortion class with other women (one a nurse), I learned that the elderly are already at risk.   One scene in the book continues to shock people.  I wrote it for that purpose.  I want people to understand life is precious.  The movement toward legalizing euthanasia continues to gain momentum (and has less to do with “mercy” than saving money for care).

And the Shofar Blew: What is a church?  How do you build it?  During my travels around the country and speaking at various churches, I saw many struggling through building projects and massive programs to draw more parishioners.  Size of building and number of people in the pews seemed to define success or failure.  Like a government out of control, the “church” (in many cases) has forgotten its foundation and purpose.   Christ is the cornerstone.   Believers meet together to study the Word of God, worship Him and encourage one another – and keep their doors and hearts open to those seeking God.  Unfortunately, too many congregations have left their first love (Jesus Christ) and turned to idolatry (placing a building/drawing a crowd/being “politically correct” above a relationship with the Lord).

Her Mother’s Hope / Her Daughter’s Dream:  What caused the rift between my grandmother and mother?   When my grandmother had a stroke, my mother raced from Oregon to the Central Valley of California to be with her.  Grandma died before she arrived.  My mother was heart-broken and said, “I think she willed herself to die just so we wouldn’t have to talk things out.”  I have wondered since:  What causes people (even Christians) to hold grudges?   What might have brought resolution and restoration to these two women?  Could my grandmother have loved my mother without my mother understanding it?   The two books have many personal, family details woven in and I will be sharing this information in my blog. 

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PLEASE NOTE: A complimentary copy of this book was provided to the me as a blog tour host by Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for posting this interview on my blog. Please visit Christian Speaker Services at http://www.christianspeakerservices.com/ for more information about blog tour management services.

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