ABOUT AUTHOR: New York Times bestselling author Francine Rivers continues to win both industry acclaim and reader loyalty around the globe. Her numerous bestsellers include A Voice in the Wind, Redeeming Love, and A Lineage of Grace.
Francine Rivers began her literary career at the University of Nevada, Reno, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and journalism. From 1976 to 1985, she had a successful writing career in the general market and her books were highly acclaimed by readers and reviewers.
Although raised in a religious home, Francine did not truly encounter Christ until later in life, when she was already a wife, a mother of three, and an established romance novelist. Shortly after becoming a born-again Christian in 1986, Francine wrote Redeeming Love as her statement of faith. First published by Bantam Books, and then rereleased by Multnomah Publishers in the mid-1990s, this retelling of the biblical story of Gomer and Hosea, set during the time of the California Gold Rush, is now considered by many to be a classic work of Christian fiction. Redeeming Love continues to be one of the CBA’s top-selling titles, and it has held a spot on the Christian best-seller list for nearly a decade.
Since Redeeming Love, Francine has published numerous novels with Christian themes—all best sellers—and she has continued to win both industry acclaim and reader loyalty around the globe. Her Christian novels have been awarded or nominated for numerous honors, including the RITA Award, the Christy Award, the ECPA Gold Medallion, and the Holt Medallion in Honor of Outstanding Literary Talent. In 1997, after winning her third RITA Award for inspirational fiction, Francine was inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. Francine’s novels have been translated into over twenty different languages and she enjoys best-seller status in many foreign countries including Germany, the Netherlands, and South Africa.
What benefits have you received in having relationships with reading groups?
The greatest benefit is connecting with readers, getting to actually hear what they think about the characters and story on which I’ve worked for months. Writing is often lonely. I’m in my office from early morning until midafternoon. I work alone and live inside my head for hours on end. It’s wonderful to find out what worked and what didn’t, what encouraged or convicted. It’s nice to know if I’ve done my job (giving God glory through story).
Where would you like to see your relationship with reading groups grow? How do you think your goals can be met?
I’ve only done a few book club meetings and I’d love to do more. Hopefully, by getting the word out, I can schedule more. The only problem is I seldom reread my work once it’s gone to press. Sometimes I forget elements of the story or characters. My mind tends to erase files so I can concentrate on the work-in-progress. It takes time to jog my memory. What I need to do is have an outline and character list for each book so I can prepare beforehand. Thankfully, readers have been very helpful in reminding me of what I’ve forgotten.
Is there a set size a reading group should be before you’ll talk to them on the phone or in person? What do you feel most comfortable doing?
As long as I can hear them and they can hear me, numbers don’t matter. It’s always more fun to be with each other—face to face—but that’s usually not possible because of distance and my schedule. What I need to do is invest in a computer with a camera and learn how to use Skype. I’ll also need a knowledgeable instructor who is patient training a dinosaur to do new tricks.
Which type of book club meeting do you prefer? Why?
I have no idea how to answer this question. The only book club meetings I’ve attended (in person or via telephone) have been casual, friendly, open. That’s why they’ve been so much fun. I would probably avoid a club meeting that was looking for a formal presentation. I far prefer the open-forum style.
What have you learned about your books and yourself from book club meetings?
|Finding Hope Book Club March 2012 And the Shofar Blew|
I learn that readers always put themselves into the story and learn things writers didn’t include. I find that interesting and exciting. God can use anything to reach into the hearts of His children, even a work of fiction. When readers share what they’ve pulled out of one of my stories (something I didn’t put in), I’m learning how God speaks to each of us in unique and very personal ways. I find that exciting.
Nora: Finding Hope Book Club was excited to talk to you about your book And the Shofar Blew. We wanted to read a book that no one had heard of that you’d written. This was a book with a powerful message. It was interesting to hear from you how this book came about and that because of the title it’s gotten into Jewish book stores. We learn a great deal as a club talking to the author too!
Did you learn more about your characters than what you had originally intended? If so, what?
I can’t give specific examples, but I believe readers add to characters and flesh them out in ways the writer can’t. They read themselves into the story and draw out what they need. I know this is true of myself when I’m reading. I always have a pen in hand and often underline things that have special meaning to me, things I want to remember, things that encourage and convict.
Have you been surprised by readers’ reactions to one of your books? One of your characters? If so, which ones or what surprised you?
Sometimes the reactions are expected. When I wrote about Leota and the orderly who cared for her, I hoped for a reaction from readers. You will understand what I’m saying if you’ve read the book. There was one shocking and disturbing scene that left a big question hanging. I left it hanging for a reason. I wanted to make a point and have readers think about what’s happening right now and may happen even more in the future if we keep silent. I wanted to challenge readers to be aware and watchful.
Book clubs are always kind and encouraging. I don’t hear criticism. Of course, I’ve received letters that have hurt me terribly. At the same time, those letters make me take a closer look at my work. I may gather my thoughts and present a story, but it is the Lord who gives the right answer. Criticism isn’t always harmful. It can be constructive.
Has your book club experience—getting feedback from reading groups—helped you in writing future books? If so, how has it helped you?
I remember one reader who wrote to me because she was very upset that every Christian novel had to pair people up at the end. She was single. She raised a valid question, and I thought a lot about what she had to say. Paul wrote inspired admonishments and instructions regarding whether to marry or not. When I wrote Leota’s Garden, I decided the main character was going to face that question. Annie remained single at the end. She was very happy and fulfilled with her life centered on Jesus. She didn’t need a husband. She had one: the Lord. Although I was very happy with the ending, (and hopefully, so was the reader who first inspired me to have the story end in that way), there were lots of readers who wanted a sequel in which Annie would find true love and get married. I felt I had somehow missed the mark of presenting singleness as a blessed state, too. It brought me right back to that reader’s question. Why do we think people have to be married in order to be fulfilled and happy? It’s a question I may have to address in a different way in a future book—and do a better job of it.
What would you like to experience in reading groups that you haven’t experienced so far?
More time to chat and hear about other books the group has read or is reading and what they’re learning from them. Many of the books on my to-be-read stack are recommendations from friends who love to read.
What was your most memorable reading group experience? What made it so special?
My most memorable reading group was local. They contacted me through the Internet. I had never met them, though they met barely two miles from my home. It was a small group of ten women and they met in a private home. They asked lots of questions. We laughed a lot, shared testimonies. We drank coffee and ate cookies and chatted for two or more hours. It was great fun getting to know each of them. I felt like a member of their group, not a guest speaker.
Can you give us a sneak peek at what you are working on now? I heard it will be out in 2014. I’m curious as to what it’s about! Do tell!
You’ll have to read Ezekiel 16. That will give you a hint of the plotline and theme. It will be a love story. Of course, it will have a happy ending.
Here is the First Part of that Chaptaer.
Nora: I knew you’d want to get a peek at it. Ezekiel 16 (New International Version (NIV) verses 1-8 – Wow, this book sounds like it will impact lives, be very moving and intense to read, but we won’t expect anything less Francine.
Jerusalem as an Adulterous Wife
1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, confront Jerusalem with her detestable practices 3 and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says to Jerusalem: Your ancestry and birth were in the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. 4 On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths. 5 No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised. 6 “‘Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, “Live!”[a] 7 I made you grow like a plant of the field. You grew and developed and entered puberty. Your breasts had formed and your hair had grown, yet you were stark naked.
8 “‘Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your naked body. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign LORD, and you became mine.
FUN QUESTIONS I JUST HAD TO ASK
Name three books you adored as a child.
Since I didn’t like to read, I can’t think of any. I was more interested in being outside, hiking and biking, swimming in the community pool, and invading forts built by my brother. I did love to look at the pictures in the first volume of the Childcraft book on poetry. My mother was very upset with me when I tore out my favorite pages and kept it under my pillow. The tape has yellowed with the years. My daughter, Shannon, now has custody of the book.
Nora: I loved to be outside too. Building forts, exploring nature and swimming were the highlights of our days up north. Dora the Explorer has nothing on me. I didn’t read as a child too but for a very different reason. I’m dyslexic and reading wasn’t fun. Great to hear I’m in good company about not being a reader!! Grin!
What movie most affected you when you were young? If you didn’t watch movies, what book affected you most in your youth?
The first movie that popped into my mind was The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, which I probably saw from the backseat of my parents’ station wagon parked at a drive-in. I’m sure they didn’t want me to watch it. It scared me half to death. It gave me nightmares! What did I learn? Stories can make an impact. Stories feel real.
Nora: I would get freaked out by movies and have nightmares too. My parents would say it wasn’t real. It’s just actors. My thought was it must have happened somewhere to give them the idea to act it out. Also after my parents watch the Exorcist and slept with the light on for a week. I saw how movies could affect even the ones that watched scary movies all the time. Grin. You are so right when you say “Stories impact us”
What is the most special thing anyone has ever done for you?
Rick married me. We’ve grown up together, literally, emotionally and spiritually. I’m blessed to have a wonderful husband who has encouraged me to do what God has called me to do. The truth is I wouldn’t have turned in my first manuscript without Rick’s prodding. It would still be sitting on a closet shelf gathering dust.
What three things would you rather not live without?
Faith, family, friends.
A friend of yours has a time travel machine and will let you have it for a couple of days. What would you do with it? Any events you’d like to experience? If so, which ones?
I have no tech ability and would probably push the wrong buttons and end up in a time and place I wouldn’t want to go and wouldn’t know how to come back through the time portal (or whatever). If offered a time travel machine, I would say, “Thank you very much for the thought, but you can have it back.” If they wouldn’t take it, I would put a canvas cover over it and have it moved to a storage locker. God planted me in the here and now. I think I’ll stay put.
Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your book club experience and writing career. It was a thrill and an honor to talk to you on the phone about And the Shofar Blew with Finding Hope Book Club. The picture we took of our group was taken first thing so I wouldn’t forget, so some are not in it and some were out sick)
What an impact this book made on all of us. Sad to say that several members have gone through the very experience in their personal lives with their Pastors. It was exciting to hear how the Lord has used your book to be a tool for future Pastors to help them be aware of what they are getting into. Your publisher told us that the repackaging of two of your back list titles The Scarlet Thread and The Atonement Child. will be out in June of this year.Glad to hear they are being re-published. These were powerful books! I highly recommend them.
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Praying the Lord continues to inspire your writing.
The Book Club Network CEO
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