Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A View From Jackina Stark's Window!

I am so excited about this interview! Jackina Stark has written her first novel, Tender Grace, and it is absolutely amazing! Well, guess what? The author is pretty special too! I just had to introduce you to this godly lady and let you get to know her! There are more stories on the way, so please enjoy getting to know Jackina, and then follow her career closely! It is sure to be a HUGE blessing!

What has been the most memorable moment on the road to the publication of Tender Grace? How has this been different from other pieces you have written?

I was overwhelmed twenty-five or so years ago when Standard Publishing accepted and subsequently published my first article for take-home magazines. And I was thrilled twenty years ago when a local publishing company asked me to write a non-fiction book on parenting (Framing a Rainbow) and then asked me to compile some of my articles and speeches into a book of essays (Because Love Welcomed Me). (These fledgling and imperfect books are out of print but still available if you Google my name.)

But that can not compare to how I felt when David Horton allowed me to send him and Bethany House Tender Grace (my second try at writing a novel). It was a long five month process from when I sent it to David until Charlene Peterson the vice president of fiction wrote me an email to say they were going to acquire it. I opened that email while I was visiting my daughter in California, and I just sat there staring at her words, reading her short note over and over. “Hey, guys,” I finally said, “come and look at this.” My husband, my daughter, son-in-law, and three grandkids gathered around and just stared at the screen with me. Really, writing a novel is one things, getting a publisher to look at it is another, having them acquire it is still another. As my family and I stared in disbelief at the computer screen, I felt like God was smiling.

I absolutely loved the way Audrey went to her husband’s Bible and through the book of John. Truly, she made application in a way I never thought of, but it was very meaningful to me personally. Did this come from your own study of John? Where did this idea originate?

I will never get over being grateful to God for the idea of Tender Grace—for the idea of taking Audrey on a trip and for the idea of her taking Tom’s Bible along, specifically, the book of John. That is my favorite book of the Bible, and I have written from it and given speeches over it many times. I’ve taken a couple of groups I’ve mentored through that gospel as well. Passages have overwhelmed me personally.

I love the passage that introduced the four scriptures that are the sheep Audrey counts when she can’t sleep. “It is I”; Jesus says, “don’t be afraid.” How that phrase has comforted me through the years. But one of my favorite John passages appears near the end of the book where Audrey says she has a new group of sheep to count, the “It’s the Lord” group. I’ve discussed that passage in an article/speech, and audiences have loved it. I knew that had to go in, and it fit perfectly into her trip and her frame of mind when John 21 came around.

I’ve also written about another favorite passage in John 11, where Jesus calls Lazarus from the grave. That is so dramatic, of course, and Jesus’ tears are so touching. I seldom, maybe never, write a speech or an article that the text hasn’t touched the deepest part of me. Out of his Word that he has given to and preserved for us, I have glimpsed the power and love of God. That I was able to use so many of the things I’ve seen in Tender Grace (because any thing I used HAD to be subordinated to story) seemed like a gift from God. The nature of this first book allowed me to go through the book and testify to God’s work in our lives. I’ve thanked God for that privilege again and again.

You mention on your website that there will be another fiction release this year…will this be a continuation of Tender Grace or something new? Can you give us a sneak-peek? (please tell me we get to know Zack a little better?)

Four or five people now have said they would like a sequel to TG. (And they’d like it right nowJ.) I haven’t planned a sequel. I rather like stand alone novels. You get a character into trouble and hopefully you get her out. If I write a sequel, Audrey will have to have another conflict to resolve, and I want her to go in peace. (But I’m thinking about it anyway). Right now I’m working on a third book, and I have an inkling of an idea for maybe a fourth and fifth book (I don’t think I’ll be prolific and I’m a very slow writer!) So I don’t know about a sequel although I certainly left TG open ended. I didn’t do that because I was going to write another novel about Audrey but because the ending seemed to fit the beginning. Audrey had awakened; she could sing again. For me that was logical and delightful closure.

The book coming out in October is called Things Worth Remembering. Structurally, it is quite a departure from Tender Grace. It is still first person, but it’s present tense, and it has two narrators, a mother, Kendy, and her 22-year-old daughter, Maisey. It takes place from Monday through Saturday of Maisey’s wedding week. Each day starts and ends with Kendy, but the chapters alternate between the two women.

I loved working with each of their voices, and I loved both characters so much, as well as the supporting characters. But these women are in crisis, quite a serious one. The story is my answer to the question: Restoration is possible with God and man, but is it possible between mere mortals as well? One character needs to be forgiven, and the other needs to forgive—both needs have heart breaking implications. This is a different kind of crisis than Audrey had, but it’s just as poignant and real.

Though the structure is different, the style is much the same. I’m so hoping the audience that likes Tender Grace will like Things Worth Remembering.

Your teaching career seems to have been a huge blessing in your life. Can you share with us one of your most memorable moments with your students? An “a-ha!” moment that seemed to be a true point of change in either your life or the life of your student?

I have had so many tender moments with students—you wouldn’t believe. In the 28 years I taught at Ozark Christian College, I mentored many students—mostly young women, but I once worked with a group of three guys, some of the finest young men I’ve ever known. What a great semester that was. We still love it when we run into each other.

I was blessed with a good sense of humor and a natural appreciation of college-age students, so even when students didn’t happen to like composition, or British literature, or especially analytical grammar, we still managed to have a good time, even when I very much stayed on task! We laughed every single day, and some days we even cried.

One student loved me and the subjects I taught so much, she became an English major, and I hand-picked her to take my place when I retired. She taught along side me part-time for my last two years, but then, before she could take over, she and her husband decided to be missionaries to Bosnia!!! Best laid plans are subordinated to God’s better ones. J

Some of my most precious students write me from places like France, Uganda, Japan, and China! They are all over the world, and they are among those of whom the world is not worthy. And so many former students right here in the United States write and tell me they want to write, too, or that they are speaking these days (I taught advanced speech for women) or that they’re reading to their kids like crazy (I taught children’s literature J). Goodness, that makes me happy.

Two young men (and their wives) I taught are on the ministry staff at a large church in California where my son-in-law also ministers. They have asked me to come out and do retreats for their women, many of whom are new Christians, and they want me to do this every spring and fall. (Whew! Thank goodness my grandkids are there!) That opportunity comes out of sweet relationships with students.

Sorry I couldn’t name just one. The joy is cumulative.

What exciting things is God doing in your life right now? Closing words of encouragement you’d like to share with your readers?

Yes, lots. Hearing from people about Tender Grace; revising and preparing to release Things Worth Remembering in October; working on book three; working on two speeches and two workshop presentations for upcoming retreats (I have a whole back log of speeches listed on my website and don’t write new ones often when I’m working on a novel); planning a fourth trip to two Cambodia ministries; speaking at several retreats; enjoying a family vacation, an annual summer highlight (Tony and I, and our two daughters and their families). And now my daughter Leanne wants her dad and me to leave the Joplin area where we’ve lived for 42 years and move two hours away to one of her fifteen acres overlooking Taneycomo Lake in Branson, MO. “Come on, Mom, you’re both retired now!” So we’ve found a house plan and just might do it, though I woke myself up one morning after she had started her begging, saying, “I’m scared!”

My encouragement to you is something that is found in Tender Grace. Go with God into your future. He will show us tender graces if we will open ourselves up for that. Like Tom and Audrey, my husband and I are beginning “Act Three,” yet life still has so much to offer. One of my prayers is this: “Lord, let me live until I die.” I don’t know if that makes sense to you, but it sure does to me. How dearly I’d love to go from “life to life.”

“I am the resurrection and the life. . . . Do you believe this?”

Yes, Lord.


Mocha with Linda said...

Great interview. Enjoyed this book.

SmilingSally said...

Interesting interview. I hope that she does NOT write a sequel as I thought this book was close to perfect. I reviewed it here.

Jackina Stark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jackina Stark said...

The third deleted comment was mine! I had misspelled a word, and the English teacher in me couldn't handle it. I was writing to thank the ladies for their comments and to tell Smilingsal that I agree with her and appreciate her saying she hopes I don't write a sequel. Her comment reinforces my original plan for Tender Grace to be a stand alone book. Audrey is fine, and I wanted to keep her that way. :-) I'm glad you liked the book.