Friday, March 26, 2010

A View from Liz Curtis Higgs' Window - Here Burns My Candle

Last week, I reviewed Here Burns My Candle by Liz Curtis Higgs, and this week I am honored to have her visit my window! You cannot begin to know what a thrill this is for me, because I have loved this dear lady and her books for a long time! Truly, this opportunity was a love note from the Lord, and I hope you enjoy your visit with Liz as much as I did!! Please, welcome Liz Curtis Higgs to my Window!

1. The Jacobite Rebellion came in stages, and you have focused on what is considered the 5th attempt to restore the English throne in 1745. How on earth did you connect the story of Ruth to this particular Rebellion? How was this idea born?

For those among us who love Scotland and its history, “The ’45,” as it’s often called, remains a compelling, even maddening series of misadventures. Titles, lands, even lives were staked on restoring the exiled James Stuart to the British throne and doing away with King George in the process. When bonny Prince Charlie—the young pretender to the throne—and his army of Jacobite rebels arrived in Edinburgh in September 1745, things began looking up for the Stuart cause. That’s where Here Burns My Candle opens.

Now, to your good question about the biblical connection: I wanted to focus on just the first chapter of Ruth for this novel, saving the balance of the story for my next Scottish historical, Mine Is the Night. Many Christian readers are familiar with the powerful vow that Ruth makes to Naomi in the final verses of that first chapter—“whither thou goest, I will go”—but I wanted to explore all the elements of Ruth’s story leading up to that sacrificial promise, which include a series of tragic losses and reversals of fortune. That certainly sounded like the Jacobite Rebellion to me!

2. Scottish history is an apparent passion in your heart. Do you have family history of your own that drew you to this time period, or is this a fascination of the heart?

Oh, I love that phrase, Kim! It is indeed a “fascination of the heart.” Many years ago God placed deep within me an abiding love for all things Scottish. I’ve not found any ancestral connection (though I keep looking!), but I’ve nonetheless claimed Scotland as my adopted homeland. The countryside is every bit as beautiful as you might imagine, and the people are exceedingly friendly. My family has roots in Ireland, Wales, and Englandsurely there’s a drop of Scots blood somewhere!

3. Elisabeth’s pagan practices remain hidden from her in-laws for most of the story. Can you tell us the origins of her particular pagan faith and how it came to be part of your story?

At the start of her story Ruth was a Moabite and therefore a pagan. Her people worshiped many gods, among them “Chemosh the vile god of Moab” (2 Kings 23:13). For Lady Elisabeth Kerr, I chose moon worship, one of the practices common in the early Celtic religions, and included several lines of sacred poetry from the Highlands and Islands.

4. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the way you portray Elisabeth’s heart as she is wooed by God throughout the story. I am particularly intrigued at how her faith manages to stand in the face of her husband’s unfaithfulness. What made you decide to have her struggle with marital infidelity along with her own pagan practices?

In the biblical story, Ruth is married to Mahlon, whose name means “weakness.” I might have made his Scottish counterpart, Lord Donald Kerr, physically weak, but moral weakness was closer to the biblical mark. After all, Naomi’s two Israelite sons married pagan Moabite women, apparently with their mother’s permission…not good! From a storytelling standpoint, Elisabeth’s growing faithfulness to God and Donald’s declining faithfulness to her provided the dramatic tension needed to keep the pages turning.

5. Marjory Kerr is another character who is struggling within herself regarding the consequences of bad decisions. It takes some pretty dire circumstances to reveal to her these shortcomings and the need to turn from the desires that brought her to this desperate place. You reveal God’s faithfulness throughout this process and His desire to use all things for our good and His glory. Can

you tell us how God’s faithfulness has been revealed in your life through this character’s struggles?

I seldom think about my own spiritual or emotional challenges when I begin plotting a book. Yet by the time I type the last word, God has inevitably taken my heart on a journey right along with my characters. I’m grateful I’ve not been through some of the heartaches that plagued the Dowager Lady Kerr. The poor woman! Like Naomi, she was bitter and spent from all her losses. And yet, her daughter-in-law pledged to stick with her. Incredible.

Such faithfulness on Elisabeth’s part made me seriously consider my commitment to my own mother-in-law. Could I be as selfless, as sacrificial? Hard questions! Studying Ruth’s biblical story for several months, then living out the Scottish version for several years, made a monumental shift inside me. I always loved my mother-in-law; now I adore and appreciate her in a whole new way. I also gained a daughter-in-law during the writing process, which gave me a deeper understanding of that unique relationship. I just have to say, my m-i-l and d-i-l are both fabulous: I am one blessed woman!

6. Here Burns My Candle is your first full-length piece of fiction in a while. How long has this story been simmering in your heart? How hard was it to find time to write amid all of your other commitments?

I’ve been holding Ruth close to my heart since I first wrote the proposal for Here Burns My Candle in 2004. After the release of my novel Grace in Thine Eyes in 2006, I turned to nonfiction for several seasons, writing Embrace Grace, Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible, and a fun armchair travel guide, My Heart’s in the Lowlands: Ten Days in Bonny Scotland.

Much as I love being immersed in a fictional world, finding time to write amid all my traveling and speaking is ever a challenge. Thank goodness my characters keep coaxing me back to my computer to tell their tale. My readers are a huge encouragement as well. I literally could not keep going without them!

7. Can you share with us a couple of your most memorable Scottish experiences? Looks like you have visited more than once! ;)

Indeed, lass, I’ve visited Scotland eleven times to date. (Those frequent flyer miles do come in handy!) Of all my memorable experiences, here’s one favorite, drawn from the pages of My Heart’s in the Lowlands, published by WaterBrook Press…

I had the glen all to myself that morning; even the Visitor Centre wasn’t yet open. The weather was dry and mild, though it had rained the day before, and the ground was muddy in spots. I climbed to the top of the glen without mishap, eager to use my going-away present from my husband: a brand-new Canon with a zoom lens and sleek design.

After photographing the glen of Loch Trool from every angle, I cautiously started back down the hill, letting the camera swing about my neck instead of doing the intelligent thing and tucking it in my pocket. Suddenly my foot slipped, and gravity took over. Down I went, tumbling over the sharp rocks, my brand-new camera leading the way.

“Help!” No one was around, of course, but I had to do something. Even with my foot painfully pinned under me, my camera worried me most, since mud and tiny stones covered the lens. “Help!”

Out of the blue appeared an older man with a shock of silvery hair and a sturdy build. “Och! What’s happened here, lass? Have ye taken a tumble?”

I held up my Canon with a groan. “We both did.”

He plucked the camera from my hands, deftly brushed off the last of the dirt, and examined the lens with a practiced eye. “A scratch or two on the case. Nothing to fret about.” He made a minor adjustment, then handed the camera back to me. “Good as new.”

That’s when I noticed the professional-looking equipment draped around his neck. “Are you a…”

“Photographer,” he said with a nod, then cupped my elbow to help me up. “Come, let’s get you onto level ground.” A moment later, he climbed over a hillock and was gone from sight.

Imagine, in that vast, empty glen, a man with camera know-how and strong arms showing up at the precise moment I was desperate for both…

8. Can you share some of the exciting things God is doing in your life right now?

Other than sending the Angel of Glen Trool to rescue me? Aye, lass! God is pressing me deeper into his Word and teaching me to trust him, even when the way ahead seems as foggy as Edinburgh on a chilly spring morning. However gray those hours, knowing God loves us and is still at work in our lives (Romans 8:28) is hugely comforting.

As to future plans, when Mine Is the Night releases in Spring 2011, I’ll embark on a series of speaking engagements for Women of Joy, with conferences in Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, South Carolina, Florida, and Texas. At each event I’ll be sharing the message of Ruth, bringing things full circle for me: studying the Word, writing the novel, then teaching the Word!

9. Closing words of encouragement you’d like to share with your readers?

My goal as a novelist is always to point my readers back to Scripture. Even the Readers Guide in the closing pages of Here Burns My Candle includes an invitation to read Ruth 1:1-18. I am grateful for every reader who enjoys my novel approach to Bible study and shares my love for Scotland and its history. For those many dear women (and a few good men!) I will gladly glue myself to my desk chair and continue telling God’s life-changing stories.

1 comment:

Mocha with Linda said...

Oh, I loved reading this! Wonderful interview!