Saturday, March 26, 2011

A View from Liz Curtis Higgs' Window - Mine is the Night!

What a THRILL to have Liz Curtis Higgs visit my Window again! Her latest novel, Mine is the Night, completes the story of Ruth, and it is magnificent! You can read my review HERE.

Please, give Liz a warm welcome as she shares her heart about this very special story! Welcome, Liz!

Talk about making a Bible story come to life!! I will never think of the story of Ruth without thinking of Bess and Jack! How on earth did you make the details of this story set in 1700’s Scotland dovetail so closely with the Biblical account? A lot of research? The Holy Spirit? You didn’t miss a thing!!

Bless you for saying so, Kim! And you are right on both counts: Here Burns My Candle and Mine Is the Night required tons of research and the Holy Spirit’s guidance most of all. I studied the biblical story first, using a dozen translations and twice that many commentaries, until I had a firm grasp on the book of Ruth. Then I immersed myself in Scotland of old, turning to the 800+ history books on my shelves (crazy, I know!). I also traveled to Edinburgh and Selkirk to do on-site research in Scotland. Even with all that groundwork laid, I was utterly dependent on the Lord’s leading as I wrote, praying his truth, love, and grace would land on the page.

Marjory and Bess have such an eye-opening experience when they reach their cousin Anne’s home, yet their changed hearts make it possible for them to quickly form relationships. What is the most important thing you want readers to “glean” from the lessons they learn as they establish a home with Anne?

You ask the best questions, lass! These three women have all traveled very different paths in life. Marjory was raised in a wealthy Lowland household, then wed a man of means; Bess grew up in tradesman’s home before marrying into money; and our never-married Anne has always lived just above the poverty line. Their ages are different as well, intentionally a dozen years apart—Bess is twenty-four, Annie is thirty-six, and Marjory isforty-eight—so they each see the world through a slightly different lens. Watching the three of them make a life together gives us a chance to examine our own relationships with women who are at different ages and stages. We tend to hang out with people who are much like us, yet there is so much to be gained from spending time with older and younger women who don’t live in the same neighborhood, don’t share our lifestyle, and yet have much to teach us.

Jack Buchanan is such a heroic character to me! He never seems presumptuous, he seems to really care about everyone around him, and he seems very intuitive about the needs of others. Are these the characters you think Boaz would have as well? How didyou create this great character?

I just have to say it: I adore Lord Jack! And yes, his character was drawn almost entirely from the pages of Scripture. (Well, except for the Royal Navy part!) Boaz is called “a man of standing” (Ruth 2:1), which tells us a great deal, since that phrase was often used of war heroes. The various translations tell us Boaz was “mighty” (KJV), “prominent” (NRSV), “rich” (NCV), “influential” (NLT), and “important” (CEV). Plus, the first words he speaks are a blessing on those laboring in his fields: “The Lord be with you!” (Ruth 2:4). So, our heroic Jack is strong, wealthy, influential, and godly. I’m in!

The role of tailor and dressmaker is foundational in this story! I’ve never given this role much thought. How did you come to use this role as such a keystone in this story? How did you learn about the details of this trade? Do you sew yourself?

In both novels I wanted Elisabeth Kerr to have a skill that befitted a gentlewoman of her time, yet would serve her well when the family’s circumstances took a turn for the worse. Since clothing defined someone’s place in society, having her be a dressmaker points out more fully the reversal of fortune she experiences. As to gathering details about sewing, that’s where all those research books came in handy, since I’m not very good with a needle and thread beyond the simplest of curtains and dress hems. My college-grad daughter, though, is a very gifted seamstress, so she was hugely helpful, even creating a sketch for the Author Notes, illustrating one of Elisabeth Kerr’s designs.

The Jacobite rebellion continues to overshadow the lives of Elizabeth and Marjory. Dragoons roam the countryside ridding the kingdom of traitors. How realistic was the role of the dragoons and where did you learn about their role in the aftermath of the rebellion?

Everything concerning the dragoons is historically accurate, thanks to some terrific resources on my bookshelves, including: The ’Forty-Five: The Last Jacobite Rebellion; 1745: A Military History of the Last Jacobite Rising; and Culloden and the ’45. Had we traveled north into the Highlands for the second novel, instead of south into the Lowlands, we would have seen first hand how cruelly the English soldiers treated the Highlanders who supported the bonny Prince Charlie. It was a very dark time in British history.

There were a lot of social “rules” about widows in mourning, being faithful to the king, the roles of women and men being alone together, working together etc…what was your source for all of this information? I found it fascinating! Do you wish we had similar rules today?

Once again, various books came in handy, particularly Henry Grey Graham’s The Social Life of Scotland in the Eighteenth Century and Marion Lochlead’s The Scots Household in the Eighteenth Century. All those rules of society fascinate me as well. I do wish we were more polite with one another, more mannerly and civil. But I fear I’d miss some of the freedoms we enjoy if we went back to all those rigid social conventions. Still, it’s fun to step back to such a time while reading novels!

What are some of the spiritual lessons you hope readers will take from this story? What was the most important thing you learned while working on this series?

Watching Marjory Kerr grow spiritually invites us to examine our own lives more closely. How would we behave if everything we owned and everyone we loved were taken from us? Would that loss strengthen our faith in a sovereign God, or strain it to the breaking point? After much tears and gnashing of teeth, Marjory trusts God with her future, and in doing so, challenges us to do the same.

In Elisabeth Kerr, her twenty-something daughter-in-law, we find a young woman with a young faith that is tested and tried, even as her broken heart slowly mends. Like Ruth of old, Elisabeth is faithful above all things and a role model for women of any age. Her willingness to sacrifice her own desires to meet Marjory’s needs speaks volumes to me concerning my own relationship with my dear mother-in-law. That’s definitely been the takeaway for me personally with this two-book saga: making a greater commitment to my m-i-l and including her more in our lives, as well as reaching out to my young d-i-l and making her feel part of our family.

Is the story over? Or shall readers look for more stories about the precious characters you have allowed us to know and love?

The story of the Kerrs is indeed fully told. I covered almost every verse in the book of Ruth, and so will leave the Kerr women in good hands and quietly close the door. I know that’s hard for readers, and believe me, it’s hard for this writer too! I get very attached. From where I’m sitting, they aren’t characters, they’re friends. Sometimes (don’t laugh!) I’ll go back and read a chapter from one of my novels, simply to be with the characters again. I’m grateful for readers who feel the same way. The two phrases every novelist longs to hear are “I couldn’t put it down” and “I didn’t want it to end.” That means the characters came alive and found a home in readers’ hearts.

Who was your favorite character? Why?

As it happens, I posed the same question in the Readers Guide and am eager to hear how my readers will respond. Of course, all the characters captured my imagination at some level, but I became most attached to Naomi's Scottish counterpart, Marjory Kerr. Marjory is a midlife, menopausal mother-in-law (I get all three!), who has been knocked off her high-and-mighty horse and must learn to adapt to a humbler situation. Perhaps because she is an older mother without children beneath her roof, her story arc parallels my own empty-nest journey a wee bit. And I loved watching her grow in her faith. She also provided the biggest surprise for me, when her story line took a major and unexpected shift. I love when that happens!

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

My prayer is that, when readers finish this two-book saga, they'll reach for their Bibles and read the book of Ruth with fresh eyes and open hearts. However handsome and brave our fictional hero may be (oh my, is he ever!), none can compare to our Redeemer and Savior, Jesus. Every book I've ever written has grace at the heart of it and hope at the end of it, and none more so than Mine Is the Night.

1 comment:

Mocha with Linda said...

What an incredible interview. This is in my TBR stack for a review and I'm looking forward to it.

I've been buried with life stuff lately but haven't forgotten about you my friend! Hugs.