Linda Nichols, a graduate of the University of Washington, is a novelist with a unique gift of touching readers' hearts with her stories. NOT A SPARROW FALLS, her bestselling debut novel for the Christian fiction market, was a 2003 Christy Award finalist in the contemporary category. Linda and her family make their home in Tacoma, Washington.
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February 16, 2007
Linda Nichols's lovely novels are chock-full of prodigals in need of redemption. Ask her why, and she'll tell you that she once was a prodigal herself. After a Cinderella beginning to her writing career, where her first general market romance novel HANDYMAN was snapped up and film rights sold, she found that the resulting financial success didn't equal happiness. After making a recommitment to her faith, she wrote NOT A SPARROW FALLS and three subsequent inspirational novels, including her latest, IN SEARCH OF EDEN. Here, she talks with FaithfulReader.com's Cindy Crosby about her struggle with perfectionism, the difficulty of forgiveness, and where she and her family end up every Friday night.
FaithfulReader.com: The title of your new book, IN SEARCH OF EDEN, seems to have several different interpretations.
Linda Nichols: I first chose the title when the character Miranda emerged. I saw her as someone who never finished anything. Why not? I asked myself. Because she can't stand imperfection. Whenever things are marred she sees no option but to start over from scratch somewhere else. A tendency that she and I share, by the way. I chose the name Eden for the child because I saw her as the embodiment of so many of the characters' desires to undo the mistakes of the past and to make things right by their own efforts.
The theme of the book grew as I explored the idea of perfectionism versus grace. When man sinned, God didn't say, "Well, now it's ruined. I'd better start over." Instead, he began His counterplan of redemption through Christ. I don't know why grace is so hard to accept. I think there's something in me that wants to earn righteousness by myself, and in the process I do all kinds of damage to myself and others around me.
One of my favorite authors, David Seamands, has written, "Life can never be fully perfect again…at least not here on this planet and in the sense it originally was…Here and now, life can be perfect only in a new and different sense, in the way of God's freely given grace."
FR: IN SEARCH OF EDEN, as well as some of your previous books (IF I GAINED THE WORLD, AT THE SCENT OF WATER), revolves around the themes of brokenness and redemption. Why are these particular themes important to you?
LN: Because I'm broken and I need redemption. The more I see my own brokenness and the brokenness of my children and the people around me, I can go one of two ways --- despair, or hope. I write what I need to hear. I have to constantly tell myself that the grace of God is sufficient and that the power and virtue in the blood of Jesus are what make me faultless and blameless and acceptable to God.
FR: As the novel unfolds, Miranda Isabella DeSpain is desperately afraid of commitment. Does this mirror the way you see culture today?
LN: Yes, but I wasn't intentionally making a cultural comment. That's just the way I was, and I patterned that aspect of Miranda's character after my own behavior in my early twenties. If you don't know what you're looking for, it's hard to tell if you've found it. And if I doubt the goodness of Abba Father, then I worry I'll miss His blessing if I'm not in exactly the right place at the right time. There was a good deal of magical thinking and fatalism in my beliefs at that time in my life. Now I'm learning that my loving Father will hunt me down to bless me!
FR: "Miranda Isabella DeSpain" is quite a mouthful. How did you choose this name for your protagonist?
LN: I wanted her real name and identity to be royal and beautiful --- and somewhat mysterious and Basque.
FR: One of the interesting things about Miranda's search for her past is how it gives her greater insights into her mother's motivations. What might readers take away from this?
LN: I once heard Christian psychologist Henry Cloud say that when people object to the idea of Christians reflecting on their family of origin, he reminds people that one of these days it won't be called your past, it will be called your life. I think we need to understand our parents before we can truly understand ourselves. Otherwise, we'll probably repeat their mistakes or run the other way and make new ones as we overcorrect. However, the older my children get and the more mistakes I make, the more humble and merciful I am toward my parents.
FR: Another theme in the novel is adoption, and the feelings of biological parents and adoptive parents. What questions might Miranda's decision not to tell her daughter that she is her biological mother raise in the minds of your readers?
LN: Probably whether it was right or wrong, and also what they would have done in the same situation.
FR: Why did you have Miranda make this decision? Do you expect any objections from readers?
LN: I had Miranda make this decision out of love. She realized that what Eden needed was more important than what she needed, and I believe she knew that Eden needed to be reconciled and get healing from her adoptive family. I don't expect objections from readers. It was a decision made out of love and wanting the best for her child even at the cost of pain to herself.
FR: I appreciated how you showed the long-lasting effects of bitterness and anger on family relationships. In real life, can betrayals like the one Joseph experienced ever be healed? What would it take?
LN: Yes, they absolutely can be healed. But I think it takes the grace of God to forgive. And forgiveness is progressive. In other words, I think deep hurts require deep forgiveness, and although the decision to forgive may be a one-time event, living it out may take place in degrees or over and over again as new memories and experiences occur. I think, too, that true healing and reconciliation depends somewhat on the attitude of the offender. True repentance makes forgiveness easier and allows for reconciliation.
When I can't find the grace to forgive, I remember that holding a grudge puts me right back into the realm of the law, of people getting what they deserve. I don't want to live there myself, since I need God's grace and forgiveness every moment. So that always helps me to make the decision to forgive.
FR: The Hasty Taste Café was such a believable, warm, friendly sort of setting for scenes in the book. Do you have a favorite diner like this in Tacoma, Washington?
LN: Unfortunately, the Hasty Taste is a figment of my fertile imagination. There are some cute cafes around here, but our favorite restaurant is Tacos Guaymas, where we eat dinner every Friday.
FR: Who are some of your favorite writers?
LN: Anne Tyler is one of my favorites. I love her quirky characters and quiet but profound insights. Alexander McCall Smith delights me with the character and morality of Precious Ramotswe of the Number One Ladies Detective Agency. I loved Earl Hamner Jr. for capturing the beauty of life in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. I love the way Pat Conroy and Rick Bragg use language.
FR: What are you working on now and when can readers expect to see it?
LN: Currently in process is a work of historical fiction with the theme of how God preserved His Word and His church through various ages of history. Also, I've written a fantasy/sci-fi and have a couple of mysteries on the to-do list. I'm hoping to have a book ready within a year to 18 months.
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