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Francine Rivers


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 Christian Booksellers Association’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.

Francine and her husband, Rick, live in Northern California and enjoy the time spent with their three grown children and every opportunity to spoil their grandchildren. Francine uses her writing to draw closer to the Lord, and she desires that through her work she might worship and praise Jesus for all He has done and is doing in her life.

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September 2010

Prolific author Francine Rivers is moving American readers yet again with HER DAUGHTER’S DREAM, the heart-wrenching sequel to HER MOTHER’S HOPE that follows Carolyn Arundel as she struggles to heal the wounds that ripped her family apart during the Cold War, only to find herself facing the same difficulties with her own daughter, May Flower Dawn. In this interview, Rivers discusses the generational conflicts that played themselves out in her own household, elaborating on the difficulty of writing a family drama and the challenge of exploring real-life issues in a fictional setting. She also offers insight into the ways in which faith can help heal unresolved trauma and reveals what men can learn from reading a book about mother-daughter relationships.

Question: How has exploring the relationship between your mother and grandmother helped you understand yourself?

Francine Rivers: This is a question I would love readers to ask themselves at the end of HER MOTHER’S HOPE. I realized early in the story that I have many of my grandmother and mother’s character traits, both good and bad. They both had tempers. So do I. They both had low self-esteem. I’m always striving to “measure up”. They both chose spouses who respected them. So did I. Both women had strong faith and servants’ hearts, something they encouraged in me. My mother extended grace to others --- a trait I want to cultivate to the end of my days. By holding onto her anger, Grandma lacked the peace and joy she could have had in her last years. I tend to relive past hurts. Writing about Marta made me decide to let go, forgive and move on. For whatever reason, Grandma couldn’t and missed out on so much joy in her last years. Sometimes people who were deeply hurt as children take offense where none was intended. Holding a grudge causes suffering, especially for the one who won’t let go. Jesus said to forgive one another as He has forgiven us. Forgiveness frees us, even if the other person refuses to join in the process of reconciliation. As I examine my own life, I see how much I’ve been forgiven. How can I not extend God’s grace to others? The best way to experience the fullness of God’s presence in my life is to surrender it to Him. And in that surrender, we are made more complete and joy-filled.

Q: Mother-daughter relationships are often complicated and fraught with emotional landmines. What was your approach to exploring the complexity of those relationships in a fictional setting?

FR: Questions, lots of questions! Every time I told someone I was working on a book about mother-daughter relationships, people wanted to share their family stories. As I wrote HER MOTHER’S HOPE, I wanted readers to see through each woman’s eyes and understand how the past shaped each character in the way she responded to her mother. Hildemara doesn’t believe her mother loves her, but it is out of Marta’s pain and loss that tough-love techniques were forged. Marta wants to strengthen her daughter for whatever lies ahead. Sometimes what we view as rejection can actually be an act of sacrificial love. We seldom know the experiences that shaped our mothers --- the deep hurts, the traumatic events, the broken relationships. I hope women who read this book will want to share those things with one another.

Q: Writing a novel is not for the faint of heart. What was the most difficult part of writing this family saga? What came the most naturally to you?

FR: The most difficult part of writing any novel is getting out of my own way. I have to get rid of preconceived notions about themes and characters and plot. The first draft of this novel came in at over 1,000 pages and was too biographical. I wanted the story to shift back and forth from present to past, trying to show what happened to create the rifts and valleys between Hildemara, Carolyn and May Flower Dawn. I was too cautious, too afraid to harm to my grandmother and mother’s memory.

A wonderful editor wrote me an insightful letter in which she listed what she wanted to know about each of the characters. Her letter got my creative juices flowing. She helped me look at the story in a new way. I set the first manuscript aside and started over. I found it better to move from one generation to the next in a linear story. This time the characters followed my grandmother and mother’s timeline, but took on a life of their own. They became unique individuals rather than the shadow of real people.

Q: After readers finish this series, what do you want them to remember? What questions and feelings do you want it to provoke on a spiritual and emotional level?

FR: I hope and pray that readers who have had difficult relationships with their mothers or daughters will let go of the pain and anger and allow God to work in their lives. God can work all things together for good for those who trust and love Him. Following Jesus’ example changes the way we see people. It changes the way we relate to one another. Even when the chasm is too deep to cross, we can decide to forgive. Some people wear grievances like a dirty coat. With God’s strength, we can strip it off and be free. When people finish reading HER DAUGHTER’S DREAM, I hope they will want to extend God’s grace and forgiveness. I hope they will tear down their walls and use their life experiences to begin building a bridge.

Q: Who do you see as the audience for this story, and does that differ from your previous readership?

FR: I am fortunate to work with Tyndale House. If a writer does well in one genre, publishers encourage the writer to continue in the same genre. Tyndale has given me the freedom to go wherever the story leads. I have done historical as well as contemporary. This two-part saga was intended to be one long book. Splitting the story into two parts made it more affordable for readers and eliminated the need to delete entire sections. Hopefully, both women and men will enjoy HER MOTHER’S HOPE and HER DAUGHTER’S DREAM. Men play a strong role in the lives of all four primary characters: Marta, Hildemara Rose, Carolyn and May Flower Dawn. And both books have much to do with faith: how it presents itself and how it grows, often under difficult circumstances and in unexpected ways.

© Copyright 2010, Francine Rivers. All rights reserved

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Cover and AuthorStory behind the Story:
Francine Rivers’ HER MOTHER’S HOPE
by Lynne Welch
First published January 1, 2010 (Booklist)

Comfort and Grace
Francine Rivers was a best-selling writer long before she experienced the religious conversion that resulted in REDEEMING LOVE (1991), the book she feels God used to redirect her life and to lead her away from writing steamy romances into creating Christian fiction. Rivers, who has degrees in English and journalism, now writes to explore questions for which she has no answers. As her characters voice various points of view about life’s primary questions, Rivers’ goal is to discern God’s perspective.

HER MOTHER’S HOPE is the first in a two-part saga; it will be followed by HER DAUGHTER’S DREAM in September 2010. Rivers originally wrote one very long book. She then decided to split it into two novels to make it more affordable and because that allowed her to incorporate greater detail. Rivers is a bit concerned, however, that people who read only the first title will not understand the patterns she has been at pains to weave throughout the entire story to demonstrate how little mothers and daughters know one another. Rivers emphasizes, “I wanted readers to understand the hearts of women, even though the women don’t understand one another. It’s when the light of mercy shines that family dynamics change and grace brings healing.”

Rather than basing this tale on questions raised by Bible readings, as she does in most of her previous works, Rivers wrote this story as part of a quest to understand her own family history: specifically, why her mother and grandmother were estranged and how the Lord might have brought resolution and restoration to their relationship had one or both cooperated. Additional poignancy results from the inclusion of a subplot about tuberculosis: Rivers’ own mother contracted the disease while working as a nurse and spent time at the sanatorium depicted in the novel. Never one to flinch from unpleasant truths, Rivers also addresses the prejudice directed toward the Germans and Japanese during the first half of the twentieth century in the U.S. and Canada, drawing again on family history. The finished narrative, however, relies only lightly on actual events and people in respect to the names, locations, and experiences of the four generations of fictional women she introduces, even though they could have been contemporaries of Rivers or her grandmother, mother, and daughter.

A great deal of Christian fiction seems directed at either men (the action-adventure apocalyptic novels) or women (romances). Rivers has written novels and novellas centered on both men and women of the Bible. Men also play a strong role in the lives of the four primary characters in HER MOTHER’S HOPE and the forthcoming HER DAUGHTER’S DREAM. Marta, one of the main characters in HER MOTHER’S HOPE, has several encouraging male role models, and her husband, Niclas, loves her unreservedly. Hildemara Rose, another primary character, is quiet, unassuming, and physically fragile, but when she settles on a course of action, she is unswervable until she meets her match in Trip, another honorable man. When asked about her expectations for this story, Rivers replies, “I pray readers will take away the desire to share their lives with family members. Sharing life experiences can encourage or forewarn others. Sharing openly and naturally also gives others a fuller picture of who we are. When we share our pain, we allow others to comfort us, and later we’re able to offer comfort.”

Another persistent theme is love: that of parents for their children and of God for all. Rivers couples this with faith and grace: how faith presents itself, how it grows, often under difficult circumstances and in unexpected ways, and how grace manifests itself throughout the characters’ lives. Rivers comments, “Sometimes it takes years to know the sacrifices a mother will make for the good of her child. Love calls us to do the best we can to strengthen and encourage --- and to give wings --- to others, especially those under our care.”

© Copyright 2010, Francine Rivers. All rights reserved.

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May 2004's contributing writer Bethanne Kelly Patrick interviewed Francine Rivers, author of the "Sons of Encouragement" series. In their conversation Rivers expresses the importance of a supportive Church system, reading different versions of Scripture, and maintaining one's own faith through the Bible and a connection with God. Rivers also explains how much of her writing has come from her own personal experiences and discusses the challenges of re-telling Biblical stories. Tell us about how the idea for this new series "Sons of Encouragement" --- of which The Priest is the francine book --- came to be. Please also share your overall concept for these books and where you hope they will lead readers.

Francine Rivers: While writing AND THE SHOFAR BLEW, I saw the tremendous importance of a strong, godly support group behind a pastor. Usually, the man in the pulpit is the one who receives the attention and accolades, but is also bombarded by temptations of all sorts. Leaders need strong men of faith to encourage, challenge, and correct them when necessary. I wanted to study the men who stood firmly beside great leaders in the Bible and see the roles the subordinates played in fulfilling God's plan, shaping history, and impacting the lives of the men with whom they stood. You've said that your books often come from something you're dealing with in your own life. Did these?

Francine Rivers: Yes. I've been hearing far too many horror stories about churches falling apart because of sin in leadership. I spent an entire year exploring the question "What is a church?" And also, "How do we build a church?" Too many today think a church is the physical building rather the Body of Christ. They think numbers and programs mean success. Some leaders focus on building an edifice that will be a monument to God and the building becomes a monument to man instead. The truth is Psalm 127:1 - Unless God builds the house, it will not stand. The men in the "sons of encouragement" series stood with great men of God. The Lord placed these men in subordinate positions, but used them mightily. We need godly, uncompromising men to stand firm in faith and be willing to rise up and say, "Please rethink the direction you're taking us. What does God say about this project or issue? Measure your plans in the light of His Word and stop going with your own ideas." And people sitting in the pews often make the mistake of worshipping their pastor (and his method of teaching) rather than the Lord. You've written from a male perspective before. Was there anything in that choice that you found particularly challenging in creating the voices of two elderly men such as Aaron and Moses?

Francine Rivers: It is always challenging to attempt to write from a male perspective. My imagination only goes so far! I've read psychology books and I've always been an observer. It was difficult to get into the minds of these men, and I'm never sure that I've accomplished it. One day I hope to meet them in Heaven, and I hope they will say, "Nice try," and not, "You completely missed the point!" I admire them so much. I become very attached to them as I study their lives, and I tend to grieve when the story comes to an end. I sensed that Aaron wanted so much to be the perfect priest, and knew he would never be the one to fulfill that role. My heart ached for him. God is loving and merciful, and He sees our hearts. I envisioned the Lord showing Aaron the way home. You've said that your characters are often composites of people you know. Was this the case here, too? Or did you approach these characters differently?

Francine Rivers: Fictional characters are composites in some ways, but I always approach real people differently. Aaron is a real person, and it was absolutely necessary to rely on Scripture. Not a lot is said about him, but there is a large body of Scripture about the times in which he lived. I tried to walk in his sandals. He was the oldest son, but a middle child between two very extraordinary people - Miriam and Moses. He saw his brother taken into the palace and raised among royalty while he had to live as a slave in the mud pits making bricks. Lots of emotions would come into play. What is extraordinary is these two brothers worked together, stood together, made mistakes together, and worshipped God together. Look at the brothers who came before them. Ishmael and Isaac. Esau and Jacob. Joseph and his brothers. Aaron and Moses were a team. They loved one another despite their faults and failures. And when God speaks of them, He says they both brought the people out of Egypt. God's hand was upon them both though He spoke through one. Talk about writing from an historical perspective, which you've done before. While your primary plot details come from Scripture, what did you find most difficult about researching this particular period of the Bible? What was most interesting?

Francine Rivers: I think the challenge in writing historical fiction is having trust-worthy resources. There are many books about what the people were like, the customs, etc. And I've read a number of them. But, frankly, there is only one source I trust - the Bible. I tend to rely only on Scripture for the story - even to the details about the way people lived. I've been studying the Old Testament the rivers few years and there is so much detail in it. When God says, "Do notů", you can bet the people were doing those things. Every law was for a purpose, and we know that everyone fails in keeping it perfectly. I used other sources to learn about the Egyptians and the gods they worshipped, but it gave me a deeper understanding of the plagues God sent upon Egypt. The Lord was showing mankind that HE IS GOD and there is no other. What version of the Bible did you use while writing this story? Was it different from the version you normally read (e.g., when you do your daily reading/devotions)? Did you find interesting differences in the story of Aaron? How did these affect your book, if at all?

Francine Rivers: I normally read the New American Standard version of the Bible. While working on these novellas, I am using the Chronological Bible. I have several versions and like to use them all. Using different versions makes me think more deeply. I can become so familiar with one version that things slip past me. (When I was writing The rivers Sin Eater, I read nothing but the King James so that I would have a cadence to the writing.) When I read a scripture from a different version, it gives me added insights. Also, Scripture speaks to us in new ways throughout our lives. I read through the Bible every year, and it's always fresh and new. God meets us right where we are and brings things to light for that particular day. I love that! Reading the One Year Chronological Bible helps me to make a timeline of these men's lives. What was the sequence of events? Sometimes that can be a little unclear. Every time I read a story over, I see something new in it or another application. Which means that I will continue learning more about Aaron in the years to come and will wish I could add or change The Priest! That's why it's so important to me that readers go back into scripture when they finish reading these novellas. There is so much more there for them, and God will speak to each person individually with lessons and applications. Considering the previous question: how do you approach Scripture as a writer who wishes to use its story in a creative way to expand upon its truths. How do you read for your work?

Francine Rivers: Frankly, I approach Biblical fiction with trepidation! I want to get the story right, and yet, I know that there will be details and whole segments of these men's lives that I will miss because those times and thoughts are not recorded. I don't like to use commentaries because I need to depend on the Holy Spirit for the lessons God is trying to teach me. I emphasize that a novella is fiction. I am writing the story as I see it and sharing what I've learned from what I've read in Scripture. But that is not all there is. For the past seven years, I've been taking Bible Study Fellowship classes. One of the things I love about this course is the discussion groups. We all study the same Scriptures and answer the same questions, and we come up with personal applications and insights. I find that exciting! It confirms that the Scripture is God's breath, the LIVING Word, and He is teaching us individually. When I approach Scripture, I open the Bible knowing that I am going to have an amazing opportunity to hear what God has to say to me. And the prayer is -- Lord, open my mind that I may see the lessons you have for me today. Some of the action in THE PRIEST is far from what modern readers might think of as "Christian," although of course they are Biblically accurate. How would you ask readers to approach and think about scenes of slaughter and sacrifice?

Francine Rivers: Oh, have I struggled with this! Wondering why God wanted ALL those in Canaan destroyed, men, women, children, even the animals. God will not compromise with sin or sinners. He is not like people then or people today who think they can re-write Scripture and remake the "rules." The Word of God is life. It is perfect. It makes Jesus known to us. All Scripture points to Him. From the beginning, faith has been what God desires. Faith also means obedience to what the Lord says. Faith brings relationship with Him. I think God offered opportunities to all those people in Canaan when they were hearing the stories about what He was doing for His people in the wilderness. Rahab certainly heard those stories and believed, and look what He did to deliver her! He brought the walls of Jericho down, but kept her safe in one section. The question should be why didn't the Canaanites flock to the desert to meet God - to taste the manna, to stand beneath the shade of His cloud or in the warmth of that pillar of fire. Wouldn't you want to witness those miracles? People are the same today as they were then. They think they can do as they please without paying the consequences. God is the final word. He has told us what has been, what is, and what will be. We must listen! As you engaged with this material, what lessons did you personally learn? How did you learn them?

Francine Rivers: I learned how easily we slip up, and how merciful God is. He doesn't compromise, but He shows compassion. He warns us what will happen if we stray, and then He afflicts us when we do - with love so that we learn to follow. We stray, we pay, and He guides us back with His loving hand. Sometimes, I despair and wonder if I will ever "get it right." I know I won't. I rejoice in knowing Jesus did and in Him I can live and breathe. I can also be thankful for the affliction that comes because it marks me as a child of God.
God disciplines us because He loves us. If we respond and welcome that discipline, we experience the blessings of belonging to Him even in the midst of pain. On your website, you say: "I would like to see Christian fiction speak to the hard and real issues that are tearing at people's lives. We need writers who are willing to ask the difficult questions and go through the soul-searching and agonizing that so many people experience before they come to Christ. I would like to see Christian publishers be more willing to seek such writers and to take the risk of presenting such stories to a readership that sometimes wants things to be simpler than they are in real life. We need to reach the unsaved, but we also need to expose and root out the sin in our own Christian ranks." These are hard words. Discuss how this book/this series addresses your wishes.

Francine Rivers: I think I'm far more concerned with sin in the Body of Christ than sin outside it because believers have no excuse. We are called to examine ourselves, but spend most of our time examining the world. When we walk with God, we reflect His glory. People notice the difference. It isn't enough to speak the Gospel, we have to live it. The most important work we have to do in this world is believe what God says and live accordingly. And that's the hardest work we will ever do. When you're working on a book like this, what is your writing day like?

Francine Rivers: I am a creature of habit. My husband awakens me every morning between 5 - 6 a.m. (except on Saturday and Sunday) and we have a quiet time together. (He's already read his Bible.) He reads to me from a book we've both agreed upon. Right now, we're reading a devotional written by Billy Graham. We pray together. He heads off to work, and I get ready for my day. Scripture comes francine. For the past year, I've been studying the history of Israel and the minor prophets. This summer, I will be reading through Kings and Chronicles again. After my personal quiet time with the Lord, I start to write. I want what shapes me and my writing to be Scripture. So it's important that the Word of God is fresh in my mind. It's also exciting to see what God wants me to learn that day and how He's going to work it into the story. My goal is to write a few pages each day - five days a week. Writing is the tool God uses to draw me closer to Him. Which (other) Biblical stories that you have not written about yet are most misunderstood/would most benefit from this kind of re-telling?

Francine Rivers: I'm still working on this series. Questions always come up. Which prophet should I write about? Amos? Zechariah? So many choices, and each has a message for today. Which man was the encourager to the Apostle Paul? Barnabus springs to mind because his name means "encourager," but what about Silas who traveled with Paul and also Peter and knew Timothy and acted as scribe? What do we know about him? What might have been his thoughts, experiences? I'm thinking about these things constantly. Your books, you say, are meant to whet readers' appetites for the Word of God. If they do, and if a reader needs more support, what do you recommend?

Francine Rivers: We should study the Bible on our own and trust the Holy Spirit to instruct us, but we should also be involved in the fellowship of believers. I have learned a great deal in Bible Study Fellowship. It is open to everyone and the Bible is the only textbook. As a participant, you read the Scriptures and answer questions on your own, then discuss your answers in a group, and finally, you hear a lecture based upon the Scriptures. I am always enriched by what others have learned and share. I think it's important to be involved in a group study so that you hear and see how God is working in other lives. It expands our thinking, raises new questions, makes us consider other viewpoints, always with the Word of God as the foundation. The quest is to find God's perspective in any given situation and align ourselves with Him. After these books, what comes next for you? Do you ever take time off completely from writing?

Francine Rivers: I have several questions rolling around in my mind right now, but which one will come to the forefront and be the question for the next project, I don't know yet. I'm struggling in several areas of my life right now. God will tap me on the shoulder and say, "You need work on this." And that's where I'll go. It's usually the least comfortable spot, the most painful struggle. Sometimes I hesitate, but He hounds me. I've learned the end result of study and writing with God in charge brings me relief and comfort, and peace.

I usually take a few weeks between projects to "clear the pallet." Sometimes that rest period will take different forms - from gardening and reading to frenetic "vacations." I am taking a year off from speaking. It was a difficult decision, but I realized I was having difficulty focusing on what I believe God has called me to do: write. I would come home exhausted and unable to concentrate. Also, I haven't been able to be as involved in my home church as I would like to be. I need the accountability of my local church family. There is no real accountability when you speak one day and are gone the next. Right now, God wants me to write stories. That may not always be what God calls me to do. I need to be open to whatever His will is for me.

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