Kristin Billerbeck Answers The Faithful Fifteen
Kristin Billerbeck, one of the first Chick Lit authors, has written WITH THIS RING, I'M CONFUSED, SHE'S OUT OF CONTROL, WHAT A GIRL WANTS and SHE'S ALL THAT. In this interview, Billerbeck details her aim to reach Christians outside of the mainstream church and discusses how much of her calling is focused on the youth ministry and in the raising of her own children. She recalls the conversion from her Roman Catholic background to Evangelical Christianity in her early twenties, and reveals her reliance on secular media to keep herself informed of her target audience.
FaithfulReader.com: What kind of testimony to your faith are you demonstrating in this book? If you are writing fiction, do you write fiction that is based upon your faith, or that has a message for the reader? Is your goal to demonstrate your faith in your writing?
Kristin Billerbeck: My goal is to speak to readers who may be outside the mainstream church, and are feeling disoriented. Living in the city, it's very hard to have a church support group that's healthy, so oftentimes city Christians become evangelists. My goal is to give that type of Christian, be it missionary or just those feeling left out, hope in Jesus. I also want to speak to the non-believer, give them a good story, and hope that God speaks to their hearts through the novel. I think my main goal is to provide encouragement to Christians living without a safety net (strong church, strong discipling, etc.). I had to work a lot of my faith out for myself, and I feel that God gave me the ability to do that; I want people to know they are responsible for their faith, not a church, or their parents, etc. God calls us.
FR: When did you come to a saving knowledge of Jesus? Where are you today in your walk? Is your faith an important part of what you do?
KB: I was 23 when I found Jesus, so I have a solid memory of what life is like for the unbeliever, and what Christians can sound like to the outside world. I feel that's a gift now. Now in my faith, I am raising up my children in their walks and I'm focused on that. My walk is a daily journey that includes listening to Him, and pressing on to the goal He's given me. My faith is integral to what I do because my books do have a deep message; the secret is to make sure no one feels that they're being preached at, and let God do the work.
FR: Tell us about your church experiences, how you grew up (or maybe didn't grow up) in the church, where you attend now, your involvement in your local assembly, etc.
KB: I grew up Catholic, and my first foray into the evangelical Christian realm was with a boyfriend in college. I can't say the boyfriend was all that helpful, but those surrounding him were. Eventually, my best friend was saved at what I called one of those "weird" churches; I went with her to save her, and the Lord saved me. I got married shortly thereafter, and my husband discipled me along the way. We attended a big Baptist church for years, but when they decided to start a daughter church across from Stanford University with rock music and down-to-earth preaching, we came and helped develop the children's program. We have recently moved, and my husband is still involved in the children's ministry of our new church. I write programs and plays for the church when needed. I am still very much attached to the church near Stanford, and keep up with their ministry and often drive to attend.
FR: Tell us about your current church family/fellowship. How does it influence your work?
KB: Actually, I still rely on my former church for most of this because it's my target age for my books, and I just feel a calling towards young women. I'm still finding my place in our new area. My last church still affects my work because I watch what older singles are doing, and I find the relationships fascinating.
FR: Who are your spiritual mentors? Your professional mentors?
KB: I have three. One was J. Vernon McGee, whose radio program "Thru the Bible" really helped grow me in my faith; Sherrie Dunwoodie, who taught my years of Bible Study Fellowship; and Mary Lyons, my pastor's wife and a missionary to Africa for 25 years, who taught me what it is to be a wife.
Professionally, I would say Colleen Coble, who learned to write alongside me, and Lauraine Snelling, who was never selfish about sharing her wisdom.
FR: Discuss your calling/mission --- as a writer, and as a Christian.
KB: My calling is to get young women past the difficult times and into their productive lives, all the while not letting society get to them. I first worked at a Community Pregnancy Center, where I had women think about God in their lives, and turn the decision for a child over to Him. To know there are children alive because God used me is an amazing start to a ministry. But it made me realize that women are so confused by what the world tells them, and I have an extreme need to speak Truth to them.
FR: What are your Scripture reading habits?
KB: I tend to stay in the same favorite books where I'm comfortable. I love the stories and beginnings in Genesis, the wisdom in Proverbs, the facts in Romans and Hebrews, and the Gospel of John. Those are the books I come back to again and again.
FR: What books have most influenced your work?
KB: I'm a classics girl. I would say ANNA KARENINA, which is really the long and detailed story of a man coming to Christ; FAR FROM THE MADDENING CROWD by Thomas Hardy, which is an incredible tale of redemptive romance; and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, where humor and irony help Jane Austen survive a time in history.
FR: Do you read secular fiction at all? If so, who are your favorite authors, and why?
KB: I read tons of secular fiction because I want to know what the world is thinking. I love to know what has caught the attention of America, and why. My favorites are Maeve Binchy and Sophie Kinsella, and I'm still a big fan of the classics, which I will often pick up and intermingle with the current books. I generally read most books that garner attention, such as THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES or MY SISTER'S KEEPER and THE LOVELY BONES. I find I am more story-based than author-based in my purchasing habits --- I can't really name a current author whose book I would immediately buy when it came out.
FR: What are your other media habits --- television, movies, music, etc.?
KB: I have read People Magazine since I was ten years old, not because of the movie star entries --- though that does help keep me posted on the youth --- but because I love to know what makes people tick. I love the human interest stories because they tell me the background: his mother did this, his father did that, he grew up here. I love to get into their mindset, and discover why certain people act a certain way.
For this reason, I love "Oprah" --- both the magazine and the show --- and I watch HGTV voraciously. I rarely go to the movies, unless there's a new Bridget Jones movie or a kids' movie we must see. I prefer to go alone because I tear apart the plot and the writing, and I've annoyed too many in the process, so now I like to sit there with my sour skittles and Diet Coke. My son Trey is the same way; he's very aware of plausibility factors at eleven, so we'll enjoy a movie together.
FR: Do you and your family have any special faith-based traditions?
KB: Our family's faith is very important to us since we both come from non-Christian homes. We pray each night with our kids, and I love to hear them speak from their hearts to God. It's funny how each one has a different way of talking to God, and hearing their personalities and spiritual gifts shine. Because they grew up in an outreach church, they have an incredible ability to speak Truth. We have one son we call the "closer" because if we can take a child to church, Jonah can bring him home in prayer while in the backseat.
FR: Tell us about your prayer life and habits.
KB:I am in prayer all day long. I play Praise Music consistently, and I "hear" my Father's voice throughout the day. I feel like it's an ongoing conversation, not something that's formal and trite for me. I seek Him, and He answers. Sometimes it's not necessarily in the way I'd like, but He is always faithful. My husband sits formally each morning for an hour, but if I were to do that, I'd never hear a thing because I'd be thinking of all I had to do. The car is a great place to hear His voice, and I've been caught "talking to myself" in the car many times.
FR: Describe what you believe the role of writing in religion is.
KB: For me, it's an answer to God. He gave me a heart for young women, and I have a strong desire to speak their language and get them through that difficult time when their beauty and values are in question.
FR: Tell us about one or more of your favorite encounters with readers.
KB: My favorite, of course, is hearing about lives changed. I know that is God speaking through the work, and that is my ultimate goal. But I think hearing about people laughing through chemotherapy is one of my favorite testimonies, and I've heard that from several readers. To bring someone comfort in the midst of a struggle makes me feel as though I have listened and obeyed.
FR: Would you share a story about someone you've brought to Christ or share how your writing has helped someone?
KB: Having written so many books, I've heard from a lot of readers. You never know the baggage readers come with, and how God will use the book. That's the miracle to me. I actually had a man who read my first book (full of preaching and Scripture) and returned to God before his death from cancer. On a more lighthearted note, I had a reader whose mother was constantly pushing her to get married, and the two of them read my book, and the mother brought her daughter a Prada handbag, which are very expensive --- and said she wouldn't push her daughter anymore because she didn't want her to settle. Those are just two of the ways God works through fiction, and I give Him the glory and am amazed with every letter.
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