Patti Hill Answers The Faithful Fifteen
In this interview Patti Hill, who has written two books thus far in her Garden Gates series, talks about her rebirth in the Church after a decade-long absence and describes her active participation in her local church, despite her busy work schedule. She also shares her unique P.R.A.Y.ing rituals, expresses her belief in the magnified spiritual power of the written word, and even divulges a few of her driving habits while listening to Christian radio.
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?
Patti Hill: My purpose is to write fiction that reflects the walk of an authentic Christian in temporary exile on earth. My characters deal with issues of trust and obedience in areas of love, provision, and spiritual and emotional healing, but they aren't perfect. I write to two target audiences: Christians and seekers who like to read stories about everyday people finding the strength to overcome universal obstacles. My hope is that Christians will read my books to be encouraged to deepen their dependence on Jesus, and to be reminded of the power of God's Word. For readers who are seeking, I hope to provide a sneak peek into an authentic relationship between God and believers.
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?
PH: Jesus plucked me out of turbulent "seas" when I was fourteen. I get all chokey when I think about where I might be if He hadn't rescued me from my determination to enter the world of drugs and sex. I love Him so much for wooing me into His everlasting arms. That was 35 years ago! You would think I'd be walking on water by now. I can't even float in a swimming pool. Spiritually, I'm a work in progress. A recent experience with a mysterious health issue loosened my grip on this world. What a relief! I'm living for the far shore where Jesus waits for me.
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.
PH: We stopped going to church when my father died. I was three years old, and my poor mom was completely broad-sided by her loss. My spiritual training up to my conversion came mostly from Hollywood movies, like Ben Hur and The Greatest Story Ever Told, which portrayed Jesus as an automaton who spoke King James English. During my freshman year in high school, friends started inviting me to their youth groups. I considered their faith quaint and sadly laughable. My mom and I moved to be closer to my sister and her new husband. I was so lonely, I agreed to go to a youth group at the Presbyterian Church. A fresh-out-of-seminary youth director believed in discipleship rather than entertainment. After one month, I'd heard enough. I crawled into bed and asked Jesus to take control of my life.
Fast forward to today --- My family attends Canyon View Vineyard Church where I can expect faithful and enthusiastic teaching from God's Word every time I step through the doors. My husband and I host and teach a neighborhood Bible study that started during a 40 Days of Purpose campaign at our church two years ago. It has been a pure privilege to be part of God's work in these precious people's lives. Since the time demands of being a writer and speaker have changed my volunteer habits at church, I go to each church service asking the Holy Spirit to show me where He's working and to please, please, please use me. What a blast!
FR: Tell us about your current church family/fellowship. How does it influence your work?
PH: Canyon View Vineyard Church is all about walking with Jesus in integrity and obedience to the Great Commission. We're given opportunities for servant evangelism within our spheres of influence and in places that make my knees knock. That's probably why I keep seekers in mind as I'm writing. My stories may be the only window to the world of faith they'll look through. I've heard some amazing stories from folks who have reconnected with Jesus or who have seen God as interested in their lives for the first time by reading my stories. What an awesome privilege!
FR: Who are your spiritual mentors? Your professional mentors?
PH: My husband, Dennis, and my friend, Nancy, who I modeled the character Louise after. Nancy always seems to know what the real issue is when I call her in a panic. Readers write me often about Louise, wishing they had her in their lives. I pray that mature women of faith will take up the role of mentor to strengthen and equip the next generation.
Professionally, I depend a great deal on my editor, Charlene Patterson, an extremely talented woman at Bethany House. She plays the role of encourager, guide, and warden. I love her dearly. Also, my agent, Janet Grant. She knows the publishing biz inside and out and helps me stay focused on what's important. Also, I wouldn't write a word without my critique group or my writers group, The Lord's Write Hands. They keep me humble and feeling loved.
FR: Discuss your calling/mission --- as a writer and as a Christian.
PH: My calling is to write winsome stories to encourage the faithful and to hold up Jesus for seekers --- and to love, love, love.
FR: What are your Scripture reading habits?
PH: For several years I've been reading selected books of the Bible or doing topical studies and recording in a journal what God teaches me about Himself. Since I've developed the expectation that God will reveal Himself, my quiet times have become more dynamic and applicable.
FR: What books have most influenced your work?
PH: ON WRITING WELL by William Zinsser, DURABLE GOODS by Elizabeth Berg, and CHRISTY by Catherine Marshall, of course!
FR: Do you read secular fiction at all? If so, who are your favorite authors and why?
PH: Absolutely. Now, I'm selective about what I read, and if I've chosen something that isn't redemptive, I set it down, but I learn so much from reading literary secular works. My favorite authors are Elizabeth Berg, because she builds honest, easy-to-relate-to characters, although this has gotten less so lately; Sandra Dallas, a historian and gifted fiction writer (THE PERSIAN PICKLE CLUB is my favorite of hers, but I devour all of her works); and Kaye Gibbons, a master at telling stories with unique voice and perspective, always redemptive.
FR: What are your other media habits --- television, movies, music, etc.?
PH: My husband and I love the Food Channel, especially "Good Eats" and "America's Test Kitchen." Other than that, the TV is seldom on. I usually watch videos when I'm ironing, something funny to keep my mind off of pleats and button-down shirts. I listen to classical music as I'm writing, but I keep my radio tuned to Christian music at all times. More than one driver has caught me belting out a praise song at a stoplight. My husband prefers that I stop raising my hands when I'm driving, however.
FR: Do you and your family have any special faith-based traditions?
PH: When it comes to prayer, we have a "Do It Now" philosophy. And our door is always open.
FR: Tell us about your prayer life and habits.
PH: During my morning prayer times, I write out my prayers using the acronym P.R.A.Y. for praise, repent, ask, and yield. Then I kneel and pray with feeling. Writing out my prayers keeps me focused. My personal prayer life has been enriched greatly by this simple practice. Visual cues seem to keep me praying through the day. I pray for obviously hurting people, for the guy who cuts me off in traffic, for the people who live in the houses I walk by, and I leave sticky notes around the house to remind me to pray for the people who have requested prayer support. I pray for one family in my neighborhood every time their yappy dog starts barking. I pray for them quite a lot.
FR: Describe what you believe the role of writing in religion is.
PH: When God inspired Guttenberg to build the first printing press, the power of the Word was magnified. What was once spoken to a few people within hearing range, could now be distributed to a wider audience over many generations. Christians write to introduce others to Jesus, to teach, to encourage, to exhort, to discipline, and to entertain. We should do it better than anyone, because our cause is higher.
FR: Tell us about one or more of your favorite encounters with readers.
PH: I have been praying for a friend for many years. Every time I've tried to share the gospel of Christ with her, her hostility toward the church is vehement. We talked after she read my first book, LIKE A WATERED GARDEN. She admitted to not wanting to read it, because she knew she wouldn't like it, and she didn't want to hurt my feelings. Her book club chose my book, so she felt obliged to read it. The next time I saw her, she said she was going back to church because of my book. I'm not sure what she saw in the story, but I'm praising God!
FR: Would you share a story about someone you've brought to Christ or share how your writing has helped someone?
PH: Everyone has a difficult person in their life, either a relative or someone at work. I have a V-E-R-Y difficult person in my life whom I deal with way too often. She has a history of drug and alcohol abuse and is quite volatile. She loves my books. That alone blew me away, but after she read the second book, she said, "I'm going to ask God to give me a good day, just like Mibby did." From what she said, I think she saw for the first time that God wants good things for her and he will hear her when she prays. That's huge!
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