Tracie Peterson is the bestselling, awardwinning author of over 60 historical and contemporary novels. She and her family make their home in Belgrade, Montana.
Tracie Peterson Answers The Faithful Fifteen
Tracie Peterson is the bestselling, award-winning author of over 60 historical and contemporary novels, including her latest release, WHAT SHE LEFT FOR ME. In this interview Peterson shares her attempts to capture universal hardships and struggles in her fiction, while offering encouragement and guidance to direct her readers toward Christ. She also traces her spiritual journey that began at the age of six and provides anecdotes of moving encounters with her readers.
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?
Tracie Peterson: My writing has always been a ministry for me. It is a mission field no less than if I were called to Africa. I always give the plan of salvation in each book. For me that's very important. However, I don't want it to come across as something just slapped on. I try to weave a story showing characters who struggle in their day-to-day lives. The readers always relate to the issues at hand, which even in my historical fiction are similar to struggles we have today. I try to include biblical application that helps to show possibilities for encouragement and guidance and point the reader back to Christ. My goal is definitely to share with the reader what God has done for me and my loved ones, because I truly believe we often go through situations in order to help others when they come to that same spot.
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?
TP: I accepted Jesus at the age of six. An evangelist was at our church and spoke about hell. He said that hell wasn't about the red devil with pointy ears and a pitchfork we saw on cartoons. Hell was a place where God forgot that you ever existed. That broke my heart. The very thought of God forgetting about me was more than I could bear. I'd been churched all my life and knew about Jesus dying for my sins. I had always accepted that part of the story, but it became really personal at six, because I wanted that relationship with my heavenly Father that would last for all eternity. My walk today is no different. People often ask me, "Where do you want to be in five years?" I've come to realize I only have one answer that matters at all to me. I want to be more deeply in love with God than I am today. To do that will require a more intimate faith walk and a deeper relationship through prayer, Bible reading, and living the Word.
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.
TP: As mentioned before, I was practically born in church. I came from multiple generations of churched folk who had deep abiding relationships with Jesus. I don't remember a time when we didn't respect God and revere His Word. When I was fourteen my church went through a bad time and the congregation split. It was devastating to me. The people I thought I could count on --- people who were supposed to be different from the world --- were at each other's throats. I wanted to walk away from fellowship all together because it hurt so much. The fights were petty and the arguments from the adult members of this congregation were over the ridiculous. God knew what I needed, however, and connected our family with a great church.
When I married my husband we started going to a non-denominational church because we felt there were just too many arguments and bickering amongst those in the denominational congregation we were involved with. All of those problems were centered on personal or denominational issues rather than focusing on Christ. When we moved four and a half years ago from Kansas to Montana, we were blessed to find the church we currently attend. Saving Grace is a church strongly focused on relationship with God and each other and teaching from the Bible. We are very much involved in this church and definitely blessed by the fellowship and gifts we've been able to utilize.
FR: Tell us about your current church family/fellowship. How does it influence your work?
TP: This fellowship has always been largely younger people. College-age and new families make up the base of our congregation. This has helped me to keep my writing tuned not only to my own age group (the over-40 crowd), but theirs as well. I listen to the problems and enjoy my role as a Titus 2 woman to the younger women. It has also opened my eyes to problems that I didn't experience in my own life. This has taken my writing in a variety of directions as I desire to minister to this age group as well.
FR: Who are your spiritual mentors? Your professional mentors?
TP: I have several dear friends who act as spiritual mentors and professional mentors. I have one woman with whom I've shared a friendship for over 35 years and another for over 30 years. The first friendship was based on Jesus as we met at church, the second one grew into that. Over the years God has sent several other people into my life who help hold me accountable, pray with me, and share my problems and victories. My husband, Jim, is one of those.
As for professional mentors, these go hand in hand with my spiritual mentors. I have a couple of people who are strong godly women who also write. They are good to pray with me and share Scripture. We pray for each other's work and strive to do everything we do as working for the Lord and not men. It makes all the difference in my attitude when I do something --- even take out the trash --- unto the Lord. I think accountability is critical and oftentimes we avoid it because of having to deal with issues in our lives.†
FR: Discuss your calling/mission --- as a writer and as a Christian.
TP: Some of this has already been mentioned above, but let me expand. I always knew God had called me to service. I just wasn't sure what that service included. As I prayed for guidance He kept bringing me back to writing. I wrote for a short time as a volunteer for a Christian newspaper. I also wrote a few magazine articles prior to that. I knew I was touching lives --- even changing hearts through Jesus. That fulfilled me in ways that nothing else had. My passion for writing fiction eventually produced fruit as well. I soon found that people were writing me letters to tell me how the books had changed their lives and helped them to refocus on their spiritual walk. Some were even drawn to God for the first time and some got saved. For me it was clear proof that God can and does use any means to reach His children. I believe we're called to be living proof of God's love.
FR: What are your Scripture reading habits?
TP: I try to read the Bible everyday and to involve myself in studies that will help me gain more knowledge of Bible content and understanding. Our church has a wonderful way of going verse by verse in the Word and this has nurtured my spiritual growth in ways that I can't even begin to list. To me nothing is more comforting than to spend some quiet, alone time reading the Word and listening to God's direction and guidance for me.
FR: What books have most influenced your work?
TP: Too many to list. As a child I devoured books. We were very poor and the library was a huge source of entertainment for me. I read just about anything I could get my hands on. There are, of course, the classic fiction works like those from Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and others, as well as more contemporary fiction works that blessed me and taught me storytelling. I especially enjoyed biographies of historical characters and events that I believe led to my passion for writing historical fiction. I have been tremendously blessed by Oswald Chambers's writing, as well as Max Lucado, Charles Swindoll, Donna Partow, Liz Curtis Higgs, Allison Bottke, Judith Miller, Judith Pella, and so many others.
FR: Do you read secular fiction at all? If so, who are your favorite authors and why?
TP: I try to read a little bit of everything. I want to know why bestsellers in the ABA market are bestsellers --- what about these books touches the reader. I read books for pleasure as well as to try and tear into them and see what makes them tick. I have enjoyed many secular authors like Rosamunde Pilcher, Herman Wouk and Tom Clancy. These authors are master storytellers and great storytelling is critical, no matter what market you write for. I'd rather they not contain the bad language or graphic sex and violence. I don't see that these things do anything for the story, but rather distract me from it. I hate to see authors sacrifice the story for the sensational.
FR: What are your other media habits --- television, movies, music, etc.?
TP: I don't watch a lot of television, but when I do watch it's usually stuff like the History Channel or home improvement shows and even Court TV. I've learned a great deal about forensic procedural issues, historical events, old architecture and furnishings, and other facts that sometimes play out in my own novels. We go to movies on occasion and enjoy good stories with an uplifting ending.
Music --- I've always loved a wide variety: classical, country, rock, jazz, blues, old hymns, and folk. I'm especially enjoying some of the contemporary worship groups and singers these days. Mercy Me, Building 429, Todd Agnew, Bethany Dillion, Barlow Girl, and Jeremy Camp, to name a few. Rich Mullins, Larnelle Harris and Sandi Patti have long been favorites of mine. But I also love some of the secular artists. I grew up with John Denver, Jim Croce, and the like. They were very talented musicians.
FR: Do you and your family have any special faith-based traditions?
TP: We try to make our daily living a faith-based tradition. We attend church, fellowship in various activities, and pray together. My husband and son are doing a study on Proverbs, and as a business (our corporation Peterson Ink, Inc. produces the Heartsong Presents line of Christian romances for Barbour Publishing) we have begun a regular Monday prayer meeting. We have several holidays that have special faith-based meaning to us: Christmas and Easter of course, but also holidays like the Fourth of July where we recognize the freedom and liberty God has granted us. Thanksgiving is another faith focus, as is New Year's. My husband and I also pray together, which is absolutely precious and vital to me.
FR: Tell us about your prayer life and habits.
TP: Prayer is a definite lifeline for me. I couldn't make it through the day without this. I like the approach of being living prayer and having your life so focused in communication with the Lord that NOT to pray would be the unusual rather than having it be strange to take time out to pray.
FR: Describe what you believe the role of writing in religion is.
TP: I believe God made an example for us by giving us His Word. Writing is essential to share information, instruction and encouragement. Some of the most uplifting things people have done for me included writing, whether it be cards, letters, emails or silly notes. I think that writing is vital to share the Word and to encourage the body. Fiction is also a great way to share the hope of Jesus in a way that is better received by some than a sermon or lecture would be. Many times I've heard back from fans who read the application of some Biblical truth in one of my fiction stories and suddenly everything clicked for them. They could finally understand the application as it connected to their own life.
FR: Tell us about one or more of your favorite encounters with readers.
TP: I was recently in Nome, Alaska. For those of you familiar with Nome, you know it's really out there by itself and isolated from the world. They don't have a big population, but the folks there are very friendly. I happened upon a tiny Christian bookstore there, and when I introduced myself the woman was so excited. She was a huge fan, loved my books, and showed me that they carried quite a few of my titles. She had to call the owner's mother who usually ran the store. This woman had gone to Nome in the 1950s with her husband and children to work as missionaries. She was so welcoming and pleased to meet me, and as the conversation continued we encouraged each other in the Lord and it almost felt like a mini-revival. That stands out as an awesome encounter. I came away from that experience feeling strengthened and encouraged.
FR: Would you share a story about someone you've brought to Christ or share how your writing has helped someone?
TP: One story really stands out in my mind. Many years ago I wrote a story about a woman who was raped. It was a story about forgiveness --- forgiving those who didn't deserve to be forgiven, and coming to an understanding that in God's eyes, none of us "deserved" forgiveness. A reader wrote and told me how 15 years earlier she had been brutally raped. For years she had gone to pastors and counselors. Her poor husband had endured her rages and depression and nothing helped. She had prayed, been prayed for, sought answers in her Bible, and continued to talk to therapists both Christian and secular. Nothing gave her peace. Then she happened upon my little historical romance fiction novel. The story touched her deeply, and for the first time, she saw what element was missing. She had never forgiven her attacker, because she didn't feel like he deserved to be forgiven. He hadn't even sought her forgiveness or acknowledged what he did. As she read my book, she saw that forgiveness is something we do for ourselves as well as for the person being forgiven. It's not an approval of what happened, but rather a release. She decided it couldn't hurt to try, and when she did, she felt an immediate peace from the pain she'd suffered for all those years.
God is so awesome! He gave this woman healing and directed her in a path that she'd somehow not seen or heard, and used a little romance book to convey His Word about forgiveness. She told me, "My husband is amazed at the new person I've become." And that's what God is all about, after all. He makes us new creations --- no matter the past. That's the power of His love for us.
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I CAN'T DO IT ALL!
Breaking Free from the Lies That Control Us
Tracie Peterson, Allison Bottke, and Dianne O'Brian
Bethany House Publishers
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As we learned in Logic 101, if you base a theory on a false premise you will end up with a false conclusion. I once heard sin described as the human tendency to believe the lies of Satan over the truth of God. So whether we choose to convince ourselves that drinking ourselves into a stupor will solve our problems or that having material things is a measure of our self worth, believing these lies becomes the basis for behaviors that lead to trouble and misery. The three authors of I CANíT DO IT ALL! have taken a giant step toward helping to identify some of the most common lies that we have the tendency to believe --- lies that can lead us away from truth and freedom and into sin and bondage.
SUMMER OF THE MIDNIGHT SUN
Alaskan Quest, Book One
Bethany House Publishers
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Leah Barringer's world is turned upside down when her brother brings home Jayce Kincaid, the man who spurned her ten years ago. Part of an expedition to the Arctic, Jayce shocks Leah by inviting her brother along. Helaina Beecham arrives in Alaska to hunt down the man the Pinkertons have sent her to apprehend. But when Jayce Kincaid appears to have been in two places at the same time, Helaina wonders if there might be a larger problem with the case. Despite confusing, conflicting evidence, can Helaina discover the truth? Can Leah's injured heart ever love again?
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I CAN'T DO IT ALL! Breaking Free from the Lies That Control Us
A CELEBRATION OF LIFE, a baby gift book from Promise Press
EYES OF THE HEART, women's encouragement (October 2002)
Special Note: Of the 24 books written for Heartsong Presents most are out of print or republished in collections that are listed below. Those not listed in collections are as follows:
ALAS MY LOVE
FIVE GEESE FLYING
CROSSROADS (co-written with Jennifer Peterson)
Anthology Collections from Barbour Publishing
AN OLD-FASHIONED CHRISTMAS
SEASONS OF LOVE
INSPIRATIONAL READER - historical collection #1, Barbour Publishing (contains A PLACE TO BELONG)
Ribbons of Steel series, co-written with Judith Pella(Bethany House Publishers)
A HOPE BEYOND
A PROMISE FOR TOMORROW
Ribbons West series, co-written with Judith Pella(Bethany House Publishers)
WESTWARD THE DREAM
TIES THAT BIND
ENTANGLED (Bethany House Publishers)
FRAMED (Bethany House Publishers)
CONTROLLING INTERESTS (Bethany House Publishers)
Westward Chronicles series (Bethany House Publishers)
A SHELTER OF HOPE
HIDDEN IN A WHISPER
A VEILED REFLECTION
A SLENDER THREAD (Bethany House Publishers)
TIDINGS OF PEACE, an anthology of Christmas stories by Tracie Peterson (Bethany House Publishers, October 2000)
THE LONG AWAITED CHILD, contemporary women's fiction (Bethany House Publishers)
Yukon Quest series (Bethany House Publishers)
TREASURES OF THE NORTH
ASHES AND ICE
RIVERS OF GOLD
Shannon Saga series, co-written with James Scott Bell (Bethany House Publishers)
CITY OF ANGELS
ANGEL OF MERCY
ALASKA, a collection of previously written Heartsong stories (Barbour Publishing)
COLORADO WINGS, a collection of previously written Heartsong stories (Barbour Publishing )
NEW MEXICO SUNRISE, a repackaged collection of 4 previously written Heartsong historical romances
NEW MEXICO SUNSET, a repackaged collection of 4 previously written Heartsong historical romances
KANSAS, four Prairie Romance novels by Tracie Peterson and Judith McCoy Miller (Barbour & Co)
JULOTTA (Promise Press, 2002)
Desert Roses series (Bethany House Publishers)
SHADOWS OF THE CANYON (2002)
ACROSS THE YEARS (2003)
BENEATH A HARVEST SKY (June 2003)
Bells of Lowell series, co-authored with Judith Miller (Bethany House Publishers)
DAUGHTERS OF THE LOOM (February 2003)
A FRAGILE DESIGN (July 2003)
THESE TANGLED THREADS (October 2003)
SILENT STAR (October 2003)
CASTLES (Barbour Publishing, January 2004)
Lights of Lowell series, co-authored with Judith Miller (Bethany House Publishers)
TAPESTRY OF HOPE (April 2004)
A LOVE WOVEN TRUE (January 2005)
THE PATTERN OF HER HEART (September 2005)
Heirs of Montana series (Bethany House Publishers)
LAND OF MY HEART (January 2004)
THE COMING STORM (July 2004)
TO DREAM A NEW (September 2004)
THE HOPE WITHIN (March 2005)
WHAT SHE LEFT FOR ME (October 2005)
Alaskan Quest series (Bethany House Publishers)
SUMMER OF THE MIDNIGHT SUN (March 2006)
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