Conversation with Liz Curtis Higgs author of Thorn in My Heart
It is a great pleasure to interview you, Liz. Your
books have, and continue to be a source of inspiration
and encouragement to me and GGBC. Many of us may remember
you from Bad Girls of the Bible and Really Bad
Girls of the Bible and several contemporary fiction
novels. Could you share with us what motivated you to
write Thorn in My Heart?
Bless you for asking about my "book of the heart!" Fiction has been a part of my life ever since I inhaled
books as a child and wrote my first novel (an awful one!)
at age ten. Then I majored in English Literature in college
and immersed myself in British classics. The fact is,
I've always been a huge fan of historical novels, but
didn't discover Christian fiction until 1995, when a kind
bookseller suggested I read Francine Rivers' Mark of the
Lion series. I was so moved by her incredible stories,
and saw for the first time the power of fiction to reach
people's hearts for Christ. At the time I'd written two
nonfiction books and one children's book, yet I felt a
definite nudge from the Lord to follow my heart and pursue
How challenging was it to write in the genre of historical
fiction? Was a lot of research involved?
Because I'm a hopeless perfectionist and long to get every
detail right, it was challenging-and hugely rewarding-to
immerse myself in 18th-century Scottish history. I have
570 resource books about Scotland, many of which are stacked
about me as I write. And I've been to Scotland six times,
and England twice, to do on-site research. In fact, even
as I type these words, I'm sitting in Falkirk, Scotland,
gazing out the window at an autumn sunset!
What was your experience like, and how long did it
take from idea to the finished manuscript?
Liz: The experience has been exhilarating, though at seven
years and counting, I'd be tempted to say it took too
long! But in truth, God's timing is perfect. I had much
to learn about the elements of writing fiction. Between
that first nudge in 1995 and the finished product, I wrote
15 other books, so I stayed busy! :>) I also took fiction
classes, attended workshops, studied the craft of writing
fiction, and wrote many chapters that I eventually tossed,
as I worked toward the day I would begin writing Thorn
in My Heart.
The story of Thorn in My Heart could parallel
Jacob and Esau, Leah and Rachel. Could you tell us more
Liz: While researching the lives of the women included in my
three Bad Girls of the Bible books, I was spellbound by
the story of Leah. Imagine being married to a man who
did not choose you and does not love you, even after you've
presented him with a full quiver of sons! Leah was not
a "bad girl," per se, but there were some unanswered
questions about her life that tugged at my imagination.
The more time I spent in Genesis 27-29, the more I realized
Leah's story needed to be explored as a novel-not in a
biblical setting, but in another period and place that
would let the timeless nature of her tragic, yet triumphant
journey shine through.
Why was Thorn in My Heart set in the Lowlands of
18th-century Scotland as opposed to the time and place
set in Genesis?
Liz: I hoped to accomplish two things by transplanting the
story: one was to show the timeless nature of God's Word.
Though the actual events in Genesis happened about 1900
B.C., the lessons the story teaches suit any period in
history. I could have placed Thorn in My Heart in 5th-century
Ireland or 10th-century France or 15th-century Italy;
18th-century Scotland just seemed like a good fit for
this story about a shepherd. Secondly, by placing the
story outside of the biblical setting, I had the freedom
to explore certain issues, to ask the hard, "what
if" questions, without tinkering with the Word of
Many of the experiences the characters have could very
well happen in the 21st century. Was it important for
you to make the characters' struggles real and true to
modern day times as well as to contemporary women's lives?
Liz: I very much wanted the story to "come alive"
for my modern readers. Although lifestyles and circumstances
change through the centuries, human nature has remained
the same since Eve. One of the reasons many of us love
historical fiction is because we get to "live" there vicariously (while still having indoor plumbing
at home!) and see how women in the past might have faced
the same kinds of struggles we do now.
How do you hope readers identify with the characters?
What do you hope they take away from reading Thorn
in My Heart?
Leana McBride-like Leah of the Bible, and like so many
of us-feels less than loved, less than desirable, less
than valued. After seeking after the love and attention
of her husband to no avail, she comes to an important
realization: God's love is enough. It was an emotional
story to write, and readers tell me (bless them!) that
it's moving to read as well.
Many of our members were thrilled to learn about Thorn
in My Heart and most had already read it being "Liz
readers." For those who haven't read it, but plan
to, what surprises are in store?
Liz: If you've read any earlier "Liz books," you
may be surprised that this one doesn't contain any intentional
humor. There are moments that might make you smile-say,
when a character does something that's so true to their
nature. But rather than tickle funny bones with this novel,
I wanted to touch hearts.
Do you plan to write more historical fiction novels?
Absolutely! There will be four books in this series.
The next one is Rose's story (my Rachel character). Fair
Is the Rose will arrive in stores March 16, 2004. Then
the journey of Jamie (that's Jacob) will come to a triumphant
conclusion in Whence Came a Prince. Finally, in the fourth
novel, None but the Brave, I'll step back a generation
to write a "prequel" exploring Alec and Rowena's
courtship and marriage-aye, that's Isaac and Rebekah-during
the tumultuous period of the 1745 Jacobite Rising in Scotland.
For the reader who hopes to write Christian books one
day, what advice and encouragement could you give?
Liz: Read the best writing you can find, write every chance
you get (I have to follow a strict writing schedule, or
I'd never finish a book!), attend writers' workshops,
and keep your eyes on Scripture and your heart on the
Lord. And give yourself the gift of time to hone your
craft. I have a whole page of "How-to Tips for Writers" on my Web site: www.LizCurtisHiggs.com. If God has called
you to write, go for it!
We thank you for your time and sharing your love of writing
Thorn in My Heart with us. It is definitely a great
book. Highly recommended! Before we go, Liz, you've written
a lot of books (20). What genres do you like writing in
I've pursued each genre-humorous nonfiction for women,
children's books, Bible studies for women, contemporary
fiction, and now historical fiction-in different seasons
of my life. As you might guess, historical fiction, which
is my favorite to read, is also my favorite to write!
It's the most difficult, the most research-intensive,
the most emotionally and spiritually challenging, and
the most exciting writing adventure I've ever taken with
the Lord. Bless you for traveling this road with me, dear