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A Conversation with Liz Curtis Higgs author of Thorn in My Heart

GGBC: 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?

Liz: 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 writing fiction.

GGBC: How challenging was it to write in the genre of historical fiction? Was a lot of research involved?

Liz: 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!

GGBC: 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.

GGBC: The story of Thorn in My Heart could parallel Jacob and Esau, Leah and Rachel. Could you tell us more about this?

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.

GGBC: 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 God.

GGBC: 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.

GGBC: How do you hope readers identify with the characters? What do you hope they take away from reading Thorn in My Heart?

Liz: 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.

GGBC: 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.

GGBC: Do you plan to write more historical fiction novels?

Liz: 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.

GGBC: 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!

GGBC: 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 most?

Liz: 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 sisters!

ON A LITERARY NOTE

Review: Emma Dash

Emma Dash
G-CAFECONNECT



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