I recently had the enormous pleasure of interviewing Francine Rivers for Premier Christianity magazine. Having devoured most of her books, getting a chance to meet Francine was definitely up there on my bucket list! The magazine article featured in the November issue, but, as Francine rarely gives talks or interviews anymore, I wanted to share with you some of the other insights she gave into her writing life that we simply couldn't fit into the article.
Francine began her writing career as a writer of steamy historical novels. She reminisced about how, once she became a Christian, she experienced writers’ block – and it changed the focus of her work:
“I couldn’t write for about three years and I couldn’t figure out why and I think that writing had really become an idol in my life…In that three year period that’s when I started reading the Bible and seeking the Lord, and I realized that he was basically saying to me: ‘You say you want to be my child but you don’t even know who I am.’ When writing ceased to matter and I didn’t care if I ever wrote again, we did a minor prophets study and came to the book of Hosea and God said: ‘This is the romance I want you to write.’ That was the last one I did for the general market and it was in the same genre and the same period that I’d been writing in because it was geared to the people who had been reading my work.”
On the similar themes and approaches in her books (even though the subject matters vary widely):
“I know I tend to focus on people that are down and out and have difficult lives, even Christians. I don’t know any Christians who have had an easy time of it or haven’t made mistakes. I don’t know any perfect people. In a lot of Christian fiction years ago if there was a conflict it was because they were tempted – it wasn’t because they actually fell into sin in any way – and I think there are so many people now that are broken that I tend to write about those people. Or write for those people. Always God is the healer.”
On why she writes:
“The goal really in writing any of the books that I’ve written is to learn from them and grow as a Christian and to give a tool to people that they can pass on to people that don’t want to read the Bible.
“The whole idea is to find an answer – to find what God is teaching me through the characters of the story. And he inevitably does teach me something. There will be that goose bump moment of ‘ah that’s the lesson’ and sometimes it doesn’t come until the very end. People tend to think you write when you are inspired but it is like any job – you have to sit in the chair and do it.”
Writing when their children were small:
“I started out at the kitchen table, and then Rick got me a military desk. Of course we had three small children at the time so the baby would be in the cradle behind the typewriter, another baby would be down in the bottom drawer taking a nap and another in the playpen behind me.
“Our eldest son wrote a poem when he was going to Classics college and he talked about the sound of his mother typing and it was very comforting [when he was little]. They were kind of part of it. Of course I used bribery – ‘if you give me some time to work and I can get this much done then we’ll go to the park or the beach’. Later on they would talk about their dreams and I would start asking questions and building a story with them and I’d stick it in a file so they had an idea of what I was doing.”
Describing the ‘pray, plot and play’ retreat she attends annually:
“There are ten of us – it is a lot of fun and then you see the books come out too. We meet every year for four or five days and we each take turns – we throw a story onto the table and we start discussing it and throwing ideas out. We always start with devotions in the morning and singing, and then we do the plotting, and then we have fun in the afternoon. All but two are professional writers.”
On the daily routine of writing:
“We get up very early. We have our devotion time, Rick makes coffee for me and we talk and after that I get ready for my day and I have my Bible study and breakfast and then I go to work. You need to start in scripture before you work for the Lord – you need to start with him. There’s always something in there that has to do with what I’m working on at the time. And then I try to write four pages a day. Some days I can get done by noon; with a deadline I may be working 12–14 hour days, six days a week towards the end. I get immersed in it and just want to keep going.”
There are other nuggets about Francine’s writing life in the magazine article. Alternatively, you can listen to the full interview on Premier Christian Radio at 4pm on Saturday 24 November or download The Profile podcast: www.premierchristianradio.com/theprofile
Claire is a freelance writer, speaker and editor, mum to two gorgeous children, pastor’s wife, worship leader and school governor. Her books include Taking off the mask: daring to be the person God created you to be, Cover to Cover: Ezekiel A prophet for all times, Cover to Cover: 1–3 John Walking in the truth, Cover to Cover: David: A man after God's own heart, Insight Into Managing Conflict, Insight Into Self-acceptance and Insight Into Burnout. She also writes Bible study notes. To find out more about her, please visit www.clairemusters.com and @CMusters on Twitter.