Communicating Deep Truths of the Scriptures – Stirring the Heart
A Child Shall Lead Them
Redeeming Love, one of the best-selling Christian fiction books of all time (over 1 million sold) and the career of one of the most gifted authors in the Christian arena, began with a simple invitation from an eight year old boy to Francine Rivers. He simply knocked on her door and said, “Have I got a church for you!” Little did he know Francine’s marriage was crumbling, and her life was in disarray. She reluctantly accepted his kind invitation, and the rest of the story has benefitted the world.
You never know who might accept your bold invitation to hear the words of God. As a result, Francine soaked in the rich Bible teaching, and she and her husband, Rick, opened their home for a Bible study. Although she grew up in a Christian home, each individual must come to faith from one’s own heart. At that time, Francine was well-known as an historical romance author in the general market. After a spiritual transformation, she sensed God’s prompting to write again—this time in a new direction—one centered on God and His undying love for each one of us. After the most intense year of writing in her life, Redeeming Love was born.
A False Start to Her Writing Career
Francine majored in English and minored in journalism. She wrote her first novel in 1979 on a dare from her husband, Rick. She was hooked after her first manuscript was published, and she followed up with ten more. She calls these works her B.C. (Before Christ) books. Due to her strong convictions and faith, Francine has made sure these books are never to be reprinted—a rarity for an author. Why? In her new life, she only desires to please and glorify her Savior. Francine is a worthy example to us that repentance requires not only remorse, but also action . . . and perhaps a few dollars.
Priorities and a New Direction
She openly admits that her early writing became her “identity.” After she surrendered her life to Jesus, she suffered from writer’s block for three years. God opened her eyes to see that writing was her idol. After prioritizing her life by putting God first, her family second, and her writing third, she developed a passion for studying God’s Word. It was studying the book of Hosea that finally broke down the walls of her heart and gave her a picture of how deep, passionate, and patient God’s love is for each of us. It was then she sensed God calling her to write again.
This balance of priorities continues today. Francine and Rick both believe that how you handle your money reveals where your heart is and what is first in your life. In gratitude to God who lovingly reached out and saved them both, they gave the first fruits of her first Christian novel, Redeeming Love to God. And He has blessed them with blessings money can’t buy: a Christ-centered and renewed marriage of 43 years, three wonderful children and five almost perfect grandchildren, and a fruitful ministry that has ministered to the hearts of millions through her deeply stirring novels.
Grounded in His Word
Francine’s love for God’s Word has motivated her to read through the Bible every year by using Tyndale’s One Year Bible and One Year Chronological Bible. “It’s amazing the wisdom gained,” she says, “by reading from both the New and Old Testaments simultaneously and occasionally reading the Bible in chronological order.” Francine and Rick are avid students of God’s Word and have continued to lead Bible studies in their home for 27 years. Francine enjoyed the eight years she spent in Bible Study Fellowship and highly recommends their studies. “You can’t get enough of God’s Word and His instructions for living,” she declares. “It’s what the world desperately needs.”
A Bridge between Two Worlds
Redeeming Love is Francine’s first book written after her spiritual transformation and her personal favorite. She wrote the story for all those readers who had followed her general market career of writing steamy historical romances. “I desperately wanted to show them,” she said, the difference between erotic love and the real love of Christ.” It is her statement of faith about Jesus and His all-consuming love. Redeeming Love is the retelling of the Biblical story of Gomer and Hosea. Francine creatively places this story during the California Gold Rush. Karen Kingsbury, a New York best-selling author, claims this book has “a special way of infusing the great and indescribable love of God straight to the heart of the reader.” Liz Curtis Higgs, another New York Times best-selling author, calls it “a masterpiece that moves beyond allegory to touch the reader at the deepest level where faith is born.”
The Story behind Redeeming Love
The main character, Angel, expects nothing from men but betrayal. After being sold into prostitution as a child, hatred becomes her survival. Everything changes when she meets Michael Hosea, a man after God’s own heart and who feels called by God to marry her and love her unconditionally. Although her frozen heart filled with unworthiness begins to thaw, she retreats back to the darkness. But Michael Hosea will not let her go and while enduring great pain, he loves her unconditionally. Her healing finally comes from the One who loves her more than Michael Hosea. God alone brings her ultimate healing.
The Story that Keeps on Selling
As a counselor of 30 years, I’m amazed at the depth of the character of Angel and how true to life her struggle is in dealing with her past. As a reader, I understand why this book continues to be one of CBA’s top-sellers and continues to sell twenty-one years after it breathed its first breath. First published by Bantam Books for the general market in 1991, Redeeming Love was re-released by Multnomah Publishers in 1997. This new addition includes a baptismal scene and Angel’s conversion to Christianity. Heralded as a literary masterpiece that portrays the unshakeable love of God, many feel it should be shown on the big screen. Francine has had an offer, but she is waiting for the right one that will allow her full control the creative aspects of this story and bring glory to God. Her book, The Last Sin Eater became a film in 2007. It was directed and produced by Michael Landon, Jr. and Brian Byrd and is now available on DVD.
The Secret to Her Success
Since Redeeming Love, Francine has published more than twenty Christian novels, each beginning with a question she has personally struggled to answer. And each one is written to reach those who might not read the Bible enticing them to hunger and thirst for the real thing.
God Himself provides the ending and answer. Her novels wrestle with real issues motivating readers to think through their own beliefs while they are mesmerized by her master storytelling techniques. Her novels have received many awards including the RITA Award, the highly prized Christy Award, the ECPA Gold Medallion, and the Holt Medallion. In 1997, she was inducted into the Romance Writers’ of America Hall of Fame. Her novels have been translated into over twenty different languages.
Francine writes as a form of worship and while doing so, the Spirit of God uses her to reach into the hearts of many and draw them closer to God. She challenges her readers to never be the same again. For more information about Francine and her novels go to www.francinerivers.com
Sonoma Christian Home contributor, Ginny Dent Brant, had the opportunity to ask Francine a few questions about her gifted career as a writer, and the priorities she pursues in her life.
SCH – Which of your books was the hardest to write?
Francine – The hardest book I’ve written was The Atonement Child because I had to face my own past abortion experience. The Lord had nudged me for a long time about working on this story, but I didn’t want to go back and relive the past. When I finally did surrender and begin the work, I approached the Santa Rosa Pregnancy Counseling Center for information and ended up in the post-abortion Bible study. All during the year I worked on The Atonement Child, I had people praying for me. Every character in the book is impacted by abortion in some way. It was a very difficult year, but brought the most healing to me personally. The Lord completed a healing process inside me, and because of it, I’ve been able to speak openly about my experience and why I am solidly pro-life.
SCH – As a Christian writer, what is your desire for your readers?
Francine - I prayerfully hope each story will make readers think more deeply about their faith and what it means in our pluralistic society. I want them to hunger and thirst for Jesus and pray each will surrender to Him and experience the freedom I have. I want to encourage and challenge and comfort. Above all, I want to worship Jesus through my work.
SCH - What advice would you give a new writer?
Francine - Commit your work to the Lord. Write what you need to read. Write from the passion of your heart and soul. Write for an audience of One – Jesus.
SCH – Can you explain the difference between a “Christian writer” and a Christian who writes?
There are many fine and successful writers who are Christians. They write whatever they want to write and sometimes weave in a Christian world view. These writers are knowledgeable about the market, what sells and what doesn’t. Faith and Christ are not overtly presented. Christians write in every genre.
A Christian writer keeps Christ at the very center of the story. The sole reason for writing has to do with faith and Christ and what it means to live as a follower of Jesus. I am a Christian writer. Without Jesus, there is no story for me to tell. He is at the center of every part of my work.
SCH – What’s your next project or book?
Francine – I am completing an historical novel that takes place in a small Northern California town and centers on a foundling girl, a pastor and his son. The working title is The Bridge to Haven. It is an allegory in some ways about the spiritual battle that goes on over each believer and how deep and long-suffering God’s love is always there for the asking. Ezekiel 16 is the inspiration for the story which takes place between 1937 and 1959, a very turbulent time in our history and a good setting for a love story. Tyndale House is hoping for a release in Fall of 2013.
SCH – Do you share your gifts and talents through speaking engagements and teaching at writing conferences?
Francine – I have spoken at numerous writers conferences over my career. I’ve also taught workshops and done keynote addresses. The energy and time for preparation began to interfere with my writing. Hence, I needed to step back. For a number of years, I limited my speaking engagement to pregnancy counseling fund raisers when I gave my personal testimony. Over the last few years, I’ve felt the need to withdraw even further for the time being. There is a time for all things, and this seems to be a time for me to do my speaking through writing.
Other than one local luncheon on April, 2013, I’m not accepting speaking engagements at this time. I need to focus on my writing and family. Rick has Parkinson’s; we are doing as much traveling as possible. There are many places we want to visit while we are healthy and able to do so.
SCH – I was amazed at the insight you have into the psychological effects of sexual abuse on Angel’s life and how true to life they were. Did you study about this or interview an expert in this area before writing Redeeming Love?
Francine - I was reared in a loving Christian family. We weren’t perfect, but I never suffered the things Angel did. I believe God gave me insights into her. He broke my heart numerous times in the process because of His great love for His children, and because this story is His story of how He can bring healing to any situation. I read an article in a woman’s magazine years ago about a child who had been kidnapped and then seen in pornographic movies. The first picture showed a beautiful, innocent little school girl. The second showed a terrified child about to be raped. In the third picture, the girl was in her teens and had a seductive smile and dead eyes. I had those pictures pinned up on the wall in front of me. I wrote Redeeming Love for that little girl. I wanted her to know Jesus loves her. He knows her pain. He can reclaim and restore her to new life and give her a future and a hope beyond her dreams. Sadly, I think there are thousands of those little girls now. Sex trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes in America.
SCH - Where do your ideas for your plots come from?
Francine - Most of the stories I’ve written started with a question and then characters who played out various points of view. In the case of A Voice in the Wind, I wanted to answer: How do I share my faith in Jesus with unsaved family members and friends who do not want to hear His name or read the Bible? The main character was Hadassah, a Christian afraid to share her faith. I set the story during ancient Roman times and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. when risks in sharing faith were far more dangerous than they are now (in America, at least). Each book has other characters that voice various points of view about possible answers to the question. There is always one primary character that lives out the Christian life. Each book has been a quest. I am seeking God’s perspective.
Francine’s life verse is Proverbs 3:5-6:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.”
Click here to see a summary of Francine’s best-selling books and the questions answered in each.
Ginny Dent Brant is a writer, counselor, soloist, Christian speaker, and Bible teacher. Her book about her spiritual journey with her father, Harry S. Dent, Sr., Finding True Freedom: From the White House to the World was released in 2010 by CLC Publications. Ginny and her husband Alton have three sons and live in Clemson/Seneca, SC. For more info please visit Ginny Brant
Photos of Francine Rivers by Emily Semans of ESPhoto.org