Friday, 24 October 2008

Book Club Interview with Sharon Hinck and The Restorer

Last Friday my book club had one of our best discussions with our selection of Sharon Hinck's The Restorer! Not only is it a wonderful tale but it is brimming with spiritual insights, challenges and encouragement. This story really spoke to some of our members in a unique way and I highly recommend it for book clubs looking for something that will spark great discussion.

The Restorer's amazing author, Sharon Hinck, graciously answered numerous questions from my members via email, the majority of which I am sharing here. Some special insights were just for us!! At the end of our discussion, we read our own questions aloud and shared Sharon's answers - it is a great way to learn more about your favourite authors and gain further insight into their stories.

A big thanks to my book clubbers who contributed to the questions for Sharon! And all our deepest thanks to Sharon ~ we so appreciate the time and effort you took to answer our questions, Shazza, which made our night fun and inspiring!

Sharon also has a YouTube video on her blog especially for Book Clubs and my DH set his laptop to run through our TV to show to us ~ it was great fun to see Sharon in action!

Check out the interview and others with Sharon here.


I hope you enjoy sharing our "time" with Sharon below:~

Were some of the spiritual insights that Susan learnt through her journey from your own faith experience?

Absolutely. I share her longing to be a faithful servant, and her awareness of her own frailty and utter dependence on God.

Did you have a name for the parallel world?

No, and I'm not sure why. I kept working around the issue . . . referencing the People of the Verses, the clans, the city of Lyric, the other place through the portal….but never had a name of the place as a whole. I still don't know why my creative subconscious was so adamant in not providing that… perhaps because the People of the Verses didn't name their world - didn't even think much in terms of “world” but simply their clans. Great question - one that still stumps me.

Do you have a belief that our God could also be the One in other worlds?

C.S. Lewis (after writing his space trilogy) was asked this, and I believe he said something along the lines of - God is big enough to do whatever He likes. It's a bit self-centered to think He DIDN'T possibly create others in other worlds. I liked that answer.

Where did the idea for the book come from, did she feel that she was shown the way to write this book?

I used to be the artistic director of a Christian performing arts group, and before I retired from that, was developing a script about a woman going into her attic and having devotions - and women from the bible (like Deborah) stepping out and interacting with her)… so that germ developed into a woman in her attic GOING somewhere (but I didn't want it to be Biblical times) and BEING a type of Deborah…and it just kept unfolding from there.

How long did it take to write?

Six months for the first draft…many many rewrites over several years.
I began writing it in October of 2002.

Who or what was the inspiration for S
usan's character?

First - Deborah (a mother in Israel who rode into battle) from the book of Judges. Second - all the women I know who are literally “pulled into another world” when they get the news that a friend has cancer, or a parent has Alzheimers, or a child has a learning disability. They enter a place they never expected to visit, and are called upon to fill a heroic role they don't feel adequate to fill. And God equips them, sends them allies, and works through them.
And interestingly, in many ways, Susan's journey has been my experience in the world of being a published author. J But I wrote the book BEFORE that happened.

Where did you get the ideas for the town's names and what the other world looked like?

I didn't want to re-create Middle Earth or the Wounded Land, or Albion, or Narnia - things that were already done beautifully by the masters. I wanted to do some twists on the traditional fantasy setting. That winter, Minnesota was grey and overcast - gray snow, gray sky, no sun. I wondered what a world would be like where people never saw the sun, or moon, or stars…and where their technology developed in completely different ways.

As far as the names, I tried to play with the environment a little, and also the musical “sound” of
various cultures. But I sneaked in Shamgar as nod toward the book of Judges (he was one of the minor Judges mentioned in the Bible).

What research did you have to do for this book?

Many trips to alternate universes.

(Hee hee! Okay, just kidding).

Swordwork, cultures without written languages, a little about technologies and physics… but it was predominantly spun out of imagination.

What type of books do you like to read?

Almost everything. I think that's why some of my novels combine more than one genre. I read general market novels, Christian novels, and a broad variety of genres.

I am interested to know where your idea came from for the Rhusicans. Have you had experiences where you've been amongst people who instil negative and evil thoughts?

Great question. I based the Rhusicans on our modern marketing industry…the folks who “create a need” by touching on people's deepest insecurities… saying “you aren't good enough” in whichever way their product can solve. I also have battled depression, so I know how difficult “mind poison” can be… how it can take hold, or dig in.

The challenge to go out of our comfort zone and face our fears is extremely daunting and requires us to put our trust totally in God. Have you found that by writing about Susan and her need to trust God to survive, has g
iven you more confidence to step out and face difficult challenges that may arise in your life?

I think I'm actually more like a character in the third book, who is EAGER to jump ahead and serve - but then gets in over his head. I tend to shout, “Yes, Lord!” but then find myself asking Him to let me turn back.

I DID find that the release of the book and the challenges I faced that year gave me lots of chances to live out the sorts of opportunities to lean into God more, and dig deeper - just like Susan had to.

What was the inspiration for your imagination to come up with the parallel world that was the setting of this series of books?

I think I answered that earlier, but it was in part from my love of “fish out of water” stories, in part a very dreary winter in Minnesota where it stayed gray a long time, and in part from my love of the Old testament stories of the Judges.

Do you have a mental picture of the characters as you write?

I don't even carry mental pictures of my FRIENDS very well. I'm not big on facial recognition. But I had VIVID senses of their personalities. Each character was very very real to me. I even found myself praying for some of them during my devotions, when I forgot for a moment they were just characters in a story. J

How do you choose the names for your characters?

I wanted Susan to be an “every woman” and I'm part of a small group Bible study at our church. There are two Susans, and two Marks (none are married to each other)…. So I used those two names as good central names.

Rhus is the Latin botanical name for poison, hense the Rhusicans. Much of the rest - I just grabbed “place-holder names” to use until I could work out careful choices, but ended up keeping most of them.

What do you consider an ideal vacation?

Hiking in the woods.

Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Used to be a night owl, but lately am more of a morning person.

What is your favourite snack?

Mashed Potatoes and gravy. (does that count as a snack?).

Otherwise, a snack mix I make with Cheerios and Rice Chex and peanuts.

Rel:~ Sorry but the whole cereal snack thing doesn't work for us Aussies but our born and bred American book clubber, Misty, was drooling - LOL!!

Favourite flower?

Everything blue (forget-me-nots, etc.) and
lily-of-the-valley. Oh, and lilacs and pansies.

How much of you is there in Susan?

See above…. A LOT… but in some ways, my spiritual walk with God has a LOT in common with Kieran's. I tend to wrestle with the One quite a bit.

I thought it was interesting that both the Restorers were people who struggled with their faith or felt it was all but gone. I'd love to know your purpose behind choosing those characters for the role

I'm in awe of how God chooses the
weak to confound the strong. He uses broken vessels and even rebellious or disbelieving ones. One character is inspired a bit by Gideon - who when He received God's call said, “If the Lord is truly with us, why have all these bad things happened to us?” (I was astounded to find those words in the book of Judges - because they felt so contemporary to me, and I hadn't remembered that aspect of Gideon). As I wrote The Restorer's Son, I felt overwhelmed by God's heart of love even for those who are wandering or challenging Him. I saw the way He pursues us because of that love.


What do the organizers of retreats & church groups usually ask you to speak on?

Going Deeper With God
The Value of the Arts in the Christian Life
Finding Ministry in the Midst of Motherhood
How to be a Hero
The Writing Journey
Those are a few. J

If you were given carte blanch to speak to a group (let's say a group of women…like us!), what is the topic that you would most passionately like to deliver to them?

Going Deeper with God (what that means, what gets in the way, and how powerfully He is using each of you, even when it's hard to see it) J There, consider that said. J


Who is your favourite author?

Too many to name. I grew up cherishing classics – Twain, London, the Brontes, Austen, Dickens, Stevenson, Conan Doyle, Kipling. Discovered C.S. Lewis and love everything by him – my favorite book is Perelandra. In the fantasy genre, I was influenced by McCaffrey, Lawhead, Tolkien, Donaldson, and many others. But I also read a wide array of other genres...everything from literary to mystery, sci-fi to romance.

Was The Restorer an easy novel to write?

Yes and no. It was my first novel, so it was SO FUN because I totally didn’t know what I was doing, and wasn’t worrying about all the things I was doing wrong. Each book I’ve written has gotten HARDER to write, because I know more about the craft. It was difficult because in the other world, since they had to sun, moon, stars, or fire, it kept me from using LOTS of the common images and metaphors I was comfortable using when I wrote. And it took extensive “world building” that my women’s fiction doesn’t require in the same way.

Did you plan at the start to have a series?

I don’t remember. I think I just started writing and watched to see what would happen. When I got to the end, I knew it wasn’t over yet. :-)

In your everyday life do you wonder what it would be like to live like Susan? and do you reflect back over life like Susan?

My everyday life – when my four kids were young and life was a joyous chaos – was very much like Susan’s. I have a loving husband, yet often felt overwhelmed by life and wondered if my life was really making a difference. Parenting is TOUGH and definitely makes us feel like we’re drowning some days. :-)

What has been the most encouraging feedback you have received regarding this series, by someone whose life has been touched by your story of The Restorer?

SO many amazing stories - from a gal who heard from God during her prayer time to get the book - and then He used it to speak to her…. to a woman who at a certain scene in book two, put the book town, cried before God, and said, “I'm tired of fighting you. I give myself back to you.” To a mom in crisis feeling she couldn't go on, who suddenly remembered the Rhusicans, and recognized the mind poison, and was able to fight it off and get through another day. I'm in awe that God could bring comfort and encouragement to others through this simple story. He is amazing.


Rel:~I am really looking forward to reading Sharon newest offering so I asked her about it as well. Who knows it might end up as a book club selection for us in 2009! As you can see below it is garnering some great reviews :)

Please share a little about your newest novel, Stepping Into Sunlight
, now available from Bethany House.

One tragic event.

One project of healing.

One step toward hope.

A story for every woman who has wondered where God is when life hurts.
Penny, a Navy chaplain's wife, witnesses a violent crime and struggles with post traumatic stress while her husband is on his first deployment. Far from family and friends, she fights to heal for the sake of her seven-year-old son, even though ordinary tasks take heroic efforts. She's haunted by flashbacks and is tormented by fear, so she designs a project to speed her recovery: doing one small, kind act for a different person each day. The results are sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, and often used by God in surprising ways.

PRAISE for Stepping Into Sunlight:


“Hinck, a 2008 Christy finalist for visionary fiction, offers an
especially grounded tale of sudden trauma and slow healing.

Narrator Penny Sullivan witnesses a horrific crime shortly before
her navy chaplain husband is deployed, so she is forced to cope alone with the psychological fallout from what she saw. Family issues from her past complicate her struggle and enhance its credibility. Strong Christian themes form a natural part of the narrative. Penny Sullivan's faith is shaken, and she wonders why God would appear to permit evil and whether her emotional turmoil can be healed.

A supporting cast of characters, from a nosy neighbor to the busy
faithful servant to the downtrodden who heads a local mission, adds quirk and richness. Hinck is a mother of four, and it shows in authentic details in her characterization of the narrator's worried, loving seven-year-old son who gets his first pet in some cute comic relief. Hinck has done her homework on post-traumatic stress syndrome, and is not afraid to show readers that challenges can deepen faith.”
-- Publisher's Weekly

"In this uplifting novel set in Chesapeake, VA, Penny Sullivan is
losing her grip after witnessing a traumatic event. . . Well written and
compelling, this title will appeal to readers of Karen Kingsbury, Ann Tatlock, and Angela Elwell Hunt.”
-- Library Journal

“Told with humor and lump-in-the-throat insight, Stepping Into Sunlight
is a compelling story of learning to live again after trauma. This was my first Sharon Hinck novel, but it garnered her a permanent spot on my favorite authors list.”
--Deborah Raney, author of A Vow to Cherish and THE CLAYBURN NOVELS series

“For anyone who has ever been afraid of what life may hold (and who
hasn't?), Sharon's novel is a beacon of hope and healing. Kudos!”
--Roxanne Henke, author of After Anne and Learning to Fly

“With a deft hand Hinck ushers the reader into the frustrating, inward
world of the victim, challenging us to gauge the level of our compassion for those who walk a journey we can't adequately imagine and daring us to wonder if we, too, could flatten our fears and replace them with modest, indiscriminate kindness.”
--Susan Meissner, author of Blue Heart Blessed

“A beautifully woven story of one woman's desperation, determination .
. . and hope. A cast of oddball, but thoroughly charming, characters, make this book a delightful read from start to finish. Highly recommended.”
--Kathryn Cushman, author of A Promise to Remember and Waiting for
Daybreak

“After finishing it, I wanted to press it into the hands of everyone I meet
and say, 'THIS! This is what my God is like! This is where you can find hope! This is what it means to live for Christ even when things are horrifically ugly around you. This is healing. This is what it looks like to hurt and to heal.' No pious platitudes. Reality Faith.”
--Cynthia Ruchti, “Heartbeat of the Home” radio broadcasts

4 comments:

Tracy said...

Oh goody. I wanted to have a longer think about the answers Sharon so generously put so much time into. Now I'll be able to do that whenever the idea strikes :)

Thanks Rel....and Sharon.

Kim said...

This is FABULOUS!! I adored Restorer's Journey and am eagerly looking forward to reading the rest of Sharon's work! Her words are powerful and I truly believe God is using her in a mighty way. She has a servant's heart that seeks after God, and that is reflected in her writing!

Thanks for a terrific and encouraging interview!

Kim

Misty said...

Rel, I think I am going to have my momma send some Rice chex so I can make the party mix for next book club! You never know until you try! I enjoyed reading the story and laughing again! Thanks

Angela said...

it was good to re-read the interview, thanks.

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