Sharon Hinck's Sword of Lyric series is one of the meaningful and challenging reading experiences I have enjoyed for many years, so I'm thrilled to see that Marcher Lord Press has released the first novel in the series with additional material, The Restorer - Expanded Edition.
In addition to the brilliant story of Susan's journey to another world, involving adventure, danger, corruption and a world seeking redemption with moving spiritual allegory, the expanded editon has additional scenes to enjoy and a detailed devotion guide. The devotion guide walks readers through the books chapters with corresponding Biblical chapter to read and study. I highly recommend this story and the extra material will only add to an exceptional reading experience!
To celebrate, I'm reposting parts of my book club's interview with Sharon from 2008 when we had the pleasure of discussing The Restorer together! Enjoy :)
Book Club: Were some of the spiritual insights that Susan learned through her journey from your own faith experience?
Sharon: 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.
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 Susan'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?
(Hee hee! Okay, just kidding).
Swordwork, cultures without written languages, a little about technologies and physics… but it was predominantly spun out of imagination.
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 given 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. :)
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, hence 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.
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.
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.