Thursday, August 14, 2008

Highlights from our interview with Liz Curtis Higgs

Regarding Sommerled:
Alas and alak, I can think of many men in my life who have been like Sommerled so I didn’t have to reach too far to find an example. Sadly, they’re out there and most of us have dated one…But I should never have made him a musician; because nothing would win my heart like a guy who could play a cello well. And…he just won my heart! So then I had to kill him! And it’s like “Oh no! This is terrible!” You know because we’ve got him all turned around, made him believable. But of course the brothers weren’t in on all this turnaround. They just came in and did the dirty.
They must not have the same love for cellos as you do.
I think you’re right. Yeah, they didn’t. They didn’t actually get to hear him play cello. Only fiddle. Maybe that was the whole problem.

Choosing a mute heroine:
Now, you can tell I’m a very verbose person. It’s amazing I can be disciplined to write at all because I’d much rather talk. So imagine now a woman like me, a chatty Kathy, having as your lead heroine a girl who can’t talk. It was…scary! Originally I was going to get her back her voice. I had real clever ploy of how the brothers were going to seek grace from her by bringing home a professor from the University of Attenborough who was the first to invent the use of anesthesia. So he would come and do this iffy surgery on her throat, and “tada!” She would get her voice back. And it seemed very clever indeed, but the more I thought about it, the hokier it got. And, you just have to be so careful of that kind of thing. So I decided not to have that element in the book, and not to have this hokey “get your voice back” thing.

I am not as fun to travel with as you may think because I’m doing research the whole time. So I’m interviewing people. I’m hanging out in graveyards. I’m climbing through libraries. And things that aren’t quite so exciting.
That all sounds pretty exciting to me!
Well I have a good time, yeah. And all those men in kilts make it all worth while.

My husband has said, “Honey, don’t even think about starting a new series in France!” ‘Cause he knows me well enough, he knows that I’d have to go there several times. I’d have to do tons of research…actually that sounds like a really good idea. Yeah, then we’ll do a series in…I don’t know…Italy would be good. Not all novelists travel to the place once, let alone ten times. But I love it, and I’ve got lots of extra frequent flier miles and that’s the best way to spend them!

Writing Grace in Thine Eyes:
My initial thought is that the grace would be extended to Davina. Well, then I get into the writing of the book and I realized she’s a complete innocent so the direction grace needs to flow is not to Davina, it’s from Davina. The first draft that I wrote, I had her truly fall in love with, and express love to, Sommerled. And that was all well and good and fine, except that I realized that’s not the biggest gift she could give him. To love a man who has hurt you, sadly, is easily done. [Laughs] It’s just unfortunate that sometimes we love a man who is not good to us. I dated an abuser back when I was 19 so I know how this works. But to extend forgiveness to him is huge, and frankly, more difficult than love because it goes to a deeper, more sacrificial level. And of course it’s past anything physical, it’s at the spiritual level. In many ways the entire theme was turned on its head by the time I was done, and I love that. Although it requires a huge amount of re-writing, it’s so exciting when you as the writer learn something in the writing. You know, when you’re taught and you are stretched.

It was a very difficult book to write. It took 14 months. My books never take that long, but that one did. Partly because of the re-writing, but also because I could climb in Davina’s shoes having been right where she was. It was the front seat of a car, not a stable, but it was the same story. And so I was in her heart, and that was very painful to travel through again. Then I had to be in Leanna’s heart. And I am a mother, at the time of a 17-year-old daughter, and so I imagined “How would I feel as a mother if my daughter came to me and said this happened to me.” What would that be like?

So much tears and gnashing of teeth. I mean, I must have lost a pound in just water with this book. You know people say to me, “Oh I really wept reading your book.” It’s like, wow, you have no idea. I just soaked the keyboard. I’m lucky I didn’t electrocute myself. But hopefully that’s what makes a book connect with a reader. You don’t have to cry. Not everybody cries when they read. But I have to. You know in other words, if I’m not that involved how could I ever expect my reader to be?

Why she reads/writes fiction:
But most of the time, 99% of the time, people get something really meaningful [out of my books] that I didn’t put in there intentionally, that maybe isn’t even exactly there in an overt way, but it works through the process of their own heart. You know it’s a combination of their own experiences, of the Holy Spirit kind of working through them, and then this little story. And it always amazes me, and delights me. And it’s why I read fiction. I mean, I inhale fiction. And it’s to travel to a different place and think a different thought.

Breaking rules:
You are never supposed to have a character that’s mute. You are never supposed to have music or a musician as part of a book, because it’s oral and here you are on a flat page of words. So they say never have a character be a musician, and never have her be an artist. [Laughs] It’s just funny because, I of course am a bit of a rebel who thinks rules are there to be broken, but it does make a challenge. What can I say? I hope it worked.

Using Quotes:
Yes I love the epigraphs. I get really carried away. I spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to find just the right one. Sometimes I’ll choose one, write the chapter, decide it’s not quite perfect, and so spend another hour trying to find a different one. I’ll save the one I didn’t use for another chapter. So, yes, after all these books, I have a crazy collection.
Do you have any favorite quotes that you’re just like, “jones”ing to use, that you just haven’t written the right chapter for yet?
Well here’s one. I’d like to find a home for this. This is by James Thomson who was a 18th century Scottish poet: “The whole air whitens with the boundless tide of silver radiance trembling round the world.” Isn’t that delicious? You know it’s like, surely there’s going to be a use for that one.

Sharing our feelings about Jamie:
I found myself exactly as frustrated as you were about Jamie and the sons. I just wanted to say, “Come on dad! If can be this loving over here, what’s the problem over there.” But the truth is, I’m a mother…I’ve told you of course six times now of a 17-year-old daughter, now 19, and a son whose now 21, and I’m just trying to think if my son had caused an accident, had something like that happened to my Lily that took her voice away, could I absolutely forgive him and not in any way have that hanging over my relationship with him? I don’t have an answer for you. I hope. I hope that I could.

Sadly, there are lots of Jamie’s out there. Who, one thing goes wrong and they never can get over it. They, you know, grace is extended to them but they can’t seem to come up with a way to extend it back. It’s heartbreaking to see but it happens. Sometimes there are just people who are just hungry for grace, they’re going to sop it all up around them, but they’re not willing to turn around and give it to other people.

Sharing our feelings about Graham:
I think Graham is closer to a true hero in this book. I would love to write a book with just Graham. He’s a very special guy. I like him a lot.

Closing words:
It’s been absolutely a delight. Hugs to all and thanks!