New York Times bestselling author Francine Rivers has published numerous novels—all bestsellers—and she has continued to win both industry acclaim and reader loyalty around the globe. Her Christian novels have been awarded or nominated for numerous honors, including the RITA Award, the Christy Award, the ECPA Gold Medallion, and the Holt Medallion in Honor of Outstanding Literary Talent. In 1997, after winning her third RITA Award for inspirational fiction, Francine was inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. Francine’s novels have been translated in over twenty different languages. She and her husband, Rick, enjoy spending time with their children and grandchildren.
I "met" Francine via email when I needed to interview her for a project. I asked another author to see if Francine would allow me to email her about a potential interview. I got permission, her email, and because I'm such a huge fan of hers, in my excitement I embarrassed the fire out of myself by not asking her if I could send her some questions and just sent them. Thankfully, she saw the humor and graciously answered my questions, then and now.
What is your hope for your novels?
I hope the stories I write will increase readers’ hunger and thirst for Jesus, and the characters will inspire them to be more like Him. It’s so easy to follow the ways of the world, to get sucked into following the herd rather than be among the flock. I want to encourage readers to trust in the Lord always and to remember only His Word is truth.
You often say that each of your books is inspired by a question. Is that the case with Bridge to Haven? If so, what question inspired this novel?
We live in a complex, often-disheartening world. I know I always have questions about how to live for Jesus in a world that hates Him. Questions continue to challenge me. How do I live by faith and not by sight? How can I be an overcomer in a world that wants to crush the very heart of me? I take these questions into any story I write, and each story is a quest for God’s perspective.
With this particular novel, I wanted to explore how people can be bridges. Jesus is the ultimate bridge that takes us across the chasm over hell and into heaven to be in the presence of God. Each character in the novel plays a part as a bridge builder or bridge destroyer. Sometimes the characters begin as one and become the other.
What message do you hope will resonate with readers of Bridge to Haven?
I hope readers will ask themselves: Am I a bridge? How can I help someone who is struggling step onto the bridge of faith and begin the journey to a haven of rest? Do I point the way? Or do I walk with them? How does that look in my day-to-day life?
Why did you want to reimagine the parable of the Prodigal Son? Why was this important to you?
The Prodigal Son is the story of every human being. We are all God’s creations. But too often we try to go our own way. That way brings pain and separation from what we truly want: an everlasting love relationship with God. Only in Him do we find the happiness we crave from the womb. Some turn away from the world and head home to God. That journey all too often begins in desperation and follows a road of fear until we see the Lord has been waiting for us all the time with open arms.
Was there a specific person upon whom you based Abra’s character?
The story started as an allegory about the character of God and Jesus, but how can anyone capture the immensity of God, His all-consuming love and passion for each of us? I certainly couldn’t. His love is so immense, cleansing, healing, restorative. It’s beyond human understanding. I dumped my first attempt and started over. In this rendition, Zeke and Joshua strive to be like Jesus, and often fail. Abra represents those who fail to see the love offered and turn away, looking in all the wrong places for what they had from the beginning. It is a leap of faith to believe God’s grace is not earned, but freely given.
I was like Abra for many years. Despite the truth I was taught as a child, I took hold of a wrong view of God as a constant critical eye, a Being just waiting to condemn me to everlasting hell. When I turned to God, I felt like Paul when the scales fell away from his eyes. In a sense, I awakened and knew God loved me despite everything I had done and mistakenly believed. My stubborn pride had to be broken. There were always people around me who loved me and pointed the way to Jesus. That is true of everyone. God makes ambassadors and scatters them everywhere. When we open our hearts, usually out of desperation, God pours in His Holy Spirit and opens our eyes and ears to who He is and to those He has called to help us cross that bridge of faith God uses to transform our lives.
What is the significance of the title, Bridge to Haven?
**Spoiler alert for those who are in a book club.** If you are in a book club and would like Francine's answer to this question, then after you've read the book, email Ane through Ground Control and she'll send you the answer.
What research did you do for this title? What did you learn about Hollywood in the 1950s?
I compiled binders full of information about the forties and fifties, World War II, the Korean War, medics serving in Korea, Hollywood studios and stars, along with Scripture that always speaks to the mind and heart of any human being. The Bible is like God’s blueprint for mankind, how and why man was built, what happened when sin entered into our lives, and the cure. Since I don’t have a mind that retains information, I kept the binders and my Bible close at hand for constant reference. I am fortunate enough to have an exacting, knowledgeable editor (Kathy Olson) who makes sure the time lines and accompanying information are correct down to the smallest detail of which song might have been playing on the radio. And since I am very aware of my limitations and imperfections, I applaud and embrace her efforts.
Most of our readers are writers and love to learn from multi-published and successful authors. How do you develop your characters?
Usually they start whispering to me long before I begin development. I know that may sound strange, and I’m only partly joking. I start with a question and the more I ponder and study, the more I begin to hear characters (people) talking about the issue; real people as well as those who begin to come to life in my head. Some voices are louder than others, and I try to listen. I will even take dictation, jotting down their conversations.
I always have one strong Christian as a central character, and this person keeps me anchored in Scripture. Writing is a quest for answers and an attempt to find God’s perspective, so this character is essential. Remember the “What would Jesus say?” from Charles Sheldon’s classic, In His Steps.
That question becomes: “What would this particular character/person say in this given situation? How would Jesus want him/her to behave? What attitude toward the antagonist or crisis would come through if they were fully bonded to Christ? What part of their backstory would come into play and might cause havoc?” Frankly, the negative characters are easier for me to understand. I still struggle with my sin nature. I relax and think about what would come “naturally”. Living for Jesus is supernatural and requires His enabling power. Writing is an exercise and a way for me to practice living by faith.
I look for names that fit the roles the people in the story take on. Sometimes those names change several times in the course of writing the novel – which can make it confusing for me when I’m trying to recall names after I’ve turned the manuscript in and not picked it up again for months at a time. Who was that guy? What was that girl’s name? I need to read the ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) to remember!
The main challenge for me is getting out of my own way. By that, I mean I have to dump all my preconceived notions about who the characters are, what they believe and why and what they’re going to do. They need the freedom to take on a life of their own, and when they do (which doesn’t happen early in the work), that’s when writing become truly exciting.
Pictures also help. Often, I’ll see a face in a magazine (like National Geographic) and know who it is (in my story). I feel an instant recognition. That’s what she looks like! Snip, snip, snip, up she goes onto my bulletin board. It doesn’t happen for every character. I’m careful not to describe in too much detail because it’s always better for the reader to create the face in their own imagination. But it’s nice to look over and see her/him staring at me and hear that mental whisper: Tell my story. Writing is hard work, but when characters take on a life of their own and I’m just sitting at my computer and letting them have their say, it’s the best job in the world.
Bridge to Haven
To those who matter in 1950s Hollywood, Lena Scott is the hottest rising star to hit the silver screen since Marilyn Monroe. Few know her real name is Abra. Even fewer know the price she’s paid to finally feel like she’s somebody.
To Pastor Ezekiel Freeman, Abra will always be the little girl who stole his heart the night he found her, a wailing newborn abandoned under a bridge on the outskirts of Haven. Zeke and his son, Joshua—Abra’s closest friend—watch her grow into an exotic beauty. But Zeke knows the circumstances surrounding her birth etched scars deep in her heart, scars that leave her vulnerable to a fast-talking bad boy who proclaims his love and lures her to Tinseltown. Hollywood feels like a million miles from Haven, and naive Abra quickly learns what’s expected of an ambitious girl with stars in her eyes. But fame comes at an awful price. She has burned every bridge to get exactly what she thought she wanted. Now, all she wants is a way back home.
In this riveting and highly anticipated tale of temptation, grace, and unconditional love, New York Times best-selling author Francine Rivers delivers big-canvas storytelling at its very best.