Think 'Christian Fiction', and one name dominates, especially in the female market.
Francine Rivers is best known for her first Christian novel, Redeeming Love. The powerful retelling of the story of Hosea has sold over a million copies and been snapped up by audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. Set in 1850, the story follows Angel who was sold into prostitution as a child until she meets Michael Hosea- a man who obeys God’s call to love her unconditionally.
Describing the book as her “first fruits” Francine reveals she takes no profit from the book.
“It was the first book I wrote as a born again Christian and it’s still my favourite out of all the books I’ve written.”
Before becoming a Christian, Francine wrote romance novels. She refers to this writing period as her BC (before Christ) bibliography. After becoming a Christian, Francine bought the rights to many of her BC books to prevent them from being released again. But after turning to Christ, Francine couldn’t write for three years.
“I tried to write but it just wasn’t working. I realised God was basically saying 'you want to be my daughter, but you don’t even know who I am'. It was during that time I started reading the Bible and getting to know the Lord and falling passionately in love with him.”
“We were doing a home Bible study and we started doing the minor prophets. When I came to Hosea it was like God tapping my on the shoulder and saying 'this is the love story I want you to write'. It was the most incredible experience that year because I felt like he was sitting right next to me telling me the story.”
A Lengthy Process
Francine says her books normally take a year to write. But before this, there’s plenty of research to be done.
“I tend to make binders and have it broken down into different kinds of things like houses, style of dress, political situations. I have to have it written down and continually review that material while I’m writing. When I go through a hard edit, I’ve got that stuff strewn out all over because some of it I haven’t put in that I wanted to put in so I’m piecing it all together as I’m doing the final edit before I hand it over to my husband and he edits again.”
Francine has published over 20 books, but the process isn’t always easy. Her Daughter’s Dream took three years to write.
“I wrote the whole book then I didn’t like it and asked them if they’d let me throw it away and start over.”
Thankfully her publisher said yes and the result was yet another best-seller. “I’m fortunate to be with Tyndale,” Francine says. “Usually if you succeed with one book a publisher will want you to continue to do another cookie cutter book like that over and over again. Tyndale says: 'Do whatever God is leading you to do,' which gives me great freedom as a writer.”
One of Francine’s books, The Last Sin Eater has been made into a film. She’s had countless offers from producers asking to do the same with Redeeming Love, but Francine has demands that must be met first.
“I would have creative control, I would read the script and be able to approve it. When they make the movie I get to see the final cut, which means they can’t cut anything afterwards. I would be able to decide: ‘Is it honoring to the story and honoring to the Lord?’”
“And if it’s not, I can remove my name from the project. There aren’t any Hollywood producers that are willing to go along with that which is fine with me. It won’t be a movie. With Redeeming Love they could turn it into something pornographic so the important thing is to get the message across and being honoring to God.”
For Francine, God is the centre of everything she writes. She describes herself as a Christian Writer, not a Christian who writes.
“If I could write a story and it could stand without the Lord in there, it’s not worth writing.”
Reading, Writing and Downton Abbey
What about her celebrity status and reputation as one of the world’s greatest writers of Christian fiction?
“I’m here in my sweats at a computer in my office there’s nobody around. I think of that persona that you’re talking about as someone else. I just don’t quite connect. I’m just an ordinary person who happens to write. In the general market before I was a Christian it was all about 'you want to be rich and famous'. Now I just want to get close to God!”
Far from living a celebrity lifestyle, Francine's life sounds quiet and peaceful with the main activities being reading and writing.
“My kids say I’m OCD because I keep a list and keep track of what genre I’m reading so at the end of the year I review that list and I don’t want to be off balance in anything. I read a lot of general market fiction and non fiction. I read some Christian work mostly devotional and biographies. My husband and I read to each other in the morning and I read the one year Bible. We love to read.”
I wonder aloud that it can’t leave much time for else, but Francine is quick to say she’s a big fan of Downton Abbey and eager for the new series to reach American shores. Back to Fracine’s first love of writing and I ask what she’s working on at the moment.
“I’ve been working on the new book for about 18 months I’ll have it finished and turned on by the end of the year. It’s based on Ezekiel 16. It’s an allegory about God, Jesus, Satan and a girl who represents humanity. Each character in my story represents a different point of view and there’s always one Christian. I’m spending time in scripture every day asking what would God want me to do in this situation. Each book is like a quest for me trying to figure out God’s perspective.”
March 17th, 2013 - Posted & Written by Sam Hailes