GET TO KNOW LIZ CURTIS HIGGS:
As a gifted speaker, Liz has presented more than 1,500 encouraging programs for audiences in all 50 states and 10 foreign countries, including Germany, France, England, South Africa, Canada, Ecuador, Scotland, Portugal, New Zealand, and Indonesia. In 1995, she received the Council of Peers Award for Excellence from the National Speakers Association, becoming one of only 30 women in the world named to their CPAE-Speaker Hall of Fame.
LOVED BY GOD
Liz is the author of twenty-six books, with more than three million copies in print.
In addition, Liz is the editor of two online newsletters—Encouragement to Go! and O Gentle Reader!—and for ten years was a columnist for Today's Christian Woman magazine with her popular feature, "Women in the Word" More than 4,000 churches nationwide are
using her video Bible study series, Loved by God.
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
When I was ten years old, I attempted my first "novel," using a Ticonderoga pencil and a lined marble notebook. It was a mystery (yes, like Nancy Drew) and it was...uh, let's just say Carolyn Keene's publishing career was very secure!
But, I kept writing. Ten hand-written juvenile mysteries (The Secret of Lakeview Manor, The Ghost of Pine Lane, The Mystery at Snow Castle, A Clue by Candlelight—you get the idea!) and three really sappy romances (A Summer to Remember, The Most Wonderful Day, and—you'll love this—Him) followed through my teenage years. All embarrassingly
bad, yet all proof that a love for fiction was growing deep my heart from the very beginning, planted there by the One who made me and had a plan for me, just as he does for you.
Through all those years of radio, speaking, and writing nonfiction, my longing to write fiction continued to grow. In 1995 I joined a fiction writers group and began attending workshops, interviewing successful authors, and reading women's fiction by the pound. And writing. And plotting. And dreaming.
Well. Here we are. Six novels, one novella, and four published short stories so far. Sometimes dreams really do come true! May all the glory go to the Lord, who planted that dream inside me so long ago.
For the years to come, I'll be pouring my time and creative energy into writing more novels, simply because I believe a novel has the power to penetrate our hearts more quickly than a nonfiction book, and often at a deeper, more emotional level. As readers, we identify with the characters and their struggles. We grieve when they make poor choices (especially if they resemble our own), and we root for them to make better decisions and lead more honorable lives. So, vicariously, we learn valuable lessons right along with them.
Why write about Scotland?
It is simply the most beautiful place on earth. My first visit there in 1996 convinced me that the Scottish books I had been reading and the lovely calendars hanging on my walls only hinted at the green glory of Scotland. Soon I found the people—with their love for history, wry sense of humor, and gentle, honest manner—even more delightful. With each visit that followed, the truth became apparent: Scotland had stolen my heart forever. Visit my favorite corner of the world through the pages of My Heart's in the Lowlands, an armchair
travel guide to Galloway.
Which genre do you enjoy writing most—fiction, nonfiction,or children's books?
LIZ SPEAKING AT A CONFERENCE
I've loved writing all of them through different seasons of my life. When I was first published in 1993, I was primarily a speaker, doing 100+ women's conferences a year. So my first seven nonfiction books were patterned after my presentations—lots of humorous or touching real-life stories, with a message of encouragement for women.
Then, when my children became readers, I was compelled to write five children's books (lots of mothers have this urge, I've discovered!). The stories came so effortlessly, I can only credit God for their creation. As my children outgrew those books, so, it seems, did my calling to write more of them. It was a lovely season, and I'm grateful those books continue to reach young hearts around the world.
In the late '90s, my hunger for God's Word continued to grow and I sensed a deeper calling in my work. Out of that came the Bad Girls of the Bible series—four books that combine fiction and nonfiction, storytelling and Bible study. Those books came straight from Scripture and from my own journey as a Former Bad Girl. What a joy it was to create Workbooks and DVDs to go with these four books—Bad Girls of the Bible, Really Bad Girls of the Bible, Unveiling Mary Magdalene, and Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible—which have not only changed many readers' lives, but my own life as well.
Which brings us to fiction, the joy of my writer's heart. Absolutely nothing I've done professionally—in broadcasting, speaking, or writing—has made my heart sing more than writing novels. Mixed Signals was my first novel, followed by Bookends, and then my Scottish historical novels, Thorn in My Heart, Fair Is the Rose, Whence Came a Prince, and Grace in Thine Eyes.
How can a person grow spiritually from reading a novel?
Fiction has the power to transport us to borders beyond our own, and teach us something about ourselves and about our relationship with God. Because fiction taps directly into our emotional landscape and paints lessons with a fine brush, each person will take away something different from the story. I love being a creative partner with my fiction readers, putting a story in motion for them, then later discovering through letters and emails the truths God has taught them.
In the case of Thorn in My Heart, my hope is that readers will examine their own hearts for "thorns"—those painful, life-changing experiences that draw us ever closer to Christ—and take comfort in knowing that, just as God saw Leana's needs, he sees their needs as well.
Why do you write books meant primarily for women readers?
The obvious answer is because I'm a woman! (smile) From as far back as I can remember, I was the kind of chick who hung out with female friends more than with mixed groups. I love guys, you understand—I'm the daughter of one, married one, and gave birth to one, so I think men are wonderful. Yet my calling is to encourage women's hearts, so those are the readers I keep in mind as I'm writing. Having said that, many men write and tell me they enjoy my books, and I'm glad to count them among my readers.
I write very much from an emotional place, rather than a cerebral one. Even if I incorporate tons of research, it's all filtered through my heart rather than my head. In the modern lingo, I'm a right-brain thinker. I get useful things accomplished with the left side of my brain, but my bent is toward the emotional, relational side which is traditionally (though certainly not exclusively) identified with women.
How much time do you spend researching vs. writing?
Easy answer: too much time researching, not enough time writing! Research—whether on-site, online, in books, watching videos—so feeds my need to learn that I get carried away and forget to actually press on with the story. One of my fiction-writing heroes, T. Davis Bunn, earmarks just one day a week for research. Brilliant. I keep meaning to try that…
Some authors have an overall theme, or issue, they touch on again and again. What's your theme?
It took my dear friend, Diane Noble—a wonderful fiction writer and savvy woman—to point out the obvious. When I finished my first novel, Diane said, "Liz, you write about grace!" Who knew?! Indeed, forgiveness and mercy are at the heart of all my books, no matter the
genre. I never tire of sharing the good news of God's grace!
Who designs your book covers? Do you get to choose them?
I wept when I saw the cover art for Thorn in My Heart. I was at the halfway point in writing the novel, and the woman on the proposed cover was so Leana that it was like meeting her face to face. My publisher's talented art director chose the art—it's actually a photograph, shot to look like a painting—then pulled the other elements together. He created several additional covers for the team to consider—standard procedure—but the choice was an easy one.
For the other novels in the series, I chose the models and the backgrounds. Our art director created the images in much the same style. I've had all four photos in my writing studio for years now encouraging me as I write.
What inspired you to write a historical novel?
Here's the truth: Nine out of ten books I read are historical novels! I love the opportunity, both as a writer and as a reader, to explore different times and places. To examine customs and manners from another era, to imagine what life was like in another century. As a child, my parents took me to Williamsburg, to Gettysburg, to Plymouth—places where history comes alive. Now my family and I live in a nineteenth-century farmhouse filled with antiques (in truth, glorified used furniture, but I love the simpler designs of the past!). We support Colonial Williamsburg and Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill because we're committed to helping keep these gems going. And my writing office is crammed with old books, more than eight hundred on Scotland alone. History is simply in my blood. I've always known that historical fiction would be an important part of my writing career; it was only a question of when. And that answer is, now!
How did you develop an ear for Scottish dialect?
The poetry of Robert Burns and period folk music helped greatly. Also, I recorded interviews with native Scots, listening to the lilt of their voices and the various regional accents. I own several Scottish dictionaries and did my homework on each Scots word included in the novels, making sure to use it in the right context. I also had an antiquarian bookseller, whose shop is in the heart of Galloway, comb through the finished manuscript to be sure my Scottish details were accurate. I also have read quite a few Scottish novels written in the vernacular, books that were published a hundred years ago or more.
I drive my family crazy because I drop in Scots words every chance I get. My favorites include swickerie, pernickitie, ugsome and flindrikin.
Where do you find all those quotes for the beginnings of your chapters?
Thanks for noticing them! I love choosing them and spend an inordinate amount of time trying to find just the right ones. I probably have twenty books of quotes. My favorite volume, copyright 1896, is one my mother-in-law gave me. I'm very careful not to choose any contemporary quotes—very jarring to the reader!—and stick to eighteenth-century or early nineteenth-century whenever possible.
What was the best part about growing up and living in Pennsylvania?
My hometown (as Bookends readers know!) is Lititz, Pennsylvania in historic Lancaster County. I think the whole state is beautiful, but must confess a particular affinity to the patchwork quilt of farms and picturesque communities that make up Lancaster County. Our two major cities—Pittsburgh and Philadelphia—are filled with history and culture as well, and the sheer size of the state means you'll find every kind of terrain there, from mountains to meadows. The Germans who settled my corner of Pennsylvania in the early 18th-century brought with them solid values and a strong faith in God, which still shape the residents of Lancaster County. We also love chocolate (Hershey's in Hershey and Wilbur Chocolate in Lititz), and music (there are folk festivals all over PA in the summertime). Lititz is very much a Norman Rockwell kind of town, the perfect place to grow up. We walked to school, knew all our neighbors, and celebrated life at an easy pace. What a wonderful place to call home!
What was or is your connection to the Moravian Church?
I grew up attending the Lititz Moravian Church in Lititz, Pennsylvania—singing in the choir, trimming the beeswax candles for Advent, all that. At age 17 I drifted away from the church (any church) for a decade, until I met Christ in a real and life-changing way at 27. I now attend Christ Church United Methodist in Louisville, Kentucky.
Some things come full circle: I included many Moravian traditions in my novel, Bookends, and wrote about a Moravian Easter sunrise service for Moody Monthly. Then in June 2003 I spoke at the International Moravian Women's Conference in Winston-Salem! It's always a joy when I have the chance to share my Moravian roots and my evangelical wings
What books have changed your life?
There are many books that have moved me, touched me, shaped me; The Bible is the only one that changed me, particularly the Gospel of John. A distant second, but still important book is C. S. Lewis's, Mere Christianity. And as a child, I loved Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time.
What are some of your favorite films?
The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Pride and Prejudice, Master and Commander, Sense and Sensibility, Little Women, Life Is Beautiful, The Princess Bride, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Rocketeer, Anna and the King, Ever After, First Knight, The Mark of Zorro, and A Knight's Tale are family favorites that stand up to multiple viewings. You'll want to check the content before watching these movies at home to make sure they suit your own family's viewing preferences, as some films are rated PG-13.
How do you balance your writing, your speaking engagements, and your home life?
I plan my daily schedule three months at a time, deciding which days are writing days, which days are speaking or traveling days, which days are office days, and—most important of all—which days are family days. Those are the non-negotiable ones.
In 2004—my son's junior/senior year of high school, my daughter's freshman/sophomore year—I took a "radical sabbatical" from speaking to stay home and concentrate on mothering and writing. A big leap of faith for our family, financially, but we saved our pennies and trusted God to provide for our needs as he keeps our eyes on what matters most. I am so grateful to have had that year at home.
Now our nest is empty and our calendar is full of speaking and writing opportunities, thanks to the incredible support of my sisters in Christ. May God bless you in all your own endeavors!
Some of this material was excerpted from Liz Curtis Higgs official website with her permission. For a complete bio and lots more fun with Liz, visit http://www.lizcurtishiggs.com.
QUESTIONS I JUST HAD TO ASK LIZ
1. What is a special quality or talent you have that would surprise people?
I love bowling. Long before I was an author or speaker, I worked as a bank teller and bowled in our office league, winning Most Improved Bowler. Believe me, I had lots of room for improvement! Alas, I haven't bowled in ages, but my bright red 13-lb. ball is still lurking in the garage, should I get the urge.
2. If you had all the time in the world (and just as much money) to do anything you wanted to do, what would you do?
I'd take a first-rate photography course, then travel the world, camera in hand. I absolutely love taking pictures, yet I have so much to learn. For a peek at what I've been up to, check out my Scottish Photo Albums...
STREETS OF EDINBURGHCANONGATE
(Check out ALL Scotland Pictures on Liz Curtis Higgs Face book account they are amazing)
3. If you had to pick one "Reality" TV show to be on what would you pick and why?
I'd want to be on "Tim Gunn's Guide to Style" and give the dear man a serious challenge: dressing my plus-size bod! Even big girls like to dress well, and it would be fun to see what stylish, flattering clothes he could find for those of us who can't remember when we last wore an 18, let alone an 8.
4. If you had the time and money to learn something new, what would you like to learn and why?
That's such a fun question! I'd love to write an original screenplay (I'd definitely have to learn how first), then visit the set and watch it unfold in front of a camera. I'd also love to be able to rollerskate without killing myself (this would require a vastly different--and younger--physique). And I'd love to be able to play the cello, my favorite instrument.
5. What was the first film you remember seeing as a child?
Hmmm. Bambi? Snow White? Surely it was one of the Disney movies, though I honestly can't remember. On TV, though, it was The Wizard of Oz. Such inventive storytelling! Black-and-white to color, Kansas to Oz, dreaming to waking. I saw it on the big screen once at a vintage theatre in town, and Oz (sadly) looked like a bad theme park. But reduced to Munchkin size on our old television set, The Wizard of Oz was magical.
6. What TV shows were you passionate about as a child and why? (You
know; the shows you couldn't miss each week).
Twilight Zone, of course, and The Outer Limits. I loved Bonanza on Sunday nights, Rowan and Martin's Laugh In on Monday nights, and The Dick Van Dyke Show on any night. My father had a wonderful laugh, so watching him watch the original Candid Camera was pure joy.
7. What were your favorite childhood books? Why did you love them?
Ah, this one's easy: A Wrinkle in Time, Charlotte's Web, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and all those wonderful Newbery Award winners. My mother made sure I read the good stuff (though as a child I loved Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames, too!).
8. If you had to pick a superhero to be for a while, who would you be and why?
Wonder Woman, of course. A member of the Amazon tribe sent as an ambassador to the world of men, WW was strong and beautiful, flew an invisible plane, and deflected bullets with her bracelets. Gotta love it. She also had enhanced hearing and vision...but don't most women? :>)
9. If you were trapped in a dangerous and life-threatening situation, which fictional character would you choose to save your life? Why?
With the panorama of Australia still stretched across my imagination, I'd be delighted if Hugh Jackman showed up. Oh, fictional you said? Drover, then. Or Leopold. Or Wolverine.
10. If you had a time machine and could visit any past event, what would it be?
Now THIS is something I dream about often, though it's hard to pick just one time and place. Let's go with 1786 Scotland, when Robert Burns first arrived in Edinburgh. With his newly published book of poems in his pocket, he was the toast of the town. Just drop me in any drawing room, filled with the glittering literati of his time, and I would be one happy woman...as long as I could hide a video camera in my corset. And a laptop.
11. Could you give us a sneak peek into the project that you are working on right now that is to be released in 2010? We would love to hear about it.
Oh, good, because I'd love to talk about it. :>) After exploring those Bad Girls of the Bible for a decade, I thought it was time to check out one of the Good Girls in Scripture...namely, Ruth. I've spent the last year researching the biblical account, and am in the process of writing a big, single-title historical novel based on Ruth, yet set in eighteenth century Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders, not unlike my series of novels that began with Thorn in My Heart. Look for Here Burns My Candle in stores March 16, 2010. I am SO excited about telling Ruth's timeless story through a different lens. What a woman!
t's been great visiting with you, Nora. God's blessings on you always,
THANKS for stopping by Liz. I appreciated you sharing about yourself and the beautiful pictures from Scotland. It was definately fun getting to know you. Remember if you are ever in Atlanta you'll have to stop by. You definately come alive on God Tube and You Tube interviews. I definately feel like we have sat down and had tea. You are blessing Liz. May the Lord continue to guide you and bless you in your writing adventures with Him.
Best-selling author of...
Bad Girls of the Bible, ECPA Gold Book Award
Really Bad Girls of the Bible, Publishers Weekly Starred Review
Unveiling Mary Magdalene, Publishers Weekly Starred Review
Rise and Shine: Encouragement to Start Your Day
Embrace Grace, 2007 Retailers Choice Award Winner
My Heart's in the Lowlands: Ten Days in Bonny Scotland
Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible, 2008 Retailers Choice Award Winner Video Bible Study Series Loved by God
The Pumpkin Patch Parable, 1998 Gold Medallion Award Winner
The Parable of the Lily, 1998 Gold Medallion Award Winner
The Sunflower Parable, 1998 Gold Medallion Award Winner
The Pine Tree Parable, 1998 Gold Medallion Award Winner
Go Away Dark Night
Mixed Signals, 2000 Rita Award Finalist
Bookends, 2001 Christy Award Finalist
Thorn in My Heart, Historical Fiction Bestsller
Fair Is the Rose, Historical Fiction Bestsller
Whence Came a Prince, 2006 Christy Award Winner
Grace in Thine Eyes, 2006 Christy Award Finalist
Coming March 16, 2010
Here Burns My Candle: A Novel