Focus on Fiction is pleased to feature
Deborah was born in Texas and earned her degree in journalism and a minor in marketing from Texas A&M University. Her award-winning books have been published in twenty different countries, and have appeared on both the USA Today and CBA bestseller lists. When she isn't writing, Deborah spends her time helping to oversee the prestigious Jackson Hole Writers Conference, fly-fishing, cheering at Babe Ruth baseball games, and taking her dachshund Annie for low-slung hikes. Deborah and her husband, Jack, have two children, Jeff, 16, and Avery, 12. They make their home in the Tetons of Wyoming.
Focus: Deborah, thank you for joining us! You first dreamed of being a writer after reading Little Women as a ten year old, and you persevered with that dream into your adulthood. That’s a long time to hold on to a dream! Can you begin our interview by telling us what gave you the strength to keep pursuing writing over those years?
D. Bedford: I held onto the dream by writing. Because I started so young, the thought of getting published loomed far in the distance. It was all about creating and feeling satisfied and playing make-believe. When I was little, I loved shopping with my mother at a furniture shop called Hathaway House because I could play in the display rooms and pretend I knew all about the people who lived in those rooms. I got in trouble for writing stories in school instead of listening to my teachers. When I went to college, I thought I had to do something practical with writing, something where I could support myself. So I got my degree in journalism and my first job out of college was editing a weekly newspaper in Colorado. Writing was never a dream out of reach. It was a passion that compelled me to put one foot in front of the other; I couldn’t stop.
Focus: Just a few years ago, you were a successful secular fiction author, with books on the USA Today bestseller list. Then you made a radical career move by switching to inspirational fiction. Would you share a little about what prompted this switch? Was there a specific moment when God changed your heart? Or was it a process over time?
D. Bedford: I grew up in Texas, in a town where everybody talked about Jesus. If something went wrong with someone, people lived under a strange code of silence, that old Southern etiquette thing, you know, “If you can’t say something good about somebody, don’t say anything at all.” I grew up believing that everyone had to stay ‘good’ all the time and if you slipped a little then, well, you might as well fall all the way. I didn’t know you could argue with someone and still be loved by them. My parents never fought. I judged myself by what I saw of everyone else’s outsides. I looked right, said the right things, was in the right places, wore the right clothes. During my teenage/young college years I slipped a little bit and, well, since I slipped a little, I went all the way.
When I got married and my kids were born, I had somebody to be ‘good’ for again. Only problem was, deep in my subconscious, I had a lot to make up for. My three-year-old sang solos in front of the church. I was church secretary. I taught Sunday school. Vacation Bible school. I sang in the choir, went to Bible study, organized potlucks. Until the day when something broke inside me. I was empty and brittle and broken, farther from the Lord than I’d ever been. In the car driving home I got furious and, when I get furious, I cry. In the midst of my tears, I said, “Lord, I am sick of hearing people’s voices talk about you. I am sick of hearing people tell me what to believe about you. I want to hear your voice, Lord. I want You to show me what to believe.” And that’s where the adventure, the love, the grace began.
As far as writing goes, I was in church not long after that when my pastor gave a sermon set in 2 Samuel 23 about David’s mighty fighting men. These were three men who stood beside King David and fought. My pastor made one point that went over my head. He made another. He started on the third point and I felt like a best friend suddenly wrapped an arm around my shoulder and whispered in my ear, “Listen to this, Deb. This one’s for you.” The story my pastor told was about Shammah, David’s man who fought the Philistines in a field of lentils. The Scripture says that not one lentil was lost. My pastor held up a jar of lentils so we could see how small they are. The Scripture says, “Great was the victory for the Lord that day.” That was the moment I knew that in writing secular books with things about the Lord in them but also with sex scenes, I was giving away lentils in the Lord’s battlefield.
Focus: Your first work in the Christian market was not actually a book, but a short story called ‘The Hair Ribbons’, published in The Story Jar, a compilation volume dedicated to mothers. What was it like for you as you sat down to write that first story? Were you nervous? Excited?
D. Bedford: Yes, nervous. Yes, excited. But mostly I felt freedom. All of my earlier career, I had thought that writing for the Lord would mean that I had to put parameters around my stories. Almost from the first page of writing, I realized how wrong I had been about that. In the market today, anything goes as long as it’s handled right. It takes more creativity to handle a subject right than it does to slop something on a page. It takes more originality and imagination to write subtle beauty than it does to write obscenity. Add to that the extra layer of characterization a writer gets to explore, the faith element, and this is so much fun!
Focus: Since penning ‘The Hair Ribbons’, you’ve written four full-length novels- A Rose by the Door, A Morning Like This, When You Believe, and your most recent release, If I had You. Would you mind giving us a brief synopsis of each of these books?
D. Bedford: In A Rose By The Door--Bea, who has prayed for the return of her prodigal son, finds out that he has died and that the Father hasn’t answered her prayer the way she expects.
In A Morning Like This--Abby must decide if God wants her to stay in her marriage after she finds out her husband had an affair and that he has a seven-year-old daughter that neither of them ever knew about.
In When You Believe--Lydia, a high-school counselor, must decide to trust God when a student comes to her and tells her that a teacher has abused her. This teacher, Greg Stains, has just asked Lydia to marry him and she believes he is the man God intends her to spend her life with.
And in If I Had You--Nora convinces her daughter Tess not to have an abortion and she raises her granddaughter herself until she finds a deep secret from her past is hindering what she can be for her family and for the Lord.
Focus: Every one of your stories addresses a gut wrenching topic- situations like broken families, sexual abuse, adultery, unforgiveness, and teen pregnancy. Not simple things to write about, or to research! Have you ever felt overwhelmed by these topics? Or wished God’s calling on your life was to write fairy tales instead?
D. Bedford: Yes, I feel overwhelmed every day. My human mind second-guesses all the time. Doubt whispers in my ear, “People read to escape, not to deal with reality in their lives. Nobody’s going to want to curl up and read this stuff.” Every book I write, I start out thinking, “Okay, Father. Why can’t we make this one easy?” Then, like clockwork, someone walks into my life and starts talking, and I realize I’m writing this woman’s story. This has happened with EVERY book, mind you. And I laugh and say, “Okay, Father. Enough. I get the picture. I’ll keep going.”
Focus: You’ve said that writing When You Believe was especially challenging because you wondered if anyone would want to read about sexual abuse. But that book has had a huge impact on readers, me included! Are you at liberty to share any of the ways readers have been touched by this particular story?
D. Bedford: I received a letter from a fifteen-year-old saying I had written her story. I received a letter from an 83-year-old saying the same thing. One reader told about God giving her forgiveness for the family member who had abused her. She was able to speak to him and let him know this before he died. Because of that, this abuser, an elderly uncle, came to the Lord. Another wrote that the book made her look at a scar in her life and ask, “What can I do with this for you, Lord?”
Focus: I’m sure Abby and David’s struggle and triumph in A Morning Like This has also had a tremendous impact on your readers. How exciting that there’s an even greater audience planned for their story! Can you give us some details about the release Warner has planned next month for A Morning Like This?
D. Bedford: A Morning Like This has been reprinted as a mass-market paperback and will be available at Wal-Mart and in supermarkets. This is a grand experiment for my publisher. As for me, I am elated about reaching new readers who shop in grocery stores and discount centers for their reading material.
Focus: Let’s talk about your latest release, If I Had You. Was it as difficult as the others to write? What do you love most about Tess and Nora’s emotional and spiritual journey?
D. Bedford: Yes, If I Had You was a bugger to write, because the book is somewhat autobiographical. And yes, because this subject had psychological challenges. The plotting trick was to keep Nora likable even though she was hard on her daughter, Tess. I have been post-abortive for 25 years and the Father called me only recently to look at this, to let Him show me where my past might be keeping me from being everything that He wants me to be. Symptoms show themselves in unusual places, different than anyone expects. So Nora, Tess and Ben had to live through rough symptoms before I could reveal the cause to them. I stayed aware during the writing process that the challenge, above all else, would be to tell the story in a way that will not condemn anyone. I wanted to draw hurting women to this subject instead of push them away. I wanted women to see that the Father loves them and wants them to live a whole life every bit as much as he loves the babies they aborted.
One of my favorite scenes between Tess and Nora is when Tess is giving birth and Nora flip-flops from being ashamed of her daughter to an undeniable sense of pride. Just like that. Snap. She thinks, this is my daughter and look what she’s doing! The baby is placed in her arms and she holds her and thinks, Oh my word, she’s a Crabtree! These opposing, lightning-fast emotions came from an interview with a grandma who had been in this exact situation. I love finding those scenes to write about, the ones that are subtle and very, very real.
Focus: You can’t write about such life-changing topics without being affected by them yourself. How have you been changed personally through your writing?
D. Bedford: A Rose By The Door taught me the first joy of writing a novel for the Lord. A Morning Like This taught me that it’s right to be realistic in a book. When You Believe taught me that it’s okay to ask questions without being able to answer them. If I Had You is teaching me how to be more vulnerable in front of people.
Focus: At their core, all your stories are about relationships and the power of love. You once said that God has created us all to be “in love with love” and that we all have “a need for romance because that is exactly what He (God) longs to give us.” Do you think people’s fascination with secular romance novels and tabloid reports about the latest movie star pair-off’s has anything to do with that God-designed longing?
D. Bedford: I read an article recently that said scientists have proven watching a love story makes a woman’s hormones drop to a level where she feels calm and happy. I believe this is why we’re fascinated with secular romance. God physiologically designed us to be drawn to a romance with Him, to long for the very thing that He yearns to give us.
Focus: Besides writing about the greatest romance of all, what would you say is the primary message with which God has entrusted you?
D. Bedford: My voice, my cry, over and over again, is to encourage Christian women to be honest with themselves, with the Lord and with other women, to not go out into the world wearing masks, to show their problems to others so they can also show the Heavenly Father to others. This is the beauty of testimony. We have every right to tell others what we have seen. We serve a Father who is loving and merciful enough to handle any situation in this world. If we gloss over our personal struggles with other people, we are glossing over the incredible power of God.
Focus: The Christian fiction field has really expanded over the past few years. What would you like to see grow or change in this field in the years to come?
D. Bedford: I would like Christian booksellers to thrive and I would like the books to be available in other outlets as well (which is slowly happening...) I’d also like for more booksellers to understand how to categorize fiction so readers can find what they want quickly. Stores that push fiction are thriving, but there are still a few booksellers out there who are nervous about selling fiction. Their reasoning is that, if a story isn’t about something that is true, then it can’t speak Truth. Be sure and talk up fiction when you visit your local bookstore. Remember all those times when Jesus taught in parables!
Focus: Besides writing to you how can your readers and fans be an encouragement to you?
D. Bedford: If the Lord brings people to your heart while you’re reading my books or anyone else’s, get a copy of the book into those people’s hands. People’s hearts are open when you recommend a good story to them. They get caught up in the characters and the plot and the word of the Lord has a chance to take root in their hearts. I wish I could tell you to this day how many copies of Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love I have given away! That’s one of the main reasons I write, so you can use the stories you find to minister to others. There’s no greater encouragement than that!
Focus: Is there anything else you would like your readers to know?
D. Bedford: Yep. Anybody interested can download first chapters and read my full testimony on my web page, (www.deborahbedfordbooks.com), by clicking on the ‘Visit Author’s Website’ button on this page. Most of all, though, I’d like to say that going from writing in the world to writing for the Lord has been more rewarding than I could ever have imagined. I encourage each one of you to pray, to ask Him to search your heart, to show you if there are places in your heart that you haven’t turned over to him yet. Turn something precious of yourself over to the Lord and let him use it. It is the most amazing, exciting ride you’ll ever go on. It gets better every day.