One afternoon at CBA, I had the opportunity to talk with Robin Lee Hatcher and Patricia Rushford together. It was a tropical day in Atlanta, with thunder and rain pelting outside, and we sat in a cozy hotel cafť to chat.
CBP: Iíd love to hear your Christian testimonyÖ
Robin : I was raised in church, and it was a very social gospel. My mom sought God all her life, she was always in church but didnít meet the Lord until she was 52. She prayed me into the kingdom in 13 months. God put books in my hands, and I came to Him through books. So to find myself all these years later writing for the Lord is exciting. On Valentineís Day 1976 in the shower at , I was saved, because it was the only place I could go to be alone and cry.
My first marriage fell apart when my husband had a third affair, I drifted. I didnít deny Christ, but I wasnít in fellowship with other Christians. I wasnít walking close. I had been writing for the secular market, and the Lord restored a right relationship with Him, which had a lot to do with reading Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, and I said, ďWow, this is what fiction can do.Ē I wanted to do this, but knew I didnít have the talent or testimony. It took me about six years before I realized He could use me in that way.
Growing up I was a compulsive writer, but never thought I would grow up to be
a writer. I always wrote and read, but it was just for pleasure. I was a natural
storyteller, they used to call it lying, and wanted to be an actress. I told my
tenth grade friends that my mother was born on the
After the Lord drew me back into an even closer relationship; after the
drought, those years in the desert, it was different. Then He gave me the idea
for The Forgiving Hour, which was my
first Christian novel. Before that, I had tried sneaking God into my secular
books, and He was often edited out. So when this idea came, I knew God was a
central character and there was no way I could offer it to my
Iím working on my 46th book, and Iíve had such joy in writing for the Lord.
Patricia: Actually, I was born a Christian, in that I was raised in the Lutheran church and was really dedicated. I took my confirmation very seriously. Iíve always had a close relationship with God, and after I got married, I fell away from the fellowship I had with God. It was that I had left my artist self back, and had not brought it into my marriage. I was being a mom, a wife, and everything everyone wanted from me; I wasnít doing a very good job of it. That part of me that was attuned to God was lost.
Then in my 30ís I went through a depression. I had finished nursing school and was working full time and still trying to do everything. It was just too much for me. I was in that mode of pleasing God, knowing that I was separated from Him, and thinking that I needed to do Ďgood stuff.í So I ended up in a mental hospital for a week after breaking down at work. In that hospital it was like God lifted me up out of the world, and set me down in this green pasture. I was set apart and alone and devastated because Christians donít get depressed. style='mso-spacerun:yes'> I had this idea that I had to be strong, and this certain kind of person. God showed me that I didnít have to Ďdoí anything to please Him, I just had to Ďbe.í It was a special time, even though at the time I thought it was the most horrible thing that could ever happen. It was an awakening where God brought me back to the place I needed to be.
Along with that came the artistry: journals, artwork, pottery. I still worked as a nurse, and gradually came out of that depression. Then I began thinking that what I had gone through might be of help to other people. So I just gave it to God. I didnít have a clue about writing, had never thought about being a writer.
I was a storyteller, too, and was into drama as a kid. I loved that. But mainly I was an artist; I painted with oils. Then one day I got a brochure for a writersí conference in the mailbox. I donít know to this day how it got there, and it was like a light went on. I had to go. The miracle was that my husband let me go. We didnít have a lot of money. At that conference, I met my friend Lauraine Snelling and weíve been writer friends ever since.
The next year, I had an odd thing happen. I had written some articles and such. Lauraine had an appointment with Fritz Rittenhour, who used to be with Revell, and she decided not to take it. I said, donít cancel it, Iíll take your appointment. I didnít know what I was going to say to him, and I got in there and I said, ďI have this idea for a book. A parenting guide for parents dealing with guilt.Ē I showed him some articles, trying to communicate with your teenager, and he liked them. He said ďSend me a book proposal.Ē I told him sure, thinking whatís a book proposal? It took me a while to put it together. I was blown away by how many people you could reach through this whole process.
CBP: You mentioned your ďwriter friends,Ē and I hear that often from other writers. Do you find that helps you in your craft?
Robin : I think it helps to know other people hear voices in their heads. When youíre a novelist, I canít speak for non-fiction, and you deal with imaginary characters that become real in your mind, more than anything it is good to relate to others with it. You feel so isolated much of the time. You get a royalty statement and canít read it, and it is designed so that you canít read it. And when writers can connect, they find out nobody can read them, not even the bean-counter who invented it. That makes a difference. But as a novelist, itís being able to talk and understand the creative things that we go through are normal. Weíre not really as weird as we think we are (or as other people think we are!).
Patricia: I think thatís true in non-fiction, too. Thatís where I started before going into fiction. I felt like that too, that you just had to connect with other writers. You lift one another up. Itís amazing how often youíll get a note from someone whoís just down in the dregs, feeling worthless, and youíll give them feedback that maybe Iíve felt the same way.
CBP: You made a comment earlier that God gave you a story. Do you find that is how you come up with your stories? Do they just come to you? Or what?
Robin : Ultimately, I think God gives me all of my stories. I wouldnít be creative without the Creator. But there are a few stories in my career that I could say God zapped me with the idea, such as Beyond the Shadows. It opens at the funeral of this womanís husband, and is written in first person, my first; I saw the scene while sitting in the dentistís chair having a tooth drilled on. And I heard her voice speak the opening line, and I saw the funeral and the grey skies and the cold March wind. And while my tooth for an hour is being worked on, she would not leave me alone. It was so distinct and so unique.
I went home and knew this was a story about alcoholism. My husband is a recovering alcoholic, and for much of our marriage was in recovery, and I thought, God I donít want to go there. But what Iíve learned with God is itís obedience, obedience, obedience. I went to my husband and told him God wants me to write this book, and this will become part of my testimony which means you will become public. He said, ďIf God told you to write it, then you write it.Ē God was really calling me. The church does not deal well with the loved ones of alcoholism; they donít know how many people are either fighting the disease or dealing with it in a loved one. Itís rampant in the world and in the church. Iíve received wonderful help as well as terrible advice in more than a decade of walking as the wife of an alcoholic.
When I finished writing it I went to my husband and said it doesnít matter if nobody reads this book. God gave it to me because He took me inside my deepest fears and said, ďI am Sovereign.Ē I came out of writing this book a different person. I lead womenís retreats, take my books, and say, ďThis book is about this, and hereís the lesson I learned in my life.Ē Those years I was in the desert, I look back now and think God took me through that time because I write different kinds of fiction as a result.
CBP: Patricia, how did you come up with your character McAllister?
Patricia: Well, with the MacAllister Files I just felt immediately
that this was God intervening between my writing partner and myself. He had
written this case that he had been working on, sent it to a publisher, and the
publisher said he needed a writer. It was on a writing group where Randy Alcorn
had sent out a note saying that there is a police officer in
Robin : I love CSI. Itís the only thing on TV. And Law and Order.
Patricia: The Angel DeLaney books are more on the cozy side of mystery, without the gory details. Itís more on the emotional level. When it comes down to it, women feel at a different level.
As far as where the ideas come from, I think they all come from God; in the sense that you have an idea where the characters donít leave you alone, and make you keep moving deeper into their lives, this is like God drawing you. If itís not something Iím supposed to write, then I trust God to take it away or leave me without the longing to do it.
CBP: What are you both working on now?
Patricia: Iíve turned in Deadfall and Dying to Kill, which is the second Angel Delaney book. Both are coming out this fall. And I have a new kids series called Max and Me. Max is an outrageous kid, and the me is Jesse, a 12-year old girl. Itís in first person, and I love writing in first person. She has leukemia. So this unlikely combination of kids get together and do mysteries. Not on the level of Jenny McGrady, but more on the level Trixie Belden. Iím excited about that. And Iím working on the third MacAllister book and the third Angel book.
Robin : I do one book at a time, and have just turned in my next womenís fiction for Tyndale. Itís set during WWII, four women friends working on an air base, and each one has a loved one overseas. When I get home, Iíll do the revisions for that, then the next two projects are a novella for Revell and another Tyndale book. The WWII book was really a challenge, because I realized partway through that I had four heroines. And although it was set on the home front, it had a lot of letters describing what was going on in the war, I had to do a lot of research. I was just exhausted. It was a hard one to write, took longer than I expected, and my husband had double knee surgery replacement. Also, my mother, whoís ninety and living with us was not well. So when my editor asked what I was going to write about next, all I knew is that it was going to be a contemporary, no-weird occupation, no-research book. So itís about a writer suffering burn out! Iíve written about forty pages of it, and itís going to be light-hearted.
And with that, we ended our pleasant afternoon chat over diet coke, and waited for a break in the storms outsideÖ