Interview with Ginger Garrett and Christian Book Previewsí editor, Debra Murphy:
CBP: Could you share your Christian testimony with us?
GINGER: Iíd be glad to. I was raised in Texas, and we were really active in the church. I am the great-granddaughter of a Methodist minister, and it was a great existence. I remember as a kid in Texas we spent a lot of time outside. I had such a deep awareness of God outdoors. And then I went to church and the minister told me that His name was Jesus. He asked me if I wanted to be baptized, and I said yes. I didnít understand everything that it meant, but I knew that this God was real and that anything He asked I wanted to do, even if that meant getting dunked in the water when you didnít even know how to swim yet. That was for me. So I was really fortunate in that regard.
CBP: What was the pull that drew you into writing about Esther?
GINGER: In non-fiction itís very straight forward, but when I was asked to write my next book, I assumed it would be a non-fiction, and I knew I wanted to write about Esther. But every time I would sit down to write, it would be a novel and it would be fiction. So I had to call and say, ďI donít think this is going to be what I told you, and what you bought from me. I think itís going to be a novel instead of non-fiction.Ē And they were very agreeable to that. They hadnít yet decided to launch a fiction line so this was very new for them, and it was very new for me.
In college I had to take playwriting as my major to save my scholarship, and it was awful. I could not write to save my life. Two lines was a big day for me. So to write a novel; I just have to believe that God had called me to that moment.
CBP: What about that 12-year-old Iranian girl with the box of antiquities that included the sealed scrolls?
GINGER: The mystery is what we know for a fact is that hundreds of thousands of important artifacts have been looted and smuggled out of the Middle East. In fact, in the beginning of the book I talk about one site in Iran that has been looted. And just about a month ago some people were arrested coming into the United States with a box of antiquities from that very site. Itís a very real problem and the FBI and CIA and Interpol are trying to find out who was responsible.
CBP: I know you said you would keep tabs on these sources.
GINGER: Itís fascinating. And the important thing is that these sites contain a lot of biblical history, and a lot of important information for us as Christians and as Jews to understand our history. So for them to be looted and on the black market, that could be a potentially dangerous situation depending on who has them or what they want to do with them.
CBP: Can you tell us about the story of Esther that you wrote? The story of Esther is so abbreviated in the Bible.
GINGER: Well, the Bible does tend to abbreviate things. I always tell my husband, ďI wish they would tell it like a girl with all the good details.Ē But the premise is there is a box of antiquities that has been smuggled out of Iran that contains the scrolls written in Estherís hand from her own diaries. And itís really her own journey from being an orphan who has no standing in that society to being raised to be the most powerful woman in the land. And thatís really what I think is so interesting about the Biblical account, is that is really where her story starts. For us, thatís a full novel right there. But for the Bible, itís like, you know, letís just jump past all the stuff of who you were and what you were doing and get right to the heart of the matter in what you were chosen to do.
CBP: You begin your novel Chosen with, ďIf you open this book, you are the Chosen One.Ē Can you elaborate on this?
GINGER: Well, Esther blessed the diary before they left her hands, that only a woman chosen to change the world would receive the book. And thatís something that I pray too as the book goes out there. That only those women who have been called to change the world around them will read this book.
CBP: We value freedom, and Esther really didnít have freedom. How was she not free?
GINGER: Well, she certainly didnít have any freedom of her body. She was confined to a harem, regardless of how she felt about it, for a year. She knew that she would never leave the harem, she would never return home even if she didnít win the crown, or even if she did. She was there forever. She had been cut off from her family. Itís an interesting dichotomy in that she was enslaved, and yet she was so free in her heart. And as American women, we believe ourselves to be so free, and yet, we are so enslaved in our hearts.
CBP: She was not free, but yet, she was the most powerful woman in the empire.
GINGER: For her, she discovered great power in the things that were despised and overlooked in her culture; the power of femininity, and the wisdom of listening for God.
CBP: So what messages do you feel that this book sends out to women?
GINGER: That weíve all been chosen and that weíve all been called to this moment in time for a particular purpose.
CBP: What areas do we not have freedom?
GINGER: I think that Esther, just as she had no freedom in her body in terms of where she lived, and even having to offer it to the king against her will. In the same way, we may consider ourselves free in our bodies, but weíre really not if you think about it. Girls diet themselves to death, eating disorders are rampant and there are all sorts of strange mutilations. Women are now cutting off their last toe so they can fit into shoes. We think weíre free, but really weíre just enslaving ourselves in different ways.
CBP: What do you want to tell us about the love story within this book?
GINGER: Well, in the biblical account of Esther, of course, she goes straight from being an orphan to being the kingís wife. And in the diary she talks about loving a young boy when she was very young and her hopes and dreams of someday getting to marry him. But all of that was taken away when God intervened and sent her to the palace.
CBP: Let me view your comment: When youíre frustrated with your circumstances and when you feel youíre being held back, perhaps God is keeping you there because He doesnít want you to overlook the little things. Also you include a commentary on Abraham Lincoln statement: ďThe doors of history swing on small hinges.Ē Your job today is to embrace the insignificant, accept life when it seems to go in slow motion, and pay attention to the mundane and the humble. They may be your greatest assets when your own divine moment of truth is revealed.
That is so powerful; is there anything you can add?
GINGER: I think that the commentary from the scholars throughout the book is helpful because it is so easy for us to distance ourselves from the biblical women. Itís an us versus them.
CBP: And it was so long ago, and they canít possibly relate to us now.
GINGER: Right. We donít see them as our sisters and our friends and our mothers, but they were.
CBP: What other women of the Bible are you interested in writing about?
GINGER: Well, I have a trilogy coming out of the most wicked women of the Bible. Whatís so interesting to me though, is if you read those stories carefully, thereís almost always a very strong female protagonist. So itís not a case Ė so many times women believe that the Bible treats women as second-class citizens who are in the background of the Gospel story. But when you read the Scriptures, you see we were the primary players. I love the power struggles and I want to explore that with my readers.
CBP: I understand that you really tried to get into the lifestyle, the food, the belly dancing and it was during the time that you were pregnant.
GINGER: It started because I was an actress, thatís how I put myself through college. The whole method program is that you have to live the role if youíre going to play it. Thatís how I approached writing. I wanted to eat the same foods she might have eaten, I wanted to try the same beauty treatments, I wanted to belly dance, which I was very close to delivery. And actually, itís good because if you canít see anything below your belly, you donít know if youíre doing it wrong. So I had a great time.
CBP: What other kind of research did you have to do? Did you read commentaries on Esther?
GINGER: Esther right now in her story is enjoying a lot of publicity because it is so sacred in the tradition of Kabaalaism. The Kabaalists consider the book of Esther the most sacred book in the Bible in that it is the most mystical. Itís strange because it doesnít actually say the name of God, but they believe that it speaks the most about how God works in our lives. So even though there are a dozen to two dozen commentaries on Esther in the Christian world, I tapped into the Jewish tradition a lot. And I didnít go overboard on the Kabaalaist, but I did read a lot of the Jewish scribes, and the midrash, and how they feel about the story of Esther.
CBP: So how did they feel about Esther?
GINGER: I think they have a very respectful tone towards her book. Thereís a lot of times when Iíve been in church Iíve heard the preacher say that the book of Esther is really a beauty pageant. And it tends to trivialize it, and make it seem like more of a love story, which is probably just the difference between men and women reading the same book because men donít have our same experiences of what it feels like to walk into a room and have men look you up and down. They donít understand how uncomfortable that can be for us. But when you read from the Jewish tradition, they have such a respect and a profound awe of the book. And itís so important to them because every year, they celebrate Esther in a holiday.
CBP: Esther was a risk but she took a chance.
GINGER: Well, I think thereís probably a sense of, that God has placed you at this moment and suddenly she had a moment that she realized it wasnít all about her; wasnít all about being the queen. There was a reason for everything.
CBP: Ginger, your own life didnít exactly go as you originally planned. You were going to be an actress. Could share your career path and family path with us.
GINGER: Well, after college Ė Iíve stayed friends with a lot of people who did go on to be very successful in the acting world, but I got really frustrated with how intense a focus there is on your body and sexuality; I just donít do that well. Maybe Iím just too much of a nerd, but I just couldnít handle the stress and the pressure. So I ended up taking a job selling pharmaceuticals, drugs that fight the super germs that are out there. I had a great time. I moved to Atlanta and began working with Charles Stanleyís church in their counseling ministry. And I met my husband there.
CBP: What did you do in that counseling ministry?
GINGER: The focus on young girlsí body image and eating disorders, and coming from an acting background, I had definitely struggled with those issues, and thatís how I ended up writing Lose it for Life for Teens. So from there, Mitch and I began trying to start a family; we couldnít. When I finally did get pregnant (early in the pregnancy), I was in a car accident and then I lost the baby after that. It was in early pregnancy. And we were not able to get pregnant again after that and it was just a horrific season of life. And I would go to the Christian bookstore, and at that time I could not find anything that comforted me. I found some books that would talk about the morality of using technology, but nothing that just comforted me. So even though I had no background with that kind of writing, I decided I would try to write the book that I wanted to read.
CBP: Is there anything else youíd like to share? Oh there is one other thing. There is a quote from Katherine Layne Heber, ďWe (women) pursued womenís rights until they have become womenís whims. We must not let our choices lead us into indulgences; may choices lead us into integrity, and our integrity lead us to glory.Ē
So what final message would you have for women that they could take away from all of this?
GINGER: Esther had no choice, and yet she became the most powerful woman in the land, and she still has spoken to us throughout the ages. How many choices do we have today, and what are we doing with them?
CBP: Thank you!