Friday, November 6, 2015

A Quick Chat: Liz Curtis Higgs

Best-selling author Liz Curtis Higgs recently sat down with christianaudio to talk about her book The Girl's Still Got It, now available in audio format. Liz talks about her love for the story of Ruth and Naomi, how it changed her life, and why she wants you to give it a listen.

christianaudio: In your opinion, why is the story of Ruth so important for Christian women today?

LCH: I’m used to exploring women of the Bible who get 10 verses or 20 verses, but here’s a woman who has an entire book dedicated to her story. So that tells us how important it really is. The big thing about the book of Ruth though, and, therefore, The Girls’ Still Got It, is that we are looking at a much bigger picture than just the story of a man, a woman and a mother-in-law. God is painting a much bigger picture to include all of redemption to let people understand that we’re all Ruth, we all need to be redeemed, and He is our Boaz.

christianaudio: What is the most interesting or surprising thing you learned about Ruth or Naomi during your research for this book?

LCH: You know, it is as much Naomi’s story as it is Ruth’s. That was one of the first big aha’s for me – it’s not just the younger woman who grows and has a happy ending – Naomi goes from tragedy to triumph as well. Naomi is often pictured as this loving, caring mother-in-law, and that’s a lovely thought, but the women you actually read about in the Bible is whiny, whiny, whiny when you first meet her. And she has a right to be – my goodness, the woman lost her husband, and then both of her sons, she’s stuck with two Moabite daughters – for a nice Israelite woman this is a bad place to be and she knew it. So she starts at the bottom and it’s this steady rise until this incredible redemption at the end where a baby boy is laid in her arms. Naomi needs to be redeemed as well – Boaz redeems Ruth by marrying her, but for Naomi the redemption comes with the birth of a child in her husband’s house.

christianaudio: You’ve said in other interviews that one of the reasons you were drawn to the story of Ruth was because of the unusual relationship there between a daughter-in-law and her mother-in-law. How did writing this book challenge you in your roles as both a daughter-in-law and a mother-in-law?

LCH: Well, if you have a difficult relationship with your mother-in-law do not read the book of Ruth, because it will not leave you alone. When you look at the story of this incredibly faithful young woman – and when you understand that Naomi was not pleasant to be around – you see that she pledged her life to her as much as any wedding vow. When I read that, I thought to myself, how am I doing on this? I realized what I needed to do was just love my mother-in-law, not simply do the “right things” as a daughter-in-law, but actually love her unconditionally, over-the-top, like Ruth did.

The other thing is, I became a mother-in-law when I was working on the book. Suddenly I’m sitting on the other side of the table. It helped me understand what my mother-in-law needed from me, and also helped me vocalize to my darling daughter-in-law how much she meant to me.

christianaudio: The love and passion you feel for Ruth’s story is so clear in your writing in this book. How did that love for the story develop over the time you spent researching and writing?

LCH: The first thing I do when I research any new biblical character is look at the verses in 40 different English translations, as well as the original Hebrew. Once I’ve got the language sorted, I go through verse-by-verse and I write what moves me, I raise questions, and record observations. I pray through it because I want to hear from God before I hear from commentaries. So then the commentaries come. I pull all that together and then I do the research on the time and place. I really like to understand, in that time and place, what would they have worn, how would they have spent their days. Reading those details through puts some flesh on the words so we’re seeing, and smelling, and tasting the same things that Ruth and Naomi were.

christianaudio: That’s such a special way to experience the Bible. So many times we read the words, but we don’t take it to the place and time and feel those things with our senses. That’s what’s so unique about your writing style.

LCH: It’s a little different. I think it’s partly because I’m a novelist. It’s easy to always be describing what you see, but really the other senses need to be involved for it to be a 3D experience.

christianaudio: This book, like most of your others, is written in the verse-by-verse format. What do you hope this format offers the reader?

LCH: I think anytime we look at individual bits and phrases, by the time we’re done with this book, we know Ruth’s story backwards and forwards. It’s sort of like if you eat a delicious dish, you want to know what the ingredients are. So that’s what I’m basically doing – deconstructing the recipe and pulling apart the words so we can taste each one, savor it in our mouths, and see what it might mean to us personally.

christianaudio: You recently recorded the book for christianaudio. What stood out to you while going through it again, three years after it was published? LCH: I’ve been taking Ruth’s story onto the stage in the last three years and I’ve gotten feedback on the story. I’ve had people tell me how things in Ruth’s story have impacted their lives, and so it deepens and enriches the whole experience for me. Even as I’m reading words on the script, what’s running through my mind is all the real life stuff that sits beneath the words for me.

Also, the beauty of audiobook is I get to be the voice in your head. I get to whisper right in my reader’s ear the thoughts that I had, and the intonations and emotions. christianaudio: Finally, what would you want to say to encourage those who have not read (or listened to) the book to pick it up?

LCH: This is a story that transcends time. It is as current as right now, 2015, and yet it is ancient, about 1200 BC. There is a love story at the heart of it, but a very different type of romance – this is love at a higher plane, this is love in a sacrificial way. It’s really what God’s love looks like, come to earth.

I want you to meet these characters. I want you to meet Boaz. I want you to see the real Naomi, so you can celebrate the redemption she experiences after heartache. And, of course, I want you to meet Ruth, who quietly and gently leads the way.

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Monday, November 2, 2015

A Quick Chat: Jared C. Wilson

CORY: Jared, thank you for taking the time to speak with us! You were recently in the studio recording The Story of Everything for us. Thanks for doing this with us, we think your listeners will appreciate it!

JARED: I certainly hope so! My hope is that those who listen to the book will get perhaps a better sense than readers of how joyful it is that God is doing something wonderful with the world. I tried to accurately convey that tone of joy in reading the book that I felt when writing the book.

CORY: Okay, first things first, some authors enjoy the process of reading their book and some don’t. Did enjoy it or find it challenging?

JARED: I found it challenging in that there were plenty of moments where I realized some words are better written than spoken! There were a few times where I asked myself, “Why did I choose a word that was so hard to pronounce?” The answer is that it was the best word choice according to my eyes, on paper. I wasn’t thinking about having to pronounce it!

CORY: Did you have any aha! moments reading your book? Were there things you stumbled on that surprised you reading it aloud?

JARED: I wouldn’t say I was surprised by anything, but it was sort of fun to re-approach the way these topics — and the way I chose to write about them — lend themselves to being preached. I find it difficult to read about the secret of the universe in a dry, detached way.

CORY: Did the recording take longer than you thought? What was the process like?

JARED: The recording took about as long as I expected, but only because this was my third audiobook, so I had some experience with the process already. The setup is rather simple for me, provided we have experience audio engineers and a prepared studio — which we did! All I had to do was show up with the manuscript, get into my little sound booth, and start reading. I recorded for about 2 hours each day for 5 days or so. The going can be slow and it’s a little difficult on the voice to talk that long, but the process isn’t complex.

CORY: Is it something you would do again?

JARED: I’d definitely do it again, if only because I like to convey a sense of exultation, of worship with my writing, and I can ensure that comes across in the reading if I do it myself.

CORY: What did you like most about reading your own book? What did you like least?

JARED: I liked being able to revisit the material, and I liked being able to capture the tone in voice that I hoped to convey on the page. What I liked least was finding the few typos we missed in the multiple manuscript editing stages. Thankfully, there’s no typos in an audiobook.

CORY: Did you think the book lent itself well to audio?

JARED: I think it did, because I tend to write with passion and a sense of awe. So the manuscript can even be preached as much as read.

CORY: So, do you listen to audiobooks? If so, how often and why?

JARED: I actually do not listen to many audiobooks. I prefer to read, personally.

CORY: What’s the best book you read (or listened to) this year?

JARED: The best book I’ve read this year is Thomas Kidd’s biography of George Whitefield, "America’s Spiritual Founding Father."

CORY: What’s next? What burning project is keeping you up at night?

JARED: I just finished a manuscript for Baker Books that offers a unique angle on apologetics and the uniqueness of Christianity, and I’ve just begun a new project for the same publisher that is a sort of a creative non-fiction work on discipleship. The tentative title is "Crumbs from the Table: Discipleship for the Rest of Us."

CORY: Again, thank you for taking the time to do this! We here at christianaudio look forward to getting the word out about The Story of Everything.

JARED: Thank you for having me!
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