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Intersection of Life and Faith

A Conversation With Author Tracie Peterson

  • Staff Christianbook.com
  • 2005 12 Dec
  • COMMENTS
A Conversation With Author Tracie Peterson

In a recent interview with Christianbook.com, Tracie Peterson, a best-selling and award-winning author of over 60 historical and contemporary novels, discusses her latest book, "What She Left for Me" (Bethany House Publishers).

Christianbook.com:  Was “What She Left for Me” based on a true life experience?

Tracie Peterson:  The book came out of a series of people that I kept coming across; just acquaintances that this issue would come up about in a situation where their husband had been unfaithful and left them for another woman, secretly. The information just came out of nowhere. They had no clue. They did everything right.

There were no traditional finds or symptoms or clues; same way with child molestation. I would hear from these women and the issues would be always the same; either one of two categories:  being in a molestation situation where everybody knew about it or nobody knew about it; a situation where it had been a horrible trial done with a vicious attack on them; or that it was a nightmarish situation for all their lives that haunted them. And then other women who were racked with guilt because they enjoyed what happened. They had no power in it. They felt they were extra loved or this was something extra special and then to find out, no. Then they were consumed by guilt.

I kept finding these similarities and it was just something in talking with my publisher we came to a decision that we wanted to get a book out there where we wanted to wake up the church, especially given that fact that, T.D. Jakes quotes the statistics that one in three women by the age of eighteen has been molested. That’s huge!

The sadder thing still is you have to remember too that if you’re looking at an audience or congregation and one in three women have been molested, then there’s one in three molesters. There’s got to be somebody out there whether it’s in the church or out in society that has molested these women. There’s this huge group of hurting people that we need to wake up and minister to. Not just in infidelity and adultery but also in situations of molestation; both the victim and victimizer need to experience and give forgiveness. All these issues, it’s huge and it’s really ugly and we tend to ignore it.

I think that the postmodern generation is demanding it. They’re tired of the fluffy stories and they’re tired of the "we’re all okay" because we’re not okay. A lot of us are sitting in church with our secret sorrows and our pains and our guilt, and even the church has been telling us, “No, we’re okay. We don’t need to talk about this.”

We need to start getting people educated. If you’ve got one in three girls out there that are being molested, that’s an epidemic proportion that you can’t ignore. You can’t sweep it under the rug and hope it will go away because it’s not.

That’s the sad thing. I heard somebody comment, well, but that’s just the Catholic Church and I wanted to say, “No, this isn’t just the Catholic Church; this is a fallible fallen man. Statistics show it’s prevalent in Protestant churches as well.”

And again, you have to stress the fact that it’s far more common for girls to be molested but boys are molested also. You cannot ignore that either. I’ve even heard women say that they don’t even have little girls, and think this issue doesn’t apply to them. This is a major issue that so many perpetrators do not care about the sex of their victims. We need to push past our discomfort and deal with the issues.

I think a lot of readers will pick up a fiction book that deals with that topic rather than a non-fiction because they’re embarrassed. They think that if they show up at the counter with a topic nonfiction book, everyone is going to think this is something they’re dealing with. Whereas if they just pick up the next Tracie Peterson book or the next Brandilyn Collins book it’s not as intimidating.

A good example is that; I have a friend who had problems with drug addiction; in particular, she had a problem with meth. I gave her the book “Not a Sparrow Falls.” She came back to me and said that the book was so powerful, so fantastic. It helped her understand things that she was going through because she was really trying hard to kick the addiction.

CB:  How much research did “What She Left for Me” take?

Tracie:  I wanted it to be informative without being too graphic. Like I said, I’d just known a lot of women as friends and family who have been in situations of infidelity or molestation. I interviewed and talked with these women to get a better feel for their hearts and what their reactions might be versus how I think I would react. I looked up some of the different counseling methods and psychology thoughts on some of these issues and unfortunately, as I said, there’s a sad fact of life said in worldly counseling that you don’t need to forgive to heal. I don’t believe that’s true. The world just sees that as long as you take charge of your destiny, as long as you deal with this in your way, you’ll be fine. It’s just a sad situation when you hear that. I actually did hear a counselor say that. I wanted to make sure in this story that forgiveness was an important part. In talking with women who did forgive those who’d wronged them, I found productive, happy women with a more positive life. Women who hadn’t forgiven or who saw forgiveness as telling their abuser that what they did was all right, were still battling the prison they’d created for themselves. They were often bitter or afraid. To me it showed that forgiveness is key to healing. It’s just as important for the person giving it, if not more so, than the person receiving it.

CB:  Who is your favorite character in “What She Left for Me?”

Tracie:  You get attached to all of your characters. Who can’t love Aunt Patsy? She’s just fun and zany and she’s the comic relief that is desperately needed. Here’s a woman who’s born the truth in grace and often times that’s what happens. We have people sitting in the pews out there who are bearing the truth in grace. That’s a special thing. I believe a true special gift from the Lord, when you know it’s not the right time to speak and you hold your tongue.

CB:  What new projects are on your horizon?

Tracie:  First, lets talk about the nonfiction briefly. I have a nonfiction project that comes out next Spring that has been co-written with Allison Bottke (“God Allows U-Turns Lady”) and with a dear friend Dianne O’Brian. It’s kind of funny the way God put us together. I kept having people in my writing groups and in my church who would come to me. Inevitably the basis behind some of the problems we were discussing and enduring were the lies that we had bought into over the years. Lies like, I can do it all, I don’t need God … we would never say that … that would be sacrilegious. But our actions were sometimes saying that.

Lies like, it’s a choice, and lies like I if I’m bored, I don’t have to stay in a marriage. Just different things that the world definitely promoted as did the church as well. The more I do, the more God loves me. The thing came down to a discussion with Dianne and me.

We were talking about how critical this issue was and I thought that God wanted us to put together a book related to the topic. Dianne was not published at that time. She wasn’t writing, but she was very interested. Her heart was solid on the problems that were created out of these lies and as a pastor’s wife she’d seen a lifetime of hurt related to these issues. Next I began to pray about the project and when I ended up at a conference in Colorado where Allison was speaking, I sat down and listened to her testimony and I knew she was the missing link. She was the piece we needed to complete this project. I talked with her and she said this was something that was on her heart for years … even had this little outline. All three of us got together and started working on this project and that comes out in March 2006 and it’s called, “I Can’t Do It All.”

Around the same time I have a new fiction series debuting, "The Alaskan Quest" series. It’s a loosely followed up series to the "Yukon Quest" series. Many people asked me questions wanting to know about a particular set of characters. So I thought it would be fun to pick up the story about 15 years later and set it in Alaska and have a wonderful series to show what happened to those people and give a little flavor to what happened in the early 1900s.

The first book comes out in March 2006 and will be the first of three books in the series.

CB:  Who is the person who most influenced you with your writing?

Tracie:  I don’t know that I can put that to any one person. So many people have blessed me. I was a voracious reader as a child. I would read anything and everything. My mother actually had to go to the library and request that I be given an adult library card because I wanted to check out so many books every week and I wanted to read them from all over the library; the classics, I wanted to read westerns and biographies.

I was really influenced by people like Louis May Alcott and I mean not just “Little Women” but “Little Men” and “Eight Cousins” and everything that she wrote. Jane Austen, the classic writers like that … the Brontes. I loved to read.

As I’ve gotten older then there have been a variety of things. There was a time period where I read secular romance like crazy because there wasn’t any Christian romance out there and I loved romantic stories. Jude Devereaux and Catherine Woodiwiss and people like that. They were people I definitely loved to read. I was one of those readers who would skim the parts that contained sexual or sensual scenes and just went for the stories. Secular writers like Rosemary Pilcher and even Tom Clancy have such wonderful, intricate plot lines that I found fascinating to use as a learning tool for myself.

I became one of those people who tried to learn to write by what I was reading and I would tear into books and look at it and say, “Why does this work so well?” “Why did that plot line not work for me?” I would look at different things and establish how that made me feel and how that story line reached me.

When Christian fiction finally came out, I read Grace Livingston Hill. I read Catherine Marshall. There just wasn’t enough of any of those people. You start getting Janette Oke, Judith Pella and Michael Phillips and then Brock and Bodie Thoene and I just went nuts. I can’t say that there’s any one person who totally influenced my writing. I would say that my family and my husband have been huge supporters which influenced my ability to continue. That’s precious to me. My mother’s a huge supporter. We now have both mothers living with us. It’s been a fantastic experience. She wants to help out in any way. Sometimes she helps me with postcards and giving out bookmarks. She’s been a huge support. I couldn’t do what I do without my family.

CB:  What are some of the challenges you face as an author?

Tracie:  I think for me, personally, the different roles and different directions. People want you to go to conferences. They want you to do speaking engagements. They want you to make public appearances and books signings -- stuff like that. If you put too many of those things in your life, you don’t have too much time to sit home and write the books. Also with those kinds of demands, it drains your time with your family and the things you might have done otherwise.

The public side of being a writer is probably the hardest part for me. I tend to be shy anyway. God’s given me wonderful grace in that when I do have to be in the public, He gives me complete grace about it. I love the way He provides what you need when you need it. But it really is difficult to balance both sometimes.

It’s so funny because I’ve always been this type A, dominant personality that was out there doing everything and having to do everything -- had to be going in three different directions. But as I’ve gotten older, I have gotten quiet and very private. I see it as a maturing and a new season. The Lord has taught me I can just rest in Him, I can be quiet. It’s okay.

CB:  What message would you like your readers to take from “What She Left for Me?”

Tracie:  Sin is sin. Without Jesus, we’re all just ugly people in the eyes of God. With Christ comes forgiveness and reconciliation. Jesus was all about reconciliation and because we are the body of Christ we should be also about forgiveness and reconciliation.


Tracie Peterson is the best-selling, award-winning author of over 60 historical and contemporary novels. She and her family make their home in Belgrade, Montana.

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