This story takes place in two different time periods. What are the unique challenges of writing this type of novel?

I’m always aware that what’s in my head and what readers pick up can be two different things. I’m very focused when I write, but sometimes readers will say they’re confused by the time period switch. My hope is to make things as clear as possible without explaining everything and telegraphing the story.

Ruby has a secret she has kept most of her life—which drives much of the narrative. How can keeping secrets be detrimental to family relationships? What steps can we take toward building trust and honesty, especially if we have kept a secret for a long time?

This is one of the things I’ve noticed in doing a radio program for the past few years that’s somewhat confessional. People will call the show and reveal some deep things about their past. I’ll ask who they’ve shared this particular story with, and almost to a person they’ll respond, “This is the first time I’ve told anyone.”

I’m grateful for the breakthrough, but also heartbroken that they haven’t been able to share this with someone who loves them—and some of these callers are women in their sixties and seventies. I can hear the relief in their voices after they reveal whatever hard thing they tell.

I believe the enemy wants to keep things bottled up inside. If he can’t move us away from God, he’ll tempt us with holding things inside and covering them. That’s why it’s so reparative to confess our sins to one another. Something spiritual happens when I trust another person with that thing that has been hidden for a lifetime. And when Ruby’s secret is revealed, there are ramifications she couldn’t have dreamed she would experience.

The title of the novel is taken from a hymn titled “Dwelling in Beulah Land.” What about this hymn led you to make it central to your story?

I remember singing it as a child in a little church in West Virginia. There’s something about the tune that hearkens to a different time and echoes in the soul. The hymn talks about the noise of strife, the sins of earth, the doubt and fear that encompass all of us. But in the middle of the muck and mire, we are able to rise above, to “dwell” in a safe place that God has prepared.

No matter what happens, I can be content and the storms of life won’t shake me because I’m held by his power, his Spirit. That’s an idea we desperately need today.

Many churches are moving away from traditional hymns as their method of musical worship. What do you think the church loses when the hymnbooks go into storage in favor of more contemporary music?

Let’s be fair—at some point the hymns in the hymnal were new. So it’s not about whether we sing new songs or not, it’s whether or not we’re tethered to the truths that have been tested and tried by the generations that have gone before us. One of the things I considered as I wrote the 1933 sections was how many of the hymns the people on Beulah Mountain would sing that we don’t consider any longer.

When I sing a hymn that has been sung for hundreds of years, I’m singing truth to my own soul as well as joining others in that same truth. When I sing “Dwelling in Beulah Land,” I’m singing something my mother and father sang as they sat by me in the pew. There is much more to share about this, but being connected with those believers who have gone before us is a wonderful reason to sing hymns.

And there is so much theology in the songs we sing, good and bad. Just because it’s in the hymnal doesn’t mean it’s true, of course, so we have to analyze what we’re singing, and think carefully about style and repetition and if we’re actually singing solid, biblical truth. I’m not tossing aside worship songs of today; I’ve been encouraged by them as well. I just don’t want to lose the legacy of great hymns.

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About The Author

Chris Fabry has published more than 65 other books, including novels for children and young adults. His first novel for adults, Dogwood, received the 2009 Christy Award in the Contemporary Standalone category. He coauthored the Left Behind: The Kids series with Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye, as well as the Red Rock Mysteries and the Wormling series with Jenkins. RPM, his latest series for kids, explores the exciting world of NASCAR.