New York Times bestselling author Francine Rivers had a successful writing career in the general market for several years before becoming a born-again Christian. As her statement of faith, she wrote Redeeming Love, a retelling of the biblical story of Gomer and Hosea set during the time of the California Gold Rush. Redeeming Love is now considered by many to be a classic work of Christian fiction and it continues to be one of the industry’s top-selling titles year after year. Her Christian novels have been awarded or nominated for many honors, and in 1997, after winning her third RITA Award for inspirational fiction, Francine was inducted into the Romance Writers of America’s Hall of Fame. In 2015, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW).
Now Francine Rivers returns to the California frontier in her new novel, The Lady’s Mine. This book is a sweeping, romantic tale of a displaced New England suffragette, a former Union soldier disinherited by his Southern family, and the town they join forces to save.
FF: You refer to The Lady’s Mine as your “COVID story.” Can you please explain?
What does a writer do when she is sheltering in place? Write. And write. And write some more! Sometimes it is so much more fun to live in a created world than the real one, and during the first and numerous succeeding shutdowns, that was what I did. Other than work in the vineyard and garden, I immersed myself in a fictional world. By the time I finished the manuscript, it was 194,000 words! It needed major cutting. But as I was still sheltering in place out here in California, the job of cutting turned out to be almost as much fun as the writing process.
FF: What motivated you to return to the California frontier? What about this setting intrigues you?
I’m a native Californian, and I’ve always loved our state history, especially the gold and silver rush periods. Redeeming Love takes place from 1849 to 1851. The Lady’s Mine jumps forward to the 1870s silver rush. Men from around the world and all walks of life poured into the state, hoping to strike it rich. A few women came—some by wagon train, some by ship, some willing, and some not. It was a time of high drama, boom and bust. I think that’s what appeals to me most—the dreams that brought people, the grueling hard work that awaited them, the myriad stories of success and failure.
FF: You have said that your stories often start with a question. What question prompted this story?
There were several questions. How does a person cope with being cast out of a family? Do we determine the course of our lives, or is there a plan already in place? Can one person change the character of a town? How can we offer a hand up rather than a handout to those in desperate need?
FF: What themes in this story, set in the 1870s, have particular relevance today?
One of the themes is the oft-unfair treatment of workers. During the silver rush, it was common to have a mine owner rolling in wealth while holding workers in debt bondage. This is a common practice these days in human trafficking. We have laws now to protect workers, but without naming anyone, news stories abound of how one man at the top can rake in billions while paying workers minimum wage with few benefits. The nice side of fiction is to suggest other possibilities in how to conduct a business.
FF: Your novels look deeply into characters’ motivations and emotions. What do you hope readers will learn from delving into the inner thoughts of the characters in The Lady’s Mine?
Don’t let the unfairness of life embitter you. Strive to do good no matter what others around you are doing. Treat others as you would like to be treated. Stand up and find practical ways to help the less fortunate. A handout is good for a day. A hand up can change a life forever. Speak truth no matter the cost. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Laugh. Enjoy life. Don’t hold too tightly to your own opinion. Listen and learn from others. And above all, live to please the Lord.
FF: In talking about this book, you reference the apostle James, who said, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for the orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” What is one practical way we can work toward not letting the world corrupt us?
This will sound like a simple answer, but the best place to find out what and how to do something is through reading the Bible. It’s also the best place to learn what not to do. Lately, I’ve been writing out a few verses a day from a book of the Bible. Romans. It will take weeks to do it, but it is already helping me concentrate and think about what God is saying, the instructions He is giving. This isn’t something I’ve always done, but now find invaluable. Writing longhand slows me down and helps me concentrate on each word, phrase, and sentence. When we’re focused on the Lord, He shows us practical ways to live in this fallen world without becoming part of it.
FF: What character in this story did you most enjoy crafting? Why?
Kathryn Walsh! She has strong faith, seeks the Lord, and does what she believes is right. She isn’t a quiet little lady in the pew. She’s fiery, opinionated, earnest, and determined to make the town she lives in better (whether men agree or not). When she realizes she’s wrong about something, she changes her mind. When she’s right, she plows ahead no matter the cost. She looks for ways to help people rise from poverty. Though she has few resources herself, she shares what she does have. She doesn’t judge anyone (except Matthias Beck!), though she is frequently judged by others (Beck being one). And she has a sense of humor. Frankly, I enjoyed getting to know her during the COVID shelter in place orders. And, of course, Matthias Beck also had his fascinating character traits.
FF: Did this story develop in any surprising ways?
Kathryn’s business management scheme came as something of a surprise. So did the next venture that leads to the real change in Calvada. But I can’t explain all that without giving the story away.
FF: You said that one of your goals was to address serious issues with humor and grace. You commented, “Life had become too somber to add heaviness to it. We all need to laugh, even when days are dark—maybe even more so during those times. And we all want changes for the better and a happy ending.” How did this project accomplish these goals?
Writing as much as I did helped me pass the time while sheltering in place. In some ways, my life didn’t change. As a writer, I spend most of my life at home working. I was able to get through the frustration of the ever-changing rules and opinions by creating characters, scenes, and dialogue. There are so many situations in life that challenge us to trust God. It is so true there is nothing new under the sun. The “new normal” isn’t all that different from trials we’ve faced before. We all have a choice. Grumble and growl over the way things are. Or look for the good and the humorous aspects of life. I choose the latter.
FF: What do you hope your readers come to know about God through this story?
Broken relationships don’t have to mean broken lives. Let (agape) love be the motivation for what you do and how you live. God can mold the most unlikely people into wise and gifted leaders. One person can change the course of a community. The Lord can make beauty from ashes.
The Lady’s Mine
Genres: Historical Romance
Release Date: February 8, 2022
1875. When Kathryn Walsh arrives in tiny Calvada, a mining town nestled in the Sierra Nevadas, falling in love is the farthest thing from her mind. Banished from Boston by her wealthy stepfather, she has come to claim an inheritance from the uncle she never knew: a defunct newspaper office on a main street overflowing with brothels and saloons, and a seemingly worthless mine. Moved by the oppression of the local miners and their families, Kathryn decides to relaunch her uncle’s newspaper—and then finds herself in the middle of a maelstrom, pitted against Calvada’s most powerful men. But Kathryn intends to continue to say—and publish—whatever she pleases, especially when she knows she’s right.
Matthias Beck, owner of a local saloon and hotel, has a special interest in the new lady in town. He instantly recognizes C. T. Walsh’s same tenacity in the beautiful and outspoken redhead—and knows all too well how dangerous that family trait can be. While Kathryn may be right about Calvada’s problems, her righteousness could also get her killed. But when the handsome hotelier keeps finding himself on the same side of the issues as the opinionated Miss Walsh, Matthias’s restless search for purpose becomes all about answering the call of his heart.
Everyone may be looking to strike it rich in this lawless boomtown, but it’s a love more precious than gold that will ultimately save them all.
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