And once Her Daughter’s Dream (Tyndale House), the sequel to the New York Times bestseller Her Mother’s Hope, hit store shelves, she still couldn’t help wondering how her readers would respond.
“I still get butterflies—lots of them,” Francine confesses. “I guess I’m never sure how readers will take a new project or I’ve rendered the story fully. I always start with a question about something in my faith walk or an issue I need to work through. I’m on a personal quest to find God’s perspective.”
Through that process, she’s waiting for that “epiphany moment” when she realizes what God is trying to teach her through that particular story. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean readers are going to be pleased with the final product,” Francine says. “All I can do is hope readers will be along for the journey and will come away encouraged at the end.”
THE LATEST CHAPTER
Given the longevity of her career in the always-fickle fiction marketplace and the warm reception she consistently receives from critics and on countless fan pages, Francine doesn’t exactly have to worry about what people will think. But her commitment to her craft and her fervency in communicating about matters of faith pushes her to do better.
In both Her Mother’s Hope and Her Daughter’s Dream, the story sprang from Rivers’ questions of why her own mother and grandmother were “somewhat estranged” at the end of her grandmother’s life. “My mother’s feelings were deeply hurt by the situation, and she tried to work things out,” Francine shares. “It was difficult to write, and the first draft—which was 1,200 pages long— didn’t work. It wasn’t until I allowed the characters Marta and Hildemara to become ‘real’ in and of themselves and not try to force them into molds of my grandmother and mother that the story began to work. What I learned through the process is we need to know the background and experiences that shaped our parents lives.”
In Her Daughter’s Dream, Rivers talks about how history does have the tendency of repeating itself from generation to generation. “Unless we recognize what we’re doing wrong, we can’t change,” Rivers says. “Repentance comes from a broken and contrite heart, but in the end builds us up rather than tearing us down. What I hope readers will take from this story is a deep desire to know their family members, to listen intently, to say ‘I love you’ openly and without fear—or expectations. I hope the story will encourage generations to build bridges and share their life experiences.”
FROM THE 1950S TO THE MODERN AGE
This time around, readers benefit from the perspective of Hildie’s daughter Carolyn Arundel in Her Daughter’s Dream, which is set in multiple decades—ranging from the 1950s to the modern age. Basically, when Carolyn’s mother is sick with tuberculosis and quarantined to her room until she gets better, Carolyn starts bonding with her grandmother Marta, who steps in and helps with the household duties in Hildie’s absence.
Like those modern-day instances where too much time with family starts a major rift, Hildie and Marta start getting into it, and Carolyn thinks she’s the one to blame. Lo and behold, once Carolyn has a daughter, the sick cycle starts again. But after learning what happened in her family’s past, she’s determined to be a bridge, rather than the person who tears her family apart again.
“If they’re willing to work at it, families can draw closer,” Francine says. “Hardships come in all sizes, but when we trust in the Lord and follow His ways, the difficult things in life don’t have to tear us apart. They can actually make our faith stronger, and equip us to help one another. We can pull together, especially if we’re willing to share our experiences and hope.”
WE CAN WORK IT OUT
As for how to make this happen when the going gets tough, Francine looks to the Bible for inspiration. “I don’t believe ‘venting’ is a good thing,” Francine says. “Feelings can be shared openly as long as we do so with mutual respect. It’s not easy to come close to someone who has hurt you, but it is possible. Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” It wasn’t a suggestion. Love one another is a commandment. Love isn’t a feeling—it’s action. It isn’t just what we say, but how we say it and what we do. I pray readers will reach out to estranged family members. The best relationships are not built on the worldly idea of ‘what’s in it for me,’ but on faith in Jesus. Even if a relationship cannot be restored, we can be healed. We can forgive. We can move on without regrets and still keep doors open.”
THE NEXT CHAPTER
Now that the “Marta’s Legacy” series has drawn to a close, the Northern California native is in the very, very beginning stages of figuring out what she’ll work on next. But in the meantime she’s enjoyed reading a biography of Maria Edgewood, a family antecedent on the Rivers’ side of the family who was a writer of great reputation. Not only was Edgewood said to be Queen Victoria’s favorite novelist, but her work also had an impact on Sir Walter Scott and Jane Austen.
“I love mixing it up with what I read and enjoy many genres,” Francine says. “And right now I’m loving this biography.”
As for whether she’s climbed on the social networking bandwagon, the renowned writer says she’s been better at keeping up with family online than anything else. “Email has enabled me to ‘talk’ frequently with my brother, children, grandchildren, one cousin, and a few close friends,” Francine says. “I’m still learning about blogging. I’m always worried I’m wasting people’s time. I find it very difficult to stay up to date with groups—especially writers’ groups. Writers love to write! And I’m a slow reader. Time is very precious and I have to make decisions on how best to use it. I’m usually a week or more behind in answering readers’ letters.” FF