Bestselling Christian romance author, Francine Rivers, talks to her publishers in a Q&A interview about her highly anticipated new novel, Bridge to Haven, which is due to be released in April. The epic story of temptation, grace and unconditional love looks at the life of a rising 1950s Hollywood star and the price she’s had to pay to finally feel like she’s somebody. She has burned every bridge to get exactly what she thought she wanted. Now, all she wants is a way back home.
1. What is your hope for your novels?
I hope the stories I write will increase readers’ hunger and thirst for Jesus, and the characters will inspire them to be more like Him. It’s so easy to follow the ways of the world, to get sucked into following the herd rather than be among the flock. I want to encourage readers to trust in the Lord always and to remember only His Word is truth.
2. You often say that each of your books is inspired by a question. Is that the case with Bridge to Haven? If so, what question inspired this novel?
We live in a complex, often-disheartening world. I know I always have questions about how to live for Jesus in a world that hates Him. Questions continue to challenge me. How do I live by faith and not by sight? How can I be an overcomer in a world that wants to crush the very heart of me? I take these questions into any story I write, and each story is a quest for God’s perspective.
With this particular novel, I wanted to explore how people can be bridges. Jesus is the ultimate bridge that takes us across the chasm over hell and into heaven to be in the presence of God. Each character in the novel plays a part as a bridge builder or bridge destroyer. Sometimes the characters begin as one and become the other.
3. What message do you hope will resonate with readers of Bridge to Haven?
I hope readers will ask themselves: Am I a bridge? How can I help someone who is struggling step onto the bridge of faith and begin the journey to a haven of rest? Do I point the way? Or do I walk with them? How does that look in my day-to-day life?
4. Why did you want to reimagine the parable of the Prodigal Son? Why was this important to you?
The Prodigal Son is the story of every human being. We are all God’s creations. But too often we try to go our own way. That way brings pain and separation from what we truly want: an everlasting love relationship with God. Only in Him do we find the happiness we crave from the womb. Some turn away from the world and head home to God. That journey all too often begins in desperation and follows a road of fear until we see the Lord has been waiting for us all the time with open arms.
5. Was there a specific person upon whom you based Abra’s character?
The story started as an allegory about the character of God and Jesus, but how can anyone capture the immensity of God, His all-consuming love and passion for each of us? I certainly couldn’t. His love is so immense, cleansing, healing, restorative. It’s beyond human understanding. I dumped my first attempt and started over. In this rendition, Zeke and Joshua strive to be like Jesus, and often fail. Abra represents those who fail to see the love offered and turn away, looking in all the wrong places for what they had from the beginning. It is a leap of faith to believe God’s grace is not earned, but freely given.
I was like Abra for many years. Despite the truth I was taught as a child, I took hold of a wrong view of God as a constant critical eye, a Being just waiting to condemn me to everlasting hell. When I turned to God, I felt like Paul when the scales fell away from his eyes. In a sense, I awakened and knew God loved me despite everything I had done and mistakenly believed. My stubborn pride had to be broken. There were always people around me who loved me and pointed the way to Jesus. That is true of everyone. God makes ambassadors and scatters them everywhere. When we open our hearts, usually out of desperation, God pours in His Holy Spirit and opens our eyes and ears to who He is and to those He has called to help us cross that bridge of faith God uses to transform our lives.
6. What is the significance of the title, Bridge to Haven?
**Spoiler alert for those who are in a book club.** The ultimate bridge to haven is Jesus, who provides that way back to God, and the ultimate haven is that haven of rest, God’s presence in heaven, where He dwells and believers will live forever.
7. What is the significance of going home?
I believe the yearning for God and eternal life is built by God into our DNA. Going home for me is living in relationship with Jesus who brought me to life. Until I surrendered to Him, I wasn’t just walking wounded, I was walking dead. I am now at home in Him and will eventually be at home with Him in heaven.
8. What research did you do for this title? What did you learn about Hollywood in the 1950s?
I compiled binders full of information about the forties and fifties, World War II, the Korean War, medics serving in Korea, Hollywood studios and stars, along with Scripture that always speaks to the mind and heart of any human being. The Bible is like God’s blueprint for mankind, how and why man was built, what happened when sin entered into our lives, and the cure. Since I don’t have a mind that retains information, I kept the binders and my Bible close at hand for constant reference. I am fortunate enough to have an exacting, knowledgeable editor (Kathy Olson) who makes sure the time lines and accompanying information are correct down to the smallest detail of which song might have been playing on the radio. And since I am very aware of my limitations and imperfections, I applaud and embrace her efforts.
9. How do Abra’s lessons apply in today’s culture?
We are all the same as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. We haven’t evolved into higher beings. We are still stubbornly human, fiercely contending with God, intent upon living our own lives our way no matter what pain it brings to ourselves as well as those around us. When I read the Bible, I feel like I’m reading the daily newspaper. If you want the answers to why you are here and what you were made for, read Scripture and run to God.
10. What are the timeless elements of this story?
God made you. God loves you. God wants a personal relationship with you. He doesn’t want Sunday morning only or bits and pieces of your life; He wants all of who you are—your past, present, and future. God has a plan for your life that will fulfill the deepest longings of your heart. Seek Him first above all things. Trust Him.