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Interview with Hallee Bridgeman

From high heels to homemaker to published author, Hallee Bridgeman has covered a lot of ground in her life’s journey and through her pen via her series of novels and blog, Hallee the Homemaker.

Hallee, from reading content on your website (www.halleethehomemaker.com) it seems your life events have played out in a quite complex novel. In what ways, have you utilized bits from your life into your own novels? Or have you perhaps tapped into the emotions of a circumstance in your life or a specific spiritual lesson you’ve learned?
It’s always interesting to look back on life with the 20/20 perspective. I had an adolescence and young adulthood that was filled with bad decisions and unforeseen circumstances. The end result is that I have a rock solid faith, and I can mentor a young woman in almost anything she happens to go through – because, chances are good that I’ve been there and done that. I believe that God works together for good all things, so even when I’m making foolish decisions as an 18-year-old, in the end it can be used for His glory.

I have no doubt that emotions and experiences play into my writing. I tend to write characters who go through some of the toughest that life can throw at them. I have a lifetime of experiences from which to pull empathetic feelings.

The Virtues and Valor series consists of seven serialized stories that tell the tale of a daring rescue and escape and each part is told from the perspective of a different woman with each one inspired by a true World War II heroine.

Where did the idea for this series come from? Did you set out to research and write historical novels or did the inspiration just seem to pop up out of nowhere?
I LOVE the time period of WWII, and I love the history in the European front of the war. I have always wanted to write a spy serial, but I never really knew what I wanted to write or the angle I wanted to take.

My husband and I were talking one day about upcoming projects and marketing ideas, and he said, “It would be cool if you could write a series highlighting the heavenly virtues.” I immediately had the story in my head – seven heroines, code-named heavenly virtues: Temperance, Hope, Charity, Prudence, Grace, Mercy, Faith. A team called “The Virtues”. Each would possess unique skills to form a solid cohesive team.

The really cool part came when we decided to base each Virtue on a real heroine from the war. My fictionalized story takes place in a fictionalized town – but each Virtue is inspired by a true heroine, and I tell her story at the end of each part. On all of the books, the woman pictured on the cover was also a heroine with a similar story and she is highlighted at the end as well.

Having written many suspense-action storylines for your other novels, do you have any specific writing or brainstorming methods to conjure up new storylines?
I’m one of those writers that has the whole idea of the suspense element in my head. I can sit in a restaurant and think of a dozen mystery plots just from watching the wait staff and customers. The challenge comes in tying that suspense to a faith and romantic element. I often have the crime solved before I even have the main character developed.

Hallee, on your website, you mention that you were a professional woman in suits and heels six days a week but now your life is a bit unconventional. What field did you work in before and how did the transition happen? And how have these differing environments affected your writing?
I ran an office for a multi-million dollar general contractor. It was an incredibly busy office and I worked hard at my job. I also was actively involved in a professional organization pertaining to my industry.

When my son was born, I left my job. When my youngest child was weaned, I started working on my writing career.

I think some of the biggest advantages I received through that career was the ability to manage the office of our small press along with the organizational skills required to maintain the kind of travel and writing schedule I maintain while juggling a marriage, children, a ministry and a household.

For other authors who like you may have started out writing general romance (or as you state in your testimony on your blog “trashy” romance) what was your approach to the ten novels you had written in that vein to totally rewrite them for Christian romance? How difficult was that transition for you? And what advice would you give to others who are rewriting their secular work as Christian fiction?
I have so far re-written six of them. The first thing I did was pray. What did the Holy Spirit want me to do to this story? In the first one I rewrote, Sapphire Ice, the male protagonist, Tony Viscolli, was a corporate mogul driven by greed and a need to seek vengeance. His attraction to the heroine was based on lust, which culminated in sex, which resulted in falling in love.

Robin Bartlett was the daughter of a heroin addict who was murdered in a drug deal gone bad. At 15, she’d been repeatedly assaulted by her mother’s boyfriend – who was also killed in that incident. She had two younger half sisters, and she was putting them through college.

When I rewrote Sapphire Ice, I changed Tony – I made him a Christian motivated by love for God and his fellow man. His business enterprise was still the same. Robin was still the same. All of a sudden, this story that had been “good” suddenly had depth, meaning, and a faith arc that takes your breath away. I was amazed at how much fuller the story became.

Some of the books I’ve rewritten have been just that easy. Others have been harder – and almost required full rewrites.

Hallee, I am very fascinated and amused with your parody cookbooks, one of which is titled Fifty Shades of Gravy, and how you mix recipes with “controversial secular pop culture.” How did you come up with this idea? And how do you go about meshing these two unique ideas together to create one of your cookbooks?
Fifty Shades of Gravy was inspired by a book seen in an Amish store while my family travelled home one snowy Christmas break. That book was titled Fifty Shades of Grace, and my husband mused that he wished we’d thought of that. That stop became my turn to drive. The weather was horrible, I was driving through the mountains of Maryland, concentrating on driving and not talking. I thought my husband was asleep. Suddenly, he sat up and said, “Gravy! Think you can come up with fifty gravy recipes?”

It was a challenge. At 46, I was sweating it.

In each of these cookbooks, I write a long article about the specific secular pop culture represented by the cookbook. In Fifty Shades of Gravy, I talk about the BDSM entertainment movement, about chains and shackles. I explain that people are seeking freedom from their pain and sin, and some even seek physical pain in an attempt to heal their souls. Yet, the wonder of it all is that Christ has told us that HE can set us free and remove us from our chains.

That began the trend.

In The Walking Bread, I talk about the cultural fascination with zombies and death, and compare that to how anyone without Christ is truly the walking dead, and that the gift of God is eternal life. It’s also full of really good bread recipes – the recipes I regularly make for my family.

In Iron Skillet Man, I talk about the pop culture super hero multi-billion dollar industry. Yet, simply, Christ saved the world. That book contains 87 skillet recipes, from appetizers, to breads, to main dishes, to desserts.

Coming soon is Hallee Crockpotter and the Chamber of Secret Ingredients. Obviously, I’ll be talking about witchcraft.

With your passion for cooking, how has this love for the kitchen translated into your novels? Have there been many kitchen or cooking scenes sprinkled throughout them? What is one of your favorite scenes from your books that happened in the kitchen?
One of my favorite scenes is in Greater Than Rubies that happens between Sarah and Derrick – who don’t get their own love story until Topaz Heat.

At the end of every book, I have a luncheon menu that contains recipes for food inspired by the book. For instance, in Topaz Heat, Sarah is a vegan and celebrates a birthday. The vegetarian luncheon menu concludes with a vegan birthday cake recipe. I also include Bible study questions and encourage the reader to have a luncheon to discuss the group study questions.

Which authors have inspired you the most on your writing journey?

I’m going to qualify this statement with: I used to be a voracious reader – until I started writing. Suddenly, I didn’t enjoy reading any more at all. AND, before I started writing, I read secular novels that I wouldn’t read today. So, stylistically, I would say I am inspired by Nora Roberts. I love Jude Devereaux’s use of a family saga. And, I was happy to read Christian suspense by Dee Henderson. It gave me the courage to write realistic suspense, with bad guys who are – well, bad.

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
I am so privileged to be able to write during the day while my children are at school. I devote several hours of that chunk of time to writing and only writing. One day a week and on Sunday afternoons (we take a Saturday Sabbath), I work on the administrative work for our small press.

Once my children get home, I do not return to my computer. One of our three children is autistic and requires a lot of hands-on care in the afternoons. On top of that, between prep, cooking, and cleaning, in order to maintain our real food diet, I spend about three hours a day in the kitchen.

Because I only write when the children are not home (and I can’t write fiction when they’re around for whatever reason – my brain won’t turn on the ‘fiction’ area), I typically take summers and school breaks off. Some years, I have a hired babysitter, some years I don’t. It just depends on my travel schedule and deadlines.

Any parting words?
Thank you so much for hosting me today. I very much enjoyed the challenge of these questions!

Thank you for being our guest, Hallee!




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