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Interview With Sharon Hinck

In April 2007, she was named Writer of the Year at Mount Hermon’s Christian Writers Conference. Multi-published in books and articles, Sharon Hinck’s soon-to-be-released The Restorer’s Journey marks the third book in the Sword of the Lyric series—a series that truly portrays her tagline, “Stories for the hero in all of us.”

Sharon, tell us how the Sword of Lyric series came to be and how you created such a powerful and enchanting world to portray our relationship to God and the sometimes (okay, always) challenging journey of faith.

I’ve always seen the Christian life as an epic hero’s journey. God is the true hero of all our stories, but He invites us (ordinary, flawed people) to join His work of bringing grace to others – and that can call on depths of courage and sacrifice.

As I began playing with a story idea, I thought of a favorite Old Testament prophet, Deborah, and wondered how her story would play out in a modern context. I also looked at the shelves holding my favorite books and saw how many of them included the “pulled into another world” sorts of adventures. So I used that device to explore how it feels when we’re confronted with challenges we don’t feel equipped to face – or when life gets confusing and doesn’t follow our script.

The Restorer’s Journey is the last book in the series. Reflecting back, what do you see as being most significant to breaking into the Christian fantasy/sci-fi genre?

The Sword of Lyric books were stories that captured my imagination. I had to write them, whether they would ever be published or not. But I’m so grateful they were! Perhaps it helped that I brought a new twist to the story, by including a middle-American mom as the heroine. Perhaps it helped that I had begun to build a readership through my contemporary novels with Bethany House. Perhaps study, critique groups, networking and conferences helped pave the way. Certainly many generous allies (agents, editors, authors, publicists, proponents of speculative fiction) were part of these books making it to store shelves. But ultimately, I believe God opened doors in His timing, through His unique avenues. I’ll never get everything “right enough” to guarantee specific results. All I can do is show up each day and ask Him what He wants me to work on, and trust that it won’t be wasted.

In fact, that theme shows up in The Restorer’s Journey. A character is warned that if he goes to a certain battle, he’ll die and his life will be wasted. The character responds, “My life is His to waste.” I don’t think God wastes our efforts – in fact He multi-tasks brilliantly, accomplishing all kinds of layered blessings through our simple work. But I want my heart in a place that even when it LOOKS hopeless and useless and like all the work won’t achieve my desired results –I can still be at peace. If I’m obeying Him, “my life is His to waste.”

How do you balance your writing time with other responsibilities?

With all the grace of a blindfolded, inebriated, tightrope-walker with an inner-ear infection.

And how does your faith and spiritual life play into the picture? Has writing this series affected that?

Apart from Him none of it matters. With Him, there is surprising glory in the most ordinary things. Writing The Sword of Lyric series was meant to be my love song to Jesus, but as I wrote, I realized it was much more about His love song to all of us.

What has been the highest moment of your writing/publishing career?

When my agent called to tell me about the contract offer for my first published novel, The Secret Life of Becky Miller, I was in shock. After a substantial conversation, when I hung up, I believed I’d dreamed the entire thing. I almost called him back to ask, but then saw that his name WAS on my caller I.D., so he really had called.

Since that time, my highest moments have been heartfelt letters from readers who have had divine appointments with Jesus during their reading of one of my novels. The way God can breathe life and SPECIFICITY into a story so that it blesses a person at a precise place and time and way – that blows me away. He is so good.

Who/What is your greatest inspiration to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?

My greatest inspiration to write comes from my discomfort with life.
C.S. Lewis wrote about “sehnsucht” - a longing for heaven, a yearning that is a kind of joy. For me the yearning is often painful. I keep bumping up against times when my spirit says, “it’s not supposed to be this way.”

The arts help me find a way to understand that pain, to wrestle with questions, and to affirm the mystery of God’s mercy and power. Hopefully as I struggle with imperfect ways of expressing transcendent truth, the stories that emerge will touch someone else. I love when someone says, “That’s it. That’s how I feel, but I didn’t know how to say it.”

I’d wrestled with overload, and seen many friends in our culture trying to “do it all” and spinning out of control. I dug into my questions about “where is this compulsion coming from, and how do we counteract it?” in The Secret Life of Becky Miller.

Renovating Becky Miller came from confronting my desire to fix and control others (as well as our families misadventures in home remodeling).

I’ve struggled with my need to understand pain and loss – to have God explain Himself. I was willing to suffer, as long as He showed me the direct, specific purpose for it. My battle to surrender the “right to know” led me to Susan’s story in The Restorer.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?

I’m still so new at this, I’m not sure. I have several priorities as a writer. My desire is to weave rich spiritual themes, wry humor, a level of energy, some imaginative twists, and a blending of textures from different genres. I hope to improve in all those elements as I keep working in the coming years.

Finish this question. When I stare at the first blank page of a new story, fingers ready at the keys, I …

Decide the kitchen floor needs scrubbing instead.

Any parting words for up-and-coming writers?

When I try to fill the “God-sized hole” (the inner ache, the emptiness) through writing, it never satisfies. When I let God fill me, then I can include writing as one part of my expression of gratitude to Him. If He is calling you to write, hooray! Give it your all. But treasure His other callings, too. The calling to simply enjoy Him as a child, the calling to be available when a friend needs encouragement, the calling to be quiet sometimes.

Thanks for sharing with us, Sharon!

It’s a delight to chat with you. ACFW has been such a blessing to me during this writing journey. Each time I faced a confusing question or difficult challenge, God used someone in this group to help me along the next step.

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