I had the privilege of helping to edit Jessica White's second novel, Bound by Brokenness. So, being hooked on the story, I had to read the first, Surviving the Stillness.
She has made me an historical Christian fiction fan. Her characters are so three dimensional that you keep reading, joining them in their triumphs and heartaches. Plus it is VERY obvious she did a ton of research about medicine in the 1920's Dakotas and Montana, the societies of West Virginia and Chicago, the native American culture and prejudices, and the religious thinking of the time.
I think you will feel the same. Welcome, Jessica.
What spurred you to write the Healing Seasons Series? And tell us a little about each book so far.
In 2013, I was knee deep in academic research to finish my degree and mentally exhausted. I decided to write a fictional story, which combined a dream of a boy falling down a flight of stairs with the story of two orphans from West Virginia I’d come up with in middle school. it morphed into Surviving the Stillness, the first book in the Healing Seasons Series.
God revealed to me that Abigail (one of the orphans) and Matthew (the son of the doctor) were running from their problems. As winter sets in, Matthew falls down the stairs and breaks his ankle, and Abigail contracts a case of fever that exacerbates other health issues she’s been trying to hide. Forcing them to be still, God brings the two together in a way only He could arrange. Together they learn to be still and trust in Him to heal their scars.
I originally intended to write one book, but as I reached the end of Surviving the Stillness, I knew there was more the readers would want to see play out. The biggest question left unanswered was—does Dr. Mason, Matthew’s father, ever get past his grief of losing his wife and forgive God?
Bound by Brokenness became my quest to answer that question. This book opens on Easter Sunday,ten years after Helen died. His broken promise to be by her side when she faced death again drives him to keep the residents of Bear Valley healthy and out of Death’s reach. But as he circuits through the foothills, he finds he can’t do it alone.
The other character, I wanted to give more attention to was Abigail’s younger brother, Samuel. His personality really came out at the end of the first book and I loved how spontaneous and funny he was. So I pondered what trouble could he get into while his sister was out on the circuit with Doc? I also wanted to incorporate the repercussions of Prohibition laws which went into effect two years earlier in Montana than the Federal law. So Sam gets a chance to prove to his sister he’s learned from his past mistakes, but he also learns that money can’t fix everything that’s broken.
I really liked Sam. I understand you pray over your characters. That is so cool. Tell us more about that.
Honestly, this was a byproduct of my own prayer life. I love to intercede for others and the characters in my head are so vivid. It was natural to pray for them when I couldn’t see how God was going to move their hearts or get them out of certain circumstances. It has become a tool I rely on while I write. I know I’ve found the right scene when it comes through answered prayer. Almost every scene in Bound by Brokenness surfaced from this method. In fact, the original plot I’d come up with was totally different from the one God had me write.
In reading your books, it is obvious you spent a great deal of time researching the history and medical practices of the 1920's adn life in rural Montana. Tell us about that experience.
I can honestly say I know more about medicine in the early 1900’s than I ever really wanted to. I started with a text called Taylor’s Practice of Medicine. I was actually trying to come up with a medical condition for Abigail to have, but there was no simple solution, which actually played into the plot line. She suffers from three different things in Surviving the Stillness. But all that research led me to so many other interesting facts and resources.
When I decided that Dr. Mason was a trained surgeon, I scanned the Harvard Journal of Surgery. The carnage of the Great War (WWI) invented so many advancements in medicine that I wanted to show some of them. A big one was blood transfusions and advancements in blood typing, so I worked that into the second book.
I also wanted to preserve Helen’s (Dr. Mason's deceased wife) Native American roots, so I had her pass the knowledge onto Matthew through journals. The way she handled births and deaths and relied on plant based medicines, over all the new pharmaceutical solutions of the early 1900’s, is uniquely Helen’s. And I’m anxious to share how she intertwined her knowledge from her early years growing up in a Lakota family and her medical training in Book 4.
I'm glad you have plans to continue this series. What do you want the reader to take away from your books?
From Surviving the Stillness, I want readers to walk away understanding that God is always with us. That even when everything is taken from us or circumstances have lasted longer than we expected, He is still working it out for our good. That He bears His scars as a testimony of His love for us and that the scars we bear are testimonies of what He can carry us through.
From Bound by Brokenness, I want readers to realize that we weren’t made to be isolated from one another. We’re the body of Christ. That brokenness opens the door for us to minister to one another and show God’s love. That our wounds physical, emotional, spiritual, are never too bad for God to heal.
Both pertinent and potent lessons. What have you gained from writing these two books?
I’ve learned that this is my calling, and it is impossible to do apart from God. That I best be prayed up and hedged in by my prayer team because the enemy doesn’t like books that are centered on who God is and what He can do.
I also learned that I have to step inside these characters’ lives and experience all the highs and lows and the closeness and distance from God. Bound by Brokenness was difficult to write because neither character is exceptionally close to God at the beginning.
I had to pull back after the intimacy of book one and remember what it feels like to keep God at a distance. To not feel worthy of His love or mercy. To make decisions in my own strength and handle the consequences of being outside His will. But I know that the story will resonate with readers because we all go through those periods in our walk with Christ.
Wow, that must have been a challenge for you. You are so serious about your writing and learning to understand your characters, and it shows. Will there be more in the series? Give us a peek.
There are two more books in this series. The next one is Dispelling the Darkness. It’s the story of Abigail’s return to West Virginia to debut among high society. Matthew goes with her, knowing this is probably the last summer he’ll get to spend with the girl who’s become his best friend. But he wants to make sure she doesn’t lose the person she’s becoming under the weight of the expectation of marriage.
Samuel also returns home and is swept up in the glitz and glamour of society life. He rubs elbows with people who could help him pursue his dream of being a world-traveling reporter, but some of the miners are eager for him to step into his father’s shoes as owner of Morgan Coal and restore safety. But whispers abound about a family curse, and he has to put his sleuthing skills to work to find the truth before he and his sister are the next victims.
Oh, that sounds intriguing. I'm hooked again! Write fast! Where can readers find out more about you and these books?
The best place to find me is my website—http://AuthorJessicaWhite.WordPress.com
At the top you’ll find links to all the places I’m on social media and down below is a link to my newsletter sign-up which will keep readers up to date on my writing, releases, and sales.
My books can be found exclusively on Amazon. LINK-goo.gl/S7zK3S
Thank you Jessica. I am proud to present your books to the Diamond Mine readers. I am sure they will enjoy them as much I have,