Francine Rivers, New York Times bestselling author of Redeeming Love and The Masterpiece, returns to the California frontier in The Lady’s Mine, a sweeping, romantic tale of a displaced New England suffragette, a former Union soldier disinherited by his Southern family, and the town they join forces to save. In the following Q&A, hear from Francine about questions that prompted the story, why she returned to a historical California setting, and her favorite character in the novel.
What motivated you to return to the California frontier? What about this setting intrigues you?
I’m a native Californian, and I’ve always loved our state history, especially the gold and silver rush periods. Redeeming Love takes place from 1849 to 1851. The Lady’s Mine jumps forward to the 1870s silver rush. Men from around the world and all walks of life poured into the state, hoping to strike it rich. A few women came—some by wagon train, some by ship, some willing, and some not. It was a time of high drama, boom and bust. I think that’s what appeals to me most—the dreams that brought people, the grueling hard work that awaited them, the myriad stories of success and failure.
You have said that your stories often start with a question. What question prompted this story?
There were several questions. How does a person cope with being cast out of a family? Do we determine the course of our lives, or is there a plan already in place? Can one person change the character of a town? How can we offer a hand up rather than a handout to those in desperate need?
What character in this story did you most enjoy crafting? Why?
Kathryn Walsh! She has strong faith, seeks the Lord, and does what she believes is right. She isn’t a quiet little lady in the pew. She’s fiery, opinionated, earnest, and determined to make the town she lives in better (whether men agree or not). When she realizes she’s wrong about something, she changes her mind. When she’s right, she plows ahead no matter the cost. She looks for ways to help people rise from poverty. Though she has few resources herself, she shares what she does have. She doesn’t judge anyone (except Matthias Beck!), though she is frequently judged by others (Beck being one). And she has a sense of humor. Frankly, I enjoyed getting to know her during the COVID shelter in place orders. And, of course, Matthias Beck also had his fascinating character traits.
Did this story develop in any surprising ways?
Kathryn’s business management scheme came as something of a surprise. So did the next venture that leads to the real change in Calvada. But I can’t explain all that without giving the story away.
Working on this story during the COVID lockdown, you said that one of your goals was to address serious issues with humor and grace. You commented, “Life had become too somber to add heaviness to it. We all need to laugh, even when days are dark—maybe even more so during those times. And we all want changes for the better and a happy ending.” How did this project accomplish these goals?
Writing as much as I did helped me pass the time while sheltering in place. In some ways, my life didn’t change. As a writer, I spend most of my life at home working. I was able to get through the frustration of the ever-changing rules and opinions by creating characters, scenes, and dialogue. There are so many situations in life that challenge us to trust God. It is so true there is nothing new under the sun. The “new normal” isn’t all that different from trials we’ve faced before. We all have a choice. Grumble and growl over the way things are. Or look for the good and the humorous aspects of life. I choose the latter.
Your novels look deeply into characters’ motivations and emotions. What do you hope readers will learn from delving into the inner thoughts of the characters in The Lady’s Mine?
Don’t let the unfairness of life embitter you. Strive to do good no matter what others around you are doing. Treat others as you would like to be treated. Stand up and find practical ways to help the less fortunate. A handout is good for a day. A hand up can change a life forever. Speak truth no matter the cost. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Laugh. Enjoy life. Don’t hold too tightly to your own opinion. Listen and learn from others. And above all, live to please the Lord.