As my sophomore novel, The Hidden Side, is introduced to the world, I can’t help but think how it changed me more than any novel I’ve ever written. I think this is good. One of the reasons I write is to explore the world, explore what it means to be human, what it means to have faith, what it means to be fully alive. I write to push the boundaries of what makes me comfortable. I write in hopes that tiny seeds of growth will sprout—both in my heart and in the hearts of my readers.
With that in mind, it’s especially meaningful to dwell on a handful of books that shaped my own life and helped me to grow—both as a reader and as a writer.
Double Love (Sweet Valley High Series) by Francine Pascal
No judging, okay? I remember when my Mom finally let me read these books in the eighth grade. For most of that year, I had my nose in one of them. Now, I admit, after taking a peek at the first page of this book recently, my adult-self is saying, “This is what you chose to feed your young mind with?!” but still, the Wakefield twins were incredibly real to my fourteen-year-old self. They created my first book obsession. I understood the power of books after reading the first in this series.
A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers
This book was one of my first reads in the Christian fiction genre, and, oh my! This wasn’t just an experience, it was a heart-stirring change. I had never really understood that fiction has the power to change a life. Until this book. I saw the potential of faith and the enormity of Jesus, especially in the midst of darkness. After reading this book, I wanted to write. To show God’s love through a story.
Gospel Wakefulness by Jared C. Wilson
As a new Christian, I absolutely understood my need for the gospel. But I was continually getting tripped up in the “rules.” You know, the “if you’re really a good Christian, you’ll do A, B, and C.” Not only was I getting tripped up by this way of thinking, I was getting caught up in the fear and inadequacy that came along with it. This book helped me to see my immense continuing need for the gospel. It helped me to see that Jesus isn’t just a one-time deal I need to escape judgment. He is an every day, every hour, every minute Savior who frees me from my self-striving and intense A-type personality. Now that is true freedom!
The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner
This was one of my first introductions to time-slip novels. When I read this book, everything about it spoke to me—the style, the beautiful weaving of past and present, the implications that the past is powerful and that it can—and does—affect us today. I wanted to write this genre of story, and I got to work on my first time-slip manuscript shortly after reading this book. The rest is history. (And very much the present, I suppose!)
The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
This book is a beacon of God’s light and hope in the darkest of circumstances. In the midst of a Nazi concentration camp, with the unthinkable surrounding her, Corrie relays her story. A beautiful picture of deep faith and the enormity of God’s forgiveness and love, this book challenged me to see God in all circumstances, especially the hard ones. It challenged me to explore fiction stories in this same vein, demonstrating hope amidst the hopeless.
Heidi Chiavaroli, author of The Hidden Side
New York, 2016
Natalie Abbott offers answers for hurting listeners on her popular radio program. But she struggles to connect with her teenagers, with her daughter in an unhealthy relationship and her son uncommunicative and isolated. When one member of the family commits an unspeakable act, Natalie is forced to uncover who she truly is under the façade of her radio persona.
New York, 1776
Mercy Howard is shocked when her fiancé, Nathan Hale, is arrested and hanged as a spy. When she’s asked to join the revolutionary spy ring in Manhattan, she sees an opportunity to avenge Nathan’s death. But keeping her true loyalties hidden grows increasingly harder as the charming Major John Andre of the King’s Army becomes more to her than a target for intelligence.
Mercy’s journals comfort Natalie from across the centuries as both women struggle with their own secrets and shame, wondering how deep God’s mercy extends.