Sunday, September 28, 2008

Interview with Author, Linda Leigh Hargrove

Today, I welcome author, Linda Leigh Hargrove. Linda's second book Loving Cee Cee Johnson was just released with Moody Publishers. A master story teller, Linda is a rare talent who weaves prose and description with a special literary skill that's almost magical.
Welcome to Urban Christian Fiction, Linda. Tell us about your novel, Loving Cee Cee Johnson.
Loving Cee Cee Johnson is what you get when you splice “Guess Who's Coming to Dinner” with “In the Heat of the Night.”

Here one version of the back cover copy:
For many years, shame over her humble and hate-filled beginnings has driven Cee Cee away from her hometown. Nothing good could come out of Pettigrew?at least that’s what she thought.

An ill-fated work assignment takes Cee Cee, a successful reporter and journalist, back to Pettigrew. Haunted by the traumatic events of her childhood, her mask begins to crack as she uncovers family secrets and finds out what really happened the day her black Jesus figurine was thrown into the fire.

Her faith is challenged as she discovers the truth about her militant father, the white man who refused her plea for help, and the handsome white playwright who wants to tell the world about her past. From these men and her new friend Isaac Hunt, Cee Cee discovers what it means to listen, learn, love, and forgive.

Now, in your first book, Isaac is adopted. Adoption is important to you. Tell us about your own adoption journey.
I have three adopted boys. My husband and I adopted the first boy at three days old. Within the next seven years we adopted the other two. During those years I'd heard so many horror stories of adults trying to 'find themselves' and put their lives together after having found out 'accidentally' about their adoption.

I didn't want my three boys to have that experience. We've always been open with them about their adoptions. In Isaac's story, want to encourage other adoptive parents to do the same by showing Isaac's search for belonging.

Your novels are set in the South and they discuss racially-sensitive topics. Why stir up that kind of trouble?First of all, I don't see it as stirring up trouble. Yes, my first book The Making of Isaac Hunt you've got a fair-skinned blue-eyed black man and yes my second book, Loving Cee Cee Johnson has got a white man pursuing a relationship with a black woman. But I don't think those things are necessarily ingredients for trouble. Today's South has changed and it still the same. Changed in the sense that it's not illegal for a white man to marry a black woman. But many places in the South still has the code of silence (and resentment) surrounding biracial children and interracial relationships, particularly in Christian circles. To me, that's a shame. I hope I don't come across judgmental. We've all got our issues and things we need to work on as believers. But few things damage our witness more than our lack of real racial oneness. I think there's power in seeing people of different skin colors striving for the same goal. That goal being a world-shaking oneness in Christ. It boils down to Christians not being quiet about race and all the things that tick us off about one another. It's about us doing God's work together despite our different-ness. I think that it is in our differences that we can find strength. We've been quiet too long. And the kingdom is suffering because of it. I for one wanted to stop complaining and do something. The South is like my big hometown. And as long as I'm in it, I'm going to try to make a difference. Through fiction. Through blogging. Whatever He puts my hands to, it'll most likely say something about racial oneness, John 17-style.

Tell us about your background. How does that feed into your writing?I'm a North Carolina native. I write (fiction mostly), I design Web sites, and I'm an adoptive mom of three boys.
1. Around 1992 I became involved in an urban ministry called Building Together Ministries (BTM). As a CCDA ministry, BTM has racial reconciliation as one of its tenets. My husband and I became co-leaders of racial reconciliation discussion groups that we called 'supper clubs.'

The clubs were made up of blacks and whites from various denominations throughout the region. Each month we met in homes and church basements to discuss how we, the church, might better address racial problems in our country. We used books like More Than Equals by Spencer Perkins and Chris Rice and Breaking Down Walls by Raleigh Washington and Glen Kehrein.

In 1995 I began a personal Bible study of John. When I started John 17 it was like I was reading a new Word. Jesus's prayer for oneness struck a cord with me. In my eyes, we Christians weren't living out that prayer. It saddened me.

I felt God's leading to do something 'racially radical' so that, as John 17:22 states, the world might be drawn to Him. Around that same time, God was leading my husband to become involved in a predominately white church. I gladly followed. Within a year, we became members and started a racial reconciliation prayer group. In time I began speaking at the church's women's conference on racial reconciliation.

In 1996 I started writing my first novel, The Making of Isaac Hunt, to help Christians better relate to the principles of racial reconciliation. In 1997 my husband and I moved our highly educated selves into the 'rough' part of town around BTM, striving to live out one of the three Rs of Christian community development—relocation.

The Making was published in 2007. It's been an interesting and intense 12 years since I started writing fiction. I've grown so much spiritually and as writer. The only thing I miss about my life before I stared writing fiction is having a full night's sleep. Right now I juggle writing and running a Web design company. Wearing two 'hats' is hard, but I guess I'm living proof that it's possible.

What advice would you give budding writers?
Read, read, read. You just can't read enough. I know new writers hear that a lot, but I suggest they read things they wouldn't normally pick up. For instance, if you normally read chicklit, pick up some Chaucer. Church lit, your thing? Pick up some British suspense or literary fiction. When you read to grow your writing, you can't just read what you would purely for enjoyment. Reading for growth is reading to stretch the writer muscle (the mind).

Take notes when you read for growth. Write down the parts you like. Ask yourself why you liked it. Ask yourself how it fits in with the things you've learned about the writing craft. If you don't know any writing craft, then you've got some more reading to do.

Are there any more books in the works?
I'm working on one last book in the Isaac Hunt line. It's working title is Saving Tate Michaels. That's all I'll say about it for now.

Thanks for having me, Rhonda. I've enjoyed it so much. Take care and visit me at or when you get a chance.


Jessica said...

This was a great book! I also love that Hargove broaches the topics she does. Kudos to her!

upwords said...

I, too, am thankful for the calling of reconciliation on Linda's life. Great interview.