My guest today is an exciting newcomer to Christian Fiction, Caroline Way, talking about her first novel which has just been published by Greenbrier Books.
Caroline, welcome to International Christian Fiction Writers. I absolutely loved your new novel Confessions From a Farmer’s Wife and I’m excited to share it with our readers. First, tell us about yourself. You live in
, is that right? Canada
Yes, I live in
. I was born in Canada Oregon but spent the first fourteen years of my life in St. John’s, Newfoundland before moving to the region. I did live in the Hamilton, Ontario for close to six years while pursuing my Masters Degree. United States
So why did you choose to set your novel in
New England and the feeling that fills me when I drive through it. I spent almost every summer of my life in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, on Lake Wallace, right on the border of Quebec and . The U.S./Canada border cuts the lake pretty much half. As a young girl and teenager, my days were spent running up and down the road with friends, playing kick the can, or riding in the motor boat against the waves on windy days. We used to cross the border for ice cream at the Frosty Whirl in Canaan, VT, and cross what we called the “humming” bridge into West Stewartstown, NH, to shop at Solomon’s because the Canadian dollar was worth more then and we could get more candy there than we could in Canada. Then there was the two-headed calf at the gas station in Vermont Colebrook, NH, and exploring falls or the antique barn. To this day I love to drive down through and see the Beecher Connecticut River curving through the countryside. The nostalgia surrounding that area inspired the setting for the book. I wanted to capture the feeling, the uncomplicated innocence that I knew there, particularly in the first half of the book. As well, and fortunately for me in terms of setting, has a long and well developed history with dairy farming that continues to this day. Vermont
What inspired you to write this modern retelling of the book of Job?
Quite a few years ago, my mother wrote a stage play based on Job and produced it at our church. One day we were talking about this, and I can’t remember in what context, but she made a comment about Job’s wife and that the only thing we really know about her is that she tells Job to curse God and die, but we can’t forget she lost everything too. I began to think about that, to think about what would drive a wife to tell her husband to turn his back on what he held most important. I mean I could sort of understand why she did it. She would have been angry and grieving and frightened for herself and Job. So, I turned the idea around in my head for a while. The, one day as I was driving to meet a friend for lunch, I got an image in my head of a boy and a girl sitting on a creek bank. The first few lines of dialogue came too. My heart started pounding and I found myself really eager and excited about the idea. I almost turned around and left my friend sitting in the restaurant alone. I was at film school at the time, and my original thought was to make a short film. Then I started writing it and thought feature instead, but the more I wrote, the more I realized it wasn’t either of those, and so I wrote the novel. It’s a simplified explanation, but an accurate one.
We all know that Job’s story can be pretty depressing, yet I never felt depressed in reading this book, just a deep sympathy for your characters. Can you tell us how you brought that about?
I think there are a couple of things that helped with that. The first is the angle I chose to approach the story from, the wife’s POV, and secondly, I never really looked at the story as depressing; I see it as more of a lesson, a reminder of who God is, the Sovereign Ruler of all that He has created, including us. Plus, the story of Job is huge! I knew I didn’t want to retell it exactly – I couldn’t just for sheer length. Some of it is pretty hard to slug through. I knew it would get pretty boring pretty fast, if I tried to write chapter upon chapter of dialogue and debate. I had no desire to even attempt to paraphrase that much scripture, so I struggled at first how to best portray what I had I mind without doing a step by step/ verse by verse retelling. Then I reminded myself, I’m telling the story from the wife’s point of view. It doesn’t have to be that way. I don’t have to go into detail about the entire thought process of Job himself. It’s his wife whose brain we are in, whose eyes we see through. She wasn’t there for everything, she doesn’t know all the details, and neither does the character of Jessie, at least not in the moments as they happen, only later would she have learned more of that. I just had to try and keep the characters believable, to keep their emotions real. As well, the setting in which the story occurs is very different from the original, and Job and Jessie are much younger than the real Job and his wife would have been. This made it unnecessary to portray the story exactly, so it became more of a loose parallel.
I did a screenplay adaptation of Esther for my masters thesis, and while doing my research on adaptation, I explored the question of how much creative license a writer has when dealing with scripture. In a book like Esther, we are given only the bare facts. Basically a story outline. The only indication of anyone’s motivation is the verse that describes what Haman thinks when the king asks him what should done to honor the man that has found favor with the king. Haman thinks it all about him. The rest of the story we have to fill in for ourselves. What’s important is remaining true to what the author’s intent is. In the case of scripture you have two authors – the human one who physically recorded the events, and the divine writer guiding that one – God. God’s intent is always paramount and that is the one that must be kept in the forefront. So, once I released myself from the obligation of having to be exact, I was able to form my story around ideas rather than actual events.
Job Nightingale is such a lovely character. I liked Jessie too, but she had a lot of maturing to do and that isn’t always easy. Can you tell us more about the process of growing her up?
I think the process of “growing up” Jessie is not unlike the process of growing myself up. She lived a pretty easy life in an era where day to day life was a real struggle for most people. She wasn’t sheltered, but her world was pretty untouched by difficulties, at least until she married Job. I had a pretty good childhood. Not perfect, but pretty good. I was raised in a Christian home and never lacked for anything. It was only as I got older and my world began to expand with new people, places, and life experiences that my faith became more complicated. With Jessie, I looked at the questions and answers of the story and tried to relate them to the questions and answers that I’ve had and sometimes still have, or questions I’ve heard other people, believers and non-believers alike ask; the big questions of why God does things certain ways, or why He allows certain things to happen. These questions don’t come with easy answers, if we can even find an answer at all. But they’re real, and people do ask them and struggle to deal with the unknown, many times refusing to believe in God because they either don’t like the answer or can’t live with not having one that sooths their sense of justice. We forget that God’s sense of justice and ours can be vastly different. I think by trying to find the “perfect” answer, or a simplified one, we do more harm than if we just said, “I don’t know.” I think Jessie’s desire to be honest about her lack of understanding and her struggle to hold on to her faith is what makes her relatable. Through everything that happens we know, from the Job story that Job will hold fast to his faith, but with Jessie we don’t know the outcome. Job has a very different faith from Jessie, more mature, and Jessie is carried by this until things go wrong. That’s when we see her real immaturity and wonder if she will get her stuff together. Her struggle to resolve her feelings and find a faith that belongs to her is what makes her grow up.
What did you learn in writing this novel?
I have a hard time with people who feel that everyone should believe in the same manner. People are different, they feel differently, process differently, and relate differently to God. Jessie struggles with her faith because she doesn’t feel and believe the same way Job does, but in some sense feels she should, even though she doesn’t feel God the same way. The good thing is, she doesn’t have to; she just has to believe, even when she is filled with so much doubt. This holds the same for me. I used to put so much pressure on myself to have the same type of relationship with God I would see in some of my friends, but as I get older, that pressure is easing. I recognize I’m made differently. I’ve been accused of being “cold” because I don’t leap out of my seat or jump up and down in church, or because I don’t show emotions the way that person feels I should. Well, the fact of the matter is, I’m not cold, I feel things very deeply, but express them very differently and that’s okay, after all we can’t live on feelings, because they change from minute to minute and there are days when I don’t feel God, but I believe God, very strongly. I think if Jessie and Job were real, she would never have the same type of faith that Job has, her personality is different. I think that’s what I learned through this process. That my personal relationship with God doesn’t have to be the same as yours, or that of my best friend, or the person sitting next to me in the pew at church. I think the fact that I believe in the Truth of Christ and his salvation is what matters most. So much of what we want and expect in this life – in this world – is inconsequential when we look at the life that eternity holds for us.
I understand this is your debut novel, Caroline. What’s next for you?
What’s next for me? Good question. I’m not sure I’m ready to leave Job and Jessie completely behind although I’ve started looking at other characters in the book. Right now I’m thinking about Job’s parents, May and
Rand and their story. There are images floating through my head and dialogue, they’re almost ready to be put on paper.
Do you have a blurb and/or review you would like to share?
What if the thing you admire the most about the person you love the most, becomes the cause of your deepest despair?
My Name is Jessie. I married a man named JobHe was my rock, my safe haven, for better or for worse. I did not know what it would mean to fully live that vow, or that I would want him to turn his back on that which he loved above all else.
This is my story.
***Confessions from a Farmer’s Wife is a beautifully crafted parallel of the Job story from his wife’s point of view. This richly nuanced novel draws you into a compelling journey of love, hardship, and restoration. Donna Fletcher Crow
Where can readers find you on the web?
I’m still working on my web presence. I have my own website www.carolineway.com which is very much under construction, but I’m working on it. I’m also on facebook, under duress, but I’m there. I hope to have a Confessions From a Farmer’s Wife page up soon.