Hello, my bookish friends, I hope this post finds you all doing well! If you are in the United States you may be making Thanksgiving preparations. Perhaps, like me, you are enjoying a little extra time off with your children this week.
Wherever you are, welcome! Today I have a special guest I’d like you to meet; her name is Christine Dillon and she recently published her debut contemporary fiction novel. Please enjoy this brief interview and be sure to read to the end and learn how you can enter for a chance to win an ebook copy of Grace in Strange Disguise.
Getting to Know You:
Tell us about Christine! We’d love to get to know you more.
I had the blessing of missionary parents and being schooled in Malaysia and the Philippines. Then at the end of high school I returned to Australia and studied and worked as a physiotherapist (hence my main character’s occupation). After theological study I returned to Taiwan as a missionary in 1999. I have the world’s best job, telling Bible stories every day and introducing people to Jesus. I also train other missionaries in Bible storytelling, evangelism, discipleship and church planting.
A lot of spare time is now taken with writing but I’m disciplined about three exercise sessions a week – swim, cycle and run.
Grace in Strange Disguise is your first venture into Christian fiction. Tell us about your publishing journey.
First, I had four works just printed. Three volumes of poetry as thank you gifts for prayer supporters and a book on preparing and leading Bible studies in Chinese. Those early ventures taught be something about writing, selling and cover design.
Then I was involved editing a booklet for OMF (my agency). While I was working with the lady in charge, I mentioned my 1-2-1 discipleship book and she initiated looking for a publisher. That was published by Christian Focus in 2009.
Later that year, I was invited to do a Bible storytelling seminar at the Lausanne Convention in Cape Town. The title of that, “Evangelism Everyone Enjoys” made me think, ‘that’s a book title’ and so I wrote the draft for what ended up being Telling the Gospel Through Story: Evangelism that keeps hearers wanting more. Published by IVP-US in 2012.
I never intended to write fiction but while praying in about 2007, the idea for two novels dropped in to my mind. I was horrified because I knew how hard it would be. I said to the Lord, “If that idea really is from you, you’ll have to give me everything I need.”
By 2012 the urgency to start pushed me to write two practice Biblical novels (since Bible storytelling gave me some background for those). It took me four and a half years to write and edit Grace in Strange Disguise. I needed that much time to learn to write. I’m hoping the next books will be much faster.
The kind of person who might be trying to understand where God’s blessing is in the tough times. There is a great deal of teaching around that promises God will bless you if you’re faithful. But what happens when life isn’t all rosy and glowing? Has God failed? Have you failed? Or is there some other kind of explanation?
You mentioned in another book interview I read that one of the reasons you wrote this book was a concern about the lack of good models of ‘singleness’ in Christian fiction. Could you expand on that?
It concerns me that far too many of the Christian novels are ‘happily ever after’ but life isn’t like that and I find it unhelpful (as a single in her late 40’s) to have that fantasy constantly thrown at me. It can so easily lead to bitterness against God as we question why he hasn’t given us a ‘happily ever after’ in the sense that the world thinks of such things. We need far more books about Christians being faithful despite what happens to them. Whether it is singleness or sickness or persecution.
You’re a missionary with a passion for telling others about Jesus. So you mentioned that you wanted to put some good models into a novel. Where do you think some Christian fiction falls short in this area? What are you seeking to model in this book?
I’ve seen novels where the Christianity seems to be dumped in rather than woven in. I’ve seen characters trying to explain how to become a Christian to another and I cringe. Yes, God does graciously use ‘bad communication’ to win others to himself but there is no excuse for it in Christian fiction unless we are portraying a character who is awkward.
If we have medical details or details about growing strawberries … we’d research and find someone who knows about those things. It would make sense to ask someone who is gifted in evangelism to check our attempts in novels.
In Grace in Strange Disguise I wanted to model someone growing in how to share Jesus (making mistakes but improving) and also a natural way of sharing – using Bible storytelling – that I use every day of my life. I wanted Esther to eventually have the kind of conversations that I am privileged to enjoy and so to model how to raise the topic of Jesus and talk about it naturally.
Many readers enjoy picking their favorite quotes from novels. Do you have a particular quote from your novel that you can share with us?
What was your favorite author as a child?
Enid Blyton (British children’s author). My sister bought her whole Adventure series for me last Christmas. I had a great time revisiting old friends.
What is your favorite Christian book? Why?
Randy Alcorn’s ‘Safely Home’. I like unforgettable, life-changing books that spur me on to give Jesus my everything. Books that I call ‘of eternal significance.’
What is the most important thing on your current ‘To Do’ list?
* Go home and have a holiday with my parents. I need the rest and want also to seize the time to spend with my parents while I have them. Not long until they’re 80.
What is something about your life right now that you would have never imagined 5 years ago?
I never in a million years thought I’d ever write a novel let alone self-publish and start to run the business side of it. I’m not strong on business or technology.
What is the best way for readers to connect with you?
A heartfelt thanks goes out to Christine for taking the time to answer my questions. As a special bonus to my blog readers, she is offering an ebook copy of Grace in Strange Disguise. This giveaway is hosted by gleam and ends on 11/30. One winner will be randomly chosen and notified by email on December 1st. A response will be required within 48 hours of the email or the prize will be forfeited and a new winner will be drawn.