Enjoy more of my book club’s interview with Cathy Liggett, author of Beaded Hope. The third and final instalment is our interview with the founder of Beaded Hope, Jennifer Davis and will be posted next week together with a chance to win a signed copy of Beaded Hope.
RBC: Are you involved in the ‘Beaded Hope’ organisation beyond highlighting their mission through your book?
Cathy: Jennifer and I definitely keep in contact often and it’s so great to be able to do signings where I can also provide information about the Beaded Hope organization. We are also getting invitations to speak together at various churches, women’s clubs and library events.
It’s exciting to be witnessing how word about the ladies of Beaded Hope is growing in our country…and around the globe. At the same time, it’s exciting to see how the Beaded Hope organization is growing too!
How did the novel come about?
I really didn’t choose the theme of Christian missions, quite honestly. It seemed to choose me. That happened back in September of 2005, when Jennifer Davis crossed my path.
Besides writing, I work part-time registering patients at an outpatient testing center. The day that Jennifer came into the clinic and sat at my registration desk, I happened to compliment her on the beautiful red beaded pin adorning the lapel of her jacket. As I was soon to learn, it was no ordinary pin. Just months earlier, Jennifer had started a non-profit organization called Beaded Hope to help women in South Africa provide for their families by selling their beaded jewelry in the United States. The sparkling pin had been handcrafted by one of the artistic bead workers there.
I bought a piece of jewelry from Jennifer that day, but actually never expected to see her again. Looking back, however, I’m thinking God had a different plan. Each time Jennifer came back to the clinic for future check-ups – no matter the day or time, she’d be sent to my desk. Recognizing that this seemed more than mere coincidence, we decided to meet for tea. At that time, Jennifer shared her photos and journal stories from her earlier trips to South Africa. And though the faces in the photo album were completely foreign to me, I felt touched and pressed to write about these strangers.
As I mentioned earlier in a question about my writing process, I started out writing a romance partly based in South Africa – but quickly realized the story needed to be more than that. It needed to be about women – both the South African and American women like those in Jennifer’s photos. Even more, it needed to be about women bonding with one another through their struggles, dreams, hopes and faith.
I really felt confident my idea for the book was a winner, and was terribly disappointed when I couldn’t seem to find any interest for it, especially at the ACFW conference in ‘07. But often God’s timing isn’t the same as ours, it seems. After I’d received a number of rejections, Jennifer called me in 2008, quite out-of-the-blue, and invited my husband and me to go along with her on her next trip to Mamelodi, South Africa. Though the idea seemed preposterous, to say the least, we only hesitated ever so slightly before saying – yes!
It seemed after that trip everything fell into place. In meeting the ladies of South Africa, and witnessing their spirit and joy, I was able to tell my fictional story with more depth, passion and love for my new friends from halfway around the world.
Has Beaded Hope (the book) had the impact you had hoped for?
I was very moved in meeting the people of South Africa, so of course I’d hoped this fictional account (based on real encounters with the ladies of SA) would move others as well.
So it’s been very heartwarming to receive letters from readers saying how much the book touched them. And it’s also been great to hear about the reaction from the ladies in South Africa from Jennifer. They are so moved and astounded that people around the world are thinking about them and praying for them ~ and giving them more reason to hope!
Actually, no. The Mighty on the website is a mom of a college-aged girl herself. But I searched through the thesaurus and couldn’t find any word that meant “mighty” and sounded as good for a young girl’s name. So when Jennifer was in touch with Mighty (who also is a woman true to her name!!) she asked if Mighty minded if I used her name. Mighty was so thrilled and said yes!
How do you go about creating your characters?
I hope I answered this somewhat in question two. But also, like most people who write, I like to go through magazines and cut out photos of what my characters look like – or get an image of some celebrity or acquaintance locked in my mind. Sometimes that’s even better because I can hear their voice that way too. I think hearing the character’s voice is really key for me as well. I learned from a boss way back when I was writing advertising copy for chain saws, hamburgers and all sorts of not-so-interesting things that each ad and/or product needed to have a tone or a voice.
What does your writing day look like?
I work part-time. So on the days I do have off I try to at least write 5 pages. That means I get up early around 6 – 6:30, do my Bible study, make some oatmeal and eat it while I’m answering emails. And then – can’t put it off any longer (gulp!) it’s time to start writing!
What is your favourite and then what is your least liked part of the writing process?
Oh, it’s just so wonderful when you’re in the zone and the characters are talking and the plot is moving forward and words are words appearing effortlessly on the page. And there you are in the middle of writing something and you’re really feeling it – either you can’t help smiling or there are tears dripping down your cheeks. If only it could be like that all the time!
I’ve always loved writing, that’s why I went into communications and advertising. But I remember distinctly way back when the movie “Romancing the Stone” came out. That’s when I really starting getting the urge to try a novel. Have any of you seen that movie? Kathleen Turner is an author and she’s sitting at her typewriter in her pajamas crying over the ending of her manuscript before shipping it off to her publisher. And I thought “Now that’s something that would be fun to do!!” (if only it were that easy, huh?)
I guess the thing I like least is plotting ~ probably because I don’t feel very good at it. Editing is scary too because you’re afraid if the editor doesn’t mark up the pages, you think they must not know what they’re doing and no one is going to like your book without a bunch of changes being made to it. And if they request a lot of changes you’re sure you’ll never be able to make the book right and no one will ever like the book either! What a lot of neurosis, huh?
What did you love most about South Africa?
Before I went to South Africa, someone told me, “Oh, you’ll love the people. They’re just wonderful—the best thing about the country.” And I absolutely found that to be true!
But I have to tell you, it’s not a place I’d ever thought I’d travel to. Jennifer grew up wanting to go to South Africa – a dream she’s carried all her life – but I’d never imagined myself visiting that continent. Australia, maybe — — that’s some place I’d always said I’d want to see – but Africa hadn’t ever been on my radar. I felt somewhat nervous about it and uncomfortable all along the way. There was the twenty-hour flight, and once we landed barbed wire fences everywhere we looked, and our not-so-great living quarters. But then ~ there was also our warm welcome from the ladies of South Africa. That in itself seemed to dissipate much of my fear and discomfort.
The SA people are truly amazing! Amid the unimaginable tragedies they face each day – the poverty, the disease, the horrific living conditions, the grief of losing loved ones – the women still have a pervasive joy and graciousness about them that’s truly irresistible. They hug hugely, smile widely, and pray boldly for you. They were my favorite thing about my trip there.
When can we anticipate another story from you? Will it be in a similar vein or something different?
I hope in the next year! J My current WIP is also another women’s fiction. But it will all be set on American soil, nearby Lake Michigan.
Dear Rel and Ladies of RBC:
Thank you for this opportunity to share with you! I had great fun in answering your questions!
I also want to thank you, too, for your encouraging comments about the book and for your very caring hearts toward the South African ladies of Beaded Hope.
I wish so much we could meet in person – but I suppose we’ve done just as well in touching each others’ hearts!
Best to you all and Happy Reading!
Hugs and Blessings,
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