Liz Curtis Higgs is my favorite former bad girl. Author of the Bad Girls of the Bible series as well as a slew of other award-winning books, Liz just released her latest historical novel, Mine Is the Night (read review), which completes the tale that began with Here Burns My Candle. Both novels take the book of Ruth and transplant it in 18th century Scotland. The result is a series that is both breathtaking in its historical detail and swoon-worthy in its classic romance. I adore Liz—her personality, her writing, her zeal for God’s Word—and am beyond excited to interview her for the first time on Backseat Writer.
You have a special gift for retelling stories of the Bible, yet leaving the message intact. When did you first discover you were a storyteller?
Almost as soon as I started reading, I started writing little stories on paper for my family and friends. My first go at a novel came at age ten. Yes, I still have it, and yes, it’s laughable! But when I hold it in my hands I remember that young girl who dreamed of writing real novels someday. I kept that dream under wraps for many years, through high school and college, through my radio career and the early years of my speaking career. In the mid-90s I finally confessed to a writing friend, “I believe God is calling me to write fiction,” then waited for her to laugh. Instead she said, “Why not? You’re a natural storyteller.” Her kind words gave me the courage I needed for the next step: showing an editor my work. Thank the Lord she didn’t laugh either! I wrote two contemporary novels and a novella before turning to historical fiction in 2003 with Thorn in My Heart.
I read that the story of Ruth, the basis for Mine Is the Night, has been a longtime favorite of yours. What do you love about this story?
It’s a romance for the ages, one that goes far beyond girl-meets-boy. A young woman leaves behind her pagan gods to follow the God of Israel, then leaves behind her family to follow her bitter, broken mother-in-law, and finally leaves behind her widow’s weeds to marry a man who is older than she, yet wise in the things of God. It’s the ultimate rags-to-riches, loss-to-redemption, sorrow-to-celebration story. Glorious! By moving Ruth and Naomi’s journey to eighteenth-century Scotland, I hoped I might help readers look at their story afresh and discover what God might be saying to us about his loving-kindness and mercy.
What captivates you about Scotland, where so many of your tales find their setting?
The land itself is beautifully green and rolling in the Lowlands, then strikingly barren and majestic in the Highlands. History is everywhere you turn in Scotland, with castles and cottages dotting the landscape. Traditions are woven into their lives like a thick tapestry. And faith runs through the backbone of Scotland like the Great Glen itself. It’s simply a magical place. I’ve been there a dozen times and cannot wait to return.
Your Bad Girls of the Bible books have greatly impacted my life and the way I look at the Bible. How has sharing parts of your own story through your writing and speaking helped others? (And maybe even helped to heal you!)
It took ten years of sharing my Former Bad Girl story from the platform before I had the courage to share it on the pages of my first book, One Size Fits All and Other Fables, released in 1993 and now long out of print. So my healing was already well underway when I wrote Bad Girls of the Bible in 1999, praying I might help other women break free from the mistakes of their past and embrace the grace that God offers. Jesus loved hanging around with Bad Girls, with prostitutes, with those who were unclean, unwelcome, unseen. What a Savior! It’s been thrilling—and humbling—to watch God work in the lives of our sisters through the Bad Girls of the Bible series.
When was the last time you laughed out loud in a very unladylike fashion?
I do that on a daily basis! Though I have to say, this little story that arrived in my morning email made me LOL: A woman was in the bathroom, putting on her makeup under the watchful eyes of her young granddaughter. After the woman applied her lipstick and started to leave, the little girl said, “But Grandma, you forgot to kiss the toilet paper good-bye!” Love it.