Interview with Jennifer H. Westall, author of Healing Ruby #Christian #historical #fiction
Jennifer Westall dives into Christian characters to explore her own questions of faith. Inspired by the life of her grandmother, Healing Ruby (2014) is the first in the Healing Ruby series, which delves into the mysteries of faith healing. She’s also the author of Love’s Providence (2012), a contemporary Christian romance that navigates the minefield of dating and temptation. She resides in southwest Texas with her husband and two boys, where she homeschools by day and writes by night, thus explaining those pesky bags under her eyes.
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Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Jennifer! Can you tell us where you are from?
I grew up in Alabama, but I’ve moved around a lot since getting married. We now live in Alpine, TX.
Q: How did you come up with your title?
I based the book somewhat on the life of my grandmother, Ruby, so that part was easy. And since Ruby is learning about her gift for faith healing, but also discovering she herself needs emotional healing, the title of “Healing Ruby” seemed perfect.
Q: They say you can judge a book by its cover. Can you tell us a little about your cover and who designed it?
This book is so close to my heart, and I have some very talented cousins. I wanted to honor my grandmother’s spirit, and it seemed perfect to involve my family. So my cousin Amy Hobbs took the photo and designed the cover, and my younger cousin Morgan is the model. The pictures are taken at the Jesse Owens Memorial Park Museum in north Alabama.
Q: Can you tell us something about your book that would make me run out and buy it?
Ruby is a girl that speaks to all of us in some way. She reminds us of our own grandmother, or that wonderful Aunt who used to tell stories about growing up during the Depression. This book reaches out to that part of you that yearns do something great, something that matters in the lives of others.
Q: Are there any messages in this book that you want the reader to know about?
Many! If I had to choose one, I’d say it’s that true faith isn’t believing hard enough that God is going to do what you want Him to do. True faith, the kind of faith that brings peace and joy, is the unwavering knowledge that no matter our circumstances, no matter what may be going on in our lives, whether things go our way or not, God is good, and He loves us unconditionally. All things, even those that seem painful at the time, will eventually work out for our good.
Q: What was your most favorite chapter to write and why?
I loved writing scenes between Ruby and Matthew. I love Ruby’s independence, and her determination to seek her own destiny. There’s one scene in particular, when Matthew is worried about her because she’s been injured, and it’s probably the first time the reader gets a glimpse of how deeply he cares for her–that was probably my favorite part; finally letting the reader in on his emotions.
Q: Why did you feel you had to write this book?
In a conversation with my dad and aunts, I discovered that my grandmother was completely different than I’d ever imagined. I’d always known she was a strong believer, and that she had struggled through extreme poverty in the Depression. I knew that she had passed down a legacy of strong-willed independence in her five daughters, and then to her many granddaughters. I had loved her immensely, and remembered wonderful times with her. But that one conversation blew my mind. Because I learned that my very own grandmother had a secret, a gift that no one in the family had ever spoken of. I still wrestle with that understanding, and I wonder what it’s like to feel the presence of God the way she did. The story just wouldn’t leave me alone, so I wrote it because I had to.
Q: Now, some fun questions – What deep dark secret would you like to share with us?
I guess it’s not a dark secret, but more of a little-known tidbit. My cousins and I were on Family Feud last year, and it was such a great experience! Steve Harvey is so much fun, and we had a blast!
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I would love to travel to Israel to see all the places I could from the Bible. It would be amazing to be able to walk where Jesus walked, to see the Sea of Galilee, or to dip my toes in the Jordan River.
Q: Are you a morning person or a night person?
Definitely a night owl. Do NOT speak to me in the mornings. I might bite.
Q: Are there any members in your family who also like to write?
There are several members of my family who are talented writers, but none who publish their writings. Yet.
Q: As a child, were you a dreamer?
Sure! I dreamed of being a teacher, and I dreamed of being a great athlete. I got to play volleyball in college, and I’ve loved teaching and coaching. I have a wonderful life, and things turned out even better than I dreamed.
Q: Last but not least, the magic genie has granted you one wish. What would that be?
That my boys would have a deep and personal faith in the Lord.
Q: Thank you so much for this interview! Do you have any final words?
Thank you so much for spending time with me! I hope you’ll check out Healing Ruby! May God bless you!
About Healing Ruby:
Ruby Graves, a young girl in Depression-eraAlabama, faces the hardships of poverty and loss with as much faith as she can muster. At only the age of thirteen, she’s already lost a younger brother to illness, and now faces losing both her father and the boy who’s stealing her heart to illnesses as well. Armed with her beloved Scriptures, she prays daily for their healing, only to have her tender faith shattered by her father’s death.
Through her pain, she’s able to connect with her long-lost Uncle Asa, who’s mere presence at his brother’s funeral brings murmurs of a scandalous past involving her parents and a prominent local pastor, Irwin Cass. When Ruby discovers that one of Asa’a many secrets is an ability to heal, and that she may be next in line for the “gift,” she vows to find the faith that has eluded her so far, a faith that could mean never losing loved ones again.
But faith and doubt can’t reside in the same heart, not according to her father, and doubt is Ruby’s constant companion. As she struggles to find the true meaning of faith, she’s opposed at every turn by the pastor who would see her family destroyed and a community that can’t see deeper than the color of one’s skin. Through her search for a faith that could move mountains and a true understanding of her gift, can Ruby trust in a God that may require the ultimate sacrifice?
“A fast-paced story that will leave readers wondering what’s next for Ruby Graves. This soulful, often poignant novel explores difficult subjects such as death, racism and religious hypocrisy, while still remaining hopeful. One of its greatest strengths is its cast of well-drawn secondary characters, including the…vengeful preacher who tries to thwart Ruby at every turn. Ruby’s unlikely friendship with a cast-out African-American woman and her child is a particularly bright spot in this often heavy novel.”
— Kirkus Reviews
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