So I’m going to give you a hand with your Christmas shopping. Yup, that’s just the kind of person I am. And you don’t even need to leave your home to purchase it. You’re welcome. Merry Christmas from me! How am I doing with the build up? So what is this amazing gift?
Ta-da! Rachel Runnalls’ novel, HIDING – every scar has a story.
I had the opportunity to ask Rachel, Youth Pastor at First FMC in Moose Jaw, SK, some questions about her newly published debut novel.
Me: What inspired you to write this novel?
Rachel: HIDING – every scar has a story was born out of my own wrestle with the hard stories I heard from youth I worked with both inside the church and at a youth emergency shelter in my city. I am a pastor’s kid, and my home life growing up was safe and loving. When I was a young teen I heard stories of family abuse for the first time from my friends and it really hit me – how could that happen? And then as I grew older, the question became – how could a supposedly good God let that happen? HIDING asks those hard questions.
Me: Are the characters Jon and Cary based people you know?
Rachel: Jon’s struggle with anger and doubt closely mirrors my own faith journey as a teenager who grew up in the church, and I drew on my own childhood experiences for many of the scenes in his home. With Cary I had to do a lot of listening and reading about abuse survivors and PTSD to get clues about how someone who has been deeply marked by fear and violence might think, feel and act.
Me: What did the writing process look like for HIDING?
Rachel: Hiding took me seven years to complete. The first draft was done in eight months during my maternity leave with my firstborn son, but the subsequent drafts, editing and publishing journey took an additional six and a half years! In those early years, I fit writing time into naptimes, stealing forty minutes or an hour each day. I thought about the story as I made meals or changed diapers or ran errands. I didn’t have a lot of time, but that daily habit over the years added up to a completed book.
Me: As you wrestled with the hard questions how did it impact your relationship with God?
Rachel: I developed and wrote the story in the mid-2000s when my husband was bottoming out with clinical anxiety and depression. I was home with two very small children watching the bills pile up and our life fall apart. I pressed my own anger with God and questions about his goodness into the story of HIDING, and found as I wrote that Jesus consistently showed up on the page to speak into my mess. Writing became a place I knew I could speak all my hurt and questions in the presence of God and He would answer me.
Me: Who is your target audience for this novel?
Rachel: When I published HIDING I thought it would be most interesting to youth 14+, since Jon and Cary are fifteen. I am surprised by the impact HIDING is having on older adults, pastors and lay leaders, who strongly relate to the father/pastor character, Pete White, and the tension he experiences between the expectations of his church and the very real struggle his son and school friend are going through.
Me: How would you respond to parents who might be concerned about some of the language or violence in HIDING?
Rachel: So HIDING does have some controversial content – language, cutting, violence. I didn’t pull back from the gritty way kids like Cary talk, and I am up front about that content when I share the book with people in the church. What I would want to say to parents is the reality is at some point your kids are going to encounter someone who smokes or swears or has problems, and if they are 14+ I recommend reading HIDING with them as a safe way to open a conversation about how to respond to messy people in a Christ-like way.
Me: What is your hope for this novel?
Rachel: My hope is to share this novel as widely as possible while writing the next book. This novel project already feels bigger than me, and I keep giving it to God and saying – here’s what I have and You’re the one who gave it to me in the first place. If You could use it to share your grace and power with more people – I’m all in.