A Conversation with Victoria Christopher Murray, author of Lady Jasmine
This is your fourth novel featuring the beloved and despised Jasmine Larson Bush. When you wrote Temptation, did you envision her as a recurring character?
Never, never, never! When I first brought Jasmine to life, I never expected to write about her again. Look at her—she’s not very likable. Who would want to revisit her? Those were my thoughts, but those thoughts did not belong to the readers. Jasmine Bush has become my Erica Kane—she’s the woman that most love to hate!
Jasmine’s juicy secrets and schemes seem simply endless. Will there be additional books featuring this intriguing woman?
I can’t tell you that! But truly, how many more secrets can one woman have? Oops, we are talking about Jasmine, aren’t we? Well, the truth—I’m not sure if Jasmine has any more secrets, but there’s something that I have been thinking about: Doesn’t there come a time when one has to pay for their past sins? Hmmmm . . .
How do you relate to Jasmine personally? Is she inspired by anyone you’ve known, or is she a purely fictional creation?
Are you kidding me? I don’t know anyone like her. Jasmine is truly a figment of my imagination.
You’ve had such an interesting and inspiring life, spending many years in the corporate world and as an entrepreneur before giving it all up to write fiction. How do you share your story of faith and courage to other people who may feel a similar calling?
When I left corporate America to venture into this writing life, I never saw it as a big step of faith. That’s because I really believed that I was supposed to be doing this. Plus, I do have a lot of faith and one thing I know is that you don’t need faith when you’re inside the box. You don’t need faith to keep doing what you’re doing. Faith is only necessary outside of the box. So stepping out gave me a chance to exercise my faith. I tell people that if you have faith, use it!
There’s certainly a religious theme to your novels, but it doesn’t seem to be heavy-handed or overly judgmental. What role do faith and religion play in your life, and how have they helped to shape the stories that you tell?
I tell people this anytime they ask this question. I am a Christian and I love the Lord. Period. For me, my Christianity is not an adjective—it’s a verb. It’s far more than a way to describe me; it’s what I do. I always say that if I were a bus driver, people would have said, “There goes that Christian bus driver.” Or if I were a teacher, people would have said, “Have you met the new Christian teacher?” My Christianity goes with me wherever I go.
You seem to love the characters that make the greatest mistakes, always treating them with a sense of humor, often giving them second chances or hope for forgiveness. Where do you get such compassion for “the sinners” in your stories?
I’ve got lots of compassion for sinners—since I’m one of them. I haven’t committed the same sins as my characters, but I sin nonetheless. And I thank God for His compassion and His grace, and His mercy every day. So it’s easy for me to have that kind of compassion for my characters and pass on to them the same forgiveness that God gives to me every moment of my life.
What do you hope readers will take away from a story like Lady Jasmine?
I’m not sure there’s a specific message—I don’t write my books that way. What I try to get across in all of my stories is that no matter what you do, no matter what you’re going through, no matter who you are, God is there for you.
Aside from the story of Hosea and Gomer, do any other parts of Lady Jasmine have subtle biblical parallels?
Hmmmm . . . I don’t know. I didn’t put any other biblical parallels in the story, but you never know what a reader may find.
Do you have a favorite Bible verse? What’s the significance for you?
I have so many favorite scriptures, but there is one that does stand out for me. Jeremiah 29:11. Although I’ve read the Bible completely several times, this scripture didn’t stand out to me until 2001—just days after my husband passed away. I was in a Christian bookstore with my best friend, Tracy, and as she was shopping, I noticed Christmas cards. I was overwhelmed with the thought that for the upcoming Christmas, I was going to sign cards with only my name on them. Grief rolled over me and I told Tracy that I didn’t feel like I had any hope; I didn’t feel like I had a future. Tracy tried to comfort me, but still she decided that we needed to leave. As we stood at the cash register, both of us noticed a poster behind the counter. For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future. Tracy and I were both shocked—I had just said those words! From that point, I’ve stood on that scripture. And God has fulfilled His promise. He’s given me mounds of hope. And He’s given me quite a future.
A Conversation with Victoria Christopher Murray, Author of Sins of the Mother
1. Kidnapping and child abuse can be difficult to read about. Was this a difficult book to write, particularly the parts about what happened to Jacqueline? Did anything in particular inspire you to explore this topic?
This was a tough, tough book to write, but it’s a subject that has intrigued me for a long time. I lived in New York in the late 70’s or early 80’s when a young boy by the name of Etan Patz disappeared on the first day of school. It was the first time any of us had heard about a child disappearing. (Unfortunately, it’s all too common now.) But, I remember praying for days and weeks for this young boy, and especially for his family. I couldn’t imagine how his mother put her head down every night. And since he was never found, I couldn’t imagine how she was able to move forward with her life. It was a subject that I wanted to explore.
2. After writing so many books about Jasmine, she must be very close to your heart. How did you come up with this character? Is she based on anyone you know? Do you take any of your characters from real life?
Interestingly enough, Jasmine is not at all close to my heart. I never wanted to write even a second book about her and definitely not a third or fourth. Like most of the readers, Jasmine got on my nerves – a lot! She’s not based on anyone I know, but as I continued her story through the many novels, people told me that they often saw themselves in her. That’s a hard thing to admit, but I do believe there are parts (small parts) of Jasmine in all of us – a woman who is just trying to do good, but is always dragged back (by her own behavior) to what’s familiar. And no, I don’t take characters from real life. Are you kidding me? My imagination is so much more interesting than my friends.
3. What are you working on now? Are more Jasmine books in the works?
I thought I made it perfectly clear at the end of Sins of the Mother that there will be no more Jasmine books! She is over. At least in her own stand-alone books. I am thinking about doing collaborations with a couple of other authors and Jasmine may show up in those books. But she will never be the major character in my books again. I am so glad to be working on and discovering new characters. My next book, The Cougar, introduces the readers to characters they’ve never met before. And that’s all I’m going to say.
4. What do you like to do in your free time? Is there anything that particularly inspires your creativity?
Free time??? What’s that??? Writing one book a year doesn’t leave much free time. But, I do make time for working out – I used to run marathons, but when I had my hip replaced last year, my surgeon told me my running days are over. I love, love, love to read. I’m one of those writers who’s blessed to be able to read while writing – reading doesn’t affect my writing at all. Besides that, I enjoy spending time with family and friends...sounds boring, huh?
5. How do you balance your writing career and your personal life?
That’s a great question! I was just telling a friend today that I don’t do a good job of balancing my career and my personal life. Unfortunately for me, I haven’t been able to support myself on writing my novels alone. So, I have to do many other things – and hence...no free time and very little personal life. I’m hoping one day this will change. Maybe when I’m sixty or seventy...or ninety...
6. Do you hash out your entire plot before writing your novels or do you just start writing and see what happens?
I used to just start writing, but because I’m trying to write more than one novel a year, I now work from an outline. With an outline, most of the plot is hashed out, but most times, the characters will surprise me and change course. I always let the characters do their thing. For example, the ending of Sins of the Mother is totally different from what I’d planned – the characters took over and I let them.
7. What are some of your favorite books? Your favorite authors?
My all time favorite author is Richard Wright. Some of my favorite contemporary books are: Child of God by Lolita Files, Freshwater Road by Denise Nicholas, Abraham’s Well by Sharon Ewell Foster – just to name a few. I love books that entertain and teach me something at the same time.
8. What are you reading now? Do you have any recommendations?
I’m reading Mistress of the Game – the last Sidney Sheldon book. Last year was a great reading year for me – The Devil is a Li, by ReShonda Tate Billingsley, Be Careful What You Pray For by Kimberla Lawson Roby (she let me read the manuscript!), What Doesn’t Kill You by Virginia Deberry and Donna Grant, The Warmest December by Bernice McFadden, After by Marita Golden, Sins of the Father by Angela Benson, Orange Mint and Honey by Carleen Brice, and Gather Together in My Name by Tracy Price Thompson. Those are just a few of the best. (I told you that I love to read!)
9. You do a lot of touring and motivational speaking. What do you enjoy most about these engagements? Do you connect with your readers? Do you have any favorite moments from your tours?
I really, really, really love touring. I love the chance to talk to talk to readers about my stories. I love the fact that I have to tell readers over and over that the characters and stories aren’t real! LOL! I enjoy speaking as much as I enjoy writing.
10. Who among your contemporaries do you admire?
I really admire Eric Dickey because he takes the craft of writing to a new level with every book he writes. I read his books to be entertained, but I also read his books to learn. No one teaches me and inspires me with their words the way Eric does. I also admire Kimberla Lawson Roby because she connects better with her readers than any writer I know. She’s balanced her career fabulously – the right amount of creativity with business. Truly left brain/right brain and because of that, she has built an outstanding career. Her skills at writing and business puts the MBA I earned from a top twenty school to shame!
11. Do you have a favorite of your own books?
Nope! Okay, well, maybe JOY.....
12. You write YA fiction and adult fiction. Do you approach the two types of writing differently? Do you enjoy one more than the other?
Yes, I approach the writing differently. I write all of my teen books from a first person point of view. That allows me to get into the head of teenagers, to actually become the teenager. My adult books have all been written in third person – at least until this point. And, I don’t enjoy writing one more than the other – not at all. Writing for teens and writing for adults allows me the opportunity to satisfy my desire to write for everyone. There are other genres I’d love to write in – I’d love to write a non-fiction book about surviving my husband’s death and even a children’s book, but I’m not able to do that yet because of contractual obligations. Hopefully one day I will be able to write all the books inside of me.
13. What is the single most important thing you hope that readers take from Sins of the Mother?
Wow! You know, I never sit down and say, “What is the message I want people to take away?” I truly just write the story and then the message shows up. And what’s great is that the message is different for each reader. I guess what I want readers to get from all of my novels is that in every situation, God will carry you through.