It’s a true delight to have author Katherine Scott Jones visit my blog today! Katherine and I have been friends for a while now, because I stumbled onto her book review blog here and I have loved it ever since. Not only was Katherine gracious enough to review my books for her blog, we also tend to have similar reading tastes, and I really value her opinions.
Katherine’s debut novel, Her Memory of Music, is unique in that while it’s mostly set in the USA, part of the action happens in Mumbai. Here’s my review:
“Moving story that probes many deeper themes such as infertility, sex slavery, and rape, but never with a heavy hand. The title weaves like a subtle thread through the novel, working its way to a meaningful ending. I appreciated that the scenes set in Mumbai always felt genuine, as if the author is familiar with the culture/customs there. For those searching for Christian fiction that brings spiritual themes to the table, but that shows characters wrestling with real-life issues in realistic ways (instead of portraying them as knowing it all, right off the bat), this is definitely the novel to read. Unusual, satisfying, standout read.”
Read on for our interview and comment at the end for a chance to win your own e-book copy of Her Memory of Music!
First, a little more about Katherine:
Katherine Scott Jones grew up in cities on every U.S. coast and overseas as her family moved with her father’s Navy career. Seattle became home when she married her husband twenty-seven years ago. After graduating from Whitworth University with a degree in communications, she established herself as a freelance writer before turning her hand to fiction. She blogs about the broken and the beautiful at www.katherinescottjones.com. Katherine and her husband have two teenage children.
INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR KATHERINE SCOTT JONES:
HG: I know you’re an avid reader of women’s fiction. Was it daunting to write your own women’s fiction novel, or did you know exactly what approach you wanted to take before you wrote Her Memory of Music?
KSJ: Toni Morrison famously said, “If there is a book that you want to read but it hasn’t been written, yet, then you must write it.” When I began writing HER MEMORY OF MUSIC, there wasn’t an abundance of inspirational (“Christian”) women’s fiction that compellingly addressed real-life issues. Where answers aren’t easy and problems are complex—maybe even scandalous. Fortunately, in the years since I began writing, more of these have arrived on the scene (thanks in part to gifted writers like Heather Day Gilbert J). I hope readers will find my book to be one of them.
I strove to have my characters mirror real life, where people grapple with eternal issues: of fear, and faith, and forgiveness. I also aimed to broaden the typical reader’s awareness of the plight of so many girls and women around the world who are the objects of oppression. I sought to bring together two very different lifestyles—that of the woman in the developed world living in relative comfort but with significant questions of faith and purpose; and that of the woman in the developing world whose basic needs are great but whose voice has so little chance of being heard.
I wanted to show the connection between these different women, bringing their two worlds together and revealing them as one. I also wanted to show that God is a very big God who sees and cares, who orchestrates events and fights on our behalf. And to celebrate the empowering of women by God’s daily grace.
My hope is that readers will be encouraged to find their own empowered voice—and in doing so, to give a hand up to other women who still need one.
HG: Before we get into the story itself, I have to discuss the gorgeous cover! I’ve worked with Jenny at Seedlings on several of my covers, and she’s just amazing. Did it take a lot of back and forth or did you get it looking like what you wanted really quickly?
KSJ: Right? I LOVE my cover, a million thanks to the amazing Jenny at Seedlings. She is incredibly gifted.
As an avid reader, I’ve seen and judged thousands of books by their covers. I do not underestimate the power of a good cover to capture a reader. In fact, I believe it to be an important component of the book as a work of art. So, I had some opinions before Jenny and I even began the design process and was pretty thorough in answering her initial questions—her way of getting inside my brain. From there, it happened pretty quickly as she nailed the concept right out of the gate. She gave me a few general options, but it turned out my favorite was also her favorite. We made a few minor tweaks and called it done!
HG: This novel touches on so many relevant issues: infertility, rape, and sex slavery, yet it was never graphic. I know I can hardly ponder human trafficking without feeling so powerless to stop it. I appreciated reading Sheela and Jayashri’s stories, which seemed to offer hope in the face of such a crisis. Did this subject matter require a lot of research, and if so, was it really difficult to handle?
KSJ: Sheela and Jayashri’s stories weren’t in my original plot outline. The story I’d originally outlined detailed that of a young mom hiding from a frightening past who encounters a troubled sex-trafficking investigator home from India on furlough. So far, so good. But as I wrote, I realized that in order to give the investigator’s side of the story substance, I had to do some research. I interviewed a real trafficking investigator, and that’s when Jayashri materialized onto the page—and took up residence in my heart. Because the more I researched what it meant to be Jayashri—a girl caught up in the horrific sex trafficking trade—the more I realized Jayashri could not remain a footnote. She needed her own story.
I was able to glean most of my excellent research material from a couple from our church who had spent a year in Mumbai working for International Justice Mission, helping to combat the sex trafficking industry much as it is described in the book. I was also able to view surveillance video of an actual brothel raid, which supplied me with the visuals I needed to bring those scenes to life in HER MEMORY OF MUSIC.
No, it wasn’t easy, but it helped knowing that in writing this story, I was using my voice to speak up for those who cannot.
HG: I love how I can almost taste the flavors of other countries through your writing. I know you’ve traveled extensively—how much does your travel play into the descriptions in Her Memory of Music?
KSJ: Thank you for that lovely compliment! While I hope my novels do inspire and encourage Christian women at a heart level, I also aim to make them entertaining. And that means a bit of escapism, right? Taking my readers to places they may not otherwise have the chance to experience.
I myself not actually been to India, though I do hope to go someday. So while I could not rely on my own experience of that place, I could remember other exotic places I’ve traveled to—Africa and Asia, for example—and recall the kaleidoscopic hit to the senses that happens when you’re out of your element. From there, it wasn’t difficult to take what I knew to be the flavors, sights, and smells of India and meld them into place within the story.
HG: I like that word, “kaleidoscopic”–very apt! I also appreciate that your characters aren’t perfect Christians—they struggle, just like we do. What did you feel was important to portray about Ally and Rees’s spiritual arcs?
KSJ: I feel that Ally embodies the challenge so many women grapple with: overcoming fear. I’m sure men struggle with this too, but it’s something women seem more willing to talk about, and of course it’s what I know. Especially after I became a mom and suddenly I had two living, breathing pieces of my heart walking around outside my body. It’s really quite terrifying. But it’s also no way to live. I find it comforting that God knows how fearful we by nature, and how He tenderly invites us not to fear—all throughout Scripture. I wanted to explore what transformation in a woman might look like as she goes from a fearful stance—of self-protection and hiddenness—to a fearless one. Of trusting God to show up on her behalf. It is, after all, God’s very real promise to us all. How often do we actually take Him up on it?
As for Rees, his is a more masculine struggle—though again, one we all deal with: shame. He made a mistake, a big one. His pride takes a hit, yes, but he fears what he did is beyond redemption. I aimed to show that in God’s hands, nothing is beyond healing.
HG: These are timeless themes, and you wove them in so well! Thanks so much for visiting my blog today!
KSJ: Heather, you’ve been such a gift to me on this journey! Thank you so much for having me here. It’s been a pleasure.
***Readers, please answer this question below for your chance to win an e-book copy of Her Memory of Music: If you could travel to any country in the world, which one would you travel to and why? Winner will be chosen next SATURDAY (Sept. 23), so be watching my blog!***