(Editors Note: This interview was done over a year ago but Eileen would like to add the following updated information: “Eileen’s been playing house hostess to her missionary children and their families. With seven grandchildren’s voices (one a baby) filling the halls, life is never boring at the Rife homestead! In between all that, she’s managed to keep her foot in the writing/publishing door. Four works (one contracted) have been submitted to her publisher, OakTara. In addition, she was invited to contribute to two devotional compilations: Fear Not by Anne Baxter Campbell and Penned from the Heart by Marilyn Nutter. She’s currently working on the Savvy Sisters series and a missionary kid series.”)
Our interview today is with Eileen Rife. Thank you Eileen for being here today and for agreeing to do this interview.
Answer: Reading. As a little girl I used to walk down to our small town library, breathe in the rich, musty smell, curl up in a sunny corner, and loose myself in a book. I’ve been reading ever since. Everything I can get my hands on, from nonfiction to fiction. I also write in both categories. Since 2005, I’ve focused my efforts on contemporary fiction. My first novel, Journey to Judah, poured out of me, inspired by my oldest daughter’s journey to India as a single gal investing her life in career missions. Little did she know God was going to take her clear around the world to meet her husband.
Answer: I chronicle real life adventures in my journal—a funny thing my husband said, a cute insight from a grandchild, a meaningful memory, a lesson learned from Scripture, creation, or the muck of everyday life. My adult children’s mission adventures and heart for the needy, poor, and abused of our world have fueled much of my writing, especially my fiction.
Question: Tell us about things you enjoy — what you do for fun or personal satisfaction?
Answer: Dancing with hubby ranks at the top of the list, along with playing with my grandchildren. Both pursuits occurred around the time we entered the empty nest, a time of soul-searching and adjustment for me after having home schooled our three daughters for twenty years. Of course, whenever possible, I seek out a sunny spot with a good book in hand.
Question: Tell us about working with any people who help you create your books — Do you use Beta readers? Hire an editor or proofreader? How do you get your covers?
Answer: I’ve sought out a number of advanced readers over the years, including the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) critique groups. My choice of readers often depends on the project. Since my fiction works typically address an issue relevant to the modern reader, I also try to seek out at least one or two readers who specialize in that particular topic. I’ve dealt with overseas mission work, homosexuality, depression, infertility, miscarriage, gang life, adoption, abortion, sex trafficking, and foster parenting. In addition, I have several general readers who aren’t writers from whom I receive candid feedback on a beta read.
Once the manuscript is complete and production begins, my editor works closely with the graphics department of the publishing company to provide a top quality cover. I provide input on the cover as well.
Question: Have you done anything writing-related, but besides your books, that seemed to get a lot of positive response? Something that encouraged you?
Answer: Twenty years ago I wrote over ten church dramas and a monthly column that garnered praise from viewers and readers. I was receiving comments like, “You really should publish that drama sketch,” and “Your writing is so clear and meaningful. I could identify with what you said.” So, when my professional counselor husband suggested we team together to conduct marriage seminars based on a syllabus, I said, “Why not a book?!” The kind and encouraging comments of church folks boosted my confidence and launched me into my first nonfiction book.
Later, I picked up the pen to focus on writing for Christian periodicals. Early in the journey, I submitted a query to Discipleship Journal about my struggle to release my oldest daughter to career missions in India. After months of waiting, the managing editor emailed requesting the full manuscript. Of course, I was elated. If accepted, the article would be my first big break. After several more agonizing months of waiting, I logged into my email to discover a message from the editor. He related that the article was not what he was expecting, and sadly, would not be able to accept it. Dejected, I closed the lid on the laptop and vented to my husband. As the evening wore on, I silently smoldered. The next morning, a quiet inner nudging prompted me to email the editor. I chose to humble myself by asking how I might amend the article to his satisfaction. Again, more waiting.
Then one day while eating a sandwich, the phone rang. To my shock, the DJ editor greeted me. “I reconsidered your article,” he said. “Let me say, in the six years I’ve worked for DJ, I’ve never reconsidered a piece once I rejected it. But something made me pick it back up. The article’s been reviewed by the editorial committee, and we’d like to publish it as a feature article, but with a reduced word count.” I nearly choked on my ham and cheese. Once I regained composure, I said, “Uh, sure, that’s fine.” The timing of the article couldn’t have been more perfect. “Releasing Rachel: When God Calls Your Child into Fulltime Missions” appeared on the stands in November, 2004, the same month our daughter departed for India.
Since that time, the article has been published in three other Christian periodicals, and has served as a wonderful reminder that God’s timing is best.
Question: Tell us about your newest book. Make us want to read it.
Answer: My golden-haired granddaughter served as the inspiration behind my latest fiction release, Laughing with Lily. That and a long held passion for preborn life.
Celeste Tatem, a special-education teacher at The Brighton Center in Schreiber, Indiana, couldn’t be more in love with her husband, Joe. But the memory of one day in the past haunts her, threatening their relationship. When Joe dies in a factory explosion, she sinks into depression.
It will take the arrival of a new student, Lily, and her delightful honesty, laughter, and joy at life’s little things to awaken Celeste to hope. When Don, an old flame from college, reenters Celeste’s world, the flickers of love stir once again, and startling questions arise. Questions that threaten to rip the veneer off of her carefully guarded secret. Then the most unexpected thing of all happens.
Laughing with Lily is a story of love and forgiveness in the most unexpected places.
Here are a few reviews.
“Reaches into the deepest recesses of women’ hearts, encouraging them to hold tight to those they hold dear.”
Jennifer Slattery, Novel Reviews
“Sweet, suspenseful, and heartwarming. I couldn’t put it down.”
Diane Dean White, Seeds of Encouragement blog
“A top-notch, no-holds-barred, excellent story full of twists and turns, dilemmas, inspiration, and romance.”
Kathleen Freeman, Beauty in Simplicity, Hope in Hard Times
Question: What is the “message” of your writing? (For example, is your purpose to encourage old-fashioned values, encourage romance, or do you have different purposes in different books?)
Answer: My chief desire is to provide healing words for hurting hearts. Though the issues presented in my books vary, this overall purpose drives my writing. I don’t shy away from difficult topics. Ever since childhood, I’ve gravitated to the underdog, and find him/her naturally popping up in my stories.
Question: Share something that makes you laugh, with just plain humor, or happiness, or because it’s so stupid.
Answer: My husband. His dry sense of humor based on daily events evokes belly laughter. Here’s a line he delivered just the other day.
Talking with Chuck about our real estate investing adventure/madness, I jokingly suggested that we should write a screen-play about our experience. Chuck responded, “Sure. Why not? We already hold the scream rights!”
Question: What’s your next project? Tell us so we can’t wait for it to come out!
Answer: I have several in the beginning stages, but I’ve recently submitted a completed fiction manuscript. I’m excited about this project on many levels. First of all, it’s my first coauthored novel. Secondly, the setting is dear to my heart since I grew up in Christian camping ministry. And thirdly, the protagonist is blind. Entering into the world of the visually-impaired was a challenge, but I enjoyed the research and the experience of writing from a blind woman’s point of view. It forced me to go deeper with the other senses when describing a scene. Noises, odors, textures, perceptions rose to the surface. Prayerfully, I’m a better writer for having stretched myself in this area of expression. In addition, my discoveries opened my eyes to see some misconceptions I held about blindness and helped me navigate Loni’s world more accurately.
Seasons of Hope (working title) profiles a blind woman who seeks refuge at Camp Hope only to encounter the man who took her sight.
On the verge of college graduation, Loni Parker seeks employment as a music teacher, but no one will hire her since she’s blind. Or so she thinks that’s the reason. To take her mind off her troubles, her roommate invites her to spring retreat at Camp Hope in the gorgeous North Carolina mountains. Unbeknown to Loni, Michael Ackerman, the director, is an ex-con responsible for the accident that caused her blindness. When Loni warms up to camp and wants to return as a summer counselor, Michael opposes the idea, which only makes Loni want to prove herself all the more. Though she doesn’t expect to fall for the guy. Still, her need for independence and dream of teaching win out, taking her far away from her beloved Camp Hope . . . and a certain director.
From the moment Loni Parker steps onto the camp ground, Michael knows who she is, and he doesn’t want anything to do with her. Yet, in spite of his guilt that drives him to push Loni away, he can’t deny his growing attraction to the determined woman. After all, she reminds him of himself. Beyond that, she seems to see more with her heart than the average person does with his eyes. But her presence also dredges up a long-buried anger toward his alcoholic father that he’d just as soon keep hidden. When circumstances spin out of control, Michael is forced to face a past that may destroy his present.
Question: Are their characters/stories/scenes/etc based on anything in real life?
Answer: Absolutely. My characters are typically composites of people I’ve met somewhere in my journey. Home settings are often patterned after a house I’ve lived in, some ten over my lifetime. In my novel, Second Chance, I pick up a passion passed along by my daughter and husband who work fulltime with an inner city teen ministry.
Answer: Mave, the protag in Second Chance, whose humor helps her survive the empty nest. And the delightful, lovable Golden Girl in Laughing with Lily, who lights up everyone around her with her fresh take on life.
A particularly powerful review I received on Restored Hearts (2) in the Born for India trilogy came from a mom whose ex-husband returned to his homosexual lifestyle. Her grown son was having a difficult time accepting this.
Time passed, and I hadn’t received any updates on this particular situation, but I continued to pray as the Lord brought this family to mind.
A few months later, the woman approached me again, this time with a spark of hope in her eyes. She told me that her son was sitting on a park bench when a butterfly landed on his backpack. He did a double-take when he realized the insect was the exact same species as the one on the Restored Hearts book cover. Perhaps I need to go back and finish reading that book, he thought.
His mother reported that he did finish the book and told her he had changed his attitude toward his dad. He now wanted to seek healing and restoration for their relationship.
Sometimes, it’s the small things—like a butterfly on a book cover revisited at a park bench—that God can use to make all the difference in the world.
Eileen’s Web Site
Guard Your Marriage
Eileen’s Author Page on Amazon
Eileen on christianbooks.com
Eileen Hinkle Rife on Barnes and Noble
Eileen’s Facebook Page
Eileen on Twitter
Eileen on LinkedIn
This site contains Third Party Advertising, using online behavioral tracking technology. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we believe will add value to our readers.