Friday, April 10, 2009

An Interview with Emily Wierenga

Welcome! Today I am posting something new - an interview. I hope to have many more of these for us to be able to get to know the authors we love to read.

With us today is Emily Wierenga, author of recently reviewed book, Save My Children. Welcome to One Rainy Afternoon, Emily!

How did you first learn about the ministry at Bethany Homes for Children?
I first learned of Bethany Homes while serving as associate editor for Living Light News ( in Edmonton. Bethany was advertising in the paper, and I took the advertisement home to my husband. Both of us were working with teens at the time, and had dreams of one day starting a teen home. This organization seemed to feel our burden. I subsequently began to serve on the board of directors with the hopes of initiating such an idea, but we ended up moving to Korea and teaching English, and then relocating to Ontario because my mother is ill with brain cancer. Meanwhile, I stayed in touch with Bethany and they asked me if I would consider writing a book for their 60th anniversary, commemorating the work they'd done. I was employed by them for six months, and in that time, was able to complete Save My Children: The story of a father's love.

What an honor to be chosen to do this special project! Was it hard to choose which stories to include?
I tried to represent all of the children's stories in this book. Hence, using fictional characters to share the painful backgrounds which most endured prior to arriving at Bethany. It was challenging to write these stories--to imagine myself in these little ones' shoes, and the pain they endured, but since I used fictional characters, and took a lot of creative license, that helped me to space myself (and cushion my heart) a little.

It is so sad to learn what some children have endured. This is your debut novel (I apologize for the confusion), what other writing endeavors have you pursued?
Actually my debut novel was Canvas Child, which was shortlisted in The Word Guild's Best New Author Contest of 2006. However, this is my first published work. I have also recently completed a memoir on my mother, called Mum's Dance (which talks about how my mother, in spite of not being able to walk due to brain cancer, can still dance when she hears music). That is currently in the hands of a literary agent. I am currently freelancing for Faith Today, Christian Week, Focus on the Family and others, as well as completing another commissioned project for a family whose daughter died of Leukemia last year. That book is called The Girl Who Became a Butterfly.

Sounds like you keep busy doing what you love. What was the hardest part of writing this book?
The hardest part was staying true to the spirit of the story while taking enough creative license to fictionalise it. While I based the bare bones of the story on facts, I imagined all of the children, the conversations, the settings, and circumstances. I knew Harvey Jespersen, the founder of Bethany, would be reading it once I was finished, and feared insulting him with my fictionalised account, yet also knew I needed to make it appealing to readers who'd never before heard of Bethany Homes and merely wanted a heartwarming read.

You have certainly accomplished that. I had never heard of Bethany Homes, but loved reading of the amazing ways that God worked in so many lives. What was the easiest?
While at the same time difficult, having facts to work with also made the story easy to write as I knew the founder (Harvey) personally, and had been inspired by him on more than one occasion. I also had numerous interviews to guide my pen, and the prayers of Bethany backing me up.

I found writing the individual accounts of the children easiest, for, in spite of a few details, there was hardly anything to go on, and so my imagination took full flight.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I am an avid painter ( I am also in a band with my sister (, and enjoy playing guitar and songwriting. I garden with my husband, go camping, and travel voraciously.

Who is your favorite author?
My favourite author is Heather O'Neill, author of Lullabies for Little Criminals.

If you could meet one character from a book, who would it be and why?
Similarly, I'd want to meet Baby from Lullabies for Little Criminals. A 13-year-old motherless child who's forced to live in Montreal's red-light district with an immature father, she still manages to find sparks of light in little, every-day things, in spite of her dark existence. I want to be like that.
That sounds like a great book! Thank you so much for joining us today! It was a pleasure to get to know you better. I look forward to reading more of your work in the future. May the Lord bless you in all you do.


cathikin said...

Really good interview. I didn't realize that she was an artist and on the board of directors at Bethany. Emily has a rather interesting history with such a variety of experiences and service.

Anonymous said...

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