Paula Wiseman worked as a research chemist for several years before staying at home to raise her three children. She published a number of essays in the popular Cup of Comfort devotional books before deciding to try her hand at writing a novel in 2005. “Contingency” was released last December by Mindstir Media and was followed up by “Indemnity” in April.
ALEX: You write stories about “real-world faith,” or what I call “faith with flaws.” Both of your novels deal with infidelity and its impact on faith and marriage. What reaction have you gotten from readers?
PAULA: The reaction has been tremendous, very gratifying. People really connect and identify with Chuck and Bobbi, even if infidelity hasn’t touched their lives.
ALEX: I find it refreshing that more Christian fiction authors are embracing flawed characters. The characters feel more authentic — they’re people who could be your neighbor or colleague at work.
PAULA: Exactly. That’s what I hoped to accomplish. I wanted the characters to be genuine, to ask hard questions, to wrestle with God over the answers. Plus, Bobbi is a mom and schoolteacher, a real “Everywoman” type.
ALEX: Do you think the spiritual aspects of your novels resonate more strongly with your readers because they can relate to the characters and their problems?
PAULA: We’ve all been thrown into to situations where our faith has been challenged, a “put up or shut up” moment. The situation in “Contingency” prompts a reader to consider how he or she would react if betrayed or if God called him or her to trust Him beyond the boundaries of experience. Would you take that step? Could you?
ALEX: Most of us don’t have children outside of our marriage (“Indemnity”), but I think we can relate to what Jimmy Carter famously described as “committing adultery in his heart” involving someone who was not his spouse. We’re all human beings, after all.
PAULA: Sure, and Chuck didn’t just decide to commit adultery in that moment. In the background of “Contingency,” we trace a little of his history. He had been headed down that road for years. He never realized the danger and never took any precautions against it.
ALEX: Forgiveness is obviously an important facet of any story involving betrayal. Were there particular stories in the Scripture or in real life that you incorporated into your writing?
PAULA: The story of Hosea figured into Bobbi’s final decision to reconcile. If you’re not familiar with the story, Hosea marries the woman God tells him to marry and then she leaves him for a life of prostitution, even bearing children out of wedlock. Biblically the book is a picture of God receiving Israel again after her unfaithfulness, but for Bobbi the challenge is to love like God loves. Bobbi also latched on to Psalm 142 and Chuck looked on Psalm 37 for guidance on becoming the man he needed to be.
ALEX: The muse has a reputation for being fickle with writers. I know some who get up in the middle of the night if that’s when inspiration hits them. With three kids how do you balance mom duties and making progress on your novels?
PAULA: I do a lot of plotting and planning — head work — away from the computer, so when I do sit down to write I can maximize the time. My usual writing time is 1 to 2:30 and my kids (when they are home) are respectful of that. I also have a great friend, almost co-author, who helps me bat ideas around and beat the plot into submission.
ALEX: What’s next? Are we going to see more stories like “Indemnity” or are you interested in going in a different direction?
PAULA: Next is Book 3 — “Precedent,” which tackles the idea of the long-term consequences of sin. Set 12 years after “Indemnity,” a tragedy causes Chuck’s family to unravel. He struggles with how much blames he bears for it. Are the sins of the fathers truly visited on the children? Plus, many of the threads from the earlier books are woven through.
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