Tag Archives: Christine Dillon

Interview: Christine Dillon

Author Christine Dillon
Author Christine Dillon

Author Christine Dillon’s third novel, Grace in Deep Waters, released in July, and I caught up with her for a few questions. You’ll find her author bio and the details of her book below, but first, let’s hear from Christine herself.

Janet: You’ve lived in a number of countries. Where are you based now? And what’s something you love about where you live?

Christine: I’m currently back in Taiwan where I’ve worked as a missionary for the past twenty years. As my parents were also missionaries, I have also done most of my schooling in Malaysia and the Philippines. However, my passport country is Australia.

I love using my life to tell people about Jesus. People here are friendly and hospitable.

Janet: You’re a Bible storyteller, verbally recounting events from Scripture. How did writing novels come about?

Christine: As a Bible storyteller I couldn’t fail to be impacted by the response that people had to stories and the fact that they often learned far more than they would if I’d taught them the main points. The stories lingered.

I had also been strongly impacted by certain stories like the Narnia series and Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. However, I didn’t think I could ever write a novel. Non-fiction yes, but novels were well beyond me.

It seems that God has other ideas because he literally dropped the initial ideas and title into my head for the first novel which went on to start a series. It was kind of Him not to give me too much up front because I would have been overwhelmed. I spent nearly five hard years learning to write fiction. Some things get easier but it is still the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Janet: Grace in Deep Waters is book 3 in the Grace series, each one tackling some heavy issues in a character-driven, thought-provoking way. Do readers need to begin with book 1, or can they dive right into the “Deep Waters” of book 3?

Christine: I’ve written each book as a ‘stand alone’ story but it would be much more beneficial to read from book 1.

Janet: Each book in the series features a different member of the Macdonald family. Do you have a favourite character, and if so, why?

Christine: You spend so much time with the characters so they grow on you. Most of my favourite characters are the minor characters. I loved Joy from book 1 and Dr Paul Webster. I am planning a separate book for him. In book 2, I loved Josh and Dirk at the plant nursery. Throughout the series I also love Naomi, Esther’s grandmother. In book 3, one of the main characters is quite hard to like. I am thankful God doesn’t give up on him because most of us would have. The side characters of Reg (modelled a bit on my grandfather) and Davy are my favourites. Writing an eight-year-old was fun.

Janet: I know you’re here to talk about fiction, but could you give us a quick intro to what Bible storytelling is?

Christine: Of course, I love to talk about Bible storytelling. It is a way of simply telling Bible stories so that people not only hear God’s word but can then interact with it. I mostly tell stories to adults and most often with non-Christians. Storytelling has a unique ability to get under people’s defences and allow us to communicate with people who wouldn’t usually listen. I have two non-fiction books on storytelling and you can find out more at storyingthescriptures.com. There are many training posts/videos and video stories there, plus testimonies of people using storytelling around the world.

Janet: Christine, thanks for taking time to chat today, and all the best with your writing!

More about the book:

Book cover: Grace in Deep Waters, by Christine Dillon

William Macdonald is at the pinnacle of his career. Pastor of a growing megachurch and host of a successful national radio programme. Clever and respected, he’s a man with everything, including a secret. His wife has left him and he can’t risk anyone finding out.

Blanche Macdonald is struggling. Her once rock-solid marriage is showing cracks. She promised to love her husband for better or for worse, but does loving always mean staying? Blanche desires to put God first. Not William. Not her daughter. Not herself.

When is a marriage over? When do you stand and fight?

Buy links for Grace in Deep Waters:

More about Christine Dillon

Christine never intended to become an author. The only kind of writing she wondered if she might do was biography. However, it was a surprise to her to write poetry, non-fiction and now fiction.

Christine was a physiotherapist but now she writes ‘storyteller’ on any airport forms. She can legitimately claim to be this as she has written a book on storytelling and spends much of her time either telling Bible stories or training others to do so from her base in southern Taiwan.

In her spare time Christine loves all things active – hiking, cycling, swimming, snorkelling. But she also likes reading and genealogical research, as that satisfies her desire to be an historical detective.

Visit Christine’s website: storytellerchristine.com

Subscribe to Christine’s newsletter: subscribe.storytellerchristine.com

Review: Grace in Deep Waters, by Christine Dillon

Book cover: Grace in Deep Waters, by Christine Dillon

Grace in Deep Waters, by Christine Dillon (Links in the Chain Press, 2019)

Should Blanche go home? But how can she resume life with her legalistic husband now that her growing faith conflicts with his dogma? And while he denies their shared grief over their daughter’s death?

William didn’t even go to the funeral. And he denies the existence of their other daughter, Rachel, who left home many years ago at 15.

Grace in Deep Waters is book 3 in the ongoing Grace series (there are more books to come). New readers can start here and not feel lost, but I’d recommend starting at the beginning with Grace in Strange Disguise.

The women in this series develop a faith that’s nothing like the showy façade William has drilled into them. When life circumstances hit—and hit hard—Esther, Rachel, and Blanche each discover a truer Christianity and make the hard choices to live for God’s honour instead of living to satisfy or defy William’s rules.

William is proud, self-centred, and unyielding. Author Christine Dillon does a fine job of letting readers into his head to understand him and develop enough compassion to hope he’ll change.

Part of the novel is his story: will he change or harden himself further? Can he change, even if he wants to?

Another part is a beautiful observation of Blanche, a fallible woman growing in her faith and trying to find a healthy way to grieve.

Is this a depressing novel? Not at all. It’s heartwarming, inspiring, and it can challenge us to prayerfully make better choices in our own lives.

Favourite lines:

She’d let fear bind her. What might life be like if she walked free? [Kindle location 288]

The kid turned around and gazed at  him with a piercing eye a high school principal would die for. [Kindle location 2159]

Anyone who thinks Christian fiction is light and fluffy or dry like a dusty sermon needs to read Christine Dillon’s Grace series. The faith message is strong and clear yet presented organically through the characters’ thoughts and decisions, leaving readers free to draw their own conclusions. The questions are real and deep.

In Grace in Strange Disguise, the challenge was “what happens when the prayer of faith doesn’t heal?” In Grace in the Shadows, it’s “how—and why—would God love me, after what I’ve done?” In Grace in Deep Waters, characters wrestle with grief, marital breakdown, and that contentious issue, submission.

As the characters wrestle, readers can wrestle, too. This isn’t a series that hands out easy answers. Discussion guides are available on the author’s website, for book clubs or individuals who want to dig deeper.

Christine Dillon is a missionary whose tag-line is “multiplying disciples one story at a time,” and the author of the Grace fiction series. She has also written non-fiction books about the Bible storytelling approach. For more about the author, visit storytellerchristine.com.

[Review copy provided by the author.]

Follow me on BookBub

Review: Grace in the Shadows, by Christine Dillon

Grace in the Shadows, by Christine Dillon | Christian fiction, Australia, Bible storytelling, cancer, family
Grace in the Shadows, by Christine Dillon (2018)

Author Christine Dillon’s fiction tackles some of the hard issues that Christians face in the real world. In Grace in Strange Disguise, the challenge was “what happens when the prayer of faith doesn’t heal?” In Grace in the Shadows, it’s “how—and why—would God love me, after what I’ve done?”

Book one’s Esther believed her faith wasn’t good enough, and book two’s Rachel believes she isn’t good enough. They both must overcome negative father influences and false ideas of who God really is.

Readers of book one will be glad to see Esther and her family again. Grace in the Shadows is Rachel’s story, but Esther has plenty of point-of-view time as well.

Rachel is resisting God’s call, while Esther, who’s been growing in faith, comes face-to-face with the realization that she needs to re-learn some of the lessons He’s already walked her through. Isn’t that typical of most Christians in our spiritual lives?

What keeps the Grace books from feeling preachy is that the conversations about God and faith are natural to the characters and their struggles. It’s kind of like eavesdropping on real people who are working these things through in their lives. Here are some of the lines that resonated with me:

“God loves to take the worst things and bring good out of them.” [Naomi, Kindle location 202]

Esther always wanted to rush in and explain, but Joy kept saying, “Use questions, not explanations.” [Kindle location 856]

“Your mistakes can’t derail God’s plans. You and I aren’t big enough to do that.” [Naomi, Kindle location 1801]

I didn’t engage as fully in this story as in the previous one, but I attribute that to the different subject and to having already encountered the Bible storytelling theme in book one. There is perhaps a storyteller voice to the narrative, instead of the deeper point of view that’s common these days, and this can make it easier to maintain a bit of reader distance. Yet the novel is well-executed, and the characters’ experiences are worthy of our time and can encourage us in our own daily lives.

And the ending is beautiful.

Christine Dillon is a missionary whose tag-line is “multiplying disciples one story at a time,” and the author of the Grace fiction series. She has also written non-fiction books about the Bible storytelling approach. For more about the author, visit storytellerchristine.com.

[Review copy provided by the author.]

Author Interview: Christine Dillon

Author Christine Dillon Christine Dillon was born in Australia but grew up in Asia. She now works in Taiwan as a Bible storyteller. Her book Telling the Gospel Through Story was voted 2013 Outreach Magazine Resource of the Year in Evangelism, and continues to inspire innovative and engaging Bible storytelling. Believing in the beauty and power of story prompted her jump into fiction. She loves reading, and keeps sane by cycling and swimming.

Janet: Welcome, Christine. Let’s start with some fun facts about you: Chocolate or vanilla? Coffee or tea? What’s your favourite season?

Christine: Vanilla. Tea. Any but winter.

Janet: As a Canadian, I’m curious what your winters are like, but I guess that’s another conversation! Tell us something you appreciate about where you live.

Christine: The incredibly generosity and friendliness of Taiwanese people.

Janet: Is there a particular song or Scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?

Christine: 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 – God chooses the weak to shame the strong … so that no one can boast before him. If you feel weak then you qualify to be used. Grow close to Jesus and learn to rely on his spirit and you will be used (but probably not in the way you’d expect).

Janet: “Not the way you’d expect” – that’s practically a given! Your website says you didn’t intend to be a writer. What got you started?

Christine: I wrote my non-fiction to save myself having to answer every question one by one. I wanted to share what God had taught me and writing it down was the best use of my time. For Telling the Gospel Through Story we also set up a Bible storytelling website (www.storyingthescriptures.com) and that has become a ministry in itself with 7 languages and growing.

Janet: Congratulations on the release of your first novel, Grace in Strange Disguise, in October 2017. Was moving from non-fiction to fiction easier than you’d thought, or harder?

Christine: Much, much harder. Part of my life is facilitating seminars and so non-fiction is relatively easy. It took me nearly five years to write two practice novels and then plan, draft and edit (? 30 times) the final novel. I chose Biblical for the practice novels because I am a Bible storyteller and I thought it might be less of a jump. There were so many times that I thought, “It’s ready” and then a professional would show me it wasn’t.

Janet: We’ll have a full description of Grace in Strange Disguise at the end of this interview, but would you give us a few hints now?

Christine: It’s an Australian story about a physiotherapist who has a ‘golden’ life. And she expects to because her father has always preached ‘trust Jesus and you’ll be blessed.’ But what happens when ‘golden’ disappears? How do you make sense of it? Where is God in such times and what is he doing?

Janet: You’re tackling some very real issues in this novel. Readers may not face the same situation as Esther, but struggles are part of life, and God doesn’t always work the way we want Him to. What do you hope readers will take away from Esther’s story?

Christine: That God can be trusted. If he allows us to go through tough times it is not because he doesn’t care or has gone to sleep. It is part of his sovereign plan.

I also want to challenge us to know our Bibles and be able to stand against the lies that our world tells.

Janet: We do need to knowing our Bibles! Because you’re a Bible storyteller, I wonder… is Esther’s name significant?

Christine: I don’t even remember why that name was chosen. But actually when I think about it there are some similarities to Queen Esther. Both had to stand up and show courage in front of strong men.

Janet: Where did the story idea come from?

Christine: I was having a ministry half day of prayer in about 2007 and suddenly two ideas for novels dropped into my head – titles, main idea and setting. I was horrified because I knew writing fiction would be incredibly difficult and doubted I could ever do it. But I wrote the ideas down in the back of my prayer diary and said, “Lord, if those ideas were from you, you’ll have to make yourself clearer and give me all the resources I need.”

Over the next years, two non-fiction books were traditionally published. The pressure to start writing fiction just grew, until in 2013 I gave in.

Janet: When God’s in it, we need to do it. Congratulations on persevering! Do you have a favourite character?

Christine: This is a bit like asking ‘which child do you love most?’ I like Esther once she’s matured a bit. But there are lots of minor characters I like. The two men, Rob and Paul – because they are like so many non-Christian Australians I’ve shared the good news with. I love the ‘mentor’ character, Joy for her wisdom and courage. And Gina, because she is like some of the best friends I’ve had.

Janet: What was the best part of the story to write?

Christine: I enjoyed writing Joy’s story although it was tough to edit because it was long. I also loved writing all the dialogue between Esther and her skeptical medical specialist and other patients.

Janet: You’ve lived in so many interesting places, it must have been hard to choose a setting for your novel. What made you decide on Australia?

Christine: I think the initial ideas had this one set in Australia and the other in New Zealand. It wasn’t really a deliberate decision.

Janet: Is there another novel in the works?

Christine: One of my editors said, “This isn’t one book this is one and a half.” It was only 5 months before publication and I didn’t think I had the energy to cut off one third of the book and write a new ending. But she was right and with God’s help it got done.

So at the moment I see two more in this series.

Then there is another idea that was given in that initial prayer time and then the two practice novels could be rewritten. I don’t want to see any further ahead than that!

Janet: That’s enough of a to-do list for now! How do you juggle writing with your other work?

Christine: With great difficulty! Like many people in paid Christian ministry I struggle to know where work ends and what time can be used for writing. My non-fiction was written in intense bursts in my free time. At the moment, I’m trying to carve out one three hour block in a week. It often takes me the first hour to ‘get in the swing’.

Janet: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Christine: Find experienced writers and LISTEN to them. There were so many times when I thought my writing was better than it was. It hurt to listen to some of the feedback and I nearly gave up several times but they were right.

There are also excellent craft books out there. Find a community of writers and ask for their best recommendations.

Janet: Thanks so much for taking time to chat, Christine, and all the best!

===

Grace in Strange Disguise, by Christine DillonGrace in Strange Disguise, by Christine Dillon

Physiotherapist Esther Macdonald is living the Australian dream, and it doesn’t surprise her.

After all, her father has always said, “Follow Jesus and be blessed.” But at twenty-eight, her world shatters. Everyone assures her God will come through for her, but what happens when he doesn’t? Has she offended God? Is her faith too small? So many conflicting explanations.

Will finding the truth cost her the people closest to her heart?

For more about Christine Dillon, her books and ministry, visit http://www.storytellerchristine.com

Review: Grace in Strange Disguise, by Christine Dillon

Grace in Strange Disguise, by Christine DillonGrace in Strange Disguise, by Christine Dillon (2017)

Esther Macdonald is diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer at age 28 – shortly before her wedding. Her fiancé doesn’t know how to handle it, and he’s too busy with his own reactions to take an interest in supporting her.

Her father’s even worse. He’s the polished pastor of the second-largest church in Sydney, Australia, and this is not in his script. When prayer doesn’t heal Esther, he blames her for harbouring sin or doubt.

Her mother is a more supportive, but having lived in the shadow of Esther’s father for so long, she doesn’t dare offer much in the way of original thought.

Help comes from an outspoken cleaning lady at the hospital, who overhears Esther’s frustration with God for not healing her. This lady, Joy, dares to suggest that asking in faith isn’t the only ingredient in a miracle.

Determined to prove her wrong, Esther searches in her Bible for the examples Joy gave. Reading more than her father’s sound-bites of Scripture opens her eyes to the context of his “victory” verses.

Joy becomes Esther’s mentor and friend, and shares Bible events with her through storytelling and simple, thought-provoking questions.

At this point you may be thinking “too preachy for me” and that the novel would read like a sermon. Not so – yes, faith and Scriptural themes are part of the plot, but it’s all driven by Esther’s situation and her need for answers.

Nothing is forced or dry. Instead, it’s one of those stories that kept me thinking about the characters when I wasn’t reading.

Esther is easy to care about, even in the beginning when she’s not operating from a place of truth. Readers see for themselves the flaws and blind spots in the characters and in the excuses Esther habitually makes for them until she begins to change.

Esther’s health crisis and the resulting fallout in her family make her a character we can care about, and seeing her learn to stand up for herself and apply truth to her life is encouraging. What’s heart-warming is to see her begin to share what she’s found with others. Non-Christians won’t get that part, but Christians will be inspired to look for more opportunities to share with the people around them.

The medical details have been carefully researched, and they’re sparingly revealed as Esther needs to know them. No information dumps here. The story is set in 1995, so some things will have changed in the real world. The only thing I was surprised not to see included was discussion of a prosthesis or reconstructive surgery after Esther’s mastectomy. Even if that’s not something that her body would have yet been ready for, she’d likely have asked. Side note: in Australia, radiation treatment is called radiotherapy. I like that much better – sounds less frightening.

Although the novel’s focus is relationships, another bonus is its setting. While most scenes take place inside, there are a few ventures into Australia’s gorgeous outdoors. I don’t expect to ever get there, so the virtual visit was a treat.

Favourite lines:

She might feel full of cracks but somehow her learned patters of behaviour were holding her together. Like a broken egg bound with string. [Kindle location 705]

The habit would have to be fought. It wouldn’t just roll over and die. [Kindle location 2187]

Christine Dillon has previously published the non-fiction books 1-2-1 Discipleship and Telling the Gospel Through Story, but Grace in Strange Disguise is her first novel. It doesn’t read like a first novel, and I hope we won’t have too long a wait for the next book in the series, Grace in the Shadows.

For more about the author, her books, and her Bible storytelling ministry, visit storytellerchristine.com. You’ll also find discussion questions for her novel.

[Review copy provided by the author.]