Welcome to the Celebrate Lit Blog Tour for Hearts Set Free by Jess Lederman. Jess is here talking about the inspiration behind this story, and what’s coming up next! Please join me in welcoming Jess to the blog!
Book: Hearts Set Free
Author: Jess Lederman
Genre: Christian Literary Fiction
Release Date: March 12th, 2019
Join me on a journey from the darkness of doubt to triumphant faith and from the ache of loneliness to everlasting love…
“Bold and forthright writing that would set any heart on fire.”–Christian blogger Miranda A. Uyeh
“Readers of inspirational fiction will love this moving story that affirms the power of God’s mercy.”
In 1930, the rag-tag riffraff of a railway stop called Las Vegas need a fighting man to shepherd their tiny church after their pastor is murdered. Might David Gold, a washed-up boxer and Bible-school dropout who fights as the Pummelin’ Preacher, be the answer to their prayers?
At the same time, Luke, a native Alaskan boy, is on a quest to find his father, who has abandoned his family for a beautiful woman his warrior mother vows to kill. The journey of mother and son will lead them to the Nevada desert, and to truths–and terrors–of which they’d never dreamed.
In 2011, Science Cable T.V. producer Tim Faber is determined to prove that mankind has no need of God, while his lover, Joan Reed, strives to regain the faith of her youth. They’re bound for Las Vegas to meet with a 99-year-old man who holds the key to a mystery they must solve–and answers that will forever change their lives.
Their stories will come together at a little house of worship known as the Church of the Heart Set Free.
“I was mesmerized by the characters and how everything unfolded and linked together…”
–Just One More Paragraph (Musings of a Christian Wife)
Click here to get your copy!
After I graduated with a degree in music from Columbia University, a lust for expensive pianos drew me into an unexpected career in finance. It turned out that I had a knack for business; I gained much that the world had to offer and became a hedonist, a gambler who haunted the poker rooms of Las Vegas, and an arrogant atheist. I’ve written fiction for most of my life, and at one point I quit work to devote myself to writing a novel. During that time, my late first wife, Teri, and I lived in Paris, down the street from where Hemingway once lived, and later in the mountains of Idaho. But the novel was never published, for I was a man whose soul had not yet awakened, who did not yet have anything important to say. So I went back to the business world.
One day, when we were living in Dallas, Teri heard a radio interview with Francis Collins, an eminent scientist who wrote The Language of God, which tells the story of his journey from atheism to becoming a disciple of Christ. Collins’ book led us to the writings of C.S. Lewis and George MacDonald*, who became the midwives of our rebirth from above.
There’s no hiding from the Hound of Heaven, once He’s on your trail!
Several years later, Teri was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and we left Dallas and the business world behind and moved to a small town in Alaska. There we looked out on the glory of God’s creation and read to our heart’s content during the last two years of her life. Faced with tragedy, we learned to trust utterly in Him, and He blessed us with the peace that surpasses all understanding.
It was after Teri’s death, while I was still living in the far north, that the idea for Hearts Set Free—which opens in the Alaska Territory in 1925—was born. People who know that the novel contains autobiographical elements (and several historical characters) sometimes ask me, “How much of the story is true?’ And I answer, “Perhaps twenty percent—and the rest is even more true!” What drives my writing is the desire to convey truths that transform lives. Truths of the heart.
In 2013, I met a wonderful woman—my current wife, Ling—and soon we began talking about having children. “Impossible!” said our doctors. “According to your test results, there’s no chance at all, even using the latest techniques.” Of course, within two months of that pronouncement, Ling was pregnant with little David, who just turned three, and we subsequently adopted Daniel, who’s now twelve.
After David’s birth, we moved to southwest Washington. I’m currently at work on a novel set in Las Vegas in 1955, and, when I’m not writing or chasing my sons around, can usually be found at the piano playing Chopin nocturnes for Ling.
Welcome to the blog today! Can you tell us what the inspiration was behind this story?
When my late first wife was diagnosed with ALS, we moved from Dallas to a small town in Alaska so that we could spend her remaining time in peace, looking out at the beauty of God’s creation. She was the inspiration for one of the main characters in the book. We were living not far from the headquarters of the Iditarod, the iconic thousand-mile dog sled race that takes place each year. The Iditarod was inspired by an amazing race against time which occurred in the frozen darkness of an Alaskan winter in 1925, when dogsled was the only way to get diphtheria serum to remote town of Nome, to save ten thousand lives. The novel begins with that dramatic event. One of the other main characters—David Gold, a Bible-school dropout turned boxer who is led by the Lord to become a heroic pastor—was inspired by the studies that two pastors in Alaska encouraged me to undertake to better understand the Pauline epistles. Paul became one of my all-time heroes, and at one point I toyed with the idea of writing a novel about him. That eventually led to Hearts Set Free.
Thank you for sharing that! What’s in your current TBR pile?
Ah, it’s a towering stack! I just received N.T. Wright’s latest door-stop of a book, The New Testament in Its World, and still need to finish his two-volume work on the apostle Paul. In the fiction realm, I especially want to read more of James L. Rubart, who is a great inspiration to me.
I know all about having a towering stack! Favorite bible verse?
Without a doubt, it’s from Psalm 139:7-10 (ESV, with one slight adjustment). To me, this expresses so much about the relentless love of God, and the peace that is ours when we trust in Him.
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Hell, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
I love reading Psalms! What do you want readers to gain from reading your story?
In addition to simply enjoying a captivating tale, I hope my readers will be inspired by the passion that my characters have when they talk and think about Scripture. They are motivated not by any abstract interests in theology, or mere book knowledge, but by an urgent desire to know the Lord and trust in his goodness, and to understand what it means to live a life in obedience to Him.
I love this answer. And I love finding books that remind me of the importance to grow in my relationship with the Lord. What are you working on next?
The working title for my next novel is Only You. It’s a Christian-themed novel that takes place in Las Vegas in 1955 (which, not coincidently, is the year the Platters released that song!).
Okay, I’m going to be singing that song all day now 🙂
Thank you so much for chatting with me today!
Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, February 20
For the Love of Literature, February 21
Artistic Nobody, February 22 (Author Interview)
Texas Book-aholic, February 23
Older & Smarter?, February 24
Inklings and notions, February 25
A Baker’s Perspective, February 26 (Author Interview)
For Him and My Family, February 27
deb’s Book Review, February 28
Christian Bookshelf Reviews, February 29 (Author Interview)
Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, March 1
Godly Book Reviews, March 2
Through the Fire Blogs, March 3 (Author Interview)
Locks, Hooks and Books, March 4
To celebrate his tour, Jess is giving away the grand prize package of an autographed copy of Hearts Set Free plus a $50 Amazon gift card!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.
What do you like to get out of the books that you are reading?