Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Part One: My interview with Jeri Massi, author of "Valkyries"

Here is Part One of some excerpts from my interview with Jeri Massi, author of Valkyries:

CINDY: First of all, what is a "Valkyrie," and how does that figure into the books?

JERI: A Valkyrie comes from Norse mythology, and the Valkyries were Odin's shield maidens.
The myth is that Odin, the Norse god, wanted to have a retinue of people who would serve him, but he realized that if he picked men they would glory in their strength...so he picked women to become warriors that would serve him because they had to derive their strength from him.

When I was in grad school, I read that in Renaissance literature Christians routinely used pagan literature, because they believed that pagan literature in some shadowy way would point to Christian truth, since
Christian truth is all truth. So looking at that mythological element, I thought, that is really a dim pointer at a
a very pertinent truth for us: that our strength comes from God, and thata woman who is trusting in the Lord really gets her strength from him and is capable of doing great exploits in the name of God.

CINDY: And that whole Valkyries symbolism does have significance for the young girl in the book, Tracey Jacamuzzi.
Just give me a little thumbnail sketch of what this story is all about.

JERI: After I worked for BJU Press, I was disheartened at how Christian fiction, especially for young people, tends to portray saved people---Christian people, believers--as being beyond their own sin, tends to portray them as being very very good. And some that's still out there tends to really draw a sharp dichotomy; and Christians are portrayed as being good and unsaved people are portrayed as being bad.

We're all sinners...I'm a sinner, I know that. I was saved when I was 14 and remained a sinner and am a sinner today...and one of the great mottos of my life is that every day of my life I continue to sin and every day of my life Christ continues to save me and be my salvation.

So I wanted to write a story about a teenager, a young person, who gets saved and does remain a sinner, and
it's there in the story that she truly is saved, truly wants to follow the Lord, but she battles what she is. And that is the story; that's the story of the exploits that she has before her, to overcome sin, which ultimately she finds out
is overcome by Christ.

And so, to write that story,just because I like adventure stories, I just had to put something exciting in there, and I decided that girl's basketball was probably the best pick for me to use, and so I used that.

The story does surprise some people because there is a certain amount of violence in it, fighting in it, and it's among girls, and that has surprised some readers--I haven't received any complaints on that--but
it is a very gritty story of a girl coming to Christ and living in very tough circumstances...and she has to develop traits of strength, truth, courage,fortitude and personal integrity, and all of that is set in a Catholic school.

She's raised Roman Catholic, she is saved at a Baptist tent meeting; her parents ship her off to this Catholic school; she starts really shooting off her mouth about how all these people are wrong...and the captain of the girl's basketball team essentially says to her, "You know, you have got a big mouth, and you're going to get yourself killed here, and I don't want to hear anything about God, but I'm going to teach you how to play basketball."

And so this girl, Liz Lucas, befriends Tracey and they become best friends, and Liz truly is a wonderful best friend
and teaches Tracey how to play basketball, and very much of the story is devoted to their exploits on the ball court.

CINDY: You and I were talking about that earlier, and it's appropriate nowadays because
girls' sports is huge now, all across the board...in Christian schools, in public schools, everywhere;
girls' basketball is very exciting nowadays, and (laughing) I'm biased because my husband is the coach of a girl's basketball team, but I tell you, there's some real excitement in girl's athletics these days.

JERI: I'm really glad to hear that, because I'm a fourth-degree black belt in tae kwon do-- I'm a terrible basketball player, I know all about the game, but I'm an awful basketball player--but, yes...When I was growing up, Christian girls did not have that type of fiction available to them...adventure stories that feature girls, or stories of courage and strength that feature young girls, and that was one of my goals. I think that women face many dangers, especially today, and all of the virtues have to be learned by everybody, and it was important to me to
get that across in the book.

Coming: Part Two of excerpts from my interview with Jeri Massi

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