AN INTERVIEW WITH SHARON K. SOUZA
1 . Your debut novel Every Good & Perfect Gift is releasing this month from Nav Press. Can you tell us a little about the book?
DeeDee and Gabby have been friends since the sixth grade, when headstrong and courageous DeeDee began mapping out their lives. But after twenty years with her husband DeeDee changes her plan. Nearing forty years old, she wants a baby – now! Two years of infertility, prayers, and outrageous behavior finally results in the birth of DeeDee’s demand.
Gabby is present for all of it, noting the increasingly strange behavior of her lifelong friend after the baby’s birth. Then comes a diagnosis that threatens to shatter their world. Gabby must find the strength and faith to carry DeeDee and herself through the dark unknown, but is she up for it?
2. What inspired you to write Every Good & Perfect Gift?
I wanted to write a book about a “Jonathan and David” type friendship between two women, knowing that I was ultimately going to tell the story of a young woman who is diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s. I have a close friend who, at the age of 42, began to exhibit many of the symptoms portrayed in the book. Since completing the book I’ve learned that another close friend has been diagnosed with EOA. What are the odds? In determining what course the friendship between Gabby and DeeDee would take, I asked myself: What is the greatest way one woman can express friendship to another? The answer: By helping her have a child if she’s unable to, which one character is willing to do if it comes to that.
3. You’ve incorporated two major issues in Every Good & Perfect Gift: infertility and Early Onset Alzheimer’s. Why not focus on one or the other? Why both?
The theme of Gift is extraordinary friendship. The foundation for the friendship is established between the characters in their childhood, tested through the issue of infertility, and exemplified through catastrophic illness. Infertility was the catalyst to get to that level of friendship expressed because of the illness. One character’s growth was accomplished because of infertility, while the other character’s growth came as a result of the Alzheimer’s.
4. Why did you use humor to tell a story with such serious issues?
It’s exactly because the issues are so serious that I chose humor to tell the story. Our life experiences are heavy enough without adding to them as we read for pleasure. That’s not to say there aren’t serious moments in the book, but hopefully the reader is buoyed by the lighter sections, rather than overloaded with the weightier ones
.5. What are your feelings about egg donation and other modern solutions that help women overcome infertility?
There are some things I might not personally opt for, but infertility was never an issue with me. If it had been I might have been willing to try anything. As it stands, I’m not opposed to in vitro fertilization or sperm donation, things of that nature. I don’t find anything in Scripture that would cause me to be against it.
6. What are your feelings about a couple’s decision to intentionally not have children?
Again, that wasn’t my experience. I had three babies in quick succession and would not have done anything differently. But not every adult is cut out to be a parent. If an individual or couple realizes that they aren’t equipped for parenthood, or if they feel their lives are full as they are, I don’t’ believe it’s a sin not to have children. In fact, I think it’s wise. That’s not to say a person’s feelings may not change in time, like it did for DeeDee. Then it’s up to the couple to make the choice that’s right for them.
7. What do you want your readers to take away from this book?
I spent several years in my early adulthood without a close friend. When the first one came into my life, I realized what I had missed and truly saw her as a gift from the Lord. But beyond that, I’ve experienced the truth of Proverbs 18:24: “. . . there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” In her darkest moments, Gabby learned that the Lord reaches out to us in compassion, spanning the gap between our need and His provision. That’s been the case in my life over and over.
8. Do you base any of your characters on real people?
The concept of the story was based on a real situation in regards to the Early Onset Alzheimer’s. But the characters are not based on real people. I do typically use people I know/have known and then take their personality traits/quirks to extremes–almost like a caricature–in order to make the character as interesting as possible. Almost always my daughters will recognize something of themselves in my make-believe world. It makes for fun conversation.
9. If the characters are primarily fictional, what about the setting? Is that someplace known to you?
I actually wrote the entire story in a fictional setting, without ever naming it. I just placed the town in the San Joaquin valley. My editor suggested I nail down the location, even a fictitious one. As we talked back and forth, I decided to use my real “home town” of Lodi. I grew up in the Sacramento area, but have lived in or around Lodi since my husband and I got married. There’s some debate about whether or not “our” Lodi is the subject of the 1969 Credence Clearwater Revival song, “Stuck in Lodi.” Right or wrong, I choose to think it is. But not for a minute do I feel stuck. I love Lodi.
10. What is your purpose in writing inspirational fiction?
I’ve had well-meaning friends ask why I write fiction at all. If I want to share the Gospel, why not write “the truth.” Two answers come to mind. First, that “burning fire shut up in my bones” (Jer. 20:9) finds its release in fiction. Second, when Jesus wanted to get a heavenly truth across, He didn’t deliver a three-point sermon. He told stories. My desire in writing inspirational fiction is that women who read my books will find them easy to share with other women who haven’t yet come into relationship with Jesus, and that those women will be directed to the One who loves them with an everlasting love.
Sharon K. Souza is available for speaking engagements or futher interview