faith and fiction interview with Jessie Gussman

There are a ton of different stories (literally millions!), but there is but a small carving in the vast expanse of literary fiction where faith intertwines with fiction, giving rise to narratives that resonate deeply with the human soul and remind us that we’re not alone in the world. Christian fiction is designed to serve others, not only for entertainment value but in Spiritual depth and growth. These kinds of stories serve as beacons of light in a world often overshadowed by darkness. Through its pages, readers embark on journeys of discovery, encountering characters whose lives reflect the timeless struggles and triumphs of the human condition.

In our ongoing series, “Faith and Fiction,” we dive head first into the heart of this genre, seeking to understand the motivation behind the authors who pen these stories of faith. In our first interview, I had the pleasure of getting to know Jennifer Rodewald (read interview). Today, we have the privilege of conversing with Jessie Gussman, a bestselling author whose literary prowess and unwavering faith have captivated audiences around the globe (including myself). With each keystroke, Gussman paints vivid portraits of grace and redemption, inviting readers to explore the depths of their own spiritual walks with Christ while traversing the landscapes of her imagination.

As we sit down with Gussman, I’m reminded of the transformative power of storytelling—a power that transcends the boundaries of time and space and it’s power to infuse meaning and purpose into our lives as authors and as readers. Through her characters’ struggles and triumphs, Gussman offers glimpses of hope in a world often fraught with uncertainty and despair. Her stories serve as beacons of light, guiding readers through the darkness and into the embrace of the divine love of a Heavenly Father.

Join me as I embark on this enlightening journey of what makes this author tick. Through my conversation with Jessie Gussman, I explore the intricate interplay between faith and storytelling, discovering along the way the profound truths that lie at the heart of Christian fiction and those who write it.

Introduction To Jessie

Can you please introduce yourself and share a bit about your journey as a Christian fiction author? What inspired you to write Christian fiction?

Hi! I’m Jessie Gussman and I never dreamed I’d be an author. I loved to read and was never far from a book from elementary school on. Back then we had literal books. : )

One day in 2013 not long after ebooks became a thing – when I was still reading books borrowed from the library on an app on my laptop – I slammed my laptop closed after a disappointing experience and said to the living room in general, “Anyone could write a better book than that!”

My husband happened to be walking through the room on his way to check our maple sap which was boiling outside, and he said, “Well, why don’t you?”

I had honestly never in my life considered writing a book, and I wasn’t sure I could. But, five years and more than a million words later on December 22, 2018, I hit “publish” on my very first, self-published title.

I wrote the books I loved to read – romance with faith and fun and regular people living for God. I had heard preaching against romance books, even Christian romance. And I couldn’t disagree that some romance books had a tendency to make a person – a woman – unhappy in her marriage, where her husband just couldn’t live up to the standards that romances usually had for heroes. I wanted to write books that weren’t just “Christian” but that encouraged and inspired women in their walk with Jesus.

The How & Why of Faith and Fiction

How do you see faith and fiction working together in your writing? How do you integrate Christian themes and values into your stories?

Like I said earlier, I had sat under preaching that condemned romance as “ungodly” and a waste of time. I’ve even had readers say to me that they’d been told that by their pastor (or pastor’s wife) as well. My response is that Jesus taught through parables. Partly because it wasn’t time for Him to say everything plainly, and partly, I believe, because people learn better through stories. It’s been studied and proven that students’ retention goes up when their subject matter is presented in story form. We all love a good story, right?

As for how I integrate Christian themes and values in my stories, I wish I had a good answer to that, but I usually just try to come up with a great story and pray that God will bless it and have it say what He wants it to. I very seldom deliberately sit down with a specific theme in mind. However, I do think that it’s important for me to read the Bible and study it. I’ve read the Bible through every year except one (when I spent the year reading through the New Testament) for the last twenty-five years. What is in our heart and mind has a tendency to spill out, and that’s my explanation for how my stories end up with Christian teaching, themes and values.

In what ways do you believe Christian fiction contributes to the spiritual growth and development of readers?

I think in a good story, readers relate to the characters and say, “That could be me!” Stories teach through situations and struggles that come to life for readers. They see how things could be handled in a Godly way, they see what the Bible says about things – sometimes it surprises them what the Bible says! – and they can be convicted about making changes in their own life.

How Christian Fiction Builds The Church

How do you envision your role as a Christian fiction author in building and strengthening the church community?

Well, first of all, I feel like we should all be a part of our local church and serve our community in whatever way we can, whether we’re an author or not. But I recognize that a lot of my readers look to me as an example. I considered this for a while, and I pretty much just try to live what I believe – that we should all be servants and that we should live for Jesus daily. I’m not any good at pretending to be something I’m not anyway.

When Covid hit, I started thinking more about using my platform to inspire and encourage. My newsletter almost always has a Bible verse and uplifting quotes from Christians. I post a Bible verse daily in my Facebook Reader group, along with an uplifting, encouraging quote. I post hymn lyrics on Sundays and I often write devotions. Sundays sometimes feel like a church service in my Reader Chat, although we do a lot of laughing together as well. For readers who are shut in or can’t get to church, it’s a great place to be. We also have a weekly prayer post where anyone can ask for prayer about anything. Actually, I combined the devotions I’ve written into a non-fiction title called Faith on the Farm. Through all of my interactions, I just try to live according to the Bible and look to Jesus as my inspiration.

How do you hope your stories impact readers’ understanding of the church and their relationship with God and fellow believers?

Nothing makes me happier than when a reader tells me that my stories help them have a closer walk with Jesus, that they’re back in church, that their marriage is happier, that they have restored relationships or that their children/spouse/friend has been changed by listening to what I’ve written. Just to be clear, that is all God. My books, my writing and myself are nothing without Him.

How Christian Fiction Can Nurture Faith

How do you approach the portrayal of faith journeys and spiritual struggles in your novels? What message or lesson do you hope readers take away from these depictions?

I believe I touched on this earlier. I don’t approach my story with a set idea. Most of the time, I just put the characters in the story, give them problems to work out, and have them grow and change according to principles from God’s Word. I pray over my writing and ask the Lord to make my work be a blessing to just one person. Of course, like I said earlier, lessons are always learned better through interesting and entertaining stories.

Can you share a personal anecdote or testimony of a reader who has been deeply impacted by your Christian fiction?

 Weekly, and sometimes daily, I get notes from readers who have been impacted by my books – because of God. Very early in my career, I had a reader email me from the parking lot where she’d just been told her mammogram had shown a “shadow” and she needed to go back for more tests. She was crying and scared and said she didn’t know why, but I seemed like someone she could talk to about this. I promised I would pray, and I did – fervently. Several weeks later all her tests came back clear, praise God. I’ve had many instances like that where readers have emailed me asking for prayer or thanking me because my books have caused them to get back in church, treat their spouse better or encouraged them through dark times. I often say that readers cannot say anything that makes my heart happier than to hear that they’re closer to Jesus because of my books.

Faith and Fiction: Outreach & Engagement

How do you engage with your readership and interact with your audience through your writing? Do you receive feedback from readers regarding the spiritual impact of your novels?

My Facebook group is a great place for feedback, and I also get responses from my newsletter every time I send one out.

Yes, absolutely, readers give feedback. Mostly through email, but I also see readers talking about the impact of my books in the reviews they leave. I get a lot of reviews that say things like this:

“Like all of Jessie’s stories, this one caused me to look at myself and how I live my life. Jessie gives me so much to think about and causes me to aspire to be a better person.”

“Every time I read a Gussman book, I’m encouraged and chastised and uplifted and I know I’m not alone and that we’re all striving together.”

“Isn’t it amazing when we see that Jessie Gussman has used her God-given gift to write relatable, challenging, and enjoyable characters, while sharing situations with us where we can learn more about our relationship with God!?!. I have learned so much by relating to her characters.”

Have you encountered any challenges or obstacles in writing Christian fiction, particularly in conveying spiritual themes and messages effectively?

This is mostly a no for me, because I typically don’t think about the themes and message – I just let that up to the Lord. There have been a few times where I have deliberately taken on some heavier topics – one of my heroines was a porn star, and I also have a story where my hero worked in the adult film industry. I did try to handle those things sensitively and compassionately, focusing on grace and God’s absolute forgiveness, while still conveying the scars sin leaves behind.

What’s Going On Right Now For Jessie?

Could you tell us about your latest release or promotional book? Please provide a brief blurb or description of the book, along with any relevant information about the author.

At the beginning of 2024 I’m working on a series set in North Dakota. I release every three weeks, so I’ll be shifting gears and moving to a beach series in late spring/summer, and I hope to have a Christmas series out this fall.

Additionally, we’d love to hear about what you’re currently working on and any upcoming projects you’re excited about.

I’m excited about everything! I just love being able to write books and touch lives and watch the Lord work, and I feel so honored and privileged to get to do something I love every single day.

About Jessie Gussman

USA Today best-selling author Jessie Gussman writes sweet and inspirational romance from her farm in central Virginia. Having attended, but never graduating from the school of hard knocks, Jessie uses real life on the farm to inspire her cowboy, rural and blue-collar fiction.

When she’s not chasing kids, cows and the occasional roll-away haybale, Jessie enjoys wading in Naked Creek and not cleaning her house. Most of the time her main goal is to keep from catching herself on fire…again.

If you enjoy fun stories with vivid characters showcasing strong families with a ribbon of faith tying everything together, you might enjoy Jessie’s books.

Listen to Jay Dyess perform Jessie’s books – for FREE – on YouTube HERE:

Subscribe to her newsletter and find out why readers say, “I eagerly look forward to Tuesday mornings” and “Jessie’s newsletter is the only author newsletter that I read every word.”

Latest Book Release

The librarian might be a little shy and socially inept, but she does not need kissing lessons.

Lucas Clyborne has had his eye on Sweet Water’s librarian, Ryland Solomon, for almost a year. He’s even started going to the library and checking out books. Who knew Extreme Ironing was a thing? So, maybe he had a little trouble concentrating on looking for suitable books since his attention seemed to get fixed on the cute librarian who didn’t seem to know he was alive.

Ryland didn’t know why Lucas all the sudden had a fascination with obscure books like The Iliad and Favorite Ties of Latin American Presidents, but she is sure he’s up to no good. So, when he finally asks her out on a date, over a pristine copy of The Lullabies of Serial Killers, of course she…agrees?

The date was a disaster since Ryland didn’t say a word the entire time and Lucas ended up eating her food. But somehow they go on another one. And another. Until Lucas’s family ranch is in danger of foreclosure and he does something radical, something that will end the relationship that never really got started, unless Ryland finds the courage to flip the script and save her own cowboy hero.

Maybe she’ll get those kissling lessons after all.

View on Amazon

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