N. J. Lindquist responds to questions she’s often asked:
But then you had to stretch things out into a third book. Did it get harder or easier?
It actually got kind of complicated. After writing A Friends in These, I wrote a third book called More Than a Friend. But when it was finished, I realized that More Than a Friend was about half again as long as either of the first two books.
I also realized there was a gap of a couple of months between the second and third books. And that I had felt cramped for space as I tried to tie up all the loose ends in More Than a Friend. So I did something really strange. I made More Than a Friend the fourth and last book in a four-book series, and wrote a third book (A Friend in Need)!
I took one incident from With Friends Like These (the fire) and four chapters from More Than a Friend, and added a lot more about what would have happened during those missing weeks. The overall plot of the series didn’t change much, but the whole thing was much more relaxed than before.
And then there were some big surprises. Zoey and Glen’s sudden relationship. Luke’s e-mails. The visit to the rehab center. Jamie’s sudden fondness for Glen. The anonymous letters. The small group meetings. The totally unexpected appearance of Sharlene and Mindy when Glen’s mom opened her front door…
So much that would have been missed if I hadn’t stopped, thought things through, and taken a chance on inserting a whole new book into my plot.
The title of the third book was a no-brainer. Luke is so obviously in need. But, then, so are Marta, Charlie, and others, too.
And while the primary source of help is God, he normally chooses to work through other people. So I was delighted to see Glen starting to go out of his way to help his friends, and other people using their abilities to help each other. John and Elizabeth taking in Marta. Glen’s mom promising to help Colleen sew some curtains. And I was thrilled to see Mr. Smither’s photographic talent being used.
Everyone has needs. And everyone has strengths. Living the Christian life is about obeying God, being there for others, and letting them be there for you. I think that really comes out in A Friend in Need as well as in the last book, More Than a Friend.
Is there anything else you can tell us – any inside information? Things most people don’t know?
One other thing most people don’t know is that Nicole’s name was originally Charity. My first publisher thought the name Charity was too old-fashioned and asked me to change it. That was SO hard. I felt as though I was killing her. But after a day of deliberation and searching through name books, I changed her name to Nicole and that was that. With find/replace, it was easy to do.
But when I started writing the second book, I was uncomfortable. I kept putting in Charity and having to change it to Nicole, and it just didn’t feel right. It was as if a different person had taken her place.
One day when my son Mark was reading my work in progress, he said, “Nicole isn’t Charity any more, is she?” And I realized he was right. Nicole isn’t Charity. She looks like Charity, but she’s a completely different person.
I have a strong feeling the series might have ended differently if Charity had still been there. But we’ll never really know, will we? And maybe Nicole needed to be there.
These books take place in a small town in the prairies. And you were raised in a small town in the prairies. Do you identify with any of the characters?
Yes, I was raised in a small town. My dad was the owner of a clothing store, and was the friend of several bank managers.
I didn’t use the town I lived in as the town in the books, but there are definite similarities. There was a restaurant where we used to hang out. A small drive-in.
Of all the characters I’ve created, the one I believe is the most like me is Glen. My crazy, uncontrollable hair. My athletic ability (or lack thereof.) My feelings of insecurity and shyness. Yeah, there’s a lot of me in Glen.
On the other hand, my life, as well as Glen’s, is the story of God’s willingness to use ordinary people to serve him if we’ll just listen to God and obey. Not that I always do, any more than Glen does. But God’s always there, waiting.
Will there be any more Circle of Friends books?
If there were, they’d have to be of Glen when he was older. This story is told. At least I think so now. But there might be other books about other teens. I have a few other characters in my head eager to get out.