Speaking with Jean DeFreese Moore: A writer who thinks deeply about the formation of identity
HELLO JEAN DEFREESE MOORE, WELCOME TO ABOUT INSIDER! WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PICK SUCH AN EVOCATIVE ERA TO WRITE IN?
The first book in the series, A Father’s Love: Faith and Family, begins the saga covering the life of the family patriarch, Travis Britt, and ends in 1900 with Travis as an old man.
As I began creating the continuation, A Father’s Love: Justice and Forgiveness (book 2), the time simply fell into place.
In the final chapters of Faith and Family, Reid, the youngest son of retired U.S. Federal Marshal Travis Britt, has just finished his second year of college (the year is 1900). Four years later as Justice and Forgiveness begins, Reid finishes law school, the year 1904. This book then covers a six-year span which can be measured by the children’s ages.
Book 3, A Father’s Love: Joyous Hope, continues five years later. Reid has now become a federal judge and has a number of children. Time can again be measured by the age of his children. The second oldest son, James is now fourteen.
Four years later A Father’s Love: Sacrifice and Service, book 4, finds eighteen-year-old James old enough to volunteer for military duty in World War I. The year 1918.
The date in which the story is told was determined by the age of the children along with the possible life events and historical circumstances surrounding this time period.
DO YOU THINK YOUR BOOKS WILL BE ABLE TO TOUCH READERS OF ALL AGES?
The Father’s Love series was originally written for a thirteen-year-old so it’s an easy read. I find most people who like historical fiction enjoy the book. My ten-year-old grandson even enjoyed them. Older people who remember stories from this era are especially drawn to the books as are Christians who find the stories encouraging and uplifting. Christians who struggle with grief, question their faith, and wonder why bad things happen also find the books inspiring. Readers who are searching for God can also find him within the pages of these books. I feel readers of all ages who enjoy historical fiction, action with a little mystery, and Christian fiction will enjoy reading these books.
HOW DID YOUR OWN LIFE FEED INTO THE DYNAMICS OF THE FAMILY?
I don’t see much of my own family in the Britt clan. Maybe that’s why I love the Britts so much, they are the family I didn’t have. Scripture was never quoted at my house, the Bible was never read to the children, and prayers were said only at meal time. When said, prayers were the same rote words over and over. I would have loved to have discussed Scripture and faith openly and without inhibition.
My own father was a very moral and upright man who I thought hung the moon. His only mission in life was to take care of his family, but he was elusive to his children and didn’t know the Lord until late in life.
As I began the first story for my thirteen-year-old granddaughter, I wanted to give her some history of the state she was born in, West Virginia. I also knew I wanted the narrative to hold messages she could use in life. That’s why the scripture was added to the story. If I could do nothing else as I wrote, I could give her God’s truth for living. I had no idea the story would grow into what it is now or be shared with so many people.
WHAT WAS THE HARDEST ARC IN THE BOOK TO GET RIGHT?
The hardest arc in the book to get right had to be the medical information. I have no medical background but one statement from D.L. Lyle’s blog of fictional forensic writing caught my attention: keep in vague, never give specifics. As I wrote, I would make a statement I assume came from God. Afterward I would question if it was correct then would spend hours on the internet researching medical treatment in 1900 or 1870 or 1918. What I found always matched what I wrote. Isn’t God amazing that way?
DID YOU FIND A SENSE OF BELONGING IN THE RELATIONSHIPS IN YOUR STORY?
I definitely found a sense of belong with the Britt family.
For anyone who watched the movie “Saving Mr. Banks,” the main character, the writer of the book “Mary Poppins” told Walt Disney that the characters in her book were family. Walt Disney indicated that he understood this, his first creation, Mickey Mouse, was family to him too.
It was the same way with me. The book’s characters became family and friends. I lived with them for years as I wrote the books. I cried with them, got upset with their decisions, and felt compassion for their pain. We grew older together and life changed for all of us. They became family, friends, and mentors to me in my Christian life.
HOW WOULD YOU LIKE YOUR LATEST WORK TO BE VIEWED BY THE MASSES?
I would like my latest work, and all the books, to be viewed as inspirational. The characters can become close friends and the trials can be seen as life lessons to learn from. I’d like every scene to capture the reader’s attention, taking the reader on a journey in time to the place written about. I would like the reader be able to see themselves in the story. I also hope the story will hold the reader’s attention and bring out people’s emotions. One reader may cry for Reid while another identifies with Chipeta’s lost state. Another may feel anger at injustice. One reader may feel the battle around James and Noah while another feels the hurt of Luke’s loss. One person may have felt prejudice already while another has felt either physical or emotion pain and identifies with the character. Maybe the story will help someone through a trial or overcome a lingering issue. Possibly, the books can help someone find peace.
YOU PREVIOUSLY WROTE A FATHER’S LOVE; SACRIFICE AND SERVICE, CAN WE EXPECT A TRILOGY?
The books in order are:
- A Father’s Love: Faith and Family (2020)
- A Father’s Love: Justice and Forgiveness (2021)
- A Father’s Love: Joyous Hope (2021)
- A Father’s Love: Sacrifice and Service (2022)
- A Father’s Love: Redemption (in the works now)
Book 1 (Faith and Family) was the product of a home school writing project with my granddaughter in another state. We would write short stories to each other and email them back and forth. I wrote one story but couldn’t find an ending to it. It grew page by page as I looked for the ending that didn’t come. The writing lesson ended and that unfinished story set on my computer for almost two years.
One day I was driving in my car when I heard God speak to my heart. He said “Finish the story, I’m going to give you the ending.” I immediately knew what story he was talking about. I went home and searched my computer until I found the story. As I read it, the next page came, and then the next. Page by page and chapter by chapter God finished that book.
But the story didn’t end even though I thought the project was finished. My ten-year-old grandson read the book and commented, “the story needs to continue. Ruth needs brothers and sisters.” We talked about what could happen and God prompted me to continue the story of Reid. As I listened to God, book 2, Justice and Forgiveness was written. Right in the middle of Justice and Forgiveness, the CoVid pandemic hit and life outside my home came to a stop. I was then able to spend all of my days listening to God and writing His stories.
I discovered I enjoyed staying home and writing. So as life began to inch its way back into the public arena, I stayed home and wrote book 3, Joyous Hope, again following the Lord’s leading.
Book 4, Sacrifice and Service came a little slower as activity outside my home began to pick back up and I began to leave the house more often. But it was an exciting book to write as I had to research World War I, battles, injuries, trench and gas warfare, and troop training, along with the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918.
Either God stopped speaking to me when this book ended, or I quit listening. I don’t know which, but it was several months before the idea of Redemption came to mind. This book is now in the works but coming much slower than the others. Maybe it’s because life has gotten so busy.
WHAT DOES FINISHING A PIECE LIKE THIS MEAN TO YOU?
Finishing a work of Christian historical fiction inspired by God is the greatest feeling of accomplishment I have experienced. Just remembering the closeness to God that I felt as he spoke to me left me awe-inspired. I feel I have contributed to God’s kingdom in a way I would have never thought possible.
HOW DO YOU MAINTAIN YOUR MOTIVATION THROUGH THE LONG MONTHS OF WRITING?
My motivation was the drive to finish and find out how the story ends. Each book began with a single undeveloped idea. As I wrote, the story evolved paragraph by paragraph. I never knew what was coming next and I seldom saw how the book would end. Often, I had one idea but God had another and the story would change entirely.
In searching for the story, I also wanted to please God. If He entrusted the telling of the story to me, I had no choice but to finish.
WHERE DOES YOUR INSPIRATION FOR THE PATRIARCH IN THE STORY COME FROM?
The father and protagonist in both Justice and Forgiveness and Sacrifice and Service is Reid Britt, youngest son of the clan’s patriarch Travis Britt.
Part of the inspiration for Travis came from my own father, also named Travis. My father was a man who loved his family and would do anything to support and protect them. He helped his neighbors and friends, worked hard physically, asked for help when he needed it, and lived a moral life. He grew up the son of a farmer and had a large garden year-round. Unlike my father, however, Travis was also a man who followed God wholeheartedly.
Part of the inspiration for Reid was my great-grandfather, Benjamin, a man who lived in the same time period as Reid, and who took care of not only his children but his wife’s illegitimate son, conceived through rape. When his first wife died, he also cared for his second wife’s children from a previous marriage. Today, the family holds an annual reunion to celebrate the life of this man and the thirteen children he raised.
The other part of Reid’s inspiration comes from the first husband of Benjamin’s second wife. He was an FBI agent during the inception years and worked undercover within a criminal organization. He disappeared while undercover and was never heard from again.
Like Reid’s father, Travis, Reid is also a God-fearing man who loves the Lord and wants nothing more than to please his Heavenly Father by caring for his family and raising them in a Godly manner.