Last year, I had the opportunity to read an ARC of All that is Secret, the fantastic first book in Patricia Raybon’s Annalee Spain mystery series. I am so honored that Patricia agreed to an interview! This is a two-part feature. Last week was a “get to know you” with the author, and this week delves into racial reconciliation and Patricia’s novel.
Questions are bolded; answers are plain text.
Note: I recognize that many Conservative Christians do not recognize a present need for racial reconciliation. While there are certain elements of progressivism that I do not agree with, I believe that there is a strong biblical precedent for reconciliation. My prayer for readers who may not agree with this view is that those reading this feature would pray for discernment, while potentially encountering a new perspective.
OwnVoices and Racial Forgiveness
You’ve written an entire book about racial forgiveness. Could you please briefly define the term “racial forgiveness?” What has the Lord taught you about this theme?
I use “racial forgiveness” to describe the process I went through to move beyond the race-based pain and targeting I’ve endured so I can get right with God and move beyond it. What the Lord taught me is that forgiveness happens when a hurting person is ready to be healed. Then, we seek to forgive.
Even more important, the Lord taught me that forgiveness is not about the person who wounded us. It’s about restoring our relationship with God by forgiving the person who’s standing between us and God. The word “forgive” means to release. By releasing our hurt to God, He takes care of the injustice of it while restoring our relationship with Him.
Despite the push in mainstream literature toward racial representation, Christian literature continues to be dominated by white writers discussing the white experience (or writing from the perspective of someone of a different race). Do you have any advice for readers/authors/publishers within the Christian fiction community, with respect to racial reconciliation?
Well, writers can only write about what they know. If a white writer wants to write a book that’s “diverse,” adding a “minority” character to a book won’t make it diverse.
What makes a book diverse is if it raises questions related to diversity. That’s what Harper Lee did in To Kill a Mockingbird, an American classic. Her Black characters felt natural to the story because Black people were, naturally, part of her life.
But to drop in a character of color when the writer knows very little or nothing about such a character or a culture probably won’t be successful.
Questions about the Novel
All That is Secret takes place during the 1920s and hinges on real historical events. In your writing process, which came first, setting or plot line? That is, did you know you wanted to write a 1920s novel, or did you have a plotline that “worked” in the 1920s?
My start was a blend. I wanted to put #ownvoices characters in a 1920s mystery in Colorado.
Is the geographical and historical setting one with which you were already familiar? Or did you go into the writing with little knowledge about the period?
I knew some things, but not enough to write a full book. So, I had to dive into the historical research—which I deeply enjoyed.
What did your research process look like?
I started out reading histories about Colorado’s Klan. Then, I found myself poring over old Colorado newspapers from the 1920s, the era of my book. With thanks to Denver Public Library’s amazing Western History Digital Collections, I listened to oral histories, scoured old phone books, street maps, vintage photos, church bulletins. One surprise to me was that many white residents in Colorado hated the Klan, a group whose influence came to consume Colorado life and politics, said one observer, “like brush fire.” Meantime, small story details demanded attention: How much was a train ticket from Chicago to Denver in 1923? What perfumes were women wearing? Aftershave scents for men? Car models? Hit songs? Popular movies? Buttons vs. zippers on clothes? I love history, so pouring over this material never got old.
Was there a particular verse/truth the Lord put on your heart as you wrote?
My favorite writer’s verse is Galatians 6:4 and it paved the way. “Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.” (Galatians 6:4 NLT)
What is one key message you would like your readers to “take away” from All that is Secret?
The main takeaway is that, with God, none of us is motherless or fatherless or alone regardless of our life situations, setbacks, disappointing backgrounds, or problems. Our Heavenly Father is our everlasting Father and is always keeping us, even if we’re not aware of it.
How did you grow, not only as a writer, but also as a person, while writing the novel?
I thank God for growing me in my trust and faith in Him. We are timebound, so we can only see the moment in front of us. The Lord is helping me learn to trust Him, and in what He is doing for my good and His glory, even though I can’t see what He is working out, down the road, on my behalf.
Trying to write a novel and, now, trying to market it, too, have absolutely required me to trust in what the Lord is doing ahead of what I can’t see with my own limited sight. I’m so grateful to know and believe that I can put my trust and hope in Him.
Which of your characters do you most relate to? Are your characters based on real-life people, past or present?
I relate most to my lead character Annalee Spain. That’s because she’s a woman of color who lives in Colorado, has questions of God, and is trying to hear His answers. That reflects my situation.
None of my characters are based on real people per se. But Annalee mirrors some of the proactive nature of my late mother. “Mama” was confident, strong-willed, clear-eyed, and ready to take on the world. I used some of her characteristics in developing Annalee so my lead character would have enough spunk and gumption to take on the world during a dangerous time.
All that is Secret deals with the history of the KKK resurgence. I really appreciate your treatment of the historical event, and the ways your characters respond with grace and wisdom in the face of wickedness. What lessons, if any, would you like readers to glean from your characters’ experiences of racism and classism?
I’d like my readers to join me in not putting our heads in the sand when it comes to looking hard at cultural and national problems and history related to racism, in particular, but also to any other “isms.”
These problems only get corrected when we acknowledge they happened and still are happening. From that vantage point, we can bring forth our spiritual energy—especially our prayers—to seek God in healing the problems as well as our hearts, minds and souls.
Just for Fun
If you were casting a live-action film of All that is Secret, who would you cast in the lead roles?
What a great question! I don’t have an answer yet, but thanks for asking. I’m going to get busy looking for the best person to cast as Annalee!