Good Monday Morning, reader friends!
Today, we’re talking with Neta Jackson about her book “Where Do I Go?”
Enjoy the author interview!
Interview with Neta Jackson about her book “Where Do I Go?”
(Yada Yada House of Hope Series, Book 1):
Alexis: Did you co-author this book with your husband? Why or why not?
Neta: The Yada Yada House of Hope series is written by me but Dave was very instrumental in brainstorming the idea for the book, reading and editing my chapters. He also helped me with Chicago research, walking around the areas where the story takes place, finding the “tunnel walkway” where Gabby’s husband Phillip was mugged . . . THEN, the rascal, Dave stole one of my secondary characters and made him the primary character in two novels he wrote to parallel the House of Hope series! (More about that later.)
Alexis: Why did you write this book?
Neta: At the end of The Yada Yada Prayer Group series, the prayer group got involved in a women’s shelter, and that situation just begged for more stories! Also, at the time I was volunteering at Breakthrough Urban Ministries women’s shelter in Chicago and I was deeply moved by all the different “stories” of the women there. I wanted readers to get to “know” the kinds of situations where women might end up in a shelter—many of them not so different than us. So the House of Hope series was born. I added a new main character, who met some of the original Yada Yada characters who were volunteering there to give this series continuity to the original series.
Alexis: What is the significance of your story’s title?
Neta: One time I spoke at a women’s conference on the same stage as Dottie Rambo, who wrote the song, “I Go to the Rock.” I loved that song, and realized that the words totally captured what I was trying to convey in the House of Hope series—when you don’t know where to go, when you don’t know who you can lean on, or talk to . . . you go to the Rock. Which is what Gabby Fairbanks had to do when her life fell apart. The words of that song actually became the titles for each of the books in the series!
Here’s the song, sung by Whitney Houston in the movie, The Preacher’s Wife: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOu7bis3We0
Alexis: How is hope found in “the last place you look?”
Neta: Who would have thought that a chance meeting with an elderly “bag lady” would lead to a job at a women’s shelter, which in turn would become a shelter for Gabby Fairbanks when her privileged life and marriage fell apart, which in turn became a place of hope as God turned disaster into an amazing opportunity to bless many others. God can use anything and anybody to bless us—and that goes for each of us as well!
Alexis: Tell us about Gabrielle Fairbanks. What role does she play in this story? Describe her character, hopes, and failures.
Neta: Gabby is a free spirit, a “down home” girl from North Dakota, when she meets a handsome young man on a trip to Paris who “sweeps her off her feet.” But it’s not long till Gabby ends up feeling caged in her marriage, playing second fiddle to a man who is all about succeeding in business with little regard for Gabby’s needs. They move to a penthouse in Chicago, where she feels totally alone, her only “friend” being a helpful older doorman in their building until she meets an odd “bag lady” whom she takes to a local women’s shelter. In spite of her husband’s objections, she applies for a job there as program director, a way to use her gifts and college training. The job energizes her spirit but becomes a thorn in her already stressful marriage.
Alexis: Why is Gabrielle searching for “real purpose” in her life?
Neta: She’s a wife, but only an ornament to her husband’s career. She’s a mother, but even her boys are away at a posh boarding school. She doesn’t feel needed or wanted or useful. She’s dying inside.
Alexis: What is the Manna House Women’s Shelter? Describe its significance.
Neta: Manna House is an emergency women’s shelter that can only house homeless women for 30 days, not meant for long-term housing. But they need a program director to fill the days with helpful and meaningful activities—a role that Gabby has the skills and training to fulfill.
Alexis: How does becoming a program director for the shelter help Gabby?
Neta: Gabby sees an opportunity to fill the emptiness in her life and throws herself into her new job. What she doesn’t expect is how the various staff and volunteers and even the “guests” at the shelter also bring her into a deeper and meaningful relationship with Jesus.
Alexis: What is the most major conflict in this story?
Neta: When her husband Philip gets fed up with his wife’s “new life” apart from his schedule, his needs, his wants, and he kicks her out of their penthouse and his life with nothing! Now she’s the one who is homeless with nowhere to go.
Alexis: What was the most challenging part of this story to write?
Neta: Gabby and Philip’s dysfunctional marriage was challenging for me to portray throughout the book because my own marriage is so different. I have a wonderful, loving, supportive, godly husband, praise God! But I do have close friends who have or had difficult marriages, with whom we have walked through painful times in their lives that I drew on in order to portray the Fairbanks’ marriage.
Alexis: What do you want readers to remember most about this book?
Neta: The answer to the question in the title: When you face challenges in your life, whatever they might be, even if you feel as if your whole life is falling apart, when you don’t know what to do or where to go, you go to the Rock of your salvation, who is Jesus Christ. He is your shelter, your comforter, your friend, your salvation, and He will never, never leave you nor forsake you.
Alexis: If you could step into your story as a licensed counselor, what would you tell Gabrielle to help her make the best decision when her husband gives her an ultimatum?
Neta: Whoa! This is the hardest question of all! (And I’m not a licensed counselor.) I do know that marriage is all about compromise, even making sacrifices for the good of one’s partner . . . but at the same time, I don’t believe a wife’s personhood should be squashed, and God doesn’t bless that either. Verbal abuse is as unacceptable as physical abuse. Sometimes we have to do what we need to do to stay sane, to stay alive—even if it means a separation. You make reasonable compromises if you can. Get counseling together if you can. But if your partner refuses to meet you halfway, you PRAY and ask God to make it clear what you need to do. Stay? Separate? Divorce? Finally, be at peace about your decision.
Alexis: What do you as the author, love the most about this story? Why?
Neta: I love the fact that God sometimes uses the most unlikely people to encourage us, to show us God’s truth, to be the person God uses to make a difference in our life. A doorman? Harry Bentley was there for Gabby, and (in the rest of the series) became a treasured friend. Lucy the bag lady Gabby “saved” her at the beginning of the book, but it was Lucy who “saved” Gabby at the end. I love seeing the surprising ways God works! (This truth permeates the Gospels, both in how Jesus related to “the least of these” and also in His teachings.)
Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Neta! Would you like to share closing thoughts?
Neta: Yes! Speaking of Harry Bentley, the doorman . . . my husband decided there was a lot more to Harry’s story that didn’t come out in Where Do I Go? So like I mentioned at the beginning of this interview, he stole that character and wrote two parallel novels with Harry as the main character that parallels the House of Hope novels! Harry became such a beloved character to our readers in Harry Bentley’s Second Chance and Harry Bentley’s Second Sight, that he and his (eventual) wife anchored a whole new series that Dave and I wrote together called: Windy City Neighbors (five novels).
Also, at the end of the House of Hope series (four novels), there are still some questions about what happened to Lucy the bag lady. So Dave and I together wrote a stand-alone novel about her life called Lucy Come Home, starting from her life as a teenager and catching up all the way to where readers meet her in House of Hope—and beyond. Some readers have called Lucy “the best one yet!”
You can check out these House-of-Hope-related novels on our website: www.daveneta.com
*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor
About the Book:
Sometimes you find hope in the last place you look.
Gabrielle Fairbanks has nearly lost touch with the carefree, spirited young woman she was when she married her husband sixteen years ago. But when the couple moves to Chicago to accommodate Philip’s ambition, Gabby longs for the chance to find real purpose in her own life.
A chance encounter with a homeless woman suddenly opens a door she never expected. The women of Manna House Women’s Shelter need a Program Director–and she has the right credentials. Gabby’s in her element, feeling God’s call on her life at last, even though Philip doesn’t like the changes he sees in her. But she never anticipated his ultimatum: quit your job at the shelter or risk divorce and losing custody of our sons.
In this moment, Gabby’s entire foundation shifts. She must find refuge, as in the song they sing at Sunday worship: “Where do I go when there’s no one else to turn to . . . I go to the Rock I know that’s able, I go to the Rock.”
For everyone who loves the best-selling Yada Yada Prayer Group novels comes a brand new series sprinkled with familiar faces and places from the Yada Yada world. It’s the perfect novel to start with–or to meet friends from past Yada stories.
Buy Neta’s book on Amazon.
About the Author:
Neta Jackson and her husband Dave are an award-winning husband-and-wife writing team, the authors or coauthors of more than 130 books that have sold over 2.5 million copies.
They are best known for Neta’s Yada Yada Prayer Group series and its sequels, as well as their forty-volume Trailblazer series of historical fiction about great Christian heroes for young readers.
Neta and Dave raised two children as well as a foster daughter and are now enjoying all the “grands”!
The Jacksons are thankful for their multi-cultural church and neighborhood in the Chicago area, which provides the characters and setting for their novels.
Follow Neta and her husband Dave Jackson on social media: