After I graduated with a degree in music from Columbia University, a lust for expensive pianos drew me into an unexpected career in finance. It turned out that I had a knack for business; I gained much that the world had to offer and became a hedonist, a gambler who haunted the poker rooms of Las Vegas, and an arrogant atheist. I’ve written fiction for most of my life, and at one point I quit work to devote myself to writing a novel. During that time, my late first wife, Teri, and I lived in Paris, down the street from where Hemingway once lived, and later in the mountains of Idaho. But the novel was never published, for I was a man whose soul had not yet awakened, who did not yet have anything important to say. So I went back to the business world.

One day, when we were living in Dallas, Teri heard a radio interview with Francis Collins, an eminent scientist who wrote The Language of God, which tells the story of his journey from atheism to becoming a disciple of Christ. Collins’ book led us to the writings of C.S. Lewis and George MacDonald*, who became the midwives of our rebirth from above.

There’s no hiding from the Hound of Heaven, once He’s on your trail!

Several years later, Teri was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and we left Dallas and the business world behind and moved to a small town in Alaska. There we looked out on the glory of God’s creation and read to our heart’s content during the last two years of her life. Faced with tragedy, we learned to trust utterly in Him, and He blessed us with the peace that surpasses all understanding.

It was after Teri’s death, while I was still living in the far north, that the idea for Hearts Set Free—which opens in the Alaska Territory in 1925was born. People who know that the novel contains autobiographical elements (and several historical characters) sometimes ask me, “How much of the story is true?’ And I answer, “Perhaps twenty percent—and the rest is even more true!” What drives my writing is the desire to convey truths that transform lives. Truths of the heart.

In 2013, I met a wonderful woman—my current wife, Ling—and soon we began talking about having children. “Impossible!” said our doctors. “According to your test results, there’s no chance at all, even using the latest techniques.” Of course, within two months of that pronouncement, Ling was pregnant with little David, who just turned three, and we subsequently adopted Daniel, who’s now twelve.

After David’s birth, we moved to southwest Washington. I’m currently at work on a novel set in Las Vegas in 1955, and, when I’m not writing or chasing my sons around, can usually be found at the piano playing Chopin nocturnes for Ling.

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*MacDonald was a 19th century Scottish novelist, poet, and minister, of whom C.S. Lewis remarked, “I know hardly any other writer who seems to be closer, or more continually close, to the Spirit of Christ Himself.” He’s not nearly as well known as he should be, although MacDonald was not only a major influence on Lewis but on G.K. Chesterton, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Madeleine L'Engle, to name only a few. In gratitude for his influence, I manage a website, The Works of George MacDonald, which includes much that is by, about, or inspired by the Scotsman.

Jess Lederman jess@jesslederman.com .

Jess Lederman
jess@jesslederman.com
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