N. J. Lindquist responds to questions she’s often asked:
Where did you get the idea for this series?
Authors are always being asked where they get their ideas. Sometimes it’s hard to explain because the idea kind of grows inside your head until you either explode or write it down. Other times, you can pinpoint the very moment that the idea came to you, full-blown and clamoring to be written. The Best of Friends was the latter kind of book.
I was actually taking a correspondence course in writing at the time, and I was supposed to write a short story. I began to think about my experiences teaching high school and leading youth groups. One of my biggest frustrations was that so many kids saw themselves in a negative way, as in “I’m not smart enough, not athletic enough, not good-looking or pretty enough, don’t have a car/computer/DVD player,” and so on. The trouble was, most of the kids I knew thought this way—even the ones who seemed to have it made.
I suddenly saw, not the short story I was supposed to be working on, but a whole book taking shape in my head. It would be about this really ordinary teenage boy—who saw himself as nothing special, and this other teenage boy who had everything every teenager could want: the looks, the girls, the car, the athletic ability, the brain—the works!
Which made me think about I Samuel 16:6-7, where Nathan anoints Jesse’s youngest son, David, as the future king. But only after God told him to pass over the eldest son, who looked good to Samuel.
“When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.’
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
So my idea was to have the ordinary guy tell the story from his point of view, and of course the whole novel would hinge on the premise that what’s really important isn’t any of those surface things you have little control over, but who you are inside—with God’s help.
And that’s how The Best of Friends was born.
Had you intended all along to write a series?
Actually, no. I meant for The Best of Friends to be a stand-alone book, but when the original publisher (Moody Press) asked for two more books with the same characters, naturally, I agreed.
When I thought about what might happen after the ending of The Best of Friends, when it appeared that one of the guys had won the girl, it was pretty clear to me there would be an ongoing tussle, so off I went!
What happened with Luke—from the phone call where he suggests Glen needs a bodyguard right up to the terrible accident, came as a total surprise.
Yes and no. You’re writing comfortably, knowing what you want to say next, and then all of a sudden it’s as if the computer keys start moving on their own, and you stare at the screen and see words that you never thought of ahead of time.
And you get excited, because usually when this happens, the characters have become so real in your mind that they do what they would do without your having to plan it.
John was another surprise to me. He wasn’t in the first book, and I had intended Pastor Grant to continue to be the one to help Glen grow. But John just appeared at the Grant’s one Sunday and it felt so right, I left him in. I also realized around that time that Pastor Grant didn’t really know how to give Glen the kind of help he needed. So John and his wife appeared, and their funny little group of misfits, too.
As I wrote With Friends Like These, I realized that this book is about a lot more than Glen and Charlie and Nicole. It’s about Glen moving out of the safe cocoon and taking steps toward becoming an adult. It’s about the need we all have for a mentor who will hold us accountable; to stand up for our rights, to put ourselves at risk for what we believe in, to see our friends as imperfect, yet valuable. And it’s about coping with loss and heartache.
You have Glen reading about David. Why him?
Having started the first book with David’s journey in mind, it was natural to have Glen read about him.
Plus, we can all learn a lot from David. Both from the mistakes he made when he did things his way and from the success he had when he did things God’s way. At the end of The Best of Friends, Glen gives his life to God. But in With Friends Like These he learns that giving your life to God isn’t something you do in a few seconds, but rather it’s something you have to continue to do for the rest of your life.