Nicole Baart was born and raised in Iowa, where she and her family now live. She taught high school English and Spanish for several years in Canada but is now the full-time mother of two young sons and the wife of a pastor. As the adoptive mother of an Ethiopian-born son, Nicole is passionate about global issues including poverty, AIDS, and the plight of widows and orphans.
Favorite Verse: Isaiah 58:11- "And the LORD will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail."
Our Interview with Nicole Baart
What inspired the concept for The Moment Between?
The idea for this book was sparked nearly a decade ago when I was a young, high school teacher fresh out of college. A teenager in our community committed suicide, and the ensuing shock and horror really affected my students. In dealing with the fall-out, I learned that many of my students believed that suicide is an unpardonable sin--that since your final act on earth is one you cannot repent of, God cannot forgive you and therefore your soul cannot be saved. Of course, suicide is never the right answer to any problem, but I believe that God is bigger than that. I believe his grace can abound in any situation. The Moment Between is really about grace in unbelievable circumstances.
Is any part of The Moment Between factual?
Other than the setting, the entire book is a figment of my imagination. In fact, I have little in common with any of the characters. However, as I was writing the final chapters of the book, our family was deeply entrenched in the life of a dear friend who was struggling with addiction. Many of the emotions in The Moment Between are very real to me because they mimicked in almost eerie ways what we were feeling as we watched our friend hit rock bottom. There is a scene near the end of the book that I literally sobbed over. My husband kept coming into the room to make sure I was okay. I think I went through a box of Kleenex that night.
How closely is The Moment Between based on your life experiences?
Abigail’s journey to British Columbia’s wine country is based on many vacations that I spent in Canada’s only desert. In reality this area is called the Thompson Okanagan, but I renamed it the Summerlands. It’s a truly remarkable place, and I tried to capture the magic of it in The Moment Between.
How did you choose the setting for The Moment Between?
I knew that wine would play an important role in the telling of this story, and originally I had decided to set it in southern Spain. My husband and I had just returned from a very memorable trip to Andalusia and I thought it would make the perfect setting for Abigail’s tale. However, my writing partner suggested that maybe she didn’t have to go so far to find what she was looking for. He recommended the Okanagan, and since I’m very familiar with the area, it just clicked. I never entertained another idea.
How long did The Moment Between take you to complete?
I wrote The Moment Between in nine months. It was a joy to write, but it was a lot of hard work, too. The book is told from three different points-of-view, and tying them all together took a lot of forethought and planning. Also, it’s a very emotional book, and there were times I just had to step away from it. Suicide, mental illness, and broken families are not always the easiest topics to immerse yourself in.
What is the symbolism for the title The Moment Between?
Throughout the book, there are many references to the split second decisions that we make every day. They seem insignificant at the moment, but in the grand scope of things, one small choice can quite literally affect the rest of our lives. So in many ways the book is about those “moments between.” The title also signifies the distances between us, the relationships that just don’t quite work the way they should. Sometimes it seems that we’re off by a only moment: so close, but so far away.
Do you have a favorite character in The Moment Between? Why?
I don’t really have a favorite, but I do have a particular love for Hailey. She’s quick and dangerous and brilliant. She’s a sort of warrior-princess to me, beautiful and strong, but she’s also incredibly fragile and broken. She did much to help me understand mental illness, and I developed a deep appreciation for all she endured.
What was the most interesting fact that you learned while writing The Moment Between?
Wow. That’s a tough question. I learned a lot as I wrote this book, and while some things were trivial and others rather weighty, I feel richer for all the research I’ve done! One of the neatest wine facts I learned was the concept of terroir. Terroir is a French word that is sort of tough to translate. In a nutshell it means: the combination of geography, climate, soil, and stress that contributes to the specific personality of a wine. One woman I spoke to called it “somewhereness.” Winemakers believe that where matters much when it comes to the production of a vine. In fact, some sommeliers believe that wine from France is the best in the world because of all that French soil has endured--including revolutions, world wars, plagues, etc. Fascinating stuff.
On the heavier side of things, I was stunned to learn that after all these years, many mental illnesses are still rather nebulous and hard to define. The truth is, we don’t know a whole lot about the human brain and the way that it works (or doesn’t work). It’s marvelous and impenetrable and mysterious.
What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
My biggest challenge is finding time to write. I know many authors who have specific word goals that they force themselves to reach every day, and I just can’t do that. I have a five-year-old son and a two-year-old son, and I am still a stay-at-home mom. Some people don’t believe that homemaking is a fulltime job! But it totally is. And essentially I’m a fulltime mom and a part-time author. It’s not always easy to balance.
What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?
I love writing. Always have; always will. There is something so exhilarating about creating a world on paper, about finding just the right words that will fit together like poetry. When I have a good day writing, I feel completely energized and happy.
Are there any other new projects on the horizon?
I’m just finishing up my fourth book for Tyndale. I wish I had a fabulous title for you, but titles are the hardest part of writing for me. Anyway, this book is really a love story masquerading as a murder mystery. Believe it or not, the plot came to me when I was sixteen years old. The body of a young woman was discovered in a ditch near my hometown and she went unidentified for years. Remarkably, when I was about halfway through writing my version of her story, the FBI reopened her case file. She now has a name and a history… And it’s nothing like what I imagined! But that’s okay, the incident was nothing more than a spark for this story that I have really grown to love.
Who was the person who influenced you the most with your writing?
I’m afraid I can’t think of just one as there are many people who have influenced my writing. Leif Enger, Marilynne Robinson, Madeleine L’Engle, Luci Shaw, Michael Chabon, E.M. Forster… The list goes on. But though they are many and varied I do think all those authors have something in common. They all write unflinchingly about life, love, and loss, but they also recognize the power of hope and the beauty of redemption. Their books may not contain direct references to God or scripture, but His truth still resounds. I hope to write like that.
What advice would you give to a person trying to become a fiction writer?
It’s rather simple, but I think if you want to become a fiction writer you have to do two things: read and write. First, read, read, read. I believe that seeing how other authors create character, story, and setting hardwires you to inherently know what works and what doesn’t. It gives you an appreciation for a well-crafted story, and gives you something to strive for. Second, I think you have to just write. In the infamous words of Nike: Just do it. People tell me all the time that they’d love to write a book, but they just can’t bring themselves to sit down and put pen to paper. If you really want to write, you absolutely have to make yourself do the hard work: type, scribble, dictate, whatever. Even if the first three drafts are crummy, at least you’re writing. You can always edit later.
What message would you like your readers to take away from The Moment Between?
I didn’t necessarily write The Moment Between with a message in mind. Instead, I hope my readers wrestle with it, and I hope they spend time in dialogue about it. I don’t expect everyone to agree with my ideas, nor do I necessarily want them to. I just want to provoke the discussion. I believe Christians need to grapple with the tough questions in life. How do we respond when God says no? What really is forgiveness? Why would a good God allow people to be born so broken? How can he expect so much from us when we have so little to give? I think The Moment Between provides an excellent launch pad for those discussions to take place.
What is your greatest achievement?
I have such a hard time with this question because the Lord has graciously allowed me to achieve so many of my dreams. I married the love of my life, gave birth to a beautiful son, traveled across the world to claim a son God hand-picked for me from the breathtaking country of Ethiopia, published a book, published two books, published three books… hopefully there will be many, many more! I used to say that my writing goal was to be nominated for an award of some sort, but I’m honored to say that my second book, Summer Snow, has recently been announced as a Christy finalist. I’m just feeling very blessed and very humbled at this point in my life.
What is your goal or mission as a writer?
My goal is to write fiction that speaks truth, but that does so in such a way that anyone could pick it up and love it--no Biblical background, Sunday school diploma, or personal religious history required. I suppose I’d like my books to be an outreach of sorts, but the kind of quiet witness that is neither bossy nor assuming. I want my readers to come away from my books with a feeling of hope, a sense of “there is still good in the world.” And then I’ll leave the rest to God. He works deep in the secret places where no evangelical tract could ever presume to touch. Most of all, I want to write good books. Touching, meaningful, maybe even changing…
What do you do to get away from it all?
I read! A lot. I also love cooking, gardening, working out (sweating out my frustrations, I suppose), and playing with my boys. I’m the mom at the park who is going down the slides with her kids and having contests on the swings to see who can pump the highest. An hour in the sandbox is better than therapy.