Grace Livingston Hill (1865–1947) was an extraordinary woman and a trailblazer in the genre of inspirational fiction. Contemporary readers know her as the “Queen of Christian Romance.” Her daughters knew her as an unshakable pillar of strength—full of faith and good humor even in the worst of life’s storms, and her grandson, Robert Munce, remembers her as “a lover of life.”
Born one day after Abraham Lincoln’s death, Grace grew up in a loving, well-read, minister’s family. Strong-willed and resourceful, she learned early to make what her family couldn’t afford to buy (including an elegant fan which she constructed from chicken feathers!). She sold her first novel, A Chautauqua Idyl, in her early 20s. Although she enjoyed writing, Grace’s reason for publishing was practical: she needed money to pay for a vacation her family couldn’t afford to take. The contract came through just in time, the family had their vacation, and pragmatic Grace established a pattern she would follow throughout her life: when short on cash, write a novel! From this point on, she wrote steadily, publishing numerous novels and magazine articles to supplement her family’s humble income.
After marrying Reverend Thomas Franklin Hill, moving to Pennsylvania, and giving birth to two beautiful daughters, Grace looked forward to an idyllic future as an author, mother, and pastor’s wife. But then, when Grace was 34 and her daughters were one and six, Frank died of appendicitis. Shortly afterward, Grace’s father died too, and her mother came to live with her and the children. Suddenly, Grace found herself in charge of a multi-generational family. Writing—now her sole source of income—became more important than ever.
Grace churned out eight novels in the next six years. Eventually, she adapted her writing style so that her novels would appeal to secular readers, while still proclaiming a clear gospel message. Her audience of devoted fans grew even larger.
At 39, in a rare show of bad judgment, Grace remarried—-to a much younger man. Twenty-four-year-old Flavius Josephus Lutz was a church organist, a high-strung musician, and (as it turned out) a weak candidate for marriage. The family dinner table soon became (in the words of Grace’s grandson) “a cockpit with the rooster attacking the hens” with verbal abuse. Although Grace did not believe in divorce, Flavius eventually left and never came back. Through it all, Grace stayed faithful to her writing, and the failed marriage served as inspiration for at least one novel:Blue Ruin.
Over time, Grace lived to see both her daughters marry godly men, and rejoiced to watch all four of her grandchildren pursue careers in church leadership and missions. Her youngest grandson, Munce, believes that, given a chance to sum up her own remarkable career, she would say merely, “Thank you, God, for using me.”
(Quotes are excerpted from Grace Livingston Hill: a Biography by Robert Munce, and www.ChristianBook.com)