Flawed, Fallible, Forgiven: Interview with Michelle DeRusha, Author of Spiritual Misfit

Spiritual Misfit

 Michelle DeRusha is my friend and heart-sister and today she offers her book, Spiritual Misfit, to the world. You know, I try not to be bossy, but you need to buy this book.  Michelle and I talked recently about her book, her world, and stuff.

1.”Spiritual Misfit” is an interesting concept. Can you say more about that?

I’ve struggled to find my place in faith and in the church for a long time, and I’ve felt like an outsider for much of the time. When I was young, and during my years of unbelief, I couldn’t find my place in a relationship with God – I didn’t know how to talk to him, how to relate to him, how to find him. Later, when I began the slow return to faith, I struggled to find my place as a Lutheran. I didn’t speak the language of church; I didn’t know the words to the hymns, I couldn’t wrap my mind around the concept of grace. I think on a deeper level, too, I struggled with feeling like a misfit because I, like everyone, am so flawed, so fallible – it was difficult to understand how God could accept, forgive and love a person with so many flaws.

2. Can you share a little bit about your writing process? What are your ideal writing conditions? Can you describe your writing space?

I write every day, Monday through Friday, and I am quite regimented. I start after I drop my kids off at school, and I finish up right before I pick them up. My ideal writing conditions are quiet – I’m not a coffee shop writer; I need as few distractions as possible. I write at my desk, which was my grandmother’s letter-writing desk, although sometimes when I am working on a long editing project, I move to the sofa or the kitchen counter. I am so very boring; I hardly ever vary my routine, but so far it works for me.

3. What’s thrilling about this book-birthing? What’s terrifying? What did you think you might worry about, but don’t?

The best part so far was the day my agent called to tell me she’d sold the book to a publisher. It had been a long time in coming – more than two years to write the book, two years to land an agent and two years for the agent to sell it. So that phone call was the best EVER. After I got off the phone with her I ran around the house weeping and praising God like a Pentecostal , which is saying a lot, considering my background as a Catholic-turned-Lutheran.

Since then I’ve pretty much found the whole road-to-publishing terrifying, and I’m afraid to say, I worry about everything. Mostly I worry that the book will be a sales flop – not because I’m in it to make a boat-load of money, but because I would love to be able to write and publish another book. Writing is both my profession and my passion, so what I want most in the world is to continue to do it. What I didn’t know going into this is that a writer’s ability to sell a second book to a publisher very much depends on how well her first book sells.  It makes sense; a publishing house, even a Christian publishing house, is a business, so it needs the books it publishes to be viable. I’d always assumed once I published my first book that I’d have “made it” and wouldn’t have to worry about subsequent sales. But that’s just not true (unless you’re Max Lucado).

4. If your greatest dream for this book is fulfilled, what will that look like?

Well, I think I already answered this in part in the prior question. I would love to be able to write another book – to be able to pursue my passion every single day. Even more, though, it has been my prayer from the start that this book would offer hope to other lost, questioning, wandering souls like me. When I first began the long walk back toward faith, I didn’t even know where to begin. I would love for Spiritual Misfit to give a person a place to begin the journey.

5. I think you have another title in the works. Can you tell us about it?

I am currently finishing edits on a book entitled 50 Women Every Christian Should Know: Learning from Heroines of the Faith, which will be released by Baker Books in September 2014. 50 Women is a compilation of short biographies – very much in the non-fiction category and very different from Spiritual Misfit. I learned so much researching and writing this book, and I am eager to introduce these inspiring women, some of whom I’d never heard of, to others. These women are our sisters in faith; they have forged difficult roads and paved the way for us to follow, and I feel so privileged to be able to share their stories.

6. What is your favorite genre to write?

Definitely memoir/personal narrative. Aside from 50 Women, I don’t really write anything else. I’m too chicken to try fiction or poetry, although I have fantasized about trying my hand at historical fiction. Who knows…maybe someday?

7. What are you reading this month?

I just finished Micha Boyett’s Found, which I absolutely loved and highly recommend. This week I started Elizabeth Esther’s memoir Girl at the End of the World, which I am enjoying very much so far. Memoir is also my favorite genre to read!

8. What did I forget to ask you?

You forgot to ask me where I would choose to live if I could live anywhere in the world as a writer.

Well it wouldn’t be Lincoln, Nebraska – shocking, I know (nothing against Nebraska, which I love, but come on…anywhere in the world?). I’d live in Cinque Terre, Italy, which is a tiny village not accessible by vehicle on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. My husband I would own a small stone cottage with an enclosed garden in the back. And I’d sit out there on the patio with a plate of olives and goat cheese and crackers and a glass of red wine, and I’d write under the hot Italian sun.

A girl can dream, right?

rabbit conga


Yes, Michelle, a girl can dream. A girl can pray, too–and today my prayer is that your work finds its way into every heart that needs this message. By which I mean, every heart. Blessings.

MichelleatLaityMy beautiful friend Michelle. rabbit conga

And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

Mark 9:24 (KJV)


  1. What a beautiful interview, Sheila! I loved reading this! Two things I must say to Michelle….I so want to do the book launch for your next book! And, when (not if) you get your cottage in Italy, please post pictures so we all can experience your dream along with you! Blessings to you both!

  2. What a lovely interview and I just ADORE that picture of Michelle. I’m looking forward to reading her book!!

    • Beth, you’re going to love it. Oh. You’ll also laugh out load, a lot. Keep that in mind if you planned any sneak-reading.

  3. What’s not to love about Michelle? Thanks for sharing more of her with us here Sheila. Great interview. And the book? I am still laughing. So good.

  4. Love this interview! I had no idea about the cottage in Italy, so I learned something new here today! And, yes. People will love this book. It is SO good.

    • Thanks, Deidra. It’s pretty much impossible to have a BAD interview when the subject is as gracious and charming (and FUNNY!) as Michelle!

  5. This is so fun, Sheila – your questions were so good. My favorite was the last one, because I got to talk about Italy? 😉

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for walking hand-in-hand with me on this journey. The Frio Sisters – and you! — are among the greatest blessings in my life. So, so grateful, Sheila.

    • Thanks, Michelle. It was so much fun to put together! Oh, and that hand-in-hand/greatest blessings/grateful bit? Me too, sister. Me too.

  6. Loved eavesdropping on the two of you talking. And I love, love, love, the image of Michelle running around like a Pentecostal 🙂

  7. Loved this interview. Italy is on my bucket list. And the olives, cheese and wine is definitely a must with writing in Italy. Congrats on the birth of a dream Michelle!

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Shelly, and so glad you dropped by. I’m not taking any chances–I’ll enjoy my olives, cheese, and wine here in the USA. AND in Italy, if I’m fortunate enough to visit there one day.

  8. Looking forward to reading it!

  9. This was wonderful, Sheila!! (And Michelle!) Thank you both so much. And Michelle? I’d recommend you also check out the other coast of Italy. We spent 3 of the best nights of our lives in a hillside town called Positano. Heaven. It’s on the Amalfi coast, round the bend from Naples.

  10. Great interview, Michelle and Sheila! I haven’t been to Cinque Terre, but I have been to the Italian Alps. It’s everything you imagine AND MORE. I’m putting Cinque Terre on MY bucket list 🙂

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