Karen Ball is a name synonomous with the Christian publishing industry, first as an editor working with houses such as Tyndale, Multnomah and Zondervan and secondly as a multi-published author.
Karen continues to write, alongside her day job as Senior Aquisitions Editor for Broadman & Holman,and her other major responsibilities ~ keeping hubby Don on his toes and loving her doggies, Bo and Dakota. As Dakota is an Aussie-terrier mix, I’ve got a soft spot for him – LOL!
To my absolute delight, Karen generously gave of her time and personality (just read below!) to answer my questions:~
Why Christian fiction?
Fiction because I love telling stories. Christian fiction because I love exploring faith in God. And because my faith is a part of the fabric of who I am, so it can’t NOT come through in my stories.
Your day job is as a senior acquisitions editor for B& H Publishing Group ~ tell us a little about that?
I joined B&H in January of this year, and it’s been a blast. My boss, David Webb, and I are building B&H’s fiction line from the ground up. Fortunately we had some great authors already on board–such as Jamie Carie, Oliver North, and Jennifer O’Neill–but we’ve spent the last 10 months putting together great lists for our ’08 & ’09 list. It’s funny, I seem to have created a kind of niche for myself, that of building fiction lines. I did the same thing at Tyndale, Multnomah, and Zondervan. But that’s okay with me, because I’m having a great time!
You have edited books for many of CBA’s most successful authors ~ any funny stories you are at liberty to tell?
Hmmm…one story has to do with the advent of computers. When I first started editing, we actually did the cut-and-paste physically. Yup. Cut sections of the page out and shifted them around, then taped them in place. A few years after I started in book publishing at Tyndale, computers showed up. I was running the spell check on a manuscript that used the word “Mormonism.” The spell checkers at that time weren’t nearly as extensive as they are now, so the only word it could suggest was “Moronism.” Gave me a good laugh.
As for my authors, they’re all pretty wonderful. But I can share a few behind-the-scenes tidbits. For example, did you know:
- Gil Morris likes to drink coffee so hot it’d give most of us 3rd-degree burns. No kidding. The man sends the stuff back to be super-nuked! I told him he was crazy. He said that’s why I love him so much.
- Francine Rivers has a hilarious sense of humor. She totally cracks me up, especially when she lets loose with this cackling “evil laughter.” And when you put Francine and her daughter, Shannon, together, look out! They’re a total hoot.
- Karen Kingsbury is a nutrition guru. She knows everything you could want to know about healthy eating. I love to travel with her because she makes me eat better. And I hate to travel with her because she makes me…well, you know.
- Robin Jones Gunn and I have discovered the secret to effective brainstorming. You put on swimsuits then sit in an outdoor hot tub under a night sky full of sparkling stars. No kidding! It’s the best way there is to talk and brainstorm.
- Tamera Alexander can hit an operatic-style high note that will make your ears ring. And she does so, without warning. (The woman’s almost as crazy as I am…)
- Bill Myers once tried to kill me. Really. He took me to this restaurant that he raved about–and I got sicker than a dog after eating there. I’m sure it was food poisoning. He says it was just me trying to get a free meal. I said it was him getting even for my edits…
Okay, so I could keep going. But I think that will get me in enough trouble.
How do you juggle writing and editing with all your other daily responsibilities?
Poorly. Or I did until this year, when I decided it was time to write without a contract. I needed to rediscover the love of writing rather than writing to a deadline. That’s such a creativity killer, especially when you’re late. Really late. Really REALLY late.
So now I work my day this way: I keep regular work hours for my day job. Then I do my best to write at least a few pages a day. I don’t let myself work for either B&H or writing past 9 pm, and I don’t work on weekends. So far that seems to be working.
I have every one of your books ~ please tell me there will be future offerings from Karen Ball’s pen…er…laptop and if so, any sneak peeks?
Well, I haven’t got any scenes I’m ready to share yet, but I’ll tell you I’m working on a new book. It’s the first in a series about identical twin sisters who run a pet-sitting business and get caught up in all kinds of things. It will be suspense, with a touch of humor, and the story lines will focus on some of the hard questions of faith. Questions I’ve been wrestling with over the years, such as why are Christians susceptible to evil’s allure?
On What Lies Within…
Please tell us the inspiration behind the Family Honor (I so want to type Honour, as is proper – hehehe!) series?
My family. Specifically, my parents. They named each of us kids intentionally. For example, my first name, Karen, means “Pure One,” and my middle name, Michelle, means “Who is like God.” So, yeah, my folks had high expectations for me!
Your writing has always been character based ~ how do you create a character and choose their names? (Loved the unique names of Avidan, Annot & Kyla in this series)
I’ve always followed my parents’ lead when I name my characters (or my pets, for that matter). I search for names based on the meaning I want to show through those characters, or on the issue they’re with. I take a lot of time finding just the right name, because I’ve discovered that having the name in place brings the character to life for me.
What was your favourite scene to write?
The scene where Kyla faces the gang. I got so up in it!
I loved both Kyla and Rafe’s strength yet their vulnerabilities resonated the most ~ who was your favourite and why?
Rafe was my favorite, because of his heart. He’s a man of God. A warrior from the get-go. But he’s got a core of tenderness as well. I’m so weary of hearing how men today aren’t real men. I know a lot of men like Rafe. Men who stand for what’s right and true, who put it all on the line for faith and family. Who are strong and tender. My husband is like that. The men who were part of our Bible study in Illinois are like that. All men who make a woman feel safe and cherished. So Rafe was a kind of compilation of all those men in my life who I respect.
I liked the age difference between Kyla and Rafe and although it is a small thing, I liked that it wasn’t the norm ~ did you put particular thought in to that?
Yes, I wanted something different. Something that would be a bit of an obstacle to Kyla. But eventually she’d see it’s exactly what she needs: a younger guy who is all male but can help her not to take herself so seriously. J
What Lies Within is a story about “letting go and letting God” ~ what made you choose that theme?
Almost 20 years ago I asked God to give me a hunger for reading His Word. I loved reading romance novels, fantasy, all kinds of things, but I just couldn’t “get into” the Bible. Well, God answered that prayer big time. I LOVE the Word now. And the first thing I read after that prayer was Nehemiah. As I read, this whole story just unfolded in my mind. I still have the notebook where I sat down and wrote out the outline. When it came time to tell Kyla’s story, I knew there had to be something in her past that had made her so rigid. I dug out that outline, and realized this was her story! How cool is that? God gave me Kyla’s story 20 years ago. He’s just amazing.
Any ideas who you might cast in a movie of What Lies Within?
Nicholas Gonzalez as Rafe and a red-headed Rosamund Pike as Kyla.
What impact do you hope this book has upon the reader?
First, I hope they find that it’s a great story. Beyond that, I hope it speaks to those hearts trapped by guilt or fear, helping them to see the past is over and done with. We can live in grace and freedom because of Christ’s act on the cross. Nothing can negate that!
On matters personal…
Do you read much yourself? If so, some favourites, please?
Yes, but not as much as I’d like. In part because of eye fatigue–I spend all day reading, so my eyes need a rest. But also because of time constraints. I’ve been travelling a great deal–as much as three trips a month–since January. You’d think I’d read on the plane, but I find I’m more inclined to sleep. I don’t get to do that as much as I’d like either! But my favorite novels are thrillers and suspense, and anything by Francine Rivers or C.S. Lewis.
What are you reading at the moment?
A wonderful new thriller by John Olson. Actually, I’m reading it as I edit it! But it’s going to be simply amazing. I can’t wait to get it into readers’ hands. Tentative title is Shade, and it’s book one in the Children of the Standing.
As for published books, I’m reading Hooked by Les Edgerton. I have a stack of novels waiting to be read, too. Big surprise.
Favourite movie and favourite line from a movie?
Oh, no! There are so many. I have always loved movies. And when a movie really connects, it imbeds in my brain. For example, I can recite, almost verbatim, the dialogue and songs from the very first movie that ever really captured me: Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, with a 17-year-old Leslie Ann Warren. But I’d have to say The Princess Bride is one of my all-time favourites. (check it out! My spell checker keeps making my spelling Aussie!) As for favorite lines…Good heavens! There are so many. How about:
“No more rhyming, and I mean it!”
“Anybody want a peanut?”
“You keep usin’ that word. I do not think that it means what you think it means.”
“Sonny, true love is the greatest thing in the world – except for a nice MLT – mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is lean and the tomato is nice and ripe.” Smack smack smack! “I just love that!”
Who inspires you?
The master Inspirer, God. And my family. And my friends. And seeing God’s creative flair in nature. And in the devotion and play of animals.
Life inspires me. Because everything we see, hear, feel…it resonates with God’s spirit and truth.
I had a golden childhood. My memories are of laughter, warmth, love…My parents lived their faith, and it impacted me from the earliest age. I had no trouble understanding God as a loving Father, and felt as close to Him as I always have to my folks. My adulthood has been more difficult. My husband and I have had a lot of struggles (which was the basis for my novel, The Breaking Point), even to the point of being separated for a year. I walked out. But Don was determined to do what was right in God’s eyes, not what was easy. This December we’ll celebrate 28 years together, and the fact that I can really celebrate it is a testimony to God’s grace. While my adulthood hasn’t been the journey I would have chosen, it’s led me to a far deeper faith than I could have imagined. I know–I KNOW–that God is who He says He is, that Christ is my Savoir and Lord, and that nothing is stronger than He is. And I’ve learned that life isn’t about being happy, but about being obedient. And in that obedience you’ll find greater joy than you ever imagined. Life is once again full of laughter, warmth, and love–and the sure confidence that whatever comes our way, we’ll endure. Because God’s in control.
Some essential Aussie questions….
Oh, definitely a koala! Yes, yes, I’ve heard they can be less that sweet, but they’re about as cute as it gets. And I’ve ALWAYS wanted to go to Australia. I love the rugged beauty of the country and the humor and warmth of its people.
Barrier Reef or Uluru (Ayers Rock)?
Barrier Reef. I love water. I was a lifeguard when I was 15, and feel at home in the water.
You are visiting Australia ~ do you say yes or no to some vegemite on toast?!
Oh, why not! I’ll try anything–well, almost!–once. Beside, I saw the coolest video on YouTube of some speed-painting with Vegemite on toast. So how could I pass up the opportunity to try it?
Any last words?
Just thanks for the opportunity to share. And any time you come to Oregon, let me know! I’m always happy to grab a cup of coffee and talk.
What a pleasure it has been, Karen Many thanks for your gracious and entertaining answers.
1. Aussie giveaway
I have a copy of Karen’s latest release, What Lies Within, to give away to a reader who posts a comment about their favourite movie and has an Australian mailing address! Post before midnight on Thursday 29th November to enter.
2. Karen’s Blog
Karen has succumbed to blogging and if her initial posts are anything to go by it will be a fun and challenging place to hang out! Check it out by clicking on the link:
3. Karen’s Books
My review of What Lies Within