The Inside Scoop!
and her historical romance
Through the Shadows
I grew up in… Tacoma, Washington.
I was inspired to write my first published novel by… I spent a lot of time in the public library when I was a kid, reading every book I could get my hands on. I still remember looking at the rows of shelves and feeling incredibly fortunate that I had access to all of these books for free. It became a dream of mine to “give back” by adding books to those shelves for future readers. All these years later, I still get more excited about seeing my books on library shelves than in bookstores.
The books that have most influenced my life are… Questions like this always take me back to books I read as a child. One book that had a major impact on me was My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. The main character is a 12-year-old boy who runs away from his home in New York City and makes a new life in the wilderness. As a child, I thought it was a terribly romantic idea that nature could provide everything you needed to survive, as long as you knew where to look. To this day, I enjoy learning everything I can about God’s creation.
My biggest challenge when writing is… I’m a master procrastinator, and I’ve decided that most procrastination is rooted in fear. Every time I write, I struggle with negative thoughts like, “Who’s going to want to read this, anyway? What if they hate it?” Fear can be paralyzing. It’s much easier to waste time on Facebook or Netflix than to confront those anxious thoughts.
One of my favourite authors is… I have so many favorites, it’s difficult to choose. One of the authors I’ve enjoyed in recent years is Susan Meissner. I love the way she blends contemporary and historical storylines to form a cohesive novel. Some of my favorites are The Shape of Mercy, Lady in Waiting, and A Sound Among the Trees. I haven’t read her most recent titles, but they’re on my TBR list.
If I wasn’t a writer, I would be… A photographer or a graphic designer. I love working with images. I’m not fantastic, but I think with a little training and practice, I could be pretty good. And it’s a lot of fun!
The superhero talent I would love to have is… Flight. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s traffic and red lights. I’ve always thought it would be fun to be able to fly above it all. Like many people, I have flying dreams, but I never soar—it’s more like an awkward doggy-paddle. I’d really love to soar.
The devastating earthquake is just two years past, but the city of San Francisco is still trying to recover. Destruction of this magnitude is not so easy to overcome—and neither are the past regrets shadowing Elizabeth King’s hopeful future.
Hoping to right her wrongs, Elizabeth dedicates herself to helping girls rescued from slavery in Chinatown brothels, even if it means putting her own life at risk to sneak through the gloomy alleys and rooftops where dangers lurk.
Putting her life on the line for a worthy cause is admirable, but opening her heart is even more terrifying. When Elizabeth meets attorney Charles McKinley—a man who dreams of reforming San Francisco’s crooked politics—she begins to doubt: Can she maintain her pretense and hide her past? Or will her secret jeopardize both their futures?
My latest novel can be described by these 5 adjectives… That’s tough, because it feels like bragging. Here are the adjectives I hope readers would use:
My main character is… Elizabeth King is known for having a compassionate heart, and she has difficulty holding her tongue when it comes to politics, women’s rights, and suffrage. Trained as a concert-pianist, she’s given up her passion because of a shameful incident in her past.
Charles McKinley is a former ranch-hand who decided to go into law after the courts failed to protect his sister from her abuser. He’s struggling to make his way as a junior attorney in his uncle’s San Francisco firm because his morals continually get in the way of doing his job.
A previously unknown fact about this novel is… One of the romantic spots that my hero and heroine visit in San Francisco is the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. I chose this location because my husband and I visited there when we were first dating. We’d travelled to San Francisco for a professional conference, and we sneaked away to see the some of the sights. I still remember trying to climb that crazy half-moon bridge. When I was researching Through the Shadows and discovered that the garden existed back in 1908, I was determined that my characters needed to have a romantic moment in that very place.
My story’s spiritual theme is… God’s grace is a free gift.
While writing this novel I was challenged… to face some of my own failings. I’d been excited to write about grace, knowing that it’s central to our faith. What I didn’t realize was that there were still things in my life that I was trying to “fix” under my own strength. I think there are a lot of us out there who understand that we’re saved by grace, but we’re still working overtime trying to live the perfect Christian life. Is that really what God wants for us?
The title was chosen by… My publisher! And I’m glad, because I stink at choosing titles. Write 90 thousand words? No problem. Write a catchy four-word title? Ugh.
As an author, the hardest scenes for me to write are… The mushy scenes are the most difficult for me. I keep thinking, “Oh, this is SO over-the-top. No one talks like this. Ick, too sweet!” Once I get the story finished, I go back and tweak the romantic moments until they feel right.
The story I’m currently working on is… This year I signed a contract with Waterbrook Multnomah to write three books set in the early days of the National Parks. I’m excited about these stories because they’ve got it all—history, romance, suspense—all nestled in the romantic beauty of three national treasures. I’m just about finished with the first book, set at Mount Rainier in 1927. I had the opportunity to work as a seasonal ranger at Rainier back when I was finishing graduate school, so setting a novel there is a dream come true! As soon as I turn it in, I’m jumping into the research phase of the next book set at Yosemite. I can’t wait!
You may not know this about me, but I… I’m also a musician. I play guitar fairly well, and I dabble in mandolin, Irish tin whistle, and hammered dulcimer. There’s something about creating music that gives me a surge of energy and makes me feel good about the world. I don’t really need or desire an audience; I just love the process itself.
If I could be a character in any novel, I would want to be… That’s always a tough one for me, because any great book is rife with conflict and heartache. I rarely find myself thinking, “I wish that were me!” The one character that pops to my mind is Lucy Pevensie from C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. She’s the first to step through the wardrobe into this secret land, she’s quick to make friends, and she’s the closest to Aslan. That sounds pretty enchanting to me.
Karen Barnett lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, two teens, and three mischievous dachshunds. When she’s not writing, Karen enjoys photography, hiking, public speaking, decorating crazy birthday cakes, and dragging her family through dusty history museums. She was honored with the 2016 Writer of the Year award from the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference and a Writer of Promise Award from Oregon Christian Writers in 2013. You can learn more about Karen at http://www.KarenBarnettBooks.com.