A Fine Line, Baxter Series #5A Fine Line, Baxter Series #5
Kathy Herman
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Monty's Diner is all abuzz. The city council voted to let Thompson Tire Corporation build a plant in Baxter, threatening the town's quaint culture. New jobs. New faces. Foreigners. fast-food chains. Tempers flare as people take sides. Underneath the chatter, darker rumors spread about the mayor and the company's attorney. How exactly did sultry Sheila Paxton influence Charlie Kirby's vote? Charlie has seven children and a wife he loves more than anything. But it doesn't take much to destroy a beautiful thing... When Sheila dies suddenly, newspaper editor Ellen Jones pursues the story. But the lawyer's past is strangely elusive. Someone stands between Ellen and the facts - someone dangerous.
     

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Kathy Herman is an award-winning poet who has also written feature stories and articles for periodicals such as Bookstore Journal. A former staff member of the Christian Booksellers Association, she has also been a bookstore children's products specialist and has conducted related seminars in the U.S. and Canada. She and her husband, Paul, have three grown children and five grandchildren and live in Texas. Her hobbies include world travel, deep sea fishing, and ornithology.
Tell me a bit about yourself and how you got started writing.

Iím 54 years old, I live in Tyler, Texas, I love fishing and traveling, and I never had even the slightest inkling of a desire to write novels. I always thought perhaps Iíd write childrenís books one day. Writing is something Iíve always enjoyedówhen I was in school Iíd always ace the essay tests. I particularly enjoyed writing poetry.

My first job in the Christian industry was with Christian Booksellers Association in Colorado Springs. I worked five years in member services, and got to use my writing skills on several levels, including writing and editing the association newsletter, and creating some promotional pieces.

Then I married a Christian retailer and moved to Tyler, Texas where for ten years I was the buyer/manager for a large childrenís department in our Christian bookstore. I taught seminars and workshops on Christian childrenís product and demonstrated how to present it to customers to meet their needs. When my husband sold the store and decided to stay on to manage it, I retired due to some joint problems, and thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try my hand at writing childrenís books. But I sat at my laptop and stared at a blank screen for days at a time. Iwanted to write childrenís books. I understood the market and knew these books inside and out. I had even judged them for the Golden Medallion awards. I knew how to apply them, how to grade them and judge their effectiveness. Unfortunately, I couldnít write them.

My husband knew I was getting depressed. He said, ďHoney, youíve got to write something, anything. Just write! It doesnít have to be a childrenís book.Ē So thatís what I did. I wrote a random scene, which led to my writing the prologue to Tested by Fire. And Iíve never stopped writing novels since. I didnít realize all that was inside me.

Where did the inspiration for the Baxter series come from?

Iím not aware of anything specific that inspired the storiesówith the exception of book four. But the issues must have been inside me because

Tested by Fire began to flow just by my writing a scene with a detective sitting on a park, looking out across a lake, a quaint town with a clock tower behind him. He was waiting for something to wash up. I didnít know what, but I loved the intrigue. I read the scene to Paul and he said it would be great in the middle of a novel. I said, ďOh, no. Iím not writing a novel. Novels are hard, you have to have characters and a plot, and you have to do researchĒ. I didnít feel qualified to do that. But the next day I sat down and wrote the prologue to Tested by Fire, and the words have never stopped flowing. I wrote three novels in eight months, then presented them to Multnomah. They liked the three I had written, but also knew I had plans for two more so gave me a five-book contract.

Why did you choose a small town as the setting for your series?

I live in a community of about 80,000 and over the past 15 years or so Iíve watched this community transition from reporting mostly good news on the evening news to a constant barrage of murders, drug deals, scandals, and tragediesóthings we never thought would happen here, and certainly not in the small outlying communities as well. Without my consciously knowing it, that probably created the issues for the series. As I began to write Tested by Fire, a small town emergedóa county seat with a beautiful a court house in the center of the town square, and huge shade trees overhanging the streets. It started out as a safe, homey place, and then began to be confronted with the hard realities of the twenty-first century. Baxterites were suddenly vulnerable and their pseudo sense of safety gone.

People there began to realize no place on earth is totally safe, that the Lord is our real refuge and strength.

Is there any one particular character in the Baxter series that is a favorite of yours?

In the third and fourth books there is an older gentlemanóPatrick Baileyówhom I just love. Ellenís another favorite, but Iím attached to many of my characters, and itís hard to pick a favorite. Itís a little like trying to decide who is your favorite child. I love them differently, each is unique, and I relate to them differently.

The Baxter series has done extremely well. Have you been surprised at all by its success?

The sales donít surprise me from the standpoint that Multnomah did a really good job of getting the series kicked off. But the impact of my writing has been a surprise. Iím in awe of how God is blessing my words to impact lives. The power of story is amazing. Iím hearing life-changing testimonies as readers evaluate their own lives based on what my characters do. Only the Holy Spirit can affect change. What a privilege to be used as the vessel!

What really puts a smile on my face is hearing from my readers. They tell me they love the books and canít put them down. Naturally, Iím pleased about that. But itís the life-changing stories that really thrill me. Like a woman who, after reading Day of Reckoning, realized she was the bitter one in the marriage. She had always thought it was her husband, and it put a wedge between them for years. But after reading the book the couple got down on their knees and prayed for forgiveness and reconciliation. They chose to get the bitterness out of their life forever. They say they canít thank me enough. But itís the Lord they need to thank.

Or people whoíve come to Christ as a result of the way the message of grace was presented in

Tested by Fire. One lady wrote Multnomah and asked if they could put her in touch with me because reading my book made her want to accept Christ. I wrote her by email and got to know her situation, then crafted a prayer tailor made for her needs. She prayed it and accepted Christ. It was amazing!

After reading Vital Signs, people have come to look at the sovereignty of God in a way they never did before, and can accept even those hard experiences that had been devastating, understanding on a deeper level that everything that happens in a believerís life is part of His greater plan.

High Stakes has caused many readers to admit, ďIím was so judgmental about other people, but I will never look at another pierced and tattooed kid in the same way.Ē

The impact my books are having is overwhelming. I never get tired of hearing it, but I never take credit for it, because I know only God can breath life into my words.

Suspense novels seem to be the most popular genre in Christian fiction right now. Why do think that is?

Iím not sure exactly. The sudden draw to suspense could be that the more suspense people read, the more they want. I suspect that people whoíve read Frank Perettiís novels and the Left Behind Series are yearning for more. Most people like to be stimulated. Our human nature likes the thrill of entertainment that keeps us on the edge. I enjoy suspense because it piques my curiosity and keeps me reading. So, thatís the way I write.

My books are fast-paced and donít bog the reader down. Avid readers are enjoying them. But also, Iím hearing from people who typically never finish a novel, yet have no trouble finishing mineóand canít wait for more. My books have opened up a door for busy people who really want to read a good story with a point, but canít get through a slow-paced novel. Also, it fills a void for those people who donít particularly care for romance, historical fiction, science fiction, or westerns.

I think Dee Henderson has done a wonderful job of getting suspense to be so popular.

Sheís one of the pioneers, along with Janette Oke, Frank Peretti, Jerry Jenkins, and others. Each has increased reader awareness of new genres, causing a proliferation of new titles. Dee and I came up about a year or a year and a half apart. I was impressed with her before she ever really made it big, thinking, Oh, we both write for the same company, weíre both ďHĒ on the shelf and weíre going to be right next to each other. How exciting for me! Plus, Dee Henderson, Terri Blackstock, Jerry Jenkins, and other bestselling authors can only write so many books a year. Avid fiction readers are always looking for a new book, so theyíre going to want to sample the books by Kathy Herman and other relatively new authors. They canít write fast enough to satisfy the market.

Do you think writing suspense is more difficult than other types of fiction?

Since itís all Iíve written, I canít say for sure. But the way I write, I have to be careful that the suspense doesnít outweigh the inspiration. Iíve been able to do that. But itís an ever-present challenge. Plus, my readers have come to expect a certain level of suspense. That can be difficult to maintain.

You have a new series coming. Can you give us a sneak peak at what we can expect from it?

What Iím going to do next is a stand-alone novel called Poor Mrs. Rigsby, which will be out next July (2004). The following March, The Seaport Series will start. One of the characters thatís been in all the Baxter books is relocating to the town of Seaport, and will be a main character in this new series. I donít plan to change my style, so readers can expect the same type of suspense and characterization.

Itís worth mentioning that many of my readers want me to write additional stories in The Baxter Series; but realistically, thereís only so much that can happen to this little town before it becomes absurd. The fifth Baxter book, A Fine Line (Oct. 2003) will be a dramatic conclusion to the series. Readers will be surprised at what happens as the result of one manís courting temptation. Hang on! Itís going to be a wild ride! Readers can find out more on my website www.kathyherman.com, and they can contact me as well. I love hearing from my readers!

What do you hope to accomplish through your writing?

When all is said and done, I want people not only to have enjoyed an exciting read, but also to have grown closer to the Lord and those He has put in their path. The truth of the gospel is woven throughout every story-- in the characters, in their struggles, and in the different way the Christian characters deal with the challenges theyíre faced with. When my readers close the cover on each of my books, I hope theyíll take a few minutes and absorb the inspirational message into their souls, then be willing to share what they know with people who struggle without hope.

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