|Sarah's Song, Red Glove Series #3|
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The ritual is the same every December: twelve handmade paper ornaments and a small plastic Christmas tree; twelve days for eighty-six-year-old Sarah Baldwin to remember her long-ago love; twelve chances for Sarah to sing her song once more, even just from her room in the lonely nursing home. Who will God bring to Sarah to share this tiny ritual of joy and His love?
Our Interview with Karen Kingsbury
|When you started the Red Glove Series, what made you choose the Red Glove theme?
That was something that came out of the first book, Gideonís Gift. I wanted to have the reader feel the way I feel when I watch ďA Christmas Carol,Ē one of my favorite Christmas movies. The whole idea of this scrooge-like character that makes a complete transformation started me thinking about Gideonís Gift. The gift turned out to be this pair of red gloves.
How did you start the Red Glove projects?
When I got to the end of that manuscript I felt like there was more to it. Now that itís Christmas time and my readers are feeling good, what could they do to go out and make a difference in their communities? It was something God put in my heart to do. I didnít set out to write a novel with a purpose, a novel that would take readers from the story to the street. But thatís exactly what happened. I came up with a few ways to help, and called them red gloves projects. I liked the idea of keeping the red gloves as a cameo, a reminder of Christís giving, Christís blood, the color of Christís blood, the color of Christmas. Itís a kind of token emblem to spark the idea of helping others at Christmas time. The Red Gloves Projects kind of took on a life of its own after Gideonís Gift. It wasnít what I set out to do; it simply grew out of that story.
|How did you get started as a writer?
Iíve always written. At five years old Iíd staple together papers and write stories. I wrote for the creative magazine in middle school, then the newspaper in high school, got my degree in journalism at Cal State University Northridge. After that I wrote for the LA Times as a sports writer, and then the LA Daily News as a sports writer.
I then wrote as a general assignment reporter covering stories for the front page. I was in charge of the Sunday front-page feature story at that point, three years after I graduated college. It was very exciting. They would say if it needed emotion, then it should be my story to write. One of the stories became a basis for a PEOPLE magazine story about a girl that was killed by her two best friends. It was a very tragic kind of macabre story, with a lot of twists and turns.
| An agent contacted me after seeing the article. He said it would make a great book and he asked me to write a proposal. I was 25, very young. I didnít really know what I was doing, but I put together a proposal. The agent liked it, and got it into a bidding war between two major New York publishers. The resulting deal was enough to let me quit my job at the newspaper.
That first book deal felt like a miraculous answer to prayer. It was God allowing me to be home with our first child, Kelsey, who was born in September of 1989. I was getting ready to go back after my maternity leave when I got the word that my proposal for that first book was purchased. I was able to quit my job and Iíve been home writing books since I had Kelsey.
I wrote four true crime books, including Deadly Pretender, which was made into the CBS movie Every Womanís Dream. Itís still shown every once in a while. Itís about a man with a double-life who killed one of his wives in broad daylight because he was desperate to get out of the jam he was in. Those true crime stories were very sad and after I had written four of them I knew I needed a change.
My heartís desire was to write fiction so I did a 180 and wrote 4 books that were a collection of miracle stories. After that I wrote my first novel called, Francine Riversand Randy Alcorn and saw that the books I wanted to write would certainly fit into the Christian fiction category.
How long did Sarahís Song take you to complete?
The research took a couple of years, but since Iím writing 5 books a year, obviously the actual writing was faster. Godís blessed me with the ability to write the text pretty quickly, because itís very visual in my mind. So Sarahís Song came together in a month or so. I write really quickly, the quicker I write the cleaner it is because itís so visual in my mind, because Iím just relaying whatís happening in my head.
|But you said the research took a couple of years. What part of that took so long?
I had a friend who worked at a nursing home so I began spending time there. My second book in the Redemption series reflects a lot of this research as well. That book is called Remember. It deals with Alzheimerís and adult-care homes.
In Sarahís Song, Sarah is a character that has lived in my heart for the last few years. Every year our family goes and spends Christmas-time at one of our favorite local adult-care homes. We take the kids and we get to meet the people. Every year Iím convinced and reminded that each one of these people have an amazing story to tell, but because of their mental and physical limitations theyíre unable to really talk about it.
However, when you find someone who has the capacity and the faculties to explain what theyíve been through and what theyíve seen, to talk about their love story or their story of salvation and hope, itís amazing. Yet there they sit as though the world has completely forgotten them. I wanted Sarah to be someone like that, someone with a beautiful story to tell, a story that would change the life of someone today if they would just take the time to listen.
Was there a real Sarah?
There wasnít a real Sarah; sheís a compilation of three of my favorite women that I met during that time. The story-line is made up, but the idea of having a love story that touches your heart and says,Ē Wow, thatís a special kind of love.Ē Thatís something that I got from talking to people.
I also found it very intriguing that she wasnít chaste back in 1941. She became very human instead of this fictitious person that wasnít perfect. She went on to sing and then met up with the famous band singer. Todayís temptations have been there since the beginning.
What are some of the challenges that you face being an author?
Balancing the time and keeping my family first. This fall I was supposed to be on a Zondervan fiction tour. I had to cancel it because I took a hard look at how losing 7 weekends out of the fall would affect my family and I couldnít do it. I didnít have a release with Zondervan during that time, so they understood. They were very, very gracious. Instead I wrote letters to all the retailers and they understood that even though I would love to do it as a writer Ė I love traveling, I love speaking, all of itís wonderful Ė but for this season in my life I am called to be home with my family.
How much research did this book take?
Just the idea of spending time in adult-care homes and senior facilities; finding out what their stories were. Thatís when I first discovered the incredible wealth of wisdom of knowledge and stories with these older people.
|How did you discover that? How did you happen to chose to go do that at Christmas time?
It started about 8 years ago with my friend who got a job in an adult care home. It really started with her and just the delight that she would share stories and after I would get the kids off to school I would go and hang out with her for a few hours and just get to know these people. It was research that didnít have a book in mind at that time. It was kind of research that you do by enjoying life and seeing the people around you, and the opportunities today to find out more about life.
Do you have a favorite character? Why?
So hardÖI donít have a favorite character, theyíre all special for different reasons. The people are very real to me are living and breathing in my books. Ashley in the Redemption series, Jamie Bryant out of the Tuesday morning books, Jade and Tanner in the Forever Faithful series. I feel like the characters are all real, and their weaknesses are ones we can identify with. I also enjoy the changes that happen in them through what God is doing through their lives. These are the same changes that are happening in our lives, depending on the season that weíre in.
|Do you prefer to write romance novels or suspense and intrigue?
I think of myself as a contemporary, general fiction writer although I think most of my novels have a romantic element to them. My stories are more emotionally gripping. Iíve trademarked the phrase, ďLife-Changing Fiction ô.Ē
Are there any new projects on the horizon?
My first childrenís book was released September 1st.itís already in itís fourth printing. Itís selling like crazy. Itís called Let Me Hold You Longer Itís a very emotional look at trying to savor the days with your children. I like to write and speak about Godís mercies, and how they are new every morning, so that readers look for his faithfulness. No matter how long or dark the night; morning will always come as long as we have that faith in Christ. So as we live that way, as we look to savor each day a book like Let Me Hold You Longer will help parents hold on a little bit longer to the last time a child climbs up into bed and wants a book read or the last time they attend kindergarten or were up at bat in little league. Let Me Hold You Longer is an emotional childrenís book with upbeat, fun, silly, kind of classic art so that the kids can giggle while the parents are touched and reminded about how important it is that we have today with our kids and our families.
This sounds like a book for everyone, even a mom, like me, with teenagers.
This book is right where youíre at because it goes through the entire life cycle of a child. It ends with the last time that child asks you for advice about romance, the last time you help him with the details of a dance, etc.
Itís just something that I wrote for my kidsÖ I showed it to my editor at Tyndale and she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, ďThatís your first kidís book.
|When is the next Red Glove book scheduled for release?
Is the Redemption Series complete?
There will be two spin-off series. The first is called the Firstborn Series and will debut with the book, Fame, in June, 2005. It will be followed by Forgiven, Found, Family, and Forever. After that will come another spin-off called the Sunrise Series. It will include Sunrise, Summer, Soldier, Someday, and Sunset. The entire ten books will be released in just over two years, and they will keep alive the Redemption Series characters that readers love the most.
Do you outline the series before you begin?
How do you set up a series because clearly youíve got it mapped out to some level in your mind?
Well itís very character driven. I used to think I was plot driven but itís character drivenÖI know my characters, I know what changes they are going through, what discoveries theyíre going to make and some of the pitfalls theyíll be going through. Next, I outline about a fourth of the book and then I allow myself to break that if I get 4 or 5 chapters in and it looks like I missed a piece. I allow the story to take me where itís suppose to go. I like having a road map to follow even if I take detours.
|Let's Talk about Beyond Tuesday Morning.
Beyond Tuesday Morning is the sequel to One Tuesday Morning, my book that told the story of two men Ė a firefighter and a businessman - with an uncanny resemblance caught up in the tragedy of the collapse of the Twin Towers, on September 11th and only one of them makes it out alive and he a victim of mistaken identity and amnesia. A thousand copies were sent to the FDNY and many, many firefighters wrote back to me and said it brought them healing and hope.
Beyond Tuesday Morning is the sequel, and could be read as a stand alone. It takes the firefighterís widow and her daughter to the next season of life, where they are able to close the door on tragedy and pain and chose life, the theme from Deuteronomy 30:19. Itís very emotional and I expect it should bring a lot of healing to people who are still caught up in the sorrow and sadness and grief of losing a loved one.
You said you sent a thousand copies, was it Beyond Tuesday Morning that you sent to the fire department?
One Tuesday Morning. We sent four copies to each fire station in the FDNY. Basically it was our familyís Red Glove project. We said, ďwhat can we doĒ, and thatís what we decided to do. Weíll handle Beyond Tuesday Morning differently. Iím going to New York City in January and handing out copies of Beyond Tuesday Morning at a devotional Iíll be giving for firefighters.
|Will that be the end of that grouping?
Yes, I think so. In some ways Jamieís heart has to be re-broken in Beyond Tuesday Morning. This second book really finishes Jamieís story, and leaves us with a sense of completion.
Who was the person who influenced you the most with your writing?
My father has been most influential. When I was five or six years old, he would read what I would right and he would say ďKaren, one day youíre going to be the greatest writer and everyone is going to know your work.Ē He was very encouraging and he projected a blessing on my life in such a positive way. He is still an encourager for me today.
What were your favorite books as a child?
When I was very young, I fell in love with Dr. Seuss. His work was what made me want to write. I have most of his books memorized. From then at 11 or 12 it was Danielle Steel and other adult fiction. I loved Sydney Sheldon. I think heís a fantastic writer. Today I love Nicholas Sparks and reading John Grisham. In the CBA market I really enjoy Randy Alcorn and Francine Rivers, Robin Jones Gunn. Ted Dekker and Sharon Elwell Foster too.
What message would you like your readers to take away from Sarahís Song?
The message would be to look to the people that God has put your life, especially the older people, the senior people that God has put in your life and see what you can learn about today through them.
What is your goal or mission as a Christian writer?
To show that through the trials, tragedies, and triumphs, Godís mercies are new every morning and that no matter where you been or what youíre in the middle of thereís always redemption for you in Christ.
What is your favorite verse from the Bible?
Hebrews 12 1-3 (NIV)