Shattered Justice, Family Honor Series #1Shattered Justice, Family Honor Series #1
Karen Ball
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There is no way sheriffs deputy Dan Justice could have prepared for this. He spent a lifetime ensuring that his actions and faith live up to the meaning of his name—Avidan: God is just. Then injustice invades his world, ripping away what matters most, forever robbing him of the life he once knew. Can his sisters and small-town community, especially one woman who loves Dan, help him overcome the horrors he is facing? Or will bitterness and anger shatter him forever?
     

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Karen Ball
Habakkuk 2:3- "But these things I plan won't happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed."

 Read our Interview with Karen Ball!

What is your background?

Let’s see…I’m a PK (pastor’s kid, for the uninitiated), and a PGK, (yup, pastor’s grandkid). I’ve loved books and writing for as long as I can remember. I majored in Journalism and Multiple languages (I studied French, Spanish, and Russian), and I’ve been in Christian publishing as an editor for over 20 years. I started out as an assistant editor, and then editor, for Christian Bookseller magazine, which is now Christian Retailing. From there I went to Tyndale as senior book editor for 12 years. I was at Tyndale when we acquired this amazing author: Francine Rivers, so I had the honor of being Francine’s editor. That was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. When I was at Tyndale, my authors (like Gilbert Morris, Francine and Angela Hunt) all kept telling me I should write novels. I’d done some writing, for magazines and a book on family traditions, but really, I figured editing was enough. Then at CBA one year Francine and I were looking at books from Multnomah’s Palisades Romance line. I told Francine if I ever did write anything, that was what I wanted to write. Lisa Bergren was the editor at the time, and she overheard us talking. A couple of days after I got home, I received a phone call from Lisa asking if I’d consider sending her a proposal for a Palisades novel. I’ve always lived under the principal that if God opens the door, I need to be willing to step through and see where it goes. Well, my first novel, Reunion, came out in 1996, and it’s just gone on from there. Currently I’m writing a novel every nine months as working as the executive editor of fiction for Zondervan. It’s just so cool! God’s given me this great career, and a day job that is a total blast. So my entire life is make-believe. It’s all about fiction, either editing or writing.

How did you choose the location for Shattered Justice?

I wanted a small-town setting so the main character could have that kind of everyone-knows-everyone fellowship. Sanctuary is based on a small mountain community here in Oregon. I have a friend who lives there and we were talking about her town and it was perfect for what I wanted to do. All of the books in this series are based in Oregon. In fact, most of my books have been set in Oregon because I love it so much. The people and the culture here are pretty amazing. Very much a pioneer, nobody-tells-me-how-to-live kind of attitude. But also a place where folks are there for you when you need help. It’s interesting--Oregon is one of the least churched states in the union, and yet a lot of people here have a deep faith in God. They just want to determine for themselves what following God means. Then there’s the beauty of the state—I mean, where else can you get ocean, mountains, desert, lakes and rivers, forests, and flatlands all in one state? It’s a neat place to live.

How many books are scheduled to be in the Family Honor series?

Right now three are scheduled.

Are all the books based on Dan Justice?

No, they’re based on the Justice family, namely Dan and his two sisters. I got the idea of a legacy of faith from my parents. Mom and Dad named us kids intentionally, thinking about the meaning of our names. Karen means “pure one.” My middle name, Michelle, means “who is like God.” With a name like that, well, what can I say? How could I not love God? When my mom died three years ago, I was struggling to figure out who I was without her, where I fit in the scope of life, in the world. Especially since I didn’t have children of my own to whom I could pass on all Mom gave and taught me. I thought about what it means to leave a legacy of faith…and what God helped me realize is that living up to the name that she and Dad gave me is one way to do that. One way to honor her. Hence, the Family Honor series.

Where did you get the quotes and verses that are peppered throughout the book?

I love the Bible. I love how it’s so filled with a wealth of wisdom and encouragement for us today. So with all my books, I try to find Scriptures that fit what’s happening in each chapter. I also love reading quote books, finding little tidbits from people that relate so well. I think that helps prime the pump for the reader. Scriptures and quotes show us we’re not the only ones feeling the way we are. They can comfort or make us smile. I like finding a quote that has a funny side to it, to provide a little break from the intensity of the story. One of the things that I love the most about my family is that we’ve always shared a wealth of humor. We spent—and spend--so much time laughing together. God used that to prepare me for a difficult adulthood. Faith, love, and laughter--they go hand in hand. It’s all the fabric of life to me.

Do you prefer to write Suspense and Intrigue or Romance?

I like combining them. And keeping the suspense going was easier with this book because those crazy characters of mine kept going where I didn’t expect them to go and doing what I didn’t expect them to do. So I was in suspense during the writing! But I like combining romance with humor and/or intrigue. And dealing with issues that hit home. For example, the fight against meth labs is really big here in Oregon. In fact, they just found a meth lab along the bike path in Medford a few months ago. Someone had carved a “cave” out of the blackberry thicket and hid a meth lab in there. Pretty ingenious. So I included that in Shattered Justice.

What are some of the challenges you face as an author?

Well, my biggest challenge is a full-time job that isn’t just a forty-hour-a-week job but a fifty- or sixty-hour a week job, so being disciplined enough to sit down and write? Not easy to do. I create all of these calendars for myself: “You will write X number of words per day kind of things.” And I have to keep revamping them: “Okaaaay, instead of 1200 a day, let’s go for 1500 a day.” But that’s okay. I love being an editor and a writer, so I work it out. I try to write in the evenings and on Saturdays. And then, when it’s down to the wire, I write like a fiend, sometimes until 1 or 2 in the morning. My hubby thinks I’m crazy. Which isn’t entirely inaccurate.

In the Family Honor series, you have a brother and two sisters. I noticed that you have the reverse of your own family?

The stories just fit best that way. But my brothers are in there. Dan Justice is sort of a mix of both of them. And I’m in there, too. Mostly in Annie. The second book in the series is about her, and it’s tentatively titled Kaleidoscope Eyes. She’s a successful stained glass artist, as well as a K-9 Search and Rescue team with her black German shepherd, Kodi. (Who, by the way, is based on my dad’s black German Shepherd, also named Kodi.) Her struggle is that she has always felt odd man out, because Dan and Kyla are both more practical, and Annie’s the imaginative one. Also, she has a condition called Synesthesia, where she perceives things differently than anyone else. People with Synesthesia actually see numbers or letters in color, or can smell colors or music. It’s a pretty amazing condition. A friend of mine has it.

How long did Shattered Justice take you to complete?

Too long. I broke one of my own rules as a writer, which is that I never read reviews of my books. Reviews are just one person’s opinion, but they seem to hold so much weight… Get a good one, and you think you’re the next Clancy or Grisham. Get a bad one, and anything chocolate is in danger of its life! I joke, but I’m serious, too. Bad reviews, especially when they edge into being personal, can be debilitating. Well, someone sent me a review of A Touch of Faith, and instead of just deleting it I read it. Dumb, dumb, dumb. The review was pretty…harsh. Was it fair? My readers didn’t think so. But the reviewer obviously did. But fair or not, it hit me hard. And I let it derail me for several months. I just felt like I couldn’t write, I was wasting my time, I was pond scum…blah, blah, blah. So writing SJ took me longer than normal. Generally speaking, I can craft a first draft in 3-5 months. This particular one probably took me 7-8 months. I turned the finished manuscript in way late.

I’m not a perfectionist by any means, but I have that whole performance, “gotta-be-the-best” orientation. So it was tough to be so far behind. But God’s so cool. Here I am, all full of self-pity and doubt, and He takes that time to refine the story in my heart and mind. I mean, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. And everything I read seemed to bring together plot elements that hadn’t been working. The whole thing about Synesthesia came up while I couldn’t write, as well as the idea about meth labs. It really was wonderful, because God used this time for the story to steep and become what it needed to be. He let His strength work in my weaknesses, and the story is far better because of it. My editor thinks it’s the best book I’ve ever written. Figures, huh? I’m beating myself up for being a hack, and God draws out my best writing. I love the way He works.

How much research did Shattered Justice take?

Several months’ worth. I researched Synesthesia, how the sheriff’s department works, medical information on allergies to bee stings, and the meth labs. That was both fascinating and frightening--to see what methamphetamine does and how it destroys lives. And how easy it is to make the stuff! And before someone decides to write me about this, I confess--I took some liberties in the book with the workings of the sheriff’s department. I had to do that for the story. But even so, I had excellent help from one sheriff’s deputy who talked with me. So there was a lot of research.

How did you think up your characters?

They actually came pretty easily because they were based on my brothers and me. Which is why I dedicated the series to my brothers. Well, that and the fact that neither of them are readers, so they haven’t read any of my books. (My older brother told me once that it wasn’t fair because I used to get in trouble when I was a kid for telling lies—and now I get paid for it!) But they have to read at least one of these books, right? I mean, I’m dedicating the series to them!

Anyway, I’m the most like Annie, the creative one, the one who always felt odd man out. I’m an off-the-scale extrovert in a family of mostly introverts. Some of them are fairly extroverted introverts, but they’re introverts all the same. I live on the edge of emotion and humor. I’ve often felt those who suffer the deepest have the greatest ability to find humor in life. So I cry and laugh with impunity. And, like Annie, I was an artist and I’ve been in Search and Rescue. My younger brother is similar to both Dan and Annie—he’s strong in his faith and striving to live a life of faith for God, and he’s an artist at heart. My older brother is more like Kyla, the older sister. He has this mathematical, logical mind. It’s a little scary, actually. He’s grounded, and very certain about right and wrong, how things should and shouldn’t be done. But he’s a real caring guy, too. So all our personalities came into play in this series.

How did you come up with the dialogue between Aggie and Dorothy? Their interactions are hilarious!

A lot of those two crotchety characters comes from the interplay in my family and in the church family I had growing up. We all played with teasing and humor the way Aggie and Dorothy do. And we have that same loving tolerance of each other’s…quirks.

Who was your favorite character in Shattered Justice?

Jayce, because he’s wild and yet tender. He’s a warrior, but he doesn’t know that about himself yet. So he’s this wild creature with so much promise, so much good, but it’s being stolen by evil. Then he’s saved by the least likely warrior of all: Shannon. I love Jayce. I love his heart and how he wanted to be what Shannon saw in him. I love the way he embraced the idea of being wild, but good. There’s an almost inherent drive in him to fight for what really matters. And I’ll let you in on a secret: I got his name from a writer I met at the Glorieta Writer’s conference! Another writer and I told him how much we liked his name, and he said we could use it. So we’re having a race to see whose book with Jayce’s name will publish first. I’m not sure, but I think I won!

Do you have anything else on the horizon?

The next two books in this series. Other than that? I pretty much leave it to my editor and my agent to come in and say it’s time to think of other ideas. I have other ideas, but if I start thinking about them now, I’ll get distracted.

Who was the person who most influenced your writing?

I would probably say Francine Rivers and my dad. Francine Rivers, because of the power in her writing and because she writes out of her own struggles and questions. She doesn’t write just to tell a story, but to answer her questions. I love that about her. I love the fact that she is so transparent. That’s what I wanted to be. I didn’t want to just put good stories out there. I want my books to be honest. Gut-level honest.

My dad influenced me by his faith and faithfulness. He pastored a small church for 45 years. Same little church! Unlike a lot of pastors, he made his family his first ministry. Because of that, I love the church. I love my dad and am so grateful for the solid foundation he and my mom gave me in understanding who God was. They taught me to see God through honest eyes. They showed me that living for the Lord doesn’t mean life will be easy, but it be grounded and blessed with God’s presence. Faith in God doesn’t save us from struggles; salvation and doesn’t save us from pain. They save us in the midst of all of that.

What were your favorite books as a child?

The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe, definitely. It was a serial in the Sunday school paper when I was a kid. Then I picked up the book and it became one of my all-time favorites.

Others?

The Hobbit, The Last Unicorn… I really enjoyed fantasy. As an adult, some of my favorite books are Streams in the Desert, which has had a huge impact on me. What a powerful message! And Gary Thomas’s Sacred Marriage really hit me where I lived. I think it’s one of the most honest, effective books out there on marriage. And, of course, anything by Francine Rivers. Especially Redeeming Love and The Last Sineater.

What message would you like your readers to take from Shattered Justice?

That God is big enough to handle our pain and our doubts and our questions. That He’s not afraid of us challenging him, because He is in control. He has ahold of us and He knows, just like a parent with a child, that you have to go through struggles at times to make your faith and your understanding of God your own. Not believing on someone else’s say so, but seeing faith—and God--for what they really are. Something that won’t be shaken, won’t dissolve. Your faith will stand, because of the God you trust. Nothing will shake or change Him.

I also want them to understand where the apostles were when Christ came to them, when He was talking to the crowds and saying unless you drink my blood and eat my flesh, you have no life in you. And when people heard this, they turned and walked away. Jesus turns and says to the Twelve, “Aren’t you going to leave too?”

And I love their response: “Where are we going to go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Some people may think that seems like a sad foundation of faith, but to me, I think it’s a terribly honest foundation. To admit, “Where else am I gonna go? You’re the One, the only One. So pass the blood and flesh, because I’m in this. I don’t get it, and there are times I really don’t like it, but I’m in it.” In that surrender…that’s where you find more joy, more blessing and more beauty, than you’d ever imagine.

What is your goal or mission as a Christian writer?

To be transparent; To not give pat answers but to be honest about faith, about what it is and what I’ve known it to be. They always say write what you know. Well, I know faith as a place of sanctuary. And I know it as a place of great trauma and pain. My childhood was golden. God graced me with an incredible childhood and an incredible family. My adulthood felt at times like one trauma after another. There’s a lot I still don’t understand about the whys of life, but I know this solid: I wouldn’t have survived if it hadn’t been for that foundation of faith in God, of love and laughter. I kept coming back to what I knew was true. And after awhile, my husband’s and my mantra became “God is in control. I don’t understand what He’s doing, but I believe this is true: God is in control.” You know, I’m weary of Christians and churches maintaining images. I want us to be who we really are together. I want us to be transparent. When we’re struggling, let’s be honest about struggling, and when we’re joyful, be joyful together. Be joyful in what truly matters. In the fact that we’re not alone. That God is real and true. And that we can rest in Him, no matter what. And if that’s not reason to celebrate, I don’t know what is.

What is your favorite Bible verse?

Habakukk 2:3. It’s my life verse: “Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day!”

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