Karen Witemeyer believes the world needs more happily-ever-afters. For her historical romance novels, she combines a love of bygone eras with a passion for helping women mature in Christ. Her debut release, A Tailor-Made Bride, won honorable mention in the 2010 Best Western Romance contest. To Win Her Heart, Karen’s third book for Bethany House, released May 1.

Karen grew up in California but moved to Texas to attend Abilene Christian University, where she earned a master’s degrees in Psychology. Now a deacon’s wife, she and her husband, along with their three children, make their home in Abilene.

What sparked your interest in writing and, specifically, historical romance?

I’ve always been an avid reader, and historical romance was always my genre of choice. As I grew up from the Little House series through the Anne of Green Gables books on to more sophisticated romantic fiction, I’d always been drawn to stories set in the past. It’s a true escape, a place for dreams. When I decided to try my hand at writing my own stories, there was no doubt in my mind about what genre to choose. Historical romance is my passion.

You hold a masters degree in Psychology. Did you have other career aspirations?

I planned to be a school psychologist once upon a time. However, in the middle of grad school, I realized that despite my strong desire to help others, counseling was not the career for me. I finished my degree anyway and worked for a couple years at the university before becoming a stay-at-home mom. After five years, I found myself back in the workforce again, this time as a Testing Coordinator, giving ACT exams, CLEP tests, etc. I still work full-time in this capacity. Writing is my second career. My ambition and passion are deeply invested in my writing, but I love the stability of the steady paycheck from my day job. For now, it’s a combination that works well for me.

Has God ever provided an unexpected “detour” in your life that turned out to be positive?

More than once! In 2003, I was at home with my three kids thinking I’d be a stay-at-home mom for the next fifteen years. Then my husband came home with the news that his position was being eliminated and in six months he’d be out of a job. Panic! We prayed, and prayed, and prayed some more, and in the process, I realized that if I was ever going to try my hand at writing, I better do it now. At the time I thought it would be a way to help generate income while I stayed at home with the kids. Obviously, a successful writing career doesn’t spring up overnight, though. I eventually took that Testing Coordinator job, but in the meantime, the writing bug had bitten hard, and I was wading into the depths of learning the craft. Six years later, in January 2009, I signed my first book contract. I truly believe that if my husband had never gone through the loss of his job, I never would have found the impetus to start writing. Praise God for detours!

How does your faith play into your writing?

Faith plays a vital role in my writing, both in my stories and in the actual process of putting words on the page. Writing Christian fiction is my way of giving back to a God who has blessed me beyond measure. I long to spread that blessing to others through stories of faith. I pray daily, asking the Lord to provide the creativity and ideas I need to pen a compelling tale as well as wisdom to incorporate nuggets of truth that will encourage readers’ spirits. I feel His direction as I write and know that without His assistance my writing would be meaningless.

Let’s talk about your new book, To Win Her Heart (Bethany House, May 1, 2011). Please tell us about it.

Having completed his sentence for the unintentional crime that derailed his youthful plans for fame and fortune, Levi Grant looks to start over in the town of Spencer, Texas. Spencer needs a blacksmith, a trade he learned at his father’s knee, and he needs a place where no one knows his past. But small towns leave little room for secrets. . . .

Eden Spencer has sworn off men, choosing instead to devote her time to the lending library she runs. When a mountain-sized stranger walks through her door and asks to borrow a book, she steels herself against the attraction he provokes. His halting speech and hesitant manner leave her doubting his intelligence. Yet, as the mysteries of the town’s new blacksmith unfold, Eden discovers hidden depths in him that tempt her heart.

Levi’s renewed commitment to his faith leads Eden to believe she’s finally found a man of honor and integrity, a man worthy of her love. But when the truth about his prodigal past comes to light, can this tarnished hero find a way to win back the librarian’s affections?

Besides entertainment, what do you hope readers will take away from it?

The underlying theme of this book is one of forgiveness and of learning to view others through God’s lens instead of our own. Just as Jesus encouraged the Pharisees to only cast a stone if they were without sin, we must learn to set aside our self-righteous pride in favor of mercy and forgiveness. It is human nature to keep records of wrongs and to view others through our own hurts and prejudices. Our God is certainly concerned with justice, but when one of His children repents, His mercy and forgiveness know no bounds. We must learn to exhibit the same grace to our brothers and sisters in Christ, extending them the mercy we ourselves would wish to receive. After all, love keeps no record of wrongs.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)

What advice would you offer to writers—young or older—who are just starting out?

Spend time mastering the craft of fiction writing. Attend workshops and conferences, find a critique partner whom you respect, enter contests, get to know your market, and open yourself to constructive criticism. The biggest recommendation I have, though, is to be patient and wait on God’s timing. There is so much to learn and so many skills to polish and, even when you are ready to submit, the waiting can seem endless. Remember that we are called to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Never give up.

A few fun questions…

When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?

I will sometimes use a cup of hot chocolate when I need a short break from writing. It warms me and gives me something sweet, which helps banish the sour taste of frustration when the words won’t come. When I’m celebrating, though, it is definitely with chocolate chip ice cream. Love that stuff! Can you tell I have a sweet tooth?

This website features musicians as well as writers. Do you have musical, as well as literary, talent?

Music has been and continues to be a huge part of my life. I’ve always been a singer. I love singing in church, in the choirs I joined while in college, and even in an adult classical chorus that my husband and I sing with off and on. From fifth grade through my first year in college, however, I was a band geek, playing flute. When I met my husband, he convinced me to switch to choir, but I still love band as well. Now my daughter plays my old flute in the junior high band, and I get to relive my glory days.

If you were a song, what kind of song would you be?

This is a tough one. Part of me is very classic and traditional and would lean toward the music of Mozart or Beethoven. Part of me is very fun-loving, leading me in the direction of those great oldies from the 50s and 60s. Then, of course, there is my hopeless romantic side which would steer me toward the love ballads of Josh Groban. And I can’t forget my deep love of hymns, reflecting my relationship with the Lord. Is there a way to combine those four? If so, that would be my song.

Are you a major or a minor chord?

I’m definitely a major chord. I like to be pleasant to the ear and rarely buck the system. However, I admit to being dearly attracted to the haunting beauty of minor chords. There are certain hymns, like Flee as a Bird, that resonate with me because of their minor chords. And Christmas carols like I Wonder as I Wander, linger with me long after the season is over. I think I’m a major chord who secret wants to be minor.

In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?

I’m your friendly, neighborhood girl next door. Wholesome, compliant, eager to please, low maintenance. Pretty much what you see is what you get.

I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.

As a kid, we had a Dalmatian for a pet. She was a sweet dog and one of the prettiest Dalmatians I can remember seeing. She was show quality in looks but deaf in one ear. That didn’t matter to me, though. I thought she was wonderful. I even got to name her. Remember my affinity for chocolate chip ice cream? Well, when we sat around the supper table and discussed names, it occurred to me that her white body with black spots looked just like my favorite dessert. We christened her Chocolate Chippy, but we all just called her Chippy.

Thank you, Karen! It’s so nice to have you at DivineDetour!

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For more information about Karen and her books, visit her website at http://www.karenwitemeyer.com/.

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