Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Romancing the Authors Week Welcomes Romance Editor and Author Karen Ball!!

Today on Words to Go, I’ll be chatting with an author friend who I’ve known longer than almost any author in Christian publishing. Karen Ball and I first met at author Gil Morris’s house in Baton Rouge way back in the early 90’s. She was a new editor and I was struggling to get my first book contract. Gil had agreed to be my writing coach. Since then Karen and I have both come up together in the Christian fiction market and I’m very honored to call her my wonderful friend. She is a head editor and Christian romance novelist. Her novel What Lies Within has been nominated as the best inspirational novel of the year. Today Karen and I are talking about the pinnacles and pitfalls of being in love. Welcome, Karen to Words to Go.

KAREN: Thanks so much, Patty. I remember that first meeting, and the fun we had with good ol' Gil. He and his wife, Johnnie, are a perfect example of a couple still deeply in love after a boatload of years. Johnnie once told me the secret to their long-lived love affair was laughter. Gil once told me the key was Johnnie. How sweet is that??

PATTY: I love them both so much. Karen, yesterday Deb and I talked about how hard it is to find peace as a married couple. Tomorrow hubby and I will talk about our growing pains. Like Deb and me you are also still married to the same guy. But you and I have prayed for one another over the years. At times it’s been an uphill battle, wouldn’t you say?

KAREN: Absolutely, as anyone who has read my novel, The Breaking Point, can attest. That novel was based on what Don and I had gone through in our marriage, including a year-long separation and over 15 years of counseling.

PATTY: That was such a painful period of life for you. But some couples would not hold out for that much counseling.

KAREN: The fact that we just celebrated our 29th anniversary in December is a testimony to God's grace. And the fact that we truly celebrated because we're not just spouses but FRIENDS now (I can't tell you how amazing that is considering where we were in our relationship 15 years ago or so), is something that moves me more than I can say.

PATTY: Could you explain some of the process that helped you work through it?

KAREN: If I've learned anything, through my own experiences and through the experiences of many of my friends, it's that lifelong love between two people is the result of a lot of hard work, and a lot of grace. Learning to lay your "rights" on God's altar, to submit to His call to serve the one we love, is tough. But it's oh, so worth it! When I look at Don now, I see a man of God, a man I can trust and depend on, a man I enjoy being with. But those kinds of feelings only came once I stopped trying to make Don into the man he should be and instead asked God to make me the wife Don needed.
If THAT'S not hard work, I don't know what is!

PATTY: Did you see romance differently as a young girl compared to now?

KAREN: Oh, gosh yes! I used to see romance as the stuff of romance novels. Heady and exhilarating, full of drama and passion. While I still consider those things a part of romance, I know now that it's far more about really seeing each other.

PATTY: It was those romance movies that affected me.

KAREN: You know, there's a scene in the movie, City of Angels, where the angel, played by Nicholas Cage, is, for the first time in his existence, SEEN. Meg Ryan's character looks up during a surgery she's performing, and she looks right at the angel and talks to him. You can see the shock that ripples through him at that moment, and then how that simple fact--being seen--draws him to her.

PATTY: There’s also a spiritual aha in that.

KAREN: Whether we realize it or not, we all long to be seen. To be listened to and cared about, to have someone know we're here--and to have that fact mean something to them. Don sees who I am, good days and bad. And he accepts me. He knows my heart better than most anyone else, and treats it with respect and honor. I know my being here makes a huge difference to him, and that his world would be poorer if I were gone. Just as mine would were he to leave.

PATTY: When my hubby and I counsel couples, the difference in their either succeeding or falling apart as a couple is that confidence you’re now finding in yourself and each other.

KAREN: That sense of mattering, of knowing someone sees you as you are and loves you, warts and all, and that he LIKES you, too...there's just no comparison to that.

PATTY: What advice would you like to give to others who might be struggling to stay in love?

KAREN: Forget about staying in love. Simply love. Treat one another with kindness, no matter what. So many of us forget to be kind to our spouses. Never let sarcasm take wing. Just because you think it doesn't mean you have to speak it.

PATTY: Randy and I had to realize that there’s no audience around to laugh at our cruel humor—it’s just us absorbing the pain of what comes out of our mouths.

KAREN: So true. We have to remember, words hold great power. Speak life and truth to your spouse, not denegration or criticism. This is the person you're going to be with until you shuffle off this mortal coil. Treat him or her accordingly! Focus your energy and passion and care on the person you've chosen for your life-time mate. Listen more than you speak. Offer grace, even when it's not deserved. And be willing to give up your "rights" so you may gain God's blessings. Serve. Uplift. Encourage. Make it your prime directive, so to speak, to be Christ to your spouse.

PATTY: That’s one of those lessons that comes hard fought. You don’t always feel like “being Jesus” in the heat of an argument.

KAREN: Trust me on this, when you start treating your spouse this way, even if you don't feel like it...when you act out of obedience rather than what's deserved (and never forget NONE of us deserves anything but death)...when you seek out the good rather than harping on the bad...when you purpose to show kindness no matter what...then, my friends, you will rock your spouse's world. And your own.

PATTY: That’s a term my hubby uses—he says he wants to rock my world. When it seemed as if every fight was the end of us, we had to take an active interest in finding uplifting language to replace the old “lists”. What you seem to say is that we need to make new lists for each other. Karen, thanks for baring your soul today on Words to Go. You’ve given us some great food for the journey.

Tomorrow I have all but hog-tied my beloved, my Babe into giving us some pearls from the man’s view. It’s so different asking a dude to wade into all of this emotional fodder. He sat here at my desk, writing—at first waxing rather preacherly and eloquent. But then, ahem, he came clean. But he’s so used to that because God has taught him to be very confessional before Him and his congregation.

So tomorrow Randy and I will discuss the issues we had to traverse as a couple, from porn to the priesthood.

As Karen says, I hope you and your beloved are growing as a couple and learning to rock each other’s world. Or else I pray that God leads you to find your soul mate—believe me, the road doesn’t end at t the I-do’s. It’s a journey for the faithful and the courageous. See you tomorrow!

If you leave feedback, your name is entered for fabulous, thrilling prizes in Friday’s big book give-away. Rock your world!