How convoluted was your path to your first published book?
Eugene Peterson described my journey well with the title of his great devotional book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. I wrote all my life: for every school newspaper and while owning a marketing and advertising company. I am an avid reader. When I moved to a mountaintop after retiring, I gave myself the gift of finally sitting down to write fiction.
What is one of the more unique or strange life experiences that has given you an extra oomph in your writing?
I returned to Dallas Theological Seminary for my Master of Arts in Biblical Studies, and embarked on an archaeological survey as part of my degree. I was under heavy-artillery fire from Syria, machine-gun fire out of Lebanon, and a camo- painted Israeli Defense Force bomber. I stood at the edge of a dig pit in far northern Israel with my family at my side. Archaeologist Grace Madison was born that day in late May 2009, and we’ve been inseparable ever since.
Do you experience self-doubt regarding your work, or struggle with writers’ block or angst driven head-banging against walls?
“No” to both. And my answer has nothing whatsoever to do with pride or self-confidence, but rather rests in the knowledge that God has pre-ordained my path, and my success is in His hands. My job is to apply all my gifts to every aspect of writing and publishing. The results are His.
What gives you the greatest buzz regarding your writing career?
When a reader responds to what I like most about my work, reviews are a blast. I am overjoyed when someone picks out Grace’s tenacity; her very daily, intimate, conversational relationship with God; or her fierceness about her beliefs and family.
I also love edits, believe it or not. My first edit was so rough it looked as if the editor spilled red ink down the right column of the document. That “edit” column went on FOREVER. But edits transform my manuscripts. They come alive and mature into the powerful, funny, encouraging, entertaining stories I want them to be. I could never do this on my own and am so thankful for a wonderful team.
Describe where you write, your rituals or creative triggers, or other quirks about your process.
Even when the children were very young, and I was homeschooling them, I had a home office. My current perch overlooks a high mountain valley, and I watch seasons change and weather roll in from my desk chair. I do not write anywhere else.
Because my work is international suspense, though, I take notes everywhere. This fall, I traveled to confirm details for manuscript three and shoot photography and gather marketing material for The Brothers’ Keepers. I came home with 1,489 photos and a notebook full of ideas that enhance in my writing process.
My only rituals are a small pot of tea and a neatly organized desk.
What is the most difficult part of putting together a book?
I only write about places I’ve been and know well, so I sometimes omit important bits and pieces. I subconsciously assume the reader knows what I know—and that’s a mistake. Getting just enough detail to move the story along without bogging down the reader is an instinct I still lack. (This is where the editors come in.)
The process of writing, editing, and polishing is manageable, but creating the title is a nightmare. In my old career, I dreaded writing photo captions and headlines. My literary version of that task is creating titles. “Lord, spare me the titles!”
Tell us about The Brothers’ Keepers.
I’d love to! Grace Madison is in Brussels cataloging looted antiquities when her son’s bride is attacked in Switzerland. Her day careens from bad to catastrophic when daughter Maggie disappears in France. Because of recent family history (When Camels Fly), she suspects that mayhem is afoot.
She summons her family to Paris, where Maggie was last seen. Maggie’s love interests—one as all-American as a golden retriever, the other a movie-star handsome Mossad associate—join family and friends heeding Grace’s call for help. They follow Maggie’s trail, one that leads directly to an ancient relic that passed through King Solomon, the Emperor Constantine, and Reformist Martin Luther.
At the end of their four-thousand-year-old trail that crosses three continents, they discover that to save themselves, they must first rescue an old friend. If he’ll let them.
Can you tell us more about your lead character?
Espionage is an uncomfortable fit for my protagonist, Grace Madison, a middle-aged archaeologist who describes herself as “the plodding type.” Readers refer to her as Hercules in a burkha, Yenta-like, and hysterically funny. More than one has said she wants to be Grace.
Grace’s adult family is intelligent and educated, committed to God and each other, and protective of her. But because they use their God-given gifts to the extreme and have interesting careers of their own, she is thrust into life-threatening situations as she tries to save everyone she holds dear.
This woman of faith has survived two novels: When Camels Fly and The Brothers’ Keepers. I’m not letting her off the hook for at least three more.
NLB Horton returned to writing fiction after an award-winning career in journalism and marketing as well as earning her Master of Arts degree in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. She has surveyed Israeli and Jordanian archaeological digs, tossed a tarantula from her skiff into the Amazon after training with an Incan shaman, driven uneventfully through Rome and consumed gallons of afternoon tea while traveling across five continents.
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