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Interview with Golden Keyes Parsons

Right after she received her contract from Thomas Nelson, our love for writing Christian fiction set outside the United States brought Golden and me together as writing colleagues and friends. Her area of the Huguenots is of particular interest to me, as I did considerable research into the subject and wrote some papers on it after I found a Huguenot diary many years ago. So I eagerly awaited and was not disappointed in her Huguenot books. (For those who aren’t steeped in history, as are Golden and I, the Huguenots were French Protestants who were grossly persecuted in France, especially under Louis XIV.)

Golden, You have an amazingly active life outside of your writing career. Please share a bit of what you do and why.

My husband and I are “retired” pastors, but our lives are still so very busy. We are very involved with our family. Four of our grandsons were playing ball this fall, and we found ourselves literally going from ball field to ball field to try to watch all of them play, not to mention band and plays and ... well, you get the idea. Both of us are involved in mentoring young adults and young married in our church. And we are loving being able to participate in various functions at Baylor University, our alma mater, where we met and married.

Tell us a bit about what launched your publishing career. What influenced you to be an author, etc?
I grew up in a family of newspaper men, editors and authors, so reading and writing was a natural part of my growing up years. But I didn’t attempt to get published until I started speaking professionally in 1996. And I started out in non-fiction. True confessions here. I had a rather snobbish attitude toward fiction writers. Tsk, tsk! They’re just telling stories. I’m writing biblical truth. Then the Lord really chastised me when I realized that’s how Jesus conveyed truth much of the time. He told stories.

About that time I ran across a published genealogy of my Huguenot ancestors in 17th century France and was fascinated by the letters and journals in the volume. I wanted to tell their story, and decided to do it in the historical fiction genre.

I met my agent, Mary Beth Chappell with Zachary, Shuster, Harmsworth Literary and Entertainment Agency in New York, at the Glorieta Christian Writers Conference in October of 2006, and by the next August she had secured a contract for me with Thomas Nelson Publishing.

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
When I was first published, we were still pastoring full-time, so I would get up at 4:30 or 5 am to work in my writing time. Now that we are retired, it’s a bit easier, but now we live with our family nearby and that presents its challenges. One simply has to be disciplined on a consistent basis to get the job done.

How do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
It’s who I am, so naturally it comes through my writing. I have a firm conviction that as Christian authors we should paint a realistic picture of the struggles of mankind, and then present Jesus as the answer. That may be done subtly at times, and at other times more forthright in our novels, but that element of spiritual hope needs to shine through.

I’m teaching a class at Baylor University right now entitled What Makes Christian Fiction Christian. We arrived at the definition that Christian fiction has God’s redemption woven throughout the story. We’ve engaged in some interesting dialogue, and even looked at some “secular” fiction which, according to that definition, could be classified as Christian fiction. I just think that if one’s faith is genuine, it comes through the writing whether one is writing “Christian fiction” for the CBA or “secular fiction” for the ABA.

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career thus far?
If you are referring to awards and such, that would be when In The Shadow of the Sun King was nominated for Book of the Year 2008.

However, one of the most satisfying moments was when I learned that a friend of ours who was living in France gave Sun King to an atheist friend of hers—and after reading the book, her friend said, “Maybe there is something to this God thing after all.”

Who/What spurs you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?
As I mentioned above, I grew up in a writing/reading atmosphere. I was a voracious reader as a child and teen-ager. To express myself in the written word was always easier for me than in the spoken word. So that motivation has continued into my adulthood. I would be writing whether in a professional venue or not.

The idea for the Darkness to Light series obviously came to me via the family genealogy I found. When it came time to write the fourth novel, being a Texan, I wanted to write a book set in Texas, but I wasn’t interested in the typical western. Not much had been written about Texas during the Civil War, so we decided to pursue that.

Where do my character ideas come from? I cannot honestly tell you. I really feel that my characters choose me, rather than me choosing them. An interesting story about the hero in His Steadfast Love: I had named him Robert Littlefield. I had a dream one night about the book, and he was seated on his horse. He turned and looked at me and said, “My name is Kent.”

It was so clear and vivid that when I woke up I went to my computer and changed all the “Roberts” to “Kents!”

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
I almost think someone else, one of my readers, could answer this question better than I, but I think I do have a penchant for making my characters and scenes very realistic.

What question do you wish I had asked? And what is your answer?
How do you envision your characters? And my answer is that I am such a visual person, I like envisioning what actors and actresses might portray my characters. For my heroine, Amanda Belle, I’ve chosen Clare Danes. For her Union officer sweetheart, Jim Caveziel. And for her brother who fought for the confederacy, Ryan Gosling.

Any parting words?
Only that I have felt so honored to have had the privilege to write and be published. Thank you for this opportunity to share some of my thoughts.

Thanks for sharing with us, Golden.
It has been my privilege!

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