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Interview with Katherine Barger

Winner of the 2019 American Christian Fiction Writers First Impressions contest, Katherine Barger is a YA author that has a bright writing career ahead of her. In her debut novel of The Exiled Trilogy, Katherine weaves aspects of the lives of Daniel and Nehemiah into this dystopian novel set in near-future America.

Katherine, I feel like we’re bound to become fast friends. From cyber-stalking your website, I’ve learned that we share an affinity for the same books. Which ones have been the most influential in your own writing journey?
All things Madeleine L’Engle. I grew up reading her YA series (A Wrinkle in Time, Meet the Austins, etc.), and a few years ago, I began reading her non-fiction. I related to Meg Murry so much as a teenager, and I still dream about having my own star-watching rock someday. (Were you an awkward Meg Murry, too, Tara??) But what I also really admire about L’Engle is that she wasn’t afraid to bring God into her stories, and she did it in an organic way that I love.

I was in some parts Meg Murry, but in other parts Meg March. We also share a love for not only reading YA, but writing Christian YA fiction. What inspired you to write for this age group and the dystopian genre?
I know this is cliché, but it really was God that inspired me to write YA. I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d be a YA author. I love historical and women’s fiction, so when this story began brewing in my brain, I thought: “Really, God?” But now, I can’t imagine writing any other genre. He knew before I did where I was meant to be.

I have the same answer for writing in the dystopian genre. (*shrugs*) I actually set Fortune’s Fall in a fantasy world at first, but something about it didn’t feel right. So, just for kicks, I rewrote a few scenes in a near-future America, and I knew I’d found my setting.

I also love how you integrated aspects of Old Testament stories into your novel. Can you share some of the parallels you included between your protagonist Nyssa and the Old Testament’s Daniel and Nehemiah?
Sure! So, Fortune’s Fall is loosely inspired by the Jewish exile to Babylon. When I learned that only the elite Jews were exiled and everyone else was left behind to fend for themselves, a story began to brew. What if the Jews who were left behind not only survived, but they thrived, waiting somewhere for their ultimate return to Jerusalem?

I took that idea, set it in a near-future America, and created my protagonist, Nyssa, as dream interpreter to the American president. Like Daniel to King Neb (Can I call him that?), Nyssa has a God-given gift to see symbols within dreams and understand the warnings they give. The president relies on her abilities to help keep him safe. Also like Daniel, Nyssa is an exile, and when she discovers her family was part of the group left behind, her journey to find them begins.

Characters inspired by Nehemiah will become more evident in the second book. :)

So exciting! I can’t wait. While snooping around on your website, I also learned that you are trained as an attorney. How has that training and experience helped you or hindered your writing journey?
My work as an attorney factored into writing Fortune’s Fall so much! I worked as a religious asylum attorney for about seven years. My clients were Christians who fled countries in which the religious persecution was violent and often life-threatening. Their stories were horrifying, but their perseverance was humbling. One of my main responsibilities was to interview them about their lives in their home countries so we could learn exactly what happened to them and why they came to America. Those stories heavily influenced my descriptions of a near-future America and the punishments/life experiences that happen to my characters for choosing faith over country.

Wow. That must have been emotionally heavy but insightful work. Now that you have kids, I’ve also learned that you now home-school. Let’s talk about writing while home-schooling. How’s that going and what are you doing to fit in the words?
Oh, dear. We’ve definitely had our challenges, haha. Overall though, we have a good routine. We do school in the morning and then we’re done for the day. My kids are still pretty young, so it’s not as intense yet as it will be down the road. As far as writing while homeschooling, I get up really early and write for about an hour and a half. (Whoever invented those kids’ alarms that change color so kids know when they can come out of their rooms in the mornings is a genius.) In the afternoons, I write for another hour or so during “rest time.” Somehow, it works!

If only my own kids followed the colors. They pounce on us whether it’s pitch dark or blazing light. Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
The most significant moment was when I connected with my freelance editor, Teresa Lynn. (This was before I signed with a publisher.) I was nearly ready to give up trying to write Fortune’s Fall. I’d hit a dead end and couldn’t figure out which way to go with the story. I found Teresa via the ACFW, and she agreed to work with me. She was the perfect blend of encouragement and critique, and she illuminated the path forward like a God-given lighthouse. I honestly don’t know if I would’ve persevered without her.

With many debut novelists, there are aspects of themselves in their characters. Who would you say is most like you from Fortune’s Fall?
I guess Nyssa is most like me. She’s very analytical and wants to understand things from all angles. My favorite thing she says is: “When I chose to have faith, I didn’t know I’d have to choose it over and over again every day.” That’s how I feel a lot. When I chose to believe in God, it wasn’t like pushing a magic button and, bam, all my doubts vanished. Belief requires a constant reminder to myself that He’s there. I guess that’s where faith comes in, isn’t it? :) Faith is what Nyssa grapples with and begins to understand over time, and that’s me, too. It’s a lifelong journey toward a deeper understanding of God and His existence.

I hear you on this so much. It really is a choice every single day. What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing (or homeschooling)?
Sleeping! Kids don’t know how good they have it when we tell them it’s naptime. Other than that, I love hanging out with my husband. We just moved to a fixer-upper in Mississippi, so we’re busy making it into a home.

Nice! What books are on your nightstand right now? OR What is the most unusual thing you have used as a bookmark?
I’m reading Madeleine L’Engle’s biography A Light So Lovely, and it’s every bit as amazing as I’d hoped it’d be. I also just stumbled upon a Bronte sisters collection and have been slowly making my way through Charlotte Bronte’s The Professor.

What message do you hope readers take away from this book?
The verse that pops up over and over throughout Fortune’s Fall is Hebrews 11:1. “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we don’t see.” I hope that readers see Nyssa’s journey to Fortune’s Fall as a testament to faith. It takes a strong woman to be a Christ-follower, especially today. Be kind and generous. But also, be bold and follow Him in faith.

This is one of my favorite verses, and probably why I loved your book so much. What’s next in your writing journey? Can you give us any hints about who will be in the second Exiled Trilogy story and when it will be released?
I’m hard at work on Book Number Two in the Exiled Trilogy! Most of the characters from the first book show up in the second, and that’s all I’m going to say about that (wink, wink). It’s scheduled for release sometime late next year.

How exciting. I’m sure people will be waiting not-so-patiently once they’ve had a chance to read Fortune’s Fall. Thank you so much Katherine for chatting with me!


As a teen, Tara Ross first discovered how hope-filled prose can change the entire trajectory of a person's life. Case in point: her life. She now has the joy of sharing this truth with youth every day - as a Speech-Language Pathologist, youth ministry worker and YA author.

Her soon to be released debut novel and blog, were created to ignite sparks of faith for Generation Z. You can follow Tara on instagram (tara.k.ross) or twitter (tara_k_ross) for more book reviews, tattoo worthy quotes and updates on her publishing journey.

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