Author Karen Harter's first novel, "Where Mercy Flows," was originally written for the mainstream market.  But she's thrilled to have seen it and subsequent works cross over into the Christian market.

In this interview, Karen discusses what inspired her newest novel, "Autumn Blue," what it takes to be a fiction writer and some of the challenges she faces as an author. …

What led you to become a CBA author?
Actually, I wrote my first novel, "Where Mercy Flows," with a secular audience in mind. That story is a prodigal daughter parable in which the protagonist, Samantha Dodd, sees her father as her judge, unable to believe that he could possibly love her after what she has become. It’s really about a loving and merciful God, with a redemptive message that I wanted to send to unbelievers. Though my first two books have been published by Center Street, a secular publisher, I’m thrilled that they’ve crossed over into the Christian market!  One of the novels I’m working on now is more likely to be published by a CBA publisher.

How did you come up with the concept for "Autumn Blue"?
While lying on my bed for a Sunday afternoon nap, one of the characters popped into my head without warning. He must have come from God. I wasn’t looking for another project; I already had two in the hopper.  By the end of my sleepless nap, I had another major character and the beginnings of a plot, and suddenly I knew that this story took precedence over the others.

Is any part of "Autumn Blue" factual?
No. I invented the town of Ham Bone and each of the characters.
How closely is this "Autumn Blue" based on your life?
The story was definitely influenced by a time of crisis in which our youngest son became a chronic runaway. He was angry and miserable and we couldn’t connect with him.  But we prayed. It’s a long story, but let me just say this; we asked the Lord to bring someone into his life who could reach him, a mentor or mentors, and that’s exactly what He did.  Our son is now a happy, healthy, godly man today.  Praise God!  Though the characters and situations in "Autumn Blue" are totally unique, I cried for Sidney Walker’s pain as she fought to save her lost son - especially since she didn’t even have a husband to help shoulder her anguish as I did.

How long did "Autumn Blue" take you to complete?
I believe it was about nine months.

What is the symbolism for the title "Autumn Blue"?
Well … the story takes place in autumn. Honestly, I had another title but my publisher didn’t like it. My editor, my agent and I made lists of possibilities and they both got stuck on "Autumn Blue." At first I thought it didn’t make sense, though it was rather lyrical. Actually, I still don’t think it makes sense, but doesn’t it work well on that beautiful book cover with the blazing trees against pure blue sky?

Do you have a favorite character? Why?
Millard Bradbury. He’s the lovable old curmudgeon that popped into my head when I wasn’t even looking for him.  Millard reminds me of my dad in some ways, but Dad is nicer.  Since his wife’s death, Mr. Bradbury’s life has come down to a daily ritual of reading the paper, working the crossword puzzle, and maintaining his perfect lawn.  That is, until the invasion of that confounded mole – and then the Walkers, the new family across the street.  One critic compared Millard to the uncles in "Second Hand Lions" – grumpy on the outside but soft and vulnerable inside.  My heart goes out to him because I know he’s the same guy who once flew an F-86 fighter plane, who hiked and fished, danced with his wife, but now finds himself trapped in an aging body with seemingly no more missions or dances in his fading future.