Behind the Book: When We Were Young by Karen Kingsbury

Editor’s Note: Karen Kingsbury has captivated thousands with her Baxter Family series. No one is more invested in a single family than Kingsbury fans. Her award-winning books center on realistic storylines and emotional writing keep bringing fans back for more and more. In her latest novel, When We Were Young, she focuses on second chances and the way back to each other. We had the opportunity to catch up with Karen recently, and she was kind enough to provide us with answers to our questions.

When We Were Young front cover

When We Were Young focuses on second chances. What inspired you to write about this?
My son, Tyler, showed me a new John Mayer song – Never on the Day You Leave. The message was haunting. My take away question was this: What if you could know today what would happen if you really walked out that door tomorrow? From that point, the novel came to life. Like all my books, very soon God had given me a movie in my head and heart. I loved everything about writing this book.

Noah becomes obsessed with social media, which severely damages his marriage. What do you feel are the pitfalls of becoming obsessed with your projected image? An image is just that – a picture of reality. Almost always it is not actual reality. We use social media to present our best selves to the world. But often times we do this at the cost of time we might otherwise have spent on our real lives. Time with real people, building real relationships. When we worry too much about the way our friends and family and even strangers view us, we can lose what is real. This is what happens to Noah in When We Were Young.

Were Emily and Noah inspired by any real-life people? 
No, they are completely fictional, although there are many couples whose love stories have brought them significant social media followings. My son’s friend stopped by the house recently, and we were talking about what these young people wanted to do when they finished school. Her answer was simple: “I want to be Internet famous.” This is the risk with the current culture. Rather than wanting what is real for love alone, they want love to be perfect so they can become famous. It is troubling.

What would you recommend couples do to ensure they don’t neglect their relationship?
 For married couples, it is important to make a habit of intimacy. This means looking into the eyes of your husband or wife daily. Kiss often. Hug. Develop a pattern of closeness that the world cannot touch. The focus for a married couple should not only be on physical love but emotional and intellectual love, as well. Spiritual love, too. Pray together. Read the Bible together. Talk late into the night. Stay deep. People need not worry about whether the world approves or applauds. Love is between two people and God. Period.

When We Were Young takes place over the course of a single night. Why did you decide to keep the story within that timeframe?
Growing up, my favorite Christmas movie was Scrooge, the musical, starring Albert Finney. Our family still makes a point of gathering to watch that old classic. I always cry over the fact that Scrooge is changed in a single night. So … between the song and the movie, I wanted to find a way for Noah to see his future play out the same way – all in a twenty-four hour period. I believed that would create the greatest impact for the story.

What was your favorite part about writing this book?
The possibilities it contains. I believe God is going to use this story to strengthen and save marriages. I cried at the thought of Noah understanding – all in one night – the cost he was exacting on his family by walking out the door in the morning. Tears fell down my cheeks as I wrote much of this book.  I think it will have the same impact on readers.

What do you think it is that draws Emily and Noah to each other?
Emily and Noah are drawn by their ability to sacrifice for others. They love without counting the cost to themselves. Noah is struck by Emily’s love for her handicapped sister Clara, while Emily is drawn to Noah’s determination to sacrifice the sport he loves for her. Theirs is a beautiful, desperate love. But isn’t that how so many marriages begin? The trick, then, is to keep it that way. This is the story of When We Were Young.

In many ways, this book comes across as a call to action to couples around the world to put each other at the center of their world. Do you feel this change is needed? Why or why not?
Yes, I do feel When We Were Young calls husbands and wives to a deeper relationship and a closer walk with each other. Other than faith in God, the most important decision you will make in life is whom you marry and how you treat that person. Your marriage has the potential to give you a beautiful life. But it also has the possibility of tearing your life apart. Little choices today can net big dividends tomorrow – for better or worse. Today’s culture is instant and fast-paced. It is easy to neglect the one person who loves you and knows you best – your husband or wife. It’s time to turn off our computers and turn to each other.

Noah is allowed a glimpse of his future if he makes one choice. What would you do with the ability to see your future?
For any of us – me included – the ability to see our future gives us a strong desire to change. Perhaps in some cases, a glimpse at tomorrow would encourage us to stay the course or better enjoy the wonderful marriages we already have. It’s important to realize how taking a small step away from your spouse – to the right or left – will in ten years or twenty take you to vastly different places. Guard your marriage. Protect your love. Invest in it. In that way, a look at the future would come with a smile.

What is your favorite thing about writing about the Baxter family?  I know the Baxter family so well that it feels wonderful to write a stand-alone novel like When We Were Young and include them as ancillary characters. It’s fun for me and for my readers to see that Emily and Noah’s friends are Kari Baxter Taylor and her husband, Ryan. These characters live in my heart. They always will!

Karen Kingsbury, #1 New York Times bestselling novelist, is America’s favorite

Karen Kingsbury / Key Author Photo

Photo Credit: Dean Dixon

inspirational storyteller, with more than twenty-five million copies of her award-winning books in print. Her last dozen titles have topped bestseller lists, and many of her novels are under development with Hallmark Films and as major motion pictures. Her Baxter Family books are being developed into a TV series slated for major network viewing sometime in the next year. Karen is also an adjunct professor of writing at Liberty University. In 2001 she and her husband, Don, adopted three boys from Haiti, doubling their family in a matter of months. Today the couple has joined the ranks of empty-nesters, living in Tennessee near five of their adult children. You can find Karen on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Her latest novel, When We Were Young, is available October 16 in Half Price Books stores and online at HPB.com while supplies last.

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