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Author Talk: October 2014

Lynn Austin has sold more than one million copies of her books worldwide. She is an eight-time Christy Award winner and an inaugural inductee into the Christy Award Hall of Fame, as well as a popular speaker at retreats, conventions, women's groups and book clubs. Her latest novel, KEEPERS OF THE COVENANT, is the second installment in her Restoration Chronicles series. It’s based on the biblical story of Ezra, a quiet Jewish scholar who is called upon to deliver his people from Babylon to Jerusalem and to bring hope in a time when dreams of the future seem impossible. In this interview, Austin discusses the themes that tie together KEEPERS OF THE COVENANT and the first book in the series, RETURN TO ME, as well as how she thinks readers will still relate to the challenges her characters faced centuries ago.

Question: How is KEEPERS OF THE COVENANT thematically different from RETURN TO ME? What ties the books together?

Lynn Austin: RETURN TO ME told the story of the first group of exiles who returned to the Promised Land, and the many struggles they faced as they tried to rebuild the nation and God’s Temple. KEEPERS OF THE COVENANT skips ahead 40 years to when the events of the book of Esther take place. It tells how the Jewish people who were scattered throughout the Persian Empire reacted when they learned about the decree calling for their extermination. Ezra is one of the key figures in this story, leading his people through these challenging times. When the crisis of Purim ends, he convinces a second group of exiles to leave Babylon and make the difficult journey to the Promised Land where they will be free to worship God and keep His laws. But just like the first group of immigrants, this second group also discovers that there are many obstacles and challenges involved in leaving a pagan culture to follow God.

Q: Which of Ezra's many challenges do you think readers will relate to the most?

LA: I think all of us struggle to find the balance between being a productive member of our society and culture, yet not compromising our faith or God’s principles. We’re taught to have “the mind of Christ,” yet we face so many competing voices, telling us what’s right and what’s wrong, what we should believe and how we should live. One of Ezra’s biggest challenges was confronting the mixed marriages, which were a threat to the Jewish community. We also face this “mixture” whenever we’re tempted to let the culture determine our choices instead of God’s Word.

Q: What made you decide to write RETURN TO ME and your series The Restoration Chronicles? What do you hope will inspire readers?

LA: I believe there is so much we can learn from studying Scripture, and that its truths have a great deal of relevance to our modern lives. In talking about Israel’s history, the apostle Paul wrote, “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us” (1 Cor. 10:11). I’ve heard many people say that they find the Bible difficult to read, so it’s my prayer that RETURN TO ME and the other books in the series will bring the Bible to life for those readers. I hope they’ll begin to see that the men and women in scripture were very much like us, and that they will be inspired by the walk of faith of biblical people like Ezra.

Q: What sort of research did you do for KEEPERS OF THE COVENANT? 

LA: I love trying new things whenever I research my books. For KEEPERS OF THE COVENANT, I decided to take a series of classes from a local rabbi. This amazing rabbi used humor and story to teach everything I needed to know about Jewish history and beliefs and traditions like the Sabbath. I incorporated many of his words into my novel --- and much of Ezra’s wisdom in the book was inspired by this rabbi.

Q: What was the most difficult part about writing this book?

LA: I think the most difficult thing for me was coming to terms with the evil that exists in this world --- the kind of evil that inspired Haman’s attempted holocaust in the Book of Esther. I’ve wrestled with the same subject of evil while writing my World War II-era books, which describe the Nazi Holocaust. And of course, the Jewish people still face enemies who are determined to annihilate them. Evil does exist. As Christians, we also face an enemy who seeks to destroy us. I don’t like to be reminded of that fact, and I know it would be easier to write “happily-ever-after” novels. Creating a story like KEEPERS OF THE COVENANT, which demonstrates the effects of evil in people’s lives, is very challenging for me.