NLB Horton, author of The Brothers' Keepers, has found herself in situations that would make great material for any writer's next novel. She has surveyed Israeli and Jordanian archaeological digs, tossed a tarantula from her skiff into the Amazon after training with an Incan shaman, driven uneventfully through Rome and consumed gallons of afternoon tea while traveling across five continents.
The inspiration for Horton's protagonist, Grace Madison (a mother who would do anything to protect her family) was born from an experience the author had while on an archaeological dig she embarked upon as a part of her master's degree program with Dallas Theological Seminary in 2007. As she stood at the edge of a dig pit in the tel Dan of northern Israel with her husband and their teenage children nearby, heavy artillery fire began booming from Syria as staccato machine-gun reports peppered near the Lebanese border. An Israeli Defense Force camouflage-painted plane broke through an unseasonal cloud cover, circling the site. It was a harrowing experience sure to stick with anyone!
Current issues in the Middle East played an active role in both the author's inspiration for the Parched series (which starts with When Camels Fly) as well as the topics addressed in the pages of this book. Of course, conflict in the area dates back to the very beginning when Cain first asked, "Am I my brother's keeper?"
One theme that flows throughout the Parched series addresses an issue Horton is particularly passionate about-the scarcity of potable water-not only in the Middle East, but around the world. Horton explains, "Around the world, there is a shortage of water for drinking, irrigating crops, and supporting livestock. That is true even within US borders, especially in the West where I live. Historical issues aside, a huge factor in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is unequal distribution of water. The world needs new sources of potable and economical drinking water, and we need to manage this most precious resource wisely. As a Christian and environmentalist, I believe humans are stewards of God's creation. Parched addresses stewardship of the highest order, and I hope the series raises awareness of this literally life-threatening issue. We can live without oil, but we can't survive without water."
This past fall, Horton spent two months abroad doing research for her next book. While she hasn't shared many details of her adventures just yet, one thing is for sure: her thorough research of the settings for the next tale will make readers feel as if they are traveling right along with Grace through Italy, Greece and Turkey. Getting all the details right is of utmost importance to Horton, especially within the international suspense genre in which she writes. She admits, "I could not write these manuscripts without knowing their settings well, and in some instances, intimately. I can picture the Temple Mount of Jerusalem at sunrise. I know what the Istanbul spice market smells like on a drizzly day. I catch my breath at the memory of height vertigo atop Machu Picchu. I remember the taste of wild blueberries after surprising a 1200-pound grizzly bear on the Kenai Peninsula. As useful as the Internet is for the copious research behind each book in the Parched series, nothing replaces living in Grace's tattered hiking boots."
Horton, a member of the venerable Explorers Club, founded in 1904 as a multidisciplinary professional society of explorers and scientists, never intended to base the character of Grace on herself. In fact, when readers first started making the comparison between author and character, Horton was surprised. Her family, however, laughed at the obvious connection Horton had not made. "I can understand and relate to all of my characters - their motivations and desires. But like readers my age, I especially relate to Grace: her faith, skepticism, flaws, and humor," Horton admits. "I also identify with Grace because I am a Christian who is 'in the world, but not of it.' My career, my education, my travel: each of these elements formed me, but they occurred in the midst of people whose beliefs did not always ally with mine. I am invigorated by God's creation, as is Grace. I want to experience it! And I hope her character portrays a demographic of Christianity that is intelligent, fair, and fearless because of its belief in God's empowerment, one attractive to non-believers because these Christians live their faith with realism and love."
About The Brothers' Keepers: