Holidays are not “happy” for everyone, and this is something I too easily forget.
Kathi Macias tackles a realistic aspect of holidays–homelessness–in her latest Christmas novel Unexpected Christmas Hero. This is not a feel-good Christmas story, at least not to start. I found it hard to read at first. The main character, Josie, is a mom with two young children who finds herself unexpectedly homeless because of some poor financial decisions her late husband made before his death. In a year’s time, she went from living the “American dream” and enjoying a robust Thanksgiving to scrounging for a warm, dry place to sleep for a night and eating a Thanksgiving meal in a shelter. Her struggles, fears and survival tactics are so realistic, I was stressed reading about her journey. I was also convicted about how little I think of others on those holidays and humbled by how casually I’ve treated the blessings in my life.
The young family meets Rick, a homeless veteran, who crosses their path many times and helps them when he can. The supporting characters in Unexpected Christmas Hero do the sorts of things I would hope every caring person would think of: taking people into their homes, sharing meals, offering rides, volunteering at homeless shelters.
Macias’s stories almost always leave me feeling uncomfortable in a good way and challenged in my beliefs and actions.
Watch the book trailer below, then read on as Kathi talks with Christian Speakers Services about the book and the “story behind the story” about the man pictured on the book’s front cover.
Homelessness is a tough topic for Christmas. What inspired you to use that as the basis for your annual Christmas novel?
I’ve been involved in homeless ministries, to one degree or another, for decades, so I’m not new to this area of ministry. But I’ll admit that I had never considered writing a novel about it until someone in my family, who had personally experienced homelessness at one time in his life, suggested it. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed the perfect theme for a Christmas novel. After all, at Christmas we celebrate the birth of our Savior, who was pretty much homeless at that particular point in time and was born in a stable because there was no room for them at the Bethlehem Motel 6.
Despite having previous ministry and even personal experience with the homeless, were there still some difficult times for you as you researched and wrote this novel?
Absolutely! I always try to climb inside the skin of my characters, and when I thought of myself as the young mother Josie, attempting to care for and protect her two small children while living on the streets, I wept. There were times when my own children were little that we didn’t have a lot of material things and almost never had enough money at the end of the month, but we always had a roof over our heads and never wondered where we would find our next meal. When I consider that approximately 25 percent of the homeless in America are families (either single or dual-parent) with small children, it breaks my heart.
Can you give us a brief synopsis of Unexpected Christmas Hero?
This is a story about a young family—husband, wife, two small children—who seem to be living the American dream. But when the husband dies unexpectedly, the wife (Josie) not only has to deal with that loss but quickly discovers that they are destitute. Her husband had lost his job some months earlier but didn’t want to worry her, so he hid it from her, hoping to find another position. He didn’t, and eventually ran up all their credit cards, took out a second mortgage on the house, emptied their savings, and even cashed in his life insurance policy. It doesn’t take long until Josie and her children lose their home and find themselves living on the streets, depending on the charity of others to survive. Then they meet Rick, a homeless Vietnam vet who takes them under his wing and, in a most surprising and sacrificial way, becomes their unexpected Christmas hero.
Tell us about the “story behind the story,” which involves the man on the front cover.
When the publisher sent the designer out to find someone to pose as Rick, the homeless vet in the book, he spotted a man on the street who looked amazingly like him. He asked the man—whose name is Willard Parker—if he would pose for the book cover. The man readily agreed and then explained that he truly was homeless and hoped having his picture on the cover would somehow help him find his family, particularly his grown daughter. We are doing our best to stay in touch with Mr. Parker and also to spread his story across the Internet and on radio/TV in hopes of fulfilling his dream to be reunited with his family. If anyone looks at the picture on the cover and/or recognizes the man’s name (Willard Parker) and knows the whereabouts of any of his family, we would truly appreciate it if they would contact me at email@example.com
so we can take the necessary steps to try and make this reunion happen.
Where can people find your book?
It’s available on any of the main online venues (Amazon, ChristianBooks.com, Barnes & Noble, etc.) and many stores nationwide.
Can you give us your website info?
Sure! You can find me at www.kathimacias.com
. I’d love it if people would stop by there and check out all my books, as well as the video trailers that go with them. They can also sign up to receive my weekly devotional, or check out where I’ll be speaking in the near future. Above all, click on “contact” and send me an email. I’d love to hear from them, and I promise to answer.
I was given a complimentary copy of this book from the author in exchange for posting the author’s interview and/or book review on my blog. CSS Virtual Book Tours are managed by Christian Speakers Services (http://ChristianSpeakersServices.com).