Oh friends, you are in for a treat, albeit a few days late: Katherine Willis Pershey is the real deal. After reading some of her articles and hearing her on the Shalom in the City podcast, I knew we had to get her and her new book, Very Married, over here, too. So, pour yourself a cup of tea and cozy up for this lovely interview with today’s author!
Tell us a bit about yourself, will you? I’m super Midwestern. That didn’t used to seem like the most pressing biographical detail, but then I lived in Southern California for eight years and discovered that my regional roots are indeed formative and intractable. I live in Western Springs, Illinois with my husband Benjamin and our two daughters. I serve as the associate pastor of the United Church of Christ congregation in town. I always wanted to be a writer; in fact, the realization that pastors wrote sermons was partly how my call to ordained pastoral ministry emerged. My first book, Any Day a Beautiful Change: A Story of Faith and Family was published in 2012, and Very Married: Field Notes on Love and Fidelity came out last fall.
Let’s talk about your book: what, in a nutshell, is your book about anyway? In a nutshell: marriage! All things marriage. The practical, the political, the cultural, the theological. It’s not a traditional how-to book written by an expert telling you how to do marriage better, but rather a pairing of personal narrative and theological reflection written by a marriage geek.
Do tell, what was the inspiration behind it? I wrote the book I couldn’t find on the shelves of my local bookstore – the book I wanted to be able to share with my parishioners and with the engaged couples to whom I offer premarital counseling.
But I’d been frustrated with the gap in the literature for years; there was very much an inciting incident. I developed a crush on a man who was not my husband and kind of panicked. I realized I had precious few models of what it looked like to walk away from temptation, since our culture is littered with stories of folks who dive right in. I did walk away, thank God. And after a lot of conversation with my husband and prayerful discernment, I decided to write about it – to offer one small story of fidelity to counterbalance all the stories of infidelity. The Christian Century published my essay and within a week I had an invitation from Herald Press to write the book. (I said no. Like, several times. But the acquisitions editor and the Holy Spirit were equally relentless.)
How do you hope readers will be changed by your words? I don’t have anything against how-to books, but advice only goes so far. What I hope Very Married offers is embodied wisdom and honest encouragement.
Lest we forget to ask, how have YOU been changed by writing the book? Writing a book about marriage definitely strengthened my love and commitment to my beloved husband. But it was also a very good exercise in humility. We’ve learned and grown so much through our fifteen years together, but we’re still two fairly difficult people who love deeply yet fumble frequently. For the first few months after the book was published, when we hit a rough patch I’d freak – I wrote a book about marriage! I should be better at this by now! I’ve had to learn to hold the book lightly, and recognize that while it’s partly about my marriage, it does not – cannot – define my marriage.
How and where can we find you on the internet?
I know. Real deal Holyfield. I’m a big fan of the way Katherine thinks, feels and processes through life, and I can’t wait for you to grab a copy of her newest. Herald Press is giving away TWO copies of Very Married, so leave an encouraging comment to Katherine about why you’d like to read her book (or why you previously loved her book). Bottom line: show her some love! Contest ends on Thursday, July 13th.
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