award-winning author CathyGohlke! We still have some great things to cover so will jump right in. :-)
Cathy, you tell a wonderful story on your website about when you first believed you wanted to be a writer. Will you share that with our readers?
I was five years old when one mild spring morning my younger brother, Danny, and I sat on the living room sofa, our grandmother sandwiched between us. Our imaginations climbed the twisted trails forged by Lewis Carroll, as Grandma read aloud, Through the Looking Glass. That book was absolute magic for me, and I was certain that the black block words of the story appeared between its covers by the same method.
But that day Grandma revealed a secret, a profound truth that forever changed my life: “Books aren’t made by magic. Real people write books.”
Skeptical that such a thing could be achieved by mere mortals, I tested the waters. “Well, then, can I write books?”
Grandma didn’t see why not. “But first you have to learn to read and write.”
I dreamed of becoming a teacher, an actress, a detective, a spy, a disc jockey, the next Annie Sullivan, an archeologist, the ice cream truck driver—and many other things—but I knew from that moment in childhood that I would also one day write books.
That’s a fabulous story! If you could be any character from a favorite historical novel for a few days, who would it be and why?
Hmm. That might be a toss up between Tom Sawyer of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Jo March of Little Women. Anne Shirley, of Green Gables is also a contender. I relate to all those characters, especially Tom and Jo. Both were fearless, resourceful, adventurous, lived on the edge of trouble, and eagerly explored their worlds. Jo and Anne knew from a very young age that they would write.
When starting a new project, do you tend to begin with a time period or event and create the characters to live it, or do you start with characters and then find their story?
Characters come first, though I usually know and/or they dictate the time period. Very often the theme or purpose of a story is paramount in my mind and characters rise up to meet it. I don’t consciously invent characters. They introduce themselves to me, though not always in polite ways. Sometimes they’re quite insistent and even intrusive.
What is the most interesting (or unusual) thing you’ve done in the name of research for one of your projects?
My husband and I visited a cemetery in Israel once, in search of the grave of a historic character. We knew the cemetery closed at dusk, but we were so caught up in our search and pressured by our timetable that we didn’t notice when the gates were locked. By the time we reached the entrance everyone had gone. Not wanting to spend a chilly night in an Israeli graveyard, we climbed the fence and vaulted over the other side, ripping our clothes in the process. Thankfully, we were not arrested. Did I mention this was on our honeymoon?
Now that makes for a honeymoon to remember! Can you tell us about any other projects you have in the works?
In May 2014, sister writer Carrie Turansky and I traveled to England to research books. Carrie conducted research at Tyntesfield near Bristol, site of her Edwardian Bride Series. I researched in the Lake District—for me, the prettiest spot on earth—in search of a story set among British and Jewish (from France and Germany) child evacuees relocated there during WWII and the locals who took them in. Just before being diagnosed with cancer I was contracted by Tyndale House Publishers to write this story:
As the German army plows its way west, Claire flees France for England with five Jewish children—children meant to be rescued by a Resistance contact who never shows. Desperate to return to France and the man she loves, Claire begs her estranged aunt in England’s Lake District to take the children. But the misfortunes of war, her aunt’s mysterious past, fear of abandonment and betrayal, a handsome yet difficult Scot-born American, and the conflicting desires of Claire’s own heart thwart her at every turn. Claire must find a way of escape or face her own demons to forge a new life among the growing number of child evacuees from England’s cities, as well as Jewish children from France, and Germany’s Kindertransport—all children with needs more like her own than she is willing to admit.
I think it’s important for new writers to know that sometimes God steps in and changes our writing and life plans. Sometimes there are simply things He knows and sees that we can’t anticipate. I’d just finished writing Secrets She Kept and contracted my new book (the one set in England’s breathtaking Lake District) when I was diagnosed with breast cancer—a complete surprise. Right away, surgery was scheduled, and soon after I began chemotherapy followed by radiation treatments this fall and eventually hormone therapy for five years. Needless to say, surgery and chemo-brain derailed my writing plans.
But the things I’ve learned from the Lord in the silence of pain and waiting are lessons I’ll carry into all of life ahead, lessons that will surely show up in anything I write in the future, most definitely in the book I’ll resume writing as soon as I’m able.
I share this to say that an interruption in hopes and dreams and plans for a writer is not a dead end. It is a fork in the road less traveled that leads us to new understandings—if we allow it to enrich and not embitter us. Everything in life is material for a writer, every joy and every trial. Let all of life, the good, the bad and the ugly, be the gift it’s meant to be. Seek joy each day, through each experience. We’ll all be better people and better writers for this, we’ll all have more from the Lord to share and more ways to bless one another.
Thank you so much for having me. What a blessing you are!
And what a blessing you’ve been as our spotlight author this week! You’ve been on an amazing journey and we appreciate you sharing it with us.We'll be praying that you continue to have a full recovery.
Visitors, don’t forget that Cathy will be giving away one copy of Secrets She Kept! The drawing will be held on Friday, so be sure to enter through our Rafflecopter form below or by answering this question from Cathy in the comments section:
What is the name of the inspirational Dutch Christian who, with her sister, father and many family members, helped Jews escape Nazi persecution during WWII, and shared her story in her book, The Hiding Place?
Thanks again for spending time with us! Have a great day!a Rafflecopter giveaway