Cathy Gohlke’s interview

» Posted on Mar 10, 2009 in Blog | Comments Off on Cathy Gohlke’s interview

This week I’m hosting Cathy Gohlke with I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires and Mary DeMuth with Daisy Chain. If you want to be entered in the two drawings, please leave a comment this week with your email address. If you don’t leave an email address, you won’t be entered. I’ll have no way to get in touch with you. If you don’t want to
leave an email address, you can email me at and let me know you want to enter the drawing(s). The drawings will end Sunday evening.

Cathy Gohlke’s interview:

1. What made you start writing?

I’ve wanted to write ever since I learned, at five years of age, that real people create the magic between the covers of books. I knew that whatever else I did in life, I wanted to do that, too.

2. How long have you been writing? When did you sell your first book?

As a child I wrote plays, poems, and short stories. I began writing a mystery novel in the sixth grade—which I never finished. As an adult I wrote those things as well as essays, policy manuals, articles for newspapers, and contributed to two non-fiction books. I came to novel writing later in life and signed the contract for my first novel on my 50th birthday. What an incredible gift to start a new stage of life!

3. How do you handle rejections?

To be objective I separate myself from my manuscript. I learn all I can from whatever is said in the rejection and apply that to make the current project and future work better. Writing for newspapers gave me a crash course in developing a thick skin re. red pens. Editors know their business and can be wonderful mentors.

I can’t say that I’m terribly disappointed by rejection. I think that it is a “to-be-expected” part of the journey to becoming a better writer. I’ve learned so much from others and am grateful. If I find myself sulking from comments I allow that but put a time limit on it so that I can remain objective. I don’t want to become discouraged.

4. Why do you write?

It is the way I understand life and communicate that understanding with the world. I feel called by God to share the comfort He’s given me with others. Writing, speaking, and befriending others are the forms in which He’s gifted me to do that.

5. What would you be doing with your free time if you weren’t writing?

I love hands on research, especially roaming historical sites, learning a stranger’s story—everyone has one, travel, gardens, walks in nature, dancing with my husband, riding bikes on flat roads on sunny days, helping in the homeless shelter, sitting by the campfire with friends and family, singing. I love worship services and I love spending time with my children and dear ones. Life is full of such pleasures.

6. What are you working on right now?

The working title for my wip is “Owen Allen’s Legacy.” Determined to escape an abusive past, fifteen-year-old Michael Dunnagan stows away aboard the luxury liner, Titanic (1912). When Titanic sinks he is offered, through the sacrifice of his friend, Owen, not only a seat in a lifeboat, but Owen’s family and future. Michael, who carries his own dark secret, finds that accepting and learning to live with such an amazing and unmerited gift is not easy. Nor is it easy for Owen’s younger sister, Annie, to forgive Michael for having taken her brother’s place. Through years of hardship and war (WWI) Michael and Annie seek and learn forgiveness. But will they survive to share the joy and abundant life they’ve finally found?
Owen’s sacrifice and gift parallels, in part, Jesus’ sacrifice and gift so that we might live, and live abundantly. Michael’s struggle to accept that life, and Annie’s struggle to forgive, parallel our own.

7. Do you put yourself into your books/characters?

No. Maybe sometimes. More often my characters experience things I’ve learned in life—but set in their own time and place, and in the midst of a major conflict all their own. I love my characters and really enjoy getting to know them. I don’t want them to be me, but to be uniquely and entirely themselves.

8. Tell us about the book you have out right now.

“I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires” is a stand alone Civil War sequel to “William Henry is a Fine Name” (Christy Award winner).

As Civil War rends his family and the nation Robert (now seventeen-years-old) is eager to fight for the Union, to help put teeth in President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. But he has promised his father that he will wait until he is eighteen to enlist, then think long and hard before agreeing to shoot one of his countrymen—or kin—between the eyes.

The bonds linking family and the lines separating enemies become blurred for Robert when the cousin he loves begs him to aid her father, a Confederate prisoner of war, then travel south to help her care for his estranged mother.

Unwittingly entangled in a prison escape, left for dead, and charged as a spy, Robert must forge his anger in a renewed determination to rescue his family. When confronted by an enemy and a war he no longer understands, Robert finds that the rescue, and its results, may not be up to him.

Honor and duty to God and country aren’t as clear-cut as he’d first believed.

9. Do you have any advice for other writers?

Pray, read, write, pray, read, write . . .Learn all you can however you can about the craft in whatever way you learn best. Practice and hone your skills. Find your unique voice and be true to it. Identify the things about which you are passionate—those things that make you “pound the table and weep”—in anger, frustration and even in joy. Write those stories for they are the ones that will ring true. Give back, by helping and encouraging other writers, when you are able.

10. How important is faith in your books?

It is what drives my books. I can’t imagine writing a book without strong elements of faith. It is so much a part of who I am, the result of loving the One to whom I belong.

11. What themes do you like to write about?

I am passionate about people helping people, even at great risk to themselves. And I’m passionate about making good choices, about living a focused and deliberate life. As a young person I did not always feel free to make my own choices, nor did I realize that I had choices—and that hard won insight is something I want to share with others. We are not victims of our circumstances, but have the power to choose what we believe, how we act on those beliefs, and to effect change for good in our world. Those themes spring from my awe of what Jesus did for us, and my desire to embrace the abundant life He died to give us.

12. What is your favorite book you’ve written and why?

I think there will always be a special place in my heart for “William Henry is a Fine Name.” It was my first novel and centered on a lifelong passion for me, the Underground Railroad. It won the Christy Award, something I never imagined.

13. What is your writing schedule like?

I begin writing sessions with prayer, surrendering myself to the Lord and asking that He direct my mind and writing. I write whenever I can, but prefer to write in the morning when my mind is fresh. Even so, I probably write best later in the day, when I know the day’s tasks and appointments have been met. My mind is less cluttered with “to do” lists then. There is a lot to be said for creating mental freedom and space in order to write freely.

Thank you so much, Margaret, for inviting me to your blog! May God bless you, your readers, and all your ministries!