Monday, July 12, 2010

Cynthia Ruchti writes stories of “hope that glows in the dark.” She writes and produces The Heartbeat of the Home, a syndicated drama/devotional radio broadcast, and is editor of the ministry’s Backyard Friends magazine. She also serves as current president of American Christian Fiction Writers. Cynthia married her childhood sweetheart, who tells his own tales of wilderness adventures.
When did you decide to be a writer?

I think it was decided for me. As a child, I alternately wanted to be a florist, a chemist, a bassoonist in a symphony, the owner of a tourist agency, the owner of a quaint book store/tea room, and an elementary school teacher, and a quintessential wife and mom. The only way I could accomplish all that was by letting my characters choose those careers then living the experience vicariously through them. The quintessential wife and mom? I had to settle for “pretty good” and focus on becoming the quintessential grammie.

How long did you write before you sold your first book?

I’ve written short fiction through radio drama for 31 years for The Heartbeat of the Home radio broadcast. It wasn’t until a decade ago (seems like yesterday) that I thought seriously about becoming a novelist. I read, read, read and wrote, wrote, wrote, and studied, studied, studied then attended writers’ conferences, joined ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), networked with other writers and industry professionals, and began to grow as a fiction writer. I entered the Genesis contest for unpublished writers, became a finalist (not the first time, mind you), and grew a little more.

They Almost Always Come Home was purchased by Abingdon Press in the fall of 2008 and releases May 2010. The process of writing, though, probably started when I was still in bobby sox and saddle shoes, letting my imagination weave stories that were written on the lining of my brain rather than paper.

Everyone’s journey to publication is different. Now that you’ve walked that road, what tips can you give to authors still hoping for that first contract?

(See previous paragraph.) Reading, writing (whether it ever sees the light of publication day or not), studying books on the craft of writing fiction, attending as many good writers’ conferences as the proceeds from a mega-garage sale will allow (my favorites are the ACFW conference, Write-to-Publish, and the Quad Cities Christian Writers Conference), joining an online writers’ group or two, entering contests, and taking the process seriously without taking yourself too seriously… Two essential tools—a teachable spirit and endurance—are must-haves for a successful writer.

Was there something about the experience of getting published that was a surprise to you?

It startled me to discover how much I adore each stage of the process. No matter the task—writing, rewriting, editing, marketing, publicity, networking—I can appreciate them all. The tricky part is when they all fall on the same day’s to-do list.

Are you a disciplined writer or do you just write when you feel like it?

Much of the writing I do is on assignment…for the radio ministry, book deadlines, ACFW responsibilities. A blissful day for me is one in which I’m allowed the freedom to write just for the fun of it. And as book deadlines increase, I’m discovering that I need to jettison some of the clutter in my office, my life, and my schedule in order to stay afloat.

What kind of activities to you like to do that help you relax and step away from your deadlines for a bit?

My husband and I live in the northwoods of Wisconsin. It is soul-satisfying to me to sit on our deck and bask in a quiet so deep I can hear hummingbird wings beating. I love to travel and find my batteries recharge best when big water is near—Lake Michgan, Green Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, any number of oceans.

What is your favorite novel (not written by you) and what made it special?

My “favorite” novel changes like my “favorite” worship song or “favorite” Scripture verse. I usually call them my current favorites. I dove deep into The Help by Kathryn Stockett and appreciated that it challenged me on levels I didn’t realize needed…help.

How do you think reading the work of others helps you as a writer?

Because I spend a good deal of time editing the work of others, I find myself slipping into editor mode when pleasure reading too. But I analyze for the sake of studying and improving, rather than fault-finding. “How did she do that?” “Why didn’t he hold that detail until the following chapter?” “This could have been stronger if the author had…” All those lessons boomerang onto my own work. But additionally, reading a great novel stokes the fire of my creativity. I can write better if I’ve been reading better. If I smell the stale breath of writer’s block polluting my office, I know it’s time to stop writing and go read something worthwhile.

Tell us a little about your latest release:

They Almost Always Come Home follows Libby Holden through the agonizing realization that her husband isn’t just late coming home from his solo canoe trip to the Canadian wilderness. He isn’t coming home at all. And she’s relieved. She’d planned to leave him, but how can she do that if she can’t find him? And where is this guilt coming from if it was all his fault in the first place? Accompanied by her father-in-law and her best friend, Libby retraces the path through the wilderness, searching for what happened to her husband, her marriage, and her faith.

Where did you get your inspiration for They Almost Always Come Home?

They Almost Always Come Home began with a not-uncommon what if…?—the writer’s favorite diving board. A few years ago, my husband headed off on a canoe trip to the Canadian wilderness, a trip that almost ended his life. He was mere minutes away from death when the rescue team reached him after a dangerous illness threatened to steal his final breaths. He came home to me, but he returned a changed man. My writer brain eventually began to tease the idea of developing a novel based loosely on some of the concepts.
Unlike me, what if a wife wasn’t sure she wanted her husband to be rescued? What if she didn’t want him to come home? What would make her unsure? What pain would be horrible enough to cause a couple to lose their devotion to making their marriage work? Is pain like that survivable? All those questions led to this novel.

Which character is most like you?

Although I’d like to think I’m most like Libby’s friend Jenika, who always seems to have her act together and her faith on straight, I’m introspective like Libby and sometimes mask pain with humor or take a convoluted approach to something that could be simple, if I let it.

Who is your favorite character and why?

They’re my “children.” How can I not love them all? I do appreciate Libby’s many layers, the depth of her character, the way she discovered that she was both stronger and more vulnerable than she dreamed.

Did you know how They Almost Always Come Home would turn out? Were you surprised by any of the plot twists or characters?

I was caught by surprise by the ending, and by one twist in particular—the one my husband suggested. It changed the outcome and opened my eyes to see how the story itself had led up to that moment so clearly that I could go back over the manuscript with a highlighter and underscore clues I missed as I wrote.

What is the main thing you hope readers remember from this story?

It’s tied to my tagline: Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark. Hope often shows up best against a dark backdrop. It may hide, but it’s there. I pray that my readers close the last page with a satisfied sigh, but that what the characters experienced and learned won’t let them go. It’s my hope that many readers will say, “Someone understands my pain and found a way to put it into words.” And I long for readers to write to me with reports of how God met them in the pages and infused their lives with a hope they thought would never come home again.

What kinds of things have you done to market this book? Have you found anything that works particularly well?

No matter how fancy we get, how much funding we invest, how advanced technology becomes, the best marketing tool for a book is a satisfied reader. I’m working hardest on that, offering my readers a story they can’t help talking about, a story they recommend to others, a story they bring up in conversations on Twitter, Facebook, airplanes, in waiting rooms, and in their text messages. It’s important to me to offer something meaningful in each marketing approach—a word of encouragement coupled with a reminder about the book’s release, an idea for practical living in addition to an announcement about a book signing, a workshop paired with an appearance, a nugget of food-for-thought married to a promotional opportunity. It’s early in the game, but I hope to report that the plan worked well!

Tell us what new projects you’re working on.

This fall, my second book—The Heart’s Harbor—will appear in A Door County Christmas novella collection by Barbour Publishing. It’s a romantic comedy set in the charming Cape Cod-like villages of Door County, Wisconsin. I’m also working on fleshing out five other women’s fiction projects that all deal with intensely challenging issues for which Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark is the only answer.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

I appreciate the opportunity to chat with you and your readers. Thank you for the time and consideration. Parting words? How about a blessing? May you never be farther than arm’s reach from a great book! We can talk about that more if you visit me at or
Cynthia is giving away a copy of her book They Almost Always Come Home. Be sure to stop by The Borrowed Book on Friday for your chance to win!

1 comment :

  1. Can't wait to read this book, Cyn. You're an inspiration to SO many. Love you!


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