Today's interview is the third in a series with the four writers of A Door County Christmas. Cynthia Ruchti is the author of The Heart's Harbor in this collection of four-in-one novellas. I feel very honored today to have Cynthia joining me on my blog. Cynthia, for those of you who may not be aware, is currently president of the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) organization. With the national conference coming up just a week from now, I am extremely appreciative that she would take time our of her busy schedule to visit with us on Write About Now. Let's begin with some background and biographical information and then proceed to the actual interview. Cynthia, what would you like to share with us about your life to this point?
From my earliest days, I’ve had a fascination with words and stories, with their power to communicate, to heal, to bless, to press us to think. My mom spent her life caring for others, empathizing with their pain and meeting their needs as a career nurse. My father was an educator and a pastor. Learning of all forms was an important part of our family life. Dad taught music, but did not limit his curiosity to music education. He read encyclopedias and dictionaries for fun, most fulfilled if he’d learned something new. And his role as a pastor of small country churches (at one church, he “filled in” for a couple of months that turned into 22 years) encouraged me to early on to consider the truth that following Jesus is the meaning of life. I’ve had my share of opportunities to write on many subjects over the years, but writing stories that communicate that truth with compassion, empathy, and ardor makes my heart dance.
You and I have much in common - my father was a pastor and very noted teacher also. What is your least favorite part of the writing process?
I’m one of those authors who enjoys (or says she does) all parts of the process. One of the most challenging for me is creating a synopsis before I know how the story will end. I’m an intuitive, discovery-oriented writer who starts with a general idea where a story might be headed, but love to be surprised along the way.
What is your favorite part of the writing process?
Is it cheating if I say that connecting with readers who appreciate the book and are moved by the Hope hiding inside is my favorite part?
It's imperative that writers have terrific imaginations so, just for fun, let's pretend that you just finished your book two days before deadline. How will you celebrate or reward yourself?
This question made me realize that it’s an area in which I need to make significant improvement! Usually, another project is waiting for me. The “reward” is having the freedom to tackle that project. But if I could dream a little, I would say I’d like to develop a habit of celebrating a successful deadline with a weekend getaway with my husband, who is patient and pretty tolerant when deadlines loom. Usually as I hit “send” for a book or a proposal, the first words out of my mouth are, “Thank You, Lord!”
What’s up next for your readers?
I have characters and plots waiting for my attention. Faith-in-working-clothes and Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark stories that explore real life with real problems seen through the eyes of real faith. Whatever next hits the shelves will probably be that combo of heart-tugging emotions, a touch of stress-relieving humor, and word pictures that help draw readers into the story.
Everyone has to stop occasionally, even when creative juices are flowing, to replenish the natural body. What is your favorite meal?
Grilled scallops probably top the list of favorite meals. Let’s see—grilled asparagus, grilled baby Yukon gold potatoes, grape tomatoes, and may I add a few pieces of sushi? No one at my house can tolerate it, it it’s always a treat to find a great sushi place here in Wisconsin.
I'd have to agree with your family on the sushi although my daughter loves it. The first thing she did when she went off to college was to locate the nearest source of sushi. Would you care to share a favorite Bible verse?
A long time ago, someone challenged me to live out Psalm 37:4—to delight myself in the Lord (not just honor or appreciate Him, but DELIGHT) and He would mold my heart’s desires to match His. He proved the wonder of that truth many times in my life. Still does. I’ll be frustrated if I focus on the “heart’s desires” conclusion of that verse rather than on the most important part—delighting in Him.
A wonderful concept! If we delight in Him, He will delight in us! Can you briefly describe your approach to beginning a new book?
I find ideas poking their heads out of hiding and play with them as a kitten might bat around a ball of yarn. I wasn’t as organized in my early projects as I am now. I take advantage of the helps of brief outlines and character sketches, but often it’s a title, one scene, or a beginning line that sets me off and running.
Love that analogy! Do you like music when you are writing or do you prefer solitude?
I love music so much that it distracts me when writing. Silence and solitude sound sweet to my ear. Music is not white noise to my writing or even an enhancement because it teases my brain to go play with the music rather than with my characters.
How do you overcome writer’s block? Or is that a foreign concept to you?
I phone a friend who can help me push through. I reread what’s been written to that point. I just start writing, even if it’s garbage (Dumpster-diving writing) until a gem of a sentence pops out and gets me moving again. Sometimes all it takes is to immerse myself in beauty of creativity of others—nature, a great book from an author I admire, a visit to an art museum.
What (or who) inspires you?
I’m inspired by ordinary people acting heroically, by potent worship music, by the simple but profound wisdom of my grandkids, by the “aliveness” and utterly beautiful vitality of the Word of God.
If not writing, what would you rather be doing?
It’ll sound so sedentary if I say reading is my other favorite thing. I enjoy traveling. When not writing novels (and sometimes WHILE writing novels) I’m usually hard at work on other writing projects, including the radio ministry in which I’ve been involved for 31 years. I’m fascinated by the concept of home staging, too, helping homeowners stage their property to make is ready for resale. I don’t DO that sort of thing, but think I’d enjoy it.
Do you have any words of wisdom for those who are just starting out on the path?
We’re told in God’s Word to “count the cost” and to “take up (our) cross daily and follow (Him).” Although there are romantic moments in the writing life, most of it is hard work, a dying to self, agonizing over passages, whole-hearted devotion. If a writer comes into the writing life with unrealistic expectations—thinking it’s a great way to make an income, that it won’t require self-sacrifice, that a teachable spirit isn’t necessary, and they can skip over the parts they don’t like (marketing, editing, revising, learning about the industry)—that writer will soon face crippling disappointment and has little chance of success. And that’s the other word of wisdom. Writing success is less tied to sales numbers than it is tied to the joy of connecting with the heart of a reader.
Where would be your favorite place to live?
I’ve often fantasized about living in a beach cottage with wide French doors that open onto an ocean view. Door County—the setting for this current release—would make a lovely home address for me. It has that perfect mix of water, woods, rustic, classy, artistic, great restaurants, sweet harbors, charm, and culture. The older I get, the more minimalist is the dream house that lives in my imagination.
What place(s) have you not been that you would like to visit?
The less congested parts of Hawaii, if there are any. Short little four month tour of Tuscany. Glacier National Park. Nova Scotia. (This could get to be a very long answer!)
Name three things that most people would be surprised to learn about you.
I played bass drum in the marching band because they wouldn’t let me carry my bassoon. I used to sew a lot and once made my husband a powder blue leisure suit (It was the 70s. What can I say?). In the 80s I worked for a wool and knitting supply business just up the hill from our house…and rekindled a love for knitting. I was hired by the business to knit bulky v-neck sweater vests for a boutique in California. The other day I thought I saw someone wearing one of those vests!
Another thing we have in common - my bassoon teacher wouldn't even let me play in the marching band because he feared it would interfere with my embouchure and they were already top-heavy with percussion players. With conference coming up in just a few short days, can you tell us what was your most memorable moment from a conference?
Too many to mention! But one that held a strong lesson for me was while I led worship at a large writers conference near Chicago. Interior auditorium with no windows. In the middle of a worship song, the lights went out. We kept singing. No one in the large room panicked. We just kept singing until the lights came back on a short time later. What a life lesson! This is what we do to survive those times when the lights go out—we keep singing, keep worshiping—and we’ll get through by God’s grace.
That sounds like a very spiritual and blessed experience. Is there anything you would like to add before we say good-bye?
Thank you so much, Jan, for inviting me to connect with your readers this way. I’m looking forward to interacting with them.
People can find me on the Internet through Facebook, Twitter, and one of my websites: http://www.cynthiaruchti.com/ , http://www.hopethatglowsinthedark.com/ , or http://www.heartbeatofthehome.org/.
Thank you so much for joining us today, Cynthia. It has been a real pleasure. I will be praying that the conference will be a blessing and beneficial to all who attend.
Friends, join us tomorrow for the final interview in this series with Rachael Phillips.
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