It’s my pleasure to introduce to you the president of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association and debut novelist Cynthia Ruchti. I hope you enjoy this opportunity to get to know her. And don’t forget to leave a comment (include your email address) for your chance to win a free copy of Cynthia’s debut novel, “They Almost Always Come Home”.
Ladies and gentlemen, Cynthia Ruchti!
Tell us a little bit about yourself:
I was one of those students who hated multiple choice questions (always second-guessing the teacher’s hidden intentions to slip in a trick answer) but loved essay tests. Loved them. “Do I get extra credit if I fill up the whole essay book?” “Term paper? How about two?”
But I didn’t seriously consider writing as a career in those days. I trained for work in a large medical facility’s chemistry lab. When I chose to leave the lab to stay home with my kids, I took a correspondence course in Christian Creative Writing just for the challenge. The process inspired me, but I still didn’t consider the possibility of writing, like, forever.
A few weeks after completing that correspondence course, I was drafted into service. I was handed a business card for a radio station and asked to send a 15 minute inspirational radio broadcast to that address. What? I had no training or experience or skills or equipment for radio. But I’d just told the Lord I’d go wherever He wanted me to go and do whatever He wanted me to do. Apparently He wanted to know if I meant it.
The radio broadcast (now in its 31st year) begins with a short, fictional slice-of-life scene with devotional thoughts woven onto that backdrop. Short fiction. A few years ago, after attending several writers’ conferences to develop my writing skills, I started to wonder if I could write longer fiction. A whole book.
I joined ACFW when it was American Christian Romance Writers, thinking romance was my strong suit. I now know that Women’s Fiction is a stronger voice for me because of the depth of emotion encouraged in that genre, and have applied myself to learn as much as I can about how to write and sell Christian fiction. I met my agent for the first time at an ACFW conference. I met my editor at an ACFW conference. And this year, I’ll have two books for sale in the conference bookstore—They Almost Always Come Home (Abingdon Press), which was a Genesis finalist in 2008, and The Heart’s Harbor in A Door County Christmas novella collection (Barbour Publishing).
Everything I’ve ever written has been tucked into pockets of time around the needs of my family and ministry. Even now, with an empty nest, I’m still tucking and tugging, but amazed that the Lord has offered me the privilege of writing for Him.
What is your writing day like?
No two writing days are alike for me. Oh, I dream of the days when the sunlight streaming through the freshly washed windows will tickle me awake. I’ll rise to the smell of the hazelnut coffee my husband brewed for me and set on the nightstand next to my bed with a note that he’s going fishing for the day. I’ll spend four glorious hours reading God’s Word and hiking the nature trails as I pray for everyone on my heart. Then I’ll take a quick shower, run my fingers through my damp hair and find it perfectly coiffed already, slide into my size 2 sweats, and spend the next eight hours devoted to the story that is flying through my fingers and the keyboard onto my laptop screen (I’m having to work on the deck because the maid is cleaning inside. Don’t want to disturb her). My husband brings home dinner (fresh walleye) and cooks it himself. My assistant took care of all the emails earlier in the day, so I’ll take time in the evening to listen to music and read someone else’s book.
Yeah. That’s almost what my writing day is like.
I am what I’ve dubbed a “cranny” writer. I’m ultra-diligent about deadlines, but most of my writing is done in the nooks and crannies of time, especially during this two-year term as president of ACFW when the schedule of responsibilities is even tighter.
Ho do you organize your writing? (post-its/note cards/outlines)
I keep both cyber files and physical file folders for each project I’m working on. I stuff little notes and snippets of information into the folders so I know where they are when I need them. I work from a very rough outline now where once I rebelled against a formal structure (outlining wasn’t my favorite part of writing a term paper).
What’s the most surprising thing that a character has “told you”?
That contentment and crisis can travel in the same canoe.
Do you keep a list of characters that you’re saving for the futures? What kind of information do you keep on these characters?
Like most writers, I collect characters like I collect potential titles or intriguing “what ifs.” Usually I record impressions—a quirk, a mannerism, a bad comb-over, wild shoes—and flesh out the rest of the character as I land on a story for which that character would be a good match.
What does your work space/office look like?
My office space received a much needed upgrade a week ago. I’d been using a discarded ladies’ room hollow core door for my desk top, but the laminated wood had peeled away and made one end more like a ski slope. For the first time in my writing career, I have a genuine desk.
My office is also home to the radio ministry I write and produce, so it’s fuller than full with a massive photocopier/printer/finisher, more lateral files than would be considered eco-friendly, and white boards of to-do lists. Plural. Above my desk is a large window that looks across our county road to a dense hardwood forest. To my right is a window that looks out over our yard, a pasture, a gravel road, and the neighbor’s corn field just beyond it. The walls of my office are butter yellow and I have cobalt blue accents and blue willow plates, vases, and a charming blue willow oriental tea warmer on the wide ledge above my desk window. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? I haven’t told you about the cobwebs, the things behind the curtain (pay no attention), and the Rubbermaid tubs of papers waiting to be filed.
What is your go-to snack when writing?
I’d like to say broccoli, but I’ll have to admit potato chips. I don’t usually snack while writing and try not to keep chips in the house very often, but if I get stuck, nothing helps like a potato chip. Or two.
If you could only recommend one NOVEL, what would it be? Why?
Oh, the angst! Just one? A novel that lingers in my mind and heart is All Together in One Place by Jane Kirkpatrick. Certain scenes from that story return unbidden. The emotional depth with which Jane laced her characters and the strength they showed through desperation make it one I hold close to my heart.
If you could only recommend one CRAFT book, what would it be? Why?
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King is essential for craft. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is essential for inspiration.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’m sure my publisher and publicist would appreciate it if I mentioned that They Almost Always Come Home is available through Amazon.com, christianbook.com, cokesbury.com, bn.com, deepershopping.com and others. If your local bookstore doesn’t carry it, you can ask!
Thank you, Karin, for the opportunity to chat with you and your readers. I’m looking forward to telling more stories of Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark.
A big thanks to you, Cynthia, for taking some time to visit with me!
Cynthia’s book actually releases on Saturday, May 1, so the winner of this book giveaway will actually be chosen on the release date – woo hoo!
Feel free to leave any questions, comments, or encouragements for Cynthia (and leave your email address if you’d like a chance to win her book).