In case you missed my interview with Cindy Woodsmall on F.A.I.T.H., here’s a repeat. Definitely a book you don’t want to pass up.
A year ago, I had the exciting opportunity to embark on a journey. I visited an Old Order Amish family in Pennsylvania. I was introduced to seventeen-year old Hannah and her friend Paul, a Mennonite who visited his Grandmother near Hannah’s home. I met Hannah’s parents, her sisters and brothers, and several of her friends. I even met the Bishop. This journey was a special one. I couldn’t have experienced it had I walked through the town alone. I couldn’t have become so involved with these people had I not opened the book by Cindy Woodsmall, When the Heart Cries.
Cindy’s first book left such an emotionally powerful impression on me, I couldn’t wait for the release of When the Morning Comes, Book 2 in the Sisters of the Quilt Series.
I was not disappointed. With Hannah, I traveled to Ohio. I met new people and worried for her safety. I giggled as she was introduced to, and learned to use, the items of every day living that I take for granted. Hannah adapted so well to this new way of life, my heart was a little twisted when I learned of all the things going on in Owl’s Perch with her family. This is where being a reader is fun. Especially in the literary world Cindy Woodsmall created. You can visit every family, but expect to laugh. Expect your heart strings to be pulled. And like me, you’ll look forward to Book 3, and pray, Lord willing, that Hannah will finally find the peace and happiness she’s been looking for since Book 1.
About the Book:
Her relationship with fiancé Paul Waddell in tatters, Hannah Lapp has fled her secluded Old Order Amish community in hopes of finding a new home in Ohio with her shunned aunt. Hampered by limited education and hiding her true identity, Hannah struggles to navigate the confusing world of the Englischers.
Back in Owl’s Perch, Pennsylvania, Paul is wracked with regret over his treatment of Hannah. Fearing for her safety, he tries to convince Hannah’s remaining allies–brother Luke, best friend Mary, and loyal Matthew Esh–to help search for his love. Hannah’s father, however, remains steadfastly convinced of her sinful behavior. His blindness to his family’s pain extends to her sister, Sarah, who shows signs of increasing instability.
Convinced her former life is irreparably destroyed, Hannah finds purpose and solace in life with her aunt and in a growing friendship with Martin Palmer. Will the countless opportunities in her new life persuade Hannah that her place is amongst the Englischers–or will she give in to her heart’s call to return home and face her past?
Her real-life connections with Amish Mennonite and Old Order Amish families give her books true authenticity.
Her latest book, When the Morning Comes, hit the number-four spot on the CBA best-sellers list for two months running, coming in directly under two New York Times best-selling authors: Karen Kingsbury and Beverly Lewis.
Her debut novel, When the Heart Cries, also hit that best-sellers list. The sales of book two have been strong enough to pull her debut novel back onto the CBA best-sellers list for both of those months also.
Hi Cindy! Tell us a little about your journey to publication.
Thanks for having me join you on your blog. It was great to see you the other night. Last year, during our Writers of Remarkable Design holiday gathering, we had four people come. This year we had twelve! If anyone lives in the northeast Georgia area, check us out: http://www.acfwword.com/
Like a lot of writers, stories kept hounding me. Though I purposefully ignored them so that my life and goals weren’t interrupted, they became louder and louder. I prayed for them to go away, but instead, they seemed to take on a weight, as if concrete blocks had been placed on my shoulders. Desperate for relief, I decided if I took the time to write some of the stories that were going on inside my head, they’d finally leave me alone. I began writing and the stories poured forth for months. I didn’t edit, plot, or research. I also didn’t sleep or eat much, but I have written eight of the worst novel manuscripts you can imagine. And I attained my goal! Finally the stories quieted. All but one. That one story continued to beg for more attention.
I read a Christian fiction book that really touched my heart, so I sent an e-mail to the author saying how much the book meant to me and that I was interested in writing. The author responded and told me about the very first (what is now called) American Christian Fiction Writers conference that was coming up in a few months. My husband was absolutely positive I was to attend that conference. That set the wheels in motion and I’ve been greatly blessed by that organization. That’s where I met freelance editor Kathy Ide, which is a whole God story in and of itself. Long story short, I began learning how to form a story idea into a full-length novel.
What’s your daily writing schedule?
I’m usually in my home office by eight. Because I don’t want to get comfortable eating or snacking at the computer, I stop for a quick lunch and then return to work until time to be carpool mom or time for the other moms to drop my teen off at home. After my still-in-the-nest child is home, the schedule fluctuates around homework, dinner, and extracurricular needs, but I often slip back to the computer by eight in the evening and work until bedtime.
After writing professionally for several years, I found that I need at least one day when I don’t even check e-mails, and my favorite day for that is Sunday. Even in our modern culture, there is something special about Sundays and it refreshes me like a mini vacation that I can look forward to each week—church, naps, and family time. I limit my Saturday office time to five hours: ten a.m. to three p.m. and not one minute added to it. 😉 But spending the amount of time in my office that I’ve just described includes every aspect of the writing career, from answering e-mails to doing research to critiquing work for my critique partner to marketing to having prayer and Bible time.
In your writing, are you a plotter or a pantzer?
I’m a super plotter who can let go and fly by the seat of my pants. I’ve discovered that there are quite a few of us around.
Here’s how this works for me. After mulling over story ideas for weeks, I’m ready to brainstorm with my hubby and then with my critique partner and sometimes with my editor. After that I devise a character chart with the name, age, upbringing, and personality of each character. The upbringing aspect gets the most time. I need to know what the personality and beliefs of each parent was during child rearing in order to fully understand who each character is.
From there I write out what each character’s goals, motivations, and obstacles are for that novel. With that info in hand, I write a four- or five-page synopsis. Because my publishing house requires a chapter-by-chapter outline for the marketing team, I write that too. But that tends to be written as I’m writing the story, not before. If incident crossovers and timeline issues are tight, I’ll use the chapter-by-chapter document to write specifically what happens when, where, and how. If timing issues aren’t a problem, I’ll fill in the chapter-by-chapter document after I’ve written the chapters.
But even with all that documentation, if the story or characters go a different direction from the plan and I sense it’s the right thing to allow, I let creativity lead the way. I’ve found that because of all the plotting, my creative, free-flying times have a solid framework. The creativity may go in all sorts of unplanned directions, but those new paths somehow end up remaining true to the goal.
When the Morning Comes opens in the middle of the night with Hannah stepping off a train in Alliance, Ohio. How much of Hannah’s experience, at the train station, in the town, did you walk yourself?
While working on the first manuscript in the series, When the Heart Cries, my hands-on research began long before I was under contract. An Old Order Amish woman I was working with via a third party invited me to visit her home. So my youngest son and I boarded a train in Gainesville, Georgia, around midnight and began the journey to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I knew my main character in the series would take a train, so I figured this was good research.
When I began the research for When the Morning Comes, I couldn’t locate enough information about the Alliance, Ohio, depot to be able to visualize it in my head. I’d write thirty thousand words and then delete thirty thousand words and start again, only to repeat the process. After nearly two months of this, I told my husband I was going to have to see the depot in Alliance, Ohio, before I could write the book. We agreed that since I’d ridden an eighteen-hour train trip to Pennsylvania and back and was comfortable with changing trains and such, I should be able to make plans to get off in Alliance. But when I tried to get a ride from the Alliance depot to a hotel, I couldn’t find either taxi or bus service. So I chickened out and asked my husband to take a winter vacation and drive to Ohio with me.
When we arrived in Alliance, it was dark by the time we found the train depot. When we pulled up to the depot, I got out of the vehicle and had one of those experiences writers have sometimes . . .
Snow swirled through the frigid night air. The dilapidated depot stood dark, empty, and locked tight. There was no one on the premises. A blue-and-white emblem of a phone stood out as a beacon of hope to my poor character who would land there at two in the morning on a winter’s night.
But when I went to the sign, there was no phone.
The hair down the back of my neck stood on end, chills ran amuck over my body, and the first third of the book rushed through my mind, making every scene fall into place. This was where my character would land. The stark reality of it was a gift.
An elderly couple pulled into the depot and turned off their vehicle. After serious hesitation, I dared to tap on their window and ask them a few questions. My husband and son waited patiently while the couple invited me into their warm van. They were wonderful people who’d lost a son to cancer the previous year, and they came to the depot regularly just to watch the train. That couple was able to answer all sorts of questions about train arrivals and departures, the depot, and the frequency of how often and how many people actually got off a train in Alliance, Ohio at two in the morning.
Okay, I have chills, too. To have a book come together like that must be amazing! Cindy, have you received any feedback from the Amish and Mennonites regarding your books?
It has surprised me how much positive feedback I’ve received from Amish and Plain Mennonite readers. I’ve made friends, supporters, and even a technical advisor in these contacts. All of the letters have been special to me, but a few stand out. I heard from some Plain women who were in or who witnessed similar circumstances, and the story brought a sense of deeper understanding and healing.
Any last words you’d like to share with us?
If you’re an aspiring author, your greatest gift is what you feel in your heart after spending time waiting on, listening to, and walking with Him.
And I’d like to invite everyone to visit my Web site and enter the Amish Quilt contest! http://www.cindywoodsmall.com/
Thank you, Cindy! What an inspiring and exciting journey.