Thursday, April 1, 2010

Cathy Gohlke Interview Part Two

Today's feature is Part Two of the interview with Christy Award winning author Cathy Gohlke. If you missed Part One of the interview, click here to check it out. Don't forget that Cathy is joining the Blogoversary fun by offering our Giveaway winner a copy of her books, William Henry is a Fine Name and I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires.
Interview, Part Two:
Karen: How much research did you have to do for both books? Did it involve travel?
Cathy: I wanted the time period to leap off the pages, along with the story.  I was able to do a great deal of research through reference and history books, old newspapers, diaries, letters, documentaries, at historical societies, historical sites, living history museums, and through interviews. 
Nothing replaces walking the land your characters walk, cooking their food, singing their songs, and viewing the world through the information they had at hand in the time and order in which they received it. 
For research purposes for these two books I traveled through North Carolina, Virginia, Washington D. C., Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Massachusetts and several New England states (not mentioned in the book) and to the Canadian border.  My travels to South Carolina were done through memory and interviews. 

Karen: Can you tell us a little about your next book, or is it to be kept under wraps? I know there are those anxiously awaiting its release (myself included!). When is it expected to come out?
Cathy: I’m working on a novel I call (working title) The Legacy of Owen Allen.  This is an adult novel, though I think teens will equally enjoy reading it.
It is the story of Michael Dunnagan, an abused Irish teen who stows away aboard Titanic (1912).  When Titanic founders, Michael is offered, through the sacrifice of his friend, Owen, not only a seat in the lifeboat, but Owen’s family and future in New Jersey, and is given the charge of his sister, Annie, in England.
Michael, who carries his own dark secret, finds that learning to live with such an amazing and unmerited gift is not easy.  Nor is it easy for Annie to forgive Michael for having taken her brother’s place. 
Annie’s immigration to America is thwarted when German submarine warfare (WWI) makes the Atlantic dangerous to sail. Michael, in an effort to fulfill his vow to Owen, and in acknowledgement of his growing feelings for Annie, sails to England, determined to watch over her throughout the war.  But when he arrives, he finds that Annie has mysteriously disappeared. 
Through correspondence and experience Annie and Michael both learn forgiveness, sacrifice, and find redemption.  But will they survive the war to share the joy and love they’ve finally discovered?
I have just completed my first draft and am working on revisions now. 

Karen: It sounds absolutely wonderful! I enjoyed your other books so much I can't wait to read it. What advice do you have for those interested in writing a novel?
Cathy: For writing basics, grasp the rudiments of language—grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc.—and add a standard reference manual to your home library.  Both will serve you well. 
Fiction writing courses, both local and through correspondence, are helpful.  Writers’ conferences provide teachers, recorded sessions, opportunities to network, and new friends who share your writing passion.
In general: Read all you can—both as a reader and as a writer.  Take the stories of other writers apart in your mind and examine the nuts and bolts of how he/she put the plot together.  Be aware of the rising tension and timing. 
Read (and write) poetry and examine the beauty, mystery, symmetry and rhythm of words.  It will change the way you write prose. 
Learn from writers whose writing you admire.  Ask questions.          
Write, write, write—constantly.  Capture ideas in your head and translate them to paper. Do not self-edit—just write.  Editing comes later. 
Dream—let your story develop freely in your mind.  Play the “what if” game with your characters before you fall asleep.  You’ll be surprised the ideas that morning brings.
Do not manipulate your characters but get to know your characters intimately.  Imagine what and how they think and respond to given situations—then allow them to tell their story.  This marks the difference between writing that is organic and writing that sounds contrived.
Do not be afraid of criticism.  Develop a thick skin and learn all you can, wherever you can, whenever you can.
Beware of letting too many people into your “writing head.”  It is one thing to learn from others, and another to allow outsiders to squash the seedlings in your creative garden.  Nurture your writing as you would your child.  It is a gift from our Creator, precious and worth loving and protecting.
Love and embrace your life.  Live generously, graciously, and appreciatively.  Everything we have and are and hope to be is a gift—a gift to receive, to enjoy, and to share with others on our journey.  That mentality fosters freedom of thought and “clears the pathways.”
Bitterness and pettiness stifle creative energy and act as cancers in writing, as in everything.  Avoid them and/or get rid of them.
Do not fear failure.  We all fall.  When you fall, get up and begin again. 
Do not fear “writer’s block.” Know that you have many, many stories within you.  This life is not long enough to write all of your stories, for stories beget stories.  Turn the key and the door will open.
When you fear your novel is too big to write and your ability is too small, know that you are in good company—writers everywhere fear the same thing.  Write your story one day, one page, one paragraph, one word at a time.  Trust that the words will come—but know that they rarely come easily.  Know that writing is work and not an illusive muse to be captured on the wind.  Think of the old Nike commercials—“Just do it.”
Specifically—In writing a novel choose a story that you feel compelled to write—both for your sake and for the sake of your readers.
Write out your story’s premise, purpose, and plot.  It will keep you on track.  Whatever does not fit those three does not belong in the story.
Create a timeline or flowchart.  I’m using a simple grid of months and years for the book I’m writing now.  For less complicated stories I have used flowcharts or simple timelines.  A writing friend uses sticky post-it notes across a bulletin board.  These tools are especially helpful when writing historicals, mysteries, or suspense—anything where timing is key.  They also provide a good place to note things I want to bring into the story later.
I’ve found outlining before writing helpful—a general summary of the story, and then a chapter-by-chapter or scene-by-scene outline  (a simple paragraph for each chapter or scene).  I don’t refer to it while writing unless I wander off track or forget where I am going.  Often I find that my story has taken a different turn—and that is okay.  That keeps the story fresh; they are ideas and words on paper—not commandments chiseled on stone or in time.
When I am finished (after rewriting and polishing) I ask a trusted group of readers for their critique.  I listen carefully, use what I believe is helpful, then rewrite again.  This happens before submission to an editor or agent.  The process begins again after submission.
Be kind to yourself.  Writing requires self-discipline, hard work, persistence, and can be a lonely profession.  It takes a long time to write a novel and go through the publishing process.  Build into your life time for family and friends, and for fresh air and sunshine. 
Above all, remember Whose you are and why you write.  It is the best tonic I know.
Blessings on your writing journey!

Karen: Cathy, thank you for sharing about your writing journey with us. I appreciate your insight and advice. Blessings to you and best wishes on your continued writing success!

Thanks to all of my blog friends, too, for stopping by to visit. I hope that you enjoyed this interview with Cathy. I highly recommend her books; if you are a fan of historical fiction, they are a great read. If you are not a fan, you might want to give them a try, you may become a Cathy Gohlke  AND an historical fiction fan. 

Giveaway Details:

Blogoversary Giveaway ends tonight at midnight, and entry details can be found here. Leave a comment and your email address on this or Monday's post for an entry into the Giveaway. FYI - More than one entry is available; see Monday's post for details.


Blessings to you all, and as always, Happy Writing! :)


  1. Great interview, Karen. Thanks so much for sharing. Sincerely, Susan

  2. Such good sound advise. This is a good post to print out and re-read.

  3. Cathy's advice rings true from beginning to end. I like the part about not fearing writers' block, as well as her observation we have more stories in us than we'll ever be able to write.

    Susan :)

    Don't enter me in the contest. I already have both of Cathy's books.

  4. Just wanted to swing by and say happy Easter and tell you thank you for a good interview:)

  5. Thank you all for stopping by to see me. Blessings for your weekend:)


Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Have a blessed day!