Tuesday, May 11, 2010

THEY ALMOST ALWAYS COME HOME - Cynthia Ruchti - Free Book

Welcome, Cynthia. I've really been looking forward to featuring your debut novel. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

It’s inescapable. No matter what we write, snippets from our own lives wind up in our characters. Small nibbles—like a woman trying to get into the Guinness Book of World Records for most bad hair days in a row, a child with a familiar-sounding insecurity, a cherished setting, a color-commentary detail. Big gulps—an issue with which an author wrestles, a concern that needs a spiritual Heimlich to dislodge. It’s the same for my books. I don’t set out to write autobiographically, but I sometimes uncover a startling or tender truth about myself as the plot and character layers unfold.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

Lena, you know me. I live for quirky. I think it’s adorable when my grandkids make huge, gruesome, creative messes. Their parents just shake their heads and correct the children’s behavior when they get them home. Quirky? I made a writing desk out of a discarded ladies restroom door.

I'd love to see that. When did you first discover that you were a writer?

I’d get excited when the teacher announced a massive term paper assignment. Loved the 3x5 cards, the research, the outlining, the whole process. If she asked for 10 pages minimum, I gave her 15. In college, my ears perked up when I heard the words, “It’s an essay test.” YES! When I was stirred by a book I read, I felt a wave of “I want to create an experience like this for readers someday.”

I always loved telling stories, but I didn't like the term papers. Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.

If you looked at my bookshelves at home, you’d wonder if you’d stumbled into a community library by mistake. The shelves in my half-bathroom (that’s right—floor to ceiling shelves) hold my Daddy’s pulpit commentaries, every Christian relationship book published in the 70s and 80s, a bunch of non-fiction titles, knitting books, and an occasional classic. The shelves in the hall upstairs hold children’s classics, the Little House series, Janette Oke’s Love Comes Softly series, and Far Side and Dilbert humor. The spare room shelves contain a mix of historicals and contemporary women’s fiction (all ACFW members, of course!). The shelves in my bedroom are reserved for the 120 books to-be-read. Books that touch me to my marrow or reveal a new way of looking at an old truth resonate with me.

How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

I’ve used the expression before, but find it a daily challenge. I don’t want to be busy; I want to be active. Serving and ministering are high priorities for me. But I’m learning to take time for soaking if I hope to serve well…soaking in the Word of God and in silent companionship with Him. I am so much more productive when I stop the flurry of activity and just listen.

How do you choose your characters’ names?

I love weaving subtle undertones of meaning into my characters’ names. Libby thinks she wants to be liberated from a stale, emotionally-unsatisfying marriage. Greg Holden can’t be held. Frank is…well, frank. In 30 years of writing radio scripts, I’ve had to choose names for thousands of the dramas’ characters. When I need a name for a young contemporary character, I look through the hospital births. If I need an older character, I look at the list of “given in memory of” section of the hospital auxiliary newsletter. My ear is tuned to the lyrical quality of some names. Good choices go in a file for books-yet-to-be-born.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

I suppose birthing three children without medication doesn’t count, since that happened a while ago. It’s a hard question for me. Every “accomplishment” in my life has been a gift I stepped into as if the Lord were holding my coat for me. What could I claim if all I did was slip my arms through the sleeves? Loving when we don’t feel like it is an accomplishment, but even that comes from Him. I took first place in my bassoon solo at the state contest in ninth grade. Something more recent? The first time I typed “The End.”

If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?

EyorTiggePooh. Though Eyore obviously needs Prozac, he’s a deep thinker. Tigger’s energy and enthusiasm are contagious. Winnie the Pooh’s gentle nature and honey-rich friendship appeal.

What is your favorite food?

Cheesecake. No, gluten-free truffle brownies. No, cheesecake. Definitely cheesecake. No…

Tell us a little about your journey to publication.

Although I’ve been writing a very long time and took my first creative writing course in 1977, my interest in fiction developed more recently. I attended the first ACFW conference in Kansas City (when it was still ACRW) after having attended several other writers’ conferences that just dabbled in fiction. All-fiction-all-the-time felt like changing schools and finding you already have a friend in the new class. I have three complete novellas—romances—that will forever remain in an airless folder in my file cabinet. They were practice. But at the ACFW conference in Nashville in two thousand and (oh, what year was that?) Deborah Raney’s critique and Gayle Roper (and her fiction clinic girls) offered encouragement I’ll cherish forever. I buckled down to learn as much as I could, to study, grow, keep practicing, polish, edit, kill off my favorite word pictures so the truth of the story could shine through…

Every time I’d wonder if fiction were my idea or the Lord’s, He’d send someone or something to tell me to keep pressing on. I began to see sparks of interest in agents’ and editors’ eyes. I progressed past form letter rejections to personal notes and invitations to submit something else. I inched my way up the ladder of the Genesis contest, using the judges’ comments to tweak another area that needed shoring up. A critique group opened their arms to me and forced me to “produce something and send it to us!” That discipline, along with their love and encouragement and prayers, changed my toying with fiction into a pursuit.

Then, I finaled in the Genesis contest. At the ACFW awards banquet in 2008, the Lord took me by the hand and walked me to the platform to receive the Second Place award in women’s fiction. At the conference, I connected with acquisitions editor Barbara Scott. Weeks later, that manuscript went to committee with Abingdon Press and Barbara became MY editor. In that same short time-frame, I signed with agent Wendy Lawton of Books and Such Literary Agency. I’d run alongside the train, paralleling the tracks, for many years until the Conductor reached His Hand to pull me onboard.

My debut novel—They Almost Always Come Home—released this month. The journey has just begun.

What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?

Gayle Roper once told me I had too much whipped cream in my manuscript—beautiful words but unnecessary calories. I replied at the time that it might explain my dilemma, since I personally don’t think one can ever have too much whipped cream on anything! But I took her observation seriously. How much of my writing was just for me? Just to entertain me with vocabulary gymnastics or luxurious language choices? I’ve had to conquer a grocery list of roadblocks, stumbling blocks, mental blocks, and other blockages but this “whipped cream” issue rises to the surface like… Never mind.

What advice would you give to others who are trying to get their first book published?

Work and wait. Work as hard as you can and wait as hard as you can. The Lord assures us that His promises cannot be overdue a single day. Successful writers cling to that truth—and to Him--while they invest their lives in writing for His glory.

That is so true. And if more authors believed it, they'd quit fretting and rest in Him. Tell us about the featured book?

After those first practice novellas and a dozen other ideas, some of which made it farther than the first few chapters, when I landed on the plot and characters for They Almost Always Come Home, I had a sweet little moment of communion with the Lord when I “felt” Him tell me this would be my first published novel.

In 1999, my husband almost didn’t return from his annual canoe trip to the Quetico Wilderness in Canada. He became gravely ill and crept closer to death’s door, out of range of communication, for five days before the Provincial Park rangers could get a float plane rescue to him. Doctors say he was within an hour or two of the end when rescue arrived. His true story—and mine—holds its own fascination. He (and I) fully recovered.

Two years ago, the what ifs teased my fiction imagination. What if he hadn’t been rescued? What if, unlike my personal story, it were a novel and the guy’s wife wasn’t at all sure she wanted him to be found? What if no one knew whether the husband had disappeared intentionally or…?

They Almost Always Come Home tells that couple’s story.

When Libby’s husband Greg doesn’t return from a two-week canoe trip to the Canadian wilderness, the authorities write off his disappearance as an unhappy husband’s escape from an oatmeal marriage and mind-numbing career. Their marriage might have survived if their daughter Lacey hadn’t died and if Greg hadn’t been responsible. Libby’s obsessed with finding out what happened to him, not so much to get her husband back, but to gain closure. If he walked out on her, she wants a divorce…and isn’t that biblical grounds? If he’s dead, then let’s get the mourning over with so she can go on with her life. How dare he find the marriage escape hatch before she did! Libby enlists the aid of her wilderness-savvy father-in-law and her faith-walking best friend to help her search for clues to her husband’s disappearance. What the trio discovers in the search upends Libby’s presumptions about her husband and rearranges her faith.

Please give us the first page of the book.

Do dead people wear shoes? In the casket, I mean. Seems a waste. Then again, no outfit is complete without the shoes.

My thoughts pound up the stairs, down the hall, and into the master bedroom closet.

Greg’s gray suit is clean, I think. White shirt, although that won’t allow much color contrast and won’t do a thing for Greg’s skin tones. His red tie with the silver threads? Good choice.

Shoes or no shoes? I should know this. I’ve stroked the cement-cold cheeks of several embalmed loved ones. My father and grandfather. Two grandmothers—one too young to die. One too old not to.

And my Lacey.

The Baxter Street Funeral Parlor will not touch my husband’s body, should the need arise. They got Lacey’s hair and facial expression all wrong.

I rise from the couch and part the sheers on the front window one more time. Still quiet. No lights on the street. No Jeep pulling into our driveway. I’ll give him one more hour, then I’m heading for bed. With or without him.

Shoes. Yes or no? I’m familiar with the casket protocol for children. But for adults?

Grandma Clarendon hadn’t worn shoes for twelve years or more when she died. She preferred open-toed terrycloth slippers. Day and night. Home. Uptown. Church. Seems to me she took comfort to the extreme. Or maybe she figured God ought to be grateful she showed up in His house at all, given her distaste for His indiscriminate dispersal of the Death Angel among her friends and siblings.

“Ain’t a lick of pride in outliving your brothers and sisters, Libby.” She said it often enough I can pull off a believable impression. Nobody at the local comedy club need fear me as competition, but the cousins get a kick out of it at family reunions.

Leaning on the tile and iron coffee table, I crane everything in me to look at the wall clock in the entry. Almost four in the morning? I haven’t even decided who will sing special music at Greg’s memorial service. Don’t most women plan their husband’s funeral if the man’s more than a few minutes late?

I can hardly wait to get my copy of the book. How can the readers find you on the Internet?

With a name like Cynthia Ruchti, Googlers have little trouble finding me. I’m not the one who teaches math. My Web address is: http://www.cynthiaruchti.com/  and my blog (give me a minute to post something fresh first!) is http://splashinginthedeepend.blogspot.com/ . Readers can also link to me through our radio ministry Web site: http://www.heartbeatofthehome.org/ .

Cynthia, what a wonderful interesting interview. Thanks for sharing with us.

Readers, here's a link to the book. By using the link when you order you help support this blog.

Leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book.

Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.

The only notification you’ll receive is the winner post on this blog. So be sure to check back a week from Saturday to see if you won. You will have 6 weeks from the posting of the winners to claim your book.

If you’re reading this on Feedblitz, Facebook, or Amazon, please come to the blog to leave your comment. Here’s a link.



Katrina said...

looks like a good read, I know my grandmother would love reading it

Merry said...

I loved this interview, Cynthia is such an interesting and witty person. I'd love a chance to win They Almost Always Come Home. Thanks!

Cynthia Ruchti said...

As someone who abhors typos, I'm cringing just a mite. The book released on May 1st, not March as I'd inadvertently typed. And since completing this interview, I have a new blog which is on my www.cynthiaruchti.com website. It can also be found through www.hopethatglowsinthedark.com, the tagline that covers all my writing projects. Please also come visit me at my Cynthia Ruchti Reader Fan Page on Facebook where the news is flying about this new release! Thanks again, Lena, for your kindness and your ever-present drive to link readers to books and their authors! Thanks for the comments, Katrina and Merry.

Mark said...

I'd like to enter please

Casey said...

I would love to read this, thank you for the chance. :)

Arnold said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Cynthia Ruchti said...

Katrina, Merry, Mark, Casey, Alena, Lena's blog is one place where you can discover a wealth of information about new books on the market and wonderful insights into the lives and drives of their authors. Lena works tirelessly to promote others and to offer readers those backstage glimpses that put faces to the names of those who write books. She's a wonder-woman of writers!

K said...

Thank you so much for this interview and giveaway! Please enter me! The book sounds great!

Anonymous said...

Great interview. Please enter me.

A J Hawke said...

If your book is as entertaining as your interview, I will enjoy...

Thanks for the opportunity to receive a copy.

A J Hawke

Sheila Deeth said...

I loved that excerpt! Great hook at the start.

And I'd love some of those gluten free treats too.

Cynthia Ruchti said...

Kim, AJ, Sheila, and my good friend Anonymous, so glad you stopped by. At my first book signing a week ago, the hostess of the B&B where we held the signing made gluten-free lemon bars. Yum. Yes, I asked for the recipe. :) We GF people do that a lot!

Megan (Inspired by Fiction) said...

I've seen this book around and wanted to read it, but now that I know the background story I'm even more interested.
Also, I feel as you do about "Books that touch me to my marrow or reveal a new way of looking at an old truth resonate with me."
So true--I love finding new ways of looking at things, and good fiction is such a great road to discovery! Thanks

We posted about the giveaway at Winning Readings.

Esther said...

My sister would love to read this one, and so would I. Thanks for entering me.


Esther said...

Oh oh oh, I just saw this! Cynthia, could you email the recipe for those lemon bars? I absolutely love anything with lemon in it! =) I'm a sourpuss, big time.


Cindy W. said...

Enjoyed the interview. Your house and bookshelves in the bathroom sounds like my sisters house. If they took away the walls of the house she'd still have walls with her books. I love it! I'd love to win this book!

Cindy W.


MoziEsmé said...

I would LOVE to read this book!

janemaritz at yahoo dot com

Arnold said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Linda Kish said...

This sound like a really interesting story.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

Cynthia Ruchti said...

Megan, Esther, Cindy, Jane, Linda--it's fun to see your excitement about They Almost Always Come Home. And lemon bars. I'm still working on getting that recipe.

sharon54220 said...

I loved the interview and the book sounds very interesting. When I was reading the interview, I felt that I was sitting there having coffee with you.

Thanks for the chance.


Simply Stacie said...

Please count me in.

Naasom A. Sousa said...

This blog is wonderful! I can read reviews so many things interesting...
I'd like to win and read this book.

letrassantas at hotmail dot com

Edna said...

I read this blog almost every day
Please enter me
I follow on google


rbooth43 said...

Very interesting interview and the review of "They Almost Always Come Home" causes me to want a copy to read now. Thanks for the chance.


Robyn said...

LOVED the first page. Now I'm hooked and can't wait to read the rest!

coolestmommy2000 at gmail dot com

stampedwithgrace said...

what a great interview! Cynthia, you have a wonderful sense of humor :)
drawn in by page 1~ I would love to win this book!

Anna W. said...

Wow, great excerpt! Please put my name in the hat. :)

Anonymous said...

i'm interested in reading this book...thanks for the chance :)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Deborah M said...

I call tell by all of the posts that there are many people interested in this book. That includes me!
Deborah M.

Brenda said...

Looks like a good read!

dancealert at aol dot com

Marla said...

This really sounds like a book I would enjoy reading and sharing with others. Thank you for the giveaway.


Judylynn said...

I would love to have a chance to read this one!


Carole said...

All I can say is that I will eventually read Cynthia's book, but it sure would be nice to win a copy! Just reading the description gives me chills. I enjoyed the interview and am so glad to welcome another debut author. Thank you for the chance to win this book.

cjarvis [at] bellsouth [dot] net

Cynthia Ruchti said...

Sharon, Stacie, Naasom, Edna, Rbooth, Stamped, Anna, Anonymous, Deborah, Brenda, Marla, Judylynn, Carole...you have built my own excitement for this giveaway! You've made my heart so grateful for your comments and your energy about the book.Thanks for taking the time to read the interview and for caring about They Almost Always Come Home. Please consider joining my Cynthia Ruchti Reader Fan Page on Facebook.

kristen said...

I love her advice to "Work as hard as you can and wait as hard as you can." They are both so hard!!

earlymorn23 said...

This book intrigues me--a completely different sounding storyline. Can't wait to read it. Please enter me in the drawing.

Nancye said...

Sounds like a great book! Please include me.

nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

Anita Yancey said...

Sounds really good. I would love to read this book. Please enter me. Thanks!


Maureen said...

Oh wow! Where is Greg?
I have a problem with dessert choices too...as long as its chocolate!
Please enter me!

RoseMillsOhio said...

Congratulations on your first novel!

Your interview was so interesting. I love the "whipped cream" paragraph and know exactly what you mean!

Pam said...

Great interview! Would love to read the book. Please enter me.

Cynthia Ruchti said...

Kristen, Dawn, Nancye,Anita, Maureen, Rose, Pam, you've blessed me with your comments about the book, chocolate, and whipped cream! Thanks for connecting.

earlymorn23 said...

Would love to win a copy of this book--great sounding storyline.

Mark said...

I'd like to enter, thanks

Anonymous said...

The more I hear about this book, the more I want to read it. Please enter me. Thanks!!!

Cynthia Ruchti said...

Earlymorn and Mark, welcome to the family of commenters, Lena's blog followers, and potential They Almost Always Come Home readers! Thanks for stopping by. Readers R Us! Looking forward to seeing which of these amazing people will find the book in their mailbox one day soon and which ones will send a photo of them when they find it at their local bookstore. Bless you all for your kindness.

Cynthia Ruchti said...

Jackie, you too! Our posts must have crossed in cyberspace.

Megan (Inspired by Fiction) said...

Hi...this is a re-entry, I'd love to read this book!

K said...

This is a recomment. :)
God bless!

Pat Jeanne Davis said...

Enjoyed the interview with Cynthia and learning more about her and her journey. Thank you Lena. I'd love to win a copy of Cynthia's debut novel. Thank you.

Judylynn said...


Please enter me in this giveaway - Thanks!