Wednesday, February 15, 2012

PROMISE ME THIS - Cathy Gohlke - Free Book

Cathy Gohlke is the two-time Christy Award-winning author of William Henry is a Fine Name and I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires. Her second novel also won the Carol Award and was chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Books of 2008. Promise Me This is available now and Band of Sisters will release September 2012 from Tyndale House Publishers. Cathy, her husband, and dog, Reilly, live on the banks of the Laurel Run in Elkton, Maryland.

Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
I often pose questions or dilemmas for my characters similar to those with which I’ve struggled. Sometimes those similarities are simple, but other times they are issues that have challenged me to my core—like how to stand against physical or emotional abuse, the courage to choose rightly when I know that choice will hurt someone I love, or how to know what God wants of me.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Just before my older sister’s summer wedding (I was her thirteen-year-old maid of honor), I was visiting my aunt. A severe storm had pummeled the island, and another was expected the next day. In anticipation, islanders and members of the Coast Guard had stacked sandbags along the shore. Early the next morning, though the wind was high and the crashing sea had already covered those bags, I climbed to their top and ran, barefoot, along their line (never bothering to read the warning signs forbidding such things).

It was exhilarating—the wind whipping my long black hair round my face and shoulders, my skirt flying round my legs like a ship’s sail gone berserk. Romantic lines raced through my brain, “as sure-footed as a mountain goat; as fleet as a gazelle; fearless in the face of danger,” etc., etc. I ran faster and faster—until I slipped on the bags and fell feet first into a gigantic oyster bed.

Over four decades later I still carry a scar on my wrist to remind me of those razor-sharp shells. The half-mile trek on bleeding feet back to my aunt’s home and the sting of iodine unsympathetically administered stole every ounce of adventure and romance from my mind—briefly. Quirky? Maybe. Painful? Foolish? Yes. But it’s one of the thrilling highlights of my memory.

When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I knew I wanted to write from the moment my grandmother revealed to me (at five years of age) the astounding fact that books are not created by magic, but that “real people write books.” In fourth grade one of my poems was selected by my teacher to be included on a mimeographed page and presented to the class as part of our Christmas celebration. Seeing my poem “in print” and realizing that others valued the ideas I’d conveyed was a thrilling moment for me. I remember thinking, “This is the beginning. This is the first one.”

Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
My Bible first and foremost—it grows more precious and exciting each day. Books on organization fascinate me because I struggle with that. I enjoy reading gardening, do-it-yourself, cookbooks, histories and books of crafts from long ago, poignant YA and some family sagas. I love historical fiction, mysteries, classics, quirky humor and slice of life stories. The most important thing to me is a great story, well written, with a compelling or distinctive voice.

How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
Prayer—all day long I keep a running conversation with the Lord, which reminds me that I’m not in this alone. And while I take my writing seriously, I try hard not to take myself too seriously. I confess to living nose-to-the-grindstone and feeling overwhelmed sometimes, so am working on developing and maintaining more balance in my life.

When I realized that “pray without ceasing” means an ongoing conversation with God all day long and into the night, my life changed. How do you choose your characters’ names?
I start by researching first and last names (and their meanings) that were common in the era and location of my story’s setting—and then I search for uncommon names, often found in diaries and letters from the period. Next, I identify my story characters’ leading traits and try to match characters with names that convey the ideas of those traits. For instance, the primary villain in Promise Me This is named “Hargrave” because her heart is “hard” and cold as the “grave.”

I take into account that particular letters and their combinations evoke mental images (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual) when said aloud, as does the unique spelling of a name printed on the page. All of those things go into making a character seem more like a “Scarlett O’Hara” or a “Ben Hur” rather than some less suited name.

And, then, there are times that I’m just partial to a name or wish to honor someone I know or knew—if their name fits the character and era.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Raising my children. I love them with all of my heart and am very proud of the people they’ve become. Both are loving, giving, and compassionate adults, able to lead but quick to serve and help those around them. In every other way they’re extremely different. They fill my life to overflowing.

If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
A horse. I love the strength, stamina and beauty of horses. I love to see them in full run—so independent and free. But they’re also affectionate and bond strongly with people. They can work hard alone and well as a team—with their riders or with other horses, side by side. Those are qualities I admire.

What is your favorite food?
Blackberry Crumble Pie—the recipe for my son’s birthday pie—with vanilla ice cream. It tastes of summer—Yum!!!

Sounds delicious. I loved the huge blackberries that grew in Arkansas. What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
My greatest roadblock was insecurity and fear: not believing I could figure out a plot, build it up, wind it down, and tie up all those loose ends; not believing I could sustain a reader’s interest or write something that others would want to read. I feared failure, but not as much as I feared getting old and not having tried. I expected the road to be long and hard and that I’d learn something new at every junction; I’ve not been disappointed.

Sometimes people have said to me, “I’d never have stuck at it that long.”

But the notion of quitting astounds me. If I needed to walk from Maine to Florida I wouldn’t think of giving up in North Carolina. I overcame my fears by praying constantly, believing that God had given me the passion to write for a purpose, and walking forward each day. The wonderful surprise was that I’ve not had to walk the trail alone—many wonderful sisters and brothers in Christ walk it with me.

Tell us about the featured book.
Promise Me This Michael Dunnagan was never supposed to sail on the Titanic, nor would he have survived if not for the courage of Owen Allen. Determined to carry out his promise to care for Owen’s family in America and his younger sister Annie in England, Michael works hard to strengthen the family’s New Jersey gardening and landscaping business.

Annie Allen doesn’t care what Michael promised Owen. She only knows that her brother is gone—like their mother and father—and the grief is enough to swallow her whole. As Annie struggles to navigate life in England without Owen, Michael reaches out to her through letters. In time, as she begins to lay aside her anger that Michael lived when Owen did not, a tentative friendship takes root and blossoms into something neither expected.

Just as Michael saves enough money to bring Annie to America, WWI erupts in Europe. When Annie’s letters mysteriously stop, Michael risks everything to fulfill his promise—and find the woman he’s grown to love—before she’s lost forever.

Please give us the first page of the book.
Promise Me This—First Page

The great ship returned late from her sea trials beyond the shores of Carrickfergus, needing only her sea papers, a last-minute load of supplies, and the Belfast mail before racing to Southampton.

But in that rush to ferry supplies, a dockworker’s hand was crushed beneath two heavy crates carelessly dropped. The fury and swearing that followed reddened the neck of the toughest man aboard the sturdy supply boat.

Michael Dunnagan’s eyes and ears spread wide with all the fascination of his fifteen years.

“You there! Lad! Do you want to make a shilling?”

Michael, who’d stolen the last two hours of the day from his sweep’s work to run home and scrub before seeing Titanic off, turned at the gruff offer, certain he’d not heard with both ears.

“Are you deaf, lad? Do you want to make a shilling, I say!” the mate aboard the supply craft called again.

“I do, sir! I do!” Michael vowed, propelled by wonder and a fear the man might change his mind.

“Give us a hand, then. My man’s smashed his paw, and we’ve got to get these supplies aboard Titanic. She’s late from her trials and wants to be under way!”

Michael could not move his feet from the splintered dock. For months he’d slipped from work to steal glimpses of the lady’s growing. He’d spied three years ago as her magnificent keel was laid and had checked week by week as ribs grew into skeleton, as metal plates formed sinew and muscle to strengthen her frame, as decks and funnels fleshed her out. He’d speculated on her finishing, the sure beauty and mystery of her insides. He had cheered, with most of Belfast, as she’d been gently pulled from her berth that morning by tugboats so small with names so mighty that the contrast was laughable.

I will be reading this book very soon. I can hardly wait. How can readers find you on the Internet?
I’d love to hear from you! Visit my website at . A new website (same address) that includes recipes my characters loved and photos of locations that inspired Promise Me This will be up and running soon.

Thank you so much for having me, Lena. I’ve loved spending time with you and your readers!

And thank you, Cathy, for sharing your newest book with us. I’d love to have you for the next book release.

Readers, here are links to the book. By using one when you order, you help support this blog.
Promise Me This - paperback
Promise Me This - Kindle

Leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book. Please tell us where you live, at least the state or territory. (Comments containing links may be subject to removal by blog owner.)

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 4 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 if you want to be included in the drawing. Here’s a link.


Cathy Gohlke said...

Thank you so much for having me today, Lena! I love connecting with your readers, and yes, I'd be delighted to join you for my next book release. "Band of Sisters" will release from Tyndale House Publishers in September 2012.

Unknown said...

Thank you so much, Lena for introducing me to Cathy. i checked on our library books by Cathy so will recommend them. Thanks also for the opportunity to win!

Marianne from Arizona

Unknown said...

Thanks for the opportunity to win Cathy's book! I live in Texas.


Merry said...

Stories set with the Titanic sinking always capture my attention. Please include me for Promise Me This, it sounds wonderful.
Merry in TX

Cathy Gohlke said...

Thank you, Marianne, for recommending my books to your library!
With its Titanic theme, I think "Promise Me This" is a compelling read not only for adults, but for mid to older teens.
I was asked yesterday--on a teen's blog interview--what actors I'd cast for the main character roles if the book was sold as a movie. What a fun idea! I suggested Rachel MacAdams as a wonderful character actress for Annie, but that Taylor Swift also has Annie's look, and perhaps is more her age at the beginning of the book. Jeremy Irvine (of War Horse) would make an excellent Michael.
By covering several years between Titanic and the end of WWI, these characters grow to adulthood.

Wendy Newcomb said...

Would love to win this book, it sounds like a winner in itself.

I live in FL


Cathy said...

This sounds like a great book. Would love to win it. Thanks!

Cathy from B.C. Canada

Anonymous said...

Sign me up. This book sounds so good! :)


Writers and Readers said...

I doubt that I'll "win" anything, but this was too good to pass up! I had to "try my hand at it". This book sounds SO GOOD!

I'd love to win it, because living in Qc (French Canada)makes it hard to get good CHRISTIAN books in the ENGLISH language. :/

OK. I know. Too much info.

Melissa Jagears said...

I'm a big "fear of failure" Kinda gal.


Cathy Gohlke said...

I'm right there with you, Melissa. Fear of failure keeps us from doing so many things. I finally realized that I could be afraid and not do something, or be afraid and do it. The fear didn't disappear, but the accomplishment of stepping out of my fear to move forward was amazing. Because that's been such a big issue for me, the main character in my next book, "Band of Sisters," stands up for something she was truly afraid to do and in the end, looks in the mirror, and realizes the person staring back "did not die. I did not die!" That's such a revelation for so many of us. It was for me.

Anne said...

ooo, I'd love to read this. I have always been fascinated with anything about the Titanic. I live in Virginia.

Judy said...

Cathy, you are a new author to me. This book sounds so good. I would love to win a copy. Thank you for this giveaway.

Thank you Lena for introducing me to Cathy on your Blog!

Judy from Indiana

Sharon said...

Cathy - Thanks for sharing with us. Would love to win a copy of your new book. I donated both of your first books to our church library. The tweens in church are big readers and always love discovering "new authors". William Henry has been very popular.
And now I am hunger for Blueberry Crumble!
Thanks Lena for another great interview.
Eagan, MN

Mary Preston said...

I could relate to your quirky memory. It's the wild, forbidden dangerous antics of my childhood that stand out clearly even today for me.

Mary P


Cathy Gohlke said...

Thank you, Sharon, for donating my books to your church library! I love it when teens and tweens discover my books--especially because I remember so clearly the challenge of those years in taking a stand for what is right.

Marybelle--those early memories are great grist for the writing mill, aren't they? : )

CarlybirdK said...

Thank you for offering this giveaway. I would love to win this book. I've had my eye on it for a while now!
Carly in NC

Jo said...

This sounds like such a interesting book. Thank you for the opportunity to win it!

Jo from Southern Arizona

Katie said...

Sounds great! I love the idea of falling in love through writing letters! Please enter me. I'm from NC.

Katie G.

Lorna Faith said...

Thanks Cathy for sharing so freely:-) For me I needed the encouragement today of how you got through your roadblocks in thanks! I would love to read your book...sounds a great one:)

Lorna from Alberta

lornafaith at gmail dot com

Sarah Rebekah Richmond said...

Looks and sounds interesting!
Please enter me in the drawing.
God Bless,
Sarah Richmond

apple blossom said...

please enter me in this book drawing thanks

live in ND

ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

Unknown said...

Oooh.. this sounds like a wonderful read. Please enter me!

Krista in Oregon

Ingrid said...

Lena and Cathy, thanks for the great Interview, Cathy your book sound so great, please add me to your Contest.

I live in S.Illinois


Joanna Richmond said...

I would Love to collect Cathy Gohlke, sounds very interesting. would Love to read it, Thanks for the Chance to win. Thanks
Joanna Richmond
Blanch, NC.

Karen G. said...

Sounds like a great book to read. Would love the chance to try and win.
Karen from Troy, NY.

Abigail Mitchell said...

Enter me, it looks like a great book!
Thanks and God Bless!
Blanch, N.C.

Sharon Richmond said...

Enter me I would love to win a copy of this book it sounds like a great story! Thanks and God bless.
Sharon Richmond
Blanch, NC.

Alicia said...

Great Book!

Ali from NY

Kristie said...

I'm VERY impressed with the research and methods when choosing your characters names. Amazing! Perseverance is an admirable quality - as long as it is part of God's plan. Sometimes I get stubborn and continuing on the wrong path just because I have free will and I think I know better what should happen. Not very smart. *LOL* I'm from Ohio. kristiedonelson(at)gmail(dot)com Thank you.

Bakersdozen said...

This book sounds great. I would love to read it. I live in S. CA.

Cathy Gohlke said...

Thank you, everyone, for all your enthusiasm for "Promise Me This!" I'm delighted and truly honored.

You're absolutely right, Kristi, perseverance is only of value if we're walking in the Spirit's leading, if what we're doing is part of God's plan for our lives. It's easy, as you say, to persist because we think we know best.
My concern is for writers or readers who feel easily discouraged--something so easy to happen in this life. We need the Lord's leading in everything we do, and we also need to stay the course when He's made His will clear to us. It's easy to get caught up in listening to negative voices--those of others, or our own.
Two questions that have helped me re. this are:
Does this path bring honor and glory to God?
Do I have peace about this choice?

Thank you all for responding so enthusiastically! God bless you!

Coolestmommy said...

This sounds totally gripping. My life hasn't been the same since I saw the Titanic exhibit at a local museum. Each of us was given a passenger info card and at the end, we saw if we lived or died. We got to touch an iceberg, see pieces that survived and hear the stories. Incredible.

coolestmommy2000 at gmail dot com

misskallie2000 said...

Hi Cathy, Great interview and first page of Promise Me This. Love romance stories and the Titanic makes it interesting. I have added this book to my wish list and can't wait to read. Thanks for stopping by to chat and share with us.

Brenda from Georgia

misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

Carol N Wong said...

That was so interesting in the interview about the storm and how you reacted to it and it became the inspriration for this book. It makes me think of when I went to Nantucket to see where some of my ancestors came from. On the way back, we had a powerful storm. I got excited too, my husband was worried about us being tosses about and the rolling of the waves but I thought of ancestors having the same experience and I felt so connected to them.


Angie Adair said...

Wow this book looks really good!

Aizess said...

Oh. Please. Pretty please enter me:-) I so want to read this book. A friend of mine highly recommends it and I am eager to try it out!

I live in New York

tweezle said...

What a wonderful interview. I had to smile at where books come from. :)

Thank you for the chance. Your book looks amazing!

From stormy PA

The K. Family said...

Can't wait to read the book!!

Italia said...

Promise Me This is a beautiful story, even though there are some traumatic scenes. The characters are vividly portrayed, and you get a real sense of what it must have been like on that fateful night of April 1912. Woven into the story is John Bunyan's Christian and the concept of laying down your burdens, something both characters must do in order to achieve their hopes and dreams.