I’m delighted to welcome Christy-award winning author Cathy Gohlke to The Bookshelf. Cathy, I want to talk to you about your books, and I have a few just-for-fun questions, as well. But first, tell us about you. Who is Cathy Gohlke, the gal next door?
I’m a wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, and am absolutely in love with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I love writing, reading, walking, and exploring historical sites, ancient cemeteries, and dusty, old attics—lands and things that time forgot. I love worship services, dancing with my husband, singing by campfires with my grown children and friends, group service projects, and riding my bike on flat roads on sunny days!
Sounds like there’s never a dull moment! That said, your literary accomplishments are impressive. (For readers who may not know, the Christy award is The Catherine Marshall Christian Fiction Award of Excellence. It is very highly esteemed in the industry. Winning the award says wonderful things about Cathy’s writing.) Aside from the stories and articles scattered here and there, you have two published books. Tell us a little about them.
(Christy Award 2007)
It is 1859, and thirteen-year-old Robert is torn between loyalty to his abolitionist father and his mother’s slave-holding family.
After his best friend, William Henry, is trapped in a deadly scheme to protect secrets of the Underground Railroad Robert vows never to get involved again. But when he discovers his grandfather’s plan to sell his own son, born of a slave woman, Robert must decide whether to stand by or risk everything to help him escape.
William Henry is a Fine Name is a coming of age story, a tale of friends, a family, and a nation—caught in the chaos of slavery, forced to take a stand.
(Stand alone sequel to William Henry is a Fine Name)
As Civil War rends his family and the nation, Robert (now seventeen), vows to rescue his estranged mother and the girl he loves from behind enemy lines. Unwittingly entangled in a prison escape, left for dead, and charged as a spy, Robert must forge his anger and shame into a renewed determination to rescue his family.
Confronted by an enemy and a war he no longer understands, Robert finds that the rescue, and its results, may not be up to him.
Both books sound wonderful. How long have you been writing? Was there an “aha” moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
My first published pieces appeared in my thirties, though I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since I was five years old.
I remember sitting on the sofa with my younger brother, Danny—our grandmother sandwiched between—as she read aloud “Through the Looking Glass.” I was certain that book was created by magic. The moment she laughed and told me that real people write books, I knew I wanted to grow up to be one of those magic-creating-book-writing people!
Where do you find inspiration for your stories?
Inspiration is in the places I walk, the history books I read, faces I meet in passing strangers on the street. Inspiration comes from prayer and opening my heart and mind to God in times of meditation, Scripture reading and study, newspaper stories, and in the rhythms of life and passing seasons.
Earlier this month I was researching WWI and WWII stories in
There is no shortage of inspiration or stories. The challenge is in untangling the threads, and holding tight to the story we are given to write.
It seems to be more of a challenge for some of us than for others! LOL How much time do you spend writing?
As much as I can, and that is never enough. Life is busy on every front for me—just as it is for everyone. I try to schedule my writing early in the day, after a morning walk when I feel fresh and energized. I’m most productive when not distracted by those siren calls from laundry, dirty dishes, overgrown shrubbery, etc., etc.—so sometimes that means writing late at night. Writing in blocks of time is important for me. Knowing I have a definite span of scheduled time frees my mind and helps me gain momentum.
What’s your best piece of advice for new and aspiring writers?
Read all you can, write all you can, love all you can, live all you can, pray all you can, and ask the Lord what He would have you do with all that unique and valuable experience. Surrender your project, yourself and the outcome of your dreams to Him. Don’t flinch when the going gets tough.
Excellent advice, and well said. Give us one writing tip that you personally find invaluable.
A newspaper editor once told me to take note of the stories that are making national and international news, then search for those stories on a local level and write them well. It was probably the best writing advice I’ve ever received. I’ve tailored that advice to write historical fiction: Take the stories that are making national and international news, find a similar theme/story in history, then write it well, revealing God’s purpose.
Another piece of good advice!
Now for that off-the-cuff stuff I mentioned. What books are on your bedside table right now?
Hmm. I’m researching WWI for my wip—so, this list is a bit “war heavy.”
Testament of Youth—by Vera Brittain
Gentlemen Volunteers—The Story of the American Ambulance Drivers in the Great War August 1914 – September 1918—by Arlen J. Hansen
The Last Fighting Tommy—The Life of Harry Patch, the Only Surviving Veteran of the Trenches—by Harry Patch with Richard Van Emden
Blood in the
Scars Upon My Heart—Women’s Poetry and Verse of the First World War—selected by Catherine Reilly
What word annoys you more than any other?
Regurgitate—at least for today.
Not a pleasant word at any time, is it? What “super power” would you like to borrow for awhile?
Ahh—while we’re wishing—I’d love the ability to work and concentrate for days on end without sleep or food. And let’s add jets to my arms to shear those overgrown shrubs!
Share a grammatical pet peeve…go ahead, sound off.
When to use “who” and when to use “whom.” There are days when that distinction is perfectly clear and there are days when I’m ready to toss them both into the air and see which one lands on paper.
Sounds like we have a couple things in common…. Thank you for hanging out at The Bookshelf for awhile, Cathy! Where can my readers find your books?
They are available in or can be ordered by any major bookstore or online through Amazon, CBD, etc.
Thanks again, and we hope you sell a million!
My pleasure, Delia! Blessings today for you and all your readers!
Cathy Gohlke’s first novel, William Henry is a Fine Name, won the Christy Award. Her second novel, I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires, was listed by Library Journal as one of their picks for “Best of 2008” and is a finalist for the Christy Award 2009. Cathy has worked as a school librarian, a drama director for adults and young people, and as a director of children’s and education ministries. She lives with her husband in