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Interview with Catherine Richmond

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a fairly new author on the scene and her name is Catherine Richmond. And the woman loves chocolate. Woot! Woot! Catherine writes about ordinary people experiencing God’s extraordinary love. Her second novel, Through Rushing Water, releases July 3, 2012. So grab this inspirational historical romance, and definitely some chocolate, and settle in for a nice read.

It’s a pleasure to have you with us today, Cathy. I’ve read that a song, “Mail Order Annie,” which mentions North Dakota, inspired your first novel, Spring for Susannah, twenty years ago. And that the inspiration struck as you were trying to remember where you hid the chocolate. Had you ever written before this divine spark occurred?

No, I'd never considered writing professionally. My mom is a librarian, so I grew up surrounded by books. Authors were an elevated species - British, male, and dead - beyond the realm of possibility for an American female who has to clean her own toilets.

I have to ask, did you ever find the hidden chocolate?
Oh, Deborah, I made quite the find during my husband's business trip to Europe! From small shops reminiscent of the movie Chocolat to profiteroles in Paris - magnifique! Our Swiss friends took us to the Cailler chocolate factory, where - can you believe this? - they have a tasting room with unlimited samples!

Unlimited chocolate samples? What a room. I’ve never been to Europe, but I do have roots in North Dakota. And the wind there is much stronger than where you went to college in Michigan! Those powerful gales always bring to mind God’s power. Speaking of which, how do your faith and spiritual life affect your storytelling?
I wish I could say my writing explores some deep theological issue. But instead, somewhere during the story, I write out my worries. Through Rushing Water's heroine is a highly educated woman who thinks she's lost her last chance to marry. My daughter is in med school and unmarried. If you believe news reports, her chances of marriage are slim to none. Fortunately I believe in a powerful God who will bring her a husband when the time is right or bless her with a rewarding single life.

God can do just that, especially when it comes to matters of the heart, one of which you mentioned in Through Rushing Water. You write about the trial of Standing Bear, which took place in your home state of Nebraska in the 1870s. What made you decide to write about this important event?
My first deadline! To make it easier on myself, I looked for a story set in the same time period as Spring for Susannah, but closer to home. Standing Bear's case was a significant civil rights victory for Native Americans, declaring an Indian is a person under the law. Yet few people outside of Nebraska have heard of this verdict.

How did this help you share your experiences as a missionary to Jamaica?
On medical mission trips to Jamaica, I've been surrounded by people with a different skin color, different language, different culture. Their enormous needs dwarfed my pitiful efforts. And their enormous faith humbled me. Missionaries to Native Americans must have faced these same heart-wrenching challenges.

I can only imagine. Sounds as though you’ve seen some amazing things during your journey, and you’ve come a long way since you first heard that song twenty years ago. Once you started submitting your work, how long did it take before you landed a contract with Thomas Nelson?
Although I started writing in 1991, I didn't start my massive collection of rejection letters until 1997. Mary Connealy and Julie Lessman encouraged me to try the contest route. In 2009 I finalled in Launching a Star, earning a reading by a Thomas Nelson editor. That contract was exceeding, abundantly, above all I could ask or think!

Looks like the wait paid off. Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey during this time?
A great critique group. Their expectation of productivity, five polished pages each week, and their feedback prepared me for the life of a working writer.

And inquiring authors want to know. How do you find the time to balance a marriage, two college aged kids, a ranch, your job as an occupational therapist, and writing?
God's perfect timing is at work. My children are out of the house, my husband has taken over the kitchen, and I'm working part-time. Life isn't perfectly balanced - don't ask when I last exercised - but the health department hasn't condemned the house.

Guess I'd better explain about the Rabbit Ranch. When my daughter got her first pet bunny, one of our friends christened our house the Richmond Rabbit Ranch. The name stuck, even when we had a dog and wild rabbits filled the yard to tease him. My ranching duties are limited to occasional visits by the grandbunnies, easy to fit into the writing life!

The Richmond Rabbit Ranch . . . sounds like a great title for a new book. Do you have any parting words for aspiring novelists?
Connect with other writers. ACFW is a great resource. And if anyone would like a travel buddy for the Callier chocolate factory, I'm ready!

What a cool picture! You might get some takers on that one. (Moi.) It’s been so much fun getting to know you, Cathy. Thanks for sharing with us today!

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