Find a Christian store

Interview with Crystal Caudill

Crystal Caudill's hobby of enjoying high tea began long before she wrote her debut historical romantic suspense novel, Counterfeit Love, which is set in the late 1800s, an era when high tea became popular.

"In general, I'm a tomboy," she says. "I don't like girlish things, but the beauty and civility of high tea have long been a fascination of mine, especially since I've read historical fiction for as long as I can remember."

The author doesn't drink coffee, so tea has always been her thing, but collecting loose leaf tea (and teapots and tea cups) came about more so after her husband traveled to England for work and brought home a ton of loose leaf tea. After that she also met one of her best friends, fellow ACFW suspense writer Angela Carlisle, who Crystal says "took tea drinking to the next level."

Since high tea is such a joy, and since it came about in the time period her Hidden Hearts of the Gilded Age series is set, does that mean in one of the novels she will include a scene where the characters enjoy high tea?

"While high tea hasn't gotten to play a part in my books yet, you better believe it is coming! It's just hard to work in situations where Secret Service operatives might have high tea with a criminal."

It might also be a little hard to include in her historical novels another favorite pastime of Crystal's: playing card games like Exploding Kittens or Sushi Go, or board games like Scattegories. She says her family has probably 100 or more card/board games at their disposal.

"So far, my stories haven't allowed my characters the leisure to play any games—well, except when my hero was working undercover and had to play poker—but I have some ideas for card and board games to weasel their way into future stories."

The love of animals, and one of Crystal's favorite jobs growing up in Kentucky when she worked as a stable hand and trail guide, was something the author did incorporate in her novel.

"Counterfeit Love has a stubborn mule named Captain Blackbeard, the scourge of man and beast, who resembles a mule from that long ago summer when I was 13, working at the Kentucky Horse Park."

Since Crystal grew up in Kentucky, and still lives there today, readers might assume the first book in her series would be set in that state. Nope – but it's very close: Ohio. The author now lives "literally across the river from Cincinnati." She says the history of that city is full of story fodder.

"Because I wanted to thoroughly get to know the city, I decided to set Counterfeit Love there. It was fascinating to see just how much of the city has changed. If you tried to visit the locations of my story, over half of them no longer exist in the form they're described. It's both fascinating and heartbreaking."

Visiting Cincinnati is only one small part of the research pie for this book, because Crystal also had to research all the "norms" for the year 1884; the "how it all began" about the Secret Service; and the process of, and the criminals involved in, counterfeiting money.

She spent a lot of time in the Historical Society Library and the public library, reading both print and ebooks for her study of the Gilded Age. She had two favorite resources on the Secret Service, the first one was Illegal Tender by David R. Johnson. The second resource was an out-of-print book of stories that contained summaries of real cases that former Chief Drummond of the Secret Service wrote for the newspapers in the early 1900s.

During all her research, she decided on the particular months of January and February in the year 1884 to use as the setting for her novel. She said the specific date actually had a lot to do with the combined history of the Secret Service and Cincinnati.

"In 1883, Cincinnati was struck with a historic flood that devastated the area, and twelve months later, almost to the day, Cincinnati experienced a second worse flood. In fact, it remains the second worst flood in the Cincinnati area up to this point in history. This played into my heroine’s financial desperation and into the climax of the story."

For the Secret Service part of it, Crystal says 1884 was far enough into the department's formation to be beyond the initial turmoil of its creation and the questionable ethics demonstrated by many of its operatives and leadership.

"Between the late 1870s and early 1880s, the department was really still coming into its own and was stifled by many limitations, including the inability to conduct searches, obtain warrants, or make arrests without the direct cooperation of the local police. It was the perfect combination to make for an engaging story with lots of danger and romance."

Speaking of danger, why did Crystal decide to write historical romantic suspense instead of novels in other genres? The roots of this began when she was young, and would write stories but stash them away, never meant to be seen by anyone else.

"While I wouldn't change my childhood, it had lots of struggles that made stories of danger and adventure a necessary escape. I needed to see that if others could survive things much worse than what I was going through, I could survive this. The historical aspect came into play through my love of history, and frankly the fact that I needed an escape as far from the here and now as possible. What better place than a completely different century?"

The reason Crystal writes Christian fiction also stems from something that happened when she was younger. She didn't grow up in a Christian household, and it wasn't until she was in the eighth grade, through the influence of a middle school teacher and a group of friends, that Crystal came to know Christ personally.

"By then, I was into some pretty smutty reading, and it went on until I accidentally discovered Janette Oke’s When Calls the Heart. While the first book made an impact on me, it was the second and third books in the series that really taught me what God-honoring love looks like. It literally changed my life and what I read from then on out. With the exception of the classics, and a few books labeled clean reads, I only read Christian/inspirational fiction now.

"God calls each author to their own target audience, and I feel like He’s called me to write for the Christian community. Not that He wouldn't make Counterfeit Love reach those who aren’t, but my focus is on entertaining and encouraging those who already have faith in Christ."

Since that is Crystal's focus, it's easy to see why with her novel Counterfeit Love, she doesn't want to "just tell a good story." She definitely has a particular Christian message to share.

"In this book, I hope readers will walk away knowing that 'even if' everything is stripped away from you, that you can you can trust and love God. He cares for every detail of your life, and He works all things to the good of those that love Him, according to His purpose and for His glory.

"And sometimes, that means just standing still and letting Him fight the battle, even if it tears at our souls. Jesus promised us there would be trouble, but He also promised we would not go at it alone."

Not only does Crystal believe God called her to write for Christians, but she believes He called her to make writing her career – and this started in the summer of 2015, involving what Crystal calls three "God Moments."

As a thirtieth birthday present, Crystal's husband bought her a ticket to a small local writer's conference she'd seen an ad about, but never told him about. This was God Moment #1. She went to the conference by herself, knowing no one. The first person she met introduced her to the concept of ACFW, and then introduced her to Gregg and Hallee Bridgeman.

"I'll never forget Gregg asking me why wasn't I pursuing publishing? Did I believe God had given me these stories? Well yeah, but … I brushed it off, but he'd planted the seed. This was God Moment #2."

After that, it turns out all but one of the classes Crystal had chosen on writing craft got cancelled at the last minute, leaving only publishing classes open to attend. This is what she calls God Moment #3.

"I left that conference certain that God was calling me to pursue publishing, but I fought with Him for six months over it. He won. From that point on, it's been a journey of obedience to Him. I am excited and blessed to be published, but it was honestly something I never wanted without His pushing. Now all I want is for whatever I write to glorify His name and to encourage others in their walk with Christ."

That conference definitely made an impact on Crystal, and she joined ACFW shortly after that, in January 2016. She also has attended other Christian writing conferences, and it's clear attending conferences and joining ACFW have brought joy to Crystal in many ways.

"Going to conferences absolutely made all the difference in the world for me, in my growth as a writer, in the opportunities provided, and in the friendships it created. I’ll be 100% honest. I prayed for 15 years to have true, Christian friendships, and it wasn't until I joined the ACFW that I met all four of the women that I would claim as sisters now. Those friendships are dearer to me than any book contract, and I am so grateful to God for using ACFW to connect us together."
Melinda Freeland wrote her first "novel" at age 8 about Mr. & Mrs. Texas Toast, and their struggle to get off the plate before someone ate them. Today, Melinda writes fiction you can relate to—about humans—and their real struggles, not only in relationships, but also with understanding and trusting God. Love, Texas – Population 2 is her debut Christian contemporary romance novel. It was inspired by Melinda's reunion with her first love, her life as a small-town reporter, and her faith journey. Melinda lives in Texas with her handsome husband, two great kids, and her lovable Pug. She'd love to connect with readers at and on social media @authormelindafreeland and @melindafreeland.

For more great interviews, visit our Author Interview Archives.

ACFW Members, click here to apply for an author interview!

Developed by Camna, LLC

This is a service provided by ACFW, but does not in any way endorse any publisher, author, or work herein.