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Interview with Cynthia Roemer

Cynthia Roemer is the author of the acclaimed Prairie Sky series, set in 1850s Illinois. Her novels, laced with humor and heartache, reach deep into the soul of readers with well-defined plot lines and characters who forge ahead against fear with unyielding faith. Cynthia is back to sow seeds into the hearts of readers with her Civil War romance Beyond These War-Torn Lands, the first in her Wounded Hearts series.
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You are well established in the writing world in short work. Which brings you more pleasure to write—short stories and articles or novel-length work?
I’ve always longed to be a published novelist. I completed my first draft of Under This Same Sky during college, but I am so happy the Lord put that pursuit on hold while I married and raised my two boys. The short stories and articles were much less time consuming than a novel. I feel that’s what the Lord called me to write for that season. Now that my sons are grown, I have more time for novel writing and am enjoying it immensely.

Your Prairie Sky series was set in the 1850s. What prompted you to move into the Civil War era for this new series?
Each book in my Prairie Sky series progressed a year or two. Book three, Under Moonlit Skies, took place in 1859 and was set in part in Cincinnati, Ohio, just across the river from what was then the slave state of Kentucky. So, readers got a taste of the Pre-Civil War tensions in that story. Writing a Civil War novel seemed the logical next step, though I didn’t have a clue how much added research it would entail!

What message do you hope readers will take away from this book?
The theme verse for Beyond These War-Torn Lands is Matthew 5:43-44: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”

Throughout the novel, both Drew and Caroline face challenging people or “enemies” who they must make the difficult choice to seek revenge against or show Christ-like love to. With all the hatred and bitterness going on today, I feel this is a message we can all benefit from hearing. Loving the unlovable is one of the hardest things we’re asked to do, but as Christians, we are called to love even when others are unkind toward us.

You live on a farm. How has this environment and lifestyle influenced your writing?
I feel my rural background has a huge bearing on my style of writing. My love for nature and God’s creation plays out in my descriptive scenes. I love to create a vast array of characters readers will enjoy and connect with. My simple, country ways seem to add a natural flair to the dialogue and relatability to the characters.

Motorcycle rides in the country! Any exciting adventures to share?
My husband and I aren’t avid riders, but we do enjoy taking short jaunts down scenic country roads, going for ice cream, or visiting family. No real exciting adventures other than when we and our two sons all go for a ride together.

Reflecting back, if you had not won that writing contest in your junior year of high school, do you think you would have gone on to pursue a writing career? (Did another career path cross your mind?)
I would have to say yes. Writing was in my blood by that point. I did at one time consider taking courses to become a forest ranger, but that would have taken me far from home and family so I chose to stick with what I knew and had come to love.

Many authors enjoy a successful writing career without “formal” education in creative writing. What advantages do you feel your education gave you as an author?
I think knowing the basics of good grammar and writing helped to not only develop my writing skills, but also gave me the knowledge needed to create a sound book proposal to present to publishers. I like to think my education also bolstered my courage to seek publication. I wrote the rough draft of my first novel while in college. If I hadn’t taken time to write it then, I don’t know if it ever would have gotten written.

What is your favorite part of developing a story?
It would be a toss-up between character development and plot. I love all the intricacies of creating characters and even taught an ACFW online course about Creating Compelling Characters. But I’m also big on plot. I like my novels to include a little intrigue and a few unexpected twists and surprises.

What has your writing journey taught you about your relationship with God?
That I can’t do this on my own. I consider writing my ministry. Each of my novels contains a strong spiritual message. Sometimes I know what that is going into writing. Other times, the Lord guides me in directions I didn’t see coming. I consider my writing His and pray His leading comes through to readers.

What is your favorite means of researching the time periods you write about?
So far most of my research has been via books and online. I did take a trip to Vandalia, Illinois, to the First National Road Museum for my third novel, Under Moonlit Skies. I had high hopes of making a trip out East to visit some of the sites I wrote about in Beyond These War-Torn Lands, but then Covid hit. I then was diagnosed with cancer, so that put a stop to my plans. But I found some great resources online and through my local library. Also, one of my critique partners lives in that area (Virginia) and has actually visited one or two of the battles I researched.

What was the most disappointing or frustrating moment in your writing career?
Probably losing my agent within a year of signing on with him. He retired, and, unfortunately, I wasn’t picked up by another agent. But then the Lord led me to a publisher who accepted unagented manuscripts.

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career?
Oh, my. I have several highlights: signing my first contract, my first royalty check, and winning the Selah Award. But I think the greatest moment was at my first book signing when I witnessed such an outpouring of support from the community. I remember a girl I’d never met came shyly up to me with her father wanting me to sign her book, which she’d purchased online. When I thanked her for reading it, she looked at me with big brown eyes like I was Laura Ingalls Wilder.

What does your writing routine look like?
I pretty much just write any spare moment I can. I even had my laptop with me in the cancer infusion treatment area working to finish Beyond These War-Torn Lands. I had a deadline to make, and I was determined to make it. And I did! A week early, by God’s grace.

My husband is a farmer. He’s home some days and gone others, so I do my best to work around his schedule. Sometimes it’s disheartening to get on a roll with writing and have to stop to get lunch or supper. But that’s life!

I like writing in the quiet. No music. My sons are grown now, so that is a help. One recently married. The other is still at home but works an ag job, so he's gone quite a bit. I never have enough time in the day to accomplish what I’d like. I’m a slow writer! I’m so very thankful the Lord has allowed me the opportunity to follow my writing dream.
Patti Shene Gonzales hosts Step Into the Light, a weekly interview-style blog talk radio show, where she promotes those who share God’s love through writing and other ministry outlets. She hosts writers, published and unpublished, on her two blogs, The Over 50 Writer and Patti’s Porch on her website at Patti is published in two anthologies and local publications and has three western novels in progress. When not writing or reading, she is doing volunteer work or keeping in touch with family and friends. Patti lives on the Colorado plains with her devoted feline companion, Duncan.

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