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Interview with Cynthia Ruchti

Last year I had the pleasure of interviewing Cynthia Ruchti for her debut release, They Almost Always Come Home, a Carol Award finalist. From all accounts, her current release, When the Morning Glory Blooms, is even more of a study in heart-searching emotion for it shares the relationships of three women who live through the experience of an unplanned pregnancy.

Cynthia, even after reading the book blurb, I thought this was a multi-generational story of three women in the same family, but it isn’t, is it?

When the Morning Glory Blooms tells the stories of women in three eras. What they share is the aftermath of unplanned pregnancy. Anna, in the 1890s, runs a home for unwed moms in an era when society turned its back on those needs. In the 1950s, Ivy, a single mom whose fiancé is serving in the Korean War, cares for Anna in a nursing home near the end of Anna’s long and storied life. In the present day, Becky is the mother of a teen mom. Becky’s viewpoint reveals the unique challenges of a mom trying to parent a daughter who became a mom too soon. Their stories intersect in what I hope readers will find is a heartwarming way.

From a writing standpoint, that seems quite complicated. How did you keep the women, babies, and their stories straight?
Each of the three main characters were so distinct in my mind, so “real,” that keeping them straight wasn’t difficult for me as I wrote, but I was keenly conscious that they needed to be “alive” in the minds of readers so they too would see them as distinctly as I did. Anna, Ivy, and Becky are so different from one another, which added to the wonder of how alike their concerns and faith challenges were despite living many years apart. This is one of those stories that I saw playing out in my imagination. As I left one era’s story to catch up with the next phase of one of the others, I worked to make sure the transitions were as smooth as possible, even when leaping ahead more than a hundred years, or back sixty. Issues of the heart are timeless. That’s what smoothed those transitions.

Where did you get the idea for this story?
Years ago, I ran a home for unwed mom. One mom. And I struggled to know when to help and when to step back. Where did mentoring become enabling? And how did the concept of grace change everything in our situations? It’s a rare family that hasn’t been affected somehow by an unplanned pregnancy. At first, the story was Anna’s alone. She captured my attention. Then Ivy asked for her story to be told, too. I resisted when Becky knocked at imagination’s door and insisted she too had a story to tell. I’m so glad I listened.

Other than historical research for setting, fashions, etc, what type of research did you do for this story?
In addition to what you mentioned, I researched the timing of events of the Korean War, adoption laws in the 1890s (which varied wildly from state to state and county to county), horticultural details about morning glories, and other details, like the speed limit for the first few motorcars. Much of the setting for the 1950s story came from childhood memories. Our family lived in an apartment much like the one Ivy shared with her father over the dry cleaner. If I close my eyes, I can still smell that unique steamed wool, humid air.

Was it difficult to gather information considering the sensitivity of this topic?
A great deal had to be drawn from imagination. But over the years I’ve heard the true stories of many who have dealt with the kinds of crises and decisions my characters faced. Empathy for them and admiration for their courage painted the emotional aspects and filled in the faith undercurrent.

Of all the flowers you could have chosen, why a Morning Glory?
When the Morning Glory Blooms is one of the few books I’ve written that didn’t start with a title. It was a scene in the book—a heart-tugging scene of a mother digging in the dirt to plant a struggling morning glory vine—that wrote the title for me. Morning glory buds are tightly curled and twisted until the sun hits them. Then they unfold in an elegant dance, unfurling into stunning blossoms that almost seem lit from within. My own morning glory patch started as a few seeds from a friend’s garden. It seems I wait forever for them to bloom. But when they do! What delicate, spectacular blossoms! As readers get deeper and deeper into the book, they find more connections with the concept of why morning glories were chosen to represent the grace that unfolds in what starts out looking anything but grace-filled.

Has being a published author changed your life or schedule since the last interview?
Even though the schedule intensifies with deadlines and marketing responsibilities, I’m finding joy in every step of this journey. Connecting with readers and encouraging other writers sometimes crowds out time to spend dreaming about new projects. I’m working on that. New stories are growing impatient for the attention they deserve. I’m falling in love with a whole new cast of characters and need to balance time spent with them and time to promote and interact with readers of the current book.

We know They Almost Always Come Home sold first, but which story did you write first?
I actually wrote a rough draft of When the Morning Glory Blooms years before the idea for They Almost Always Come Home was born. I received some key encouragement for the Morning Glory book at the Nashville ACFW conference in 2005, but it needed more percolating, more time to simmer. Neither book was the first I wrote. As is typical with many other authors, I had several complete manuscripts—my practice manuscripts—on file before something sold. Since then, I’ve resurrected bits and pieces of those practice manuscripts in novels or novellas on the shelves or coming soon.

Which was harder to write and why?
Both books called me to go deeper than I was at first willing to dive. The logistics of When the Morning Glory Blooms’ multi-eras challenged me, but the first person present tense of They Almost Always Come Home was a challenge as well. I’d be hard pressed to choose which was more difficult or which was more enjoyable. What I can say is that both books changed me at the core. Both books expanded my compassion and my faith.

When the Morning Glory Blooms encompasses the years between the 1890’s and present. If you couldn’t live in the present, which era would you choose to live in and why?
I have a romantic view of the Victorian era and have always entertained the idea of renovating or restoring Victorian homes—with someone else’s money and sweat—but I’m conscious that living in that era would mean giving up my smartphone and microwave, so…

Any parting words?
Thank you, Anita, for encouraging me to tell some of the behind-the-scenes for When the Morning Glory Blooms. It’s an incredible honor to be interviewed by ACFW, since it has played such a large part in my writing journey. Most of what I learned about writing Christian fiction I learned at ACFW’s knee. I look forward to interacting with those who read When the Morning Glory Blooms and find the hope laced through its stories. I see the book as a discussion starter, and I’d love to be part of that discussion. Some early readers are considering ways to use the novel with pregnancy resource ministries, which I find immensely rewarding. My prayer is that the book will stimulate conversation, unfold much-needed hope, and express God’s heart of grace.

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Thanks for sharing with us, Cynthia.

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