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Interview with Kathleen Rouser

Tell us about your new novel, Rumors and Promises. What is it about?

As the back cover copy explains, Sophie Biddle is an heiress on the run with a child in tow, and also feels abandoned by family and God. Ian McCormick believes he let God down along with his former congregation and specifically a young woman who needed his help. In a sense their problems are opposite, but also similar in that they’re trying to move on and must learn to trust God.

The people of Stone Creek figure largely in the story. It’s in their power to help or hurt the protagonists. Some choose to be part of the healing while others would rather fuel and feed on rumors and gossip. They affect the course of the story and what choices Sophie and Ian are forced to make.

Briefly describe the heart of the hero and heroine in your new novel.

Sophie is a mother, whose heart hurts that she must pretend her daughter Caira is her sister. Yet she sees no other way to protect their reputations and give her daughter a chance for a new life. This motivates her first and foremost. She wrestles with how she’s been hurt by her parents and the sexual assault that happened to her. Has God abandoned her? Is He disgusted by her ruse?

Pastor Ian McCormick is a shepherd. He wants to make a difference in the world, to make up for his past mistakes. From this stems his desire to start a ministry to unwed mothers and orphans. Seeing someone like Sophie struggling to make ends meet touches his heart.

While Ian wants to help them, he doesn’t feel he can afford to get his heart entangled with beautiful Sophie and precious Caira. When he learns Sophie’s secret without her knowing he wonders what he should do next.

Where did your story and character ideas come from for this novel?

Sophie Biddle’s story in Rumors and Promises really began as an attempt to convey a story similar to the account of the woman at the well in the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John. At the time, editors weren’t interested in biblical fiction. But I was also constrained by the guidelines of Christian publishing. How could I have my protagonist be a woman of bad reputation while preserving her purity?

The character of Sophia Bidershem, an heiress concealing her identity with a slightly different name and trying to pass off her toddler daughter as her sister, was born. The out-of-wedlock-pregnancy had not come about by her volition, but she loves her child anyway and does what she must to take care of her. Sophie wishes her purity had never been stolen from her. She bears the brunt of the resulting shame.

Then I thought about who had the most to lose in becoming involved in the life of these runaway girls. Pastor Ian McCormick would have much to lose if his reputation was besmirched by friendship with a “fallen woman.” Of course, that’s where the similarities end. Jesus is sinless while Ian is a flawed man trying to start over with a new congregation because of his past failings.

What message do you hope readers take away from Rumors and Promises?

It is so easy to get stuck in the past. I struggle with it myself. I hope people who read my book will realize that Christ (and what He accomplished for us on the cross and being raised from the dead) is much bigger than our past failures or the injustices done to us. He is there to guide and heal. When we can grasp hold of that truth we can move forward in our lives.

How do your faith and spiritual life affect your storytelling?

Because Jesus saved me and gave me new life many years ago, I want to share a biblically-based message of transformation. God’s principles of truth are a basis for my stories and also how I go about telling them. While I do deal with the sensitive subject of rape in Rumors and Promises, I strive to keep my writing clean and wholesome. I pray to represent the Lord well in what I do.

What are your must-have snacks when writing on deadline?

Chocolate and coffee for sure. I also like to munch on apples or a handful of nuts such as almonds. For a quick pick up I like taking a graham cracker, spreading a little peanut butter over it, and then sprinkling some mini-chocolate chips over the top. Sometimes it really hits the spot.

Describe your writing space.

It’s often in the corner beige faux suede recliner with my lap cat, Lilybits, perched on one knee and my laptop on the other. Sometimes I write in the family room and sometimes in the living room.

In the winter it’s great to sit in back by the fireplace and enjoy the heat. On summer mornings, it’s better in the living room and to enjoy the soft sunlight coming through the picture window. Both rooms are painted a very light caramel color.

My family room is accented with reds, while my living room is accented in blues. Both rooms have large windows. I like lots of light. And I usually have a glass of water and a cup of coffee within reach—at least to get started.

I have a desk set aside upstairs with a bookcase to the side, but I need to organize the area and become more comfortable writing in a different place. I would like to turn it into a “shabby chic” office space.

What led you to choose the genre in which you write?

A variety of reasons. I love reading classic literature from the 1800s and like to picture life back then, all the elegant clothes and manners of the upper and even the middle classes. I enjoy watching period piece movies or series such as Pride and Prejudice, Middlemarch, Anne of Green Gables, or Downton Abbey, and I remember reading Gilbert Morris’s books years ago. While I don’t write my stories around historical happenings, but instead place my story in a historical setting, I just have always loved the historical genre. And I am a sucker for a great romance story!

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?

There are many things which have been significant. How I met a fellow writer and we became friends through our oldest sons’ being on the homeschool soccer team. She has really encouraged me over the years and is multi-published herself.

Getting my wonderful agent, Linda S. Glaz, has been pivotal. It’s so important to have an agent who really believes in your work. I’ve also had some very helpful critique partners at different times. There have been so many providential moments and meetings over the years where I could see the Lord working.

Who is your favorite author? How did they influence your writing?

There are several authors I truly enjoy and admire their skill, so it’s hard to pick a favorite. I would have to say that more than one influenced me. Jane Austen’s books inspired me to want to write romance. Francine Rivers’ books made me want to take on deeper issues.

One author who had a profound influence on me is Jan Karon. After my husband had a horrible accident, shortly after my mom had passed away, and I lost a baby, I discovered her Mitford books. After taking care of Jack and the kids all day, with the extra care my husband needed and the duties of being a mother, plus grieving my losses—that took a lot out of me. I would have about an hour in the evening to read.

Jan Karon’s stories dealt with difficult subjects, but there were touches of humor and wonderful characters. Getting swept away to Mitford was like going on vacation for that hour and always there were spiritual truths to glean from them. Reading her novels was restorative for me. It made me realize that the longing in me to write fiction wasn’t a bad thing, that stories could truly minister to people.

What books are on your nightstand right now?

I’m in the middle of Forget Paris by Autumn MacArthur. Then there is the TBR pile including Deception by Barbara Warren and In Lincoln’s Shadow by Rohn Federbush. On the coffee table I have The Ringmaster’s Wife, by Kristy Cambron. I don’t keep many books on my nightstand.

Closing thoughts?

Be true to the calling God has given you. It’s easy to look at other authors and wish we could write that way or write a different kind of story. We do learn, change, and grow with practice. However, the Lord calls you to be you and minister to the audience He provides.

Also, don’t give up. Many people are surprised that I wrote the first draft of Rumors and Promises back in 2002 and I had been working on writing seriously for five years before that. Some authors may be published within the first couple of years of starting out, but it’s all in God’s timing.


Alexis A. Goring is a writer at heart and a journalist by profession. She loves the art of storytelling and has released her first book, an inspirational romance novella called Hope in My Heart: A Collection of Heartwarming Stories, in Sept. 2013. When Alexis is not working on her next book or chasing the next big story, she can be found listening to music, enjoying food, shopping at her favorite malls, and spending quality time with loved ones.

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