Cynthia Ruchti is an author and speaker who tells stories of Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark through her novels, nonfiction, women’s events, and outlets related to the Heartbeat of the Home radio broadcast she wrote and produced for thirty-three years. She and her plot-tweaking husband live in the heart of Wisconsin, not far from their three children and five joy-giving grandchildren.
Her latest book is the Christian fiction, When the Morning Glory Blooms.
You can learn more about Cynthia and her writing and speaking at www.cynthiaruchti.com.
Thank you for this interview, Cynthia. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?
Unlike some authors, I didn’t grow up dreaming about becoming an author. As I look back on the “whys” of that, I think it was because I wouldn’t let myself entertain that lofty of a dream (and little did I know the dream came with attachments called work, work, work, and deadlines!). I might have fancied myself a professional reader, not even knowing at the time if there was such a thing.
I enjoyed writing, but hadn’t viewed it as a career choice. I worked as a lab assistant in a chemistry lab of a large medical complex until our second child was born. Shortly after that, I retired from the chem lab to stay home with our children. I took a handful of creative writing correspondence courses to keep my brain active on a different plane than the alphabet song and the game of Uno.
Within a couple of weeks of finishing the last assignment for the last writing course, I was handed the opportunity to write a 15-minute radio broadcast for a small station in North Carolina, many states away. The whole story of how that came about takes hours to tell, but it was miraculous. With my neighbor, Jackie, who was especially skilled with a red editing pen, we produced that radio broadcast non-stop for thirty-three years before retiring the ministry in 2012. For many of those years, the broadcast was aired five days a week on stations across the country.
The program was a blend of radio drama—with Jackie and me as the two on-air voices acting out different parts every day—and devotional thoughts related to the theme of the day. I often wondered if I could write longer fiction, novel length, and challenged myself to learn how. I attended writers’ conferences and joined American Christian Fiction Writers, two moves I highly recommend for those who want to get serious about their education in the craft of writing fiction.
Today, I have five books on the shelves—a blend of novels, novellas, and devotionals—with a sixth—a nonfiction titled Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of Other People’s Choices—releasing in July. My second full-length novel, When the Morning Glory Blooms, released on April 1st. The year 2014 will see two more books released, with at least one more planned for 2015.
Everything I write traces back to a common thread of telling stories of Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark. Hope often shows up best against a dark backdrop. My prayer is that the truth of the statement is clear in each book, and that readers finish the last page more hope-filled and grace-aware than before, in addition to having been entertained by the story.
Can you tell us briefly what your book is about?
In When the Morning Glory Blooms, three women—Anna in the 1890s, Ivy in the 1950s, and Becky in the present day—face the aftermath of unplanned or unwed pregnancies. Against formidable odds, Anna runs a home for unwed moms during a time and in a society when that was not a popular endeavor. Ivy is taking care of Anna in her latter years, listening to Anna’s imaginative ramblings, and aching for her boyfriend serving in the Korean conflict. A child grows within Ivy, a child her boyfriend Drew knows nothing about. Becky is the mom of a teen mom, with all the family angst that would create and all the uncertainty of how to parent a young woman who is more teen than mom. The threads of their lives are tangled and intertwined. But the thread of grace is ever-present also. Love shows its face in unusual ways. Hope comes out of hiding. And each of the women learn their own answers to “What now?”
Why did you choose your particular genre?
The books I write are emotion-packed, a good fit for women’s fiction or general market fiction. But the emotions are real—drama rather than melodrama, if I do my job right. It’s important to me that a reader can envision himself or herself in the picture, in the scene, experiencing what these characters experience.
What was your greatest challenge writing this book?
For this particular novel, told from three women’s viewpoints during three completely different eras of time, it was a challenge to make sure the scenes flowed smoothly, even when leaving one story temporarily to catch up with the next step of a story sixty years older or over a hundred years newer. It was so rewarding, though, to step back and view the story as a whole when it was completed and see how subtle little details served as connecting points, like a metal filigree linking one crystal bead to another. My hope is that readers will find it so seamless, they won’t pay attention to the connectors, but be caught up in the stories.
Are you published by a traditional house, small press or are you self-published?
When the Morning Glory Blooms and my debut novel are published by Abingdon Press, which has been in the publishing business for more than 100 years, I believe, although the fiction division is fairly new. They Almost Always Come Home was published in 2010, about eight months after the first novel released with Abingdon Press Fiction. I’ve also been published with Barbour Publishing (two novella collections—A Door County Christmas and Cedar Creek Seasons) and have a devotional collection with three other authors—His Grace is Sufficient…Decaf is Not—with Summerside Press/Guideposts. You can learn more about each of those books here: http://cynthiaruchti.com/books/
Was it the right choice for you?
For me, the path to publication with Abingdon Press was exactly the right thing. And each additional publisher has been the right thing for that moment or for that project. I have appreciated the keen editors’ eyes that have helped make each book the best it can be and have caught things I wouldn’t have known to look for. I am blessed by the “community” or team of people at each publishing house who look out for the books’ and my best interests. My agent—Wendy Lawton—from the Books & Such Literary Agency is wise, knowledgeable, and a trusted friend for me as I wade through opportunities and possibilities. I’m enjoying every step in the process of taking a breath of a thought and turning it into a book that reaches through the pages to a reader’s mind and heart.
How are you promoting your book thus far?
When the Morning Glory Blooms is being promoted in many ways with the duo-goals of getting the word out and offering a conversation-starter. Interviews, articles, blog visits, book club visits, speaking engagements, a few well-placed ads in print or online publications… But the truth remains that word of mouth is still the most effective means of promoting a book. A reader in love with the story is the best advertisement. I post quotes from the book on Facebook and Twitter, or refer to some of the things being said about the book, so readers can make an informed choice. I have a wonderful marketing team at Abingdon Press and am working with Jeane Wynn from Wynn-Wynn Media for some opportunities through her connections. We’re working from the premise that “selling” a book is meaningful only for sales numbers. We’re devoted to showcasing the book so readers will connect with a story that matters to them. It’s a subtly different approach, but of course the more readers who engage in the story, the greater the impact. So each of us on the team is doing our part to get the word out and facilitate connections with those all important readers. For me, they’re readers, not purchasers.
How is that going for you?
I’m blessed to have readers-in-waiting. Those who read and appreciated my debut novel are letting me know they’re grateful to get their hands on this next full-length novel. We’re still in the process of spreading the word, and even after a sale is made, there’s often a gap of time before the reader opens the front cover and starts to read. It’s the most fun when readers tell me they ripped open the package the book came in and dove right in! Reviews have been so rewardingly positive, which will lead to more people curious about the book. Sales are harder to measure sometimes than reader response, which in this day of Facebook and Twitter can be immediate. I love the opportunity to connect with readers in a much more relatable way through those media.
Can you tell us one thing you have done that actually resulted in one or more sales?
I speak quite often for women’s events and retreats, and for writers’ events and retreats. Recently I spoke for a church library regional meeting, talking about the power of story and the value of inspirational fiction in the overall picture of a well-rounded lending library. Many of the librarians left with my books that day, wanting to connect with the stories I talked about and seeing the potential for their library patrons.
Do you have another job besides writing?
I served in various volunteer capacities with American Christian Fiction Writers over the years since becoming a member in 2002 and now serve as ACFW’s Professional Relations Liaison, helping build relationships with readers, retailers, libraries, book clubs, and advocating for Christian fiction within the industry. In that role, part of my responsibility is to stay abreast of what’s happening in the publishing world. So I’m never far from my computer.
If you could give one book promotion tip to new authors, what would that be?
Ask the question, “How does my book matter to readers?” When I post a Facebook message or a Tweet, when I write an article that references my book or a blog post talking about When the Morning Glory Blooms, I’m always conscious of that question. I can do all kinds of promotional activity that serves to point to the book. But what I think is most effective is making sure the reader knows why the book should matter to her or him. It changes the way I word announcements, e-blasts, video blurbs, answers in radio interviews. I encourage new authors to get out of self-promotion mode and think reader-centric. How does this story or this nonfiction matter to the person who will read it?
What’s next for you?
Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of Other People’s Choices releases in July. I’m working on a Christmas novella collection for B&H Publishing for 2015 and eager to dive more deeply into that one. Another full-length novel releases in 2014 from Abingdon Press—All My Belongings. And if my day goes as planned, I’ll have at least one more proposal ready to go out soon.
Thank you for this interview, Cynthia. Can you tell us where we can find you on the web?
First of all, thank you so much for the chance to talk about books and readers and When the Morning Glory Blooms. I appreciate it and you. I’d love to hear from readers about what kind of promotional ideas are most attractive to them. Or they can ask me any other question about writing and life in general through my website: www.cynthiaruchti.com or by contacting me through www.facebook.com/cynthiaruchtireaderpage or www.twitter.com/cynthiaruchti and other social network sites.