Friday, February 6, 2009

Meet with Cathy Gohlke!

Welcome Cathy. Please tell us about yourself. I’m doing a little drum roll for you here… 

My walk with the Lord began at 11, and that walk, by far, is the most important aspect of my life. I’m blessed to be married to Dan (over 26 years) and to be the mother of Elisabeth (24) and Daniel (22). Although our children have grown and flown, Dan and I still live in Elkton, MD. I’ve wanted to write since I was five years old and learned that real people create the magic between the covers of books. My first novel, “William Henry is a Fine Name,” was awarded the Christy and my second novel, “I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires (a Civil War stand alone sequel) was included in Library Journal’s list of “Best of 2008.” God is full of surprises!

SKC: Thank you! Now, what books or project are you working on now that you would like to tell my readers about? 

CG: My second novel, “I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires,” is a Civil War sequel to the Christy Award winning novel, “William Henry is a Fine Name.”

Eager to fight for God and the Union, Robert, who is now seventeen, promises to wait until he is eighteen to enlist, then think long and hard before he agrees to shoot one of his countrymen, or kin, between the eyes. It is a promise he sometimes regrets, but keeps true, until the day a letter comes from his cousin, Emily.

The bonds linking family and the lines separating enemies become blurred for Robert when the cousin he loves begs him to aid her father, a Confederate prisoner of war, then travel south to help her care for his estranged mother. Unwittingly entangled in a prison escape, left for dead and charged as a spy, Robert must forge his anger and shame into a renewed determination to rescue his family. When confronted by a war and an enemy he no longer understands, Robert finds that the rescue, and its results, may not be up to him.

Honor and duty to God and country aren’t as clear-cut as he’d first believed.

SKC: What inspired you to come up with your very first book? I am curious. 

 From the time I first learned about the Underground Railroad as a child I’ve been inspired by the courage and daring of those runners, conductors, and station-masters. I’ve long wondered if I would have had the courage to carry out my convictions to help and protect others despite the dangers—to risk everything for people I didn’t know. Writing this book helped me explore that. I also feel passionate about the importance of making choices (not being a victim) and living responsibly with the consequences of our choices. I’m enthralled with the idea of how one life, committed and focused, can make a tremendous difference in this world. Those were underlying themes in “William Henry is a Fine Name” and show up in many things I write.

SKC: How long had you been writing before you got your first contract?

I’ve been writing in one form or another for much of my life. Before I began my first novel my work (prose and poetry) appeared in newspapers and periodicals, plays and monologues produced on local stages, and in “Chicken Soup for the Single’s Soul” and “My Turn to Care: Affirmations for Caregivers of Aging Parents.” My first novel percolated over a long period of time—maybe ten years. The actual writing of it was probably about thirteen months (spread over those ten years).

SKC: Are you in any Groups that help you in your writing? Would love to hear about them all.

 I have worked primarily with a critique partner over the years who happens to be my best friend as well as a wonderful writer. Our genres are very different, so we bring objectivity to each manuscript. My sister, younger brother, and a few other friends and colleagues read my manuscripts before I send them off to my editor. Each one brings a different expertise to the reading/editing table. From time to time I’ve attended different writers groups and currently meet with a Christian writers group in the Philadelphia area (PCFW), a chapter of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). We encourage each other, share resource materials and information, and sometimes do group book signings. We do not critique work as a group, but it is wonderful to be able to bounce ideas off one another. Accountability can be a good thing.

Although not a writing group, I would like to give credit to the Institute of Children’s Literature. I found their correspondence course most helpful. My writing is more for teens and adults, but the lessons were well organized and just what I needed. Learning how to outline and begin a novel helped me a great deal, and I was blessed with a wonderful instructor.

SKC: I would have to agree! I took advantage of ICL too, and I had a great instructor, just like you, Cathy. Wonderful experience!

Say, you were invited to speak at a Writer’s Conference. If you were to share with a more mature author about the writing field, how would you go about it? What would you tell them? 

 I would encourage all writers to maintain their priorities: God first, in all things, at all times, in all ways. Care for the family in which He has placed you. Maintain the relationships that He has provided in your life. Give back. Seek balance in your life and wisdom in your work. Hone your craft, day after day, year after year. Ask God what He would have you write, then wait for His answer. Know why you are writing what you are writing. Look at your life, at all the events—experiences, big and small, that brought you to this moment. Look objectively at your natural gifts and ask what you are passionate about—what makes you pound the table and weep, both for joy and in frustration. What is the unique gift, story, message, that you bring to the world? What is the story God has placed on your heart? Focus, work hard, and sing for the joy of working in partnership with our Creator.

SKC: Many authors are often asked how they deal with writer's block. How do you overcome it? 

 I don’t usually have writer’s block—or maybe I’m in denial. I resist taking myself that seriously. But, sometimes, if I’m feeling “stuck” I plow through. I force myself to write, even if it stinks. Once I have something on paper I have something to work with. That has been my habit. But lately I’ve been learning to wait, to pray, to praise, and listen. It is sometimes more productive than writing words I throw away. I’ve come to think that even as writers we deal with different seasons in our lives in different ways. Writing is fluid, so maybe, we should allow the water to flow around the writer’s block.

SKC: Good advice! What do you believe is the KEY to writing an exceptionally good book?

 Strong characters, a clear premise, a notable difficulty to overcome, a theme readers care about, the writer’s passion for their story, well honed prose, and a unique voice.

SKC: After you finish your present project what plans do you have?

 I’ve started my third novel. My working title is “Owen Allen’s Legacy.” It is 1912. Determined to escape an abusive past, fifteen-year-old Michael Dunnagan stows away aboard the luxury liner, Titanic. When Titanic sinks he is offered, through the sacrifice of his friend, not only a seat in a lifeboat, but Owen’s family and future. But Michael, who carries his own dark secret, finds that accepting and learning to live with such an amazing and unmerited gift is not easy. Nor is it easy for Owen’s younger sister, Annie, to forgive Michael for having taken her brother’s place. Through years of hardship and war (WWI) Michael and Annie seek and learn forgiveness and the ability to forgive. But will they survive to share the joy and abundant life they’ve just found?

Owen’s sacrifice and gift parallels, in part, Jesus’ sacrifice and gift so that we might live, and live abundantly. Michael’s struggle to accept that life, and Annie’s struggle to forgive, parallels our own.

SDC: Cathy, I understand you have a book to share with one of our readers. Tell us about which one you have. And don’t forget to give us your URL so people can come give you a visit! 

CG: I’m thrilled to offer one of your readers a signed copy of my newest book, “I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires.” To learn more about my books or life and family, to see photographs of historical sites that helped inspire my stories, to find recipes of foods mentioned in my books, or to stop by and chat, please visit my website at I’d love to hear from you!

Thank you, Shirley, for this visit. Spending time with you and your readers is my great pleasure. May God bless and keep you, and all who take up pens for our Lord!
Cathy Gohlke

SDC: I can’t thank you enough for coming by to visit, Cathy Gohlke! (Want to be sure we all get the spelling of your name correct!) It means a lot to me and to those who are now coming here--many who are beginning to follow and subscribe to this newer blog! We all love to read, and I can wager a good guess, your books are going to be a demand on many shelves. I know they will be on mine.




Shirley Kiger Connolly 


  1. This sounds like a fabulous book, and I love that its set during the Civil War. I love history.

    Please enter me in the contest.

    Thank you,

    Becky C.


  2. I have had my eye on this book. What a great interview. Also thanks so much for dropping over at my blog.

    runninmama at sbcglobal dot net

  3. Hi Cathy,
    I'm so glad you have added another Civil Warm novel. When I first started writing I remember going to a meeting and hearing the heart-breaking news that "they" were not buying civil war novels anymore.
    Of course this was years ago so I'm so glad you proved them wrong.

    I would love to have your new release! Thanks Cathy and Shirley, a very interesting interview

  4. Thank you for your encouraging comments! I, too, like reading and writing about the Civil War era. There is so much to explore.

    When I submitted my Underground Railroad novel a number of people told me there were too many URR novels already--that another one would not likely sell. When I began writing my Civil War novel I was told that the Civil War was "out of fashion" and that it wouldn't be popular again for a long time.

    But I wrote those stories anyway because they are the ones (and contained the themes) that God laid on my heart. And in the end, I think that is all we're really called to do as writers--to write as faithfully as we can what we've been given (plant, water, fertilize, prune and submit our writing to the Sonshine) and leave the outcome (harvest) to God.

    Prayers for you as you answer His call, wherever He sends you,

    Cathy Gohlke

  5. I met Cathy briefly at ACFW and she was so sweet! I would love to win her book!

    ryanx6 at msn dot com

  6. I love historical books...please enter me

    Marta's Meanderings

  7. This sounds like a great book. I loved the interview.
    Please enter me.

    Danni Bingstrom

  8. Great interview, Shirley and Cathy! Historical fiction is my favorite way to learn more about American history. Please enter me in the drawing.