Happy New Year! What a better way to begin 2021 than with an interview with one of my favorite authors and dearest friend, Cathy Gohlke. Be sure and check out my zoom interview with Cathy on my new series Author Highlight with Terri. Our January Author Highlight means two things: getting to know an amazing author and have the chance to win an autographed copy of their latest book. And as a special bonus, Cathy has included a recipe that looks delicious!
BIO: Bestselling four-time Christy, and two-time Carol and INSPY Award-winning author, Cathy Gohlke, writes novels steeped with inspirational lessons from history. Her stories reveal how people break the chains that bind them and triumph over adversity through faith. When not traveling to historic sites for research, she and her husband of 38 years, Dan, divide their time between Northern Virginia and the Jersey Shore, enjoying time with their grown children and grandchildren. Visit her website at www.cathygohlke.com, follow her on Bookbub, Goodreads, and find her on Facebook at CathyGohlkeBooks.
I met Cathy at a local ACFW meeting in Pennsylvania back around 2005. She, Carrie Turansky, and I became close — a cross between the three musketeers and the three stooges. So without further ado, let’s get to know this humble, award-winning, and bestselling author. And, let me say this, like Cathy’s amazing stories, my courageous friend goes deep and real with us in this interview.
What was your inspiration for writing in general—why did you choose writing?
From the time I was a little girl I was enthralled by the magic that stories brought to my imagination, to my world. I even believed that books were created by magic—until my grandmother told me that real people write books. I couldn’t believe it! But I decided then and there that one day I, too, would create the magic of stories between the covers of a book—as soon as I learned to read. 😊
I love that you thought books were created by magic. Your imagination was already in play at an early age.
How has Christian fiction impacted you personally?
Jesus told stories to make a point, to illustrate truth, to give people perspective, help them understand, then think and act for themselves. He did so in very few words. That has long left a deep impression on my mind. Christian fiction seeks to do a similar thing, in a much lesser way with a great many more words. I’ve found great comfort in stories of Christian fiction—stories of people who realize their sinfulness and weakness, who struggle through life but who finally recognize their need for a Savior. Christian fiction feels like a comrade in arms to me, marching toward the Kingdom of God, bearing light into a dark world.
“A comrade in arms.” What a great way of explaining the role inspirational writers can play in other’s lives.
What did you read as a child? Or, what do you read to your grandchildren?
As a child I devoured mysteries, like Nancy Drew or The Three Investigators, as well as family and coming of age books like The Five Little Peppers. As I grew I read Little Women, Christy and more spiritual books like In His Steps or The Prince of the House of David. In my teens I read poetry, plays, the work of Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Marjorie Holmes and so many others. Reading has always been an open window into new worlds and old times for me.
By the way, dear friends, Cathy’s grandchildren are all lovers of books. What a sweet legacy.
Do you have any strange writing habits/quirks?
I love to write in front of a fire—wood fire, bonfire, fireplace fire, gas logs, or even electric. The flames calm me and draw me in, freeing my mind to enter story world. I also prefer to live in my story, writing intensely for long periods of time, rather than to write a “9 to 5” day with real life interruptions. This does not happen often in my life, but when it does, I love it.
LOL! I can confirm that! My friend has that fire going even in the summer! Well, I enjoyed it, too.
Cathy’s latest release: Night Bird Calling. Publisher’s notes:
From award-winning author Cathy Gohlke, whose novels have been called “haunting” (Library Journal on Saving Amelie) and “page-turning” (Francine Rivers on Secrets She Kept), comes a historical fiction story of courage and transformation set in rural Appalachia on the eve of WWII.
When Lilliana Swope’s beloved mother dies, Lilliana gathers her last ounce of courage and flees her abusive husband for the home of her only living relative in the foothills of No Creek, North Carolina. Though Hyacinth Belvidere hasn’t seen Lilliana since she was five, she offers her cherished great-niece a safe harbor. Their joyful reunion inspires plans to revive Aunt Hyacinth’s estate and open a public library where everyone is welcome, no matter the color of their skin.
Slowly Lilliana finds revival and friendship in No Creek—with precocious eleven-year-old Celia Percy, with kindhearted Reverend Jesse Willard, and with Ruby Lynne Wishon, a young woman whose secrets could destroy both them and the town. When the plans for the library also incite the wrath of the Klan, the dangers of Lilliana’s past and present threaten to topple her before she’s learned to stand.
With war brewing for the nation and for her newfound community, Lilliana must overcome a hard truth voiced by her young friend Celia: Wishing comes easy. Change don’t.
What is the story behind Night Bird Calling?
Years ago I wrote short stories of quirky and lovable—or not so lovable—characters who lived in the fictitious foothills town of No Creek, North Carolina in the 1930s and 40s. Those characters lived and breathed for me.
Unfortunately, there was no overarching thread to connect their stories. It was only when I dug into my own past and the stories of real life people who’d lived in similar places in such a time that Lilliana’s story came to life.
Readers know that I often write about racial and domestic abuse—ongoing and relevant issues today, but I’d not written about church leadership abuse. That, too, is a very real, longstanding and pressing problem in our world.
The horror is that as victims flee their cruel “spiritual” abusers they too often lose hope, and sometimes turn away from God. God is not the author of abuse nor does He condone it or protect oppressors, but in Him is life, love, faithfulness, hope and salvation. Learning that miraculous truth is an inexpressible joy but a long and strenuous journey for victims of abuse.
It was the importance of that journey—the journey of a young woman fleeing domestic and church abuse and discovering that God truly loves her and has plans for a hope and future for her—that led me to write this story.
A powerful journey indeed — one that takes great courage and grace.
What is something God taught you while you wrote Night Bird Calling?
He taught me that I can write even when I don’t want to, even when it means mining harsh and troubling memories for the sake of story, in the hope of helping readers walking difficult paths, in the great hope that they, too, will find healing, relief and blessing in the goodness and love of God.
That’s why, my friend, I think you’re one of the most courageous women I know.
I have a friend who once asked me, “What is important to you? What are you so passionate about that you pound your fist on the table?” What is your pound-on-the-table passion?
I’m passionate about resisting oppression, breaking the chains that bind us—those forced upon us by others and those we forge ourselves. I’m passionate about whatever grieves the heart of God. I’m passionate about the amazing opportunity for forgiveness and the hope of eternal life that God gives us through faith in Jesus Christ.
So I have to smile here. The friend that asked me this question, was Cathy.
What do you hope readers know about you and your books?
I hope readers know they can trust me to bring hard issues to the Lord, in prayer and in my books. I hope they know I will do my best to honor the Lord through my stories and hope they are encouraged to a closer walk with Him.
And I would add, that the readers’ trust is in safe hands.
Do you have a recipe that compliments your book’s characters, setting, or time period? Please share.
Lilliana’s Cranberry Pumpkin Bread
(Sweet, with a little kick, and down to earth homey)
- 1 and 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 scant cup cane sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 large eggs
- 1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin
- ½ cup canola or vegetable oil
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- 1 and ½ cups chopped dried cranberries (or you can substitute raisins)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Grease and flour 9 x 5 inch loaf pan or two 24 count mini muffin pans or two smaller loaf pans.
- Whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, ground nutmeg, ground cloves and set aside.
- In a separate bowl whisk eggs, pumpkin, canola oil and water.
- Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients.
- Fold in nuts and cranberries or raisins.
- Pour into prepared loaf pan or mini muffin pans.
- Bake loaf approximately 60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Bake mini muffins approximately 20 minutes.
- Allow to cool a few minutes before removing from pans.
My grandchildren love it when we bake these mini muffins together in seasonally shaped pans—they’re the perfect size for little fingers and tummies.
*This, and other recipes mentioned in my books can be found on my website under Bonus Features—Recipes from Novels
Is there anything else you would like to share?
A short story prequel to Night Bird Calling is offered as a gift to all who subscribe to receive newsletter updates through my website. Once you subscribe and confirm your subscription, “Into the Starry Night” will be sent directly to your inbox. This story introduces you to some of the characters that you’ll meet in Night Bird Calling. They’re a couple of years younger in this story, but I think you’ll come to love them as I do.