Welcome, book lovers! Today’s guest has single-handedly kept Kleenex in business this week with the release of her latest novel, Where Hope Begins. That’s right. It comes with it’s own tissue warning! Lol! But in all seriousness, it’s a fantastic read—full of hope, despite dealing with some heavy topics. You can find my review here. Right now, though, Cathy is joining me to answer some questions!
~ About the Book ~
Savannah Barrington has always found solace at her parents’ lake house in the Berkshires, and it’s the place that she runs to when her husband of over twenty years leaves her. Though her world is shaken, and the future uncertain, she finds hope through an old woman’s wisdom, a little girl’s laughter, and a man who’s willing to risk his own heart to prove to Savannah that she is worthy of love.
But soon Savannah is given a challenge she can’t run away from: Forgiving the unforgivable. Amidst the ancient gardens and musty bookstores of the small town she’s sought refuge in, she must reconcile with the grief that haunts her, the God pursuing her, and the wounds of the past that might be healed after all.
Where Hope Begins is the story of grace in the midst of brokenness, pointing us to the miracles that await when we look beyond our own expectations.
~ About the Author ~
Catherine West writes stories of hope and healing from her island home in Bermuda. When she’s not at the computer working on her next story, you can find her taking her Border Collie for long walks or reading books by her favorite authors. She and her husband have two grown children and one beautiful granddaughter. Catherine is the winner of the 2015 Grace Award (Bridge of Faith) and the Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope & Love Reader’s Choice Award (The Things We Knew). Her most recent novel, The Memory of You, released March 2017, and Where Hope Begins releases in May 2018.
~ Author Chat ~
Thanks for joining me today, Cathy! Let’s start our chat with a little flight of fancy. How would you complete these sentences?
If I could assign one household task to the fairies forever, it would be…
Cooking and cleaning up! I don’t actually mind the cleaning up too much, but I love it when I don’t have to cook!
Lol. I’m the opposite. I don’t mind the cooking, but the cleaning up… ugh!
If I was an animal, I would be a…
Dog. They are loyal and loving and always watching out for those they love.
*waves to Noah* ❤
If I could say one thing to my younger self, it would be…
Don’t be so hard on yourself, life is too short.
My ideal place to read would be…
Under the shade of a weeping willow by a babbling brook, with wild rose hedges around me.
Okay, let’s talk about Where Hope Begins. What were first ideas that came together for this story?
This story was a little different for me, in that the whole thing came to me very quickly, beginning with the first line, ‘My husband is leaving me.’ I had never written in first person before, so that in itself was intimidating, not to mention the topic. I questioned God a few times, but it became pretty clear very quickly that this was the story He wanted me to tell.
You have a well-known aversion to plotting! When you sat down to begin writing this story, how much of the storyline did you know?
It’s true, I am not a plotter. I wish I was, as I think it would make my life easier! However, much as I try, I will be a pantser for life! With Where Hope Begins, I think I knew the basics of the story. But I really just wrote it like I had already written it, if that makes sense. It came very easily, which doesn’t usually happen. Of course I went back in and made changes and added scenes etc . . . but I think the first draft only took a couple months, very unusual for me! But at the beginning I had no idea how the book would eventually end.
Savannah Barrington is the main character in Where Hope Begins. Was she an easy character for you to understand or did she give you some trouble?
No, she was pretty easy, though I did have to make sure she wasn’t all mopey and too depressed all the time. I needed her to be likeable. Which I think I eventually accomplished, even with her being slightly snarky. 🙂 The biggest challenge for me was really creating her inner thoughts and emotions in an authentic and believable way, having never experienced what she went through myself, but through conversations with friends who had gone through those things, I think Savannah came to life pretty well.
Is this the right time to comment that Savannah’s snarkiness reminded me a little of a certain author I know? 😉
The breakdown of a marriage is an emotional topic for a book, but as readers we only spend hours in that story, not months. What kind of an emotional toll did this story take on you as you wrote it, and how did you deal with that?
This was probably one of the most difficult books I have written. It challenged me to go deeper on a whole other level. And yes, it was an extremely emotional process. I spent time with friends and family, took long walks with my dog, and laughed a lot with friends. It helps to disengage and focus on other things, but even so, the story was never far from my mind.
Given the emotional toll writing stories like this takes, what compels you, as an author, to write them?
I love to write what I call ‘reality fiction’. I love exploring the deep, hard issues that are often glossed over or ignored because we don’t really want to talk about them or they make us feel too uncomfortable. I believe there is a place for the sweet and fun stories in CBA, but there’s also a cry from a growing faction of readers who are looking for these deep reads. I love writing about families and the often difficult dynamics that affect relationships. People are fascinating, and I love complicated characters. Life is not easy, that’s just fact. Writing about the hard things gives me an opportunity to point my readers toward hope. That’s really why I do this.
We’ve already talked about the fact that you’re not a plotter, so I’m sure there are plenty of surprises along your writing journey, but is there something that particularly surprised you as you wrote this story?
Hmm. Probably how the greenhouse evolved. I think that was really cool and I didn’t have a clue about that when I set out to write this story. Maysie’s guardian angel was a surprise. And the ending was a surprise. I debated that one for a long time, believe me!
I definitely believe you!
How did this story impact you personally?
Well, I knew from the beginning that this was totally a God thing. I wasn’t sure why, but I knew that it was a story I had to write. So you can imagine my reaction when I was nearing the end of the first draft, and I came to discover that dear friends of ours were separating, in a situation very similar to Savannah’s. Not long after that, another couple went through the same. So I was pretty convinced after that, that this was a story I needed to tell. I believe it made me take a closer look at my own marriage, and made me want to work even harder at it. Life isn’t easy, marriage isn’t easy, and loving another person day in and day out despite all the ups and downs isn’t easy, it’s a choice. We all have flaws and do dumb things, but we have to make a conscious effort to forgive, to show grace and humility. God revealed a lot to me about myself during the writing of this novel, and also about others who are struggling. It’s easy to judge, but I believe we are called to empathy and love.
Any hints on what’s coming next or what you’re working on now?
I am writing, actually working on a story that’s going to be set in Bermuda, which is a first for me. It’s slow going as I am looking after my granddaughter a few days a week, but I’m enjoying it so far! We’re also off to Provence this summer, so I’m already cooking up a storyline for that location! 🙂
Provence is on my bucket list. I’d love a story set there!
Thanks for joining me today, Cathy. 🙂
~ Giveaway ~
Cathy is offering one lucky US reader a paperback copy of Where Hope Begins. Comment below and tell us what you enjoy about ‘reality’ fiction and then click here to enter the giveaway*: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/bd61d44b32/?
Giveaway closes at 11:59pm on 30 May 2018 (EST).