Friday, July 13, 2007

Cindy Woodsmall's Interview

Thanks, Cindy, for sharing a little of your life with my readers.

Cindy Woodsmall’s Debut novel When the Heart Cries was released in September 2007. It made the CBA best-sellers list, won Road to Romance Reviewer’s Choice Award, was a Books-a-Million Book Club of the month choice and is a finalist in the ECPA Christian Book Award contest.

Hi, Caroline, thanks for this opportunity to come visit on your blog!

Caroline: How long have you known that you were a writer? Did you receive a clear “call?” Or have you just loved writing all your life?

Cindy: I fell in love with stories at a really young age, but the idea of being a writer took a long time to grow on me. My earliest memories consist of me lying awake at night reworking the stories my mother had read to me. What would the story be like if Cinderella had been mean and her step sisters were kind? Once in bed each night, I tried to stay awake for as long as I could, imagining different plotlines for the classic stories. I knew whenever a bed popped into my mind and the characters kept trying to head for it, that not only was my body demanding sleep, even my imagination was:-o)

As a practical gal who wanted to tend to the ways of her family, I stood against the stories until they became so loud I couldn’t hear people when they tried to talk to me. Desperate for relief from the stories, I prayed for some help. The stories took on a weight to them and became relentless.

Hmmm. Desperate for relief, I asked my then teenaged sons to set me up a computer and I started writing. That was in the summer of 2000.

Caroline: What is the genre you write in? Would you explain what it is?

Cindy: I had aimed to write Women’s Fiction ~ beautiful tales of woe and success based on strong women. I had nothing against writing a Christian romance, except it grated against that practical side of mine that I mentioned earlier. So, I listed all the rules of how to write a romance on a chart and placed it beside my computer. Each day I wrote, I made sure I broke every ‘romance’ rule. After WaterBrook contracted the three-book series, they marketed them as romance. It took me about a week and a good, long talk with my editor and my agent to get over the shock of that one.

My editor said something along the lines of: mentally try removing the relationship between the hero and heroine from the story and tell me why we still care about the heroine.

I thought that over for a bit and realized I had broken the ‘rules’ of romance and yet if the relationship between the hero and heroine had been removed, the story would have lost much of its power.

Because I write Amish stories, it’s actually considered a subgenre within the genre of romance.

How do you spend your writing days?
. Do you set goals to reach a certain number of words per day?
C. Can you give us a general idea of how long it takes you to write a novel?

Cindy: A. Since my debut novel hit the shelves in September, much of my writing day is spent trying to keep up with the part of being published that has nothing to do with fresh writing. There are the in-house edits of the next book that’s coming out, the marketing of the book that’s already out, and trips and research for the book that is being written. Then there’s the day to day privilege of connecting with readers. I had so many technology issues those first few months and a problem will still crop up from time to time, but I have a top of the line server and a new system in place, so those things are helping a lot.

B. I set a word count per week, but not per day. I need enough leeway to have unproductive days, but not an unproductive week. For example right now it’s eight at night and today is a Holiday, so it’s been a family day. Even so, I took a few hours to meeting up with another published author to discuss a class we’re teaching at a local library. The story of book three is pressing in on me and I won’t be able to sleep until I get some of it written. So I may write until one or two in the morning. Tomorrow, I may still be in the groove or I may not be able to write one word. If fresh words are at a standstill, I use my writing time to edit or research.

C. After years of honing the craft of writing, it took me a little over a year to write When the Heart Cries. It took less than that to write When the Morning Comes, which is book two in the series. If by “writing” we mean actual typing time, then it probably took six months of long days to write book two. But if we include research, interviews and trips, mixed with regular life it took about a year. Francine Rivers said she’ll never write a series with the same heroine and hero throughout all three books. After this series, I may agree with her for the rest of my writing days ;-)


A. Do you have any interesting writing quirks, such as “you must have this or that” to write effectively?
Would you describe your writing nook?

Cindy: I don’t do well when guilt hounds me, so I try to handle the rest of life in a way that prevents that sense of “you’re at the computer too much; the laundry isn’t done; what’s for dinner; have you done everything you said you would?” etc. Other than that, I’m ready to write.

Over the years, my writing nook changes as the family dynamics change. When I began there wasn’t a spare room to set up in, so my nook was in the dining room, where the French pantry now sits. When one bedroom came open, we moved my office into it. Then when a larger bedroom came open, I moved into it, which means two birds have flown the nest and somehow in the transition I ended up with two offices. I’m not sure it’s a fair trade, since the children were more fun than the office and I can’t stay organized with one office, you can’t imagine what I’m like with two. The good news is one office is up a set of steps, so office work for me is no longer a sedentary life style. I’m up and down those steps about dozens of times a day.

Caroline: You recently had your first book come out “When the Heart Cries” (and I was proud to be one of your promoters!). What’s next? And when? Would you take this time to describe both to us? How will they appeal to us? How and where can readers buy your books?

Cindy: Oh, Caroline, you’ve struck on a chord that is so precious to me—the volunteer promoters. Readers and aspiring writers volunteered from across the U.S. and just did a fantastic job of helping get the word out. When the Heart Cries made the best-sellers list and, although that takes a combination of marketing strategies for a debut author, word of mouth is a very important part. When the Heart Cries is book one in the Sister’s of the Quilt series. Hannah’s story will continue in book two and three.

Book two is finished and off to the printers. Its release date is September 4, 2007.

When the Morning Comes ~ Wounded by her family, doubted by her fiancé, Hannah Lapp plunges into life outside her contemporary Amish community.

I think readers will enjoy the journey of what’s in store for our seventeen-year-old Amish heroine as she triumphs over the odds that face so many people in life—limitations, past hurts, unfair circumstances—while making new mistakes along the way. She chooses as an act of her will to accept life for what it is and yet continues to improve it, all the while still trying to figure out who God really is and what that means to her.

I’m working on book three, yet untitled. Book three is both fun and challenging; our wonderful Amish heroine has grown tremendously and has soaring-high victory in areas of her life, yet she struggles to let go of a past she can’t retrieve.


A. Where did you get the ideas for Sister’s of the Quilt?
B. Character names?
C. Do you find your characters similar to you in any way?

Parts of Hannah’s story have been with me since becoming childhood friends with a Beachy Amish girl. But one day six or seven years ago, as I was making dinner and singing praise songs, a full story flooded me and it wouldn’t go away. I took a stab at writing it before getting the privilege of some brainstorming and developmental input from Karen Kingsbury. I worked on it for another year before I had a meeting with Anne Goldsmith, then senior editor for Tyndale. While talking with her, Hannah’s story developed into a three-book series. That’s when the story When the Heart Cries went from being a bit of backstory in a stand alone into becoming a full novel. The story Karen gave me pointers on is actually book two: When the Morning Comes.

B. I get character names through two main ways:

  1. I call my Amish friends and we discuss various names and where specific Amish surnames are from. I once chose an Amish surname for a Pennsylvania character when that name does not exist among the Pennsylvania Amish, only the Ohio Amish.
  2. I read The Budget, which is an Amish-Mennonite newspaper that comes to me weekly. It’s a wonderful resource for names. I apologize if this sounds morbid, but, like all newspapers, it has obituaries listed; I can read the ages of the people along with their names, plus their parents, siblings, children, grandchildren and sometimes even the preachers, deacons, and bishops are listed. So, if I want to use a specific name, but I’m not sure if that name was in use sixty years ago among a certain sect, be it Amish or Mennonite, The Budget is a great way to verify it.

C. Some of the characters are similar to me and it’s easier to figure out what they would say or do in certain situations. Others are as foreign to me as strangers from a culture I’ve I’m not familiar with; those are much harder to know what they would say or do. Thankfully there are ways to map out personality types that can offer some insights.

Caroline: Do you ever feel like giving up? Most people don’t understand the stress, the work, and the joy of being a writer. How tenuous becoming a writer is. Do you care to share how it feels, what discouraging/encouraging times you’ve gone through? Who’s inspired you the most?

Cindy: Facing a blank page is much harder than I ever imagined in the beginning. But then a story starts begging to be written and there is no better joy than tackling that blank page and making a character come to life. Writing is both my hobby and my work. Because of that I have times when I want to avoid it (work) and times when working on it is fun and fulfilling (hobby).

I think how tenuous writing is depends on the person’s reason for writing. If we write as an art, then the power of enjoying it and extracting satisfaction from it is in the process of creating, not the business part of basing success on dollars and cents.

If we look at those around us who are more qualified or have more time to pursue their dreams or had doors open to them that we can only dream about, then we can get so discouraged that we give up trying. But if we look at ourselves through faith, then we can tune out the comparisons and are free to find who we are. The idea of looking at God through faith isn’t foreign to believers, but the thought of looking at ourselves through faith can be. Faith in ourselves should not be based on what we see, but on what He sees. And He is not limited by our limitations. I don’t mean that we will be zapped into being something we’re not, but if we don’t believe, we won’t start the journey. If we don’t start the journey, we won’t find out how far we could have gone.

Would you roughly explain how you “chose” (or was chosen) a publisher? Do you just go “inny, minny, miny, moe?” Grin.

Cindy: Fantastic question—one that took time for me to recall how parts of this journey went. After spending several years honing the craft of writing, I began talking to editors at conferences—just to get a feel for who might be interested. I wasn’t pitching per se, but asking questions and listening.

And I learned a lot. For example, I talked with an editor from a certain house and they weren’t interested in looking at the work because they had someone who wrote Amish books. The editor then explained that stance would include any of their affiliate houses.

Although I thought that odd since they have a good number of historical romance writers, and suspense romance writers etc, the conversation helped me to know that I shouldn’t spend any time submitting to them.

Also, through those conversations and conferences, I learned which publishers in the CBA wouldn’t consider a work like When the Heart Cries because of its word count, the fact that it’s not a “sweet” romance, and its opening chapter—each a separate issue which disqualifies the interest by different publishers. A few publishers that thought the writing could have fit their house were not interested in looking at the work of an unpublished author. So that seemed to boil my options down to four publishers. I prayed over the work and decided to submit it to two of those four publishers. I submitted to a third on a whim of deciding to pitch while at a conference and they asked for a full. Although there were nibbles of interest by other publishers, Shannon Hill of WaterBrook Press wasted no time contacting me to say the work was going to committee.

Once it passed committee, I opted to remove it from the desks of other editors rather than try to stir a bidding war—which became an option.

Caroline: Now, that you’re published, can you sit back and relax from the success of your first one?

Cindy: I think this career can be compared a little with having a baby; there’s great joy and moments when you get to totally enjoy the awesomeness of what’s happening, but overall, there’s work, work, work to be done.

Do you mind telling us some of your likes and dislikes?

Cindy: Hmmm, I’ll start with a few things that I love. I’ve loved being a mom from day one. If I had a choice of anything on this planet, I’d choose being a mom above all else—including unlimited beauty, life, money, or fame. And I love that my husband may not have been who he thought he was when we married, but he’s everything I needed.

I love choosing simple over extravagant whether money is an issue or not. I love that no one is only skin deep and no matter what that skin looks like, there are lessons, life, and experiences hidden under that layer that are fascinating. And I love that no matter how badly some bash and hate Christianity, it doesn’t change the truth one iota.

I like vacations if I can get many hours of writing-related work done in the mornings. I like that this works great for my husband who only wants to enjoy the ocean view with coffee in hand and no one needing anything. I like that we can choose to improve ourselves by an act of our will and God is always glad to join forces with any positive step.

Caroline: Would you give us your blog or webpage so everyone can check it out? Anything else you’d like to share? Promotional information?

Cindy: My Web site is

I have a year long Amish quilt contest running. I’m really excited about this quilt contest and would love for people to drop by the site and enter. A winner will be chosen in September. The contest is set up where if you have a friend or friends come by the site, they can enter their own name and enter your name again.

I received the quilt a few weeks back and it’s gorgeous.

Folks, I met Cindy last year at our American Christian Fiction Writers conference in September. She was one of the sweetest persons there! Thanks so much for sharing, Cindy!

AND don't forget to get those comments to me for a drawing in the near future of one of Cindy's books. You won't be disappointed. She's a great writer!

A Writer's Quote:

Make them laugh, make them cry, and make them wait. --Charles Dickens

Have a wonderful book-filled weekend!

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