Cynthia Ruchti: Up Close and Personal

Interview by Kelly Klepfer

Tell us a bit about your current project.

The book that just released is A Fragile Hope. In some ways, one might say it was a risky project. How does a woman write an emotion-packed contemporary novel with a male protagonist, a marriage in trouble—his own—and his wife’s point of view is “heard” only in mere snippets…for the whole book? And how can hope weave its way onto the pages of a novel with betrayal center stage?
That was my task, in addition to making the reader root for Josiah despite his full-blown self-absorption in the beginning of the story. And make it realistic for the crisis without being tiresome. But I love how stories unfold in front of me, revealing their methods and secrets if I’m listening closely enough.

What one issue ignites your passion? Does your passion fuel your writing? What would you do with your life if you didn’t write?

For me, it all boils down to hope. I’m passionate about expressing hope through what I write and how I live. If I couldn’t dish out hope through books and speaking events, I would probably find another avenue through which I could distribute hope. Greeting cards. Whispering hope-filled words into the ears of newborns in the NICU as a volunteer baby-rocker. Life-coach. Some hope-infused occupation.

We are all about journeys…unique ones at that. How convoluted was your path to your first published book? Share some highlights or lowlights from your path to publication.

I’m speaking at a writers’ guild soon on the subject “The Path to Publication is Not a Straight Line. It’s a Labyrinth.” I love the word labyrinthine, and don’t get to use it very often. But most writers would probably say their path to publication had its dead-end moments, its twists and corners.

Even a year into college, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a florist, a nurse, or an archaeologist. So I became a lab assistant in a chemistry lab. Made perfect sense at the time. God handed me the assignment of writing a 15-minute radio broadcast, which I did for 33 years. I attended writers’ conferences to learn how to do what I was already doing. At one conference, the director challenged attendees to take one workshop out of their wheelhouse, something unexpected. I sat in on a fiction class with Karen Ball as instructor and the heaven’s opened and angels floated up and down a library ladder, singing the praises of fiction!

The next year, I handed a rough draft to an experienced novelist for critique. She suggested I join ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), which at the time was American Christian Romance Writers.

Then nothing. Nothing. More nothing. Rejection (making progress). More rejections. Even more rejections. Then an encouraging rejection. And another.

At an ACFW conference, I had the worst appointment possible with a potential agent, and the best appointment possible with an editor who within a month had convinced her publishing board to take a chance on a debut novel from the woman with the unpronounceable last name: Ruchti (ROOK-tee).

My dream agent and first contract came as close to simultaneously as possible. Then another contract. I’m now working on book #21 since my first novel released in 2010. I write both fiction and nonfiction, and am dipping my toes into ghostwriting and a few other things as well.

Not at all a straight line.

What is your favorite source for finding story ideas?

Story ideas are like fireflies. They flit about in the air around us unnoticed until dusk descends and they begin to glow. I capture a few in a Mason jar and hold the jar close to my face so I can read by their light. Then I lift the lid and let them fly off to other backyards.

Stories are everywhere. Everyone has a story. Scenes take place in front of us no matter where we look. So my favorite source for finding story ideas is life. Listening to life. Observing the lives of those around me. And holding the jar close to my heart.

Have you ever had one of those awkward writer moments you’d like to share with us, the ones wherein you get “the look” from the normals? Example, you stand at a knife display at the sporting goods store and ask the clerk which would be the best to use to disembowel a six foot man…please do tell.

I considered changing my phone number right after I called the local police station to ask how much marijuana a person had to possess for it to be considered a felony.

What event/person has most changed you as a writer? How?
Readers change me. When readers dive into the story and come up gasping for air, but exhilarated from the experience, or walk the journey beside my characters and then tell me about their adventure, I’m changed. My readers make me a better writer. I picture myself personally placing the book in their hands, watching their faces—if I could—while they read, watching for a reaction the moment they see where hope has been hiding.

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why? (Doesn’t have to be one of your books or even published.)

“Proud of” may not fit precisely for this, but I’ve enjoyed experimenting with several pieces of Spoken Word. It’s so out of the norm for me that I think I probably let the artist in me out to play. What emerges stirs me and deepens my faith.

Share a dream or something you’d love to accomplish through your writing career.

I’d like to write stories with international settings . . . and take the requisite research trips to those locales. Italy, for instance. France. England. Ireland. Scotland.

What gives you the greatest writer buzz, makes the trip worth the hassles (besides coffee or other substances, or course)?

Industry awards are deeply rewarding, but running a close second is reading a review from a thoughtful reader or reviewer who saw things in my story I didn’t know were there until it was pointed out to me. I see it as proof that God directed my thoughts as I wrote. Ultimately, pleasing Him with what I write is the greatest writer buzz.

What is one of the more unique or strange life experiences that has really given you an extra oomph in your writing?

I was born to parents with strong work ethics (different fields—music and medicine) and who instilled in each of us a drive for excellence. They modeled it in their careers and taught that God deserves our very best, all the time, every day, no matter how we feel or how tight the deadline. That may not fit the “unique” definition, but I know that respect for doing this work “wholeheartedly, as unto the Lord” keeps me from slopping words on a page.

Parting words? Anything you wish we would’ve asked because you’ve got the perfect answer?

Thank you for the opportunity to reflect on these questions. They’ve made me think hard, but have also deepened my gratitude for what I am privileged to do!

TWEETABLE



Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed in hope through her novels, novellas, nonfiction books, articles and devotionals. Her latest release is the novel A Fragile Hope. One of Ruchti’s greatest joys is helping other writers grow in their craft. To that end, she has with the Write-to-Publish conference and American Christian Fiction Writers. She and her husband live in the heart of Wisconsin. Learn more at www.cynthiaruchti.com.
A Fragile Hope
Hope grows when seeds are planted—even in the muddy middle of life.

Josiah Chamberlain’s life’s work revolves around repairing other people’s marriages. When his own is threatened by his wife’s unexplained distance, and then threatened further when she’s unexpectedly plunged into an unending fog, Josiah finds his expertise, quick wit and clever quips are no match for a relationship that is clearly broken.

Feeling betrayed, confused, and ill-equipped for a crisis this crippling, he reexamines everything he knows about the fragility of hope and the strength of his faith and love. Love seems to have failed him. Will what’s left of his faith fail him, too? Or will it be the one thing that holds him together and sears through the impenetrable wall that separates them?

Learn more and purchase a copy.

Writing Cinematically: 10 Movie Techniques to Apply to Your Novel

by Deborah Raney

If I’d known my first novel—a story about a family dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease—would be made into a movie, I would have written it very differently. But when I got my first glimpse of the script, I understood immediately why the screenwriters had changed so many elements from my novel. Too many of my scenes took place in a character’s head—in his memories or her internal dialogue. I’m so grateful it was my first novel that made it to the silver screen because the experience of seeing my story turned into a script changed the way I wrote my next thirty novels.
Since learning more about screenwriting, I’ve discovered methods of applying film techniques to my writing in a way that makes my novels more visually vivid, more “cinematic,” and hopefully more likely to be turned into movies in the future! Here are ten techniques that translate particularly well to books:

1. Cliffhanger 

Books are often labeled as cliffhangers, but the word originated as a film term. Regardless, ending every scene or chapter on a cliffhanger—leaving your character in imminent danger, or at least with an urgent text message pinging—is a good way to keep your reader turning pages. Don’t wrap everything in a tidy bow at the close of a chapter. Instead, end each scene in the middle of the action. Force the reader to turn the page to find out whether your character will survive or not. Just be certain you show that cliffhanger instead of telling your reader about it.

Don’t say: Little did he know it would be their last night together.

Instead: The doorbell made him jump. He flipped off the hallway light and pushed back the curtain. A police cruiser idled on the snowy driveway, the exhaust forming eerie clouds in the chill night air. The emergency lights strobed, then dimmed, and a paunchy officer stepped out of the driver’s seat.

Don’t reveal why that officer is there until the next chapter… or maybe two. (But also, don’t frustrate your reader by making them wait too long for answers.)

2. Establishing shot

In film, an establishing shot is a long or wide-angle shot opening a scene to show the audience the locale/setting (or era, weather, time of day… whatever is most important for them to know as the scene begins). In writing, sometimes this type of opening is written in omniscient point of view, and the author then zooms in on a more specific point in the setting—inside a house, for instance. This is a great way to paint the big picture. Just remember: today’s readers don’t have patience for more than a paragraph or two of description. And omniscient is a tricky point of view to write, so you likely will want to get quickly into the head of your protagonist. Here’s how I accomplished that in my RITA award-winning novel Beneath a Southern Sky.


The thin trail of smoke slithered toward the clouds like a cobra charmed by the music of the coming rain. Though it was hard to tell how far in the distance the fire was, it worried Daria. It seemed more than a bonfire. And hours too early for that besides

She turned back to the flatbread she was making, slapping the coarse dough hard with the heel of her hand, forming a thin disc that would fry crisp in a pan of grease over the coals.

3. Jump cuts and fade outs

Don’t feel you must have a distinct beginning and ending for every scene. You don’t always need a formal introduction or a good-bye to the phone call. It’s usually far more effective to jump into a scene in the middle of action already in progress (without knowing what route your character took, or what kind of car she drove to get there). It’s also fine—even preferred—to end a scene in the middle of the action and simply jump to the next scene. Just be sure the opening of that scene conveys to the reader clearly and early on where the setting has moved to and how much time has passed.

4. Dissolve

In a similar way, you can end one scene and transition gradually to the next by taking a visual element from the first scene and using it in the next. In the movies, a dissolve is a film editing technique where the final image of one scene slowly morphs into the opening image of the next scene on screen. Often one element in the image will stay constant in both scenes. For example, in the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, the camera might zoom in on the deadly apple as the wicked stepmother poisons it, then the image gradually changes to the next scene with an close-up of the apple in Snow White’s hand as she brings it to her mouth.

Literary “dissolves” work especially well in comedy where a character says, “Oh, Harvey would never do that.” And of course, the next scene opens with Harvey doing exactly that.

5. Zooms

If the movie camera zooms in on an object, you can bet that object will play a significant role in the story later. By zooming your writer’s “camera” in and describing a close-up view of an object or action, you give it the same importance as an object zoomed in on by a cinematographer. Just don’t forget to complete the circle and come back to that object you highlighted.

6. Lighting
Describing the light in your scene—bright and sunny, hazy, moonlit, etc.—not only gives the reader a visual image to picture, but also sets the mood, or creates a metaphor for good/evil, happiness/depression, etc. The beauty of using lighting in your novel is that it can be done with just a handful of ordinary, but well-chosen words. Here’s how Robin Lee Hatcher did it in her novel Whenever You Come Around (Thomas Nelson).

It didn’t take long to pull on jeans, T-shirt, and boots. Then he headed for the back door. The night air was cool, and the moon had risen, casting a soft white glow over the valley.

7. Magic Hour

Speaking of lighting, camera crews spend endless hours waiting for the warm but fleeting glow of sunrise or the clear blue light of evening, just before dark. Writers have the luxury of being able to capture that “magic hour” any time they choose. But it’s about so much more than what the eye can see. Setting numerous scenes in that mystical, ephemeral light can have the effect of giving your novel a surreal and magical mood. This is especially true if you write fantasy or romance, or employ elements of magical realism.

8. Soundtrack/Score
You can also create a wonderful mood for your scene by helping the reader hear the music that would be the soundtrack if your novel were a movie. Before “my” movie was released, the director sent me a rough cut—before the musical score had been added. When my husband and I were able to attend the movie premiere in Hollywood a few months later, and I saw the completed film for the first time, I was astonished at the difference music made.

Don’t make the mistake of sending your book into the world before the soundtrack is laid! Give your character a musical instrument to play. Have him always singing or humming or whistling. Have music from a grocery store waft to her ears. The reader will “hear” those songs, and your story will be so much richer for it. And don’t forget that rain, wind, whispering leaves, ocean waves, etc. make a music all their own.

It would take a big chunk of your advance to quote too many words of a song’s lyrics, but you can cite titles to your heart’s content. Here’s how I evoked a soundtrack for A Nest of Sparrows (WaterBrook Press/Random House) and my country music-loving hero Wade Sullivan.

Wade flipped on the radio and cranked up the volume. Garth Brooks’s voice carried over the wind. The lyrics wove a story from the old cliché, blood is thicker than water. But it was the last line of the song that caused his throat to tighten and a knot to form in his gut. But love is thicker than blood. Wade hoped a certain judge at the Coyote County courthouse believed that.

And later, a different kind of music:

Wade listened to the everyday sounds of his house—the patter of the kids’ bare feet on the hardwood floors, the creaking of the house’s old pipes as the kids turned the water off and on, the lilt of their thin voices wafting downstairs. He’d taken it all for granted. Too late, he recognized it as music. A melodic air that had changed keys and been transposed to a dirge before he’d made time to appreciate the happy tune.

9. Crosscut

In cinema, crosscut is the technique of interweaving clips of multiple scenes, usually chronologically, to show simultaneous events (or sometimes to emphasize themes). In writing, this can be especially effective in a thriller or suspense novel when the clock is ticking and many things are happening at once, and the reader needs to be aware of them all. These might be short scenes comprising a chapter, or consecutive chapters of only two or three pages each. Robert Parker’s novels are nearly 100 chapters long, although some of those chapters are mere paragraphs long. But they keep his novels moving at a nice clip (and his sales, too!)

10. Product Placement

Alas, a novelist doesn’t usually get paid to use the name or logo of a trademarked product in his book, but that doesn’t mean product placement can’t be used to great advantage. Bill Higgs in his debut novel Eden Hill (Tyndale House), plopped his readers firmly into 1963 with his clever (but well-integrated) mentions of a Philco radio, two-tone Nash Metropolitan automobile, Brownie camera, Oxydol detergent, and Hostess Twinkies. You probably don’t want to kill a character with a poisoned Twinkie, but you can certainly use namebrand products in a positive way to create visual images or evoke an era in your reader’s mind.

These are only a few of the film techniques that can be adapted to novel writing and thus bring your story to the reader in living color. There are no doubt others that could be translated for literary use, but for now, that’s a wrap!

TWEETABLES

Writing Cinematically by Deborah Raney (Click to Tweet)

Bring your story to the reader in living color.~ Deborah Raney (Click to Tweet)


DEBORAH RANEY’
s first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title and launched her writing career after twenty happy years as a stay-at-home mom. She has since written over 30 books, including novels for Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and Harlequin. Deb is on the board of the 2600-member American Christian Fiction Writers, and teaches at writers conferences around the country. Deb and husband, Ken Raney, traded small-town life in Kansas––the setting of many of Deb’s novels––for life in the friendly city of Wichita. They love traveling to visit four children and a growing brood of grandchildren who all live much too far away. Visit Deb on the Web at www.deborahraney.com.

Book Blurb for Home at Last:

Why did their differences matter so much?


Link Whitman has settled into the role of bachelor without ever intending to. Now he’s stuck in a dead-end job and, as the next Whitman wedding fast approaches, he is the last one standing. The pressure from his sisters’ efforts to play matchmaker is getting hard to bear as Link pulls extra shifts at work, and helps his parents at the Chicory Inn.

All her life, Shayla Michaels has felt as if she straddled two worlds. Her mother’s white family labeled her African American father with names Shayla didn’t repeat in polite–well, in any company. Her father’s family disapproved as well, though they eventually embraced Shayla as their own. After the death of her mother, and her brother Jerry’s incarceration, life has left Shayla’s father bitter, her niece, Portia, an orphan, and Shayla responsible for them all. She knows God loves them all, but why couldn’t people accept each other for what was on the inside? For their hearts?

Everything changes one icy morning when a child runs into the street and Link nearly hits her with his pickup. Soon he is falling in love with the little girl’s aunt, Shayla, the beautiful woman who runs Coffee’s On, the bakery in Langhorne. Can Shayla and Link overcome society’s view of their differences and find true love? Is there hope of changing the sometimes-ugly world around them into something better for them all?

Nearly Everything I Need to Write a Book I Learned in Elementary School

by Kelly Klepfer

1) Learn. 

Not even kidding about this. You need to invest your time, energy, heart and soul in learning what to do and what not to do. This involves conferences, books, magazines and blog reading. If you are new, you may have already poised to click out of this because you are tired of hearing this advice. But, there is no way around this step if you want to succeed. In order to be published and/or sell books, you have to give the impression that you are worth investing in. And the advice that hundreds of thousands of people give is that you learn to write according to the rules. When you get those down, you can calculate how to creatively twist those in your story.
2) Be a grownup.
Remember the horror of having to raise your hand to go use the restroom? Or heaven forbid you threw up in class and they had to call Mr. Kenny to bring his bucket of sawdust to clean up your desk? Utter humiliation. This rule is also something many people don’t want to hear. In a fantasy world it would be so fabulous to sit down, crack out a novel and then make enough money to buy a private, fully staffed island. But in reality, writing is painful. If you’ve never suffered through a critique or edit but have only been praised for your gift, brace yourself. Pull on those big boy or girl undergarments and know it’s as tough as a dental visit after skipping twice a year for a decade.

You can’t successfully write alone. You become immune to your quirks and favorite phrasing and enamored with your characters. With immunity comes distorted vision. The goal of writing should be clear communication. And there are so many ways to be unclear. It requires teachability, humility and motivation to accept that someone suggests that your flowery writing is obscuring what you are trying to say. Or even worse, someone recommends you cut a character that really complicates things and muddies the waters. The character you wrote based on your sorority sisters. See the need for adult underwear?

3) Play well with others. 

Publishing, though there are millions of books on Amazon, is a tiny world. If you make a habit of being rude or difficult, others won’t want to work with you. Publishing and its huge big brother, marketing, is challenging if you’ve been hateful to others. Blogs do not have to share your book information. People don’t have to friend, like or follow you. An editor or agent who attended a conference where you acted like a prima donna might remember you for all sorts of reasons, none of them good.

4) I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine. 

This is all about social media. If you only FB hang with your inner circle you are missing out on potential readers. If you never thank people, like their stuff or return follow them when they reach out to you, you are going to get lonely when it comes time to find a group of readers who’d love to promote your book. You need a platform and a willingness to invite others on your journey. But that also means you need to be willing to return that favor when it’s their time.

5) Be kind. 

If you stick this out, you will have opportunities to help newbies or even kids on your bus. You don’t have to be dishonest, but always look for a gentle way to say something that might be critical. For example, laughing hysterically and calling someone a hack is not the best way to help them. Instead point out why you got hung up on their particular wording. Or when you review a novel don’t give it two stars and point out that you hate the characters’ names. Instead, communicate positive things in the book, as well as negative.

6) Remember that lunch and recess are part of the day as well. 

Sometimes you just need to sleep on it. Pull yourself out of your cramped office space and take a shower or eat dinner with your family. There might even be some time for a rousing game of tetherball, even if a deadline looms.

7) If at first you don’t succeed try, try again.
 
Don’t give up. If writing is in your blood you’ll go crazy trying to ignore it. Take a summer or Christmas sized break if needed. But always keep reading and go ahead and do a few reports along the way.

Yay! The bell just rang. I’m outta here. 

TWEETABLES
If writing is in your blood you’ll go crazy trying to ignore it.~ Kelly Klepfer (Click to Tweet)




Kelly Klepfer
had ambitions to graduate from the school of life quite awhile ago, but alas . . . she still attends and is tested regularly. Her co-authored cozy/quirky mystery, Out of the Frying Pan, is the culmination of several of the failed/passed tests.

Kelly, though she lives with her husband, two Beagles and two hedgehogs in Iowa, can be found at Novel Rocket, Novel Reviews, Scrambled Dregs, Modern Day Mishaps, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter with flashes of brilliance (usually quotes), randomocities, and learned life lessons. Zula and Fern Hopkins and their shenanigans can be found at Zu-fer where you always get more than you bargained for. Please join my author page.

Then Came a Buggy

by Barbara Cameron

Students entering senior year in high school usually have a lot on their minds. Which college will they choose? How are they going to finance it? And what will be their major?

I wasn’t one of those students worrying about college. My dad was pushing me to go to the local community college and become a nurse.

That was the last thing I wanted. I was the oldest child and was tired of taking care of my younger siblings. When I saw a notice on the school announcement board about a cooperative education class at the local newspaper I decided to apply. After all, I was a voracious reader and I’d enjoyed the extra credit assignments in creative writing my English teacher gave me.
That decision led me to being chosen to attend a weekly class at the newspaper. I loved it there. Sometimes I thought I was in DisneyWorld. The newspaper was such an incredible place filled with people who loved to write, who loved to inform and educate their readers. Each week we high school students learned about writing and interviewing and turning our work in on a deadline.

After I graduated I got a job as a copy kid – a “gofer” – there while I took classes at the community college. Gradually I worked my way up to reporter and television magazine writer.

And that experience led me to an important discovery: writing for the newspaper taught me to look for what readers want to read and how to enjoy writing for them.

Too often new writers sit down and write what they want to and I’m not saying they shouldn’t. But if you want to break into publishing you should look at what people are reading and think about what you have to offer in that area.

Writers should study the offerings at bookstores – both brick and mortar stores and online stores. Let’s face it – this is not a hardship for us readers. Then I recommend studying bestseller lists. I’m not suggesting that you copy any writers in content or style but simply see what readers are interested in and buying and see if you have something to offer in that area.

I discovered that Amish fiction had become a popular genre in Christian fiction. I saw this trend when I browsed bookstores and bestseller lists. Around that time I attended a writer’s conference near Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I’d seen Amish families traveling in buggies past my uncle’s Indiana farm as a child and been fascinated by them. So I explored Paradise, Pennsylvania, and the more that I met members of the Amish, the more I grew to admire them for their simple way of life and their daily walk with their faith. When I got home I began to think about writing a story set there.

I love stories where someone ventures into unfamiliar territory and thought, what would someone do if they went to live in an Amish community? I was glancing through the newspaper later that week and saw a story about a woman who had to calm soldiers returning to civilian life. My Englisch heroine was born: a news reporter (write what you know) who is injured and goes to heal at her Amish grandmother’s house. There she is reunited with the Amish boy next door and falls in love. But their worlds are so different it poses a real challenge to their renewed relationship . . . That story was A Time to Love, the first book in the Quilts of Lancaster County series (Abingdon Press). I sent it to my agent who submitted it to publishers and it didn’t sell to the first place it was submitted. But the editor there bought two Amish novellas from me that were included in collections called An Amish Christmas and An Amish Gathering with Beth Wiseman and Kathleen Fuller.

Since then I’ve sold five Amish series as well as a number of single Amish titles.

Home to Paradise is the latest, the third book of the Coming Home series (Abingdon Press).

Barbara is offering a chance to win a copy of her latest book, Home to Paradise. Follow the link.
https://promosimple.com/ps/b394

TWEETABLES

Look at what people are reading…what do you have to offer in that area?~ Barbara Cameron (Click to Tweet)




Barbara Cameron
 has a heart for writing about the spiritual values and simple joys of the Amish. She is the best-selling author of more than 40 fiction and nonfiction books, three nationally televised movies, and the winner of the first Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award. Her books have been nominated for Carol Awards and the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award from RWA’s Faith, Hope, and Love chapter. Barbara resides in Jacksonville, Florida.
Find out more about Barbara at http://barbaracameron.com.

Book blurb:

Rose Anna Zook has watched her two older sisters marry two Stoltzfus men and has always thought she and John, the third Stoltzfus brother, would marry, make a home together, and have children. But John has other ideas. He’s enjoying his Rumschpringe in the Englisch world a little too much and isn’t interested in returning to the Amish community – especially to marry. Rose Anna is determined to bring her man back into the Amish fold. John is equally determined to live his life free and unencumbered. Who will win this battle of wills? Will love prevail?