Catherine Richmond is excited to announce the release of her debut novel, Spring for Susannah, a historical romance from Thomas Nelson featuring a mail-order bride.
Cathy lives on the Richmond Rabbit Ranch in Nebraska. She has been working as an occupational therapist since graduating from Western Michigan University (yes, there really is a Kalamazoo). Her daughter is in medical school and her son is graduating from journalism school, so her hobby is making sympathetic sounds about student loans. Her exercise partner is a Keeshond-Collie mix named Dakota; he never lets her skip a walk.
I understand a song sparked the idea for your first story. What song was it, and how did it serve to fuel your creative fires?
I had no intention of writing fiction. My family and my occupational therapy work kept me plenty busy. But a beautiful song, Harry Chapin’s “Mail Order Annie,” transported me to a railroad siding in lonely Dakota Territory, where a man met his wife for the first time. From there, the story rolled out like a movie.
When did your love of romance and history compel you to start your first story? Did you give in right away, or were you hesitant to begin writing?
My mother is a Virginia history librarian, so research came first. North Dakota’s history is brief, compared to Virginia’s, but fascinating. Once I finished the first draft, in pencil in spiral notebooks leftover from my children’s schoolwork, my husband realized he had a serious problem in his house. He bought a computer.
You’re a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America®, and the inspirational chapter of RWA®, Faith, Hope & Love. What have been the biggest blessings you’ve received from your membership in these fine organizations?
It’s been an education! As a librarian’s daughter, I read a lot. But writing is a whole new road. RWA and ACFW provided the map, guidebooks, and encouragement for the journey. If not for this support, I would still be stuck in the first pothole.
You finaled in The 2009 Launching a Star sponsored by the SpacecoasT Authors of Romance chapter of RWA. That was your first final, and it led to your First Sale, which is awesome. Please tell us about this contest experience and how you reacted to the coordinator updates.
I’d been earning rejection letters since 1997. Instead of getting excited about the final, I went on vacation to New York City with my college roommate.
When The Call came, how did you react? Were you shocked speechless or did you shriek for several minutes straight?
Sandra Bishop’s job title is agent, but she’s also a detective. She tracked me down in Manhattan. We were on a “Real New York Tour” with owner Luke Miller. I got the call in Central Park, as we approached John Lennon’s memorial, the “Imagine” mosaic. Doesn’t that show God’s amazing sense of humor?
Now that you’re contracted, your life has changed. What have been the biggest surprises, the biggest challenges, and the biggest thrills between your first sale and your first release?
Spring for Susannah is coming out twenty years after I first heard the song, so writing the second book in one year was a huge challenge. I’m happy to say I turned it in on time – whew!
The biggest “Oh, Wow!” came at ACFW ’10. I wasn’t anonymous anymore – I was a Thomas Nelson author!
As a contest success story, what advice would you have for entrants on how to choose which contests to enter and how to prep their entries?
Contest feedback is a mixed bag. To improve your writing skills, join a good critique group. With a polished manuscript, ready to submit, look for contest judges who are agents and editors.
Cathy’s Debut Novel
Please tell us about Spring for Susannah.
With no prospects for marriage and her parents recently deceased, Susannah Underhill agrees to go west to the Dakota Territory to marry her minister’s homesteading brother, Jesse. But Susannah is painfully shy, doesn’t see herself as worthy of love from either a husband or from God, and lives in constant fear that Jesse is going to ship her back to Detroit.
In spite of her petite size and the fact that Susannah doesn’t look like she could survive on the prairie, Jesse quickly discovers that his new wife is a greater blessing than he even hoped for. The years she spent as her father’s veterinary assistant allow her to save Jesse’s ox and twin calves and to help neighboring farmers with their animals.
But Susannah’s feelings of unworthiness are deeply rooted, and she can’t believe that Jesse’s praise—or the tenderness and love he shows—could possibly last. The thawing of her heart seems almost as distant as Spring in the midst of the winter blanketing the Dakota prairie.
Reactions and Reviews
Spring for Susannah is in readers’ hands. It’s also in yours. What were your thoughts and feelings when you held your book for the first time?
I’d been revising, tweaking, and polishing this story for two decades. Now that it’s in print. I can’t change it anymore. But thanks to the editorial guidance of Thomas Nelson, it’s done!
You received a number of glowing endorsements, and the reviews have begun pouring in. Which have meant the most to you, and why?
After all the encouragement Mary Connealy and Julie Lessman have given me, it was a relief to find they liked Spring for Susannah! I’d only met Beth Wiseman and Colleen Coble once, at Thomas Nelson’s ACFW dinner. So having endorsements from them is an incredible honor.
Cathy’s Journey Continues
Spring for Susannah is in available at all the major booksellers. What can your readers look forward to next?
Relying on Sophia is about a missionary to the Ponca tribe in 1876. The events of the story led up to a landmark civil rights case, which decided an Indian was a person. It’s exciting to share this little-known history with readers. My research tied five people from the trial to one church – what a message of empowerment for God’s people! Like Spring for Susannah, Relying on Sophia is about a woman finding her place in this world. Isn’t that what we all want: to know our life has made a difference, that we have fulfilled our mission as a servant of Christ.
Let’s Learn a Little More About Cathy
We’ve learned that songs inspire you. What types of music do you enjoy?
Harry Chapin’s folk-rock storytelling legacy has continued with his brother, Tom Chapin, and with John McCutcheon. I like mixed-genre music, like Bela Fleck’s jazz banjo and Leahy’s Celtic craziness. On the Christian station, Newsboys, Audio Adrenaline, and Jars of Clay catch my ear. And – no prejudice here! – the absolute best singer/songwriter/guitar player is my son, Ben.
If you were browsing at your favorite mall and your hubby wanted to find you, which store would he check first and why?
Hah! My husband is a pilot. The closest he’d get to a mall would be a thousand feet overhead!
Imagine that you won the trip you’d always dreamed of on Wheel of Fortune. What destination would that be?
Would I seem greedy if I said all of Europe?
If we looked in your pantry, what would we learn about you?
You’d learn I’m a chocolate fanatic, but I don’t think that’s any secret.
What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done, and how did you feel about it afterward?
On our medical mission trip, we took a break to visit Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica. At the bottom, watching the water cascading down the rocks, I figured my AARP card would excuse me from climbing. But then a friend 25 yrs older with a fresh knee replacement went charging up and I had to follow. On the way up, another friend yelled, “Ignore the rushing water!” What seemed like a ridiculous thought at the time, helped me make sense of the mission trip. I’ve used the scene in Relying on Sophia.
Cathy’s Question for You
Spring for Susannah is about a mail-order bride. Can you imagine marrying someone you’ve never met? After being married thirty years, I learned my husband doesn’t like tomato soup. How long have you been married? What’s your latest discovery about your spouse?
Cathy has generously offered to give away an autographed copy of Spring for Susannah.
To enter the drawing, just leave a comment for Cathy by June 12th and enter your email address when prompted during the comment process. On June 13th, I will hold the drawing and post the winner’s name here as well as in a comment and will contact her/him via email to get a mailing address.
Congratulations to Wendy, winner of the drawing!
Note: Offer void where prohibited.
Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.
Drawing limited to those with U.S. or Canadian addresses.
Learn More About Cathy
Visit her website ~ www.catherinerichmond.com
Friend her on Facebook ~ Fans of Catherine Richmond
Follow her on Twitter ~ @WriterCatherine