Cindy Woodsmall is a New York Times and CBA bestselling author of twenty-six works of fiction and one nonfiction book. Coverage of Cindy’s writing has been featured on ABC’s Nightline and the front page of the Wall Street Journal. She lives in the foothills of the north Georgia mountains with her husband, just a short distance from two of her three sons and her six grandchildren.
Erin Woodsmall is a writer, musician, wife, and mom of four. She has edited, brainstormed, and researched books with Cindy for almost a decade. More recently she and Cindy have coauthored five books, one of which was a winner of the prestigious Christy Award.
In this interview, Cindy and Eric share some of their thoughts regarding their new novel, Until Then.
FF: Cindy, what inspired you to write Until Then?
I had a strong heart’s desire to explore how we as humans often have unmet longings and dreams to develop gifts or talents that might be outside what our family or community believe we should pursue.
FF: How did you decide to combine Amish fiction with time-slip fiction?
In many ways the Amish live in a different time, but to send an Amish person back to the 1800s added a new dimension of deliciousness. Would an Amish person adjust easier because of their way of living? In our time, the Amish are known for being separate from the world, but they were in the thick of social justice and political battles in the 1800s. A time-slip setting for this story allowed me to dive deep into the history of 1822 and write about the bravery and diligence of the Amish and Quakers when it came to fighting against slavery. Because the Amish and Quakers would never bear arms, their history is very different, and that difference had an impressive impact on quiet, unseen lives.
FF: How do you expect the novel to resonate with your audience?
I have strong hopes that women will be impacted by the love story between Celeste and Vin, who are separated when Vin slips through time. Vin has no understanding of how to get back home. Celeste has no idea where he is or why. She isn’t a widow who can remarry, although she meets a very kind, handsome single man. She’s thrust into being a single mom of two in a community that believes she’s the reason her husband is missing. She faces being passively ostracized while trying to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table, and she feels the sting of being neither a successful breadwinner nor the kind of mom she dreamed of being. She’s so very lost and betrayed by her husband’s disappearance. I feel all women have witnessed or felt some of those stings on some level.
FF: What are you most excited for your readers to experience by reading this story?
I’m most excited that as the story unfolds, we see both Vin and Celeste learn to trust in God differently than ever before, to accept what is and make good use of the time they are living in as opposed to fulfilling the dreams they shared.
FF: You are a mother and daughter-in-law writing team. Can you describe your writing process?
Our usual tag-team writing method was tossed out the window for this book. Typically, we each choose a main character or two, and through hours of brainstorming and outlining, we develop our character(s). But because of this particular story and the new difficulties of two storylines in two different times and the amount of research needed, I wrote, and Erin edited. We talked on the phone a lot to clear my head and help me to stay true to myself, my readers, and my genre. See, Louis L’Amour kept trying to take over! Decades ago, I read his works voraciously, and as I wrote this book, each time I slipped back in time to the 1800s, Mr. L’Amour showed up, trying to write the story from a male point of view with superheroic efforts. I got that out of my system and was able to hear just my voice. Finally, months later, I sent Erin the last five chapters of the book. At the time I had Covid and was quarantined in Canada, unable to return to the States. Erin read the chapters and called me, apologizing as she told me that those chapters didn’t work. The problem: I was coming from a place of being weary and irritable, and she pointed out that the characters were in love and needed to show a level of gratefulness and trust in order to be true to who they were. So, L’Amour hadn’t shown up, but Grumpy Author had arrived on the page. I told Erin if she could call her sick mother-in-law stuck in a tiny hotel room with no food service while trying to meet a deadline and gently speak the truth, she could do anything in life! I love being a team with her!
FF: What role does faith play in this story?
In many ways, Celeste and Vin both see their faith burned to the ground in all they thought they knew and understood, and from those ashes, they each slowly find a new faith that carries them in very different ways.
FF: What lessons or truths do you hope people take away from Until Then?
Vin and Celeste are trapped in lives they can barely survive, either physically or emotionally. While Vin prays unceasingly for God to show him how to return home, and he promises to be a better man, a better husband, a better dad, as time passes, he often ends his prayers with the words “Until then, may I use my time as You desire.”
So, he uses the “trappedness” to do the one thing each of us can do—take on an “until then” thinking and sacrifice our desires to make others’ lives better. Isn’t that always a part of what life and love are?
FF: You talk about the idea of an “until then” perspective in this novel. Can you explain what you mean by that?
All of us are trapped in some ways: trapped with personal illness or the illness of loved ones, trapped with difficult bosses or a low-paying job, trapped with bills and taxes we can’t get free of, trapped in a difficult relationship, or trapped in silence as we watch loved ones suffer. When we can’t get to where we’d like to be, we can be free to do our best by praying, “Until then, may I use my time as You desire.”
FF: Can you give us a sneak peek into the main characters in the novel, Celeste and Vin Lantz?
Oh, man, are they in love! But Vin has secrets, and when Celeste learns of them, they argue like two people who’ve forgotten they love each other. Each one is a strong and vulnerable character in their own ways, and those strengths and vulnerabilities work for and against them. My favorite character to develop was Vin. He felt the power of being a competent and successful Amish man, but when he wakes in darkness, at the foot of an unknown mountain with no sign of civilization in sight, he quickly learns how little power he has. Within a few days, he’s close to death. If two escaped slaves didn’t cross his path when they did, he would’ve died.
After helping Vin survive some critical hours, those men have to move on without him, so he’s left in a predicament where he could still die before finding civilization.
FF: As an author, what did you particularly enjoy about writing this story?
I’ve never written anything with a historical thread in it, so I loved diving deep into the history of that time, including 1822-1823 Lancaster, Pennsylvania. What was hard about writing it? Researching all the roads during that time, mapping out how Vin and a few others would cross from central Ohio to eastern Pennsylvania in great specificity. My husband brought home a lot of plats with historical road maps. With all that information in hand, I began writing the story, but as events unfolded, I eventually discovered that the characters couldn’t use ANY of those roads since they went through slave states occupied by patrollers.
FF: You’ve said that Until Then addresses underlying themes of fear and judgment. Why was it important to address these topics within the pages of this book?
We miss so much of the positive direction our lives could go in through fear and judgment, and when we step into a story, whether writing it or reading it, we begin to see ourselves more clearly. Those truths can set us free to embrace courage and uncritical tolerance for ourselves and others.
FF: How is the romance thread in this story different than other romance novels?
The romantic couple is separated by time, and Celeste, believing Vin has died, is vulnerable to a new love interest.
FF: What is one thing you learned about yourselves through writing this book?
I realized the power of critical thinking about God’s Word. Vin crosses paths with many people who argue, “But the Word talks about slavery and tells slaves how to think and feel toward their masters,” and Vin, coming from the late 1900s, is able to use God’s Word to change minds and hearts.
FF: What will fans of your writing find surprising about this story?
If I tell, they won’t find it surprising! But I think they’ll be surprised how different faith is for the characters in different historical times, and yet it still works.
Cindy Woodsmall, Erin Woodsmall
Genres: Historical, Amish Romance, Time-slip
Release Date: September 5, 2023
In 1985, Old Order Amish couple Celeste and Vin Lantz have been married for six years. Vin is a carpenter by trade but an artist in his heart. He is especially captivated by drawing portraits, which the Amish consider idolatry. Knowing they could be shunned, Celeste is shocked to discover that Vin has secretly been sketching her and their sons. When she confronts Vin, they argue and Vin storms off . . . and seems to disappear, leaving Celeste to wonder if he chose his art over his family.
When he leaves the house that night, Vin seeks peace on his favorite mountain overlook. But he takes a fall and wakes to find himself injured and lost. Vin soon realizes just how far he has traveled—not only in distance but back in time, to 1822 Ohio, a place that provides the freedom he craved but where he is separated from his beloved wife and children. Vin is saved by the kindness of strangers and gradually learns to survive and even to use his skills to help his new friends in this unfamiliar time and place. But all the while he prays desperately for God to return him to his family, before Celeste makes a new life without him.
Buy Until Then from the FF Store HERE!
Buy Until Then from Amazon HERE!