Christian romance author Cynthia Ruchti tells her stories through novels, nonfiction, devotionals, and at speaking events for women. Her books have received numerous awards, including the Carol Award, Christian Retailing’s BEST Award, and Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award, as well as being a finalist for the Christy Awards and RT Reviews Inspirational Novel of the Year. Cynthia serves as the professional relations liaison for American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). Cynthia and her grade school sweetheart husband live in the heart of Wisconsin, not far from their children and grandchildren. In this interview, she shares her thoughts and inspirations behind her latest novel, Facing the Dawn.
FF: Please tell our readers about your newest book, Facing the Dawn.
In Facing the Dawn, I had the opportunity to explore some of life’s toughest challenges and their effect on family, fragility, faith, and friendship. Through the pages, we watch the characters maneuver through the kinds of emotional jolts that shred us in an instant and the slowly growing traumas that fade us until we feel like a garment left too long in the sun. Exhausted by life, Mara Jacobs thought she had nothing left to lose. She was wrong. She also believed that a bleached-out life is devoid of hope. With the help of a curious crew of tenacious friends, she discovers what it really means to face the dawn.
FF: What inspired you to write this novel?
In its early stages, I thought the book would trace the path of a worn-out mom with a snarky sense of humor who works her way back to enjoying life. It became so much more than that. It doesn’t take more than a line or an overheard conversation to set my imagination racing. In the case of Facing the Dawn, it was a bumper sticker: “Proud Parent of a D Student.” Funny and sad at the same time. Like life often is. But as I grew to know the characters, the plot both surprised and gripped me. I saw “Mara” in the women around me. I felt her—and their—distress. Part of the inspiration emerged from watching women deal with what seemed like crushing burdens, but they kept going, kept moving forward. How? The question pressed me to keep writing so I could discover the answer.
FF: Facing the Dawn tackles some tough emotional issues including depression, grief, and forgiveness. Was it difficult to write about these sensitive topics?
It’s always a challenge to write about tough topics. My heart is to treat the subjects tenderly, not making assumptions but listening careful to those who ache, to grow in compassion as I write, and to offer the hope that hems us when we unravel. Some of the scenes from Facing the Dawn crept too close to home during the writing. But the God of Hope grew closer too.
FF: Although Facing the Dawn discusses life’s struggles, it is ultimately a book of hope. Can you explain how this book can be an encouragement to those who are suffering?
I wouldn’t write novels like this if I didn’t strongly believe that sometimes all we humans need as a handhold is to know we’ve been heard. Someone was listening. Someone cares. Someone wrote about how it really feels. When we see our own pain in the pages, it validates what we’re going through. Or it gives us insight into what people we care about are experiencing. We watch the characters gain their footing, and so do we.
FF: What other lessons can be found in your book?
One of the strongest takeaways within Facing the Dawn is the power of friendship. Friends who endure. Friends who don’t shy away when we’re no fun to be around. Friends who find creative ways to gentle us back to spiritual, emotional, or relational health. While creating this story, I reconnected with a Forever Friend I hadn’t seen in decades. Our bond remained firm despite the distance and the passage of time. She helped form some of the qualities readers will find in Mara’s forever friend.
FF: Mara Jacobs, the female protagonist in Facing the Dawn, is battling the home front and trying to manage all areas of her life effectively. But she is starting to drown in all of her responsibilities. What can readers learn from Mara’s situation?
How many of us would have to admit that we value putting on a brave face, toughing it out on our own, taking on more than is healthy, trying to manufacture answers rather than reaching out and receiving help when it’s offered? We mistakenly assume it’s a badge of courage if we soldier on alone. But one soldier doesn’t make a very good army. We need each other. The bravest thing we can do sometimes is ask for and accept help. Yes, we may have to face the dawn alone, in one sense. But help is always nearby, even if it takes us a while to notice.
FF: In addition to being an award-winning author, you have also worked a number of years in the inspirational publishing world. Can you please tell readers how your experiences have helped foster your writing ability?
My positions with American Christian Fiction Writers and my role now as a literary agent have connected me heart-to-heart with retailers, libraries, book clubs, readers, media, and other authors. I have such respect for all aspects of the publishing and reading communities. And they truly are communities. It’s been enlightening to glimpse behind the scenes, build enriching relationships, grow to understand the unique challenges on every level, and appreciate how we are bound by a common goal and related by our love of the power of story.
FF: What are you working on next?
More novels are always in the works. And because I write both fiction and nonfiction—forged from my years writing scripts for a radio broadcast—I usually have at least one of each in some phase of development. A novel that taps into the all-too-common description of life as “busy” is calling to me right now. Sounds like a simple concept, but the complex characters and enchanting setting won’t leave me alone. FF
Visit Cynthia Ruchti’s author page
Facing the Dawn
Genres: Romance, Contemporary
Release Date: March 2, 2021
Mara Jacobs has been struggling. While her humanitarian husband is digging wells in Africa and caring for widows and orphans, Mara has been battling the home front—working a demanding yet unrewarding job, trying to manage three detention-prone kids, and suffering from exhaustion and depression. Even her own marriage is deteriorating after a three-year separation.
Then Liam’s absence turns into something more, changing everything and plunging her into a sunless grief. As Mara leans on those around her to find her way to healing and renewed faith, she discovers that even when hope is tenuous and the future is unknown, we can be sure we are not forgotten . . . or unloved.
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