Secrets & Charades is an exciting new historical romance by author, Cindy Ervin Huff. It is her debut novel, but not her first experience with writing by any means. I know you will love meeting her and having an opportunity to win either a print or Kindle copy of her book! Leave a comment to enter to win. Signing in on the Rafflecopter offers you even more opportunities to win!
Secrets & Charades
Welcome, Cindy! Since Secrets & Charades is your debut novel, please introduce yourself to our readers to help them get to know the person behind the pen.
I’ve been writing since junior high. My 8th grade teacher entered my short story into a contest. I didn’t win, place or show but the spark was lit. All my life imaginary characters have visited me. I’d tell myself stories at night to go to sleep. (This still happens today.) Over the past 40 plus years I’ve been published in a variety of mediums from radio scripts to children’s magazines. There were seasons of time where I laid my gifting down. There was the Christian’s don’t read or write fiction phase. (Don’t even ask.) Homeschooling is an overwhelming phase. The worst phase of all–I have no inspiration. About twelve years ago, God spoke to my heart. He had gifted me with a vivid imagination and he wanted me to use it. The Lord opened a few doors that bolstered my confidence and confirmed my calling. Now that my children are all grown, I write around the responsibilities of a part-time job, looking after an elder mother and helping with grandchildren. My life isn’t less complicated just more fulfilling.
Share with us how you started writing. Was there an author or book that was your inspiration?
The imaginary friends had a lot to do with my desire to write. And I am addicted to reading. I read several books a month. Something negative spurred my writing meme. In the early years (1980s) I meet an American woman who’d immigrated to England and was having success writing horror. When I told, her I wrote Christian Fiction her snide reply captured my determination. “Anyone with a crayon can write Christian Fiction.” How Rude! It stalled me for years. When I embraced the writing call, I determined to make my words excellent. I pursued craft and learned from other authors. Encouraging fellow-writers at whatever stage in their writing journey also became important to me.
How did you come up with the idea for Secrets & Charades?
Evangeline came to visit me. She was persistent. I realized her story paralleled the lives of many of us. She struggles with forgiving herself. Every decision she makes is based on a wounded heart.
How did you “design” your characters and choose their names?
I’m a pantster, so characters mess with my head and I write it down. Evangeline’s hair color sets her apart. I realized after I wrote the book it symbolized her feelings of separation from the world around her. I wanted a tall heroine. I’d read so many books with petit women. She’s strong-willed yet vulnerable and caring. A doctor as a mail-order bride is a definite oddity. An independent woman afraid of the future. Jake is a veteran and his emotional wounds are the same as modern day veterans. I wanted men to pick up my book and find hope in Jake.
As far as the names go Evangeline told me hers. Jake was originally Drake but there is another character named Duke. Character names beginning with the same letter can get confused and switched around in a story.
While I journeyed together with Evangeline and Jake the twists in the story surprised me.
What is your favorite period in history? If you could spend an evening with one historical person, who would it be and why?
I find the 1800s fascinating. And anything with a castle in it. That said history is fun to explore, after all we forget more than we remember. At my age, even the era of my childhood is fun to revisit.
How did you go about researching and creating a setting for Secrets & Charades?
I spent time in Texas as a child. So, it has a soft spot in my heart. I love cowboy stories. My mail-order bride needed to enter a world totally foreign from her life as a doctor in the city.
There were three main resources. I have a friend who is a lover of all things history. He shared books with me. The public library had atlases of the period. Between those two resources and the internet, I discovered the various kinds of homes and what towns were like in Texas circa 1872.
What distinguishes Secrets & Charades from other books out there in the same genre?
Mail-order brides are well-loved by readers. A female doctor choosing that path is the twist. My story world is populated with a variety of different characters with their own secrets.
What advice would you have for writers who are dreaming of having their first book published?
Don’t give-up. I came up with the concept for Secrets & Charades in 2005. I took courses offered through the Christian Writer’s Guild. Then I attended conferences. I attend the Write to Publish conference every year. My novel was rejected about 20 times. Life interrupted more than I’d like to admit. So, while I waited and prayed for my big break I started a blog. I developed friendships in the writing community. Rewrote. Joined a critique group. Rewrote. Wrote another novel. Did all I could to serve others in the writing community. Asked questions, followed advice and fell down—a lot. Keep at it. Your day of publication will come.
How would you like to inspire your readers?
I hope my readers gain a renewed trust in God’s love for them. Evangeline recalled something her mentor said. “Don’t let your past determine your future.”
Please share the opening scene of Secrets & Charades with us?
Young lady, my marital status is none of your concern.” Evangeline Olson paced about her medical clinic. “What possessed you to answer an ad in the Matrimonial Times on my behalf?”
“Aunt Evie, please,” Maggie said.
Evangeline steeled herself from Maggie’s doe-eyed pleading. “No.” She waved a dismissive hand. “You got yourself into this mess, and you can get yourself out.” Her heart was beating a tempo perfect for flight, and she reached the door to her bedroom at the back of the clinic before Maggie could respond. Without a backward glance, Evangeline slammed the door. The pounding in her head muffled Maggie’s pleas through the closed door.
“Aunt Evie, I have all of his letters. Read them.”
Evangeline slid to the floor, back against the wall, forehead in her palms. At twenty-eight she had chosen a career over marriage. A headache thumped in her temples. Deliver me from interfering family.
“Are you listening? Please, I’m begging you. Just read them. If you don’t like what you read, I’ll write him an apology.”
Evangeline remained silent.
“They’re on your desk. Mother says the truth is easier to remember than a lie. You’ll find a journal on the desk where I copied all my correspondence to Jake.”
Jake Marcum’s busy ranch leaves him no time for courting, and his wounded heart has no place for love. When battlefield nightmares disturb his peace and his tomboy niece, Juliet, needs taming, somehow a mail-order bride seems like a logical solution.
Dr. Evangeline Olson has no idea her niece is writing to a rancher on her behalf, and she sure isn’t interested in abandoning her medical practice for a stranger. But when an inheritance threatens to reveal a long-buried secret, she travels west to become Jake’s wife.
Jake soon realizes Evangeline is more than he bargained for, especially when her arrival causes a stir in the community. As the two try to find their way in a marriage of convenience, their fragile relationship is further tested by cattle rustling and kidnapping. Can their hearts overcome past hurts to create a real marriage?
Cindy Ervin Huff is the winner of the 2014 Editor’s Choice Award from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She is a contributor to Splickety Publishing Group’s anthology and has been featured on Christian Communicator, Suburban Dog, ChristianDevotions.us, and Splickety Lightning Blog. Cindy is President of the Aurora, Illinois, chapter of Word Weavers. She and her husband make their home in Aurora, Illinois. Visit Cindy on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cindyehuff, follow her on www.twitter.com/CindyErvinHuff, or connect with her at www.jubileewriter.wordpress.com.
Connect with Cindy:
Facebook Author page: www.facebook.com/cindyehuff
Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/author/cindyervinhuff