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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Stories of Hope and Heart: An Interview with Cathy Liggett

Today's interview is with an ACFW award- winning author who says she writes "stories of hope and heart. " I love that idea, don't you? Read on and learn how she does it and how she got started.

Let’s go back to the beginning. Your first novel was published in 2004. I know that was years ago, but what inspired you to write that story?
Professionally, I'd always written copy for advertising agencies and then also spent 10 years working for a giftware company where we created and wrote copy for various products. I enjoyed the writing I was doing but kept having this nagging feeling that I wanted to write a book someday- preferably a romance after reading so many 
Lavyrle Spencer books, I guess.

The thing was, I told some friends about this "dream," and pretty soon they 
were nagging me about it too. Finally, I felt like I had to do something about it and I joined the local chapter of Romance Writers of America around 1998, maybe? There I learned a lot about craft and the business and most importantly also met people who were extremely helpful to me in pursuing the desire to publish.

Did you get discouraged at all in the writing process?

Absolutely! I think it's like anything else. You have highs and lows, good days and bad. Even when I've got a signed deal and I'm happy my writing has an outlet for publication, that doesn't mean I don't have grueling writing days or that I'm not terrified I'll botch it up somehow. And when I'm trying to get something new going and sending out proposals, being rejected time and again can be brutal as well. But if that thing burns in you that makes you want to keep writing and creating, what can you do? You just keep trying at it!!

How long did it take you to write that first book?
I can't really remember what my deadline was. Nine months, maybe? I work part-time so I feel like I'm not the quickest at getting things to print.

How did you go about finding a publisher/agent?

Back then, there were more publishers that you could contact with an unagented manuscript. I didn't find an agent until I'd already published books with Avalon so that was around 2008, maybe. Sorry, I can't keep the years straight! I found my agent totally by accident - or I like to think of it as a divine accident. I had a women's fiction proposal that had gotten rejected by the editors I'd had appointments with at the ACFW conference. At that point, I knew I needed an agent to try to get to other publishers.

I was reading over a list of agents that Linda Goodnight had provided online and I saw an agency that caught my eye, but I wasn't sure if I should submit my proposal by snail mail or email (it was 50/50 at that time). So I got online and tried to look up the agency to see which they'd prefer, but their site was under construction. 

Then I decided to call and ask how they'd prefer the submission, and GULP - the owner of the agency happened to answer the phone (I guess it was around lunch time or something). When I asked about submitting, she asked what I had. I told her it was women's fiction and explained the storyline. She said "mail me what you have, I think I can sell this for you." What do you know she did exactly that in no time at all. The book, Beaded Hope, was published by Tyndale House Publishers and went on to win ACFW's Carol Award for women's fiction.

What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?
I'd say people! My agent is always super positive -- and honest -- with me. And I have three critique partners who I've known for the past 16 years and are more like friends than just CP's. They are such a HUGE blessing to me and are always there to share the ups and downs of this crazy process. I met them when I first joined RWA and I can't imagine writing or life without them!

What’s the hardest part about writing for you?
Blocking out time and blocking out distractions! Oh, and then there's the writing part itself and getting the story to make sense. :) That's not so easy either.

What does your editor remind you to do most often?
I don't have the same editor. But my critique partners will remind me just to write. To get it down. It doesn't have to be perfect. The writing can be fixed and fixed, again and again.

What type of publicity does your publisher expect you to do in promoting your books?
I'd say Facebook, blogging, Goodreads - and I like to do newsletter and giveaways, those are always fun. Plus, I try to do local book signings.

What did you learn in publishing your first book that helped you in your writing?
That I could actually finish a book. I wasn't sure I could do that. As I mentioned, my first books were with Avalon and their books were around 55,000 to 65,000 words. Again, I learned about Avalon from my critique partners who'd already been published there (Amazon took over Avalon's catalog a few years ago.) So I thought Avalon was a great place to target myself so I could see if I actually could pull off an entire book.

What surprised you the most in writing/publishing your first book?
Again, that I could actually finish it. And I think also how attached you get to your characters. Then, how scary it was to let them go and see what other people thought of them.

What frustrated you the most?
Honestly, I was so thrilled to be getting a book published that I would've put up with any frustration. When that letter and contract came, I remember standing in my kitchen giving a big thanks to God and then squealing down the stairs to my husband's office beyond excited!!

What do you know now about writing that you wished you had known sooner?
For me, every project feels like I'm starting over again. I do think I'm maybe a bit more patient about my first chapters. I suppose I've learned I generally have to flush things out a lot before I get the right start.

What is the best advice you’ve been given about writing or that you’ve learned that you would like to pass along?
The other day a co-worker shared that her son's English teacher said when a person writes it's always best to leave the reader either laughing or crying. I think that's true. When your emotions are invested as either a reader or a writer you draw closer to the story and to the characters and it shows.

Do you have any other works in the process?
Yes, currently, I'm working on another women's fiction and doing some promotion for my new book, The Sisters of Sugarcreek, which just came out this month from Tyndale House Publishers. 

I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to share this story of three women of different generations and cultures (1 Amish, 2 English), and how friendship can always bring a stitch of hope, no matter what we're going through - losses and loves, trials and triumphs! 

Are there any last notes that you would like to add?
In my newest novel, The Sisters of Sugarcreek, the Secret Stitches Society is dedicated to bringing a stitch of hope to others. They sneak around in the night to anonymously drop off gifts that let those who are hurting or in need know someone cares.

“A stitch of hope, Rose would always say, was just the thing that could get a person through...”

That aligns with a campaign that the publishing team at Tyndale House are promoting. 
If you’d like to learn more about the campaign you can check out Tyndale’s site at: I hope others will join in and enjoy Stitching Hope through Random Acts of Kindness.

If you would like to learn more about Cathy's current and future works, here are some links to get you started.


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