I’m excited to welcome my friend, Cindy Ervin Huff, as my first author interviewee. Her debut novel, Secrets and Charades, will release in March 2017. Can’t wait for readers to get to enjoy your historical romance as much as I did, Cindy.
Here’s a sneak preview of Secrets & Charades’ plot:
Jake Marcum’s busy ranch leaves him no time for courting, and his wounded heart has no place for love. Battlefield nightmares add to his burden, but his tomboy niece, Juliet, needs taming, and a mail-order bride seems the logical solution. When an inheritance threatens to reveal a long-buried secret, Dr. Evangeline Olson abandons her medical practice and 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, they are faced with cattle rustling and kidnapping. Will they be able to put aside their differences and work together to save the ranch and their fragile relationship?
Now, back to Cindy: How did you decide to take up writing?
I worked at writing for many years, though there was a season when I gave up. Then on a mission trip, God said it was time to pick up my writing again. “If you want me to start writing,” I said, “I want to take a writing course to sharpen my skills. If you really want me to write, I need ($$) to take this online course.” I had just enough doubt in myself that I needed definite confirmation.
Within a month of the mission trip, I received a letter from a law firm about a class action suit against a company who had run credit reports and targeted specific people. I was one of them and agreed to put my name in the lawsuit. Well, you can guess the outcome. I received the money I needed to take the course.
The Lord does provide, doesn’t he? So, Cindy, what sparked the idea for Secrets and Charades?
It came about the same time. I not only have a serious reading addiction, I also have some near-and-dear people who struggle with serious emotional baggage due to their past.
My heroine, Evangeline, appeared to me in a mid-1800’s dress. As a doctor, this intelligent woman struggled with a society that felt women were a bit feeble-minded and helpless. She also had a dark secret from her past and problems in her present. I suggested she go west as a mail-order bride. She was appalled. But, of course, I am the master of her fate and brought in a few other surprises that gave her little choice.
Jake is a great guy who had his hands full with a tomboy niece to raise, and a large ranch with a too-small crew. His only experience with women left him feeling betrayed, and he had no idea how to make a successful marriage, especially with an educated wife. Other characters added stress and drama to their fragile relationship along with mystery, intrigue and some I-did-not-see-that-coming moments.
Ten years ago, I wrote the rough draft in five months. I edited it over the next year, and promptly got rejections. I had no idea that if publishers request the proposal or even the whole manuscript, they could reject it. Some publishers gave me edits. Those were precious even though it meant a lot of rewrites and deleting. I discovered I had a lot more to learn about the craft of writing a novel.
After 20 rejections I almost trashed the manuscript. Then I won the 2014 Editor’s Choice Award at Write-to-Publish. My novel and I then went on an editing journey through Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. I knew that even after receiving the award, I might not get published through LPC, but God is good, and they offered me a contract.
I got “the call” by e-mail. How did I feel? Grateful, surprised, and stunned that my ten-year journey was nearing the finish line.
And what surprised you the most during this year of preparation to launch your novel?
This year of preparation has been daunting. I have a great editors working with me, Andrea Merrel and Kathy Davis who is acquisitions editor for Smitten, the new romance line for LPC.
Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas gives their authors lots of training and encouragement to help them succeed. I had so much to learn. I’m still trying to get my head around the best time to accomplish various tasks.
What’s it like as you continue to prepare–challenges and solutions?
I am a deadline person, so I asked writer Erin Curtis to help me meet my personal deadlines. A recent graduate from Taylor University, she made me her beta test to see how well she can help me launch my book. She not only has a heart to launch debut writers and become a mentor, but is young and willing to do what it takes. I am grateful God brought us together in our critique group and has kept us in contact for such a time as this.
And what do you count as the best thing that’s happened during your preparations?
I was so blessed by the seven people willing to endorse my novel. Sometimes getting one is tough. I’m still looking for more launch team members. My “Stage Crew” consists of four people so far. So I seek the advice of my more experienced author friends for the how-to. Those friendships are golden and their insights will make this new phase of my life successful.
While I wait for Secrets and Charades to release, I am working on a sequel, and my agent, Cyle Young from Hartline Literary Agency, is sending out proposals for New Duet, a contemporary romance. I realize if I wait for fear my first book doesn’t sell well, I’ll miss opportunities. Fear and doubt are a writer’s worst enemies.
Any advice to aspiring novelists?
If I could share one piece of advice with aspiring writers, it would be “network.”
- Get to know other writers. If you don’t know any, go to conferences to meet them.
- Join a writer’s group with members who are serious about getting published.
- Have a presence on social media long before you’ve written the rough draft of your first novel. There you establish friendships and future fans who will want to buy your book because they know you.
- Pay it forward by promoting other authors on your social media. Do book reviews.
- Before your book comes out, people should know you from the way you’ve helped others.
- Your social media presence should be easy to find if someone googled your name. Don’t wait until you have a contract. Those face-to-face and social media contacts are a catalyst to book sales.
Thank you so much for sharing your writing journey, Cindy, and for that great advice. All God’s best to you in your new life as a romance novelist.
Here’s more about Cindy:
Cindy Ervin Huff is a multi-published writer and 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 in The Christian Communicator, Suburban Dog, ChristianDevotions.us, and Splickety Lightning Blog. Cindy is President of the Aurora, Illinois, chapter of Word Weavers where she and her husband make their home.