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Kathryn Cushman Interview

by C.J. Darlington

"All my life I'd planned to write a novel 'someday'. When my husband's Uncle Charlie was diagnosed with incurable cancer, it suddenly occurred to me that I might not have as many 'somedays' as I thought." -- Kathryn Cushman

Kathryn Cushman is a graduate of Samford University with a degree in pharmacy. After practicing as a pharmacist, she left her career to marry and begin a family and has since pursued her dream of writing. A Promise to Remember is her first novel. Kathryn and her family currently live in Santa Barbara, California.

C.J. Writing a novel was something you wanted to do when you were young, but it took many years before you put pen to paper. Tell us a little about what inspired you to start writing.

Kathryn: All my life I’d planned to write a novel “someday.” When my husband’s Uncle Charlie was diagnosed with incurable cancer, it suddenly occurred to me that I might not have as many “somedays” as I’d thought. I began to pray about it. Then my mother and I were talking on the phone one day, and just out of the blue she said, “Remember how you used to say you wanted to write a novel someday? Have you thought about that lately?” It had been fifteen years since we’d had any such conversation, so I considered the timing more than a coincidence. And my youngest daughter was about to start kindergarten, so the timing was good in that regard as well.

On your Web site you say, “I am a wife, soccer mom, avid reader, part southerner/part California girl, and former drug dealer.” Please expound!

I’ve been married to Lee for almost twenty years. We lived in four different states the first year we were married, but we’ve been settled in Santa Barbara for about fifteen years. We have two terrific daughters ages fourteen and nine, and they keep me constantly on the run. I love the weather and laid-back lifestyle of California—but a big part of me will always be a southerner. I love the hospitality, the friendliness, and the fried food! I’ve been retired from the world of pharmacy for about eleven years.

What’s something you wish the average person knew about being a pharmacist?

Most people see that person behind the counter and think there’s nothing to it. Pour some pills out of a bottle, count them, and put them in a container with a label. What they don’t know is that the pharmacist is the last line of defense against serious drug interactions, incorrect dosing, and other serious problems. There is a huge amount of responsibility that comes with the position. It used to keep me awake at night.

Ever had any unusual or embarrassing experiences during those drug dealer days that are just dying to be put into a novel?

Most of the really interesting stories are R-rated at best. It’s amazing the kinds of things people will tell their pharmacist! I’d say, a little too much information.

You actually wrote two romantic suspense novels before A Promise to Remember was picked up by Bethany House, right? Why did you decide to switch to women’s fiction?

I was at Mount Hermon in 2005, and a couple of editors wanted me to send them my romantic suspense novel with some fairly major changes. Sometime during that week the premise for A Promise to Remember really jelled in my mind. I made the changes in the romantic suspense and sent it off as fast as I could so that I could start writing this new story that just wouldn’t go away. During the process of writing Promise I felt like I had finally found the thing I wanted to be doing. Everything just sort of clicked.

A Promise to RememberTell us about the storyline in A Promise to Remember.

It’s the story of two mothers from opposite sides of the tracks who have lost their teenage sons in a head-on collision. The resulting wrongful death lawsuit forces everyone around them to take sides. Both are great mothers, both have the best of intentions. This book tells both sides of the story.

What was the hardest part about writing this book?

Since I wrote from both mothers’ points of view, I would often be mad at the character I was writing about at the time. I would have to spend a few minutes reminding myself why this mom was “in the right.” Then when I switched scenes, I’d have to do it all over again.

Did you come to this story with a message or theme in mind or did you start with the characters and work the plot around them?

I knew the ending, so I knew the basic theme of the story, but I didn’t come at it with “I’ve got this message, what kind of story would get it across?”

Are you the type of writer who has to know every detail of your plot before you start, or do you tend to “wing it”?

I wish I could plan more, because I tend to write myself into corners. I spend time with my major characters before I start writing, and I use index cards for scene ideas—these are constantly growing, moving around, and getting ripped up.

What authors or books have had the most influence on you as a writer?

It’s funny, because until about a year ago, I was a true bookstore browser. I rarely even looked at the author name when I shopped. When Promise started making the rounds, a couple of people commented that it reminded them of a Jodi Picoult novel. I’d never read her stuff, so I bought My Sister’s Keeper. It blew me away! I thought, “Now, that’s the kind of novel I want to write.” Now I’ve read several Picoult novels, and they are a huge influence.

What would you love to write someday but haven’t yet?

I have vague ideas about future projects, but I really don’t think seriously beyond the current work in progress.

Do you ever find it challenging to sit at your keyboard? What do you do when the words don’t seem to come?

The correct answer—one that is occasionally true—is that I push through it and write anyway. The answer that is more often true is that I play Spider Solitaire and eat chocolate.

Where is your favorite place to write?

For first drafts, I like to take my AlphaSmart to the beach and pound away at the keyboard. Once I get into rewriting and editing, I write at home about three-quarters of the time, and the library or my favorite coffee shop the rest of the time.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started writing?

Get into a great critique group and be willing to learn and make changes from their input. (I find that chocolate helps a lot.)

What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?

I’m a junk food junkie. I’m completely lacking in all domestic skills.

When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?

Hanging with my family, reading, sitting on a beach, attending women’s Bible study at my church, and movies.

What did you eat for breakfast this morning?

A toasted ham and cheese on wheat (and to be perfectly honest, a few potato chips too).

Three things always found in your refrigerator:

Arnold Palmers (½ iced tea, ½ lemonade), cheese, apple jelly.

You’re next in line at Starbucks. What are you ordering?

A fat-free decaf latté, UNLESS—it’s during the holiday season. Then it is a full-fat pumpkin pie latté. Mmm.

What’s left unchecked in your “goals for life” list?

Most of my “to do” list now involves raising my daughters to the best of my ability.

When was the last time you cried?

This is the thing that most annoys me about myself. I cry ALL THE TIME. Just a serious conversation—not sad, just serious—and I tear up. It is embarrassing!

Three words that best describe you:

Goofy. Klutzy. Blessed.

What’s currently in your CD player/iPod?

Casting Crowns, Jeremy Camp, Harry Connick, Jr.

Anything else you’d like to share with TitleTrakk.com readers?

If there is something you love to do, then do it. Don’t wait for “someday”; make the time today.

C.J. DarlingtonC.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.