ABOUT THE AUTHORS
EILEEN KEY taught school for thirty years and survived! Now she's launched a new season in life, writing and editing. What an exciting ride. Her three grown children live nearby, as do those amazing grandchildren. Nana Eileen, yep, a great moniker, if she does say so herself.
BECKY MELBY has been married to Bill, her high school sweetheart, for 38 years. They have four married sons and eleven fabulous grandchildren. Becky has co-authored nine books for Heartsong Presents and two Barbour Publishing novellas. Becky is currently working on a contemporary fiction series with a historical thread for Barbour. To find out more about Becky or her books, visit her at beckymelby.blogspot.com or www.melby-wienke.com.
RACHAEL PHILLIPS a church music director, began her unplanned writing career when the church secretary demanded newsletter articles at gunpoint. The pastors hated this task, but she loved writing humor based on Christian music and the Bible. Soon she began to write a column for her local newspaper and take writing classes in the adult program at Bethel College, Mishawaka, IN. There she made connections that resulted in her first biography in Barbour’s Heroes of the Faith series, Frederick Douglass. Since then, she has written three other Barbour biographies (Billy Sunday, Saint Augustine, and Well with My Soul (four hymn writers), as well as more than 400 articles, newspaper columns, devotions, and stories for newspapers, magazines such as Today’s Christian Woman, as well as Pearl Girls, Guideposts, and other collections. She also has co-authored a Barbour reference guide Women of the Bible with Carol Smith and Ellyn Sanna that will release in February 2011. Her awards include the Erma Bombeck Global Award and the Genesis award for Young Adult Fiction.
Ride with Me into Christmas, Rachael’s novella in A Door County Christmas collection, is her first published fiction. She and Steve, her high school sweetheart and husband of thirty-five years, did extensive research on their tandem bicycle for this story. They have not crashed—so far. They have three grown children and four-going-on-five perfect grandchildren. Rachael loves to visit with her reader friends on-line at www.rachaelwrites.com, http://doorcountychristmas.blogspot.com/, www.facebook.com/pages/Rachael-M-Phillips-Author, and http://twitter.com/rachaelmphillip.
CYNTHIA RUCHTI writes and produces The Heartbeat of the Home radio broadcast and writes stories of Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark. Her debut novel--THEY ALMOST ALWAYS COME HOME--released May 1 from Abingdon Press. She currently serves as president of American Christian Fiction Writers and writes monthly columns for ACFW's Afictionado magazine, Wisconsin Christian News, and devotionals for The Christian Pulse. She lives in the northwoods of Wisconsin with her plot-tweaking husband, Bill, not far from their three kids and five huggable grandchildren. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, www.cynthiaruchti.com or www.hopethatglowsinthedark.com.
A DOOR COUNTY CHRISTMAS (Romancing America)
by Eileen Key, Becky Melby, Rachael Phillips, and Cynthia Ruchti
Published by Barbour
ABOUT THE BOOK
A DOOR COUNTY CHRISTMAS (Barbour Publishing) is a novella collection of stories by Becky Melby, Eileen Key, Rachael Phillips, and Cynthia Ruchti. We collaborated in the best sense of the word to create stories that were unique but shared a handful of common characters and a deep appreciation for the string of villages that dot the western coast of the thumb of Wisconsin’s mitten.
Here’s a glimpse at each of the stories in A DOOR COUNTY CHRISTMAS:
The Heart’s Harbor by Cynthia Ruchti
Amanda Brooks retreats to picturesque Egg Harbor in Door County, Wisconsin, to escape an empty holiday season in her Chicago apartment. Peace on earth is what she needs but instead finds herself in charge of the legendary Christmas Tea at the Heart’s Harbor Victorian Inn. Dealing with its quirky guests, bare-bones budget, antisocial puppy, matchmaking owner, and her match-resistant son, Jordan, deepens her doubts that Christmas and love have anything in common.
Ride with Me into Christmas by Rachael Phillips
An offbeat innkeeper offers Joanna Flick a Christmas cactus, promising the flowerless plant–and hop–will bloom. A recent widow, Joanna can’t believe it. But new neighbor Paul Sorensen, a fifty-something flannel-shirt fanatic with a bad haircut, shares Joanna’s passion for bicycling through gorgeous landscapes and faith in the One who created them. Will love flower this bleak winter, or will their Grinch-y grown children nip romance in the bud?
My Heart Still Beats by Eileen Key
Hired by two octogenarians to escort them on their last visit to their bayside cottage in Ephraim, Wisconsin, Madison Tanner literally “runs into” Realtor Grant Sterling. Grant is intent on selling the cottage before Christmas, but every prospective buyer finds a new problem with the property, prompting Grant to suspect Madison is guilty of sabotage. Each new setback pushes Grant further from his goal and closer to the hazel-eyed chauffeur.
Christmas Crazy by Becky Melby
Jillian Galloway sacrifices her fall colors vacation in Sister Bay to help Uncle Buster, owner of Doorbuster’s Comedy Theater, salvage his business in time for the Christmas crowd. With a hole in the roof, no chef, and only two oddball actors, Jillian’s eternal optimism is put to the test. Enter Ricky Jimmy, a mysteriously handsome Brazilian with an offer to help. Should she listen to the rumors of Ricky’s suspicious clandestine behavior or trust those dark Latin eyes?
Readers, buy your copy of A Door County Christmas (Romancing America) today!
1. This is a novella collection with 3 other authors. What gave you the inspiration for this story?
Eileen: Some of my story focuses on an older couple who've been happily married for over sixty years. I believe KNOWING some of those kinds of octogenarians spurred the idea.
Becky: Living in Wisconsin, I manage to get to Door County at least once a year. One of the things my family and I love is attending American Folklore Theater productions—live comedy theater under the stars in Peninsula State Park. That was the idea sparker for my main setting—Doorbuster’s Comedy Theater. To add conflict, I put the theater in crisis with no money, a leaking roof, a little betrayal, and threw in some suspicion for good measure. Onto the stage of this conflict steps the owner’s niece, Jillian. She wants to rescue Uncle Buster from bankruptcy, but she’s been told that Ricky Jimenez, the hunky Brazilian who offers to help, is not who he says he is. Once I had the conflict established in my mind, the rest was fun!
Rachael: Many romance novels often involve young love with parental opposition. I asked myself, what if I wrote about the blossoming of a new relationship between mature characters who had lost their beloved spouses? Instead of resistance from parents, they experience their grown children’s disapproval. Cute, inquisitive grandchildren add to the complications (my four definitely provided the inspiration for these scenes :)).
Cynthia: Door County is one of the most inspiring settings for any kind of story, but especially romance. It is the perfect mix of rustic, rugged Creation (with its rocky cliffs and shorelines, its expanse of Lake Michigan/Green Bay waters, cedar forests, apple and cherry orchards), refined beauty created by artists, potters, jewelers, and quaint gift shops. I've spent so many hours hiking the trails through the woods, sitting along the shore, and exploring the shops and backroads of Door County. My story in A DOOR COUNTY CHRISTMAS--The Heart's Harbor--was inspired by a "practice" unpublished novella I wrote years ago. I envisioned a young woman escaping to Door County to let her heart heal from a heart-wrenching betrayal. This new version dropped the melodrama, kept the drama, and capitalized on how a story can be both heart-tugging and fun.
2. How much of your own experiences influenced your characters? What aspects became traits that were theirs and theirs alone?
Eileen: Independence. Maddy stepped out on her own and is an "unfamiliar" land. I've been out of the box more than once! Exhilarating experience when God is leading.
Becky: My love of Door County became Jillian’s, and I borrowed a few traits from family members to create her. One of my daughters-in-law has her Masters degree in advertising. The teamwork and creative process involved in developing ads fascinates me and it was a perfect fit for Jillian. My oldest son’s wife is truly “Christmas crazy.” By July, her gifts are bought and wrapped and she’s scouting out the perfect presents for the following year! Jillian is a take-charge woman…something I’m definitely not. At the very least, her glass is half-full while I struggle to keep looking on the bright side. I’m not nearly as put-together as Jillian, but we do share a love of wearing black and red. I guess in many ways she’s the me I’d love to be.
Rachael: Unlike Joanna and Paul in my story, I have never lost a spouse. But, like them, my husband Steve and I are avid bicyclists. My characters’ first attempt to ride a tandem, a bicycle built for two, resembles our initial efforts. (At least, Steve and I had 30 years of mostly happy marriage to keep us riding together, even if we almost took out our neighbors’ trash cans.)
Cynthia: In The Heart's Harbor, very little about the characters and their unique experiences mimics events or people from my own life. Imagination took over on this one. Or so I thought. But as I think about how the story turned out, it catches me by surprise that some of the lessons learned, some of the discomfort expressed, some of the quirkiness in the characters seems very familiar to me. Amanda exhibited more courage than she dreamed she had. Jordan endeared himself to me, so I hope he does to my readers, too. Lola and Harland threatened to move in with me!
3. If your hero/heroine were an ice cream flavor, what would he/she be and why?
Eileen: Texas based BlueBell-Cake and ice cream: A creamy vanilla ice cream with chocolate sprinkles, chocolate-coated cake pieces and a swirl of luscious chocolate icing. Who says you can't have it all?!
Becky: Ricky would be Brazilian Passion Fruit—need I say more? Jillian would be my favorite Door County treat—a Door County Sundae from Not Licked Yet in Fish Creek—vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, warm Montmorency cherries, all smothered in whipped cream. She’s sweet, warm, fun, and the fudge and cherries come pretty close to her favorite color scheme.
Rachael: Oooh, that’s a question not only close to my stomach, but to Joanna’s! In Ride with Me into Christmas, she admits to an addiction to Door County Sundaes: “rich creamy [frozen] custard covered with gooey hot fudge and warm, luscious cherries, lost in clouds of whipped cream” (p.109). Paul would affirm that Joanna’s taste in ice cream reflects the fact she is a fascinating, delicious combination of coldness and warmth, tartness and sweetness, impossible to resist!
Cynthia: An ice cream flavor? Hmm. Oh, sorry. I lost my train of thought. Amanda and Jordan are a rich base of Montmorency Cherry frozen custard with threads of caramel and chunks of Dove chocolate. Sorry. Lost my train of thought again. :)
4. Are there any themes in A Door County Christmas that you hope the reader sees? Are there any themes that weren't overt but developed as the story progressed?
Eileen: Forgiveness certainly developed. Maddy and her mother have had an angry exchange. It's Christmas and Maddy misses her mom, but must extend grace before she receives it. That wasn't my main focus...until Maddy said so.
Becky: My theme verse for Christmas Crazy was Romans 12:12—“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Jillian may come off as simply an eternal optimist, but her optimism bubbles out of her deep faith. I hope readers will grasp the truth that God works things out in his own time and that what looks hopeless is really just difficult. . .requiring patience, faith, and perseverance. As Ricky watches Jillian forge ahead in the face of ridiculous obstacles, he gains the courage to let God use him and leave the consequences in His hands. Jillian’s faith challenges Uncle Buster, and I hope readers as well.
Rachael: The primary theme is reflected in a Bible verse I included in my dedication: “Glory to Jesus Christ, who desires ‘to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.’” (Isaiah 61:2-3 NIV) We can go to God and exchange the worst in our lives for beauty, joy, and praise. A second theme, of course, is that love is ageless. Our culture does not support this concept; but where in the Bible does it say romance—or any other adventure—can’t happen after age thirty? As I wrote Ride with Me into Christmas, the interconnectedness of family relationships struck me more with every chapter. Who we are and what we do profoundly affects our loved ones—especially when it comes to our faith.
Cynthia: Redemption is an unavoidable theme in any story with faith at its heart. The Heart's Harbor celebrates the concept of finding a safe harbor in God and in the people He brings across our path. It explores the wonder of listening to Him on matters of the heart. And it touches on the joy-to-the-world of relationships built on serving side-by-side. As the chapters flew by, I discovered an unexpected theme in Jordan's story...but I have to let him tell you about that himself.
5. What were your most difficult parts to write? Your favorite?
Eileen: Snow: I'm a Texan, what do I know about cold weather? I loved visiting Door County and learning how they deal with snow plows, closed churches/schools/shopping: just every day life when there's so much S N O W! Hardy folks, they are.
Becky: I thoroughly enjoy writing both humor and romance. Keeping the tender moments between Ricky and Jillian light, but not too light, was sometimes a challenge. Describing the beauty of fall and winter in Door County was like finger painting—involving all five senses. Of course, the warm-fuzzy-eye-contact-soul-connection moments between my two main characters were so fun to write.
Rachael: The most difficult part, of course, was when the inevitable conflicts arose. I hurt with Joanna—it’s always maddening when presumption and misunderstanding block the path to God’s joy. I also ached for Paul—so hard when the woman he loved and the daughter he adored declared war. On the fun side, the grandchildren in the story, like my own, gave me endless giggles. A preschooler’s view of romance is like no other’s!
Cynthia: This romantic comedy was written in the months between my father-in-law's sudden death and my mother's final inches of her long crawl toward heaven. Hardly the ideal time to focus on funny and young love. But the experience proved again that the Lord's a better writer than I am, when I let Him take over. And He's faithful to meet our every need. Limiting the number of enchanting Door County must-sees presented a challenge in that word count. The scenes with Lola were the most fun to write. She's my new best friend. Amanda's a third sister. I'm thinking about adopting Jordan.
6. When is your next book coming out and what is the story?
Eileen: Forget-me-not from Avalon is a cozy mystery. I don't have a release date yet.
Becky: Pure Serendipity, a Heartsong Presents story, will be out this month. I co-authored a 3-in-1 collection, Minnesota Moonlight, released in July, and sometime next year, another 3-in-1, set in Illinois, will be released. I’m currently working on a contemporary series for Barbour Publishing. The first book, Tomorrow’s Sun, contains a historical thread about the Underground Railroad, and is scheduled to release in the fall of 2011.
Rachael: I’ve co-written a Barbour reference guide called Women in the Bible with Carol Smith and Ellyn Sanna. It releases February 2011. I’ve also just finished a women’s fiction called Kneady Women, in which a lonely fiftyish writer finds fun, food, and fellowship with an offbeat group of bread bakers called the Loafers. I’ll be pitching it at ACFW conference.
Cynthia: I have a little break now...of unknown length. My debut novel--THEY ALMOST ALWAYS COME HOME--released May 1st from Abingdon Press. To have a second book release just four months later is a rush. I'm eager to take off running on two or three other projects that tackle serious subjects but with that ever present Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark.
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Thank you, Eileen, Becky, Rachael, and Cynthia for being in the spotlight with us.
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Question 1: How would you feel if you were drafted into running a Victorian inn. Would it rattle your knees or energize you?
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