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Monday, October 06, 2008

Spotlight on Cathy Gohlke and I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting today's author in the bookstore where I worked at the time and introducing her to ACFW. Now, she's won a Christy Award for her debut novel and is seeing her 2nd book released. It's exciting to share in the successes of friends.


CATHY GOHLKE'S first novel, "William Henry is a Fine Name," won the Christy Award. She has worked as a school librarian, drama director for adults and young people, and as a director of children's and education ministries. Cathy lives with her husband in Elkton, Maryland.

by Cathy Gohlke
Published by Moody Publishers


As Civil War rends his family and the nation, seventeen-year-old Robert vows to rescue his estranged mother and the girl he loves from behind enemy lines. Unwittingly entangled in a prison escape, left for dead and charged as a spy, Robert must forge his anger and shame into a renewed determination to rescue his family. Confronted by an enemy and a war he no longer understands, Robert finds that the rescue, and its results, may not be up to him.

Buy Your Copy of I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires Today!


1. What gave you the inspiration for this story?

This is a stand-alone sequel to my first novel, William Henry is a Fine Name (which took place in 1859 and dealt with thirteen-year-old Robert's involvement in the Underground Railroad). So, it was natural to ask what became of those characters, of that family, so torn and divided on the issue of slavery, once the Civil War (1861-1865) began.

I've always wondered where God is in the midst of war—a question as relevant today as it was in 1861, and that, along with questions of "who is my neighbor and who is my enemy" are issues with which Robert struggles.

I've also long known a story handed down in my step-mother's family: an aristocratic Confederate lady met and challenged the dreaded Union General Sherman as he burned his way through South Carolina. This ancestor was a feisty lady, and although my story is not the same as the actual occurrence, I certainly received inspiration there.

2. How much of your own experiences influenced your characters? What aspects became traits that are theirs and theirs alone?

Like Robert, I've struggled with questions regarding war and politics—which side is God on? Does He take sides? Am I seeing the big picture—the picture that God sees? What does He know that I don't know and what does God grieve over? How do I respond when the law of the land acts outside of God's law? And most importantly, am I on God's side? Like Robert, I have had to learn to surrender my plans and determinations to the Lord, knowing that He knows—everything—far better than I, and peace exists only when I let His will prevail.

I think I had more in common with Robert in my younger years than I do now. When the story begins Robert sees everything in absolute terms—no shades of gray: He believes that the Union is completely right and that God is fighting on its behalf. He becomes disillusioned when he visits Fort Delaware and finds that Union soldiers are men and boys, with all the faults and failings, the good and bad of regular men. He is astonished when he finds both cruelty and compassion among Confederate soldiers and civilians. Robert struggles with separating the idea of war and the issues fought about with the people living through the chaos and carnage. This is an "education" that continues for Robert throughout the war—on both sides, north and south.

3. If one of your characters were an ice cream flavor, what he/she be and why?

Maybe lime sherbet—with a bite—that goes down smoothly at last. Robert is a natural, but young and na├»ve—a little like the green of lime sherbet—but he has some sharp edges that surprise. In the end he is renewed, somewhat mellowed, and the palate is refreshed.

4. What themes exist in I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires that you hope the reader sees? Are there any themes that weren't overt but developed as the story progressed?

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."--It is what Jesus did for us, and it happens a number of times in different ways in this book. The theme is also very strong that God has a plan and a purpose far greater than what we can see in front of us, and only when we release ourselves and surrender our plans to Him can we find peace and the fulfillment of His love and plan for us. That surrender may be a "growing thing" or the realization for its need may flash upon us suddenly. And finally, the thing that changes us forever—consecration to the Lord—to be forever His and to know we belong to Him. I hope the reader sees these things.

5. What were your most difficult parts to write? Your favorite?

The most difficult part for me to write was Col. Mitchell's recounting of the battle of Gettysburg. The research was heart wrenching. The carnage and mass waste of human life angered and grieved my heart so writing became difficult for a time.

There were many parts I loved writing. One of my favorites was the exchange between young Hezekiah, on the floor, and Robert as Robert lay, hidden, face down between mattress and bed ropes. Hezekiah also helped Robert escape the Home Guard determined to catch him by telling him to hide in a giant coffee pot outside the tinsmith's shop. I'd grown up on a legend that a Civil War soldier had hidden in that 12 foot coffee pot. It was great fun to write it into this story. And, of course, I loved writing the epilogue—which you'll have to read on your own. I dare not give away the ending!

6. When is your next book coming out and what is the story?

I'm researching a new novel with new characters, set in England, America, and France in the years just prior to and including WWI. I spent two weeks researching in England this spring—mainly in war and maritime museums and cemeteries—with a day trip to Calais, France, "getting to know" my characters, their history, falling in love with their story, culture and setting. This is Michael's story, a survivor of Titanic, who is given a life, a hope and a future through the sacrifice of a friend. And it is Annie's story, who struggles with bitter loss of someone dear to her, the challenge to forgive, and to love as Christ loves us. How will they respond to such amazing grace? And when the Great War calls on them to sacrifice, how will they respond?

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Thank you, Cathy, for being in the spotlight with us.

Readers, leave a comment for your chance to win a FREE autographed copy of I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires.

If you wish to comment but don't want to be entered, say so when you post. Make sure you also leave your email address (name at domainname Wouldn't want you to miss out on winning a book. :)

And if you want to make certain you don't miss anything, check the box that says 'email follow-up comments to:' when you leave a comment and they'll be sent to the email address associated with your blogging account. That way you'll be notified of any comments and will know when I announce the winner.

This week, the contest is open to anyone worldwide.

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Carole said...

I am very much drawn to Cathy's book, so thank you for the interview. The title drawn from a phrase in The Battle Hymn of the Republic and a theme of God in the midst of war promise interesting reading. Thank you for the giveaway.

cjarvis [at] bellsouth [dot] net

windycindy said...

Hello! I have visited many of the Civil War battle sites. What a dilemma for a young soldier to deal with! Please enter me in your book drawing. Many thanks.....Cindi

Pamela J said...

What FUN it is to find Cathy here on Tiffany's blog!! We got to meet you, Cathy, in MN during lunch and I just LOVED you from the beginning. I can't WAIT to read the books you have written!

I'm VERY interested to know how Robert in the story works through who his neighbor and who his enemy is. I think this is a real struggle today but the war isn't for slavery or freedom, it is good and evil and who we should be in the Lord.

Wow! So many good questions to struggle through about God, what He thinks, how He feels. I agree, "peace only exists ONLY when I let His will prevail".

Thanks for entering me in your drawing. Thanks.
Pam Williams
cepjwms at yahoo dot com

Cathy Gohlke said...

It is a treat and a blessing to share those "behind the scenes" parts of a book. I so very much appreciate your encouraging comments, Carole, Cindi, and Pam, and hope you'll enjoy "I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires."

Blessings on your day and ministries!

Cathy Gohlke

Cherie J said...

What a fascinating story plot. Would love to be entered in the drawing.

Tiffany Amber Stockton said...

We have a winner from this drawing and that is:


Congratulations! I've sent your mailing information to Cathy so she can send out your book.

Others, check out the interviews on Linda Goodnight, Camy Tang, A.K. Arenz, Siri Mitchell and Leeanna Ellis to see if you've won.

As always, thanks to everyone for your continued support.

Pamela J said...

Thanks, Tiff AND Cathy! I'm SO EXCITED to get to read Cathy's book, and more so since we got to actually meet! I'm looking forward to it.