Ann Cooper McCauley

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Interview with Kregel Author of Mercy’s Rain, Cindy Sproles

 

Cindy and I go back a few years.  The two of us were roommates at a conference once, and I can tell you, she has a great big, beautiful heart! We share the same agent, Diana Flegal, at Hartline Literary Agency. I am personally thrilled to celebrate the release of Cindy’s debut novel, Mercy’s Rain with you. Her novel, published with Kregel Publications officially released January 27th, 2015.

Many people may know you, Cindy, because you’re in partnership with Eddie Jones at christiandevotions. us and the director of Writers Advance: Bootcamp, but tell us something we might not know about you.

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I am a gal born and raised in the Appalachian Mountains where life is simple, words have a deep southern drawl and colloquialisms like, “well, slap my knee and call me corn pone” seem to take precedence over proper speech. Apple butter, coal mining, the river, pink sunrises, and golden sunsets help you settle into a porch swing and relax. Family, the love of God, and strong morals are embedded in our life in the East Tennessee Mountains. Teaching writers, spinning fiction tales about life in the mountains, history, and down home ideas find their way into all I do. I also love to seek after the deeper side of Christ and to share the lessons He teaches me in my devotional writing. I also enjoy mentoring and guiding new writers in their journey. I was new once and needed the help.

Cindy and I are giving away a copy of Mercy’s Rain to one blessed person. For a chance to win, please enter a comment concerning this interview and your email address by midnight (CST) February 19,2015.  After a fair and random drawing, I will announce a winner on February 20, 2015. Participation is limited to U. S. residents, eighteen and older.

After a fair and random drawing, the winner of Mercy’s Rain is… Dawn Rogers!

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Many of us have anticipated the debut of Mercy’s Rain: An Appalachian Novel. Truthfully, I know folks are going to want to know if any of this story is autobiographic. How did this story come to you?

I’m different than many writers. I get a title long before I have a story, so I had the title (Where the Rivers Begins) well over a year before I started the novel. Many authors can learn from the way I came to this story, not to discount anything that crosses their path. You’ll understand the title change in a few minutes.

One night I couldn’t sleep and at 3 a.m. I flipped on the television to find one of those hell, fire, and damnation country preachers shouting at me. I couldn’t take that, so I switched channels and there was a documentary about sexual child abuse of children under the age of 7. It broke my heart. There in less than twenty minutes I had my antagonist (only because I thought it would be a different twist to have a pastor as the bad guy) and the protagonist… a child.  The perfect storm was forming. I wanted to aim this story of redemption into the secular market, and I thought since over the last 25 years our television evangelists have chosen to air their indiscretions publically, the secular market would grab hold of this. I didn’t set out in the beginning to beat up preachers, and for the record, there are tons of wonderful pastors and ministers. Our minister is wonderful.

I figured if I could write a story that would strike the reader in the gut and provoke a passion in them to make changes to help little children, then this could be the way to do it.

As for the title change, as the story grew deeper I realized the title needed to reflect the main character. Mercy resented her name since she hadn’t received much mercy throughout her life. My critique group was helpful in helping me hash out the new title and the publisher agreed with me. BTW: Diana Flegal still prefers my original title, Where the River Begins. A critique group is so helpful; I credit them with helping me all along my writing journey to publication.

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Cindy, is the setting for your book a familiar place, a particular area of the mountains?

The places in the story are fictional, but the picture painted of those places is very much home. Places in the foothills of the Smokies. I mention Chattanooga a couple of times in the story, but I only did that to give the reader a sense of familiarity. Most folks have heard of Chattanooga, so in their minds eye, they can draw a clearer picture of the surroundings.

Are there pieces of yourself in your characters, or are they strictly imagined?

Here’s where I start to laugh. I actually added in the acknowledgments a disclaimer of sorts. My agent and editor told me when folks start to ask you if you lived these events then you’ve hit the nail on the head. And that happened. Mercy Roller and her life are purely fictional. Nothing about her life resembles me. I had a wonderful and pretty uneventful childhood. Great parents who loved me dearly. I was never abused, and my daddy was not a preacher. My mom made every effort to teach me and show me how to dabble in all sorts of things. This is how I became a jack-of-all-trades.

I think most writers draw from their life’s pain and joy, but past that, it’s all fictional. Though I will say, I took some of those events of my life and dug into my heart to find the emotion. Who of us hasn’t made mistakes through the years, suffered loss, hurt, or pain? I’m not an angry person at all. Mercy Roller is angry to a fault.

Do you formula outline your stories or write by the seat of your pants? How do you find the balance between these two styles? What is a typical work day like for you?

Oh I’m a by-the-seat-of-my pants writer. And I pay the price for that when I have to write a synopsis and there is no story formed. That’s when my buddies, Eddie and Kevin, and my niece Erin come on the scene. They help me brainstorm through a storyline. The balance? I juggle three jobs. There is no typical workday.  I write in my home office while listening to dulcimer music, autoharp, quiet piano music. I love to listen to the tender songs of faith by Andrew Peterson. I write best, think the clearest, find the best words, when I am somewhat melancholy (NOT DEPRESSED), but quieted down. When I am relaxed, it allows me to dig into my supporting characters and add their emotion, develop their characters. So, I like peaceful music, not sleepy music, but music that makes me take a deep breath, sigh and clear my head. I find out all sorts of things about my story this way. I hope that makes sense. That’s what inspires me.

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Was there a specific time or event in your life when God spoke to you about your future in writing?

No, I can’t say there was any specific event when God spoke to me about my future in writing. But I did speak to Him. I asked Him, “Lord can I be a writer? Let me be a writer who writes the words you place in my heart.” And over the years, God has answered.

Did you wait a long time to be published? If so, what kept you from giving up?

To break into fiction—about eight years. But I expected that. I understood long ago that we can have the passion to be a writer, but we have to refine the skill. We have to write, be rejected, and write some more. We have to learn the craft. And more so, we have to realize writing is not an entitlement. It’s a gift. When we realize that, I think we release our work back into the care of the Father, and then He can work in and through our words.

Oh, I’ve had my share of pity parties, but giving up was never an option. I truly believe that is what sets apart the real writers of the world… there is no giving up. I think of Yoda in Star Wars, “Do or do not. There is no try.” For those of us who truly have the passion to write, there is no try. We simply do. Giving up is not in the game plan.

Do you have favorite authors or genres you like to read?

I enjoy reading Francine Rivers, Gina Holmes, and Ann Tatlock. I love their styles and stories. On the other side – I love Nicholas Sparks and believe it or not, Stephen King. (The man is an amazing writer. Who wouldn’t want to read his work? When you’ve written and sold so many books you can’t keep up – there’s something to learn from reading their work.)

Your readers are hoping you have another novel coming. If so, can you tell us a little about it?

I am actually writing two. One is titled, Coal Black Lies. It’s set in the mountains of Virginia. In the coal mines in the late 1800s, early 1900s. And it addresses the issues of the lies we tell ourselves and how we have to keep lying to cover the first lie. It revolves around seeking truth.

What tips do you have to share that are most valuable to newbie writers, Cindy?

When you go to a conference look at your current writing level. Take classes that will teach you where you are. BUY THE CD’S or MP3s of the entire conference. Take them home for future use. New writers are sometimes drawn to the bigger named authors and many times, those classes may be levels above them. If you purchase the recordings of the conference, it’s money well spent. You have a conference YEAR ROUND in your hands. But you can then focus on your own writing level at the conference. You can learn hands on at the spot you are currently writing. Then work your way up instead of learning in piece mill. Learn early on not to marry your words. There are always better words. And learn to have a teachable spirit and open mind. This way you can learn from those who teach and it sticks.

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Tell us how the editorial process has been for you.

To be edited is a learning process. I didn’t mind my editor on Mercy’s Rain at all. We talked before we began the process, she totally “got” my mountain voice and when she made changes, or suggestions—they were amazing. Remember, I said, never marry your words. There are always better words. So I didn’t mind the editing process. When I got the final polished copy back, I read through it and sobbed. My editor had done such amazing little tweaks. I called her to thank her. I love to learn. And when I edit, I try to teach as I go. I love to uplift and praise the authors I work with, while at the same time, asking them to stretch a bit.

Cindy, thank you for doing this interview, but most of all thanks for being you, a genuine, kind, and compassionate person, filled with integrity and steadfastness.

You’re so welcome Ann. It was a pleasure.

Where can readers find out more about you?

You can find out more about me at:  www.cindysproles.com, and also on Facebook and Pinterest.

Stop by and read the excerpt of Mercy’s Rain at http://cindysproles.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/MercysRainExcerpt.pdf .

Cindy’s conference travel schedule is heavy this year, so maybe you will see her at a conference.

 

Mercy Roller was raised by a twisted father who wore the collar of a Pastor and chose to be Jesus, judge and jury, by his own appointment. Abused, broken, and bitter Mercy lifts the hand that takes the Pastor’s life. In one swift action she becomes what she despises most about the Pastor. Now she seeks redemption. Can the unconditional love of a mountain preacher and his friends, guide Mercy to find peace?

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47 Comments
  • Cindy Sproles on February 5, 2015

    Thank you Ann, for sharing my story about Mercy’s Rain. I’m grateful.
    Cin

  • Lisa Collins on February 5, 2015

    Cindy, I wanted to know how you balanced telling a compelling and inspiring story with the in-your-face horrors of abuse by a trusted individual. The world is full of things that make us shudder and I don’t think writers should shy away from the evils of the world in their storytelling, but sometimes authors go overboard with the gritty details and detract from the original idea of inspiration. How did you reign in the grit in your story? Lisa

    • Cindy Sproles on February 5, 2015

      Thanks Lisa,
      Great question. I didn’t sleep at night?? :) I had to take my mind to places I couldn’t imagine. Think the most horrible things that could be thought. And to mix the trust of a minister with such evil, was conflicting. I truly believe we are in the world not of it as Christians. And above all the hard stuff in this novel I set boundaries. I wrote it toward a secular world. But I wanted the secular world to see the grit without the deep detail. So when I wrote each chapter, I walked away for a day. I had to because it hurt to read those things. Then I came back with eyes “in the world not of it.” I took out the deep detail and searched hard for phrases that implied the horror and I wrote the emotion of Mercy. I think that is what people see, the lines of abuse are simple description but the emotion of being inside Mercy’s head took the reader to places I didn’t have to pen. The imagination is a wonderful thing. And that is the joy of reading. Letting the reader fill in the blanks. I teach writers, to write from the heart. My writing friend and ministry partner, Eddie Jones, once said, “Cin, you write great. But it’s like you’re standing across the room. You’re not part of the piece. You have to put the emotion in so the reader feels you there. It’s like having a scab. You scratch it, and scratch it until it bleeds. That’s when you write the best words. When your heart bleeds.” I try to live my writing by at tidbit of advice. Write with emotion and you don’t need deep, graphic detail. The mind takes over and the reader gets the ride of their lives. – Cin

      • Ann Cooper McCauley on February 5, 2015

        Oh wow. Such a good answer. I am learning from your responses to comments, Cindy. Hope they keep coming. :)

  • Jenny Carlisle on February 5, 2015

    I have the same approach to places and events in my fiction. Our life experiences and emotions can lend realism to our stories, even if we never lived in the same place, or endured exactly the same events. That’s why I love writing fiction. It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure! Great interview, Cindy and Ann.

    • Cindy Sproles on February 5, 2015

      So true Ms. Jenny. I draw from life all the time. But just because I draw from it doesn’t mean it happened to me. The key words are “draw from.” I read Stephen King’s book “On Writing.” He mentioned in the book that folks always asked him how he could write such scary stuff. His response was simple, he wasn’t always scared but if he wanted to be scared what would do it? And he’d delve into his mind and find the little things that frightened him as a child, then amplify them 20 times. Good words. Thanks for reading the article. – Cin

  • Sandra Ardoin on February 5, 2015

    I like both titles, Cindy. Sounds like an amazing book. I love the way the idea came to you.

    • Cindy Sproles on February 5, 2015

      I just did a podcast interview with Alton Gansky. Al remarked that, and I’m paraphrasing here, the skill of a writer comes when you learn to meld the ideas around you together. I’m not sure how many late, late, night television viewers there are, but there’s some pretty earth shaking stuff on. I have since, NOT watched early a.m. hours television unless it’s TVland. :) There are ideas every where we look. It’s just a matter of picking and choosing the the two opposites that draw the reader in. Not to mention…it’s fun. – Thanks for reading the interview.~ Cin

    • Ann Cooper McCauley on February 5, 2015

      I learned from Cindy how the ordinary things we see and hear everyday can be a springboard for inspiration. Thanks, Sandy!

    • Ann Cooper McCauley on February 5, 2015

      Great. I am so glad you left a comment, Tara. :) Thanks. I also know you don’t shy away from hard topics. Perhaps your name will be drawn when the time comes.

    • Ann Cooper McCauley on February 5, 2015

      Me too, Shannon. The Ozarks and Quachitas are just Little Smokies. (slap my knee at the pun) Don’t you agree? Most of my ancestors traveled from where Cindy lives.

    • Cindy Sproles on February 6, 2015

      Baaa hahhahah. You understood! I feel like you’re family. :) – Cin

  • debbie richardson on February 5, 2015

    My “people” are from Appalachia so I like stories set there. This sounds like a good one.

    • Ann Cooper McCauley on February 5, 2015

      There will certainly be a lot of names in the pot this time around. Thanks, Debbie.

    • Cindy Sproles on February 5, 2015

      Come on down. We’d love to share some grits and gravy with you. – Cin

  • Betty Wingfield on February 5, 2015

    I am enamored with the story line just from reading this interview. Can’t wait to read the book. You authors just amaze me with your talent and imaginations. My life would be pretty dull without you. Keep up the good work…

    • Cindy Sproles on February 6, 2015

      Awe. Thanks Betty. It is fiction. And fiction allows us to write anything we want. I want people to read this story and feel the emotion of an abused child. If I placed this story in present day, we’d never have an impact. If I told it as a non-fiction it wouldn’t draw people in. The world is too desensitized. But by having fiction’s space, I can share a story that will hopefully raise awareness and stir compassion. That’s what fiction and imagination can do. Paint a picture that can change a life. Thanks for your sweet words. The story of Mercy Roller is a hard story. But stay with it. You see the peace and redemption at the end. – Cin

    • Ann Cooper McCauley on February 6, 2015

      Thanks Betty! Your name is in the pot. Can’t wait to see who will win Cindy’s book.

  • Dawn on February 6, 2015

    What a great interview Ann! This book sounds like I need to own it! Thank you for introducing us to her!

    • Ann Cooper McCauley on February 6, 2015

      I wish I could give one to every person who has commented. I have the best friends! Thanks, Dawn!

  • Sally Chambers on February 6, 2015

    A wonderful, in depth, and candid interview, Ann and Cindy. Thank you! I read the cover-to cover sample of Mercy’s Rain on Amazon and look forward to reading the entire book. So well written!

    • Cindy Sproles on February 12, 2015

      I hope you enjoy the book Sally. It’s a hard story but one that has to be told.

  • Theresa Jenner Garrido on February 6, 2015

    We need more books like Mercy’s Rain. Real stories instead of fluff for a world desperately in need of substance.

    • Cindy Sproles on February 12, 2015

      I agree. Perhaps we would become less desensitized of the terrible things people do and move to make a change.

  • Elva Cobb Martin on February 6, 2015

    Cindy, what a novel idea! Thanks for sharing your road to publication. It must have been difficult to write about the abuse of a child, especially by a minister, which we hate to think of. Unfortunately, I do have personal knowledge of a “respected” evangelist my husband and I had scheduled to speak at our church years ago starting on a Monday. Imagine my horror to have a call on the Saturday night before and told to watch the 11 O’clock news. There was our evangelist being arrested for child abuse with multiple charges from several churches. I ministered to his wife and his intercessor team the next evening and you have never heard the sobbing sorrow that came from his shocked wife and team for hours. Only the Holy Spirit could bring true comfort. Maybe your book will help bring healing to the sufferers on all sides of abuse and share the mercy available for all who need it. The families of the abuser suffer as greatly as the abused. With porn now available easily and rampant, we know this sort of thing will probably increase. God bless all our law officers, like my son, and others who have to investigate and bring justice. And may God protect all our children is my daily prayer. And may parents and responsible adults be wise as serpents in protecting and detecting.
    I know you love having Diana Flegal as agent. She is quite a lady!
    Elva Cobb Martin, President, ACFW-SC Chapter

    • Ann Cooper McCauley on February 10, 2015

      Elva, thank you so much for leaving a comment. Your story is unfortunate, but sadly many of us have been involved in situations like yours–betrayed by those whom should have been trusted most. Yes, may the Holy Spirit give us great discernment concerning our children.

    • Cindy Sproles on February 12, 2015

      Christians tend to cover their eyes and ears. It’s not real if we close our eyes. But the fact is sin attacks every person. Clergy included.

  • Sandy Kirby Quandt on February 7, 2015

    Ann, thank you so much for interviewing Cindy.
    Cindy, thank you for sharing your writing process with us. There is so much wisdom in what you said, I’m taking notes! Mercy’s Rain sounds like an incredible, must-read. Looking forward to reading it, and the books that follow.

    • Ann Cooper McCauley on February 10, 2015

      You’re welcome, Sandy. My privilege. I hope this book shakes the industry and makes enormous impact.

  • cindy on February 8, 2015

    Thanks Sally. I.m glad you liked it. Be sure to post a review oin Goodreads and Amazon.

  • Terri tiffany on February 16, 2015

    I was at the montrose conference when Cindy announced her book. I also read an excerpt. It sounds fantastic and I’m so happy for her!

  • Jenna Schweigart on February 16, 2015

    I just read the beginning of the book! I don’t know if I can wait until Thursday to see if I win- I may have to order it on Kindle!

    • Ann Cooper McCauley on February 17, 2015

      I hear you. A gripping chapter for sure, but guess what? The next ones–just as gripping.

  • Linda Hatcher on February 17, 2015

    This book would probably be a good history of the coal mining area of Appalachia and there fore be a good read either before or after John Grisham’s new legal novel, “Grey Mountain.” These mountain people have been cheated out of their own natural resources by Big Mining companies. Heartbreaking and powerful setting for a love story. Can’t wait to read “Mercy Rains.”

    • Ann Cooper McCauley on February 17, 2015

      This book will surprise you, Linda. It’s hard and heartbreaking, yet redemptive. More character driven than setting driven. Delves into deep emotions.

  • Betty Wingfield on February 21, 2015

    I started the book last night. Needless to say, NOTHING I had planned to do is getting done today! Oh well….

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