Meet Award-winning Author Cathy Gohlke
I'm thrilled to welcome, Christy-award winning author, Cathy Gohlke to my blog. Her books are powerful, inspirational, and fascinating works of fiction. Draw up a chair and learn more about the story behind the story of her newest book, releasing this month.
1. What inspired you to write Until We Find Home?
Cathy: Alarmed by the plight of young refugees fleeing gangs in Mexico to cross United States borders, and heart heavy for victims and refugees worldwide who’ve suffered and continue to suffer under oppressive regimes, I looked for a moment in history to tell their tale as I wish it could play out. I didn’t have to look far.
The Kindertransport of 1938-1940, brought 10,000 predominantly Jewish children to Great Britain for refuge from Nazi oppression. Accounts abound of men and women who rescued children through resistance, often at great cost to themselves—even life itself. But what happened next? What happened when those children entered countries of refuge? I wondered about the average person and what role they might have played once the children were out of immediate danger. . . and what role we might play in the world’s need today.
2. The novel is set during WWII in England’s Lake District—not a location we typically think of in relation to the war. What is unique to this location and why did you choose to set your novel there?
Cathy: England’s magnificent Lake District—breathtakingly beautiful and pristine—might seem an unlikely place to portray wartime life on the homefront. In reality, the area portrayed just what might happen to an unsuspecting English village—a location that seemed safe and far from the maddening war. Because of its apparent safety, the Sunderland Flying Boat Factory built an entire village—Calgarth—there to house its employees and manufacture its flying boats for the war effort.
After the war, those empty buildings set amid the peaceful and beautiful Lake District became temporary homes for the Windermere Boys—over 300 children who had barely survived Nazi concentration camps in Europe and who were in desperate need of rest and restoration. Nearby Grizedale Hall became one of the first prisoner of war camps for German prisoners—particularly naval officers. In Keswick, a nondescript pencil factory that had supplied the nations pencils for years, secretly created spy pencils during the war—pencils with hollow barrels in which tightly rolled maps were hidden to aid British aviators shot down over enemy territory. In its eraser was a compass.
3. Can you tell us about the historical research that went into writing this novel? Did you learn anything new that surprised you?
In 2014 I traveled to England and Scotland with my friend and writing colleague, Carrie Turansky, For me, we travelled to Windermere and the Lake District to research Beatrix Potter and her renown Hill Top Farm, the poetry and world of Wordsworth, and to learn just what happened to refugees and evacuees in the District during WWII.where we both did research for our book projects.
That was the travel portion of my research. Internet investigations and the reading of books, old and new, continued for months. Included in those books were wartime diaries, especially those compiled from Britain’s Mass Observation Project, day by day histories of the war waged against Britain, journals and letters from Beatrix Potter Heelis, journals, letters and biographies of C. S. Lewis, the books and notes of C. S. Lewis, the history of Glencoe, biographies and history of Sylvia Beach and details of Shakespeare and Company, the American bookstore in Paris, studies of Europe’s child refugees housed in Britain, and so much more. Perhaps the most fun was found in rereading childhood classics.
4. Is there one character whose experience you especially identify with or one whose story grew out of lessons you leaned in your own life?
Cathy: I must give two here:
a. Claire’s ability to view life and relate through stories she’s loved and read is one that’s long been my own. Her desire to be loved and belong, and her journey to knowing she is loved by our Lord—that only He can calm our restless spirits and give peace to our souls—is my own.b. Miranda’s journey through grief and illness, and the desire the Lord creates and leads her to—to live with His grace—is reflective of my own journey through those dark valleys.
5. A major historical focus of the novel is the European Jewish children who were given refuge in Britain. What led you to focus on this specific aspect of WWII?
Children everywhere hold a special place in my heart. They are the most vulnerable, the least prepared physically or experientially to face war and the deprivation of home and family. Jewish children in WWII Europe had absolutely no recourse or help when there parents were taken away. The state did not support or help them. It was up to compassionate individuals and citizen organized networks to step up to the plate, to help and protect those in need. In many cases the people of Britain did that—by taking in their own evacuees and by taking in children from overseas. Modest governmental financial assistance was available, though not everyone took advantage of that. Sadly, not all children were treated well, but all adults had the opportunity to do something generous, something naturally heroic for those children.
I very much wanted to show that while it can be difficult to peel back the reserves, the grief and fears and heartaches in our own adult lives in order to reach outward and embrace those in need, it is possible. Not only is the journey possible, but it is blessed . . . blessed as we sacrifice, and blessed as we embrace a different life and a new family. Stepping out of our comfort zones, shedding the shackles of all we’ve come to believe we need and must preserve, means simultaneously stepping into a freedom we didn’t know existed.
6. What did you learn through writing this novel, and what do you hope your readers will take away?
Cathy: I’ve learned in life and more fully in the writing of this story that letting go of fear, surrendering insecurity—which torments—to the Lord, is the path to freedom. I’ve learned, just as the Scripture says, that “perfect love casts out fear.” I hope recognition of the need to surrender, to let go of fear and to embrace the joy and freedom found in Christ is what readers take away. I hope we all walk boldly into the future, whatever that future may call us to sacrifice or to embrace
7. What is your next project?
Cathy: I’m currently writing a WWII novel that begins in Warsaw, Poland—such a different wartime experience than that of any other occupied country. This story was inspired by two courageous people, some real life events discovered through multiple research and news sources, and a Facebook message from a friend, all on separate occasions. It was as if the story was given to me piece by piece. From the very beginning it was a story I’ve felt compelled to write. It’s working title is The Medallion, and will release in 2019.
Cathy will be giving away a copy to one lucky winner who comments about today's post.