Thursday, November 3, 2022

Talkshow Thursday: Chatting with Crystal Caudill

Talkshow Thursday: Chatting with Crystal Caudill

LM: Thanks for joining me today. Congratulations on your upcoming release Counterfeit Hope. (Hidden Hearts of the Gilded Age, Book 2) What was your inspiration for the story, and did you set out to write a series?

Crystal: If it is okay, I’m going to flip the order of those questions. My brain tends to think of stories in sets of three, so yes, I’ve always intended this to be a series. As far as the inspiration for Counterfeit Hope, there are two things that lead to this story. First, it started with a scene that just appeared in my head of an undercover operative being forced into a marriage with a criminal. It wasn’t until I discovered a bit of counterfeiting research about a gang that had taken over part of Indiana that everything really came together. There are lots of little details in my story that are nods to the real case that inspired the full plot of Counterfeit Hope.

LM: What sort of research did you do for the book, and was there a particularly intriguing piece of information you knew had to be included?

Crystal: I’m a total research nerd. I spent a lot of time reading newspapers from that time frame with a focus on articles related to counterfeiting. That’s how I discovered the story about a Secret Service operative who went undercover as a traveling nostrum doctor in order to infiltrate and arrest the Houchin gang in Pike County, Indiana in 1883. It really formed the basis for the story, even though I didn’t follow that exactly. But I HAD to keep that Andrew Darlington passed himself off as a traveling nostrum, and like Andrew’s medicine did actually have some success, so did the original operative’s.

LM: How did writing the second book differ from the first? How was it the same?

Crystal: I really learned how to write with my first book, Counterfeit Love. It was a slow, laborious process that took years. When it came to book two, I didn’t have that luxury. I tried my hand at plotting to see if that could speed things up, but I discovered that really detailed plotting just doesn’t work for me. I get to about the ¼ to 1/3 mark and my characters crumple that plot in their hands, laugh in my face, and then toss it in the fire before running off to do what THEY think the story should be. And they’re usually right. So while there was still quite a bit of pantsing going on, I did have a general idea of the story and wrote this book a lot quicker than the first—which is a good thing since I was on deadline.

LM: Tell us about your road to publication.

Crystal: I want to start off by saying, no one’s road is the same because God has a unique plan for each
Pixabay/Larisa Koshkina
of us. That being said, I never wanted to be a published author. I loved writing stories for myself, but I had no desire to send my book babies into the world. But as is usually the case, God had other plans. I’ve always loved to learn and improve myself, and my husband sent me to a local writing conference for a major birthday. It was there that God made it abundantly clear (quite forcefully I might add) that I was to pursue this publishing journey. 

He did this first through Ralene Burke introducing me to this organization called American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). Then Ralene introduced me to Gregg Bridgeman who very bluntly indicated that God had given me this gift of writing for a reason. I’m stubborn, so I just nodded and ran away as quickly as possible. Then God managed to cancel all but one of the writing craft classes I wanted to attend and forced me to attend two or three different publishing classes. I left there knowing what God was calling me to do, but I fought Him for six months before joining ACFW to begin the journey. If I was going to do this, I was going to do it right—through a ton of education before I ever submitted to anyone. 

I spent the next four or five years learning from lots of great teachers and authors. I won’t bore you with all the details, but when I felt God pushing me to take the next step and submit to an agent, I met with two agents at an ACFW Conference. Instead of pitching my book, I asked them questions to determine if we’d be a good fit, and then did a rushed pitch in the last two minutes. They both requested me to submit to them (which I think was them just being nice), and I decided I would only do one at a time. I was blessed in that the first agent, Tamela Hancock Murray, signed me on. We submitted Counterfeit Love to lots of places. Most were quick rejections, and then it was dead silence for a year. When we finally decided to shelve it and I started working on another project, that’s when I got the call from her that Kregel wanted my book. It’s been a whirlwind ever since.

LM: What is it about this era that draws you?

Crystal: The Gilded Age is so multilayered and rich with history. When most people think Gilded Age, they think of the uber-rich like the Astors and the “Four Hundred.” However, it was much more than that, and rife with political upheaval, social change, labor riots, gigantic leaps in technology, and so much more. I just love the complexity of it all and showing the underbelly of that gilded world. The term Gilded Age actually came as a sarcastic remark from Mark Twain in his novel by the same name, and was reflective of the United States at that time. It looked all glittery and fine from the outside, but if you scratched beneath the surface, you’d find greed and corruption. It’s the perfect playground for setting novels.

LM: You’ve accomplished quite a lot. What is one thing you wish you could do?

Crystal: Honestly, learn to balance and find rest. I’m also a caregiver so I feel like every moment of my day is either taken up with writing or figuring out the nuances of our new normal—which changes without warning frequently. It’s a wearying pace, and I am working on creating rest in my life, so that I can live for the glory of God the best way I can. Writing-wise? I’d love to make writing a career and continuously improve with each book.

LM: What is your advice to fledgling writers?

Crystal: Learn the craft and don’t be too eager to just get your book out there. Writing is a journey, one that takes a lot of time, looks different for each person, and is meant to draw you ever nearer to God. Be patient. Study. Study. Study. Write. Write. Write. Take classes from those who have successfully gone before you, and don’t submit anything to anyone until you think you have reached the best you can be on your own. You never stop growing, but there does come a point where you need the influence and help of those around you to grow beyond what you ever imagined you’d be. Also, and definitely the most important, never stop seeking God through this process. This is a knock-out beat-you-down industry. You need to be able to lean into God on those hard days and even the good ones.

LM: What is your next project?

Crystal: I’ve actually got two books already written with Kregel and going through the editing process. Counterfeit Faith, book 3, will release in 2024, and a yet unnamed novella in the We Three Kings Christmas collection will release fall 2023. Currently, I’m brainstorming a new series to pitch to Kregel later this month that has some cross-over characters from Counterfeit Love but deals with three women finding their place in a man’s world amidst lots of danger and art. For now, I’m calling the series The Art of Love and Danger.

LM: Where can folks find you on the web?

Crystal: If you want the inside information on my life, publishing, Secret Service trivia, and even a free Hidden Hearts of the Gilded Age novella called Counterfeit Truth, you can sign up for my newsletter at Everything else is listed below for easy reference.

Website: (Author & Character interviews, book reviews, and monthly book challenge with prizes)
Newsletter: (Free novella, see above)
Facebook Group: (This is where I hang on a day-to-day basis.)

About Counterfeit Hope

Trapped by their pasts, is there hope for a future?

When Secret Service operative Andrew Darlington is brought in to support a US Marshal case involving counterfeiters in rural Indiana, he thinks it's simply the next rung on his climb to the top of his career. But liars can only climb so high--and Andrew is keeping a dangerous secret he doesn't ever want to get out. When he clashes with the criminal family that took over the town of Landkreis and killed the Marshal he was sent to assist, his past life is in danger of being exposed.

Widow "Lightning Lu" Thorne has only one goal: escape the clutches of the Thorne family with her son. Her decision to be an informant and testify against the Thornes looked like the perfect answer. Until the Marshal ended up dead. Now the tether keeping her tied to her felonious family is tightening, and a forced marriage to someone else in the Thornes' clutches threatens to kill any hope of escape.

Andrew and Lu find themselves on the same team--unwillingly. They each believe the other to be the enemy of their future plans. And even if they could learn to work together, the secrets they hold could shatter all hopes and dreams. Despite the encouragement of the local preacher, they're not even sure God can be trusted--much less other humans. Can either of them escape their past--and the family that is willing to kill their own when they smell betrayal?

Pre-Order Link: Coming February 2023

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