It’s always such a treat for me to chat with the fabulous Cynthia Ruchti. She is one of my very favorite people in the world – if you don’t follow her, you are really missing out! Today she’s here to share about her new book, Afraid of the Light!
Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed-in-hope through award winning novels, nonfiction, devotionals, and through speaking events for women and writers. She is the professional relations liaison for ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) connecting authors with booksellers, libraries, bookclubs, and readers. She serves as a literary agent with Books & Such Literary Management, and lives in the heart of Wisconsin with her grade school sweetheart husband, not far from their three children and six grandchildren.
AFRAID OF THE LIGHT
GENRE: Inspirational Contemporary Fiction
RELEASE DATE: June 16, 2020
She helps others manage their desperate lives–but who will help her? Clinical psychologist Camille Brooks isn’t put off by the lifestyle of her hoarding clients. After all, she lost her mother to the crippling anxiety disorder. She’ll go a long way to help others avoid the same pain and loss.
Despite Camille’s expertise, her growing audience for her Let in the Light podcast, and the national recognition she’s gaining for her creative coaching methods, there are some things she isn’t prepared for. A client who looks far too much like her mom catches her off guard. And the revelation that she’s also hoarding something sends her spinning.
Can she stand to let the light into her own life with the help of a friend who wants to stand by her for life and the God who created and loves her? Or will she find that defeating her demons proves too much to bear?
Hi dear Cynthia! Welcome back to the blog!
Cynthia: That’s like choosing among my favorite children! If pressed (get it?), I’d have to say tea. Exotic blends, non herbal, tea-snob tea.
Carrie: ‘pressed’ – that was clever 🙂
Cynthia: OCEAN! It’s okay if I choose OCEAN but also love the mountains, right?
Carrie: yes, I’ll allow it haha
Cynthia: SOUP. Having to eat gluten-free makes the average sandwich less than it could be. I already have a “reserved” sticker on a croissant for my first meal in heaven.
Carrie: I don’t blame you!
Cynthia: PREFER PRINT, but for speed often need to read via ebook.
Carrie: Ebooks are definitely convenient!
Q: When you walk into a bookstore, where do you head first?
Cynthia: I make a beeline for the fiction section, Christian fiction in particular. But I’m easily distracted, so I’ll stop along the way if a cover catches my eye or a title makes me go, “Ooh! Wish I’d thought of that.” I glance at the bestseller table, but that’s often more research than book-hunting.
Carrie: I’m literally right now adding to my wish list – ‘go bookstore browsing with Cynthia’ because that sounds delightful 🙂
Q: Writing spaces are as diverse as authors and books. Where is your favorite space to write?
Cynthia: If it weren’t for the bugs in summer and the ice in winter, I’d choose outdoors as a favorite writing space. I’m super-productive all by myself in a booth at an Asian restaurant, maybe because it’s quieter than a coffee shop, which is many authors’ go-to. But we recently remodeled our front porch on our more-than-a-century-old farmhouse to convert it into a sunroom. It’s small but so light-filled and glorious. I have a tiny desk and a huge monitor out there and can shut myself away from whatever else is going on in the house. Light pours in. It’s a good reminder to let the Light pour into my soul as I write.
Carrie: oh that sounds so lovely!
Q: What inspired your ideas for the plot of Afraid of the Light? What is something interesting you learned about hoarding in the process of writing this book?
Cynthia: I’m just old enough to remember life before computers. In the early days, we didn’t trust these new-fangled computer things to truly save our information, and at the time had few options for back-ups. So I saved everything in print form. If I saw a tidbit of research information for the radio scripts I wrote at the time or for magazine and book ideas, I printed it out or ripped it from a magazine and stuffed it into a physical file folder that eventually grew to consume four lateral file cabinets, one four-drawer vertical file cabinet, and four two-drawer file cabinets. And that’s not counting Rubbermaid bins of “to-be-filed.”
That didn’t inspire Afraid of the Light and the subject of hoarding disorders, but as I wrote the story, it occurred to me that in my main office, I was surrounded by an example of how fear had been at the heart of an accumulation. Without realizing it, I was afraid that if I didn’t have a paper version of what I considered important, I wouldn’t be able to find that bit of info again.
Millennials and Zoomers (Gen Z) would find that laughable bordering on sick. But I know I’m not alone among those of us who grew up keeping anything we thought we’d need later. Only recently have I been freed from that compulsion. It took yet another remodeling project for me to realize that much of what I’d saved over the years—important information—was no longer relevant. Or it was available with a simple online search. I reduced by file cabinets to one lateral file and the four-drawer vertical file cabinet (but that was my dad’s so…). I’m working my way through these remaining folders to see if I can’t trim that by digitizing as much as possible.
That paper-reduction activity was spurred by what I learned while writing the book, and by the stark realization that many who think they aren’t hoarders have their own issues. Hoarding disorders are both fascinating and heartbreaking. The psychology behind them and the fallout for families reveal layers of pain and misunderstanding and wounds. We may cringe at a mountain of empty fast food containers that serve no purpose but to draw maggots and close a person off from their most cherished relationships, but fail to see that our grudges or out-dated resentments have no grander purpose than maggot-fuel too.
It was a concept that intrigued me. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have explored it through the characters in Afraid of the Light.
Carrie: that intrigues me too and this – “We may cringe at a mountain of empty fast food containers that serve no purpose but to draw maggots and close a person off from their most cherished relationships, but fail to see that our grudges or out-dated resentments have no grander purpose than maggot-fuel too.” – which one is God most concerned about? Our grudges & resentments… boy, that speaks.
Q: Which character in Afraid of the Light was the most difficult to write?
Cynthia: The most difficult characters to write weren’t Camille’s hoarding disorder clients. I thought they would be, since (except for my paperwork addiction) I could not personally identify with the insatiable attraction of the need to accumulate and placing undue value in valueless items. But it was Camille who was the most challenging to write—the clinical psychologist who counsels hoarders and their families. She was brilliant but in some ways oblivious, could easily communicate the right thing to do but had a hard time applying it to herself, was generous with her clients and frugal with herself and her own heart’s needs. Helping Camille come alive on the page was both hard work and hugely rewarding. And watching how the other people around her helped her become who she truly was spoke volumes to me, and I pray will to readers, too.
Carrie: Applying truth to our own lives is always harder than applying it to other people’s lives for them (lol). An important reminder.
Q: What is one of your favorite quotes from Afraid of the Light & why do you love it?
Cynthia: I was going to choose this one (for obvious reasons):
“Why do good things grow slowly and the unwanted too rapidly? Chin hairs come to mind. And regrets.”
But instead, one of my favorite quotes from Afraid of the Light is:
Imagine living as if your entire life is a game of Jenga and every collapse is not merely the end of a game but the death of something inside you. Imagine watching the tottering pile increase, unaware that it is your own hand adding to the pile. Imagine pulling out one block but it’s never the right one. Never.
Now imagine a family member breathing down your neck, shouting at you to hurry and take your turn, pounding on the table in disgust, slamming the door in frustration on their way out of the house.
That’s the life of a hoarder. Or anyone with an addiction.
But now imagine acquiring skills to reduce the pile, new ways of processing information about the physics and dynamics of how the blocks are stacked. Imagine family and friends steadying the table, quieting the noise, waiting until . . .
That’s the life of a hoarder (or the addicted) on the way to freedom.
It’s a long quote, but it speaks to the heart of all of us needing to take a step back to understand the person we love whose pain we can’t comprehend. When I wrote it, I didn’t know Camille was going to say it. Or that I would need to hear it.
Carrie: Amen. A much-needed truth in today’s world. Take a step back, listen & understand. (And i literally laughed out loud at the first quote – those darn chin hairs.)
Thank you so much for taking time to talk with me! 🙂 Before we say goodbye for today, tell us what‘s coming up next for you.
Cynthia: In early 2021, I have a novel releasing from Revell called Facing the Dawn. My agent says that novel’s main character has “a wicked sense of humor.” The heart journey she takes is gut-wrenching but beautiful. A many-layered story of friendship, loss, more loss, and redemption.
Carrie: … and I guarantee there’s a lot of HOPE on those pages too, my friend 🙂
Cynthia Ruchti is offering a print copy of Afraid of the Light (with a couple of little surprises to accompany it) to one of my readers! (US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.) This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.
What about you? What interests you most about Afraid of the Light and/or my Q&A with Cynthia Ruchti?