Kathryn Cushman is a graduate of Stamford University with a degree in pharmacy. After practicing as a pharmacist, she left her career to marry and begin a family and has since pursued her dream of writing. A PROMISE TO REMEMBER is her first novel. Kathryn and her family currently live in Santa Barbara, California.
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In this interview, Kathryn Cushman recounts the difficult personal experience that prompted her to write her debut novel, A PROMISE TO REMEMBER, and explains how her faith as a Christian plays a role in her work. She also describes the similarities between herself and her main characters, discusses the benefits and drawbacks of writing fiction, and shares advice for aspiring writers.
Question: Two thirds of Americans say they want to write a book, but few actually do it. Was there a specific incident that made you pick up your pen or keyboard and start writing?
Kathryn Cushman: My husband’s totally cool Uncle Charlie was diagnosed with cancer --- it was treatable but not curable. I realized I might not have as many “somedays” as I’d always assumed. I began to pray about it. Not long after, my mother said, “You remember a long time ago, you used to say you wanted to write a novel someday? Have you ever given that any more thought?” To me, that was the green light from God to move forward. I had already retired from pharmacy by then, and my youngest daughter was starting kindergarten, so the timing worked.
Q: Is A PROMISE TO REMEMBER the first thing you’ve written?
KC: It’s the first thing I’ve written that’s been published. I wrote two romantic suspense novels before this, which are now gathering dust in a closet somewhere. I consider them my homework before the big test. The best way to learn to write, is to write. A lot.
Q: Can you give us a quick description of what A PROMISE TO REMEMBER is about?
KC: A PROMISE TO REMEMBER tells the story of two grieving mothers, whose teenage sons have died in a head-on collision. The ensuing wrongful death lawsuit has everyone in the community taking sides. The story follows both women --- there’s not a “good” mom and a “bad” mom --- just two women living the aftermath of a tragedy.
Q: They say first novels are often autobiographical. Is there any of you in A PROMISE TO REMEMBER?
KC: Experience-wise, no, I’m happy to report. Personality-wise, I have a lot in common with Andie --- we both tend to be too passive at times. When I first started sending this story to my friends for critique, they all said, “I hate Andie. She’s so wimpy.” Ouch!
Q: Where do you get your ideas?
KC: Usually some little tidbit of fact will snag my attention, and I take it from there. The idea for A PROMISE TO REMEMBER came from a case involving two teenagers in a car wreck --- the circumstances were completely different, but I was torn between the two sides.
Q: What’s the best part and the worst part about being a writer?
KC: The best part is creating my own imaginary world and the characters in it. The worst part is trying to un-jumble that imaginary world enough to get to the story (first drafts, basically).
Q: Why Christian fiction instead of mainstream?
KC: Part of it is the old “write what you know” adage. I see the world around me through the lens of my faith. It would be hard for me to write a story with faith totally absent. As strange as it may sound, I couldn’t write PROMISE without knowing both boys were “in heaven.” Even though they’re fictional, I couldn’t stomach the story without that element.
Q: Is A PROMISE TO REMEMBER a book non-Christians could enjoy reading? Could Christians give it, or recommend it to their friends?
KC: Yes. While faith is a crucial element in the story, it’s not a “preachy” kind of book. I know of several secular book clubs that have selected PROMISE, and they’ve given me great feedback.
Q: Any advice for people who have always wanted to start that novel but are scared?
KC: Don’t go in with a bunch of pre-conceived notions about how it will all work, because likely it won’t work that way. Pray for direction every step of the way, and trust God for the timing.
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