Good Monday. It’s time for another author interview. Today, we’ll get to know Cara Luecht.
About the Book
Ione has everything she’d wanted with her busy shop filled to the brim with sumptuous fabrics, gossiping debutants, and a neatly increasing profit margin. Not to mention the unexpected attention of a man who doesn’t know her past.
And then the letter dropped from the mail slot onto to lush carpet. He was back. And the abuse, the shame, rushes in, reminding her of how unworthy she really is.
Miriam also has everything she’d wanted—and with a baby on the way, for the first time in her life, she has everything to lose. When she’d been alone, the future had held promise, but now with her life full, it also holds fear.
Unwilling to risk a vision of loss, Miriam stops painting what will be…right before Ione needs it most.
Available on Amazon
About the Author
Award winning author, Cara Luecht, lives in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin with her husband, David, and their children. In addition to freelance writing and marketing, Cara works as an English Instructor for a local college. Cara graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Wisconsin and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Currently, Cara is studying for a Masters of Divinity at Fuller Theological Seminary.
Terri: Thank you so much for joining us today. Soul’s Cry is the third book in the series, but Ione is introduced in a previous book. Did you always know that you wanted to tell her story?
Cara: I always knew I wanted to write Ione’s story. In fact, I had some trouble when I first began writing the series, because I wanted to go deeper into Ione’s character than I was able to as she was supposed to be a supporting character in Soul Painter. I’ve looked forward to writing Soul’s Cry for a while.
Terri: Soul’s Cry seems to be a strong finish to your Portraits of Grace series. And all three stories have very different heroines. Did you find it difficult to write outside your race? How did you overcome those difficulties?
Cara: I found it very difficult to write outside my race, but not because I didn’t feel I could connect to Ione; rather, because I was intimidated by the idea of making a mistake. Also, the current dialogue about whether or not a white person should even try to write an African American character messed with my mind a bit.
I remember one particularly difficult point when I realized that one of the African American characters needed to identify as African American. This seems a silly problem, no one goes around thinking “I’m white” or “I’m black,” but we all carry inner dialogues. For example, my own inner dialogue might question if a white person should try to write a novel from the perspective of a minority. See what happened? In my thought process, I identified myself as white.
One of my African American characters was thinking about another, and the thought came up about success despite racial barriers. But no one would say something in their head, like “gee, racial barriers really didn’t hold him back!” That would be silly. The inner dialogue needed to be more natural. Consequently, my character needed to self-identify—but how would an African American in the 1890s do so? Would they use the word Negro? Black?
To get to the bottom of this problem, I enlisted the help of an African American friend who also happens to be a student of literature. She helped me, but in the end, I think I made this more of a problem than it needed to be, simply due to my own insecurity.
There were a lot of these kinds of moments in writing this book. I think one of the reasons is that I consider it such a privilege to have a publisher who trusted me to write outside of my race in a market that is not famous for its diversity.
Terri: I greatly appreciate your dedication not to make a mistake. It shows that you care about your African American readers. There is a quite a bit of buzz about diversity in the Christian publishing industry. In particular, books with African Americans on the covers being less appealing. What was your reaction when you first saw the cover and why do think it was important to have Ione on the cover?
Cara: Because I am white, I will never know what it feels like to grow up in a culture where I am not represented. And frankly, I can’t even believe that this is a question that we still have to deal with. It’s the 21st century, for Pete’s sake. How is it even possible that this has to be a question? And that it is a huge question in the CHRISTIAN industry…there are no words…
But it’s true. I was beyond grateful to publish this book with a company who was willing to take the risk (even saying that makes me angry). They never questioned that Ione needed to be on the cover, and even though I know there will be some readers out there who look at her picture, and then look at my white face on the back of the cover, and then roll their eyes because I wrote outside my race, I am proud of her, and of my publisher (Roseanna White did a beautiful job designing the cover!).
If you’ll forgive a longer answer, I’d like to tell you a bit more…The racism that is inherent in this conversation goes beyond what people can see. Behind the scenes, finding the model for Ione was difficult. There was never a question that an African American woman would be on the cover, but when time came to sort through potential pictures, and to find (modern) models in Victorian dress (so that we could have a cover in full color), the only options that came up with the search terms “African American Victorian Women” were women dressed in Burlesque fashion.
I was appalled.
There was a thriving, wealthy, African American society in most urban areas of this time period. In fact, if you google “African American Victorian woman 1890,” you will find all sorts of vintage examples of beautifully dressed women. While they didn’t make up the majority of the population, they were there. However, they have been forgotten to history because they didn’t match with the imagined picture of people who had recently come out of slavery. The black and white photos prove they existed, but there is so little need for this picture in modern times, that the models are almost non-existent.
The truth is, many in the African American community were well-educated, wealthy, and making a substantial difference in the lives of the people in their communities.
In addition to writing, I teach college English at a technical college. When I made this inadvertent discovery, I couldn’t help but wonder how different the lives of my students would have been had the been shown a picture of their ancestors that they could have been proud of– people who stood as historical role models instead of the only photos being of slaves.
We have so much work to do.
Terri: I totally understand the challenge of finding African Americans for cover art. Many people don’t realize that is a real problem. It is a small step to the work that needs to be done in the Christian publishing industry to diversity. Ione is presented as a strong woman who will do whatever she needs to provide for her family. How hard was it to relate to her?
Cara: Ione is the woman I would hope to be if I ever found myself in a situation like hers. She found herself in dire circumstances, but she never lost sight of the priority of looking after others.
We hear all the time about women who end up the victims of trafficking, and sometimes what they go through is so brutal, they end up addicted to drugs just to deal with the pain. Ione, in my mind was different. She was victimized, she had to deal with the guilt and the fall-out from some of her decisions, but it never destroyed her. It never stole the part of her that tells her, even in the most horrendous of circumstances, that she can still help others.
I think Ione taught me that in order to be effective for those we love, we need to feel that we have value…otherwise what do we have to give? With Ione, I created a picture of someone who was hurt unimaginably, but never lost sight of her own value. I relate to her in that I aspire to be like her.
Terri: Ione is an inspiring woman in her strength and love for her family. She is also a talented seamstress. What research did you have to do gain insight on her craft?
Cara: My family has always been crafty, and while I am not a seamstress, I am familiar with sewing. I also love to look at photos and drawings of vintage dresses. Additionally, because of my love for historical fiction, I think that this time period, along with the clothes, customs, etc., is forever a part of my imaginary world.
When I write, I do so with a running movie in my head. That way, I write about what I see and hear and smell. Most of my research is done at the beginning of the project, because if it wasn’t, I’d never be able to develop the movie.
Terri: I also have met few crafts that I didn’t like. I’m sure all your research would make an interesting Pinterest board. If you could write in another genre, what would it be or have historicals completely captured your heart?
Cara: I might try science fiction or even apocalyptic fiction. Actually, I’ve started playing with a steampunk. But I love historical. When I read, I want to be transported to another world. Same thing goes with writing. In order to keep my attention, it needs to be something that I can build in my mind. Every time I try to write contemporary, I just get bored with it.
Terri: I’ve always loved Steampunk. I don’t think it’s gotten all of the attention it deserves. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
Cara: I never even thought about it until I was in my 30s. I was not one of those people who grew up knowing what she wanted to be. In fact, I’m pretty sure I will never figure out what I want to be when I grow up😊 When I look back, though, I realize that I always read like a writer, and I always loved literature.
Terri: Flexibility is essential when God is leading you. What’s next for you?
Cara: I’m working on another historical set in Colorado in the 1860s. I will amp up the suspense in this one. That being said, I am not progressing as quickly as I would like because I am also in school working toward my Masters of Divinity. At some point, I am hoping to tackle some non-fiction.
Terri: God speed with the degree, and we look forward to reading your new series. Thank for chatting with us.